Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: Hopes and Fears - or, scenes from the life of a spinster
Author: Yonge, Charlotte Mary, 1823-1901
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hopes and Fears - or, scenes from the life of a spinster" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                         [Picture: Frontispiece]



HOPES AND FEARS


                    SCENES FROM THE LIFE OF A SPINSTER
                                    BY
                            CHARLOTTE M. YONGE

                         [Picture: Title picture]

                      _ILLUSTRATED BY HERBERT GANDY_

                                  London
                        MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                     NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
                                   1899

                          _All rights reserved_



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

"She felt, rather than saw him watching her all             _Frontispiece_
the way from the garden-gate to the wood."

"I find I can't spare you, Honora; you had better                _Page_ 11
stay at the Holt for good."

"He drew the paper before him.  Lucilla started                 _Page_ 296
to her feet."

PART I


CHAPTER I


    Who ought to go then and who ought to stay!
    Where do you draw an obvious border line?

                                                          _Cecil and Mary_

Among the numerous steeples counted from the waters of the Thames, in the
heart of the City, and grudged by modern economy as cumberers of the soil
of Mammon, may be remarked an abortive little dingy cupola, surmounting
two large round eyes which have evidently stared over the adjacent roofs
ever since the Fire that began at Pie-corner and ended in Pudding-lane.

Strange that the like should have been esteemed the highest walk of
architecture, and yet Honora Charlecote well remembered the days when St.
Wulstan's was her boast, so large, so clean, so light, so Grecian, so far
surpassing damp old Hiltonbury Church.  That was at an age when her
enthusiasm found indiscriminate food in whatever had a hold upon her
affections, the nearer her heart being of course the more admirable in
itself, and it would be difficult to say which she loved the most
ardently, her city home in Woolstone-lane, or Hiltonbury Holt, the old
family seat, where her father was a welcome guest whenever his
constitution required relaxation from the severe toils of a London
rector.

Woolstone-lane was a locality that sorely tried the coachmen of Mrs.
Charlecote's West End connections, situate as it was on the very banks of
the Thames, and containing little save offices and warehouses, in the
midst of which stood Honora's home.  It was not the rectory, but had been
inherited from City relations, and it antedated the Fire, so that it was
one of the most perfect remnants of the glories of the merchant princes
of ancient London.  It had a court to itself, shut in by high walls, and
paved with round-headed stones, with gangways of flags in mercy to the
feet; the front was faced with hewn squares after the pattern of Somerset
House, with the like ponderous sashes, and on a smaller scale, the Louis
XIV. pediment, apparently designed for the nesting-place of swallows and
sparrows.  Within was a hall, panelled with fragrant softly-tinted cedar
wood, festooned with exquisite garlands of fruit and flowers, carved by
Gibbons himself, with all his peculiarities of rounded form and delicate
edge.  The staircase and floor were of white stone, tinted on sunny days
with reflections from the windows' three medallions of yellow and white
glass, where Solomon, in golden mantle and crowned turban, commanded the
division of a stout lusty child hanging by one leg; superintended the
erection of a Temple worthy of Haarlem; or graciously welcomed a
recoiling stumpy Vrow of a Queen of Sheba, with golden hair all down her
back.

The river aspect of the house had come to perfection at the Elizabethan
period, and was sculptured in every available nook with the chevron and
three arrows of the Fletchers' Company, and a merchant's mark, like a
figure of four with a curly tail.  Here were the oriel windows of the
best rooms, looking out on a grassplat, small enough in country eyes, but
most extensive for the situation, with straight gravelled walks, and low
lilac and laburnum trees, that came into profuse blossom long before
their country cousins, but which, like the crocuses and snowdrops of the
flower borders, had better be looked at than touched by such as dreaded
sooty fingers.  These shrubs veiled the garden from the great river
thoroughfare, to which it sloped down, still showing traces of the
handsome stone steps and balustrade that once had formed the access of
the gold-chained alderman to his sumptuous barge.

Along those paths paced, book in hand, a tall, well-grown maiden, of good
straight features, and clear, pale skin, with eyes and rich luxuriant
hair of the same colour, a peculiarly bright shade of auburn, such as
painters of old had loved, and Owen Sandbrook called golden, while
Humfrey Charlecote would declare he was always glad to see Honor's
carrots.

More than thirty years ago, personal teaching at a London parish school
or personal visiting of the poor was less common than at present, but
Honora had been bred up to be helpful, and she had newly come in from a
diligent afternoon of looking at the needlework, and hearing Crossman's
Catechism and Sellon's Abridgment from a demurely dressed race of little
girls in tall white caps, bibs and tuckers, and very stout indigo-blue
frocks.  She had been working hard at the endeavour to make the little
Cockneys, who had never seen a single ear of wheat, enter into Joseph's
dreams, and was rather weary of their town sharpness coupled with their
indifference and want of imagination, where any nature, save human
nature, was concerned.  'I will bring an ear of Hiltonbury wheat home
with me--some of the best girls shall see me sow it, and I will take them
to watch it growing up--the blade, the ear, the full corn in the
ear--poor dears, if they only had a Hiltonbury to give them some tastes
that are not all for this hot, busy, eager world!  If I could only see
one with her lap full of bluebells; but though in this land of Cockaigne
of ours, one does not actually pick up gold and silver, I am afraid they
are our flowers, and the only ones we esteem worth the picking; and like
old Mr. Sandbrook, we neither understand nor esteem those whose aims are
otherwise!  Oh! Owen, Owen, may you only not be withheld from your
glorious career!  May you show this hard, money-getting world that you do
really, as well as only in word, esteem one soul to be reclaimed above
all the wealth that can be laid at your feet!  The nephew and heir of the
great Firm voluntarily surrendering consideration, ease, riches,
unbounded luxury for the sake of the heathen--choosing a wigwam instead
of a West End palace; parched maize rather than the banquet; the
backwoods instead of the luxurious park; the Red Indian rather than the
club and the theatre; to be a despised minister rather than a magnate of
this great city; nay, or to take his place among the influential men of
the land.  What has this worn, weary old civilization to offer like the
joy of sitting beneath one of the glorious aspiring pines of America,
gazing out on the blue waters of her limpid inland seas, in her fresh
pure air, with the simple children of the forest round him, their
princely forms in attitudes of attention, their dark soft liquid eyes
fixed upon him, as he tells them "Your Great Spirit, Him whom ye
ignorantly worship, Him declare I unto you," and then, some glorious old
chief bows his stately head, and throws aside his marks of superstition.
"I believe," he says, and the hearts of all bend with him; and Owen leads
them to the lake, and baptizes them, and it is another St. Sacrament!
Oh! that is what it is to have nobleness enough truly to overcome the
world, truly to turn one's back upon pleasures and honours--what are they
to such as this?'

So mused Honora Charlecote, and then ran indoors, with bounding step, to
her Schiller, and her hero-worship of Max Piccolomini, to write notes for
her mother, and practise for her father the song that was to refresh him
for the evening.

Nothing remarkable!  No; there was nothing remarkable in Honor, she was
neither more nor less than an average woman of the higher type.
Refinement and gentleness, a strong appreciation of excellence, and a
love of duty, had all been brought out by an admirable education, and by
a home devoted to unselfish exertion, varied by intellectual pleasures.
Other influences--decidedly traceable in her musings--had shaped her
principles and enthusiasms on those of an ardent Oxonian of the early
years of William IV.; and so bred up, so led by circumstances, Honora,
with her abilities, high cultivation, and tolerable sense, was a fair
specimen of what any young lady might be, appearing perhaps somewhat in
advance of her contemporaries, but rather from her training than from
intrinsic force of character.  The qualities of womanhood well developed,
were so entirely the staple of her composition, that there is little to
describe in her.  Was not she one made to learn; to lean; to admire; to
support; to enhance every joy; to soften every sorrow of the object of
her devotion?

                                * * * * *

Another picture from Honora Charlecote's life.  It is about half after
six, on a bright autumnal morning; and, rising nearly due east, out of a
dark pine-crowned hill, the sun casts his slanting beams over an
undulating country, clothed in gray mist of tints differing with the
distance, the farther hills confounded with the sky, the nearer dimly
traced in purple, and the valleys between indicated by the whiter,
woollier vapours that rise from their streams, a goodly land of fertile
field and rich wood, cradled on the bosoms of those soft hills.

Nestled among the woods, clothing its hollows on almost every side, rises
a low hill, with a species of table land on the top, scattered over with
large thorns and scraggy oaks that cast their shadows over the pale buff
bents of the short soft grass of the gravelly soil.  Looking southward is
a low, irregular, old-fashioned house, with two tall gable ends like
eyebrows, and the lesser gable of a porch between them, all covered with
large chequers of black timber, filled up with cream-coloured cement.  A
straight path leads from the porch between beds of scarlet geraniums,
their luxuriant horse-shoe leaves weighed down with wet, and china
asters, a drop in every quilling, to an old-fashioned sun-dial, and
beside that dial stands Honora Charlecote, gazing joyously out on the
bright morning, and trying for the hundredth time to make the shadow of
that green old finger point to the same figure as the hand of her watch.

'Oh! down, down, there's a good dog, Fly; you'll knock me down!  Vixen,
poor little doggie, pray!  Look at your paws,' as a blue greyhound and
rough black terrier came springing joyously upon her, brushing away the
silver dew from the shaven lawn.

'Down, down, lie down, dogs!' and with an obstreperous bound, Fly flew to
the new-comer, a young man in the robust strength of eight-and-twenty, of
stalwart frame, very broad in the chest and shoulders, careless, homely,
though perfectly gentleman-like bearing, and hale, hearty, sunburnt face.
It was such a look and such an arm as would win the most timid to his
side in certainty of tenderness and protection, and the fond voice gave
the same sense of power and of kindness, as he called out, 'Holloa,
Honor, there you are!  Not given up the old fashion?'

'Not till you give me up, Humfrey,' she said, as she eagerly laid her
neatly gloved fingers in the grasp of the great, broad, horny palm, 'or
at least till you take your gun.'

'So you are not grown wiser?'

'Nor ever will be.'

'Every woman ought to learn to saddle a horse and fire off a gun.'

'Yes, against the civil war squires are always expecting.  You shall
teach me when the time comes.'

'You'll never see that time, nor any other, if you go out in those thin
boots.  I'll fetch Sarah's clogs; I suppose you have not a reasonable
pair in the world.'

'My boots are quite thick, thank you.'

'Brown paper!'  And indeed they were a contrast to his mighty nailed
soles, and long, untanned buskins, nor did they greatly resemble the
heavy, country-made galoshes which, with an elder brother's authority, he
forced her to put on, observing that nothing so completely evinced the
Londoner as her obstinacy in never having a pair of shoes that could keep
anything out.

'And where are you going?'

'To Hayward's farm.  Is that too far for you?  He wants an abatement of
his rent for some improvements, and I want to judge what they may be
worth.'

'Hayward's--oh, not a bit too far!' and holding up her skirts, she picked
her way as daintily as her weighty _chaussure_ would permit, along the
narrow green footway that crossed the expanse of dewy turf in which the
dogs careered, getting their noses covered with flakes of thick gossamer,
cemented together by dew.  Fly scraped it off with a delicate forepaw,
Vixen rolled over, and doubly entangled it in her rugged coat.  Humfrey
Charlecote strode on before his companion with his hands in his pockets,
and beginning to whistle, but pausing to observe, over his shoulder, 'A
sweet day for getting up the roots!  You're not getting wet, I hope?'

'I couldn't through this rhinoceros hide, thank you.  How exquisitely the
mist is curling up, and showing the church-spire in the valley.'

'And I suppose you have been reading all manner of books?'

'I think the best was a great history of France.'

'France!' he repeated in a contemptuous John Bull tone.

'Ay, don't be disdainful; France was the centre of chivalry in the old
time.'

'Better have been the centre of honesty.'

'And so it was in the time of St. Louis and his crusade.  Do you know it,
Humfrey?'

'Eh?'

That was full permission.  Ever since Honora had been able to combine a
narration, Humfrey had been the recipient, though she seldom knew whether
he attended, and from her babyhood upwards had been quite contented with
trotting in the wake of his long strides, pouring out her ardent fancies,
now and then getting an answer, but more often going on like a little
singing bird, through the midst of his avocations, and quite complacent
under his interruptions of calls to his dogs, directions to his
labourers, and warnings to her to mind her feet and not her chatter.  In
the full stream of crusaders, he led her down one of the multitude of
by-paths cleared out in the hazel coppice for sporting; here leading up a
rising ground whence the tops of the trees might be overlooked, some
flecked with gold, some blushing into crimson, and beyond them the needle
point of the village spire, the vane flashing back the sun; there bending
into a ravine, marshy at the bottom, and nourishing the lady fern, then
again crossing glades, where the rabbits darted across the path, and the
battle of Damietta was broken into by stern orders to Fly to come to
heel, and the eating of the nuts which Humfrey pulled down from the
branches, and held up to his cousin with superior good nature.

'A Mameluke rushed in with a scimitar streaming with blood, and--'

'Take care; do you want help over this fence?'

'Not I, thank you--And said he had just murdered the king--'

'Vic! ah! take your nose out of that.  Here was a crop, Nora.'

'What was it?'

'You don't mean that you don't know wheat stubble?'

'I remember it was to be wheat.'

'Red wheat, the finest we ever had in this land; not a bit beaten down,
and the colour perfectly beautiful before harvest; it used to put me in
mind of your hair.  A load to the acre; a fair specimen of the effect of
drainage.  Do you remember what a swamp it was?'

'I remember the beautiful loose-strifes that used to grow in that
corner.'

'Ah! we have made an end of that trumpery.'

'You savage old Humfrey--beauties that they were.'

'What had they to do with my cornfields?  A place for everything and
everything in its place--French kings and all.  What was this one doing
wool-gathering in Egypt?'

'Don't you understand, it had become the point for the blow at the
Saracen power.  Where was I?  Oh, the Mameluke justified the murder, and
wanted St. Louis to be king, but--'

'Ha! a fine covey, I only miss two out of them.  These carrots, how their
leaves are turned--that ought not to be.'

Honora could not believe that anything ought not to be that was as
beautiful as the varied rosy tints of the hectic beauty of the
exquisitely shaped and delicately pinked foliage of the field carrots,
and with her cousin's assistance she soon had a large bouquet where no
two leaves were alike, their hues ranging from the deepest purple or
crimson to the palest yellow, or clear scarlet, like seaweed, through
every intermediate variety of purple edged with green, green picked out
with red or yellow, or _vice versa_, in never-ending brilliancy, such as
Humfrey almost seemed to appreciate, as he said, 'Well, you have
something as pretty as your weeds, eh, Honor?'

'I can't quite give up mourning for my dear long purples.'

'All very well by the river, but there's no beauty in things out of
place, like your Louis in Egypt--well, what was the end of this
predicament?'

So Humfrey had really heard and been interested!  With such
encouragement, Honora proceeded swimmingly, and had nearly arrived at her
hero's ransom, through nearly a mile of field paths, only occasionally
interrupted by grunts from her auditor at farming not like his own, when
crossing a narrow foot-bridge across a clear stream, they stood before a
farmhouse, timbered and chimneyed much like the Holt, but with new sashes
displacing the old lattice.

'Oh! Humfrey, how could you bring me to see such havoc?  I never
suspected you would allow it.'

'It was without asking leave; an attention to his bride; and now they
want an abatement for improvements!  Whew!'

'You should fine him for the damage he has done!'

'I can't be hard on him, he is more or less of an ass, and a good sort of
fellow, very good to his labourers; he drove Jem Hurd to the infirmary
himself when he broke his arm.  No, he is not a man to be hard upon.'

'You can't be hard on any one.  Now that window really irritates my
mind.'

'Now Sarah walked down to call on the bride, and came home full of
admiration at the place being so lightsome and cheerful.  Which of you
two ladies am I to believe?'

'You ought to make it a duty to improve the general taste!  Why don't you
build a model farm-house, and let me make the design?'

'Ay, when I want one that nobody can live in.  Come, it will be breakfast
time.'

'Are not you going to have an interview?'

'No, I only wanted to take a survey of the alterations; two windows,
smart door, iron fence, pulled down old barn, talks of another.  Hm!'

'So he will get his reduction?'

'If he builds the barn.  I shall try to see his wife; she has not been
brought up to farming, and whether they get on or not, all depends on the
way she may take it up.  What are you looking at?'

'That lovely wreath of Traveller's Joy.'

'Do you want it?'

'No, thank you, it is too beautiful where it is.'

'There is a piece, going from tree to tree, by the Hiltonbury Gate, as
thick as my arm; I just saved it when West was going to cut it down with
the copsewood.'

'Well, you really are improving at last!'

'I thought you would never let me hear the last of it; besides, there was
a thrush's nest in it.'

By and by the cousins arrived at a field where Humfrey's portly
shorthorns were coming forth after their milking, under the pilotage of
an old white-headed man, bent nearly double, uncovering his head as the
squire touched his hat in response, and shouted, 'Good morning.'

'If you please, sir,' said the old man, trying to erect himself, 'I
wanted to speak to you.'

'Well.'

'If you please, sir, chimney smokes so as a body can scarce bide in the
house, and the blacks come down terrible.'

'Wants sweeping,' roared Humfrey, into his deaf ears.

'Have swep it, sir; old woman's been up with her broom.'

'Old woman hasn't been high enough.  Send Jack up outside with a rope and
a bunch o' furze, and let her stand at bottom.'

'That's it, sir!' cried the old man, with a triumphant snap of the
fingers over his shoulder.  'Thank ye!'

'Here's Miss Honor, John;' and Honora came forward, her gravity somewhat
shaken by the domestic offices of the old woman.

'I'm glad to see you still able to bring out the cows, John.  Here's my
favourite Daisy as tame as ever.'

'Ay! ay!' and he looked at his master for explanation from the stronger
and more familiar voice.  'I be deaf, you see, ma'am.'

'Miss Honor is glad to see Daisy as tame as ever,' shouted Humfrey.

'Ay! ay!' maundered on the old man; 'she ain't done no good of late, and
Mr. West and I--us wanted to have fatted her this winter, but the squire,
he wouldn't hear on it, because Miss Honor was such a terrible one for
her.  Says I, when I hears 'em say so, we shall have another dinner on
the la-an, and the last was when the old squire was married, thirty-five
years ago come Michaelmas.'

Honora was much disposed to laugh at this freak of the old man's fancy,
but to her surprise Humfrey coloured up, and looked so much out of
countenance that a question darted through her mind whether he could have
any such step in contemplation, and she began to review the young ladies
of the neighbourhood, and to decide on each in turn that it would be
intolerable to see her as Humfrey's wife; more at home at the Holt than
herself.  She had ample time for contemplation, for he had become very
silent, and once or twice the presumptuous idea crossed her that he might
be actually about to make her some confidence, but when he at length
spoke, very near the house, it was only to say, 'Honor, I wanted to ask
you if you think your father would wish me to ask young Sandbrook here?'

'Oh! thank you, I am sure he would be glad.  You know poor Owen has
nowhere to go, since his uncle has behaved so shamefully.'

'It must have been a great mortification--'

'To Owen?  Of course it was, to be so cast off for his noble purpose.'

'I was thinking of old Mr. Sandbrook--'

'Old wretch!  I've no patience with him!'

'Just as he has brought this nephew up and hopes to make him useful and
rest some of his cares upon him in his old age, to find him flying off
upon this fresh course, and disappointing all his hopes.'

'But it is such a high and grand course, he ought to have rejoiced in it,
and Owen is not his son.'

'A man of his age, brought up as he has been, can hardly be expected to
enter into Owen's views.'

'Of course not.  It is all sordid and mean, he cannot even understand the
missionary spirit of resigning all.  As Owen says, half the Scripture
must be hyperbole to him, and so he is beginning Owen's persecution
already.'

It was one of Humfrey's provoking qualities that no amount of eloquence
would ever draw a word of condemnation from him; he would praise readily
enough, but censure was very rare with him, and extenuation was always
his first impulse, so the more Honora railed at Mr. Sandbrook's
interference with his nephew's plans, the less satisfaction she received
from him.  She seemed to think that in order to admire Owen as he
deserved, his uncle must be proportionably reviled, and though Humfrey
did not imply a word save in commendation of the young missionary's
devotion, she went indoors feeling almost injured at his not
understanding it; but Honora's petulance was a very bright, sunny
piquancy, and she only appeared the more glowing and animated for it when
she presented herself at the breakfast-table, with a preposterous country
appetite.

Afterwards she filled a vase very tastefully with her varieties of
leaves, and enjoyed taking in her cousin Sarah, who admired the leaves
greatly while she thought they came from Mrs. Mervyn's hothouse; but when
she found they were the product of her own furrows, voted them coarse,
ugly, withered things, such as only the simplicity of a Londoner could
bring into civilized society.  So Honora stood over her gorgeous feathery
bouquet, not knowing whether to laugh or to be scornful, till Humfrey,
taking up the vase, inquired, 'May I have it for my study?'

'Oh! yes, and welcome,' said Honora, laughing, and shaking her glowing
tresses at him; 'I am thankful to any one who stands up for carrots.'

Good-natured Humfrey, thought she, it is all that I may not be mortified;
but after all it is not those very good-natured people who best
appreciate lofty actions.  He is inviting Owen Sandbrook more because he
thinks it would please papa, and because he compassionates him in his
solitary lodgings, than because he feels the force of his glorious
self-sacrifice.

                                * * * * *

The northern slope of the Holt was clothed with fir plantations,
intersected with narrow paths, which gave admission to the depths of
their lonely woodland palace, supported on rudely straight columns, dark
save for the snowy exuding gum, roofed in by aspiring beam-like arms,
bearing aloft their long tufts of dark blue green foliage, floored by the
smooth, slippery, russet needle leaves as they fell, and perfumed by the
peculiar fresh smell of turpentine.  It was a still and lonely place, the
very sounds making the silence more audible (if such an expression may be
used), the wind whispering like the rippling waves of the sea in the tops
of the pines, here and there the cry of a bird, or far, far away, the
tinkle of the sheep-bell, or the tone of the church clock; and of
movement there was almost as little, only the huge horse ants soberly
wending along their highway to their tall hillock thatched with pine
leaves, or the squirrel in the ruddy, russet livery of the scene, racing
from tree to tree, or sitting up with his feathery tail erect to extract
with his delicate paws the seed from the base of the fir-cone scale.
Squirrels there lived to a good old age, till their plumy tails had
turned white, for the squire's one fault in the eyes of keepers and
gardeners was that he was soft-hearted towards 'the varmint.'

A Canadian forest on a small scale, an extremely miniature scale indeed,
but still Canadian forests are of pine, and the Holt plantation was fir,
and firs were pines, and it was a lonely musing place, and so on one of
the stillest, clearest days of 'St. Luke's little summer,' the last
afternoon of her visit at the Holt, there stood Honora, leaning against a
tree stem, deep, very deep in a vision of the primeval woodlands of the
West, their red inhabitants, and the white man who should carry the true,
glad tidings westward, westward, ever from east to west.  Did she know
how completely her whole spirit and soul were surrendered to the worship
of that devotion?  Worship?  Yes, the word is advisedly used; Honora had
once given her spirit in homage to Schiller's self-sacrificing Max; the
same heart-whole veneration was now rendered to the young missionary,
multiplied tenfold by the hero being in a tangible, visible shape, and
not by any means inclined to thwart or disdain the allegiance of the
golden-haired girl.  Nay, as family connections frequently meeting, they
had acted upon each other's minds more than either knew, even when the
hour of parting had come, and words had been spoken which gave Honora
something more to cherish in the image of Owen Sandbrook than even the
hero and saint.  There then she stood and dreamt, pensive and saddened
indeed, but with a melancholy trenching very nearly on happiness in the
intensity of its admiration, and the vague ennobling future of devoted
usefulness in which her heart already claimed to share, as her person
might in some far away period on which she could not dwell.

               [Picture: I find I can't spare you, Honora]

A sound approached, a firm footstep, falling with strong elasticity and
such regular cadences, that it seemed to chime in with the pine-tree
music, and did not startle her till it came so near that there was
distinctive character to be discerned in the tread, and then with a
strange, new shyness, she would have slipped away, but she had been seen,
and Humfrey, with his timber race in his hand, appeared on the path,
exclaiming, 'Ah, Honor, is it you come out to meet me, like old times?
You have been so much taken up with your friend Master Owen that I have
scarcely seen you of late.'

Honor did not move away, but she blushed deeply as she said, 'I am afraid
I did not come to meet you, Humfrey.'

'No?  What, you came for the sake of a brown study?  I wish I had known
you were not busy, for I have been round all the woods marking timber.'

'Ah!' said she, rousing herself with some effort, 'I wonder how many
trees I should have saved from the slaughter.  Did you go and condemn any
of my pets?'

'Not that I know of,' said Humfrey.  'I have touched nothing near the
house.'

'Not even the old beech that was scathed with lightning?  You know papa
says that is the touchstone of influence; Sarah and Mr. West both against
me,' laughed Honora, quite restored to her natural manner and confiding
ease.

'The beech is likely to stand as long as you wish it,' said Humfrey, with
an unaccustomed sort of matter-of-fact gravity, which surprised and
startled her, so as to make her bethink herself whether she could have
behaved ill about it, been saucy to Sarah, or the like.

'Thank you,' she said; 'have I made a fuss--?'

'No, Honor,' he said, with deliberate kindness, shutting up his knife,
and putting it into his pocket; 'only I believe it is time we should come
to an understanding.'

More than ever did she expect one of his kind remonstrances, and she
looked up at him in expectation, and ready for defence, but his broad,
sunburnt countenance looked marvellously heated, and he paused ere he
spoke.

'I find I can't spare you, Honora; you had better stay at the Holt for
good.'  Her cheeks flamed, and her heart galloped, but she could not let
herself understand.

'Honor, you are old enough now, and I do not think you need fear.  It is
almost your home already, and I believe I can make you happy, with the
blessing of God--'  He paused, but as she could not frame an answer in
her consternation, continued, 'Perhaps I should not have spoken so
suddenly, but I thought you would not mind me; I should like to have had
one word from my little Honor before I go to your father, but don't if
you had rather not.'

'Oh, don't go to papa, please don't,' she cried, 'it would only make him
sorry.'

Humfrey stood as if under an unexpected shock.

'Oh! how came you to think of it?' she said in her distress; 'I never
did, and it can never be--I am so sorry!'

'Very well, my dear, do not grieve about it,' said Humfrey, only bent on
soothing her; 'I dare say you are quite right, you are used to people in
London much more suitable to you than a stupid homely fellow like me, and
it was a foolish fancy to think it might be otherwise.  Don't cry, Honor
dear, I can't bear that!'

'Oh, Humfrey, only understand, please!  You are the very dearest person
in the world to me after papa and mamma; and as to fine London people, oh
no, indeed!  But--'

'It is Owen Sandbrook; I understand,' said Humfrey, gravely.

She made no denial.

'But, Honor,' he anxiously exclaimed, 'you are not going out in this wild
way among the backwoods, it would break your mother's heart; and he is
not fit to take care of you.  I mean he cannot think of it now.'

'O no, no, I could not leave papa and mamma; but some time or other--'

'Is this arranged?  Does your father know it?'

'Oh, Humfrey, of course!'

'Then it is an engagement?'

'No,' said Honora, sadly; 'papa said I was too young, and he wished I had
heard nothing about it.  We are to go on as if nothing had happened, and
I know they think we shall forget all about it!  As if we could!  Not
that I wish it to be different.  I know it would be wicked to desert papa
and mamma while she is so unwell.  The truth is, Humfrey,' and her voice
sank, 'that it cannot be while they live.'

'My poor little Honor!' he said, in a tone of the most unselfish
compassion.

She had entirely forgotten his novel aspect, and only thought of him as
the kindest friend to whom she could open her heart.

'Don't pity me,' she said in exultation; 'think what it is to be his
choice.  Would I have him give up his aims, and settle down in the
loveliest village in England?  No, indeed, for then it would not be Owen!
I am happier in the thought of him than I could be with everything
present to enjoy.'

'I hope you will continue to find it so,' he said, repressing a sigh.

'I should be ashamed of myself if I did not,' she continued with
glistening eyes.  'Should not I have patience to wait while he is at his
real glorious labour?  And as to home, that's not altered, only better
and brighter for the definite hope and aim that will go through
everything, and make me feel all I do a preparation.'

'Yes, you know him well,' said Humfrey; 'you saw him constantly when he
was at Westminster.'

'O yes, and always!  Why, Humfrey, it is my great glory and pleasure to
feel that he formed me!  When he went to Oxford, he brought me home all
the thoughts that have been my better life.  All my dearest books we read
together, and what used to look dry and cold, gained light and life after
he touched it.'

'Yes, I see.'

His tone reminded her of what had passed, and she said, timidly, 'I
forgot!  I ought not!  I have vexed you, Humfrey.'

'No,' he said, in his full tender voice; 'I see that it was vain to think
of competing with one of so much higher claims.  If he goes on in the
course he has chosen, yours will have been a noble choice, Honor; and I
believe,' he added, with a sweetness of smile that almost made her
forgive the _if_, 'that you are one to be better pleased _so_ than with
more ordinary happiness.  I have no doubt it is all right.'

'Dear Humfrey, you are so good!' she said, struck with his kind
resignation, and utter absence of acerbity in his disappointment.

'Forget this, Honora,' he said, as they were coming to the end of the
pine wood; 'let us be as we were before.'

Honora gladly promised, and excepting for her wonder at such a step on
the part of the cousin whose plaything and pet she had hitherto been, she
had no temptation to change her manner.  She loved him as much as ever,
but only as a kind elder brother, and she was glad that he was wise
enough to see his immeasurable inferiority to the young missionary.  It
was a wonderful thing, and she was sorry for his disappointment; but
after all, he took it so quietly that she did not think it could have
hurt him much.  It was only that he wanted to keep his pet in the
country.  He was not capable of love like Owen Sandbrook's.

                                * * * * *

Years passed on.  Rumour had bestowed Mr. Charlecote of Hiltonbury on
every lady within twenty miles, but still in vain.  His mother was dead,
his sister married to an old college fellow, who had waited half a
lifetime for a living, but still he kept house alone.

And open house it was, with a dinner-table ever expanding for chance
guests, strawberry or syllabub feasts half the summer, and Christmas
feasts extending wide on either side of the twelve days.  Every one who
wanted a holiday was free of the Holt; young sportsmen tried their
inexperienced guns under the squire's patient eye; and mammas disposed of
their children for weeks together, to enjoy the run of the house and
garden, and rides according to age, on pony, donkey, or Mr. Charlecote.
No festivity in the neighbourhood was complete without his sunshiny
presence; he was wanted wherever there was any family event; and was
godfather, guardian, friend, and adviser of all.  Every one looked on him
as a sort of exclusive property, yet he had room in his heart for all.
As a magistrate, he was equally indispensable in county government, and a
charity must be undeserving indeed that had not Humfrey Charlecote, Esq.,
on the committee.  In his own parish he was a beneficent monarch; on his
own estate a mighty farmer, owning that his relaxation and delight were
his turnips, his bullocks, and machines; and so content with them, and
with his guests, that Honora never recollected that walk in the pine
woods without deciding that to have monopolized him would have been an
injury to the public, and perhaps less for his happiness than this free,
open-hearted bachelor life.  Seldom did she recall that scene to mind,
for she had never been by it rendered less able to trust to him as her
friend and protector, and she stood in need of his services and his
comfort, when her father's death had left him the nearest relative who
could advise or transact business for her and her mother.  Then, indeed,
she leant on him as on the kindest and most helpful of brothers.

Mrs. Charlecote was too much acclimatized to the city to be willing to
give up her old residence, and Honor not only loved it fondly, but could
not bear to withdraw from the local charities where her tasks had
hitherto lain; and Woolstone-lane, therefore, continued their home,
though the summer and autumn usually took them out of London.

Such was the change in Honora's outward life.  How was it with that
inmost shrine where dwelt her heart and soul?  A copious letter writer,
Owen Sandbrook's correspondence never failed to find its way to her,
though they did not stand on such terms as to write to one another; and
in those letters she lived, doing her day's work with cheerful
brightness, and seldom seeming preoccupied, but imagination, heart, and
soul were with his mission.

Very indignant was she when the authorities, instead of sending him to
the interesting children of the forests, thought proper to waste him on
mere colonists, some of them Yankee, some Presbyterian Scots.  He was
asked insolent, nasal questions, his goods were coolly treated as common
property, and it was intimated to him on all hands that as Englishman he
was little in their eyes, as clergyman less, as gentleman least of all.
Was this what he had sacrificed everything for?

By dint of strong complaints and entreaties, after he had quarrelled with
most of his flock, he accomplished an exchange into a district where red
men formed the chief of his charge; and Honora was happy, and watched for
histories of noble braves, gallant hunters, and meek-eyed squaws.

Slowly, slowly she gathered that the picturesque deer-skins had become
dirty blankets, and that the diseased, filthy, sophisticated savages were
among the worst of the pitiable specimens of the effect of contact with
the most evil side of civilization.  To them, as Owen wrote, a missionary
was only a white man who gave no brandy, and the rest of his parishioners
were their obdurate, greedy, trading tempters!  It had been a shame to
send him to such a hopeless set, when there were others on whom his toils
would not be thrown away.  However, he should do his best.

And Honor went on expecting the wonders his best would work, only the
more struck with admiration by hearing that the locality was a swamp of
luxuriant vegetation, and equally luxuriant fever and ague; and the
letter he wrote thence to her mother on the news of their loss did her
more good than all Humfrey's considerate kindness.

Next, he had had the ague, and had gone to Toronto for change of air.
Report spoke of Mr. Sandbrook as the most popular preacher who had
appeared in Toronto for years, attracting numbers to his pulpit, and
sending them away enraptured by his power of language.  How beautiful
that a man of such talents, always so much stimulated by appreciation,
should give up all this most congenial scene, and devote himself to his
obscure mission!

Report said more, but Honora gave it no credit till old Mr. Sandbrook
called one morning in Woolstone-lane, by his nephew's desire, to announce
to his friends that he had formed an engagement with Miss Charteris, the
daughter of a general officer there in command.

Honor sat out all the conversation; and Mrs. Charlecote did not betray
herself; though, burning with a mother's wrath, she did nothing worse
than hope they would be happy.

Yet Honor had not dethroned the monarch of her imagination.  She
reiterated to herself and to her mother that she had no ground of
complaint, that it had been understood that the past was to be forgotten,
and that Owen was far more worthily employed than in dwelling on them.
No blame could attach to him, and it was wise to choose one accustomed to
the country and able to carry out his plans.  The personal feeling might
go, but veneration survived.

Mrs. Charlecote never rested till she had learnt all the particulars.  It
was a dashing, fashionable family, and Miss Charteris had been the gayest
of the gay, till she had been impressed by Mr. Sandbrook's ministrations.
From pope to lover, Honor knew how easy was the transition; but she
zealously nursed her admiration for the beauty, who was exchanging her
gaieties for the forest missions; she made her mother write cordially,
and send out a pretty gift, and treated as a personal affront all reports
of the Charteris disapprobation, and of the self-will of the young
people.  They were married, and the next news that Honora heard was, that
the old general had had a fit from passion; thirdly, came tidings that
the eldest son, a prosperous M.P., had not only effected a
reconciliation, but had obtained a capital living for Mr. Sandbrook, not
far from the family seat.

Mrs. Charlecote declared that her daughter should not stay in town to
meet the young couple, and Honora's resistance was not so much dignity,
as a feverish spirit of opposition, which succumbed to her sense of duty,
but not without such wear and tear of strained cheerfulness and
suppressed misery, that when at length her mother had brought her away,
the fatigue of the journey completed the work, and she was prostrated for
weeks by low fever.  The blow had fallen.  He had put his hand to the
plough and looked back.  Faithlessness towards herself had been passed
over unrecognized, faithlessness towards his self-consecration was quite
otherwise.  That which had absorbed her affections and adoration had
proved an unstable, excitable being!  Alas! would that long ago she had
opened her eyes to the fact that it was her own lofty spirit, not his
steadfastness, which had first kept it out of the question that the
mission should be set aside for human love.  The crash of her idolatry
was the greater because it had been so highly pitched, so closely
intermingled with the true worship.  She was long ill, the past series of
disappointments telling when her strength was reduced; and for many a
week she would lie still and dreamy, but fretted and wearied, so as to
control herself with difficulty when in the slightest degree disturbed,
or called upon to move or think.  When her strength returned under her
mother's tender nursing the sense of duty revived.  She thought her youth
utterly gone with the thinning of her hair and the wasting of her cheeks,
but her mother must be the object of her care and solicitude, and she
would exert herself for her sake, to save her grief, and hide the wound
left by the rending away of the jewel of her heart.  So she set herself
to seem to like whatever her mother proposed, and she acted her interest
so well that insensibly it became real.  After all, she was but
four-and-twenty, and the fever had served as an expression of the feeling
that would have its way: she had had a long rest, which had relieved the
sense of pent-up and restrained suffering, and vigour and buoyancy were a
part of her character; her tone and manner resumed their cheerfulness,
her spirits came back, though still with the dreary feeling that the hope
and aim of life were gone, when she was left to her own musings; she was
little changed, and went on with daily life, contented and lively over
the details, and returning to her interest in reading, in art, poetry,
and in all good works, while her looks resumed their brightness, and her
mother congratulated herself once more on the rounded cheek and profuse
curls.

At the year's end Humfrey Charlecote renewed his proposal.  It was no
small shock to find herself guilty of his having thus long remained
single, and she was touched by his kind forbearance, but there was no
bringing herself either to love him, or to believe that he loved her,
with such love as had been her vision.  The image around which she had
bound her heart-strings came between him and her, and again she begged
his pardon, and told him she liked him too well as he was to think of him
in any other light.  Again he, with the most tender patience and
humility, asked her to forgive him for having harassed her, and betrayed
so little chagrin that she ascribed his offer to generous compassion at
her desertion.



CHAPTER II


    He who lets his feelings run
       In soft luxurious flow,
    Shrinks when hard service must be done,
       And faints at every woe.

Seven years more, and Honora was in mourning for her mother.  She was
alone in the world, without any near or precious claim, those clinging
tendrils of her heart rent from their oldest, surest earthly stay, and
her time left vacant from her dearest, most constant occupation.  Her
impulse was to devote herself and her fortune at once to the good work
which most engaged her imagination, but Humfrey Charlecote, her sole
relation, since heart complaint had carried off his sister Sarah,
interfered with the authority he had always exercised over her, and
insisted on her waiting one full year before pledging herself to
anything.  At one-and-thirty, with her golden hair and light figure, her
delicate skin and elastic step, she was still too young to keep house in
solitude, and she invited to her home a friendless old governess of her
own, sick at heart with standing for the Governess's Institution,
promising her a daughter's care and attendance on her old age.  Gentle
old Miss Wells was but too happy in her new quarters, though she
constantly averred that she knew she should not continue there; treated
as injuries to herself all Honor's assertions of the dignity of age and
old maidishness, and remained convinced that she should soon see her
married.

Honora had not seen Mr. Sandbrook since his return from Canada, though
his living was not thirty miles from the City.  There had been exchanges
of calls when he had been in London, but these had only resulted in the
leaving of cards; and from various causes she had been unable to meet him
at dinner.  She heard of him, however, from their mutual connection, old
Mrs. Sandbrook, who had made a visit at Wrapworth, and came home stored
with anecdotes of the style in which he lived, the charms of Mrs.
Sandbrook, and the beauty of the children.  As far as Honora could
gather, and very unwillingly she did so, he was leading the life of an
easy-going, well-beneficed clergyman, not neglecting the parish,
according to the requirements of the day, indeed slightly exceeding them,
very popular, good-natured, and charitable, and in great request in a
numerous, demi-suburban neighbourhood, for all sorts of not unclerical
gaieties.  The Rev. O. Sandbrook was often to be met with in the papers,
preaching everywhere and for everything, and whispers went about of his
speedy promotion to a situation of greater note.  In the seventh year of
his marriage, his wife died, and Honora was told of his overwhelming
grief, how he utterly refused all comfort or alleviation, and threw
himself with all his soul into his parish and his children.  People spoke
of him as going about among the poor from morning to night, with his
little ones by his side, shrinking from all other society, teaching them
and nursing them himself, and endeavouring to the utmost to be as both
parents in one.  The youngest, a delicate infant, soon followed her
mother to the grave, and old Mrs. Sandbrook proved herself to have no
parent's heart by being provoked with his agonizing grief for the 'poor
little sickly thing,' while it was not in Honora's nature not to feel the
more tenderly towards the idol of her girlish days, because he was in
trouble.

It was autumn, the period when leaves fall off and grow damp, and London
birds of passage fly home to their smoky nests.  Honora, who had gone to
Weymouth chiefly because she saw Miss Wells would be disappointed if she
did otherwise; when there, had grown happily at home with the waves, and
in talking to the old fishermen; but had come back because Miss Wells
thought it chilly and dreary, and pined for London warmth and snugness.
The noonday sun had found the way in at the oriel window of the
drawing-room, and traced the reflection of the merchant's mark upon the
upper pane in distorted outline on the wainscoted wall; it smiled on the
glowing tints of Honora's hair, but seemed to die away against the
blackness of her dress, as she sat by the table, writing letters, while
opposite, in the brightness of the fire, sat the pale, placid Miss Wells
with her morning nest of sermon books and needlework around her.

Honor yawned; Miss Wells looked up with kind anxiety.  She knew such a
yawn was equivalent to a sigh, and that it was dreary work to settle in
at home again this first time without the mother.

Then Honor smiled, and played with her pen-wiper.  'Well,' she said, 'it
is comfortable to be at home again!'

'I hope you will soon be able to feel so, my dear,' said the kind old
governess.

'I mean it,' said Honor cheerfully; then sighing, 'But do you know, Mr.
Askew wishes his curates to visit at the asylum instead of ladies.'

Miss Wells burst out into all the indignation that was in her mild
nature.  Honor not to visit at the asylum founded chiefly by her own
father!

'It is a parish affair now,' said Honor; 'and I believe those Miss Stones
and their set have been very troublesome.  Besides I think he means to
change its character.'

'It is very inconsiderate of him,' said Miss Wells; 'he ought to have
consulted you.'

'Every one loves his own charity the best,' said Honora; 'Humfrey says
endowments are generally a mistake, each generation had better do its own
work to the utmost.  I wish Mr. Askew had not begun now, it was the work
I specially looked to, but I let it alone while--and he cannot be
expected--'

'I should have expected it of him though!' exclaimed Miss Wells, 'and he
ought to know better!  How have you heard it?'

'I have a note from him this morning,' said Honora; 'he asks me Humfrey
Charlecote's address; you know he and Mr. Sandbrook are trustees,' and
her voice grew the sadder.

'If I am not much mistaken, Mr. Charlecote will represent to him his want
of consideration.'

'I think not,' said Honora; 'I should be sorry to make the clergyman's
hard task here any harder for the sake of my feelings.  Late incumbent's
daughters are proverbially inconvenient.  No, I would not stand in the
way, but it makes me feel as if my work in St. Wulstan's were done,' and
the tears dropped fast.

'Dear, dear Honora!' began the old lady, eagerly, but her words and
Honora's tears were both checked by the sound of a bell, that bell within
the court, to which none but intimates found access.

'Strange!  It is the thought of old times, I suppose,' said Honor,
smiling, 'but I could have said that was Owen Sandbrook's ring.'

The words were scarcely spoken, ere Mr. Sandbrook and Captain Charteris
were announced; and there entered a clergyman leading a little child in
each hand.  How changed from the handsome, hopeful youth from whom she
had parted!  Thin, slightly bowed, grief-stricken, and worn, she would
scarcely have known him, and as if to hide how much she felt, she bent
quickly, after shaking hands with him, to kiss the two children,
flaxen-curled creatures in white, with black ribbons.  They both shrank
closer to their father.  'Cilly, my love, Owen, my man, speak to Miss
Charlecote,' he said; 'she is a very old friend of mine.  This is my
bonny little housekeeper,' he added, 'and here's a sturdy fellow for four
years old, is not he?'

The girl, a delicate fairy of six, barely accepted an embrace, and clung
the faster to her father, with a gesture as though to repel all advance.
The boy took a good stare out of a pair of resolute gray eyes, with one
foot in advance, and offered both hands.  Honora would have taken him on
her knee, but he retreated, and both leant against their father as he
sat, an arm round each, after shaking hands with Miss Wells, whom he
recollected at once, and presenting his brother-in-law, whose broad,
open, sailor countenance, hardy and weather-stained, was a great contrast
to his pale, hollow, furrowed cheeks and heavy eyes.

'Will you tell me your name, my dear?' said Honora, feeling the children
the easiest to talk to; but the little girl's pretty lips pouted, and she
nestled nearer to her father.

'Her name is Lucilla,' he answered with a sigh, recalling that it had
been his wife's name.  'We are all somewhat of little savages,' he added,
in excuse for the child's silence.  'We have seen few strangers at
Wrapworth of late.'

'I did not know you were in London.'

'It was a sudden measure--all my brother's doing,' he said; 'I am quite
taken out of my own guidance.'

'I went down to Wrapworth and found him very unwell, quite out of order,
and neglecting himself,' said the captain; 'so I have brought him up for
advice, as I could not make him hear reason.'

'I was afraid you were looking very ill,' said Honora, hardly daring to
glance at his changed face.

'Can't help being ill,' returned Captain Charteris, 'running about the
village in all weathers in a coat like that, and sitting down to play
with the children in his wet things.  I saw what it would come to, last
time.'

Mr. Sandbrook could not repress a cough, which told plainly what it was
come to.

Miss Wells asked whom he intended to consult, and there was some talk on
physicians, but the subject was turned off by Mr. Sandbrook bending down
to point out to little Owen a beautiful carving of a brooding dove on her
nest, which formed the central bracket of the fine old mantelpiece.

'There, my man, that pretty bird has been sitting there ever since I can
remember.  How like it all looks to old times!  I could imagine myself
running in from Westminster on a saint's day.'

'It is little altered in some things,' said Honor.  The last great change
was too fresh!

'Yes,' said Mr. Sandbrook, raising his eyes towards her with the look
that used to go so deep of old, 'we have both gone through what makes the
unchangeableness of these impassive things the more striking.'

'I can't see,' said the little girl, pulling his hand.

'Let me lift you up, my dear,' said Honora; but the child turned her back
on her, and said, 'Father.'

He rose, and was bending, at the little imperious voice, though evidently
too weak for the exertion, but the sailor made one step forward, and
pouncing on Miss Lucilla, held her up in his arms close to the carving.
The two little feet made signs of kicking, and she said in anything but a
grateful voice, 'Put me down, Uncle Kit.'

Uncle Kit complied, and she retreated under her papa's wing, pouting, but
without another word of being lifted, though she had been far too much
occupied with struggling to look at the dove.  Meantime her brother had
followed up her request by saying 'me,' and he fairly put out his arms to
be lifted by Miss Charlecote, and made most friendly acquaintance with
all the curiosities of the carving.  The rest of the visit was chiefly
occupied by the children, to whom their father was eager to show all that
he had admired when little older than they were, thus displaying a
perfect and minute recollection and affection for the place, which much
gratified Honora.  The little girl began to thaw somewhat under the
influence of amusement, but there was still a curious ungraciousness
towards all attentions.  She required those of her father as a right, but
shook off all others in a manner which might be either shyness or
independence; but as she was a pretty and naturally graceful child, it
had a somewhat engaging air of caprice.  They took leave, Mr. Sandbrook
telling the children to thank Miss Charlecote for being so kind to them,
which neither would do, and telling her, as he pressed her hand, that he
hoped to see her again.  Honora felt as if an old page in her history had
been reopened, but it was not the page of her idolatry, it was that of
the fall of her idol!  She did not see in him the champion of the truth,
but his presence palpably showed her the excitable weakness which she had
taken for inspiration, while the sweetness and sympathy warmed her heart
towards him, and made her feel that she had underrated his
attractiveness.  His implications that he knew she sympathized with him
had touched her greatly, and then he looked so ill!

A note from old Mrs. Sandbrook begged her to meet him at dinner the next
day, and she was glad of the opportunity of learning the doctor's verdict
upon him, though all the time she knew the meeting would be but pain,
bringing before her the disappointment not _of_ him, but _in_ him.

No one was in the drawing-room but Captain Charteris, who came and shook
hands with her as if they were old friends; but she was somewhat amazed
at missing Mrs. Sandbrook, whose formality would be shocked by leaving
her guests in the lurch.

'Some disturbance in the nursery department, I fancy,' said the captain;
'those children have never been from home, and they are rather exacting,
poor things.'

'Poor little things!' echoed Honora; then, anxious to profit by the
_tete-a-tete_, 'has Mr. Sandbrook seen Dr. L.?'

'Yes, it is just as I apprehended.  Lungs very much affected, right one
nearly gone.  Nothing for it but the Mediterranean.'

'Indeed!'

'It is no wonder.  Since my poor sister died he has never taken the most
moderate care of his health, perfectly revelled in dreariness and
desolateness, I believe!  He has had this cough about him ever since the
winter, when he walked up and down whole nights with that poor child, and
never would hear of any advice till I brought him up here almost by
force.'

'I am sure it was time.'

'May it be in time, that's all.'

'Italy does so much!  But what will become of the children?'

'They must go to my brother's of course.  I have told him I will see him
there, but I will not have the children!  There's not the least chance of
his mending, if they are to be always lugging him about--'

The captain was interrupted by the entrance of Mrs. Sandbrook, who looked
a good deal worried, though she tried to put it aside, but on the captain
saying, 'I'm afraid that you have troublesome guests, ma'am,' out it all
came, how it had been discovered late in the day that Master Owen _must_
sleep in his papa's room, in a crib to himself, and how she had been
obliged to send out to hire the necessary articles, subject to his
nurse's approval; and the captain's sympathy having opened her heart, she
further informed them of the inconvenient rout the said nurse had made
about getting new milk for them, for which Honor could have found it in
her heart to justify her; 'and poor Owen is just as bad,' quoth the old
lady; 'I declare those children are wearing his very life out, and yet he
will not hear of leaving them behind.'

She was interrupted by his appearance at that moment, as usual, with a
child in either hand, and a very sad picture it was, so mournful and
spiritless was his countenance, with the hectic tint of decay evident on
each thin cheek, and those two fair healthful creatures clinging to him,
thoughtless of their past loss, unconscious of that which impended.
Little Owen, after one good stare, evidently recognized a friend in Miss
Charlecote, and let her seat him upon her knee, listening to her very
complacently, but gazing very hard all the time at her, till at last,
with an experimental air, he stretched one hand and stroked the broad
golden ringlet that hung near him, evidently to satisfy himself whether
it really was hair.  Then he found his way to her watch, a pretty little
one from Geneva, with enamelled flowers at the back, which so struck his
fancy that he called out, 'Cilly, look!'  The temptation drew the little
girl nearer, but with her hands behind her back, as if bent on making no
advance to the stranger.

Honora thought her the prettiest child she had ever seen.  Small and
lightly formed, there was more symmetry in her little fairy figure than
usual at her age, and the skin was exquisitely fine and white, tinted
with a soft eglantine pink, deepening into roses on the cheeks; the hair
was in long flaxen curls, and the eyelashes, so long and fair that at
times they caught a glossy light, shaded eyes of that deep blue upon that
limpid white, which is like nothing but the clear tints of old porcelain.
The features were as yet unformed, but small and delicate, and the
upright Napoleon gesture had something peculiarly quaint and pretty in
such a soft-looking little creature.  The boy was a handsome fellow, with
more solidity and sturdiness, and Honora could scarcely continue to amuse
him, as she thought of the father's pain in parting with two such
beings--his sole objects of affection.  A moment's wish flashed across
her, but was dismissed the next moment as a mere childish romance.

Old Mr. Sandbrook came in, and various other guests arrived, old
acquaintance to whom Owen must be re-introduced, and he looked fagged and
worn by the time all the greetings had been exchanged and all the remarks
made on his children.  When dinner was announced, he remained to the last
with them, and did not appear in the dining-room till his uncle had had
time to look round for him, and mutter something discontentedly about
'those brats.'  The vacant chair was beside Honora, and he was soon
seated in it, but at first he did not seem inclined to talk, and leant
back, so white and exhausted, that she thought it kinder to leave him to
himself.

When, somewhat recruited, he said in a low voice something of his hopes
that his little Cilly, as he called her, would be less shy another time,
and Honora responding heartily, he quickly fell into the parental strain
of anecdotes of the children's sayings and doings, whence Honora
collected that in his estimation Lucilla's forte was decision and Owen's
was sweetness, and that he was completely devoted to them, nursing and
teaching them himself, and finding his whole solace in them.  Tender pity
moved her strongly towards him, as she listened to the evidences of the
desolateness of his home and his heavy sorrow; and yet it was pity alone,
admiration would not revive, and indeed, in spite of herself, her
judgment _would_ now and then respond 'unwise,' or 'weak,' or 'why permit
this?' at details of Lucilla's _mutinerie_.  Presently she found that his
intentions were quite at variance with those of his brother.  His purpose
was fixed to take the children with him.

'They are very young,' said Honora.

'Yes; but their nurse is a most valuable person, and can arrange
perfectly for them, and they will always be under my eye.'

'That was just what Captain Charteris seemed to dread.'

'He little knows,' began Mr. Sandbrook, with a sigh.  'Yes, I know he is
most averse to it, and he is one who always carries his point, but he
will not do so here; he imagines that they may go to their aunt's
nursery, but,' with an added air of confidence, 'that will never do!'

Honora's eyes asked more.

'In fact,' he said, as the flush of pain rose on his cheeks, 'the
Charteris children are not brought up as I should wish to see mine.
There are influences at work there not suited for those whose home must
be a country parsonage, if--  Little Cilly has come in for more
admiration there already than is good for her.'

'It cannot be easy for her not to meet with that.'

'Why, no,' said the gratified father, smiling sadly; 'but Castle Blanch
training might make the mischief more serious.  It is a gay household,
and I cannot believe with Kit Charteris that the children are too young
to feel the blight of worldly influence.  Do not you think with me,
Nora?' he concluded in so exactly the old words and manner as to stir the
very depths of her heart, but woe worth the change from the hopes of
youth to this premature fading into despondency, and the implied
farewell!  She did think with him completely, and felt the more for him,
as she believed that these Charterises had led him and his wife into the
gaieties, which since her death he had forsworn and abhorred as
temptations.  She thought it hard that he should not have his children
with him, and talked of all the various facilities for taking them that
she could think of, till his face brightened under the grateful sense of
sympathy.

She did not hold the same opinion all the evening.  The two children made
their appearance at dessert, and there began by insisting on both sitting
on his knees; Owen consented to come to her, but Lucilla would not stir,
though she put on some pretty little coquettish airs, and made herself
extremely amiable to the gentleman who sat on her father's other hand,
making smart replies, that were repeated round the table with much
amusement.

But the ordinance of departure with the ladies was one of which the
sprite had no idea; Honor held out her hand for her; Aunt Sandbrook
called her; her father put her down; she shook her curls, and said she
should not leave father; it was stupid up in the drawing-room, and she
hated ladies, which confession set every one laughing, so as quite to
annihilate the effect of Mr. Sandbrook's 'Yes, go, my dear.'

Finally, he took the two up-stairs himself--the stairs which, as he had
told Honora that evening, were his greatest enemies, and he remained a
long time in their nursery, not coming down till tea was in progress.
Mrs. Sandbrook always made it herself at the great silver urn, which had
been a testimonial to her husband, and it was not at first that she had a
cup ready for him.  He looked even worse than at dinner, and Honora was
anxious to see him resting comfortably; but he had hardly sat down on the
sofa, and taken the cup in his hand, before a dismal childish wail was
heard from above, and at once he started up, so hastily as to cough
violently.  Captain Charteris, breaking off a conversation, came rapidly
across the room just as he was moving to the door.  'You're not going to
those imps--'

Owen moved his head, and stepped forward.

'I'll settle them.'

Renewed cries met his ears.  'No--a strange place--' he said.  'I must--'

He put his brother-in-law back with his hand, and was gone.  The captain
could not contain his vexation, 'That's the way those brats serve him
every night!' he exclaimed; 'they will not attempt to go to sleep without
him!  Why, I've found him writing his sermon with the boy wrapped up in
blankets in his lap; there's no sense in it.'

After about ten minutes, during which Mr. Sandbrook did not reappear,
Captain Charteris muttered something about going to see about him, and
stayed away a good while.  When he came down, he came and sat down by
Honora, and said, 'He is going to bed, quite done for.'

'That must be better for him than talking here.'

'Why, what do you think I found?  Those intolerable brats would not stop
crying unless he told them a story, and there was he with his voice quite
gone, coughing every two minutes, and romancing on with some allegory
about children marching on their little paths, and playing on their
little fiddles.  So I told Miss Cilly that if she cared a farthing for
her father, she would hold her tongue, and I packed her up, and put her
into her nursery.  She'll mind me when she sees I will be minded; and as
for little Owen, nothing would satisfy him but his promising not to go
away.  I saw that chap asleep before I came down, so there's no fear of
the yarn beginning again; but you see what chance there is of his mending
while those children are at him day and night.'

'Poor things! they little know.'

'One does not expect them to know, but one does expect them to show a
little rationality.  It puts one out of all patience to see him so weak.
If he is encouraged to take them abroad, he may do so, but I wash my
hands of him.  I won't be responsible for him--let them go alone!'

Honora saw this was a reproach to her for the favour with which she had
regarded the project.  She saw that the father's weakness quite altered
the case, and her former vision flashed across her again, but she
resolutely put it aside for consideration, and only made the unmeaning
answer, 'It is very sad and perplexing.'

'A perplexity of his own making.  As for their not going to Castle
Blanch, they were always there in my poor sister's time a great deal more
than was good for any of them, or his parish either, as I told him then;
and now, if he finds out that it is a worldly household, as he calls it,
why, what harm is that to do to a couple of babies like those?  If Mrs.
Charteris does not trouble herself much about the children, there are
governesses and nurses enough for a score!'

'I must own,' said Honora, 'that I think he is right.  Children are never
too young for impressions.'

'I'll tell you what, Miss Charlecote, the way he is going on is enough to
ruin the best children in the world.  That little Cilly is the most
arrant little flirt I ever came across; it is like a comedy to see the
absurd little puss going on with the curate, ay, and with every parson
that comes to Wrapworth; and she sees nothing else.  Impressions!  All
she wants is to be safe shut up with a good governess, and other
children.  It would do her a dozen times more good than all his stories
of good children and their rocky paths, and boats that never sailed on
any reasonable principle.'

'Poor child,' said Honora, smiling, 'she is a little witch.'

'And,' continued the uncle, 'if he thinks it so bad for them, he had
better take the only way of saving them from it for the future, or they
will be there for life.  If he gets through this winter, it will only be
by the utmost care.'

Honora kept her project back with the less difficulty, because she
doubted how it would be received by the rough captain; but it won more
and more upon her, as she rattled home through the gas-lights, and though
she knew she should learn to love the children only to have the pang of
losing them, she gladly cast this foreboding aside as selfish, and
applied herself impartially as she hoped to weigh the duty, but trembling
were the hands that adjusted the balance.  Alone as she stood, without a
tie, was not she marked out to take such an office of mere pity and
charity?  Could she see the friend of her childhood forced either to
peril his life by his care of his motherless children, or else to leave
them to the influences he so justly dreaded?  Did not the case cry out to
her to follow the promptings of her heart?  Ay, but might not, said
caution, her assumption of the charge lead their father to look on her as
willing to become their mother?  Oh, fie on such selfish prudery imputing
such a thought to yonder broken-hearted, sinking widower!  He had as
little room for such folly as she had inclination to find herself on the
old terms.  The hero of her imagination he could never be again, but it
would be weak consciousness to scruple at offering so obvious an act of
compassion.  She would not trust herself, she would go by what Miss Wells
said.  Nevertheless she composed her letter to Owen Sandbrook between
waking and sleeping all night, and dreamed of little creatures nestling
in her lap, and small hands playing with her hair.  How coolly she strove
to speak as she described the dilemma to the old lady, and how her heart
leapt when Miss Wells, her mind moving in the grooves traced out by
sympathy with her pupil, exclaimed, 'Poor little dears, what a pity they
should not be with you, my dear, they would be a nice interest for you!'

Perhaps Miss Wells thought chiefly of the brightening in her child's
manner, and the alert vivacity of eye and voice such as she had not seen
in her since she had lost her mother; but be that as it might, her words
were the very sanction so much longed for, and ere long Honora had her
writing-case before her, cogitating over the opening address, as if her
whole meaning were implied in them.

'My dear Owen' came so naturally that it was too like an attempt to recur
to the old familiarity.  'My dear Mr. Sandbrook?'  So formal as to be
conscious!  'Dear Owen?'  Yes that was the cousinly medium, and in
diffident phrases of restrained eagerness, now seeming too affectionate,
now too cold she offered to devote herself to his little ones, to take a
house on the coast, and endeavour to follow out his wishes with regard to
them, her good old friend supplying her lack of experience.

With a beating heart she awaited the reply.  It was but few lines, but
all Owen was in them.

    'MY DEAR NORA--You always were an angel of goodness.  I feel your
    kindness more than I can express.  If my darlings were to be left at
    all, it should be with you, but I cannot contemplate it.  Bless you
    for the thought!

                                               'Yours ever, O. SANDBROOK.'

She heard no more for a week, during which a dread of pressing herself on
him prevented her from calling on old Mrs. Sandbrook.  At last, to her
surprise, she received a visit from Captain Charteris, the person whom
she looked on as least propitious, and most inclined to regard her as an
enthusiastic silly young lady.  He was very gruff, and gave a bad account
of his patient.  The little boy had been unwell, and the exertion of
nursing him had been very injurious; the captain was very angry with
illness, child, and father.

'However,' he said, 'there's one good thing, L. has forbidden the
children's perpetually hanging on him, sleeping in his room, and so
forth.  With the constitutions to which they have every right, poor
things, he could not find a better way of giving them the seeds of
consumption.  That settles it.  Poor fellow, he has not the heart to
hinder their always pawing him, so there's nothing for it but to separate
them from him.'

'And may I have them?' asked Honor, too anxious to pick her words.

'Why, I told him I would come and see whether you were in earnest in your
kind offer.  You would find them no sinecure.'

'It would be a great happiness,' said she, struggling with tears that
might prevent the captain from depending on her good sense, and speaking
calmly and sadly; 'I have no other claims, nothing to tie me to any
place.  I am a good deal older than I look, and my friend, Miss Wells,
has been a governess.  _She_ is really a very wise, judicious person, to
whom he may quite trust.  Owen and I were children together, and I know
nothing that I should like better than to be useful to him.'

'Humph!' said the captain, more touched than he liked to betray; 'well,
it seems the only thing to which he can bear to turn!'

'Oh!' she said, breaking off, but emotion and earnestness looked
glistening and trembling through every feature.

'Very well,' said Captain Charteris, 'I'm glad, at least, that there is
some one to have pity on the poor things!  There's my brother's wife, she
doesn't say no, but she talks of convenience and spoilt
children--Sandbrook was quite right after all; I would not tell him how
she answered me!  Spoilt children to be sure they are, poor things, but
she might recollect they have no mother--such a fuss as she used to make
with poor Lucilla too.  Poor Lucilla, she would never have believed that
"dear Caroline" would have no better welcome for her little ones!  Spoilt
indeed!  A precious deal pleasanter children they are than any of the lot
at Castle Blanch, and better brought up too.'

The good captain's indignation had made away with his consistency, but
Honora did not owe him a grudge for revealing that she was his _pis
aller_, she was prone to respect a man who showed that he despised her,
and she only cared to arrange the details.  He was anxious to carry away
his charge at once, since every day of this wear and tear of feeling was
doing incalculable harm, and she undertook to receive the children and
nurse at any time.  She would write at once for a house at some warm
watering-place, and take them there as soon as possible, and she offered
to call that afternoon to settle all with Owen.

'Why,' said Captain Charteris, 'I hardly know.  One reason I came alone
was, that I believe that little elf of a Cilly has some notion of what is
plotting against her.  You can't speak a word but that child catches up,
and she will not let her father out of her sight for a moment.'

'Then what is to be done?  I would propose his coming here; but the poor
child would not let him go.'

'That is the only chance.  He has been forbidden the walking with them in
his arms to put them to sleep, and we've got the boy into the nursery,
and he'd better be out of the house than hear them roaring for him.  So
if you have no objection, and he is tolerable this evening, I would bring
him as soon as they are gone to bed.'

Poor Owen was evidently falling under the management of stronger hands
than his own, and it could only be hoped that it was not too late.  His
keeper brought him at a little after eight that evening.  There was a
look about him as if, after the last stroke that had befallen him, he
could feel no more, the bitterness of death was past, his very hands
looked woe-begone and astray, without the little fingers pressing them.
He could not talk at first; he shook Honor's hand as if he could not bear
to be grateful to her, and only the hardest hearts could have endured to
enter on the intended discussion.  The captain was very gentle towards
him, and talk was made on other topics but gradually something of the
influence of the familiar scene where his brightest days had been passed,
began to prevail.  All was like old times--the quaint old silver kettle
and lamp, the pattern of the china cups, the ruddy play of the fire on
the polished panels of the room--and he began to revive and join the
conversation.  They spoke of Delaroche's beautiful Madonnas, one of which
was at the time to be seen at a print-shop--'Yes,' said Mr. Sandbrook,
'and little Owen cried out as soon as he saw it, "That lady, the lady
with the flowery watch."'

Honora smiled.  It was an allusion to the old jests upon her auburn
locks, 'a greater compliment to her than to Delaroche,' she said; 'I saw
that he was extremely curious to ascertain what my carrots were made of.'

'Do you know, Nora, I never saw more than one person with such hair as
yours,' said Owen, with more animation, 'and oddly enough her name turned
out to be Charlecote.'

'Impossible!  Humfrey and I are the only Charlecotes left that I know of!
Where could it have been?'

'It was at Toronto.  I must confess that I was struck by the brilliant
hair in chapel.  Afterwards I met her once or twice.  She was a Canadian
born, and had just married a settler, whose name I can't remember, but
her maiden name had certainly been Charlecote; I remembered it because of
the coincidence.'

'Very curious; I did not know there had been any Charlecotes but
ourselves.'

'And Humfrey Charlecote has never married?'

'Never.'

What made Owen raise his eyes at that moment, just so that she met them?
and why did that dreadful uncontrollable crimson heat come mounting up
over cheeks and temples, tingling and spreading into her very neck, just
because it was the most hateful thing that could happen?  And he saw it.
She knew he did so, for he dropped his eyes at once, and there was an
absolute silence, which she broke in desperation, by an incoherent
attempt to say something, and that ended by blundering into the tender
subject--the children; she found she had been talking about the place to
which she thought of taking them, a quiet spot on the northern coast of
Somersetshire.

He could bear the pang a little better now, and assented, and the ice
once broken, there were so many details and injunctions that lay near his
heart that the conversation never flagged.  He had great reliance on
their nurse, and they were healthy children, so that there was not much
instruction as regarded the care of their little persons; but he had a
great deal to say about the books they were to be taught from, the hymns
they were to learn, and the exact management required by Lucilla's
peculiar temper and decided will.  The theory was so perfect and so
beautifully wise that Honora sat by in reverence, fearing her power of
carrying it out; and Captain Charteris listened with a shade of satire on
his face, and at last broke out with a very odd grunt, as if he did not
think this quite what he had seen at Wrapworth parsonage.

Mr. Sandbrook coloured, and checked himself.  Then after a pause, he said
in a very different tone, 'Perhaps so, Kit.  It is only too easy to talk.
Nora knows that there is a long way between my intentions and my
practice.'

The humble dejection of that tone touched her more than she had been
touched since he had wrung her hand, long, long ago.

'Well,' said the captain, perceiving only that he had given pain, 'I will
say this for your monkeys, they do _know_ what is right at least; they
have heard the articles of war, which I don't fancy the other lot ever
did.  As to the discipline, humph!  It is much of a muchness, and I'm not
sure but it is not the best at the castle.'

'The children are different at home,' said Owen, quietly; 'but,' he
added, with the same sad humility, 'I dare say they will be much the
better for the change; I know--'

But he broke off, and put his hand before his eyes.

Honora hoped she should not be left alone with him, but somehow it did
happen.  The captain went to bring the carriage into the court, and get
all imaginable wraps before trusting him out in the air, and Miss Wells
disappeared, probably intending kindness.  Of course neither spoke, till
the captain was almost come back.  Then Owen rose from where he had been
sitting listlessly, leaning back, and slowly said, 'Nora, we did not
think it would end thus when I put my hand to the plough.  I am glad to
have been here again.  I had not remembered what I used to be.  I do not
ask you to forgive me.  You are doing so, returning me good for--shall I
say evil?'

Honor could not speak or look, she drooped her head, and her hair veiled
her; she held out her hand as the captain came in, and felt it pressed
with a feverish, eager grasp, and a murmured blessing.

Honora did not see Mr. Sandbrook again, but Captain Charteris made an
incursion on her the next day to ask if she could receive the children on
the ensuing morning.  He had arranged to set off before daybreak,
embarking for Ostend before the children were up, so as to spare the
actual parting, and Honora undertook to fetch them home in the course of
the day.  He had hoped to avoid their knowing of the impending separation
but he could only prevail so far as to extract a promise that they should
not know when it was to take place.  Their father had told them of their
destination and his own as they sat on his bed in the morning before he
rose, and apparently it had gone off better than could have been
expected; little Owen did not seem to understand, and his sister was a
child who never shed tears.

The day came, and Honora awoke to some awe at the responsibility, but
with a yearning supplied, a vacancy filled up.  For at least six months
she should be as a mother, and a parent's prayers could hardly have been
more earnest.

She had not long been dressed, when a hasty peal was heard at the bell,
and no sooner was the door opened than in hurried Captain Charteris,
breathless, and bearing a large plaid bundle with tangled flaxen locks
drooping at one end, and at the other rigid white legs, socks trodden
down, one shoe wanting.

He deposited it, and there stood the eldest child, her chin buried in her
neck, her fingers digging fast into their own palms, her eyes gleaming
fiercely at him under the pent-house she had made of her brows.

'There's an introduction!' he said, panting for breath.  'Found her in
time--the Strand--laid flat on back seat, under all the plaids and
bags--her father put up his feet and found her--we drove to the lane--I
ran down with her--not a moment--can't stay, good-bye, little Cilly
goose, to think she could go that figure!'

He advanced to kiss her, but she lifted up her shoulder between him and
her face, much as a pugnacious pigeon flap its wings, and he retreated.

'Wiser not, maybe!  Look here,' as Honora hurried after him into the hall
to ask after the patient; 'if you have a bit of sticking-plaster, he had
better not see this.'

Lucilla had made her little pearls of teeth meet in the fleshy part of
his palm.

Honora recoiled, shocked, producing the plaster from her pocket in an
instant.

'Little vixen,' he said, half laughing; 'but I was thankful to her for
neither kicking nor struggling!'

'Poor child!' said Honora, 'perhaps it was as much agony as passion!'

He shrugged his shoulders as he held out his hand for her operations,
then hastily thanking her and wishing her good-bye, rushed off again, as
the astonished Miss Wells appeared on the stairs.  Honor shrank from
telling her what wounds had been received, she thought the gentle lady
would never get over such a proceeding, and, in fact, she herself felt
somewhat as if she had undertaken the charge of a little wild cat, and
quite uncertain what the young lady might do next.  On entering the
breakfast-room, they found her sunk down all in a heap, where her uncle
had set her down, her elbows on a low footstool, and her head leaning on
them, the eyes still gazing askance from under the brows, but all the
energy and life gone from the little dejected figure.

'Poor child!  Dear little thing--won't you come to me?'  She stirred not.

Miss Wells advanced, but the child's only motion was to shake her frock
at her, as if to keep her off; Honora, really afraid of the consequences
of touching her, whispered that they would leave her to herself a little.
The silver kettle came in, and tea was made.

'Lucilla, my dear, the servants are coming in to prayers.'

She did not offer to move, and still Honora let her alone, and she
remained in the same attitude while the psalm was read, but afterwards
there was a little approximation to kneeling in her position.

'Lucilla, dear child, you had better come to breakfast--'  Only another
defying glance.

Miss Wells, with what Honor thought defective judgment, made pointed
commendations of the tea, the butter and honey, but they had no effect;
Honora, though her heart ached for the wrench the poor child had
undergone, thought it best to affect indifference, gave a hint of the
kind, and scrupulously avoided looking round at her, till breakfast was
finished.  When she did so, she no longer met the wary defiant gleam of
the blue eyes, they were fast shut, the head had sunk on the arms, and
the long breathings of sleep heaved the little frame.  'Poor little
dear!' as Miss Wells might well exclaim, she had kept herself wakeful the
whole night that her father might not go without her knowledge.  And how
pretty she looked in that little black frock, so ill and hastily put on,
one round white shoulder quite out of it, and the long flaxen locks
showing their silky fineness as they hung dispersed and tangled, the
pinky flush of sleep upon the little face pillowed on the rosy pair of
arms, and with a white unstockinged leg doubled under her.  Poor child,
there was more of the angel than the tiger-cat in her aspect now, and
they had tears in their eyes, and moved softly lest they should startle
her from her rest.

But wakened she must be.  Honora was afraid of displeasing her domestic
vizier, and rendering him for ever unpropitious to her little guests if
she deferred his removal of the breakfast things beyond a reasonable
hour.  How was the awaking to be managed?  Fright, tears, passion, what
change would come when the poor little maid must awake to her grief!
Honora would never have expected so poetical a flight from her good old
governess as the suggestion, 'Play to her;' but she took it eagerly, and
going to the disused piano which stood in the room began a low, soft air.
The little sleeper stirred, presently raised her head, shook her hair off
her ears, and after a moment, to their surprise, her first word was
'Mamma!'  Honora was pausing, but the child said, 'Go on,' and sat for a
few moments as though recovering herself, then rose and came forward
slowly standing at last close to Honora.  There was a pause, and she
said, 'Mamma did that.'

Never was a sound more welcome!  Honora dared to do what she had longed
for so much, put an arm round the little creature and draw her nearer,
nor did Lucilla resist, she only said, 'Won't you go on?'

'I can make prettier music in the other room, my dear; we will go there,
only you've had no breakfast.  You must be very hungry.'

Lucilla turned round, saw a nice little roll cut into slices, and
remembered that she _was_ hungry; and presently she was consuming it so
prosperously under Miss Wells's superintendence that Honor ventured out
to endeavour to retard Jones's desire to 'take away,' by giving him
orders about the carriage, and then to attend to her other household
affairs.  By the time they were ended she found that Miss Wells had
brought the child into the drawing-room, where she had at once detected
the piano, and looking up at Honora said eagerly 'Now then!'  And Honora
fulfilled her promise, while the child stood by softened and gratified,
until it was time to propose fetching little Owen, 'your little
brother--you will like to have him here.'

'I want my father,' said Lucilla in a determined voice, as if nothing
else were to satisfy her.

'Poor child, I know you do; I am so sorry for you, my dear little woman,
but you see the doctors think papa is more likely to get better if he has
not you to take care of!'

'I did not want my father to take care of _me_,' said the little lady,
proudly; 'I take care of father, I always make his tea and warm his
slippers, and bring him his coffee in the morning.  And Uncle Kit never
_will_ put his gloves for him and warm his handkerchief!  Oh! what will
he do?  I can't bear it.'

The violent grief so long kept back was coming now, but not freely; the
little girl threw herself on the floor, and in a tumult of despair and
passion went on, hurrying out her words, 'It's very hard!  It's all Uncle
Kit's doing!  I hate him!  Yes, I do.'  And she rolled over and over in
her frenzy of feeling.

'My dear! my dear!' cried Honora, kneeling by her, 'this will never do!
Papa would be very much grieved to see his little girl so naughty.  Don't
you know how your uncle only wants to do him good, and to make him get
well?'

'Then why didn't he take me?' said Lucilla, gathering herself up, and
speaking sullenly.

'Perhaps he thought you gave papa trouble, and tired him.'

'Yes, that's it, and it's not fair,' cried the poor child again; 'why
couldn't he tell me?  I didn't know papa was ill! he never told me so,
nor Mr. Pendy either; or, how I would have nursed him!  I wanted to do so
much for him; I wouldn't have asked him to tell me stories, nor nothing!
No!  And now they won't let me take care of him;' and she cried bitterly.

'Yes,' said good, gentle Miss Wells, thinking more of present comfort
than of the too possible future; 'but you will go back to take care of
him some day, my dear.  When the spring comes papa will come back to his
little girl.'

Spring!  It was a long way off to a mind of six years old, but it made
Lucilla look more amiably at Miss Wells.

'And suppose,' proceeded that good lady, 'you were to learn to be as good
and helpful a little girl as can be while he is gone, and then nobody
will wish to keep you from him.  How surprised he would be!'

'And then shall we go home?' said Lucilla.

Miss Wells uttered a somewhat rash assurance to that effect, and the
child came near her, pacified and satisfied by the scheme of delightful
goodness and progress to be made in order to please her father--as she
always called him.  Honor looked on, thankful for the management that was
subduing and consoling the poor little maid, and yet unable to
participate in it, for though the kind old lady spoke in all sincerity,
it was impossible to Honora to stifle a lurking fear that the hopes built
on the prospect of his return had but a hollow foundation.

However it attracted Lucilla to Miss Wells, so that Honora did not fear
leaving her on going to bring home little Owen.  The carriage which had
conveyed the travellers, had brought back news of his sister's discovery
and capture, and Honora found Mrs. Sandbrook much shocked at the enormity
of the proceeding, and inclined to pity Honora for having charge of the
most outrageous children she had ever seen.  A very long letter had been
left for her by their father, rehearsing all he had before given of
directions, and dwelling still more on some others, but then apparently
repenting of laying down the law, he ended by entreating her to use her
own judgment, believe in his perfect confidence, and gratitude beyond
expression for most unmerited kindness.

Little Owen, she heard, had made the house resound with cries when his
father was nowhere to be found, but his nurse had quieted him, and he
came running to Honora with an open, confiding face.  'Are you the lady?
And will you take me to Cilly and the sea?  And may I have a whale?'

Though Honora did not venture on promising him a tame whale in the
Bristol Channel, she had him clinging to her in a moment, eager to set
off, to go to Cilly, and the dove he had seen at her house.  'It's a
nasty house here--I want to come away,' he said, running backwards and
forwards between her and the window to look at the horses, while nurse's
interminable boxes were being carried down.

The troubles really seemed quite forgotten; the boy sat on her knee and
chattered all the way to Woolstone-lane, and there he and Lucilla flew
upon each other with very pretty childish joy; the sister doing the
honours of the house in right of having been a little longer an inmate.
Nurse caught her and dressed and combed her, shoed her and sashed her, so
that she came down to dinner less picturesque, but more respectable than
at her first appearance that morning, and except for the wonderful
daintiness of both children, dinner went off very well.

All did go well till night, and then Owen's woes began.  Oh what a
piteous sobbing lamentation was it!  'Daddy, daddy!' not to be consoled,
not to be soothed, awakening his sister to the same sad cry, stilled only
by exhaustion and sleepiness.

Poor little fellow!  Night after night it was the same.  Morning found
him a happy, bright child, full of engaging ways and innocent sayings,
and quite satisfied with 'Cousin Honor,' but bed-time always brought back
the same wailing.  Nurse, a tidy, brisk personage, with a sensible,
deferential tone to her superiors, and a caressing one to the children,
tried in vain assurances of papa's soon coming back; nay, it might be
feared that she held out that going to sleep would bring the morrow when
he was to come; but even this delusive promise failed; the present was
all; and Cousin Honor herself was only not daddy, though she nursed him,
and rocked him in her arms, and fondled him, and told stories or sung his
lullaby with nightly tenderness, till the last sobs had quivered into the
smooth heavings of sleep.

Might only sea air and exercise act as a soporific!  That was a better
chance than the new promise which Honora was vexed to find nurse holding
out to poor little Owen, that if he would be a good boy, he was going to
papa.  She was puzzled how to act towards a person not exactly under her
authority, but she took courage to speak about these false promises, and
found the remonstrance received in good part; indeed nurse used to talk
at much length of the children in a manner that implied great affection
for them, coupled with a sense that it would be an excellent thing for
them to be in such judicious hands.  Honor always came away from nurse in
good humour with herself.

The locality she had chosen was a sheltered village on the north coast of
Somerset, just where Exmoor began to give grandeur to the outline in the
rear, and in front the Welsh hills wore different tints of purple or
gray, according to the promise of weather, Lundy Isle and the two lesser
ones serving as the most prominent objects, as they rose from--Well,
well! Honor counted herself as a Somersetshire woman, and could not brook
hearing much about the hue of the Bristol Channel.  At any rate, just
here it had been so kind as to wash up a small strip of pure white sand,
fit for any amount of digging for her children; and though Sandbeach was
watering-place enough to have the lodging-houses, butchers and bakers, so
indispensable to the London mind, it was not so much in vogue as to be
overrun by fine ladies, spoiling the children by admiring their beauty.
So said Miss Charlecote in her prudence--but was not she just as jealous
as nurse that people should turn round a second time to look at those
lovely little faces?

That was a very happy charge to her and her good old governess, with some
drawbacks, indeed, but not such as to distress her over much.  The chief
was at first Owen's nightly sorrows, his daily idleness over lessons,
Lucilla's pride, and the exceeding daintiness of both children, which
made their meals a constant vexation and trouble.  But what was this
compared with the charm of their dependence on her, and of hearing that
newly-invented pet name, 'Sweet Honey,' invoked in every little concern
that touched them?

It was little Owen's name for her.  He was her special favourite--there
was no concealing it.  Lucilla did not need her as much, and was of a
vigorous, independent nature, that would stand alone to the utmost.  Owen
gave his affection spontaneously; if Lucilla's was won, it must be at
unawares.  She was living in and for her absent father now, and had
nothing to spare for any one else, or if she had, Miss Wells, who had the
less claim on her was preferred to Cousin Honor.  'Father' was almost her
religion; though well taught, and unusually forward in religious
knowledge, as far as Honora dared to augur, no motive save her love for
him had a substantive existence, as touching her feelings or ruling her
actions.  For him she said her prayers and learnt her hymns; for him she
consented to learn to hem handkerchiefs; for him were those crooked
letters for ever being written; nay, at the thought of his displeasure
alone could her tears be made to flow when she was naughty; and for him
she endeavoured to be less fanciful at dinner, as soon as her mind had
grasped the perception that her not eating what was set before her might
really hinder him from always having her with him.  She was fairly
manageable, with very high spirits, and not at all a silly or helpless
child; but though she obeyed Miss Charlecote, it was only as obeying her
father through her, and his constant letters kept up the strong
influence.  In her most gracious moods, she was always telling her little
brother histories of what they should do when they got home to father and
Mr. Prendergast; but to Owen, absence made a much greater difference.
Though he still cried at night, his 'Sweet Honey' was what he wanted, and
with her caressing him, he only dreaded her leaving him.  He lavished his
pretty endearments upon her, and missed no one when he held her hand or
sat in her lap, stroking her curls, and exchanging a good deal of
fondling.  He liked his hymns, and enjoyed Scripture stories, making
remarks that caused her to reverence him; and though backward, idle, and
sometimes very passionate, his was exactly the legitimate character for a
child, such as she could deal with and love.  She was as complete a slave
to the two little ones as their father could have been; all her habits
were made to conform to their welfare and pleasure, and very happy she
was, but the discipline was more decided than they had been used to;
there were habits to be formed, and others to be broken, and she was not
weak enough not to act up to her duty in this respect, even though her
heart was winding round that sunny-faced boy as fast as it had ever clung
to his father.  The new Owen Sandbrook, with his innocent earnestness,
and the spiritual light in his eyes, should fulfil all her dreams!

Christmas had passed; Mr. Sandbrook had begun to write to his children
about seeing them soon; Lucilla's slow hemming was stimulated by the hope
of soon making her present; and Honora was marvelling at her own
selfishness in dreading the moment when the little ones would be no
longer hers; when a hurried note of preparation came from Captain
Charteris.  A slight imprudence had renewed all the mischief, and his
patient was lying speechless under a violent attack of inflammation.
Another letter, and all was over.

A shock indeed! but in Honora's eyes, Owen Sandbrook had become chiefly
the children's father, and their future was what concerned her most.  How
should she bear to part with his darlings for ever, and to know them
brought up in the way that was not good, and which their father dreaded,
and when their orphanhood made her doubly tender over them?

To little Owen it was chiefly that papa was gone 'up there' whither all
his hymns and allegories pointed, and at his age, all that he did not
actually see was much on a par; the hope of meeting had been too distant
for the extinction of it to affect him very nearly, and he only
understood enough to prompt the prettiest and most touching sayings,
wondering about the doings of papa, mamma, and little baby among the
angels, with as much reality as he had formerly talked of papa among the
French.

Lucilla heard with more comprehension, but her gay temper seemed to
revolt against having sorrow forced on her.  She would not listen and
would not think; her spirits seemed higher than ever, and Honora almost
concluded that either she did not feel at all, or that the moment of
separation had exhausted all.  Her character made Honora especially
regret her destiny; it was one only too congenial to the weeds that were
more likely to be implanted, than plucked up, at Castle Blanch.  Captain
Charteris had written to say that he, and probably his brother, should
come to Sandbeach to relieve Miss Charlecote from the care of the
children, and she prized each day while she still had those dear little
voices about the house.

'Sweet Honey,' said Lucilla, who had been standing by the window,
apparently watching the rain, 'do Uncle Charteris and Uncle Kit want us
to go away from you?'

'I am very much afraid they do, my dear.'

'Nurse said, if you would ask them, we might stay,' said Lucilla, tracing
the course of a drop with her finger.

'If asking would do any good, my dear,' sighed Honor; 'but I don't think
nurse knows.  You see, you belong to your uncles now.'

'I won't belong to Uncle Charteris!' cried Lucilla, passionately.  'I
won't go to Castle Blanch!  They were all cross to me; Ratia teased me,
and father said it was all their fault I was naughty, and he would never
take me there again!  Don't let Uncle Kit go and take me there!' and she
clung to her friend, as if the recollection of Uncle Kit's victory by
main force hung about her still.

'I won't, I won't, my child, if I can help it; but it will all be as your
dear father may have fixed it, and whatever he wishes I know that his
little girl will do.'

Many a dim hope did Honora revolve, and more than ever did she feel as if
a piece of her heart would be taken away, for the orphans fastened
themselves upon her, and little Owen stroked her face, and said naughty
Uncle Kit should not take them away.  She found from the children and
nurse that about a year ago, just after the loss of the baby, there had
been a most unsuccessful visit at Castle Blanch; father and little ones
had been equally miserable there in the separation of the large
establishment, and Lucilla had been domineeringly petted by her youngest
cousin, Horatia, who chose to regard her as a baby, and coerced her by
bodily force, such as was intolerable to so high-spirited a child, who
was a little woman at home.  She had resisted, and fallen into dire
disgrace, and it was almost with horror that she regarded the place and
the cousinhood.  Nurse appeared to have some private disgust of her own,
as well as to have much resented her children's being convicted of
naughtiness, and she spoke strongly in confidence to Honora of the
ungodly ways of the whole household, declaring that after the advantages
she had enjoyed with her dear master, she could not bear to live there,
though she might--yes, she _must_ be with the dear children just at
first, and she ventured to express strong wishes for their remaining in
their present home, where they had been so much improved.

The captain came alone.  He walked in from the inn just before luncheon,
with a wearied, sad look about him, as if he had suffered a good deal; he
spoke quietly and slowly, and when the children came in, he took them up
in his arms and kissed them very tenderly.  Lucilla submitted more
placably than Honor expected, but the moment they were set down they
sprang to their friend, and held by her dress.  Then came the meal, which
passed off with small efforts at making talk, but with nothing memorable
except the captain's exclamation at the end--'Well, that's the first time
I ever dined with you children without a fuss about the meat.  Why,
Cilly, I hardly know you.'

'I think the appetites are better for the sea air,' said Honor, not that
she did not think it a great achievement.

'I'm afraid it has been a troublesome charge,' said the captain, laying
his hand on his niece's shoulder, which she at once removed, as
disavowing his right in her.

'Oh! it has made me so happy,' said Honor, hardly trusting her voice; 'I
don't know how to yield it up.'

Those understanding eyes of Lucilla's were drinking in each word, but
Uncle Kit ruthlessly said--'There, it's your walking time, children; you
go out now.'

Honora followed up his words with her orders, and Lucille obeyed, only
casting another wistful look, as if she knew her fate hung in the scales.
It was showing tact such as could hardly have been expected from the
little impetuous termagant, and was the best pleading for her cause, for
her uncle's first observation was--'A wonder!  Six months back, there
would have been an explosion!'

'I am glad you think them improved.'

'Civilized beings, not plagues.  You have been very good to them;' and as
she intimated her own pleasure in them, he continued--'It will be better
for them at Castle Blanch to have been a little broken in; the change
from his indulgence would have been terrible.'

'If it were possible to leave them with me, I should be so happy,' at
length gasped Honora, meeting an inquiring dart from the captain's eyes,
as he only made an interrogative sound as though to give himself time to
think, and she proceeded it broken sentences--'If their uncle and aunt
did not so very much wish for them--perhaps--I could--'

'Well,' said Captain Charteris, apparently so little aided by his
thoughts as to see no hope of overcoming his perplexity without
expressing it, 'the truth is that, though I had not meant to say anything
of it, for I think relations should come first, I believe poor Sandbrook
would have preferred it.'  And while her colour deepened, and she locked
her trembling fingers together to keep them still, he went on.  'Yes! you
can't think how often I called myself a dozen fools for having parted him
from his children!  Never held up his head again!  I could get him to
take interest in nothing--every child he saw he was only comparing to one
or other of them.  After the year turned, and he talked of coming home,
he was more cheerful; but strangely enough, for those last days at
Hyeres, though he seemed better, his spirits sank unaccountably, and he
_would_ talk more of the poor little thing that he lost than of these!
Then he had a letter from you which set him sighing, and wishing they
could always have such care!  Altogether, I thought to divert him by
taking him on that expedition, but--  Well, I've been provoked with him
many a time, but there was more of the _real thing_ in him than in the
rest of us, and I feel as if the best part of our family were gone.'

'And this was all?  He was too ill to say much afterwards?'

'Couldn't speak when he rang in the morning!  Was gone by that time next
day.  Now,' added the captain, after a silence, 'I tell you candidly that
my feeling is that the ordinary course is right.  I think Charles ought
to take the children, and the children ought to be with Charles.'

'If you think so,' began Honor, with failing hopes.

'At the same time,' continued he, 'I don't think they'll be so happy or
so well cared for as by you, and knowing poor Owen's wishes, I should not
feel justified in taking them away, since you are so good as to offer to
keep them.'

Honor eagerly declared herself much obliged, then thought it sounded
ironical.

'Unless,' he proceeded, 'Charles should strongly feel it his duty to take
them home, in which case--'

'Oh, of course I could say nothing.'

'Very well, then we'll leave it to his decision.'

So it remained, and in trembling Honora awaited the answer.

It was in her favour that he was appointed to a ship, since he was thus
excluded from exercising any supervision over them at Castle Blanch, and
shortly after, letters arrived gratefully acceding to her request.
Family arrangements and an intended journey made her proposal doubly
welcome, for the present at least, and Mrs. Charteris was full of polite
thanks.

Poor little waifs and strays!  No one else wanted them, but with her at
least they had a haven of refuge, and she loved them the more ardently
for their forlorn condition.  Her own as they had never before been! and
if the tenure were uncertain, she prized it doubly, even though, by a
strange fatality, she had never had so much trouble and vexation with
them as arose at once on their being made over to her!  When all was
settled, doubt over, and the routine life begun, Lucilla evidently felt
the blank of her vanished hopes, and became fretful and captious, weary
of things in general, and without sufficient motive to control her
natural taste for the variety of naughtiness!  Honor had not undertaken
the easiest of tasks, but she neither shrank from her enterprise nor
ceased to love the fiery little flighty sprite, the pleasing torment of
her life--she loved her only less than that model of childish sweetness,
her little Owen.

                                * * * * *

'Lucy, dear child, don't take your brother there.  Owen dear, come back,
don't you see the mud? you'll sink in.'

'I'm only getting a dear little crab, Sweet Honey,' and the four little
feet went deeper and deeper into the black mud.

'I can't have it done! come back, children, I desire, directly.'

The boy would have turned, but his sister had hold of his hand.  'Owen,
there he is!  I'll have him,' and as the crab scuttled sidelong after the
retreating tide, on plunged the children.

'Lucy, come here!' cried the unfortunate old hen, as her ducklings took
to the black amphibious mass, but not a whit did Lucilla heed.  In the
ardour of the chase, on she went, unheeding, leaving her brother sticking
half way, where having once stopped, he began to find it difficult to
withdraw his feet, and fairly screamed to 'Sweet Honey' for help.  His
progress was not beyond what a few long vigorous steps of hers could come
up with, but deeply and blackly did she sink, and when she had lifted her
truant out of his two holes, the increased weight made her go ankle deep
at the first tread, and just at the same moment a loud shriek proclaimed
that Lucilla, in hey final assault on the crab, had fallen flat on a
yielding surface, where each effort to rise sank her deeper, and Honora
almost was expecting in her distress to see her disappear altogether, ere
the treacherous mud would allow her to come to the rescue.  But in that
instant of utmost need, ere she could set down the little boy, a
gentleman, with long-legged strides, had crossed the intervening space,
and was bearing back the young lady from her mud bath.  She raised her
eyes to thank him.  'Humfrey!' she exclaimed.

'Honor! so it was you, was it?  I'd no notion of it!' as he placed on her
feet the little maiden, encrusted with mud from head to foot, while the
rest of the party were all apparently cased in dark buskins of the same.

'Come to see me and my children?' she said.  'I am ashamed you should
find us under such circumstances! though I don't know what would have
become of us otherwise.  No, Lucy, you are too disobedient for any one to
take notice of you yet--you must go straight home, and be cleaned, and
not speak to Mr. Charlecote till you are quite good.  Little Owen, here
he is--he was quite led into it.  But how good of you to come, Humfrey:
where are you?'

'At the hotel--I had a mind to come and see how you were getting on, and
I'd had rather more than usual to do of late, so I thought I would take a
holiday.'

They walked on talking for some seconds, when presently as the squire's
hand hung down, a little soft one stole into it, and made him exclaim
with a start, 'I thought it was Ponto's nose!'

But though very fond of children, he took up his hand, and did not make
the slightest response to the sly overture of the small coquette, the
effect as Honor well knew of opposition quite as much as of her strong
turn for gentlemen.  She pouted a little, and then marched on with 'don't
care' determination, while Humfrey and Honora began to talk over
Hiltonbury affairs, but were soon interrupted by Owen, who, accustomed to
all her attention, did not understand her being occupied by any one else.
'Honey, Honeypots,' and a pull at her hand when she did not immediately
attend, 'why don't the little crabs get black legs like mine?'

'Because they only go where they ought,' was the extremely moral reply of
the squire.  'Little boys aren't meant to walk in black mud.'

'The shrimp boys do go in the mud,' shrewdly pleaded Owen, setting Honor
off laughing at Humfrey's discomfited look of diversion.

'It won't do to generalize,' she said, merrily.  'Owen must be content to
regard crabs and shrimp boys as privileged individuals.'

Owen demanded whether when he was big he might be a shrimp boy, and a
good deal of fraternization had taken place between him and Mr.
Charlecote before the cottage was reached.

It was a very happy day to Honora; there was a repose and trust to be
felt in Humfrey's company, such as she had not experienced since she had
lost her parents, and the home sense of kindred was very precious.  Only
women whose chief prop is gone, can tell the value of one who is still
near enough to disapprove without ceremony.

The anxiety that Honor felt to prove to her cousin that it was not a bit
of romantic folly to have assumed her present charge, was worth more than
all the freedom of action in the world.  How much she wanted the children
to show off to advantage! how desirous she was that he should not think
her injudicious! yes, and how eager to see him pleased with their pretty
looks!

Lucilla came down cleaned, curled, and pardoned, and certainly a heart
must have been much less tender than Humfrey Charlecote's not to be
touched by the aspect of those two little fair waxen-looking beings in
the deepest mourning of orphanhood.  He was not slow in making advances
towards them, but the maiden had been affronted, and chose to be slyly
shy and retiring, retreating to the other side of Miss Wells, and there
becoming intent upon her story-book, though many a gleam through her
eyelashes betrayed furtive glances at the stranger whom Owen was
monopolizing.  And then she let herself be drawn out, with the drollest
mixture of arch demureness and gracious caprice.  Honora had never before
seen her with a gentleman, and to be courted was evidently as congenial
an element to her as to a reigning beauty.  She was perfectly
irresistible to manhood, and there was no doubt, ere the evening was
over, that Humfrey thought her one of the prettiest little girls he had
ever seen.

He remained a week at Sandbeach, lodging at the inn, but spending most of
his time with Honor.  He owned that he had been unwell, and there
certainly was a degree of lassitude about him, though Honor suspected
that his real motive in coming was brotherly kindness and desire to see
whether she were suffering much from the death of Owen Sandbrook.  Having
come, he seemed not to know how to go away.  He was too fond of children
to become weary of their petty exactions, and they both had a sort of
passion for him; he built castles for them on the beach, presided over
their rides, took them out boating, and made them fabulously happy.
Lucilla had not been so good for weeks, and the least symptom of an
outbreak was at once put down by his good-natured 'No, no!'  The evenings
at the cottage with Honora and Miss Wells, music and bright talk, were
evidently very refreshing to him, and he put off his departure from day
to day, till an inexorable matter of county business forced him off.

Not till the day was imminent, did the cousins quit the easy surface of
holiday leisure talk.  They had been together to the late evening
service, and were walking home, when Honora began abruptly, 'Humfrey, I
wish you would not object to the children giving me pet names.'

'I did not know that I had shown any objection.'

'As if you did not impressively say Miss Charlecote on every occasion
when you mention me to them.'

'Well, and is not it more respectful?'

'That's not what I want.  Where the natural tie is wanting, one should do
everything to make up for it.'

'And you hope to do so by letting yourself be called Honey-pots!'

'More likely than by sitting up distant and awful to be _Miss
Charlecoted_!'

'Whatever you might be called must become an endearment,' said Humfrey,
uttering unawares one of the highest compliments she had ever received,
'and I own I do not like to hear those little chits make so free with
your name.'

'For my sake, or theirs?'

'For both.  There is an old saying about familiarity, and I think you
should recollect that, for the children's own good, it is quite as
needful to strengthen respect as affection.'

'And you think I can do that by fortifying myself with Miss Charlecote?
Perhaps I had better make it Mrs. Honora Charlecote at once, and get a
high cap, a rod, and a pair of spectacles, eh?  No! if they won't respect
me out of a buckram suit, depend upon it they would find out it was a
hollow one.'

Humfrey smiled.  From her youth up, Honor could generally come off in
apparent triumph from an argument with him, but the victory was not
always where the triumph was.

'Well, Humfrey,' she said, after some pause, 'do you think I am fit to be
trusted with my two poor children?'

There was a huskiness in his tone as he said, 'I am sincerely glad you
have the pleasure and comfort of them.'

'I suspect there's a reservation there.  But really, Humfrey, I don't
think I went out searching for the responsibility in the way that makes
it dangerous.  One uncle did not want them, and the other could not have
them, and it would have been mere barbarity in me not to offer.  Besides,
their father wished--' and her voice faltered with tears.

'No, indeed,' said Humfrey, eagerly, 'I did not in the least mean that it
is not the kindest, most generous requital,' and there he broke off,
embarrassed by the sincere word that he had uttered, but before she had
spoken an eager negative--to what she knew not--he went on.  'And of
course I don't mean that you are not one to manage them very well, and
all that--only I hope there may not be pain in store--I should not like
those people to use you for their nursery governess, and then take the
children away just as you had set your heart upon them.  Don't do that,
Honor,' he added, with an almost sad earnestness.

'Do what?  Set my heart on them?  Do you think I can help loving the
creatures?' she said, with mournful playfulness, 'or that my uncertain
tenure does not make them the greater darlings?'

'There are ways of loving without setting one's heart,' was the somewhat
grave reply.

He seemed to be taking these words as equivalent to transgressing the
command that requires all our heart, and she began quickly, 'Oh! but I
didn't mean--' then a sudden thrill crossed her whether there might not
be some truth in the accusation.  Where had erst the image of Owen
Sandbrook stood?  First or second?  Where was now the image of the boy?
She turned her words into 'Do you think I am doing so--in a wrong way?'

'Honor dear, I could not think of wrong where you are concerned,' he
said.  'I was only afraid of your kindness bringing you pain, if you rest
your happiness very much upon those children.'

'I see,' said Honor, smiling, relieved.  'Thank you, Humfrey; but you see
I can't weigh out my affection in that fashion.  They will get it, the
rogues!'

'I'm not afraid, as far as the girl is concerned,' said Humfrey.  'You
are strict enough with her.'

'But how am I to be strict when poor little Owen never does anything
wrong?'

'Yes, he is a particularly sweet child.'

'And not at all wanting in manliness,' cried Honor, eagerly.  'So full of
spirit, and yet so gentle.  Oh! he is a child whom it is a privilege to
train, and I don't think I have spoilt him yet, do you?'

'No, I don't think you have.  He is very obedient in general.'

'Oh! if he could be only brought up as I wish.  And I do think his
innocence is too perfect a thing not to be guarded.  What a perfect
clergyman he would make!  Just fancy him devoting himself to some parish
like poor dear old St. Wulstan's--carrying his bright sweetness into the
midst of all that black Babel, and spreading light round him! he always
says he will be a clergyman like his papa, and I am sure he must be
marked out for it.  He likes to look at the sheep on the moors, and talk
about the shepherd leading them, and I am sure the meaning goes very deep
with him.'

She was not going quite the way to show Humfrey that her heart was not
set on the boy, and she was checked by hearing him sigh.  Perhaps it was
for the disappointment he foresaw, so she said, 'Whether I bring him up
or not, don't you believe there will be a special care over such a
child?'

'There is a special care over every Christian child, I suppose,' he said;
'and I hope it may all turn out so as to make you happy.  Here is your
door; good night, and good-bye.'

'Why, are not you coming in?'

'I think not; I have my things to put up; I must go early to-morrow.
Thank you for a very happy week.  Good-bye, Honor.'  There was a shade of
disappointment about his tone that she could not quite account for.  Dear
old Humfrey!  Could he be ageing?  Could he be unwell?  Did he feel
himself lonely?  Could she have mortified him, or displeased him?  Honor
was not a woman of personal vanity, or a solution would sooner have
occurred to her.  She knew, upon reflection, that it must have been for
her sake that Humfrey had continued single, but it was so inconvenient to
think of him in the light of an admirer, when she so much needed him as a
brother, that it had hardly ever occurred to her to do so; but at last it
did strike her whether, having patiently waited so long, this might not
have been a visit of experiment, and whether he might not be disappointed
to find her wrapped up in new interests--slightly jealous, in fact, of
little Owen.  How good he had been!  Where was the heart that could fail
of being touched by so long a course of forbearance and consideration?
Besides Honor had been a solitary woman long enough to know what it was
to stand alone.  And then how well he would stand in a father's place
towards the orphans.  He would never decree her parting with them, and
Captain Charteris himself must trust him.  Yet what a shame it would be
to give such a devoted heart nothing better than one worn out, with the
power of love such as he deserved, exhausted for ever.  And yet--and
yet--something very odd bounded up within her, and told her between shame
and exultation, that faithful old Humfrey would not be discontented even
with what she had to give.  Another time--a little, a very little
encouragement, and the pine wood scene would come back again, and
then--her heart fainted a little--there should be no concealment--but if
she could only have been six months married all at once!

Time went on, and Honora more than once blushed at finding how strong a
hold this possibility had taken of her heart, when once she had begun to
think of resting upon one so kind, so good, so strong.  Every perplexity,
every care, every transaction that made her feel her position as a single
woman, brought round the yearning to lay them all down upon him, who
would only be grateful to her for them.  Every time she wanted some one
to consult, hope showed her his face beaming sweetly on her, and home
seemed to be again opening to her, that home which might have been hers
at any time these twelve years.  She quite longed to see how glad the
dear, kind fellow would be.

Perhaps maidenly shame would have belied her feelings in his actual
presence, perhaps she would not have shrunk from him, and been more cold
than in her unconsciousness, but he came not; and his absence fanned the
spark so tardily kindled.  What if she had delayed till too late?  He was
a man whose duty it was to marry! he had waited till he was some years
past forty--perhaps this had been his last attempt, and he was carrying
his addresses elsewhere.

Well! Honora believed she had tried to act rightly, and that must be her
comfort--and extremely ashamed of herself she was, to find herself
applying such a word to her own sensations in such a case--and very much
disliking the notion of any possible lady at Hiltonbury Holt.



CHAPTER III


    There is a reaper, his name is Death,
       And with his sickle keen,
    He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
       And the flowers that grow between.--LONGFELLOW

A letter from Humfrey! how Honor's heart fluttered.  Would it announce an
engagement, or would it promise a visit on which her fate would turn, or
would it be only a business letter on her money matters?

Angry at her own trepidation, she opened it.  It was none of all these.
It told her that Mr. Saville, his brother-in-law, was staying at the Holt
with his second wife, and that he begged her to take advantage of this
opportunity to come to visit the old place, adding, that he had not been
well, and he wished much to see her, if she could spare a few days to him
from her children.

Little doubt had she as to the acceptance.  The mere words 'going to
Hiltonbury,' had power by force of association to make her heart bound.
She was a little disappointed that he had not included the children; she
feared that it looked as if he were really ill; but it might be on
account of the Savilles, or maybe he had that to say to her which--oh,
nonsense!  Were that the case, Humfrey would not reverse the order of
things, and make her come to him.  At any rate, the children should be
her first condition.  And then she concentrated her anxieties on his most
unusual confession of having been unwell.

Humfrey's substantial person was ready to meet her at the station, and
the first glance dispelled her nervous tremors, and calmed the tossings
of her mind in the habitual sense of trust and reliance.  He thanked her
for coming, handed her into the carriage, looked after her goods, and
seated himself beside her in so completely his ordinary fashion of taking
care of her, that she forgot all her intentions of rendering their
meeting momentous.  Her first inquiry was for his health, but he put it
aside with something about feeling very well now, and he looked so
healthy, only perhaps a little more hearty and burly, that she did not
think any more of the matter, and only talked in happy desultory scraps,
now dwelling on her little Owen's charms, now joyfully recognizing
familiar objects, or commenting upon the slight changes that had taken
place.  One thing, however, she observed; Humfrey did not stop the horse
at the foot of the steep hill where walking had been a matter of course,
when he had been a less solid weight than now.  'Yes, Honor,' he said,
smiling, 'one grows less merciful as one grows old and short-breathed.'

'You growing old! you whom I've never left off thinking of as a promising
lad, as poor old Mrs. Mervyn used to call you.'

He turned his face towards her as if about to say something very
seriously, but apparently changing his intention, he said, 'Poor old Mrs.
Mervyn, I wonder how she would like the changes at Beauchamp.'

'Are the Fulmorts doing a great deal?'

'They have quite modernized the house, and laid out the garden--what I
should call very prettily, if it were not for my love of the old Dutch
one.  They see a great deal of company, and go on in grand style.'

'How do you get on with them?'

'Oh! very well; I have dined there two or three times.  He is a
good-natured fellow enough, and there are some nice children, whom I like
to meet with their nurses in the woods.  I stood proxy for the last one's
sponsor; I could not undertake the office myself.'

'Good-natured!' exclaimed Nora.  'Why, you know how he behaved at St.
Wulstan's.  No more than 5 pounds a year would he ever give to any
charity, though he was making thousands by those gin-shops.'

'Probably he thought he was doing very liberally.'

'Ay, there is no hope for St. Wulstan's till people have left off
thinking a guinea their duty, and five very handsome! and that Augusta
Mervyn should have gone and married our _bete noire_--our lord of
gin-palaces--I do think it must be on purpose for you to melt him.  I
shall set you at him, Humfrey, next time Mr. Askew writes to me in
despair, that something won't go on for lack of means.  Only I must be
quite sure that you won't give the money yourself, to spare the trouble
of dunning.'

'It is not fair to take other people's duties on oneself; besides, as
you'll find, Honor, the Holt purse is not bottomless.'

As she would find!  This was a very odd way of making sure of her
beforehand, but she was not certain that she did not like it.  It was
comfortable, and would save much preliminary.

The woods were bursting into spring: delicate, deeply creased leaves were
joyously emerging to the light on the birches, not yet devoid of the
silvery wool where they had been packed, the hazels were fluttering their
goslings, the palms were honey sweet with yellow tufts, the primroses
peeped out in the banks of moss.

'Oh! Humfrey, this is the great desire of my life fulfilled, to see the
Holt in the flush of spring!'

'I have always said you cared for the place more than any one,' said
Humfrey, evidently gratified, but with an expression which she did not
understand.

'As if I did not!  But how strangely differently from my vision my wish
has been fulfilled.'

'How strangely!' he repeated, with even greater seriousness than had been
in her voice.

The meadow was bright with spring grass, the cattle grazing serenely as
in old times, the garden--ah! not quite so gay--either it was better in
autumn than in spring, or it wanted poor Sarah's hand; the dogs, not the
same individuals, but with much the same manners, dancing round their
master--all like, all home.  Nothing wanting, but, alas! the
good-natured, narrow-minded old mistress of the house to fret her, and
notable Sarah to make her comfortable, and wonder at her eccentric
tastes.  Ah! and how much more was wanting the gentle mother who did all
the civility and listening, and the father, so happy to look at green
woods, read poetry, and unbend his weary brow!  How much more precious
was the sight of the one living remnant of those days!

They had a cheerful evening.  Mr. Saville had a great deal of
old-fashioned Oxford agreeableness; he was very courtly, but a sensible
man, with some native fun and many college stories.  After many years of
donship, his remote parish was somewhat of a solitude to him, and
intercourse with a cultivated mind was as pleasant to him now as the
sight of a lady had been in his college days.  Honor liked conversation
too; and Miss Wells, Lucilla, and Owen had been rather barren in that
respect, so there was a great deal of liveliness, in which Humfrey took
his full share; while good Mrs. Saville looked like what she was, her
husband's admiring housekeeper.

'Do you take early walks still, Humfrey?' asked Honor, as she bade him
good night.  'If you do, I shall be quite ready to confront the dew;' and
therewith came a revulsion of the consciousness within.  Was this
courting him? and to her great provocation there arose an uncomfortable
blush.

'Thank you,' he said, with something of a mournful tone, 'I'm afraid I'm
past that, Honor.  To-morrow, after breakfast--good night.'

Honor was a little alarmed by all this, and designed a conference with
the old housekeeper, Mrs. Stubbs, to inquire into her master's health,
but this was not attainable that night, and she could only go to bed in
the friendly old wainscoted room, whose white and gold carved monsters on
the mantelpiece were well-nigh as familiar as the dove in Woolstone-lane;
but, oh! how it made her long for the mother whom she used to kiss there.

Humfrey was brisk and cheerful as ever at breakfast, devising what his
guests would like to do for the day, and talking of some friends whom he
had asked to meet Mr. Saville, so that all the anxieties with which
Honora had risen were dissipated, and she took her part gaily in the
talk.  There was something therefore freshly startling to her, when, on
rising, Humfrey gravely said, 'Honor, will you come into my study for a
little while?'

The study had always been more of a place for guns and fishing-tackle
than for books.  It was Humfrey's usual living room when alone, and was
of course full besides of justice books, agricultural reports, acts of
parliament, piles of papers, little bags of samples of wheat, all in the
orderly disorder congenial to the male kind.  All this was as usual, but
the change that struck her was, that the large red leather lounging
chair, hitherto a receptacle for the overflowings of the table, was now
wheeled beside the fire, and near it stood a little table with a large
print Bible on it, which she well remembered as his mother's.  Humfrey
set a chair for her by the fire, and seated himself in the easy one,
leaning back a little.  She had not spoken.  Something in his grave
preparation somewhat awed her, and she sat upright, watching him.

'It was very kind of you to come, Honor,' he began; 'more kind than you
know.'

'I am sure it could be no other than a treat--'

He continued, before she could go farther, 'I wished particularly to
speak to you.  I thought it might perhaps spare you a shock.'

She looked at him with a terrified eye.

'Don't be frightened, my dear,' he said, leaning forward, 'there is no
occasion.  Such things must come sooner or later, and it is only that I
wished to tell you that I have been having advice for a good many
uncomfortable feelings that have troubled me lately.'

'Well?' she asked, breathlessly.

'And Dixon tells me that it is aneurism.'

Quick and fast came Honora's breath; her hands were clasped together; her
eyes cast about with such a piteous, despairing expression, that he
started to his feet in a moment, exclaiming--'Honor!  Honor dear! don't!
there's no need.  I did not think you would feel it in this way!'

'Feel! what should I feel if not for you?  Oh! Humfrey! don't say it! you
are all that is left me--you cannot be spared!' and as he came towards
her, she grasped his hand and clung to him, needing the support which he
gave in fear of her fainting.

'Dear Honor, do not take it thus.  I am very well now--I dare say I shall
be so to the last, and there is nothing terrible to the imagination.  I
am very thankful for both the preparation and the absence of suffering.
Will not you be the same?'

'Yes, you,' said Honora, sitting up again, and looking up into his
sincere, serene face; 'I cannot doubt that even this is well for you, but
it is all selfishness--just as I was beginning to feel what you are to
me.'

Humfrey's face lighted up suddenly.  'Then, Honor,' he said, evidently
putting strong restraint upon his voice, 'you could have listened to me
now!'

She bowed her head--the tears were dropping very fast.

'Thank God!' he said, as again he leant back in his chair; and when she
raised her eyes again, he sat with his hands clasped, and a look of
heavenly felicity on his face, raised upwards.

'Oh! Humfrey! how thoughtlessly I have trifled away all that might have
been the happiness of your life!'

'You never trifled with me,' he said; 'you have always dealt honestly and
straightforwardly, and it is best as it is.  Had we been together all
this time, the parting might have been much harder.  I am glad there are
so few near ties to break.'

'Don't say so! you, loved by every one, the tower of strength to all that
is good!'

'Hush, hush! nonsense, Honor!' said he, kindly.  'I think I have tried,'
he went on, gravely, 'not to fall behind the duties of my station; but
that would be a bad dependence, were there not something else to look to.
As to missing me, the world did very well without me before I was born;
it will do as well when I am gone; and as to you, my poor Honor, we have
been very little together of late.'

'I had you to lean on.'

'Lean on something stronger,' he said; and as she could not govern her
bitter weeping, he went on--'Ah! I am the selfish one now, to be glad of
what must make it the worse for you; but if one thing were wanting to
make me happy, it was to know that at last you cared for me.'

'I should be a wretch not to do so.  So many years of patience and
forbearance!--Nobody could be like you.'

'I don't see that,' said Humfrey, simply.  'While you continued the same,
I could not well turn my mind to any one else, and I always knew I was
much too loutish for you.'

'Now, Humfrey!--'

'Yes, there is no use in dwelling on this,' he said, quietly.  'The
reason I asked you to be kind enough to come here, is that I do not think
it well to be far from home under the circumstances.  There, don't look
frightened--they say it may very possibly not come for several months or
a year.  I hope to have time to put things a little in order for you, and
that is one reason I wished to see you; I thought I could make the
beginning easier to you.'

But Honora was far too much shaken for such a turn to the conversation;
she would not mortify him, but she could neither listen nor understand.
He, who was so full of stalwart force, a doomed man, yet calm and happy
under his sentence; he, only discovered to be so fondly loved in time to
give poignancy to the parting, and yet rejoicing himself in the poor,
tardy affection that had answered his manly constancy too late!  His very
calmness and stillness cut her to the heart, and after some ineffectual
attempts to recover herself, she was forced to take refuge in her own
room.  Weeping, praying, walking restlessly about, she remained there
till luncheon time, when Humfrey himself came up to knock at her door.

'Honor dear!' he said, 'come down--try to throw it off--Saville does not
wish his wife to be made aware of it while she is here, lest she should
be nervous.  You must not betray me--and indeed there is no reason for
being overcome.  Nothing vexes me but seeing you so.  Let us enjoy your
visit, pray.'

To be commanded to bear up by a strong, manly character so much loved and
trusted was perhaps the chief support she could receive; she felt that
she must act composure, and coming down in obedience to her cousin, she
found the power of doing so.  Nay, as she saw him so completely the
bright, hospitable host, talking to Mrs. Saville about her poultry, and
carrying on quiet jokes with Mr. Saville, she found herself drawn away
from the morning's conversation, or remembering it like a dream that had
passed away.

Then all went out together, and he was apparently as much interested in
his young wheat as ever, and even more anxious to make her look at and
appreciate crops and cattle, speaking about them in his hearty, simple
way, as if his pleasure in them was not flagging, perhaps because it had
never been excessive.  He had always sat loose to them, and thus they
could please and occupy him even when the touch of the iron hand had made
itself felt.

And again she saw him engrossed in arranging some petty matter of
business for one of the poor people; and when they had wandered down to
the gate, pelting the turn-out of the boys' school with a pocket full of
apples that he said he had taken up while in conference with the
housekeeper, laughing and speaking merrily as the varlets touched their
caps to him, and always turning to her for sympathy in his pleasures of
success or of good nature, as though her visit were thorough enjoyment to
him.  And so it almost was to her.  The influence of the dear old scenes
was something, and his cheeriness was a great deal more; the peaceful
present was not harassed or disturbed, and the foreboding, on which she
might not dwell, made it the more precious.  That slow wandering about
the farm and village, and the desultory remarks, the old pleasant
reminiscences, the inquiries and replies about the villagers and
neighbours had a quiet charm about them, as free and happy as when, youth
and child, they had frisked through the same paths; nay, the old scenes
so brought back the old habits that she found herself discoursing to him
in her former eager fashion upon the last historical character who had
bitten her fancy.

'My old way,' she said, catching herself up; 'dinning all this into your
ears as usual, when you don't care.'

'Don't I?' said Humfrey, with his sincere face turned on her in all its
sweetness.  'Perhaps I never showed you how much, Honor; and I beg your
pardon, but I would not have been without it!'

The Savilles came up, while Honor's heart was brimful at this compliment,
and then it was all commonplace again, except for that sunset light, that
rich radiance of the declining day, that seemed unconsciously to pervade
all Humfrey's cheerfulness, and to give his mirth and playfulness a solid
happiness.

Some mutual friends of long standing came to dinner, and the evening was
not unlike the last, quite as free from gloom, and Mr. Charlecote as
bright as ever, evidently taking his full share in county business, and
giving his mind to it.  Only Honor noted that he quietly avoided an
invitation to a very gay party which was proposed; and his great ally,
Sir John Raymond, seemed rather vexed with him for not taking part in
some new and expensive experiment in farming, and asked incredulously
whether it were true that he wished to let a farm that he had kept for
several years in his own hands.  Humfrey agreed that it was so, and said
something farther of wishing to come to terms quickly.  She guessed that
this was for her sake, when she thought all this over in her bedroom.

Such was the effect of his calmness that it had not been a day of
agitation.  There was more peace than tumult in her mind as she lay down
to rest, sad, but not analyzing her sadness, and lulled by the present
into putting aside the future.  So she slept quietly, and awoke with a
weight at her heart, but softened and sustained by reverent awe and
obedience towards her cousin.

When they met, he scanned her looks with a bright, tender glance, and
smiled commendation when he detected no air of sleeplessness.  He talked
and moved as though his secret were one of untold bliss, and this was not
far from the truth; for when, after breakfast, he asked her for another
interview in the study, they were no sooner alone than he rubbed his
hands together with satisfaction, saying--'So, Honor, you could have had
me after all!' looking at her with a broad, undisguised, exulting smile.

'Oh! Humfrey!'

'Don't say it if you don't like it; but you can't guess the pleasure it
gives me.  I could hardly tell at first what was making me so happy when
I awoke this morning.'

'I can't see how it should,' said Honor, her eyes swimming with tears,
'never to have met with any gratitude for--I have used you too ill--never
valued, scarcely even believed in what you lavished on poor silly me--and
now, when all is too late, you are glad--'

'Glad! of course I am,' returned Humfrey; 'I never wished to obtrude my
feelings on you after I knew how it stood with you.  It would have been a
shame.  Your choice went far above me.  For the rest, if to find you
disposed towards me at the last makes me so happy,' and he looked at her
again with beaming affection, 'how could I have borne to leave you if all
had been as I wished?  No, no, it is best as it is.  You lose nothing in
position, and you are free to begin the world again, not knocked down or
crushed.'

'Don't talk so, Humfrey!  It is breaking my heart to think that I might
have been making you happy all this time.'

'Heaven did not will it so,' said Humfrey, reverently, 'and it might not
have proved what we fancy.  You might not have found such a clodhopper
all you wanted, and my stupidity might have vexed you, though now you
fancy otherwise.  And I have had a very happy life--indeed I have, Honor;
I never knew the time when I could not say with all my heart, "The lot is
fallen unto me in a fair ground, yea, I have a goodly heritage."
Everybody and everything, you and all the rest, have been very kind and
friendly, and I have never wanted for happiness.  It has been all right.
You could fulfil your duty as a daughter undividedly, and now I trust
those children will be your object and comfort--only, Honor, not your
idols.  Perhaps it was jealousy, but I have sometimes fancied that your
tendency with their father--'

'Oh! how often I must have given you pain.'

'I did not mean _that_, but, as I say, perhaps I was no fair judge.  One
thing is well, the relations will be much less likely to take them from
you when you are living here.'

She held up her hands in deprecation.

'Honor dear,' he said pleadingly, yet with authority, 'pray let me talk
to you.  There are things which I wish very much to say; indeed, without
which I could hardly have asked for this indulgence.  It is for your own
sake, and that of the place and people.'

'Poor place, poor people.'

He sighed, but then turned his smiling countenance towards her again.
'No one else can care for it or them as you do, Honor.  Our "goodly
heritage"--it was so when I had it from my father, and I don't think it
has got worse under my charge, and I want you to do your duty by it,
Honor, and hand it on the same, whoever may come after.'

'For your sake, Humfrey--even if I did not love it.  But--'

'Yes, it is a duty,' proceeded Humfrey, gravely.  'It may seem but a bit
of earth after all, but the owner of a property has a duty to let it do
its share in producing food, or maybe in not lessening the number of
pleasant things here below.  I mean it is as much my office to keep my
trees and woods fair to look at, as it is not to let my land lie waste.'

She had recovered a good deal while he was moralizing, and became
interested.  'I did not suspect you of the poetical view, Humfrey,' she
said.

'It is plain sense, I think,' he said, 'that to grub up a fine tree, or a
pretty bit of copse without fair reason, only out of eagerness for gain,
is a bit of selfishness.  But mind, Honor, you must not go and be
romantic.  You _must_ have the timber marked when the trees are injuring
each other.'

'Ah! I've often done it with you.'

'I wish you would come out with me to-day.  I'm going to the out-wood, I
could show you.'

She agreed readily, almost forgetting the wherefore.

'And above all, Honor, you must not be romantic about wages!  It is not
right by other proprietors, nor by the people themselves.  No one is ever
the better for a fancy price for his labour.'

She could almost have smiled; he was at once so well pleased that she and
his 'goodly heritage' should belong to each other, so confident in her
love and good intentions towards it, and so doubtful of her discretion
and management.  She promised with all her heart to do her utmost to
fulfil his wishes.

'After all,' he said, thoughtfully, 'the best thing for the place--ay,
and for you and every one, would be for you to marry; but there's little
chance of that, I suppose, and it is of no use to distress you by
mentioning it.  I've been trying to put out of my hands things that I
don't think you will be able to manage, but I should like you to keep up
the home farm, and you may pretty well trust to Brooks.  I dare say he
will take his own way, but if you keep a reasonable check on him, he will
do very well by you.  He is as honest as the day, and very intelligent.
I don't know that any one could do better for you.'

'Oh, yes; I will mind all he tells me.'

'Don't show that you mind him.  That is the way to spoil him.  Poor
fellow, he has been a good servant to me, and so have they all.  It is a
thing to be very thankful for to have had such a set of good servants.'

Honora thought, but did not say, that they could not help being good with
such a master.

He went on to tell her that he had made Mr. Saville his executor.  Mr.
Saville had been for many years before leaving Oxford bursar of his
college, and was a thorough man of business whom Humfrey had fixed upon
as the person best qualified to be an adviser and assistant to Honora,
and he only wished to know whether she wished for any other selection,
but this was nearly overpowering her again, for since her father's death
she had leant on no one but Humfrey himself.

One thing more he had to say.  'You know, Honor, this place will be
entirely your own.  You and I seem to be the last of the Charlecotes, and
even if we were not, there is no entail.  You may found orphan asylums
with it, or leave it to poor Sandbrook's children, just as you please.'

'Oh, I could not do that,' cried Honor, with a sudden revulsion.  Love
them as she might, Owen Sandbrook's children must not step into Humfrey
Charlecote's place.  'And, besides,' she added, 'I want my little Owen to
be a clergyman; I think he can be what his father missed.'

'Well, you can do exactly as you think fit.  Only what I wanted to tell
you is, that there may be another branch, elder than our own.  Not that
this need make the least difference, for the Holt is legally ours.  It
seems that our great grandfather had an elder son--a wild sort of
fellow--the old people used to tell stories of him.  He went on, in
short, till he was disinherited, and went off to America.  What became of
him afterwards I never could make out; but I have sometimes questioned
how I should receive any of his heirs if they should turn up some day.
Mind you, you need not have the slightest scruple in holding your own.
It was made over to my grandfather by will, as I have made it sure for
you; but I do think that when you come to think how to dispose of it, the
possibility of the existence of these Charlecotes might be taken into
consideration.'

'Yankee Charlecotes!' she said.

'Never mind; most likely nothing of the kind will ever come in your way,
and they have not the slightest claim on you.  I only threw it out,
because I thought it right just to speak of it.'

After this commencement, Humfrey, on this and the ensuing days, made it
his business to make his cousin acquainted with the details of the
management of the estate.  He took such pleasure in doing so, and was so
anxious she should comprehend, that she was forced to give her whole
attention; and, putting all else aside, was tranquilly happy in thus
gratifying him.  Those orderly ranges of conscientious accounts were no
small testimony to the steady, earnest manner in which Humfrey had set
himself to his duty from his early youth, and to a degree they were his
honest pride too--he liked to show how good years had made up for bad
years, and there was a tenderness in the way he patted their red leather
backs to make them even on their shelves, as if they had been good
friends to him.  No, they must not run into confusion.

The farms and the cottages--the friendly terms of his intercourse, and
his large-handed but well-judging almsgiving--all revealed to her more of
his solid worth; and the simplicity that regarded all as the merest duty
touched her more than all.  Many a time did she think of the royal
Norwegian brothers, one of whom went to tie a knot in the willows on the
banks of the Jordan, while the other remained at home to be the blessing
of his people, and from her broken idol wanderer she turned to worship
her steadfast worker at home, as far as his humility and homeliness made
it possible, and valued each hour with him as if each moment were of
diamond price.  And he was so calmly happy, that there was no grieving in
his presence.  It had been a serene life of simple fulfilment of duty,
going ever higher, and branching wider, as a good man's standard
gradually rises the longer he lives; the one great disappointment had
been borne without sourness or repining, and the affections, deprived of
the home channel, had spread in a beneficent flood, and blessed all
around.  So, though, like every sinful son of man, sensible of many an
error, many an infirmity, still the open loving spirit was childlike
enough for that blessed sense; for that feeling which St. John expresses
as 'if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God;'
confidence in the infinite Merits that atone for the errors of weakness,
and occasional wanderings of will; confidence that made the hope a sure
and steadfast one, and these sentenced weeks a land of Beulah, where
Honora's tardy response to his constant love could be greeted and valued
as the precious fulfilment of long-cherished wishes, not dashed aside as
giving bitterness to his departure.

The parting was broken by a promise that Honora should again meet the
Savilles at the Holt in the autumn.  She assured herself that there was
no danger before that time, and Humfrey spoke cheerfully of looking
forward to it, and seemed to have so much to do, and to be so well equal
to doing it, that he would not let them be concerned at leaving him
alone.

To worship Humfrey was an easier thing at a distance than when beside
him.  Honora came back to Sandbeach thoroughly restless and wretched,
reproaching herself with having wasted such constant, priceless
affection, haunted by the constant dread of each morning's post, and
longing fervently to be on the spot.  She had self-command enough not to
visit her dejection on the children, but they missed both her spirits and
her vigilance, and were more left to their nurse; and her chief solace
was in long solitary walks, or in evening talks with Miss Wells.  Kind
Miss Wells perhaps guessed how matters stood between the two last
Charlecotes, but she hinted not her suspicions, and was the unwearied
recipient of all Honora's histories, of his symptoms, of his
cheerfulness, and his solicitude for her.  Those talks did her good, they
set the real Humfrey before her, and braced her to strive against
weakness and despondence.

And then the thought grew on her, why, since they were so thoroughly each
other's, why should they not marry, and be together to the last?  Why
should he be left to his solitude for this final year? why should their
meetings be so prudentially chaperoned?  Suppose the disease should be
lingering, how hard it was that she should be absent, and he left to
servants!  She could well imagine why he had not proposed it; he was too
unselfish to think of exposing her to the shock, or making her a widow,
but how came she never to have thought of it?  She stood beyond all
ordinary rules--she had nothing worldly to gain nor to lose by being his
wife for these few remaining months--it surely was her part, after the
way she had treated him, to meet him more than half way--she alone could
make the proposal--she would--she must.  And oh! if the doctors should be
mistaken!  So spoke the midnight dream--oh! how many times.  But what
said cool morning?  Propriety had risen up, grave decorum objecting to
what would shock Humfrey, ay, and was making Honor's cheeks tingle.  Yes,
and there came the question whether he would not be more distressed than
gratified--he who wished to detach himself from all earthly ties--whether
he might not be pained and displeased at her thus clinging to him--nay,
were he even gratified, might not emotion and agitation be fatal?

Many, many times was all this tossed over in Honor's mind.  Often the
desperate resolution was definitely taken, and she had seen herself
quietly meeting him at dear old Hiltonbury Church, with his grave sweet
eyes resting satisfied upon her as his darling.  As often had the fear of
offending him, and the instinct of woman's dignity turned her away when
her heart was beating high.  That autumn visit--then she would decide.
One look as if he wished to retain her, the least air of feebleness or
depression, and she would be determined, even if she had to waive all
feminine reserves, and set the matter in hand herself.  She thought Mr.
Saville would highly approve and assist; and having settled into this
period for her project, she set herself in some degree at rest, and moved
and spoke with so much more of her natural ease, that Miss Wells was
consoled about her, and knew not how entirely heart and soul were at
Hiltonbury, with such devotion as had never even gone to the backwoods.

To meet the Savilles at Hiltonbury in the autumn!  Yes--Honor met Mr.
Saville, but not as she had intended.  By that time the stroke had
fallen, just as she had become habituated to the expectation, just as her
promised visit had assumed a degree of proximity, and her heart was
beating at the prospect of the results.

Humfrey had been scarcely ailing all the summer, he had gone about his
occupations with his usual cheerfulness, and had taken part in all the
village festivals as genially as ever.  Only close observers could have
noticed a slackness towards new undertakings, a gradual putting off of
old ones, a training of those, dependent on his counsel, to go alone, a
preference for being alone in the evening, a greater habit of stillness
and contemplation.

September had come, and he had merrily sent off two happy boy-sportsmen
with the keeper, seeing them over the first field himself, and leaning
against the gate, as he sent them away in convulsions of laughing at his
droll auguries.  The second was a Sunday, a lovely day of clear deep blue
sky, and rich sunshine laughing upon the full wealth of harvest
fields--part fallen before the hand of the reaper, part waving in their
ripe glowing beauty, to which he loved to liken Honora's hair--part in
noble redundant shocks of corn in full season.  Brooks used afterwards to
tell how he overtook the squire slowly strolling to church on that
beauteous autumnal morning, and how he paused to remark on the glory of
the harvest, and to add, 'Keep the big barn clear, Brooks--let us have
all the women and children in for the supper this time--and I say--send
the spotted heifer down to-morrow to old Boycotts, instead of his cow
that died.  With such a crop as this, one can stand something.  And,'
said Brooks, 'Thank God for it! was as plain written on his face as ever
I saw!'

It was the first Sunday in the month, and there was full service.
Hiltonbury Church had one of those old-fashioned altar-rails which form
three sides of a square, and where it was the custom that at the words
'Draw near with faith,' the earliest communicants should advance to the
rail and remain till their place was wanted by others, and that the last
should not return to their seats till the service was concluded.  Mr.
Charlecote had for many years been always the first parishioner to walk
slowly up the matted aisle, and kneel beside the wall, under the cumbrous
old tables of Commandments.  There, on this day, he knelt as usual, and
harvest labours tending to thin the number of communicants, the same who
came up first remained to the end, joined their voices in the Eucharistic
Lord's Prayer and Angelic Hymn, and bowed their heads at the blessing of
the peace that passeth all understanding.

It was not till the rest were moving away, that the vicar and his clerk
remarked that the squire had not risen.  Another look, and it was plain
that he had sunk somewhat forward on his folded arms, and was only
supported by the rail and the wall.  The vicar hastily summoned the
village doctor, who had not yet left the church.  They lifted him, and
laid him along on the cushioned step where he had been kneeling, but
motion and breath were gone, the strong arms were helpless, and the
colour had left the open face.  Taken at once from the heavenly Feast on
earth to the glory above, could this be called sudden death?

There he lay on the altar step, with hands crossed on his breast, and
perfectly blessed repose on his manly countenance, sweetened and ennobled
in its stillness, and in every lineament bearing the impress of that Holy
Spirit of love who had made it a meet temple.

What an unpremeditated lying in state was that! as by ones and twos,
beneath the clergyman's eye, the villagers stole in with slowly, heavily
falling tread to gaze in silent awe on their best friend, some sobbing
and weeping beyond control, others with grave, almost stolid
tranquillity, or the murmured 'He _was_ a gentleman,' which, in a poor
man's mouth, means 'he was a just man and patient, the friend of the weak
and poor.'  His farmers and his own labourers put their shoulders to bear
him once more to his own house, through his half-gathered crops--

    The hand of the reaper
       Takes the ears that are hoary,
    But the voice of the weeper
       Wails manhood in glory.

No, bewail him not.  It was glory, indeed, but the glory of early autumn,
the garnering of the shock of corn in full season.  It was well done of
the vicar that a few long, full-grained ears of wheat were all that was
laid upon his breast in his coffin.

There Honora saw them.  The vicar, Mr. Henderson, had written to her at
once, as Humfrey had long ago charged him to do, enclosing a letter that
he had left with him for the purpose, a tender, soothing farewell, and an
avowal such as he could never have spoken of the blessing that his
attachment to her had been, in drawing his mind from the narrowness to
which he might have been liable, and in elevating the tone of his views
and opinions.

She knew what he meant--it was what he had caught from her youthful
enthusiasm, second-hand from Owen Sandbrook.  Oh! what vivid, vigorous
truth not to have been weakened in the transit through two such natures,
but to have done its work in the strong, practical mind able and candid
enough to adopt it even thus filtered!

There were a few words of affectionate commendation of his people and his
land into her keeping, and a parting blessing, and, lastly, written as a
postscript--with a blot as if it had been written with
hesitation--'Little children, keep yourselves from idols!'

It was not bitter weeping.  It was rather the sense of utter vacancy and
hopelessness, with but one fixed purpose--that she would see his face
again, and be the nearest to him when he was laid in the grave.  She
hastily wrote to the housekeeper and to the clergyman that she was
coming, and Miss Wells's kind opposition only gave her just wilfulness
and determination enough to keep her spirit from sinking.

So she travelled alone, and came to Hiltonbury in the sunset, as the
'last long wains' were slowly bearing their loads of wheat into the
farmyard, the waggoners walking dejectedly beside them.  Mr. Saville had
come before her, and was at the door to receive her.  She could not very
well bear the presence of any one, nor the talk of cold-blooded
arrangements.  It seemed to keep away the dreamy living with Humfrey, and
was far more dreary than the feeling of desolateness, and when they
treated her as mistress of the house that was too intolerable.  And yet
it was worth something, too, to be the one to authorize that harvest
supper in the big barn, in the confidence that it would be anything but
revelry.  Every one felt that the day was indeed a Harvest Home.

The funeral, according to his expressed wishes, was like those of the
farmers of the parish; the coffin borne by his own labourers in their
white round frocks; and the labourers were the expected guests for whom
provision was made; but far and wide from all the country round, though
harvest was at the height, came farmers and squires, poor men and rich,
from the peer and county member down to the poor travelling hawker--all
had met the sunny sympathy of that smile, all had been aided and
befriended, all felt as if a prop, a castle of strength were gone.

Charlecotes innumerable rested in the chancel, and the last heir of the
line was laid beneath the same flag where he had been placed on that last
Sunday, the spot where Honor might kneel for many more, meeting him in
spirit at the feast, and looking to the time when the cry should be, 'Put
ye in the sickle, for the harvest is come.'

But ere she could look in thorough hope for that time, another page of
Honor's life must be turned, and an alloy, as yet unknown to herself,
must be purged from her heart.  The last gleam of her youthful sunshine
had faded with Humfrey; but youth is but a fraction of human existence,
and there were further phases to be gone through and lessons to be
learnt; although she was feeling as if all were over with her in this
world, and neither hope, love, nor protection were left her, nor any
interest save cherishing Humfrey Charlecote's memory, as she sat
designing the brass tablet which was to record his name and age in old
English illuminated letters, surrounded by a border of ears of corn and
grapes.



CHAPTER IV


    The glittering grass, with dewstars bright,
    Is all astir with twinkling light;
    What pity that such fair array
    In one brief hour should melt away.--REV. T. WHYTEHEAD

'This is a stroke of good luck!' said Mr. Charteris.  'We must not, on
any account, remove the Sandbrook children from Miss Charlecote; she has
no relations, and will certainly make the boy her heir.'

'She will marry!' said his wife.  'Some fashionable preacher will swallow
her red hair.  She is just at the age for it!'

'Less likely when she has the children to occupy her.'

'Well, you'll have them thrown on your hands yet!'

'The chance is worth trying for, though!  I would not interfere with her
on any account.'

'Oh, no, nor I! but I pity the children.'

                                * * * * *

'There, Master Owen, be a good boy, and don't worry.  Don't you see, I'm
putting up your things to go home.'

'Home!' the light glittered in Lucilla's eyes.  'Is it Wrapworth,
nursey?'

'Dear me, miss, not Wrapworth.  That's given away, you know; but it's to
Hiltonbury you are going--such a grand place, which if Master Owen is
only a dear good boy, will all belong to him one of these days.'

'Will there be a pony to ride on?' asked Owen.

'Oh, yes--if you'll only let those stockings alone--there'll be ponies,
and carriages, and horses, and everything a gentleman can have, and all
for my own dear little Master Owen!'

'I don't want to go to Hiltonbury,' said Lucilla; 'I want to go home to
the river and the boat, and see Mr. Prendergast and the black cow.'

'I'll give you a black cow, Cilly,' said Owen, strutting about.  'Is
Hiltonbury bigger than the castle?'

'Oh, ever so big, Master Owen; such acres of wood, Mr. Jones says, and
all your dear cousin's, and sure to be your own in time.  What a great
gentleman you will be, to be sure, dining thirty gentlefolks twice a
week, as they say poor Mr. Charlecote did, and driving four fine horses
to your carriage like a gentleman.  And then you won't forget poor old
nursey-pursey.'

'Oh, no, nurse; I'll give you a ride in my carriage!'

Honora in her listless state had let Mr. Saville think for her, and
passively obeyed him when he sent her back to Sandbeach to wind up her
affairs there, while he finished off the valuations and other painful
business at the Holt, in which she could be of little use, since all she
desired was to keep everything as it was.  She was anxious to return as
soon as possible, so as to take up the reins before there had been time
for the relaxation to be felt, the only chance she felt of her being able
to fulfil his charge.  The removal, the bustle, the talking things over
with Miss Wells, and the sight of the children did much to restore her,
and her old friend rejoiced to see that necessary occupation was tending
to make her time pass more cheerfully than she perhaps knew.

As to the dear old City dwelling, it might have fetched an immense price,
but only to become a warehouse, a measure that would have seemed to Honor
little short of sacrilege.  To let it, in such a locality, was
impossible, so it must remain unavailable capital, and Honora decided on
leaving her old housekeeper therein, with a respectable married niece,
who would inhabit the lower regions, and keep the other rooms in order,
for an occasional stay in London.  She would have been sorry to cut
herself off from a month of London in the spring, and the house might
farther be useful to friends who did not object to the situation; or
could be lent now and then to a curate; and she could well afford to keep
it up, so she thought herself justified in following her inclination, and
went up for three mournful days of settling matters there, and packing
books and ornaments till the rooms looked so dismantled that she could
not think how to face them again.

It was the beginning of October when she met Miss Wells, children, and
luggage at the station, and fairly was on her way to her home.  She tried
to call it so, as a duty to Humfrey, but it gave her a pang every time,
and in effect she felt far less at home than when he and Sarah had stood
in the doorway to greet the arrivals.  She had purposely fixed an hour
when it would be dark, so that she might receive no painful welcome; she
wished no one to greet her, she had rather they were mourning for their
master.  She had more than once shocked Miss Wells by declaring heiresses
to be a mistake; and yet, as she always owned, she could not have borne
for any one else to have had the Holt.

Fortunately for her, the children were sleepy, and were rather in a mazy
state when lifted out and set on their legs in the wainscoted hall, and
she sent them at once with nurse to the cheerful room that Humfrey's
little visitors had saved from becoming disused.  Miss Wells's fond
vigilance was a little oppressive, but she gently freed herself from it,
and opened the study door.  She had begged that as little change as
possible might be made; and there stood, as she had last seen them, the
large leathern chair, the little table, the big Bible, and in it the
little faded marker she had herself constructed for his twenty-first
birthday, when her powers of making presents had not equalled her will.
Yet what costly gift could have fulfilled its mission like that one?  She
opened the heavy book at the place.  It was at the first lesson for the
last day of his life, the end of the prophet Hosea, and the first words
her eyes fell upon were the glorious prophecy--'I will redeem them from
death, I will ransom them from the power of the grave.'  Her heart beat
high, and she stood half musing, half reading: 'They that dwell under His
shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the
vine.'  How gentle and refreshing the cadence!  A longing rose up in her
to apply those latter words more closely, by placing them on his tablet;
she did not think they would shock his humility, a consideration which
had withheld her from choosing other passages of which she always thought
in connection with him.  Another verse, and she read: 'Ephraim shall say,
What have I to do any more with idols?'

It brought back the postscript.  Kind Humfrey must have seen strong cause
before he gave any reproof, least of all to her, and she could take his
word that the fault had been there.  She felt certain of it when she
thought of her early devotion to Owen Sandbrook, and the utter blank
caused by his defection.  Nay, she believed she had begun to idolize
Humfrey himself, but now, at her age, chastened, desponding, with nothing
before her save the lonely life of an heiress old maid, counting no tie
of blood with any being, what had she to engross her affections from the
true Object?  Alas! Honora's heart was not feeling that Object
sufficient!  Conscientious, earnest, truly loving goodness, and all
connected with it; striving as a faithful, dutiful woman to walk rightly,
still the personal love and trust were not yet come.  Spent as they had
been upon props of earth, when these were taken away the tendrils hung
down drearily, unemployed, not fastening on the true support.

Not that she did not kneel beside that little table, as in a shrine, and
entreat earnestly for strength and judgment to do her duty faithfully in
her new station, so that Humfrey's charge might be fulfilled, and his
people might not suffer; and this done, and her homage paid to his empty
throne, she was better able to satisfy her motherly friend by her
deportment for the remainder of the evening, and to reply to the welcome
of the weeping Mrs. Stubbs.  By one of Humfrey's wise acts of foresight,
his faithful servant, Reeves, had been provided for as the master of the
Union, whither it was certain he would carry the same milk of human
kindness as had been so plentiful at Hiltonbury, and the Holt was thus
left free for Honora's Mr. Jones, without fear of clashing, though he was
divided between pride in his young lady's ownership of a 'landed estate,'
and his own dislike to a country residence.

Honora did not sleep soundly.  The place was too new, and yet too
familiar, and the rattling of the windows, the roaring of the wind in the
chimney, and the creaking of the vane, without absolutely wakening her,
kept her hearing alive continually, weaving the noises into some
harassing dream that Humfrey's voice was calling to her, and hindrances
always keeping her from him; and then of Lucilla and Owen in some
imminent peril, whence she shrieked to him to save them, and then
remembered he would stretch out his hand no more.

Sounder sleep came at last, towards morning, and far later than her usual
hour she was wakened by a drumming upon her door, and the boy and girl
dashed in, radiant with excitement at the novelty of the place.  'Sweet
Honey!  Sweet Honey dear, do get up and see.  There's a rocking-horse at
the end of the passage.'  'And there's a real pony out in the field.'
'There are cows.'  'There's a goat and a little kid, and I want to play
with it, and I may, for it is all mine and yours.'

'All yours!  Owen, boy,' repeated Honora, sitting up in surprise.

'Nursey said it was all to be Owen's,' said Lucilla.

'And she said I should be as grand a gentleman as poor Mr. Charlecote or
Uncle Charteris,' proceeded Owen, 'and that I should go out hunting in a
red coat, on a beautiful horse; but I want to have the kid now, please,
Sweet Honey.'

'Nurse does not know anything about it,' said Honora, much annoyed that
such an idea should have been suggested in such a manner.  'I thought my
little Owen wished for better things--I thought he was to be like his
papa, and try to be a good shepherd, praising God and helping people to
do right.'

'But can't I wear a red coat too?' said Owen, wistfully.

'No, my dear; clergymen don't go out hunting; or how could they teach the
poor little children?'

'Then I won't be a clergyman.'

This was an inconvenient and most undesirable turn; but Honor's first
object must be to put the right of heirship out of the little head, and
she at once began--'Nurse must have made a mistake, my dear; this place
is your home, and will be always so, I hope, while it is mine, but it
must not be your own, and you must not think it will.  My little boy must
work for himself and other people, and that's better than having houses
and lands given to him.'

Those words touched the pride in Lucilla's composition, and she
exclaimed--'I'll work too;' but the self-consequence of proprietorship
had affected her brother more strongly, and he repeated, meditatively,
'Jones said, not mine while she was alive.  Jones was cross.'

There might not be much in the words, child as he was, but there was
something in his manner of eyeing her which gave her acute unbearable
pain--a look as if she stood in his way and crossed his importance.  It
was but a baby fit of temper, but she was in no frame to regard it
calmly, and with an alteration of countenance that went to his heart, she
exclaimed--'Can that be my little Owen, talking as if he wanted his
Cousin Honor dead and out of the way?  We had better never have come here
if you are to leave off loving me.'

Quick to be infected by emotion, the child's arms were at once round her
neck, and he was sobbing out that he loved his Sweet Honey better than
anything; nurse was naughty; Jones was naughty; he wouldn't hunt, he
wouldn't wear a red coat, he would teach little children just like lambs,
he would be like dear papa; anything the poor little fellow could think
of he poured out with kisses and entreaties to know if he were naughty
still; while his sister, after her usual fashion on such occasions, began
to race up and down the room with paroxysms, sometimes of stamping,
sometimes of something like laughter.

Some minutes passed before Honora could compose herself, or soothe the
boy, by her assurances that he was not to blame, only those who put
things in his head that he could not understand; and it was not till
after much tender fondling that she had calmed him enough for his morning
devotions.  No sooner were these over than he looked up and said, while
the tears still glazed his cheeks, 'Sweet Honey, I'll tell nurse and Mr.
Jones that I'm on pilgrimage to the Eastern land, and I'll not turn into
by-ways after red coats and little kids to vex you.'

Whether Owen quite separated fact from allegory might have been doubtful
to a more prosaic mind than Honora's, but he had brought this dreamy
strain with him from his father, and she thought it one of his great
charms.  She had been obliged to leave him to himself much more than
usual of late, and she fervently resolved to devote herself with double
energy to watching over him, and eradicating any weeds that might have
been sown during her temporary inattention.  He clung so fast to her
hand, and was so much delighted to have her with him again, so often
repeating that she must not go away again, that the genuineness of his
affection could not be doubted, and probably he would only retain an
impression of having been led to say something very shocking, and the
alarm to his sensitive conscience would hinder him from ever even trying
to remember what it was.

She spoke, however, to nurse, telling her that the subject must never be
mentioned to the children, since it was by no means desirable for them,
and besides, she had no intention of the kind.  She wished it to be
distinctly understood that Master Owen was not to be looked upon as her
heir.

'Very true, ma'am, it is too soon to be talking of such things yet, and I
must say, I was as sorry as possible to find that the child had had it
named to him.  People will talk, you see, Miss Charlecote, though I am
sure so young a lady as you are . . . '

'That has nothing to do with it,' said Honora; 'I consider nothing so bad
for a child as to be brought up to expectations to which he has no right,
when he is sure to have to provide for himself.  I beg that if you hear
the subject entered on again, in the children's presence, you will put a
stop to it.'

'Certainly, ma'am; their poor dear papa never would have wished them to
be occupied with earthly things of that sort.  As I often said, there
never was such an unworldly gentleman; he never would have known if there
were a sixpence in the house, nor a joint in the larder, if there had not
been cook and me to care for him.  I often said to cook--"Well for him
that he has honest people about him."'

Honora likewise spoke to Jones, her private retainer.  He smiled scorn of
the accusation, and answered her as the child he had known in frocks.
'Yes, ma'am, I did tell the young gentleman to hold his tongue, for it
never would be his in your lifetime, nor after, in my judgment.'

'Why, certainly, it does seem early days to speak of such a matter,' said
Honora, sadly.

'It is unaccountable what people will not put in children's heads,' said
Jones, sagely; 'not but what he is a nice quiet young gentleman, and
gives very little trouble, but they might let _that_ alone.  Miss Honora,
when will it be convenient to you to take my account of the plate?'

She felt pretty well convinced that Jones had only resented the whole on
her account, and that it was not he who had put the notion into the boy's
head.  As to nurse, she was far from equally clear.  Doubts of nurse's
sincerity had long been growing upon her, and she was in the
uncomfortable position of being able to bear neither to think of the
children's intercourse with any one tainted with falsehood, nor to
dismiss a person implicitly trusted by their father.  She could only
decide that the first detected act of untruth should be the
turning-point.

Meantime, painful as was many an association, Honor did not find her
position so dreary or so oppressive as she had anticipated.  She had a
great deal to do, and the tracks had been duly made out for her by her
cousin.  Mr. Saville, or Humfrey's old friend, Sir John Raymond, were
always ready to help her in great matters, and Brooks was an excellent
dictatorial deputy in small ones.  Her real love for country life, for
live animals, and, above all, the power of doing good, all found scope.
Humfrey's charge gave her a sense of a fulfilled duty; and mournful and
broken-spirited as she believed herself, if Humfrey could have looked at
her as she scrupulously made entries in his book, rode out with the
children to try to look knowing at the crops, or sat by the fire in the
evening with his dogs at her feet, telling stories to the children, he
would not have feared too much for his Honor.  Living or dead, the love
of Humfrey could hardly help being a spring of peace and happiness; and
the consciousness of it had been too brief, and the tie never close
enough, to lead to a state of crushed spirits.  The many little tender
observances that she paid to him were a source of mournful sweetness
rather than of heart-rending.

It was a quietly but fully occupied life, with a certain severity towards
her own comforts, and liberality towards those of other people, which had
always been a part of her character, ever since Owen Sandbrook had read
sermons with her on self-denial.  If Miss Wells had a fire in her bedroom
forced upon her, Miss Charlecote had none, and hurried down in the bleak
winter morning in shawl and gloves to Humfrey's great Bible, and then to
his account books and her business letters.  She was fresh with cold when
she met the children for their early reading.  And then--but it was not
soon that she learnt to bear that, though she had gone through the like
before, she had to read the household devotions, where every petition
seemed to be lacking the manly tone to give it fulness and force.

Breakfast followed, the silver kettle making it home-like, the children
chattering, Miss Wells smiling, letters coming in to perplex or to clear
up perplexities, amuse or cheer.  The children were then turned out for
an hour's hoop-driving on the gravel drive, horse-chestnut picking, or
whatever might not be mischief, while Honora was conferring with Jones or
with Brooks, and receiving her orders for the day.  Next followed
letter-writing, then lessons in general, a real enjoyment, unless Lucilla
happened to have picked up a fit of perverseness--some reading to them,
or rationalizing of play--the early dinner--the subsequent expedition
with them, either walking or riding--for Brooks had soon found ponies for
them, and they were gallant little riders.  Honor would not give up the
old pony, long since trained for her by Humfrey, though, maybe, that was
her most undutiful proceeding towards him, as he would certainly have
told her that the creature was shaky on the legs.  So at last it tumbled
down with her, but without any damage, save a hole in her skirt, and a
dreadful crying fit of little Owen, who was frightened out of his wits.
She owned that it must be degraded to light cart work, and mounted an
animal which Hiltonbury agreed to be more worthy of her.  Coming in, the
children played; she either did her business or found leisure for
reading; then came tea-time, then the reading of a story book to the
children, and when they were disposed of, of something mildly moral and
instructive to suit Miss Wells's taste.

The neighbourhood all mourned Mr. Charlecote as a personal loss, and
could hardly help regarding any successor as their enemy.  Miss
Charlecote had been just enough known in her girlish days not to make her
popular in a commonplace neighbourhood; the ladies had criticised her
hair and her genius, and the gentlemen had been puzzled by her searching
questions into their county antiquities, and obliged to own themselves
unaware of a Roman milestone propping their bailiff's pigstye, or of the
spur of a champion of one of the Roses being hung over their family pew.
But when Mr. Henderson and the Raymonds reported pleasantly of her, and
when once or twice she had been seen cantering down the lanes, or
shopping in Elverslope, and had exchanged a bow with a familiar face, the
gentlemen took to declaring that the heiress was an uncommonly fine woman
after all, and the ladies became possessed with the perception that it
was high time to call upon Miss Charlecote--what could she be doing with
those two children?

So there were calls, which Honor duly returned, and then came
invitations, but to Miss Wells's great annoyance, Honor decided against
these.  It was not self-denial, but she thought it suitable.  She did not
love the round of county gaieties, and in her position she did not think
them a duty.  Retirement seemed to befit the widowhood, which she felt so
entirely that when Miss Wells once drove her into disclaiming all
possibility of marrying, she called it 'marrying again.'  When Miss Wells
urged the inexpedience of absolute seclusion, she said she would continue
to make morning calls, and she hoped in time to have friends of her own
to stay with her; she might ask the Raymonds, or some of the quiet,
clerical families (the real _elite_, be it observed) to spend a day or
drink tea, but the dinner and ball life was too utterly incongruous for
an elderly heiress.  When it came to the elderly heiress poor Miss Wells
was always shut up in utter despair--she who thought her bright-locked
darling only grew handsomer each day of her pride of womanhood.

The brass which Honora had chosen for her cousin's memorial was slow in
being executed, and summer days had come in before it was sent to
Hiltonbury.  She walked down, a good deal agitated, to ascertain whether
it were being rightly managed, but, to her great annoyance, found that
the church having been left open, so many idle people were standing about
that she could not bear to mingle with them.  Had it been only the Holt
vassalage, either their feeling would have been one with her own, or they
would have made way for her, but there were some pert nursery maids
gaping about with the children from Beauchamp, whence the heads of the
family had been absent all the winter and spring, leaving various nurses
and governesses in charge.  Honora could not encounter their eyes, and
went to the vicarage to send Mr. Henderson, and finding him absent,
walked over sundry fields in a vain search for Brooks.  Rain came on so
violently as to wet her considerably, and to her exceeding mortification,
she was obliged to relinquish her superintendence, either in person or by
deputy.

However, when she awoke early and saw the sun laughing through the
shining drops, she decided on going down ere the curious world was astir,
to see what had been done.  It was not far from six, when she let herself
out at the porch, and very like a morning with Humfrey, with the
tremulous glistening of every spray, and the steamy fragrance rising
wherever the sun touched the grass, that seemed almost to grow visibly.
The woods were ringing with the song of birds, circle beyond circle, and
there was something in the exuberant merriment of those blackbirds and
thrushes that would not let her be sad, though they had been Humfrey's
special glory.  The thought of such pleasures did not seem out of
keeping.  The lane was overhung with bushes; the banks, a whole wealth of
ferns, climbing plants, tall grasses, and nettles, had not yet felt the
sun and were dank and dreary, so she hurried on, and arriving at the
clerk's door, knocked and opened.  He was gone to his work, and sounds
above showed the wife to be engaged on the toilette of the younger
branches.  She called out that she had come for the keys of the church,
and seeing them on the dresser, abstracted them, bidding the good woman
give herself no trouble.

She paused under the porch, and ere fitting the heavy key to the lock,
felt that strange pressure and emotion of the heart that even if it be
sorrow is also an exquisite sensation.  If it were mournful that the one
last office she could render to Humfrey was over, it was precious to her
to be the only one who had a right to pay it, the one whom he had loved
best upon earth, round whom she liked to believe that he still might be
often hovering--whom he might welcome by and by.  Here was the place for
communion with him, the spot which had, indeed, been to him none other
than the gate of Heaven.

Yet, will it be believed?  Not one look did Honora cast at Humfrey
Charlecote's monument that morning.

With both hands she turned the reluctant bolts of the lock, and pushed
open the nail-studded door.  She slowly advanced along the uneven floor
of the aisle, and had just reached the chancel arch, when something
suddenly stirred, making her start violently.  It was still, and after a
pause she again advanced, but her heart gave a sudden throb, and a
strange chill of awe rushed over her as she beheld a little white face
over the altar rail, the chin resting on a pair of folded hands, the dark
eyes fixed in a strange, dreamy, spiritual expression of awe.

The shock was but for a moment, the next the blood rallied to her heart,
and she told herself that Humfrey would say, that either the state of her
spirits had produced an illusion, or else that some child had been left
here by accident.  She advanced, but as she did so the two hands were
stretched out and locked together as in an agony, and the childish,
feeble voice cried out, 'Oh! if you're an angel, please don't frighten
me; I'll be very good.'

Honora was in a pale, soft, gray dress, that caught the light in a rosy
glow from the east window, and her golden hair was hanging in radiant
masses beneath her straw bonnet, but she could not appreciate the angelic
impression she made on the child, who had been tried so long by such a
captivity.  'My poor child,' she said, 'I am no angel; I am only Miss
Charlecote.  I'm afraid you have been shut up here;' and, coming nearer,
she perceived that it was a boy of about seven years old, well dressed,
though his garments were disordered.  He stood up as she came near, but
he was trembling all over, and as she drew him into her bosom, and put
her arms round him, she found him quivering with icy cold.

'Poor little fellow,' she said, rocking him, as she sat on the step and
folded her shawl round him, 'have you been here all night?  How cold you
are; I must take you home, my dear.  What is your name?'

'I'm Robert Mervyn Fulmort,' said the little boy, clinging to her.  'We
came in to see Mr. Charlecote's monument put up, and I suppose they
forgot me.  I waked up, and everybody was gone, and the door was locked.
Oh! please,' he gasped, 'take me out.  I don't want to cry.'

She thought it best to take him at once into the cheerful sunlight, but
it did not yet yield the warmth that he needed; and all her soothing
words could not check the nervous tremor, though he held her so tight
that it seemed as if he would never let her go.

'You shall come home with me, my dear little boy; you shall have some
breakfast, and then I will take you safe home to Beauchamp.'

'Oh, if you please!' said the boy, gratefully.

Exercise was thawing his numbed limbs, and his eyes brightened.

'Whom were you with?' she asked.  'Who could have forgotten you?'

'I came with Lieschen and nurse and the babies.  The others went out with
Mademoiselle.'

'And you went to sleep?'

'Yes; I liked to see the mason go chip, chip, and I wanted to see them
fit the thing in.  I got into that great pew, to see better; and I made
myself a nest, but at last they were all gone.'

'And what did you do, then?  Were you afraid?'

'I didn't know what to do.  I ran all about to see if I could look out at
a window, but I couldn't.'

'Did you try to call?'

'Wouldn't it have been naughty?' said the boy; and then with an impulse
of honest truthfulness, 'I did try once; but do you know, there was
another voice came back again, and I thought that _die Geistern wachten
sich auf_.'

'The what?'

'_Die Geistern das Lieschen sagt in die Gewolben wohnen_,' said little
Robert, evidently quite unconscious whether he spoke German or English.

'So you could not call for the echo.  Well, did you not think of the
bells?'

'Yes; but, oh! the door was shut; and then, I'll tell you--but don't tell
Mervyn--I did cry.'

'Indeed, I don't wonder.  It must have been very lonely.'

'I didn't like it,' said Robert, shivering; and getting to his German
again, he described '_das Gewitter_' beating on the panes, with wind and
whirling leaves, and the unearthly noises of the creaking vane.  The
terror of the lonely, supperless child was dreadful to think of; and she
begged to know what he could have done as it grew dark.

'I got to Mr. Charlecote,' said Robert--an answer that thrilled her all
over.  'I said I'd be always very good, if he would take care of me, and
not let them frighten me.  And so I did go to sleep.'

'I'm sure Mr. Charlecote would, my dear little man,' began Honora, then
checked by remembering what he would have said.  'But didn't you think of
One more sure to take care of you than Mr. Charlecote?'

'Lieschen talks of _der Lieber Gott_,' said the little boy.  'We said our
prayers in the nursery, but Mervyn says only babies do.'

'Mervyn is terribly wrong, then,' said Honora, shuddering.  'Oh! Robert,
Mr. Charlecote never got up nor went to bed without asking the good God
to take care of him, and make him good.'

'Was that why he was so good?' asked Robert.

'Indeed it was,' said she, fervently; 'nobody can be good without it.  I
hope my little friend will never miss his prayers again, for they are the
only way to be manly and afraid of nothing but doing wrong, as he was.'

'I won't miss them,' said Robert, eagerly; then, with a sudden, puzzled
look--'Did he send you?'

'Who?'

'Mr. Charlecote.'

'Why--how should . . . ?  What made you think so?'

'I--why, once in the night I woke up; and oh! it was so dark, and there
were such noises, such rattlings and roarings; and then it came all
white--white light--all the window-bars and all so plain upon the wall;
and then came--bending, bending over--a great gray darkness--oh! so
horrible!--and went away, and came back.'

'The shadow of the trees, swaying in the moonlight.'

'Was it?  I thought it was the _Nebel Wittwen neckten mir_, and then the
_Erlkonung-tochter_.  _Wissen sie_--and oh! I did scream once; and then,
somehow, it grew quietly darker; and I thought Mr. Charlecote had me
folded up so warm on his horse's back, and that we rode ever so far; and
they stretched out their long white arms, and could not get me; but
somehow he set me down on a cold stone, and said, "Wait here, Robin, and
I'll send her to lead you."  And then came a creaking, and there were
you.'

'Well, little Robin, he did not quite send me; but it was to see his
tablet that I came down this morning; so he brought me after all.  He was
my very dear Cousin Humfrey, and I like you for having been his little
friend.  Will you be mine, too, and let me help you, if I can? and if
your papa and mamma give leave, come and see me, and play with the little
girl and boy who live with me?'

'Oh, yes!' cried Robert; 'I like you.'

The alliance was sealed with a hearty kiss.

'But,' said Robert, 'you must ask Mademoiselle; papa and mamma are away!'

'And how was it no one ever missed you?'

Robert was far less surprised at this than she was; for, like all
children, to be left behind appeared to him a contingency rather probable
than otherwise.

He was a fine-looking boy, with dark gray, thoughtful eyes, and a
pleasant countenance; but his nerves had been so much shaken that he
started, and seemed ready to catch hold of her at every sound.

'What's that?' he cried, as a trampling came along the alley as they
entered the garden.

'Only my two little cousins,' said Honora, smiling.  'I hope you will be
good friends, though perhaps Owen is too young a playfellow.  Here, Lucy,
Owen--here is a little friend for you--Robert Fulmort.'

The children came eagerly up, and Lucilla, taking her hand, raised her
face to kiss the stranger; but Robert did not approve of the proceeding,
and held up his head.  Lucilla rose on tiptoe; Robin did the same.  As he
had the advantage of a whole year's height, he fully succeeded in keeping
out of her reach; and very comical was the effect.  She gave it up at
last, and contented herself with asking, 'And where do you come from?'

'Out of the church,' was Robin's reply.

'Then you are very good and holy, indeed,' said Owen, looking at him
earnestly, with clasped hands.

'No!' said Robert, gruffly.

'Poor little man! he was left behind, and shut up in the church all
night, without any supper,' said Honora.

'Shut up in the church like Goody Two-shoes!' cried Lucilla dancing
about.  'Oh, what fun!'

'Did the angels come and sing to you?' asked Owen.

'Don't ask such stupid questions,' cried his sister.  'Oh, I know what
I'd have done!  Didn't you get up into the pulpit?'

'No!'

'And I do so want to know if the lady and gentleman on the monument have
their ruffs the same on the inside, towards the wall, as outside; and,
oh! I do so want to get all the dust out of the folds of the lady's ruff:
I wish they'd lock me into the church, and I'd soon get out when I was
tired.'

Lucilla and Owen decidedly thought Robin had not profited by his
opportunities, but he figured better in an examination on his brothers
and sisters.  There were seven, of whom he was the fourth--Augusta,
Juliana, and Mervyn being his elders; Phoebe, Maria, and Bertha, his
juniors.  The three seniors were under the rule of Mademoiselle, the
little ones under that of nurse and Lieschen, and Robert stood on neutral
ground, doing lessons with Mademoiselle, whom, he said, in unpicked
language which astounded little Owen, 'he morally hated,' and at the same
time free of the nursery, where, it appeared, that 'Phoebe was the
jolliest little fellow in the world,' and Lieschen was the only
'good-natured body going,' and knew no end of _Mahrchen_.  The boy spoke
a very odd mixture of Lieschen's German and of English, pervaded by
stable slang, and was altogether a curious study of the effects of
absentee parents; nevertheless Honora and Lucilla both took a
considerable fancy to him, the latter patronizing him to such a degree
that she hardly allowed him to eat the much-needed breakfast, which
recalled colour to his cheek and substance to his voice.

After much thought, Owen delivered himself of the sentiment that
'people's papas and mammas were very funny,' doubtless philosophizing on
the inconsistency of the class in being, some so willing, some so
reluctant, to leave their children behind them.  Honor fully agreed with
him, but did not think the discussion profitable for Robin, whom she now
proposed to take home in the pony-carriage.  Lucilla, always eager for
novelty, and ardent for her new friendship, begged to accompany her.
Owen was afraid of the strangers, and preferred Miss Wells.

Even as they set out, they found that Robert's disappearance had created
some sensation, for the clerk's wife was hurrying up to ask if Miss
Charlecote had the keys, that she might satisfy the man from Beauchamp
that Master Fulmort was not in the church.  At the lodge the woman threw
up her hands with joy at the sight of the child; and some way off, on the
sward, stood a bigger boy, who, with a loud hurrah, scoured away towards
the house as the carriage appeared.

'That's Mervyn,' said Robert; 'he is gone to tell them.'

Beauchamp was many degrees grander since Honor had last visited it.  The
approach was entirely new.  Two fresh wings had been added, and the front
was all over scaffolds and cement, in all stages of colour, from rich
brown to permanent white.  Robert explained that nothing was so nice as
to watch the workmen, and showed Lucilla a plasterer on the topmost stage
of the scaffolding, who, he said, was the nicest man he knew, and could
sing all manner of songs.

Rather nervously Honora drove under the poles to the hall-door, where two
girls were seen in the rear of a Frenchwoman; and Honor felt as if Robin
might have grounds for his 'moral hatred' when her voluble transports of
gratitude and affection broke forth, and the desolation in which the loss
had left them was described.  Robert edged back from her at once, and
flew to another party at the bottom of the stairs--a very stout nurse and
an uncapped, flaxen-haired madchen, who clasped him in her arms, and
cried, and sobbed over him.  As soon as he could release himself, he
caught hold of a fat little bundle, which had been coaxing one of his
legs all through Lieschen's embrace, and dragging it forwards, cried,
'Here she is--here's Phoebe!'  Phoebe, however, was shy, and cried and
fought her way back to hide her face in Lieschen's apron; and meantime a
very odd scene took place.  School-room and nursery were evidently at
most direful war.  Each wanted to justify itself lest the lady should
write to the parents; each tried to be too grand to seem to care, and
threw all the blame on the other.  On the whole, Honor gathered that
Mademoiselle believed the boy _enfantin_ enough to be in the nursery, the
nurses that he was in the school-room, and he had not been really missed
till bed-time, when each party recriminated instead of seeking him, and
neither would allow itself to be responsible for him.  Lieschen, who
alone had her suspicions where he might be, abstained from naming them in
sheer terror of _Kobolden_, _Geistern_, corpse-candles, and what not, and
had lain conjuring up his miseries till morning.  Honora did not much
care how they settled it amongst them, but tried to make friends with the
young people, who seemed to take their brother's restoration rather
coolly, and to be chiefly occupied by staring at Lucilla.  Augusta and
Juliana were self-possessed, and rather _manierees_, acquitting
themselves evidently to the satisfaction of the French governess, and
Honor, perceiving her to be a necessary infliction, invited her and her
pupils, especially Robin, to spend a day in the next week at the Holt.

The proposal was graciously accepted, and Lucilla spent the intervening
time in a tumult of excitement.

Nor was the day entirely unsuccessful; Mademoiselle behaved herself with
French tact, and Miss Wells took her off Honora's hands a good deal,
leaving them free for the children.  Lucilla, always aspiring, began a
grand whispering friendship with the two girls, and set her little cap
strongly at Mervyn, but that young gentleman was contemptuous and bored
when he found no entertainment in Miss Charlecote's stud, and was only to
be kept placable by the bagatelle-board and the strawberry-bed.  Robert
followed his lead more than was satisfactory, but with visible
predilections for the Holt ladies, old and young.  Honor talked to him
about little Phoebe, and he lighted up and began to detail her
accomplishments, and to be very communicative about his home vexations
and pleasures, and finally, when the children were wishing good night, he
bluntly said, 'It would be better fun to bring Lieschen and Phoebe.'

Honor thought so too, and proposed giving the invitation.

'Don't,' said Robert, 'she'd be cross; I'll bring them.'

And so he did.  Two days after, the broad German face and the flaxen head
appeared, leading that fat ball, Phoebe, and Robin frisking in triumph
beside her.  Henceforth a great friendship arose between the children.
Phoebe soon lost all dread of those who petted her, and favoured them
with broad smiles and an incomprehensible patois.  Owen made very much of
her, and pursued and imitated Robert with the devotion of a small boy to
a larger one.  Lucilla devoted herself to him for want of better game,
and moreover he plainly told her that she was the prettiest little girl
he ever saw, and laid all manner of remarkable treasures at her feet.
Miss Charlecote believed that he made some curious confidences to her,
for once Owen said, 'I want to know why Robin hasn't a Sweet Honey to
make him good?'

'Robin has a papa and mamma, and a governess.'

'Robin was telling Lucy he wanted some one to teach him to be good, and
she said she would, but I think she is not old enough.'

'Any one who is good is teaching others, my Owen,' said Honor.  'We will
ask in our prayers that poor little Robin may be helped.'

When Mr. and Mrs. Fulmort came home, there was an interchange of calls,
many thanks for her kindness to the children, and sanction of future
intercourse.  Mr. Fulmort was a great distiller, who had married a county
heiress, and endeavoured to take his place among the country squires,
whom he far exceeded in display; and his wife, a meek, sickly person,
lived a life of slavery to the supposed exigencies of fashion.  She had
always had, in her maiden days, a species of awe of the Charlecotes'
London cousin, and was now disposed to be rather gratified by her notice
of her children.  Mervyn had been disposed of at a tutor's, and Robert
was adrift for many hours of the day.  As soon as he had discovered the
possibility of getting to the Holt alone, he was frequently there,
following Honora about in her gardening and farming, as much at home as
the little Sandbrooks, sharing in their sports, and often listening to
the little books that she read aloud to them.  He was very far from being
such an angelic little mortal as Owen, with whom indeed his sympathies
were few.  Once some words were caught from him by both children, which
startled Honor exceedingly, and obliged her to tell him that if ever she
found him to have repeated the like, she should forbid his coming near
them.  He looked excessively sullen, and did not come for a week, during
which Lucilla was intolerably naughty, and was twice severely punished
for using the identical expressions in defiance.

Then he came again, and behaved as if nothing had happened, but the
offence never recurred.  Some time after, when he boasted of having come
away with a lesson unlearnt, in flat disobedience to Mademoiselle, Honor
sent him straight home, though Lucilla stamped and danced at her in a
frenzy.  Another time Owen rushed up to her in great agony at some
torture that Robin was inflicting upon a live mouse.  Upon this, Honor,
full of the spirit of indignation, fairly struck the offender sharply on
the fingers with her riding-whip.  He scowled at her, but it was only for
a moment.  She held him tightly by the hand, while she sent the gardener
to put his victim out of its misery, and then she talked to him, not
sentimentally, her feelings were too strongly stirred, but with all her
horror of cruelty.  He muttered that Mervyn and the grooms always did it;
but he did not hold out long--Lucilla was holding aloof, too much
horrified to come near--and finally he burst into tears, and owned that
he had never thought!

Every now and then, such outbreaks made Honor wonder why she let him
come, perhaps to tempt her children; but she remembered that he and
Humfrey had been fond of one another, and she felt drawn towards him,
though in all prudence she resolved to lessen the attractions of the Holt
by being very strict with all, and rather ungracious to him.  Yet,
strange to say, the more regulations she made, and the more she flashed
out at his faults, the more constant was her visitor, the Robin who
seemed to thrive upon the veriest crumbs of good-nature.

Positively, Honora was sometimes amazed to find what a dragon she could
be upon occasion.  Since she had been brought into subordination at six
or eight years old, she had never had occasion to find out that she had a
spirit of her own, till she found herself astonishing Jones and Brooks
for taking the liberty of having a deadly feud; making Brooks understand
that cows were not to be sold, nor promises made to tenants, without
reference to her; or showing a determined marauder that Humfrey's wood
was not to be preyed upon any more than in his own time.  They were very
feminine explosions to be sure, but they had their effect, and Miss
Charlecote's was a real government.

The uproar with nurse came at last, through a chance discovery that she
had taken Owen to a certain forbidden house of gossip, where he had been
bribed to secrecy with bread and treacle.

Honora wrote to Mrs. Charteris for permission to dismiss the mischievous
woman, and obtained full consent, and the most complete expression of
confidence and gratitude.  So there ensued a month, when every visit to
the nursery seemed to be spent in tears.  Nurse was really very fond of
the children, and cried over them incessantly, only consoling herself by
auguring a brilliant future for them, when Master Owen should reign over
Hiltonbury, like the gentleman he was.

'But, nurse, Cousin Honor says I never shall--I'm to be a clergyman, like
papa.  She says . . . '

Nurse winked knowingly at the housemaid.  'Yes, yes, my darling, no one
likes to hear who is to come after them.  Don't you say nothing about it;
ain't becoming; but, by and by, see if it don't come so, and if my boy
ain't master here.'

'I wish I was, and then nursey would never go.'

However, nurse did go, and after some tears Owen was consoled by
promotion to the habits of an older boy.

Lucilla was very angry, and revenged herself by every variety of
opposition in her power, all which were put down by the strong hand.  It
was a matter of necessity to keep a tight grasp on this little wilful
sprite, the most fiery morsel of engaging caprice and naughtiness that a
quiet spinster could well have lit upon.  It really sometimes seemed to
Honora as if there were scarcely a fault in the range of possibilities
that she had not committed; and indeed a bit of good advice generally
seemed to act by contraries, and served to suggest mischief.  Softness
and warmth of feeling seemed to have been lost with her father; she did
not show any particular affection towards her brother or Honora.  Perhaps
she liked Miss Wells, but that might be only opposition; nay, Honor would
have been almost thankful if she had melted at the departure of the
undesirable nurse, but she appeared only hard and cross.  If she liked
any one it was Robert Fulmort, but that was too much in the way of
flirtation.

Vanity was an extremely traceable spring of action.  When nurse went,
Miss Lucilla gave the household no peace, because no one could rightly
curl the long flaxen tresses upon her shoulders, until the worry became
so intolerable that Honora, partly as penance, partly because she thought
the present mode neither conducive to tidiness nor comfort, took her
scissors and trimmed all the ringlets behind, bowl-dish fashion, as her
own carrots had figured all the days of her childhood.

Lucilla was held by Mrs. Stubbs during the operation.  She did not cry or
scream after she felt herself conquered by main strength, but her blue
eyes gleamed with a strange, wild light; she would not speak to Miss
Charlecote all the rest of the day, and Honora doubted whether she were
ever forgiven.

Another offence was the cutting down her name into Lucy.  Honor had
avoided Cilly from the first; Silly Sandbrook would be too dreadful a
sobriquet to be allowed to attach to any one, but Lucilla resented the
change more deeply than she showed.  Lucy was a housemaid's name, she
said, and Honor reproved her for vanity, and called her so all the more.
She did not love Miss Charlecote well enough to say that Cilly had been
her father's name for her, and that he had loved to wind the flaxen curls
round his fingers.

Every new study, every new injunction cost a warfare, disobedience, and
passionate defiance and resistance on the one hand, and steady,
good-tempered firmness on the other, gradually growing a little stern.
The waves became weary of beating on the rock at last.  The fiery child
was growing into a girl, and the calm will had the mastery of her; she
succumbed insensibly; and owing all her pleasures to Cousin Honor, she
grew to depend upon her, and mind, manners, and opinions were taking
their mould from her.



CHAPTER V


    Too soon the happy child
    His nook of heavenward thought must change
    For life's seducing wild.--_Christian Year_

The summer sun peeped through the Venetian blinds greenly shading the
breakfast-table.

Only three sides were occupied.  For more than two years past good Miss
Wells had been lying under the shade of Hiltonbury Church, taking with
her Honora Charlecote's last semblance of the dependence and deference of
her young ladyhood.  The kind governess had been fondly mourned, but she
had not left her child to loneliness, for the brother and sister sat on
either side, each with a particular pet--Lucilla's, a large pointer, who
kept his nose on her knee; Owen's, a white fan-tailed pigeon, seldom long
absent from his shoulder, where it sat quivering and bending backwards
its graceful head.

Lucilla, now nearly fourteen, looked younger from the unusual smallness
of her stature, and the exceeding delicacy of her features and
complexion, and she would never have been imagined to be two years the
senior of the handsome-faced, large-limbed young Saxon who had so far
outstripped her in height; and yet there was something in those deep blue
eyes, that on a second glance proclaimed a keen intelligence as much
above her age as her appearance was below it.

'What's the matter?' said she, rather suddenly.

'Yes, sweetest Honey,' added the boy, 'you look bothered.  Is that rascal
not paying his rent?'

'No!' she said, 'it is a different matter entirely.  What do you think of
an invitation to Castle Blanch?'

'For us all?' asked Owen.

'Yes, all, to meet your Uncle Christopher, the last week in August.'

'Why can't he come here?' asked Lucilla.

'I believe we must go,' said Honora.  'You ought to know both your
uncles, and they should be consulted before Owen goes to school.'

'I wonder if they will examine me,' said Owen.  'How they will stare to
find Sweet Honey's teaching as good as all their preparatory schools.'

'Conceited boy.'

'I'm not conceited--only in my teacher.  Mr. Henderson said I should take
as good a place as Robert Fulmort did at Winchester, after four years in
that humbugging place at Elverslope.'

'We can't go!' cried Lucilla.  'It's the last week of Robin's holidays!'

'Well done, Lucy!' and both Honor and Owen laughed heartily.

'It is nothing to me,' said she, tossing her head, 'only I thought Cousin
Honor thought it good for him.'

'You may stay at home to do him good,' laughed Owen; 'I'm sure I don't
want him.  You are very welcome, such a bore as he is.'

'Now, Owen.'

'Honey dear, I do take my solemn affidavit that I have tried my utmost to
be friends with him,' said Owen; 'but he is such a fellow--never has the
least notion beyond Winchester routine--Latin and Greek, cricket and
football.'

'You'll soon be a schoolboy yourself,' said Lucilla.

'Then I shan't make such an ass of myself,' returned Owen.

'Robin is a very good boy, I believe,' said Honor.

'That's the worst of him!' cried Lucilla, running away and clapping the
door after her as she went.

'Well, I don't know,' said Owen, very seriously, 'he says he does not
care about the Saints' days because he has no one to get him leave out.'

'I remember,' said Honor, with a sweet smile of tender memory, 'when to
me the merit of Saints' days was that they were your father's holidays.'

'Yes, you'll send me to Westminster, and be always coming to
Woolstone-lane,' said Owen.

'Your uncles must decide,' she said, half mournfully, half proudly; 'you
are getting to be a big boy--past me, Oney.'

It brought her a roughly playful caress, and he added, 'You've got the
best right, I'm sure.'

'I had thought of Winchester,' she said.  'Robert would be a friend.'

Owen made a face, and caused her to laugh, while scandalizing her by
humming, 'Not there, not there, my child.'

'Well, be it where it may, you had better look over your Virgil, while I
go down to my practical Georgics with Brooks.'

Owen obeyed.  He was like a spirited horse in a leash of silk.  Strong,
fearless, and manly, he was still perfectly amenable to her, and had
never shown any impatience of her rule.  She had taught him entirely
herself, and both working together with a thorough good will, she had
rendered him a better classical scholar, as all judges allowed, than most
boys of the same age, and far superior to them in general cultivation;
and she should be proud to convince Captain Charteris that she had not
made him the mollycoddle that was obviously anticipated.  The other
relatives, who had seen the children in their yearly visits to London,
had always expressed unqualified satisfaction, though not advancing much
in the good graces of Lucy and Owen.  But Honor thought the public school
ought to be left to the selection of the two uncles, though she wished to
be answerable for the expense, both there and at the university.  The
provision inherited by her charges was very slender, for, contrary to all
expectation, old Mr. Sandbrook's property had descended in another
quarter, and there was barely 5000 pounds between the two.

To preserve this untouched by the expenses of education was Honora's
object, and she hoped to be able to smooth their path in life by
occasional assistance, but on principle she was determined to make them
independent of her, and she had always made it known that she regarded it
as her duty to Humfrey that her Hiltonbury property should be
destined--if not to the apocryphal American Charlecote--to a relation of
their mutual great-grandmother.

Cold invitations had been given and declined, but this one was evidently
in earnest, and the consideration of the captain decided Honora on
accepting it, but not without much murmuring from Lucilla.  Caroline and
Horatia were detestable grown-up young ladies, her aunt was horrid,
Castle Blanch was the slowest place in the world; she should be shut up
in some abominable school-room to do fancy-work, and never to get a bit
of fun.  Even the being reminded of Wrapworth and its associations only
made her more cross.  She was of a nature to fly from thought or
feeling--she was keen to perceive, but hated reflection, and from the
very violence of her feelings, she unconsciously abhorred any awakening
of them, and steeled herself by levity.

Her distaste only gave way in Robert's presence, when she appeared highly
gratified by the change, certain that Castle Blanch would be charming,
and her cousin the Life-guardsman especially so.  The more disconsolate
she saw Robert, the higher rose her spirits, and his arrival to see the
party off sent her away in open triumph, glorifying her whole cousinhood
without a civil word to him; but when seated in the carriage she launched
at him a drawing, the favourite work of her leisure hours, broke into
unrestrained giggling at his grateful surprise, and ere the wood was
past, was almost strangled with sobs.

Castle Blanch was just beyond the suburbs of London, in complete country,
but with an immense neighbourhood, and not half-an-hour by train from
town.  Honora drove all the way, to enjoy the lovely Thames scenery to
the full.  They passed through Wrapworth, and as they did so, Lucilla
chattered to the utmost, while Honora stole her hand over Owen's and
gently pressed it.  He returned the squeeze with interest, and looked up
in her face with a loving smile--mother and home were not wanting to him!

About two miles further on, and not in the same parish, began the Castle
Blanch demesne.  The park sloped down to the Thames, and was handsome,
and quite full of timber, and the mansion, as the name imported, had been
built in the height of pseudo-Gothic, with a formidable keep-looking
tower at each corner, but the fortification below consisting of glass;
the sham cloister, likewise glass windows, for drawing-room, music-room,
and conservatory; and jutting out far in advance, a great embattled
gateway, with a sham portcullis, and doors fit to defy an army.

Three men-servants met the guests in the hall, and Mrs. Charteris
received them in the drawing-room, with the woman-of-the-world tact that
Honora particularly hated; there was always such deference to Miss
Charlecote, and such an assumption of affection for the children, and
gratitude for her care of them, and Miss Charlecote had not been an
heiress early enough in life for such attentions to seem matters of
course.

It was explained that there was no school-room at present, and as a girl
of Lucilla's age, who was already a guest, joined the rest of the party
at dinner, it was proposed that she and her brother should do the same,
provided Miss Charlecote did not object.  Honor was really glad of the
gratification for Lucilla, and Mrs. Charteris agreed with her before she
had time to express her opinion as to girls being kept back or brought
forward.

Honor found herself lodged in great state, in a world of looking-glass
that had perfectly scared her poor little Hiltonbury maiden, and with a
large dressing-room, where she hoped to have seen a bed for Lucilla, but
she found that the little girl was quartered in another story, near the
cousins; and unwilling to imply distrust, and hating to incite obsequious
compliance, she did not ask for any change, but only begged to see the
room.

It was in a long passage whence doors opened every way, and one being
left ajar, sounds of laughter and talking were heard in tones as if the
young ladies were above good breeding in their private moments.  Mrs.
Charteris said something about her daughters' morning-room, and was
leading the way thither, when an unguarded voice exclaimed--'Rouge dragon
and all,' and a start and suppressed laughter at the entrance of the
newcomers gave an air of having been caught.

Four young ladies, in _degage_ attitudes, were lounging round their
afternoon refection of tea.  Two, Caroline and Horatia Charteris, shook
hands with Miss Charlecote, and kissed Lucilla, who still looked at them
ungraciously, followed Honora's example in refusing their offer of tea,
and only waiting to learn her own habitation, came down to her room to be
dressed for dinner, and to criticize cousins, aunt, house and all.  The
cousins were not striking--both were on a small scale, Caroline the best
looking in features and complexion, but Horatia the most vivacious and
demonstrative, and with an air of dash and fashion that was more
effective than beauty.  Lucilla, not sensible to these advantages,
broadly declared both young ladies to be frights, and commented so freely
on them to the willing ears of Owen, who likewise came in to go down
under Sweet Honey's protection, as to call for a reproof from Honora, one
of whose chief labours ever was to destroy the little lady's faith in
beauty, and complacency in her own.

The latter sensation was strong in Honor herself, as she walked into the
room between her beautiful pair, and contrasted Lucilla with her
contemporary, a formed and finished young lady, all plaits, ribbons, and
bracelets--not half so pleasing an object as the little maid in her white
frock, blue sash, and short wavy hair, though maybe there was something
quaint in such simplicity, to eyes trained by fashion instead of by good
taste.

Here was Captain Charteris, just what he had been when he went away.  How
different from his stately, dull, wife-ridden elder brother.  So brisk,
and blunt, and eager, quite lifting his niece off her feet, and almost
crushing her in his embrace, telling her she was still but a
hop-o'-my-thumb, and shaking hands with his nephew with a look of
scrutiny that brought the blood to the boy's cheek.

His eyes were never off the children while he was listening to Honora,
and she perceived that what she said went for nothing; he would form his
judgment solely by what he observed for himself.

At dinner, he was seated between Miss Charlecote and his niece, and
Honora was pleased with him for his neglect of her and attention to his
smaller neighbour, whose face soon sparkled with merriment, while his
increasing animation proved that the saucy little woman was as usual
enchanting him.  Much that was very entertaining was passing about
tiger-hunting, when at dessert, as he stretched out his arm to reach some
water for her, she exclaimed, 'Why, Uncle Kit, you _have_ brought away
the marks! no use to deny it, the tigers did bite you.'

The palm of his hand certainly bore in purple, marks resembling those of
a set of teeth; and he looked meaningly at Honora, as he quietly replied,
'Something rather like a tigress.'

'Then it was a bite, Uncle Kit?'

Yes,' in a put-an-end-to-it tone, which silenced Lucilla, her tact being
much more ready when concerned with the nobler sex.

In the drawing-room, Mrs. Charteris's civilities kept Honora occupied,
while she saw Owen bursting with some request, and when at length he
succeeded in claiming her attention, it was to tell her of his cousin's
offer to take him out shooting, and his elder uncle's proviso that it
must be with her permission.  He had gone out with the careful gamekeeper
at Hiltonbury, but this was a different matter, more trying to the nerves
of those who stayed at home.  However, Honora suspected that the uncle's
opinion of her competence to be trusted with Owen would be much
diminished by any betrayal of womanly terrors, and she made her only
conditions that he should mind Uncle Kit, and not go in front of the
guns, otherwise he would never be taken out again, a menace which she
judiciously thought more telling than that he would be shot.

By and by Mr. Charteris came to discuss subjects so interesting to her as
a farmer, that it was past nine o'clock before she looked round for her
children.  Healthy as Lucilla was, her frame was so slight and
unsubstantial, and her spirits so excitable, that over-fatigue or
irregularity always told upon her strength and temper; for which reason
Honor had issued a decree that she should go to bed at nine, and spend
two hours of every morning in quiet employment, as a counterbalance to
the excitement of the visit.

Looking about to give the summons, Honor found that Owen had disappeared.
Unnoticed, and wearied by the agricultural dialogue, he had hailed nine
o'clock as the moment of release, and crept off with unobtrusive
obedience, which Honor doubly prized when she beheld his sister full of
eagerness, among cousins and gentlemen, at the racing game.  Strongly
impelled to end it at once, Honor waited, however, till the little white
horseman had reached the goal, and just as challenges to a fresh race
were beginning, she came forward with her needful summons.

'Oh, Miss Charlecote, how cruel!' was the universal cry.

'We can't spare all the life of our game!' said Charles Charteris.

'I solemnly declare we weren't betting,' cried Horatia.  'Come, the first
evening--'

'No,' said Honor, smiling.  'I can't have her lying awake to be good for
nothing to-morrow, as she will do if you entertain her too much.'

'Another night, then, you promise,' said Charles.

'I promise nothing but to do my best to keep her fit to enjoy herself.
Come, Lucy.'

The habit of obedience was fixed, but not the habit of conquering
annoyance, and Lucilla went off doggedly.  Honora would have accompanied
her to soothe away her troubles, but her cousin Ratia ran after her, and
Captain Charteris stood in the way, disposed to talk.  'Discipline,' he
said, approvingly.

'Harsh discipline, I fear, it seemed to her, poor child,' said Honor;
'but she is so excitable that I must try to keep her as quiet as
possible.'

'Right,' said the captain; 'I like to see a child a child still.  You
must have had some tussles with that little spirit.'

'A few,' she said, smiling.  'She is a very good girl now, but it has
been rather a contrast with her brother.'

'Ha!' quoth the captain; and mindful of the milk-sop charge, Honora
eagerly continued, 'You will soon see what a spirit he has!  He rides
very well, and is quite fearless.  I have always wished him to be with
other boys, and there are some very nice ones near us--they think him a
capital cricketer, and you should see him run and vault.'

'He is an active-looking chap,' his uncle granted.

'Every one tells me he is quite able to make his way at school; I am only
anxious to know which public school you and your brother would prefer.'

'How old is he?'

'Only twelve last month, though you would take him for fifteen.'

'Twelve; then there would be just time to send him to Portsmouth, get him
prepared for a naval cadetship, then, when I go out with Sir David
Horfield, I could take him under my own eye, and make a man of him at
once.'

'Oh! Captain Charteris,' cried Honora, aghast, 'his whole bent is towards
his father's profession.'

The captain had very nearly whistled, unable to conceive any lad of
spirit preferring study.

'Whatever Miss Charlecote's wishes may be, Kit,' interposed the
diplomatic elder brother, 'we only desire to be guided by them.'

'Oh no, indeed,' cried Honor; 'I would not think of such a
responsibility, it can belong only to his nearer connections;' then,
feeling as if this were casting him off to be pressed by the sailor the
next instant, she added, in haste--'Only I hoped it was understood--if
you will let me--the expenses of his education need not be considered.
And if he _might_ be with me in the holidays,' she proceeded imploringly.
'When Captain Charteris has seen more of him, I am sure he will think it
a pity that his talents . . .' and there she stopped, shocked at finding
herself insulting the navy.

'If a boy have no turn that way, it cannot be forced on him,' said the
captain, moodily.

Honora pitied his disappointment, wondering whether he ascribed it to her
influence, and Mr. Charteris blandly expressed great obligation and more
complete resignation of the boy than she desired; disclaimers ran into
mere civilities, and she was thankful to the captain for saying, shortly,
'We'll leave it till we have seen more of the boy.'

Breakfast was very late at Castle Blanch; and Honora expected a tranquil
hour in her dressing-room with her children, but Owen alone appeared,
anxious for the shooting, but already wearying to be at home with his own
pleasures, and indignant with everything, especially the absence of
family prayers.

The breakfast was long and desultory, and in the midst Lucilla made her
appearance with Horatia, who was laughing and saying, 'I found this child
wandering about the park, and the little pussycat won't tell where she
has been.'

'Poaching, of course,' responded Charles; 'it is what pussycats always do
till they get shot by the keepers.'

_Et caetera_, _et caetera_, _et caetera_.  Lucilla was among all the
young people, in the full tide of fun, nonsense, banter, and repartee of
a style new to her, but in which she was formed to excel, and there was
such a black look when Honor summoned her after the meal, as impressed
the awkwardness of enforcing authority among nearer relations; but it was
in vain, she was carried off to the dressing-room, and reminded of the
bargain for two hours' occupation.  She murmured something about Owen
going out as he liked.

'He came to me before breakfast; besides, he is a boy.  What made you go
out in that strange manner?'

There was no answer, but Honor had learnt by experience that to insist
was apt to end in obtaining nothing but a collision of wills, and she
merely put out the Prayer Books for the morning's reading of the Psalms.
By the time it was over, Lucilla's fit of temper had past, and she leant
back in her chair.  'What are you listening to, Lucy?' said Honor, seeing
her fixed eye.

'The river,' said Lucilla, pausing with a satisfied look to attend to the
deep regular rush.  'I couldn't think before what it was that always
seemed to be wanting, and now I know.  It came to me when I went to bed;
it was so nice!'

'The river voice!  Yes; it must be one of your oldest friends,' said
Honora, gratified at the softening.  'So that carried you out.'

'I couldn't help it!  I went home,' said Lucilla.

'Home?  To Wrapworth?  All alone?' cried Honor, kindly, but aghast.

'I couldn't help it,' again said the girl.  'The river noise was so like
everything--and I knew the way--and I felt as if I must go before any one
was up.'

'So you really went.  And what did you do?'

'I got over the palings our own old way, and there's my throne still in
the back of the laurels, and I popped in on old Madge, and oh! she was so
surprised!  And then I came on Mr. Prendergast, and he walked all the way
back with me, till he saw Ratia coming, and then he would not go on any
farther.'

'Well, my dear, I can't blame you this time.  I am hoping myself to go to
Wrapworth with you and Owen.'

'Ratia is going to take me out riding and in the boat,' said Lucy,
without a direct answer.

'You like your cousins better than you expected?'

'Rashe is famous,' was the answer, 'and so is Uncle Kit.'

'My dear, you noticed the mark on his hand,' said Honora; 'you do not
know the cause?'

'No!  Was it a shark or a mad dog?' eagerly asked the child, slightly
alarmed by her manner.

'Neither.  But do not you remember his carrying you into Woolstone-lane?
I always believed you did not know what your little teeth were doing.'

It was not received as Honora expected.  Probably the scenes of the
girl's infancy had brought back associations more strongly than she was
prepared for--she turned white, gasped, and vindictively said, 'I'm glad
of it.'

Honora, shocked, had not discovered a reply, when Lucilla, somewhat
confused at the sound of her own words, said, 'I know--not quite that--he
meant the best--but, Cousin Honor, it was cruel, it was wicked, to part
my father and me!  Father--oh, the river is going on still, but not my
father!'

The excitable girl burst into a flood of passionate tears, as though the
death of her father were more present to her than ever before; and she
had never truly missed him till she was brought in contact with her old
home.  The fatigue and change, the talking evening and restless night,
had produced their effect; her very thoughtlessness and ordinary
_insouciance_ rendered the rush more overwhelming when it did come, and
the weeping was almost hysterical.

It was not a propitious circumstance that Caroline knocked at the door
with some message as to the afternoon's arrangements.  Honor answered at
haphazard, standing so as to intercept the view, but aware that the
long-drawn sobs would be set down to the account of her own tyranny, and
nevertheless resolving the more on enforcing the quiescence, the need of
which was so evident; but the creature was volatile as well as sensitive,
and by the time the door was shut, stood with heaving breast and undried
tears, eagerly demanding whether her cousins wanted her.

'Not at all,' said Honora, somewhat annoyed at the sudden transition; 'it
was only to ask if I would ride.'

'Charles was to bring the pony for me; I must go,' cried Lucy, with an
eye like that of a greyhound in the leash.

'Not yet,' said Honor.  'My dear, you promised.'

'I'll never promise anything again,' was the pettish murmur.

Poor child, these two morning hours were to her a terrible penance, day
after day.  Practically, she might have found them heavy had they been
left to her own disposal, but it was expecting overmuch from human nature
to hope that she would believe so without experience, and her lessons
were a daily irritation, an apparent act of tyranny, hardening her
feelings against the exactor, at the same time that the influence of
kindred blood drew her closer to her own family, with a revulsion the
stronger from her own former exaggerated dislike.

The nursery at Castle Blanch, and the cousins who domineered over her as
a plaything, had been intolerable to the little important companion of a
grown man, but it was far otherwise to emerge from the calm seclusion and
sober restraints of the Holt into the gaieties of a large party, to be
promoted to young ladyhood, and treated on equal terms, save for extra
petting and attention.  Instead of Robert Fulmort alone, all the
gentlemen in the house gave her flattering notice--eye, ear, and helping
hand at her disposal, and blunt Uncle Kit himself was ten times more
civil to her than to either of her cousins.  What was the use of trying
to disguise from her the witchery of her piquant prettiness?

Her cousin Horatia had always had a great passion for her as a beautiful
little toy, and her affection, once so trying to its object, had taken
the far more agreeable form of promoting her pleasures and sympathizing
with her vexations.  Patronage from two-and-twenty to fourteen, from a
daughter of the house to a guest, was too natural to offend, and Lucilla
requited it with vehement attachment, running after her at every moment,
confiding all her grievances, and being made sensible of many more.
Ratia, always devising delights for her, took her on the river, rode with
her, set her dancing, opened the world to her, and enjoyed her pleasures,
amused by her precocious vivacity, fostering her sauciness, extolling the
wit of her audacious speeches, and extremely resenting all poor Honora's
attempts to counteract this terrible spoiling, or to put a check upon
undesirable diversions and absolute pertness.  Every conscientious
interference on her part was regarded as duenna-like harshness, and her
restrictions as a grievous yoke, and Lucilla made no secret that it was
so, treating her to almost unvaried ill-humour and murmurs.

Little did Lucilla know, nor even Horatia, how much of the charms that
produced so much effect were due to these very restraints, nor how the
droll sauciness and womanly airs were enhanced by the simplicity of
appearance, which embellished her far more than the most fashionable air
set off her companions.  Once Lucilla had overheard her aunt thus
excusing her short locks and simple dress--'It is Miss Charlecote's
doing.  Of course, when so much depends on her, we must give way.
Excellent person, rather peculiar, but we are under great obligations to
her.  Very good property.'

No wonder that sojourn at Castle Blanch was one of the most irksome
periods of Honora's life, disappointing, fretting, and tedious.  There
was a grievous dearth of books and of reasonable conversation, and both
she and Owen were exceedingly at a loss for occupation, and used to sit
in the boat on the river, and heartily wish themselves at home.  He had
no companion of his own age, and was just too young and too enterprising
to be welcome to gentlemen bent more on amusing themselves than pleasing
him.  He was roughly admonished when he spoilt sport or ran into danger;
his cousin Charles was fitfully good-natured, but generally showed that
he was in the way; his uncle Kit was more brief and stern with him than
'Sweet Honey's' pupil could endure; and Honor was his only refuge.  His
dreariness was only complete when the sedulous civilities of his aunt
carried her beyond his reach.

She could not attain a visit to Wrapworth till the Sunday.  The carriage
went in state to the parish church in the morning, and the music and
preaching furnished subjects for _persiflage_ at luncheon, to her great
discomfort, and the horror of Owen; and she thought she might venture to
Wrapworth in the afternoon.  She had a longing for Owen's church, 'for
auld lang syne'--no more.  Even his bark church in the backwoods could
not have rivalled Hiltonbury and the brass.

Owen, true to his allegiance, joined her in good time, but reported that
his sister was gone on with Ratia.  Whereas Ratia would probably
otherwise not have gone to church at all, Honor was deprived of all
satisfaction in her annoyance, and the compensation of a _tete-a-tete_
with Owen over his father's memory was lost by the unwelcome addition of
Captain Charteris.  The loss signified the less as Owen's reminiscences
were never allowed to languish for want of being dug up and revived, but
she could not quite pardon the sailor for the commonplace air his
presence cast over the walk.

The days were gone by when Mr. Sandbrook's pulpit eloquence had rendered
Wrapworth Church a Sunday show to Castle Blanch.  His successor was a
cathedral dignitary, so constantly absent that the former curate, who had
been continued on at Wrapworth, was, in the eyes of every one, the
veritable master.  Poor Mr. Prendergast--whatever were his qualifications
as a preacher--had always been regarded as a disappointment; people had
felt themselves defrauded when the sermon fell to his share instead of
that of Mr. Sandbrook, and odious comparison had so much established the
opinion of his deficiencies, that Honora was not surprised to see a
large-limbed and rather quaint-looking man appear in the desk, but the
service was gone through with striking reverence, and the sermon was
excellent, though homely and very plain-spoken.  The church had been
cruelly mauled by churchwardens of the last century, and a few Gothic
decorations, intended for the beginning of restoration, only made it the
more incongruous.  The east window, of stained glass, of a quality left
far behind by the advances of the last twenty years, bore an inscription
showing that it was a memorial, and there was a really handsome font.
Honor could trace the late rector's predilections in a manner that
carried her back twenty years, and showed her, almost to her amusement,
how her own notions and sympathies had been carried onwards with the
current of the world around her.

On coming out, she found that there might have been more kindness in
Captain Charteris than she had suspected, for he kept Horatia near him,
and waited for the curate, so as to leave her at liberty and unobserved.
Her first object was that Owen should see his mother's grave.  It was
beside the parsonage path, a flat stone, fenced by a low iron border,
enclosing likewise a small flower-bed, weedy, ruinous, and forlorn.  A
floriated cross, filled up with green lichen, was engraven above the
name.

                             Lucilla Horatia
               beloved wife of the Reverend Owen Sandbrook
                          Rector of this parish
                            and only daughter
             of Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Charteris
                     She died November the 18th 1837
                              Aged 29 years.

                                  _____

                              Mary Caroline
                               her daughter
                         Born November 11th 1837
                           Died April 14th 1838
           I shall go to them, but they shall not return to me.

How like it was to poor Owen! that necessity of expression, and the
visible presage of weakening health so surely fulfilled!  And his
Lucilla!  It was a melancholy work to have brought home a missionary, and
secularized a parish priest!  'Not a generous reflection,' thought
Honora, 'at a rival's grave,' and she turned to the boy, who had stooped
to pull at some of the bits of groundsel.

'Shall we come here in the early morning, and set it to rights?'

'I forgot it was Sunday,' said Owen, hastily throwing down the weed he
had plucked up.

'You were doing no harm, my dear; but we will not leave it in this state.
Will you come with us, Lucy?'

Lucilla had escaped, and was standing aloof at the end of the path, and
when her brother went towards her, she turned away.

'Come, Lucy,' he entreated, 'come into the garden with us.  We want you
to tell us the old places.'

'I'm not coming,' was all her answer, and she ran back to the party who
stood by the church door, and began to chatter to Mr. Prendergast, over
whom she had domineered even before she could speak plain.  A silent, shy
man, wrapped up in his duties, he was mortally afraid of the Castle
Blanch young ladies, and stood ill at ease, talked down by Miss Horatia
Charteris, but his eye lighted into a smile as the fairy plaything of
past years danced up to him, and began her merry chatter, asking after
every one in the parish, and showing a perfect memory of names and faces
such as amazed him, in a child so young as she had been at the time when
she had left the parish.  Honora and Owen meantime were retracing
recollections in the rectory garden, eking out the boy's four years old
memories with imaginations and moralizings, pondering over the border
whence Owen declared he had gathered snowdrops for his mother's coffin;
and the noble plane tree by the water-side, sacred to the memory of Bible
stories told by his father in the summer evenings--

'That tree!' laughed Lucilla, when he told her that night as they walked
up-stairs to bed.  'Nobody could sit there because of the mosquitoes.
And I should like to see the snowdrops you found in November!'

'I know there were some white flowers.  Were they lilies of the valley
for little Mary?'

'It will do just as well,' said Lucilla.  She knew that she could bring
either scene before her mind with vivid distinctness, but shrinking from
the pain almost with horror, she only said, 'It's a pity you aren't a
Roman Catholic, Owen; you would soon find a hole in a rock, and say it
was where a saint, with his head under his arm, had made a footmark.'

'You are very irreverent, Lucy, and very cross besides.  If you would not
come and tell us, what could we do?'

'Let it alone.'

'If you don't care for dear papa and mamma, I do,' said Owen, the tears
coming into his eyes.

'I'm not going to rake it up to please Honora,' returned his sister.  'If
you like to go and poke with her over places where things never happened,
you may, but she shan't meddle with my real things.'

'You are very unkind,' was the next accusation from Owen, much grieved
and distressed, 'when she is so good and dear, and was so fond of our
dear father.'

'I know,' said Lucilla, in a tone he did not understand; then, with an
air of eldership, ill assorting with their respective sizes, 'You are a
mere child.  It is all very well for you, and you are very welcome to
your Sweet Honey.'

Owen insisted on hearing her meaning, and on her refusal to explain, used
his superior strength to put her to sufficient torture to elicit an
answer.  'Don't, Owen!  Let go!  There, then!  Why, she was in love with
our father, and nearly died of it when he married; and Rashe says of
course she bullies me for being like my mother.'

'She never bullies you,' cried Owen, indignantly; 'she's much kinder to
you than you deserve, and I hate Ratia for putting it into your head, and
teaching you such nasty man's words about my own Honor.'

'Ah! you'll never be a man while you are under her.  She only wants to
keep us a couple of babies for ever--sending us to bed, and making such a
figure of me;' and Lucy relieved her feelings by five perpendicular leaps
into the air, like an India-rubber ball, her hair flying out, and her
eyes flashing.

Owen was not much astonished, for Lucy's furies often worked off in this
fashion; but he was very angry on Honor's account, loving her thoroughly,
and perceiving no offence in her affection for his father; and the
conversation assumed a highly quarrelsome character.  It was much to the
credit of masculine discretion that he refrained from reporting it when
he joined Honora in the morning's walk to Wrapworth churchyard.  Behold!
some one was beforehand with them--even Lucilla and the curate!

The wearisome visit was drawing to a close when Captain Charteris
began--'Well, Miss Charlecote, have you thought over my proposal?'

'To take Owen to sea?  Indeed, I hoped you were convinced that it would
never answer.'

'So far from being so, that I see it is his best chance.  He will do no
good till the priggishness is knocked out of him.'

Honor would not trust herself to answer.  Any accusation but this might
have been borne.

'Well, well,' said the captain, in a tone still more provoking, it was so
like hushing a petulant child, 'we know how kind you were, and that you
meant everything good; but it is not in the nature of things that a lad
alone with women should not be cock of the walk, and nothing cures that
like a month on board.'

'He will go to school,' said Honor, convinced all this was prejudice.

'Ay, and come home in the holidays, lording it as if he were master and
more, like the son and heir.'

'Indeed, Captain Charteris, you are quite mistaken; I have never allowed
Owen to think himself in that position.  He knows perfectly well that
there are nearer claims upon me, and that Hiltonbury can never belong to
him.  I have always rejoiced that it should be so.  I should not like to
have the least suspicion that there could be self-interest in his
affection for me in the time to come; and I think it presumptuous to
interfere with the course of Providence in the matter of inheritances.'

'My good Miss Charlecote,' said the captain, who had looked at her with
somewhat of a pitying smile, instead of attending to her last words, 'do
you imagine that you know that boy?'

'I do not know who else should,' she answered, quivering between a
disposition to tears at the harshness, and to laughter at the assumption
of the stranger uncle to see farther than herself into her darling.

'Ha!' quoth the sailor, 'slippery--slippery fellows.'

'I do not understand you.  You do not mean to imply that I have not his
perfect confidence, or do you think I have managed him wrongly?  If you
do, pray tell me at once.  I dare say I have.'

'I couldn't say so,' said Captain Charteris.  'You are an excellent good
woman, Miss Charlecote, and the best friend the poor things have had in
the world; and you have taught them more good than I could, I'm sure; but
I never yet saw a woman who could be up to a boy, any more than she could
sail a ship.'

'Very likely not,' said Honor, with a lame attempt at a good-humoured
laugh; 'but I should be very glad to know whether you are speaking from
general experience of woman and boy, or from individual observation of
the case in point.'

The captain made a very odd, incomprehensible little bow; and after a
moment's thought, said, 'Plainly speaking, then, I don't think you do get
to the bottom of that lad; but there's no telling, and I never had any
turn for those smooth chaps.  If a fellow begins by being over-precise in
what is of no consequence, ten to one but he ends by being reckless in
all the rest.'

This last speech entirely reassured Honor, by proving to her that the
captain was entirely actuated by prejudice against his nephew's gentle
and courteous manners and her own religious views.  He did not believe in
the possibility of the success of such an education, and therefore was of
course insensible to Owen's manifold excellences.

Thenceforth she indignantly avoided the subject, and made no attempt to
discover whether the captain's eye, practised in midshipmen, had made any
positive observations on which to found his dissatisfaction.  Wounded by
his want of gratitude, and still more hurt by his unkind judgment of her
beloved pupil, she transferred her consultations to the more deferential
uncle, who was entirely contented with his nephew, transported with
admiration of her management, and ready to make her a present of him with
all his heart.  So readily did he accede to all that she said of schools,
that the choice was virtually left to her.  Eton was rejected as a fitter
preparation for the squirearchy than the ministry; Winchester on account
of the distaste between Owen and young Fulmort; and her decision was
fixed in favour of Westminster, partly for his father's sake, partly on
account of the proximity of St. Wulstan's--such an infinite advantage, as
Mr. Charteris observed.

The sailor declared that he knew nothing of schools, and would take no
part in the discussion.  There had, in truth, been high words between the
brothers, each accusing the other of going the way to ruin their nephew,
ending by the captain's' exclaiming, 'Well, I wash my hands of it!  I
can't flatter a foolish woman into spoiling poor Lucilla's son.  If I am
not to do what I think right by him, I shall get out of sight of it all.'

'His prospects, Kit; how often I have told you it is our duty to consider
his prospects.'

'Hang his prospects!  A handsome heiress under forty!  How can you be
such an ass, Charles?  He ought to be able to make an independent fortune
before he could stand in her shoes, if he were ever to do so, which she
declares he never will.  Yes, you may look knowing if you will, but she
is no such fool in some things; and depend upon it she will make a
principle of leaving her property in the right channel; and be that as it
may, I warn you that you can't do this lad a worse mischief than by
putting any such notion into his head, if it be not there already.
There's not a more deplorable condition in the world than to be always
dangling after an estate, never knowing if it is to be your own or not,
and most likely to be disappointed at last; and, to do Miss Charlecote
justice, she is perfectly aware of that; and it will not be her fault if
he have any false expectations!  So, if you feed him with them, it will
all be your fault; and that's the last I mean to say about him.'

Captain Charteris was not aware of a colloquy in which Owen had a share.

'This lucky fellow,' said the young Life-guardsman, 'he is as good as an
eldest son--famous shooting county--capital, well-timbered estate.'

'No, Charles,' said Owen, 'my cousin Honor always says I am nothing like
an eldest son, for there are nearer relations.'

'Oh ha!' said Charles, with a wink of superior wisdom, 'we understand
that.  She knows how to keep you on your good behaviour.  Why, but for
cutting you out, I would even make up to her myself--fine-looking, comely
woman, and well-preserved--and only the women quarrel with that splendid
hair.  Never mind, my boy, I don't mean it.  I wouldn't stand in your
light.'

'As if Honor would have _you_!' cried Owen, in fierce scorn.  Charles
Charteris and his companions, with loud laughter, insisted on the
reasons.

'Because,' cried the boy, with flashing looks, 'she would not be
ridiculous; and you are--'  He paused, but they held him fast, and
insisted on hearing what Charles was.

'Not a good Churchman,' he finally pronounced.  'Yes, you may laugh at
me, but Honor shan't be laughed at.'

Possibly Owen's views at present were that 'not to be a good Churchman'
was synonymous with all imaginable evil, and that he had put it in a
delicate manner.  Whether he heard the last of it for the rest of his
visit may be imagined.  And, poor boy, though he was strong and spirited
enough with his own contemporaries, there was no dealing with the
full-fledged soldier.  Nor, when conversation turned to what 'we' did at
Hiltonbury, was it possible always to disclaim standing in the same
relation to the Holt as did Charles to Castle Blanch; nay, a certain
importance seemed to attach to such an assumption of dignity, of which
Owen was not loth to avail himself in his disregarded condition.



PART II


CHAPTER I


    We hold our greyhound in our hand,
       Our falcon on our glove;
    But where shall we find leash or band
       For dame that loves to rove?--SCOTT

A June evening shed a slanting light over the greensward of Hiltonbury
Holt, and made the western windows glisten like diamonds, as Honora
Charlecote slowly walked homewards to her solitary evening meal, alone,
except for the nearly blind old pointer who laid his grizzled muzzle upon
her knees, gazing wistfully into her face, as seating herself upon the
step of the sun-dial, she fondled his smooth, depressed black head.

'Poor Ponto!' she said, 'we are grown old together.  Our young ones are
all gone.'

Grown old?  Less old in proportion than Ponto--still in full vigour of
mind and body, but old in disenchantment, and not without the traces of
her forty-seven years.  The auburn hair was still in rich masses of curl;
only on close inspection were silver threads to be detected; the cheek
was paler, the brow worn, and the gravely handsome dress was chosen to
suit the representative of the Charlecotes, not with regard to lingering
youthfulness.  The slow movement, subdued tone, and downcast eye, had an
air of habitual dejection and patience, as though disappointment had gone
deeper, or solitude were telling more on the spirits, than any past blow
had done.

She saw the preparations for her tea going on within the window, but ere
going indoors, she took out and re-read two letters.

The first was in the irregular decided characters affected by young
ladies in the reaction from their grandmothers' pointed illegibilities,
and bore a scroll at the top, with the word 'Cilly,' in old English
letters of bright blue.

                                               'Lowndes Square, June 14th.

    'MY DEAR HONOR,--Many thanks for wishing for your will-o'-th'-wisp
    again, but it is going to dance off in another direction.  Rashe and
    I are bound to the west of Ireland, as soon as Charles's inauguration
    is over at Castle Blanch; an odd jumble of festivities it is to be,
    but Lolly is just cockney enough to be determinedly rural, and
    there's sure to be some fun to be got out of it; besides, I am
    pacified by having my special darling, Edna Murrell, the lovely
    schoolmistress at Wrapworth, to sing to them.  How Mr. Calthorp will
    admire her, as long as he thinks she is Italian!  It will be hard if
    I can't get a rise out of some of them!  This being the case, I have
    not a moment for coming home; but I send some contributions for the
    prize-giving, some stunning articles from the Lowther Arcade.  The
    gutta-percha face is for Billy Harrison, _whether in disgrace or
    not_.  He deserves compensation for his many weary hours of Sunday
    School, and it may suggest a new art for beguiling the time.  _Mind_
    you tell him it is from me, with my love; and bestow the rest on all
    the chief reprobates.  I wish I could see them; but you have no loss,
    you know how unedifying I am.  Kiss Ponto for me, and ask Robin for
    his commands to Connaught.  I know his sulkiness will transpire
    through Phoebe.  Love to that dear little Cinderella, and tell her
    mamma and Juliana, that if she does not come out this winter, Mrs.
    Fulmort shall have no peace and Juliana no partners.  Please to look
    in my room for my great nailed boots and hedging-gloves, also for the
    pig's wool in the left-hand drawer of the cabinet, and send them to
    me before the end of next week.  Owen would give his ears to come
    with us, but gentlemen would only obstruct Irish chivalry; I am only
    afraid there is no hope of a faction fight.  Mr. Saville called
    yesterday, so I made him dine here, and sung him into raptures.  What
    a dear old Don he is!

                                   'Your affectionate cousin,      CILLY.'

The second letter stood thus:--

                                             'Farrance's Hotel, June 14th.

    'MY DEAR MISS CHARLECOTE,--I have seen Lawrence on your business, and
    he will prepare the leases for your signature.  He suggests that it
    might be more satisfactory to wait, in case you should be coming to
    town, so that you might have a personal meeting with the parties; but
    this will be for you to determine.  I came up from --- College on
    Wednesday, having much enjoyed my visit.  Oxford is in many respects
    a changed place, but as long as our old Head remains to us, I am sure
    of a gratifying welcome, and I saw many old friends.  I exchanged
    cards with Owen Sandbrook, but only saw him as we met in the street,
    and a very fine-looking youth he is, a perfect Hercules, and the
    champion of his college in all feats of strength; likely, too, to
    stand well in the class list.  His costume was not what we should
    once have considered academical; but his is a daring set,
    intellectual as well as bodily, and the clever young men of the
    present day are not what they were in my time.  It is gratifying to
    hear how warmly and affectionately he talks of you.  I do not know
    how far you have undertaken the supplies, but I give you a hint that
    a warning on that subject might not be inappropriate, unless they
    have come into some great accession of fortune on their uncle's
    death.  I ventured to call upon the young lady in Lowndes Square, and
    was most graciously received, and asked to dinner by the young Mrs.
    Charteris.  It was a most _recherche_ dinner in the new Italian
    fashion, which does not quite approve itself to me.  "Regardless of
    expense," seems to be the family motto.  Your pupil sings better than
    ever, and knew how to keep her hold of my heart, though I suspected
    her of patronizing the old parson to pique her more brilliant
    admirers, whom she possesses in plenty; and no wonder, for she is
    pretty enough to turn any man's head and shows to great advantage
    beside her cousin, Miss Charteris.  I hope you will be able to
    prevent the cousins from really undertaking the wild plan of
    travelling alone in Ireland, for the sake, they say, of
    salmon-fishing.  I should have thought them not in earnest, but girls
    are as much altered as boys from the days of my experience, and
    brothers, too; for Mr. Charteris seemed to view the scheme very
    coolly; but, as I told my friend Lucilla, I hope you will bring her
    to reason.  I hope your hay-crop promises favourably.

                                       'Yours sincerely,      W. SAVILLE.'

No wonder that these letters made loneliness more lonely!

'Oh, that Horatia!' exclaimed she, almost aloud.  'Oh, that Captain
Charteris were available!  No one else ever had any real power with Lucy!
It was an unlucky day when he saw that colonial young lady, and settled
down in Vancouver's Island!  And yet how I used to wish him away, with
the surly independence he was always infusing into Owen.  Wanting to take
him out there, indeed!  And yet, and yet--I sometimes doubt whether I did
right to set my personal influence over my dear affectionate boy so much
in opposition to his uncle--Mr. Charteris was on my side, though!  And I
always took care to have it clearly understood that it was his education
alone that I undertook.  What can Mr. Saville mean?--The supplies?  Owen
knows what he has to trust to, but I can talk to him.  A daring
set!--Yes, everything appears daring to an old-world man like Mr.
Saville.  I am sure of my Owen; with our happy home Sundays.  I know I am
his Sweet Honey still.  And yet'--then hastily turning from that dubious
'and yet'--'Owen is the only chance for his sister.  She does care for
him; and he will view this mad scheme in the right light.  Shall I meet
him at the beginning of the vacation, and see what he can do with Lucy?
Mr. Saville thinks I ought to be in London, and I think I might be useful
to the Parsonses.  I suppose I must; but it _is_ a heart-ache to be at
St. Wulstan's.  One is used to it here; and there are the poor people,
and the farm, and the garden--yes, and those dear nightingales--and you,
poor Ponto!  One is used to it here, but St. Wulstan's is a fresh pain,
and so is coming back.  But, if it be in the way of right, and to save
poor Lucy, it must be, and it is what life is made of.  It is a
"following of the funeral" of the hopes that sprang up after my
spring-time.  Is it my chastisement, or is it my training?  Alas! maybe I
took those children more for _myself_ than for duty's sake!  May it all
be for their true good in the end, whatever it may be with me.  And now I
_will_ not dream.  It is of no use save to unnerve me.  Let me go to my
book.  It must be a story to-night.  I cannot fix my attention yet.'

As she rose, however, her face brightened at the sight of two advancing
figures, and she went forward to meet them.

One was a long, loosely-limbed youth of two-and-twenty, with broad
shoulders, a heavy overhanging brow, dark gray serious eyes, and a mouth
scarcely curved, and so fast shut as to disclose hardly any lip.  The
hair was dark and lank; the air was of ungainly force, that had not yet
found its purpose, and therefore was not at ease; and but for the
educated cast of countenance he would have had a peasant look, in the
brown, homely undress garb, which to most youths of his age would have
been becoming.

With him was a girl, tall, slim, and lightly made, though of nicely
rounded figure.  In height she looked like seventeen, but her dress was
more childish than usual at that age; and the contour of her smooth
cheeks and short rounded chin, her long neck, her happy blue eyes, fully
opened like those of a child, her fair rosy skin and fresh simple air,
might almost have belonged to seven years old: and there was all the
earnestness, innocence, and careless ease of childhood in her movements
and gestures, as she sprang forward to meet Miss Charlecote, exclaiming,
'Robin said I might come.'

'And very right of him.  You are both come to tea?' she added, in
affirmative interrogation, as she shook hands with the young man.

'No, thank you,' he answered; 'at least I only brought Phoebe, having
rescued her from Miss Fennimore's clutches.  I must be at dinner.  But I
will come again for her.'  And he yawned wearily.

'I will drive her back; you are tired.'

'No!' he said.  'At least the walk is one of the few tolerable things
there is.  I'll come as soon as I can escape, Phoebe.  Past seven--I must
go!'

'Can't you stay?  I could find some food for you.'

'No, thank you,' he still said; 'I do not know whether Mervyn will come
home, and there must not be too many empty chairs.  Good-bye!' and he
walked off with long strides, but with stooping shoulders, and an air of
dejection almost amounting to discontent.

'Poor Robin!' said Honora, 'I wish he could have stayed.'

'He would have liked it very much,' said Phoebe, casting wistful glances
toward him.

'What a pity he did not give notice of his intentions at home!'

'He never will.  He particularly dislikes--'

'What?' as Phoebe paused and coloured.

'Saying anything to anybody,' she answered with a little smile.  'He
cannot endure remarks.'

'I am a very sober old body for a visit to me to be the occasion of
remarks!' said Honor, laughing more merrily than perhaps Robert himself
could have done; but Phoebe answered with grave, straightforward
sincerity, 'Yes, but he did not know if Lucy might not be come home.'

Honora sighed, but playfully said, 'In which case he would have stayed?'

'No,' said the still grave girl, 'he would have been still less likely to
do so.'

'Ah! the remarks would have been more pointed!  But he has brought you at
any rate, and that is something!  How did he achieve it?'

'Miss Fennimore is really quite ready to be kind,' said Phoebe,
earnestly, with an air of defence, 'whenever we have finished all that we
have to do.'

'And when is that?' asked Honor, smiling.

'Now for once,' answered Phoebe, with a bright arch look.  'Yes, I
sometimes can; and so does Bertha when she tries; and, indeed, Miss
Charlecote, I do like Miss Fennimore; she never is hard upon poor Maria.
No governess we ever had made her cry so seldom.'

Miss Charlecote only said it was a comfort.  Within herself she hoped
that, for Maria's peace and that of all concerned, her deficiency might
become an acknowledged fact.  She saw that the sparing Maria's tears was
such a boon to Phoebe as to make her forgive all overtasking of herself.

'So you get on better,' she said.

'Much better than Robin chooses to believe we do,' said Phoebe, smiling;
'perhaps it seemed hard at first, but it is comfortable to be made to do
everything thoroughly, and to be shown a better best than we had ever
thought of.  I think it ought to be a help in doing the duty of all one's
life in a thorough way.'

'All that thou hast to do,' said Honor, smiling, 'the week-day side of
the fourth commandment.'

'Yes, that is just the reason why I like it,' said Phoebe, with bright
gladness in her countenance.

'But is that the motive Miss Fennimore puts before you?' said Honor, a
little ironically.

'She does not say so,' answered Phoebe.  'She says that she never
interferes with her pupils' religious tenets.  But, indeed, I do not
think she teaches us anything wrong, and there is always Robert to ask.'

This passed as the two ladies were entering the house and preparing for
the evening meal.  The table was placed in the bay of the open window,
and looked very inviting, the little silver tea-pot steaming beside the
two quaint china cups, the small crisp twists of bread, the butter cool
in ice-plant leaves, and some fresh fruit blushing in a pretty basket.
The Holt was a region of Paradise to Phoebe Fulmort; and glee shone upon
her sweet face, though it was very quiet enjoyment, as the summer breeze
played softly round her cheeks and danced with a merry little spiral that
had detached itself from her glossy folds of light hair.

'How delicious!' she said.  'How sweet the honeysuckle is, dear old
thing!  You say you have known it all your life, and yet it is fresh as
ever.'

'It is a little like you, Phoebe,' said Honor, smiling.

'What! because it is not exactly a pretty flower?'

'Partly; and I could tell you of a few other likenesses, such as your
being Robert's woodbine, yet with a sort of clinging freedom.  Yes, and
for the qualities you share with the willow, ready to give thanks and
live on the least that Heaven may give.'

'But I don't live on the least that Heaven may give,' said Phoebe, in
such wonder that Honor smiled at the justice of her simile, without
impressing it upon Phoebe, only asking--

'Is the French journey fixed upon, Phoebe?'

'Yes; they start this day fortnight.'

'They--not you?'

'No; there would be no room for me,' with a small sigh.

'How can that be?  Who is going?  Papa, mamma, two sisters!'

'Mervyn,' added Phoebe, 'the courier, and the two maids.'

'_Two_ maids!  Impossible!'

'It is always uncomfortable if mamma and my sisters have only one between
them,' said Phoebe, in her tone of perfect acquiescence and conviction;
and as her friend could not restrain a gesture of indignation, she added
eagerly--'But, indeed, it is not only for that reason, but Miss Fennimore
says I am not formed enough to profit by foreign travel.'

'She wants you to finish Smith's _Wealth of Nations_, eh?'

'It might be a pity to go away and lose so much of her teaching,' said
Phoebe, with persevering contentment.  'I dare say they will go abroad
again, and perhaps I shall never have so much time for learning.  But,
Miss Charlecote, is Lucilla coming home for the Horticultural Show?'

'I am afraid not, my dear.  I think I shall go to London to see about
her, among other things.  The Charterises seem to have quite taken
possession of her, ever since she went to be her cousin Caroline's
bridesmaid, and I must try to put in my claim.'

'Ah!  Robin so much wished to have seen her,' sighed Phoebe.  'He says he
cannot settle to anything.'

'Without seeing her?' said Honor, amused, though not without pain.

'Yes,' said Phoebe; 'he has thought so much about Lucilla.'

'And he tells you?'

'Yes,' in a voice expressing of course; while the frank, clear eyes
turned full on Miss Charlecote with such honest seriousness, that she
thought Phoebe's charm as a confidante might be this absence of romantic
consciousness; and she knew of old that when Robert wanted her opinion or
counsel, he spared his own embarrassment by seeking it through his
favourite sister.  Miss Charlecote's influence had done as much for
Robert as he had done for Phoebe, and Phoebe had become his medium of
communication with her in all matters of near and delicate interest.  She
was not surprised when the maiden proceeded--'Papa wants Robin to attend
to the office while he is away.'

'Indeed!  Does Robin like it?'

'He would not mind it for a time; but papa wants him, besides, to take to
the business in earnest.  You know, my great-uncle, Robert Mervyn, left
Robert all his fortune, quite in his own hands; and papa says that if he
were to put that into the distillery it would do the business great good,
and that Robert would be one of the richest men in England in ten years'
time.'

'But that would be a complete change in his views,' exclaimed Honor,
unable to conceal her disapproval and consternation.

'Just so,' answered Phoebe; 'and that is the reason why he wants to see
Lucy.  She always declared that she could not bear people in business,
and we always thought of him as likely to be a clergyman; but, on the
other hand, she has become used to London society, and it is only by his
joining in the distillery that he could give her what she is accustomed
to, and that is the reason he is anxious to see her.'

'So Lucy is to decide his fate,' said Honora.  'I am almost sorry to hear
it.  Surely, he has never spoken to her.'

'He never does speak,' said Phoebe, with the calm gravity of simplicity
which was like a halo of dignity.  'There is no need of speaking.
Lucilla knows how he feels as well as she knows that she breathes the
air.'

And regards it as little, perhaps, thought Honor, sadly.  'Poor Robin!'
she said; 'I suppose he had better get his mind settled; but indeed it is
a fearful responsibility for my poor foolish Lucy--' and but for the fear
of grieving Phoebe, she would have added, that such a purpose as that of
entering Holy Orders ought not to have been made dependent upon the fancy
of a girl.  Possibly her expression betrayed her sentiments, for Phoebe
answered--'There can be no doubt that Lucy will set him at rest.  I am
certain that she would be shocked at the notion that her tastes were
making him doubt whether to be a clergyman.'

'I hope so!  I trust so!' said Honora, almost mournfully.  'It may be
very good for her, as I believe it is for every woman of any soundness,
to be taught that her follies tell upon man's greater aims and purposes.
It may be wholesome for her and a check, but--'

Phoebe wondered that her friend paused and looked so sad.

'Oh! Phoebe,' said Honora, after a moment's silence, speaking fervently,
'if you can in any way do so, warn your brother against making an idol!
Let nothing come between him and the direct devotion of will and
affection to the Higher Service.  If he decide on the one or the other,
let it be from duty, not with respect to anything else.  I do not suppose
it is of any use to warn him,' she added, with the tears in her eyes.
'Every one sets the whole soul upon some one object, not the right, and
then comes the shipwreck.'

'Dear Robin!' said Phoebe.  'He is so good!  I am sure he always thinks
first of what is right.  But I think I see what you mean.  If he
undertake the business, it should be as a matter of obedience to papa,
not to keep Lucy in the great world.  And, indeed, I do not think my
father does care much, only he would like the additional capital; and
Robert is so much more steady than Mervyn, that he would be more useful.
Perhaps it would make him more important at home; no one there has any
interest in common with him; and I think that moves him a little; but,
after all, those do not seem reasons for not giving himself to God's
service,' she finished, reverently and considerately.

'No, indeed!' cried Miss Charlecote.

'Then you think he ought not to change his mind?'

'You have thought so all along,' smiled Honor.

'I did not like it,' said Phoebe, 'but I did not know if I were right.  I
did tell him that I really believed Lucy would think the more highly of
him if he settled for himself without reference to her.'

'You did!  You were a capital little adviser, Phoebe!  A woman worthy to
be loved at all had always rather be set second instead of first:--

    "I could not love thee, dear, so much,
    Loved I not honour more."

That is the true spirit, and I am glad you judged Lucy to be capable of
it.  Keep your brother up to that, and all may be well!'

'I believe Robert knows it all the time,' said Phoebe.  'He always is
right at the bottom; but his feelings get so much tried that he does not
know how to bear it!  I hope Lucy will be kind to him if they meet in
London, for he has been so much harassed that he wants some comfort from
her.  If she would only be in earnest!'

'Does he go to London, at all events?'

'He has promised to attend to the office in Great Whittington-street for
a month, by way of experiment.'

'I'll tell you what, Phoebe,' cried Honora, radiantly, 'you and I will go
too!  You shall come with me to Woolstone-lane, and Robin shall be with
us every day; and we will try and make this silly Lucy into a rational
being.'

'Oh! Miss Charlecote, thank you--thank you.'  The quiet girl's face and
neck were all one crimson glow of delight.

'If you can sleep in a little brown cupboard of a room in the very core
of the City's heart.'

'Delightful!  I have so wished to see that house.  Owen has told me such
things about it.  Oh, thank you, Miss Charlecote!'

'Have you ever seen anything in London?'

'Never.  We hardly ever go with the rest; and if we do, we only walk in
the square.  What a holiday it will be!'

'We will see everything, and do it justice.  I'll get an order for the
print-room at the British Museum.  I day say Robin never saw it either;
and what a treat it will be to take you to the Egyptian Gallery!' cried
Honora, excited into looking at the expedition in the light of a party of
pleasure, as she saw happiness beaming in the young face opposite.

They built up their schemes in the open window, pausing to listen to the
nightingales, who, having ceased for two hours, apparently for supper,
were now in full song, echoing each other in all the woods of Hiltonbury,
casting over it a network of sweet melody.  Honora was inclined to regret
leaving them in their glory; but Phoebe, with the world before her, was
too honest to profess poetry which she did not feel.  Nightingales were
all very well in their place, but the first real sight of London was
more.

The lamp came in, and Phoebe held out her hands for something to do, and
was instantly provided with a child's frock, while Miss Charlecote read
to her one of Fouque's shorter tales by way of supplying the element of
chivalrous imagination which was wanting in the Beauchamp system of
education.

So warm was the evening, that the window remained open, until Ponto
erected his crest as a footfall came steadily along, nearer and nearer.
Uplifting one of his pendant lips, he gave a low growl through his
blunted teeth, and listened again; but apparently satisfied that the step
was familiar, he replaced his head on his crossed paws, and presently
Robert Fulmort's head and the upper part of his person, in correct
evening costume, were thrust in at the window, the moonlight making his
face look very white, as he said, 'Come, Phoebe, make haste; it is very
late.'

'Is it?' cried Phoebe, springing up; 'I thought I had only been here an
hour.'

'Three, at least,' said Robert, yawning; 'six by my feelings.  I could
not get away, for Mr. Crabbe stayed to dinner; Mervyn absented himself,
and my father went to sleep.'

'Robin, only think, Miss Charlecote is so kind as to say she will take me
to London!'

'It is very kind,' said Robert, warmly, his weary face and voice suddenly
relieved.

'I shall be delighted to have a companion,' said Honora; 'and I reckon
upon you too, Robin, whenever you can spare time from your work.  Come
in, and let us talk it over.'

'Thank you, I can't.  The dragon will fall on Phoebe if I keep her out
too late.  Be quick, Phoebe.'

While his sister went to fetch her hat, he put his elbows on the sill,
and leaning into the room, said, 'Thank you again; it will be a wonderful
treat to her, and she has never had one in her life!'

'I was in hopes she would have gone to Germany.'

'It is perfectly abominable!  It is all the others' doing!  They know no
one would look at them a second time if anything so much younger and
pleasanter was by!  They think her coming out would make them look older.
I know it would make them look crosser.'

Laughing was the only way to treat this tirade, knowing, as Honor did,
that there was but too much truth in it.  She said, however, 'Yet one
could hardly wish Phoebe other than she is.  The rosebud keeps its charm
longer in the shade.'

'I like justice,' quoth Robert.

'And,' she continued, 'I really think that she is much benefited by this
formidable governess.  Accuracy and solidity and clearness of head are
worth cultivating.'

'Nasty latitudinarian piece of machinery,' said Robert, with his fingers
over his mouth, like a sulky child.

'Maybe so; but you guard Phoebe, and she guards Bertha; and whatever your
sense of injustice may be, this surely is a better school for her than
gaieties as yet.'

'It will be a more intolerable shame than ever if they will not let her
go with you.'

'Too intolerable to be expected,' smiled Honora.  'I shall come and beg
for her to-morrow, and I do not believe I shall be disappointed.'

She spoke with the security of one not in the habit of having her
patronage obstructed by relations; and Phoebe coming down with renewed
thanks, the brother and sister started on their way home in the
moonlight--the one plodding on moodily, the other, unable to repress her
glee, bounding on in a succession of little skips, and pirouetting round
to clap her hands, and exclaim, 'Oh! Robin, is it not delightful?'

'If they will let you go,' said he, too desponding for hope.

'Do you think they will not?' said Phoebe, with slower and graver steps.
'Do you really think so?  But no!  It can't lead to coming out; and I
know they like me to be happy when it interferes with nobody.'

'Great generosity,' said Robert, dryly.

'Oh, but, Robin, you know elder ones come first.'

'A truth we are not likely to forget,' said Robert.  'I wish my uncle had
been sensible of it.  That legacy of his stands between Mervyn and me,
and will never do me any good.'

'I don't understand,' said Phoebe; 'Mervyn has always been completely the
eldest son.'

'Ay,' returned Robert, 'and with the tastes of an eldest son.  His
allowance does not suffice for them, and he does not like to see me
independent.  If my uncle had only been contented to let us share and
share alike, then my father would have had no interest in drawing me into
the precious gin and brandy manufacture.'

'You did not think he meant to make it a matter of obedience,' said
Phoebe.

'No; he could hardly do that after the way he has brought me up, and what
we have been taught all our lives about liberty of the individual,
absence of control, and the like jargon.'

'Then you are not obliged?'

He made no answer, and they walked on in silence across the silvery lawn,
the maythorns shining out like flaked towers of snow in the moonlight,
and casting abyss-like shadows, the sky of the most deep and intense
blue, and the carols of the nightingales ringing around them.  Robert
paused when he had passed through the gate leading into the dark path
down-hill through the wood, and setting his elbows on it, leant over it,
and looked back at the still and beautiful scene, in all the white
mystery of moonlight, enhanced by the white-blossomed trees and the soft
outlines of slumbering sheep.  One of the birds, in a bush close to them,
began prolonging its drawn-in notes in a continuous prelude, then
breaking forth into a varied complex warbling, so wondrous that there was
no moving till the creature paused.

It seemed to have been a song of peace to Robert, for he gave a long but
much softer sigh, and pushed back his hat, saying, 'All good things dwell
on the Holt side of the boundary.'

'A sort of Sunday world,' said Phoebe.

'Yes; after this wood one is in another atmosphere.'

'Yet you have carried your cares there, poor Robin.'

'So one does into Sunday, but to get another light thrown on them.  The
Holt has been the blessing of my life--of both our lives, Phoebe.'

She responded with all her heart.  'Yes, it has made everything happier,
at home and everywhere else.  I never can think why Lucilla is not more
fond of it.'

'You are mistaken,' exclaimed Robert; 'she loves no place so well; but
you don't consider what claims her relations have upon her.  That cousin
Horatia, to whom she is so much attached, losing both her parents, how
could she do otherwise than be with her?'

'Miss Charteris does not seem to be in great trouble now,' said Phoebe.

'You do not consider; you have never seen grief, and you do not know how
much more a sympathizing friend is needed when the world supposes the
sorrow to be over, and ordinary habits to be resumed.'

Phoebe was willing to believe him right, though considering that Horatia
Charteris lived with her brother and his wife, she could hardly be as
lonely as Miss Charlecote.

'We shall see Lucy in London,' she said.

Robert again sighed heavily.  'Then it will be over,' he said.  'Did you
say anything there?' he pursued, as they plunged into the dark shadows of
the woodland path, more congenial to the subject than the light.

'Yes, I did,' said Phoebe.

'And she thought me a weak, unworthy wretch for ever dreaming of swerving
from my original path.'

'No!' said Phoebe, 'not if it were your duty.'

'I tell you, Phoebe, it is as much my duty to consult Lucilla's happiness
as if any words had passed between us.  I have never pledged myself to
take Orders.  It has been only a wish, not a vocation; and if she have
become averse to the prospect of a quiet country life, it would not be
treating her fairly not to give her the choice of comparative wealth,
though procured by means her family might despise.'

'Yes, I knew you would put right and duty first; and I suppose by doing
so you make it certain to end rightly, one way or other.'

'A very few years, and I could realize as much as this Calthorp, the
millionaire, whom they talk of as being so often at the Charterises.'

'It will not be so,' said Phoebe.  'I know what she will say;' and as
Robert looked anxiously at her, she continued--

'She will say she never dreamt of your being turned from anything so
great by any fancies she has seemed to have.  She will say so more
strongly, for you know her father was a clergyman, and Miss Charlecote
brought her up.'

Phoebe's certainty made Robert catch something of her hopes.

'In that case,' he said, 'matters might be soon settled.  This fortune of
mine would be no misfortune then; and probably, Phoebe, my sisters would
have no objection to your being happy with us.'

'As soon as you could get a curacy!  Oh, how delightful! and Maria and
Bertha would come too.'

Robert held his peace, not certain whether Lucilla would consider Maria
an embellishment to his ideal parsonage; but they talked on with cheerful
schemes while descending through the wood, unlocking a gate that formed
the boundary between the Holt and the Beauchamp properties, crossing a
field or two, and then coming out into the park.  Presently they were in
sight of the house, rising darkly before them, with many lights shining
in the windows behind the blinds.

'They are all gone up-stairs!' said Phoebe, dismayed.  'How late it must
be!'

'There's a light in the smoking-room,' said Robert; 'we can get in that
way.'

'No, no!  Mervyn may have some one with him.  Come in quietly by the
servants' entrance.'

No danger that people would not be on foot there!  As the brother and
sister moved along the long stone passage, fringed with labelled bells,
one open door showed two weary maidens still toiling over the plates of
the late dinner; and another, standing ajar, revealed various
men-servants regaling themselves; and words and tones caught Robert's ear
making his brow lower with sudden pain.

Phoebe was proceeding to mount the stone stairs, when a rustling and
chattering, as of maids descending, caused her and her brother to stand
aside to make way, and down came a pair of heads and candles together
over a green bandbox, and then voices in vulgar tones half suppressed.
'I couldn't venture it, not with Miss Juliana--but Miss Fulmort--she
never looks over her bills, nor knows what is in her drawers--I told her
it was faded, when she had never worn it once!'

And tittering, they passed by the brother and sister, who were still
unseen, but Robert heaved a sigh and murmured, 'Miserable work!' somewhat
to his sister's surprise, for to her the great ill-regulated household
was an unquestioned institution, and she did not expect him to bestow so
much compassion on Augusta's discarded bonnet.  At the top of the steps
they opened a door, and entered a great wide hall.  All was exceedingly
still.  A gas-light was burning over the fire-place, but the corners were
in gloom, and the coats and cloaks looked like human figures in the
distance.  Phoebe waited while Robert lighted her candle for her.  Albeit
she was not nervous, she started when a door was sharply pushed open, and
another figure appeared; but it was nothing worse than her brother
Mervyn, in easy costume, and redolent of tobacco.

About three years older than Robert, he was more neatly though not so
strongly made, shorter, and with more regular features, but much less
countenance.  If the younger brother had a worn and dejected aspect, the
elder, except in moments of excitement, looked _bored_.  It was as if
Robert really had the advantage of him in knowing what to be out of
spirits about.

'Oh! it's you, is it?' said he, coming forward, with a sauntering,
scuffling movement in his slippers.  'You larking, Phoebe?  What next?'

'I have been drinking tea with Miss Charlecote,' explained Phoebe.

Mervyn slightly shrugged his shoulders, murmuring something about 'Lively
pastime.'

'I could not fetch her sooner,' said Robert, 'for my father went to
sleep, and no one chose to be at the pains of entertaining Crabbe.'

'Ay--a prevision of his staying to dinner made me stay and dine with the
--th mess.  Very sagacious--eh, Pheebe?' said he, turning, as if he liked
to look into her fresh face.

'Too sagacious,' said she, smiling; 'for you left him all to Robert.'

Manner and look expressed that this was a matter of no concern, and he
said ungraciously: 'Nobody detained Robert, it was his own concern.'

'Respect to my father and his guests,' said Robert, with downright
gravity that gave it the effect of a reproach.

Mervyn only raised his shoulders up to his ears in contempt, took up his
candle, and wished Phoebe good night.

Poor Mervyn Fulmort!  Discontent had been his life-long comrade.  He
detested his father's occupation as galling to family pride, yet was
greedy both of the profits and the management.  He hated country business
and country life, yet chafed at not having the control of his mother's
estate, and grumbled at all his father's measures.  'What should an old
distiller know of landed property?'  In fact he saw the same difference
between himself and his father as did the ungracious Plantagenet between
the son of a Count and the son of a King: and for want of Provencal
troubadours with whom to rebel, he supplied their place by the turf and
the billiard-table.  At present he was expiating some heavy debts by a
forced residence with his parents, and unwilling attention to the office,
a most distasteful position, which he never attempted to improve, and
which permitted him both the tedium of idleness and complaints against
all the employment to which he was necessitated.

The ill-managed brothers were just nearly enough of an age for rivalry,
and had never loved one another even as children.  Robert's steadiness
had been made a reproach to Mervyn, and his grave, rather surly character
had never been conciliating.  The independence left to the younger
brother by their mother's relative was grudged by the elder as an injury
to himself, and it was one of the misfortunes of Beauchamp that the two
sons had never been upon happy terms together.  Indeed, save that
Robert's right principles and silent habits hindered him from readily
giving or taking offence, there might have been positive outbreaks of a
very unbrotherly nature.



CHAPTER II


    Enough of science and of art,
       Close up those barren leaves!
    Come forth, and bring with you a heart
       That watches and receives.--WORDSWORTH

'Half-past five, Miss Phoebe.'

'Thank you;' and before her eyes were open, Phoebe was on the floor.

Six was the regulation hour.  Systematic education had discovered that
half-an-hour was the maximum allowable for morning toilette, and at
half-past six the young ladies must present themselves in the
school-room.

The Bible, Prayer Book, and 'Daily Meditations' could have been seldom
touched, had not Phoebe, ever since Robert had impressed on her the duty
of such constant study, made an arrangement for gaining an extra
half-hour.  Cold mornings and youthful sleepiness had received a daily
defeat: and, mayhap, it was such a course of victory that made her frank
eyes so blithesome, and her step so free and light.

That bright scheme, too, shone before her, as such a secret of glad hope,
that, knowing how uncertain were her chances of pleasure, she prayed that
she might not set her heart on it.  It was no trifle to her, and her
simple spirit ventured to lay her wishes before her loving Father in
Heaven, and entreat that she might not be denied, if it were right for
her and would be better for Robert; or, if not, that she might be good
under the disappointment.

Her orisons sent her forth all brightness, with her small head raised
like that of a young fawn, her fresh lips parted by an incipient smile of
hope, and her cheeks in a rosy glow of health, a very Hebe, as Mr.
Saville had once called her.

Such a morning face as hers was not always met by Miss Fennimore, who,
herself able to exist on five hours' sleep, had no mercy on that of her
pupils; and she rewarded Phoebe's smiling good-morrow with 'This is
better than I expected, you returned home so late.'

'Robert could not come for me early,' said Phoebe.

'How did you spend the evening?'

'Miss Charlecote read aloud to me.  It was a delightful German story.'

'Miss Charlecote is a very well-informed person, and I am glad the time
was not absolutely lost.  I hope you observed the condensation of the
vapours on your way home.'

'Robert was talking to me, and the nightingales were singing.'

'It is a pity,' said Miss Fennimore, not unkindly, 'that you should not
cultivate the habit of observation.  Women can seldom theorize, but they
should always observe facts, as these are the very groundwork of
discovery, and such a rare opportunity as a walk at night should not be
neglected.'

It was no use to plead that this was all very well when there was no
brother Robert with his destiny in the scales, so Phoebe made a meek
assent, and moved to the piano, suppressing a sigh as Miss Fennimore set
off on a domiciliary visit to the other sisters.

Mr. Fulmort liked his establishment to prove his consequence, and to the
old family mansion of the Mervyns he had added a whole wing for the
educational department.  Above, there was a passage, with pretty little
bed-rooms opening from it; below there were two good-sized rooms, with
their own door opening into the garden.  The elder ones had long ago
deserted it, and so completely shut off was it from the rest of the
house, that the governess and her pupils were as secluded as though in a
separate dwelling.  The schoolroom was no repulsive-looking abode; it was
furnished almost well enough for a drawing-room; and only the easels,
globes, and desks, the crayon studies on the walls, and a formidable
time-table showed its real destination.

The window looked out into a square parterre, shut in with tall laurel
hedges, and filled with the gayest and sweetest blossoms.  It was Mrs.
Fulmort's garden for cut flowers; supplying the bouquets that decked her
tables, or were carried to wither at balls; and there were three long,
narrow beds, that Phoebe and her younger sisters still called theirs, and
loved with the pride of property; but, indeed, the bright carpeting of
the whole garden was something especially their own, rejoicing their
eyes, and unvalued by the rest of the house.  On the like liberal scale
were the salaries of the educators.  Governesses were judged according to
their demands; and the highest bidder was supposed to understand her own
claims best.  Miss Fennimore was a finishing governess of the highest
order, thinking it an insult to be offered a pupil below her teens, or to
lose one till nearly beyond them; nor was she far from being the treasure
that Mrs. Fulmort pronounced her, in gratitude for the absence of all the
explosions produced by the various imperfections of her predecessors.

A highly able woman, and perfectly sincere, she possessed the qualities
of a ruler, and had long experience in the art.  Her discipline was
perfect in machinery, and her instructions admirably complete.  No one
could look at her keen, sensible, self-possessed countenance, her decided
mouth, ever busy hands, and unpretending but well-chosen style of dress,
without seeing that her energy and intelligence were of a high order; and
there was principle likewise, though no one ever quite penetrated to the
foundation of it.  Certainly she was not an irreligious person; she
conformed, as she said, to the habits of each family she lived with, and
she highly estimated moral perfections.  Now and then a degree of scorn,
for the narrowness of dogma, would appear in reading history, but in
general she was understood to have opinions which she did not obtrude.

As a teacher she was excellent; but her own strong conformation prevented
her from understanding that young girls were incapable of such tension of
intellect as an enthusiastic scholar of forty-two, and that what was
sport to her was toil to a mind unaccustomed to constant attention.
Change of labour is not rest, unless it be through gratification of the
will.  Her very best pupil she had killed.  Finding a very sharp sword,
in a very frail scabbard, she had whetted the one and worn down the
other, by every stimulus in her power, till a jury of physicians might
have found her guilty of manslaughter; but perfectly unconscious of her
own agency in causing the atrophy, her dear Anna Webster lived foremost
in her affections, the model for every subsequent pupil.  She seldom
remained more than two years in a family.  Sometimes the young brains
were over-excited; more often they fell into a dreary state of drilled
diligence; but she was too much absorbed in the studies to look close
into the human beings, and marvelled when the fathers and mothers were
blind enough to part with her on the plea of health and need of change.

On the whole she had never liked any of her charges since the renowned
Anna Webster so well as Phoebe Fulmort; although her abilities did not
rise above the 'very fair,' and she was apt to be bewildered in
metaphysics and political economy; but then she had none of the
eccentricities of will and temper of Miss Fennimore's clever girls, nor
was she like most good-humoured ones, recklessly _insouciante_.  Her only
drawback, in the governess's eyes, was that she never seemed desirous of
going beyond what was daily required of her--each study was a duty, and
not a subject of zeal.

Presently Miss Fennimore came back, followed by the two sisters, neither
of them in the best of tempers.  Maria, a stout, clumsily-made girl of
fifteen, had the same complexion and open eyes as Phoebe, but her
colouring was muddled, the gaze full-orbed and vacant, and the lips,
always pouting, were just now swelled with the vexation that filled her
prominent eyelids with tears.  Bertha, two years younger, looked as if
nature had designed her for a boy, and the change into a girl was not yet
decided.  She, too, was very like Maria; but Maria's open nostrils were
in her a droll _retrousse_, puggish little nose; her chin had a boyish
squareness and decision, her round cheeks had two comical dimples, her
eyes were either stretched in defiance or narrowed up with fun, and a
slight cast in one gave a peculiar archness and character to her face;
her skin, face, hands, and all, were uniformly pinky; her hair in such
obstinate yellow curls, that it was to be hoped, for her sake, that the
fashion of being _crepe_ might continue.  The brow lowered in petulance;
and as she kissed Phoebe, she muttered in her ear a vituperation of the
governess in schoolroom _patois_; then began tossing the lesson-books in
the air and catching them again, as a preliminary to finding the places,
thus drawing on herself a reproof in German.  French and German were
alternately spoken in lesson hours by Phoebe and Bertha, who had lived
with foreign servants from infancy; but poor Maria had not the faculty of
keeping the tongues distinct, and corrections only terrified her into
confusion worse confounded, until Miss Fennimore had in despair decided
that English was the best alternative.

Phoebe practised vigorously.  Aware that nothing pleasant was passing,
and that, be it what it might, she could do no good, she was glad to stop
her ears with her music, until eight o'clock brought a pause in the shape
of breakfast.  Formerly the schoolroom party had joined the family meal,
but since the two elder girls had been out, and Mervyn's friends had been
often in the house, it had been decided that the home circle was too
numerous; and what had once been the play-room was allotted to be the
eating-room of the younger ones, without passing the red door, on the
other side of which lay the world.

Breakfast was announced by the schoolroom maid, and Miss Fennimore rose.
No sooner was her back turned, than Bertha indulged in a tremendous
writhing yawn, wriggling in her chair, and clenching both fat fists, as
she threatened with each, at her governess's retreating figure, so
ludicrously, that Phoebe smiled while she shook her head, and an
explosive giggle came from Maria, causing the lady to turn and behold
Miss Bertha demure as ever, and a look of disconsolate weariness fast
settling down on each of the two young faces.  The unbroken routine
pressed heavily at those fit moments for family greetings and for
relaxation, and even Phoebe would gladly have been spared the German
account of the Holt and of Miss Charlecote's book, for which she was
called upon.  Bertha meanwhile, to whom waggishness was existence, was
carrying on a silent drama on her plate, her roll being a quarry, and her
knife the workmen attacking it.  Now she undermined, now acted an
explosion, with uplifted eyebrows and an indicated 'puff!' with her lips,
with constant dumb-show directed to Maria, who, without half
understanding, was in a constant suppressed titter, sometimes concealed
by her pocket-handkerchief.

Quick as Miss Fennimore was, and often as she frowned on Maria's
outbreaks, she never could detect their provocative.  Over-restraint and
want of sympathy were direct instruction in unscrupulous slyness of
amusement.  A sentence of displeasure on Maria's ill-mannered folly was
in the act of again filling her eyes with tears, when there was a knock
at the door, and all the faces beamed with glad expectation.

It was Robert.  This was the time of day when he knew Miss Fennimore
could best tolerate him, and he seldom failed to make his appearance on
his way down-stairs, the only one of the privileged race who was a wonted
object on this side the baize door.  Phoebe thought he looked more
cheerful, and indeed gravity could hardly have withstood Bertha's face,
as she gave a mischievous tweak to his hair behind, under colour of
putting her arm round his neck.

'Well, Curlylocks, how much mischief did you do yesterday?'

'I'd no spirits for mischief,' she answered, with mock pitifulness,
twinkling up her eyes, and rubbing them with her knuckles as if she were
crying.  'You barbarous wretch, taking Phoebe to feast on strawberries
and cream with Miss Charlecote, and leaving poor me to poke in that
stupid drawing-room, with nothing to do but to count the scollops of
mamma's flounce!'

'It is your turn.  Will Miss Fennimore kindly let you have a walk with me
this evening?'

'And me,' said Maria.

'You, of course.  May I come for them at five o'clock?'

'I can hardly tell what to say about Maria.  I do not like to disappoint
her, but she knows that nothing displeases me so much as that
ill-mannered habit of giggling,' said Miss Fennimore, not without
concern.  Merciful as to Maria's attainments, she was strict as to her
manners, and was striving to teach her self-restraint enough to be
unobtrusive.

Poor Maria's eyes were glassy with tears, her chest heaved with sobs, and
she broke out, 'O pray, Miss Fennimore, O pray!' while all the others
interceded for her; and Bertha, well knowing that it was all her fault,
avoided the humiliation of a confession, by the apparent generosity of
exclaiming, 'Take us both to-morrow instead, Robin.'

Robert's journey was, however, fixed for that day, and on this plea,
licence was given for the walk.  Phoebe smiled congratulation, but Maria
was slow in cheering up; and when, on returning to the schoolroom, the
three sisters were left alone together for a few moments, she pressed up
to Phoebe's side, and said, 'Phoebe, I've not said my prayers.  Do you
think anything will happen to me?'

Her awfully mysterious tone set Bertha laughing.  'Yes, Maria, all the
cows in the park will run at you,' she was beginning, when the grave
rebuke of Phoebe's eyes cut her short.

'How was it, my dear?' asked Phoebe, tenderly fondling her sister.

'I was so sleepy, and Bertha would blow soap-bubbles in her hands while
we were washing, and then Miss Fennimore came, and I've been naughty now,
and I know I shall go on, and then Robin won't take me.'

'I will ask Miss Fennimore to let you go to your room, dearest,' said
Phoebe.  'You must not play again in dressing time, for there's nothing
so sad as to miss our prayers.  You are a good girl to care so much.  Had
you time for yours, Bertha?'

'Oh, plenty!' with a toss of her curly head.  'I don't take ages about
things, like Maria.'

'Prayers cannot be hurried,' said Phoebe, looking distressed, and she was
about to remind Bertha to whom she spoke in prayer, when the child cut
her short by the exclamation, 'Nonsense, Maria, about being naughty.  You
know I always make you laugh when I please, and that has more to do with
it than saying your prayers, I fancy.'

'Perhaps,' said Phoebe, very sadly, 'if you had said yours more in
earnest, my poor Bertha, you would either not have made Maria laugh, or
would not have left her to bear all the blame.'

'Why do you call me poor?' exclaimed Bertha, with a half-offended,
half-diverted look.

'Because I wish so much that you knew better, or that I could help you
better,' said Phoebe, gently.

There Miss Fennimore entered, displeased at the English sounds, and at
finding them all, as she thought, loitering.  Phoebe explained Maria's
omission, and Miss Fennimore allowed her five minutes in her own room,
saying that this must not become a precedent, though she did not wish to
oppress her conscience.

Bertha's eyes glittered with a certain triumph, as she saw that Miss
Fennimore was of her mind, and anticipated no consequences from the
neglect, but only made the concession as to a superstition.  Without
disbelief, the child trained only to reason, and quick to detect fallacy,
was blind to all that was not material.  And how was the spiritual to be
brought before her?

Phoebe might well sigh as she sat down to her abstract of Schlegel's
Lectures.  'If any one would but teach them,' she thought; 'but there is
no time at all, and I myself do not know half so much of those things as
one of Miss Charlecote's lowest classes.'

Phoebe was a little mistaken.  An earnest mind taught how to learn, with
access to the Bible and Prayer Book, could gain more from these
fountain-heads than any external teaching could impart; and she could
carry her difficulties to Robert.  Still it was out of her power to
assist her sisters.  Surveillance and driving absolutely left no space
free from Miss Fennimore's requirements; and all that there was to train
those young ones in faith, was the manner in which it _lived_ and worked
in her.  Nor of this effect could she be conscious.

As to dreams or repinings, or even listening to her hopes and fears for
her project of pleasure, they were excluded by the concentrated attention
that Miss Fennimore's system enforced.  Time and capacity were so much on
the stretch, that the habit of doing _what_ she was doing, and nothing
else, had become second nature to the docile and duteous girl; and she
had become little sensible to interruptions; so she went on with her
German, her Greek, and her algebra, scarcely hearing the repetitions of
the lessons, or the counting as Miss Fennimore presided over Maria's
practice, a bit of drudgery detested by the governess, but necessarily
persevered in, for Maria loved music, and had just voice and ear
sufficient to render this single accomplishment not hopeless, but a
certain want of power of sustained effort made her always break down at
the moment she seemed to be doing best.  Former governesses had lost
patience, but Miss Fennimore had early given up the case, and never
scolded her for her failures; she made her attempt less, and she was
improving more, and shedding fewer tears than under any former dynasty.
Even a stern dominion is better for the subjects than an uncertain and
weak one; regularity gives a sense of reliance; and constant occupation
leaves so little time for being naughty, that Bertha herself was getting
into training, and on the present day her lessons were exemplary, always
with a view to the promised walk with her brother, one of the greatest
pleasures ever enjoyed by the denizens of the west wing.

Phoebe's pleasure was less certain, and less dependent on her merits, yet
it invigorated her efforts to do all she had to do with all her might,
even into the statement of the pros and cons of customs and free-trade,
which she was required to produce as her morning's exercise.  In the
midst, her ear detected the sound of wheels, and her heart throbbed in
the conviction that it was Miss Charlecote's pony carriage; nay, she
found her pen had indited 'Robin would be so glad,' instead of 'revenue
to the government,' and while scratching the words out beyond all
legibility, she blamed herself for betraying such want of self-command.

No summons came, no tidings, the wheels went away; her heart sank, and
her spirit revolted against an unfeeling, unutterably wearisome
captivity; but it was only a moment's fluttering against the bars, the
tears were driven back with the thought, 'After all, the decision is
guided from Above.  If I stay at home, it _must_ be best for me.  Let me
try to be good!' and she forced her mind back to her exports and her
customs.  It was such discipline as few girls could have exercised, but
the conscientious effort was no small assistance in being resigned; and
in the precious minutes granted in which to prepare herself for dinner,
she found it the less hard task to part with her anticipations of delight
and brace herself to quiet, contented duty.

The meal was beginning when, with a very wide expansion of the door,
appeared a short, consequential-looking personage, of such plump, rounded
proportions, that she seemed ready to burst out of her riding-habit, and
of a broad, complacent visage, somewhat overblooming.  It was Miss
Fulmort, the eldest of the family, a young lady just past thirty, a very
awful distance from the schoolroom party, to whom she nodded with
good-natured condescension, saying: 'Ah! I thought I should find you at
dinner; I'm come for something to sustain nature.  The riding party are
determined to have me with them, and they won't wait for luncheon.  Thank
you, yes, a piece of mutton, if there were any under side.  How it
reminds me of old times.  I used so to look forward to never seeing a
loin of mutton again.'

'As your chief ambition?' said Miss Fennimore, who, governess as she was,
could not help being a little satirical, especially when Bertha's eyes
twinkled responsively.

'One does get so tired of mutton and rice-pudding,' answered the less
observant Miss Fulmort, who was but dimly conscious of any one's
existence save her own, and could not have credited a governess laughing
at her; 'but really this is not so bad, after all, for a change; and some
pale ale.  You don't mean that you exist without pale ale?'

'We all drink water by preference,' said Miss Fennimore.

'Indeed!  Miss Watson, our finishing governess, never drank anything but
claret, and she always had little _pates_, or fish, or something, because
she said her appetite was to be consulted, she was so delicate.  She was
very thin, I know; and what a figure you have, Phoebe!  I suppose that is
water drinking.  Bridger did say it would reduce me to leave off pale
ale, but I can't get on without it, I get so horridly low.  Don't you
think that's a sign, Miss Fennimore?'

'I beg your pardon, a sign of what?'

'That one can't go on without it.  Miss Charlecote said she thought it
was all constitution whether one is stout or not, and that nothing made
much difference, when I asked her about German wines.'

'Oh! Augusta, has Miss Charlecote been here this morning?' exclaimed
Phoebe.

'Yes; she came at twelve o'clock, and there was I actually pinned down to
entertain her, for mamma was not come down.  So I asked her about those
light foreign wines, and whether they do really make one thinner; you
know one always has them at her house.'

'Did mamma see her?' asked poor Phoebe, anxiously.

'Oh yes, she was bent upon it.  It was something about you.  Oh! she
wants to take you to stay with her in that horrible hole of hers in the
City--very odd of her.  What do you advise me to do, Miss Fennimore?  Do
you think those foreign wines would bring me down a little, or that they
would make me low and sinking?'

'Really, I have no experience on the subject!' said Miss Fennimore,
loftily.

'What did mamma say?' was poor Phoebe's almost breathless question.

'Oh! it makes no difference to mamma' (Phoebe's heart bounded); but
Augusta went on: 'she always has her soda-water, you know; but of course
I should take a hamper from Bass.  I hate being unprovided.'

'But about my going to London?' humbly murmured Phoebe.

'What _did_ she say?' considered the elder sister, aloud.  'I don't know,
I'm sure.  I was not attending--the heat does make one so sleepy--but I
know we all wondered she should want you at your age.  You know some
people take a spoonful of vinegar to fine themselves down, and some of
those wines _are_ very acid,' she continued, pressing on with her great
subject of consultation.

'If it be an object with you, Miss Fulmort, I should recommend the
vinegar,' said Miss Fennimore.  'There is nothing like doing a thing
outright!'

'And, oh! how glorious it would be to see her taking it!' whispered
Bertha into Phoebe's ear, unheard by Augusta, who, in her satisfied
stolidity, was declaring, 'No, I could not undertake that.  I am the
worst person in the world for taking anything disagreeable.'

And having completed her meal, which she had contrived to make out of the
heart of the joint, leaving the others little but fat, she walked off to
her ride, believing that she had done a gracious and condescending action
in making conversation with her inferiors of the west wing.

Yet Augusta Fulmort might have been good for something, if her mind and
her affections had not lain fallow ever since she escaped from a series
of governesses who taught her self-indulgence by example.

'I wonder what mamma said!' exclaimed Phoebe, in her strong craving for
sympathy in her suspense.

'I am sorry the subject has been brought forward, if it is to unsettle
you, Phoebe,' said Miss Fennimore, not unkindly; 'I regret your being
twice disappointed; but, if your mother should refer it to me, as I make
no doubt she will, I should say that it would be a great pity to break up
our course of studies.'

'It would only be for a little while,' sighed Phoebe; 'and Miss
Charlecote is to show me all the museums.  I should see more with her
than ever I shall when I am come out; and I should be with Robert.'

'I intended asking permission to take you through a systematic course of
lectures and specimens when the family are next in town,' said Miss
Fennimore.  'Ordinary, desultory sight-seeing leaves few impressions; and
though Miss Charlecote is a superior person, her mind is not of a
sufficiently scientific turn to make her fully able to direct you.  I
shall trust to your good sense, Phoebe, for again submitting to defer the
pleasure till it can be enhanced.'

Good sense had a task imposed on it for which it was quite inadequate;
but there was something else in Phoebe which could do the work better
than her unconvinced reason.  Even had she been sure of the expediency of
being condemned to the schoolroom, no good sense would have brought that
resolute smile, or driven back the dew in her eyes, or enabled her voice
to say, with such sweet meekness, 'Very well, Miss Fennimore; I dare say
it may be right.'

Miss Fennimore was far more concerned than if the submission had been
grudging.  She debated with herself whether she should consider her
resolution irrevocable.

Ten minutes were allowed after dinner in the parterre, and these could
only be spent under the laurel hedge; the sun was far too hot everywhere
else.  Phoebe had here no lack of sympathy, but had to restrain Bertha,
who, with angry gestures, was pronouncing the governess a horrid
cross-patch, and declaring that no girls ever were used as they were;
while Maria observed, that if Phoebe went to London, she must go too.

'We shall all go some day,' said Phoebe, cheerfully, 'and we shall enjoy
it all the more if we are good now.  Never mind, Bertha, we shall have
some nice walks.'

'Yes, all bothered with botany,' muttered Bertha.

'I thought, at least, you would be glad of me,' said Phoebe, smiling;
'you who stay at home.'

'To be sure, I am,' said Bertha; 'but it is such a shame!  I shall tell
Robin, and he'll say so too.  I shall tell him you nearly cried!'

'Don't vex Robin,' said Phoebe.  'When you go out, you should set
yourself to tell him pleasant things.'

'So I'm to tell him you wouldn't go on any account.  You like your
political economy much too well!'

'Suppose you say nothing about it,' said Phoebe.  'Make yourself merry
with him.  That's what you've got to do.  He takes you out to entertain
you, not to worry about grievances.'

'Do you never talk about grievances?' asked Bertha, twinkling up her
eyes.

Phoebe hesitated.  'Not my own,' she said, 'because I have not got any.'

'Has Robert, then?' asked Bertha.

'Nobody has grievances who is out of the schoolroom,' opined Maria; and
as she uttered this profound sentiment, the tinkle of Miss Fennimore's
little bell warned the sisters to return to the studies, which in the
heat of summer were pursued in the afternoon, that the walk might be
taken in the cool of the evening.  Reading aloud, drawing, and sensible
plain needlework were the avocations till it was time to learn the
morrow's lessons.  Phoebe being beyond this latter work, drew on, and in
the intervals of helping Maria with her geography, had time to prepare
such a bright face as might make Robert think lightly of her
disappointment, and not reckon it as another act of tyranny.

When he opened the door, however, there was that in his looks which made
her spirits leap up like an elastic spring; and his 'Well, Phoebe!' was
almost triumphant.

'Is it--am I--' was all she could say.

'Has no one thought it worth while to tell you?'

'Don't you know,' interposed Bertha, 'you on the other side the red baize
door might be all married, or dead and buried, for aught we should hear.
But is Phoebe to go?'

'I believe so.'

'Are you sure?' asked Phoebe, afraid yet to hope.

'Yes.  My father heard the invitation, and said that you were a good
girl, and deserved a holiday.'

Commendation from that quarter was so rare, that excess of gladness made
Phoebe cast down her eyes and colour intensely, a little oppressed by the
victory over her governess.  But Miss Fennimore spoke warmly.  'He cannot
think her more deserving than I do.  I am rejoiced not to have been
consulted, for I could hardly have borne to inflict such a mortification
on her, though these interruptions are contrary to my views.  As it is,
Phoebe, my dear, I wish you joy.'

'Thank you,' Phoebe managed to say, while the happy tears fairly started.
In that chilly land, the least approach to tenderness was like the gleam
in which the hardy woodbine leaflets unfold to sun themselves.

Thankful for small mercies, thought Robert, looking at her with fond
pity; but at least the dear child will have one fortnight of a more
genial atmosphere, and soon, maybe, I shall transplant her to be
Lucilla's darling as well as mine, free from task-work, and doing the
labours of love for which she is made!

He was quite in spirits, and able to reply in kind to the freaks and
jokes of his little sister, as she started, spinning round him like a
humming-top, and singing--

    Will you go to the wood, Robin a Bobbin?

giving safe vent to an ebullition of spirits that must last her a good
while, poor little maiden!

Phoebe took a sober walk with Miss Fennimore, receiving advice on
methodically journalizing what she might see, and on the scheme of
employments which might prevent her visit from being waste of time.  The
others would have resented the interference with the holiday; but Phoebe,
though a little sorry to find that tasks were not to be off her mind, was
too grateful for Miss Fennimore's cordial consent to entertain any
thought except of obedience to the best of her power.

Miss Fennimore was politely summoned to Mrs. Fulmort's dressing-room for
the official communication; but this day was no exception to the general
custom, that the red baize door was not passed by the young ladies until
their evening appearance in the drawing-room.  Then the trio descended,
all alike in white muslin, made high, and green sashes--a dress carefully
distinguishing Phoebe as not introduced, but very becoming to her, with
the simple folds and the little net ruche, suiting admirably the tall,
rounded slenderness of her shape, her long neck, and short, childish
contour of face, where there smiled a joy of anticipation almost
inappreciable to those who know not what it is to spend day after day
with nothing particular to look forward to.

Very grand was the drawing-room, all amber-coloured with satin-wood,
satin and gold, and with everything useless and costly encumbering tables
that looked as if nothing could ever be done upon them.  Such a room
inspired a sense of being in company, and it was no wonder that Mrs.
Fulmort and her two elder daughters swept in in as decidedly procession
style as if they had formed part of a train of twenty.

The star that bestowed three female sovereigns to Europe seemed to have
had the like influence on Hiltonbury parish, since both its squires were
heiresses.  Miss Mervyn would have been a happier woman had she married a
plain country gentleman, like those of her own stock, instead of giving a
county position to a man of lower origin and enormous monied wealth.  To
live up to the claims of that wealth had been her business ever since,
and health and enjoyment had been so completely sacrificed to it, that
for many years past the greater part of her time had been spent in
resting and making herself up for her appearance in the evening, when she
conducted her elder daughters to their gaieties.  Faded and tallowy in
complexion, so as to be almost ghastly in her blue brocade and heavy gold
ornaments, she reclined languidly on a large easy-chair, saying with
half-closed eyes--

'Well, Phoebe, Miss Fennimore has told you of Miss Charlecote's
invitation.'

'Yes, mamma.  I am very, _very_ much obliged!'

'You know you are not to fancy yourself come out,' said Juliana, the
second sister, who had a good tall figure, and features and complexion
not far from beauty, but marred by a certain shrewish tone and air.

'Oh, no,' answered Phoebe; 'but with Miss Charlecote that will make no
difference.'

'Probably not,' said Juliana; 'for of course you will see nobody but a
set of old maids and clergymen and their wives.'

'She need not go far for old maids,' whispered Bertha to Maria.

'Pray, in which class do you reckon the Sandbrooks?' said Phoebe,
smiling; 'for she chiefly goes to meet them.'

'She may go!' said Juliana, scornfully; 'but Lucilla Sandbrook is far
past attending to her!'

'I wonder whether the Charterises will take any notice of Phoebe?'
exclaimed Augusta.

'My dear,' said Mrs. Fulmort, waking slowly to another idea, 'I will tell
Boodle to talk to--what's your maid's name?--about your dresses.'

'Oh, mamma,' interposed Juliana, 'it will be only poking about the
exhibitions with Miss Charlecote.  You may have that plaid silk of mine
that I was going to have worn out abroad, half-price for her.'

Bertha fairly made a little stamp at Juliana, and clenched her fist.

If Phoebe dreaded anything in the way of dress, it was Juliana's
half-price.

'My dear, your papa would not like her not to be well fitted out,' said
her mother; 'and Honora Charlecote always has such handsome things.  I
wish Boodle could put mine on like hers.'

'Oh, very well!' said Juliana, rather offended; 'only it should be
understood what is to be done if the Charterises ask her to any of their
parties.  There will be such mistakes and confusion if she meets any one
we know; and you particularly objected to having her brought forward.'

Phoebe's eye was a little startled, and Bertha set her front teeth
together on edge, and looked viciously at Juliana.

'My dear, Honora Charlecote never goes out,' said Mrs. Fulmort.

'If she should, you understand, Phoebe,' said Juliana.

Coffee came in at the moment, and Augusta criticized the strength of it,
which made a diversion, during which Bertha slipped out of the room, with
a face replete with mischievous exultation.

'Are not you going to play to-night, my dears?' asked Mrs. Fulmort.
'What was that duet I heard you practising?'

'Come, Juliana,' said the elder sister, 'I meant to go over it again; I
am not satisfied with my part.'

'I have to write a note,' said Juliana, moving off to another table;
whereupon Phoebe ventured to propose herself as a substitute, and was
accepted.

Maria sat entranced, with her mouth open; and presently Mrs. Fulmort
looked up from a kind of doze to ask who was playing.  For some moments
she had no answer.  Maria was too much awed for speech in the
drawing-room; and though Bertha had come back, she had her back to her
mother, and did not hear.  Mrs. Fulmort exerted herself to sit up and
turn her head.

'Was that Phoebe?' she said.  'You have a clear, good touch, my dear, as
they used to say I had when I was at school at Bath.  Play another of
your pieces, my dear.'

'I am ready now, Augusta,' said Juliana, advancing.

Little girls were not allowed at the piano when officers might be coming
in from the dining-room, so Maria's face became vacant again, for
Juliana's music awoke no echoes within her.

Phoebe beckoned her to a remote ottoman, a receptacle for the newspapers
of the week, and kept her turning over the _Illustrated News_, an
unfailing resource with her, but powerless to occupy Bertha after the
first Saturday; and Bertha, turning a deaf ear to the assurance that
there was something very entertaining about a tiger-hunt, stood, solely
occupied by eyeing Juliana.

Was she studying 'come-out' life as she watched her sisters surrounded by
the gentlemen who presently herded round the piano?

It was nearly the moment when the young ones were bound to withdraw, when
Mervyn, coming hastily up to their ottoman, had almost stumbled over
Maria's foot.

'Beg pardon.  Oh, it was only you!  What a cow it is!' said he, tossing
over the papers.

'What are you looking for, Mervyn?' asked Phoebe.

'An advertisement--_Bell's Life_ for the 3rd.  That rascal, Mears, must
have taken it.'

She found it for him, and likewise the advertisement, which he, missing
once, was giving up in despair.

'I say,' he observed, while she was searching, 'so you are to chip the
shell.'

'I'm only going to London--I'm not coming out.'

'Gammon!' he said, with an odd wink.  'You need never go in again, like
the what's-his-name in the fairy tale, or you are a sillier child than I
take you for.  They'--nodding at the piano--'are getting a terrible pair
of old cats, and we want something young and pretty about.'

With this unusual compliment, Phoebe, seeing the way clear to the door,
rose to depart, most reluctantly followed by Bertha, and more willingly
by Maria, who began, the moment they were in the hall--

'Phoebe, why do they get a couple of terrible old cats?  I don't like
them.  I shall be afraid.'

'Mervyn didn't mean--' began perplexed Phoebe, cut short by Bertha's
boisterous laughter.  'Oh, Maria, what a goose you are!  You'll be the
death of me some day!  Why, Juliana and Augusta are the cats themselves.
Oh, dear! I wanted to kiss Mervyn for saying so.  Oh, wasn't it fun!  And
now, Maria,--oh! if I could have stayed a moment longer!'

'Bertha, Bertha, not such a noise in the hall.  Come, Maria; mind, you
must not tell anybody.  Bertha, come,' expostulated Phoebe, trying to
drag her sister to the red baize door; but Bertha stood, bending nearly
double, exaggerating the helplessness of her paroxysms of laughter.

'Well, at least the cat will have something to scratch her,' she gasped
out.  'Oh, I did so want to stay and see!'

'Have you been playing any tricks?' exclaimed Phoebe, with consternation,
as Bertha's deportment recurred to her.

'Tricks?--I couldn't help it.  Oh, listen, Phoebe!' cried Bertha, with
her wicked look of triumph.  'I brought home such a lovely sting-nettle
for Miss Fennimore's peacock caterpillar; and when I heard how kind dear
Juliana was to you about your visit to London, I thought she really must
have it for a reward; so I ran away, and slily tucked it into her
bouquet; and I did so hope she would take it up to fiddle with when the
gentlemen talk to her,' said the elf, with an irresistibly comic
imitation of Juliana's manner towards gentlemen.

'Bertha, this is beyond--' began Phoebe.

'Didn't you sting your fingers?' asked Maria.

Bertha stuck out her fat pink paws, embellished with sundry white lumps.
'All pleasure,' said she, 'thinking of the jump Juliana will give, and
how nicely it serves her.'

Phoebe was already on her way back to the drawing-rooms; Bertha sprang
after, but in vain.  Never would she have risked the success of her
trick, could she have guessed that Phoebe would have the temerity to
return to the company!

Phoebe glided in without waiting for the sense of awkwardness, though she
knew she should have to cross the whole room, and she durst not ask any
one to bring the dangerous bouquet to her--not even Robert--he must not
be stung in her service.

She met her mother's astonished eye as she threaded her way; she wound
round a group of gentlemen, and spied the article of which she was in
quest, where Juliana had laid it down with her gloves on going to the
piano.  Actually she had it!  She had seized it unperceived!  Good little
thief; it was a most innocent robbery.  She crept away with a sense of
guilt and desire to elude observation, positively starting when she
encountered her father's portly figure in the ante-room.  He stopped her
with 'Going to bed, eh?  So Miss Charlecote has taken a fancy to you, has
she?  It does you credit.  What shall you want for the journey?'

'Boodle is going to see,' began Phoebe, but he interrupted.

'Will fifty do?  I will have my daughters well turned out.  All to be
spent upon yourself, mind.  Why, you've not a bit of jewellery on!  Have
you a watch?'

'No, papa.'

'Robert shall choose one for you, then.  Come to my room any time for the
cash; and if Miss Charlecote takes you anywhere among her set--good
connections she has--and you want to be rigged out extra, send me in the
bill--anything rather than be shabby.'

'Thank you, papa!  Then, if I am asked out anywhere, may I go?'

'Why, what does the child mean?  Anywhere that Miss Charlecote likes to
take you of course.'

'Only because I am not come out.'

'Stuff about coming out!  I don't like my girls to be shy and backward.
They've a right to show themselves anywhere; and you should be going out
with us now, but somehow your poor mother doesn't like the trouble of
such a lot of girls.  So don't be shy, but make the most of yourself, for
you won't meet many better endowed, nor more highly accomplished.  Good
night, and enjoy yourself.'

Palpitating with wonder and pleasure, Phoebe escaped.  Such permission,
over-riding all Juliana's injunctions, was worth a few nettle stings and
a great fright; for Phoebe was not philosopher enough, in spite of Miss
Fennimore--ay, and of Robert--not to have a keen desire to see a great
party.

Her delay had so much convinced the sisters that her expedition had had
some fearful consequences, that Maria was already crying lest dear Phoebe
should be in disgrace; and Bertha had seated herself on the balusters,
debating with herself whether, if Phoebe were suspected of the trick (a
likely story) and condemned to lose her visit to London, she would
confess herself the guilty person.

And when Phoebe came back, too much overcome with delight to do anything
but communicate papa's goodness, and rejoice in the unlimited power of
making presents, Bertha triumphantly insisted on her confessing that it
had been a capital thing that the nettles were in Juliana's nosegay!

Phoebe shook her head; too happy to scold, too humble to draw the moral
that the surest way to gratification is to remove the thorns from the
path of others.



CHAPTER III


    She gives thee a garland woven fair,
       Take care!
    It is a fool's-cap for thee to wear,
       Beware!  Beware!
       Trust her not,
    She is fooling thee!--LONGFELLOW, from MULLER

Behold Phoebe Fulmort seated in a train on the way to London.  She was a
very pleasant spectacle to Miss Charlecote opposite to her, so peacefully
joyous was her face, as she sat with the wind breathing in on her, in the
calm luxury of contemplating the landscape gliding past the windows in
all its summer charms, and the repose of having no one to hunt her into
unvaried rationality.

Her eye was the first to detect Robert in waiting at the terminus, but he
looked more depressed than ever, and scarcely smiled as he handed them to
the carriage.

'Get in, Robert, you are coming home with us,' said Honor.

'You have so much to take, I should encumber you.'

'No, the sundries go in cabs, with the maids.  Jump in.'

'Do your friends arrive to-night?'

'Yes; but that is no reason you should look so rueful!  Make the most of
Phoebe beforehand.  Besides, Mr. Parsons is a Wykehamist.'

Robert took his place on the back seat, but still as if he would have
preferred walking home.  Neither his sister nor his friend dared to ask
whether he had seen Lucilla.  Could she have refused him? or was her
frivolity preying on his spirits?

Phoebe tried to interest him by the account of the family migration, and
of Miss Fennimore's promise that Maria and Bertha should have two
half-hours of real play in the garden on each day when the lessons had
been properly done; and how she had been so kind as to let Maria leave
off trying to read a French book that had proved too hard for her, not
perceiving why this instance of good-nature was not cheering to her
brother.

Miss Charlecote's house was a delightful marvel to Phoebe from the moment
when she rattled into the paved court, entered upon the fragrant odour of
the cedar hall, and saw the Queen of Sheba's golden locks beaming with
the evening light.  She entered the drawing-room, pleasant-looking
already, under the judicious arrangement of the housekeeper, who had set
out the Holt flowers and arranged the books, so that it seemed full of
welcome.

Phoebe ran from window to mantelpiece, enchanted with the quaint mixture
of old and new, admiring carving and stained glass, and declaring that
Owen had not prepared her for anything equal to this, until Miss
Charlecote, going to arrange matters with her housekeeper, left the
brother and sister together.

'Well, Robin!' said Phoebe, coming up to him anxiously.

He only crossed his arms on the mantelpiece, rested his head on them, and
sighed.

'Have you seen her?'

'Not to speak to her.'

'Have you called?'

'No.'

'Then where did you see her?'

'She was riding in the Park.  I was on foot.'

'She could not have seen you!' exclaimed Phoebe.

'She did,' replied Robert; 'I was going to tell you.  She gave me one of
her sweetest, brightest smiles, such as only she can give.  You know
them, Phoebe.  No assumed welcome, but a sudden flash and sparkle of real
gladness.'

'But why--what do you mean?' asked Phoebe; 'why have you not been to her?
I thought from your manner that she had been neglecting you, but it seems
to me all the other way.'

'I cannot, Phoebe; I cannot put my poor pretensions forward in the set
she is with.  I know they would influence her, and that her decision
would not be calm and mature.'

'Her decision of what you are to be?'

'That is fixed,' said Robert, sighing.

'Indeed!  With papa.'

'No, in my own mind.  I have seen enough of the business to find that I
could in ten years quadruple my capital, and in the meantime maintain her
in the manner she prefers.'

'You are quite sure she prefers it?'

'She has done so ever since she could exercise a choice.  I should feel
myself doing her an injustice if I were to take advantage of any
preference she may entertain for me to condemn her to what would be to
her a dreary banishment.'

'Not with you,' cried Phoebe.

'You know nothing about it, Phoebe.  You have never led such a life, and
you it would not hurt--attract, I mean; but lovely, fascinating, formed
for admiration, and craving for excitement as she is, she is a being that
can only exist in society.  She would be miserable in homely
retirement--I mean she would prey on herself.  I could not ask it of her.
If she consented, it would be without knowing her own tastes.  No; all
that remains is to find out whether she can submit to owe her wealth to
our business.'

'And shall you?'

'I could not but defer it till I should meet her here,' said Robert.  'I
shrink from seeing her with those cousins, or hearing her name with
theirs.  Phoebe, imagine my feelings when, going into Mervyn's club with
him, I heard "Rashe Charteris and Cilly Sandbrook" contemptuously
discussed by those very names, and jests passing on their independent
ways.  I know how it is.  Those people work on her spirit of enterprise,
and she--too guileless and innocent to heed appearances.  Phoebe, you do
not wonder that I am nearly mad!'

'Poor Robin!' said Phoebe affectionately.  'But, indeed, I am sure, if
Lucy once had a hint--no, one could not tell her, it would shock her too
much; but if she had the least idea that people could be so impertinent,'
and Phoebe's cheeks glowed with shame and indignation, 'she would only
wish to go away as far as she could for fear of seeing any of them again.
I am sure they were not gentlemen, Robin.'

'A man must be supereminently a gentleman to respect a woman who does not
_make_ him do so,' said Robert mournfully.  'That Miss Charteris!  Oh!
that she were banished to Siberia!'

Phoebe meditated a few moments; then looking up, said, 'I beg your
pardon, Robin, but it does strike me that, if you think that this kind of
life is not good for Lucilla, it cannot be right to sacrifice your own
higher prospects to enable her to continue it.'

'I tell you, Phoebe,' said he, with some impatience, 'I never was
pledged.  I may be of much more use and influence, and able to effect
more extended good as a partner in a concern like this than as an obscure
clergyman.  Don't you see?'

Phoebe had only time to utter a somewhat melancholy 'Very likely,' before
Miss Charlecote returned to take her to her room, the promised brown
cupboard, all wainscoted with delicious cedar, so deeply and uniformly
panelled, that when shut, the door was not obvious; and it was like being
in a box, for there were no wardrobes, only shelves shut by doors into
the wall, which the old usage of the household tradition called awmries
(_armoires_).  The furniture was reasonably modern, but not obtrusively
so.  There was a delicious recess in the deep window, with a seat and a
table in it, and a box of mignonette along the sill.  It looked out into
the little high-walled entrance court, and beyond to the wall of the
warehouse opposite; and the roar of the great city thoroughfare came like
the distant surging of the ocean.  Seldom had young maiden's bower given
more satisfaction.  Phoebe looked about her as if she hardly knew how to
believe in anything so unlike her ordinary life, and she thanked her
friend again and again with such enthusiasm, that Miss Charlecote laughed
as she told her she liked the old house to be appreciated, since it had,
like Pompeii, been potted for posterity.

'And thank you, my dear,' she added with a sigh, 'for making my coming
home so pleasant.  May you never know how I dreaded the finding it full
of emptiness.'

'Dear Miss Charlecote!' cried Phoebe, venturing upon a warm kiss, and
thrilled with sad pleasure as she was pressed in a warm, clinging
embrace, and felt tears on her cheek.  'You have been so happy here!'

'It is not the past, my dear,' said Honora; 'I could live peacefully on
the thought of that.  The shadows that people this house are very gentle
ones.  It is the present!'

She broke off, for the gates of the court were opening to admit a
detachment of cabs, containing the persons and properties of the new
incumbent and his wife.  He had been a curate of Mr. Charlecote, since
whose death he had led a very hard-working life in various towns; and on
his recent presentation to the living of St. Wulstan's, Honora had begged
him and his wife to make her house their home while determining on the
repairs of the parsonage.  She ran down to meet them with gladsome steps.
She had never entirely dropped her intercourse with Mr. Parsons, though
seldom meeting; and he was a relic of the past, one of the very few who
still called her by her Christian name, and regarded her more as the
clergyman's daughter of St. Wulstan's than as lady of the Holt.  Mrs.
Parsons was a thorough clergyman's wife, as active as himself, and much
loved and esteemed by Honora, with whom, in their few meetings, she had
'got on' to admiration.

There they were, looking after luggage, and paying cabs so heedfully as
not to remark their hostess standing on the stairs; and she had time to
survey them with the affectionate curiosity of meeting after long
absence, and with pleasure in remarking that there was little change.
Perhaps they were rather more gray, and had grown more alike by force of
living and thinking together; but they both looked equally alert and
cheerful, and as if fifty and fifty-five were the very prime of years for
substantial work.

Their first glances at her were full of the same anxiety for her health
and strength, as they heartily shook hands, and accompanied her into the
drawing-room, she explaining that Mr. Parsons was to have the study all
to himself, and never be disturbed there; then inquiring after the three
children, two daughters, who were married, and a son lately ordained.

'I thought you would have brought William to see about the curacy,' she
said.

'He is not strong enough,' said his mother.  'He wished it, but he is
better where he is; he could not bear the work here.'

'No; I told him the utmost I should allow would be an exchange now and
then when my curates were overdone,' said Mr. Parsons.

'And so you are quite deserted,' said Honor, feeling the more drawn
towards her friends.

'Starting afresh, with a sort of honeymoon, as I tell Anne,' replied Mr.
Parsons; and such a bright look passed between them, as though they were
quite sufficient for each other, that Honor felt there was no parallel
between their case and her own.

'Ah! you have not lost your children yet,' said Mrs. Parsons.

'They are not with me,' said Honor, quickly.  'Lucy is with her cousins,
and Owen--I don't exactly know how he means to dispose of himself this
vacation; but we were all to meet here.'  Guessing, perhaps, that Mr.
Parsons saw into her dissatisfaction, she then assumed their defence.
'There is to be a grand affair at Castle Blanch, a celebration of young
Charles Charteris's marriage, and Owen and Lucy will be wanted for it.'

'Whom has he married?'

'A Miss Mendoza, an immense fortune--something in the stockbroker line.
He had spent a good deal, and wanted to repair it; but they tell me she
is a very handsome person, very ladylike and agreeable; and Lucy likes
her greatly.  I am to go to luncheon at their house to-morrow, so I shall
treat you as if you were at home.'

'I should hope so,' quoth Mr. Parsons.

'Yes, or I know you would not stay here properly.  I'm not alone, either.
Why, where's the boy gone?  I thought he was here.  I have two young
Fulmorts, one staying here, the other looking in from the office.'

'Fulmort!' exclaimed Mr. Parsons, with three notes of admiration at least
in his voice.  'What! the distiller?'

'The enemy himself, the identical lord of gin-shops--at least his
children.  Did you not know that he married my next neighbour, Augusta
Mervyn, and that our properties touch?  He is not so bad by way of squire
as he is here; and I have known his wife all my life, so we keep up all
habits of good neighbourhood; and though they have brought up the elder
ones very ill, they have not succeeded in spoiling this son and daughter.
She is one of the very nicest girls I ever knew, and he, poor fellow, has
a great deal of good in him.'

'I think I have heard William speak of a Fulmort,' said Mrs. Parsons.
'Was he at Winchester?'

'Yes; and an infinite help the influence there has been to him.  I never
saw any one more anxious to do right, often under great disadvantages.  I
shall be very glad for him to be with you.  He was always intended for a
clergyman, but now I am afraid there is a notion of putting him into the
business; and he is here attending to it for the present, while his
father and brother are abroad.  I am sorry he is gone.  I suppose he was
seized with a fit of shyness.'

However, when all the party had been to their rooms and prepared for
dinner, Robert reappeared, and was asked where he had been.

'I went to dress,' he answered.

'Ah! where do you lodge?  I asked Phoebe, but she said your letters went
to Whittington-street.'

'There are two very good rooms at the office which my father sometimes
uses.'

Phoebe and Miss Charlecote glanced at each other, aware that Mervyn would
never have condescended to sleep in Great Whittington-street.  Mr.
Parsons likewise perceived a straight-forwardness in the manner, which
made him ready to acknowledge his fellow-Wykehamist and his son's
acquaintance; and they quickly became good friends over recollections of
Oxford and Winchester, tolerably strong in Mr. Parsons himself, and all
the fresher on 'William's' account.  Phoebe, whose experience of social
intercourse was confined to the stately evening hour in the drawing-room,
had never listened to anything approaching to this style of conversation,
nor seen her brother to so much advantage in society.  Hitherto she had
only beheld him neglected in his uncongenial home circle, contemning and
contemned, or else subjected to the fretting torment of Lucilla's
caprice.  She had never known what he could be, at his ease, among
persons of the same way of thinking.  Speaking scarcely ever herself, and
her fingers busy with her needle, she was receiving a better lesson than
Miss Fennimore had ever yet been able to give.  The acquiring of
knowledge is one thing, the putting it out to profit another.

Gradually, from general topics, the conversation contracted to the parish
and its affairs, known intimately to Mr. Parsons a quarter of a century
ago, but in which Honora was now the best informed; while Robert listened
as one who felt as if he might have a considerable stake therein, and
indeed looked upon usefulness there as compensation for the schemes he
was resigning.

The changes since Mr. Parsons's time had not been cheering.  The late
incumbent had been a man whose trust lay chiefly in preaching, and who,
as his health failed, and he became more unable to cope with the crying
evils around, had grown despairing, and given way to a sort of dismal,
callous indifference; not doing a little, because he could not do much,
and quashing the plans of others with a nervous dread of innovation.  The
class of superior persons in trade, and families of professional men, who
in Mr. Charlecote's time had filled many a massively-built pew, had
migrated to the suburbs, and preserved only an office or shop in the
parish, an empty pew in the church, where the congregation was to be
counted by tens instead of hundreds.  Not that the population had fallen
off.  Certain streets which had been a grief and pain to Mr. Charlecote,
but over which he had never entirely lost his hold, had become
intolerably worse.  Improvements in other parts of London, dislodging the
inhabitants, had heaped them in festering masses of corruption in these
untouched byways and lanes, places where honest men dared not penetrate
without a policeman; and report spoke of rooms shared by six families at
once.

Mr. Parsons had not taken the cue unknowing of what he should find in it;
he said nothing, and looked as simple and cheerful as if his life were
not to be a daily course of heroism.  His wife gave one long, stifled
sigh, and looked furtively upon him with her loving eyes, in something of
anxious fear, but with far more of exultation.

Yet it was in no dispirited tone that she asked after the respectable
poor--there surely must be some employed in small trades, or about the
warehouses.  She was answered that these were not many in proportion, and
that not only had pew-rents kept them out of church, but that they had
little disposition to go there.  They did send their children to the old
endowed charity schools, but as these children grew up, wave after wave
lapsed into a smooth, respectable heathen life of Sunday pleasuring.  The
more religious became dissenters, because the earnest inner life did not
approve itself to them in Church teaching as presented to them; the worse
sort, by far the most numerous, fell lower and lower, and hovered
scarcely above the depths of sin and misery.  Drinking was the universal
vice, and dragged many a seemingly steady character into every stage of
degradation.  Men and women alike fell under the temptation, and soon
hastened down the descent of corruption and crime.

'Ah!' said Mrs. Parsons, 'I observed gin palaces at the corner of every
street.'

There was a pause.  Neither her husband nor Honor made any reply.  If
they had done so, neither of the young Fulmorts would have perceived any
connection between the gin palaces and their father's profession; but the
silence caused both to raise their eyes.  Phoebe, judging by her sisters'
code of the becoming, fancied that their friends supposed their feelings
might be hurt by alluding to the distillery, as a trade, and cast about
for some cheerful observations, which she could not find.

Robert had received a new idea, one that must be put aside till he had
time to look at it.

There was a ring at the door.  Honor's face lighted up at the tread on
the marble pavement of the hall, and without other announcement, a young
man entered the room, and as she sprang up to meet him, bent down his
lofty head, and kissed her with half-filial, half-coaxing tenderness.

'Yes, here I am.  They told me I should find you here.  Ah! Phoebe, I'm
glad to see you.  Fulmort, how are you?' and a well-bred shake of the
hand to Mr. and Mrs. Parsons, with the ease and air of the young master,
returning to his mother's house.

'When did you come?'

'Only to-day.  I got away sooner than I expected.  I went to Lowndes
Square, and they told me I should find you here, so I came away as soon
as dinner was over.  They were dressing for some grand affair, and wanted
me to come with them, but of course I must come to see if you had really
achieved bringing bright Phoebe from her orbit.'

His simile conveyed the astronomical compliment at once to Honora and
Phoebe, who were content to share it.  Honora was in a condition of
subdued excitement and anxiety, compared to which all other sensations
were tame, chequered as was her felicity, a state well known to mothers
and sisters.  Intensely gratified at her darling's arrival, gladdened by
his presence, rejoicing in his endowments, she yet dreaded every phrase
lest some dim misgiving should be deepened, and watched for the
impression he made on her friends, as though her own depended upon it.

Admiration could not but come foremost.  It was pleasant to look upon
such a fine specimen of manly beauty and vigour.  Of unusual height, his
form was so well moulded, that his superior stature was only perceived by
comparison with others, and the proportions were those of great strength.
The small, well-set head, proudly carried, the short, straight features,
and the form of the free massive curls, might have been a model for the
bust of a Greek athlete; the colouring was the fresh, healthy bronzed
ruddiness of English youth, and the expression had a certain boldness of
good-humoured freedom, agreeing with the quiet power of the whole figure.
Those bright gray eyes could never have been daunted, those curling,
merry lips never at a loss, that smooth brow never been unwelcome, those
easy movements never cramped, nor the manners restrained by bashfulness.

The contrast was not favourable to Robert.  The fair proportions of the
one brought out the irregular build of the other; the classical face made
the plain one more homely, the erect bearing made the eye turn to the
slouching carriage, and the readiness of address provoked comparison with
the awkward diffidence of one disregarded at home.  Bashfulness and
depression had regained their hold of the elder lad almost as the younger
one entered, and in the changes of position consequent upon the new
arrival, he fell into the background, and stood leaning, caryatid
fashion, against the mantelshelf, without uttering a word, while Owen, in
a half-recumbent position on an ottoman, a little in the rear of Miss
Charlecote and her tea equipage, and close to Phoebe, indulged in the
blithe loquacity of a return home, in a tone of caressing banter towards
the first lady, of something between good-nature and attention to the
latter, yet without any such exclusiveness as would have been disregard
to the other guests.

'Ponto well!  Poor old Pon! how does he get on?  Was it a very affecting
parting, Phoebe?'

'I didn't see.  I met Miss Charlecote at the station.'

'Not even your eyes might intrude on the sacredness of grief!  Well, at
least you dried them?  But who dried Ponto's?' solemnly turning on
Honora.

'Jones, I hope,' said she, smiling.

'I knew it!  Says I to myself, when Henry opened the door, Jones remains
at home for the consolation of Ponto.'

'Not entirely--' began Honora, laughing; but the boy shook his head,
cutting her short with a playful frown.

'Cousin Honor, it grieves me to see a woman of your age and
responsibility making false excuses.  Mr. Parsons, I appeal to you, as a
clergyman of the Church of England, is it not painful to hear her putting
forward Jones's asthma, when we all know the true fact is that Ponto's
tastes are so aristocratic that he can't take exercise with an under
servant, and the housekeeper is too fat to waddle.  By the bye, how is
the old thing?'

'Much more effective than might be supposed by your account, sir, and
probably wishing to know whether to get your room ready.'

'My room.  Thank you; no, not to-night.  I've got nothing with me.  What
are you going to do to-morrow?  I know you are to be at Charteris's to
luncheon; his Jewess told me so.'

'For shame, Owen.'

'I don't see any shame, if Charles doesn't,' said Owen; 'only if you
don't think yourselves at a stall of cheap jewellery at a fair--that's
all!  Phoebe, take care.  You're a learned young lady.'

'No; I'm very backward.'

'Ah! it's the fashion to deny it, but mind you don't mention
Shakespeare.'

'Why not?'

'Did you never hear of the _Merchant of Venice_?'

Phoebe, a little startled, wanted to hear whether Mrs. Charteris were
really Jewish, and after a little more in this style, which Honor
reasonably feared the Parsonses might not consider in good taste, it was
explained that her riches were Jewish, though her grandfather had been
nothing, and his family Christian.  Owen adding, that but for her origin,
she would be very good-looking; not that he cared for that style, and his
manner indicated that such rosy, childish charms as were before him had
his preference.  But though this was evident enough to all the rest of
the world, Phoebe did not appear to have the least perception of his
personal meaning, and freely, simply answered, that she admired dark-eyed
people, and should be glad to see Mrs. Charteris.

'You will see her in her glory,' said Owen; 'Tuesday week, the great
concern is to come off, at Castle Blanch, and a rare sight she'll be!
Cilly tells me she is rehearsing her dresses with different sets of
jewels all the morning, and for ever coming in to consult her and Rashe!'

'That must be rather tiresome,' said Honor; 'she cannot be much of a
companion.'

'I don't fancy she gets much satisfaction,' said Owen, laughing; 'Rashe
never uses much "soft sawder."  It's an easy-going place, where you may
do just as you choose, and the young ladies appreciate liberty.  By the
bye, what do you think of this Irish scheme?'

Honora was so much ashamed of it, that she had never mentioned it even to
Phoebe, and she was the more sorry that it had been thus adverted to, as
she saw Robert intent on what Owen let fall.  She answered shortly, that
she could not suppose it serious.

'Serious as a churchyard,' was Owen's answer.  'I dare say they will ask
Phoebe to join the party.  For my own part, I never believed in it till I
came up to-day, and found the place full of salmon-flies, and the start
fixed for Wednesday the 24th.'

'Who?' came a voice from the dark mantelshelf.

'Who?  Why, that's the best of it.  Who but my wise sister and Rashe?
Not a soul besides,' cried Owen, giving way to laughter, which no one was
disposed to echo.  'They vow that they will fish all the best streams,
and do more than any crack fisherman going, and they would like to see
who will venture to warn them off.  They've tried that already.  Last
summer what did Lucy do, but go and fish Sir Harry Buller's water.  You
know he's a very tiger about preserving.  Well, she fished coolly on in
the face of all his keepers; they stood aghast, didn't know what manner
of Nixie it was, I suppose; and when Sir Harry came down, foaming at the
mouth, she just shook her curls, and made him wade in up to his knees to
get her fly out of a bramble!'

'That must be exaggerated,' said Robert.

'Exaggerated!  Not a word!  It's not possible to exaggerate Cilly's
coolness.  I did say something about going with them.'

'You must, if they go at all!' exclaimed Honora.

'Out of the question, Sweet Honey.  They reject me with disdain, declare
that I should only render them commonplace, and that "rich and rare were
the gems she wore" would never have got across Ireland safe if she had a
great strapping brother to hamper her.  And really, as Charles says, I
don't suppose any damage can well happen to them.'

Honora would not talk of it, and turned the conversation to what was to
be done on the following day.  Owen eagerly proffered himself as escort,
and suggested all manner of plans, evidently assuming the entire
direction and protection of the two ladies, who were to meet him at
luncheon in Lowndes Square, and go with him to the Royal Academy, which,
as he and Honora agreed, must necessarily be the earliest object for the
sake of providing innocent conversation.

As soon as the clock struck ten, Robert took leave, and Owen rose, but
instead of going, lingered, talking Oxford with Mr. Parsons, and telling
good stories, much to the ladies' amusement, though increasing Honora's
trepidation by the fear that something in his tone about the authorities,
or the slang of his manner, might not give her friends a very good idea
of his set.  The constant fear of what might come next, absolutely made
her impatient for his departure, and at last she drove him away, by
begging to know how he was going all that distance, and offering to send
Henry to call a cab, a thing he was too good-natured to permit.  He bade
good night and departed, while Mr. Parsons, in answer to her eager eyes,
gratified her by pronouncing him a very fine young man.

'He is very full of spirit,' she said.  'You must let me tell you a story
of him.  They have a young new schoolmistress at Wrapworth, his father's
former living, you know, close to Castle Blanch.  This poor thing was
obliged to punish a school-child, the daughter of one of the bargemen on
the Thames, a huge ruffianly man.  Well, a day or two after, Owen came
upon him in a narrow lane, bullying the poor girl almost out of her life,
threatening her, and daring her to lay a finger on his children.  What do
you think Owen did?'

'Fought him, I suppose,' said Mr. Parsons, judging by the peculiar
delight ladies take in such exploits.  'Besides, he has sufficiently the
air of a hero to make it incumbent on him to "kill some giant."'

'We may be content with something short of his killing the giant,' said
Honor, 'but he really did gain the victory.  That lad, under nineteen,
positively beat this great monster of a man, and made him ask the girl's
pardon, knocked him down, and thoroughly mastered him!  I should have
known nothing of it, though, if Owen had not got a black eye, which made
him unpresentable for the Castle Blanch gaieties, so he came down to the
Holt to me, knowing I should not mind wounds gained in a good cause.'

They wished her good night in her triumph.

The receipt of a letter was rare and supreme felicity to Maria; therefore
to indite one was Phoebe's first task on the morrow; after which she took
up her book, and was deeply engaged, when the door flew back, and the
voice of Owen Sandbrook exclaimed, 'Goddess of the silver bow! what,
alone?'

'Miss Charlecote is with her lawyer, and Robert at the office.'

'The parson and parsoness parsonically gone to study parsonages, schools,
and dilapidations, I suppose.  What a bore it is having them here; I'd
have taken up my quarters here, otherwise, but I can't stand parish
politics.'

'I like them very much,' said Phoebe, 'and Miss Charlecote seems to be
happy with them.'

'Just her cut, dear old thing; the same honest, illogical, practical
sincerity,' said Owen, in a tone of somewhat superior melancholy; but
seeing Phoebe about to resent his words as a disrespectful imputation on
their friend, he turned the subject, addressing Phoebe in the manner
between teasing and flattering, habitual to a big schoolboy towards a
younger child, phases of existence which each had not so long outgrown as
to have left off the mutual habits thereto belonging.  'And what is
bright Cynthia doing?  Writing verses, I declare!--worthy sister of
Phoebus Apollo.'

'Only notes,' said Phoebe, relinquishing her paper, in testimony.

'When found make a note of--Summoned by writ--temp. Ed.
III.--burgesses--knights of shire.  It reads like an act of parliament.
Hallam's English Constitution.  My eyes!  By way of lighter study.  It is
quite appalling.  Pray what may be the occupation of your more serious
moments?'

'You see the worst I have with me.'

'Holiday recreation, to which you can just condescend.  I say, Phoebe, I
have a great curiosity to understand the Zend.  I wish you would explain
it to me.'

'If I ever read it,' began Phoebe, laughing.

'What, you pretend to deny?  You won't put me off that way.  A lady who
can only unbend so far as to the English Constitution by way of
recreation, must--'

'But it is not by way of recreation.'

'Come, I know my respected cousin too well to imagine she would have
imposed such a task.  That won't do, Phoebe.'

'I never said she had, but Miss Fennimore desired me.'

'I shall appeal.  There's no act of tyranny a woman in authority will not
commit.  But this is a free country, Phoebe, as maybe you have gathered
from your author, and unless her trammels have reached to your soul--'
and he laid his hand on the book to take it away.

'Perhaps they have,' said Phoebe, smiling, but holding it fast, 'for I
shall be much more comfortable in doing as I was told.'

'Indeed!' said Owen, pretending to scrutinize her as if she were
something extraordinary (really as an excuse for a good gaze upon her
pure complexion and limpid eyes, so steady, childlike, and unabashed,
free from all such consciousness as would make them shrink from the
playful look).  'Indeed!  Now, in my experience the comfort would be in
the _not_ doing as you were told.'

'Ah! but you know I have no spirit.'

'I wish to heaven other people had none!' cried Owen, suddenly changing
his tone, and sitting down opposite to Phoebe, his elbow on the table,
and speaking earnestly.  'I would give the world that my sister were like
you.  Did you ever hear of anything so preposterous as this Irish
business?'

'She cannot think of it, when Miss Charlecote has told her of all the
objections,' said Phoebe.

'She will go the more,' returned Owen.  'I say to you, Phoebe, what I
would say to no one else.  Lucilla's treatment of Honora Charlecote is
abominable--vexes me more than I can say.  They say some nations have no
words for gratitude.  One would think she had come of them.'

Phoebe looked much shocked, but said, 'Perhaps Miss Charlecote's kindness
has seemed to her like a matter of course, not as it does to us, who have
no claim at all.'

'We had no claim,' said Owen; 'the connection is nothing, absolutely
nothing.  I believe, poor dear, the attraction was that she had once been
attached to my father, and he was too popular a preacher to _keep_ well
as a lover.  Well, there were we, a couple of orphans, a nuisance to all
our kith and kin--nobody with a bit of mercy for us but that queer old
coon, Kit Charteris, when she takes us home, treats us like her own
children, feels for us as much as the best mother living could;
undertakes to provide for us.  Now, I put it to you, Phoebe, has she any
right to be cast off in this fashion?'

'I don't know in what fashion you mean.'

'Don't you.  Haven't you seen how Cilly has run restive from babyhood?  A
pretty termagant she was, as even I can remember.  And how my poor father
spoilt her!  Any one but Honor would have given her up, rather than have
gone through what she did, so firmly and patiently, till she had broken
her in fairly well.  But then come in these Charterises, and Cilly runs
frantic after them, her own _dear_ relations.  Much they had cared for us
when we were troublesome little pests.  But it's all the force of blood.
Stuff!  The whole truth is that they are gay, and Honora quiet; they
encourage her to run riot.  Honora keeps her in order.'

'Have you spoken to her?'

'As well speak to the wind.  She thinks it a great favour to run down to
Hiltonbury for the Horticultural Show, turn everything topsy-turvy, keep
poor dear Sweet Honey in a perpetual ferment, then come away to Castle
Blanch, as if she were rid of a troublesome duty.'

'I thought Miss Charlecote sent Lucy to enjoy herself!  We always said
how kind and self-denying she was.'

'Denied, rather,' said Owen; 'only that's her way of carrying it off.  A
month or two in the season might be very well; see the world, and get the
tone of it; but to racket about with Ratia, and leave Honor alone for
months together, is too strong for me.'

Honora came in, delighted at her boy's visit, and well pleased at the
manner in which he was engrossed.  Two such children needed no chaperon,
and if that sweet crescent moon were to be his guiding light, so much the
better.

'Capital girl, that,' he said, as she left the room.  'This is a noble
achievement of yours.'

'In getting my youngest princess out of the castle.  Ay! I do feel in a
beneficent enchanter's position.'

'She has grown up much prettier than she promised to be.'

'And far too good for a Fulmort.  But that is Robert's doing.'

'Poor Robert! how he shows the old distiller in grain.  So he is taking
to the old shop?--best thing for him.'

'Only by way of experiment.'

'Pleasant experiment to make as much as old Fulmort!  I wish he'd take me
into partnership.'

'You, Owen?'

'I am not proud.  These aren't the days when it matters how a man gets
his tin, so he knows what to do with it.  Ay! the world gets beyond the
dear old Hiltonbury views, after all, Sweet Honey, and you see what City
atmosphere does to me.'

'You know I never wished to press any choice on you,' she faltered.

'What!' with a good-humoured air of affront, 'you thought me serious?
Don't you know I'm the ninth, instead of the nineteenth-century man,
under your wing?  I'd promise you to be a bishop, only, you see, I'm
afraid I couldn't be mediocre enough.'

'For shame, Owen!' and yet she smiled.  That boy's presence and caressing
sweetness towards herself were the greatest bliss to her, almost beyond
that of a mother with a son, because more uncertain, less her right by
nature.

Phoebe came down as the carriage was at the door, and they called in
Whittington Street for her brother, but he only came out to say he was
very busy, and would not intrude on Mrs. Charteris--bashfulness for which
he was well abused on the way to Lowndes Square.

Owen, with his air of being at home, put aside the servants as they
entered the magnificent house, replete with a display of state and luxury
analogous to that of Beauchamp, but with better taste and greater ease.
The Fulmorts were in bondage to ostentation; the Charterises were lavish
for their own enjoyment, and heedless alike of cost and of appearance.

The great drawing-room was crowded with furniture, and the splendid
marqueterie tables and crimson ottomans were piled with a wild confusion
of books, prints, periodicals, papers, and caricatures, heaped over
ornaments and bijouterie, and beyond, at the doorway of a second room,
even more miscellaneously filled, a small creature sprang to meet them,
kissing Honora, and exclaiming, 'Here you are!  Have you brought the
pig's wool?  Ah! but you've brought something else!  No--what's become of
that Redbreast!' as she embraced Phoebe.

'He was so busy that he could not come.'

'Ill-behaved bird; a whole month without coming near me.'

'Only a week,' said Phoebe, speaking less freely, as she perceived two
strangers in the room, a gentleman in moustaches, who shook hands with
Owen, and a lady, whom from her greeting to Miss Charlecote (for
introductions were not the way of the house) she concluded to be the
formidable Rashe, and therefore regarded with some curiosity.

Phoebe had expected her to be a large masculine woman, and was surprised
at her dapper proportions and not ungraceful manner.  Her face, neither
handsome nor the reverse, was one that neither in features nor complexion
revealed her age, and her voice was pitched to the tones of good society,
so that but for a certain 'don't care' sound in her words, and a defiant
freedom of address, Phoebe would have set down all she had heard as a
mistake, in spite of the table covered with the brilliant appliances of
fly-making, over which both she and Lucilla were engaged.  It was at the
period when ladies affected coats and waistcoats, and both cousins
followed the fashion to the utmost; wearing tightly-fitting black coats,
plain linen collars, and shirt-like under-sleeves, with black ties round
the neck.  Horatia was still in mourning for her mother, and wore a black
skirt, but Lucilla's was of rich deep gentianella-coloured silk, and the
buttons of her white vest were of beautiful coral.  The want of drapery
gave a harshness to Miss Charteris's appearance, but the little masculine
affectations only rendered Lucy's miniature style of feminine beauty
still more piquant.  Less tall than many girls of fourteen, she was
exquisitely formed; the close-fitting dress became her taper waist, the
ivory fairness of the throat and hands shone out in their boyish setting,
and the soft delicacy of feature and complexion were enhanced by the
vivid sparkling of those porcelain blue eyes, under the long lashes,
still so fair and glossy as to glisten in the light, like her profuse
flaxen tresses, arranged in a cunning wilderness of plaits and natural
ringlets.  The great charm was the minuteness and refinement of the mould
containing the energetic spirit that glanced in her eyes, quivered on her
lips, and pervaded every movement of the elastic feet and hands,
childlike in size, statue-like in symmetry, elfin in quickness and
dexterity.  'Lucile la Fee,' she might well have been called, as she sat
manipulating the gorgeous silk and feathers with an essential strength
and firmness of hands such as could hardly have been expected from such
small members, and producing such lovely specimens that nothing seemed
wanting but a touch of her wand to endow them with life.  It was fit
fairy work, and be it farther known, that few women are capable of it;
they seldom have sufficient accuracy of sustained attention and firmness
of finger combined, to produce anything artistic or durable, and the
accomplishment was therefore Lucilla's pride.  Her cousin could prepare
materials, but could not finish.  'Have you brought the pig's wool?'
repeated Lucy, as they sat down.  'No?  That _is_ a cruel way of
testifying.  I can't find a scrap of that shade, though I've nearly broke
my heart in the tackle shops.  Here's my last fragment, and this butcher
will be a wreck for want of it.'

'Let me see,' quoth the gentleman, bending over with an air of intimacy.

'You may see,' returned Lucilla, 'but that will do no good.  Owen got
this at a little shop at Elverslope, and we can only conclude that the
father of orange pigs is dead, for we've tried every maker, and can't hit
off the tint.'

'I've seen it in a shop in the Strand,' he said, with an air of
depreciation, such as set both ladies off with an ardour inexplicable to
mere spectators, both vehemently defending the peculiarity of their
favourite hue, and little personalities passing, exceedingly diverting
apparently to both parties, but which vexed Honora and dismayed Phoebe by
the coolness of the gentleman, and the ease with which he was treated by
the ladies.

Luncheon was announced in the midst, and in the dining-room they found
Miss Charteris, a dark, aquiline beauty, of highly-coloured complexion,
such as permitted the glowing hues of dress and ornament in which she
delighted, and large languid dark eyes of Oriental appearance.

In the scarlet and gold net confining her sable locks, her ponderous
earrings, her massive chains and bracelets, and gorgeous silk, she was a
splendid ornament at the head of the table; but she looked sleepily out
from under her black-fringed eyelids, turned over the carving as a matter
of course to Owen, and evidently regarded the two young ladies as bound
to take all trouble off her hands in talking, arranging, or settling what
she should do with herself or her carriage.

'Lolly shall take you there,' or 'Lolly shall call for that,' passed
between the cousins without the smallest reference to Lolly herself
(otherwise Eloisa), who looked serenely indifferent through all the plans
proposed for her, only once exerting her will sufficiently to say, 'Very
well, Rashe, dear, you'll tell the coachman--only don't forget that I
must go to Storr and Mortimer's.'

Honora expressed a hope that Lucilla would come with her party to the
Exhibition, and was not pleased that Mr. Calthorp exclaimed that there
was another plan.

'No, no, Mr. Calthorp, I never said any such thing!'

'Miss Charteris, is not that a little too strong?'

'You told me of the Dorking,' cried Lucilla, 'and you said you would not
miss the sight for anything; but I never said you should have it.'

Rashe meanwhile clapped her hands with exultation, and there was a
regular chatter of eager voices--'I should like to know how you would get
the hackles out of a suburban poultry fancier.'

'Out of him?--no, out of his best Dorking.  Priced at 120 pounds last
exhibition--two years old--wouldn't take 200 pounds for him now.'

'You don't mean that you've seen him?'

'Hurrah!'  Lucilla opened a paper, and waved triumphantly five of the
long tippet-plumes of chanticleer.

'You don't mean--'

'Mean!  I more than mean!  Didn't you tell us that you had been to see
the old party on business, and had spied the hackles walking about in his
yard?'

'And I had hoped to introduce you.'

'As if we needed that!  No, no.  Rashe, and I started off at six o'clock
this morning, to shake off the remains of the ball, rode down to
Brompton, and did our work.  No, it was not like the macaw business, I
declare.  The old gentleman held the bird for us himself, and I promised
him a dried salmon.'

'Well, I had flattered myself--it was an unfair advantage, Miss
Sandbrook.'

'Not in the least.  Had you gone, it would have cast a general clumsiness
over the whole transaction, and not left the worthy old owner half so
well satisfied.  I believe you had so little originality as to expect to
engage him in conversation while I captured the bird; but once was enough
of that.'

Phoebe could not help asking what was meant; and it was explained that,
while a call was being made on a certain old lady with a blue and yellow
macaw, Lucilla had contrived to abstract the prime glory of the
creature's tail--a blue feather lined with yellow--an irresistible charm
to a fisherwoman.  But here even the tranquil Eloisa murmured that Cilly
must never do so again when she went out with HER.

'No, Lolly, indeed I won't.  I prefer honesty, I assure you, except when
it is too commonplace.  I'll meddle with nothing at Madame Sonnini's this
afternoon.'

'Then you cannot come with us?'

'Why, you see, Honor, here have Rashe and I been appointed band-masters,
Lord Chamberlains, masters of the ceremonies, major-domos, and I don't
know what, to all the Castle Blanch concern; and as Rashe neither knows
nor cares about music, I've got all that on my hands; and I must take
Lolly to look on while I manage the programme.'

'Are you too busy to find a day to spend with us at St. Wulstan's?'

A discussion of engagements took place, apparently at the rate of five
per day; but Mrs. Charteris interposed an invitation to dinner for the
next evening, including Robert; and farther it appeared that all the
three were expected to take part in the Castle Blanch festivities.  Lolly
had evidently been told of them as settled certainties among the guests,
and Lucilla, Owen, and Rashe vied with each other in declaring that they
had imagined Honor to have brought Phoebe to London with no other intent,
and that all was fixed for the ladies to sleep at Castle Blanch the night
before, and Robert Fulmort to come down in the morning by train.

Nothing could have been farther from Honora's predilections than such
gaieties, but Phoebe's eyes were growing round with eagerness, and there
would be unkindness in denying her the pleasure, as well as churlishness
in disappointing Lucy and Owen, who had reckoned on her in so gratifying
a manner.  Without decidedly accepting or refusing, she let the talk go
on.

'Miss Fulmort,' said Ratia, 'I hope you are not too religious to dance.'

Much surprised, Phoebe made some reply in the negative.

'Oh, I forgot, that's not your sisters' line; but I thought . . . ' and
she gave an expressive glance to indicate Miss Charlecote.

'Oh, no,' again said Phoebe, decidedly.

'Yes, I understand.  Never mind, I ought to have remembered; but when
people are _gone in_, one is apt to forget whether they think
"promiscuous dancing" immoral or praiseworthy.  Well, you must know some
of my brother's constituents are alarmingly excellent--fat, suburban, and
retired; and we have hatched a juvenile hay-making, where they may eat
and flirt without detriment to decided piety; and when they go off, we
dress for a second instalment for an evening party.'

To Phoebe it sounded like opening Paradise, and she listened anxiously
for the decision; but nothing appeared certain except the morrow's
dinner, and that Lucilla was to come to spend the Sunday at Miss
Charlecote's; and this being fixed, the luncheon party broke up, with
such pretty bright affection on Lucilla's part, such merry coaxing of
Honor, and such orders to Phoebe to 'catch that Robin to-morrow,' that
there was no room left for the sense of disappointment that no rational
word had passed.

'Where?' asked Owen, getting into the carriage.

'Henry knows--the Royal Academy.'

'Ha! no alteration in consequence of the invitation? no finery required?
you must not carry Hiltonbury philosophy _too_ far.'

'I have not accepted it.'

'That is not required; it is your fate, Phoebe; why don't you speak, or
are you under an embargo from any of the wicked enchanters?  Even if so,
you might be got off among the pious juveniles.'

'Papa was so kind as to say I might go wherever Miss Charlecote liked,'
said Phoebe; 'but, indeed, I had rather do exactly what suits her; I dare
say the morning party will suit her best--'

'The oily popular preachers!'

'Thank you, Owen,' laughed Honor.

'No, now you must accept the whole.  There's room to give the preachers a
wide berth, even should they insist on "concluding with prayer," and it
will be a pretty sight.  They have the Guards' band coming.'

'I never heard a military band,' ejaculated Phoebe.

'And there are to be sports for the village children, I believe,' added
Owen; 'besides, you will like to meet some of the lions--the Archdeacon
and his wife will be there.'

'But how can I think of filling up Mrs. Charteris's house, without the
least acquaintance?'

'Honey-sweet philosopher, Eloisa heeds as little how her house is filled,
so it _be_ filled, as Jessica did her father's ring.  Five dresses a day,
with accoutrements to match, and for the rest she is sublimely
indifferent.  Fortune played her a cruel trick in preventing her from
being born a fair sultana.'

'Not to be a Mahometan?' said Phoebe.

'I don't imagine she is far removed from one;' then, as Phoebe's horror
made her look like Maria, he added--'don't mean that she was not bred a
Christian, but the Oriental mind never distinctly embraces tenets
contrary to its constitution.'

'Miss Charlecote, is he talking in earnest?'

'I hope not,' Honora said, a little severely, 'for he would be giving a
grievous account of the poor lady's faith--'

'Faith! no, my dear, she has not reflection enough for faith.  All that
enters into the Eastern female mind is a little observance.'

'And you are not going to lead Phoebe to believe that you think it
indifferent whether those observances be Christian or Pagan?' said
Honora, earnestly.

There was a little pause, and then Owen rather hesitatingly said--'It is
a hard thing to pronounce that three-fifths of one's fellow-creatures are
on the high road to Erebus, especially when ethnologically we find that
certain aspects of doctrine never have approved themselves to certain
races, and that climate is stronger than creed.  Am I not talking
Fennimorically, Phoebe?'

'Much more Fennimorically than I wish her to hear, or you to speak,' said
Honora; 'you talk as if there were no such thing as truth.'

'Ah! now comes the question of subjective and objective, and I was as
innocent as possible of any intention of plunging into such a sea, or
bringing those furrows into your forehead, dear Honor!  See what it is to
talk to you and Miss Fennimore's pupil.  All things, human and divine,
have arisen out of my simple endeavour to show you that you must come to
Castle Blanch, the planners of the feast having so ordained, and it being
good for all parties, due from the fairy godmother to the third princess,
and seriously giving Cilly another chance of returning within the bounds
of discretion.'

Honora thought as much.  She hoped that Robert would by that time have
assumed his right to plead with Lucilla, and that in such a case she
should be a welcome refuge, and Phoebe still more indispensable; so her
lips opened in a yielding smile, and Phoebe thanked her rapturously,
vague hopes of Robert's bliss adding zest to the anticipation of the
lifting of the curtain which hid the world of brightness.

'There's still time,' said Owen, with his hand on the check-string;
'which do you patronize?  Redmayne or--'

'Nonsense,' smiled Honor, 'we can't waste our escort upon women's work.'

'Ladies never want a gentleman more than when their taste is to be
directed.'

'He is afraid to trust us, Phoebe.'

'Conscience has spoken,' said Owen; 'she knows how she would go and
disguise herself in an old dowager's gown to try to look like sixty!'

'As for silk gowns--'

'I positively forbid it,' he cried, cutting her short; 'it is five years
old!'

'A reason why I should not have another too grand to wear out.'

'And you never ought to have had it.  Phoebe, it was bought when Lucy was
seventeen, on purpose to look as if she was of a fit age for a
wall-flower, and so well has the poor thing done its duty, that Lucy
hears herself designated as the pretty girl who belongs to the violet and
white!  If she had known _that_ was coming after her, I won't answer for
the consequence.'

'If it _does_ annoy Lucy--we do not so often go out together--don't,
Owen, I never said it was to be now, I am bent on Landseer.'

'But I said so,' returned Owen, 'for Miss Charlecote regards the
distressed dressmakers--four dresses--think of the fingers that must ache
over them.'

'Well, he does what he pleases,' sighed Honor; 'there's no help for it,
you see, Phoebe.  Shall you dislike looking on?'  For she doubted whether
Phoebe had been provided with means for her equipment, and might not
require delay and correspondence but the frank answer was, 'Thank you, I
shall be glad of the opportunity.  Papa told me I might fit myself out in
case of need.'

'And suppose we are too late for the Exhibition.'

'I never bought a dress before,' quoth Phoebe.

Owen laughed.  'That's right, Phoebe!  Be strong-minded and original
enough to own that some decorations surpass "Raffaelles, Correggios, and
stuff"--'

'No,' said Phoebe, simply, and with no affectation of scorn, 'they only
interest me more at this moment.'

Honor smiled to Owen her love for the honesty that never spoke for
effect, nor took what it believed it ought to feel, for what it really
felt.  Withal, Owen gained his purpose, and conducted the two ladies into
one of the great shops of ladies apparel.

Phoebe followed Miss Charlecote with eyes of lively anticipation.  Miss
Fennimore had taught her to be _real_ when she could not be
philosophical, and scruples as to the 'vain pomp and glory of the world'
had not presented themselves; she only found herself admitted to
privileges hitherto so jealously withheld as to endow them with a
factitious value, and in a scene of real beauty.  The textures, patterns,
and tints were, as Owen observed, such as approved themselves to the
aesthetic sense, the miniature embroidery of the brocades was absolute
art, and no contemptible taste was displayed in the apparently fortuitous
yet really elaborate groupings of rich and delicate hues, fine folds, or
ponderous draperies.

'Far from it,' said Honor; 'the only doubt is whether such be a worthy
application of aesthetics.  Were they not given us for better uses?'

'To diffuse the widest amount of happiness?'

'That is one purpose.'

'And a fair woman well dressed is the sight most delightful to the
greatest number of beholders.'

Honor made a playful face of utter repudiation of the maxim, but meeting
him on his own ground emphasized 'FAIR and WELL dressed--that is,
appropriately.'

'That is what brings me here, said Owen, turning round, as the changeful
silks, already asked for, were laid on the counter before them.

It was an amusing shopping.  The gentleman's object was to direct the
taste of both ladies, but his success was not the same.  Honora's first
affections fell upon a handsome black, enlivened by beautiful blue
flowers in the flounces; but her tyrant scouted it as a 'dingy dowager,'
and overruled her into choosing a delicate lavender, insisting that if it
were less durable, so much the better for her friends, and domineering
over the black lace accompaniments with a solemn tenderness that made her
warn him in a whisper that people were taking her for his ancient bride,
thus making him some degrees more drolly attentive; settling her
head-gear with the lady of the shop, without reference to her.  After
all, it was very charming to be so affectionately made a fool of, and it
was better for her children as well as due to the house of Charlecote
that she should not be a dowdy country cousin.

Meantime, Phoebe stood by amused, admiring, assisting, but not at all
bewildered.  Miss Fennimore had impressed the maxim; 'Always know what
you mean to do, and do it.'  She had never chosen a dress before, but
that did not hinder her from having a mind and knowing it; she had a
reply for each silk that Owen suggested, and the moment her turn came,
she desired to see a green glace.  In vain he exclaimed, and drew his
favourites in front of her, in vain appealed to Miss Charlecote and the
shopman; she laughed him off, took but a moment to reject each proffered
green which did not please her, and in as brief a space had recognized
the true delicate pale tint of ocean.  It was one that few complexions
could have borne, but their connoisseur, with one glance from it to her
fresh cheek, owned her right, though much depended on the garniture, and
he again brought forward his beloved lilac, insinuating that he should
regard her selection of it as a personal attention.  No; she laughed, and
said she had made up her mind and would not change; and while he was
presiding over Honora's black lace, she was beforehand with him, and her
bill was being made out for her white muslin worked mantle, white bonnet
with a tuft of lady grass, white evening dress, and wreath of lilies of
the valley.

'Green and white, forsaken quite,' was the best revenge that occurred to
him, and Miss Charlecote declared herself ashamed that the old lady's
dress had caused so much more fuss than the young lady's.

It was of course too late for the Exhibition, so they applied themselves
to further shopping, until Owen had come to the farthest point whence he
could conveniently walk back to dine with his cousins, and go with them
to the opera, and he expended some vituperation upon Ratia for an
invitation which had prevented Phoebe from being asked to join the party.

Phoebe was happy enough without it, and though not morbidly bashful, felt
that at present it was more comfortable to be under Miss Charlecote's
wing than that of Lucilla, and that the quiet evening was more composing
than fresh scenes of novelty.

The Woolstone-lane world was truly very different from that of which she
had had a glimpse, and quite as new to her.  Mr. Parsons, after his
partial survey, was considering of possibilities, or more truly of
endeavours at impossibilities, a mission to that dreadful population,
means of discovering their sick, of reclaiming their children, of causing
the true Light to shine in that frightful gross darkness that covered the
people.  She had never heard anything yet discussed save on the principle
of self-pleasing or self-aggrandizement; here, self-spending was the
axiom on which all the problems were worked.

After dinner, Mr. Parsons retired into the study, and while his wife and
Miss Charlecote sat down for a friendly gossip over the marriages of the
two daughters, Phoebe welcomed an unrestrained _tete-a-tete_ with her
brother.  They were one on either seat of the old oriel window, she, with
her work on her lap, full of pleasant things to tell him, but pausing as
she looked up, and saw his eyes far far away, as he knelt on the cushion,
his elbows on the sill of the open lattice, one hand supporting his chin,
the other slowly erecting his hair into the likeness of the fretful
porcupine.  He had heard of, but barely assented to, the morrow's dinner,
or the _fete_ at Castle Blanch; he had not even asked her how Lucilla
looked; and after waiting for some time, she said, as a feeler--'You go
with us to-morrow?'

'I suppose I must.'

'Lucy said so much in her pretty way about catching the robin, that I am
sure she was vexed at your not having called.'

No answer: his eyes had not come home.

Presently he mumbled something so much distorted by the compression of
his chin, and by his face being out of window, that his sister could not
make it out.  In answer to her sound of inquiry, he took down one hand,
removed the other from his temple, and emitting a modicum more voice from
between his teeth, said, 'It is plain--it can't be--'

'What can't be?  Not--Lucy?' gasped Phoebe.

'I can't take shares in the business.'

Her look of relief moved him to explain, and drawing himself in, he sat
down on his own window-seat, stretching a leg across, and resting one
foot upon that where she was placed, so as to form a sort of barrier,
shutting themselves into a sense of privacy.

'I can't do it,' he repeated, 'not if my bread depended on it.'

'What is the matter?'

'I have looked into the books, I have gone over it with Rawlins.'

'You don't mean that we are going to be ruined?'

'Better that we were than to go on as we do!  Phoebe, it is wickedness.'
There was a long pause.  Robert rested his brow on his hand, Phoebe gazed
intently at him, trying to unravel the idea so suddenly presented.  She
had reasoned it out before he looked up, and she roused him by softly
saying, 'You mean that you do not like the manufacture of spirits because
they produce so much evil.'

Though he did not raise his head, she understood his affirmation, and
went on with her quiet logic, for, poor girl, hers was not the happy
maiden's defence--'What my father does cannot be wrong.'  Without
condemning her father, she instinctively knew that weapon was not in her
armoury, and could only betake herself to the merits of the case.  'You
know how much rather I would see you a clergyman, dear Robin,' she said;
'but I do not understand why you change your mind.  We always knew that
spirits were improperly used, but that is no reason why none should be
made, and they are often necessary.'

'Yes,' he answered; 'but, Phoebe, I have learnt to-day that our trade is
not supported by the lawful use of spirits.  It is the ministry of hell.'

Phoebe raised her startled eyes in astonished inquiry.

'I would have credited nothing short of the books, but there I find that
not above a fifth part of our manufacture goes to respectable houses,
where it is applied properly.  The profitable traffic, which it is the
object to extend, is the supply of the gin palaces of the city.  The
leases of most of those you see about here belong to the firm, it
supplies them, and gains enormously on their receipts.  It is to extend
the dealings in this way that my legacy is demanded.'

The enormity only gradually beginning to dawn upon Phoebe, all she said
was a meditative--'You would not like that.'

'You did not realize it,' he said, nettled at her quiet tone.  'Do not
you understand?  You and I, and all of us, have eaten and drunk, been
taught more than we could learn, lived in a fine house, and been made
into ladies and gentlemen, all by battening on the vice and misery of
this wretched population.  Those unhappy men and women are lured into the
gaudy palaces at the corners of the streets to purchase a moment's
oblivion of conscience, by stinting their children of bread, that we may
wear fine clothes, and call ourselves county people.'

'Do not talk so, Robert,' she exclaimed, trembling; 'it cannot be right
to say such things--'

'It is only the bare fact! it is no pleasure to me to accuse my own
father, I assure you, Phoebe, but I cannot blind myself to the simple
truth.'

'He cannot see it in that light.'

'He _will_ not.'

'Surely,' faltered Phoebe, 'it cannot be so bad when one does not know it
is--'

'So far true.  The conscience does not waken quickly to evils with which
our lives have been long familiar.'

'And Mervyn was brought up to it--'

'That is not my concern,' said Robert, too much in the tone of 'Am I my
brother's keeper?'

'You will at least tell your reasons for refusing.'

'Yes, and much I shall be heeded!  However, my own hands shall be pure
from the wages of iniquity.  I am thankful that all I have comes from the
Mervyns.'

'It is a comfort, at least, that you see your way.'

'I suppose it is;' but he sighed heavily, with a sense that it was almost
profanation to have set such a profession in the balance against the
sacred ministry.

'I know _she_ will like it best.'

Dear Phoebe! in spite of Miss Fennimore, faith must still have been much
stronger than reason if she could detect the model parsoness in yonder
firefly.

Poor child, she went to bed, pondering over her brother's terrible
discoveries, and feeling as though she had suddenly awakened to find
herself implicated in a web of iniquity; her delightful parcel of
purchases lost their charms, and oppressed her as she thought of them in
connection with the rags of the squalid children the rector had
described, and she felt as if there were no escape, and she could never
be happy again under the knowledge of the price of her luxuries, and the
dread of judgment.  'Much good had their wealth done them,' as Robert
truly said.  The house of Beauchamp had never been nearly so happy as if
their means had been moderate.  Always paying court to their own station,
or they were disunited among themselves, and not yet amalgamated with the
society to which they had attained, the younger ones passing their elders
in cultivation, and every discomfort of change of position felt, though
not acknowledged.  Even the mother, lady as she was by birth, had only
belonged to the second-rate class of gentry, and while elevated by
wealth, was lowered by connection, and not having either mind or strength
enough to stand on her own ground, trod with an ill-assured foot on that
to which she aspired.

Not that all this crossed Phoebe's mind.  There was merely a dreary sense
of depression, and of living in the midst of a grievous mistake, from
which Robert alone had the power of disentangling himself, and she fell
asleep sadly enough; but, fortunately, sins, committed neither by
ourselves, nor by those for whom we are responsible, have not a lasting
power of paining; and she rose up in due time to her own calm sunshiny
spirit of anticipation of the evening's meeting between Robin and
Lucy--to say nothing of her own first dinner-party.



CHAPTER IV


    And instead of 'dearest Miss,'
    Jewel, honey, sweetheart, bliss,
    And those forms of old admiring,
    Call her cockatrice and siren.--C. LAMB

The ladies of the house were going to a ball, and were in full costume:
Eloisa a study for the Arabian Nights, and Lucilla in an azure
gossamer-like texture surrounding her like a cloud, turquoises on her
arms, and blue and silver ribbons mingled with her blonde tresses.

Very like the clergyman's wife!

O sage Honor, were you not provoked with yourself for being so old as to
regard that bewitching sprite, and marvel whence comes the cost of those
robes of the woof of Faerie?

Let Oberon pay Titania's bills.

That must depend on who Oberon is to be.

Phoebe, to whom a doubt on that score would have appeared high treason,
nevertheless hated the presence of Mr. Calthorp as much as she could hate
anything, and was in restless anxiety as to Titania's behaviour.  She
herself had no cause to complain, for she was at once singled out and led
away from Miss Charlecote, to be shown some photographic performances, in
which Lucy and her cousin had been dabbling.

'There, that horrid monster is Owen--he never will come out respectable.
Mr. Prendergast, he is better, because you don't see his face.  There's
our school, Edna Murrell and all; I flatter myself that _is_ a work of
art; only this little wretch fidgeted, and muddled himself.'

'Is that the mistress?  She does not look like one.'

'Not like Sally Page?  No; she would bewilder the Hiltonbury mind.  I
mean you to see her; I would not miss the shock to Honor.  No, don't show
it to her!  I won't have any preparation.'

'Do you call that preparation?' said Owen, coming up, and taking up the
photograph indignantly.  'You should not do such things, Cilly!'

''Tisn't I that do them--it's Phoebe's brother--the one in the sky I
mean, Dan Phoebus, and if he won't flatter, I can't help it.  No, no,
I'll not have it broken; it is an exact likeness of all the children's
spotted frocks, and if it be not of Edna, it ought to be.'

'Look, Robert,' said Phoebe, as she saw him standing shy, grave, and
monumental, with nervous hands clasped over the back of a chair, neither
advancing nor retreating, 'what a beautiful place this is!'

'Oh! that's from a print--Glendalough!  I mean to bring you plenty of the
real place.'

'Kathleen's Cave,' said the unwelcome millionaire.

'Yes, with a comment on Kathleen's awkwardness!  I should like to see the
hermit who could push me down.'

'You!  You'll never tread in Kathleen's steps!'

'Because I shan't find a hermit in the cave.'

'Talk of skylarking on "the lake whose gloomy shore!"'  They all laughed
except the two Fulmorts.

'There's a simpler reason,' said one of the Guardsmen, 'namely, that
neither party will be there at all.'

'No, not the saint--'

'Nor the lady.  Miss Charteris tells me all the maiden aunts are come up
from the country.'  (How angry Phoebe was!)

'Happily it is an article I don't possess.'

'Well, we will not differ about technicalities, as long as the fact is
the same.  You'll remember my words when you are kept on a diet of Hannah
More and Miss Edgeworth till you shall have abjured hounds, balls, and
salmon-flies.'

'The woman lives not who has the power!'

'What bet will you take, Miss Sandbrook?'

'What bet will you take, Lord William, that, maiden aunts and all, I
appear on the 3rd, in a dress of salmon-flies?'

'A hat trimmed with goose feathers to a pocket-handkerchief, that by that
time you are in the family mansion, repenting of your sins.'

Phoebe looked on like one in a dream, while the terms of the wager were
arranged with playful precision.  She did not know that dinner had been
announced, till she found people moving, and in spite of her antipathy to
Mr. Calthorp, she rejoiced to find him assigned to herself--dear, good
Lucy must have done it to keep Robin to herself, and dear, good Lucy she
shall be, in spite of the salmon, since in the progress down-stairs she
has cleared the cloud from his brow.

It was done by a confiding caressing clasp on his arm, and the few words,
'Now for old friends!  How charming little Phoebe looks!'

How different were his massive brow and deep-set eyes without their usual
load, and how sweet his gratified smile!

'Where have you been, you Robin?  If I had not passed you in the Park, I
should never have guessed there was such a bird in London.  I began to
change my mind, like Christiana--"I thought Robins were harmless and
gentle birds, wont to hop about men's doors, and feed on crumbs, and
such-like harmless food."'

'And have you seen me eating worms?'

'I've not seen you at all.'

'I did not think you had leisure--I did not believe I should be welcome.'

'The cruellest cut of all! positive irony--'

'No, indeed! I am not so conceited as--'

'As what?'

'As to suppose you could want me.'

'And there was I longing to hear about Phoebe!  If you had only come, I
could have contrived her going to the _Zauberflote_ with us last night,
but I didn't know the length of her tether.'

'I did not know you were so kind.'

'Be kinder yourself another time.  Don't I know how I have been torn to
pieces at Hiltonbury, without a friend to say one word for the poor
little morsel!' she said, piteously.

He was impelled to an eager 'No, no!' but recalling facts, he modified
his reply into, 'Friends enough, but very anxious!'

'There, I knew none of you trusted me,' she said, pretending to pout.

'When play is so like earnest--'

'Slow people are taken in!  That's the fun!  I like to show that I can
walk alone sometimes, and not be snatched up the moment I pop my head
from under my leading-strings.'

Her pretty gay toss of the head prevented Robert from thinking whether
woman is meant to be without leading-strings.

'And it was to avoid countenancing my vagaries that you stayed away?' she
said, with a look of injured innocence.

'I was very much occupied,' answered Robert, feeling himself in the
wrong.

'That horrid office!  You aren't thinking of becoming a Clarence, to
drown yourself in brandy--that would never do.'

'No, I have given up all thoughts of that!'

'You _thought_, you wretched Redbreast!  I _thought_ you knew better.'

'So I ought,' said Robert, gravely, 'but my father wished me to make the
experiment, and I must own, that before I looked into the details, there
were considerations which--which--'

'Such considerations as pounds_ s. d._?  For shame!'

'For shame, indeed,' said the happy Robert.  'Phoebe judged you truly.  I
did not know what might be the effect of habit--' and he became
embarrassed, doubtful whether she would accept the assumption on which he
spoke; but she went beyond his hopes.

'The only place I ever cared for is a very small old parsonage,' she
said, with feeling in her tone.

'Wrapworth? that is near Castle Blanch.'

'Yes!  I must show it you.  You shall come with Honor and Phoebe on
Monday, and I will show you everything.'

'I should be delighted--but is it not arranged?'

'I'll take care of that.  Mr. Prendergast shall take you in, as he would
a newly-arrived rhinoceros, if I told him.  He was our curate, and used
to live in the house even in our time.  Don't say a word, Robin; it is to
be.  I must have you see my river, and the stile where my father used to
sit when he was tired.  I've never told any one which that is.'

Ordinarily Lucilla never seemed to think of her father, never named him,
and her outpouring was doubly prized by Robert, whose listening face drew
her on.

'I was too much of a child to understand how fearfully weak he must have
been, for he could not come home from the castle without a rest on that
stile, and we used to play round him, and bring him flowers.  My best
recollections are all of that last summer--it seems like my whole life at
home, and much longer than it could really have been.  We were all in all
to one another.  How different it would have been if he had lived!  I
think no one has believed in me since.'

There was something ineffably soft and sad in the last words, as the
beautiful, petted, but still lonely orphan cast down her eyelids with a
low long sigh, as though owning her errors, but pleading this
extenuation.  Robert, much moved, was murmuring something incoherent, but
she went on.  'Rashe does, perhaps.  Can't you see how it is a part of
the general disbelief in me to suppose that I come here only for London
seasons, and such like?  I must live where I have what the dear old soul
there has not got to give.'

'You cannot doubt of her affection.  I am sure there is nothing she would
not do for you.'

'"Do!" that is not what I want.  It can't be done, it must be _felt_, and
that it never will be.  When there's a mutual antagonism, gratitude
becomes a fetter, intolerable when it is strained.'

'I cannot bear to hear you talk so; revering Miss Charlecote as I do, and
feeling that I owe everything to her notice.'

'Oh, I find no fault, I reverence her too!  It was only the nature of
things, not her intentions, nor her kindness, that was to blame.  She
meant to be justice and mercy combined towards us, but I had all the one,
and Owen all the other.  Not that I am jealous!  Oh, no!  Not that she
could help it; but no woman can help being hard on her rival's daughter.'

Nothing but the sweet tone and sad arch smile could have made this speech
endurable to Robert, even though he remembered many times when the
trembling of the scale in Miss Charlecote's hands had filled him with
indignation.  'You allow that it was justice,' he said, smiling.

'No doubt of that,' she laughed.  'Poor Honor!  I must have been a
grievous visitation, but I am very good now; I shall come and spend
Sunday as gravely as a judge, and when you come to Wrapworth, you shall
see how I can go to the school when it is not forced down my throat--no
merit either, for our mistress is perfectly charming, with _such_ a
voice!  If I were Phoebe I would look out, for Owen is desperately
smitten.'

'Phoebe!' repeated Robert, with a startled look.

'Owen and Phoebe!  I considered it _une affaire arrangee_ as much as--'
She had almost said you and me: Robert could supply the omission, but he
was only blind of _one_ eye, and gravely said, 'It is well there is
plenty of time before Owen to tame him down.'

'Oney,' laughed Lucilla; 'yes, he has a good deal to do in that line,
with his opinions in such a mess that I really don't know what he does
believe.'

Though the information was not new to Robert, her levity dismayed him,
and he gravely began, 'If you have such fears--' but she cut him off
short.

'Did you ever play at bagatelle?'

He stared in displeased surprise.

'Did you never see the ball go joggling about before it could settle into
its hole, and yet abiding there very steadily at last?  Look on quietly,
and you will see the poor fellow as sober a parish priest as yourself.'

'You are a very philosophical spectator of the process,' Robert said,
still displeased.

'Just consider what a capacious swallow the poor boy had in his tender
infancy, and how hard it was crammed with legends, hymns, and allegories,
with so many scruples bound down on his poor little conscience, that no
wonder, when the time of expansion came, the whole concern should give
way with a jerk.'

'I thought Miss Charlecote's education had been most anxiously
admirable.'

'Precisely so!  Don't you see?  Why, how dull you are for a man who has
been to Oxford!'

'I should seriously be glad to hear your view, for Owen's course has
always been inexplicable to me.'

'To you, poor Robin, who lived gratefully on the crumbs of our
advantages!  The point was that to you they were crumbs, while we had a
surfeit.'

'Owen never seemed overdone.  I used rather to hate him for his
faultlessness, and his familiarity with what awed my ignorance.'

'The worse for him!  He was too apt a scholar, and received all
unresisting, unsifting--Anglo-Catholicism, slightly touched with
sentiment, enthusiasm for the Crusades, passive obedience--acted
faithfully up to it; imagined that to be "not a good Churchman," as he
told Charles, expressed the seven deadly sins, and that reasoning was the
deadliest of all!'

'As far as I understand you, you mean that there was not sufficient
distinction between proven and non-proven--important and unimportant.'

'You begin to perceive.  If Faith be overworked, Reason kicks; and, of
course, when Owen found the Holt was not the world; that thinking was not
the exclusive privilege of demons; that habits he considered as
imperative duties were inconvenient, not to say impracticable; that his
articles of faith included much of the apocryphal,--why, there was a
general downfall!'

'Poor Miss Charlecote,' sighed Robert, 'it is a disheartening effect of
so much care.'

'She should have let him alone, then, for Uncle Kit to make a sailor of.
Then he would have had something better to do than to _think_!'

'Then you are distressed about him?' said Robert, wistfully.

'Thank you,' said she, laughing; 'but you see I am too wise ever to think
or distress myself.  He'll think himself straight in time, and begin a
reconstruction from his scattered materials, I suppose, and meantime he
is a very comfortable brother, as such things go; but it is one of the
grudges I can't help owing to Honora, that such a fine fellow as that is
not an independent sailor or soldier, able to have some fun, and not
looked on as a mere dangler after the Holt.'

'I thought the reverse was clearly understood?'

'She ought to have "acted as sich."  How my relatives, and yours too,
would laugh if you told them so!  Not that I think, like them, that it is
Elizabethan dislike to naming a successor, nor to keep him on his good
behaviour; she is far above that, but it is plain how it will he.  The
only other relation she knows in the world is farther off than we
are--not a bit more of a Charlecote, and twice her age; and when she has
waited twenty or thirty years longer for the auburn-haired lady my father
saw in a chapel at Toronto, she will bethink herself that Owen, or Owen's
eldest son, had better have it than the Queen.  That's the sense of it;
but I hate the hanger-on position it keeps him in.'

'It is a misfortune,' said Robert.  'People treat him as a man of
expectations, and at his age it would not be easy to disown them, even to
himself.  He has an eldest son air about him, which makes people impose
on him the belief that he is one; and yet, who could have guarded against
the notion more carefully than Miss Charlecote?'

'I'm of Uncle Kit's mind,' said Lucilla, 'that children should be left to
their natural guardians.  What! is Lolly really moving before I have
softened down the edge of my ingratitude?'

'So!' said Miss Charteris, as she brought up the rear of the procession
of ladies on the stairs.

Lucilla faced about on the step above, with a face where interrogation
was mingled with merry defiance.

'So that is why the Calthorp could not get a word all the livelong
dinner-time!'

'Ah!  I used you ill; I promised you an opportunity of studying "Cock
Robin," but you see I could not help keeping him myself--I had not seen
him for so long.'

'You were very welcome!  It is the very creature that baffles me.  I can
talk to any animal in the world except an incipient parson.'

'Owen, for instance?'

'Oh! if people choose to put a force on nature, there can be no general
rules.  But, Cilly, you know I've always said you should marry whoever
you liked; but I require another assurance--on your word and honour--that
you are not irrevocably Jenny Wren as yet!'

'Did you not see the currant wine?' said Cilly, pulling leaves off a
myrtle in a tub on the stairs, and scattering them over her cousin.

'Seriously, Cilly!  Ah, I see now--your exclusive attention to him
entirely reassures me.  You would never have served him so, if you had
meant it.'

'It was commonplace in me,' said Lucilla, gravely, 'but I could not help
it; he made me feel so good--or so bad--that I believe I shall--'

'Not give up the salmon,' cried Horatia.  'Cilly, you will drive me to
commit matrimony on the spot.'

'Do,' said Lucilla, running lightly up, and dancing into the
drawing-room, where the ladies were so much at their ease, on low couches
and ottomans, that Phoebe stood transfixed by the novelty of a
drawing-room treated with such freedom as was seldom permitted in even
the schoolroom at Beauchamp, when Miss Fennimore was in presence.

'Phoebe, bright Phoebe!' cried Lucilla, pouncing on both her hands, and
drawing her towards the other room, 'it is ten ages since I saw you, and
you must bring your taste to aid my choice of the fly costume.  Did you
hear, Rashe?  I've a bet with Lord William that I appear at the ball all
in flies.  Isn't it fun?'

'Oh, jolly!' cried Horatia.  'Make yourself a pike-fly.'

'No, no; not a guy for any one.  Only wear a trimming of salmon-flies,
which will be lovely.'

'You do not really mean it?' said Phoebe.

'Mean it?  With all my heart, in spite of the tremendous sacrifice of
good flies.  Where honour is concerned--'

'There, I knew you would not shirk.'

'Did I ever say so?'--in a whisper, not unheard by Phoebe, and affording
her so much satisfaction that she only said, in a grave, puzzled voice,
'The hooks?'

'Hooks and all,' was the answer.  'I do nothing by halves.'

'What a state of mind the fishermen will be in! proceeded Horatia.
'You'll have every one of them at your feet.'

'I shall tell them that two of a trade never agree.  Come, and let us
choose.'  And opening a drawer, Lucilla took out her long parchment book,
and was soon eloquent on the merits of the doctor, the butcher, the
duchess, and all her other radiant fabrications of gold pheasants'
feathers, parrot plumes, jays' wings, and the like.  Phoebe could not
help admiring their beauty, though she was perplexed all the while,
uncomfortable on Robert's account, and yet not enough assured of the
usages of the London world to be certain whether this were unsuitable.
The Charteris family, though not of the most _elite_ circles of all, were
in one to which the Fulmorts had barely the _entree_, and the ease and
dash of the young ladies, Lucilla's superior age, and caressing
patronage, all made Phoebe in her own eyes too young and ignorant to pass
an opinion.  She would have known more about the properties of a
rectangle or the dangers of a paper currency.

Longing to know what Miss Charlecote thought, she stood, answering as
little as possible, until Rashe had been summoned to the party in the
outer room, and Cilly said, laughing, 'Well, does she astonish your
infant mind?'

'I do not quite enter into her,' said Phoebe, doubtfully.

'The best-natured and most unappreciated girl in the world.  Up to
anything, and only a victim to prejudice.  You, who have a strong-minded
governess, ought to be superior to the delusion that it is interesting to
be stupid and helpless.'

'I never thought so,' said Phoebe, feeling for a moment in the wrong, as
Lucilla always managed to make her antagonists do.

'Yes, you do, or why look at me in that pleading, perplexed fashion, save
that you have become possessed with the general prejudice.  Weigh it, by
the light of Whately's logic, and own candidly wherefore Rashe and I
should be more liable to come to grief, travelling alone, than two men of
the same ages.'

'I have not grounds enough to judge,' said Phoebe, beginning as though
Miss Fennimore were giving an exercise to her reasoning powers; then,
continuing with her girlish eagerness of entreaty, 'I only know that it
cannot be right, since it grieves Robin and Miss Charlecote so much.'

'And all that grieves Robin and Miss Charlecote must be shocking, eh?
Oh, Phoebe, what very women all the Miss Fennimores in the world leave
us, and how lucky it is!'

'But I don't think you are going to grieve them,' said Phoebe, earnestly.

'I hate the word!' said Lucilla.  'Plaguing is only fun, but grieving,
that is serious.'

'I do believe this is only plaguing!' cried Phoebe, 'and that this is
your way of disposing of all the flies.  I shall tell Robin so!'

'To spoil all my fun,' exclaimed Lucilla.  'No, indeed!'

Phoebe only gave a nod and smile of supreme satisfaction.

'Ah! but, Phoebe, if I'm to grieve nobody, what's to become of poor
Rashe, you little selfish woman?'

'Selfish, no!' sturdily said Phoebe.  'If it be wrong for you, it must be
equally wrong for her; and perhaps' she added, slowly, 'you would both be
glad of some good reason for giving it up.  Lucy, dear, do tell me
whether you really like it, for I cannot fancy you so.'

'Like it?  Well, yes!  I like the salmons, and I dote on the fun and the
fuss.  I say, Phoebe, can you bear the burden of a secret?  Well--only
mind, if you tell Robin or Honor, I shall certainly go; we never would
have taken it up in earnest if such a rout had not been made about it,
that we were driven to show we did not care, and could be trusted with
ourselves.'

'Then you don't mean it?'

'That's as people behave themselves.  Hush!  Here comes Honor.  Look
here, Sweet Honey, I am in a process of selection.  I am pledged to come
out at the ball in a unique trimming of salmon-flies.'

'My dear!' cried poor Honor, in consternation, 'you can't be so absurd.'

'It is so slow not to be absurd.'

'At fit times, yes; but to make yourself so conspicuous!'

'They say I can't help that,' returned Lucy, in a tone of comical
melancholy.

'Well, my dear, we will talk it over on Sunday, when I hope you may be in
a rational mood.'

'Don't say so,' implored Lucilla, 'or I shan't have the courage to come.
A rational mood!  It is enough to frighten one away; and really I do want
very much to come.  I've not heard a word yet about the Holt.  How is the
old dame, this summer?'

And Lucy went on with unceasing interest about all Hiltonbury matters,
great and small, bewitching Honora more than would have seemed possible
under the circumstances.  She was such a winning fairy that it was hardly
possible to treat her seriously, or to recollect causes of displeasure,
when under the spell of her caressing vivacity, and unruffled, audacious
fun.

So impregnable was her gracious good-humour, so untameable her high
spirits, that it was only by remembering the little spitfire of twelve or
fourteen years ago that it was credible that she had a temper at all; the
temper erst wont to exhale in chamois bounds and dervish pirouettes, had
apparently left not a trace behind, and the sullen ungraciousness to
those who offended her had become the sunniest sweetness, impossible to
disturb.  Was it real improvement?  Concealment it was not, for Lucilla
had always been transparently true.  Was it not more probably connected
with that strange levity, almost insensibility, that had apparently
indurated feelings which in early childhood had seemed sensitive even to
the extent of violence?  Was she only good-humoured because nothing
touched her?  Had that agony of parting with her gentle father seared her
affections, till she had become like a polished gem, all bright glancing
beauty, but utterly unfeeling?



CHAPTER V


    Reproof falleth on the saucy as water.--FEEJEE PROVERB

Considerate of the slender purses of her children, Honora had devoted her
carriage to fetch them to St. Wulstan's on the Sunday morning, but her
offer had been declined, on the ground that the Charteris conveyances
were free to them, and that it was better to make use of an establishment
to which Sunday was no object, than to cloud the honest face of the
Hiltonbury coachman by depriving his horses of their day of rest.  Owen
would far rather take a cab than so affront Grey!  Pleased with his
bright manner, Honora had yet reason to fear that expense was too
indifferent to both brother and sister, and that the Charteris household
only encouraged recklessness.  Wherever she went she heard of the
extravagance of the family, and in the shops the most costly wares were
recommended as the choice of Mrs. Charteris.  Formerly, though Honor had
equipped Lucilla handsomely for visits to Castle Blanch, she had always
found her wardrobe increased by the gifts of her uncle and aunt.  The
girl had been of age more than a year, and in the present state of the
family, it was impossible that her dress could be still provided at their
expense, yet it was manifestly far beyond her means; and what could be
the result?  She would certainly brook no interference, and would cast
advice to the winds.  Poor Honor could only hope for a crash that would
bring her to reason, and devise schemes for forcing her from the effects
of her own imprudence without breaking into her small portion.  The great
fear was lost false pride, and Charteris influence, should lead her to
pay her debts at the cost of a marriage with the millionaire; and Honor
could take little comfort in Owen's assurance that the Calthorp had too
much sense to think of Cilly Sandbrook, and only promoted and watched her
vagaries for the sake of amusement and curiosity.  There was small
satisfaction to her well-wishers in hearing that no sensible man could
think seriously of her.

Anxiously was that Sunday awaited in Woolstone-lane, the whole party
feeling that this was the best chance of seeing Lucilla in a reasonable
light, and coming to an understanding with her.  Owen was often enough
visible in the interim, and always extremely agreeable; but Lucilla
never, and he only brought an account of her gaieties, shrugging his
shoulders over them.

The day came; the bells began, they chimed, they changed, but still no
Sandbrooks appeared.  Mr. Parsons set off, and Robert made an excursion
to the corner of the street.  In vain Miss Charlecote still lingered;
Mrs. Parsons, in despair, called Phoebe on with her as the single bell
rang, and Honor and Robert presently started with heads turned over their
shoulders, and lips laying all blame on Charteris' delays of breakfast.
A last wistful look, and the church porch engulfed them; but even when
enclosed in the polished square pew, they could not resign hope at every
tread on the matted floor, and finally subsided into a trust that the
truants might after service emerge from a seat near the door.  There were
only too many to choose from.

That hope baffled, Honora still manufactured excuses which Phoebe
greedily seized and offered to her brother, but she read his rejection of
them in his face, and to her conviction that it was all accident, he
answered, as she took his arm, 'A small accident would suffice for
Sandbrook.'

'You don't think he is hindering his sister!'

'I can't tell.  I only know that he is one of the many stumbling-blocks
in her way.  He can do no good to any one with whom he associates
intimately.  I hate to see him reading poetry with you.'

'Why did you never tell me so?' asked the startled Phoebe.

'You are so much taken up with him that I can never get at you, when I am
not devoured by that office.'

'I am sure I did not know it,' humbly answered Phoebe.  'He is very kind
and amusing, and Miss Charlecote is so fond of him that, of course, we
must be together; but I never meant to neglect you, Robin, dear.'

'No, no, nonsense, it is no paltry jealousy; only now I can speak to you,
I must,' said Robert, who had been in vain craving for this opportunity
of getting his sister alone, ever since the alarm excited by Lucilla's
words.

'What is this harm, Robin?'

'Say not a word of it.  Miss Charlecote's heart must not be broken before
its time, and at any rate it shall not come through me.'

'What, Robert?'

'The knowledge of what he is.  Don't say it is prejudice.  I know I never
liked him, but you shall hear why.  You ought now--'

Robert's mind had often of late glanced back to the childish days when,
with their present opinions reversed, he thought Owen a muff, and Owen
thought him a reprobate.  To his own blunt and reserved nature, the
expressions, so charming to poor Miss Charlecote, had been painfully
distasteful.  Sentiment, profession, obtrusive reverence, and
fault-finding scruples had revolted him, even when he thought it a proof
of his own irreligion to be provoked.  Afterwards, when both were
schoolboys, Robert had yearly increased in conscientiousness under good
discipline and training, but, in their holiday meetings, had found Owen's
standard receding as his own advanced, and heard the once-deficient manly
spirit asserted by boasts of exploits and deceptions repugnant to a
well-conditioned lad.  He saw Miss Charlecote's perfect confidence abused
and trifled with, and the more he grew in a sense of honour, the more he
disliked Owen Sandbrook.

At the University, where Robert's career had been respectable and
commonplace, Owen was at once a man of mark.  Mental and physical powers
alike rendered him foremost among his compeers; he could compete with the
fast, and surpass the slow on their own ground; and his talents, ready
celerity, good-humoured audacity, and quick resource, had always borne
him through with the authorities, though there was scarcely an excess or
irregularity in which he was not a partaker; and stories of Sandbrook's
daring were always circulating among the undergraduates.  But though
Robert could have scared Phoebe with many a history of lawless pranks,
yet these were not his chief cause for dreading Owen's intimacy with her.
It was that he was one of the youths on whom the spirit of the day had
most influence, one of the most adventurous thinkers and boldest talkers:
wild in habits, not merely from ebullition of spirits, but from want of
faith in the restraining power.

All this Robert briefly expressed in the words, 'Phoebe, it is not that
his habits are irregular and unsteady; many are so whose hearts are
sound.  But he is not sound--his opinions are loose, and he only respects
and patronizes Divine Truth as what has approved itself to so many good,
great, and beloved human creatures.  It is not denial--it is patronage.
It is the commonsense heresy--'

'I thought we all ought to learn common sense.'

'Yes, in things human, but in things Divine it is the subtle English form
of rationalism.  This is no time to explain, Phoebe; but human sense and
intellect are made the test, and what surpasses them is only admired as
long as its stringent rules do not fetter the practice.'

'I am sorry you told me,' said Phoebe, thoughtfully, 'for I always liked
him; he is so kind to me.'

Had not Robert been full of his own troubles he would have been
reassured, but he only gave a contemptuous groan.

'Does Lucy know this?' she asked.

'She told me herself what I well knew before.  She does not reflect
enough to take it seriously, and contrives to lay the blame upon the
narrowness of Miss Charlecote's training.'

'Oh, Robin!  When all our best knowledge came from the Holt!'

'She says, perhaps not unjustly, that Miss Charlecote overdid things with
him, and that this is reaction.  She observes keenly.  If she would only
_think_!  She would have been perfect had her father lived, to work on
her by affection.'

'The time for that is coming--'

Robert checked her, saying, 'Stay, Phoebe.  The other night I was fooled
by her engaging ways, but each day since I have become more convinced
that I must learn whether she be only using me like the rest.  I want you
to be a witness of my resolution, lest I should be tempted to fail.  I
came to town, hesitating whether to enter the business for her sake.  I
found that this could not be done without a great sin.  I look on myself
as dedicated to the ministry, and thus bound to have a household suited
to my vocation.  All must turn on her willingness to conform to this
standard.  I shall lay it before her.  I can bear the suspense no longer.
My temper and resolution are going, and I am good for nothing.  Let the
touchstone be, whether she will resign her expedition to Ireland, and go
quietly home with Miss Charlecote.  If she will so do, there is surely
that within her that will shine out brighter when removed from irritation
on the one side, or folly on the other.  If she will not, I have no
weight with her; and it is due to the service I am to undertake, to force
myself away from a pursuit that could only distract me.  I have no right
to be a clergyman and choose a hindrance not a help--one whose tastes
would lead back to the world, instead of to my work!'

As he spoke, in stern, rigid resolution--only allowing himself one long,
deep, heavy sigh at the end--he stood still at the gates of the court,
which were opened as the rest of the party came up; and, as they crossed
and entered the hall, they beheld, through the open door of the
drawing-room, two figures in the window--one, a dark torso, perched
outside on the sill; the other, in blue skirt and boy-like bodice,
negligently reposing on one side of the window-seat, her dainty little
boots on the other; her coarse straw bonnet, crossed with white, upon the
floor; the wind playing tricks with the silky glory of her flaxen
ringlets; her cheek flushed with lovely carnation, declining on her
shoulder; her eyes veiled by their fair fringes.

'Hallo!' she cried, springing up, 'almost caught asleep!'  And Owen,
pocketing his pipe, spun his legs over the windowsill, while both began,
in rattling, playful vindication and recrimination--

                    (he wouldn't.'

'It wasn't my fault (

                    (she wouldn't.'

'Indeed, I wasn't a wilful heathen; Mr. Parsons, it was he--'

'It was she who chose to take the by-ways, and make us late.  Rush into
church before a whole congregation, reeking from a six-miles walk!  I've
more respect for the Establishment.'

'You walked!' cried five voices.

'See her Sabbatarianism!'

'Nonsense!  I should have driven Charlie's cab.'

'Charlie has some common sense where his horse is concerned.'

'He wanted it himself, you _know_.'

'She grew sulky, and victimized me to a walk.'

'I'm sure it was excellent fun.'

'Ay, and because poor Calthorp had proffered his cab for her to drive to
Jericho, and welcome, she drags me into all sorts of streets of
villainous savours, that he might not catch us up.'

'Horrid hard mouth that horse of his,' said Lucilla, by way of dashing
the satisfaction on Miss Charlecote's face.

'I do not wonder you were late.'

'Oh! that was all Owen's doing.  He vowed that he had not nerve to face
the pew-opener!'

'The grim female in weeds--no, indeed!' said Owen.  'Indeed, I objected
to entering in the guise of flaming meteors both on reverential and
sanatory grounds.'

'Insanatory, methinks,' said Miss Charlecote; 'how could you let her
sleep, so much heated, in this thorough draught!'

'Don't flatter yourself,' said Cilly, quaintly shaking her head; 'I'm not
such a goose as to go and catch cold!  Oh! Phoebe, my salmon-flies are
loveliness itself; and I hereby give notice, that a fine of three pairs
of thick boots has been proclaimed for every pun upon sisters of the
angle and sisters of the angels!  So beware, Robin!'--and the comical
audacity with which she turned on him, won a smile from the grave lips
that had lately seemed so remote from all peril of complimenting her
whimsies.  Even Mr. Parsons said 'the fun was tempting.'

'Come and get ready for luncheon,' said the less fascinated Honora,
moving away.

'Come and catch it!' cried the elf, skipping up-stairs before her and
facing round her 'Dear old Honeyseed.'  'I honour your motives; but
wouldn't it be for the convenience of all parties, if you took _Punch's_
celebrated advice--"don't"?'

'How am I to speak, Lucy,' said Honora, 'if you come with the avowed
intention of disregarding what I say?'

'Then hadn't you better not?' murmured the girl, in the lowest tone,
drooping her head, and peeping under her eyelashes, as she sat with a
hand on each elbow of her arm-chair, as though in the stocks.

'I would not, my child,' was the mournful answer, 'if I could help caring
for you.'

Lucilla sprang up and kissed her.  'Don't, then; I don't like anybody to
be sorry,' she said.  'I'm sure I'm not worth it.'

'How can I help it, when I see you throwing away happiness--welfare--the
good opinion of all your friends?'

'My dear Honora, you taught me yourself not to mind Mrs. Grundy!  Come,
never mind, the reasonable world has found out that women are less
dependent than they used to be.'

'It is not what the world thinks, but what is really decorous.'

Lucilla laughed--though with some temper--'I wonder what we are going to
do otherwise!'

'You are going beyond the ordinary restraints of women in your station;
and a person who does so, can never tell to what she may expose herself.
Liberties are taken when people come out to meet them.'

'That's as they choose!' cried Lucilla, with such a gesture of her hand,
such a flash of her blue eyes, that she seemed trebly the woman, and it
would have been boldness indeed to presume with her.

'Yes; but a person who has even had to protect herself from incivility,
to which she has wilfully exposed herself, does not remain what she might
be behind her screen.'

'_Omne ignotum pro terribili_,' laughed Lucilla, still not to be made
serious.  'Now, I don't believe that the world is so flagrantly bent on
annoying every pretty girl.  People call me vain, but I never was so vain
as that.  I've always found them very civil; and Ireland is the land of
civility.  Now, seriously, my good cousin Honor, do you candidly expect
any harm to befall us?'

'I do not think you likely to meet with absolute injury.'  Lucilla
clapped her hands, and cried, 'An admission, an admission!  I told Rashe
you were a sincere woman.'  But Miss Charlecote went on, 'But there is
harm to yourself in the affectation of masculine habits; it is a blunting
of the delicacy suited to a Christian maiden, and not like the women whom
St. Paul and St. Peter describe.  You would find that you had forfeited
the esteem, not only of ordinary society, but of persons whose opinions
you do value; and in both these respects you would suffer harm.  You, my
poor child, who have no one to control you, or claim your obedience as a
right, are doubly bound to be circumspect.  I have no power over you; but
if you have any regard for her to whom your father confided you--nay, if
you consult what you know would have been his wishes--you will give up
this project.'

The luncheon-bell had already rung, and consideration for the busy
clergyman compelled her to go down with these last words, feeling as if
there were a leaden weight at her heart.

Lucilla remained standing before the glass, arranging her wind-tossed
hair; and, in her vehemence, tearing out combfuls, as she pulled
petulantly against the tangled curls.  'Her old way--to come over me with
my father!  Ha!--I love him too well to let him be Miss Charlecote's
engine for managing me!--her _dernier ressort_ to play on my feelings.
Nor will I have Robin set at me!  Whether I go or not, shall be as I
please, not as any one else does; and if I stay at home, Rashe shall own
it is not for the sake of the conclave here.  I told her she might trust
me.'

Down she went, and at luncheon devoted herself to the captivation of Mr.
Parsons; afterwards insisting on going to the schools--she, whose
aversion to them was Honora's vexation at home.  Strangers to make a
sensation were contrary to the views of the Parsonses; but the wife found
her husband inconsistent--'one lady, more or less, could make no
difference on this first Sunday;' and, by and by, Mrs. Parsons found a
set of little formal white-capped faces, so beaming with entertainment,
at the young lady's stories, and the young lady herself looking so
charming, that she, too, fell under the enchantment.

After church, Miss Charlecote proposed a few turns in the garden; dingy
enough, but a marvel for the situation: and here the tacit object of
herself and Phoebe was to afford Robert an opportunity for the interview
on which so much depended.  But it was like trying to catch a butterfly;
Lucilla was here, there, everywhere; and an excuse was hardly made for
leaving her beside the grave, silent young man, ere her merry tones were
heard chattering to some one else.  Perhaps Robert, heart-sick and
oppressed with the importance of what trembled on his tongue, was not
ready in seizing the moment; perhaps she would not let him speak; at any
rate, she was aware of some design; since, baffling Phoebe's last
attempt, she danced up to her bedroom after her, and throwing herself
into a chair, in a paroxysm of laughter, cried, 'You abominable little
pussycat of a manoeuvrer; I thought you were in a better school for the
proprieties!  No, don't make your round eyes, and look so dismayed, or
you'll kill me with laughing!  Cooking _tete-a-tetes_, Phoebe--I thought
better of you.  Oh, fie!' and holding up her finger, as if in
displeasure, she hid her face in ecstasies of mirth at Phoebe's
bewildered simplicity.

'Robert wanted to speak to you,' she said, with puzzled gravity.

'And you would have set us together by the ears!  No, no, thank you, I've
had enough of that sort of thing for one day.  And what shallow excuses.
Oh! what fun to hear your pretexts.  Wanting to see what Mrs. Parsons was
doing, when you knew perfectly well she was deep in a sermon, and wished
you at the antipodes.  And blushing all the time, like a full-blown
poppy,' and off she went on a fresh score--but Phoebe, though
disconcerted for a moment, was not to be put out of countenance when she
understood her ground, and she continued with earnestness, undesired by
her companion--'Very likely I managed badly, but I know you do not really
think it improper to see Robert alone, and it is very important that you
should do so.  Indeed it is, Lucy,' she added--the youthful candour and
seriousness of her pleading, in strong contrast to the flighty, mocking
carelessness of Lucilla's manners; 'do pray see him; I know he would make
you listen.  Will you be so very kind?  If you would go into the little
cedar room, I could call him at once.'

'Point blank!  Sitting in my cedar parlour!  Phoebe, you'll be the death
of me,' cried Cilly, between peals of merriment.  'Do you think I have
nerves of brass?'

'You would not laugh, if you knew how much he feels.'

'A very good thing for people to feel!  It saves them from torpor.'

'Lucy, it is not kind to laugh when I tell you he is miserable.'

'That's only proper, my dear,' said Lucilla, entertained by teasing.

'Not miserable from doubt,' answered Phoebe, disconcerting in her turn.
'We know you too well for that;' and as an expression, amused, indignant,
but far from favourable, came over the fair face she was watching, she
added in haste, 'It is this project, he thought you had said it was given
up.'

'I am much indebted,' said Lucilla, haughtily, but again relapsing into
laughter; 'but to find myself so easily disposed of . . .  Oh! Phoebe,
there's no scolding such a baby as you; but if it were not so absurd--'

'Lucy, Lucy, I beg your pardon; is it all a mistake, or have I said what
was wrong?  Poor Robin will be so unhappy.'

Phoebe's distress touched Lucilla.

'Nonsense, you little goose; aren't you woman enough yet to know that one
flashes out at finding oneself labelled, and made over before one's
time?'

'I'm glad if it was all my blundering,' said Phoebe.  'Dear Lucy, I was
very wrong, but you see I always was so happy in believing it was
understood!'

'How stupid,' cried Lucilla; 'one would never have any fun; no, you
haven't tasted the sweets yet, or you would know one has no notion of
being made sure of till one chooses!  Yes, yes, I saw he was primed and
cocked, but I'm not going to let him go off.'

'Lucy, have you no pity?'

'Not a bit!  Don't talk commonplaces, my dear.'

'If you knew how much depends upon it.'

'My dear, I know that,' with an arch smile.

'No, you do not,' said Phoebe, so stoutly that Lucilla looked at her in
some suspense.

'You think,' said honest Phoebe, in her extremity, 'that he only wants to
make--to propose to you!  Now, it is not only that, Lucilla,' and her
voice sank, as she could hardly keep from crying; 'he will never do that
if you go on as you are doing now; he does not think it would be right
for a clergyman.'

'Oh! I dare say!' quoth Lucilla, and then a silence.  'Did Honor tell him
so, Phoebe?'

'Never, never!' cried Phoebe; 'no one has said a word against you! only
don't you know how quiet and good any one belonging to a clergyman should
be?'

'Well, I've heard a great deal of news to-day, and it is all my own
fault, for indulging in sentiment on Wednesday.  I shall know better
another time.'

'Then you don't care!' cried Phoebe, turning round, with eyes flashing as
Lucilla did not know they could lighten.  'Very well!  If you don't think
Robert worth it, I suppose I ought not to grieve, for you can't be what I
used to think you and it will be better for him when he once has settled
his mind--than if--if afterwards you disappointed him and were a fine
lady--but oh! he will be so unhappy,' her tears were coming fast; 'and,
Lucy, I did like you so much!'

'Well, this is the funniest thing of all,' cried Lucilla, by way of
braving her own emotion; 'little Miss Phoebe gone into the heroics!' and
she caught her two hands, and holding her fast, kissed her on both
cheeks; 'a gone coon, am I, Phoebe, no better than one of the wicked; and
Robin, he grew angry, hopped upon a twig, did he!  I beg your pardon, my
dear, but it makes me laugh to think of his dignified settling of his
mind.  Oh! how soon it could be unsettled again!  Come, I won't have any
more of this; let it alone, Phoebe, and trust me that things will adjust
themselves all the better for letting them have their swing.  Don't you
look prematurely uneasy, and don't go and make Robin think that I have
immolated him at the altar of the salmon.  Say nothing of all this; you
will only make a mess in narrating it.'

'Very likely I may,' said Phoebe; 'but if you will not speak to him
yourself, I shall tell him how you feel.'

'If you can,' laughed Lucilla.

'I mean, how you receive what I have told you of his views; I do not
think it would be fair or kind to keep him in ignorance.'

'Much good may it do him,' said Lucy; 'but I fancy you will tell him,
whether I give you leave or not, and it can't make much difference.  I'll
tackle him, as the old women say, when I please, and the madder he may
choose to go, the better fun it will be.'

'I believe you are saying so to tease me' said Phoebe; 'but as I know you
don't mean it, I shall wait till after the party; and then, unless you
have had it out with him, I shall tell him what you have said.'

'Thank you,' said Lucilla, ironically conveying to Phoebe's mind the
conviction that she did not believe that Robert's attachment could suffer
from what had here passed.  Either she meant to grant the decisive
interview, or else she was too confident in her own power to believe that
he could relinquish her; at all events, Phoebe had sagacity enough to
infer that she was not indifferent to him, though as the provoking damsel
ran down-stairs, Phoebe's loyal spirit first admitted a doubt whether the
tricksy sprite might not prove as great a torment as a delight to Robin.
'However,' reflected she, 'I shall make the less mischief if I set it
down while I remember it.'

Not much like romance, but practical sense was both native and cultivated
in Miss Fennimore's pupil.  Yet as she recorded the sentences, and read
them over bereft of the speaker's caressing grace, she blamed herself as
unkind, and making the worst of gay retorts which had been provoked by
her own home thrusts.  'At least,' she thought, 'he will be glad to see
that it was partly my fault, and he need never see it at all if Lucy will
let him speak to her himself.'

Meantime, Honora had found from Owen that the young ladies had accepted
an invitation to a very gay house in Cheshire, so that their movements
would for a fortnight remain doubtful.  She recurred to her view that the
only measure to be taken was for him to follow them, so as to be able to
interpose in any emergency, and she anxiously pressed on him the funds
required.

'Shouldn't I catch it if they found me out!' said Owen, shrugging his
shoulders.  'No, but indeed, Sweet Honey, I meant to have made up for
this naughty girl's desertion.  You and I would have had such rides and
readings together: I want you to put me on good terms with myself.'

'My dear boy!  But won't that best be done by minding your sister?  She
does want it, Owen; the less she will be prudent for herself, the more we
must think for her!'

'She can do better for herself than you imagine,' said Owen.  'Men say,
with all her free ways, they could not go the least bit farther with her
than she pleases.  You wouldn't suppose it, but she can keep out of
scrapes better than Rashe can--never has been in one yet, and Rashe in
twenty.  Never mind, your Honor, there's sound stuff in the bonny
scapegrace; all the better for being free and unconventional.  The world
owes a great deal to those who dare to act for themselves; though, I own,
it is a trial when one's own domestic womankind take thereto.'

'Or one's mankind to encouraging it,' said Honor, smiling, but showing
that she was hurt.

'I don't encourage it; I am only too wise to give it the zest of
opposition.  Was Lucy ever bent upon a naughty trick without being doubly
incited by the pleasure of showing that she cared not for her younger
brother?'

'I believe you are only too lazy!  But, will you go?  I don't think it
can be a penance.  You would see new country, and get plenty of sport.'

'Come with me, Honey,' said he with the most insinuating manner, which
almost moved her.  'How jolly it would be!'

'Nonsense! an elderly spinster,' she said, really pleased, though knowing
it impossible.

'Stuff!' he returned in the same tone.  'Make it as good as a honeymoon.
Think of Killarney, Honor!'

'You silly boy, I can't.  There's harvest at home; besides, it would only
aggravate that mad girl doubly to have me coming after her.'

'Well, if you will not take care of me on a literal wild-goose chase,'
said Owen, with playful disconsolateness, 'I'll not answer for the
consequences.'

'But, you go?'

'Vacation rambles are too tempting to be resisted; but, mind, I don't
promise to act good genius save at the last extremity, or else shall
never get forgiven, and I shall keep some way in the rear.'

So closed the consultation; and after an evening which Lucilla perforce
rendered lively, she and her brother took their leave.  The next day they
were to accompany the Charterises to Castle Blanch to prepare for the
festivities; Honor and her two young friends following on the Wednesday
afternoon.



CHAPTER VI


    He who sits by haunted well
    Is subject to the Nixie's spell;
    He who walks on lonely beach
    To the mermaid's charmed speech;
    He who walks round ring of green
    Offends the peevish Fairy Queen.--SCOTT

At the station nearest to Castle Blanch stood the tall form of Owen
Sandbrook, telling Honor that he and his sister had brought the boat; the
river was the longer way, but they would prefer it to the road; and so
indeed they did, for Phoebe herself had had enough of the City to
appreciate the cool verdure and calm stillness of the meadow pathway, by
which they descended to the majestic river, smoothly sleeping in glassy
quiet, or stealing along in complacently dimpling ripples.

On the opposite bank, shading off the sun, an oak copse sloped steeply
towards the river, painting upon the surface a still shimmering likeness
of the summit of the wood, every mass of foliage, every blushing spray
receiving a perfect counterpart, and full in the midst of the magic
mirror floated what might have been compared to the roseate queen lily of
the waters on her leaf.

There, in the flat, shallow boat reclined the maiden, leaning over the
gunwale, gazing into the summer wavelets with which one bare
pinkly-tinted hand was toying, and her silken ringlets all but dipping
in, from beneath the round black hat, archly looped up on one side by a
carnation bow, and encircled by a series of the twin jetty curls of the
mallard; while the fresh rose colour of the spreading muslin dress was
enhanced by the black scarf that hung carelessly over it.  There was a
moment's pause, as if no one could break the spell; but Owen, striding on
from behind, quickly dissolved the enchantment.

'You monkey, you've cast off.  You may float on to Greenwich next!' he
indignantly shouted.

She started, shaking her head saucily.  ''Twas so slow there, and so
broiling,' she called back, 'and I knew I should only drift down to meet
you, and could put in when I pleased.'

Therewith she took the sculls and began rowing towards the bank, but
without force sufficient to prevent herself from being borne farther down
than she intended.

'I can't help it,' she exclaimed, fearlessly laughing as she passed them.

Robert was ready to plunge in to stem her progress, lest she should meet
with some perilous eddy, but Owen laid hold on him, saying, 'Don't be
nervous, she's all right; only giving trouble, after the nature of women.
There; are you satisfied?' he called to her, as she came to a stop
against a reed bed, with a tall fence interposed between boat and
passengers.  'A nice ferry-woman you.'

'Come and get me up again,' was all her answer.

'Serve you right if I never picked you up till London-bridge,' he
answered.  'Stand clear, Fulmort,' and with a run and a bound, he vaulted
over the high hedge, and went crackling through the nodding bulrushes and
reed-maces; while Lucy, having accomplished pulling up one of the latter,
was pointing it lancewise at him, singing,

    'With a bulrush for his spear, and a thimble for a hat,
    Wilt thou fight a traverse with the castle cat.'

'Come, come; 'tis too squashy here for larking,' he said authoritatively,
stepping into the boat, and bringing it up with such absence of effort
that when a few minutes after he had brought it to the landing-place, and
the freight was seated, Robert had no sooner taken the other oar than he
exclaimed at the force of the stream with which Owen had dealt so easily,
and Lucilla so coolly.

'It really was a fearful risk,' he said reproachfully to her.

'Oh!' she said, 'I know my Thames, and my Thames knows me!'

'Now's the time to improve it,' said Owen; 'one or other should preach
about young ladies getting loose, and not knowing where they may be
brought up.'

'But you see I did know; besides, Phoebe's news from Paris will be better
worth hearing,' said Lucilla, tickling her friend's face with the soft
long point of her dark velvety mace.

'My news from Paris?'

'For shame, Phoebe!  Your face betrays you.'

'Lucy; how could you know?  I had not even told Miss Charlecote!'

'It's true! it's true!' cried Lucilla.  'That's just what I wanted to
know!'

'Lucy, then it was not fair,' said Phoebe, much discomposed.  'I was
desired to tell no one, and you should not have betrayed me into doing
so.'

'Phoebe, you always were a green oasis in a wicked world!'

'And now, let me hear,' said Miss Charlecote.  'I can't flatter you,
Phoebe; I thought you were labouring under a suppressed secret.'

'Only since this morning,' pleaded Phoebe, earnestly; 'and we were
expressly forbidden to mention it; I cannot imagine how Lucy knows.'

'By telegraph!'

Phoebe's face assumed an expression of immeasurable wonder.

'I almost hope to find you at cross purposes, after all,' said Honora.

'No such good luck,' laughed Lucilla.  'Cinderella's seniors never could
go off two at a time.  Ah! there's the name.  I beg your pardon, Phoebe.'

'But, Lucy, what can you mean?  Who can have telegraphed about Augusta?'

'Ah! you knew not the important interests involved, nor Augusta how much
depended on her keeping the worthy admiral in play.  It was the nearest
thing--had she only consented at the end of the evening instead of the
beginning, poor Lord William would have had the five guineas that he
wants so much more than Mr. Calthorp!'

'Lucy!'

'It was a bet that Sir Nicholas would take six calendar months to supply
the place of Lady Bannerman.  It was the very last day.  If Augusta had
only waited till twelve!'

'You don't mean that he has been married before.  I thought he was such
an excellent man!' said Phoebe, in a voice that set others besides
Lucilla off into irresistible mirth.

'Once, twice, thrice!' cried Lucilla.  'Catch her, Honor, before she
sinks into the river in disgust with this treacherous world.'

'Do you know him, Lucy?' earnestly said Phoebe.

'Yes, and two of the wives; we used to visit them because he was an old
captain of Uncle Kit's.'

'I would not believe in number three, Phoebe, if I were you,' said Owen,
consolingly; 'she wants confirmation.'

'Two are as bad as three,' sighed Phoebe; 'and Augusta did not even call
him a widower.'

'Cupid bandaged!  It was a case of love at first sight.  Met at the
_Trois Freres Provencaux_, heard each other's critical remarks, sought an
introduction, compared notes; he discovered her foresight with regard to
pale ale; each felt that here was a kindred soul!'

'That could not have been telegraphed!' said Phoebe, recovering spirit
and incredulity.

'No; the telegram was simply "Bannerman, Fulmort.  8.30 p.m., July 10th."
The other particulars followed by letter this morning.'

'How old is he?' asked Phoebe, with resignation.

'Any age above sixty.  What, Phoebe, taking it to heart?  I was prepared
with congratulations.  It is only second best, to be sure; but don't you
see your own emancipation?'

'I believe that had never occurred to Phoebe,' said Owen.

'I beg your pardon, Lucy,' said Phoebe, thinking that she had appeared
out of temper; 'only it had sounded so nice in Augusta's letter, and she
was so kind, and somehow it jars that there should have been that sort of
talk.'

Cilly was checked.  In her utter want of thought it had not occurred to
her that Augusta Fulmort could be other than a laughing-stock, or that
any bright anticipations could have been spent by any reasonable person
on her marriage.  Perhaps the companionship of Rashe, and the satirical
outspoken tone of her associates, had somewhat blunted her perception of
what might be offensive to the sensitive delicacy of a young sister; but
she instantly perceived her mistake, and the carnation deepened in her
cheek, at having distressed Phoebe, and . . .  Not that she had deigned
any notice of Robert after the first cold shake of the hand, and he sat
rowing with vigorous strokes, and a countenance of set gravity, more as
if he were a boatman than one of the party; Lucilla could not even meet
his eye when she peeped under her eyelashes to recover defiance by the
sight of his displeasure.

It was a relief to all when Honora exclaimed, 'Wrapworth! how pretty it
looks.'

It was, indeed, pretty, seen through the archway of the handsome stone
bridge.  The church tower and picturesque village were set off by the
frame that closed them in; and though they lost somewhat of the
enchantment when the boat shot from under the arch, they were still a
fair and goodly English scene.

Lucilla steered towards the steps leading to a smooth shaven lawn, shaded
by a weeping willow, well known to Honor.

'Here we land you and your bag, Robert,' said Owen, as he put in.
'Cilly, have a little sense, do.'

But Lucilla, to the alarm of all, was already on her feet, skipped like a
chamois to the steps, and flew dancing up the sward.  Ere Owen and Robert
had helped the other two ladies to land in a more rational manner, she
was shaking her mischievous head at a window, and thrusting in her
sceptral reed-mace.

'Neighbour, oh, neighbour, I'm come to torment you!  Yes, here we are in
full force, ladies and all, and you must come out and behave pretty.
Never mind your slippers; you ought to be proud of the only thing I ever
worked.  Come out, I say; here's your guest, and you must be civil to
him.'

'I am very glad to see Mr. Fulmort,' said Mr. Prendergast, his only
answer in words to all this, though while it was going on, as if she were
pulling him by wires, as she imperiously waved her bulrush, he had stuck
his pen into the inkstand, run his fingers in desperation through his
hair, risen from his seat, gazed about in vain for his boots, and felt as
fruitlessly on the back of the door for a coat to replace the loose
alpaca article that hung on his shoulders.

'There.  You've gone through all the motions,' said Cilly; 'that'll do;
now, come out and receive them.'

Accordingly, he issued from the door, shy and slouching; rusty where he
wore cloth, shiny where he wore alpaca, wild as to his hair, gay as to
his feet, but, withal, the scholarly gentleman complete, and not a day
older or younger, apparently, than when Honor had last seen him, nine
years since, in bondage then to the child playing at coquetry, as now to
the coquette playing at childhood.  It was curious, Honor thought, to see
how, though so much more uncouth and negligent than Robert, the
indefinable signs of good blood made themselves visible, while they were
wanting in one as truly the Christian gentleman in spirit and in
education.

Mr. Prendergast bowed to Miss Charlecote, and shook hands with his guest,
welcoming him kindly; but the two shy men grew more bashful by contact,
and Honor found herself, Owen, and Lucilla sustaining the chief of the
conversation, the curate apparently looking to the young lady to protect
him and do the honours, as she did by making him pull down a cluster of
his roses for her companions, and conducting them to eat his
strawberries, which she treated as her own, flitting, butterfly like,
over the beds, selecting the largest and ruddiest specimens, while her
slave plodded diligently to fill cabbage leaves, and present them to the
party in due gradation.

Owen stood by amused, and silencing the scruples of his companions.

'He is in Elysium,' he said; 'he had rather be plagued by Cilly than
receive a mitre!  Don't hinder him, Honey; it is his pride to treat us as
if we were at home and he our guest.'

'Wrapworth has not been seen without Edna Murrell,' said Lucilla,
flinging the stem of her last strawberry at her brother, 'and Miss
Charlecote is a woman of schools.  What, aren't we to go, Mr.
Prendergast?'

'I beg your pardon.  I did not know.'

'Well; what is it?'

'I do sometimes wish Miss Murrell were not such an attraction.'

'You did not think that of yourself.'

'Well, I don't know; Miss Murrell is a very nice young woman,' he
hesitated, as Cilly seemed about to thrust him through with her reed;
'but couldn't you, Cilla, now, give her a hint that it would be better if
she would associate more with Mrs. Jenkyns, and--'

'Couldn't Mr. Prendergast; I've more regard for doing as I would be done
by.  When you see Edna, Honor--'

'They are very respectable women,' said the curate, standing his ground;
'and it would be much better for her than letting it be said she gives
herself airs.'

'That's all because we have had her up to the castle to sing.'

'Well, so it is, I believe.  They do say, too--I don't know whether it is
so--that the work has not been so well attended to, nor the children so
orderly.'

'Spite, spite, Mr. Prendergast; I had a better opinion of you than to
think you could be taken in by the tongues of Wrapworth.'

'Well, certainly I did hear a great noise the other day.'

'I see how it is!  This is a systematic attempt to destroy the impression
I wished to produce.'

He tried to argue that he thought very well of Miss Murrell, but she
would not hear; and she went on with her pretty, saucy abuse, in her
gayest tones, as she tripped along the churchyard path, now, doubtless,
too familiar to renew the associations that might have tamed her spirits.
Perhaps the shock her vivacity gave to the feeling of her friends was
hardly reasonable, but it was not the less real; though, even in passing,
Honora could not but note the improved condition of the two graves, now
carefully tended, and with a lovely white rose budding between them.

A few more steps, and from the open window of the schoolhouse there was
heard a buzz and hum, not outrageous, but which might have caused the
item of discipline not to figure well in an inspector's report; but Mr.
Prendergast and Lucilla appeared habituated to the like, for they
proceeded without apology.

It was a handsome gable-ended building, Elizabethan enough to testify to
the taste that had designed it, and with a deep porch, where Honor had
advanced, under Lucilla's guidance, so as to have a moment's view of the
whole scene before their arrival had disturbed it.

The children's backs were towards the door, as they sat on their forms at
work.  Close to the oriel window, the only person facing the door, with a
table in front of her, there sat, in a slightly reclining attitude, a
figure such as all reports of the new race of schoolmistresses had hardly
led Honor to imagine to be the _bona fide_ mistress.  Yet the dress was
perfectly quiet, merely lilac cotton, with no ornament save the small bow
of the same colour at the throat, and the hair was simply folded round
the head, but it was magnificent raven hair; the head and neck were
grandly made; the form finely proportioned, on a large scale; the face
really beautiful, in a pale, dark, Italian style; the complexion of the
clearest olive, but as she became aware of the presence of the visitors
it became overspread with a lovely hue of red; while the eyelids revealed
a superb pair of eyes, liquid depths of rich brown, soft and languid, and
befitting the calm dignity with which she rose, curtseyed, and signed to
her scholars to do the same; the deepening colour alone betraying any
sense of being taken by surprise.

Lucilla danced up to her, chattering with her usual familiar, airy grace.
'Well, Edna, how are you getting on?  Have I brought a tremendous host to
invade you?  I wanted Miss Charlecote to see you, for she is a perfect
connoisseur in schools.'

Edna's blush grew more carnation, and the fingers shook so visibly with
which she held the work, that Honora was provoked with Lucy for
embarrassing the poor young thing by treating her as an exhibition,
especially as the two young gentlemen were present, Robert with his back
against the door-post in a state of resignation, Owen drawing Phoebe's
attention to the little ones whom he was puzzling with incomprehensible
remarks and questions.  Hoping to end the scene, Honor made a few
commonplace inquiries as to the numbers and the habits of the school; but
the mistress, though preserving her dignity of attitude, seemed hardly
able to speak, and the curate replied for her.

'I see,' said Lucilla, 'your eye keeps roaming to the mischief my naughty
brother is doing among the fry down there.'

'Oh, no! ma'am.  I beg your pardon--'

'Never mind, I'll remove the whole concern in a moment, only we must have
some singing first.'

'Don't, Lucy!' whispered Honor, looking up from an inspection of some not
first-rate needlework; 'it is distressing her, and displays are contrary
to all rules of discipline.'

'Oh! but you must,' cried Cilly.  'You have not seen Wrapworth without.
Come, Edna, my bonnie-bell,' and she held out her hand in that
semi-imperious, semi-caressing manner which very few had ever withstood.

'One song,' echoed Owen, turning towards the elder girls.  'I know you'll
oblige me; eh, Fanny Blake?'

To the scholars the request was evidently not distasteful; the more
tuneful were gathering together, and the mistress took her station among
them, all as if the exhibition were no novelty.  Lucilla, laying her hand
on the victim's arm, said, 'Come, don't be nervous, or what will you do
to-morrow?  Come.'

'"Goddess of the Silver Bow,"' suggested Owen.  'Wasn't it that which
your mother disapproved, Fanny, because it was worshipping idols to sing
about great Diana of the Ephesians?'

'Yes, sir,' said rather a conceited voice from the prettiest of the elder
girls; 'and you told us it was about Phoebe Bright, and gave her the blue
and silver ribbon.'

'And please, sir,' said another less prepossessing damsel, 'Mrs. Jenkyns
took it away, and I said I'd tell you.'

Owen shrugged up his shoulders with a comical look, saying, as he threw
her a shilling, 'Never mind; there's a silver circle instead of a
bow--that will do as well.  Here's a rival goddess for you, Phoebe; two
moons in a system.'

The girls were in a universal titter, the mistress with her eyes cast
down, blushing more than ever.  Lucilla muttered an amused but indignant,
'For shame, Owen!' and herself gave the key-note.  The performance was
not above the average of National School melody, but no sooner was it
over, than Owen named, in an under-tone, another song, which was
instantly commenced, and in which there joined a voice that had been
still during the first, but which soon completely took the lead.  And
such a voice, coming as easily as the notes of the nightingale from the
nobly-formed throat, and seeming to fill the room with its sweet power!
Lucilla's triumph was complete; Honor's scruples were silenced by the
admiring enjoyment, and Phoebe was in a state of rapture.  The nervous
reluctance had given way to the artistic delight in her own power, and
she readily sang all that was asked for, latterly such pieces as needed
little or no support from the children--the 'Three Fishers' Wives' coming
last, and thrilling every one with the wondrous pathos and sadness of the
tones that seemed to come from her very heart.

It seemed as if they would never have come away, had not Mr. Prendergast
had pity on the restless movements of some of the younglings, who, taking
no part in the display, had leisure to perceive that the clock had struck
their hour of release, and at the close of 'The Fishers' Wives,' he
signed to Lucilla to look at the hour.

'Poor little things!' said she, turning round to the gaping and
discontented collection, 'have we used you so ill?  Never mind.'  Again
using her bulrush to tickle the faces that looked most injured, and waken
them into smiles--'Here's the prison house open,' and she sprang out.
'Now--come with a whoop and come with a call--I'll give my club to
anybody that can catch me before I get down to the vicarage garden.'

Light as the wind, she went bounding flying across the churchyard like a
butterfly, ever and anon pausing to look round, nod, and shake her
sceptre, as the urchins tumbled confusedly after, far behind, till
closing the gate, she turned, poised the reed javelin-wise in the air,
and launched it among them.

'It is vain to try to collect them again,' sighed Mr. Prendergast; 'we
must shut up.  Good night, Miss Murrell;' and therewith he turned back to
his garden, where the freakish sprite, feigning flight, took refuge in
the boat, cowering down, and playfully hiding her face in deprecation of
rebuke, but all she received was a meekly melancholy, 'O Cilla! prayers.'

'One day's less loathing of compulsory devotion,' was her answer in saucy
defiance.  'I owed it to them for the weariness of listening for ten
minutes to the "Three Fishers' Wives," which they appreciated as little
as their pastor did!'

'I know nothing about songs, but when one wants them--poor things--to
look to something better than sleep.'

'Oh, hush!  Here are Miss Charlecote and Mr. Fulmort on your side, and I
can't be crushed with united morality in revenge for the tears Edna
caused you all to shed.  There, help Miss Charlecote in; where can Owen
be dawdling?  You can't pull, Phoebe, or we would put off without him.
Ah, there!' as he came bounding down, 'you intolerable loiterer, I was
just going to leave you behind.'

'The train starting without the engine,' he said, getting into his place;
'yes, take an oar if you like, little gnat, and fancy yourself helping.'

The gay warfare, accompanied by a few perilous tricks on Lucilla's part,
lasted through the further voyage.  Honora guessed at a purpose of
staving off graver remonstrance, but Phoebe looked on in astonishment.
Seventeen is often a more serious time of life than two-and twenty, and
the damsel could not comprehend the possibility of thoughtlessness when
there was anything to think about.  The ass's bridge was nothing compared
with Lucy!  Moreover the habits of persiflage of a lively family often
are confusing to one not used to the tone of jest and repartee, and
Phoebe had as little power as will to take part in what was passing
between the brother and sister; she sat like the spectator of a farce in
a foreign tongue, till the boat had arrived at the broad open extent of
park gently sweeping down towards the river, the masses of trees kept on
either side so as to leave the space open where the castle towered in
pretentious grandeur, with a flag slowly swaying in the summer wind on
the top of the tallest turret.

The trees made cool reaches of shade, varied by intervals of hot
sunshine, and much longer did the way appear, creeping onward in the
heat, than it had looked when the eye only took in the simple expanse of
turf, from river to castle.  Phoebe looked to her arrival there, and to
bedroom conferences, as the moment of recovering a reasonable Lucy, but
as they neared the house, there was a shout from the wire fence enclosing
the shrubbery on the eastern side, and Horatia was seen standing at the
gate calling them to come into the cloisters and have some sustenance.

Passing the screen of shrubs, a scene lay before them almost fit for the
gardens of Seville.  Three sides of an extensive square were enclosed by
the semi-gothic buildings, floridly decorated with stone carving; one
consisted of the main edifice, the lower windows tented with striped
projecting blinds; a second of the wing containing the reception rooms,
fronted by the imitative cloister, which was continued and faced with
glass on the third side--each supporting column covered with climbing
plants, the passion-flower, the tropaeolum, the trumpet honeysuckle, or
even the pomegranate, opening their gay blooms on every side.  The
close-shaven turf was broken by small patches of gorgeously-tinted
flower-beds, diversified by vases filled with trailing plants, and lines
of orange trees and fuchsias, with here and there a deep-belled datura,
all converging towards the central marble fountain, where the water
played high, and tinkled coolly in sparkling jets.  Between it and the
house, there were placed in the shade some brightly-tinted cushions and
draperies, lounging chairs, and a low table, bearing an oriental-looking
service of tiny cups, of all kinds of bright and fantastic hues, no two
alike.  Near it reclined on her cushions a figure in perfect keeping with
the scene, her jetty hair contrasting with her gold and coral net, her
scarlet gold-embroidered slipper peeping out from her pale buff-coloured
dress, deeply edged with rich purple, and partly concealed by a mantle of
the unapproachable pink which suggests Persia, all as gorgeous in apparel
as the blue and yellow macaw on his pole, and the green and scarlet
lories in their cage.  Owen made a motion of smoking with Honor's
parasol, whispering, 'Fair Fatima! what more is wanting?'

'There! I've got Lolly out!' cried Horatia, advancing with her vehement
cordiality, and grasping their hands with all her might; 'I would have
come and pulled you up the river, Miss Charlecote, but for imperative
claims.  Here's some tea for you; I know you must be parched.'

And while Mrs. Charteris, scarcely rising, held out her ring encrusted
fingers, and murmured a greeting, Ratia settled them all, pushed a chair
behind Miss Charlecote, almost threw Phoebe on a cushion, handed tea,
scolded Owen, and rattled away to Lucilla with an impetus that kept
Phoebe in increased wonder.  It was all about the arrangements for the
morrow, full of the utmost good-nature and desire to secure every one's
pleasure, but all discussed in a broad out-spoken way, with a liberal use
of slang phrases, and of unprefaced surnames, a freedom of manner and
jovial carelessness of voice that specially marked Rashe Charteris at
home.

Phoebe had a good deal of opportunity for these observations, for as soon
as her stream of information was exhausted, Rashe jumped up and insisted
on conducting the guests round the hothouses and pleasure-grounds.  She
knew Miss Charlecote was a famous hand at such things.  Lucilla remained
on the grass, softly teasing Lolly about the exertions of the morrow, and
Owen applying himself to the care of Honor, Rashe took possession of
Phoebe with all the tyrannous good-nature that had in baby days rendered
her hateful to Lucilla.  She showed off the parrots and gold fish as to a
child, she teased the sensitive plant, and explained curiosities down to
the level of the youthful intellect; and Phoebe, scientific enough to
know if she went wrong in botany or locality, began a word or two of
modest suggestion, only to be patronizingly enlightened, and stopped
short, in the fear of pedantry.  Phoebe had yet to learn the ignorance of
the world.

At last, with a huge torrent of explanations and excuses, Ratia consigned
the two guests to share the same bedroom and dressing-room.  The number
of gentlemen visitors had necessitated close packing, and Cilly, she
said, had come to sleep in her room.  Another hope had failed!  But at
the moment when the door was shut, Phoebe could only sink into a chair,
untie her bonnet, and fan herself.  Such oppressive good-nature was more
fatiguing than a ten miles' walk, or than the toughest lesson in
political economy.

'If nature have her own ladies,' was Honora's comment on her young
friend's exhaustion, 'she likewise has her own dairy-maids!'

'Miss Charteris is a lady,' said Phoebe, her sense of the intended
kindness of her hostess calling her to speak in vindication.

'Yes,' said Honor, hesitating; 'it is station that emboldens her.  If she
had been a dairy-maid, she would have been a bouncing rude girl; if a
farmer's daughter, she would be hearty and useful; if one of the boasters
of gentility, she would think it worth while to restrain herself; as she
is, her acknowledged birth and breeding enable her to follow her
inclinations without fear of opinion.'

'I thought refinement was one great characteristic of a lady,' said
Phoebe.

'So it is, but affectation and false shame are the contrary.  Refinement
was rather overworked, and there has been a reaction of late; simplicity
and unconstraint have been the fashion, but unfortunately some
dispositions are not made to be unconstrained.'

'Lucy is just as unrestrained as her cousin,' said Phoebe, 'but she never
seems like her.  She offends one's judgment sometimes, but never one's
taste--at least hardly ever;' and Phoebe blushed as she thought of what
had passed about her sister that day.

'Poor Lucy! it is one misfortune of pretty people, that they can seldom
do what is taken amiss.  She is small and feminine too, and essentially
refined, whatever she can do.  But I was very sorry for you to-day,
Phoebe.  Tell me all about your sister, my dear.'

'They knew more than I did, if all that is true,' said Phoebe.  'Augusta
wrote--oh! so kindly--and seemed so glad, that it made me very happy.
And papa gave his consent readily to Robert's doing as he pleased, and
almost said something about his taking me to the wedding at Paris.  If
Lucy should--should accept Robin, I wonder if she would go too, and be
bridesmaid!'

So they comforted themselves with a few pretty auguries, dressed, and
went down to dinner, where Phoebe had made sure that, as before, Lucy
would sit next Robin, and be subdued.  Alas, no!  Ladies were far too
scarce articles for even the last but one to be the prize of a mere B.A.
To know who were Phoebe's own neighbours would have been distraction to
Juliana, but they were lost on one in whom the art of conversation was
yet undeveloped, and who was chiefly intent on reading her brother's
face, and catching what Lucy was saying.  She had nearly given up
listening in despair, when she heard, 'Pistols? oh, of course.  Rashe has
gone to the expense of a revolver, but I extracted grandpapa's from the
family armoury--such little darlings.  I'm strongly tempted to send a
challenge, just to keep them in use--that's because you despise me--I'm a
crack shot--we practised every day last winter--women shoot much better
than men, because they don't make their hands unsteady--what can be
better than the guidance of Ratia, the feminine of Ratio, reason, isn't
it?'

It is not quite certain that this horrible Latinity did not shock Miss
Fennimore's discreet pupil more than all the rest, as a wilful insult to
Miss Charlecote's education!

She herself was not to escape 'the guidance of Ratia,' after dinner.  Her
silence had been an additional proof to the good-natured Rashe that she
was a child to be protected and entertained, so she paraded her through
the rooms, coaxed her to play when no one was listening, showed her
illustrated books and new-fashioned puzzles, and domineered over her so
closely, that she had not a moment in which to speak a word to her
brother, whom she saw disconsolately watching the hedge of gentlemen
round Lucy.  Was it wrong to feel so ungrateful to a person exclusively
devoted to her entertainment for that entire evening?

Phoebe had never known a room-mate nor the solace of a bed-time gossip,
and by the time Miss Charlecote began to think of opening the door
between their rooms, and discussing the disgusts of the day, the sounds
of moving about had ceased.  Honor looked in, and could not help
advancing to the bedside to enjoy the sight of the rosy face in the sound
healthful sleep, the lips unclosed, and the silken brown hair wound
plainly across the round brow, the childish outline and expression of the
features even sweeter in sleep than awake.  It rested Honora's wearied
anxious spirit to watch the perfect repose of that innocent young face,
and she stood still for some minutes, breathing an ejaculation that the
child might ever be as guileless and peaceful as now, and then sighing at
the thought of other young sleepers, beside whose couches even fonder
prayers had been uttered, only, as it seemed, to be blown aside.

She was turning away, when Phoebe suddenly awoke, and was for a moment
startled, half rising, asking if anything were the matter.

'No, my dear; only I did not think you would have been in bed so quickly.
I came to wish you good night, and found you asleep.'  And with the
strong tender impulse of a gentle wounded spirit, Honor hung over the
maiden, recomposing the clothes, and fondling her, with a murmured
blessing.

'Dear Miss Charlecote,' whispered Phoebe, 'how nice it is!  I have so
often wondered what it would be like, if any one came in to pet us at
night, as they do in books; and oh! it is so nice!  Say _that_ again,
please.'

_That_ was the blessing which would have made Lucilla in angry reserve
hide her head in the clothes!



CHAPTER VII


    But, ah me! she's a heart of stone,
    Which Cupid uses for a hone,
       I verily believe;
    And on it sharpens those eye-darts,
    With which he wounds the simple hearts
       He bribes her to deceive.--_A Coquette_, by X.

Breakfast was late, and lengthened out by the greater lateness of many of
the guests, and the superlative tardiness of the lady of the house, who
had repudiated the cares of the hostess, and left the tea-equipage to her
sister-in-law.  Lucilla had been down-stairs among the first, and hurried
away again after a rapid meal, forbidding any one to follow her, because
she had so much to do, and on entering the drawing-room, she was found
with a wilderness of flowers around her, filling vases and making last
arrangements.

Honora and Phoebe were glad to be occupied, and Phoebe almost hoped to
escape from Rashe.  Speaking to Lucilla was not possible, for Eloisa had
been placed by Rashe in a low chair, with a saucer before her, which she
was directed to fill with verbenas, while the other four ladies, with
Owen, whom his cousin had called to their aid, were putting last touches
to wreaths, and giving the final festal air to the rooms.

Presently Robert made his appearance as the bearer of Mr. Prendergast's
flowers, and setting his back against a shutter, in his favourite
attitude, stood looking as if he wanted to help, but knew not how.
Phoebe, at least, was vividly conscious of his presence, but she was
supporting a long festoon with which Owen was adorning a pier-glass, and
could hardly even turn her head to watch him.

'Oh, horrid!' cried Lucilla, retreating backwards to look at Ratia's
performance; 'for love or money a bit of clematis!'

'Where shall I find one?' said Robert, unseeing the masses waving on the
cloister, if, good youth, he even knew what clematis was.

'You there, Mr. Fulmort!' exclaimed Rashe; 'for goodness gracious sake,
go out to tennis or something with the other men.  I've ordered them all
out, or there'll be no good to be got out of Cilly.'

Phoebe flashed out in his defence, 'You are letting Owen alone.'

'Ah! by the bye, that wreath of yours has taken an unconscionable time!'
said Miss Charteris, beginning to laugh; but Phoebe's grave
straightforward eyes met her with such a look, as absolutely silenced her
merriment into a mere mutter of 'What a little chit it is!'  Honora, who
was about indignantly to assume the protection of her charge, recognized
in her what was fully competent to take care of herself.

'Away with both of you,' said Lucilla; 'here is Edna come for a last
rehearsal, and I won't have you making her nervous.  Take away that
Robin, will you, Owen?'

Horatia flew gustily to greet and reassure the schoolmistress as she
entered, trembling, although moving with the dignity that seemed to be
her form of embarrassment.  Lucilla meanwhile sped to the others near the
window.  'You must go,' she said, 'or I shall never screw her up; it is a
sudden access of stage fright.  She is as pale as death.'

Owen stepped back to judge of the paleness, and Robert contrived to say,
'Cannot you grant me a few words, Lucy?'

'The most impossible thing you could have asked,' she replied.  'There's
Rashe's encouragement quite done for her now!'

She bounded back to the much-overcome Edna, while Phoebe herself,
perceiving how ill-advised an opportunity Robert had chosen, stepped out
with him into the cloister, saying, 'She can't help it, dear Robin; she
cannot think, just now.'

'When can she?' he asked, almost with asperity.

'Think how full her hands are, how much excited she is,' pleaded Phoebe,
feeling that this was no fair moment for the crisis.

'Ireland?' almost groaned Robert, but at the same moment grasped her
roughly to hinder her from replying, for Owen was close upon them, and he
was the person to whom Robert would have been most reluctant to display
his feelings.

Catching intuitively at his meaning, Phoebe directed her attention to
some clematis on the opposite side of the cloister, and called both her
companions to gather it for her, glad to be with Robert and to relieve
Miss Murrell of the presence of another spectator.  Charles Charteris
coming up, carried the two young men to inspect some of his doings out of
doors, and Phoebe returned with her wreaths of creepers to find that the
poor schoolmistress had become quite hysterical, and had been take away
by Lucilla.

Rashe summoned her at the same time to the decoration of the music-room,
and on entering, stopped in amusement, and made her a sign in silence to
look into a large pier-glass, which stood so as to reflect through an
open door what was passing in the little fanciful boudoir beyond, a place
fitted like a tent, and full of quaint Dresden china and toys of
_bijouterie_.  There was a complete picture within the glass.  Lucilla,
her fair face seen in profile, more soft and gentle than she often
allowed it to appear, was kneeling beside the couch where half reclined
the tall, handsome Edna, whose raven hair, and pale, fine features made
her like a heroine, as she nervously held the hands which Lucilla had
placed within her grasp.  There was a low murmur of voices, one soothing,
the other half sobbing, but nothing reached the outer room distinctly,
till, as Phoebe was holding a long wreath, which Ratia was tying up, she
heard--'Oh! but it is so different with me from you young ladies who are
used to company and all.  I dare say that young lady would not be timid.'

'What young lady, Edna?  Not the one with the auburn hair?'

Ratia made an ecstatic face which disgusted Phoebe.

'Oh, no!--the young lady whom Mr. Sandbrook was helping.  I dare say she
would not mind singing--or anything,' came amid sobs.

Ratia nodded, looked excessively arch, and formed a word with her lips,
which Phoebe thought was 'jealous,' but could not imagine what she could
mean by it.

'I don't know why you should think poor Phoebe Fulmort so brazen.  She is
a mere child, taking a holiday from her strict governess.'

Phoebe laughed back an answer to Rashe's pantomime, which in this case
she understood.

'She has not had half your training in boldness, with your inspectors and
examinations, and all those horrid things.  Why, you never thought of
taking fright before, even when you have sung to people here.  Why should
you now?'

'It is so different, now--so many more people.  Oh, so different!  I
shall never be able.'

'Not at all.  You will quite forget all about yourself and your fears
when the time comes.  You don't know the exhilaration of a room full of
people, all lights and music!  That symphony will lift you into another
world, and you will feel quite ready for "Men must work and women must
weep."'

'If I can only begin--but oh! Miss Sandbrook, shall you be far away from
me?'

'No, I promise you not.  I will bring you down, if you will come to
Ratia's room when you are dressed.  The black silk and the lilac ribbon
Owen and I chose for you; I must see you in it.'

'Dear Miss Sandbrook, you are so kind!  What shall I do when you have
left?'

'You are going yourself for the holidays, silly puss!'

'Ah! but no one else sympathizes or enters into my feelings.'

'Feelings!' said Lucilla, lightly, yet sadly.  'Don't indulge in them,
Edna; they are no end of a torment.'

'Ah! but if they prey on one, one cannot help it.'

Rashe made a face of great distaste.  Phoebe felt as if it were becoming
too confidential to permit of listening, all the more as she heard
Lucilla's reply.

'That's what comes of being tall, and stately, and dignified!  There's so
much less of me that I can carry off my troubles twice as well.'

'Oh, dear Miss Sandbrook, you can have no troubles!'

'Haven't I?  Oh, Edna, if you knew!  You that have a mother can never
know what it is to be like me!  I'm keeping it all at bay, lest I should
break down; but I'm in the horridest bother and trouble.'

Not knowing what might come next, ashamed of having listened to so much,
yet with one gleam of renewed hope, Phoebe resolutely disobeyed Ratia's
frowns and gestures, and made her presence known by decided movements and
words spoken aloud.

She saw the immediate effect in Edna Murrell's violent start; but
Lucilla, without moving, at once began to sing, straining her thin though
sweet voice, as though to surmount a certain tremulousness.  Edna joined,
and the melody was lovely to hear; but Phoebe was longing all the time
for Robert to be at hand for this softer moment, and she hoped all the
more when, the practising being over, and Edna dismissed, Lucy came
springing towards her, notifying her presence by a caress--to outward
appearance merely playful, but in reality a convulsive clasp of vehement
affection--and Phoebe was sure that there had been tears in those eyes
that seemed to do nothing but laugh.

The security that this wild elf was true at heart was, however, not
enough for Phoebe.  There was the knowledge that each moment's delay
would drive Robert farther aloof, and that it was a mere chance whether
he should encounter this creature of impulse at a propitious instant.
Nay, who could tell what was best for him after all?  Even Phoebe's
faithful acceptance of her on his word had undergone sundry severe
shocks, and she had rising doubts whether Lucy, such as she saw her,
could be what would make him happy.

If the secrets of every guest at a _fete_ were told, would any be found
unmixedly happy?  Would there be no one devoid of cares of their own or
of other people's, or if exempt from these, undisturbed by the absence of
the right individual or by the presence of the wrong one, by mishaps of
deportment, difficulties of dress, or want of notice?  Perhaps, after
all, it may be best to have some one abiding anxiety, strong enough to
destroy tedium, and exclude the pettier distresses, which are harder to
contend with, though less dignified; and most wholesome of all is it that
this should be an interest entirely external.  So, after all, Phoebe's
enjoyment might hardly have been increased had her thoughts been more
free from Robin's troubles, when she came down dressed for her first
party, so like a lily of the valley in her delicate dress, that Owen
acknowledged that it justified her choice, and murmured something of 'in
vernal green and virgin white, her festal robes, arrayed.'  Phoebe was
only distressed at what she thought the profanation of quoting from such
a source in compliment to her.  Honora was gratified to find the lines in
his memory upon any terms.  Poor dear Honor, in one case at least
believing all things, hoping all things!

Phoebe ought to have made the most of her compliment.  It was all she
obtained in that line.  Juliana herself could not have taken umbrage at
her success.  Nobody imagined her come out, no one attempted to disturb
her from under Miss Charlecote's wing, and she kept close to her the
whole afternoon, sometimes sitting upon a haycock, sometimes walking in
the shrubbery, listening to the band, or looking at the archery, in
company with dignified clergyman, or elderly lady, astonished to meet
Honor Charlecote in so unwonted a scene.  Owen Sandbrook was never far
off.  He took them to eat ices, conducted them to good points of view,
found seats for them, and told them who every one was, with droll
comments or anecdotes which entertained them so much, that Phoebe almost
wished that Robin had not made her sensible of the grain of irreverence
that seasoned all Owen's most brilliant sallies.

They saw little of the others.  Mr. and Mrs. Charteris walked about
together, the one cordial, the other stately and gorgeous, and Miss
Charlecote came in for her due and passing share of their politeness.
Rashe once invited Phoebe to shoot, but had too many on her hands to be
solicitous about one.  Flirting no longer herself, Rashe's delight was in
those who did flirt, and in any assembly her extreme and unscrupulous
good-nature made her invaluable to all who wanted to have themselves
taken off their own hands, or pushed into those of others.  She ordered
people about, started amusements, hunted gentlemen up, found partners,
and shook up the bashful.  Rashe Charteris was the life of everything.
How little was wanting to make her kind-hearted activity admirable!

Lucilla never came in their way at all.  She was only seen in full and
eager occupation embellishing the archery, or forcing the 'decidedly
pious' to be fascinated by her gracious self-adaptation.  Robert was
equally inaccessible, always watching her, but keeping aloof from his
sister, and only consorting at times with Mr. Prendergast.

It was seven o'clock when this act of the drama was finally over, and the
parties staying in the house met round a hurried meal.  Rashe lounging
and yawning, laughing and quizzing, in a way amazing to Phoebe; Lucilla
in the very summit of spirits, rattling and laughing away in full swing.
Thence the party dispersed to dress, but Honora had no sooner reached her
room than she said, 'I must go and find Lucy.  I must do my duty by her,
little hope as I have.  She has avoided me all day; I must seek her now.'

What a difference time and discipline had made in one formerly so timid
and gentle as to be alarmed at the least encounter, and nervous at
wandering about a strange house.  Nervous and frightened, indeed, she
still was, but self-control kept this in check, and her dislike was not
allowed to hold her back from her duty.  Humfrey's representative was
seldom permitted to be weak.  But there are times when the difference
between man and woman is felt in their dealings with others.  Strength
can be mild, but what is strained can seldom be gentle, and when she
knocked at Horatia Charteris's door, her face, from very unhappiness and
effort, was sorrowfully reproachful, as she felt herself an unwelcome
apparition to the two cousins, who lay on their bed still laughing over
the day's events.

Rashe, who was still in her morning dress, at once gave way, saying she
must go and speak to Lolly, and hastened out of the room.  Lucy, in her
dishabille, sat crouched upon the bed, her white bare shoulders and
floating hair, together with the defiant glance of the blue eye, and the
hand moodily compressing the lips, reminding Honor of the little creature
who had been summarily carried into her house sixteen years since.  She
came towards her, but there was no invitation to give the caress that she
yearned to bestow, and she leant against the bed, trembling, as she said,
'Lucy, my poor child, I am come that you may not throw away your last
chance without knowing it.  You do not realize what you are about.  If
you cast aside esteem and reliance, how can you expect to retain the
affection you sometimes seem to prize?'

'If I am not trusted, what's the good of affection?'

'How can you expect trust when you go beyond the bounds of discretion?'
said Honor, with voice scarcely steadied into her desired firmness.

'I can, I do!'

'Lucy, listen to me.'  She gave way to her natural piteous, pleading
tone: 'I verily believe that this is the very turn.  Remember how often a
moment has decided the fate of a life!'  She saw the expression relax
into some alarm, and continued: 'The Fulmorts do not say so, but I see by
their manner that his final decision will be influenced by your present
proceedings.  You have trifled with him too long, and with his mind made
up to the ministry, he cannot continue to think of one who persists in
outraging decorum.'

Those words were effort enough, and had better have been unsaid.  'That
is as people may think,' was all the answer.

'As he thinks?'

'How do I know what he thinks?'

Heartsick at such mere fencing, Honor was silent at first, then said, 'I,
for one, shall rate your good opinion by your endeavour to deserve it.
Who can suppose that you value what you are willing to risk for an
unladylike bet, or an unfeminine sporting expedition!'

'You may tell him so,' said Lucilla, her voice quivering with passion.

'You think a look will bring him back, but you may find that a true man
is no slave.  Prove his affection misplaced, and he will tear it away.'

Had Honora been discreet as she was good, she would have left those words
to settle down; but, woman that she was, she knew not when to stop, and
coaxingly coming to the small bundle of perverseness, she touched the
shoulder, and said, 'Now you won't make an object of yourself to-night?'

The shoulder shook in the old fashion.

'At least you will not go to Ireland.'

'Yes, I shall.'

'Miss Charlecote, I beg your pardon--' cried Rashe, bursting in--(oh!
that she had been five seconds earlier)--'but dressing is imperative.
People are beginning to come.'

Honora retreated in utter discomfiture.

'Rashe!  Rashe!  I'm in for it!' cried Lucilla, as the door shut,
springing up with a look of terror.

'Proposed by deputy?' exclaimed Horatia, aghast.

'No, no!' gasped Lucilla; 'it's this Ireland of yours--that--that--' and
she well-nigh sobbed.

'My bonny bell!  I knew you would not be bullied into deserting.'

'Oh! Rashe, she was very hard on me.  Every one is but you!' and Lucilla
threw herself into her cousin's arms in a paroxysm of feeling; but their
maid's knock brought her back to composure sooner than poor Honora, who
shed many a tear over this last defeat, as, looking mournfully to Phoebe,
she said, 'I have done, Phoebe.  I can say no more to her.  She will not
hear anything from me.  Oh! what have I done that my child should be
hardened against me!'

Phoebe could offer nothing but caresses full of indignant sorrow, and
there was evidently soothing in them, for Miss Charlecote's tears became
softer, and she fondly smoothed Phoebe's fair hair, saying, as she drew
the clinging arms closer round her: 'My little woodbine, you must twine
round your brother and comfort him, but you can spare some sweetness for
me too.  There, I will dress.  I will not keep you from the party.'

'I do not care for that; only to see Robin.'

'We must take our place in the crowd,' sighed Honora, beginning her
toilet; 'and you will enjoy it when you are there.  Your first quadrille
is promised to Owen, is it not?'

'Yes,' said Phoebe, dreamily, and she would have gone back to Robin's
sorrows, but Honora had learnt that there were subjects to be set aside
when it was incumbent on her to be presentable, and directed the talk to
speculations whether the poor schoolmistress would have nerve to sing;
and somehow she talked up Phoebe's spirits to such a hopeful pitch, that
the little maiden absolutely was crossed by a gleam of satisfaction from
the ungrateful recollection that poor Miss Charlecote had done with the
affair.  Against her will, she had detected the antagonism between the
two, and bad as it was of Lucy, was certain that she was more likely to
be amenable where there was no interference from her best friend.

The music-room was already crowded when the two made their way into it,
and Honora's inclination was to deposit herself on the nearest seat, but
she owed something otherwise to her young charge, and Phoebe's eyes had
already found a lonely black figure with arms crossed, and lowering brow.
Simultaneously they moved towards him, and he towards them.  'Is she come
down?' he asked.

Phoebe shook her head, but at the same moment another door near the
orchestra admitted a small white butterfly figure, leading in a tall
queenly apparition in black, whom she placed in a chair adjacent to the
bejewelled prima donna of the night--a great contrast with her
dust-coloured German hair and complexion, and good-natured plain face.

Robert's face cleared with relief; he evidently detected nothing _outre_
in Lucilla's aspect, and was rejoicing in the concession.  Woman's eyes
saw further; a sigh from Honora, an amused murmur around him, caused him
to bend his looks on Phoebe.  She knew his eyes were interrogating her,
but could not bear to let her own reply, and kept them on the ground.

He was moving towards Lucilla, who, having consigned her _protegee_ to
the good-humoured German, had come more among the guests, and was
exchanging greetings and answering comments with all her most brilliant
airs of saucy animation.

And who could quarrel with that fairy vision?  Her rich double-skirted
watered silk was bordered with exquisitely made and coloured flies,
radiant with the hues of the peacock, the gold pheasant, the jay, parrots
of all tints, everything rich and rare in plumage.  A coronal of the same
encircled her glossy hair, the tiny plumes contrasting with the blonde
ringlets, and the _bona fide_ hooks ostentatiously displayed; lesser and
more innocuous flies edged the sleeves, corsage, shoes, and gloves; and
her fan, which she used as skilfully as Jenny Wren, presented a
Watteau-like picture of an angling scene.  Anything more daintily,
quaintly pretty could not be imagined, and the male part of the assembly
would have unanimously concurred in Sir Harry Buller's 'three cheers for
the queen of the anglers.'

But towards the party most concerned in her movements, Lucilla came not;
and Phoebe, understanding a desire to keep as near as might be to Miss
Murrell, tried to suggest it as the cause, and looking round, saw Owen
standing by Miss Charlecote, with somewhat of an uneasy countenance.

'Terribly hot here,' he said, restlessly; 'suffocating, aren't you,
Honor?  Come and take a turn in the cloister; the fountain is stunning by
moonlight.'

No proposal could have been more agreeable to Honora; and Phoebe was
afraid of losing her chaperon, though she would rather have adhered to
her brother, and the barbs of that wicked little angler were tearing him
far too deeply to permit him to move out of sight of his tormentor.

But for this, the change would have been delicious.  The white lights and
deep shadows from the calm, grave moon contrasted with the long gleams of
lamp-light from every window, reddened by the curtains within; the
flowers shone out with a strange whiteness, the taller ones almost like
spiritual shapes; the burnished orange leaves glistened, the water rose
high in silvery spray, and fell back into the blackness of the basin made
more visible by one trembling, shimmering reflection; the dark blue sky
above seemed shut into a vault by the enclosing buildings, and one
solitary planet shone out in the lustrous neighbourhood of the moon.  So
still, so solemn, so cool!  Honora felt it as repose, and pensively began
to admire--Owen chimed in with her.  Feverish thoughts and perturbations
were always gladly soothed away in her company.  Phoebe alone stood
barely confessing the beauty, and suppressing impatience at their making
so much of it; not yet knowing enough of care or passion to seek repose,
and much more absorbed in human than in any other form of nature.

The music was her first hope of deliverance from her namesake in the sky;
but, behold, her companions chose to prefer hearing that grand
instrumental piece softened by distance; and even Madame Hedwig's
quivering notes did not bring them in.  However, at the first sounds of
the accompaniment to the 'Three Fishers' Wives,' Owen pulled back the
curtain, and handed the two ladies back into the room, by a window much
nearer to the orchestra than that by which they had gone out, not far
from where Edna Murrell had just risen, her hands nervously clasped
together, her colour rapidly varying, and her eyes roaming about as
though in quest of something.  Indeed, through all the music, the slight
sounds of the entrance at the window did not escape her, and at the
instant when she should have begun to sing, Phoebe felt those black eyes
levelled on herself with a look that startled her; they were at once
removed, the head turned away; there was an attempt at the first words,
but they died away on her lips; there was a sudden whiteness, Lucilla and
the German both tried to reseat her; but with readier judgment Owen made
two long steps, gathered her up in his strong arms, and bore her through
the curtains and out at the open window like a mere infant.

'Don't come, don't--it will only make more fuss--nobody has seen.  Go to
Madame Hedwig; tell her from me to go on to her next, and cover her
retreat,' said Lucilla, as fast as the words would come, signing back
Honora, and hastily disappearing between the curtains.

There was a command in Lucilla's gestures which always made obedience the
first instinct even with Honora, and her impulse to assist thus
counteracted, she had time to recollect that Lucy might be supposed to
know best what to do with the schoolmistress, and that to dispose of her
among her ladies' maid friends was doubtless the kindest measure.

'I must say I am glad,' she said; 'the poor thing cannot be quite so much
spoilt as they wished.'

The concert proceeded, and in the next pause Honor fell into conversation
with a pleasant lady who had brought one pair of young daughters in the
morning, and now was doing the same duty by an elder pair.

Phoebe was standing near the window when a touch on her arm and a
whispered 'Help! hush!' made her look round.  Holding the curtain apart,
so as to form the least possible aperture, and with one finger on her
lip, was Lucy's face, the eyes brimming over with laughter, as she
pointed to her head--three of the hooks had set their barbs deep into the
crimson satin curtain, and held her a prisoner!

'Hush!  I'll never forgive you if you betray me,' she whispered, drawing
Phoebe by the arm behind the curtain; 'I should expire on the spot to be
found in Absalom's case.  All that little goose's fault--I never reckoned
on having to rush about this way.  Can't you do it?  Don't spare
scissors,' and Lucilla produced a pair from under her skirt.  'Rashe and
I always go provided.'

'How is she?--where is she?' asked Phoebe.

'That's exactly what I can't tell.  He took her out to the fountain; she
was quite like a dead thing.  Water wouldn't make her come to, and I ran
for some salts; I wouldn't call anybody, for it was too romantic a
condition to have Owen discovered in, with a fainting maiden in his arms.
Such a rummage as I had.  My own things are all jumbled up, I don't know
how, and Rashe keeps nothing bigger than globules, only fit for fainting
lady-birds, so I went to Lolly's, but her bottles have all gold heads,
and are full of uncanny-looking compounds, and I made a raid at last on
Sweet Honey's rational old dressing-case, poked out her keys from her
pocket, and got in; wasting interminable time.  Well, when I got back to
my fainting damsel, _non est inventus_.'

'_Inventa_,' murmured the spirit of Miss Fennimore within Phoebe.  'But
what? had she got well?'

'So I suppose.  Gone off to the servants' rooms, no doubt; as there is no
White Lady in the fountain to spirit them both away.  What, haven't you
done that, yet?'

'Oh! Lucy, stand still, please, or you'll get another hook in.'

'Give me the scissors; I know I could do it quicker.  Never mind the
curtain, I say; nobody will care.'

She put up her hand, and shook head and feet to the entanglement of a
third hook; but Phoebe, decided damsel that she was, used her superior
height to keep her mastery, held up the scissors, pressed the fidgety
shoulder into quiescence, and kept her down while she extricated her,
without fatal detriment to the satin, though with scanty thanks, for the
liberation was no sooner accomplished than the sprite was off, throwing
out a word about Rashe wanting her.

Phoebe emerged to find that she had not been missed, and presently the
concert was over, and tea coming round, there was a change of places.
Robert came towards her.  'I am going,' he said.

'Oh! Robert, when dancing would be one chance?'

'She does not mean to give me that chance; I would not ask it while she
is in that dress.  It is answer sufficient.  Good night, Phoebe; enjoy
yourself.'

Enjoy herself!  A fine injunction, when her brother was going away in
such a mood!  Yet who would have suspected that rosy, honest apple face
of any grievance, save that her partner was missing?

Honora was vexed and concerned at his neglect, but Phoebe appeased her by
reporting what Lucy had said.  'Thoughtless! reckless!' sighed Honora;
'if Lucy _would_ leave the poor girl on his hands, of course he is
obliged to make some arrangement for getting her home!  I never knew such
people as they are here!  Well, Phoebe, you _shall_ have a partner next
time!'

Phoebe had one, thanks chiefly to Rashe, and somehow the rapid motion
shook her out of her troubles, and made her care much less for Robin's
sorrows than she had done two minutes before.  She was much more absorbed
in hopes for another partner.

Alas! he did not come; neither then nor for the ensuing.  Owen's value
began to rise.

Miss Charlecote did not again bestir herself in the cause, partly from
abstract hatred of waltzes, partly from the constant expectation of
Owen's reappearance, and latterly from being occupied in a discussion
with the excellent mother upon young girls reading novels.

At last, after a _galoppe_, at which Phoebe had looked on with wishful
eyes, Lucilla dropped breathless into the chair which she relinquished to
her.

'Well, Phoebe, how do you like it?'

'Oh! very much,' rather ruefully; 'at least it would be if--'

'If you had any partners, eh, poor child?  Hasn't Owen turned up?

'It's that billiard-room; I tried to make Charlie shut it up.  But we'll
disinter him; I'll rush in like a sky-rocket, and scatter the gentlemen
to all quarters.'

'No, no, don't!' cried Phoebe, alarmed, and catching hold of her.  'It is
not that, but Robin is gone.'

'Atrocious,' returned Cilly, disconcerted, but resolved that Phoebe
should not perceive it; 'so we are both under a severe infliction,--both
ashamed of our brothers.'

'I am not ashamed of mine,' said Phoebe, in a tone of gravity.

'Ah! there's the truant,' said Lucilla, turning aside.  'Owen, where have
you hidden yourself?  I hope you are ready to sink into the earth with
shame at hearing you have rubbed off the bloom from a young lady's first
ball.'

'No! it was not he who did so,' stoutly replied Phoebe.

'Ah! it was all the consequence of the green and white; I told you it was
a sinister omen,' said Owen, chasing away a shade of perplexity from his
brow, and assuming a certain air that Phoebe had never seen before, and
did not like.  'At least you will be merciful, and allow me to retrieve
my character.'

'You had nothing to retrieve,' said Phoebe, in the most straightforward
manner; 'it was very good in you to take care of poor Miss Murrell.  What
became of her?  Lucy said you would know.'

'I--I?' he exclaimed, so vehemently as to startle her by the fear of
having ignorantly committed some egregious blunder; 'I'm the last person
to know.'

'The last to be seen with the murdered always falls under suspicion,'
said Lucilla.

'Drowned in the fountain?' cried Owen, affecting horror.

'Then you must have done it,' said his sister, 'for when I came back,
after ransacking the house for salts, you had both disappeared.  Have you
been washing your hands all this time after the murder?'

'Nothing can clear me but an appeal to the fountain,' said Owen; 'will
you come and look in, Phoebe?  It is more delicious than ever.'

But Phoebe had had enough of the moonlight, did not relish the subject,
and was not pleased with Owen's manner; so she refused by a most decided
'No, thank you,' causing Lucy to laugh at her for thinking Owen
dangerous.

'At least you will vouchsafe to trust yourself with me for the Lancers,'
said Owen, as Cilla's partner came to claim her, and Phoebe rejoiced in
anything to change the tone of the conversation; still, however, asking,
as he led her off, what had become of the poor schoolmistress.

'Gone home, very sensibly,' said Owen; 'if she is wise she will know how
to trust to Cilly's invitations!  People that do everything at once never
do anything well.  It is quite a rest to turn to any one like you,
Phoebe, who are content with one thing at a time!  I wish--'

'Well, then, let us dance,' said Phoebe, abruptly; 'I can't do that well
enough to talk too.'

It was not that Owen had not said the like things to her many times
before; it was his eagerness and fervour that gave her an uncomfortable
feeling.  She was not sure that he was not laughing at her by putting on
these devoted airs, and she felt herself grown up enough to put an end to
being treated as a child.  He made her a profound bow in a mockery of
acquiescence, and preserved absolute silence during the first figures,
but she caught his eye several times gazing on her with looks such as
another might have interpreted into mingled regret and admiration, but
which were to her simply discomfiting and disagreeable, and when he spoke
again, it was not in banter, but half in sadness.  'Phoebe, how do you
like all this?'

'I think I could like it very much.'

'I am almost sorry to hear you say so; anything that should tend to make
you resemble others is detestable.'

'I should be very sorry not to be like other people.'

'Phoebe, you do not know how much of the pleasure of my life would be
lost if you were to become a mere conventional young lady.'

Phoebe had no notion of being the pleasure of any one's life except
Robin's and Maria's, and was rather affronted that Owen should profess to
enjoy her childish ignorance and _naivete_.

'I believe,' she said, 'I was rude just now when I told you not to talk.
I am sorry for it; I shall know better next time.'

'Your knowing better is exactly what I deprecate.  But there it is;
unconsciousness is the charm of simplicity.  It is the very thing aimed
at by Rashe and Cilly, and all their crew, with their eccentricities.'

'I am sorry for it,' seriously returned Phoebe, who had by this time, by
quiet resistance, caused him to land her under the lee of Miss
Charlecote, instead of promenading with her about the room.  He wanted
her to dance with him again, saying she owed it to him for having
sacrificed the first to common humanity, but great as was the pleasure of
a polka, she shrank from him in this complimentary mood, and declared she
should dance no more that evening.  He appealed to Honora, who, disliking
to have her boy balked of even a polka, asked Phoebe if she were _very_
tired, and considering her 'rather not' as equivalent to such a
confession, proposed a retreat to their own room.

Phoebe was sorry to leave the brilliant scene, and no longer to be able
to watch Lucilla, but she wanted to shake Owen off, and readily
consented.  She shut her door after one good night.  She was too much
grieved and disappointed to converse, and could not bear to discuss
whether the last hope were indeed gone, and whether Lucilla had decided
her lot without choosing to know it.  Alas! how many turning-points may
be missed by those who never watch!

How little did Phoebe herself perceive the shoal past which her
self-respect had just safely guided her!

'I wonder if those were ball-room manners?  What a pity if they were, for
then I shall not like balls,' was all the thought that she had leisure to
bestow on her own share in the night's diversions, as through the
subsequent hours she dozed and dreamt, and mused and slept again, with
the feverish limbs and cramp-tormented feet of one new to balls;
sometimes teased by entangling fishing flies, sometimes interminably
detained in the moonlight, sometimes with Miss Fennimore waiting for an
exercise, and the words not to be found in the dictionary; and even this
unpleasant counterfeit of sleep deserting her after her usual time for
waking, and leaving her to construct various fabrics of possibilities for
Robin and Lucy.

She was up in fair time, and had written a long and particular account to
Bertha of everything in the festivities not recorded in this narrative,
before Miss Charlecote awoke from the compensating morning slumber that
had succeeded a sad and unrestful night.  Late as they were, they were
down-stairs before any one but the well-seasoned Rashe, who sat beguiling
the time with a Bradshaw, and who did _not_ tell them how intolerably
cross Cilly had been all the morning.

Nor would any one have suspected it who had seen her, last of all, come
down at a quarter to eleven, in the most exultant spirits, talking the
height of rodomontade with the gentlemen guests, and dallying with her
breakfast, while Phoebe's heart was throbbing at the sight of two grave
figures, her brother and the curate, slowly marching up and down the
cloister, in waiting till this was over.

And there sat Lucilla inventing adventures for an imaginary tour to be
brought out on her return by the name of 'Girls in Galway'--'From the
Soiree to the Salmon'--'Flirts and Fools-heads,' as Owen and Charles
discontentedly muttered to each other, or, as Mr. Calthorp proposed, 'The
Angels and the Anglers.'  The ball was to be the opening chapter.  Lord
William entreated for her costume as the frontispiece, and Mr. Calthorp
begged her to re-assume it, and let her cousin photograph her on the
spot.

Lucilla objected to the impracticability of white silk, the inconvenience
of unpacking the apparatus, the nuisance of dressing, the lack of time;
but Rashe was delighted with the idea, and made light of all, and the
gentlemen pressed her strongly, till with rather more of a consent than a
refusal, she rose from her nearly untasted breakfast, and began to move
away.

'Cilla,' said Mr. Prendergast, at the window, 'can I have a word with
you?'

'At your service,' she answered, as she came out to him, and saw that
Robert had left him.  'Only be quick; they want to photograph me in my
ball-dress.'

'You won't let them do it, though,' said the curate.

'White comes out hideous,' said Lucilla; 'I suppose you would not have a
copy, if I took one off for you?'

'No; I don't like those visitors of yours well enough to see you turned
into a merry-andrew to please them.'

'So that's what Robert Fulmort told you I did last night,' said Lucilla,
blushing at last, and thoroughly.

'No, indeed; you didn't?' he said, regarding her with an astonished
glance.

'I _did_ wear a dress trimmed with salmon-flies, because of a bet with
Lord William,' said Lucilla, the suffusion deepening on brow, cheek, and
throat, as the confiding esteem of her fatherly friend effected what
nothing else could accomplish.  She would have given the world to have
justified his opinion of his late rector's little daughter, and her
spirits seemed gone, though the worst he did was to shake his head at
her.

'If you did not know it, why did you call me _that_?' she asked.

'A merry-andrew?' he answered; 'I never meant that you had been one.  No;
only an old friend like me doesn't like the notion of your going and
dressing up in the morning to amuse a lot of scamps.'

'I won't,' said Lucilla, very low.

'Well, then,' began Mr. Prendergast, as in haste to proceed to his own
subject; but she cut him short.

'It is not about Ireland?'

'No; I know nothing about young ladies; and if Mr. Charteris and your
excellent friend there have nothing to say against it, I can't.'

'My excellent friend had so much to say against it, that I was pestered
into vowing I would go!  Tell me not, Mr. Prendergast,--I should not mind
giving up to you;' and she looked full of hope.

'That would be beginning at the wrong end, Cilla; you are not my charge.'

'You are my clergyman,' she said, pettishly.

'You are not my parishioner,' he answered.

'Pish!' she said; 'when you know I want you to tell me.'

'Why, you say you have made the engagement.'

'So what I said when she fretted me past endurance must bind me!'

Be it observed that, like all who only knew Hiltonbury through Lucilla,
Mr. Prendergast attributed any blemishes which he might detect in her to
the injudicious training of an old maid; so he sympathized.  'Ah! ladies
of a certain age never get on with young ones!  But I thought it was all
settled before with Miss Charteris.'

'I never quite said I would go, only we got ready for the sake of the fun
of talking of it, and now Rashe has grown horridly eager about it.  She
did not care at first--only to please me.'

'Then wouldn't it be using her ill to disappoint her now?  You couldn't
do it, Cilla.  Why, you have given your word, and she is quite old enough
for anything.  Wouldn't Miss Charlecote see it so?'

To regard Ratia as a mature personage robbed the project of romance, and
to find herself bound in honour by her inconsiderate rattle was one of
the rude shocks which often occur to the indiscriminate of tongue; but
the curate had too much on his mind to dwell on what concerned him more
remotely, and proceeded, 'I came to see whether you could help me about
poor Miss Murrell.  You made no arrangement for her getting home last
night?'

'No!'

'Ah, you young people!  But it is my fault; I should have recollected
young heads.  Then I am afraid it must have been--'

'What?'

'She was seen on the river very late last night with a stranger.  He went
up to the school with her, remained about a quarter of an hour, and then
rowed up the river again.  I am afraid it is not the first time she has
been seen with him.'

'But, Mr. Prendergast, she was here till at least ten!  She fainted away
just as she was to have sung, and we carried her out into the cloister.
When she recovered she went away to the housekeeper's room--' (a bold
assertion, built on Owen's partially heard reply to Phoebe).  'I'll ask
the maids.'

'It is of no use, Cilla; she allows it herself.'

'And pray,' cried Lucilla, rallying her sauciness, 'how do you propose
ever to have banns to publish, if young men and maidens are never to meet
by water nor by land?'

'Then you do know something?'

'No; only that such matters are not commonly blazoned in the
commencement.'

'I don't wish her to blazon it, but if she would only act openly by me,'
said the distressed curate.  'I wish nothing more than that she was safe
married; and then if you ladies appoint another beauty, I'll give up the
place, and live at --- college.'

'We'll advertise for the female Chimpanzee, and depend upon it she will
marry at the end of six weeks.  So you have attacked her in person.  What
did she say?'

'Nothing that she could help.  She stood with those great eyes cast down,
looking like a statue, and sometimes vouchsafing "yes, sir," or "no,
sir."  It was "no, sir," when I asked if her mother knew.  I am afraid it
must be something very unsatisfactory, Cilla; but she might say more to
you if you were not going away.'

'Oh! Mr. Prendergast, why did you not come sooner?'

'I did come an hour ago, but you were not come down.'

'I'll walk on at once; the carriage can pick me up.  I'll fetch my hat.
Poor Edna!  I'll soon make her satisfy your mind.  Has any one surmised
who it can be?'

'The notion is that it is one of your musicians--very dangerous, I am
afraid; and I say, Cilla, did you ever do such a thing--you couldn't, I
suppose--as lend her Shelley's poems?'

'I?  No; certainly not.'

'There was a copy lying on the table in her little parlour, as if she had
been writing something out from it.  It is very odd, but it was in that
peculiar olive-green morocco that some of the books in your father's
library were bound in.'

'Not mine, certainly,' said Lucilla.  'Good Honor Charlecote would have
run crazy if she thought I had touched a Shelley; a very odd study for
Edna.  But as to the olive-green, of course it was bound under the same
star as ours.'

'Cilly, Cilly, now or never! photograph or not?' screamed Rashe, from
behind her three-legged camera.

'Not!' was Lucilla's cavalier answer.  'Pack up; have done with it,
Rashe.  Pick me up at the school.'

Away she flew headlong, the patient and disconcerted Horatia following
her to her room to extract hurried explanations, and worse than no
answers as to the sundries to be packed at the last moment, while she
hastily put on hat and mantle, and was flying down again, when her
brother, with outspread arms, nearly caught her in her spring.  'Hollo!
what's up?'

'Don't stop me, Owen!  I'm going to walk on with Mr. Prendergast and be
picked up.  I must speak to Edna Murrell.'

'Nonsense!  The carriage will be out in five minutes.'

'I must go, Owen.  There's some story of a demon in human shape on the
water with her last night, and Mr. Prendergast can't get a word out of
her.'

'Is that any reason you should go ramping about, prying into people's
affairs?'

'But, Owen, they will send her away.  They will take away her character.'

'The--the--the more reason you should have nothing to do with it,' he
exclaimed.  'It is no business for you, and I won't have you meddle in
it.'

Such a strong and sudden assumption of fraternal authority took away her
breath; and then, in terror lest he should know cause for this detention,
she said--

'Owen! you don't guess who it was?'

'How should I?' he roughly answered.  'Some villainous slander, of
course, there is, but it is no business of yours to be straking off to
make it worse.'

'I should not make it worse.'

'Women always make things worse.  Are you satisfied now?' as the carriage
was seen coming round.

'That is only to be packed.'

'Packed with folly, yes!  Look here!  11.20, and the train at 12.5!'

'I will miss the train, go up later, and sleep in London.'

'Stuff and nonsense!  Who is going to take you?  Not I.'

In Lucilla's desperation in the cause of her favourite Edna, she went
through a rapid self-debate.  Honor would gladly wait for her for such a
cause; she could sleep at Woolstone-lane, and thence go on to join
Horatia in Derbyshire, escorted by a Hiltonbury servant.  But what would
that entail?  She would be at their mercy.  Robert would obtain his
advantage--it would be all over with her!  Pride arose; Edna's cause
sank.  How many destinies were fixed in the few seconds while she stood
with one foot forward, spinning her black hat by the elastic band!

'Too late, Mr. Prendergast; I cannot go,' she said, as she saw him
waiting for her at the door.  'Don't be angry with me, and don't let the
womankind prejudice you against poor Edna.  You forgive me!  It is really
too late.'

'Forgive _you_?' smiled Mr. Prendergast, pressing her caressing hand in
his great, lank grasp; 'what for?'

'Oh, because it is too late; and I can't help it.  But don't be hard with
her.  Good-bye.'

Too late!  Why did Lucilla repeat those words so often?  Was it a relief
to that irreflective nature to believe the die irrevocably cast, and the
responsibility of decision over?  Or why did she ask forgiveness of the
only one whom she was not offending, but because there was a sense of
need of pardon where she would not stoop to ask it.

Miss Charlecote and the Fulmorts, Rashe and Cilly, were to be transported
to London by the same train, leaving Owen behind to help Charles
Charteris entertain some guests still remaining, Honora promising him to
wait in town until Lucilla should absolutely have started for Ireland,
when she would supply him with the means of pursuit.

Lucilla's delay and change of mind made the final departure so late that
it was needful to drive excessively fast, and the train was barely caught
in time.  The party were obliged to separate, and Robert took Phoebe into
a different carriage from that where the other three found places.

In the ten minutes' transit by railway, Lucy, always softened by parting,
was like another being towards Honor, and talked eagerly of 'coming home'
for Christmas, sent messages to Hiltonbury friends, and did everything
short of retractation to efface the painful impression she had left.

'Sweetest Honey!' she whispered, as they moved on after the tickets had
been taken, thrusting her pretty head over into Honor's place.  'Nobody's
looking, give me a kiss, and say you don't bear malice, though your
kitten has been in a scratching humour.'

'Malice! no indeed!' said Honor, fondly; 'but, oh! remember, dear child,
that frolics may be at too dear a price.'

She longed to say more, but the final stop was made, and their roads
diverged.  Honor thought that Lucy looked white and trembling, with an
uneasy eye, as though she would have given much to have been going home
with her.

Nor was the consoling fancy unfounded.  Lucilla's nerves were not at
their usual pitch, and an undefined sense of loss of a safeguard was
coming over her.  Moreover, the desire for a last word to Robert was
growing every moment, and he _would_ keep on hunting out those boxes, as
if they mattered to anybody.

She turned round on his substitute, and said, 'I've not spoken to Robin
all this time.  No wonder his feathers are ruffled.  Make my peace with
him, Phoebe dear.'

On the very platform, in that moment of bustle, Phoebe conscientiously
and reasonably began, 'Will you tell me how much you mean by that?'

'Cilly--King's-cross--1.15,' cried Ratia, snatching at her arm.

'Oh! the slave one is!  Next time we meet, Phoebe, the redbreast will be
in a white tie, I shall--'

Hurry and agitation were making her flippant, and Robert was nearer than
she deemed.  He was assisting her to her seat, and then held out his
hand, but never raised his eyes.  'Goodbye, Robin,' she said; 'Reason
herself shall meet you at the Holt at Christmas.'

'Good-bye,' he said, but without a word of augury, and loosed her hand.
Her fingers clung one moment, but he drew his away, called 'King's-cross'
to the coachman, and she was whirled off.  Angler as she was, she no
longer felt her prey answer her pull.  Had the line snapped?

When Owen next appeared in Woolstone-lane he looked fagged and harassed,
but talked of all things in sky, earth, or air, politics, literature, or
gossip, took the bottom of the table, and treated the Parsonses as his
guests.  Honora, however, felt that something was amiss; perhaps Lucilla
engaged to Lord William; and when, after luncheon, he followed her to the
cedar room, she began with a desponding 'Well?'

'Well, she is off!'

'Alone with Rashe?'

'Alone with Rashe.  Why, Sweet Honey, you look gratified!'

'I had begun to fear some fresh news,' said Honor, smiling with effort.
'I am sure that something is wrong.  You do not look well, my dear.  How
flushed you are, and your forehead is so hot!' as she put her hand on his
brow.

'Oh, nothing!' he said, caressingly, holding it there.  'I'm glad to have
got away from the castle; Charlie and his set drink an intolerable lot of
wine.  I'll not be there again in a hurry.'

'I am glad of that.  I wish you had come away with us.'

'I wish to heaven I had!' cried Owen; 'but it could not be helped!  So
now for my wild-goose chase.  Cross to-morrow night; only you were good
enough to say you would find ways and means.'

'There, that is what I intended, including your Midsummer quarter.  Don't
you think it enough?' as she detected a look of dissatisfaction.

'You are very good.  It is a tremendous shame; but you see, Honor dear,
when one is across the water, one may as well go the whole animal.  If
this wise sister of mine does not get into a mess, there is a good deal I
could do--plenty of sport.  Little Henniker and some Westminster fellows
in the ---th are at Kilkenny.'

'You would like to spend the vacation in Ireland,' said Honor, with some
disappointment.  'Well, if you go for my pleasure, it is but fair you
should have your own.  Shall I advance your September allowance?'

'Thank you.  You do spoil one abominably, you concoction of honey and all
things sweet.  But the fact is, I've got uncommonly hard-up of late; no
one would believe how ruinous it is being with the Charterises.  I
believe money evaporates in the atmosphere.'

'Betting?' asked Honor, gasping and aghast.

'On my honour, I assure you not _there_,' cried Owen, eagerly, 'I never
did bet there but once, and that was Lolly's doing; and I could not get
out of it.  Jew that she is!  I wonder what Uncle Kit would say to that
house now.'

'You are out of it, and I shall not regret the purchase of your disgust
at their ways, Owen.  It may be better for you to be in Ireland than to
be tempted to go to them for the shooting season.  How much do you want?
You know, my dear, if there be anything else, I had rather pay anything
that is right than have you in debt.'

'You were always the sweetest, best Honey living!' cried Owen, with much
agitation; 'and it is a shame--' but there he stopped, and ended in a
more ordinary tone--'shame to prey on you, as we both do, and with no
better return.'

'Never mind, dear Owen,' she said, with moisture in her eye; 'your real
happiness is the only return I want.  Come, tell me your difficulty; most
likely I can help you.'

'I've nothing to tell,' said Owen, with alarmed impetuosity; 'only that
I'm a fool, like every one else, and--and--if you would only double
that--'

'Double that!  Owen, things cannot be right.'

'I told you they were not right,' was the impatient answer, 'or I should
not be vexing you and myself; and,' as though to smooth away his rough
commencement, 'what a comfort to have a Honey that will have patience!'

She shook her head, perplexed.  'Owen, I wish you could tell me more.  I
do not like debts.  You know, dear boy, I grudge nothing I can do for you
in my lifetime; but for your own sake you must learn not to spend more
than you will be able to afford.  Indulgence now will be a penance to you
by and by.'

Honora dreaded overdoing lectures to Owen.  She knew that an old maid's
advice to a young man was dangerous work, and her boy's submissive
patience always excited her gratitude and forbearance, so she desisted,
in hopes of a confession, looking at him with such tenderness that he was
moved to exclaim--'Honor dear, you are the best and worst-used woman on
earth!  Would to heaven that we had requited you better!'

'I have no cause of complaint against you, Owen,' she said, fondly; 'you
have always been the joy and comfort of my heart;' and as he turned
aside, as though stricken by the words, 'whatever you may have to
reproach yourself with, it is not with hurting me; I only wish to remind
you of higher and more stringent duties than those to myself.  If you
have erred, as I cannot but fear, will you not let me try and smooth the
way back?'

'Impossible,' murmured Owen; 'there are things that can never be undone.'

'Not undone, but repented,' said Honor, convinced that he had been led
astray by his cousin Charles, and felt bound not to expose him; 'so
repented as to become stepping-stones in our progress.'

He only shook his head with a groan.

'The more sorrow, the better hope,' she began; but the impatient movement
of his foot warned her that she was only torturing him, and she
proceeded,--'Well, I trust you implicitly; I can understand that there
may be confidences that ought not to pass between us, and will give you
what you require to help you out of your difficulty.  I wish you had a
father, or any one who could be of more use to you, my poor boy!' and she
began to fill up the cheque to the utmost of his demand.

'It is too much--too much,' cried Owen.  'Honor, I must tell you at all
costs.  What will you think when--'

'I do not wish to purchase a confession, Owen,' she said; 'you know best
whether it be a fit one to make to me, or whether for the sake of others
you ought to withhold it.'

He was checked, and did not answer.

'I see how it is,' continued Honor; 'my boy, as far as I am concerned, I
look on your confession as made.  You will be much alone while thus
hovering near your sister among the mountains and by the streams.  Let it
be a time of reflection, and of making your peace with Another.  You may
do so the more earnestly for not having cast off the burthen on me.  You
are no child now, to whom your poor Honey's pardon almost seems an
absolution.  I sometimes think we went on with that too long.'

'No fear of my ever being a boy again,' said Owen, heavily, as he put the
draft into his purse, and then bent his tall person to kiss her with the
caressing fondness of his childhood, almost compensating for what his
sister caused her to undergo.

Then, at the door, he turned to say, 'Remember, you would not hear.'  He
was gone, having left a thorn with Honor, in the doubt whether she ought
not to have accepted his confidence; but her abstinence had been such a
mortification both of curiosity and of hostility to the Charterises that
she could not but commend herself for it.  She had strong faith in the
efficacy of trust upon an honourable mind, and though it was evident that
Owen had, in his own eyes, greatly transgressed, she reserved the hope
that his error was magnified by his own consciousness, and admired the
generosity that refused to betray another.  She believed his present
suffering to be the beginning of that growth in true religion which is
often founded on some shock leading to self-distrust.

Alas! how many falls have been counted by mothers as the preludes to
rising again, like the clearing showers of a stormy day.



CHAPTER VIII


    Fearless she had tracked his feet
    To this rocky, wild retreat,
    And when morning met his view,
    Her mild glances met it too.
    Ah! your saints have cruel hearts,
    Sternly from his bed he starts,
    And with rude, repulsive shock,
    Hurls her from the beetling rock.--T. MOORE

The deed was done.  Conventionalities were defied, vaunts fulfilled, and
Lucilla sat on a camp-stool on the deck of a steamer, watching the Welsh
mountains rise, grow dim, and vanish gradually.

Horatia, in common with all the rest of the womankind, was prostrate on
the cabin floor, treating Cilly's smiles and roses as aggravations of her
misery.  Had there been a sharer in her exultation, the gay pitching and
dancing of the steamer would have been charming to Lucy, but when she
retreated from the scene of wretchedness below, she felt herself lonely,
and was conscious of some surprise among the surviving gentlemen at her
reappearance.

She took out a book as a protection, and read more continuously than she
had done since _Vanity Fair_ had come to the Holt, and she had been
pleased to mark Honora's annoyance at every page she turned.

But the July light faded, and only left her the poor amusement of looking
over the side for the phosphorescence of the water, and watching the
smoke of the funnel lose itself overhead.  The silent stars and sparkling
waves would have set Phoebe's dutiful science on the alert, or
transported Honor's inward ear by the chant of creation, but to her they
were of moderate interest, and her imagination fell a prey to the memory
of the eyes averted, and hand withdrawn.  'I'll be exemplary when this is
over,' said she to herself, and at length her head nodded till she
dropped into a giddy doze, whence with a chilly start she awoke, as the
monotonous jog and bounce of the steamer were exchanged for a snort of
arrival, among mysterious lanes of sparkling lights apparently rising
from the waters.

She had slept just long enough to lose the lovely entrance of Dublin Bay,
stiffen her limbs, and confuse her brains, and she stood still as the
stream of passengers began to rush trampling by her, feeling bewildered
and forlorn.  Her cousin's voice was welcome, though over-loud and
somewhat piteous.  'Where are you, stewardess? where's the young lady?
Oh! Cilly, there you are.  To leave me alone all this time, and here's
the stewardess saying we must go ashore at once, or lose the train.  Oh!
the luggage, and I've lost my plaid,' and ghastly in the lamplight, limp
and tottering, Rashe Charteris clasped her arm for support, and made her
feel doubly savage and bewildered.  Her first movement was to enjoin
silence, then to gaze about for the goods.  A gentleman took pity on the
two ladies, and told them not to be deluded into trying to catch the
train; there would be another in an hour's time, and if they had any one
to meet them, they would most easily be found where they were.

'We have no one--we are alone,' said Lucilla; and his chivalry was so far
awakened that he handed them to the pier, and undertook to find their
boxes.  Rashe was absolutely subdued, and hung shivering and helpless on
her cousin, who felt as though dreaming in the strange scene of darkness
made visible by the bright circles round the lamps, across which rapidly
flitted the cloaked forms of travellers presiding over queer, wild,
caricature-like shapes, each bending low under the weight of trunk or
bag, in a procession like a magic lantern, save for the Babel of shrieks,
cries, and expostulations everywhere in light or gloom.

A bell rang, an engine roared and rattled off.  'The train!' sighed
Horatia; 'we shall have to stay here all night.'

'Nonsense,' said Lucy, ready to shake her; 'there is another in an hour.
Stay quiet, do, or he will never find us.'

'Porter, ma'am--porrterr--'

'No, no, thank you,' cried Lucilla, darting on her rod-case and
carriage-bag to rescue them from a freckled countenance with claws
attached.

'We shall lose everything, Cilla; that's your trusting to a stranger!'

'All right; thank you!' as she recognized her possessions, borne on
various backs towards the station, whither the traveller escorted them,
and where things looked more civilized.  Ratia began to resume her
senses, though weak and hungry.  She was sorely discomfited at having to
wait, and could not, like the seasoned voyagers, settle herself to repose
on the long leathern couches of the waiting-room, but wandered, woebegone
and impatient, scolding her cousin for choosing such an hour for their
passage, for her desertion and general bad management.  The merry,
good-natured Rashe had disappeared in the sea-sick, cross, and weary
wight, whose sole solace was grumbling, but her dolefulness only made
Lucilla more mirthful.  Here they were, and happen what would, it should
only be 'such fun.'  Recovered from the moment's bewilderment, Lucy
announced that she felt as if she were at a ball, and whispered a
proposal of astonishing the natives by a polka in the great empty boarded
space.  'The suggestion would immortalize us; come!'  And she threatened
mischievously to seize the waist of the still giddy and aching-headed
Horatia, who repulsed her with sufficient roughness and alarm to set her
off laughing at having been supposed to be in earnest.

The hurry of the train came at last; they hastened down-stairs and found
the train awaiting them, were told their luggage was safe, and after
sitting till they were tired, shot onwards watching the beautiful
glimpses of the lights in the ships off Kingstown.  They would gladly
have gone on all night without another disembarkation and scramble, but
the Dublin station came only too soon; they were disgorged, and hastened
after goods.  Forth came trunk and portmanteau.  Alas! none of theirs!
Nothing with them but two carriage-bags and two rod-cases!

'It seems to be a common predicament,' said Lucilla; 'here are at least
half-a-dozen in the same case.'

'Horrible management.  We shall never see it more.'

'Nay, take comfort in the general lot.  It will turn up to-morrow; and
meantime sleep is not packed up in our boxes.  Come, let's be off.  What
noises!  How do these drivers keep from running over one another.  Each
seems ready to whip every one's beast but his own.  Don't you feel
yourself in Ireland, Rashe?  Arrah!  I shall begin to scream too if I
stand here much longer.'

'We can't go in that thing--a fly!'

'Don't exist here, Rashe--vermin is unknown.  Submit to your fate--' and
ere another objection could be uttered, Cilly threw bags and rods into an
inside car, and pushed her cousin after them, chattering all the time, to
poor Horatia's distraction.  'Oh! delicious!  A cross between a baker's
cart and a Van Amburgh.  A little more and it would overbalance and carry
the horse head over heels!  Take care, Rashe; you'll pound me into dust
if you slip down over me.'

'I can't help it!  Oh! the vilest thing in creation.'

'Such fun!  To be taken when well shaken.  Here we go up, up, up; and
here we go down, down, down!  Ha! ware fishing-rod!  This is what it is
to travel.  No one ever described the experiences of an inside car!'

'Because no one in their senses would undergo such misery!'

'But you don't regard the beauties, Rashe, beauties of nature and art
combined--see the lights reflected in the river--what a width.  Oh! why
don't they treat the Thames as they do the Liffey?'

'I can't see, I shall soon be dead! and getting to an inn without
luggage, it's not respectable.'

'If you depart this life on the way, the want of luggage will concern me
the most, my dear.  Depend on it, other people have driven up in inside
cars, minus luggage, in the memory of man, in this City of Dublin.  Are
you such a worldling base as to depend for your respectability on a
paltry leathern trunk?'

Lucilla's confidence did not appear misplaced, for neither waiters nor
chambermaids seemed surprised, but assured them that people usually
missed their luggage by that train, and asseverated that it would appear
next morning.

Lucilla awoke determined to be full of frolic and enjoyment, and Horatia,
refreshed by her night's rest, was more easily able to detect 'such fun'
than on the previous night; so the two cousins sat down amicably to
breakfast on the Sunday morning, and inquired about church-services.

'My mallard's tail hat is odd "go to meeting" head-gear,' said Cilla,
'but one cannot lapse into heathenism; so where, Rashe?'

'Wouldn't it be fun to look into a Roman Catholic affair?'

'No,' said Cilly, decidedly; 'where I go it shall be the genuine article.
I don't like curiosities in religion.'

'It's a curiosity to go to church at twelve o'clock!  If you are so
orthodox, let us wait for St. Patrick's this afternoon.'

'And in the meantime?  It is but eleven this minute, and St. Patrick's is
not till three.  There's nothing to be done but to watch Irish nature in
the street.  Oh! I never before knew the perfection of Carleton's
illustration.  See that woman and her cap, and the man's round eyebrows
and projecting lips with shillelagh written on them.  Would it be
Sabbath-breaking to perpetrate a sketch?'

But as Ratia was advancing to the window, Lucy suddenly started back,
seized her and whirled her away, crying, 'The wretch!  I know him now!  I
could not make him out last night.'

'Who?' exclaimed Rashe, starting determinedly to the window, but detained
by the two small but resolute hands clasped round her waist.

'That black-whiskered valet of Mr. Calthorp's.  If that man has the
insolence to dog me and spy me, I'll not stay in Ireland another day.'

'Oh, what fun!' burst out Horatia.  'It becomes romantic!'

'Atrocious impertinence!' said Lucilla, passionately.  'Why do you stand
there laughing?'

'At you, my dear,' gasped Ratia, sinking on the sofa in her spasm of
mirth.  'At your reception of chivalrous devotion.'

'Pretty chivalry to come and spy and beset ladies alone.'

'He has not beset us yet.  Don't flatter yourself!'

'What do you mean by that, Horatia?'

'Do you want to try your pistols on me?  The waiter could show us the way
to the Fifteen Acres, only you see it is Sunday.'

'I want,' said Lucy, all tragedy and no comedy, 'to know why you talk of
my _flattering_ myself that I am insulted, and my plans upset.'

'Why?' said Rashe, a little sneeringly.  'Why, a little professed beauty
like you would be so disappointed not to be pursued, that she is obliged
to be always seeing phantoms that give her no peace.'

'Thank you,' coolly returned Cilly.  'Very well, I'll say no more about
it, but if I find that man to be in Ireland, the same day I go home!'

Horatia gave a loud, long, provoking laugh.  Lucilla felt it was for her
dignity to let the subject drop, and betook herself to the only volumes
attainable, Bradshaw and her book of flies; while Miss Charteris repaired
to the window to investigate for herself the question of the pursuer, and
made enlivening remarks on the two congregations, the one returning from
mass, the other going to church, but these were not appreciated.  It
seemed as though the young ladies had but one set of spirits between
them, which were gained by the one as soon as lost by the other.

It was rather a dull day.  Fast as they were, the two girls shrank from
rambling alone in streets thronged with figures that they associated with
ruffianly destitution.  Sunday had brought all to light, and the large
handsome streets were beset with barefooted children, elf-locked women,
and lounging, beetle-browed men, such as Lucy had only seen in the
purlieus of Whittingtonia, in alleys looked into, but never entered by
the civilized.  In reality 'rich and rare' was so true that they might
have walked there more secure from insult than in many better regulated
regions, but it was difficult to believe so, especially in attire then so
novel as to be very remarkable, and the absence of protection lost its
charm when there was no one to admire the bravado.

She did her best to embalm it for future appreciation by journalizing,
making the voyage out a far better joke than she had found it, and
describing the inside car in the true style of the facetious traveller.
Nothing so drives away fun as the desire to be funny, and she began to
grow weary of her work, and disgusted at her own lumbering attempts at
pen-and-ink mirth; but they sufficed to make Rashe laugh, they would be
quite good enough for Lord William, would grievously annoy Honora
Charlecote, would be mentioned in all the periodicals, and give them the
name of the Angel Anglers all the next season.  Was not that enough to go
to Ireland and write a witty tour for?

The outside car took them to St. Patrick's, and they had their first real
enjoyment in the lazy liveliness of the vehicle, and the droll
ciceroneship of the driver, who contrived to convey such compliments to
their pretty faces as only an Irishman could have given without offence.

Lucilla sprang down with exhilarated spirits, and even wished for Honor
to share her indignation at the slovenliness around the cathedral, and
the absence of close or cloister; nay, though she had taken an aversion
to Strafford as a hero of Honor's, she forgave him, and resolved to
belabour the House of Cork handsomely in her journal, when she beheld the
six-storied monument, and imagined it, as he had found it, in the Altar's
very place.  'Would that he had created an absolute Boylean vacuum!'
What a grand _bon mot_ for her journal!

However, either the spirit of indignation at the sight of the unkneeling
congregation, or else the familiar words of the beautiful musical
service, made her more than usually devout, and stirred up something
within her that could only be appeased by the resolution that the singing
in Robert Fulmort's parish should be super-excellent.  After the service,
the carman persuaded them to drive in the Phoenix Park, where they
enjoyed the beautiful broken ground, the picturesque thickets, the grass
whose colour reminded them that they were in the Emerald Isle, the purple
outlines of the Wicklow hills, whence they thought they detected a fresh
mountain breeze.  They only wondered to find this delightful place so
little frequented.  In England, a Sunday would have filled it with
holiday strollers, whereas here they only encountered a very few, and
those chiefly gentlefolks.  The populace preferred sitting on the
doorsteps, or lounging against the houses, as if they were making studies
of themselves for caricatures; and were evidently so much struck with the
young ladies' attire, that the shelter of the hotel was gladly welcomed.

Lucilla was alone in the sitting-room when the waiter came to lay the
cloth.  He looked round, as if to secure secrecy, and then remarked in a
low confidential voice, 'There's been a gentleman inquiring for you,
ma'am.'

'Who was it?' said Lucy, with feigned coolness.

'It was when you were at church, ma'am; he wished to know whether two
ladies had arrived here, Miss Charteris and Miss Sandbrook.'

'Did he leave his card?'

'He did not, ma'am, his call was to be a secret; he said it was only to
be sure whether you had arrived.'

'Then he did not give his name?'

'He did, ma'am, for he desired to be let know what route the young ladies
took when they left,' quoth the man, with a comical look, as though he
were imparting a most delightful secret.

'Was he Mr. Calthorp?'

'I said I'd not mention his name,' said the waiter, with, however, such
decided assent, that, as at the same moment he quitted the room and
Horatia entered it, Cilly exclaimed, 'There, Rashe, what do you say now
to the phantom of my vanity?  Here has he been asking for us, and what
route we meant taking.'

'He!  Who?'

'Who?--why, who should it be?  The waiter has just told me.'

'You absurd girl!'

'Well, ask him yourself.'

So when the waiter came up, Miss Charteris demanded, 'Has Mr. Calthorp
been calling here?'

'What was the name, ma'am, if you please?'

'Calthorp.  Has Mr. Calthorp been calling here?'

'Cawthorne?  Was it Colonel Cawthorne, of the Royal Hussars, ma'am?  He
was here yesterday, but not to-day.'

'I said Calthorp.  Has a Mr. Calthorp been inquiring for us to-day?'

'I have not heard, ma'am, I'll inquire,' said he, looking alert, and
again disappearing, while Horatia looked as proud of herself as Cilly had
done just before.

He came back again while Lucilla was repeating his communication, and
assured Miss Charteris that no such person had called.

'Then, what gentleman has been here, making inquiries about us?'

'Gentleman!  Indeed, ma'am, I don't understand your meaning.'

'Have you not been telling this young lady that a gentleman has been
asking after us, and desiring to be informed what route we intended to
take?'

'Ah, sure!' said the waiter, as if recollecting himself, 'I did mention
it.  Some gentleman did just ask me in a careless sort of way who the two
beautiful young ladies might be, and where they were going.  Such young
ladies always create a sensation, as you must be aware, ma'am, and I own
I did speak of it to the young lady, because I thought she had seen the
attraction of the gentleman's eyes.'

So perfectly assured did he look, that Lucilla felt a moment's doubt
whether her memory served her as to his former words, but just as she
raised her eyes and opened her lips in refutation, she met a glance from
him full of ludicrous reassurance, evidently meaning that he was guarding
his own secret and hers.  He was gone the next moment, and Horatia turned
upon her with exultant merriment.

'I always heard that Ireland was a mendacious country,' said Cilly.

'And a country where people lose the use of their eyes and ears,' laughed
Rashe.  'O what a foundation for the second act of the drama!'

'Of which the third will be my going home by the next steamer.'

'Because a stranger asked who we were?'

Each had her own interpretation of the double-faced waiter's assertion,
and it served them to dispute upon all the evening.

Lucilla was persuaded that he imagined her an injured beauty, reft from
her faithful adorer by her stern aunt or duenna, and that he considered
himself to be doing her a kindness by keeping her informed of her hero's
vicinity, while he denied it to her companion; but she scorned to enter
into an explanation, or make any disavowal, and found the few displeased
words she spoke were received with compassion, as at the dictation of the
stern monitress.

Horatia, on the other hand, could not easily resign the comical version
that Lucilla's inordinate opinion of her own attractions had made her
imagine Mr. Calthorp's valet in the street, and discover his master in
the chance inquirer whom the waiter had mentioned; and as Cilly could not
aver that the man had actually told her in so many words that it was Mr.
Calthorp, Horatia had a right to her opinion, and though she knew she had
been a young lady a good many years, she could not easily adopt the
suggestion that she could pass for Cilly's cruel duenna.

Lucilla grew sullen, and talked of going home by the next steamer; Rashe,
far from ready for another sea voyage, called herself ill used, and
represented the absurdity of returning on a false alarm.  Cilla was
staggered, and thought what it would be, if Mr. Calthorp, smoking his
cigar at his club, heard that she had fled from his imaginary pursuit.
Besides, the luggage must be recovered, so she let Horatia go on
arranging for an excursion for the Monday, only observing that it must
not be in Dublin.

'No, bonnets are needful there.  What do you think of Howth and Ireland's
Eye, the place where Kirwan murdered his wife?' said Rashe, with great
gusto, for she had a strong turn for the horrid murders in the newspaper.

'Too near, and too smart,' sulked Lucy.

'Well then, Glendalough, that is wild, and far off enough, and may be
done in a day from Dublin.  I'll ring and find out.'

'Not from that man.'

'Oh! we shall see Calthorps peopling the hill-sides!  Well, let us have
the landlord.'

It was found that both the Devil's Glen and the Seven Churches might be
visited if they started by the seven o'clock train, and returned late at
night, and Lucilla agreeing, the evening went off as best it might, the
cousins being glad to get out of each other's company at nine, that they
might be up early the next morning.  Lucy had not liked Ratia so little
since the days of her infantine tyranny.

The morning, however, raised their spirits, and sent them off in a more
friendly humour, enjoying the bustle and excitement that was meat and
drink to them, and exclaiming at the exquisite views of sea and rugged
coast along beautiful Kilmeny Bay.  When they left the train, they were
delighted with their outside car, and reclined on their opposite sides in
enchantment with the fern-bordered lanes, winding between noble trees,
between which came inviting glimpses of exquisitely green meadows and
hill-sides.  They stopped at a park-looking gate, leading to the Devil's
Glen, which they were to traverse on foot, meeting the car at the other
end.

Here there was just enough life and adventure to charm them, as they
gaily trod the path, winding picturesquely beside the dashing, dancing,
foaming stream, now between bare salient bluffs of dark rock, now between
glades of verdant thicket, or bold shouldering slopes of purple heath and
soft bent grass.  They were constantly crying out with delight, as they
bounded from one point of view to another, sometimes climbing among loose
stones, leading between ferns and hazel stems to a well-planted
hermitage, sometimes springing across the streamlet upon stepping-stones.
At the end of the wood another lodge-gate brought them beyond the private
grounds, that showed care, even in their rusticity, and they came out on
the open hill-side in true mountain air, soft turf beneath their feet,
the stream rushing away at the bottom of the slope, and the view closed
in with blue mountains, on which the clouds marked purple shadows.  This
was freedom! this was enjoyment! this was worth the journey! and Cilla's
elastic feet sprang along as if she had been a young kid.  How much was
delight in the scenery, how much in the scramble, need not be analyzed.

There was plenty of scrambling before it was over.  A woman who had been
lying in wait for tourists at the gate, guided them to the bend of the
glen, where they were to climb up to pay their respects to the waterfall.
The ascent was not far from perpendicular, only rendered accessible by
the slope of fallen debris at the base, and a few steps cut out from one
projecting rock to another, up to a narrow shelf, whence the cascade was
to be looked down on.  The more adventurous spirits went on to a rock
overhanging the fall, and with a curious chink or cranny, forming a
window with a seat, and called King O'Toole's chair.  Each girl perched
herself there, and was complimented on her strong head and active limbs,
and all their powers were needed in the long breathless pull up craggy
stepping-stones, then over steep slippery turf, ere they gained the
summit of the bank.  Spent, though still gasping out, 'such fun!' they
threw themselves on their backs upon the thymy grass, and lay still for
several seconds ere they sat up to look back at the thickly-wooded
ravine, winding crevice-like in and out between the overlapping skirts of
the hills, whose rugged heads cut off the horizon.  Then merrily sharing
the first instalment of luncheon with their barefooted guide, they turned
their faces onwards, where all their way seemed one bare gray moor,
rising far off into the outline of Luggela, a peak overhanging the
semblance of a crater.

Nothing afforded them much more mirth than a rude bridge, consisting of a
single row of square-headed unconnected posts, along the heads of which
Cilla three times hopped backwards and forwards for the mere drollery of
the thing, with vigour unabated by the long walk over the dreary moorland
fields with their stone walls.

By the side of the guide's cabin the car awaited them, and mile after
mile they drove on through treeless wastes, the few houses with their
thatch anchored down by stones, showing what winds must sweep along those
unsheltered tracts.  The desolate solitude began to weary the volatile
pair into silence; ere the mountains rose closer to them, they crossed a
bridge over a stony stream begirt with meadows, and following its course
came into sight of their goal.

Here was Glendalough, a _cul de sac_ between the mountains, that shelved
down, enclosing it on all sides save the entrance, through which the
river issued.  Their summits were bare, of the gray stone that lay in
fragments everywhere, but their sides were clothed with the lovely Irish
green pasture-land, intermixed with brushwood and trees, and a beauteous
meadow surrounded the white ring-like beach of pure white sand and
pebbles bordering the outer lake, whose gray waters sparkled in the sun.
Its twin lake, divided from it by so narrow a belt of ground, that the
white beaches lay on their green setting, like the outline of a figure of
8, had a more wild and gloomy aspect, lying deeper within the hollow, and
the hills coming sheer down on it at the further end in all their
grayness unsoftened by any verdure.  The gray was that of absolute black
and white intermingled in the grain of the stone, and this was peculiarly
gloomy, but in the summer sunshine it served but to set off the
brilliance of the verdure, and the whole air of the valley was so bright
that Cilly declared that it had been traduced, and that no skylark of
sense need object thereto.

Losing sight of the lakes as they entered the shabby little town, they
sprang off the car before a small inn, and ere their feet were on the
ground were appropriated by one of a shoal of guides, in dress and speech
an ultra Irishman, exaggerating his part as a sort of buffoon for the
travellers.  Rashe was diverted by his humours; Cilla thought them in bad
taste, and would fain have escaped from his brogue and his antics, with
some perception that the scene ought to be left to make its impression in
peace.

Small peace, however, was there among the scores of men, women, and
children within the rude walls containing the most noted relics; all
beset the visitors with offers of stockings, lace, or stones from the
hills; and the chatter of the guide was a lesser nuisance for which she
was forced to compound for the sake of his protection.  When he had
cleared away his compatriots, she was able to see the remains of two of
the Seven Churches, the Cathedral, and St. Kevin's Kitchen, both of
enduring gray stone, covered with yellow lichen, which gave a remarkable
golden tint to their extreme old age.  Architecture there was next to
none.  St. Kevin's so-called kitchen had a cylindrical tower, crowned by
an extinguisher, and within the roofless walls was a flat stone, once the
altar, and still a station for pilgrims; and the cathedral contained two
broken coffin-lids with floriated crosses, but it was merely four rude
roofless walls, enclosing less space than a cottage kitchen, and less
ornamental than many a barn.  The whole space was encumbered with regular
modern headstones, ugly as the worst that English graveyards could show,
and alternating between the names of Byrne and O'Toole, families who, as
the guide said, would come 'hundreds of miles to lie there.'  It was a
grand thought, that those two lines, in wealth or in poverty, had been
constant to that one wild mountain burying-place, in splendour or in
ruin, for more than twelve centuries.

Here, some steps from the cathedral on the top of the slope was the chief
grandeur of the view.  A noble old carved granite cross, eight or ten
feet high, stood upon the brow, bending slightly to one side, and beyond
lay the valley cherishing its treasure of the twin lakelets, girt in by
the band across them, nestled in the soft lining of copsewood and meadow,
and protected by the lofty massive hills above.  In front, but below, and
somewhat to the right, lay another enclosure, containing the ivied gable
of St. Mary's Church, and the tall column-like Round Tower, both with the
same peculiar golden hoariness.  The sight struck Lucilla with admiration
and wonder, but the next moment she heard the guide exhorting Rashe to
embrace the stem of the cross, telling her that if she could clasp her
arms round it, she would be sure of a handsome and rich husband within
the year.

Half superstitious, and always eager for fun, Horatia spread her arms in
the endeavour, but her hands could not have met without the aid of the
guide, who dragged them together, and celebrated the exploit with a
hurrah of congratulation, while she laughed triumphantly, and called on
her companion to try her luck.  But Lucy was disgusted, and bluntly
refused, knowing her grasp to be far too small, unable to endure the
touch of the guide, and maybe shrinking from the failure of the augury.

'Ah! to be shure, an' it's not such a purty young lady as yourself that
need be taking the trouble,' did not fall pleasantly on her ears, and
still less Ratia's laugh and exclamation, 'You make too sure, do you?
Have a care.  There were black looks at parting!  But you need not be
afraid, if handsome be a part of the spell.'

There was no answer, and Horatia saw that the outspoken raillery that
Cilly had once courted now gave offence.  She guessed that something was
amiss, but did not know that what had once been secure had been wilfully
imperilled, and that suspense was awakening new feelings of delicacy and
tenderness.

The light words and vulgar forecasting had, in spite of herself,
transported Lucilla from the rocky thicket where she was walking, even to
the cedar room at Woolstone-lane, and conjured up before her that grave,
massive brow, and the eye that would not meet her.  She had hurried to
these wilds to escape that influence, and it was holding her tighter than
ever.  To hasten home on account of Mr. Calthorp's pursuit would be the
most effectual vindication of the feminine dignity that she might have
impaired in Robert's eyes, but to do this on what Ratia insisted on
believing a false alarm would be the height of absurdity.  She was
determined on extracting proofs sufficient to justify her return, and
every moment seemed an hour until she could feel herself free to set her
face homewards.  A strange impatience seized her at every spot where the
guide stopped them to admire, and Ratia's encouragement of his witticisms
provoked her excessively.

With a kind of despair she found herself required, before taking boat for
St. Kevin's Cave, to mount into a wood to admire another waterfall.

'See two waterfalls,' she muttered, 'and you have seen them all.  There
are only two kinds, one a bucket of water thrown down from the roof of a
house, the other over a staircase.  Either the water was a fiction, or
you can't get at them for the wet!'

'That was a splendid fellow at the Devil's Glen.'

'There's as good a one any day at the lock on the canal at home! only we
do not delude people into coming to see it.  Up such places, too!'

'Cilly, for shame.  What, tired and giving in?'

'Not tired in the least; only this place is not worth getting late for
the train.'

'Will the young lady take my hand?  I'd be proud to have the honour of
helping her up,' said the guide.  But Lucilla disdainfully rejected his
aid, and climbed among the stones and brushwood aloof from the others,
Ratia talking in high glee to the Irishman, and adventurously scrambling.

'Cilly, here it is,' she cried, from beneath a projecting elbow of rock;
'you look down on it.  It's a delicious fall.  I declare one can get into
it;' and, by the aid of a tree, she lowered herself down on a flat stone,
whence she could see the cascade better than above.  'This is stunning.
I vow one can get right into the bed of the stream right across.  Don't
be slow, Cilly; this is the prime fun of all!'

'You care for the romp and nothing else,' grumbled Lucilla.  That
boisterous merriment was hateful to her, when feeling that the demeanour
of gentlewomen must be their protection, and with all her high spirit,
she was terrified lest insult or remark should be occasioned.  Her signs
of remonstrance were only received with a derisive outburst, as Rashe
climbed down into the midst of the bed of the stream.  'Come, Cilla, or I
shall indite a page in the diary, headed Faint heart--Ah!' as her foot
slipped on the stones, and she fell backwards, but with instant efforts
at rising, such as assured her cousin that no harm was done, 'Nay,
Nonsensical clambering will be the word,' she said.

'Serves you right for getting into such places!  What! hurt!' as Horatia,
after resting in a sitting posture, tried to get up, but paused, with a
cry.

'Nothing,' she said, 'I'll--' but another attempt ended in the same way.
Cilla sprang to her, followed by the guide, imprecating bad luck to the
slippery stones.  Herself standing in the water, Lucilla drew her cousin
upright, and with a good deal of help from the guide, and much suffering,
brought her up the high bank, and down the rough steep descent through
the wood.

She had given her back and side a severe twist, but she moved less
painfully on more level ground, and, supported between Lucilla and the
guide, whom the mischance had converted from a comedy clown to a
delicately considerate assistant, she set out for the inn where the car
had been left.  The progress lasted for two doleful hours, every step
worse than the last, and, much exhausted, she at length sank upon the
sofa in the little sitting-room of the inn.

The landlady was urgent that the wet clothes should be taken off; and the
back rubbed with whiskey, but Cilla stood agitating her small soaked
foot, and insisting that the car should come round at once, since the wet
had dried on them, and they had best lose no time in returning to Dublin,
or at least to Bray.

But Rashe cried out that the car would be the death of her; she could not
stir without a night's rest.

'And be all the stiffer to-morrow?  Once on the car, you will be very
comfortable--'

'Oh, no!  I can't!  This is a horrid place.  Of all the unlucky things
that could have happened--'

'Then,' said Cilla, fancying a little coercion would be wholesome, 'don't
be faint-hearted.  You will be glad to-morrow that I had the sense to
make you move to-day.  I shall order the car.'

'Indeed!' cried Horatia, her temper yielding to pain and annoyance; 'you
seem to forget that this expedition is mine!  I am paymaster, and have
the only right to decide.'

Lucilla felt the taunt base, as recalling to her the dependent position
into which she had carelessly rushed, relying on the family feeling that
had hitherto made all things as one.  'Henceforth,' said she, 'I take my
share of all that we spend.  I will not sell my free will.'

'So you mean to leave me here alone?' said Horatia, with positive tears
of pain, weariness, and vexation at the cruel unfriendliness of the girl
she had petted.

'Nonsense!  I must abide by your fate.  I only hate to see people
chicken-hearted, and thought you wanted shaking up.  I stay so long as
you own me an independent agent.'

The discussion was given up, when it was announced that a room was ready;
and Rashe underwent so much in climbing the stairs, that Cilly thought
she could not have been worse on the car.

The apartment was not much behind that at the village inn at Hiltonbury.
In fact, it had gay curtains and a grand figured blind, but the door at
the Charlecote Arms had no such independent habits of opening, the carpet
would have been whole, and the chairs would not have creaked beneath
Lucy's grasshopper weight; when down she sat in doleful resignation,
having undressed her cousin, sent her _chaussure_ to dry, and dismissed
the car, with a sense of bidding farewell to the civilized world, and
entering a desert island, devoid of the zest of Robinson Crusoe.

What an endless evening it was, and how the ladies detested each other!
There lay Horatia, not hurt enough for alarm, but quite cross enough to
silence pity, suffering at every move, and sore at Cilly's want of
compassion; and here sat Lucilla, thoroughly disgusted with her cousin,
her situation, and her expedition.  Believing the strain a trifle, she
not unjustly despised the want of resolution that had shrunk from so
expedient an exertion as the journey, and felt injured by the selfish
want of consideration that had condemned her to this awkward position in
this forlorn little inn, without even the few toilette necessaries that
they had with them at Dublin, and with no place to sit in, for the
sitting-room below stairs served as a coffee-room, where sundry male
tourists were imbibing whiskey, the fumes of which ascended to the young
ladies above, long before they could obtain their own meal.

The chops were curiosities; and as to the tea, the grounds, apparently
the peat of the valley, filled up nearly an eighth of the cup, causing
Lucilla in lugubrious mirth to talk of 'That lake whose gloomy tea, ne'er
saw Hyson nor Bohea,' when Rashe fretfully retorted, 'It is very unkind
in you to grumble at everything, when you know I can't help it!'

'I was not grumbling, I only wanted to enliven you.'

'Queer enlivenment!'

Nor did Lucilla's attempts at body curing succeed better.  Her rubbing
only evoked screeches, and her advice was scornfully rejected.  Horatia
was a determined homoeopath, and sighed for the globules in her wandering
box, and as whiskey and tobacco both became increasingly fragrant,
averred again and again that nothing should induce her to stay here
another night.

Nothing?  Lucilla found her in the morning in all the aches and flushes
of a feverish cold, her sprain severely painful, her eyes swollen, her
throat so sore, that in alarm Cilly besought her to send for advice; but
Rashe regarded a murderous allopathist as near akin to an executioner,
and only bewailed the want of her minikin doses.

Giving up the hope of an immediate departure, Lucilla despatched a
messenger to Bray, thence to telegraph for the luggage; and the day was
spent in fears lest their landlord at Dublin might detain their goods as
those of suspicious characters.

Other excitement there was none, not even in quarrelling, for Rashe was
in a sleepy state, only roused by interludes of gloomy tea and greasy
broth; and outside, the clouds had closed down, such clouds as she had
never seen, blotting out lake and mountain with an impervious gray
curtain, seeming to bathe rather than to rain on the place.  She longed
to dash out into it, but Ratia's example warned her against drenching her
only garments, though indoors the dryness was only comparative.
Everything she touched, herself included, seemed pervaded by a damp, limp
rawness, that she vainly tried to dispel by ordering a fire.  The turf
smouldered, the smoke came into the room, and made their eyes water, and
Rashe insisted that the fire should be put out.

Cilla almost envied her sleep, as she sat disconsolate in the window,
watching the comparative density of the rain, and listening to the
extraordinary howls and shrieks in the town, which kept her constantly
expecting that a murder or a rebellion would come to relieve the monotony
of the day, till she found that nothing ensued, and no one took any
notice.

She tried to sketch from memory, but nothing would hinder that least
pleasant of occupations--thought.  Either she imagined every unpleasant
chance of detention, she worried herself about Robert Fulmort, or
marvelled what Mr. Prendergast and the censorious ladies would do with
Edna Murrell.  Many a time did she hold her watch to her ear, suspecting
it of having stopped, so slowly did it loiter through the weary hours.
Eleven o'clock when she hoped it was one--half-past two when it felt like
five.

By real five, the mist was thinner, showing first nearer, then remoter
objects; the coarse slates of the roofs opposite emerged polished and
dripping, and the cloud finally took its leave, some heavy flakes, like
cotton wool, hanging on the hill-side, and every rock shining, every leaf
glistening.  Verdure and rosy cheeks both resulted from a perpetual
vapour-bath.

Lucilla rejoiced in her liberty, and hurried out of doors, but leaning
out of the coffee-room window, loungers were seen who made her sensible
of the awkwardness of her position, and she looked about for yesterday's
guide as a friend, but he was not at hand, and her uneasy gaze brought
round her numbers, begging or offering guidance.  She wished to retreat,
but would not, and walked briskly along the side of the valley opposite
to that she had yesterday visited, in search of the other four churches.
Two fragments were at the junction of the lakes, another was entirely
destroyed, but the last, called the Abbey, stood in ruins within the same
wall as the Round Tower, which rose straight, round, mysterious, defying
inquiry, as it caught the evening light on its summit, even as it had
done for so many centuries past.

Not that Cilla thought of the riddles of that tower, far less of the
early Christianity of the isle of saints, of which these ruins and their
wild legend were the only vestiges, nor of the mysticism that planted
clusters of churches in sevens as analogous to the seven stars of the
Apocalypse.  Even the rugged glories of the landscape chiefly addressed
themselves to her as good to sketch, her highest flight in admiration of
the picturesque.  In the state of mind ascribed to the ancients, she only
felt the weird unhomelikeness of the place, as though she were at the
ends of the earth, unable to return, and always depressed by solitude;
she could have wept.  Was it for this that she had risked the love that
had been her own from childhood, and broken with the friend to whom her
father had commended her?  Was it worth while to defy their censures for
this dreary spot, this weak-spirited, exacting, unrefined companion, and
the insult of Mr. Calthorp's pursuit?

Naturally shrewd, well knowing the world, and guarded by a real
attachment, Lucilla had never regarded the millionaire's attentions as
more than idle amusement in watching the frolics of a beauty, and had
suffered them as adding to her own diversion; but his secretly following
her, no doubt to derive mirth from her proceedings, revealed to her that
woman could not permit such terms without loss of dignity, and her cheek
burnt at the thought of the ludicrous light in which he might place her
present predicament before a conclave of gentlemen.

The thought was intolerable.  To escape it by rapid motion, she turned
hastily to leave the enclosure.  A figure was climbing over the steps in
the wall with outstretched hand, as if he expected her to cling to him,
and Mr. Calthorp, springing forward, eagerly exclaimed in familiar,
patronizing tones, 'Miss Sandbrook!  They told me you were gone this
way.'  Then, in a very different voice at the unexpected look and bow
that he encountered: 'I hope Miss Charteris's accident is not serious.'

'Thank you, not serious,' was the freezing reply.

'I am glad.  How did it occur?'

'It was a fall.'  He should have no good story wherewith to regale his
friends.

'Going on well, I trust?  Chancing to be at Dublin, I heard by accident
you were here, and fearing that there might be a difficulty, I ran down
in the hope of being of service to you.'

'Thank you,' in the least thankful of tones.

'Is there nothing I can do for you?'

'Thank you, nothing.'

'Could I not obtain some advice for Miss Charteris?'

'Thank you, she wishes for none.'

'I am sure'--he spoke eagerly--'that in some way I could be of use to
you.  I shall remain at hand.  I cannot bear that you should be alone in
this remote place.'

'Thank you, we will not put you to inconvenience.  We intended to be
alone.'

'I see you esteem it a great liberty,' said poor Mr. Calthorp; 'but you
must forgive my impulse to see whether I could be of any assistance to
you.  I will do as you desire, but at least you will let me leave Stefano
with you; he is a fellow full of resources, who would make you
comfortable here, and me easy about you.'

'Thank you, we require no one.'

Those 'thank you's' were intolerable, but her defensive reserve and
dignity attracted the gentleman more than all her dashing brilliancy, and
he became more urgent.  'You cannot ask me to leave you entirely to
yourselves under such circumstances.'

'I more than ask it, I insist upon it.  Good morning.'

'Miss Sandbrook, do not go till you have heard and forgiven me.'

'I will not hear you, Mr. Calthorp.  This is neither the time nor place,'
said Lucilla, inly more and more perturbed, but moving along with slow,
quiet steps, and betraying no emotion.  'The object of our journey was
totally defeated by meeting any of our ordinary acquaintance, and but for
this mischance I should have been on my way home to-day.'

'Oh! Miss Sandbrook, do you class me among your ordinary acquaintance?'

It was all she could do to hinder her walk from losing its calm slowness,
and before she could divest her intended reply of undignified sharpness,
he continued: 'Who could have betrayed my presence?  But for this, I
meant that you should never have been aware that I was hovering near to
watch over you.'

'Yes, to collect good stories for your club.'

'This is injustice!  Flagrant injustice, Miss Sandbrook!  Will you not
credit the anxiety that irresistibly impelled me to be ever at hand in
case you should need a protector?'

'No,' was the point-blank reply.

'How shall I convince you?' he cried, vehemently.  'What have I done that
you should refuse to believe in the feelings that prompted me?'

'What have you done?' said Lucilla, whose blood was up.  'You have taken
a liberty, which is the best proof of what your feelings are, and every
moment that you force your presence on me adds to the offence!'

She saw that she had succeeded.  He stood still, bowed, and answered not,
possibly deeming this the most effective means of recalling her; but from
first to last he had not known Lucilla Sandbrook.

The eager, protecting familiarity of his first address had given her such
a shock that she felt certain that she had no guard but herself from
positively insulting advances; and though abstaining from all quickening
of pace, her heart throbbed violently in the fear of hearing him
following her, and the inn was a haven of refuge.

She flew up to her bedroom to tear about like a panther, as if by
violence to work down the tumult in her breast.  She had proved the truth
of Honora's warning, that beyond the pale of ordinary _convenances_, a
woman is exposed to insult, and however sufficient she may be for her own
protection, the very fact of having to defend herself is well-nigh
degradation.  It was not owning the error.  It was the agony of
humiliation, not the meekness of humility, and she was as angry with Miss
Charlecote for the prediction as with Mr. Calthorp for having fulfilled
it, enraged with Horatia, and desperate at her present imprisoned
condition, unable to escape, and liable to be still haunted by her enemy.

At last she saw the discomfited swain re-enter the inn, his car come
round, and finally drive off with him; and then she felt what a blank was
her victory.  If she breathed freely, it was at the cost of an increased
sense of solitude and severance from the habitable world.

Hitherto she had kept away from her cousin, trusting that the visit might
remain a secret, too mortifying to both parties to be divulged, but she
found Horatia in a state of eager anticipation, awakened from the torpor
to watch for tidings of a happy conclusion to their difficulties, and
preparing jests on the pettish ingratitude with which she expected
Lucilla to requite the services that would be nevertheless accepted.

Gone!  Sent away!  Not even commissioned to find the boxes.  Horatia's
consternation and irritation knew no bounds.  Lucilla was no less
indignant that she could imagine it possible to become dependent on his
good offices, or to permit him to remain in the neighbourhood.  Rashe
angrily scoffed at her newborn scruples, and complained of her want of
consideration for herself.  Cilla reproached her cousin with utter
absence of any sense of propriety and decorum.  Rashe talked of
ingratitude, and her sore throat being by this time past conversation,
she came to tears.  Cilla, who could not bear to see any one unhappy,
tried many a 'never mind,' many a 'didn't mean,' many a fair augury for
the morrow, but all in vain, and night came down upon the Angel Anglers
more forlorn and less friendly than ever; and with all the invalid's
discomforts so much aggravated by the tears and the altercation, that
escape from this gloomy shore appeared infinitely remote.

There was an essential difference of tone of mind between those brought
up at Hiltonbury or at Castle Blanch, and though high spirits had long
concealed the unlikeness, it had now been made bare, and Lucy could not
conquer her disgust and disappointment.

Sunshine was on Luggela, and Horatia's ailments were abating, so, as her
temper was not alleviated, Lucilla thought peace would be best preserved
by sallying out to sketch.  A drawing from behind the cross became so
engrossing that she was sorry to find it time for the early dinner, and
her artistic pride was only allayed by the conviction that she should
always hate what recalled Glendalough.

Rashe was better, and was up and dressed.  Hopes of departure produced
amity, and they were almost lively over their veal broth, when sounds of
arrival made Lucilla groan at the prospect of cockney tourists
obstructing the completion of her drawing.

'There's a gentleman asking to see you, Miss.'

'I can see no one.'

'Cilla, now do.'

'Tell him I cannot see him,' repeated Lucy, imperiously.

'How can you be so silly? he may have heard of our boxes.'

'I would toss them into the lake rather than take them from him.'

'Eh! pray let me be present when you perform the ceremony!  Cilla in the
heroics!  Whom is she expecting?' said a voice outside the door, ever
ajar, a voice that made Lucilla clasp her hands in ecstasy.

'You, Owen! come in,' cried Horatia, writhing herself up.

'Owen, old Owen! that's right,' burst from Cilla, as she sprang to him.

'Right!  Ah! that is not the greeting I expected; I was thinking how to
guard my eyes.  So, you have had enough of the unprotected dodge!  What
has Rashe been doing to herself?  A desperate leap down the falls of
Niagara.'

Horatia was diffuse in the narration; but, after the first, Lucy did not
speak.  She began by arming herself against her brother's derision, but
presently felt perplexed by detecting on his countenance something
unwontedly grave and preoccupied.  She was sure that his attention was
far away from Rashe's long story, and she abruptly interrupted it with,
'How came you here, Owen?'

He did not seem to hear, and she demanded, 'Is anything the matter?  Are
you come to fetch us because any one is ill?'

Starting, he said, 'No, oh no!'

'Then what brought you here? a family council, or Honor Charlecote?'

'Honor Charlecote,' he repeated mistily: then, making an effort, 'Yes,
good old soul, she gave me a vacation tour on condition that I should
keep an eye on you.  Go on, Rashe; what were you saying?'

'Didn't you hear me, Owen?  Why, Calthorp, the great Calthorp, is in our
wake.  Cilly is frantic.'

'Calthorp about!' exclaimed Owen, with a start of dismay.  'Where?'

'I've disposed of him,' quoth Lucilla; 'he'll not trouble us again.'

'Which way is he gone?'

'I would not tell you if I knew.'

'Don't be such an idiot,' he petulantly answered; 'I want nothing of the
fellow, only to know whether he is clean gone.  Are you sure whether he
went by Bray?'

'I told you I neither knew nor cared.'

'Could you have believed, Owen,' said Rashe, plaintively, 'that she was
so absurd as never even to tell him to inquire for our boxes?'

'Owen knows better;' but Lucilla stopped, surprised to see that his
thoughts were again astray.  Giving a constrained smile, he asked, 'Well,
what next?'

'To find our boxes,' they answered in a breath.

'Your boxes?  Didn't I tell you I've got them here?'

'Owen, you're a trump,' cried Rashe.

'How on earth did you know about them?' inquired his sister.

'Very simply; crossed from Liverpool yesterday, reconnoitred at your
hotel, was shown your telegram, went to the luggage-office, routed out
that the things were taking a gentle tour to Limerick, got them back this
morning, and came on.  And what are you after next?'

'Home,' jerked out Lucy, without looking up, thinking how welcome he
would have been yesterday, without the goods.

'Yes, home,' said Horatia.  'This abominable sprain will hinder my
throwing a line, or jolting on Irish roads, and if Cilla is to be in
agonies when she sees a man on the horizon, we might as well never have
come.'

'Will you help me to carry home this poor invalid warrior, Owen?' said
Lucilla; 'she will permit you.'

'I'll put you into the steamer,' said Owen; 'but you see, I have made my
arrangements for doing Killarney and the rest of it.'

'I declare,' said Rashe, recovering benevolence with comfort, 'if they
would send Scott from the castle to meet me at Holyhead, Cilly might as
well go on with you.  You would be sufficient to keep off the Calthorps.'

'I'm afraid that's no go,' hesitated Owen.  'You see I had made my plans,
trusting to your bold assertions that you would suffer no one to
approach.'

'Oh! never mind.  It was no proposal of mine.  I've had enough of
Ireland,' returned Lucy, somewhat aggrieved.

'How soon shall you be sufficiently repaired for a start, Ratia?' asked
Owen, turning quickly round to her.  'To-morrow?  No!  Well, I'll come
over and see.'

'Going away?' cried the ladies, by no means willing to part with their
guardian.

'Yes, I must.  Expecting that we should be parallels never meeting, I had
to provide for myself.'

'I see,' said Rashe; 'he has a merry party at Newragh Bridge, and will
sit up over whist and punch till midnight!'

'You don't pretend to put yourselves in competition,' said he, snatching
at the idea hastily.

'Oh! no,' said his sister, with an annoyed gesture.  'I never expect you
to prefer me and my comfort to any one.'

'Indeed, Cilla, I'm sorry,' he answered gently, but in perplexity, 'but I
never reckoned on being wanted, and engagements are engagements.'

'I'm sure I don't want you when anything pleasanter is going forward,'
she answered, with vexation in her tone.

'I'll be here by eleven or twelve,' he replied, avoiding the altercation;
'but I must get back now.  I shall be waited for.'

'Who is it that can't wait?' asked Rashe.

'Oh! just an English acquaintance of mine.  There, goodbye.  I wish I had
come in time to surprise the modern St. Kevin!  Are you sure there was no
drowning in the lake?'

'You know it was blessed to drown no one after Kathleen.'

'Reassuring!  Only mind you put a chapter about it into the tour.'  Under
the cover of these words he was gone.

'I declare there's some mystery about his companion!' exclaimed Horatia.
'Suppose it were Calthorp himself?'

'Owen is not so lost to respect for his sister.'

'But did you not see how little he was surprised, and how much
preoccupied?'

'Very likely; but no one but you could imagine him capable of such an
outrage.'

'You have been crazy ever since you entered Ireland, and expect every one
else to be the same.  Seriously, what damage did you anticipate from a
little civility?'

'If you begin upon that, I shall go out and finish my sketch, and not
unpack one of the boxes.'

Nevertheless, Lucilla spent much fretting guesswork on her cousin's
surmise.  She relied too much on Owen's sense of propriety to entertain
the idea that he could be forwarding a pursuit so obviously insolent, but
a still wilder conjecture had been set afloat in her mind.  Could the
nameless one be Robert Fulmort?  Though aware of the anonymous nature of
brother's friends, the secrecy struck her as unusually guarded; and to
one so used to devotion, it seemed no extraordinary homage that another
admirer should be drawn along at a respectful distance, a satellite to
her erratic course; nay, probably all had been concerted in
Woolstone-lane, and therewith the naughty girl crested her head, and
prepared to take offence.  After all, it could not be, or why should Owen
have been bent on returning, and be so independent of her?  Far more
probably he had met a college friend or a Westminster schoolfellow, some
of whom were in regiments quartered in Ireland, and on the morrow would
bring him to do the lions of Glendalough, among which might be reckoned
the Angel Anglers!

That possibility might have added some grains to the satisfaction of
making a respectable toilette next day.  Certain it is that Miss
Sandbrook's mountain costume was an exquisite feat of elaborate
simplicity, and that the completion of her sketch was interrupted by many
a backward look down the pass, and many a contradictory mood, sometimes
boding almost as harsh a reception for Robert as for Mr. Calthorp,
sometimes relenting in the thrill of hope, sometimes accusing herself of
arrant folly, and expecting as a _pis aller_ the diversion of dazzling
and tormenting an Oxonian, or a soldier or two!  Be the meeting what it
might, she preferred that it should be out of Horatia's sight, and so
drew on and on to the detriment of her distances.

Positively it was past twelve, and the desire to be surprised
unconcernedly occupied could no longer obviate her restlessness, so she
packed up her hair-pencil, and, walking back to the inn, found Rashe in
solitary possession of the coffee-room.

'You have missed him, Cilly.'

'Owen?  No one else?'

'No, not the Calthorp; I am sorry for you.'

'But who was here? tell me, Rashe.'

'Owen, I tell you,' repeated Horatia, playing with her impatience.

'Tell me; I will know whether he has any one with him.'

'Alack for your disappointment, for the waste of that blue bow; not a
soul came here but himself.'

'And where is he? how did I miss him?' said Lucilla, forcibly repressing
the mortification for which her cousin was watching.

'Gone.  As I was not in travelling trim, and you not forthcoming, he
could not wait; but we are to be off to-morrow at ten o'clock.'

'Why did he not come out to find me?  Did you tell him I was close by?'

'He had to join his friend, and go to the Vale of Avoca.  I've found out
the man, Cilla.  No, don't look so much on the _qui vive_; it's only Jack
Hastings!'

'Jack Hastings!' said Lucilla, her looks fallen.  'No wonder he would not
bring him here.'

'Why not, poor fellow?  I used to know him very well before he was up the
spout.'

'I wish Owen had not fallen in with him,' said the sister, gravely.  'Are
you certain it is so, Rashe?'

'I taxed him with it, and he did not deny it; only put it from him,
laughing.  What's the harm?  Poor Jack was always a good-natured,
honourable fellow, uncommonly clever and amusing--a well-read man, too;
and Owen is safe enough--no one could try to borrow of him.'

'What would Honor's feelings be?' said Lucilla, with more fellow-feeling
for her than for months past.  Lax as was the sister's tolerance, she was
startled at his becoming the associate of an avowedly loose character
under the stigma of the world, and with perilous abilities and
agreeableness; and it was another of Horatia's offences against proper
feeling, not only to regard such evil communications with indifference,
but absolutely to wish to be brought into contact with a person of this
description in their present isolated state.  Displeased and uneasy,
Lucilla assumed the _role_ of petulance and quarrelsomeness for the rest
of the day, and revenged herself to the best of her abilities upon Rashe
and Owen, by refusing to go to inspect the scene of Kathleen's fatal
repulse.

True to his appointment, Owen arrived alone on a car chosen with all
regard to Horatia's comfort, and was most actively attentive in settling
on it the ladies and their luggage, stretching himself out on the
opposite side, his face raised to the clouds, as he whistled an air; but
his eye was still restless, and his sister resolved on questioning him.

Opportunities were, however, rare; whether or not with the design of
warding off a _tete-a-tete_, he devoted himself to his cousin's service
in a manner rare to her since she had laid herself out to be treated as
though her name were Horace instead of Horatia.  However, Lucilla was not
the woman to be balked of a settled purpose; and at their hotel, at
Dublin, she nailed him fast by turning back on him when Horatia bade them
good night.  'Well, what do you want?' he asked, annoyed.

'I want to speak to you.'

'I hope it is to beg me to write to ask Honor to receive you at home, and
promise to behave like a decent and respectable person.'

'I want neither a judge nor an intercessor in you.'

'Come, Lucy, it really would be for every one's good if you would go and
take care of poor Honor.  You have been using her vilely, and I should
think you'd had enough of Rashe for one while.'

'If I have used her vilely, at least I have dealt openly by her,' said
Lucilla.  'She has always seen the worst of me on the surface.  Can you
bear to talk of her when you know how you are treating her?'

He coloured violently, and his furious gesture would have intimidated
most sisters; but she stood her ground, and answered his stammering
demand what she dared to imply.

'You may go into a passion, but you cannot hinder me from esteeming it
shameful to make her mission a cover for associating with one whom she
would regard with so much horror as Jack Hastings.'

'Jack Hastings!' cried Owen, to her amazement, bursting into a fit of
laughter, loud, long, and explosive.  'Well done, Rashe!'

'You told her so!'

'She told me so, and one does not contradict a lady.'

'Something must have put it into her head.'

'Only to be accounted for by an unrequited attachment,' laughed Owen;
'depend on it, a comparison of dates would show Hastings's incarceration
to have been the epoch of Rashe's taking to the high masculine line--

    '"If e'er she loved, 'twas him alone
    Who lived within the jug of stone."'

'For shame, Owen; Rashe never was in love.'

But he went on laughing at Rashe's disappointment at his solitary arrival
till she said, tartly, 'You cannot wonder at our thinking you must have
some reason for neither mentioning your companion's name nor bringing him
with you.'

'In fact, no man not under a cloud could abstain from paying homage to
the queen of the anglers.'

It was so true as to raise an angry spot on her cheek, and provoke the
hasty excuse, 'It would have been obvious to have brought your friend to
see your cousin and sister.'

'One broken-backed, both unwashed!  O, the sincerity of the resistance I
overheard!  No gentleman admitted, forsooth!  O, for a lodge in some vast
wilderness!  Yes; St. Anthony would have found it a wilderness indeed
without his temptations.  What would St. Dunstan have been minus the
black gentleman's nose, or St. Kevin but for Kathleen?  It was a
fortunate interposition that Calthorp turned up the day before I came, or
I might have had to drag the lake for you.'

This personal attack only made her persist.  'It was very different when
we were alone or with you; you know very well that there could have been
no objection.'

'No objection on your side, certainly, so I perceive; but suppose there
were no desire on the other?'

'Oh!' in a piqued voice, 'I know many men don't care for ladies' society,
but I don't see why they should be nameless.'

'I thought you would deem such a name unworthy to be mentioned.'

'Well, but who is the shy man?  Is it the little Henniker, who used to
look as if he would dive under the table when you brought him from
Westminster?'

'If I told you, you would remember it against the poor creature for life,
as a deliberate insult and want of taste.  Good night.'

He took his hat, and went out, leaving Lucy balancing her guesses between
Ensign Henniker and him whom she could not mention.  Her rejection of Mr.
Calthorp might have occasioned the present secrecy, and she was content
to leave herself the pleasant mystery, in the hope of having it dispelled
by her last glance of Kingstown quay.

In that hope, she rocked herself to sleep, and next morning was so extra
vivacious as to be a sore trial to poor Rashe, in the anticipation of the
_peine forte et dure_ of St. George's Channel.  Owen was also in high
spirits, but a pattern of consideration and kind attention, as he saw the
ladies on board, and provided for their comfort, not leaving them till
the last moment.

Lucilla's heart had beaten fast from the moment she had reached
Kingstown; she was keeping her hand free to wave a most encouraging kiss,
and as her eye roamed over the heads upon the quay without a recognition,
she felt absolutely baffled and cheated; and gloriously as the Bay of
Dublin spread itself before her, she was conscious only of wrath and
mortification, and of a bitter sense of dreariness and desertion.  Nobody
cared for her, not even her brother!



CHAPTER IX


          My pride, that took
    Fully easily all impressions from below,
    Would not look up, or half despised the height
    To which I could not, or I would not climb.
    I thought I could not breathe in that fine air.

                                                      _Idylls of the King_

'Can you come and take a turn in the Temple-gardens, Phoebe?' asked
Robert, on the way from church, the day after Owen's visit to
Woolstone-lane.

Phoebe rejoiced, for she had scarcely seen him since his return from
Castle Blanch, and his state of mind was a mystery to her.  It was long,
however, before he afforded her any clue.  He paced on, grave and
abstracted, and they had many times gone up and down the least frequented
path, before he abruptly said, 'I have asked Mr. Parsons to give me a
title for Holy Orders.'

'I don't quite know what that means.'

'How simple you are, Phoebe,' he said, impatiently; 'it means that St.
Wulstan's should be my first curacy.  May my labours be accepted as an
endeavour to atone for some of the evil we cause here.'

'Dear Robin! what did Mr. Parsons say?  Was he not very glad?'

'No; there lies the doubt.'

'Doubt?'

'Yes.  He told me that he had engaged as many curates as he has means
for.  I answered that my stipend need be no consideration, for I only
wished to spend on the parish, but he was not satisfied.  Many incumbents
don't like to have curates of independent means; I believe it has an
amateur appearance.'

'Mr. Parsons cannot think you would not be devoted.'

'I hope to convince him that I may be trusted.  It is all that is left me
now.'

'It will be very cruel to you, and to the poor people, if he will not,'
said Phoebe, warmly; 'what will papa and Mervyn say?'

'I shall not mention it till all is settled; I have my father's consent
to my choice of a profession, and I do not think myself bound to let him
dictate my course as a minister.  I owe a higher duty and if his business
scatters the seeds of vice, surely "obedience in the Lord" should not
prevent me from trying to counteract them.'

It was a case of conscience to be only judged by himself, and where even
a sister like Phoebe could do little but hope for the best, so she
expressed a cheerful hope that her father must know that it was right,
and that he would care less now that he was away, and pleased with
Augusta's prospects.

'Yes,' said Robert, 'he already thinks me such a fool, that it may be
indifferent to him in what particular manner I act it out.'

'And how does it stand with Mr. Parsons?'

'He will give me an answer to-morrow evening, provided I continue in the
same mind.  There is no chance of my not doing so.  My time of suspense
is over!' and the words absolutely sounded like relief, though the set
stern face, and the long breaths at each pause told another tale.

'I did not think she would really have gone!' said Phoebe.

'This once, and we will mention her no more.  It is not merely this
expedition, but all I saw at Wrapworth convinced me that I should risk my
faithfulness to my calling by connecting myself with one who, with all
her loveliness and generosity, lives upon excitement.  She is the very
light of poor Prendergast's eyes, and he cannot endure to say a word in
her dispraise; she is constantly doing acts of kindness in his parish,
and is much beloved there, yet he could not conceal how much trouble she
gives him by her want of judgment and wilfulness; patronizing and
forgetting capriciously, and attending to no remonstrance.  You saw
yourself the treatment of that schoolmistress.  I thought the more of
this, because Prendergast is so fond of her, and does her full justice.
No; her very aspect proves that a parish priest has no business to think
of her.'

Large tears swelled in Phoebe's eyes.  The first vision of her youth was
melting away, and she detected no relenting in his grave resolute voice.

'Shall you tell her?' was all she could say.

'That is the question.  At one time she gave me reason to think that she
accepted a claim to be considered in my plans, and understood what I
never concealed.  Latterly she has appeared to withdraw all
encouragement, to reject every advance, and yet--  Phoebe, tell me
whether she has given you any reason to suppose that she ever was in
earnest with me?'

'I know she respects and likes you better than any one, and speaks of you
like no one else,' said Phoebe; then pausing, and speaking more
diffidently, though with a smile, 'I think she looks up to you so much,
that she is afraid to put herself in your power, for fear she should be
made to give up her odd ways in spite of herself, and yet that she has no
notion of losing you.  Did you see her face at the station?'

'I would not!  I could not meet her eyes!  I snatched my hand from the
little clinging fingers;' and Robert's voice almost became a gasp.  'It
was not fit that the spell should be renewed.  She would be miserable, I
under constant temptation, if I endeavoured to make her share my work!
Best as it is!  She has so cast me off that my honour is no longer bound
to her; but I cannot tell whether it be due to her to let her know how it
is with me, or whether it would be mere coxcombry.'

'The Sunday that she spent here,' said Phoebe, slowly, 'she had a talk
with me.  I wrote it down.  Miss Fennimore says it is the safest way--'

'Where is it?' cried Robert.

'I kept it in my pocket-book, for fear any one should see it, and it
should do harm.  Here it is, if it will help you.  I am afraid I made
things worse, but I did not know what to say.'

It was one of the boldest experiments ever made by a sister; for what man
could brook the sight of an unvarnished statement of his proxy's
pleading, or help imputing the failure to the go-between?

'I would not have had this happen for a thousand pounds!' was his
acknowledgment.  'Child as you are, Phoebe, had you not sense to know,
that no woman could endure to have that said, which should scarcely be
implied?  I wonder no longer at her studied avoidance.'

'If it be all my bad management, cannot it be set right?' humbly and
hopefully said Phoebe.

'There is no right!' he said.  'There, take it back.  It settles the
question.  The security you childishly showed, was treated as offensive
presumption on my part.  It would be presuming yet farther to make a
formal withdrawal of what was never accepted.'

'Then is it my doing?  Have I made mischief between you, and put you
apart?' said poor Phoebe, in great distress.  'Can't I make up for it?'

'You?  No, you were only an over plain-spoken child, and brought about
the crisis that must have come somehow.  It is not what you have done, or
not done; it is what Lucy Sandbrook has said and done, shows that I must
have done with her for ever.'

'And yet,' said Phoebe, taking this as forgiveness, 'you see she never
believed that you would give her up.  If she did, I am sure she would not
have gone.'

'She thinks her power over me stronger than my principles.  She
challenges me--desires you to tell me so.  We shall see.'

He spoke as a man whose steadfastness had been defied, and who was piqued
on proving it to the utmost.  Such feelings may savour of the wrath of
man, they may need the purifying of chastening, and they often impel far
beyond the bounds of sober judgment; but no doubt they likewise
frequently render that easy which would otherwise have appeared
impossible, and which, if done in haste, may be regretted, but not
repented, at leisure.

Under some circumstances, the harshness of youth is a healthy symptom,
proving force of character and conviction, though that is only when the
foremost victim is self.  Robert was far from perfect, and it might be
doubted whether he were entering the right track in the right way, but at
least his heart was sound, and there was a fair hope that his failings,
in working their punishment, might work their cure.

It was in a thorough brotherly and Christian spirit that before entering
the house he compelled himself to say, 'Don't vex yourself, Phoebe, I
know you did the best you could.  It made no real difference, and it was
best that she should know the truth.'

'Thank you, dear Robin,' cried Phoebe, grateful for the consolation; 'I
am glad you do not think I misrepresented.'

'You are always accurate,' he answered.  'If you did anything
undesirable, it was representing at all.  But that is nothing to the
purpose.  It is all over now, and thank you for your constant good-will
and patience, my dear.  There! now then it is an understood thing that
her name is never spoken between us.'

Meanwhile, Robert's proposal was under discussion by the elders.  Mr.
Parsons had no abstract dread of a wealthy curate, but he hesitated to
accept gratuitous services, and distrusted plans formed under the impulse
of disappointment or of enthusiasm, since in the event of a change, both
parties might be embarrassed.  There was danger too of collisions with
his family, and Mr. Parsons took counsel with Miss Charlecote, knowing
indeed that where her affections were concerned, her opinions must be
taken with a qualification, but relying on the good sense formed by
rectitude of purpose.

Honor's affection for Robert Fulmort had always been moderated by Owen's
antagonism; her moderation in superlatives commanded implicit credence,
and Mr. Parsons inferred more, instead of less, than she expressed;
better able as he was to estimate that manly character, gaining force
with growth, and though slow to discern between good and evil, always
firm to the duty when it was once perceived, and thus rising with the
elevation of the standard.  The undemonstrative temper and tardiness in
adopting extra habits of religious observance and profession, which had
disappointed Honor, struck the clergyman as evidences both of sincerity
and evenness of development, proving the sterling reality of what had
been attained.

'Not taking, but trusty,' judged the vicar.

But the lad was an angry lover.  How tantalizing to be offered a fourth
curate, with a long purse, only to find St. Wulstan's serving as an
outlet for a lover's quarrel, and the youth restless and restive ere the
end of his diaconate!

'How savage you are,' said his wife; 'as if the parish would be hurt by
his help or his presence.  If he goes, let him go--some other help will
come.'

'And don't deprive him of the advantage of a good master,' said Honor.

'This wretched cure is not worth flattery,' he said, smiling.

'Nay,' said Mrs. Parsons, 'how often have I heard you rejoice that you
started here.'

'Under Mr. Charlecote--yes.'

'You are the depository of his traditions,' said Honor, 'hand them on to
Robert.  I wish nothing better for Owen.'

Mr. Parsons wished something better for himself, and averted a reply, by
speaking of Robert as accepted.

Robert's next request was to be made useful in the parish, while
preparing for his ordination in the autumn Ember week; and though there
were demurs as to unnecessarily anticipating the strain on health and
strength, he obtained his wish in mercy to a state only to be alleviated
by the realities of labour.

So few difficulties were started by his family, that Honora suspected
that Mr. Fulmort, always chiefly occupied by what was immediately before
him, hardly realized that by taking an assistant curacy at St. Wulstan's,
his son became one of the pastors of Whittington-streets, great and
little, Richard-courts, Cicely-row, Alice-lane, Cat-alley, and
Turnagain-corner.  Scarcely, however, was this settled, when a despatch
arrived from Dublin, headed, 'The Fast Fly Fishers; or the modern St.
Kevin,' containing in Ingoldsby legend-like rhymes the entire narration
of the Glendalough predicament of the 'Fast and Fair,' and concluding
with a piece of prose, by the same author, assuring his Sweet Honey, that
the poem, though strange, was true, that he had just seen the angelic
anglers on board the steamer, and it would not be for lack of good advice
on his part, if Lucy did not present herself at Woolstone-lane, to
partake of the dish called humble pie, on the derivation whereof
antiquaries were divided.

Half amused, half vexed by his levity, and wholly relieved and hopeful,
Honora could not help showing Owen's performance to Phoebe for the sake
of its cleverness; but she found the child too young and simple to enter
into it, for the whole effect was an entreaty that Robert might not see
it, only hear the facts.

Rather annoyed by this want of appreciation of Owen's wit, Honora saw,
nevertheless, that Phoebe had come to a right conclusion.  The breach was
not likely to be diminished by finding that the wilful girl had exposed
herself to ridicule, and the Fulmort nature had so little sense of the
ludicrous, that this good-natured brotherly satire would be taken for
mere derision.

So Honor left it to Phoebe to give her own version, only wishing that the
catastrophe had come to his knowledge before his arrangements had been
made with Mr. Parsons.

Phoebe had some difficulty in telling her story.  Robert at first
silenced her peremptorily, but after ten minutes relented, and said,
moodily, 'Well, let me hear!'  He listened without relaxing a muscle of
his rigid countenance; and when Phoebe ended by saying that Miss
Charlecote had ordered Lucy's room to be prepared, thinking that she
might present herself at any moment, he said, 'Take care that you warn me
when she comes.  I shall leave town that minute.'

'Robert, Robert, if she come home grieved and knowing better--'

'I will not see her!' he repeated.  'I made her taking this journey the
test!  The result is nothing to me!  Phoebe, I trust to you that no
intended good-nature of Miss Charlecote's should bring us together.
Promise me.'

Phoebe could do nothing but promise, and not another sentence could she
obtain from her brother, indeed his face looked so formidable in its
sternness, that she would have been a bold maiden to have tried.

Honora augured truly, that not only was his stern nature deeply offended,
but that he was quite as much in dread of coming under the power of
Lucy's fascinations, as Cilla had ever been of his strength.  Such mutual
aversion was really a token of the force of influence upon each, and
Honor assured Phoebe that all would come right.  'Let her only come home
and be good, and you will see, Phoebe!  She will not be the worse for an
alarm, nor even for waiting till after his two years at St. Wulstan's.'

The reception of the travellers at Castle Blanch was certainly not
mortifying by creating any excitement.  Charles Charteris said his worst
in the words, 'One week!' and his wife was glad to have some one to write
her notes.

This indifference fretted Lucy.  She found herself loathing the perfumy
rooms, the sleepy voice, and hardly able to sit still in her restless
impatience of Lolly's platitudes and Charles's _insouciance_, while Rashe
could never be liked again.  Even a lecture from Honor Charlecote would
have been infinitely preferable, and one grim look of Robert's would be
bliss!

No one knew whether Miss Charlecote were still in town, nor whether
Augusta Fulmort were to be married in England or abroad; and as to Miss
Murrell, Lolly languidly wondered what it was that she had heard.

Hungering for some one whom she could trust, Lucilla took an early
breakfast in her own room, and walked to Wrapworth, hoping to catch the
curate lingering over his coffee and letters.  From a distance, however,
she espied his form disappearing in the school-porch, and approaching,
heard his voice reading prayers, and the children's chanted response.
Coming to the oriel, she looked in.  There were the rows of shiny heads,
fair, brown, and black; there were the long sable back and chopped-hay
locks of the curate; but where a queen-like figure had of old been wont
to preside, she beheld a tallow face, with sandy hair under the most
precise of net caps, and a straight thread-paper shape in scanty gray
stuff and white apron.

Dizzy with wrathful consternation, Cilla threw herself on one of the
seats of the porch, shaking her foot, and biting her lip, frantic to know
the truth, yet too much incensed to enter, even when the hum of united
voices ceased, the rushing sound of rising was over, and measured
footsteps pattered to the classes, where the manly interrogations sounded
alternately with the shrill little answers.

Clump, clump, came the heavy feet of a laggard, her head bent over her
book, her thick lips vainly conning the unlearned task, unaware of the
presence of the young lady, till Lucilla touched her, saying, 'What,
Martha, a ten o'clock scholar?'

She gave a little cry, opened her staring eyes, and dropped a curtsey.

'Whom have you here for mistress?' asked Lucilla.

'Please, ma'am, governess is runned away.'

'What do you mean?'

'Yes, ma'am,' replied the girl, developing powers of volubility such as
scholastic relations with her had left unsuspected.  'She ran away last
Saturday was a week, and there was nobody to open the school when we came
to it a Sunday morning; and we had holidays all last week, ma'am; and
mother was terrified {225} out of her life; and father, he said he
wouldn't have me never go for to do no such thing, and that he didn't
want no fine ladies, as was always spiting of me.'

'Every one will seem to spite you, if you keep no better hours,' said
Lucy, little edified by Martha's virtuous indignation.

The girl had scarcely entered the school before the clergyman stood on
the threshold, and was seized by both hands, with the words, 'Oh, Mr.
Prendergast, what is this?'

'You here, Cilla?  What's the matter?  What has brought you back?'

'Had you not heard?  A sprain of Ratia's, and other things.  Never mind.
What's all this?'

'Ah! I knew you would be sadly grieved!'

'So you did frighten her away!'

'I never meant it.  I tried to act for the best.  She was spoken to, by
myself and others, but nobody could make any impression, and we could
only give her notice to go at the harvest holidays.  She took it with her
usual grand air--'

'Which is really misery and despair.  Oh, why did I go?  Go on!'

'I wrote to the mother, advising her, if possible, to come and be with
the girl till the holidays.  That was on Thursday week, and the old woman
promised to come on the Monday--wrote a very proper letter, allowing for
the Methodistical phrases--but on the Saturday it was observed that the
house was not opened, and on Sunday morning I got a note--if you'll come
in I'll show it to you.'

He presently discovered it among multitudinous other papers on his
chimney-piece.  Within a lady-like envelope was a thick satin-paper,
queen's-sized note, containing these words:

    'REVEREND SIR,--It is with the deepest feelings of regret for the
    unsatisfactory appearance of my late conduct that I venture to
    address you, but time will enable me to account for all, and I can at
    the present moment only entreat you to pardon any inconvenience I may
    have occasioned by the precipitancy of my departure.  Credit me,
    reverend and dear sir, it was only the law of necessity that could
    have compelled me to act in a manner that may appear questionable.
    Your feeling heart will excuse my reserve when you are informed of
    the whole.  In the meantime, I am only permitted to mention that this
    morning I became a happy wife.  With heartfelt thanks for all the
    kindness I have received, I remain,

                                                            'Reverend sir,
                                                   'Your obedient servant,
                                                                   'EDNA.'

'Not one message to me?' exclaimed Lucilla.

'Her not having had the impudence is the only redeeming thing!'

'I did not think she would have left no word for me,' said Lucy, who knew
she had been kinder than her wont, and was really wounded.  'Happy wife!
Who can it be?'

'Happy wife?' repeated the curate.  'It is miserable fool, most likely,
by this time.'

'No surname signed!  What's the post-mark?  Only Charing-cross.  Could
you find out nothing, or did you not think it worth while to look?'

'What do you take me for, Cilla?  I inquired at the station, but she had
not been there, and on the Monday I went to London and saw the mother,
who was in great distress, for she had had a letter much like mine, only
more unsatisfactory, throwing out absurd hints about grandeur and
prosperity--poor deluded simpleton!'

'She distinctly says she is married.'

'Yes, but she gives no name nor place.  What's that worth?  After such
duplicity as she has been practising so long, I don't know how to take
her statement.  Those people are pleased to talk of a marriage in the
sight of heaven, when they mean the devil's own work!'

'No, no!  I will not think it!'

'Then don't, my dear.  You were very young and innocent, and thought no
harm.'

'I'm not young--I'm not innocent!' furiously said Cilly.  'Tell me
downright all you suspect.'

'I'm not given to suspecting,' said the poor clergyman, half in
deprecation, half in reproof; 'but I am afraid it is a bad business.  If
she had married a servant or any one in her own rank, there would have
been no need of concealing the name, at least from her mother.  I feared
at first that it was one of your cousin Charles's friends, but there
seems more reason to suppose that one of the musical people at your
concert at the castle may have thought her voice a good speculation for
the stage.'

'He would marry her to secure her gains.'

'If so, why the secrecy?'

'Mrs. Jenkins has taught you to make it as bad as possible,' burst out
Lucy.  'O, why was not I at home?  Is it too late to trace her and
proclaim her innocence!'

'I was wishing for your help.  I went to Mr. Charteris to ask who the
performers were, but he knew nothing about them, and said you and his
sister had managed it all.'

'The director was Derval.  He is fairly respectable, at least I know
nothing to the contrary.  I'll make Charlie write.  There was an Italian,
with a black beard and a bass voice, whom we have had several times.  I
saw him looking at her.  Just tell me what sort of woman is the mother.
She lets lodgings, does not she?'

'Yes, in Little Whittington-street.'

'Dear me!  I trust she is no friend of Honor Charlecote's.'

'Out of her beat, I should think.  She dissents.'

'What a blessing!  I beg your pardon, but if anything could be an
aggravation, it would be Honor Charlecote's moralities.'

'So you were not aware of the dissent?'

'And you are going to set that down as more deceit, as if it were the
poor thing's business to denounce her mother.  Now, to show you that I
can be sure that Edna was brought up to the Church, I will tell you her
antecedents.  Her father was Sir Thomas Deane's butler; they lived in the
village, and she was very much in the nursery with the Miss Deanes--had
some lessons from the governess.  There was some notion of making her a
nursery governess, but Sir Thomas died, the ladies went abroad, taking
her father with them; Edna was sent to a training school, and the mother
went to live in the City with a relation who let lodgings, and who has
since died, leaving the concern to Mrs. Murrell, whose husband was killed
by an upset of the carriage on the Alps.'

'I heard all that, and plenty besides!  Poor woman, she was in such
distress that one could not but let her pour it all out, but I declare
the din rang in my ears the whole night after.  A very nice,
respectable-looking body she was, with jet-black eyes like diamonds, and
a rosy, countrified complexion, quite a treat to see in that grimy place,
her widow's cap as white as snow, but oh, such a tongue!  She would give
me all her spiritual experiences--how she was converted by an awakening
minister in Cat-alley, and yet had a great respect for such ministers of
the Church as fed their flocks with sincere milk, mixed up with the
biography of all the shopmen and clerks who ever lodged there, and to
whom she acted as a mother!'

'It was not their fault that she did not act as a mother-in-law.  Edna
has told me of the unpleasantness of being at home on account of the
young men.'

'Exactly!  I was spared none of the chances she might have had, but the
only thing worthy of note was about a cashier who surreptitiously brought
a friend from the "hopera," to overhear her singing hymns on the Sunday
evening, and thus led to an offer on his part to have her brought out on
the stage.'

'Ha! could that have come to anything?'

'No.  Mrs. Murrell's suspicions took that direction, and we hunted down
the cashier and the friend, but they were quite exonerated.  It only
proves that her voice has an unfortunate value.'

'If she be gone off with the Italian bass, I can't say I think it a fatal
sign that she was slow to present him to her domestic Mause Headrigg, who
no doubt would deliberately prefer the boards of her coffin to the boards
of the theatre.  Well, come along--we will get a letter from Charles, and
rescue her--I mean, clear her.'

'Won't you look into school, and see how we go on?  The women complained
so much of having their children on their hands, though I am sure they
had sent them to school seldom enough of late, that I got this young
woman from Mrs. Stuart's asylum till the holidays.  I think we shall let
her stay on, she has a good deal of method, and all seem pleased with the
change.'

'You have your wish of a fright.  No, I thank you!  I'm not so glad as
the rest of you to get rid of refinement and superiority.'

There was no answer, and more touched by silence than reply, she hastily
said, 'Never mind!  I dare say she may do better for the children, but
you know, I, who am hard of caring for any one, did care for poor Edna,
and I can't stand paeans over your new broom.'

Mr. Prendergast gave a smile such as was only evoked by his late rector's
little daughter, and answered, 'No one can be more concerned than I.  She
was not in her place here, that was certain, and I ought to have minded
that she was not thrust into temptation.  I shall remember it with shame
to my dying day.'

'Which means to say that so should I.'

'No, you did not know so much of the evils of the world.'

'I told you before, Mr. Pendy, that I am twenty times more sophisticated
than you are.  You talk of knowing the world!  I wish I didn't.  I'm
tired of everybody.'

And on the way home she described her expedition, and had the pleasure of
the curate's sympathy, if not his entire approval.  Perhaps there was no
other being whom she so thoroughly treated as a friend, actually like a
woman friend, chiefly because he thoroughly believed in her, and was very
blind to her faults.  Robert would have given worlds to have found her
_once_ what Mr. Prendergast found her _always_.

She left him to wait in the drawing-room, while she went on her mission,
but presently rushed back in a fury.  Nobody cared a straw for the
catastrophe.  Lolly begged her not to be so excited about a trifle, it
made her quite nervous; and the others laughed at her; Rashe pretended to
think it a fine chance to have changed 'the life of an early Christian'
for the triumphs of the stage; and Charles scouted the idea of writing to
the man's employer.  'He call Derval to account for all the tricks of his
fiddlers and singers?  Much obliged!'

Mr. Prendergast decided on going to town by the next train, to make
inquiries of Derval himself, without further loss of time, and Cilly
declared that she would go with him and force the conceited professor to
attend; but the curate, who had never found any difficulty in enforcing
his own dignity, and thought it no business for a young lady, declined
her company, unless, he said, she were to spend the day with Miss
Charlecote.

'I've a great mind to go to her for good and all.  Let her fall upon me
for all and sundry.  It will do me good to hear a decent woman speak
again! besides, poor old soul, she will be so highly gratified, that she
will be quite meek' (and so will some one else, quoth the perverse little
heart); 'I'll put up a few things, and not delay you.'

'This is very sudden!' said the curate, wishing to keep the peace between
her and her friends, and not willing that his sunbeam should fleet 'so
like the Borealis race!'  'Will it not annoy your cousins?'

'They ought to be annoyed!'

'And are you certain that you would find Miss Charlecote in town?  I
thought her stay was to be short.'

'I'm certain of nothing, but that every place is detestable.'

'What would you do if you did not find her?'

'Go on to Euston-square.  Do you think I don't know my way to Hiltonbury,
or that I should not get welcome enough--ay, and too much--there?'

'Then if you are so uncertain of her movements, do you not think you had
better let me learn them before you start?  She might not even be gone
home, and you would not like to come back here again; if--'

'Like a dog that has been out hunting,' said Lucilla, who could bear
opposition from this quarter as from no other.  'You won't take the
responsibility, that's the fact.  Well, you may go and reconnoitre, if
you will; but mind, if you say one word of what brings you to town, I
shall never go near the Holt at all.  To hear--whenever the Raymonds, or
any other of the godly school-keeping sort come to dinner--of the direful
effects of certificated schoolmistresses, would drive me to such
distraction that I cannot answer for the consequences.'

'I am sure it is not a fact to proclaim.'

'Ah! but if you run against Mr. Parsons, you'll never abstain from
telling him of his stray lamb, nor from condoling with him upon the wolf
in Cat-alley.  Now there's a fair hope of his having more on his hands
than to get his fingers scratched by meddling with the cats, and so that
this may remain unknown.  So consider yourself sworn to secrecy.'

Mr. Prendergast promised.  The good man was a bit of a gossip, so perhaps
her precaution was not thrown away, for he could hardly have helped
seeking the sympathy of a brother pastor, especially of him to whose fold
the wanderer primarily belonged.  Nor did Lucy feel certain of not
telling the whole herself in some unguarded moment of confidence.  All
she cared for was, that the story should not transpire through some other
source, and be brandished over her head as an illustration of all the
maxims that she had so often spurned.  She ran after Mr. Prendergast
after he had taken leave, to warn him against calling in Woolstone-lane,
and desired him instead to go to Masters's shop, where it was sure to be
known whether Miss Charlecote were in town or not.

Mr. Prendergast secretly did grateful honour to the consideration that
would not let him plod all the weary way into the City.  Little did he
guess that it was one part mistrust of his silence, and three parts
reviving pride, which forbade that Honora should know that he had
received any such commission.

The day was spent in pleasant anticipations of the gratitude and
satisfaction that would be excited by her magnanimous return, and her
pardon to Honor and to Robert for having been in the right.  She knew she
could own it so graciously that Robert would be overpowered with
compunction, and for ever beholden to her; and now that the Charterises
were so unmitigatedly hateful, it was time to lay herself out for
goodness, and fling him the rein, with only now and then a jerk to remind
him that she was a free agent.

A long-talked-of journey on the Continent was to come to pass as soon as
Horatia's strain was well.  In spite of wealth and splendour, Eloisa had
found herself disappointed in the step that she had hoped her marriage
would give her into the most _elite_ circles.  Languid and indolent as
her mind was, she could not but perceive that where Ratia was intimate
and at ease, she continued on terms of form and ceremony, and her husband
felt more keenly that the society in his house was not what it had been
in his mother's time.  They both became restless, and Lolly, who had
already lived much abroad, dreaded the dulness of an English winter in
the country; while Charles knew that he had already spent more than he
liked to recollect, and that the only means of keeping her contented at
Castle Blanch, would be to continue most ruinous expenses.

With all these secret motives, the tour was projected as a scheme of
amusement, and the details were discussed between Charles and Rashe with
great animation, making the soberness of Hiltonbury appear both tedious
and sombre, though all the time Lucy felt that there she should again
meet that which her heart both feared and yearned for, and without which
these pleasures would be but shadows of enjoyment.  Yet that they were
not including her in their party, gave her a sense of angry neglect and
impatience.  She wanted to reject their invitation indignantly, and make
a merit of the sacrifice.

The after-dinner discussion was in full progress when she was called out
to speak to Mr. Prendergast.  Heated, wearied, and choking with dust, he
would not come beyond the hall, but before going home he had walked all
this distance to tell her the result of his expedition.  Derval had not
been uncivil, but evidently thought the suspicion an affront to his
_corps_, which at present was dispersed by the end of the season.  The
Italian bass was a married man, and had returned to his own country.  The
clue had failed.  The poor leaf must be left to drift upon unknown winds.

'But,' said the curate, by way of compensation, 'at Masters's I found
Miss Charlecote herself, and gave your message.'

'I gave no message.'

'No, no, because you would not send me up into the City; but I told her
all you would have had me say, and how nearly you had come up with me,
only I would not let you, for fear she should have left town.'

Cilla's face did not conceal her annoyance, but not understanding her in
the least, he continued, 'I'm sure no one could speak more kindly or
considerately than she did.  Her eyes filled with tears, and she must be
heartily fond of you at the bottom, though maybe rather injudicious and
strict; but after what I told her, you need have no fears.'

'Did you ever know me have any?'

'Ah well! you don't like the word; but at any rate she thinks you behaved
with great spirit and discretion under the circumstances, and quite
overlooks any little imprudence.  She hopes to see you the day after
to-morrow, and will write and tell you so.'

Perhaps no intentional slander ever gave the object greater annoyance
than Cilly experienced on learning that the good curate had, in the
innocence of his heart, represented her as in a state of proper feeling,
and interceded for her; and it was all the worse because it was
impossible to her to damp his kind satisfaction, otherwise than by a
brief 'Thank you,' the tone of which he did not comprehend.

'Was she alone?' she asked.

'Didn't I tell you the young lady was with her, and the brother?'

'Robert Fulmort!' and Cilla's heart sank at finding that it could not
have been he who had been with Owen.

'Ay, the young fellow that slept at my house.  He has taken a curacy at
St. Wulstan's.'

'Did he tell you so?' with an ill-concealed start of consternation.

'Not he; lads have strange manners.  I should have thought after the
terms we were upon here, he need not have been quite so much absorbed in
his book as never to speak!'

'He has plenty in him instead of manners,' said Lucilla; 'but I'll take
him in hand for it.'

Though Lucilla's instinct of defence had spoken up for Robert, she felt
hurt at his treatment of her old friend, and could only excuse it by a
strong fit of conscious moodiness.  His taking the curacy was only
explicable, she thought, as a mode of showing his displeasure with
herself, since he could not ask her to marry into Whittingtonia; but
'That must be all nonsense,' thought she; 'I will soon have him down off
his high horse, and Mr. Parsons will never keep him to his
engagement--silly fellow to have made it--or if he does, I shall only
have the longer to plague him.  It will do him good.  Let me see! he will
come down to-morrow with Honora's note.  I'll put on my lilac muslin with
the innocent little frill, and do my hair under his favourite net, and
look like such a horrid little meek ringdove that he will be perfectly
disgusted with himself for having ever taken me for a fishing eagle.  He
will be abject, and I'll be generous, and not give another peck till it
has grown intolerably stupid to go on being good, or till he presumes.'

For the first time for many days, Lucilla awoke with the impression that
something pleasant was about to befall her, and her wild heart was in a
state of glad flutter as she donned the quiet dress, and found that the
subdued colouring and graver style rendered her more softly lovely than
she had ever seen herself.

The letters were on the breakfast-table when she came down, the earliest
as usual, and one was from Honor Charlecote, the first sight striking her
with vexation, as discomfiting her hopes that it would come by a welcome
bearer.  Yet that might be no reason why he should not yet run down.

She tore it open.

    'MY DEAREST LUCY,--Until I met Mr. Prendergast yesterday, I was not
    sure that you had actually returned, or I would not have delayed an
    hour in assuring you, if you could doubt it, that my pardon is ever
    ready for you.'

    ('Many thanks,' was the muttered comment.  'Oh that poor, dear,
    stupid man! would that I had stopped his mouth!')

    'I never doubted that your refinement and sense of propriety would be
    revolted at the consequences of what I always saw to be mere
    thoughtlessness--'

    ('Dearly beloved of an old maid is, I told you so!')

    '--but I am delighted to hear that my dear child showed so much true
    delicacy and dignity in her trying predicament--'

    ('Delighted to find her dear child not absolutely lost to decorum!
    Thanks again.')

    '--and I console myself for the pain it has given by the trust that
    experience has proved a better teacher than precept.'

    ('Where did she find that grand sentence?')

    'So that good may result from past evil and present suffering, and
    that you may have learnt to distrust those who would lead you to
    disregard the dictates of your own better sense.'

    ('Meaning her own self!')

    'I have said all this by letter that we may cast aside all that is
    painful when we meet, and only to feel that I am welcoming my child,
    doubly dear, because she comes owning her error.'

    ('I dare say!  We like to be magnanimous, don't we?  Oh, Mr.
    Prendergast, I could beat you!')

    'Our first kiss shall seal your pardon, dearest, and not a word shall
    pass to remind you of this distressing page in your history.'

    ('Distressing!  Excellent fun it was.  I shall make her hear my
    diary, if I persuade myself to encounter this intolerable kiss of
    peace.  It will be a mercy if I don't serve her as the thief in the
    fable did his mother when he was going to be hanged.')

    'I will meet you at the station by any train on Saturday that you
    like to appoint, and early next week we will go down to what I am
    sure you have felt is your only true home.'

    ('Have I?  Oh! she has heard of their journey, and thinks this my
    only alternative.  As if I could not go with them if I chose--I wish
    they would ask me, though.  They shall!  I'll not be driven up to the
    Holt as my last resource, and live there under a system of mild
    browbeating, because I can't help it.  No, no! Robin shall find it
    takes a vast deal of persuasion to bend me to swallow so much pardon
    in milk and water.  I wonder if there's time to change the spooney
    simplicity, and come out in something spicy, with a dash of the
    Bloomer.  But, maybe, there's some news of him in the other sheet,
    now she has delivered her conscience of her rigmarole.  Oh! here it
    is--')

    'Phoebe will go home with us, as she is, according to the family
    system, not summoned to her sister's wedding.  Robert leaves London
    on Saturday morning, to fetch his books, &c., from Oxford, Mr.
    Parsons having consented to give him a title for Holy Orders, and to
    let him assist in the parish until the next Ember week.  I think,
    dear girl, that it should not be concealed from you that this step
    was taken as soon as he heard that you had actually sailed for
    Ireland, and that he does not intend to return until we are in the
    country.'

    ('Does he not?  Another act of coercion!  I suppose you put him up to
    this, madam, as a pleasing course of discipline.  You think you have
    the whip-hand of me, do you?  Pooh!  See if he'll stay at Oxford!')

    'I feel for the grief I'm inflicting--'

    ('Oh, so you complacently think, "now I have made her sorry!"')

    '--but I believe uncertainty, waiting, and heart sickness would cost
    you far more.  Trust me, as one who has felt it, that it is far
    better to feel oneself unworthy than to learn to doubt or distrust
    the worthiness or constancy of another.'

    ('My father to wit!  A pretty thing to say to his daughter!  What
    right has she to be pining and complaining after him?  He, the
    unworthy one?  I'll never forgive that conceited inference!  Just
    because he could not stand sentiment!  Master Robert gone!  Won't I
    soon have him repenting of his outbreak?')

    'I have no doubt that his feelings are unchanged, and that he is
    solely influenced by principle.  He is evidently exceedingly unhappy
    under all his reserve--'

    ('He shall be more so, till he behaves himself, and comes back
    humble!  I've no notion of his flying out in this way.')

    '--and though I have not exchanged a word with him on the subject, I
    am certain that his good opinion will be retrieved, with infinite joy
    to himself, as soon as you make it possible for his judgment to be
    satisfied with your conduct and sentiments.  Grieved as I am, it is
    with a hopeful sorrow, for I am sure that nothing is wanting on your
    part but that consistency and sobriety of behaviour of which you have
    newly learnt the necessity on other grounds.  The Parsonses have gone
    to their own house, so you will not find any one here but two who
    will feel for you in silence, and we shall soon be in the quiet of
    the Holt, where you shall have all that can give you peace or comfort
    from your ever-loving old         H. C.'

'Feel for me!  Never!  Don't you wish you may get it?  Teach the
catechism and feed caterpillars till such time as it pleases Mrs. Honor
to write up and say "the specimen is tame"?  How nice!  No, no.  I'll not
be frightened into their lording it over me!  I know a better way!  Let
Mr. Robert find out how little I care, and get himself heartily sick of
St. Wulstan's, till it is "turn again Whittington indeed!"  Poor fellow,
I hate it, but he must be cured of his airs, and have a good fright.  Why
don't they ask me to go to Paris with them?  Where can I go, if they
don't.  To Mary Cranford's?  Stupid place, but I _will_ show that I'm not
so hard up as to have no place but the Holt to go to!  If it were only
possible to stay with Mr. Prendergast, it would be best of all!  Can't I
tell him to catch a chaperon for me?  Then he would think Honor a regular
dragon, which would be a shame, for it was nobody's fault but his!  I
shall tell him I'm like the Christian religion, for which people are
always making apologies that it doesn't want!  Two years!  Patience!  It
will be very good for Robin, and four-and-twenty is quite soon enough to
bite off one's wings, and found an ant-hill.  As to being bullied into
being kissed, pitied, pardoned, and trained by Honor, I'll never sink so
low!  No, at _no_ price.'

Poor Mr. Prendergast!  Did ever a more innocent mischief-maker exist?

Poor Honora!  Little did she guess that the letter written in such love,
such sympathy, such longing hope, would only excite fierce rebellion.

Yet it was at the words of Moses that the king's heart was hardened; and
what was the end?  He was taken at his word.  'Thou shalt see my face no
more.'

To be asked to join the party on their tour had become Lucilla's prime
desire, if only that she might not feel neglected, or driven back to
Hiltonbury by absolute necessity; and when the husband and wife came
down, the wish was uppermost in her mind.

Eloisa remarked on her quiet style of dress, and observed that it would
be quite the thing in Paris, where people were so much less _outre_ than
here.

'I have nothing to do with Paris.'

'Oh! surely you go with us!' said Eloisa; 'I like to take you out,
because you are in so different a style of beauty, and you talk and save
one trouble!  Will not she go, Charles?'

'You see, Lolly wants you for effect!' he said, sneeringly.  'But you are
always welcome, Cilly; we are woefully slow when you ain't there to keep
us going, and I should like to show you a thing or two.  I only did not
ask you, because I thought you had not hit it off with Rashe, or have you
made it up?'

'Oh! Rashe and I understand each other,' said Cilly, secure that though
she would never treat Rashe with her former confidence, yet as long as
they travelled _en grand seigneur_, there was no fear of collisions of
temper.

'Rashe is a good creature,' said Lolly, 'but she is so fast and so
eccentric that I like to have you, Cilly; you look so much younger, and
more ladylike.'

'One thing more,' said Charles, in his character of head of the family;
'shouldn't you look up Miss Charlecote, Cilly?  There's Owen straining
the leash pretty hard, and you must look about you, that she does not
take up with these new pets of hers and cheat you.'

'The Fulmorts?  Stuff!  They have more already than they know what to do
with.'

'The very reason she will leave them the more.  I declare, Cilly,' he
added, half in jest, half in earnest, 'the only security for you and Owen
is in a double marriage.  Perhaps she projects it.  You fire up as if she
had!'

'If she had, do you think that I should go back?' said Cilly, trying to
answer lightly, though her cheeks were in a flame.  'No, no, I am not
going to let slip a chance of Paris.'

She stopped short, dismayed at having committed herself, and Horatia
coming down, was told by acclamation that Cilly was going.

'Of course she is,' said forgiving and forgetting Rashe.  'Little Cilly
left behind, to serve for food to the Rouge Dragon?  No, no! I should
have no fun in life without her.'

Rashe forgot the past far more easily that Cilla could ever do.  There
was a certain guilty delight in writing--

    'MY DEAR HONOR,--Many thanks for your letter, and intended
    kindnesses.  The scene must, however, be deferred, as my cousins mean
    to winter at Paris, and I can't resist the chance of hooking a
    Marshal, or a Prince or two.  Rashe's strain was a great sell but we
    had capital fun, and shall hope for more success another season.  I
    would send you my diary if it were written out fair.  We go so soon
    that I can't run up to London, so I hope no one will be disturbed on
    my account.

                                            'Your affectionate     CILLY.'

No need to say how often Lucilla would have liked to have recalled that
note for addition or diminution, how many misgivings she suffered on her
peculiar mode of catching Robins, how frequent were her disgusts with her
cousin, and how often she felt like a captive--the captive of her own
self-will.

'That's right!' said Horatia to Lolly.  'I was mortally afraid she would
stay at home to fall a prey to the incipient parson, but now he is choked
off, and Calthorp is really in earnest, we shall have the dear little
morsel doing well yet.'



CHAPTER X


    O ye, who never knew the joys
    Of friendship, satisfied with noise,
       Fandango, ball, and rout,
    Blush, when I tell you how a bird
    A prison, with a friend, preferred,
       To liberty without.--COWPER

Had Lucilla Sandbrook realized the effect of her note, she would never
have dashed it off; but, like all heedless people, pain out of her
immediate ken was nothing to her.

After the loving hopes raised by the curate's report, and after her own
tender and forgiving letter, Honor was pierced to the quick by the
scornful levity of those few lines.  Of the ingratitude to herself she
thought but little in comparison with the heartless contempt towards
Robert, and the miserable light-mindedness that it manifested.

'My poor, poor child!' was all she said, as she saw Phoebe looking with
terror at her countenance; 'yes, there is an end of it.  Let Robert never
vex himself about her again.'

Phoebe took up the note, read it over and over again, and then said low
and gravely, 'It is very cruel.'

'Poor child, she was born to the Charteris nature, and cannot help it!
Like seeks like, and with Paris before her, she can see and feel nothing
else.'

Phoebe vaguely suspected that there might be a shadow of injustice in
this conclusion.  She knew that Miss Charlecote imagined Lucilla to be
more frivolous than was the case, and surmised that there was more
offended pride than mere levity in the letter.  Insight into character is
a natural, not an acquired endowment; and many of poor Honor's troubles
had been caused by her deficiency in that which was intuitive to Phoebe,
though far from consciously.  That perception made her stand thoughtful,
wondering whether what the letter betrayed were folly or temper, and
whether, like Miss Charlecote, she ought altogether to quench her
indignation in contemptuous pity.

'There, my dear,' said Honor, recovering herself, after having sat with
ashy face and clasped hands for many moments.  'It will not bear to be
spoken or thought of.  Let us go to something else.  Only, Phoebe, my
child, do not leave her out of your prayers.'

Phoebe clung about her neck, kissed and fondled her, and felt her cheeks
wet with tears, in the passionate tenderness of the returning caress.

The resolve was kept of not going back to the subject, but Honora went
about all day with a soft, tardy step, and subdued voice, like one who
has stood beside a death-bed.

When Phoebe heard those stricken tones striving to be cheerful, she could
not find pardon for the wrong that had not been done to herself.  She
dreaded telling Robert that no one was coming whom he need avoid, though
without dwelling on the tone of the refusal.  To her surprise, he heard
her short, matter-of-fact communication without any token of anger or of
grief, made no remark, and if he changed countenance at all, it was to
put on an air of gloomy satisfaction, as though another weight even in
the most undesirable scale were preferable to any remnant of balancing,
and compunction for possible injustice were removed.

Could Lucilla but have seen that face, she would have doubted of her
means of reducing him to obedience.

The course he had adopted might indeed be the more excellent way in the
end, but at present even his self-devotion was not in such a spirit as to
afford much consolation to Honor.  If good were to arise out of sorrow,
the painful seed-time was not yet over.  His looks were stern even to
harshness, and his unhappiness seemed disposed to vent itself in doing
his work after his own fashion, brooking no interference.

He had taken a lodging over a baker's shop at Turnagain Corner.  Honor
thought it fair for the locality, and knew something of the people, but
to Phoebe it was horror and dismay.  The two small rooms, the painted
cupboard, the cut paper in the grate, the pictures in yellow gauze, with
the flies walking about on them, the round mirror, the pattern of the
carpet, and the close, narrow street, struck her as absolutely shocking,
and she came to Miss Charlecote with tears in her eyes, to entreat her to
remonstrate, and tell Robin it was his duty to live like a gentleman.

'My dear,' said Honor, rather shocked at a speech so like the ordinary
Fulmort mind, 'I have no fears of Robert not living like a gentleman.'

'I know--not in the real sense,' said Phoebe, blushing; 'but surely he
ought not to live in this dismal poky place, with such mean furniture,
when he can afford better.'

'I am afraid the parish affords few better lodgings, Phoebe, and it is
his duty to live where his work lies.  You appreciated his self-denial, I
thought?  Do you not like him to make a sacrifice?'

'I ought,' said Phoebe, her mind taking little pleasure in those acts of
self-devotion that were the delight of her friend.  'If it be his duty,
it cannot be helped, but I cannot be happy at leaving him to be
uncomfortable--perhaps ill.'

Coming down from the romance of martyrdom which had made her expect
Phoebe to be as willing to see her brother bear hardships in the London
streets, as she had herself been to dismiss Owen the first to his wigwam,
Honor took the more homely view of arguing on the health and quietness of
Turnagain Corner, the excellence of the landlady, and the fact that her
own cockney eyes had far less unreasonable expectations than those
trained to the luxuries of Beauchamp.  But by far the most efficient
solace was an expedition for the purchase of various amenities of life,
on which Phoebe expended the last of her father's gift.  The next morning
was spent in great secrecy at the lodgings, where Phoebe was so notable
and joyous in her labours, that Honor drew the conclusion that
housewifery was her true element; and science, art, and literature only
acquired, because they had been made her duties, reckoning all the more
on the charming order that would rule in Owen Sandbrook's parsonage.

All troubles and disappointments had faded from the young girl's mind, as
she gazed round exulting on the sacred prints on the walls, the delicate
statuettes, and well-filled spill-holder and match-box on the
mantelshelf, the solid inkstand and appurtenances upon the handsome
table-cover, the comfortable easy-chair, and the book-cases, whose
contents had been reduced to order due, and knew that the bedroom bore
equal testimony to her skill; while the good landlady gazed in
admiration, acknowledging that she hardly knew her own rooms, and
promising with all her heart to take care of her lodger.

Alas! when, on the way to the station, Honor and Phoebe made an
unexpected raid to bring some last improvements, Robert was detected in
the act of undoing their work, and denuding his room of even its original
luxuries.  Phoebe spoke not, but her face showed her discomfiture, and
Honora attacked him openly.

'I never meant you to know it,' he said, looking rather foolish.

'Then to ingratitude you added treachery.'

'It is not that I do not feel your kindness--'

'But you are determined not to feel it!'

'No, no! only, this is no position for mere luxuries.  My
fellow-curates--'

'Will use such conveniences of life as come to them naturally,' said
Honor, who had lived long enough to be afraid of the freaks of
asceticism.  'Hear me, Robert.  You are not wise in thrusting aside all
that brings home to you your little sister's love.  You think it cannot
be forgotten, but it is not well to cast away these daily memorials.  I
know you have much to make you severe--nay, morose--but if you become so,
you will never do your work efficiently.  You may repel, but never
invite; frighten, but not soothe.'

'You want me to think my efficiency dependent on arm-chairs and
table-covers.'

'I know you will be harder to all for living in needless discomfort, and
that you will be gentler to all for constantly meeting tokens of your
sister's affection.  Had you sought these comforts for yourself, the case
would be different; but, Robert, candidly, which of you is the
self-pleasing, which the mortified one, at this moment?'

Robert could not but look convicted as his eyes fell on the innocent
face, with the tears just kept back by strong effort, and the struggling
smile of pardon.

'Never mind, Robin,' said Phoebe, as she saw his air of vexation; 'I know
you never meant unkindness.  Do as you think right, only pray think of
what Miss Charlecote says.'

'She has one thing more to say,' added Honor.  'Do you think that
throwing aside Phoebe's little services will make you fitter to go among
the little children?'

There was no answer, but a reluctant approach to a smile gave Phoebe
courage to effect her restorations, and her whispered 'You will not
disturb them?' met with an affirmative satisfactory to herself.

Perhaps he felt as of old, when the lady of the Holt had struck him for
his cruelty to the mouse, or expelled him for his bad language.  The same
temper remained, although self-revenge had become the only outlet.  He
knew what it was that he had taken for devoted self-denial.

'Yes, Robin,' were Miss Charlecote's parting words, as she went back to
days of her own long past.  'Wilful doing right seldom tends to good,
above all when it begins by exaggeration of duty.'

And Robert was left with thoughts such as perchance might render him a
more tractable subordinate for Mr. Parsons, instead of getting into
training for the Order of St. Dominic.

Phoebe had to return less joyfully than she had gone forth.  Her first
bright star of anticipation had faded, and she had partaken deeply of the
griefs of the two whom she loved so well.  Not only had she to leave the
one to his gloomy lodgings in the City, and the toil that was to deaden
suffering, but the other must be parted with at the station, to return to
the lonely house, where not even old Ponto would meet her--his last hour
having, to every one's grief, come in her absence.

Phoebe could not bear the thought of that solitary return, and even at
the peril of great disappointment to her sisters, begged to sleep that
first night at the Holt, but Honor thanked her, and laughed it off: 'No,
no! my dear, I am used to be alone, and depend upon it, there will be
such an arrear of farm business for me, that I should hardly have time to
speak to you.  You need not be uneasy for me, dear one, there is always
relief in having a great deal to do, and I shall know you are near, to
come if I want you.  There's a great deal in that knowledge, Phoebe.'

'If I were of any use--'

'Yes, Phoebe, this visit has made you my friend instead of my
playfellow.'

Phoebe's deepening colour showed her intense gratification.  'And there
are the Sundays,' added Honor.  'I trust Miss Fennimore will let you come
to luncheon, and to the second service with me.'

'I will try very hard!'

For Phoebe could not help feeling like the canary, who sees his owner's
hand held out to catch him after his flight, or the pony who marks his
groom at the gate of the paddock.  Cage and rein were not grievous, but
liberty was over, and free-will began to sink into submission, as the
chimneys of home came nearer, even though the anticipation of her
sister's happiness grew more and more on her, and compensated for all.

Shrieks of ecstasy greeted her; she was held as fast as though her
sisters feared to lose her again, and Miss Fennimore showed absolute
warmth of welcome.  Foreign tongues were dispensed with, and it was a
festival evening of chatter, and display of purchases, presents, and
commissions.  The evidences of Phoebe's industry were approved.  Her
abstracts of her reading, her notes of museums and exhibitions, her
drawing, needlework, and new pieces of music, exceeded Miss Fennimore's
hopes, and appalled her sisters.

'You did all that,' cried Bertha, profiting by Miss Fennimore's absence;
'I hope to goodness she won't make it a precedent.'

'Wasn't it very tiresome?' asked Maria.

'Sometimes; but it made me comfortable, as if I had a backbone for my
day.'

'But didn't you want to feel like a lady?'

'I don't think I felt otherwise, Maria.'

'Like a grown-up lady, like mamma and my sisters?'

'O examples!' cried Bertha.  'No wonder Maria thinks doing nothing the
great thing to grow up for.  But, Phoebe, how could you be so stupid as
to go and do all this heap?  You might as well have stayed at home.'

'Miss Fennimore desired me!'

'The very reason why I'd have read stories, and made pictures out of
them, just to feel myself beyond her talons.'

'Talents, not talons,' said Maria.  'Cats have talons, people have
talents.'

'Sometimes both, sometimes neither,' observed Bertha.  'No explanation,
Phoebe; what's the use?  I want to know if Owen Sandbrook didn't call you
little Miss Precision?'

'Something like it.'

'And you went on when he was there?'

'Generally.'

'Oh! what opportunities are wasted on some people.  Wouldn't I have had
fun!  But of course he saw you were a poor little not-come-out thing, and
never spoke to you.  Oh! if Miss Charlecote would ask me to London!'

'And me!' chimed in Maria.

'Well, what would you do?'

'Not act like a goose, and bring home dry abstracts.  I'd make Miss
Charlecote take me everywhere, and quite forget all my science, unless I
wanted to amaze some wonderful genius.  Oh dear! won't I make Augusta
look foolish some of these days!  She really thinks that steel attracts
lightning!  Do you think Miss Charlecote's society will appreciate me,
Phoebe?'

'And me?' again asked Maria.

Phoebe laughed heartily, but did not like Bertha's scoffing mirth at
Maria's question.  Glad as she was to be at home, her glimpse of the
outer world had so enlarged her perceptions, she could not help remarking
the unchildlike acuteness of the younger girl, and the obtuse
comprehension of the elder; and she feared that she had become
discontented and fault-finding after her visit.  Moreover, when Bertha
spoke much English, a certain hesitation occurred in her speech which was
apt to pass unnoticed in her foreign tongues, but which jarred
unpleasantly on her sister's ear, and only increased when noticed.

At nine, when Phoebe rose as usual to wish good night, Miss Fennimore
told her that she need not for the future retire before ten, the hour to
which she had of late become accustomed.  It was a great boon, especially
as she was assured that the additional hour should be at her own
disposal.

'You have shown that you can be trusted with your time, my dear.  But not
to-night,' as Phoebe was turning to her desk; 'remember how long I have
suffered a famine of conversation.  What! were you not sensible of your
own value in that respect?'

'I thought you instructed me; I did not know you conversed with me.'

'There's a difference between one susceptible of instruction, and
anything so flippant and volatile as Bertha,' said Miss Fennimore,
smiling.  'And poor Maria!'

'She is so good and kind!  If she could only see a few things, and
people, and learn to talk!'

'Silence and unobtrusiveness are the only useful lessons for her, poor
girl!' then observing Phoebe's bewildered looks, 'My dear, I was forced
to speak to Bertha because she was growing jealous of Maria's exemptions;
but you, who have been constantly shielding and supplying her
deficiencies, you do not tell me that you were not aware of them?'

'I always knew she was not clever,' said Phoebe, her looks of alarmed
surprise puzzling Miss Fennimore, who in all her philosophy had never
dreamt of the unconscious instinct of affection.

'I could not have thought it,' she said.

'Thought what?  Pray tell me!  O what is the matter with poor Maria?'

'Then, my dear, you really had never perceived that poor Maria is
not--has not the usual amount of capacity--that she cannot be treated as
otherwise than deficient.'

'Does mamma know it?' faintly asked Phoebe, tears slowly filling her
eyes.

Miss Fennimore paused, inwardly rating Mrs. Fulmort's powers little above
those of her daughter.  'I am not sure,' she said; 'your sister Juliana
certainly does, and in spite of the present pain, I believe it best that
your eyes should be opened.'

'That I may take care of her.'

'Yes, you can do much in developing her faculties, as well as in
sheltering her from being thrust into positions to which she would be
unequal.  You do so already.  Though her weakness was apparent to me the
first week I was in the house, yet, owing to your kind guardianship, I
never perceived its extent till you were absent.  I could not have
imagined so much tact and vigilance could have been unconscious.  Nay,
dear child, it is no cause for tears.  Her life may perhaps be happier
than that of many of more complete intellect.'

'I ought not to cry,' owned Phoebe, the tears quietly flowing all the
time.  'Such people cannot do wrong in the same way as we can.'

'Ah! Phoebe, till we come to the infinite, how shall the finite pronounce
what is wrong?'

Phoebe did not understand, but felt that she was not in Miss Charlecote's
atmosphere, and from the heavenly, 'from him to whom little is given,
little will be required,' came to the earthly, and said, imploring, 'And
you will never be hard on her again!'

'I trust I have not been hard on her.  I shall task her less, and only
endeavour to give her habits of quiet occupation, and make her manners
retiring.  It was this relaxation of discipline, together with Bertha's
sad habit of teasing, which was intolerable in your absence, that induced
me to explain to her the state of the case.'

'How shocked she must have been.'

'Not quite as you were.  Her first remark was that it was as if she were
next in age to you.'

'She is not old enough to understand.'

The governess shook her head.  'Nay, when I found her teasing again, she
told me it was a psychological experiment.  Little monkey, she laid hold
of some books of mine, and will never rest till she has come to some
conclusion as to what is wanting in Maria.'

'Too young to feel what it means,' repeated Phoebe.

She was no great acquisition as a companion, for she neither spoke nor
stirred, so that the governess would have thought her drowsy, but for the
uprightness of the straight back, and the steady fold of the fingers on
the knee.  Much as Miss Fennimore detested the sight of inaction, she
respected the reverie consequent on the blow she had given.  It was a
refreshing contrast with Bertha's levity; and she meditated why her
system had made the one sister only accurate and methodical, while the
other seemed to be losing heart in mind, and becoming hard and shrewd.

There was a fresh element in Phoebe's life.  The native respect for 'the
innocent' had sprung up within her, and her spirit seemed to expand into
protecting wings with which to hover over her sister as a charge
peculiarly her own.  Here was the new impulse needed to help her when
subsiding into the monotony and task-work of the schoolroom, and to
occupy her in the stead of the more exciting hopes and fears that she had
partaken in London.

Miss Fennimore wisely relaxed her rule over Phoebe, since she had shown
that liberty was regarded as no motive for idleness; so though the maiden
still scrupulously accomplished a considerable amount of study, she was
allowed to portion it out as suited her inclination, and was no longer
forbidden to interrupt herself for the sake of her sisters.  It was
infinite comfort to be no longer obliged to deafen her ears to the
piteous whine of fretful incapacity, and to witness the sullen heaviness
of faculties overtasked, and temper goaded into torpor.  The fact once
faced, the result was relief; Maria was spared and considered, and Phoebe
found the governess much kinder, not only to her sister but to herself.
Absence had taught the value of the elder pupil, and friendly terms of
equality were beginning to be established.

Phoebe's freedom did not include solitary walks, and on weekdays she
seldom saw Miss Charlecote, and then only to hear natural history, the
only moderately safe ground between the two elder ladies.  What was
natural science with the one, was natural history with the other.  One
went deep in systems and classifications, and thrust Linnaeus into the
dark ages; the other had observed, collected, and drawn specimens with
the enthusiasm of a Londoner for the country, till she had a valuable
little museum of her own gathering, and was a handbook for the county
curiosities.  Star, bird, flower, and insect, were more than resources,
they were the friends of her lonely life, and awoke many a keen feeling
of interest, many an aspiration of admiring adoration that carried her
through her dreary hours.  And though Miss Fennimore thought her science
puerile, her credulity extensive, and her observations inaccurate, yet
she deemed even this ladylike dabbling worthy of respect as an element of
rational pleasure and self-training, and tried to make Bertha respect it,
and abstain from inundating Miss Charlecote with sesquipedalian names for
systems and families, and, above all, from her principal delight, setting
the two ladies together by the ears, by appealing to her governess to
support her abuse of Linnaeus as an old 'dictionary-maker,' or for some
bold geological theory that poor Honor was utterly unprepared to swallow.

Bertha was somewhat like the wren, who, rising on the eagle's head,
thought itself the monarch of the birds, but Honor was by no means
convinced that she was not merely blindfolded on the back of Clavileno
Aligero.  There was neither love nor admiration wasted between Honor and
Miss Fennimore, and Phoebe preferred their being apart.  She enjoyed her
Sunday afternoons, short enough, for school must not be neglected, but
Honor shyly acceded to Phoebe's entreaty to be allowed to sit by her
class and learn by her teaching.

It was an effort.  Honor shrank from exposing her own misty metaphors,
hesitating repetitions, and trivial queries to so clear a head, trained
in distinct reasoning, but it was the very teaching that the scientific
young lady most desired, and she treasured up every hint, afterwards
pursuing the subject with the resolution to complete the chain of
evidence, and asking questions sometimes rather perplexing to Honor,
accustomed as she was to take everything for granted.  Out came
authorities, and Honor found herself examining into the grounds of her
own half-knowledge, gaining fresh ideas, correcting old ones, and
obtaining subjects of interest for many an hour after her young friend
had left her.

While, at home, Phoebe, after running the gauntlet of Bertha's diversion
at her putting herself to school, when Scripture lessons were long ago
done with, would delight Maria with long murmuring discourses, often
stories about the scholars, but always conveying some point of religious
instruction.  It was a subject to which Maria was less impervious than to
any other; she readily learned to croon over the simple hymns that Phoebe
brought home, and when once a Scripture story had found entrance to her
mind, would beg to have it marked in her Bible, and recur to it
frequently.

Miss Fennimore left her entirely to Phoebe at these times, keeping Bertha
from molesting her by sarcastic queries, or by remarks on the sing-song
hymns, such as made Phoebe sometimes suspect that Maria's love for these
topics rendered them the more distasteful to the younger girl.  She tried
to keep them as much sheltered as possible, but was still sometimes
disconcerted by Bertha's mischievous laugh, or by finding Miss
Fennimore's eyes fixed in attention.

Phoebe's last hour on these evenings was spent in laying up her new lore
in her diligently kept note-book, weighing it and endeavouring to range
it in logical sequence, which she had been duly trained to consider the
test of reasoning.  If she sometimes became bewildered, and detected
insufficient premises for true conclusions, if she could not think
allegory or analogy the evidence it was made at the Sunday-school, and
which Miss Charlecote esteemed as absolute proof, her sound heart and
loving faith always decided her that she should discover the link in
time; and the doctrine had too strong a hold on her convictions and
affections for her to doubt that the chain of argument existed, though
she had not yet found it.  It was not the work for which so young a head
was intended, and perhaps it was well that she was interrupted by the
arrival at home of the heads of the family.

Augusta and her husband were to spend the winter abroad; Juliana had met
some friends, whom she had accompanied to their home, and though she had
exacted that Phoebe should not come out, yet the eldest daughter at home
was necessarily brought somewhat forward.  Phoebe was summoned to the
family meals, and went out driving with her mother, or riding with her
father, but was at other times in the schoolroom, where indeed she was
the most happy.

The life down-stairs was new to her, and she had not been trained to the
talk there expected of her.  The one event of her life, her visit to
London, gave evident dissatisfaction.  There were growls whenever Robert
was mentioned, and Phoebe found that though permission had been given for
his taking the curacy, it had been without understanding his true
intentions with regard to Whittingtonia.  Something had evidently passed
between him and his father and brother, while on their way through
London, which had caused them to regard him as likely to be a thorn in
their side; and Phoebe could not but fear that he would meet them in no
spirit of conciliation, would rather prefer a little persecution, and
would lean to the side of pastoral rather than filial duty, whenever they
might clash.  Even if he should refrain from speaking his full mind to
his father, he was likely to use no precautions with his brother, and
Phoebe was uneasy whenever either went up for their weekly visit of
inspection at the office.

Her mother gently complained.  'Honora Charlecote's doing, I suppose.  He
should have considered more!  Such a wretched place, no genteel family
near!  Your papa would never let me go near it.  But he must buy an
excellent living soon, where no one will know his connection with the
trade.'

The only sympathy Phoebe met with at home on Robert's ordination, was in
an unexpected quarter.  'Then your brother has kept his resolution,' said
Miss Fennimore.  'Under his reserve there is the temper that formed the
active ascetics of the middle ages.  His doctrine has a strong mediaeval
tinge, and with sufficient strength of purpose, may lead to like
results.'

When Phoebe proudly told Miss Charlecote of this remark, they agreed that
it was a valuable testimony, both to the doctrines and the results.
Honor had had a letter from Robert, that made her feel by force of
contrast that Owen was more than three years from a like conception of
clerical duty.

The storm came at last.  By order of the Court of Chancery, there was put
up for sale a dreary section of Whittingtonia, in dire decay, and remote
from civilization.  The firm of Fulmort and Son had long had their eyes
on it, as an eligible spot for a palace for the supply of their
commodity; and what was their rage when their agent was out-bidden, and
the tenements knocked down to an unknown customer for a fancy price!
After much alarm lest a rival distiller should be invading their
territory, their wrath came to a height when it finally appeared that the
new owner of the six ruinous houses in Cicely Row was no other than the
Reverend Robert Mervyn Fulmort, with the purpose of building a church and
schools for Whittingtonia at his own expense.

Mervyn came home furious.  High words had passed between the brothers,
and his report of them so inflamed Mr. Fulmort, that he inveighed
violently against the malice and treachery that scrupled not to undermine
a father.  Never speaking to Robert again, casting him off, and exposing
the vicar for upholding filial insolence and undutifulness, were the
mildest of his threats.  They seemed to imagine that Robert was making
this outlay, supposing that he would yet be made equal in fortune by his
father to the others, and there was constant repetition that he was to
expect not a farthing--he had had his share and should have no more.
There was only a scoff at Phoebe's innocence, when she expressed her
certainty that he looked for no compensation, knowing that he had been
provided for, and was to have nothing from his father; and Phoebe
trembled under such abuse of her favourite brother, till she could bear
it no longer, and seizing the moment of Mervyn's absence, she came up to
her father, and said, in as coaxing a tone as she could, 'Papa, should
not every one work to the utmost in his trade?'

'What of that, little one?'

'Then pray don't be angry with Robert for acting up to his,' said Phoebe,
clasping her hands, and resting them fondly on his shoulder.

'Act up to a fool's head!  Parsons should mind their business and not fly
in their fathers' faces.'

'Isn't it their work to make people more good?' continued Phoebe, with an
unconscious wiliness, looking more simple than her wont.

'Let him begin with himself then!  Learn his duty to his father!  A
jackanapes; trying to damage my business under my very nose.'

'If those poor people are in such need of having good done to them--'

'Scum of the earth!  Much use trying to do good to them!'

'Ah! but if it be his work to try? and if he wanted a place to build a
school--'

'You're in league with him, I suppose.'

'No, papa!  It surprised me very much.  Even Mr. Parsons knew nothing of
his plans, Robert only wrote to me when it was done, that now he hoped to
save a few of the children that are turned out in the streets to steal.'

'Steal!  They'll steal all his property!  A proper fool your uncle was to
leave it all to a lad like that.  The sure way to spoil him!  I could
have trebled all your fortunes if that capital had been in my hands, and
now to see him throw it to the dogs!  Phoebe, I can't stand it.
Conscience?  I hate such coxcombry!  As if men would not make beasts of
themselves whether his worship were in the business or not.'

'Yes!' ventured Phoebe, 'but at least he has no part in their doing so.'

'Much you know about it,' said her father, again shielding himself with
his newspaper, but so much less angrily than she had dared to expect,
that even while flushed and trembling, she felt grateful to him as more
placable than Mervyn.  She knew not the power of her own sweet face and
gently honest manner, nor of the novelty of an attentive daughter.

When the neighbours remarked on Mrs. Fulmort's improved looks and
spirits, and wondered whether they were the effect of the Rhine or of
'getting off' her eldest daughter, they knew not how many fewer dull
hours she had to spend.  Phoebe visited her in her bedroom, talked at
luncheon, amused her drives, coaxed her into the garden, read to her when
she rested before dinner, and sang to her afterwards.  Phoebe likewise
brought her sister's attainments more into notice, though at the expense
of Bertha's contempt for mamma's preference for Maria's staring fuchsias
and feeble singing, above her own bold chalks from models and scientific
music, and indignation at Phoebe's constantly bringing Maria forward
rather than her own clever self.

Droning narrative, long drawn out, had as much charm for Mrs. Fulmort as
for Maria.  If she did not always listen, she liked the voice, and she
sometimes awoke into descriptions of the dresses, parties, and
acquaintance of her youth, before trifling had sunk into dreary
insipidity under the weight of too much wealth, too little health, and
'nothing to do.'

'My dear,' she said, 'I am glad you are not out.  Quiet evenings are so
good for my nerves; but you are a fine girl, and will soon want society.'

'Not at all, mamma; I like being at home with you.'

'No, my dear!  I shall like to take you out and see you dressed.  You
must have advantages, or how are you to marry?'

'There's no hurry,' said Phoebe, smiling.

'Yes, my dear, girls always get soured if they do not marry!'

'Not Miss Charlecote, mamma.'

'Ah! but Honor Charlecote was an heiress, and could have had plenty of
offers.  Don't talk of not marrying, Phoebe, I beg.'

'No,' said Phoebe, gravely.  'I should like to marry some one very good
and wise, who could help me out of all my difficulties.'

'Bless me, Phoebe!  I hope you did not meet any poor curate at that place
of Honor Charlecote's.  Your papa would never consent.'

'I never met anybody, mamma,' said Phoebe, smiling.  'I was only thinking
what he should be like.'

'Well, what?' said Mrs. Fulmort, with girlish curiosity.  'Not that it's
any use settling.  I always thought I would marry a marquis's younger
son, because it is such a pretty title, and that he should play on the
guitar.  But he must not be an officer, Phoebe; we have had trouble
enough about that.'

'I don't know what he is to be, mamma,' said Phoebe, earnestly, 'except
that he should be as sensible as Miss Fennimore, and as good as Miss
Charlecote.  Perhaps a man could put both into one, and then he could
lead me, and always show me the reason of what is right.'

'Phoebe, Phoebe! you will never get married if you wait for a
philosopher.  Your papa would never like a very clever genius or an
author.'

'I don't want him to be a genius, but he must be wise.'

'Oh, my dear!  That comes of the way young ladies are brought up.  What
would the Miss Berrilees have said, where I was at school at Bath, if one
of their young ladies had talked of wanting to marry a wise man?'

Phoebe gave a faint smile, and said, 'What was Mr. Charlecote like,
mamma, whose brass was put up the day Robert was locked into the church?'

'Humfrey Charlecote, my dear?  The dearest, most good-hearted man that
ever lived.  Everybody liked him.  There was no one that did not feel as
if they had lost a brother when he was taken off in that sudden way.'

'And was not he very wise, mamma?'

'Bless me, Phoebe, what could have put that into your head?  Humfrey
Charlecote a wise man?  He was just a common, old-fashioned, hearty
country squire.  It was only that he was so friendly and kind-hearted
that made every one trust him, and ask his advice.'

'I should like to have known him,' said Phoebe, with a sigh.

'Ah, if you married any one like that!  But there's no use waiting!
There's nobody left like him, and I won't have you an old maid!  You are
prettier than either of your sisters--more like me when I came away from
Miss Berrilees, and had a gold-sprigged muslin for the Assize Ball, and
Humfrey Charlecote danced with me.'

Phoebe fell into speculations on the wisdom whose counsel all asked, and
which had left such an impression of affectionate honour.  She would
gladly lean on such an one, but if no one of the like mould remained, she
thought she could never bear the responsibilities of marriage.

Meantime she erected Humfrey Charlecote's image into a species of judge,
laying before this vision of a wise man all her perplexities between Miss
Charlecote's religion and Miss Fennimore's reason, and all her practical
doubts between Robert's conflicting duties.  Strangely enough, the
question, 'What would Mr. Charlecote have thought?' often aided her to
cast the balance.  Though it was still Phoebe who decided, it was Phoebe
drawn out of herself, and strengthened by her mask.

With vivid interest, such as for a living man would have amounted to
love, she seized and hoarded each particle of intelligence that she could
gain respecting the object of her admiration.  Honora herself, though far
more naturally enthusiastic, had, with her dreamy nature and diffused
raptures, never been capable of thus reverencing him, nor of the
intensity of feeling of one whose restrained imagination and unromantic
education gave force to all her sensations.  Yet this deep individual
regard was a more wholesome tribute than Honor had ever paid to him, or
to her other idol, for to Phoebe it was a step, lifting her to things
above and beyond, a guide on the road, never a vision obscuring the true
object.

Six weeks had quietly passed, when, like a domestic thunderbolt, came
Juliana's notification of her intention to return home at the end of a
week.  Mrs. Fulmort, clinging to her single thread of comfort, hoped that
Phoebe might still be allowed to come to her boudoir, but the gentlemen
more boldly declared that they wanted Phoebe, and would not have her
driven back into the schoolroom; to which the mother only replied with
fears that Juliana would be in a dreadful temper, whereon Mervyn
responded, 'Let her!  Never mind her, Phoebe.  Stick up for yourself, and
we'll put her down.'

Except for knowing that she was useful to her mother, Phoebe would have
thankfully retired into the west wing, rather than have given umbrage.
Mervyn's partisanship was particularly alarming, and, endeavour as she
might to hope that Juliana would be amiable enough to be disarmed by her
own humility and unobtrusiveness, she lived under the impression of
disagreeables impending.

One morning at breakfast, Mr. Fulmort, after grumbling out his wonder at
Juliana's writing to him, suddenly changed his tone into, 'Hollo! what's
this?  "My engagement--"'

'By Jove!' shouted Mervyn; 'too good to be true.  So she's done it.  I
didn't think he'd been such an ass, having had one escape.'

'Who?' continued Mr. Fulmort, puzzling, as he held the letter far
off--'engagement to dear--dear Devil, does she say?'

'The only fit match,' muttered Mervyn, laughing.  'No, no, sir!
Bevil--Sir Bevil Acton.'

'What! not the fellow that gave us so much trouble!  He had not a
sixpence; but she must please herself now.'

'You don't mean that you didn't know what she went with the Merivales
for?--five thousand a year and a baronetcy, eh?'

'The deuce!  If I had known that, he might have had her long ago.'

'It's quite recent,' said Mervyn.  'A mere chance; and he has been
knocking about in the colonies these ten years--might have cut his wisdom
teeth.'

'Ten years--not half-a-dozen!' said Mr. Fulmort.

'Ten!' reiterated Mervyn.  'It was just before I went to old Raymond's.
Acton took me to dine at the mess.  He was a nice fellow then, and
deserved better luck.'

'Ten years' constancy!' said Phoebe, who had been looking from one to the
other in wonder, trying to collect intelligence.  'Do tell me.'

'Whew!' whistled Mervyn.  'Juliana hadn't her sharp nose nor her sharp
tongue when first she came out.  Acton was quartered at Elverslope, and
got smitten.  She flirted with him all the winter; but I fancy she didn't
give you much trouble when he came to the point, eh, sir?'

'I thought him an impudent young dog for thinking of a girl of her
prospects; but if he had this to look to!--I was sorry for him, too!  Ten
years ago,' mused Mr. Fulmort.

'And she has liked no one since?'

'Or no one has liked her, which comes to the same,' said Mervyn.  'The
regiment went to the Cape, and there was an end of it, till we fell in
with the Merivales on board the steamer; and they mentioned their
neighbour, Sir Bevil Acton, come into his property, and been settled near
them a year or two.  Fine sport it was, to see Juliana angling for an
invitation, brushing up her friendship with Minnie Merivale--amiable to
the last degree!  My stars! what work she must have had to play good
temper all these six weeks, and how we shall have to pay for it!'

'Or Acton will,' said Mr. Fulmort, with a hearty chuckle of triumphant
good-humour.

Was it a misfortune to Phoebe to have been so much refined by education
as to be grated on by the vulgar tone of those nearest to her?  It was
well for her that she could still put it aside as their way, even while
following her own instinct.  Mervyn and Juliana had been on cat and dog
terms all their lives; he was certain to sneer at all that concerned her,
and Phoebe reserved her belief that an attachment, nipped in the bud, was
ready to blossom in sunshine.  She ran up with the news to her mother.

'Juliana going to be married!  Well, my dear, you may be introduced at
once!  How comfortable you and I shall be in the little brougham.'

Phoebe begged to be told what the intended was like.

'Let me see--was he the one that won the steeple-chase?  No; that was the
one that Augusta liked.  We knew so many young men, that I could never
tell which was which; and your sisters were always talking about them
till it quite ran through my poor head, such merry girls as they were!'

'And poor Juliana never was so merry after he was gone.'

'I don't remember,' replied this careful mother; 'but you know she never
could have meant anything, for he had nothing, and you with your fortunes
are a match for anybody!  Phoebe, my dear, we must go to London next
spring, and you shall marry a nobleman.  I must see you a titled lady as
well as your sisters.'

'I've no objection, provided he is my wise man,' said Phoebe.

Juliana had found the means of making herself welcome, and her marriage a
cause of unmixed jubilation in her family.  Prosperity made her affable,
and instead of suppressing Phoebe, she made her useful, and treated her
as a confidante, telling her of all the previous intimacy, and all the
secret sufferings in dear Bevil's absence, but passing lightly over the
last happy meeting, which Phoebe respected as too sacred to be talked of.

The little maiden's hopes of a perfect brother in the constant knight
rose high, and his appearance and demeanour did not disappoint them.  He
had a fine soldierly figure, and that air of a thorough gentleman which
Phoebe's Holt experience had taught her to appreciate; his manners were
peculiarly gentle and kind, especially to Mrs. Fulmort; and Phoebe did
not like him the less for showing traces of the effects of wounds and
climate, and a grave, subdued air, almost amounting to melancholy.  But
before he had been three days at Beauchamp, Juliana made a virulent
attack on the privileges of her younger sisters.  Perhaps it was the
consequence of poor Maria's volunteer to Sir Bevil--'I am glad Juliana is
going with you, for now no one will be cross to me;' but it seemed to
verify the poor girl's words, that she should be hunted like a strange
cat if she were found beyond her own precincts, and that the other two
should be treated much in the same manner.  Bertha stood up for her
rights, declaring that what mamma and Miss Fennimore allowed, she would
not give up for Juliana; but the only result was an admonition to the
governess, and a fierce remonstrance to the poor meek mother.  Phoebe,
who only wished to retire from the stage in peace, had a more difficult
part to play.

'What's the matter now?' demanded Mervyn, making his way up to her as she
sat in a remote corner of the drawing-room, in the evening.  'Why were
you not at dinner?'

'There was no room, I believe.'

'Nonsense! our table dines eight-and-twenty, and there were not twenty.'

'That was a large party, and you know I am not out.'

'You don't look like it in that long-sleeved white affair, and nothing on
your head either.  Where are those ivy-leaves you had yesterday--real,
weren't they?'

'They were not liked.'

'Not liked! they were the prettiest things I have seen for a long time.
Acton said they made you look like a nymph--the green suits that shiny
light hair of yours, and makes you like a picture.'

'Yes, they made me look forward and affected.'

'Now who told you that?  Has the Fennimore got to her old tricks?'

'Oh no, no!'

'I see! a jealous toad!  I heard him telling her that you reminded him of
her in old times.  The spiteful vixen!  Well, Phoebe, if you cut her out,
I bargain for board and lodging at Acton Manor.  This will be no place
for a quiet, meek soul like me!'

Phoebe tried to laugh, but looked distressed, uncomprehending, and far
from wishing to comprehend.  She could not escape, for Mervyn had penned
her up, and went on: 'You don't pretend that you don't see how it is!
That unlucky fellow is heartily sick of his bargain, but you see he was
too soft to withstand her throwing herself right at his head, and doing
the "worm in the bud," and the cruel father, green and yellow melancholy,
&c., ever since they were inhumanly parted.'

'For shame, Mervyn.  You don't really believe it is all out of honour.'

'I should never have believed a man of his years could be so green; but
some men get crotchets about honour in the army, especially if they get
elderly there.'

'It is very noble, if it be right, and he can take those vows from his
heart,' moralized Phoebe.  'But no, Mervyn, she cannot think so.  No
woman could take any one on such terms.'

'Wouldn't she, though?' sneered her brother.  'She'd have him if grim
death were hanging on to his other hand.  People aren't particular, when
they are nigh upon their third ten.'

'Don't tell me such things!  I don't believe them; but they ought never
to be suggested.'

'You ought to thank me for teaching you knowledge of the world.'

He was called off, but heavy at her heart lay the text, 'The knowledge of
wickedness is not wisdom.'

Mervyn's confidences were serious troubles to Phoebe.  Gratifying as it
was to be singled out by his favour, it was distressing to be the
repository of what she knew ought never to have been spoken, prompted by
a coarse tone of mind, and couched in language that, though he meant it
to be restrained, sometimes seemed to her like the hobgoblins' whispers
to Christian.  Oh! how unlike her other brother!  Robert had troubles,
Mervyn grievances, and she saw which were the worst to bear.  It was a
pleasing novelty to find a patient listener, and he used it to the
utmost, while she often doubted whether to hear without remonstrance were
not undutiful, yet found opposition rather increased the evil by the
storm of ill-temper that it provoked.

This last communication was dreadful to her, yet she could not but feel
that it might be a wholesome warning to avoid giving offence to the
jealousy which, when once pointed out to her, she could not prevent
herself from tracing in Juliana's petulance towards herself, and resolve
to force her into the background.  Even Bertha was more often brought
forward, for in spite of a tongue and temper cast somewhat in a similar
mould, she was rather a favourite with Juliana, whom she was not unlikely
to resemble, except that her much more elaborate and accurate training
might give her both more power and more self-control.

As Mervyn insinuated, Juliana was prudent in not lengthening out the
engagement, and the marriage was fixed for Christmas week, but it was not
to take place at Hiltonbury.  Sir Bevil was bashful, and dreaded county
festivities, and Juliana wished to escape from Maria as a bridesmaid, so
they preferred the privacy of an hotel and a London church.  Phoebe could
not decently be excluded, and her heart leapt with the hope of seeing
Robert, though so unwelcome was his name in the family that she could not
make out on what terms he stood, whether proscribed, or only disapproved,
and while sure that he would strive to be with her, she foresaw that the
pleasure would be at the cost of much pain.  Owen Sandbrook was spending
his vacation at the Holt, and Miss Charlecote looked so bright as she
walked to church leaning on his arm, that Phoebe had no regrets in
leaving her.  Indeed, the damsel greatly preferred the Holt in his
absence.  She did not understand his discursive comments on all things in
art or nature, and he was in a mood of flighty fitful spirits, which
perplexed her alike by their wild, satirical mirth, and their mournful
sentiment.  She thought Miss Charlecote was worried and perplexed at
times by his tone; but there was no doubt of his affection and attention
for his 'Sweet Honey,' and Phoebe rejoiced that her own absence should be
at so opportune a moment.

Sir Bevil went to make his preparations at home, whence he was to come
and join the Fulmorts the day after their arrival in town.  Mrs. Fulmort
was dragged out in the morning, and deposited at Farrance's in time for
luncheon, a few minutes before a compact little brougham set down Lady
Bannerman, jollier than ever in velvet and sable, and more scientific in
cutlets and pale ale.  Her good-nature was full blown.  She was ready to
chaperon her sisters anywhere, invited the party to the Christmas dinner,
and undertook the grand _soiree_ after the wedding.  She proposed to take
Juliana at once out shopping, only lamenting that there was no room for
Phoebe, and was so universally benevolent, that in the absence of the
bride elect, Phoebe ventured to ask whether she saw anything of Robert.

'Robert?  Yes, he called when we first came to town, and we asked him to
dinner; but he said it was a fast day; and you know Sir Nicholas would
never encourage that sort of thing.'

'How was he?'

'He looked odder than ever, and so ill and cadaverous.  No wonder! poking
himself up in such a horrid place, where one can't notice him.'

'Did he seem in tolerable spirits?'

'I don't know.  He always was silent and glum; and now he seems wrapped
up in nothing but ragged schools and those disgusting City missions; I'm
sure we can't subscribe, so expensive as it is living in town.  Imagine,
mamma, what we are giving our cook!'

Juliana returned, and the two sisters went out, leaving Phoebe to extract
entertainment for her mother from the scenes passing in the street.

Presently a gentleman's handsome cabriolet and distinguished-looking
horse were affording food for their descriptions, when, to her surprise,
Sir Bevil emerged from it, and presently entered the room.  He had come
intending to take out his betrothed, and in her absence transferred the
offer to her sister.  Phoebe demurred, on more accounts than she could
mention, but her mother remembering what a drive in a stylish equipage
with a military baronet would once have been to herself, overruled her
objections, and hurried her away to prepare.  She quickly returned, a
cheery spectacle in her russet dress and brown straw bonnet, and her
scarlet neck-tie, the robin redbreast's livery which she loved.

'Your cheeks should be a refreshing sight to the Londoners, Phoebe,' said
Sir Bevil, with his rare, but most pleasant smile.  'Where shall we go?
You don't seem much to care for the Park.  I'm at your service wherever
you like to go.'  And as Phoebe hesitated, with cheeks trebly beneficial
to the Londoners, he kindly added, 'Well, what is it?  Never mind what!
I'm open to anything--even Madame Tussaud's.'

'If I might go to see Robert.  Augusta said he was looking ill.'

'My dear!' interposed her mother, 'you can't think of it.  Such a
dreadful place, and such a distance.'

'It is only a little way beyond St. Paul's, and there are no bad streets,
dear mamma.  I have been there with Miss Charlecote.  But if it be too
far, or you don't like driving into the City, never mind,' she continued,
turning to Sir Bevil; 'I ought to have said nothing about it.'

But Sir Bevil, reading the ardour of the wish in the honest face,
pronounced the expedition an excellent idea, and carried her off with her
eyes as round and sparkling as those of the children going to Christmas
parties.  He stole glances at her as if her fresh innocent looks were an
absolute treat to him, and when he talked, it was of Robert in his
boyhood.  'I remember him at twelve years old, a sturdy young ruffian,
with an excellent notion of standing up for himself.'

Phoebe listened with delight to some characteristic anecdotes of Robert's
youth, and wondered whether he would be appreciated now.  She did not
think Sir Bevil held the same opinions as Robert or Miss Charlecote; he
was an upright, high-minded soldier, with honour and subordination his
chief religion, and not likely to enter into Robert's peculiarities.  She
was in some difficulty when she was asked whether her brother were not
under some cloud, or had not been taking a line of his own--a gentler
form of inquiry, which she could answer with the simple truth.

'Yes, he would not take a share in the business, because he thought it
promoted evil, and he felt it right to do parish work at St. Wulstan's,
because our profits chiefly come from thence.  It does not please at
home, because they think he could have done better for himself, and he
sometimes is obliged to interfere with Mervyn's plans.'

Sir Bevil made the less answer because they were in the full current of
London traffic, and his proud chestnut was snuffing the hat of an omnibus
conductor.  Careful driving was needed, and Phoebe was praised for never
even looking frightened, then again for her organ of locality and the
skilful pilotage with which she unerringly and unhesitatingly found the
way through the Whittingtonian labyrinths; and as the disgusted tiger
pealed at the knocker of Turnagain Corner, she was told she would be a
useful guide in the South African bush.  'At home,' was the welcome
reply, and in another second her arms were round Robert's neck.  There
was a thorough brotherly greeting between him and Sir Bevil; each saw in
the other a man to be respected, and Robert could not but be grateful to
the man who brought him Phoebe.

Her eyes were on the alert to judge how he had been using himself in the
last half-year.  He looked thin, yet that might be owing to his highly
clerical coat, and some of his rural ruddiness was gone, but there was no
want of health of form or face, only the spareness and vigour of thorough
working condition.  His expression was still grave even to sadness, and
sternness seemed gathering round his thin lips.  Heavy of heart he
doubtless was still, but she was struck by the absence of the undefined
restlessness that had for years been habitual to both brothers, and which
had lately so increased on Mervyn, that there was a relief in watching a
face free from it, and telling not indeed of happiness, but of a mind
made up to do without it.

She supposed that his room ought to satisfy her, for though untidy in
female eyes, it did not betray ultra self-neglect.  The fire was brisk,
there was a respectable luncheon on the table, and he had even treated
himself to the _Guardian_, some new books, and a beautiful photograph of
a foreign cathedral.  The room was littered with half-unrolled plans,
which had to be cleared before the guests could find seats, and he had
evidently been beguiling his luncheon with the perusal of some large MS.
sheets, red-taped together at the upper corner.

'That's handsome,' said Sir Bevil.  'What is it for?  A school or
almshouses.'

'Something of both,' said Robert, his colour rising.  'We want a place
for disposing of the destitute children that swarm in this district.'

'Oh, show me!' cried Phoebe.  'Is it to be at that place in Cicely Row?'

'I hope so.'

The stiff sheets were unrolled, the designs explained.  There was to be a
range of buildings round a court, consisting of day-schools, a home for
orphans, a _creche_ for infants, a reading-room for adults, and
apartments for the clergy of the Church which was to form one side of the
quadrangle.  Sir Bevil was much interested, and made useful criticisms.
'But,' he objected, 'what is the use of building new churches in the
City, when there is no filling those you have?'

'St. Wulstan's is better filled than formerly,' said Robert.  'The pew
system is the chief enemy there; but even without that, it would not hold
a tenth part of the Whittingtonian population, would they come to it,
which they will not.  The Church must come to them, and with special
services at their own times.  They need an absolute mission, on entirely
different terms from the Woolstone quarter.'

'And are you about to head the mission?'

'To endeavour to take a share in it.'

'And who is to be at the cost of this?' pursued Sir Bevil.  'Have you a
subscription list?'

Robert coloured again as he answered, 'Why, no; we can do without that so
far.'

Phoebe understood, and her face must have revealed the truth to Sir
Bevil, for laying his hand on Robert's arm, he said, 'My good fellow, you
don't mean that you are answerable for all this?'

'You know I have something of my own.'

'You will not leave much of it at this rate.  How about the endowment?'

'I shall live upon the endowment.'

'Have you considered?  You will be tied to this place for ever.'

'That is one of my objects,' replied Robert, and in reply to a look of
astonished interrogation, 'myself and all that is mine would be far too
little to atone for a fraction of the evil that our house is every day
perpetrating here.'

'I should hate the business myself,' said the baronet; 'but don't you see
it in a strong light?'

'Every hour I spend here shows me that I do not see it strongly enough.'

And there followed some appalling instances of the effects of the
multiplicity of gin-palaces, things that it well-nigh broke Robert's
heart to witness, absorbed as he was in the novelty of his work, fresh in
feeling, and never able to divest himself of a sense of being a sharer in
the guilt and ruin.

Sir Bevil listened at first with interest, then tried to lead away from
the subject; but it was Robert's single idea, and he kept them to it till
their departure, when Phoebe's first words were, as they drove from the
door, 'Oh, thank you, you do not know how much happier you have made me.'

Her companion smiled, saying, 'I need not ask which is the favourite
brother.'

'Mervyn is very kind to me,' quickly answered Phoebe.

'But Robert is the oracle! eh?' he said, kindly and merrily.

'Robert has been everything to us younger ones,' she answered.  'I am
still more glad that you like him.'

His grave face not responding as she expected, she feared that he had
been bored, that he thought Robert righteous over much, or disapproved
his opinions; but his answer was worth having when it came.  'I know
nothing about his views; I never looked into the subject; but when I see
a young man giving up a lucrative prospect for conscience sake, and
devoting himself to work in that sink of iniquity, I see there must be
something in him.  I can't judge if he goes about it in a wrong-headed
way, but I should be proud of such a fellow instead of discarding him.'

'Oh, thank you!' cried Phoebe, with ecstasy that made him laugh, and
quite differently from the made-up laughter she had been used to hear
from him.

'What are you thanking me for?' he said.  'I do not imagine that I shall
be able to serve him.  I'll talk to your father about him, but he must be
the best judge of the discipline of his own family.'

'I was not thinking of your doing anything,' said Phoebe; 'but a kind
word about Robert does make me very grateful.'

There was a long silence, only diversified by an astonished nod from
Mervyn driving back from the office.  Just before setting her down, Sir
Bevil said, 'I wonder whether your brother would let us give something to
his church.  Will you find out what it shall be, and let me know?  As a
gift from Juliana and myself--you understand.'

It was lucky for Phoebe that she had brought home a good stock of
satisfaction to support her, for she found herself in the direst
disgrace, and her mother too much cowed to venture on more than a feeble
self-defensive murmur that she had told Phoebe it would never do.
Convinced in her own conscience that she had done nothing blameworthy,
Phoebe knew that it was the shortest way not to defend herself, and the
storm was blowing over when Mervyn came in, charmed to mortify Juliana by
compliments to Phoebe on 'doing it stylishly, careering in Acton's
turn-out,' but when the elder sister explained where she had been,
Mervyn, too, deserted her, and turned away with a fierce imprecation on
his brother, such as was misery to Phoebe's ears.  He was sourly
ill-humoured all the evening; Juliana wreaked her displeasure on Sir
Bevil in ungraciousness, till such silence and gloom descended on him,
that he was like another man from him who had smiled on Phoebe in the
afternoon.  Yet, though dismayed at the offence she had given, and
grieved at these evidences of Robert's ill-odour with his family, Phoebe
could not regret having seized her single chance of seeing Robert's
dwelling for herself, nor the having made him known to Sir Bevil.  The
one had made her satisfied, the other hopeful, even while she
recollected, with foreboding, that truth sometimes comes not with peace,
but with a sword, to set at variance parent and child, and make foes of
them of the same household.

Juliana never forgave that drive.  She continued bitter towards Phoebe,
and kept such a watch over her and Sir Bevil, that the jealous
surveillance became palpable to both.  Sir Bevil really wanted to tell
Phoebe the unsatisfactory result of his pleading for Robert; she wanted
to tell him of Robert's gratitude for his offered gift; but the exchange
of any words in private was out of their power, and each silently felt
that it was best to make no move towards one another till the unworthy
jealousy should have died away.

Though Sir Bevil had elicited nothing but abuse of 'pigheaded folly,' his
espousal of the young clergyman's cause was not without effect.  Robert
was not treated with more open disfavour than he had often previously
endured, and was free to visit the party at Farrance's, if he chose to
run the risk of encountering his father's blunt coldness, Mervyn's sulky
dislike, and Juliana's sharp satire, but as he generally came so as to
find his mother and Phoebe alone, some precious moments compensated for
the various disagreeables.  Nor did these affect him nearly as much as
they did his sister.  It was, in fact, one of his remaining unwholesome
symptoms that he rather enjoyed persecution, and took no pains to avoid
giving offence.  If he meant to be uncompromising, he sometimes was
simply provoking, and Phoebe feared that Sir Bevil thought him an
unpromising _protege_.

He was asked to the Christmas dinner at the Bannermans', and did not
fulfil Augusta's prediction that he would say it was a fast day, and
refuse.  That evening gave Phoebe her best _tete-a-tete_ with him, but
she observed that all was about Whittingtonia, not one word of the past
summer, not so much as an inquiry for Miss Charlecote.  Evidently that
page in his history was closed for ever, and if he should carry out his
designs in their present form, a wife at the intended institution would
be an impossibility.  How near the dearest may be to one another, and yet
how little can they guess at what they would most desire to know.

Sir Bevil had insisted on his being asked to perform the ceremony, and
she longed to understand whether his refusal were really on the score of
his being a deacon, or if he had any further motive.  His own family were
affronted, though glad to be left free to request the services of the
greatest dignitary of their acquaintance, and Sir Bevil's blunt 'No, no,
poor fellow! say no more about it,' made her suppose that he suspected
that Robert's vehemence in his parish was meant to work off a
disappointment.

It was a dreary wedding, in spite of London grandeur.  In all her
success, Juliana could not help looking pinched and ill at ease, her
wreath and veil hardening instead of softening her features, and her
bridegroom's studious cheerfulness and forced laughs became him less than
his usual silent dejection.  The Admiral was useful in getting up stock
wedding-wit, but Phoebe wondered how any one could laugh at it; and her
fellow-bridesmaids, all her seniors, seemed to her, as perhaps she might
to them, like thoughtless children, playing with the surface of things.
She pitied Sir Bevil, and saw little chance of happiness for either, yet
heard only congratulations, and had to be bright, busy, and helpful,
under a broad, stiff, white watered silk scarf, beneath which Juliana had
endeavoured to extinguish her, but in which her tall rounded shape looked
to great advantage.  Indeed, that young rosy face, and the innocently
pensive wondering eyes were so sweet, that the bride had to endure
hearing admiration of her sister from all quarters, and the Acton
bridemaidens whispered rather like those at Netherby Hall.

It was over, and Phoebe was the reigning Miss Fulmort.  Her friends were
delighted for her and for themselves, and her mother entered on the full
enjoyment of the little brougham.



CHAPTER XI


       When some dear scheme
       Of our life doth seem
    Shivered at once like a broken dream
       And our hearts to reel
       Like ships that feel
    A sharp rock grating against their keel.--C. F. A.

It was high summer; and in spite of cholera-averting thunderstorms, the
close streets and the odour of the Thames were becoming insufferable.
Mr. Parsons arranged a series of breathing times for his clerical staff,
but could make Robert Fulmort accept none.  He was strong and healthy,
ravenous of work, impervious to disgusts, and rejected holidays as
burdensome and hateful.  Where should he go?  What could he do?  What
would become of his wild scholars without him, and who would superintend
his buildings?

Mr. Parsons was fain to let him have his own way, as had happened in some
previous instances, specially the edifice in Cicely Row, where the
incumbent would have paused, but the curate rushed on with resolute zeal
and impetuosity, taking measures so decidedly ere his intentions were
revealed, that neither remonstrance nor prevention were easy, and a
species of annoyed, doubtful admiration alone was possible.  It was
sometimes a gratifying reflection to the vicar, that when the buildings
were finished, Whittingtonia would become a district, and its busy curate
be no longer under his jurisdiction.

Meantime Robert was left with a companion in priest's orders, but newer
to the parish than himself, to conduct the services at St. Wulstan's,
while the other curates were taking holiday, and the vicar at his son's
country-house.  To see how contentedly, nay, pleasurably, 'Fulmort'
endured perpetual broiling, passing from frying school to grilling
pavement, and seething human hive, was constant edification to his
colleague, who, fresh from the calm university, felt such a life to be a
slow martyrdom, and wished his liking for the deacon were in better
proportion to his esteem.

'A child to be baptized at 8, Little Whittington-street,' he said, with
resigned despair, as at the vestry door he received a message from a
small maid, one afternoon, when the air looked lucid yellow with sultry
fire.

'I'll go,' replied Robert, with the alacrity that sometimes almost
irritated his fellows; and off he sped, with alert steps, at which his
friend gazed with the sensation of watching a salamander.

Little Whittington-street, where it was not warehouses, was chiefly
occupied by small tradesfolk, or by lodging-houses for the numerous
'young men' employed in the City.  It was one of the most respectable
parts of that quarter, but being much given to dissent, was little
frequented by the clergy, who had too much immorality to contend with, to
have leisure to speak against schism.

When he rang at No. 8, the little maid ushered him down a narrow, dark
staircase, and announcing, 'Please, ma'am, here's the minister,' admitted
him into a small room, feeling like a cellar, the window opening into an
area.  It was crowded with gay and substantial furniture, and contained
two women, one lying on a couch, partially hidden by a screen, the other
an elderly person, in a widow's cap, with an infant in her arms.

'Good morning, sir; we were sorry to trouble you, but I felt certain, as
I told my daughter, that a minister of the Gospel would not tarry in time
of need.  Not that I put my trust in ordinances, sir; I have been blest
with the enlightenment of the new birth, but my daughter, sir, she
follows the Church.  Yes, sir, the poor little lamb is a sad sufferer in
this vale of tears.  So wasted away, you see; you would not think he was
nine weeks old.  We would have brought him to church before, sir, only my
daughter's hillness, and her 'usband's habsence.  It was always her wish,
sir, and I was not against it, for many true Christians have found grace
in the Church, sir.'

Robert considered whether to address himself to the young mother, whose
averted face and uneasy movements seemed to show that this stream of
words was distressing to her.  He thought silence would be best procured
by his assumption of his office, and quietly made his preparations,
opened his book, and took his place.

The young woman, raising herself with difficulty, said in a low, sweet
voice, 'The gentleman is ready, mother.'

As there was no pressing danger, he read the previous collects, the elder
female responding with devout groans, the younger sinking on her knees,
her face hidden in her wasted hands.  He took the little feeble being in
his arms, and demanded the name.

'Hoeing Charterhouse,' replied the grandmother.

He looked interrogative, and Hoeing Charterhouse was repeated.

'Owen Charteris,' said the low, sweet voice.

A thrill shot over his whole frame, as his look met a large, full, liquid
pair of dark eyes, such as once seen could never be forgotten, though
dropped again instantly, while a burning blush arose, instantly veiled by
the hands, which hid all up to the dark hair.

Recalling himself by an effort, he repeated the too familiar name, and
baptized the child, bending his head over it afterwards in deep
compassion and mental entreaty both for its welfare, and his own guidance
in the tissue of wrongdoing thus disclosed.  A hasty, stealthy glance at
the hands covering the mother's face, showed him the ring on her fourth
finger, and as they rose from their knees, he said, 'I am to register
this child as Owen Charteris Sandbrook.'

With a look of deadly terror, she faintly exclaimed, 'I have done it!
You know him, sir; you will not betray him!'

'I know you, too,' said Robert, sternly.  'You were the schoolmistress at
Wrapworth!'

'I was, sir.  It was all my fault.  Oh! promise me, sir, never to betray
him; it would be the ruin of his prospects for ever!'  And she came
towards him, her hands clasped in entreaty, her large eyes shining with
feverish lustre, her face wasted but still lovely, a piteous contrast to
the queenly being of a year ago in her pretty schoolroom.

'Compose yourself,' said Robert, gravely; 'I hope never to betray any
one.  I confess that I am shocked, but I will endeavour to act rightly.'

'I am sure, sir,' broke in Mrs. Murrell, with double volume, after her
interval of quiescence, 'it is not to be expected but what a gentleman's
friends would be offended.  It was none of my wish, sir, being that I
never knew a word of it till she was married, and it was too late, or I
would have warned her against broken cisterns.  But as for her, sir, she
is as innocent as a miserable sinner can be in a fallen world.  It was
the young gentleman as sought her out.  I always misdoubted the ladies
noticing her, and making her take part with men-singers and
women-singers, and such vanities as is pleasing to the unregenerate
heart.  Ah! sir, without grace, where are we?  Not that he was ever other
than most honourable with her, or she would never have listened to him
not for a moment, but she was over-persuaded, sir, and folks said what
they hadn't no right to say, and the minister, he was 'ard on her, and
so, you see, sir, she took fright and married him out of 'and, trusting
to a harm of flesh, and went to Hireland with him.  She just writ me a
note, which filled my 'art with fear and trembling, a 'nonymous note,
with only Hedna signed to it; and I waited, with failing eyes and sorrow
of heart, till one day in autumn he brings her back to me, and here she
has been ever since, dwining away in a nervous fever, as the doctors call
it, as it's a misery to see her, and he never coming nigh her.'

'Once,' murmured Edna, who had several times tried to interrupt.

'Once, ay, for one hour at Christmas.'

'He is known here; he can't venture often,' interposed the wife; and
there was a further whisper, 'he couldn't stay, he couldn't bear it.'

But the dejected accents were lost in the old woman's voice,--'Now, sir,
if you know him or his family, I wouldn't be wishing to do him no
hinjury, nor to ruinate his prospects, being, as he says, that the rich
lady will make him her hare; but, sir, if you have any power with him as
a godly minister or the friend of his youth maybe--'

'He is only waiting till he has a curacy--a house of his own--mother!'

'No, Edna, hold your peace.  It is not fit that I should see my only
child cut down as the grass of the field, and left a burthen upon me, a
lone woman, while he is eating of the fat of the land.  I say it is
scandalous that he should leave her here, and take no notice; not coming
near her since one hour at Christmas, and only just sending her a few
pounds now and then; not once coming to see his own child!'

'He could not; he is abroad!' pleaded Edna.

'He tells you he is abroad!' exclaimed Robert.

'He went to Paris at Easter.  He promised to come when he comes home.'

'You poor thing!' burst out Robert.  'He is deceiving you!  He came back
at the end of three weeks.  I heard from my sister that she saw him on
Sunday.'

Robert heartily rued his abruptness, as the poor young wife sank back in
a deadly swoon.  The grandmother hurried to apply remedies, insisting
that the gentleman should not go, and continuing all the time her version
of her daughter's wrongs.  Her last remnant of patience had vanished on
learning this deception, and she only wanted to publish her daughter's
claims, proceeding to establish them by hastening in search of the
marriage certificate as soon as Edna had begun to revive, but sooner than
Robert was satisfied to be left alone with the inanimate, helpless form
on the couch.

He was startled when Edna raised her hand, and strove to speak,--'Sir, do
not tell--do not tell my mother where he is.  She must not fret him--she
must not tell his friends--he would be angry.'

She ceased as her mother returned with the certificate of the marriage,
contracted last July before the registrar of the huge suburban Union to
which Wrapworth belonged, the centre of which was so remote, that the
pseudo-banns of Owen Charteris Sandbrook and Edna Murrell had attracted
no attention.

'It was very wrong,' feebly said Edna; 'I drew him into it!  I loved him
so much; and they all talked so after I went in the boat with him, that I
thought my character was gone, and I begged him to save me from them.  It
was my fault, sir; and I've the punishment.  You'll not betray him, sir;
only don't let that young lady, your sister, trust to him.  Not yet.  My
baby and I shall soon be out of her way.'

The calm languor of her tone was almost fearful, and even as she spoke a
shuddering seized her, making her tremble convulsively, her teeth
knocking together, and the couch shaking under her.

'You must have instant advice,' cried Robert.  'I will fetch some one.'

'You won't betray him,' almost shrieked Edna.  'A little while--stay a
little while--he will be free of me.'

There was delirium in look and voice, and he was compelled to pause and
assure her that he was only going for the doctor, and would come again
before taking any other step.

It was not till the medical man had been summoned that his mind recurred
to the words about his sister.  He might have dismissed them as merely
the jealous suspicion of the deserted wife, but that he remembered
Lucilla's hint as to an attachment between Owen and Phoebe, and he knew
that such would have been most welcome to Miss Charlecote.

'My Phoebe, my one bright spot!' was his inward cry, 'must your guileless
happiness be quenched!  O, I would rather have it all over again myself
than that one pang should come near you, in your sweetness and innocence,
the blessing of us all!  And I not near to guard nor warn!  What may not
be passing even now?  Unprincipled, hard-hearted deceiver, walking at
large among those gentle, unsuspicious women--trading on their innocent
trust!  Would that I had disclosed the villainy I knew of!'

His hand clenched, his brow lowered, and his mouth was set so savagely,
that the passing policeman looked in wonder from the dangerous face to
the clerical dress.

Early next morning he was at No. 8, and learnt that Mrs. Brook, as the
maid called her, had been very ill all night, and that the doctor was
still with her.  Begging to see the doctor, Robert found that high fever
had set in, an aggravation of the low nervous fever that had been
consuming her strength all the spring, and her condition was already such
that there was little hope of her surviving the present attack.  She had
been raving all night about the young lady with whom Mr. Sandbrook had
been walking by moonlight, and when the door of the little adjoining
bedroom was open, her moans and broken words were plainly audible.

Robert asked whether he should fetch her husband, and Mrs. Murrell caught
at the offer.  Owen's presence was the single hope of restoring her, and
at least he ought to behold the wreck that he had wrought.  Mrs. Murrell
gave a terrible thrust by saying, 'that the young lady at least ought to
be let know, that she might not be trusting to him.'

'Do not fear, Mrs. Murrell,' he said, almost under his breath.  'My only
doubt is, whether I can meet Owen Sandbrook as a Christian should.'

Cutting off her counsels on the unconverted nature, he strode off to find
his colleague, whom he perplexed by a few rapid words on the necessity of
going into the country for the day.  His impatient condition required
vehement action; and with a sense of hurrying to rescue Phoebe, he could
scarcely brook the slightest delay till he was on his way to Hiltonbury,
nor till the train spared him all action could he pause to collect his
strength, guard his resentment, or adjust his measures for warning, but
not betraying.  He could think of no honourable mode of dealing, save
carrying off Owen to London with him at once, sacrificing the sight of
his sister for the present, and either writing or going to her
afterwards, when the mode of dealing the blow should be more evident.  It
cost him keen suffering to believe that this was the sole right course,
but he had bound himself to it by his promise to the poor suffering wife,
blaming himself for continually putting his sister before her in his
plans.

At Elverslope, on his demand for a fly for Hiltonbury, he was answered
that all were engaged for the Horticultural Show in the Forest; but the
people at the station, knowing him well, made willing exertions to
procure a vehicle for him, and a taxed cart soon making its appearance,
he desired to be taken, not to the Holt, but to the Forest, where he had
no doubt that he should find the object of his search.

This Horticultural Show was the great gaiety of the year.  The society
had originated with Humfrey Charlecote, for the benefit of the poor as
well as the rich; and the summer exhibition always took place under the
trees of a fragment of the old Forest, which still survived at about five
miles from Hiltonbury.  The day was a county holiday.  The delicate
orchid and the crowned pine were there, with the hairy gooseberry, the
cabbage and potato, and the homely cottage-garden nosegay from many a
woodland hamlet.  The young ladies competed in collections of dried
flowers for a prize botany book; and the subscriptions were so arranged
that on this festival each poorer member might, with two companions, be
provided with a hearty meal; while grandees and farmers had a
luncheon-tent of their own, and regarded the day as a county picnic.

It was a favourite affair with all, intensely enjoyed, and full of good
neighbourhood.  Humfrey Charlecote's spirit never seemed to have deserted
it; it was a gathering of distant friends, a delight of children as of
the full grown; and while the young were frantic for its gipsying fun,
their elders seldom failed to attend, if only in remembrance of poor Mr.
Charlecote, 'who had begged one and all not to let it drop.'

Above all, Honora felt it due to Humfrey to have prize-roots and fruits
from the Holt, and would have thought herself fallen, indeed, had the
hardest rain kept her from the rendezvous, with one wagon carrying the
cottagers' articles, and another a troop of school-children.  No doubt
the Forest would be the place to find Owen Sandbrook, but for the rest--

From the very extremity of his perplexity, Robert's mind sought relief in
external objects.  So joyous were the associations with the Forest road
on a horticultural day, that the familiar spots could not but revive
them.  Those green glades, where the graceful beeches retreated, making
cool green galleries with their slender gleaming stems, reminded him of
his putting his new pony to speed to come up with the Holt carriage; that
scathed oak had a tradition of lightning connected with it; yonder was
the spot where he had shown Lucilla a herd of deer; here the rising
ground whence the whole scene could be viewed, and from force of habit he
felt exhilarated as he gazed down the slope of heather, where the fine
old oaks and beeches, receding, had left an open space, now covered with
the well-known tents; there the large one, broadly striped with green,
containing the show; there the white marquees for the eaters; the Union
Jack's gay colours floating lazily from a pole in the Outlaw's Knoll; the
dark, full foliage of the forest, and purple tints of the heather setting
off the bright female groups in their delicate summer gaieties.  Vehicles
of all degrees--smart barouche, lengthy britzschka, light gig, dashing
pony-carriage, rattling shanderadan, and gorgeous wagon--were drawn up in
treble file, minus their steeds; the sounds of well-known tunes from the
band were wafted on the wind, and such an air of jocund peace and
festivity pervaded the whole, that for a moment he had a sense of
holiday-making ere he sighed at the shade that he was bringing on that
scene of merriment.

Reaching the barrier, he paid his entrance-money, and desiring the
carriage to wait, walked rapidly down the hill.  On one side of the road
was the gradual sweep of open heath, on the other was a rapid slope,
shaded by trees, and covered with fern, growing tall and grand as it
approached the moist ground in the hollow below.  Voices made him turn
his head in that direction.  Aloof from the rest of the throng he beheld
two figures half-way down the bank, so nearly hidden among the luxuriant,
wing-like fronds of the Osmond royal which they were gathering, that at
first only their hats were discernible--a broad gray one, with drooping
feather, and a light Oxford boating straw hat.  The merry ring of the
clear girlish voice, the deep-toned replies, told him more than his first
glance did; and with one inward ejaculation for self-command, he turned
aside to the descent.

The rustling among the copsewood caught the ear of Phoebe, who was the
highest up, and, springing up like a fawn in the covert, she
cried,--'Robin! dear Robin! how delicious!' but ere she had made three
bounds towards him, his face brought her to a pause, and, in an
awe-struck voice, she asked, 'Robert, what is it?'

'It does not concern you, dearest; at least, I hope not.  I want Owen
Sandbrook.'

'Then it is _she_.  O Robin, can you bear it?' she whispered, clinging to
him, terrified by the agitated fondness of his embrace.

'I know nothing of _her_,' was his answer, interrupted by Owen, who,
raising his handsome, ruddy face from beneath, shouted mirthfully--

'Ha! Phoebe, what interloper have you caught?  What, Fulmort, not quite
grilled in the Wulstonian oven?'

'I was in search of you.  Wait there, Phoebe,' said Robert, advancing to
meet Owen, with a gravity of countenance that provoked an impatient
gesture, and the question--

'Come, have it out!  Do you mean that you have been ferreting out some
old scrape of mine?'

'I mean,' said Robert, looking steadily at him, 'that I have been called
in to baptize your sick child.  Your wife is dying, and you must hasten
if you would see her alive.'

'That won't do.  You know better than that,' returned Owen, with
ill-concealed agitation, partaking of anger.  'She was quite recovered
when last I heard, but she is a famous hand at getting up a scene; and
that mother of hers would drive Job out of his senses.  They have worked
on your weak mind.  I was an ass to trust to the old woman's dissent for
hindering them from finding you out, and getting up a scene.'

'They did not.  It was by accident that I was the person who answered the
summons.  They knew neither me nor my name, so you may acquit them of any
preparation.  I recognized your name, which I was desired to give to the
child; and then, in spite of wasting, terror, and deadly sickness, I knew
the mother.  She has been pining under low nervous fever, still believing
you on the Continent; and the discovery that she had been deceived, was
such a shock as to bring on a violent attack, which she is not likely to
have strength to survive.'

'I never told her I was still abroad,' said Owen, in a fretful tone of
self-defence.  'I only had my letters forwarded through my scout; for I
knew I should have no peace nor safety if the old woman knew where to
find me, and preach me crazy; and I could not be going to see after her,
for, thanks to Honor Charlecote and her schools, every child in
Whittingtonia knows me by sight.  I told her to be patient till I had a
curacy, and was independent; but it seems she could not be.  I'll run up
as soon as I can get some plea for getting away from the Holt.'

'Death will leave no time for your excuses,' said Robert.  'By setting
off at once, you may catch the five o'clock express at W---'

'Well, it is your object to have a grand explosion!  When I am cut out,
you and Cilly may make a good thing of it.  I wish you joy!  Ha! by
Jove!' he muttered, as he saw Phoebe waiting out of earshot.  And then,
turning from Robert, who was dumb in the effort to control a passionate
reply, he called out, 'Good-bye, Phoebe; I beg your pardon, but you see I
am summoned.  Family claims are imperative!'

'What is the matter?' said the maiden, terrified not only at his tone,
but at the gestures of her brother of fierce, suppressed menace towards
him, despairing protection towards her.

'Why, he has told you!  Matter enough, isn't it?  I'm a married man.  I
ask your compassion!' with a bitter laugh.

'It is you who have told her,' said Robert, who, after a desperate
effort, had forced all violence from his voice and language.  'Traitor as
you consider me, your secret had not crossed my lips.  But no--there is
no time to waste on disputes.  Your wife is sinking under neglect; and
her seeing you once more may depend on your not loitering away these
moments.'

'I don't believe it.  Canting and tragedy queening.  Taking him in!  I
know better!' muttered Owen, sullenly, as he moved up the bank.

'O Robin, how can he be so hard?' whispered Phoebe, as she met her
brother's eyes wistfully fixed on her face.

'He is altogether selfish and heartless,' returned Robert, in the same
inaudible voice.  'My Phoebe, give me this one comfort.  You never
listened to him?'

'There was nothing to listen to,' said Phoebe, turning her clear,
surprised eyes on him.  'You couldn't think him so bad as that.  O Robin,
how silly!'

'What were you doing here?' he asked, holding her arm tight.

'Only Miss Fennimore wanted some Osmunda, and Miss Charlecote sent him to
show me where it grew; because she was talking to Lady Raymond.'

The free simplicity of her look made Robert breathe freely.  Charity was
coming back to him.

At the same moment Owen turned, his face flushed, and full of emotion,
but the obduracy gone.

'I may take a long leave!  When you see Honor Charlecote, Fulmort--'

'I shall not see her.  I am going back with you,' said Robert, instantly
deciding, now that he felt that he could both leave Phoebe, and trust
himself with the offender.

'You think I want to escape!'

'No; but I have duties to return to.  Besides, you will find a scene for
which you are little prepared; and which will cost you the more for your
present mood.  I may be of use there.  Your secret is safe with Phoebe
and me.  I promised your wife to keep it, and we will not rob you of the
benefit of free confession.'

'And what is to explain my absence?  No, no, the secret is one no longer,
and it has been intolerable enough already,' said Owen, recklessly.
'Poor Honor, it will be a grievous business, and little Phoebe will be a
kind messenger.  Won't you, Phoebe?  I leave my cause in your hands.'

'But,' faltered Phoebe, 'she should hear who--'

'Simple child, you can't draw inferences.  Cilla wouldn't have asked.
Don't you remember her darling at Wrapworth?  People shouldn't throw such
splendid women in one's way, especially when they are made of such
inflammable materials, and take fire at a civil word.  So ill, poor
thing!  Now, Robert, on your honour, has not the mother been working on
you?'

'I tell you not what the mother told me, but what the medical man said.
Low nervous fever set in long ago, and she has never recovered her
confinement.  Heat and closeness were already destroying her, when my
disclosure that you were not abroad, as she had been led to believe,
brought on fainting, and almost immediate delirium.  This was last
evening, she was worse this morning.'

'Poor girl, poor girl!' muttered Owen, his face almost convulsed with
emotion.  'There was no helping it.  She would have drowned herself if I
had not taken her with me--quite capable of it! after those intolerable
women at Wrapworth had opened fire.  I wish women's tongues were cut out
by act of parliament.  So, Phoebe, tell poor Honor that I know I am
unpardonable, but I am sincerely sorry for her.  I fell into it, there's
no knowing how, and she would pity me, and so would you, if you knew what
I have gone through.  Good-bye, Phoebe.  Most likely I shall never see
you again.  Won't you shake hands, and tell me you are sorry for me?'

'I should be, if you seemed more sorry for your wife than yourself,' she
said, holding out her hand, but by no means prepared for his not only
pressing it with fervour, but carrying it to his lips.

Then, as Robert started forward with an impulse of snatching her from
him, he almost threw it from his grasp, and with a long sigh very like
bitter regret, and a murmur that resembled 'That's a little angel,' he
mounted the bank.  Robert only tarried to say, 'May I be able to bear
with him!  Phoebe, do your best for poor Miss Charlecote.  I will write.'

Phoebe sat down at the foot of a tree, veiled by the waving ferns, to
take breath and understand what had passed.  Her first act was to strike
one hand across the other, as though to obliterate the kiss, then to draw
off her glove, and drop it in the deepest of the fern, never to be worn
again.  Hateful!  With that poor neglected wife pining to death in those
stifling city streets, to be making sport in those forest glades.  Shame!
shame!  But oh! worst of all was his patronizing pity for Miss
Charlecote!  Phoebe's own mission to Miss Charlecote was dreadful enough,
and she could have sat for hours deliberating on the mode of carrying
grief and dismay to her friend, who had looked so joyous and exulting
with her boy by her side as she drove upon the ground; but there was no
time to be lost, and rousing herself into action with strong effort,
Phoebe left the fern brake, walking like one in a dream, and exchanging
civilities with various persons who wondered to see her alone, made her
way to the principal marquee, where luncheon had taken place, and which
always served as the rendezvous.  Here sat mammas, keeping up talk enough
for civility, and peeping out restlessly to cluck their broods together;
here gentlemen stood in knots, talking county business; servants
congregated in the rear, to call the carriages; stragglers gradually
streamed together, and 'Oh! here you are,' was the staple exclamation.

It was uttered by Mrs. Fulmort as Phoebe appeared, and was followed by
plaintive inquiries for her sisters, and assurances that it would have
been better to have stayed in the cool tent, and gone home at once.
Phoebe consoled her by ordering the carriage, and explaining that her
sisters were at hand with some other girls, then begged leave to go home
with Miss Charlecote for the night.

'My dear, what shall I do with the others without you?  Maria has such
odd tricks, and Bertha is so teasing without you!  You promised they
should not tire me!'

'I will beg them to be good, dear mamma; I am very sorry, but it is only
this once.  She will be alone.  Owen Sandbrook is obliged to go away.'

'I can't think what she should want of you,' moaned her mother, 'so used
as she is to be alone.  Did she ask you?'

'No, she does not know yet.  I am to tell her, and that is why I want you
to be so kind as to spare me, dear mamma.'

'My dear, it will not do for you to be carrying young men's secrets, at
least not Owen Sandbrook's.  Your papa would not like it, my dear, until
she had acknowledged him for her heir.  You have lost your glove, too,
Phoebe, and you look so heated, you had better come back with me,' said
Mrs. Fulmort, who would not have withstood for a moment a decree from
either of her other daughters.

'Indeed,' said Phoebe, 'you need not fear, mamma.  It is nothing of that
sort, quite the contrary.'

'Quite the contrary!  You don't tell me that he has formed another
attachment, just when I made sure of your settling at last at the Holt,
and you such a favourite with Honor Charlecote.  Not one of those plain
Miss Raymonds, I hope.'

'I must not tell, till she has heard,' said Phoebe, 'so please say
nothing about it.  It will vex poor Miss Charlecote sadly, so pray let no
one suspect, and I will come back and tell you to-morrow, by the time you
are dressed.'

Mrs. Fulmort was so much uplifted by the promise of the grand secret that
she made no more opposition, and Maria and Bertha hurried in with
Phoebe's glove, which, with the peculiar fidelity of property wilfully
lost, had fallen into their hands while searching for Robert.  Both
declared they had seen him on the hill, and clamorously demanded him of
Phoebe.  Her answer, 'he is not in the forest, you will not find him,'
was too conscious fully to have satisfied the shrewd Bertha, but for the
pleasure of discoursing to the other girls upon double gangers, of whom
she had stealthily read in some prohibited German literature of her
governess's.

Leaving her to astonish them, Phoebe took up a position near Miss
Charlecote, who was talking to the good matronly-looking Lady Raymond,
and on the first opportunity offered herself as a companion.  On the way
home, Honor, much pleased, was proposing to find Owen, and walk through a
beautiful and less frequented forest path, when she saw her own carriage
coming up with that from Beauchamp, and lamented the mistake which must
take her away as soon as Owen could be found.

'I ventured to order it,' said Phoebe; 'I thought you might prefer it.
Owen is gone.  He left a message with me for you.'

Experience of former blows taught Honora to ask no questions, and to go
through the offices of politeness as usual.  But Lady Raymond, long a
friend of hers, though barely acquainted with Mrs. Fulmort, and never
having seen Phoebe before, living as she did on the opposite side of the
county, took a moment for turning round to the young girl, and saying
with a friendly motherly warmth, far from mere curiosity, 'I am sure you
have bad news for Miss Charlecote.  I see you cannot speak of it now, but
you must promise me to send to Moorcroft, if Sir John or I can be of any
use.'

Phoebe could only give a thankful grasp of the kind hand.  The Raymonds
were rather despised at home for plain habits, strong religious opinions,
and scanty fortunes, but she knew they were Miss Charlecote's great
friends and advisers.

Not till the gay crowd had been left behind did Honor turn to Phoebe, and
say gently, 'My dear, if he is gone off in any foolish way, you had
better tell me at once, that something may be done.'

'He is gone with Robert,' said Phoebe.  'Bertha did really see Robert.
He had made a sad discovery, and came for Owen.  Do you remember that
pretty schoolmistress at Wrapworth!'

Never had Phoebe seen such a blanched face and dilated eyes as were
turned on her, with the gasping words, 'Impossible! they would not have
told you.'

'They were obliged,' said Phoebe; 'they had to hurry for the train, for
she is very ill indeed.'

Honor leant back with folded hands and closed eyes, so that Phoebe almost
felt as if she had killed her.  'I suppose Robert was right to fetch
him,' she said; 'but their telling you!'

'Owen told me he fancied Robert had done so,' said Phoebe, 'and called
out to me something about family claims, and a married man.'

'Married!' cried Honora, starting forward.  'You are sure!'

'Quite sure,' repeated Phoebe; 'he desired me to tell you I was to say he
knew he was unpardonable, but he had suffered a great deal, and he was
grieved at the sorrow you would feel.'

Having faithfully discharged her message, Phoebe could not help being
vexed at the relenting 'Poor fellow!'

Honor was no longer confounded, as at the first sentences, and though
still cast down, was more relieved than her young friend could
understand, asking all that had passed between the young men, and when
all had been told, leaning back in silence until, when almost at home,
she laid her hand on Phoebe's arm, and said, 'My child, never think
yourself safe from idols.'

She then sought her own room, and Phoebe feared that her presence was
intrusive, for she saw her hostess no more till teatime, when the wan
face and placid smile almost made her weep at first, then wonder at the
calm unconstrained manner in which her amusement was provided for, and
feel ready to beg not to be treated like a child or a stranger.  When
parting for the night, however, Honor tenderly said, 'Thanks, my dear,
for giving up the evening to me.'

'I have only been an oppression to you.'

'You did me the greatest good.  I did not want discussion; I only wanted
kindness.  I wish I had you always, but it is better not.  Their uncle
was right.  I spoil every one.'

'Pray do not say so.  You have been our great blessing.  If you knew how
we wish to comfort you.'

'You do comfort me.  I can watch Robert realizing my visions for others,
and you, my twilight moon, my autumn flower.  But I must not love you too
much, Phoebe.  They all suffer for my inordinate affection.  But it is
too late to talk.  Good night, sweet one.'

'Shall you sleep?' said Phoebe, wistfully lingering.

'Yes; I don't enter into it enough to be haunted.  Ah! you have never
learnt what it is to feel heavy with trouble.  I believe I shall not
dwell on it till I know more.  There may be much excuse; she may have
been artful, and at least Owen dealt fairly by her in one respect.  I can
better suppose her unworthy than him cruelly neglectful.'

In that hope Honor slept, and was not more depressed than Phoebe had seen
her under Lucilla's desertion.  She put off herjudgment till she should
hear more, went about her usual occupations, and sent Phoebe home till
letters should come, when they would meet again.

Both heard from Robert by the next post, and his letter to Miss
Charlecote related all that he had been able to collect from Mrs.
Murrell, or from Owen himself.  The narrative is here given more fully
than he was able to make it.  Edna Murrell, born with the susceptible
organization of a musical temperament, had in her earliest childhood been
so treated as to foster refined tastes and aspirations, such as disgusted
her with the respectable vulgarity of her home.  The pet of the nursery
and school-room looked down on the lodge kitchen and parlour, and her
discontent was a matter of vanity with her parents, as a sign of her
superiority, while plausibility and caution were continually enjoined on
her rather by example than by precept, and she was often aware of her
mother's indulgence of erratic propensities in religion, unknown either
to her father or his employers.

Unexceptionable as had been her training-school education, the high
cultivation and soundness of doctrine had so acted on her as to keep her
farther aloof from her mother, whose far more heartfelt religion appeared
to her both distasteful and contemptible, and whose advice was thus cast
aside as prejudiced and sectarian.

Such was the preparation for the unprotected life of a schoolmistress in
a house by herself.  Servants and small tradesfolk were no companions to
her, and were offended by her ladylike demeanour; and her refuge was in
books that served but to increase the perils of sham romance, and in
enthusiastic adoration of the young lady, whose manners apparently placed
her on an equality, although her beauty and musical talents were in truth
only serving as a toy.

Her face and voice had already been thrust on Owen's notice before the
adventure with the bargeman had constituted the young gentleman the hero
of her grateful imagination, and commenced an intercourse for which his
sister's inconsiderate patronage gave ample opportunities.  His head was
full of the theory of fusion of classes, and of the innate refinement,
freshness of intellect, and vigour of perception of the unsophisticated,
at least so he thought, and when he lent her books, commenting on
favourite passages, and talked poetry or popular science to her, he
imagined himself walking in the steps of those who were asserting the
claims of intelligence to cultivation, and sowing broadcast the seeds of
art, literature, and emancipation.  Perhaps he knew not how often he was
betrayed into tokens of admiration, sufficient to inflame such a
disposition as he had to deal with, and if he were aware of his
influence, and her adoration, it idly flattered and amused him, without
thought of the consequences.

On the night when she had fainted at the sight of his attention to
Phoebe, she was left on his hands in a state when all caution and reserve
gave way, and her violent agitation fully awakened him to the perception
of the expectations he had caused, the force of the feelings he had
aroused.  A mixture of pity, vanity, and affection towards the beautiful
creature before him had led to a response such as did not disappoint her,
and there matters might have rested for the present, but that their
interview had been observed.  Edna, terror-stricken, believing herself
irretrievably disgraced, had thrown herself on his mercy in a frantic
condition, such as made him dread exposure for himself, as well as
suspense for her tempestuous nature.

With all his faults, the pure atmosphere in which he had grown up,
together with the tone of his associates, comparatively free from the
grosser and more hard-hearted forms of vice, had concurred with poor
Edna's real modesty and principle in obtaining the sanction of marriage,
for her flight with him from the censure of Wrapworth, and the rebukes of
her mother.  Throughout, his feeling had been chiefly stirred up by the
actual sight of her beauty, and excited by her fervent passion.  When
absent from her, there had been always regrets and hesitations, such as
would have prevailed, save for his compassion, and dread of the effects
of her desperation, both for her and for himself.  The unpardonable
manner in which he knew himself to have acted, made it needful to plunge
deeper for the very sake of concealment.

Yet, once married, he would have been far safer if he had confessed the
fact to his only true friend, since it must surely come to light some
time or other, but he had bred himself up in the habit of schoolboy
shuffling, hiding everything to the last moment, and he could not bear to
be cast off by the Charterises, be pitied and laughed at by his Oxford
friends, nor to risk Honor Charlecote's favour, perhaps her inheritance.
Return to Oxford the victim of an attachment to a village schoolmistress!
Better never return thither at all, as would be but too probably the
case!  No! the secret must be kept till his first start in life should be
secure; and he talked to Edna of his future curacy, while she fed her
fancy with visions of lovely parsonages and 'clergymen's ladies' in a
world of pensive bliss, and after the honeymoon in Ireland, promised to
wait patiently, provided her mother might know all.

Owen had not realized the home to which he was obliged to resign his
wife, nor his mother-in-law's powers of tongue.  There were real
difficulties in the way of his visiting her.  It was the one
neighbourhood in London where his person might be known, and if he
avoided daylight, he became the object of espial to the disappointed
lodgers, who would have been delighted to identify the 'Mr. Brook' who
had monopolized the object of their admiration.  These perils, the
various disagreeables, and especially Mrs. Murrell's complaints and
demands for money, had so much annoyed Owen, who felt himself the injured
party in the connection, that he had not only avoided the place, but
endeavoured to dismiss the whole humiliating affair from his mind, trying
to hinder himself from being harassed by letters, and when forced to
attend to the representations of the women, sending a few kind words and
promises, with such money as he could spare, always backed, however, by
threats of the consequences of a disclosure, which he vaguely intimated
would ruin his prospects for life.

Little did the thoughtless boy comprehend the cruelty of his neglect.  In
the underground rooms of the City lodging-house, the voluntary prison of
the shame-faced, half-owned wife, the overwrought headache, incidental to
her former profession, made her its prey; nervous fever came on as the
suspense became more trying, and morbid excitement alternated with torpor
and depression.  Medical advice was long deferred, and that which was at
last sought was not equal to her needs.  It remained for the physician,
summoned by Robert, in his horror at her delirium, to discover that her
brain had long been in a state of irritation, which had become aggravated
to such a degree that death was even to be desired.  Could she yet
survive, it could hardly be to the use of her intellect.

Robert described poor Owen's impetuous misery, and the cares which he
lavished on the unconscious sufferer, mentioning him with warmth and
tenderness that amazed Honor, from one so stern of judgment.  Nay, Robert
was more alive to the palliations of Owen's conduct than she was herself.
She grieved over the complicated deceit, and resented the cruelty to the
wife with the keen severity of secluded womanhood, unable to realize the
temptations of young-manhood.

'Why could he not have told me?' she said.  'I could so easily have
forgiven him for generous love, if I alone had been offended, and there
had been no falsehood; but after the way he has used us all, and chiefly
that poor young thing, I can never feel that he is the same.'

And, though the heart that knew no guile had been saved from suffering,
the thought of the intimacy that she had encouraged, and the wishes she
had entertained for Phoebe, filled her with such dismay, that it required
the sight of the innocent, serene face, and the sound of the happy,
unembarrassed voice, to reassure her that her darling's peace had not
been wrecked.  For, though Owen had never overpassed the bounds of the
familiar intercourse of childhood, there had been an implication of
preference in his look and tone; nor had there been error in the
intuition of poor Edna's jealous passion.  Something there was of
involuntary reverence that had never been commanded by the far more
beautiful and gifted girl who had taken him captive.

So great was the shock that Honora moved about mechanically, hardly able
to think.  She knew that in time she should pardon her boy; but she could
not yearn to do so till she had seen him repent.  He had sinned too
deeply against others to be taken home at once to her heart, even though
she grieved over him with deep, loving pity, and sought to find the
original germs of error rather in herself than in him.

Had she encouraged deceit by credulous trust?  Alas! alas! that should
but have taught him generosity.  It was the old story.  Fond affection
had led her to put herself into a position to which Providence did not
call her, and to which she was, therefore, unequal.  Fond affection had
blinded her eyes, and fostered in its object the very faults most hateful
to her.  She could only humble herself before her Maker for the recurring
sin, and entreat for her own pardon, and for that of the offender with
whose sins she charged herself.

And to man she humbled herself by her confession to Captain Charteris,
and by throwing herself unreservedly on the advice of Mr. Saville and Sir
John Raymond, for her future conduct towards the culprit.  If he were
suffering now for her rejection of the counsel of manhood and experience,
it was right that they should deal with him now, and she would try to
bear it.  And she also tried as much as possible to soften the blow to
Lucilla, who was still abroad with her cousins.



CHAPTER XII


    A little grain of conscience made him sour.

                                                                  TENNYSON

'A penny for your thoughts, Cilly,' said Horatia, sliding in on the
slippery boards of a great bare room of a lodging-house at the celebrated
Spa of Spitzwasserfitzung.

'My thoughts?  I was trying to recollect the third line of

    "Sated at home, of wife and children tired,
    Sated abroad, all seen and naught admired."'

'Bless me, how grand!  Worth twopence.  So good how Shakspeare, as the
Princess Ottilie would say!'

'Twopence for its sincerity!  It is not for your sake that I am not in
Old England.'

'Nor for that of the three flaxen-haired princesses, with religious
opinions to be accommodated to those of the crowned heads they may
marry?'

'I'm sick of the three, and their raptures.  I wish I was as ignorant as
you, and that Shakspeare had never been read at the Holt.'

'This is a sudden change.  I thought Spitzwasserfitzung and its
princesses had brought halcyon days.'

'Halcyon days will never come till we get home.'

'Which Lolly will never do.  She passes for somebody here, and will never
endure Castle Blanch again.'

'I'll make Owen come and take me home.'

'No,' said Rashe, seriously, 'don't bring Owen here.  If Lolly likes to
keep Charles where gaming is man's sole resource, don't run Owen into
that scrape.'

'What a despicable set you are!' sighed Lucilla.  'I wonder why I stay
with you.'

'You might almost as well be gone,' said Ratia.  'You aren't half so
useful in keeping things going as you were once; and you won't be
ornamental long, if you let your spirits be so uncertain.'

'And pray how is that to be helped?  No, don't come out with that stupid
thing.'

'Commonplace because it is reasonable.  You would have plenty of
excitement in the engagement, and then no end of change, and settle down
into a blooming little matron, with all the business of the world on your
hands.  You have got him into excellent training by keeping him dangling
so long; and it is the only chance of keeping your looks or your temper.
By the time I come and stay with you, you'll be so agreeable you won't
know yourself--'

'Blessings on that hideous post-horn for stopping your mouth!' cried
Lucilla, springing up.  'Not that letters ever come to me.'

Letters and Mr. and Mrs. Charteris all entered together, and Rashe was
busy with her own share, when Lucilla came forward with a determined
face, unlike her recent listless look, and said, 'I am wanted at home.  I
shall start by the diligence to-night.'

'How now?' said Charles.  'The old lady wanting you to make her will?'

'No,' said Lucilla, with dignity.  'My brother's wife is very ill.  I
must go to her.'

'Is she demented?' asked Charles, looking at his sister.

'Raving,' was the answer.  'She has been so the whole morning.  I shall
cut off her hair, and get ice for her head.'

'I tell simple truth,' returned Cilla.  'Here is a letter from Honor
Charlecote, solving the two mysteries of last summer.  Owen's companion,
who Rashe would have it was Jack Hastings--'

'Ha! married, then!  The cool hand!  And verily, but that Cilly takes it
so easily, I should imagine it was her singing prodigy--eh?  It was,
then?'

'Absurd idiot!' exclaimed Charles.  'There, he is done for now!'

'Yes,' drawled Eloisa; 'one never could notice a low person like that.'

'She is my sister, remember!' cried Lucilla, with stamping foot and
flashing eye.

'Cunning rogue!' continued Horatia.  'How did he manage to give no
suspicion?  Oh! what fun!  No wonder she looked green and yellow when he
was flirting with the little Fulmort!  Let's hear all, Cilly--how, when,
and where?'

'At the Registrar's, at R---, July 14th, 1854,' returned Lucilla, with
defiant gravity.

'Last July!' said Charles.  'Ha! the young donkey was under age--hadn't
consent of guardian.  I don't believe the marriage will hold water.  I'll
write to Stevens this minute.'

'Well, that would be luck!' exclaimed Rashe.

'Much better than he deserves,' added Charles, 'to be such a fool as to
run into the noose and marry the girl.'

Lucilla was trembling from head to foot, and a light gleamed in her eyes;
but she spoke so quietly that her cousins did not apprehend her intention
in the question--

'You mean what you say?'

'Of course I do,' said Charles.  'I'm not sure of the law, and some of
the big-wigs are very cantankerous about declaring an affair of this sort
null; but I imagine there is a fair chance of his getting quit for some
annual allowance to her; and I'll do my best, even if I had to go to
London about it.  A man is never ruined till he is married.'

'Thank you,' returned Lucilla, her lips trembling with bitter irony.
'Now I know what you all are made of.  We are obliged for your offered
exertion, but we are not inclined to become traitors.'

'Cilly! I thought you had more sense!  You are no child!'

'I am a woman--I feel for womanhood.  I am a sister--I feel for my
brother's honour.'

Charles burst into a laugh.  Eloisa remonstrated--'My dear, consider the
disgrace to the whole family--a village schoolmistress!'

'Our ideas differ as to disgrace,' said Lucilla.  'Let me go, Ratia; I
must pack for the diligence.'

The brother and sister threw themselves between her and the door.  'Are
you insane, Cilly?  What do you mean should become of you?  Are you going
to join the _menage_, and teach the A B C?'

'I am going to own my sister while yet there is time,' said Lucilla.
'While you are meditating how to make her a deserted outcast, death is
more merciful.  Pining under the miseries of an unowned marriage, she is
fast dying of pressure on the brain.  I am going in the hope of hearing
her call me sister.  I am going to take charge of her child, and stand by
my brother.'

'Dying, poor thing!  Why did you not tell us before?' said Horatia,
sobered.

'I did not know it was to save Charles so much _kind trouble_,' said
Lucilla.  'Let me go, Rashe; you cannot detain me.'

'I do believe she is delighted,' said Horatia, releasing her.

In truth, she was inspirited by perceiving any door of escape.  Any vivid
sensation was welcome in the irksome vacancy that pursued her in the
absence of immediate excitement.  Devoid of the interest of opposition,
and of the bracing changes to the Holt, her intercourse with the
Charterises had become a weariness and vexation of spirit.  Idle foreign
life deteriorated them, and her principle and delicacy suffered frequent
offences; but like all living wilfully in temptation, she seemed under a
spell, only to be broken by an act of self-humiliation to which she would
not bend.  Longing for the wholesome atmosphere of Hiltonbury, she could
not brook to purchase her entrance there by permitting herself to be
pardoned.  There was one whom she fully intended should come and entreat
her return, and the terms of her capitulation had many a time been
arranged with herself; but when he came not, though her heart ached after
him, pride still forbade one homeward step, lest it should seem to be in
quest of him, or in compliance with his wishes.

Here, then, was a summons to England--nay, into his very parish--without
compromising her pride or forcing her to show deference to rejected
counsel.  Nay, in contrast with her cousins, she felt her sentiments so
lofty and generous that she was filled with the gladness of conscious
goodness, so like the days of her early childhood, that a happy dew
suffused her eyes, and she seemed to hear the voice of old Thames.  Her
loathing for the views of her cousins had borne down all resentment at
her brother's folly and Edna's presumption; and relieved that it was not
worse, and full of pity for the girl she had really loved, Honor's
grieved displeasure and Charles's kind project together made her the
ardent partisan of the young wife.  Because Honor intimated that the girl
had been artful, and had forced herself on Owen, Lucilla was resolved
that her favourite had been the most perfect of heroines; and that
circumstance alone should bear such blame as could not be thrown on Honor
herself and the Wrapworth gossipry.  Poor circumstances!

The journey gave her no concern.  The way was direct to Ostend, and
Spitzwasserfitzung contained a '_pension_,' which was a great resort of
incipient English governesses, so that there were no difficulties such as
to give her enterprising spirit the least concern.  She refused the
escort that Rashe would have pressed upon her, and made her farewells
with quiet resolution.  No further remonstrance was offered; and though
each party knew that what had passed would be a barrier for ever, good
breeding preferred an indifferent parting.  There were light, cheery
words, but under the full consciousness that the friendship begun in
perverseness had ended in contempt.

Horatia turned aside with a good-natured 'Poor child! she will soon wish
herself back.'  Lucilla, taking her last glance, sighed as she thought,
'My father did not like them.  But for Honor, I would never have taken up
with them.'

Without misadventure, Lucilla arrived at London Bridge, and took a cab
for Woolstone-lane, where she must seek more exact intelligence of the
locality of those she sought.  So long had her eye been weary of novelty,
while her mind was ill at ease, that even Holborn in the August sun was
refreshingly homelike; and begrimed Queen Anne, 'sitting in the sun'
before St. Paul's, wore a benignant aspect to glances full of hope and
self-approval.  An effort was necessary to recall how melancholy was the
occasion of her journey, and all mournful anticipation was lost in the
spirit of partisanship and patronage--yes, and in that pervading
consciousness that each moment brought her nearer to Whittingtonia.

Great was the amaze of good Mrs. Jones, the housekeeper, at the arrival
of Miss Lucy, and equal disappointment that she would neither eat nor
rest, nor accept a convoy to No. 8, Little Whittington-street.  She
tripped off thither the instant she had ascertained the number of the
house, and heard that her brother was there, and his wife still living.

She had formed to herself no image of the scenes before her, and was
entirely unprepared by reflection when she rang at the door.  As soon as
she mentioned her name, the little maid conducted her down-stairs, and
she found herself in the sitting-room, face to face with Robert Fulmort.

Without showing surprise or emotion, or relaxing his grave, listening
air, he merely bowed his head, and held out his hand.  There was an
atmosphere of awe about the room, as though she had interrupted a
religious office; and she stood still in the solemn hush, her lips
parted, her bosom heaving.  The opposite door was ajar, and from within
came a kind of sobbing moan, and a low, feeble, faltering voice faintly
singing--

    'For men must work, and women must weep,
    And the sooner 'tis over, the sooner to sleep.'

The choking thrill of unwonted tears rushed over Lucilla, and she
shuddered.  Robert looked disappointed as he caught the notes; then
placing a seat for Lucilla, said, very low, 'We hoped she would waken
sensible.  Her mother begged me to be at hand.'

'Has she never been sensible?'

'They hoped so, at one time, last night.  She seemed to know him.'

'Is he there?'

Robert only sighed assent, for again the voice was heard--'I must get up.
Miss Sandbrook wants me.  She says I shan't be afraid when the time
comes; but oh!--so many, many faces--all their eyes looking; and where is
he?--why doesn't he look?  Oh! Miss Sandbrook, don't bring that young
lady here--I know--I know it is why he never comes--keep her away--'

The voice turned to shrieking sobs.  There were sounds of feet and
hurried movements, and Owen came out, gasping for breath, and his face
flushed.  'I can't bear it,' he said, with his hands over his face.

'Can I be of use?' asked Robert.

'No; the nurse can hold her;' and he leant his arms on the mantelpiece,
his frame shaken with long-drawn sobs.  He had never even seen his
sister, and she was too much appalled to speak or move.

When the sounds ceased, Owen looked up to listen, and Robert said, 'Still
no consciousness?'

'No, better not.  What would she gain by it?'

'It must be better not, if so ordained,' said Robert.

'Pshaw! what are last feelings and words?  As if a blighted life and such
suffering were not sure of compensation.  There's more justice in Heaven
than in your system!'

He was gone; and Robert with a deep sigh said, 'I am not judging.  I
trust there were tokens of repentance and forgiveness; but it is painful,
as her mother feels it, to hear how her mind runs on light songs and
poetry.'

'Mechanically!'

'True; and delirium is no criterion of the state of mind.  But it is very
mournful.  In her occupation, one would have thought habit alone would
have made her ear catch other chimes.'

Lucilla remembered with a pang that she had sympathized with Edna's
weariness of the monotony of hymn and catechism.  Thinking poetry rather
dull and tiresome, she had little guessed at the effect of sentimental
songs and volumes of L. E. L. and the like, on an inflammable mind, when
once taught to slake her thirsty imagination beyond the S.P.C.K.  She did
not marvel at the set look of pain with which Robert heard passionate
verses of Shelley and Byron fall from those dying lips.  They must have
been conned by heart, and have been the favourite study, or they could
hardly thus recur.

'I must go,' said Robert, after a time; 'I am doing no good here.  You
will take care of your brother, if it is over before I return.  Where are
you?'

'My things are in Woolstone-lane.'

'I meant to get him there.  I will come back by seven o'clock; but I must
go to the school.'

'May I go in there?'

'You had better not.  It is a fearful sight, and you cannot be of use.  I
wish you could be out of hearing; but the house is full.'

'One moment, Robert--the child?'

'Sent to a nurse, when every sound was agony.'

He stepped into the sick room, and brought out Mrs. Murrell, who began
with a curtsey, but eagerly pressed Lucilla's offered hand.  Subdued by
sorrow and watching, she was touchingly meek and resigned, enduring with
the patience of real faith, and only speaking to entreat that Mr. Fulmort
would pray with her for her poor child.  Never had Lucilla so prayed; and
ere she had suppressed her tears, ere rising from her knees, Robert was
gone.

She spent the ensuing hours of that summer evening, seated in the
arm-chair, barely moving, listening to the ticking of the clock, and the
thunder of the streets, and at times hearkening to the sounds in the
inner chamber, the wanderings feebler and more rare, but the fearful
convulsions more frequent, seeming, as it were, to be tearing away the
last remnant of life.  These moments of horror-struck suspense were the
only breaks, save when Owen rushed out unable to bear the sight, and
stood, with hidden face, in such absorption of distress as to be
unconscious of her awe-struck attempts to obtain his attention, or when
Mrs. Murrell came to fetch something, order her maid, or relieve herself
by a few sad words to her guest.  Gratified by the eager sisterly
acknowledgment of poor Edna, she touched Lucilla deeply by speaking of
her daughter's fondness for Miss Sandbrook, grief at having given cause
for being thought ungrateful, and assurances that the secret never could
have been kept had they met the day after the _soiree_.  Many had been
the poor thing's speculations how Miss Sandbrook would receive her
marriage, but always with confidence in her final mercy and justice: and
when Lucilla heard of the prolonged wretchedness, the hope deferred, the
evil reports and suspicions of neighbours and lodgers, the failing
health, and cruel disappointment, and looked round at the dismal little
stifling dungeon where this fair and gifted being had pined and sunk
beneath slander and desertion, hot tears of indignation filled her eyes,
and with fingers clenching together, she said, 'Oh that I had known it
sooner!  Edna was right.  I will be the person to see justice done to
her!'

And when left alone she cast about for the most open mode of proclaiming
Edna Murrell her brother's honoured wife, and her own beloved sister.
The more it mortified the Charterises the better!

By the time Robert came back, the sole change was in the failing
strength, and he insisted on conducting Lucilla to Woolstone-lane, Mrs.
Murrell enforcing his advice so decidedly that there was no choice.  She
would not be denied one look at the sufferer, but what she saw was so
miserably unlike the beautiful creature whom she remembered, that she
recoiled, feeling the kindness that had forbidden her the spectacle, and
passively left the house, still under the chill influence of the shock.
She had tasted nothing since breakfasting on board the steamer, and on
coming into the street the comparative coolness seemed to strike her
through; she shivered, felt her knees give way, and grasped Robert's arm
for support.  He treated her with watchful, considerate solicitude,
though with few words, and did not leave her till he had seen her safe
under the charge of the housekeeper; when, in return for his assurance
that he would watch over her brother, she promised to take food, and go
at once to rest.

Too weary at first to undress, and still thinking that Owen might be
brought to her, she lay back on the couch in her own familiar little
cedar room, feeling as if she recalled the day through the hazy medium of
a dream, and as if she had not been in contact with Edna, nor Owen, nor
Robert, but only with pale phantoms called by those names.

Robert especially!  Engrossed and awe-stricken as she had been, still it
came on her that something was gone that to her had constituted Robert
Fulmort.  Neither the change of dress, nor even the older and more
settled expression of countenance, made the difference; but the want of
that nameless, hesitating deference which in each word or action formerly
seemed to implore her favour, or even when he dared to censure, did so
under appeal to her mercy.  Had he avoided her, she could have understood
it; but his calm, authoritative self-possession was beyond her, though as
yet she was not alarmed, for her mind was too much confused to perceive
that her influence was lost; but it was uncomfortable, and part of this
strange, unnatural world, as though the wax which she had been used to
mould had suddenly lost its yielding nature and become marble.

Tired out, she at last went to bed, and slept soundly, but awoke early,
and on coming down, found from the housekeeper that her brother had been
brought home at two o'clock by Mr. Fulmort, and had gone to his room at
once.  All was over.  Lucilla, longing to hear more, set out to see Mrs.
Murrell, before he should come down-stairs.

While the good woman was forced to bestir herself for her lodgers'
breakfasts, Lucilla could steal a solitary moment to gaze on the pallid
face to which death had restored much of its beauty.  She pressed her
lips on the regal brow, and spoke half aloud, 'Edna, Edna Sandbrook,
sister Edna, you should have trusted me.  You knew I would see justice
done to you, and I will.  You shall lie by my mother's side in our own
churchyard, and Wrapworth shall know that she, whom they envied and
maligned, was Owen Sandbrook's wife and my cherished sister.'

Poor Mrs. Murrell, with her swimming eyes and stock phrases, brought far
more Christian sentiments to the bed of death.  'Poor, dear love, her
father and I little thought it would end in this, when we used to be so
proud of her.  We should have minded that pride is not made for sinners.
"Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain;" and the Lord saw it well that
we should be cast down and slanderous lips opened against us, that so we
might feel our trust is in Him alone!  Oh, it is good that even thus she
was brought to turn to Him!  But I thank--oh, I thank Him that her father
never lived to see this day!'

She wept such tears of true thankfulness and resignation, that Lucilla,
almost abashed by the sight of piety beyond her comprehension, stood
silent, till, with a change to the practical, Mrs. Murrell recovered
herself, saying, 'If you please, ma'am, when had I best come and speak to
the young gentleman?  I ought to know what would be pleasing to him about
the funeral.'

'We will arrange,' said Lucilla; 'she shall be buried with my mother and
sister in Wrapworth churchyard.'

Though gratified, Mrs. Murrell demurred, lest it might be taken ill by
the 'family' and by that godly minister whose kindness and sympathy at
the time of Edna's evasion had made a deep impression; but Lucilla boldly
undertook that the family _must_ like it, and she would take care of the
minister.  Nor was the good woman insensible to the posthumous triumph
over calumny, although still with a certain hankering after Kensal Green
as a sweet place, with pious monuments, where she should herself be laid,
and the Company that did things so reasonable and so handsome.

Lucilla hurried back to fulfil the mission of Nemesis to the Charterises,
which she called justice to Edna, and by the nine o'clock post despatched
three notes.  One containing the notice for the _Times_--'On the 17th
instant, at 8, Little Whittington-street, St. Wulstan's, Edna, the
beloved wife of Owen Charteris Sandbrook, Esq.;' another was to order a
complete array of mourning from her dressmaker; and the third was to the
Reverend Peter Prendergast, in the most simple manner requesting him to
arrange for the burial of her sister-in-law, at 5 P.M. on the ensuing
Saturday, indicating the labourers who should act as bearers, and ending
with, 'You will be relieved by hearing that she was no other than our
dear Edna, married on the 14th of July, last year.'

She then beguiled the time with designs for gravestones, until she became
uneasy at Owen's non-appearance, and longed to go and see after him; but
she fancied he might have spent nights of watching, and thought sleep
would be the best means of getting through the interval which appalled
her mind, unused to contact with grief.  Still his delay began to wear
her spirits and expectation, so long wrought up to the meeting; and she
was at least equally restless for the appearance of Robert, wanting to
hear more from him, and above all certain that all her dreary cravings
and vacancy would be appeased by one dialogue with him, on whatever topic
it might be.  She wished that she had obeyed that morning bell at St.
Wulstan's.  It would have disposed of half-an-hour, and she would have
met him.  'For shame,' quoth the haughty spirit, 'now that has come into
my head, I can't go at all.'

Her solitude continued till half-past ten, when she heard the welcome
sound of Robert's voice, and flew to meet him, but was again checked by
his irresponsive manner as he asked for Owen.

'I have not seen him.  I do not know whether to knock, lest he should be
asleep.'

'I hope he is.  He has not been in bed for three nights.  I will go and
see.'

He was moving to the door without lingering for a word more.  She stopped
him by saying, 'Pray hear first what I have settled with Mrs. Murrell.'

'She told me,' said Robert.  'Is it Owen's wish?'

'It ought to be.  It must.  Every public justice must be paid now.'

'Is it quite well judged, unless it were his strong desire?  Have you
considered the feelings of Mr. Prendergast or your relations?'

'There is nothing I consider more.  If Charles thinks it more disgraceful
to marry a Christian for love than a Jewess for money, he shall see that
we are not of the same opinion.'

'I never pretend to judge of your motives.'

'Mercy, what have I gone and said?' ejaculated Lucilla, as the door
closed after him.  'Why did I let it out, and make him think me a vixen?
Better than a hypocrite though!  I always professed to show my worst.
What's come to me, that I can't go on so contentedly?  He must hear the
Charteris' sentiments, though, that he may not think mine a gratuitous
affront.'

Her explanation was at her tongue's end, but Robert only reappeared with
her brother, whom he had found dressing.  Owen just greeted his sister,
but asked no questions, only dropping heavily into a chair, and let her
bring him his breakfast.  So young was he, still wanting six weeks to
years of discretion; so youthful his appearance in spite of his size and
strength, that it was almost absurd to regard him as a widower, and
expect him to act as a man of mature age and feeling.  There was much of
the boy in his excessive and freely-indulged lassitude, and his
half-sullen, half-shy reserve towards his sister.  Knowing he had been in
conversation with Robert, she felt it hard that before her he only leant
his elbows on the table, yawned, and talked of his stiffness, until his
friend rising to leave them, he exerted himself to say, 'Don't go,
Fulmort.'

'I am afraid I must.  I leave you to your sister.'  (She noted that it
was not 'Lucy.')

'But, I say, Fulmort, there are things to settle--funeral, and all that,'
he said in a helpless voice, like a sulky schoolboy.

'Your sister has been arranging with Mrs. Murrell.'

'Yes, Owen,' said Lucilla, tears glistening in her eyes, and her voice
thrilling with emotion; 'it is right and just that she should be with our
mother and little Mary at home; so I have written to Mr. Prendergast.'

'Very well,' he languidly answered.  'Settle it as you will; only deliver
me from the old woman!'

He was in no state for reproaches; but Lucilla was obliged to bite her
lip to restrain a torrent of angry weeping.

At his urgent instance, Robert engaged to return to dinner, and went,
leaving Lucilla with nothing to do but to watch those heavy slumberings
on the sofa and proffer attentions that were received with the surliness
of one too miserable to know what to do with himself.  She yearned over
him with a new awakening of tenderness, longing, yet unable, to console
or soothe.  The light surface-intercourse of the brother and sister, each
selfishly refraining from stirring the depths of the other's mind,
rendered them mere strangers in the time of trouble; and vainly did Lucy
gaze wistfully at the swollen eyelids and flushed cheeks, watch every
peevish gesture, and tend each sullen wish, with pitying sweetness; she
could not reach the inner man, nor touch the aching wound.

Towards evening, Mrs. Murrell's name was brought in, provoking a fretful
injunction from Owen not to let him be molested with her cant.  Lucilla
sighed compliance, though vexed at his egotism, and went to the study,
where she found that Mrs. Murrell had brought her grandson, her own most
precious comforter, whom she feared she must resign 'to be bred up as a
gentleman as he was, and despise his poor old granny; and she would say
not a word, only if his papa would let her keep him till he had cut his
first teeth, for he had always been tender, and she could not be easy to
think that any one else had the charge of him.'  She devoured him with
kisses as she spoke, taking every precaution to keep her profuse tears
from falling on him; and Lucilla, much moved, answered, 'Oh! for the
present, no one could wish to part him from you.  Poor little fellow!
May I take him for a little while to my brother?  It may do him good.'

Cilly had rather have ridden a kicking horse than handled an infant.  She
did not think this a prepossessing specimen, but it was passive.  She had
always understood from books that this was the sure means of 'opening the
sealed fountains of grief.'  She remembered what little Mary had been to
her father, and in hopes that parental instinct would make Owen know
better what to do with her burden than she did, she entered the
drawing-room, where a little murmuring sound caused Owen to start up on
his elbow, exclaiming, 'What are you at?  Don't bring _that_ here!'

'I thought you might wish to see him.'

'What should I do with him?' asked Owen, in the same glum, childish tone,
turning his face inwards as he lay down.  'Take it away.  Ain't I
wretched enough already to please you?'

She gave up the point, much grieved and strongly drawn to the little
helpless one, rejected by his father, misused and cast off like his
mother.  Would no one stand up for him?  Yes, it must be her part.  She
was his champion!  She would set him forth in the world, by her own toil
if need were!

Sealing the promise with a kiss, she returned him to his grandmother, and
talked of him as so entirely her personal concern, that the good woman
went home to report to her inquiring friends that the young lady was
ready to 'hact very feeling, and very 'andsome.'  Probably desirous to
avoid further reference to his unwelcome son and heir, Owen had betaken
himself to the solace of his pipe, and was pacing the garden with steps
now sauntering with depression, now impetuous with impatience, always
moving too much like a caged wild beast to invite approach.  She was
disconsolately watching him from the window, when Mr. Fulmort was
admitted.  A year ago, what would he not have given for that unfeigned,
simple welcome, as she looked up with eyes full of tears, saying, 'Oh,
Robert, it is so grievous to see him!'

'Very sad,' was the mournful answer.

'You may be able to help him.  He asks for you, but turns from me.'

'He has been obliged to rely on me, since we came to town,' said Robert.

'You must have been very kind!' she warmly exclaimed.

But he drew back from the effusion, saying, 'I did no more than was
absolutely necessary.  He does not lay himself open to true comfort.'

'Death never seemed half so miserable before!' cried Lucilla.  'Yet this
poor thing had little to live for!  Was it all poor Honor's tender
softening that took off the edge to our imaginations?'

'It is not always so mournful!' shortly said Robert.

'No; even the mother bears it better, and not for want of heart.'

'She _is_ a Christian,' said Robert.

'Poor Owen!  It makes me remorseful.  I wonder if I made too light of the
line he took; yet what difference could I have made?  Sisters go for so
little; and as to influence, Honor overdid it.'  Then, as he made no
reply, 'Tell me, do you think my acquiescence did harm?'

'I cannot say.  Your conscience must decide.  It is not a case for me.  I
must go to him.'

It was deep mortification.  Used to have the least hint of dawning
seriousness thankfully cherished and fostered, it was a rude shock, when
most in need of _epanchement du coeur_ after her dreary day, to be thrown
back on that incomprehensible process of self-examination; and by Robert,
too!

She absolutely did not feel as if she were the same Lucilla.  It was the
sensation of doubt on her personal identity awakened in the good woman of
the ballad when her little dog began to bark and wail at her.

She strove to enliven the dinner by talking of Hiltonbury, and of
Juliana's marriage, thus awakening Owen into life and talkativeness so
much in his light ordinary humour, as to startle them both.  Lucilla
would have encouraged it as preferable to his gloom, but it was decidedly
repressed by Robert.

She had to repair to solitary restlessness in the drawing-room, and was
left alone there till so late that Robert departed after a single cup of
tea, cutting short a captious argument of Owen's about impossibility of
proof, and truth being only true in a sense.

Owen's temper was, however, less morose; and when his sister was lighting
his candle for him at night, kindly said, 'What a bore I've been all day,
Lucy.'

'I am glad to be with you, dear Owen; I have no one else.'

'Eh?  What's become of Rashe?'

'Never mention her again!'

'What?  They've cut you?'

'I have cut them.'

She related what had passed.

Owen set his face into a frown.  'Even so, Charlie; doltishness less
pardonable than villainy!  You were right to cut the connection, Lucy; it
has been our curse.  So now you will back to poor Honor, and try to make
it up to her.'

'I'm not going near Honor till she forgives you, and receives your
child.'

'Then you will be very ridiculous,' said Owen, impatiently.  'She has no
such rancour against me as you have against her, poor dear; but it is not
in the nature of things that she should pass over this unlucky
performance.'

'If it had been such a performance as Charles desired, I should have said
so.'

'Pshaw!  I hadn't the chance; and gloss it as you will, Lucy, there's no
disguising it, she _would_ have it, and I could not help it, but she was
neglected, and it killed her!'  He brought his hand down on the table
with a heavy thump, which together with the words made his sister recoil.
'Could Honor treat me the same after that?  And she not my mother,
either!  Why had not my father the sense to have married her?  Then I
could go to her and get rid of this intolerable weight!' and he groaned
aloud.

'A mother could hardly love you more,' said Lucy, to her own surprise.
'If you will but go to here,--when she sees you so unhappy.'

'Out of the question,' broke in Owen; 'I can't stay here!  I would have
gone this very night, but I can't be off till that poor thing--'

'Off!'

'Ay, to the diggings, somewhere, anywhere, to get away from it all!'

'Oh, Owen, do nothing mad!'

'I'm not going to do anything just now, I tell you.  Don't be in a
fright.  I shan't take French leave of you.  You'll find me to-morrow
morning, worse luck.  Good night.'

Lucilla was doubly glad to have come.  Her pride approved his proposal,
though her sisterly love would suffer, and she was anxious about the
child; but dawning confidence was at the least a relief.

Next morning, he was better, and talked much too like his ordinary self,
but relapsed afterwards for want of employment; and when a letter was
brought to him, left by his wife to be read after her death, he broke
down, and fell into a paroxysm of grief and despair, which still
prevailed when a message came in to ask admission for Mr. Prendergast.
Relieved to be out of sight of depression that her consolations only
aggravated, and hoping for sympathy and counsel, Lucy hastened to the
study with outstretched hands, and was met with the warmth for which she
had longed.

Still there was disappointment.  In participation with Owen's grief, she
had lost sight of his offences, and was not prepared for any
commencement.  'Well, Cilla, I came up to talk to you.  A terrible
business this of Master Owen's.'

'It breaks one's heart to see him so wretched.'

'I hope he is.  He ought to be.'

'Now, Mr. Prendergast.'

The curate held up both his hands, deprecating her coaxing piteous look,
and used his voice rather loudly to overpower hers, and say what he had
prepared as a duty.

'Yes, yes, he is your brother, and all that.  You may feel for him what
you like.  But I must say this: it was a shameful thing, and a betrayal
of confidence, such as it grieves me to think of in his father's son.  I
am sorry for her, poor thing! whom I should have looked after better; and
I am very sorry indeed for you, Cilla; but I must tell you that to bury
the poor girl next to Mrs. Sandbrook, as your brother's wife, would be a
scandal.'

'Don't speak so loud; he will hear.'

His mild face was unwontedly impatient as he said, 'I can see how you
gave in to the wish; I don't blame you, but if you consider the example
to the parish.'

'After what I told you in my letter, I don't see the evil of the example;
unless it be your _esprit de corps_ about the registrar, and they could
not well have requested you to officiate.'

'Cilla, you were always saucy, but this is no time for nonsense.  You
can't defend them.'

'Perhaps you are of your Squire's opinion--that the bad example was in
the marrying her at all.'

Mr. Prendergast looked so much shocked that Lucilla felt a blush rising,
conscious that the tone of the society she had of late lived with had
rendered her tongue less guarded, her cheek less shamefaced than erst,
but she galloped on to hide her confusion.  'You were their great cause.
If you had not gone and frightened her, they might have philandered on
all this time, till the whole affair died of its own silliness.'

'Yes, no one was so much to blame as I.  I will trust no living creature
again.  My carelessness opened the way to temptation, and Heaven knows,
Lucilla, I have been infinitely more displeased with myself than with
them.'

'Well, so am I with myself, for putting her in his way.  Don't let us
torment ourselves with playing the game backwards again--I hate it.
Let's see to the next.'

'That is what I came for.  Now, Cilla, though I would gladly do what I
could for poor Owen, just think what work it will make with the girls at
Wrapworth, who are nonsensical enough already, to have this poor runaway
brought back to be buried as the wife of a fine young gentleman.'

'Poor Edna's history is no encouragement to look out for fine young
gentlemen.'

'They will know the fact, and sink the circumstances.'

'So you are so innocent as to think they don't know!  Depend upon it,
every house in Wrapworth rings with it; and won't it be more improving to
have the poor thing's grave to point the moral?'

'Cilla, you are a little witch.  You always have your way, but I don't
like it.  It is not the right one.'

'Not right for Owen to make full compensation?  Mind, it is not Edna
Murrell, the eloped schoolmistress, but Mrs. Sandbrook, whom her husband
wishes to bury among his family.'

'Poor lad, is he much cut up?'

'So much that I should hardly dare tell him if you had refused.  He could
not bear another indignity heaped on her, and a wound from you would cut
deeper than from any one else.  You should remember in judging him that
he had no parent to disobey, and there was generosity in taking on him
the risk rather than leave her to a broken heart and your tender mercy.'

'I fear his tender mercy has turned out worse than mine; but I am sorry
for all he has brought on himself, poor lad!'

'Shall I try whether he can see you?'

'No, no; I had rather not.  You say young Fulmort attends to him, and I
could not speak to him with patience.  Five o'clock, Saturday?'

'Yes; but that is not all.  That poor child--Robert Fulmort, you, and I
must be sponsors.'

'Cilla, Cilla, how can I answer how it will be brought up?'

'Some one must.  Its father talks of leaving England, and it will be my
charge.  Will you not help me? you who always have helped me.  My
father's grandson; you cannot refuse him, Mr. Pendy,' said she, using
their old childish name for him.

He yielded to the united influence of his rector's daughter and the
memory of his rector.  Though no weak man, those two appeals always
swayed him; and Lucilla's air, spirited when she defended, soft when she
grieved, was quite irresistible; so she gained her point, and felt
restored to herself by the exercise of power, and by making her wonted
impression.  Since one little dog had wagged his little tail, she no
longer doubted 'If I be I;' yet this only rendered her more nervously
desirous of obtaining the like recognition from the other, and she
positively wearied after one of Robert's old wistful looks.

A _tete-a-tete_ with him was necessary on many accounts, and she lay in
wait to obtain a few moments alone with him in the study.  He complied
neither eagerly nor reluctantly, bowed his head without remark when she
told him about the funeral, and took the sponsorship as a matter of
course.  'Very well; I suppose there is no one else to be found.  Is it
your brother's thought?'

'I told him.'

'So I feared.'

'Oh! Robert, we must take double care for the poor little thing.'

'I will do my best,' he answered.

'Do you know what Owen intends?' said Lucilla, in low, alarmed accents.

'He has told you?  It is a wild purpose; but I doubt whether to dissuade
him, except for your sake,' he added, with his first softening towards
her, like balm to the sore spot in her heart.

'Never mind me, I can take care of myself,' she said, while the muscles
of her throat ached and quivered with emotion.  'I would not detain him
to be pitied and forgiven.'

'Do not send him away in pride,' said Robert, sadly.

'Am I not humbled enough?' she said; and her drooping head and eye seemed
to thrill him with their wonted power.

One step he made towards her, but checked himself, and said in a
matter-of-fact tone, 'Currie, the architect, has a brother, a civil
engineer, just going out to Canada to lay out a railway.  It might be an
opening for Owen to go as his assistant--unless you thought it beneath
him.'

These last words were caused by an uncontrollable look of disappointment.
But it was not the proposal: no; but the change of manner that struck
her.  The quiet indifferent voice was like water quenching a struggling
spark, but in a moment she recovered her powers.  'Beneath him!  Oh, no.
I told you we were humbled.  I always longed for his independence, and I
am glad that he should not go alone.'

'The work would suit his mathematical and scientific turn.  Then, since
you do not object, I will see whether he would like it, or if it be
practicable in case Miss Charlecote should approve.'

Robert seized this opportunity of concluding the interview.  Lucy ran
up-stairs for the fierce quarter-deck walking that served her instead of
tears, as an ebullition that tired down her feelings by exhaustion.

Some of her misery was for Owen, but would the sting have been so acute
had Robert Fulmort been more than the true friend?

Phoebe's warning, given in that very room, seemed engraven on each panel.
'If you go on as you are doing now, he does not think it would be right
for a clergyman.'

Could Lucilla have looked through the floor, she would have seen Robert
with elbows on the window-sill, and hands locked over his knitted brows;
and could she have interpreted his short-drawn sighs, she would have
heard, 'Poor child! poor child!  It is not coquetry.  That was injustice.
She loves me.  She loves me still!  Why do I believe it only too late?
Why is this trial sent me, since I am bound to the scheme that precludes
my marriage?  What use is it to see her as undisciplined--as unfit as
ever?  I know it!  I always knew it.  But I feel still a traitor to her!
She had warning!  She trusted the power of my attachment in spite of my
judgment!  Fickle to her, or a falterer to my higher pledge?  Never!  I
must let her see the position--crush any hope--otherwise I cannot trust
myself, nor deal fairly by her.  Heaven help us both!'

When they next met, Robert had propounded his Canadian project, and Owen
had caught at it.  Idleness had never been his fault, and he wanted
severe engrossing labour to stun pain and expel thought.  He was urgent
to know what standard of attainments would be needful, and finding Robert
ignorant on this head, seized his hat, and dashed out in the gaslight to
the nearest bookseller's for a treatise on surveying.

Robert was taken by surprise, or he might have gone too.  He looked as if
he meditated a move, but paused as Lucy said, 'Poor fellow, how glad he
is of an object!'

'May it not be to his better feelings like sunshine to morning dew?' said
Robert, sighing.  'I hear a very high character of Mr. Currie, and a
right-minded, practical, scientific man may tell more on a disposition
like his--'

'Than parsons and women,' said Lucilla, with a gleam of her old archness.

'Exactly so.  He must see religion in the world, not out of it.'

'After all, I have not heard who is this Mr. Currie, and how you know
him.'

'I know him through his brother, who is building the church in Cecily
Row.'

'A church in Cecily Row!  St. Cecilia's?  Who is doing it?  Honor
Charlecote?'

'No; I am.'

'You!  Tell me all about it,' said Lucilla, leaning forward to listen
with the eager air of interest which, when not half so earnest, had been
always bewitching.

Poor Robert looked away, and tried to think himself explaining his scheme
to the Archdeacon.  'The place is in frightful disorder, filled with
indescribable vice and misery, but there is a shadow of hope that a few
may be worked on if something like a mission can be organized.
Circumstances seemed to mark me out as the person to be at the cost of
setting it on foot, my father's connection with the parish giving it a
claim on me.  So I purchased the first site that was in the market, and
the buildings are in progress, chapel, schools, orphanage, and rooms for
myself and two other clergy.  When all the rest is provided for, there
will remain about two hundred and fifty pounds a year--just enough for
three of us, living together.'

He durst not glance towards her, or he would have seen her cheek white as
wax, and her eye seeking his in dismayed inquiry.  There was a pause;
then she forced herself to falter--'Yes.  I suppose it is very
right--very grand.  It is settled?'

'The Archdeacon has seen the plans, the Bishop has consented.'

Long and deep was the silence that fell on both.

Lucilla knew her fate as well as if his long coat had been a cowl.  She
would not, could not feel it yet.  She must keep up appearances, so she
fixed her eyes steadily on the drawing her idle hands were perpetrating
on the back of a letter, and appeared absorbed in shading a Turk's head.

If Robert's motives had not been unmixed, if his zeal had been alloyed by
temper, or his self-devotion by undutifulness; if his haste had been
self-willed, or his judgment one-sided, this was an hour of retribution.
Let her have all her faults, she was still the Lucy who had flown home to
him for comfort.  He felt as if he had dashed away the little bird that
had sought refuge in his bosom.

Fain would he have implored her pardon, but for the stern resolution to
abstain from any needless word or look, such as might serve to rivet the
affection that ought to be withdrawn; and he was too manly and unselfish
to indulge in discussion or regret, too late as it was to change the
course to which he had offered himself and his means.  To retract would
have been a breach of promise--a hasty one, perhaps, but still an
absolute vow publicly made; and in all his wretchedness he had at least
the comfort of knowing the present duty.

Afraid of last words, he would not even take leave until Owen came in
upon their silence, full of animation and eagerness to see how far his
knowledge would serve him with the book that he had brought home.  Robert
then rose, and on Owen's pressing to know when he might see the engineer,
promised to go in search of him the next day, but added that they must
not expect to see himself till evening, since it would be a busy day.

Lucilla stood up, but speech was impossible.  She was in no mood to
affect indifference, yet she could neither be angry nor magnanimous.  She
seemed to have passed into a fresh stage of existence where she was not
yet at home; and in the same dreamy way she went on drawing Red Indians,
till by a sudden impulse she looked up and said, 'Owen, why should not I
come out with you?'

He was intent on a problem, and did not hear.

'Owen, take me with you; I will make a home for you.'

'Eh?'

'Owen, let me come to Canada, and take care of you and your child.'

He burst out laughing.  'Well done, Cilly; that beats all!'

'Am I likely to be in play?'

'If not, you are crazy.  As if a man could go surveying in the backwoods
with a woman and a brat at his heels!'

Lucy's heart seemed to die within her.  Nothing was left to her: hopes
and fears were alike extinct, and life a waste before her.  Still and
indifferent, she laid her down at night, and awoke in the morning,
wishing still to prolong the oblivion of sleep.  Anger with Robert would
have been a solace, but his dejection forbade this; nor could she resent
his high-flown notions of duty, and deem herself their victim, since she
had slighted fair warning, and repelled his attempts to address her.  She
saw no resource save the Holt, now more hopelessly dreary and distasteful
than ever, and she shrank both from writing to Honor, or ending her
tantalizing intercourse with Robert.  To watch over her brother was her
only comfort, and one that must soon end.

He remained immersed in trigonometry, and she was glad he should be too
much engrossed for the outbreaks of remorseful sorrow that were so
terrible to witness, and carefully guarded him from all that could excite
them.

Mrs. Murrell brought several letters that had been addressed to him at
her house, and as Lucilla conveyed them to him, she thought their Oxford
post-marks looked suspicious, especially as he thrust them aside with the
back of his hand, returning without remark to A B and C D.

Presently a person asked to speak with Mr. Sandbrook; and supposing it
was on business connected with the funeral, Lucilla went to him, and was
surprised at recognizing the valet of one of the gentlemen who had stayed
at Castle Blanch.  He was urgent to see Mr. Sandbrook himself; but she,
resolved to avert all annoyances, refused to admit him, offering to take
a message.  'Was it from his master?'

'Why, no, ma'am.  In fact, I have left his lordship's service,' he said,
hesitating.  'In point of fact I am the principal.  There was a little
business to be settled with the young gentleman when he came into his
fortune; and understanding that such was the case, since I heard of him
as settled in life, I have brought my account.'

'You mistake the person.  My brother has come into no fortune, and has no
expectation of any.'

'Indeed, ma'am!' exclaimed the man.  'I always understood that Mr. Owen
Charteris Sandbrook was heir to a considerable property.'

'What of that?'

'Only this, ma'am,--that I hold a bond from that gentleman for the
payment of 600 pounds upon the death of Miss Honora Charlecote, of the
Holt, Hiltonbury, whose property I understood was entailed on him.'  His
tone was still respectful, but his hand shook with suppressed rage, and
his eye was full of passion.

'Miss Charlecote is not dead,' steadily answered Lucilla.  'She is in
perfect health, not fifty years old, and her property is entirely at her
own disposal.'

Either the man's wrath was beyond control, or he thought it his interest
to terrify the lady, for he broke into angry complaints of being
swindled, with menaces of exposure; but Lucilla, never deficient in
courage, preserved ready thought and firm demeanour.

'You had better take care,' she said.  'My brother is under age, and not
liable.  If you should recover what you have lent him, it can only be
from our sense of honesty.  Leave me your address and a copy of the bond,
and I give you my word that you shall receive your due.'

The valet, grown rich in the service of a careless master, and richer by
money-lending transactions with his master's friends, knew Miss
Sandbrook, and was aware that a lady's word might be safer than a
spendthrift's bond.  He tried swaggering, in the hope of alarming her
into a promise to fulfil his demand uninvestigated; but she was on her
guard; and he, reflecting that she must probably apply to others for the
means of paying, gave her the papers, and freed her from his presence.

Freed her from his presence!  Yes, but only to leave her to the
consciousness of the burthen of shame he had brought her.  She saw why
Owen thought himself past pardon.  Speculation on the death of his
benefactress!  Borrowing on an inheritance that he had been forbidden to
expect.  Double-dyed deceit and baseness!  Yesterday, she had said they
were humbled enough.  This was not humiliation, it was degradation!  It
was far too intolerable for standing still and feeling it.  Lucilla's
impetuous impulses always became her obstinate resolutions, and her pride
rebounded to its height in the determination that Owen should leave
England in debt to no man, were it at the cost of all she possessed.

Re-entering the drawing-room, she had found that Owen had thrust the
obnoxious letters into the waste-basket, each unopened envelope, with the
contents, rent down the middle.  She sat down on the floor, and took them
out, saying, as she met his eye, 'I shall take these.  I know what they
are.  They are my concern.'

'Folly!' he muttered.  'Don't you know I have the good luck to be a
minor?'

'That is no excuse for dishonesty.'

'Look at home before you call names,' said Owen, growing enraged.
'Before you act spy on me, I should like to know who paid for your fine
salmon-fly gown, and all the rest of it?'

'I never contracted debts in the trust that my age would enable me to
defraud my creditors.'

'Who told you that I did?  I tell you, Lucilla, I'll endure no such
conduct from you.  No sister has a right to say such things!' and
starting up, his furious stamp shook the floor she sat upon, so close to
her that it was as if the next would demolish her.

She did not move, except to look up all the length of the tall figure
over her into the passion-flushed face.  'I should neither have said nor
thought so, Owen,' she replied.  'I should have imputed these debts to
mere heedless extravagance, like other people's--like my own, if you
please--save for your own words, and for finding you capable of such
treachery as borrowing on a _post-obit_.'

He walked about furiously, stammering interrogations on the mode of her
discovery, and, as she explained, storming at her for having brought this
down on him by the folly of putting 'that thing into the _Times_.'  Why
could she not have stayed away, instead of meddling where she was not
wanted?

'I thought myself wanted when my brother was in trouble,' said Lucilla,
mournfully, raising her face, which she had bent between her hands at the
first swoop of the tempest.  'Heaven knows, I had no thought of spying.
I came to stand by your wife, and comfort you.  I only learnt all this in
trying to shield you from intrusion.  Oh, would that I knew it not!
Would that I could think of you as I did an hour ago!  Oh, Owen, though I
have never shared your fondness for Honor Charlecote, I thought it
genuine; I did not scorn it as fortune-hunting.'

'It was not!  It never was!' cried the poor boy.  'Honor!  Poor Honor!
Lucy, I doubt if I could have felt for my mother as I do for her.  Oh, if
you could guess how I long for her dear voice in my ears, her soft hand
on my head--' and he sank into his chair, hiding his face and sobbing
aloud.

'Am I to believe that, when--' began Lucilla, slowly.

'The last resource of desperation,' cried Owen.  'What could I do with
such a drain upon me; the old woman for ever clamouring for money, and
threatening exposure?  My allowance?  Poor Honor meant well, but she gave
me just enough to promote expensive habits without supplying them.  There
was nothing to fall back on--except the ways of the Castle Blanch folk.'

'Betting?'

He nodded.  'So when it went against me, and people would have it that I
had expectations, it was not for me to contradict them.  It was their
business, not mine, to look out for themselves, and pretty handsomely
they have done so.  It would have been a very different percentage if I
had been an eldest son.  As it is, my bond is--what is it for, Lucy?'

'Six hundred.'

'How much do you think I have touched of that?  Not two!  Of that,
three-fourths went to the harpies I fell in with at Paris, under
Charles's auspices--and five-and-twenty there'--pointing in the direction
of Whittington-street.

'Will the man be satisfied with the two hundred?'

'Don't he wish he may get it?  But, Lucy, you are not to make a mess of
it.  I give you warning I shall go, and never be heard of more, if Honor
is applied to.'

'I had rather die than do so.'

'You are not frantic enough to want to do it out of your own money?  I
say, give me those papers.'

He stooped and stretched out the powerful hand and arm, which when only
half-grown had been giant-like in struggles with his tiny sister but she
only laid her two hands on the paper, with just sufficient resistance to
make it a matter of strength on his side.  They were man and woman, and
what availed his muscles against her will?  It came to parley.  'Now,
Lucy, I have a right to think for you.  As your brother, I cannot permit
you to throw your substance to the dogs.'

'As your sister, I cannot allow you to rest dishonoured.'

'Not a whit more than any of your chosen friends.  Every man leaves debts
at Oxford.  The extortion is framed on a scale to be unpaid.'

'Let it be!  There shall be no stain on the name that once was my
father's, if there be on the whole world beside.'

'Then,' with some sulkiness, 'you won't be content without beggaring me
of my trumpery twenty-five hundred as soon as I am of age?'

'Not at all.  Your child must live on that.  Only one person can pay your
debts without dishonouring you, and that is your elder sister.'

'Elder donkey,' was the ungrateful answer.  'Why, what would become of
you?  You'd have to be beholden to Honor for the clothes on your back!'

'I shall not go back to Honor; I shall earn my own livelihood.'

'Lucilla, are you distracted, or is it your object to make me so?'

'Only on one condition could I return to the Holt,' said Lucilla,
resolutely.  'If Honor would freely offer to receive your son, I would go
to take care of him.  Except for his sake, I had rather she would not.  I
will not go to be crushed with pardon and obligation, while you are
proscribed.  I will be independent, and help to support the boy.'

'Sure,' muttered Owen to himself, 'Lucifer is her patron saint.  If I
looked forward to anything, it was to her going home tame enough to make
some amends to poor, dear Sweet Honey, but I might as well have hoped it
of the panther of the wilderness!  I declare I'll write to Honor this
minute.'

He drew the paper before him.  Lucilla started to her feet, looking more
disgusted and discomfited than by any former shock.  However, she managed
to restrain any dissuasion, knowing that it was the only right and proper
step in his power, and that she could never have looked Robert in the
face again had she prevented the confession; but it was a bitter pill;
above all, that it should be made for her sake.  She rushed away, as
usual, to fly up and down her room.

She might have spared herself that agony.  Owen's resolution failed him.
He could not bring himself to make the beginning, nor to couple the
avowal of his offence with such presumption as an entreaty for his
child's adoption, though he knew his sister's impulsive obstinacy well
enough to be convinced that she would adhere pertinaciously to this
condition.  Faltering after the first line, he recurred to his former
plan of postponing his letter till his plans should be so far matured
that he could show that he would no longer be a pensioner on the bounty
of his benefactress, and that he sought pardon for the sake of no
material advantage.  He knew that Robert had intimated his intention of
writing after the funeral, and by this he would abide.

Late in the evening Robert brought the engineer's answer, that he had no
objection to take out a pupil, and would provide board, lodging, and
travelling expenses; but he required a considerable premium, and for
three years would offer no salary.  His standard of acquirements was
high, but such as rather stimulated than discouraged Owen, who was
delighted to find that an appointment had been made for a personal
interview on the ensuing Monday.

  [Picture: He drew the paper before him.  Lucilla started to her feet]

It was evident that if these terms were accepted, the debts, if paid at
all, must come out of Lucilla's fortune.  Owen's own portion would barely
clothe him and afford the merest pittance for his child until he should
be able to earn something after his three years' apprenticeship.  She
trusted that he was convinced, and went up-stairs some degrees less
forlorn for having a decided plan; but a farther discovery awaited her,
and one that concerned herself.

On her bed lay the mourning for which she had sent, tasteful and
expensive, in her usual complete style, and near it an envelope.  It
flashed on her that her order had been dangerously unlimited, and she
opened the cover in trepidation, but what was her dismay at the double,
treble, quadruple foolscap?  The present articles were but a fraction to
the dreadful aggregate--the sum total numbered hundreds!  In a dim hope
of error she looked back at the items, 'Black lace dress: Dec. 2nd,
1852.'--She understood all.  It dated from the death of her aunt.
Previously, her wardrobe had been replenished as though she had been a
daughter of the house, and nothing had marked the difference; indeed, the
amply provided Horatia had probably intended that things were to go on as
usual.  Lucilla had been allowed to forget the existence of accounts, in
a family which habitually ignored them.  Things had gone smoothly; the
beautiful little Miss Sandbrook was an advertisement to her milliners,
and living among wealthy people, and reported to be on the verge of
marriage with a millionaire, there had been no hesitation in allowing her
unlimited credit.

Probably the dressmaker had been alarmed by the long absence of the
family, and might have learnt from the servants how Lucilla had quitted
them, therefore thinking it expedient to remind her of her liabilities.
And not only did the present spectacle make her giddy, but she knew there
was worse beyond.  The Frenchwoman who supplied all extra adornments,
among them the ball-dress whose far bitterer price she was paying, could
make more appalling demands; and there must be other debts elsewhere,
such that she doubted whether her entire fortune would clear both her
brother and herself.  What was the use of thinking?  It must be done, and
the sooner she knew the worst the better.  She felt very ill-used,
certain that her difficulties were caused by Horatia's inattention, and
yet glad to be quit of an obligation that would have galled her as soon
as she had become sensible of it.  It was more than ever clear that she
must work for herself, instead of returning to the Holt, as a dependent
instead of a guest.  Was she humbled enough?

The funeral day began by her writing notes to claim her bills, and to
take steps to get her capital into her own hands.  Owen drowned
reflection in geometry, till it was time to go by the train to Wrapworth.

There Mr. Prendergast fancied he had secured secrecy by eluding questions
and giving orders at the latest possible moment.  The concourse in the
church and churchyard was no welcome sight to him, since he could not
hope that the tall figure of the chief mourner could remain unrecognized.
Worthy man, did he think that Wrapworth needed that sight to assure them
of what each tongue had wagged about for many a day?

Owen behaved very properly and with much feeling.  When not driving it
out by other things, the fact was palpable to him that he had brought
this fair young creature to her grave; and in the very scenes where her
beauty and enthusiastic affection had captivated him, association revived
his earlier admiration, and swept away his futile apology that she had
brought the whole upon herself.  A gust of pity, love, and remorse
convulsed his frame, and though too proud to give way, his restrained
anguish touched every heart, and almost earned him Mr. Prendergast's
forgiveness.

Before going away, Lucilla privately begged Mr. Prendergast to come to
town on Monday, to help her in some business.  It happened to suit him
particularly well, as he was to be in London for the greater part of the
week, to meet some country cousins, and the appointment was made without
her committing herself by saying for what she wanted him, lest reflection
should convert him into an obstacle instead of an assistant.

The intervening Sunday, with Owen on her hands, was formidable to her
imagination, but it turned out better than she expected.  He asked her to
walk to Westminster Abbey with him, the time and distance being an object
to both, and he treated her with such gentle kindness, that she began to
feel that something more sweet and precious than she had yet known from
him might spring up, if they were not forced to separate.  Once, on
rising from kneeling, she saw him stealthily brushing off his tears, and
his eyes were heavy and swollen, but, softened as she felt, his tone of
feelings was a riddle beyond her power, between their keenness and their
petulance, their manly depth and boyish levity, their remorse and their
recklessness; and when he tried to throw them off, she could not but
follow his lead.

'I suppose,' he said, late in the day, 'we shall mortify Fulmort if we
don't go once to his shop.  Otherwise, I like the article in style.'

'I am glad you should like it at all,' said Lucy, anxiously.

'I envy those who, like poor dear Honor, or that little Phoebe, can find
life in the driest form,' said Owen.

'They would say it is our fault that we cannot find it.'

'Honor would think it her duty to say so.  Phoebe has a wider range, and
would be more logical.  Is it our fault or misfortune that our ailments
can't be cured by a paring of St. Bridget's thumb-nail, or by any
nostrum, sacred or profane, that really cures their votaries?  I regard
it as a misfortune.  Those are happiest who believe the most, and are
eternally in a state in which their faith is working out its effects upon
them mentally and physically.  Happy people!'

'Really I think, unless you were one of those happy people, it is no more
consistent in you to go to church than it would be in me to set up
Rashe's globules.'

'No, don't tell me so, Lucy.  There lie all my best associations.  I
venerate what the great, the good, the beloved receive as their blessing
and inspiration.  Sometimes I can assimilate myself, and catch an echo of
what was happiness when I was a child at Honor's knee.'

The tears had welled into his eyes again, and he hurried away.  Lucilla
had faith (or rather acquiescence) without feeling.  Feeling without
faith was a mystery to her.  How much Owen believed or disbelieved she
knew not, probably he could not himself have told.  It was more
uncertainty than denial, rather dislike to technical dogma than positive
unbelief; and yet, with his predilections all on the side of faith, she
could not, womanlike, understand why they did not bring his reason with
them. After all, she decided, in her off-hand fashion, that there was
quite enough that was distressing and perplexing without concerning
herself about them!

Style, as Owen called it, was more attended to than formerly at St.
Wulstan's, but was not in perfection.  Robert, whose ear was not his
strong point, did not shine in intoning, and the other curate preached.
The impression seemed only to have weakened that of the morning, for
Owen's remarks on coming out were on the English habit of having overmuch
of everything, and on the superior sense of foreigners in holiday-making,
instead of making a conscience of stultifying themselves with double and
triple church-going.

Cilla agreed in part, but owned that she was glad to have done with
Continental Sundays that had left her feeling good for nothing all the
week, just as she had felt when once, as a child, to spite Honor, she had
come down without saying her prayers.

'The burthen bound on her conscience by English prejudice,' said her
brother, adding 'that this was the one oppressive edict of popular
theology.  It was mere self-defence to say that the dulness was
Puritanical, since the best Anglican had a cut-and-dried pattern for all
others.'

'But surely as a fact, Sunday observance is the great safeguard.  All
goes to the winds when that is given up.'

'The greater error to have rendered it grievous.'

Lucilla had no reply.  She had not learnt the joy of the week's
Easter-day.  It had an habitual awe for her, not sacred delight; and she
could not see that because it was one point where religion taught the
world that it had laws of its own, besides those of mere experience and
morality, therefore the world complained, and would fain shake off the
thraldom.

Owen relieved her by a voluntary proposal to turn down
Whittington-street, and see the child.  Perhaps he had an inkling that
the chapel in Cat-alley would be in full play, and that the small maid
would be in charge; besides, it was gas-light, and the lodgers would be
out.  At any rate softening was growing on him.  He looked long and
sorrowfully at the babe in its cradle, and at last,--

'He will never be like her.'

'No; and I do not think him like you.'

'In fact, it is an ugly little mortal,' said Owen, after another
investigation.  'Yet, it's very odd, Lucy, I should like him to live.'

'Very odd, indeed!' she said, nearly laughing.

'Well, I own, before ever I saw him, when they said he would die, I did
think it was best for himself, and every one else.  So, maybe, it would;
but you see I shouldn't like it.  He will be a horrible expense, and it
will be a great bore to know what to do with him: so absurd to have a son
only twenty years younger than oneself: but I think I like him, after
all.  It is something to work for, to make up to him for what _she_
suffered.  And I say, Lucy,' his eye brightened, 'perhaps Honor will take
to him!  What a thing it would be if he turned out all she hoped of me,
poor thing!  I would be banished for life, if he could be in my place,
and make it up to her.  He might yet have the Holt!'

'You have not proposed sending him to her?'

'No, I am not so cool,' he sadly answered; 'but she is capable of
anything in an impulse of forgiveness.'

He spent the evening over his letter; and, in spite of his sitting with
his back towards his sister, she saw more than one sheet spoilt by large
tears unperceived till they dropped, and felt a jealous pang in
recognizing the force of his affection for Honor.  That love and
compassion seemed contemptible to her, they were so inconsistent with his
deception and disobedience; and she was impatient of seeing that, so far
as he felt his errors at all, it was in their aspect towards his
benefactress.  His ingratitude towards her touched him in a more tender
part than his far greater errors towards his wife.  The last was so
shocking and appalling, that he only half realized it, and, boy-like,
threw it from him; the other came home to the fondness that had been with
him all his life, and which he missed every hour in his grief.  Lucy
positively dreaded his making such submission or betraying such sorrow as
might bring Honora down on them full of pardon and beneficence.  At
least, she had the satisfaction of hearing 'I've said nothing about you,
Cilla.'

'That's right!'

'Nor the child,' he continued, brushing up his hair from his brow.  'When
I came to go over it, I did hate myself to such a degree that I could not
say a word like asking a favour.'

Lucy was greatly relieved.

He looked like himself when he came down to breakfast exhilarated by the
restoration to activity, and the opening of a new path, though there was
a subdued, grave look on his young brow not unsuited to his deep
mourning.

He took up his last evening's production, looked at it with some
satisfaction, and observed, 'Sweet old honey!  I do hope that letter may
be a little comfort to her good old heart!'

Then he told that he had been dreaming of her looking into the cradle,
and he could not tell whether it were himself or the boy that he had seen
sitting on a haycock at Hiltonbury.

'Who knows but it may be a good omen,' said he in his sanguine state.
'You said you would go to her, if she took the child.'

'I did not say I would not.'

'Well, don't make difficulties; pray don't, Lucilla.  I want nothing for
myself; but if I could see you and the child at the Holt, and hear her
dear voice say one word of kindness, I could go out happy.  Imagine if
she should come to town!'

Lucilla had no mind to imagine any such thing.



CHAPTER XIII


    An upper and a lower spring
       To thee, to all are given:
    They mingle not, apart they gleam,
       The joys of earth, of heaven on high;
    God grant thee grace to choose the spring,
       Even before the nether spring is dry.--M.

'One moment, Phoebe, I'll walk a little way with you;' and Honor
Charlecote, throwing on bonnet and scarf, hurried from the drawing-room
where Mrs. Saville was working.

In spite of that youthful run, and girlish escape from 'company' to a
confidante, the last fortnight had left deep traces.  Every incipient
furrow had become visible, the cheeks had fallen, the eyes sunk, the
features grown prominent, and the auburn curls were streaked with silver
threads never previously perceptible to a casual eye.  While languid,
mechanical talk was passing, Phoebe had been mourning over the change;
but she found her own Miss Charlecote restored in the freer manner, the
long sigh, the tender grasp of the arm, as soon as they were in the open
air.

'Phoebe,' almost in a whisper, 'I have a letter from him.'

Phoebe pressed her arm, and looked her sympathy.

'Such a nice letter,' added Honor.  'Poor fellow! he has suffered so
much.  Should you like to see it?'

Owen had not figured to himself what eyes would peruse his letter; but
Honor was in too much need of sympathy to withhold the sight from the
only person who she could still hope would be touched.

'You see he asks nothing, nothing,' she wistfully pleaded.  'Only pardon!
Not to come home; nor anything.'

'Yes; surely, that is real contrition.'

'Surely, surely it is: yet they are not satisfied--Mr. Saville and Sir
John.  They say it is not full confession; but you see he does refer to
the rest.  He says he has deeply offended in other ways.'

'The rest?'

'You do not know.  I thought your brother had told you.  No?  Ah!  Robert
_is_ his friend.  Mr. Saville went and found it out.  It was very right
of him, I believe.  Quite right I should know; but--'

'Dear Miss Charlecote, it has pained you terribly.'

'It is what young men do; but I did not expect it of him.  Expensive
habits, debts, I could have borne, especially with the calls for money
his poor wife must have caused; but I don't know how to believe that he
gave himself out as my heir, and obtained credit on that account--a bond
to be paid on my death!'

Phoebe was too much shocked to answer.

'As soon as Mr. Saville heard of these troubles,' continued Honor, 'as,
indeed, I put all into his hands, he thought it right I should know all.
He went to Oxford, found out all that was against poor Owen, and then
proceeded to London, and saw the lawyer in whose hands Captain Charteris
had left those children's affairs.  He was very glad to see Mr. Saville,
for he thought Miss Sandbrook's friends ought to know what she was doing.
So it came out that Lucilla had been to him, insisting on selling out
nearly all her fortune, and paying off with part of it this horrible
bond.'

'She is paying his debts, rather than let you hear of them.'

'And _they_ are very angry with him for permitting it; as if he or
anybody else had any power to stop Lucy!  I know as well as possible that
it is she who will not let him confess and make it all open with me.  And
yet, after this, what right have I to say I _know_?  How little I ever
knew that boy!  Yes, it is right it should be taken out of my hands--my
blindness has done harm enough already; but if I had not bound myself to
forbear, I could not help it, when I see the Savilles so much set against
him.  I do not know that they are more severe in action than--than
perhaps they ought to be, but they will not let me pity him.'

'They ought not to dictate to you,' said Phoebe, indignantly.

'Dictate!  Oh, no, my dear.  If you could only hear his compliments to my
discretion, you would know he was thinking all the time there is no fool
like an old fool.  No, I don't complain.  I have been wilful, and weak,
and blind, and these are the fruits!  It is right that others should
judge for him, and I deserve that they should come and guard me; though,
when I think of such untruth throughout, I don't feel as if there were
danger of my ever being more than sorry for him.'

'It is worse than the marriage,' said Phoebe, thoughtfully.

'There might have been generous risk in that.  This was--oh, very nearly
treachery!  No wonder Lucy tries to hide it!  I hope never to say a word
to her to show that I am aware of it.'

'She is coming home, then?'

'She must, since she has broken with the Charterises; but she has never
written.  Has Robert mentioned her?'

'Never; he writes very little.'

'I long to know how it is with him.  Now that he has signed his contract,
and made all his arrangements, he cannot retract; but--but we shall see,'
said Honor, with one gleam of playful hope.  'If she should come home to
me ready to submit and be gentle, there might be a chance yet.  I am sure
he is poor Owen's only real friend.  If I could only tell you half my
gratitude to him for it!  And I will tell you what Mr. Saville has
actually consented to my doing--I may give Owen enough to cover his
premium and outfit; and I hope that may set him at ease in providing for
his child for the present from his own means, as he ought to do.'

'Poor little thing! what will become of it?'

'He and his sister must arrange,' said Honor, hastily, as if silencing a
yearning of her own.  'I do not need the Savilles to tell me I must not
take it off their hands.  The responsibility may be a blessing to him,
and it would be wrong to relieve him of a penalty in the natural course
of Providence.'

'There, now you have put it into my head to think what a pleasure it
would be to you--'

'I have done enough for my own pleasure, Phoebe.  Had you only seen that
boy when I had him first from his father, and thought him too much of the
angel to live!'

There was a long pause, and Honor at length exclaimed, 'I see the chief
reason the Savilles came here!'

'Why?'

'To hinder my seeing him before he goes.'

'I am sure it would be sad pain to you,' cried Phoebe, deprecatingly.

'I don't know.  He must not come here; but since I have had this letter,
I have longed to go up for one day, see him, and bring Lucy home.  Mr.
Saville might go with me.  You don't favour it, Phoebe?  Would Robert?'

'Robert would like to have Owen comforted,' said Phoebe, slowly; 'but not
if it only made it worse pain for you.  Dear Miss Charlecote, don't you
think, if the worst had been the marriage, you would have tried
everything to comfort him? but now that there is this other horrid thing,
this presuming on your kindness, it seems to me as if you could not bear
to see him.'

'When I think of their enmity and his sorrow, I feel drawn thither; but
when this deception comes before me, I had rather not look in his face
again.  If he petted me I should think he was taking me in again.  He has
Robert, he has his sister, and I have promised to let Mr. Saville judge.
I think Mr. Saville would let me go if Robert said I ought.'

Phoebe fondled her, and left her relieved by the outpouring.  Poor thing!
after mistakes which she supposed egregious in proportion to the
consequences, and the more so because she knew her own good intentions,
and could not understand the details of her errors, it was an absolute
rest to delegate her authority, even though her affections revolted
against the severity of the judge to whom she had delivered herself and
her boy.

One comfort was that he had been the adviser chosen for her by Humfrey.
In obeying him, she put herself into Humfrey's hands; and remembering the
doubtful approval with which her cousin had regarded her connection with
the children, and his warnings against her besetting sin, she felt as if
the whole was the continuation of the mistake of her life, her conceited
disregard of his broad homely wisdom, and as if the only atonement in her
power was to submit patiently to Mr. Saville's advice.

And in truth his measures were not harsh.  He did not want to make the
young man an outcast, only to prevent advantage being taken of indulgence
which he overrated.  It was rather his wife who was oppressive in her
desire to make Miss Charlecote see things in a true light, and teach her,
what she could never learn, to leave off loving and pitying.  Even this
was perhaps better for her than a solitude in which she might have preyed
upon herself, and debated over every step in conscious darkness.

Before her letter was received, Owen had signed his agreement with the
engineer, and was preparing to sail in a fortnight.  He was disappointed
and humiliated that Honor should have been made aware of what he had
meant to conceal, but he could still see that he was mercifully dealt
with, and was touched by, and thankful for, the warm personal
forgiveness, which he had sense enough to feel, even though it brought no
relaxation of the punishment.

Lucy was positively glad of the non-fulfilment of the condition that
would have taken her back to the Holt; and without seeing the letter, had
satisfaction in her resentment at Honor for turning on Owen vindictively,
after having spoilt him all his life.

He silenced her summarily, and set out for his preparations.  She had
already carried out her project of clearing him of his liabilities.  Mr.
Prendergast had advised her strongly to content herself with the _post
obit_, leaving the rest to be gradually liquidated as the means should be
obtained; but her wilful determination was beyond reasoning, and by
tyrannical coaxing she bent him to her will, and obliged him to do all in
which she could not be prominent.

Her own debts were a sorer subject, and she grudged the vain expenses
that had left her destitute, without even the power of writing grandly to
Horatia to pay off her share of the foreign expenditure.  She had, to Mr.
Prendergast's great horror, told him of her governess plan, but had
proceeded no further in the matter than studying the advertisements,
until finding that Honor only invited her, and not her nephew, home to
the Holt, she proceeded to exhale her feelings by composing a sentence
for the _Times_.  'As Governess, a Lady--'

'Mr. Prendergast.'

Reddening, and abruptly hasty, the curate entered, and sitting down
without a word, applied himself to cutting his throat with an ivory
paper-knife.  Lucilla began to speak, but at her first word, as though a
spell were broken, he exclaimed, 'Cilly, are you still thinking of that
ridiculous nonsense?'

'Going out as a governess?  Look there;' and she held up her writing.

He groaned, gave himself a slice under each ear, and viciously bit the
end of the paper-knife.

'You are going to recommend me?' she said, with a coaxing look.

'You know I think it a monstrous thing.'

'But you know of a place, and will help me to it!' cried she, clapping
her hands.  'Dear good Mr. Pendy, always a friend in need!'

'Well, if you will have it so.  It is not so bad as strangers.  There's
George's wife come to town to see a governess for little Sarah, and she
won't do.'

'Shall I do?' asked Lucilla, with a droll shake of her sunny hair.  'Yes.
I know you would vouch for me as tutoress to all the Princesses; able to
teach the physical sciences, the guitar, and Arabic in three lessons; but
if Mrs. Prendergast be the woman I imagine, much she will believe you.
Aren't they inordinately clever?'

'Little Sarah is--let me see--quite a child.  Her father did teach her,
but he has less time in his new parish, and they think she ought to have
more accomplishment, polish, and such like.'

'And imagine from the specimen before them that I must be an adept at
polishing Prendergasts.'

'Now, Cilla, do be serious.  Tell me if all this meant nothing, and I
shall be very glad.  If you were in earnest, I could not be so well
satisfied to see you anywhere else.  You would find Mrs. Prendergast
quite a mother to you.'

'Only one girl!  I wanted a lot of riotous boys, but beggars must not be
choosers.  This is just right--people out of the way of those who knew me
in my palmy days, yet not absolute strangers.'

'That was what induced me--they are so much interested about you, Cilla.'

'And you have made a fine heroic story.  I should not wonder if it all
broke down when the parties met.  When am I to be trotted out for
inspection?'

'Why, I told her if I found you really intended it, and had time, I would
ask you to drive to her with me this morning, and then no one need know
anything about it,' he said, almost with tears in his eyes.

'That's right,' cried Lucilla.  'It will be settled before Owen turns up.
I'll get ready this instant.  I say,' she added at the door, 'housemaids
always come to be hired minus crinoline and flowers, is it the same with
governesses?'

'Cilla, how can you?' said her friend, excessively distressed at the
inferior position, but his depression only inspired her with a
reactionary spirit of mischief.

'Crape is inoffensive, but my hair!  What shall I do with it?  Does Mrs.
Prendergast hold the prejudice against pretty governesses?'

'She would take Venus herself if she talked no nonsense; but I don't
believe you are in earnest,' growled the curate, angry at last.

'That is encouragement!' cried Lucilla, flying off laughing that she
might hide from herself her own nervousness and dismay at this sudden
step into the hard verity of self-dependence.

She could not stop to consider what to say or do, her refuge was always
in the impromptu, and she was far more bent on forcing Mr. Prendergast to
smile, and distracting herself from her one aching desire that the Irish
journey had never been, than of forming any plan of action.  In walking
to the cabstand they met Robert, and exchanged greetings; a sick
faintness came over her, but she talked it down, and her laugh sounded in
his ears when they had passed on.

Yet when the lodgings were reached, the sensation recurred, her breath
came short, and she could hardly conceal her trembling.  No one was in
the room but a lady who would have had far to seek for a governess less
beautiful than herself.  Insignificance was the first idea she inspired,
motherliness the second, the third that she was a perfect lady, and a
sensible woman.  After shaking Lucilla kindly by the hand, and seating
her on the sofa, she turned to her cousin, saying, 'Sarah and her papa
are at the National Gallery, I wish you would look for them, or they will
never be in time for luncheon.'

'Luncheon is not for an hour and a half.'

'But it is twenty minutes' walk, and they will forget food and everything
else unless you keep them in order.'

'I'll go presently;' but he did not move, only looking piteous while Mrs.
Prendergast began talking to Lucilla about the pictures, until she,
recovering, detected the state of affairs, and exclaimed with her ready
grace and abruptness, 'Now, Mr. Prendergast, don't you see how much you
are in the way?'

'A plain truth, Peter,' said his cousin, laughing.

Lucy stepped forward to him, saying affectionately, 'Please go; you can't
help me, and I am sure you may trust me with Mrs. Prendergast;' and she
stretched out a hand to the lady with an irresistible child-like gesture
of confidence.

'Don't you think you may, Peter?' asked Mrs. Prendergast, holding the
hand; 'you shall find her here at luncheon.  I won't do anything to her.'

The good curate groaned himself off, and Lucy felt so much restored that
she had almost forgotten that it was not an ordinary call.  Indeed she
had never yet heard a woman's voice that thus attracted and softened her.
Mrs. Prendergast needed not to be jealous of Venus, while she had such
tenderness in her manner, such winning force in her tone.

'That was well done,' she said.  'Talking would have been impossible
while he sat looking on!'

'I am afraid he has given far too good an account of me,' said Lucy, in a
low and trembling voice.

'His account comes from one who has known you from babyhood.'

'And spoilt me from babyhood!'

'Yes, Sarah knows what Cousin Peter can do in that line.  He had little
that was new to tell us, and what he had was of a kind--'  She broke off,
choked by tears.  What she had heard of the girl's self-devotion touched
her trebly at the sight of one so small, young, and soft-looking.  And if
she had ever been dubious of 'Peter's pet,' she was completely
fascinated.

'I must not be taken on his word,' said Cilla, smiling.

'No, that would not be right by any of us.'

'Then pray be very hard with me--as a thorough stranger.'

'But I am so inexperienced, I have only had one interview with a
governess.'

'And what did she do?' asked Lucilla, as both recovered from a laugh.

'She gave so voluble an account of her _ac_quirements and _re_quirements,
that I was quite alarmed.'

'I'm sure I can't do that.  I don't know what I can do.'

A pause, broken by Lucy, who began to feel that she had more of the cool
readiness of the great world.  'How old is your daughter?'

'Nearly fifteen.  While we had our small parish in Sussex we taught her
ourselves, and her father brought her on in Latin and Euclid.  Do you
know anything of those, Miss Sandbrook? not that it signifies.'

'Miss Charlecote used to teach me with my brother.  I have forgotten, but
I could soon get them up again.'

'They will hardly be wanted, but Sarah will respect you for them.  Now,
at Southminster, our time is so taken up that poor Sarah gets neglected,
and it is very trying to an eager, diligent girl to prepare lessons, and
have them continually put off, so we thought of indulging her with a
governess, to bring her on in some of the modern languages and
accomplishments that have grown rusty with us.'

'I think I could do that,' said Lucilla.  'I believe I know what other
people do, and my languages are fresh from the Continent.  Ought I to
give you a specimen of my pronunciation?'

'Pray don't,' laughed Mrs. Prendergast.  'You know better than I what is
right, and must prepare to be horrified by the sounds you will hear.'

'I ought to have brought my sketches.  I had two years of lessons from
S---.'

'Sarah is burning for teaching in that line.  Music?  Dr. Prendergast
likes the grand old pieces, and hardly cares for modern ones.'

'I hardly played anything newer than Mozart at Hiltonbury.  Miss
Charlecote taught me very well, I believe, and I had lessons from the
organist from Elverslope, besides a good deal in the fashionable line
since.  I have kept that up.  One wants it.'

There was another shy pause, and Lucilla growing more scrupulous and more
confidential, volunteered,--'Mine has been an idle life since I came out.
I am three-and-twenty now, and have been diligently forgetting for the
last six years.  Did you know that I had been a fast young lady?'

But things had come to such a pass, that say what she would, all passed
for ingenuous candour and humility, and the answer was,--

'I know that you have led a very trying life, but to have passed through
such unscathed is no disadvantage.'

'If I have,' said Lucy, sadly.

Mrs. Prendergast, who had learned all the facts of Lucilla's history
through the Wrapworth medium, knew only the heroic side of her character,
and admired her the more for her diffidence.  So when terms were spoken
of, the only fear on the one side was, that such a treasure must be
beyond her means; on the other, lest what she needed for her nephew's
sake might deprive her of such a home.  However, seventy pounds a year
proved to be in the thoughts of both, and the preliminaries ended with,
'I hope you will find my little Sarah a pleasant companion.  She is a
good girl, and intelligent, but you must be prepared for a few angles.'

'I like angles.  I don't care for commonplace people.'

'I am afraid that you will find many such at Southminster.  We cannot
promise you the society you have been used to.'

'I am tired of society.  I have had six years of it!' and she sighed.

'You must fix your own time,' said Mrs. Prendergast; 'and indeed we will
try to make you at home.'

'My brother will be gone in a fortnight,' said Lucilla.  'After that I
should like to come straight to you.'

Her tone and look made those two last words not merely _chez vous_, but
to _you_, individually--to you, kind one, who will comfort me after the
cruel parting.  Mrs. Prendergast put her arm round her and kissed her.

'Don't,' said Lucilla, with the sweetest April face.  'I can't bear being
made foolish.'

Nevertheless Mrs. Prendergast showed such warm interest in all her
concerns, that she felt only that she had acquired a dear friend by the
time the others came in, father and daughter complaining, the one gaily,
the other dolefully, that Cousin Peter had so hunted them that they could
look at nothing in peace.  Indeed he was in such a state of restless
misery, that Mrs. Prendergast, in compassion to him, sent her daughter to
dress, called her husband away, and left the place clear for him to say,
in a tone of the deepest commiseration, 'Well, my poor child?'

'O, Mr. Pendy, you have found me a true home.  Be the others what they
may, there must be rest in hearing _her_ voice!'

'It is settled, then?'

'Yes.  I only hope you have not taken them in.  I did my best to let her
know the worst of me, but it would make no impression.  Seventy pounds a
year.  I hope that is not wicked.'

'O, Cilla, what would your father feel?'

'Come, we won't fight that over again.  I thought I had convinced you of
the dignity of labour, and I do feel as if at last I had lit on some one
whom I could allow to do me good.'

She could not console him; he grieved over her changed circumstances with
far more regret than she felt, and though glad for her sake that she
should be with those whom he could trust, yet his connection with her
employers seemed to him undutiful towards his late rector.  All that she
saw of them reassured her.  The family manners were full of well-bred
good-humour, full of fun, with high intelligence, much real refinement,
and no pretension.  The father was the most polished, with the scholarly
courtesy of the dignified clergyman; the mother was the most simple and
caressing; the daughter somewhat uncouth, readily betraying both her
feelings and her cleverness and drollery in the style of the old friend
whom Lucilla was amused to see treated as a youth and almost a
contemporary of her pupil.  What chiefly diverted her was the grotesque
aspect of Dr. Prendergast and his daughter.  Both were on a large scale,
with immense mouths, noses turned up to display wide nostrils, great gray
eyes, angularly set, yellow hair and eyebrows, red complexions, and big
bones.  The Doctor had the advantage of having outgrown the bloom of his
ugliness; his forehead was bald and dignified, his locks softened by
grizzling, and his fine expression and clerical figure would have carried
off all the quaintness of his features if they had not been so comically
caricatured in his daughter; yet she looked so full of life and character
that Lucilla was attracted, and sure of getting on well with her.
Moreover, the little elf felt the impression she was creating in this
land of Brobdignag.  Sarah was looking at her as a terra-cotta pitcher
might regard a cup of egg-shell china, and Lucy had never been lovelier.
Her mourning enhanced the purity of her white skin, and marked her
slender faultless shape; her flaxen hair hung in careless wreaths of
ringlet and braid; her countenance, if pale, had greater sweetness in its
dejection, now and then brightened by gleams of her courageous spirit.
Sarah gazed with untiring wonder, pardoning Cousin Peter for disturbing
the contemplation of Domenichino's art, since here was a witness that
heroines of romance were no mere myths, but that beings of ivory and
rose, sapphire eyes and golden hair, might actually walk the earth.

The Doctor was pleasant and friendly, and after luncheon the whole party
started together to 'do' St. Paul's, whence Mr. Prendergast undertook to
take Cilla home, but in no haste to return to the lonely house.  She
joined in the lionizing, and made a great impression by her familiarity
with London, old and new.  Little store as she had set by Honor's
ecclesiology and antiquarianism, she had not failed to imbibe a tincture
sufficient to go a long way by the help of ready wit, and she enchanted
the Doctor by her odd bits of information on the localities, and by
guiding him to out-of-the-way curiosities.  She even carried the party to
Woolstone-lane, displayed the Queen of Sheba, the cedar carving, the
merchant's mark, and had lifted out Stow's _Survey_, where Sarah was
delighted with Ranelagh, when the door opened, and Owen stood, surprised
and blank.  Poor fellow, the voices had filled him with hope that he
should find Honor there.  The visitors, startled at thus intruding on his
trouble, and knowing him to be in profound disgrace, would have gone, but
he, understanding them to be Mr. Prendergast's friends, and glad of
variety, was eagerly courteous and hospitable, detaining them by
displaying fresh curiosities, and talking with so much knowledge and
brilliance, that they were too well entertained to be in haste.  Lucilla,
accepting Mrs. Prendergast as a friend, was rejoiced that she should have
such demonstration that her brother was a thorough gentleman; and in
truth Owen did and said everything so well that no one could fail to be
pleased, and only as an after-thought could come the perception that his
ease hardly befitted the circumstances, and that he comported himself
more like the master of the house than as a _protege_ under a cloud.

No sooner had he handed them into their vehicle than he sank into a
chair, and burst into one of the prolonged, vehement fits of laughter
that are the reaction of early youth unwontedly depressed.  Never had he
seen such visages!  They ought at once to be sketched--would be worth any
money to Currie the architect, for gurgoyles.

'For shame,' said Lucilla, glad, however, once more to hear the merry
peal; 'for shame, to laugh at my master!'

'I'm not laughing at old Pendy, his orifice is a mere crevice
comparatively.  The charm is in seeing it classified--the recent sloth
accounted for by the ancient megatherium.'

'The megatherium is my master.  Yes, I'm governess to Glumdalclitch!'

'You've done it?'

'Yes, I have.  Seventy pounds a year.'

He made a gesture of angry despair, crying, 'Worse luck than I thought.'

'Better luck than I did.'

'Old Pendy thrusting in his oar!  I'd have put a stop to your absurdity
at once, if I had not been sure no one would be deluded enough to engage
you, and that you would be tired of looking out, and glad to go back to
your proper place at the Holt before I sailed.'

'My proper place is where I can be independent.'

'Faugh!  If I had known it, they should never have seen the Roman coins!
There! it is a lesson that nothing is too chimerical to be worth
opposing!'

'Your opposition would have made no difference.'

He looked at her silently, but with a half smile in lip and eye that
showed her that the moment was coming when the man's will might be
stronger than the woman's.

Indeed, he was so thoroughly displeased and annoyed that she durst not
discuss the subject with him, lest she should rouse him to take some
strong authoritative measures against it.  He had always trusted to the
improbability of her meeting with a situation before his departure, when,
between entreaty and command, he had reckoned on inducing her to go home;
and this engagement came as a fresh blow, making him realize what he had
brought on those nearest and dearest to him.  Even praise of Mrs.
Prendergast provoked him, as if implying Lucilla's preference for her
above the tried friend of their childhood; he was in his lowest spirits,
hardly speaking to his sister all dinner-time, and hurried off afterwards
to pour out his vexation to Robert Fulmort.  Poor Robert! what an
infliction!  To hear of such a step, and be unable to interfere; to
admire, yet not approve; to dread the consequences, and perceive so much
alloy as to dull the glitter of the gold, as well as to believe his own
stern precipitation as much the cause as Owen's errors; yet all the time
to be the friend and comforter to the wounded spirit of the brother!  It
was a severe task; and when Owen left him, he felt spent and wearied as
by bodily exertion, as he hid his face in prayer for one for whom he
could do no more than pray.

Feelings softened during the fortnight that the brother and sister spent
together.  Childishly as Owen had undergone the relations and troubles of
more advanced life, pettishly as he had striven against feeling and
responsibility, the storm had taken effect.  Hard as he had struggled to
remain a boy, manhood had suddenly grown on him; and probably his
exclusion from Hiltonbury did more to stamp the impression of his guilt
than did its actual effects.  He was eager for his new life, and pleased
with his employer, promising himself all success, and full of enterprise.
But his banishment from home and from Honor clouded everything; and, as
the time drew nearer, his efforts to forget and be reckless gradually
ceased.  Far from shunning Lucilla, as at first, he was unwilling to lose
sight of her, and they went about together wherever his preparations
called him, so that she could hardly make time for stitching, marking,
and arranging his purchases.

One good sign was, that, though hitherto fastidiously expensive in dress
and appointments, he now grudged himself all that was not absolutely
necessary, in the endeavour to leave as large a sum as possible with Mrs.
Murrell.  Even in the tempting article of mathematical instruments he was
provident, though the polished brass, shining steel, and pure ivory, in
their perfection of exactitude, were as alluring to him as ever gem or
plume had been to his sister.  That busy fortnight of chasing after the
'reasonable and good,' speeding about till they were foot-sore,
discussing, purchasing, packing, and contriving, united the brother and
sister more than all their previous lives.

It was over but too soon.  The last evening was come; the hall was full
of tin cases and leathern portmanteaus, marked O. C. S., and of piles of
black boxes large enough to contain the little lady whose name they bore.
Southminster lay in the Trent Valley, so the travellers would start
together, and Lucilla would be dropped on the way.  In the cedar parlour,
Owen's black knapsack lay open on the floor, and Lucilla was doing the
last office in her power for him, and that a sad one, furnishing the
Russia-leather housewife with the needles, silk, thread, and worsted for
his own mendings when he should be beyond the reach of the womankind who
cared for him.

He sat resting his head on his hand, watching her in silence, till she
was concluding her work.  Then he said, 'Give me a bit of silk,' turned
his back on her, and stood up, doing something by the light of the lamp.
She was kneeling over the knapsack, and did not see what he was about,
till she found his hand on her head, and heard the scissors close, when
she perceived that he had cut off one of her pale, bright ringlets, and
saw his pocket-book open, and within it a thick, jet-black tress, and one
scanty, downy tuft of baby hair.  She made no remark; but the tears came
dropping, as she packed; and, with a sudden impulse to give him the thing
above all others precious to her, she pulled from her bosom a locket,
hung from a slender gold chain, and held it to him--

'Owen, will you have this?'

'Whose?  My father's?'

'And my mother's.  He gave it to me when he went to Nice.'

Owen took it and looked at it thoughtfully.

'No, Lucy,' he said; 'I would not take it from you on any account.  You
have always been his faithful child.'

'Mind you tell me if any one remembers him in Canada,' said Lucilla,
between relief and disappointment, restoring her treasure to the place it
had never left before.  'You will find out whether he is recollected at
his mission.'

'Certainly.  But I do not expect it.  The place is a great town now.  I
say, Lucy, if you had one bit of poor Honor's hair!'

'No: you will never forgive me.  I had some once, made up in a little
cross, with gold ends; but one day, when she would not let me go to
Castle Blanch, I shied it into the river, in a rage.'

She was touched at his being so spiritless as not even to say that she
ought to have been thrown in after it.

'I wonder,' she said, by way of enlivening him, 'whether you will fall in
with the auburn-haired Charlecote.'

'Whereas Canada is a bigger place than England, the disaster may be
averted, I hope.  A colonial heir-at-law might be a monstrous bore.
Moreover, it would cancel all that I can't but hope for that child.'

'You might hope better things for him than expectations.'

'He shall never have any!  But it might come without.  Why, Lucy, a few
years in that country, and I shall be able to give him the best of
educations and release you from drudgery; and when independent, we could
go back to the Holt on terms to suit even your proud stomach, and might
make the dear old thing happy in her old age.'

'If that Holt were but out of your head.'

'If I knew it willed to the County Hospital, shouldn't I wish as much to
be with her as before?  I mean to bring up my son as a gentleman, with no
one's help!  But you see, Lucy, it is impossible not to wish for one's
child what one has failed in oneself--to wish him to be a better
edition.'

'I suppose not.'

'For these first few years the old woman will do well enough for him,
poor child.  Robert has promised to look in on him.'

'And Mrs. Murrell is to write to me once a month.  I shall make a point
of seeing him at least twice a year.'

'Thank you; and by the time he is of any size I shall have a salary.  I
may come back, and we would keep house together, or you might bring him
out to me.'

'That will be the hope of my life.'

'I'll not be deluded into reckoning on young ladies.  You will be
disposed of long before!'

'Don't, Owen!  No, never.'

'Never?'

'Never.'

'I always wanted to know,' continued Owen, 'what became of Calthorp.'

'I left him behind at Spitzwasserfitzung, with a message that ends it for
ever.'

'I am afraid that defection is to be laid to my door, like all the rest.'

'If so, I am heartily obliged to you for it!  The shock was welcome that
brought me home.  A governess?  Oh! I had rather be a scullery-maid, than
go on as I was doing there!'

'Then you did not care for him?'

'Never!  But he pestered me, Rashe pestered me; nobody cared for
me--I--I--' and she sobbed a long, tearless sob.

'Ha!' said Owen, gravely and kindly, 'then there was something in the
Fulmort affair after all.  Lucy, I am going away; let me hear it for
once.  If I ever come back, I will not be so heedless of you as I have
been.  If he have been using you ill!'

'I used him ill,' said Lucy, in an inward voice.

'Nothing more likely!' muttered Owen, in soliloquy.  'But how is it,
Cilla: can't you make him forgive?'

'He does, but as Honor forgives you.  You know it was no engagement.  I
worked him up to desperation last year.  Through Phoebe, I was warned
that he would not stand my going to Ireland.  I answered that it was no
concern of his; I defied him to be able to break with me.  They bothered
me so that I was forced to go to spite them.  He thought--I can't wonder
at it--that I was irreclaimable; he was staying here, was worked on by
the sight of this horrible district, and, between pique and goodness run
mad, has devoted self and fortune.  He gave me to understand that he has
made away with every farthing.  I don't know if he would wish it undone.'

She spoke into the knapsack, jerking out brief sentences.

'He didn't tell you he had taken a vow of celibacy?'

'I should not think it worth while.'

'Then it is all right!' exclaimed Owen, joyously.  'Do you think old
Fulmort, wallowing in gold, could see a son of his living with his
curates, as in the old Sussex rhyme?--

    There were three ghostisses
    Sitting on three postisses,
    Eating of three crustisses.

No, depend on it, the first alarm of Robert becoming a ghost, there will
be a famous good fat living bought for him; and then--'

'No, I shall have been a governess.  They won't consent.'

'Pshaw!  What are the Fulmorts?  He would honour you the more!  No,
Lucy,' and he drew her up from the floor, and put his arm round her,
'girls who stick to one as you have done to me are worth something, and
so is Robert Fulmort.  You don't know what he has been to me ever since
he came to fetch me.  I didn't believe it was in his cloth or his nature
to be so forbearing.  No worrying with preachments; not a bit of "What a
good boy am I;" always doing the very thing that was comfortable and
considerate, and making the best of it at Hiltonbury.  I didn't know how
he could be capable of it, but now I see, it was for your sake.  Cheer
up, Lucy, you will find it right yet.'

Lucilla had no conviction that he was right; but she was willing to
believe for the time, and was glad to lay her head on his shoulder and
feel, while she could, that she had something entirely her own.  Too soon
it would be over.  Lengthen the evening as they would, morning must come
at last.

It came; the hurried breakfast, pale looks, and trivial words.  Robert
arrived to watch them off; Mrs. Murrell brought the child.  Owen took him
in his arms, and called her to the study.  Robert sat still, and said--

'I will do what I can.  I think, in case I had to write about the child,
you had better leave me your address.'

Lucilla wrote it on a card.  The tone quashed all hope.

'We trust to you,' she said.

'Mr. Currie has promised to let me hear of Owen,' said Robert; but no
more passed.  Owen came back hasty and flushed, wanting to be gone and
have it over.  The cabs were called, and he was piling them with luggage;
Robert was glad to be actively helpful.  All were in the hall; Owen
turned back for one more solitary gaze round the familiar room; Robert
shook Lucilla's hand.

'O bid me good speed,' broke from her; 'or I cannot bear it.'

'God be with you.  God bless you!' he said.

No more!  He had not approved, he had not blamed.  He would interfere no
more in her fate.  She seated herself, and drew down her black veil, a
chill creeping over her.

'Thank you, Robert, for all,' was Owen's farewell.  'If you will say
anything to Phoebe from me, tell her she is all that is left to comfort
poor Honor.'

'Good-bye,' was the only answer.

Owen lingered still.  'You'll write?  Tell me of her; Honor, I mean, and
the child.'

'Yes, yes, certainly.'

Unable to find another pretext for delay, Owen again wrung Robert's hand,
and placed himself by his sister, keeping his head out as long as he
could see Robert standing with crossed arms on the doorstep.

When, the same afternoon, Mr. Parsons came home, he blamed himself for
having yielded to his youngest curate the brunt of the summer work.
Never had he seen a man not unwell look so much jaded and depressed.

Nearly at the same time, Lucilla and her boxes were on the platform of
the Southminster station, Owen's eyes straining after her as the train
rushed on, and she feeling positive pain and anger at the sympathy of Dr.
Prendergast's kind voice, as though it would have been a relief to her
tumultuous misery to have bitten him, like Uncle Kit long ago.  She
clenched her hand tight, when with old-world courtesy he made her take
his arm, and with true consideration, conducted her down the hill,
through the quieter streets, to the calm, shady precincts of the old
cathedral.  He had both a stall and a large town living; and his abode
was the gray freestone prebendal house, whose two deep windows under
their peaked gables gave it rather a cat-like physiognomy.  Mrs.
Prendergast and Sarah were waiting in the hall, each with a kiss of
welcome, and the former took the pale girl at once up-stairs, to a room
full of subdued sunshine, looking out on a green lawn sloping down to the
river.  At that sight and sound, Lucy's face lightened.  'Ah! I know I
shall feel at home here.  I hear the water's voice!'

But she had brought with her a heavy cold, kept in abeyance by a strong
will during the days of activity, and ready to have its way at once, when
she was beaten down by fatigue, fasting, and disappointment.  She dressed
and came down, but could neither eat nor talk, and in her pride was glad
to attribute all to the cold, though protesting with over-eagerness that
such indisposition was rare with her.

She would not have suffered such nursing from Honor Charlecote as was
bestowed upon her.  The last month had made tenderness valuable, and
without knowing all, kind Mrs. Prendergast could well believe that there
might be more than even was avowed to weigh down the young head, and
cause the fingers, when unobserved, to lock together in suppressed agony.

While Sarah only knew that her heroine-looking governess was laid up with
severe influenza, her mother more than guessed at the kind of battle
wrestled out in solitude, and was sure that more than brother, more than
friend, had left her to that lonely suffering, which was being for the
first time realized.  But no confidence was given; when Lucilla spoke, it
was only of Owen, and Mrs. Prendergast returned kindness and forbearance.

It was soothing to be dreamily in that summer room, the friendly river
murmuring, the shadows of the trees lazily dancing on the wall, the
cathedral bells chiming, or an occasional deep note of the organ stealing
in through the open window.  It suited well with the languor of sensation
that succeeded to so much vehemence and excitement.  It was not thought,
it was not resignation, but a species of repose and calm, as if all
interest, all feeling, were over for her, and as if it mattered little
what might further befall her, as long as she could be quiet, and get
along from one day to another.  If it had been repentance, a letter would
have been written very unlike the cold announcement of her situation, the
scanty notices of her brother, with which she wrung the heart that
yearned after her at Hiltonbury.  But sorry she was, for one part at
least, of her conduct, and she believed herself reduced to that meek and
correct state that she had always declared should succeed her days of
gaiety, when, recovering from her indisposition, she came down subdued in
tone, and anxious to fulfil what she had undertaken.

'Ah! if Robert could see me now, he would believe in me,' thought she to
herself, as she daily went to the cathedral.  She took classes at school,
helped to train the St. Jude's choir, played Handel for Dr. Prendergast,
and felt absolutely without heart or inclination to show that
self-satisfied young curate that a governess was not a subject for such
distant perplexed courtesy.  Sad at heart, and glad to distract her mind
by what was new yet innocent, she took up the duties of her vocation
zealously; and quickly found that all her zeal was needed.  Her pupil was
a girl of considerable abilities--intellectual, thoughtful, and well
taught; and she herself had been always so unwilling a learner, so
willing a forgetter, that she needed all the advantages of her grown-up
mind and rapidity of perception to keep her sufficiently beforehand with
Sarah, whenever subjects went deep or far.  If she pronounced like a
native, and knew what was idiomatic, Sarah, with her clumsy
pronunciation, had further insight into grammar, and asked perplexing
questions; if she played admirably and with facility, Sarah could puzzle
her with the science of music; if her drawing were ever so effective and
graceful, Sarah's less sightly productions had correct details that put
hers to shame, and, for mere honesty's sake, and to keep up her dignity,
she was obliged to work hard, and recur to the good grounding that
against her will she had received at Hiltonbury.  'Had her education been
as superficial as that of her cousins,' she wrote to her brother, 'Sarah
would have put her to shame long ago; indeed, nobody but the Fennimore
could be thoroughly up to that girl.'

Perhaps all her endeavours would not have impressed Sarah, had not the
damsel been thoroughly imposed on by her own enthusiasm for Miss
Sandbrook's grace, facility, alertness, and beauty.  The power of doing
prettily and rapidly whatever she took up dazzled the large and
deliberate young person, to whom the right beginning and steady
thoroughness were essential, and she regarded her governess as a sort of
fairy--toiling after her in admiring hopelessness, and delighted at any
small success.

Fully aware of her own plainness, Sarah adored Miss Sandbrook's beauty,
took all admiration of it as personally as if it been paid to her
bullfinch, and was never so charmed as when people addressed themselves
to the governess as the daughter of the house.  Lucilla, however, shrank
into the background.  She was really treated thoroughly as a relation,
but she dreaded the remarks and inquiries of strangers, and wished to
avoid them.  The society of the cathedral town was not exciting nor
tempting, and she made no great sacrifice in preferring her pretty
schoolroom to the dinners and evening parties of the Close; but she did
so in a very becoming manner, and delighted Sarah with stories of the
great world, and of her travels.

There could be no doubt that father, mother, and daughter all liked and
valued her extremely, and she loved Mrs. Prendergast as she had never
loved woman before, with warm, filial, confiding love.  She was falling
into the interests of the cathedral and the parish, and felt them, and
her occupations in the morning, satisfying and full of rest after the
unsatisfactory whirl of her late life.  She was becoming happier than she
knew, and at any rate felt it a delusion to imagine the post of governess
an unhappy one.  Three years at Southminster (for Sarah strenuously
insisted that she would come out as late as possible) would be all peace,
rest, and improvement; and by that time Owen would be ready for her to
bring his child out to him, or else--

Little did she reck of the grave, displeased, yet far more sorrowful
letter in which Honor wrote, 'You have chosen your own path in life, may
you find it one of improvement and blessing!  But I think it right to
say, that though real distress shall of course always make what is past
forgotten, yet you must not consider Hiltonbury a refuge if you grow
hastily weary of your exertions.  Since you refuse to find a mother in
me, and choose to depend on yourself alone, it must be in earnest, not
caprice.'



CHAPTER XIV


       These are of beauty rare,
          In holy calmness growing,
       Of minds whose richness might compare
          E'en with thy deep tints glowing.
    Yet all unconscious of the grace they wear.

       Like flowers upon the spray,
          All lowliness, not sadness,
       Bright are their thoughts, and rich, not gay,
          Grave in their very gladness,
    Shedding calm summer light over life's changeful day.

                                                  _To the Fuchsia_.--S. D.

Phoebe Fulmort sat in her own room.  The little round clock on the
mantelpiece pointed to eleven.  The fire was low but glowing.  The clear
gas shone brightly on the toilette apparatus, and on the central table,
loaded with tokens of occupation, but neat and orderly as the lines in
the clasped volume where Phoebe was dutifully writing her abstract of the
day's reading and observation, in childishly correct miniature
round-hand.

The curtain was looped up, and the moon of a frosty night blanched a
square on the carpet beneath the window, at which she often looked with a
glistening gaze.  Her father and brother had been expected at
dinner-time; and though their detention was of frequent occurrence,
Phoebe had deferred undressing till it should be too late for their
arrival by the last train, since they would like her to preside over
their supper, and she might possibly hear of Robert, whose doings her
father had of late seemed to regard with less displeasure, though she had
not been allowed to go with Miss Charlecote to the consecration of his
church, and had not seen him since the Horticultural Show.

She went to the window for a final look.  White and crisp lay the path,
chequered by the dark defined shadows of the trees; above was the sky,
pearly with moonlight, allowing only a few larger stars to appear, and
one glorious planet.  Fascinated by the silent beauty, she stood gazing,
wishing she could distinguish Jupiter's moons, observing on the
difference between his steady reflected brilliance and the sun-like
glories of Arcturus and Aldebaran, and passing on to the moral Miss
Charlecote loved, of the stars being with us all day unseen, like the
great cloud of witnesses.  She hoped Miss Charlecote saw that moon; for
sunrise or set, rainbow, evening gleam, new moon, or shooting star, gave
Phoebe double pleasure by comparing notes with Miss Charlecote, and
though that lady was absent, helping Mrs. Saville to tend her husband's
mortal sickness, it was likely that she might be watching and admiring
this same fair moon.  Well that there are many girls who, like Phoebe,
can look forth on the Creator's glorious handiwork as such, in peace and
soothing, 'in maiden meditation fancy free,' instead of linking these
heavenly objects to the feverish fancies of troubled hearts!

Phoebe was just turning from the window, when she heard wheels sounding
on the frosty drive, and presently a carriage appeared, the shadow
spectrally lengthened on the slope of the whitened bank.  All at once it
stopped where the roads diverged to the front and back entrances, a black
figure alighted, took out a bag, dismissed the vehicle, and took the path
to the offices.  Phoebe's heart throbbed.  It was Robert!

As he disappeared, she noiselessly opened her door, guardedly passed the
baize door of the west wing, descended the stairs, and met him in the
hall.  Neither spoke till they were in the library, which had been kept
prepared for the travellers.  Robert pressed her to him and kissed her
fervently, and she found voice to say, 'What is it?  Papa?'

'Yes,' said Robert.

She needed not to ask the extent of the calamity.  She stood looking in
his face, while, the beginning once made, he spoke in low, quick accents.
'Paralysis.  Last night.  He was insensible when Edwards called him this
morning.  Nothing could be done.  It was over by three this afternoon.'

'Where?' asked Phoebe, understanding, but not yet feeling.

'At his rooms at the office.  He had spent the evening there alone.  It
was not known till eight this morning.  I was there instantly, Mervyn and
Bevil soon after, but he knew none of us.  Mervyn thought I had better
come here.  Oh, Phoebe, my mother!'

'I will see if she have heard anything,' said Phoebe, moving quietly off,
as though one in a dream, able to act, move, and decide, though not to
think.

She found the household in commotion.  Robert had spoken to the butler,
and everywhere were knots of whisperers.  Miss Fennimore met Phoebe with
her eyes full of tears, tears as yet far from those of Phoebe herself.
'Your mother has heard nothing,' she said; 'I ascertained that from
Boodle, who only left her dressing-room since your brother's arrival.
You had better let her have her night's rest.'

Robert, who had followed Phoebe, hailed this as a reprieve, and thanked
Miss Fennimore, adding the few particulars he had told his sister.  'I
hope the girls are asleep,' he said.

'Sound asleep, I trust,' said Miss Fennimore.  'I will take care of
them,' and laying her hand on Phoebe's shoulder, she suggested to her
that her brother had probably not eaten all day, then left them to return
to the library together.  There had been more time for Robert to look the
thought in the face than his sister.  He was no longer freshly stunned.
He really needed food, and ate in silence, while she mechanically waited
on him.  At last he looked up, saying, 'I am thankful.  A few months ago,
how could I have borne it?'

'I have been sure he understood you better of late,' said Phoebe.

'Sunday week was one of the happiest days I have spent for years.
Imagine my surprise at seeing him and Acton in the church.  They took
luncheon with us, looked into the schools, went to evening service, and
saw the whole concern.  He was kinder than ever I knew him, and Acton
says he expressed himself as much pleased.  I owe a great deal to Bevil
Acton, and, I know, to you.  Now I know that he had forgiven me.'

'You, Robin!  There was nothing to forgive.  I can fancy poor Mervyn
feeling dreadfully, but you, always dutiful except for the higher duty!'

'Hush, Phoebe!  Mine was grudging service.  I loved opposition, and there
was an evil triumph in the annoyance I gave.'

'You are not regretting your work.  O no!'

'Not the work, but the manner!  Oh! that the gift of the self-willed son
be not Corban.'

'Robert! indeed you had his approval.  You told me so.  He was seeing
things differently.  It was so new to him that his business could be
thought hurtful, that he was displeased at first, or, rather, Mervyn made
him seem more displeased than he was.'

'You only make me the more repent!  Had I been what I ought at home, my
principles would have been very differently received!'

'I don't know,' said Phoebe; 'there was little opportunity.  We have been
so little with them.'

'Oh! Phoebe, it is a miserable thing to have always lived at such a
distance from them, that I should better know how to tell such tidings to
any old woman in my district than to my mother!'

Their consultations were broken by Miss Fennimore coming to insist on
Phoebe's sleeping, in preparation for the trying morrow.  Robert was
thankful for her heedfulness, and owned himself tired, dismissing his
sister with a blessing that had in it a tone of protection.

How changed was Phoebe's peaceful chamber in her eyes!  Nothing had
altered, but a fresh act in her life had begun--the first sorrow had
fallen on her.

She would have knelt on for hours, leaning dreamily on the new sense of
the habitual words, 'Our Father,' had not Miss Fennimore come kindly and
tenderly to undress her, insisting on her saving herself, and promising
not to let her oversleep herself, treating her with wise and soothing
affection, and authority that was most comfortable.

Little danger was there of her sleeping too late.  All night long she
lay, with dry and open eyes, while the fire, groaning, sank together, and
faded into darkness, and the moonbeams retreated slowly from floor to
wall, and were lost as gray cold dawn began to light the window.  Phoebe
had less to reproach herself with than any one of Mr. Fulmort's children,
save the poor innocent, Maria; but many a shortcoming, many a moment of
impatience or discontent, many a silent impulse of blame, were grieved
over, and every kindness she had received shot through her heart with
mournful gladness and warmth, filling her with yearning for another
embrace, another word, or even that she had known that the last good-bye
had been the last, that she might have prized it--oh, how intensely!

Then came anxious imaginings for the future, such as would not be stilled
by the knowledge that all would settle itself over her head.  There were
misgivings whether her mother would be properly considered, fears of the
mutual relations between her brothers, a sense that the family bond was
loosed, and confusion and jarring might ensue; but, as her mind recoiled
from the shoals and the gloom, the thought revived of the Pilot amid the
waves of this troublesome world.  She closed her eyes for prayer, but not
for sleep.  Repose even more precious and soothing than slumber was
granted--the repose of confidence in the Everlasting Arms, and of
confiding to them all the feeble and sorrowful with whom she was linked.
It was as though (in the words of her own clasped book) her God were
_more_ to her than ever, truly a very _present_ Help in trouble; and, as
the dawn brightened for a day so unlike all others, her heart trembled
less, and she rose up with eyes heavy and limbs weary, but better
prepared for the morning's ordeal than even by sleep ending in a wakening
to the sudden shock.

When Miss Fennimore vigilantly met her on leaving her room, and surveyed
her anxiously, to judge of her health and powers, there was a serious,
sweet collectedness in air and face that struck the governess with loving
awe and surprise.

The younger girls had known their father too little to be much affected
by the loss.  Maria stared in round-eyed amaze, and Bertha, though
subdued and shocked for a short space, revived into asking a torrent of
questions, culminating in 'Should they do any lessons?'  Whereto Miss
Fennimore replied with a decided affirmative, and, though Phoebe's taste
disapproved, she saw that it was wiser not to interfere.

Much fatigued, Robert slept late, but joined his sister long before the
dreaded moment of hearing their mother's bell.  They need not have been
fearful of the immediate effect; Mrs. Fulmort's perceptions were tardy,
and the endeavours at preparation were misunderstood, till it was needful
to be explicit.  A long stillness followed, broken at last by Phoebe's
question, whether she would not see Robert.  'Not till I am up, my dear,'
she answered, in an injured voice; 'do, pray, see whether Boodle is
coming with my warm water.'

Her mind was not yet awake to the stroke, and was lapsing into its
ordinary mechanical routine; her two breakfasts, and protracted dressing,
occupied her for nearly two hours, after which she did not refuse to see
her son, but showed far less emotion than he did, while he gave the
details of the past day.  Her dull, apathetic gaze was a contrast with
the young man's gush of tears, and the caresses that Phoebe lavished on
her listless hand.  Phoebe proposed that Robert should read to her--she
assented, and soon dozed, awaking to ask plaintively for Boodle and her
afternoon cup of tea.

So passed the following days, her state nearly the same, and her interest
apparently feebly roused by the mourning, but by nothing else.  She did
not like that Phoebe should leave her, but was more at ease with her maid
than her son, and, though he daily came to sit with her and read to her,
he was grieved to be unable to be of greater use, while he could seldom
have Phoebe to himself.  Sorely missing Miss Charlecote, he took his
meals in the west wing, where his presence was highly appreciated, though
he was often pained by Bertha's levity and Maria's imbecility.  The
governess treated him with marked esteem and consideration, strikingly
dissimilar to the punctilious, but almost contemptuous, courtesy of her
behaviour to the other gentlemen of the family, and, after her pupils
were gone to bed, would fasten upon him for a discussion such as her soul
delighted in, and his detested.  Secure of his ground, he was not sure of
his powers of reasoning with an able lady of nearly double his years, and
more than double his reading and readiness of speech, yet he durst not
retreat from argument, lest he should seem to yield the cause that he was
sworn to maintain, 'in season and out of season.'  It was hard that his
own troubles and other people's should alike bring him in for controversy
on all the things that end in 'ism.'

He learnt by letter from Sir Bevil Acton that his father had been much
struck by what he had seen in Cecily-row, and had strongly expressed his
concern that Robert had been allowed to strip himself for the sake of a
duty, which, if it were such at all, belonged more to others.  There
might have been wrongheaded haste in the action, but if such new-fangled
arrangements had become requisite, it was unfair that one member of the
family alone should bear the whole burthen.  Sir Bevil strongly supported
this view, and Mr. Fulmort had declared himself confirmed in his
intention of making provision for his son in his will, as well as of
giving him a fair allowance at present.  There must have been warnings of
failing health of which none had been made aware, for Mr. Fulmort had
come to town partly to arrange for the safe guardianship of poor Maria
and her fortune.  An alteration in his will upon the death of one of the
trustees had been too long neglected, and perhaps some foreboding of the
impending malady had urged him at last to undertake what had been thus
deferred.  Each of the daughters was to have 10,000 pounds, the overplus
being divided between them and their eldest brother, who would succeed
both to the business, and on his mother's death to the Beauchamp estate,
while the younger had already received an ample portion as heir to his
uncle.  Mr. Fulmort, however, had proposed to place Robert on the same
footing with his sisters, and Sir Bevil had reason to think he had at
once acted on his design.  Such thorough forgiveness and approval went to
Robert's heart, and he could scarcely speak as he gave Phoebe the letter
to read.

When she could discuss it with him after her mother had fallen asleep for
the night, she found that his thoughts had taken a fresh turn.

'If it should be as Bevil supposes,' he said, 'it would make an infinite
difference.'  And after waiting for an answer only given by inquiring
looks, he continued--'As she is now, it would not be a violent change; I
do not think she would object to my present situation.'

'Oh, Robert, you will not expose yourself to be treated as before.'

'That would not be.  There was no want of attachment; merely
over-confidence in her own power.'

'Not _over_ confidence, it seems,' murmured Phoebe, not greatly charmed.

'I understood how it had been, when we were thrown together again,' he
pursued.  'There was no explanation, but it was far worse to bear than if
there had been.  I felt myself a perfect brute.'

'I beg your pardon if I can't be pleased just yet,' said Phoebe.  'You
know I did not see her, and I can't think she deserves it after so
wantonly grieving you, and still choosing to forsake Miss Charlecote.'

'For that I feel accountable,' said Robert, sadly.  'I cannot forget that
her determination coincided with the evening I made her aware of my
position.  I saw that in her face that has haunted me ever since.  I had
almost rather it had been resentment.'

'I hope she will make you happy,' said Phoebe, dolefully, thinking it a
pity he should be disturbed when settled in to his work, and forced by
experience to fear that Lucy would torment him.

'I do not do it for the sake of happiness,' he returned.  'I am not blind
to her faults; but she has a grand, generous character that deserves
patience and forbearance.  Besides, the past can never be cancelled, and
it is due to her to offer her whatever may be mine.  There may be storms,
but she has been disciplined, poor dear, and I am more sure of myself
than I was.  She _should_ conform, and my work should not be impeded.'

Grimly he continued to anticipate hurricanes for his wedded life, and to
demonstrate that he was swayed by justice and not by passion; but it was
suspicious that he recurred constantly to the topic, and seemed able to
dwell on no other.  If Phoebe could have been displeased with him, it
would have been for these reiterations at such a time.  Not having been
personally injured, she pardoned less than did either Robert or Miss
Charlecote; she could not foresee peace for her brother; and though she
might pity him for the compulsion of honour and generosity, she found
that his auguries were not intended to excite compassionate acquiescence,
but cheerful contradiction, such as both her good sense and her oppressed
spirits refused.  If he could talk about nothing better than Lucy when
alone with her, she could the less regret the rarity of these
opportunities.

The gentlemen of the family alone attended the funeral, the two elder
sisters remaining in town, whither their husbands were to return at
night.  Mrs. Fulmort remained in the same dreary state of heaviness, but
with some languid heed to the details, and interest in hearing from Maria
and Bertha, from behind the blinds, what carriages were at the door, and
who got into them.  Phoebe, with strong effort, then controlled her voice
to read aloud till her mother dozed as usual, and she could sit and think
until Robert knocked, to summon her to the reading of the will.  'You
must come,' he said; 'I know it jars, but it is Mervyn's wish, and he is
right.'  On the stairs Mervyn met her, took her from Robert, and led her
into the drawing-room, where she was kindly greeted by the
brothers-in-law, and seated beside her eldest brother.  As a duty, she
gave her attention, and was rewarded by finding that had he been living,
her hero, Mr. Charlecote, would have been her guardian.  The will, dated
fifteen years back, made Humfrey Charlecote, Esquire, trustee and
executor, jointly with James Crabbe, Esquire, the elderly lawyer at
present reading it aloud.  The intended codicil had never been executed.
Had any one looked at the downcast face, it would have been with wonder
at the glow of shy pleasure thrilling over cheeks and brow.

Beauchamp of course remained with the heiress, Mrs. Fulmort, to whom all
thereto appertaining was left; the distillery and all connected with it
descended to the eldest son, John Mervyn Fulmort; the younger children
received 10,000 pounds apiece, and the residue was to be equally divided
among all except the second son, Robert Mervyn Fulmort, who, having been
fully provided for, was only to receive some pictures and plate that had
belonged to his great uncle.

The lawyer ceased.  Sir Bevil leant towards him, and made an inquiry
which was answered by a sign in the negative.  Then taking up some
memoranda, Mr. Crabbe announced that as far as he could yet discover, the
brother and five sisters would divide about 120,000 pounds between them,
so that each of the ladies had 30,000 pounds of her own; and, bowing to
Phoebe, he requested her to consider him as her guardian.  The Admiral,
highly pleased, offered her his congratulations, and as soon as she could
escape she hastened away, followed by Robert.

'Never mind, Phoebe,' he said; taking her hand; 'the kindness and pardon
were the same, the intention as good as the deed, as far as _he_ was
concerned.  Perhaps you were right.  The other way might have proved a
stumbling-block.'  Speak as he would, he could not govern the tone of his
voice nor the quivering of his entire frame under the downfall of his
hopes.  Phoebe linked her arm in his, and took several turns in the
gallery with him.

'Oh, Robin, if I were but of age to divide with you!'

'No, Phoebe, that would be unfit for you and for me.  I am only where I
was before.  I knew I had had my portion.  I ought not to have
entertained hopes so unbefitting.  But oh, Phoebe! that she should be
cast about the world, fragile, sensitive as she is--'

Phoebe could have said that a home at the Holt was open to Lucilla; but
this might seem an unkind suggestion, and the same moment, Sir Bevil was
heard impetuously bounding up the stairs.  'Robert, where are you?' he
called from the end of the gallery.  'I never believed you could have
been so infamously treated.'

'Hush!' said Robert, shocked; 'I cannot hear this said.  You know it was
only want of time.'

'I am not talking of your father.  He would have done his best if he had
been allowed.  It is your brother!--his own confession, mind!  He boasted
just now that his father would have done it on the spot, but for his
interference, and expected thanks from all the rest of us for his care of
our interests.'

'What is the use of telling such things, Acton?' said Robert, forcing his
voice to calm rebuke, and grasping the baluster with an iron-like grip.

'The use!  To mark my detestation of such conduct!  I did my best to show
him what I thought of it; and I believe even Bannerman was astounded at
his coolness.  I'll take care the thing is made public!  I'll move heaven
and earth but I'll get you preferment that shall show how such treatment
is looked upon.'

'I beg you will do nothing of the kind!' exclaimed Robert.  'I am
heartily obliged to you, Acton.  You gained me the certainty of
forgiveness, without which I should have felt a curse on my work.  For
the rest, I complain of nothing.  I have had larger means than the
others.  I knew I was to look for no more.  I prefer my own cure to any
other; and reflection will show you that our family affairs are not to be
made public.'

'At any rate, your mother might do something.  Let me speak to her.
What, not now?  Then I will come down whenever Phoebe will summon me.'

'Not now, nor ever,' said Robert.  'Even if anything were in her power,
she could not understand; and she must not be harassed.'

'We will talk that over on our way to town,' said Sir Bevil.  'I start at
once.  I will not see that fellow again, nor, I should think, would you.'

'I stay till Saturday week.'

'You had better not.  You have been abominably treated; but this is no
time for collisions.  You agree with me, Phoebe; his absence would be the
wisest course.'

'Phoebe knows that annoyance between Mervyn and me is unhappily no
novelty.  We shall not revert to the subject, and I have reasons for
staying.'

'You need not fear,' said Phoebe; 'Robert always keeps his temper.'

'Or rather we have the safeguard of being both sullen, not hot,' said
Robert.  'Besides, Mervyn was right.  I have had my share, and have not
even the dignity of being injured.'

The need of cooling his partisan was the most effective means of blunting
the sharp edge of his own vexation.  Hearing Mervyn cross the hall, he
called to offer to take his share in some business which they had to
transact together.  'Wait a moment,' was the answer; and as Sir Bevil
muttered a vituperation of Mervyn's assurance, he said, decidedly, 'Now,
once for all, I desire that this matter be never again named between any
of us.  Let no one know what has taken place, and let us forget all but
that my father was in charity with me.'

It was more than Sir Bevil was with almost any one, and he continued to
pace the gallery with Phoebe, devising impossible schemes of compensation
until the moment of his departure for London.

Robert had not relied too much on his own forbearance.  Phoebe met her
two brothers at dinner--one gloomy, the other melancholy; but neither
altering his usual tone towards the other.  Unaware that Robert knew of
his father's designs, nor of their prevention, Mervyn was totally exempt
from compunction, thinking, indeed, that he had saved his father from
committing an injustice on the rest of the family, for the sake of a
fanatical tormentor, who had already had and thrown away more than his
share.  Subdued and saddened for the time, Mervyn was kind to Phoebe and
fairly civil to Robert, so that there were no disturbances to interfere
with the tranquil intercourse of the brother and sister in their walks in
the woods, their pacings of the gallery, or low-voiced conferences while
their mother dozed.

True to his resolve, Robert permitted no reference to his late hopes, but
recurred the more vigorously to his parish interests, as though he had
never thought of any wife save St. Matthew's Church.

Home affairs, too, were matters of anxious concern.  Without much sign of
sorrow, or even of comprehension of her loss, it had suddenly rendered
the widow an aged invalid.  The stimulus to exertion removed, there was
nothing to rouse her from the languid torpor of her nature, mental and
physical.  Invalid habits gave her sufficient occupation, and she showed
no preference for the company of any one except Phoebe or her maid, to
whose control her passive nature succumbed.  At Boodle's bidding, she
rose, dressed, ate, drank, and went to bed; at Phoebe's she saw her other
children, heard Robert read, or signed papers for Mervyn.  But each fresh
exertion cost much previous coaxing and subsequent plaintiveness; and
when Phoebe, anxious to rouse her, persuaded her to come down-stairs, her
tottering steps proved her feebleness; and though her sons showed her
every attention, she had not been in the drawing-room ten minutes before
a nervous trembling and faintness obliged them to carry her back to her
room.

The family apothecary, a kind old man, declared that there was nothing
seriously amiss, and that she would soon 'recover her tone.'  But it was
plain that much would fall on Phoebe, and Robert was uneasy at leaving
her with so little assistance or comfort at hand.  He even wrote to beg
his eldest sister to come for a few weeks till his mother's health should
be improved; but Sir Nicholas did not love the country in the winter, and
Augusta only talked of a visit in the spring.

Another vexation to Robert was the schoolroom.  During the last few
months Bertha had outgrown her childish distaste to study, and had
exerted her mind with as much eagerness as governess could desire; her
translations and compositions were wonders of ease and acuteness; she had
plunged into science, had no objection to mathematics, and by way of
recreation wandered in German metaphysics.  Miss Fennimore rather
discouraged this line, knowing how little useful brain exercise she
herself had derived from Kant and his compeers, but this check was all
that was wanting to give Bertha double zest, and she stunned Robert with
demonstrations about her 'I' and her 'not I,' and despised him for his
contempt of her grand discoveries.

He begged for a prohibition of the study, but Miss Fennimore thought this
would only lend it additional charms, and added that it was a field which
the intellect must explore for itself, and not take on the authority of
others.  When this answer was reported through Phoebe, Robert shrugged
his shoulders, alarmed at the hot-bed nurture of intellect and these
concessions to mental independence, only balanced by such loose and
speculative opinions as Miss Fennimore had lately manifested to him.
Decidedly, he said, there ought to be a change of governess and system.

But Phoebe, tears springing into her eyes, implored him not to press it.
She thoroughly loved her kind, clear-headed, conscientious friend, who
had assisted her so wisely and considerately through this time of
trouble, and knew how to manage Maria.  It was no time for a fresh
parting, and her mother was in no state to be harassed by alterations.
This Robert allowed with a sigh, though delay did not suit with his
stern, uncompromising youthfulness, and he went on to say, 'You will bear
it in mind, Phoebe.  There and elsewhere great changes are needed.  This
great, disorderly household is a heavy charge.  Acting for my mother, as
you will have to do, how are you to deal with the servants?'

'None of them come in my way, except dear old Lieschen, and Boodle, and
Mrs. Brisbane, and they are all kind and thoughtful.'

'Surface work, Phoebe.  Taking my mother's place, as you do now, you
will, or ought to, become aware of the great mischiefs below stairs, and
I trust you will be able to achieve a great reformation.'

'I hope--' Phoebe looked startled, and hesitated.  'Surely, Robert, you
do not think I ought to search after such things.  Would it be dutiful,
so young as I am?'

'Perhaps you are right,' said Robert; 'only, Phoebe, Phoebe, never let
toleration harden you to be indifferent to evil.'

'I hope not,' said Phoebe, gravely.

'My poor child, you are in for a world of perplexities!  I wish I had not
to leave you to them.'

'Every labyrinth has a clue,' said Phoebe, smiling; 'as Miss Fennimore
says when she gives us problems to work.  Only you know the terms of the
problem must be stated before the solution can be made out; so it is of
no use to put cases till we know all the terms.'

'Right, Phoebe.  Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.'

'I cannot see the evil yet,' said Phoebe; 'the trouble has brought so
much comfort.  That happy Sunday with you, and my own year of being with
them both, have been such blessings!  Last year, how much worse it would
have been for us all, when I scarcely knew mamma or Mervyn, and could not
go about alone nor to church!  And Miss Charlecote will soon come home.
There is so much cause for thankfulness, that I can't be afraid.'

Robert said no more, but felt that innocent buoyancy a mystery to his
lower-pitched spirit.  Never very gay or merry, Phoebe had a fund of
happiness and a power of finding and turning outwards the bright side,
which made her a most comfortable companion.



CHAPTER XV


    Happy are they that learn in Him,
       Though patient suffering teach
    The secret of enduring strength,
       And praise too deep for speech:
    _Peace_ that no pressure from without,
       No strife within can reach.--A. L. WARING

Well was it for Phoebe that she had been trained to monotony, for her
life was most uniform after Robert had left home.  Her schoolroom
mornings, her afternoons with her mother, her evenings with Mervyn, were
all so much alike that one week could hardly be distinguished from
another.  Bertha's vagaries and Mervyn's periodical journeys to London
were the chief varieties, certainly not her mother's plaintiveness, her
brother's discontent, or the sacrifice of her own inclinations, which
were pretty certain to be traversed, but then, as she said, something
else happened that did as well as what she had wished.

One day, when Mervyn had been hunting, and had come home tired, he
desired her to give him some music in the evening.  She took the
opportunity of going over some fine old airs, which the exigencies of
drawing-room display had prevented her from practising for some time.
Presently she found him standing by her, his face softer than usual.
'Where did you get that, Phoebe?'

'It is Haydn's.  I learnt it just after Miss Fennimore came.'

'Play it again; I have not heard it for years.'

She obeyed, and looked at him.  He was shading his face with his hand,
but he hardly spoke again all the rest of the evening.

Phoebe's curiosity was roused, and she tried the effect of the air on her
mother, whose great pleasure was her daughter's music, since a piano had
been moved into her dressing-room.  But it awoke no association there,
and 'Thank you, my dear,' was the only requital.

While the next evening she was wondering whether to volunteer it, Mervyn
begged for it, and as she finished, asked, 'What does old Gay say of my
mother now?'

'He thinks her decidedly better, and so I am sure she is.  She has more
appetite.  She really ate the breast of a partridge to-day!'

'He says nothing of a change?'

'She could not bear the journey.'

'It strikes me that she wants rousing.  Shut up in a great lonely house
like this, she has nothing cheerful to look at.  She would be much better
off at Brighton, or some of those places where she could see people from
the windows, and have plenty of twaddling old dowager society.'

'I did ask Mr. Gay about the sea, but he thought the fatigue of the
journey, and the vexing her by persuading her to take it, would do more
harm than the change would do good.'

'I did not mean only as a change.  I believe she would be much happier
living there, with this great place off her hands.  It is enough to
depress any one's spirits to live in a corner like a shrivelled kernel in
a nut.'

'Go away!' exclaimed Phoebe.  'Mervyn! it is her home!  It is her own!'

'Well, I never said otherwise,' he answered, rather crossly; 'but you
know very well that it is a farce to talk of her managing the house, or
the estate either.  It was bad enough before, but there will be no check
on any one now.'

'I thought you looked after things.'

'Am I to spend my life as a steward?  No, if the work is to be in my
hands, I ought to be in possession at once, so as to take my place in the
county as I ought, and cut the City business.  The place is a mere
misfortune and encumbrance to her as she is, and she would be ten times
happier at a watering-place.'

'Mervyn, what do you mean?  You have all the power and consequence here,
and are fully master of all; but why should not poor mamma live in her
own house?'

'Can't you conceive that a man may have reasons for wishing to be put in
possession of the family place when he can enjoy it, and she can't?
Don't look at me with that ridiculous face.  I mean to marry.  Now, can't
you see that I may want the house to myself?'

'You are engaged!'

'Not exactly.  I am waiting to see my way through the bother.'

'Who is it?  Tell me about it, Mervyn.'

'I don't mind telling you, but for your life don't say a word to any one.
I would never forgive you, if you set my Ladies Bannerman and Acton at
me.'

Phoebe was alarmed.  She had little hope that their likings would
coincide; his manner indicated defiance of opinion, and she could not but
be averse to a person for whose sake he wished to turn them out.  'Well,'
was all she could say, and he proceeded: 'I suppose you never heard of
Cecily Raymond.'

'Of Moorcroft?' she asked, breathing more freely.  'Sir John's daughter?'

'No, his niece.  It is a spooney thing to take up with one's tutor's
daughter, but it can't be helped.  I've tried to put her out of my head,
and enter on a more profitable speculation, but it won't work!'

'Is she very pretty--prettier than Lucilla Sandbrook?' asked Phoebe,
unable to believe that any other inducement could attach him.

'Not what you would call pretty at all, except her eyes.  Not a bit fit
to make a figure in the world, and a regular little parsoness.  That's
the deuce of it.  It would be mere misery to her to be taken to London
and made to go into society; so I want to have it settled, for if she
could come here and go poking into cottages and schools, she would want
nothing more.'

'Then she is very good?'

'You and she will be devoted to each other.  And you'll stand up for her,
I know, and then a fig for their two ladyships.  You and I can be a match
for Juliana, if she tries to bully my mother.  Not that it matters.  I am
my own man now; but Cecily is crotchety, and must not be distressed.'

'Then I am sure she would not like to turn mamma out,' said Phoebe,
stoutly.

'Don't you see that is the reason I want to have it settled beforehand.
If she were a party to it, she would never consent; she would be
confoundedly scrupulous, and we should be all worried to death.  Come,
you just sound my mother; you can do anything with her, and it will be
better for you all.  You will be bored to death here, seeing no one.'

'I do not know whether it be a right proposal to make.'

'Right?  If the place had been my father's, it would be a matter of
course.'

'That makes the whole difference.  And even so, would not this be very
soon?'

'Of course you know I am proposing nothing at once.  It would not be
decent, I suppose, to marry within the half-year; but, poor little thing,
I can't leave her in suspense any longer.  You should not have played
that thing.'

'Then you know that she cares for you?'

He laughed consciously at this home question.

'It must be a long time since you were at Mr. Raymond's.'

'Eight years; but I have made flying visits there since, and met her at
her uncle's.  Poor little thing, she was horribly gone off last time, and
very ungracious, but we will find a remedy!'

'Then you could not gain consent to it?'

'It never came to that.  I never committed myself.'

'But why not?  If she was so good, and you liked her, and they all wanted
you to marry, I can't see why you waited, if you knew, too, that she
liked you--I don't think it was kind, Mervyn.'

'Ah! women always hang by one another.  See here, Phoebe, it began when I
was as green as yourself, a mere urchin, and she a little unconscious
thing of the same age.  Well, when I got away, I saw what a folly it
was--a mere throwing myself away!  I might have gone in for rank or
fortune, as I liked; and how did I know that I was such a fool that I
could not forget her?  If Charles Charteris had not monopolized the
Jewess, I should have been done for long ago!  And apart from that, I
wasn't ready for domestic joys, especially to be Darby to such a pattern
little Joan, who would think me on the highway to perdition if she saw
_Bell's Life_ on the table, or heard me bet a pair of gloves.'

'You can't have any affection for her,' cried Phoebe, indignantly.

'Didn't I tell you she spoilt the taste of every other transaction of the
sort?  And what am I going to do now?  When she has not a halfpenny, and
I might marry anybody!'

'If you cared for her properly, you would have done it long before.'

'I'm a dutiful son,' he answered, in an indifferent voice, that provoked
Phoebe to say with spirit, 'I hope she does not care for you, after all.'

'Past praying for, kind sister.  Sincerely I've been sorry for it; I
would have disbelieved it, but the more she turns away, the better I know
it; so you see, after all, I shall deserve to be ranked with your hero,
Bevil Acton.'

'Mervyn, you make me so angry that I can hardly answer!  You boast of
what you think she has suffered for you all this time, and make light of
it!'

'It wasn't my fault if my poor father would send such an amiable youth
into a large family.  Men with daughters should not take pupils.  I did
my best to cure both her and myself, but I had better have fought it out
at once when she was younger and prettier, and might have been more
conformable, and not so countrified, as you'll grow, Phoebe, if you stay
rusting here, nursing my mother and reading philosophy with Miss
Fennimore.  If you set up to scold me, you had better make things easy
for me.'

Phoebe thought for a few moments, and then said, 'I see plainly what you
ought to do, but I cannot understand that this makes it proper to ask my
mother to give up her own house, that she was born to.  I suppose you
would call it childish to propose your living with us; but we could
almost form two establishments.'

'My dear child, Cecily would go and devote herself to my mother.  I
should never have any good out of her, and she would get saddled for life
with Maria.'

'Maria is my charge,' said Phoebe, coldly.

'And what will your husband say to that?'

'He shall never be my husband unless I have the means of making her
happy.'

'Ay, there would be a frenzy of mutual generosity, and she would be left
to us.  No; I'm not going to set up housekeeping with Maria for an
ingredient.'

'There is the Underwood.'

'Designed by nature for a dowager-house.  That would do very well for you
and my mother, though Cheltenham or Brighton might be better.  Yes, it
might do.  You would be half a mile nearer your dear Miss Charlecote.'

'Thank you,' said Phoebe, a little sarcastically; but repenting she
added, 'Mervyn, I hope I do not seem unkind and selfish; but I think we
ought to consider mamma, as she cannot stand up for herself just now.  It
is not unlikely that when mamma hears you are engaged, and has seen and
grown fond of Miss Raymond, she may think herself of giving up this
place; but it ought to begin from her, not from you; and as things are
now, I could not think of saying anything about it.  From what you tell
me of Miss Raymond, I don't think she would be the less likely to take
you without Beauchamp than with it; indeed, I think you must want it less
for her sake than your own.'

'Upon my word, Mrs. Phoebe, you are a cool hand!' exclaimed Mervyn,
laughing; 'but you promise to see what can be done as soon as I've got my
hand into the matter.'

'I promise nothing,' said Phoebe; 'I hope it will be settled without me,
for I do not know what would be the most right or most kind, but it may
be plainer when the time comes, and she, who is so good, will be sure to
know.  O Mervyn, I am very glad of that!'

Phoebe sought the west wing in such a tingle of emotion that she only
gave Miss Fennimore a brief good night instead of lingering to talk over
the day.  Indignation was foremost.  After destroying Robert's hopes for
life, here was Mervyn accepting wedded happiness as a right, and after
having knowingly trifled with a loving heart for all these years, coolly
deigning to pick it up, and making terms to secure his own consequence
and freedom from all natural duties, and to thrust his widowed mother
from her own home.  It was Phoebe's first taste of the lesson so bitter
to many, that her parents' home was not her own for life, and the
expulsion seemed to her so dreadful that she rebuked herself for personal
feeling in her resentment, and it was with a sort of horror that she
bethought herself that her mother might possibly prefer a watering-place
life, and that it would then be her part to submit cheerfully.  Poor Miss
Charlecote! would not she miss her little moonbeam?  Yes, but if this
Cecily were so good, she would make up to her.  The pang of suffering and
dislike quite startled Phoebe.  She knew it for jealousy, and hid her
face in prayer.

The next day was Sunday, and Mervyn made the unprecedented exertion of
going twice to church, observing that he was getting into training.  He
spent the evening in dwelling on Cecily Raymond, who seemed to have been
the cheerful guardian elder sister of a large family in narrow
circumstances, and as great a contrast to Mervyn himself as was poor
Lucilla to Robert; her homeliness and seriousness being as great
hindrances to the elder brother, as fashion and levity to the younger.
It was as if each were attracted by the indefinable essence, apart from
all qualities, that constitutes the self; and Haydn's air, learnt long
ago by Cecily as a surprise to her father on his birthday, had evoked
such a healthy shoot of love within the last twenty-four hours, that
Mervyn was quite transformed, though still rather unsuitably sensible of
his own sacrifice, and of the favour he was about to confer on Cecily in
entering on that inevitable period when he must cease to be a gentleman
at large.

On Monday he came down to breakfast ready for a journey, as Phoebe
concluded, to London.  She asked if he would return by the next hunting
day.  He answered vaguely, then rousing himself, said, 'I say, Phoebe,
you must write her a cordial sisterly sort of letter, you know; and you
might make Bertha do it too, for nobody else will.'

'I wrote to Juliana on Friday.'

'Juliana!  Are you mad?'

'Oh! Miss Raymond!  But you told me you had said nothing!  You have not
had time since Friday night to get an answer.'

'Foolish child, no; but I shall be there to-night or to-morrow.'

'You are going to Sutton?'

'Yes; and, as I told you, I trust to you to write such a letter as to
make her feel comfortable.  Well, what's the use of having a governess,
if you don't know how to write a letter?'

'Yes, Mervyn, I'll write, only I must hear from you first.'

'I hate writing.  I tell you, if you write--let me see, on Wednesday, you
may be sure it is all over.'

'No, Mervyn, I will not be so impertinent,' said Phoebe, and the colour
rushed into her face as she recollected the offence that she had once
given by manifesting a brother's security of being beloved.  'It would be
insulting her to assume that she had accepted you, and write before I
knew, especially after the way you have been using her.'

'Pshaw! she will only want a word of kindness; but if you are so
fanciful, will it do if I put a cover in the post?  There! and when you
get it on Wednesday morning, you write straight off to Cecily, and when
you have got the notion into my mother's understanding, you may write to
me, and tell me what chance there is of Beauchamp.'

What chance of Beauchamp!  The words made Phoebe's honest brow contract
as she stood by the chimney-piece, while her brother went out into the
hall.  'That's all he cares for,' she thought.  'Poor mamma!  But, oh!
how unkind.  I am sending him away without one kind wish, and she must be
good--so much better than I could have hoped!'

Out she ran, and as he paused to kiss her bright cheek, she whispered,
'Good-bye, Mervyn; good speed.  I shall watch for your cover.'

She received another kiss for those words, and they had been an effort,
for those designs on Beauchamp weighed heavily on her, and the two tasks
that were left to her were not congenial.  She did not know how to
welcome a strange sister, for whose sake the last of the Mervyns was
grudged her own inheritance, and still less did she feel disposed to
harass her mother with a new idea, which would involve her in
bewilderment and discussion.  She could only hope that there would be
inspiration in Mervyn's blank cover, and suppress her fever for suspense.

Wednesday came--no cover, blank or unblank.  Had he been taken with a fit
of diffidence, and been less precipitate than he intended?  Womanhood
hoped so, and rather enjoyed the possibility of his being kept a little
in suspense.  Or suppose he had forgotten his cover, and then should
think the absence of a letter her fault?  Thursday--still no tidings.
Should she venture a letter to him?  No; lovers were inexplicable people,
and after all, what could she say?  Perhaps he was only waiting for an
opportunity, and if Cecily had been ungracious at the last meeting, she
might not afford one.  Day after day wore on, and still the post-bag was
emptied in vain, and Phoebe's patience was kept on tenterhooks, till,
when a full fortnight had passed, she learnt through the servants that
Mr. Mervyn's wardrobe and valet, grooms and horses, had been sent for to
London.

So he had been refused, and could not bear to tell her so!  And here she
was disappointed and pitying, and as vexed with Miss Raymond as if it had
not been no more than he deserved.  But poor Mervyn! he had expected it
so little, and had been so really attached, that Phoebe was heartily
grieved for him, and longed to know how he bore it.  Nay, with all the
danger of removal, the flatness of the balked excitement was personally
felt, and Phoebe would have been glad, in her monotonous life, of
something to hope or to fear.

Her greatest pleasure was in Miss Charlecote's return.  The long watch
over her old friend was over.  Honor had shared his wife's cares,
comforted and supported her in her sorrow, and had not left her till the
move from her parsonage was made, and she was settled among her own
relations.  Much as Honor had longed to be with Phoebe, the Savilles had
nearer claims, and she could not part with them while there was any need
of her.  Indeed, Mr. Saville, as once the husband of Sarah Charlecote,
the brother-in-law of Humfrey, and her own friend and adviser, was much
esteemed and greatly missed.  She felt as if her own generation were
passing away, when she returned to see the hatchment upon Beauchamp, and
to hear of the widow's failing health.  Knowing how closely Phoebe was
attending her mother, Honor drove to Beauchamp the first day after her
return, and had not crossed the hall before the slender black figure was
in her arms.

Friends seem as though they must meet to know one another again, and
begin afresh, after one of the great sorrows of life has fallen on either
side, and especially when it is a first grief, a first taste of that cup
of which all must drink.  As much of the child as could pass from
Phoebe's sweet, simple nature had passed in those hours that had made her
the protector and nurse of her mother, and though her open eyes were
limpid and happy as before, and the contour of the rounded cheek and lip
as youthful and innocent, yet the soft gravity of the countenance was
deepened, and there was a pensiveness on the brow, as though life had
begun to unfold more difficulties than pleasures.

And Honor Charlecote?  That ruddy golden hair, once Owen's pride, was
mingled with many a silvery thread, and folded smoothly on a forehead
paler, older, but calmer than once it had been.  Sorrow and desertion had
cut deeply, and worn down the fair comeliness of heathful middle age; but
something of compensation there was in the less anxious eye, from which
had passed a certain restless, strained expression; and if the face were
more habitually sad, it was more peaceful.  She did not love less those
whom she 'had seen,' but He whom she 'had not seen' had become her rest
and her reliance, and in her year of loneliness and darkness, a trust, a
support, a confiding joy had sprung up, such as she had before believed
in, but never experienced.  'Her Best, her All;' those had been words of
devotional aspiration before, they were realities at last.  And it was
that peace that breathed into her fresh energy to work and love on,
unwearied by disappointment, but with renewed willingness to spend and be
spent, to rejoice with those who rejoiced, to weep with them that wept,
to pray and hope for those who had wrung her heart.

Her tears were flowing as she tenderly embraced Phoebe, and the girl
clung fast to her, not weeping, but full of warm, sweet emotion.  'Dear
Miss Charlecote, now you are come, I have help and comfort!'

'Dear one, I have grieved to be away, but I could not leave poor Mrs.
Saville.'

'Indeed, I know you could not; and it is better to have you now than even
at the time.  It is a new, fresh pleasure, when I can enjoy it better.
And I feel as if we had a right to you now--since you know what I told
you,' said Phoebe, with her pretty, shy, lover-like colouring.

'That you are Humfrey's ward?--my legacy from him?  Good!' said Honora,
ratifying the inheritance with a caress, doubly precious to one so seldom
fondled.  'Though I am afraid,' she added, 'that Mr. Crabbe would not
exactly recognize my claim.'

'Oh, I don't want you for what Mr. Crabbe can do for us, but it does make
me feel right and at ease in telling you of what might otherwise seem too
near home.  But he was intended to have taken care of us all, and you
always seem to me one with him--'

Phoebe stopped short, startled at the deep, bright, girlish blush on her
friend's cheek, and fearing to have said what she ought not; but Honor,
recovering in a moment, gave a strange bright smile and tightly squeezed
her hand.  'One with him!  Dear Phoebe, thank you.  It was the most
undeserved, unrequited honour of my life that he would have had it so.
Yes, I see how you look at me in wonder, but it was my misfortune not to
know on whom or what to set my affections till too late.  No; don't try
to repent of your words.  They are a great pleasure to me, and I delight
to include you in the charges I had from him--the nice children he liked
to meet in the woods.'

'Ah! I wish I could remember those meetings.  Robert does, and I do
believe Robert's first beginning of love and respect for what was good
was connected with his fondness for Mr. Charlecote.'

'I always regard Bertha as a godchild inherited from him, like Charlecote
Raymond, whom I saw ordained last week.  I could not help going out of my
way when I found I might be present, and take his sister Susan with me.'

'You went.'

'Yes, Susan had been staying with her uncle at Sutton, and met me at
Oxford.  I am glad we were able to go.  There was nothing that I more
wished to have seen.'

Irrepressible curiosity could not but cause Phoebe to ask how lately Miss
Raymond had been at Sutton, and as Miss Charlecote answered the question
she looked inquisitively at her young friend, and each felt that the
other was initiated.  Whether the cousin ought to have confided to Miss
Charlecote what she had witnessed at Sutton was an open question, but at
least Honor knew what Phoebe burnt to learn, and was ready to detail it.

It was the old story of the parish priest taking pupils, and by dire
necessity only half fulfilling conflicting duties, to the sacrifice of
the good of all.  Overworked between pupils and flock, while his wife was
fully engrossed by children and household cares, the moment had not been
perceived when their daughter became a woman, and the pupil's sport grew
to earnest.  Not till Mervyn Fulmort had left Sutton for the University
were they aware that he had treated Cecily as the object of his
affection, and had promised to seek her as soon as he should be his own
master.  How much was in his power they knew not, but his way of life
soon proved him careless of deserving her, and it was then that she
became staid and careworn, and her youth had lost its bloom, while forced
in conscience to condemn the companion of her girlhood, yet unable to
take back the heart once bestowed, though so long neglected.

But when Mervyn, declaring himself only set at liberty by his father's
death, appeared at Sutton, Cecily did not waver, and her parents upheld
her decision, that it would be a sin to unite herself to an irreligious
man, and that the absence of principle which he had shown made it
impossible for her to accept him.

Susan described her as going about the next morning looking as though
some one had been killing her, but going through her duties as calmly and
gently as ever, though preyed on by the misery of the parting in anger,
and the threat that if he were not good enough for her, he would give her
reason to think so!  Honor had pity on the sister, and spared her those
words, but Phoebe had well-nigh guessed them, and though she might esteem
Cecily Raymond, could not but say mournfully that it was a last chance
flung away.

'Not so, my dear.  What is right comes right.  A regular life without
repentance is sometimes a more hopeless state than a wilder course, and
this rejection may do him more good than acceptance.'

'It is right, I know,' said Phoebe.  'I could advise no one to take poor
Mervyn; but surely it is not wrong to be sorry for him.'

'No, indeed, dear child.  It is only the angels who do not mourn, though
they rejoice.  I sometimes wonder whether those who are forgiven, yet
have left evil behind them on earth, are purified by being shown their
own errors reduplicating with time and numbers.'

'Dear Miss Charlecote, do not say so.  Once pardoned, surely fully
sheltered, and with no more punishment!'

'Vain speculation, indeed,' answered Honor.  'Yet I cannot help thinking
of the welcome there must be when those who have been left in doubt and
fear or shipwreck come safely into haven; above all, for those who here
may not have been able to "fetch home their banished."'

Phoebe pressed her hand, and spoke of trying whether mamma would see her.

'Ah!' thought Honora, 'neither of us can give perfect sympathy.  And it
is well.  Had my short-sighted wish taken effect, that sweet face might
be clouded by such grief as poor Cecily Raymond's.'

Mrs. Fulmort did see Miss Charlecote, and though speaking little herself,
was gratified by the visit, and the voices talking before her gave her a
sense of sociability.  This preference enabled Phoebe to enjoy a good
deal of quiet conversation with her friend, and Honora made a point of
being at Beauchamp twice or three times a week, as giving the only
variety that could there be enjoyed.  Of Mervyn nothing was heard, and
house and property wanted a head.  Matters came to poor Mrs. Fulmort for
decision which were unheard-of mysteries and distresses to her, even when
Phoebe, instructed by the steward, did her utmost to explain, and tell
her what to do.  It would end by feeble, bewildered looks, and tears
starting on the pale cheeks, and 'I don't know, my dear.  It goes through
my head.  Your poor papa attended to those things.  I wish your brother
would come home.  Tell them to write to him.'

'They' wrote, and Phoebe wrote, but in vain, no answer came; and when she
wrote to Robert for tidings of Mervyn's movements, entreating that he
would extract a reply, he answered that he could tell nothing
satisfactory of his brother, and did not know whether he were in town or
not; while as to advising his mother on business, he should only make
mischief by so doing.

Nothing satisfactory!  What could that imply?  Phoebe expected soon to
hear something positive, for Bertha's teeth required a visit to London,
and Miss Fennimore was to take her to Lady Bannerman's for a week, during
which the governess would be with some relations of her own.

Phoebe talked of the snugness of being alone with her mother and Maria,
and she succeeded in keeping both pleased with one another.  The sisters
walked in the park, and brought home primroses and periwinkles, which
their mother tenderly handled, naming the copses they came from, well
known to her in childhood, though since her marriage she had been too
grand to be allowed the sight of a wild periwinkle.  In the evening
Phoebe gave them music, sang infant-school hymns with Maria, tried to
teach her piquet; and perceived the difference that the absence of
Bertha's teasing made in the poor girl's temper.  All was very quiet, but
when good night was said, Phoebe felt wearied out, and chid herself for
her accesses of yawning, nay, she was shocked at her feeling of
disappointment and tedium when the return of the travellers was delayed
for a couple of days.

When at length they came, the variety brightened even Mrs. Fulmort, and
she was almost loquacious about some mourning pocket-handkerchiefs with
chess-board borders, that they were to bring.  The girls all drank tea
with her, Bertha pouring out a whole flood of chatter in unrestraint, for
she regarded her mother as nobody, and loved to astonish her sisters, so
on she went, a slight hitch in her speech giving a sort of piquancy to
her manner.

She had dined late every day, she had ridden with Sir Bevil in the Park,
her curly hair had been thought to be _crepe_, she had drunk champagne,
she would have gone to the Opera, but the Actons were particular, and
said it was too soon--so tiresome, one couldn't do anything for this
mourning.  Phoebe, in an admonitory tone, suggested that she had seen the
British Museum.

'Oh yes, I have it all in my note-book.  Only imagine, Phoebe, Sir
Nicholas had been at Athens, and knew nothing about the Parthenon!  And,
gourmet as he is, and so long in the Mediterranean, he had no idea
whether the Spartan black broth was made with sepia.'

'My dear,' began her mother, 'young ladies do not talk learning in
society.'

'Such a simple thing as this, mamma, every one must know.  But they are
all so unintellectual!  Not a book about the Bannermans' house except
Soyer and the London Directory, and even Bevil had never read the _Old
Red Sandstone_ nor Sir Charles Lyell.  I have no opinion of the science
of soldiers or sailors.'

'You have told us nothing of Juliana's baby,' interposed Phoebe.

'She's exactly like the Goddess Pasht, in the Sydenham Palace!  Juliana
does not like her a bit, because she is only a girl, and Bevil quite
worships her.  Everything one of them likes, the other hates.  They are a
study of the science of antipathies.'

'You should not fancy things, Bertha.'

'It is no fancy; every one is observing it.  Augusta says she has only
twice found them together in their own house since Christmas, and Mervyn
says it is a warning against virulent constancy.'

'Then you saw Mervyn?' anxiously asked Phoebe.

'Only twice.  He is at deadly feud with the Actons, because Bevil takes
Robert's part, and has been lecturing him about the withdrawing all the
subscriptions!'

'What?' asked Phoebe again.

'Oh! I thought Robert told you all, but there has been such a row!  I
believe poor papa said something about letting Robert have an evening
school for the boys and young men at the distillery, but when he claimed
it, Mervyn said he knew nothing about it, and wouldn't hear of it, and
got affronted, so he withdrew all the subscriptions from the charities
and everything else, and the boys have been mobbing the clergy, and
Juliana says it is all Robert's fault.'

'And did you see Robert?'

'Very little.  No one would come to such an old fogy's as Sir Nicholas,
that could help it.'

'Bertha, my dear, young ladies do not use such words,' observed her
mother.

'Oh, mamma, you are quite behindhand.  Slang is the thing.  I see my line
when I come out.  It would not do for you, Phoebe--not your style--but I
shall sport it when I come out and go to the Actons.  I shall go out with
them.  Augusta is too slow, and lives with nothing but old admirals and
_gourmands_; but I'll always go to Juliana for the season, Phoebe, wear
my hair in the Eugenie style, and be piquante.'

'Perhaps things will be altered by that time.'

'Oh no.  There will be no retrograde movement.  Highly educated women
have acquired such a footing that they may do what they please.'

'Are we highly educated women?' asked Maria.

'I am sure you ought to be, my dear.  Nothing was grudged for your
education,' said her mother.

'Well, then, I'll always play at bagatelle, and have a German band at the
door,' quoth Maria, conclusively.

'Did you go to St. Matthew's?' again interrupted Phoebe.

'Yes, Bevil took me.  It is the oddest place.  A white brick wall with a
red cross built into it over the gate, and the threshold is just a step
back four or five hundred years.  A court with buildings all round,
church, schools, and the curates' rooms.  Such a sitting-room; the floor
matted, and a great oak table, with benches, where they all dine,
schoolmaster, and orphan boys, and all, and the best boy out of each
class.'

'It is a common room, like one at a college,' explained Phoebe.  'Robert
has his own rooms besides.'

'Such a hole!' continued Bertha.  'It is the worst of all the curates'
sitting-rooms, looking out into the nastiest little alley.  It was a
shame he did not have the first choice, when it is all his own.'

'Perhaps that is the reason he took the worst,' said Phoebe.

'A study in extremes,' said Bertha.  'Their dinner was our luncheon--the
very plainest boiled beef, the liquor given away and at dinner, at the
Bannermans', there were more fine things than Bevil said he could
appreciate, and Augusta looking like a full-blown dahlia.  I was always
wanting to stick pins into her arms, to see how far in the bones are.  I
am sure I could bury the heads.'

Here, seeing her mother look exhausted, Phoebe thought it wise to clear
the room; and after waiting a few minutes to soothe her, left her to her
maid.  Bertha had waited for her sister, and clinging round her, said,
'Well, Phoebe, aren't you glad of us?  Have you seen a living creature?'

'Miss Charlecote twice, Mr. Henderson once, besides all the congregation
on Sunday.'

'Matter-of-fact Phoebe!  Perhaps you can bear it, but does not your mind
ache, as if it had been held down all this time?'

'So that it can't expand to your grand intellect?' said Phoebe.

'It is no great self-conceit to hope one is better company than Maria!
But come, before we fall under the dominion of the Queen of the West
Wing, I have a secret for you.'  Then, after a longer stammer than usual,
'How should you like a French sister-in-law?'

'Nonsense, Bertha!'

'Ah! you've not had my opportunities.  I've seen her--both of them.
Juliana says the mother is his object; Augusta, the daughter.  The mother
is much the most brilliant; but then she has a husband--a mere matter of
faith, for no one ever sees him.  Mervyn is going to follow them to
Paris, that's certain, as soon as the Epsom day is over.'

'You saw them!'

'Only in the Park--oh, no! not in a room!  Their ladyships would never
call on Madame la Marquise; she is not received, you know.  I heard the
sisters talk it all over when they fancied me reading, and wonder what
they should do if it should turn out to be the daughter.  But then
Juliana thinks Mervyn might never bring her home, for he is going on at
such a tremendous rate, that it is the luckiest thing our fortunes do not
depend on the business.'

Phoebe looked quite appalled as she entered the schoolroom, not only at
Mervyn's fulfilment of his threat, but at Bertha's flippancy and
shrewdness.  Hitherto she had been kept ignorant of evil, save what
history and her own heart could tell her.  But these ten days had been
spent in so eagerly studying the world, that her girlish chatter was
fearfully precocious.

'A little edged tool,' said Miss Fennimore, when she talked her over
afterwards with Phoebe.  'I wish I could have been with her at Lady
Bannerman's.  It is an unsafe age for a glimpse of the world.'

'I hope it may soon be forgotten.'

'It will never be forgotten' said Miss Fennimore.  'With so strong a
relish for society, such keen satire, and reasoning power so much
developed, I believe nothing but the devotional principle could subdue
her enough to make her a well-balanced woman.  How is that to be
infused?--that is the question.'

'It is, indeed.'

'I believe,' pursued the governess, 'that devotional temper is in most
cases dependent upon uncomprising, exclusive faith.  I have sometimes
wondered whether Bertha, coming into my hands so young as she did, can
have imbibed my distaste to dogma; though, as you know, I have made a
point of non-interference.'

'I should shudder to think of any doubts in poor little Bertha's mind,'
said Phoebe.  'I believe it is rather that she does not think about the
matter.'

'I will read Butler's _Analogy_ with her,' exclaimed Miss Fennimore.  'I
read it long ago, and shall be glad to satisfy my own mind by going over
it again.  It is full time to endeavour to form and deepen Bertha's
convictions.'

'I suppose,' said Phoebe, almost to herself, 'that all naughtiness is the
want of living faith--'

But Miss Fennimore, instead of answering, had gone to another subject.

'I have seen St. Matthew's, Phoebe.'

'And Robert?' cried Phoebe.  'Bertha did not say you were with her.'

'I went alone.  No doubt your brother found me a great infliction; but he
was most kind, and showed me everything.  I consider that establishment a
great fact.'

Phoebe showed her gratification.

'I heard him preach,' continued Miss Fennimore.  'His was a careful and
able composition, but it was his sermon in brick and stone that most
impressed me.  Such actions only arise out of strong conviction.  Now,
the work of a conviction may be only a proof of the force of the will
that held it; and thus the effect should not establish the cause.  But
when I see a young man, brought up as your brother has been, throwing
himself with such energy, self-denial, and courage into a task so
laborious and obscure, I must own that, such is the construction of the
human mind, I am led to reconsider the train of reasoning that has led to
such results.'

And Miss Fennimore's sincere admiration of Robert was Phoebe's one item
of comfort.

Gladly she shared it with Miss Charlecote, who, on her side, knew more
than she told Phoebe of the persecution that Robert was undergoing from a
vestry notoriously under the influence of the Fulmort firm, whose
interest it was to promote the vice that he came to withstand.  Even the
lads employed in the distillery knew that they gratified their employer
by outrages on the clergy and their adherents, and there had been moments
when Robert had been exposed to absolute personal danger, by mobs
stimulated in the gin-shops; their violence against his attacks on their
vicious practices being veiled by a furious party outcry against his
religious opinions.  He meanwhile set his face like a rock, and strong,
resolute, and brave, went his own way, so unmoved as apparently almost to
prefer his own antagonistic attitude, and bidding fair to weary out his
enemies by his coolness, or to disarm them by the charities of which St.
Matthew's was the centre.

As Phoebe never read the papers, and was secluded from the world's
gossip, it was needless to distress her with the knowledge of the
malignity of the one brother, or the trials of the other; so Honor obeyed
Robert by absolute silence on this head.  She herself gave her influence,
her counsel, her encouragement, and, above all, her prayers, to uphold
the youth who was realizing the dreams of her girlhood.

It might be that the impress of those very dreams had formed the
character she was admiring.  Many a weak and fragile substance, moulded
in its softness to a noble shape, has given a clear and lasting impress
to a firm and durable material, either in the heat of the furnace, or the
ductility of growth.  So Robert and Phoebe, children of the heart that
had lost those of her adoption, cheered these lonely days by their need
of her advice and sympathy.

Nor was she without tasks at home.  Mr. Henderson, the vicar, was a very
old man, and was constantly growing more feeble and unequal to exertion.
He had been appointed by the squire before last, and had the indolent
conservative orthodoxy of the old school, regarding activity as a
perilous innovation, and resisting all Miss Charlecote's endeavours at
progress in the parish.  She had had long patience, till, when his
strength failed, she ventured to entreat him to allow her to undertake
the stipend of a curate, but this was rejected with displeasure, and she
was forced to redouble her own exertions; but neither reading to the
sick, visiting the cottages, teaching at school, nor even setting up a
night-school in her own hall, availed to supply the want of an active
pastor and of a resident magistrate.

Hiltonbury was in danger of losing its reputation as a pattern parish,
which it had retained long after the death of him who had made it so.
The younger race who had since grown up were not such as their fathers
had been, and the disorderly household at Beauchamp had done mischief.
The primitive manners, the simplicity, and feudal feeling were wearing
off, and poor Honor found the whole charge laid to her few modern steps
in education!  If Hiltonbury were better than many of the neighbouring
places, yet it was not what it had been when she first had known it, and
she vexed herself in the attempt to understand whether the times or
herself were the cause.

Even her old bailiff, Brooks, did not second her.  He had more than come
to the term of service at which the servant becomes a master, and had no
idea of obeying her, when he thought he knew best.  Backward as were her
notions of modern farming, they were too advanced for him, and either he
would not act on them at all, or was resolved against their success when
coerced.  There was no dismissing him, and without Mr. Saville to come
and enforce her authority, Honor found the old man so stubborn that she
had nearly given up the contest, except where the welfare of men, not of
crops, was concerned.

A maiden's reign is a dreary thing, when she tends towards age.  And
Honor often felt what it would have been to have had Owen to back her up,
and infuse new spirit and vigour.

The surly ploughboy, who omitted to touch his cap to the lady, little
imagined the train of painful reflections roused by this small indication
of the altering spirit of the place!



CHAPTER XVI


    Even in our ashes glow the wonted fires.--GRAY

'My dear, I did not like the voice that I heard just now.'

'I am sure I was not out of temper.'

'Indeed?'

'Well, I am sure any one would be vexed.'

'Cannot you tell me what was the matter without being sure so often?'

'I am sure--there, mamma, I beg your pardon--I am sure I did not mean to
complain.'

'Only, Sarah, neither your voice has such a ring, nor are you so sure,
when nothing has gone wrong.  What was it?'

'It is that photography, mamma.  Miss Sandbrook is so busy with it!  I
could not copy in my translation that I did yesterday, because she had
not looked over it, and when she said she was coming presently, I am
afraid I said it was always presently and never present.  I believe I did
say it crossly, and I am sorry I denied it,' and poor Sarah's voice was
low and meek enough.

'Coming?  Where is she?'

'In the dark chamber, doing a positive of the Cathedral.'

Mrs. Prendergast entered the schoolroom, outside which she had been
holding this colloquy.  The powerful sun of high summer was filling the
room with barred light through the Venetian blinds, and revealing a
rather confused mass of the appliances of study, interspersed with
saucers of water in which were bathing paper photographs, and every shelf
of books had a fringe of others on glass set up to dry.  On the table lay
a paper of hooks, a three-tailed artificial minnow, and another partly
clothed with silver twist, a fly-book, and a quantity of feathers and
silks.

'I must tell Francis that the schoolroom is no place for his
fishing-tackle!' exclaimed Mrs. Prendergast.

'O, mamma, it is Miss Sandbrook's.  She is teaching him to dress flies,
because she says he can't be a real fisherman without, and the trout
always rise at hers.  It is quite beautiful to see her throw.  That
delicate little hand is so strong and ready.'

A door was opened, and out of the housemaid's closet, defended from light
by a yellow blind at every crevice, came eager exclamations of 'Famous,'
'Capital,' 'The tower comes out to perfection;' and in another moment
Lucilla Sandbrook, in all her bloom and animation, was in the room,
followed by a youth of some eighteen years, Francis Beaumont, an Indian
nephew of Mrs. Prendergast.

'Hit off at last, isn't it, aunt?  Those dog-tooth mouldings will satisfy
even the uncle.'

'Really it is very good,' said Mrs. Prendergast, as it was held up to the
light for her inspection.

'Miss Sandbrook has bewitched the camera,' continued he.  'Do you
remember the hideous muddles of last summer?  But, oh! Miss Sandbrook, we
must have one more; the sun will be off by and by.'

'Only ten minutes,' said Lucilla, in a deprecating tone.  'You must not
keep me a second more, let the sun be in ever such good humour.  Come,
Sarah, come and show us the place you said would be so good.'

'It is too hot,' said Sarah, bluntly, 'and I can't waste the morning.'

'Well, you pattern-pupil, I'll come presently.  Indeed I will, Mrs.
Prendergast.'

'Let me see this translation, Sarah,' said Mrs. Prendergast, as the
photographers ran down-stairs.

She looked over it carefully, and as the ten minutes had passed without
sign of the governess's return, asked what naturally followed in the
morning's employment.

'Italian reading, mamma; but never mind.'

'Find the place, my dear.'

'It is only while Francis is at home.  Oh, I wish I had not been cross.'
And though Sarah usually loved to read to her mother, she was uneasy all
the time, watching the door, and pausing to listen at the most moving
passages.  It was full half an hour before the voices were heard
returning, and then there was a call, 'Directly, Sarah!' the dark chamber
was shut up, and all subsided.

Mrs. Prendergast stayed on, in spite of an imploring glance from her
daughter, and after an interval of the mysterious manipulations in the
closet, the photograph was borne forth in triumph.

Lucilla looked a little abashed at finding Mrs. Prendergast in presence,
and began immediately, 'There, Mr. Beaumont, you see!  I hope Mrs.
Prendergast is going to banish you forthwith; you make us shamefully
idle.'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Prendergast, gravely, 'I am going to carry him off at
once, and make a law against future invasions.'

Francis attempted loud appeals, but his aunt quashed them with demeanour
that showed that she was in earnest, and drove him away before her.

'Indeed, Miss Sandbrook,' said Sarah, with affectionate compunction, 'I
did not mean to speak so loud and so crossly.'

'My dear,' said Lucilla, leaning back and fanning herself with her hat,
'we all know that we reverse the laws of teacher and pupil!  Small blame
to you if you were put out, and now I hope your mamma will keep him to
herself, and that I shall have time to get cool.  There! read me some
French, it is a refreshing process--or practise a little.  I declare that
boy has dragged me in and out so often, that I haven't energy to tell a
noun from a verb.'

Mrs. Prendergast had hardly descended to the drawing-room before her
husband's voice called her to the study, where he stood, his broad mouth
distended by a broader smile, his eyes twinkling with merriment.

'Old woman' (his favourite name for her), 'do you know what a spectacle I
have been witnessing?' and as she signed inquiry, 'Mrs. Sprydone, with
numerous waggings of the head, and winkings of the eyes, inveigled me
into her den, to see--guess.'

'Francis and Miss Sandbrook in the cloister photographing.'

'Old woman, you are a witch.'

'I knew what they were about, as well as Mrs. Sprydone's agony to open my
eyes.'

'So your obstinate blindness drove her to me!  She thought it right that
I should be aware The Close, it seems, is in a fever about that poor
girl.  What do you know?  Is it all gossip?'

'I know there is gossip, as a law of nature, but I have not chosen to
hear it.'

'Then you think it all nonsense?'

'Not _all_.'

'Well, what then?  The good ladies seem terribly scandalized by her
dress.  Is there any harm in that?  I always thought it very becoming.'

'Exactly so,' said his wife, smiling.

'If it is too smart, can't you give her a hint?'

'When she left off her mourning, she spoke to me, saying that she could
not afford not to wear out what she already had.  I quite agreed; and
though I could wish there were less stylishness about her, it is pleasant
to one's own eye, and I see nothing to object to.'

'I'm sure it is no concern of the ladies, then!  And how about this lad?
One of their wild notions, is not it?  I have heard her tell him
half-a-dozen times that she was six years his elder.'

'Four-and-twenty is just the age that young-looking girls like to boast
of.  I am not afraid on her account; she has plenty of sense and
principle, and I believe, too, there is a very sore spot in her heart,
poor girl.  She plays with him as a mere boy; but he is just at the time
of life for a passion for a woman older than himself, and his devotion
certainly excites her more than I could wish.'

'I'll tell you what, Peter didn't like it at all.'

'Peter was certainly not in a gracious mood when he was here last week.
I could not make out whether seeing her a governess were too much for
him, or whether he suspected me of ill-using her.'

'No, no; it was rivalry between him and Master Francis!' said the Doctor,
laughing.  'How he launched out against young men's conceit when Francis
was singing with her.  Sheer jealousy!  He could see nothing but
dilapidation, dissent, and dirt at Laneham, and now has gone and refused
it.'

'Refused Laneham!--that capital college living!--with no better
dependence than his fellowship, and such a curacy as Wrapworth?'

'Indeed he has.  Here's his letter.  You may read it and give it to Miss
Sandbrook if you like--he seems quite dispirited.'

'"Too old to enter on a new field of duties,"' read Mrs. Prendergast,
indignantly.  'Why, he is but forty-four!  What did he think of us for
coming here?'

'Despised me for it,' said the Doctor, smiling.  'Never mind; he will
think himself younger as he grows older--and one can't blame him for
keeping to Wrapworth as long as the old Dean of --- lives, especially as
those absentee Charterises do so much harm.'

'He does not expect them to give him the living?  They ought, I am sure,
after his twenty years' labour there already.'

'Not they!  Mr. Charteris gratuitously wrote to tell him that, on hearing
of his burying that poor young Mrs. Sandbrook there, all scruples had
been removed, and the next presentation was offered for sale.  You need
not tell Miss Sandbrook so.'

'Certainly not; but pray how does Peter mean to avoid the new field of
duty, if he be sure of turning out on the Dean's death?  Oh! I
see--"finish his days at his College, if the changes at the University
have not rendered it insupportable to one who remembers elder and better
days."  Poor Peter!  Well; these are direful consequences of Miss
Sandbrook's fit of flightiness!  Yes, I'll show her the letter, it might
tame her a little; and, poor thing, I own I liked her better when she was
soft and subdued.'

'Ha!  Then you are not satisfied?  Don't go.  Let me know how it is.  I
am sure Sarah is distracted about her--more than even Francis.  I would
not part with her for a great deal, not only on Peter's account, but on
her own and Sarah's; but these ladies have raked up all manner of
Charteris scandal, and we are quite in disgrace for bringing her here.'

'Yes,' said Mrs. Prendergast, 'while we lived at our dear old country
home, I never quite believed what I heard of jealous ill-nature, but I
have seen how it was ever since those Christmas parties, when certainly
people paid her a great deal of attention.'

'Who would not?--the prettiest, most agreeable young woman there.'

'It may be vexatious to be eclipsed not only in beauty, but in style, by
a strange governess,' said Mrs. Prendergast.  'That set all the mothers
and daughters against her, and there have been some spiteful little
attempts at mortifying her, which have made Sarah and me angry beyond
description!  All that they say only impels me towards her.  She is a
rare creature, most engaging, but I do sometimes fear that I may have
spoilt her a little, for she has certainly not done quite so well of
late.  At first she worked hard to keep in advance of Sarah, saying how
she felt the disadvantage of superficial learning and desultory habits;
she kept in the background, and avoided amusements; but I suppose
reaction is natural with recovered spirits, and this summer she has taken
less pains, and has let Francis occupy her too much, and--what I like
least of all--her inattention brings back the old rubs with Sarah's
temper.'

'You must take her in hand.'

'If she were but my daughter or niece!'

'I thought you had made her feel as such.'

'This sort of reproof is the difficulty, and brings back the sense of our
relative positions.  However, the thing is to be done as much for her
sake as for our own.'

Lucilla knew that a lecture was impending, but she really loved and
esteemed Mrs. Prendergast too much to prepare to champ the bit.  That
lady's warmth and simplicity, and, above all, the largeness of mind that
prevented her from offending or being offended by trifles, had endeared
her extremely to the young governess.  Not only had these eight months
passed without the squabble that Owen had predicted would send her to
Hiltonbury in a week, but Cilla had decidedly, though insensibly, laid
aside many of the sentiments and habits in which poor Honor's opposition
had merely confirmed her.  The effect of the sufferings of the past
summer had subdued her for a long time, the novelty of her position had
awed her, and what Mrs. Prendergast truly called the reaction had been so
tardy in coming on that it was a surprise even to herself.  Sensible that
she had given cause for displeasure, she courted the _tete-a-tete_, and
herself began thus--'I beg your pardon for my idleness.  It is a fatal
thing to be recalled to the two passions of my youth--fishing and
photography.'

'My husband will give Francis employment in the morning,' said Mrs.
Prendergast.  'It will not do to give Sarah's natural irritability too
many excuses for outbreaks.'

'She never accepts excuses,' said Lucilla, 'though I am sure she might.
I have been a sore trial to her diligence and methodicalness; and her
soul is too much bent on her work for us to drag her out to be foolish,
as would be best for her.'

'So it might be for her; but, my dear, pardon me, I am not speaking only
for Sarah's sake.'

With an odd jerk of head and hand, Cilly exclaimed, 'Oh! the old
story--the other f--flirting, is it?'

'I never said that!  I never thought that,' cried Mrs. Prendergast,
shocked at the word and idea that had never crossed her mind.

'If not,' said Cilla, 'it is because you are too innocent to know
flirting when you see it!  Dear Mrs. Prendergast, I didn't think you
would have looked so grave.'

'I did not think you would have spoken so lightly; but it is plain that
we do not mean the same thing.'

'In fact, you in your quietness, think awfully of that which for years
was to me like breathing!  I thought the taste was gone for ever, but,
you see'--and her sad sweet expression pleaded for her--'you have made me
so happy that the old self is come back.'  There was a silence, broken by
this strange girl saying, 'Well, what are you going to do to me?'

'Only,' said the lady, in her sweet, full, impressive voice, 'to beg you
will indeed be happy in giving yourself no cause for self-reproach.'

'I'm past that,' said Lucilla, with a smile on her lip and a tear in her
eye.  'I've not known that sensation since my father died.  My chief
happiness since that has lain in being provoking, but you have taken away
that pleasure.  I couldn't purposely vex you, even if I were your adopted
child!'

Without precisely knowing the full amount of these words, Mrs.
Prendergast understood past bitterness and present warmth, and, gratified
to find that at least there was no galling at their mutual relations,
responded with a smile and a caress that led Lucilla to continue--'As for
the word that dismayed you, I only meant to acknowledge an unlucky
propensity to be excited about any nonsense, in which any _man_ kind is
mixed up.  If Sarah would take to it, I could more easily abstain, but
you see her coquetries are with nobody more recent than Horace and
Dante.'

'I cannot wish it to be otherwise with her,' said Mrs. Prendergast
gravely.

'No!  It is a bad speculation,' said Lucilla, sadly.  'She will never
wish half her life could be pulled out like defective crochet; nor wear
out good people's forbearance with her antics.  I did think they were
outgrown, and beat out of me, and that your nephew was too young; but I
suppose it is ingrain, and that I should be flattered by the attentions
of a he-baby of six months old!  But I'll do my best, Mrs. Prendergast; I
promise you I'll not be the schoolmistress abroad in the morning, and you
shall see what terms I will keep with Mr. Beaumont.'

Mrs. Prendergast was less pleased after than before this promise.  It was
again that freedom of expression that the girl had learnt among the
Charterises, and the ideas that she accepted as mere matters of course,
that jarred upon the matron, whose secluded life had preserved her in far
truer refinement.  She did not know how to reply, and, as a means of
ending the discussion, gave her Mr. Prendergast's letter, but was amazed
at her reception of it.

'Passed the living!  Famous!  He will stick to Wrapworth to the last
gasp!  That is fidelity!  Pray tell him so from me.'

'You had better send your message through Dr. Prendergast.  We cannot but
be disappointed, though I understand your feeling for Wrapworth, and we
are sorry for the dispirited tone about the letter.'

'Well he may be, all alone there, and seeing poor Castle Blanch going to
rack and ruin.  I could cry about it whenever I think of it; but how much
worse would it have been if he had deserted too!  As long as he is in the
old vicarage there is a home spot to me in the world!  Oh, I thank him, I
do thank him for standing by the old place to the last.'

'It is preposterous,' thought Mrs. Prendergast.  'I won't tell the
Doctor.  He would think it so foolish in him, and improper in her; I
verily believe it is her influence that keeps him at Wrapworth!  He
cannot bear to cross her wishes nor give her pain.  Well, I am thankful
that Sarah is neither beautiful nor attractive.'

Sincere was Lucilla's intention to resume her regular habits, and put a
stop to Francis Beaumont's attentions, but the attraction had already
gone so far that repression rendered him the more assiduous, and often
bore the aspect (if it were not absolutely the coyness) of coquetry.
While deprecating from her heart any attachment on his part, her vanity
was fanned at finding herself in her present position as irresistible as
ever, and his eagerness to obtain a smile or word from her was such an
agreeable titillation, that everything else became flat, and her hours in
the schoolroom an imprisonment.  Sarah's methodical earnestness in study
bored her, and she was sick of restraint and application.  Nor was this
likely to be merely a passing evil, for Francis's parents were in India,
and Southminster was his only English home.  Nay, even when he had
returned to his tutor, Lucilla was not restored to her better self.  Her
craving for excitement had been awakened, and her repugnance to mental
exertion had been yielded to.  The routine of lessons had become bondage,
and she sought every occasion of variety, seeking to outshine and dazzle
the ladies of Southminster, playing off Castle Blanch fascinations on
curates and minor canons, and sometimes flying at higher game, even
beguiling the Dean himself into turning over her music when she sang.

She had at first, by the use of all her full-grown faculties, been just
able to keep sufficiently ahead of her pupil; but her growing indolence
soon caused her to slip back, and not only did she let Sarah shoot ahead
of her, but she became impatient of the girl's habits of accuracy and
research; she would give careless and vexatious answers, insist
petulantly on correcting by the ear, make light of Sarah and her grammar,
and hastily reject or hurry from the maps, dictionaries, and cyclopaedias
with which Sarah's training had taught her to read and learn.  But her
dislike of trouble in supporting an opinion did not make her the less
pertinacious in upholding it, and there were times when she was wrathful
and petulant at Sarah's presumption in maintaining the contrary, even
with all the authorities in the bookshelves to back her.

Sarah's temper was not her prime quality, and altercations began to run
high.  Each dispute that took place only prepared the way for another,
and Mrs. Prendergast, having taken a governess chiefly to save her
daughter from being fretted by interruptions, found that her annoyances
were tenfold increased, and irritations were almost habitual.  They were
the more disappointing because the girl preserved through them all such a
passionate admiration for her beautiful and charming little governess,
that, except in the very height of a squabble, she still believed her
perfection, and was her most vehement partisan, even when the wrong had
been chiefly on the side of the teacher.

On the whole, in spite of this return to old faults, Lucilla was improved
by her residence at Southminster.  Defiance had fallen into disuse, and
the habit of respect and affection had softened her and lessened her
pride; there was more devotional temper, and a greater desire after a
religious way of life.  It might be that her fretfulness was the effect
of an uneasiness of mind, which was more hopeful than her previous fierce
self-satisfaction, and that her aberrations were the last efforts of old
evil habits to re-establish their grasp by custom, when her heart was
becoming detached from them.

Be that as it might, Mrs. Prendergast's first duty was to her child, her
second to the nephew intrusted to her, and love and pity as she might,
she felt that to retain Lucilla was leading all into temptation.  Her
husband was slow to see the verification of her reluctant opinion, but he
trusted to her, and it only remained to part as little harshly or
injuriously as might be.

An opening was afforded when, in October, Mrs. Prendergast was entreated
by the widow of one of her brothers to find her a governess for two girls
of twelve and ten, and two boys younger.  It was at a country-house, so
much secluded that such temptations as at Southminster were out of reach,
and the younger pupils were not likely to try her temper in the same way
as Sarah had done.

So Mrs. Prendergast tenderly explained that Sarah, being old enough to
pursue her studies alone, and her sister, Mrs. Willis Beaumont, being in
distress for a governess, it would be best to transfer Miss Sandbrook to
her.  Lucilla turned a little pale, but gave no other sign, only
answering, 'Thank you,' and 'Yes,' at fit moments, and acceding to
everything, even to her speedy departure at the end of a week.

She left the room in silence, more stunned than even by Robert's
announcement, and with less fictitious strength to brave the blow that
she had brought on herself.  She repaired to the schoolroom, and leaning
her brow against the window-pane, tried to gather her thoughts, but
scarcely five minutes had passed before the door was thrown back, and in
rushed Sarah, passionately exclaiming--

'It's my fault!  It's all my fault!  Oh, Miss Sandbrook, dearest Miss
Sandbrook, forgive me!  Oh! my temper! my temper!  I never thought--I'll
go to papa!  I'll tell him it is my doing!  He will never--never be so
unjust and cruel!'

'Sarah, stand up; let me go, please,' said Lucy, unclasping the hands
from her waist.  'This is not right.  Your father and mother both think
the same, and so do I.  It is just that I should go--'

'You shan't say so!  It is my crossness!  I won't let you go.  I'll write
to Peter!  He won't let you go!'  Sarah was really beside herself with
despair, and as her mother advanced, and would have spoken, turned round
sharply, 'Don't, don't, mamma; I won't come away unless you promise not
to punish her for my temper.  You have minded those horrid, wicked,
gossiping ladies.  I didn't think you would.'

'Sarah,' said Lucilla, resolutely, 'going mad in this way just shows that
I am doing you no good.  You are not behaving properly to your mother.'

'She never acted unjustly before.'

'That is not for you to judge, in the first place; and in the next, she
acts justly.  I feel it.  Yes, Sarah, I do; I have not done my duty by
you, and have quarrelled with you when your industry shamed me.  All my
old bad habits are come back, and your mother is right to part with me.'

'There! there, mamma; do you hear that?' sobbed Sarah, imploringly.
'When she speaks in that way, can you still--?  Oh! I know I was
disrespectful, but you can't--you can't think that was her fault!'

'It was,' said Lucilla, looking at Mrs. Prendergast.  'I know she has
lost the self-control she once had.  Sarah, this is of no use.  I would
go now, if your mother begged me to stay--and that,' she added, with her
firm smile, 'she is too wise to do.  If you do not wish to pain me, and
put me to shame, do not let me have any more such exhibitions.'

Pale, ashamed, discomfited, Sarah turned away, and not yet able to govern
herself, rushed into her room.

'Poor Sarah!' said her mother.  'You have rare powers of making your
pupils love you, Miss Sandbrook.'

'If it were for their good,' sighed Lucilla.

'It has been much for her good; she is far less uncouth, and less
exclusive.  And it will be more so, I hope.  You will still be her
friend, and we shall often see you here.'

Lucilla's tears were dropping fast; and looking up, she said with
difficulty--'Don't mind this; I know it is right; I have not deserved the
happy home you have given me here.  Where I am less happy, I hope I may
keep a better guard on myself.  I thought the old ways had been
destroyed, but they are too strong still, and I ought to suffer for
them.'

Never in all her days had Lucilla spoken so humbly!



CHAPTER XVII


    Though she's as like to this one as a crab is like to an apple,
          I can tell what I can tell.--_King Lear_

Often a first grief, where sorrow was hitherto been a stranger, is but
the foretaste to many another, like the first hailstorm, after long
sunshine, preluding a succession of showers, the clouds returning after
the rain, and obscuring the sky of life for many a day.

Those who daily saw Mrs. Fulmort scarcely knew whether to attribute her
increasing invalidism to debility or want of spirits; and hopes were
built on summer heat, till, when it came, it prostrated her strength, and
at last, when some casual ailment had confined her to bed, there was no
rally.  All took alarm; a physician was called in, and the truth was
disclosed.  There was no formed disease; but her husband's death, though
apparently hardly comprehended, had taken away the spring of life, and
she was withering like a branch severed from the stem.  Remedies did but
disturb her torpor by feverish symptoms that hastened her decline, and
Dr. Martyn privately told Miss Charlecote that the absent sons and
daughters ought to be warned that the end must be very near.

Honor, as lovingly and gently as possible, spoke to Phoebe.  The girl's
eyes filled with tears, but it was in an almost well-pleased tone that
she said, 'Dear mamma, I always knew she felt it.'

'Ah! little did we think how deeply went the stroke that showed no
wound!'

'Yes!  She felt that she was going to him.  We could never have made her
happy here.'

'You are content, my unselfish one?'

'Don't talk to me about myself, please!' implored Phoebe.  'I have too
much to do for that.  What did he say?  That the others should be written
to?  I will take my case and write in mamma's room.'

Immediate duty was her refuge from anticipation, gentle tendance from the
sense of misery, and, though her mother's restless feebleness needed
constant waiting on, her four notes were completed before post-time.
Augusta was eating red mullet in Guernsey, Juliana was on a round of
visits in Scotland, Mervyn was supposed to be in Paris, Robert alone was
near at hand.

At night Phoebe sent Boodle to bed; but Miss Fennimore insisted on
sharing her pupil's watch.  At first there was nothing to do; the patient
had fallen into a heavy slumber, and the daughter sat by the bed, the
governess at the window, unoccupied save by their books.  Phoebe was
reading Miss Maurice's invaluable counsels to the nurses of the dying.
Miss Fennimore had the Bible.  It was not from a sense of
appropriateness, as in pursuance of her system of re-examination.  Always
admiring the Scripture in a patronizing temper, she had gloried in
critical inquiry, and regarded plenary inspiration as a superstition,
covering weak points by pretensions to infallibility.  But since her
discussions with Robert, and her readings of Butler with Bertha, she had
begun to weigh for herself the internal, intrinsic evidence of Divine
origin, above all, in the Gospels, which, to her surprise, enchained her
attention and investigation, as she would have thought beyond the power
of such simple words.

Pilate's question, 'What is truth?' was before her.  To her it was a link
of evidence.  Without even granting that the writer was the fisherman he
professed to be, what, short of Shakesperian intuition, could thus have
depicted the Roman of the early Empire in equal dread of Caesar and of
the populace, at once unscrupulous and timid, contemning Jewish
prejudice, yet, with lingering mythological superstition, trembling at
the hint of a present Deity in human form; and, lost in the bewilderment
of the later Greek philosophy, greeting the word _truth_ with the
startled inquiry, what it might be.  What _is_ truth?  It had been the
question of Miss Fennimore's life, and she felt a blank and a
disappointment as it stood unanswered.  A movement made her look up.
Phoebe was raising her mother, and Miss Fennimore was needed to support
the pillows.

'Phoebe, my dear, are you here?'

'Yes, dear mamma, I always am.'

'Phoebe, my dear, I think I am soon going.  You have been a good child,
my dear; I wish I had done more for you all.'

'Dear mamma, you have always been so kind.'

'They didn't teach me like Honora Charlecote,' she faltered on; 'but I
always did as your poor papa told me.  Nobody ever told me how to be
religious, and your poor papa would not have liked it.  Phoebe, you know
more than I do.  You don't think God will be hard with me, do you?  I am
such a poor creature; but there is the Blood that takes away sin.'

'Dear mother, that is the blessed trust.'

'The _Truth_,' flashed upon Miss Fennimore, as she watched their faces.

'Will He give me His own goodness?' said Mrs. Fulmort, wistfully.  'I
never did know how to think about Him--I wish I had cared more.  What do
you think, Phoebe?'

'I cannot tell how to answer fully, dear mamma,' said Phoebe; 'but indeed
it is safe to think of His great loving-kindness and mercy.  Robert will
be here to-morrow.  He will tell you better.'

'He will give me the Holy Sacrament,' said Mrs. Fulmort, 'and then I
shall go--'

Presently she moved uneasily.  'Oh, Phoebe, I am so tired.  Nothing rests
me.'

'There remaineth a rest,' gently whispered Phoebe--and Miss Fennimore
thought the young face had something of the angel in it--'no more
weariness there.'

'They won't think what a poor dull thing I am there,' added her mother.
'I wish I could take poor Maria with me.  They don't like her here, and
she will be teased and put about.'

'No, mother, never while I can take care of her!'

'I know you will, Phoebe, if you say so.  Phoebe, love, when I see God, I
shall thank Him for having made you so good and dear, and letting me have
some comfort in one of my children.'

Phoebe tried to make her think of Robert, but she was exhausted, dozed,
and was never able to speak so much again.

Miss Fennimore thought instead of reading.  Was it the mere effect on her
sympathies that bore in on her mind that Truth existed, and was grasped
by the mother and daughter?  What was there in those faltering accents
that impressed her with reality?  Why, of all her many instructors, had
none touched her like poor, ignorant, feeble-minded Mrs. Fulmort?

Robert arrived the next day.  His mother knew him and was roused
sufficiently to accept his offices as a clergyman.  Then, as if she
thought it was expected of her, she asked for her younger daughters, but
when they came, she looked distressed and perplexed.

'Bless them, mother,' said Robert, bending over her, and she evidently
accepted this as what she wanted; but 'How--what?' she added; and taking
the uncertain hand, he guided it to the head of each of his three
sisters, and prompted the words of blessing from the failing tongue.
Then as Bertha rose, he sank on his knees in her place, 'Bless me, bless
me, too, mother; bless me, and pardon my many acts of self-will.'

'You are good--you--you are a clergyman,' she hesitated, bewildered.

'The more reason, mamma; it will comfort him.'  And it was Phoebe who won
for her brother the blessing needed as balm to a bleeding heart.

'The others are away,' said the dying woman; 'maybe, if I had made them
good when they were little, they would not have left me now.'

While striving to join in prayer for them, she slumbered, and in the
course of the night she slept herself tranquilly away from the world
where even prosperity had been but a troubled maze to her.

Augusta arrived, weeping profusely, but with all her wits about her, so
as to assume the command, and to provide for her own, and her Admiral's
comfort.  Phoebe was left to the mournful repose of having no one to whom
to attend, since Miss Fennimore provided for the younger ones; and in the
lassitude of bodily fatigue and sorrow, she shrank from Maria's babyish
questions and Bertha's levity and curiosity, spending her time chiefly
alone.  Even Robert could not often be with her, since Mervyn's absence
and silence threw much on him and Mr. Crabbe, the executor and guardian;
and the Bannermans were both exacting and self-important.  The Actons,
having been pursued by their letters from place to place in the
Highlands, at length arrived, and Mervyn last of all, only just in time
for the funeral.

Phoebe did not see him till the evening after it, when, having spent the
day nearly alone, she descended to the late dinner, and after the
quietness in which she had lately lived, and with all the tenderness from
fresh suffering, it seemed to her that she was entering on a distracting
turmoil of voices.  Mervyn, however, came forward at once to meet her,
threw his arm round her, and kissed her rather demonstratively, saying,
'My little Phoebe, I wondered where you were;' then putting her into a
chair, and bending over her, 'We are in for the funeral games.  Stand up
for yourself!'

She did not know in the least what he could mean, but she was too sick at
heart to ask; she only thought he looked unwell, jaded, and fagged, and
with a heated complexion.

He handed Lady Acton into the dining-room; Augusta, following with Sir
Bevil, was going to the head of the table, when he called out, 'That's
Phoebe's place!'

'Not before my elders,' Phoebe answered, trying to seat herself at the
side.

'The sister at home is mistress of the house,' he sternly answered.
'Take your proper place, Phoebe.'

In much discomfort she obeyed, and tried to attend civilly to Sir
Nicholas's observations on the viands, hoping to intercept a few, as she
perceived how they chafed her eldest brother.

At last, on Mervyn himself roundly abusing the flavour of the
ice-pudding, Augusta not only defended it, but confessed to having
herself directed Mrs. Brisbane to the concoction that morning.

'Mrs. Brisbane shall take orders from no lady but Miss Fulmort, while she
is in my house,' thundered Mervyn.

Phoebe, in agony, began to say she knew not what to Sir Bevil, and he
seconded her with equal vehemence and incoherency, till by the time they
knew what they were talking of, they were with much interest discussing
his little daughter, scarcely turning their heads from one another, till,
in the midst of dessert, the voice of Juliana was heard,--'Sir Bevil, Sir
Bevil, if you can spare me any attention--What was the name of that
person at Hampstead that your sister told me of?'

'That person!  What, where poor Anne Acton was boarded?  Dr. Graham, he
called himself, but I don't believe he was a physician.  Horrid vulgar
fellow!'

'Excellent for the purpose, though,' continued Lady Acton, addressing
herself as before to Mr. Crabbe; 'advertises for nervous or deficient
ladies, and boards them on very fair terms: would take her quite off our
hands.'

Phoebe turned a wild look of imploring interrogation on Sir Bevil, but a
certain family telegraph had electrified him, and his eyes were on the
grapes that he was eating with nervous haste.  Her blood boiling at what
she apprehended, Phoebe could endure her present post no longer, and
starting up, made the signal for leaving the dinner-table so suddenly
that Augusta choked upon her glass of wine, and carried off her last
macaroon in her hand.  Before she had recovered breath to rebuke her
sister's precipitation, Phoebe, with boldness and spirit quite new to the
sisters, was confronting Juliana, and demanding what she had been saying
about Hampstead.

'Only,' said Juliana, coolly, 'that I have found a capital place there
for Maria--a Dr. Graham, who boards and lodges such unfortunates.  Sir
Bevil had an idiot cousin there who died.  I shall write to-morrow.'

'I promised that Maria should not be separated from me,' said Phoebe.

'Nonsense, my dear,' said Augusta; 'we could not receive her; she can
never be made presentable.'

'You?' said Phoebe.

'Yes, my dear; did you not know?  You go home with us the day after
to-morrow; and next spring I mean to bring you out, and take you
everywhere.  The Admiral is so generous!'

'But the others?' said Phoebe.

'I don't mind undertaking Bertha,' said Lady Acton.  'I know of a good
school for her, and I shall deposit Maria at Dr. Graham's as soon as I
can get an answer.'

'Really,' continued Augusta, 'Phoebe will look very creditable by and by,
when she has more colour and not all this crape.  Perhaps I shall get her
married by the end of the season; only you must learn better manners
first, Phoebe--not to rush out of the dining-room in this way.  I don't
know what I shall do without my other glass of wine--when I am so low,
too!'

'A fine mistress of the house, indeed,' said Lady Acton.  'It is well
Mervyn's absurd notion is impossible.'

'What was that?  To keep us all?' asked Phoebe, catching at the hope.

'Not Maria nor the governess.  You need not flatter yourself,' said
Juliana; 'he said he wouldn't have them at any price; and as to keeping
house alone with a man of his character, even you may have sense to see
it couldn't be for a moment.'

'Did Robert consent to Maria's going to Hampstead?' asked Phoebe.

'Robert--what has he to do with it?  He has no voice.'

'He said something about getting the three boarded with some clergyman's
widow,' said Augusta; 'buried in some hole, I suppose, to make them like
himself--go to church every day, and eat cold dinners on Sunday.'

'I should like to see Bertha doing that,' said Juliana, laughing.

But the agony of helplessness that had oppressed Phoebe was relieved.
She saw an outlet, and could form a resolution.  Home might have to be
given up, but there was a means of fulfilling her mother's charge, and
saving Maria from the private idiot asylum; and for that object Phoebe
was ready to embrace perpetual seclusion with the dullest of widows.  She
found her sisters discussing their favourite subject--Mervyn's misconduct
and extravagance--and she was able to sit apart, working, and thinking of
her line of action.  Only two days!  She must be prompt, and not wait for
privacy or for counsel.  So when the gentlemen came in, and Mr. Crabbe
came towards her, she took him into the window, and asked him if any
choice were permitted her as to her residence.

'Certainly; so nearly of age as you are.  But I naturally considered that
you would wish to be with Lady Bannerman, with all the advantages of
London society.'

'But she will not receive Maria.  I promised that Maria should be my
charge.  You have not consented to this Hampstead scheme?'

'Her ladyship is precipitate,' half whispered the lawyer.  'I certainly
would not, till I had seen the establishment, and judged for myself.'

'No, nor then,' said Phoebe.  'Come to-morrow, and see her.  She is no
subject for _an establishment_.  And I beg you will let me be with her; I
would much prefer being with any lady who would receive us both.'

'Very amiable,' said Mr. Crabbe.

'Ha!' interrupted Mervyn, 'you are not afraid I shall let Augusta carry
you off, Phoebe.  She would give the world to get you, but I don't mean
to part with you.'

'It is of no use to talk to her, Mervyn,' cried Augusta's loud voice from
the other end of the room.  'She knows that she cannot remain with you.
Robert himself would tell her so.'

'Robert knows better than to interfere,' said Mervyn, with one of his
scowls.  'Now then, Phoebe, settle it for yourself.  Will you stay and
keep house for me at home, or be Augusta's companion?  There! the choice
of Hercules.  Virtue or vice?' he added, trying to laugh.

'Neither,' said Phoebe, readily.  'My home is fixed by Maria's.'

'Phoebe, are you crazy?' broke out the three voices; while Sir Nicholas
slowly and sententiously explained that he regretted the unfortunate
circumstance, but Maria's peculiarities made it impossible to produce her
in society; and that when her welfare and happiness had been consulted by
retirement, Phoebe would find a home in his house, and be treated as Lady
Bannerman's sister, and a young lady of her expectations, deserved.

'Thank you,' said Phoebe; then turning to her brother, 'Mervyn, do you,
too, cast off poor Maria?'

'I told you what I thought of that long ago,' said Mervyn, carelessly.

'Very well, then,' said Phoebe, sadly; 'perhaps you will let us stay till
some lady can be found of whom Mr. Crabbe may approve, with whom Maria
and I can live.'

'Lady Acton!' Sir Bevil's voice was low and entreating, but all heard it.

'I am not going to encumber myself,' she answered.  'I always disliked
girls, and I shall certainly not make Acton Manor an idiot asylum.'

'And mind,' added Augusta, 'you won't cone to me for the season!  I have
no notion of your leaving me all the dull part of the year for some gay
widow at a watering-place, and then expecting me to go out with you in
London.'

'By Heaven!' broke out Mervyn, 'they _shall_ stay here, if only to balk
your spite.  My sisters shall not be driven from pillar to post the very
day their mother is put under ground.'

'Some respectable lady,' began Robert.

'Some horrid old harridan of a boarding-house keeper,' shouted Mervyn,
the louder for his interference.  'Ay, you would like it, and spend all
their fortunes on parsons in long coats!  I know better!  Come here,
Phoebe, and listen.  You shall live here as you have always done, Maria
and all, and keep the Fennimore woman to mind the children.  Answer me,
will that content you?  Don't go looking at Robert, but say yes or no.'

Mervyn's innuendo had deprived his offer of its grace, but in spite of
the pang of indignation, in spite of Robert's eye of disapproval, poor
desolate Phoebe must needs cling to her home, and to the one who alone
would take her and her poor companion.  'Mervyn, thank you; it is right!'

'Right!  What does that mean?  If any one has a word to say against my
sisters being under my roof, let me hear it openly, not behind my back.
Eh, Juliana, what's that?'

'Only that I wonder how long it will last,' sneered Lady Acton.

'And,' added Robert, 'there should be some guarantee that they should not
be introduced to unsuitable acquaintance.'

'You think me not to be trusted with them.'

'I do not.'

Mervyn ground his teeth, answering, 'Very well, sir, I stand indebted to
you.  I should have imagined, whatever your opinion of me, you would have
considered your favourite sky-blue governess an immaculate guardian, or
can you be contented with nothing short of a sisterhood?'

'Robert,' said Phoebe, fearing lest worse should follow, 'Mervyn has
always been good to us; I trust to him.'  And her clear eyes were turned
on the eldest brother with a grateful confidence that made him catch her
hand with something between thanks and triumph, as he said--

'Well said, little one!  There, sir, are you satisfied?'

'I must be,' replied Robert.

Sir Bevil, able to endure no longer, broke in with some intelligence from
the newspaper, which he had been perusing ever since his unlucky appeal
to his lady.  Every one thankfully accepted this means of ending the
discussion.

'Well, Miss,' was Juliana's good night, 'you have attained your object.
I hope you may find it answer.'

'Yes,' added Augusta, 'when Mervyn brings home that Frenchwoman, you will
wish you had been less tenacious.'

'That's all an idea of yours,' said Juliana.  'She'll have punishment
enough in Master Mervyn's own temper.  I wouldn't keep house for him, no,
not for a week.'

'Stay till you are asked,' said Augusta.

Phoebe could bear no more, but slipped through the swing-door, reached
her room, and sinking into a chair, passively let Lieschen undress her,
not attempting to raise her drooping head, nor check the tears that
trickled, conscious only of her broken, wounded, oppressed state of
dejection, into the details of which she durst not look.  How could she,
when her misery had been inflicted by such hands?  The mere fact of the
unseemly broil between the brothers and sisters on such an evening was
shame and pain enough, and she felt like one bruised and crushed all
over, both in herself and Maria, while the one drop of comfort in
Mervyn's kindness was poisoned by the strife between him and Robert, and
the doubt whether Robert thought she ought to have accepted it.

When her maid left her, she only moved to extinguish her light, and then
cowered down again as if to hide in the darkness; but the soft summer
twilight gloom seemed to soothe and restore her, and with a longing for
air to refresh her throbbing brow, she leant out into the cool, still
night, looking into the northern sky, still pearly with the last
reminiscence of the late sunset, and with the pale large stars beaming
calmly down.

'Oh mother, mother!  Well might you long to take your poor Maria with
you--there where the weary are at rest--where there is mercy for the weak
and slow!  Home! home! we have none but with you!'

Nay, had she not a home with Him whose love was more than mother's love;
whose soft stars were smiling on her now; whose gentle breezes fanned her
burning cheeks, even as a still softer breath of comfort was stilling her
troubled spirit!  She leant out till she could compose herself to kneel
in prayer, and from prayer rose up quietly, weary, and able to rest
beneath the Fatherly Wings spread over the orphan.

She was early astir, though with heavy, swollen eyelids; and anxious to
avoid Bertha's inquiries till all should be more fully settled, she
betook herself to the garden, to cool her brow and eyes.  She was bathing
them in the dewy fragrant heart of a full-blown rose, that had seemed to
look at her with a tearful smile of sympathy, when a step approached, and
an arm was thrown round her, and Robert stood beside her.

'My Phoebe,' he said tenderly, 'how are you?  It was a frightful
evening!'

'Oh! Robert, were you displeased with me?'

'No, indeed.  You put us all to shame.  I grieved that you had no more
preparation, but some of the guests stayed late, afterwards I was
hindered by business, and then Bevil laid hands on me to advise me
privately against this establishment for poor Maria.'

'I thought it was Juliana who pressed it!'

'Have you not learnt that whatever he dislikes she forwards?'

'Oh! Robert, you can hinder that scheme from ever being thought of
again!'

'Yes,' said Robert; '_there_ she should never have been, even had you not
made resistance.'

'And, Robert, may we stay here?' asked Phoebe, trembling.

'Crabbe sees no objection,' he answered.

'Do you, Robert?  If you think we ought not, I will try to change; but
Mervyn is kind, and it _is_ home!  I saw you thought me wrong, but I
could not help being glad he relented to Maria.'

'You were right.  Your eldest brother is the right person to give you a
home.  I cannot.  It would have shown an evil, suspicious temper if you
had refused him.'

'Yet you do not like it.'

'Perhaps I am unjust.  I own that I had imagined you all happier and
better in such a home as Mrs. Parsons or Miss Charlecote could find for
you; and though Mervyn would scarcely wilfully take advantage of your
innocence, I do not trust to his always knowing what would be hurtful to
you or Bertha.  It is a charge that I grudge to him, for I do not think
he perceives what it is.'

'I could make you think better of him.  I wonder whether I may.'

'Anything--anything to make me think better of him,' cried Robert
eagerly.

'I do not know it from him alone, so it cannot be a breach of
confidence,' said Phoebe.  'He has been deeply attached, not to a pretty
person, nor a rich nor grand one, but she was very good and religious--so
much so that she would not accept him.'

'How recently?'

'The attachment has been long; the rejection this spring.'

'My poor Phoebe, I could not tell you how his time has been passed since
early spring.'

'I know in part,' she said, looking down; 'but, Robin, _that_ arose from
despair.  Oh, how I longed for him to come and let me try to comfort
him!'

'And how is this to change my opinion,' asked Robert, 'except by showing
me that no right-minded woman could trust herself with him?'

'Oh, Robert, no!  Sisters need not change, though others ought, perhaps.
I meant you to see that he does love and honour goodness for itself, and
so that he will guard his sisters.'

'I will think so, Phoebe.  You deserve to be believed, for you draw out
his best points.  For my own part, the miserable habits of our boyhood
have left a habit of acrimony, of which, repent as I will, I cannot free
myself.  I gave way to it last night.  I can be cool, but I cannot help
being contemptuous.  I make him worse, and I aggravated your difficulties
by insulting him.'

'He insulted you,' said Phoebe.  'When I think of those words I don't
know how I can stay with him.'

'They fell short!  They were nothing,' said Robert.  'But it was the more
unbefitting in me to frame my warning as I did.  Oh, Phoebe, your prayers
and influence have done much for me.  Help me now to treat my brother so
as not to disgrace my calling.'

'You--when you freely forgive all the injuries he has done you!'

'If I freely forgave, I suppose I should love;' and he murmured sadly,
'He that hateth his brother is a murderer.'

Phoebe shrank, but could not help thinking that if the spirit of Cain
existed among them, it was not with the younger brother.

When she next spoke, it was to express her fear lest Miss Fennimore
should refuse to remain, since the position would be uncomfortable.  Her
talent was thrown away on poor Maria, and Bertha had been very vexing and
provoking of late.  Phoebe greatly dreaded a change, both from her love
for her governess, and alarm lest a new duenna might be yet more
unwelcome to Mervyn, and she was disappointed to see that Robert caught
at the hope that the whole scheme might be baffled on this score.

Phoebe thought a repetition of the dinner-table offence would be best
obviated by taking her place as tea-maker at once.  Mervyn first came
down, and greeted her like something especially his own.  He detected the
red blistered spot on her cheek, and exclaimed, 'Eh! did they make you
cry?  Never mind; the house will soon be clear of them, and you my little
queen.  You have nothing to say against it.  Has any one been putting
things in your head?' and he looked fiercely at his brother.

'No, Mervyn; Robert and I both think you very kind, and that it is the
right thing.'

'Yes,' said Robert, 'no arrangement could be more proper.  I am sorry,
Mervyn, if my manner was offensive last night.'

'I never take offence, it is not my way,' said Mervyn, indifferently,
almost annoyed that his brother had not spirit to persevere in the
quarrel.

After the breakfast, where the elder sisters were cold and distant, and
Sir Bevil as friendly as he durst, Mervyn's first move was to go, in
conjunction with Mr. Crabbe, to explain the arrangement to Miss
Fennimore, and request her to continue her services.  They came away
surprised and angry: Miss Fennimore would 'consider of it.'  Even when
Mervyn, to spare himself from 'some stranger who might prove a greater
nuisance,' had offered a hundred in addition to her present exorbitant
salary, she courteously declined, and repeated that her reply should be
given in the evening.

Mervyn's wrath would have been doubled had he known the cause of her
delay.  She sent Maria to beg Robert to spare her half an hour, and on
his entrance, dismissing her pupils, she said, 'Mr. Fulmort, I should be
glad if you would candidly tell me your opinion of the proposed
arrangement.  I mean,' seeing his hesitation, 'of that part which relates
to myself.'

'I do not quite understand you,' he said.

'I mean, whether, as the person whose decision has the most worth in this
family, you are satisfied to leave your sisters under my charge?  If not,
whatever it may cost me to part with that sweet and admirable Phoebe,'
and her voice showed unwonted emotion, 'I would not think of remaining
with them.'

'You put me in a very strange position, Miss Fennimore; I have no
authority to decide.  They could have no friend more sincerely anxious
for their welfare or so welcome to Phoebe's present wishes.'

'Perhaps not; but the question is not of my feelings nor theirs, but
whether you consider my influence pernicious to their religious
principles.  If so, I decline their guardian's terms at once.'  After a
pause, she added, pleased at his deliberation, 'It may assist you if I
lay before you the state of my own mind.'

She proceeded to explain that her parents had been professed Unitarians,
her mother, loving and devout to the hereditary faith, beyond which she
had never looked--'Mr. Fulmort,' she said, 'nothing will approve itself
to me that condemns my mother!'

He began to say that often where there was no wilful rejection of truth,
saving grace and faith might be vouchsafed.

'You are charitable,' she answered, in a tone like sarcasm, and went on.
Her father, a literary man of high ability, set aside from work by
ill-health, thought himself above creeds.  He had given his daughter a
man's education, had read many argumentative books with her, and died,
leaving her liberally and devoutly inclined in the spirit of Pope's
universal prayer--'Jehovah, Jove, or Lord.'  It was all aspiration to the
Lord of nature, the forms, adaptations to humanity, kaleidoscope shapes
of half-comprehended fragments, each with its own beauty, and only
becoming worthy of reprobation where they permitted moral vices, among
which she counted intolerance.

What she thought reasonable--Christianity, modified by the world's
progress--was her tenet, and she had no scruple in partaking in any act
of worship; while naturally conscientious, and loving all the virtues,
she viewed the terrors of religion as the scourge of the grovelling and
superstitious; or if suffering existed at all, it could be only as
expiation, conducting to a condition of high intellect and perfect
morality.  No other view, least of all that of a vicarious atonement,
seemed to her worthy of the beneficence of the God whom she had set up
for herself.

Thus had she rested for twenty years; but of late she had been
dissatisfied.  Living with Phoebe, 'though the child was not naturally
intellectual,' there was no avoiding the impression that what she acted
and rested on was substantial truth.  'The same with others,' said Miss
Fennimore, meaning her auditor himself.  'And, again, I cannot but feel
that devotion to any system of faith is the restraint that Bertha is
deficient in, and that this is probably owing to my own tone.  These
examples have led me to go over the former ground in the course of the
present spring; and it has struck me that, if the Divine Being be not the
mere abstraction I once supposed, it is consistent to believe that He has
a character and will--individuality, in short--so that there might be one
single revelation of absolute truth.  I have not thoroughly gone through
the subject, but I hope to do so; and when I mark what I can only call a
supernatural influence on an individual character, I view it as an
evidence in favour of the system that produced it.  My exposition of my
opinions shocks you; I knew it would.  But knowing this, and thinking it
possible that an undoubting believer might have influenced Bertha, are
you willing to trust your sisters to me?'

'Let me ask one question--why was this explanation never offered before
to those who had more right to decide?'

'My tenets have seldom been the subject of inquiry.  When they have, I
have concealed nothing; and twice have thus missed a situation.  But
these things are usually taken for granted; and I never imagined it my
duty to volunteer my religious sentiments, since I never obtruded them.
I gave no scandal by objecting to any form of worship, and concerned
myself with the moral and intellectual, not the religious being.'

'Could you reach the moral without the religious?'

'I should tell you that I have seldom reared a pupil from childhood.
Mine have been chiefly from fifteen to eighteen, whose parents required
their instruction, not education, from me; and till I came here, I never
fully beheld the growth and development of character.  I found that
whereas all I could do for Phoebe was to give her method and information,
leaving alone the higher graces elsewhere derived, with Bertha, my
efforts were inadequate to supply any motive for overcoming her natural
defects; and I believe that association with a person of my sceptical
habit has tended to prevent Phoebe's religion from influencing her
sister.'

'This is the reason you tell me?'

'Partly; and likewise because I esteem you very differently from my
former employers, and know that your views for your sisters are not like
those of the persons with whom I have been accustomed to deal.'

'You know that I have no power.  It rests entirely with my brother and
Mr. Crabbe.'

'I am perfectly aware of it; but I could not allow myself to be forced on
your sisters by any family arrangement contrary to the wishes of that
member of it who is most qualified to judge for them.'

'Thank you, Miss Fennimore; I will treat you as openly as you have
treated me.  I have often felt indignant that my sisters should be
exposed to any risk of having their faith shaken; and this morning I
almost hoped to hear that you did not consent to Mervyn's scheme.  But
what you have said convinces me that, whatever you may have been
previously, you are more likely to strengthen and confirm them in all
that is good than half the people they would meet.  I know that it would
be a heavy affliction to Phoebe to lose so kind a friend; it might drive
her from the home to which she clings, and separate Bertha, at least,
from her; and under the circumstances, I cannot wish you to leave the
poor girls at present.'  He spoke rather confusedly, but there was more
consent in manner than words.

'Thank you,' she replied, fervently.  'I cannot tell you what it would
cost me to part with Phoebe, my living lesson.'

'Only let the lesson be still unconscious.'

'I would not have it otherwise for worlds.  The calm reliance that makes
her a ministering spirit is far too lovely to be ruffled by a hint of the
controversies that weary my brain.  If it be effect of credulity, the
effects are more beauteous than those of clear eyesight.'

'You will not always think it credulity.'

'There would be great rest in being able to accept all that you and she
do,' Miss Fennimore answered with a sigh; 'in finding an unchanging
answer to "What is truth?"  Yet even your Gospel leaves that question
unanswered.'

'Unanswered to Pilate; but those who are true find the truth; I verily
trust that your eyes will become cleared to find it.  Miss Fennimore, you
know that I am unready and weak in argument, and you have often left me
no refuge but my positive conviction; but I can refer you to those who
are strong.  If I can help you by carrying your difficulties to others,
or by pointing out books, I should rejoice--'

'You cannot argue--you can only act,' said Miss Fennimore, smiling, as a
message called him away.

The schoolroom had been left undisturbed, for the sisters were otherwise
occupied.  By Mr. Fulmort's will, the jewels, excepting certain Mervyn
heirlooms, were to be divided between the daughters, and their two
ladyships thought this the best time for their choice, though as yet they
could not take possession.  Phoebe would have given the world that the
sets had been appropriated, so that Mervyn and Mr. Crabbe should not have
had to make her miserable by fighting her battles, insisting on her
choosing, and then overruling her choice as not of sufficiently valuable
articles, while Bertha profited by the lesson in harpy-hood, and regarded
all claimed by the others as so much taken from herself; and poor Maria
clasped on every bracelet one by one, threaded every ring on her fingers,
and caught the same lustre on every diamond, delighting in the grand
exhibition, and in her own share, which by general consent included all
that was clumsy and ill-set.  No one had the heart to disturb her, but
Phoebe felt that the poor thing was an eyesore to them all, and was
hardly able to endure Augusta's compliment, 'After all, Phoebe, she is
not so bad; you may make her tolerably presentable for the country.'

Lady Acton patronized Bertha, in opposition to Phoebe; and Sir Bevil was
glad to have one sister to whom he could be good-natured without
molestation.  The young lady, heartily weary of the monotony of home, was
much disappointed at the present arrangement; Phoebe had become the
envied elder sister instead of the companion in misfortune, and Juliana
was looked on as the sympathizing friend who would fain have opened the
prison doors that Phoebe closed against her by making all that
disturbance about Maria.

'It is all humbug about Maria,' said Juliana.  'Much Phoebe will let her
stand in her way when she wants to come to London for the season--but
I'll not take her out, I promise her.'

'But you will take me,' cried Bertha.  'You'll not leave me in this
dismal hole always.'

'Never fear, Bertha.  This plan won't last six months.  Mervyn and Phoebe
will get sick of one another, and Augusta will be ready to take her
in--she is pining for an errand girl.'

'I'll not go there to read cookery books and meet old fogies.  You will
have me, Juliana, and we will have such fun together.'

'When you are come out, perhaps--and you must cure that stammer.'

'I shall die of dulness before then!  If I could only go to school!'

'I wouldn't be you with Maria for your most lively companion.'

'It is much worse than when we used to go down into the drawing-room.
Now we never see any one but Miss Charlecote, and Phoebe is getting
exactly like her!'

'What, all her sanctimonious ways?  I thought so.'

'And to make it more aggravating, Miss Fennimore is going to get
religious too.  She made me read all Butler's _Analogy_, and wants to put
me into _Paley_, and she is always running after Robert.'

'Middle-aged governesses always do run after young clergymen--especially
the most _outre's_.'

'And now she snaps me up if I say anything the least comprehensive or
speculative, or if I laugh at the conventionalities Phoebe learns at the
Holt.  Yesterday I said that the progress of common sense would soon make
people cease to connect dulness with mortality, or to think a serious
mistiness the sole evidence of respect, and I was caught up as if it were
high treason.'

'You must not get out of bounds in your