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Title: Heartsease; Or, The Brother's Wife
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (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 "Heartsease; Or, The Brother's Wife" ***

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HEARTSEASE,

or BROTHER'S WIFE


By Charlotte M. Yonge



PART I


     And Maidens call them Love in Idleness.

     --Midsummer Night's Dream



CHAPTER 1


  There are none of England's daughters that bear a prouder presence.
  *****
  And a kingly blood sends glances up, her princely eye to trouble,
  And the shadow of a monarch's crown is softened in her hair.

  --ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING


The sun shone slanting over a spacious park, the undulating ground here
turning a broad lawn towards the beams that silvered every blade of
grass; there, curving away in banks of velvet green; shadowed by the
trees; gnarled old thorns in the holiday suit whence they take their
name, giant's nosegays of horse-chestnuts, mighty elms and stalwart
oaks, singly or in groups, the aristocracy of the place; while in the
background rose wooded coverts, where every tint of early green blended
in rich masses of varied foliage.

An avenue, nearly half a mile in length, consisted of a quadruple range
of splendid lime trees of uniform growth, the side arcades vaulted over
by the meeting branches, and the central road, where the same lights and
shadows were again and again repeated, conducting the eye in diminishing
perspective to a mansion on a broad base of stone steps. Herds of
cattle, horses, and deer, gave animation to the scene, and near
the avenue were a party of village children running about gathering
cowslips, or seated on the grass, devouring substantial plum buns.

Under a lordly elm sat a maiden of about nineteen years; at her feet
a Skye terrier, like a walking door-mat, with a fierce and droll
countenance, and by her side a girl and boy, the one sickly and poorly
clad, the other with bright inquiring eyes, striving to compensate for
the want of other faculties. She was teaching them to form that delight
of childhood, a cowslip ball, the other children supplying her with
handfuls of the gold-coated flowers, and returning a pull of the
forelock or a bobbed curtsey to her smiling thanks.

Her dress was of a plain brown-holland looking material, the bonnet she
had thrown off was of the coarsest straw, but her whole air declared
her the daughter of that lordly house; and had gold and rubies been laid
before her instead of cowslips with fairy favours, they would well have
become her princely port, long neck, and stately head, crowned with a
braid of her profuse black hair. That regal look was more remarkable in
her than beauty; her brow was too high, her features not quite regular,
her complexion of gypsy darkness, but with a glow of eyes very large,
black, and deeply set, naturally grave in expression, but just now
beaming and dancing in accordance with the encouraging smiles on her
fresh, healthy, red lips, as her hands, very soft and delicate, though
of large and strong make, completed the ball, threw it in the little
boy's face, and laughed to see his ecstasy over the delicious prize;
teaching him to play with it, tossing it backwards and forwards, shaking
him into animation, and ever and anon chasing her little dog to extract
it from between his teeth.

Suddenly she became aware of the presence of a spectator, and instantly
assuming her bonnet, and drawing up her tall figure, she exclaimed, in a
tone of welcome:

'Oh, Mr. Wingfield, you are come to see our cowslip feast.'

'There seems to be great enjoyment,' replied the young curate, looking,
however, somewhat pre-occupied.

'Look at Charlie Layton,' said she, pointing to the dumb boy. 'That ball
is perfect felicity, he had rather not play with it, the delight is mere
possession.' She was turning to the boy again, when Mr. Wingfield said,
not without hesitation--'You have not heard when to expect your party
from Madeira?'

'You know we cannot hear again. They were to sail by the next packet,
and it is uncertain how soon they may arrive.'

'And--and--your brother Arthur. Do you know when he comes home?'

'He promised to come this spring, but I fancy Captain Fitzhugh has
inveigled him somewhere to fish. He never writes, so he may come any
day. But what--is anything the matter?'

'I have a letter here that--which--in Lord Martindale's absence, I
thought it might be better--you might prefer my coming direct to you. I
cannot but think you should be aware'--stammered Mr. Wingfield.

'Well,'--she said, haughtily.

'Here is a letter from my cousin, who has a curacy in the Lake country.
Your brother is at Wrangerton, the next town.'

'Arthur is well?' cried she, starting.

'Yes, yes, you need not be alarmed, but I am afraid there is some
entanglement. There are some Miss Mosses--'

'Oh, it is that kind of thing!' said she, in an altered tone, her cheeks
glowing; 'it is very silly of him to get himself talked about; but of
course it is all nothing.'

'I wish I could think so,' said Mr. Wingfield; 'but, indeed, Miss
Martindale,' for she was returning to the children, 'I am afraid it is a
serious matter. The father is a designing person.'

'Arthur will not be taken in,' was her first calm answer; but perceiving
the curate unconvinced, though unwilling to contradict, she added, 'But
what is the story?'

Mr. Wingfield produced the letter and read; 'Fanshawe, the curate of
Wrangerton, has just been with me, telling me his rector is in much
difficulty and perplexity about a son of your parishioner, Lord
Martindale. He came to Wrangerton with another guardsman for the sake
of the fishing, and has been drawn into an engagement with one of the
daughters of old Moss, who manages the St. Erme property. I know nothing
against the young ladies, indeed Fanshawe speaks highly of them; but the
father is a disreputable sort of attorney, who has taken advantage of
Lord St. Erme's absence and neglect to make a prey of the estate. The
marriage is to take place immediately, and poor Mr. Jones is in much
distress at the dread of being asked to perform the ceremony, without
the consent of the young man's family.'

'He cannot do it,' exclaimed the young lady; 'you had better write and
tell him so.'

'I am afraid,' said Mr. Wingfield, diffidently, 'I am afraid he has no
power to refuse.'

'Not in such a case as this? It is his duty to put a stop to it.'

'All that is in his power he will do, no doubt, by reasoning and
remonstrance; but you must remember that your brother is of age, and if
the young lady's parents consent, Mr. Jones has no choice.'

'I could not have believed it! However, it will not come to that: it is
only the old rector's fancy. To make everything secure I will write to
my brother, and we shall soon see him here.'

'There is still an hour before post-time,' said Mr. Wingfield; 'shall I
send the children home?'

'No, poor little things, let them finish their game. Thank you for
coming to me. My aunt will, I hope, hear nothing of it. Good evening.'

Calling an elder girl, she gave some directions; and Mr. Wingfield
watched her walking down the avenue with a light-footed but decided and
characteristic tread, expressing in every step, 'Where I am going, there
I will go, and nothing shall stop me.'

'Nonsense!' she said to herself; 'Arthur cannot be so lost to the sense
of everything becoming. Such pain cannot be in store for me! Anything
else I could bear; but this must not, cannot, shall not be. Arthur is
all I have; I cannot spare him; and to see him shipwrecked on a low-bred
designing creature would be too much misery. Impossible--so clear-headed
as he is, so fastidious about women! And yet this letter spoke
decidedly. People talk of love! and Arthur is so easy, he would let
himself be drawn on rather than make a disturbance. He might be ensnared
with his eyes open, because he disliked the trouble of breaking loose,
and so would not think of the consequence. Nothing could save him
so well as some one going to him. He can read a letter or not as he
chooses. Oh, if papa were at home--oh, if Mr. Wingfield were but Percy
Fotheringham--he who fears no man, and can manage any one! Oh! if I
could go myself; he heeds me when he heeds no one else. Shall I go? Why
not? It would save him; it would be the only effectual way. Let me see.
I would take Simmonds and Pauline. But then I must explain to my
aunt. Stuff! there are real interests at stake! Suppose this is
exaggeration--why, then, I should be ridiculous, and Arthur would never
forget it. Besides, I believe I cannot get there in one day--certainly
not return the same. I must give way to conventionalities, and be a
helpless young lady.'

She reached the house, and quickly dashed off her letter:--


'My Dear Arthur,--I hope and trust this letter may be quite uncalled
for, though I feel it my duty to write it. I used to have some influence
with you, and I should think that anything that reminded you of home
would make you pause.

'Report has of course outrun the truth. It is impossible you should be
on the brink of marriage without letting us know--as much so, I should
trust, as your seriously contemplating an engagement with one beneath
your notice. I dare say you find it very pleasant to amuse yourself; but
consider, before you allow yourself to form an attachment--I will not
say before becoming a victim to sordid speculation. You know what poor
John has gone through, though there was no inferiority there. Think what
you would have to bear for the sake, perhaps, of a pretty face, but of a
person incapable of being a companion or comfort, and whom you would be
ashamed to see beside your own family. Or, supposing your own affections
untouched, what right have you to trifle with the feelings of a poor
girl, and raise expectations you cannot and ought not to fulfil? You are
too kind, when once you reflect, to inflict such pain, you, who cannot
help being loved. Come away while it is time; come home, and have the
merit of self-sacrifice. If your fancy is smitten, it will recover
in its proper sphere. If it costs you pain, you know to whom you have
always hitherto turned in your vexations. Dear Arthur, do not ruin
yourself; only come back to me. Write at once; I cannot bear the
suspense.

'Your most affectionate sister,

'THEODORA A. MARTINDALE.'


She made two copies of this letter; one she directed to 'The Hon. Arthur
Martindale, Grenadier Guards, Winchester;' the other, 'Post-Office,
Wrangerton.' In rather more than a week she was answered:--


'My Dear Theodora,--You judged rightly that I am no man to trifle, or to
raise expectations which I did not mean to fulfil. My wife and I are at
Matlock for a few days before joining at Winchester.

'Your affectionate brother,

'ARTHUR N. MARTINDALE,'



CHAPTER 2


     She's less of a bride than a bairn,
     She's ta'en like a colt from the heather,
     With sense and discretion to learn.

     A chiel maun be patient and steady
     That yokes with a mate in her teens.
                                     Woo'd and Married and A'

     JOANNA BAILLIE


A gentleman stood waiting at the door of a house not far from the
Winchester barracks.

'Is my brother at home, James?' as the servant gave a start of surprise
and recognition.

'No, sir; he is not in the house, but Mrs.--; will you walk in? I hope I
see you better, sir.'

'Much better, thank you. Did you say Mrs. Martindale was at home?'

'Yes, sir; Mr. Arthur will soon be here. Won't you walk in?'

'Is she in the drawing-room?'

'No, I do not think so, sir. She went up-stairs when she came in.'

'Very well. I'll send up my card,' said he, entering, and the man as he
took it, said, with emphasis, and a pleading look, 'She is a very nice
young lady, sir,' then opened a room door.

He suddenly announced, 'Mr. Martindale,' and that gentleman unexpectedly
found himself in the presence of a young girl, who rose in such
confusion that he could not look at her as he shook her by the hand,
saying, 'Is Arthur near home?'

'Yes--no--yes; at least, he'll come soon,' was the reply, as if she
hardly knew what her words were.

'Were you going out?' he asked, seeing a bonnet on the sofa.

'No, thank you,--at least I mean, I'm just come in. He went to speak to
some one, and I came to finish my letter. He'll soon come,' said she,
with the rapid ill-assured manner of a school-girl receiving her mamma's
visitors.

'Don't let me interrupt you,' said he, taking up a book.

'O no, no, thank you,' cried she, in a tremor lest she should have been
uncivil. 'I didn't mean--I've plenty of time. 'Tis only to my home, and
they have had one by the early post.'

He smiled, saying, 'You are a good correspondent.'

'Oh! I must write. Annette and I were never apart before.'

'Your sister?'

'Yes, only a year older. We always did everything together.'

He ventured to look up, and saw a bright dew on a soft, shady pair of
dark eyes, a sweet quivering smile on a very pretty mouth, and a glow
of pure bright deep pink on a most delicately fair skin, contrasted with
braids of dark brown hair. She was rather above the ordinary height,
slender, and graceful, and the childish beauty of the form or face and
features surprised him; but to his mind the chief grace was the shy,
sweet tenderness, happy and bright, but tremulous with the recent pain
of the parting from home. With a kindly impulse, he said, 'You must tell
me your name, Arthur has not mentioned it.'

'Violet;' and as he did not appear at once to catch its unusual sound,
she repeated, 'Violet Helen; we most of us have strange names.'

'Violet Helen,' he repeated, with an intonation as if struck, not
unpleasingly, by the second name. 'Well, that is the case in our family.
My sister has an uncommon name.'

'Theodora,' said Violet, pausing, as if too timid to inquire further.

'Have you only this one sister?' he said.

'Six, and one brother,' said she, in a tone of exulting fondness. A
short silence, and then the joyful exclamation, 'There he is!' and she
sprang to the door, leaving it open, as her fresh young voice announced,
full of gratulation, 'Here's your brother.'

'Guileless and unconscious of evil, poor child!' thought the brother;
'but I wonder how Arthur likes the news.'

Arthur entered, a fine-looking young man, of three-and-twenty,
dark, bright complexioned, tall, and robust. He showed not the least
consciousness of having offended, and his bride smiled freely as if at
rest from all embarrassment now that she had her protector.

'Well, John,' was his greeting, warmly spoken. 'You here? You look
better. How is the cough?'

'Better, thank you.'

'I see I need not introduce you,' said Arthur, laying his hand on the
arm of his blushing Violet, who shrank up to him as he gave a short
laugh. 'Have you been here long?'

'Only about five minutes.'

'And you are come to stay?'

'Thank you, if you can take me in for a day or two.'

'That we can. There is a tolerable spare room, and James will find a
place for Brown. I am glad to see you looking so much better. Have you
got rid of the pain in your side?'

'Entirely, thank you, for the last few weeks.'

'How is my mother?'

'Very well. She enjoyed the voyage extremely.'

'She won't concoct another Tour?'

'I don't think so,' said John, gravely.

'There has SHE,' indicating his wife, been thinking it her duty to read
the old Italian one, which I never opened in my life. I declare it would
take a dictionary to understand a page. She is scared at the variety of
tongues, and feels as if she was in Babel.'

John was thinking that if he did not know this rattling talk to be a
form of embarrassment, he should take it for effrontery.

'Shall I go and see about the room?' half-whispered Violet.

'Yes, do;' and he opened the door for her, exclaiming, almost before she
was fairly gone, 'There! you want no more explanation.'

She is very lovely!' said John, in a tone full of cordial admiration.

'Isn't she?' continued Arthur, triumphantly. 'Such an out-of-the-way
style;--the dark eyes and hair, with that exquisite complexion, ivory
fairness,--the form of her face the perfect oval!--what you so seldom
see--and her figure, just the right height, tall and taper! I don't
believe she could be awkward if she was to try. She'll beat every
creature hollow, especially in a few years' time when she's a little
more formed.'

'She is very young?'

'Sixteen on our wedding-day. That's the beauty of it. If she had been a
day older it would have been a different thing. Not that they could have
spoilt her,--she is a thoroughbred by nature, and no mistake.'

'How did your acquaintance begin?'

'This way,' said Arthur, leaning back, and twirling a chair on one
of its legs for a pivot. 'Fitzhugh would have me come down for a
fortnight's fishing to Wrangerton. There's but one inn there fit to put
a dog to sleep in, and when we got there we found the house turned out
of window for a ball, all the partitions down on the first floor, and
we driven into holes to be regaled with distant fiddle-squeak. So
Fitzhugh's Irish blood was up for a dance, and I thought I might as well
give in to it, for the floor shook so that there was no taking a cigar
in peace. So you see the stars ordained it, and it is of no use making
a row about one's destiny,' concluded Arthur, in a sleepy voice, ceasing
to spin the chair.

'That was your first introduction?'

'Ay. After that, one was meeting the Mosses for ever; indeed, we had to
call on the old fellow to get leave for fishing in that water of Lord
St. Erme's. He has a very pretty sort of little place out of the town
close to the park, and--and somehow the weather was too bright for any
sport, and the stream led by their garden.'

'I perceive,' said John.

'Well, I saw I was in for it, and had nothing for it but to go through
with it. Anything for a quiet life.'

'A new mode of securing it,' said John, indignant at his nonchalance.

'There you don't display your wonted sagacity,' returned Arthur coolly.
'You little know what I have gone through on your account. If you had
been sound-winded, you would have saved me no end of persecution.'

'You have not avoided speculation as it is,' John could not help saying.

'I beg to observe that you are mistaken. Old Moss is as cunning a fox
as ever lived; but I saw his game, and without my own good-will he might
have whistled for me. I saw what he was up to, and let him know it, but
as I was always determined that when I married it should be to please
myself, not my aunt, I let things take their course and saved the row at
home.'

'I am sure she knew nothing of this.'

'She? Bless you, poor child. She is as innocent as a lamb, and only
thinks me all the heroes in the world.'

'She did not know my father was ignorant of it?'

'Not she. She does not know it to this day.' John sat thinking; Arthur
twirled the chair, then said, 'That is the fact. I suppose my aunt had a
nice story for you.'

'It agreed in the main with yours.'

'I was unlucky,' said Arthur, 'I meant to have brought her home before
my aunt and Theodora had any news of it. I could have got round them
that way, but somehow Theodora got scent of it, and wrote me a furious
letter, full of denunciation--two of them--they hunted me everywhere, so
I saw it was no use going there.'

'She is much hurt at your letter. I can see that she is, though she
tries to hide her feelings. She was looking quite pale when we came
home, and I can hardly bear to see the struggle to look composed when
you are mentioned.'

This evidently produced some compunction, but Arthur tried to get rid
of it. 'I am sure there was nothing to take to heart in it--was there,
John?'

'I don't know. She had burnt it without letting any one see it; and it
was only through my aunt that we learnt that she had received it.'

'Well! her temper is up, and I am sorry for it,' said Arthur. 'I forget
what I said. I dare say it was no more than she deserved. I got one
of these remonstrances of hers at Wrangerton, on the day before, and
another followed me a couple of days after to Matlock, so I could not
have that going on for ever, and wrote off to put a stop to it. But what
does his lordship say?'

'Do you wish him to forgive or not?' said his brother, nearly out of
patience.

'Of course--I knew he would, he can't leave us with nothing to live on.
There's nothing to be done but to go through the forms, and I am quite
ready. Come, what's the use of looking intensely disgusted? Now you have
seen her, you don't expect me to profess that I am very sorry, and "will
never do so no more."'

'I say nothing against her, but the way of doing it.'

'So much trouble saved. Besides, I tell you I am ready to make whatever
apology my father likes for a preliminary.'

His brother looked vexed, and dropped the conversation, waiting to see
more of the bride before he should form an opinion.

It was seeing rather than hearing, for she was in much awe of him,
blushed more than she spoke, and seemed taken up by the fear of doing
something inappropriate, constantly turning wistful inquiring looks
towards her husband, to seek encouragement or direction, but it was a
becoming confusion, and by no means lessened the favourable impression.

'The next morning Arthur was engaged, and left her to be the guide to
the cathedral, whereat she looked shy and frightened, but Mr. Martindale
set himself to re-assure her, and the polished gentleness of his manner
soon succeeded.

They stood on the hill, overlooking the town and the vale of Itchen,
winding away till lost between the green downs that arose behind their
crested neighbour, St. Catherine's Hill, and in the valley beneath
reposed the gray cathedral's lengthened nave and square tower, its
lesser likeness, St. Cross, and the pinnacles of the College tower.

'A very pretty view,' said Mr. Martindale.

'The old buildings are very fine, but it is not like our own hills.'

'No, it is hard on Hampshire downs to compare them to Cumberland
mountains.'

'But it is so sunny and beautiful,' said the bright young bride. 'See
the sunshine on the green meadows, and the haymaking. Oh! I shall always
love it.' John heard a great deal of happiness in those words. 'I never
saw a cathedral before,' she added.

'Have you been over this one?'

'Yes, but it will be such a treat to go again. One can't take a quarter
of it in at once.'

'No, it takes half a lifetime to learn a cathedral properly.'

'It is a wonderful thing,' she said, with the same serious face; then,
changing her tone to one of eagerness, 'I want to find Bishop Fox's
tomb, for he was a north-country bishop.'

John smiled. 'You are perfect in the cathedral history.'

'I bought a little book about it.'

Her knowledge was, he found, in a girlish state of keen interest, and
not deficient, but what pleased him best was that, as they entered and
stood at the west door, looking down the whole magnificent length of
nave, choir, and chapel, the embowed roof high above, sustained on
massive pillars, she uttered a low murmur of 'beautiful!' and there was
a heart-felt expression of awe and reverence on her face, a look as of
rapt thought, chased away in a moment by his eye, and giving place to
quiet pensiveness. After the service they went over the building; but
though eager for information, the gravity did not leave her, nor did she
speak at once when they emerged into the Close.

'It is very impressive,' said John.

'I suppose you have seen a great many cathedrals?'

'Yes, many foreign ones, and a few English.'

'I wonder whether seeing many makes one feel the same as seeing one.'

'How do you mean?'

'I do not think I could ever care for another like this one.'

'As your first?'

'Yes; it has made me understand better what books say about churches,
and their being like--'

'Like?'

She changed her sentence. 'It makes one think, and want to be good.'

'It is what all truly beautiful things should do' said John.

'Oh! I am glad you say so,' exclaimed Violet. 'It is like what Annette
and I have wondered about--I mean why fine statues or pictures, or
anything of that kind, should make one feel half sad and half thoughtful
when one looks at them long.'

'Perhaps because it is a straining after the only true beauty.'

'I must tell Annette that. It was she that said it was so,' said Violet;
'and we wondered Greek statues gave one that feeling, but I see it must
be the reason.'

'What statues have you seen?'

'Those at Wrangerton House. Lord St. Erme is always sending cases
home, and it is such a festival day to go up and see them unpacked, and
Caroline and Annette go and take drawings, and I like to wander about
the rooms, and look at everything,' said Violet, growing talkative on
the theme of home. 'There is one picture I like above all, but that is a
sacred subject, so no wonder it should have that feeling in it.'

'What is it?'

'It is a Madonna,' she said, lowering her voice. 'A stiff old-fashioned
one, in beautiful, bright, clear colouring. The Child is reaching out to
embrace a little cross, and his Mother holds him towards it with such a
sad but such a holy face, as if she foreboded all, and was ready to bear
it.'

'Ah! that Ghirlandajo?'

'That is the name!' cried Violet, enchanted. 'Have you seen it?'

'I saw Lord St. Erme buy it.'

'Do you know Lord St. Erme?' said Violet, rather awe-struck.

'I used to meet him in Italy.'

'We wish so much that he would come home. We do so want to see a poet.'

John smiled. 'Is he never at home?'

'O, no, he has never been at Wrangerton since his father died, twelve
years ago. He does not like the place, so he only comes to London when
he is in England, and papa goes up to meet him on business, but he is
too poetical to attend to it.'

'I should guess that.'

'I have done wrong, said Violet, checking herself; 'I should not have
said that. Mamma told us that we ought never to chatter about his
concerns. Will you, please, not remember that I said it?'

As far as the outer world is concerned, I certainly will not,' said John
kindly. 'You cannot too early learn discretion. So that picture is at
Wrangerton?'

'I am so glad you liked it.'

'I liked it well enough to wish for a few spare hundreds, but it seems
to have afforded no more pleasure to him than it has given to me. I am
glad it is gone where there is some one who can appreciate it.'

'Oh, said Violet,' Matilda knows all about the best pictures. We don't
appreciate, you know, we only like.'

'And your chief liking is for that one?'

'It is more than liking,' said Violet; 'I could call it loving. It is
almost the same to me as Helvellyn. Annette and I went to the house for
one look more my last evening at home. I must tell her that you have
seen it!' and the springing steps grew so rapid, that her companion had
to say, 'Don't let me detain you, I am obliged to go gently up-hill.'
She checked her steps, abashed, and presently, with a shy but very
pretty action, held out her arm, saying timidly, 'Would it help you to
lean on me? I ought not to have brought you this steep way. Matilda says
I skurry like a school-girl.'

He saw it would console her to let her think herself of service and
accepted of the slender prop for the few steps that remained. He
then went up-stairs to write letters, but finding no ink, came to the
drawing-room to ask her for some. She had only her own inkstand, which
was supplying her letter to Annette, and he sat down at the opposite
side of the table to share it. Her pen went much faster than his.
'Clifton Terrace, Winchester,' and 'My dear father--I came here
yesterday, and was most agreeably surprised,' was all that he had
indited, when he paused to weigh what was his real view of the merits of
the case, and ponder whether his present feeling was sober judgment, or
the novelty of the bewitching prettiness of this innocent and gracious
creature. There he rested, musing, while from her pen flowed a
description of her walk and of Mr. Martindale's brother. 'If they are
all like him, I shall be perfectly happy,' she wrote. 'I never saw
any one so kind and considerate, and so gentle; only now and then he
frightens me, with his politeness, or perhaps polish is the right word,
it makes me feel myself rude and uncourteous and awkward. You said
nothing gave you so much the notion of high-breeding as Mr. Martindale's
ease, especially when he pretended to be rough and talk slang, it was
like playing at it. Now, his brother has the same, without the funny
roughness, but the greatest gentleness, and a good deal of quiet
sadness. I suppose it is from his health, though he is much better now:
he still coughs, and he moves slowly and leans languidly, as if he was
not strong. He is not so tall as his brother, and much slighter in make,
and fairer complexioned, with gray eyes and brown hair, and he looks
sallow and worn and thin, with such white long hands.'

Here raising her eyes to verify her description, she encountered those
of its subject, evidently taking a survey of her for the same purpose.
He smiled, and she was thereby encouraged to break into a laugh, so
girlish and light-hearted, so unconscious how much depended on his
report, that he could not but feel compassionate.

Alarmed at the graver look, she crimsoned, exclaiming, 'O! I beg your
pardon! It was very rude.'

'No, no,' said John; it was absurd!' and vexed at having checked her
gladsomeness, he added, 'It is I rather who should ask your pardon, for
looks that will not make a cheerful figure in your description.'

'Oh, no,' cried Violet; 'mamma told me never to say anything against any
of Mr. Martindale's relations. What have I said?'--as he could not help
laughing--'Something I could not have meant.'

'Don't distress yourself, pray,' said John, not at all in a bantering
tone. 'I know what you meant; and it was very wise advice, such as you
will be very glad to have followed.'

With a renewed blush, an ingenuous look, and a hesitating effort, she
said, 'INDEED, I have been telling them how very kind you are. Mamma
will be so pleased to hear it.'

'She must have been very sorry to part with you,' said he, looking at
the fair girl sent so early into the world.

'Oh, yes!' and the tears started to the black eyelashes, though a
smile came at the same time; 'she said I should be such a giddy young
housekeeper, and she would have liked a little more notice.'

'It was not very long?' said John, anxious to lead her to give him
information; and she was too young and happy not to be confidential,
though she looked down and glowed as she answered, 'Six weeks.'

'And you met at the ball!'

'Yes, it was very curious;' and with deepening blushes she went on, the
smile of happiness on her lips, and her eyes cast down. 'Annette was to
go for the first time, and she would not go without me. Mamma did not
like it, for I was not sixteen then; but Uncle Christopher came, and
said I should, because I was his pet. But I can never think it was such
a short time; it seems a whole age ago.'

'It must,' said John, with a look of interest that made her continue.

'It was very odd how it all happened. Annette and I had no one to dance
with, and were wondering who those two gentlemen were. Captain Fitzhugh
was dancing with Miss Evelyn, and he--Mr. Martindale--was leaning
against the wall, looking on.'

'I know exactly--with his arms crossed so--'

'Yes, just so,' said Violet, smiling; 'and presently Grace Bennet came
and told Matilda who they were; and while I was listening, oh, I was so
surprised, for there was Albert, my brother, making me look round. Mr.
Martindale had asked to be introduced to us, and he asked me to dance.
I don't believe I answered right, for I thought he meant Matilda. 'But,'
said she, breaking off, 'how I am chattering and hindering you!' and she
coloured and looked down.

'Not at all,' said John; 'there is nothing I wish more to hear, or that
concerns me more nearly. Anything you like to tell.'

'I am afraid it is silly,' half-whispered Violet to herself; but the
recollection was too pleasant not to be easily drawn out; and at her age
the transition is short from shyness to confidence.

'Not at all silly,' said John. 'You know I must wish to hear how I
gained a sister.'

Then, as the strangeness of imagining that this grave, high-bred, more
than thirty-years-old gentleman, could possibly call her by such a
name, set her smiling and blushing in confusion, he wiled on her
communications by saying, 'Well, that evening you danced with Arthur.'

'Three times. It was a wonderful evening. Annette and I said, when we
went to bed, we had seen enough to think of for weeks. We did not know
how much more was going to happen.'

'No, I suppose not.'

'I thought much of it when he bowed to me. I little fancied--but there
was another odd coincidence--wasn't it? In general I never go into the
drawing-room to company, because there are three older; but the day they
came to speak to papa about the fishing, mamma and all the elder ones
were out of the way, except Matilda. I was doing my Roman history
with her, when papa came in and said, we must both come into the
drawing-room.'

'You saw more of him from that time?'

'O yes; he dined with us. It was the first time I ever dined with a
party, and he talked so much to me, that Albert began to laugh at me;
but Albert always laughs. I did not care till--till--that day when he
walked with us in the park, coming home from fishing.'

Her voice died away, and her face burnt as she looked down; but a few
words of interest led her on.

'When I told mamma, she said most likely he thought me a little girl who
didn't signify; but I did not think he could, for I am the tallest of
them all, and every one says I look as if I was seventeen, at least. And
then she told me grand gentlemen and officers didn't care what nonsense
they talked. You know she didn't know him so well then,' said Violet,
looking up pleadingly.

'She was very prudent.'

'She could not know he did not deserve it,' said the young bride, ready
to resent it for her husband, since his brother did not, then again
excusing her mother. 'It was all her care for me, dear mamma! She told
me not to think about it; but I could not help it! Indeed I could not!'

'No, indeed,' and painful recollections of his own pressed on him, but
he could not help being glad this tender young heart was not left to
pine under disappointment. 'How long ago was this?'

'That was six weeks ago--a month before our wedding-day,' said she,
blushingly. 'I did wish it could have been longer. I wanted to learn,
how to keep house, and I never could, for he was always coming to take
me to walk in the park. And it all happened so fast, I had no time to
understand it, nor to talk to mamma and Matilda. And then mamma cried so
much! I don't feel to understand it now, but soon perhaps I shall have
more quiet time. I should like to have waited till Lord Martindale came
home, but they said that could not be, because his leave of absence
would be over. I did wish very much though that Miss Martindale could
have left her aunt to come to our wedding.'

John found reply so difficult, that he was glad to be interrupted by
Arthur's return. He soon after set out to call upon Captain Fitzhugh,
who had been at Wrangerton with Arthur.

From him more of the circumstances were gathered. Mr. Moss was the
person universally given up to reprobation. 'A thorough schemer,' said
the Irish captain. As to the Miss Mosses, they were lady-like girls,
most of them pretty, and everywhere well spoken of. In fact, John
suspected he had had a little flirtation on his own account with some of
them, though he took credit to himself for having warned his friend to
be careful. He ended with a warm-hearted speech, by no means displeasing
to John, hoping he would make the best of it with Lord Martindale, for
after all, she was as pretty a creature as could be seen, one that any
man might be proud of for a daughter-in-law; and to his mind it was
better than leaving the poor girl to break her heart after him when it
had gone so far.

Arthur himself was in a more rational mood that evening. He had at first
tried to hide his embarrassment by bravado; but he now changed his
tone, and as soon as Violet had left the dining-room, began by an abrupt
inquiry, 'What would you have me do?'

'Why don't you write to my father!'

Arthur writhed. 'I suppose it must come to that,' he said; 'but tell me
first the state of things.'

'You could not expect that there would not be a good deal of
indignation.'

'Ay, ay! How did you get the news? Did Theodora tell you?'

'No; there was a letter from Colonel Harrington; and at home they knew
the circumstances pretty correctly through a cousin of Wingfield's, who
has a curacy in that neighbourhood.'

'Oh! that was the way Theodora came by the news. I wish he had let alone
telling her,--I could have managed her alone;--but there! it was not in
human nature not to tell such a story, and it did not much matter how it
was done. Well, and my aunt is furious, I suppose, but I'll take care of
her and of my lady. I only want to know how my father takes it.'

'He cannot endure the notion of a family feud; but the first step must
come from you.'

'Very well:--and so you came to set it going. It is very good-natured of
you, John. I depended on you or Theodora for helping me through, but I
did not think you would have come in this way. I am glad you have, for
now you have seen her you can't say a word against it.'

'Against her, certainly not. I have made acquaintance with her this
morning, and--and there is everything to interest one in her:' and then,
as Arthur looked delighted, and was ready to break into a rhapsody--'Her
simplicity especially. When you write you had better mention her entire
ignorance of the want of sanction. I cannot think how she was kept in
such unconsciousness.'

'She knows nothing of people's ways,' said Arthur. 'She knew you were
all abroad, and her own family told her it was all right. Her father is
a bit of a tyrant, and stopped the mother's mouth, I fancy, if she had
any doubts. As to herself, it was much too pretty to see her so happy,
to let her set up her little scruples. She did just as she was told,
like a good child.'

'O Arthur! you have undertaken a great responsibility!' exclaimed John.

But Arthur, without seeming to heed, continued, 'So you see she is quite
clear; but I'll write, and you shall see if it is not enough to satisfy
my father, before he sets us going respectably.'

'I can't answer for anything of that sort.'

'Something he must do,' said Arthur, 'for my allowance is not enough
to keep a cat; and as to the ninth part of old Moss's pickings and
stealings, if I meant to dirty my fingers with it, it won't be to be
come by till he is disposed of, and that won't be these thirty years.'

'Then, he let you marry without settling anything on her!'

'He was glad to have her off his hands on any terms. Besides, to tell
you the truth, John, I am convinced he had no notion you would ever come
home again. He knew I saw his game, and dreaded I should be off; so he
and I were both of one mind, to have it over as soon as possible.'

'I only hope you will make her happy!' said John, earnestly.

'Happy!' exclaimed Arthur, surprised, 'small doubt of that! What should
prevent me?'

'I think you will find you must make some sacrifices.'

'It all depends on my father,' said Arthur, a little crossly, and taking
his writing-case from another table.

He was so well pleased with his performance that, as soon as he was
alone with Violet, he began, 'There, I've done it! John said it could
not be better, and after the impression you have made, no fear but he
will pacify the great folks.'

She was perplexed. 'Who?' said she; 'not Lord and Lady Martindale? Oh!
surely I have not done anything to displease them.'

'You must have been ingenious if you had.'

'Pray, do tell me! Why are they to be pacified? What is the matter? Do
they think they shan't like me? Ought I to do anything?'

'My little bird, don't twitter so fast. You have asked a dozen questions
in a breath.'

'I wish you would tell me what it means,' said Violet, imploringly.

'Well, I suppose you must know sooner or later. It only means that they
are taken by surprise.'

Violet gazed at him in perplexity, then, with a dawning perception, 'Oh!
surely you don't mean they did not approve of it.'

'Nobody asked them,' said Arthur, carelessly, then as she turned away,
covering her face with her hands, 'But it is nothing to take to heart
in that way. I am my own master, you know, you silly child, and you had
plenty of consent, and all that sort of thing, to satisfy you, so you
are quite out of the scrape.'

She scarcely seemed to hear.

'Come, come, Violet, this won't do,' he continued, putting his arm round
her, and turning her towards him, while he pulled down her hands. 'This
is pretty usage. You can't help it now if you would.'

'Oh! Mr. Martindale!'

'Ah! you don't know what I have saved you. I was not going to see all
that pink paint worn off those cheeks, nor your life and my own wasted
in waiting for them to bring their minds to it. I have seen enough of
that. Poor John there--'

'How?--what?' said Violet, with alarmed curiosity.

'She died,' said Arthur.

'How long ago? What was her name?'

'Helen Fotheringham. She was our old parson's daughter. They waited
eight years, and she died last summer. I see he wears his mourning
still.'

Violet looked aghast, and spoke low. 'How very sad! Helen! That was
the reason he looked up when he heard it was my name. Poor Mr. John
Martindale! I saw the crape on his hat. Was that what made him so ill?'

'It nearly killed him last year, but he never had lungs good for
anything. First, my aunt set my father against it, and when he gave in,
she had a crabbed decrepit old grandfather, and between them they were
the death of her, and almost of him. I never thought he would rally
again.'

'Only last year?' exclaimed Violet. 'O dear! and there have I been
telling him all about--about this spring. I would not have done it, if
I had known. I thought he looked melancholy sometimes. Oh! I wish I had
not.'

'You did, did you?' said Arthur, much amused. 'You chatterbox.'

'Oh! I am so sorry. I wish--'

'No, no, he only liked you the better for it. I assure you, Violet,
he almost said so. Then that was what made him lay such stress on your
being an innocent little victim.'

'Would you be so kind as to explain it to me?' said Violet, in such
serious distress that he answered with less trifling than usual, 'There
is nothing to tell. I knew how it would be if I asked leave, so I took
it. That's all.'

'And--and surely they didn't know this at home?'

'The less said about that the better, Violet,' said Arthur. 'You are all
right, you know, and in great favour with John. He can do anything with
my father, and I have written. We shall be at home before the end
of another month, and set going with a decent income in London. A
house--where shall it be? Let me see, he can't give me less than £1000 a
year, perhaps £1600. I vow I don't see why it should not be £2000. John
wants no more than he has got, and will never marry now, and there is
only Theodora. I was always my aunt's favourite, and if you mind what
you are about we shall have our share of the old sugar-planter's hoards,
better than the Barbuda property--all niggers and losses. I wash my
hands of it, though by rights it should come to the second son.'

Neither understanding nor heeding all this, Violet interrupted by
gasping out, 'Oh! I am so grieved.'

'Grieved!--say that again. Grieved to be Mrs. Arthur Martindale?'

'O no, no; but--'

'Grieved to have found such a fool as to risk everything, and run
counter to all his friends for the sake of that silly little ungrateful
face?'

She was coaxed out of vexation for the present; but she awoke the next
morning with a feeling of culpability and dread of all the Martindale
family.

John could not understand her altered manner and the timid bashfulness,
greater than even at their first meeting. In fact, the history of his
grief inspired her with a sort of reverential compassion for him,
and the perception of the terms on which she stood, made her laugh
of yesterday seem to her such unbecoming levity, that upon it she
concentrated all her vague feelings of contrition.

When he came as before, to borrow some ink, as she gave it to him her
hand shook, and her colour rose. After standing musing a little while,
she said, mournfully, 'I am very sorry!'

'What is the matter?' said he, kindly.

'I am so vexed at what I did yesterday!'

'What do you mean?'

'For laughing,' said she, in a tone of distress. 'Indeed, indeed, I did
not know,' and though she averted her face, he saw that the crimson
had spread to her neck. He did not at once reply, and she went on
incoherently. 'I did not know--I could not guess. Of course--I wondered
at it all. I knew I was not fit--but they never told me--O, I am so much
grieved.'

Most soothingly did John say, coming towards her, 'No, no, you need not
distress yourself. No one can blame you.'

'But Lord Martindale'--she murmured.

'He will look on you like a daughter. I know I may promise you that.
Yes, indeed, I have no doubt of it, my dear little sister,' he repeated,
as she looked earnestly at him. 'I have told him how entirely you
deserve his kindness and affection, and Arthur has written, such a
letter as will be sure to bring his forgiveness.'

'Ah!' said Violet, 'it is all for my sake. No wonder they should be
angry.'

'Don't fancy that any one is angry with you. We all know that you were
ignorant how matters stood.'

'But I should have done the same if I had known. I could not have helped
it,' said Violet.

'I know,' said John, 'no one could expect it of you. Arthur told me at
once that you were free from any shadow of blame, and no one thinks of
imputing any.'

'But are they very much displeased?' said poor Violet.

'Of course,' said John, after a little consideration, 'it was a shock
to hear of such an important step being taken without my father's
knowledge; but he is very anxious there should be no estrangement, and I
am sure he will behave as if things had gone on in the usual course. You
may have great confidence in his kindness, Violet.'

She was somewhat reassured, and presently went on--'I don't wonder they
are vexed. I know how much beneath him I am, but I could not help that.
Oh! I wish Matilda was here to tell me how to behave, that every one may
not be ashamed of me and angry with him.'

'Don't be frightened' said John, 'you have pleased two of the family
already; you know, and depend upon it, you will make them all like you
in time as much as I do.'

'If YOU can overlook that laugh!' said Violet.

'I could say I liked you the better for it,' said John, pleasantly;
'only I don't know whether it would be a safe precedent. It has made
us feel well acquainted, I hope. Don't make a stranger of me,' he
continued, 'don't forget that we are brother and sister.

'I'm sure,'--and she broke off, unable to express herself; then added,
'Lady Martindale! I was frightened before at the thought of her, but it
is much worse now.'

'You must not frighten yourself. You will find out how kind she is
when you come to know her, and soon get over your first strangeness and
shyness.'

'And there is your sister,' said Violet; 'Theodora--I do long to see
her. Is she most like you or your brother?'

'Remarkably like him. She always makes children very fond of her,' he
added, pausing to find something safe and yet encouraging; 'but I
don't know half as much of her as Arthur does. We have not been as much
together as I could wish.'

'I see now why she never wrote,' said Violet, with some shame, and yet
glad to have it accounted for. 'But she will be sure to help me, and
tell me how to behave. She will want them to be able to bear me for his
sake.'

Without much reply, he applied himself to his letter, feeling that he
could hardly give an impartial judgment. It had been a great effort to
come to visit the bridal pair, but he found himself rewarded in a way he
had not expected by the new pleasure given him by her engaging ways, her
freshness and artlessness rousing him from long-continued depression of
spirits.

After some pondering, she suddenly looked up, and exclaimed, 'Well, I'll
try!'

'Try what, Violet!'

'I'll try to do my very best!' said she, cheerfully, though the tears
still were in her eyes. 'I know I shall make mistakes, and I can never
be like a great lady; but I'll do the best I can, if they will only bear
with me, and not be angry with him.'

'I am sure you will do well, with such resolutions.'

'One thing I am glad of,' added she, 'that we came here just now. That
old cathedral! I did not think much before--it was all strange and new,
and I was too happy. But I shall never be so thoughtless now--or if I
am! O, I know,' she exclaimed, with renewed energy, 'I'll buy one of
those pretty white cups with views of the cathedral on them. Did you not
see them in the shop-window? That will put me in mind if I am going to
be careless of all my resolutions.'

'Resolutions so made are likely to be kept,' said John, and she
presently left the room, recollecting that her store of biscuits needed
replenishing before luncheon. She was putting on her bonnet to go to
order them, when a doubt seized her whether she was transgressing
the dignities of the Honourable Mrs. Martindale. Matilda had lectured
against vulgarity when Arthur had warned her against ultra-gentility,
and she wavered, till finding there was no one to send, her good sense
settled the question. She walked along, feeling the cares and troubles
of life arising on her, and thinking she should never again be gay and
thoughtless, when she suddenly heard her husband's voice--'Ha! whither
away so fast!' and he and Captain Fitzhugh overtook her.

'I was going into the town on an errand.'

'Just the moment I wanted you. There's a cricket match in the College
Meads. Come along.'

And with her arm in his, Violet's clouds vanished, and she had no
recollection of anxieties or vexations. The summer sky was overhead, the
river shone blue and bright, the meadows smiled in verdure, the whole
scene was full of animation, and the game, of which she knew nothing,
was made charming by Arthur's explanations. Nearly an hour had passed
before she bethought herself of suggesting it was almost time to go
home.

'Presently,' said Arthur, 'let us see this fellow out.'

Another ten minutes. 'Would you look at your watch please? There's your
brother waiting for his luncheon.'

'O, ay, 'tis nearly time,' and he was again absorbed. She thought he
would not be pleased if she went home alone, nor was she sure of the
way; so she waited in much annoyance, till at length he said, 'Now,
Violet,' and they walked briskly home, all that she had endured passing
entirely out of her mind.

She rejoiced to find Mr. Martindale unconscious that it was not far from
two o'clock. He said he had been glad of time to finish his letters,
and Arthur, as his eye fell on one of them, asked, 'What is Percy doing
now?'

'He has been in Anatolia, going over some of the places we saw together.
He has made some discoveries about the Crusades, and is thinking of
publishing some of his theories.'

'Did I not hear of his writing something before this?'

'Yes; he sent some curious histories of the eastern Jews to some
magazine. They are to be published separately, as they have been
very successful; but I am glad this book is to be what he calls
"self-contained." He is too good to be wasted upon periodicals.'

Violet, curious to know who was this literary correspondent, glanced
at the letter, and read the address, to 'Antony Percival Fotheringham,
Esquire, British Embassy, Constantinople.' She started to find it
was the surname of that lost betrothed of whom she thought with an
undefinable reverent pity.

All speculations were put to flight, however, by the entrance of the
luncheon tray, containing nothing but slices of cold mutton and bread
and butter. With a grievous look of dismay, and lamentable exclamation,
she began to pour out explanations and apologies, but the gentlemen
seemed too intent on conversing about Mr. Fotheringham either to hear
her or to perceive anything amiss.

She remembered black looks and sharp words at home; and feeling
dreadfully guilty at having failed immediately after her resolutions,
she retreated to her room, and there Arthur found her in positive
distress.

'Oh, I am so much concerned! It was so wrong to forget those biscuits.
Your brother ate nothing else yesterday at luncheon!'

'Is that all?' said Arthur, laughing; 'I thought something had happened
to you. Come, on with your bonnet. Fancy! John will actually walk with
us to St. Cross!'

'Let me first tell you how it happened. There are a couple of ducks--'

'Let them be. No housekeeping affairs for me. Whatever happens, keep
your own counsel. If they serve you up a barbecued puppy dog, keep a
cool countenance, and help the company round. No woman good for anything
mentions her bill of fare in civilized society. Mind that.'

Violet was left imagining her apologies a breach of good manners. What
must Mr. Martindale think of her? Silly, childish, indiscreet, giggling,
neglectful, underbred! How he must regret his brother's having such a
wife!

Yet his pleasant voice, and her husband's drawing her arm into his,
instantly dispelled all fear and regret, and her walk was delightful.

She was enchanted with St. Cross, delighted with the quadrangle of gray
buildings covered with creepers, the smooth turf and gay flowers;
in raptures at the black jacks, dole of bread and beer, and at the
silver-crossed brethren, and eager to extract all Mr. Martindale's
information on the architecture and history of the place, lingering over
it as long as her husband's patience would endure, and hardly able to
tear herself from the quiet glassy stream and green meadows.

'If Caroline were only here to sketch it!' she cried, 'there would be
nothing wanting but that that hill should be Helvellyn.'

'You should see the mountain convents in Albania,' said John; and she
was soon charmed with his account of his adventures there with Mr.
Fotheringham. She was beginning to look on him as a perfect mine of
information--one who had seen the whole world, and read everything.
All that was wanting, she said, was Matilda properly to enter into his
conversation.

Another day brought letters, inviting Arthur to bring home his bride for
a fortnight's visit, as soon as he could obtain leave of absence.



CHAPTER 3


     Who is the bride?  A simple village maid,
     Beauty and truth, a violet in the shade.
     She takes their forced welcome and their wiles
     For her own truth, and lifts her head and smiles.
     They shall not change that truth by any art,
     Oh! may her love change them before they part.
     She turns away, her eyes are dim with tears,
     Her mother's blessing lingers in her ears,
     'Bless thee, my child,' the music is unheard,
     Her heart grows strong on that remembered word.

     FREDERICK TENNYSON


'Here we are!' said Arthur Martindale. 'Here's the lodge.' Then looking
in his wife's face, 'Why! you are as white as a sheet. Come! don't be a
silly child. They won't bite.'

'I am glad I have seen Mr. John Martindale,' sighed she.

'Don't call him so here. Ah! I meant to tell you you must not "Mr.
Martindale" me here. John is Mr. Martindale.'

'And what am I to call you?'

'By my name, of course.'

'Arthur! Oh! I don't know how.'

'You will soon. And if you can help shrinking when my aunt kisses you,
it will be better for us. Ha! there is Theodora.'

'O, where?'

'Gone! Fled in by the lower door. I wish I could have caught her.'

Violet held her breath. The grand parterre, laid out in regularly-shaped
borders, each containing a mass of one kind of flower, flaming
elscholchias, dazzling verbenas, azure nemophilas, or sober heliotrope,
the broad walks, the great pile of building, the innumerable windows,
the long ascent of stone steps, their balustrade guarded by sculptured
sphinxes, the lofty entrance, and the tall powdered footmen, gave her
the sense of entering a palace. She trembled, and clung to Arthur's arm
as they came into a great hall, where a vista of marble pillars, orange
trees, and statues, opened before her; but comfort came in the cordial
brotherly greeting with which John here met them.

'She is frightened out of her senses,' said Arthur.

John's reply was an encouraging squeeze of the hand, which he retained,
leading her, still leaning on her husband's arm, into a room, where an
elderly gentleman was advancing; both her hands were placed within his
by her supporters on either side, and he kissed her, gravely saying,
'Welcome, my dear.' He then presented her to a formal embrace from a
tall lady; and Arthur saying, 'Well, Theodora! here, Violet,' again took
her hand, and put it into another, whose soft clasp was not ready, nor
was the kiss hearty.

Presently Violet, a little reassured by Lord Martindale's gentle tones,
ventured on a survey. She was on the same sofa with Lady Martindale; but
infinitely remote she felt from that form like an eastern queen,
richly dressed, and with dark majestic beauty, whose dignity was rather
increased than impaired by her fifty years. She spoke softly to the shy
stranger, but with a condescending tone, that marked the width of the
gulf, and Violet's eyes, in the timid hope of sympathy, turned towards
the sister.

But, though the figure was younger, and the dress plainer, something
seemed to make her still more unapproachable. There was less beauty,
less gentleness, and the expression of her countenance had something
fixed and stern. Now and then there was a sort of agitation of the
muscles of the face, and her eyes were riveted on Arthur, excepting that
if he looked towards her, she instantly looked out of the window. She
neither spoke nor moved: Violet thought that she had not given her a
single glance, but she was mistaken, Theodora was observing, and forming
a judgment.

This wife, for whose sake Arthur had perilled so much, and inflicted
such acute pain on her, what were her merits? A complexion of lilies
and roses, a head like a steel engraving in an annual, a face expressing
nothing but childish bashfulness, a manner ladylike but constrained, and
a dress of studied simplicity worse than finery.

Lady Martindale spoke of dressing, and conducted her meek shy visitor
up a grand staircase, along a broad gallery, into a large bed-room, into
which the western sun beamed with a dazzling flood of light.

The first use Violet made of her solitude was to look round in amaze at
the size and luxury of her room, wondering if she should ever feel at
home where looking-glasses haunted her with her own insignificance. She
fled from them, to try to cool her cheeks at the open window, and gaze
at the pleasure-ground, which reminded her of prints of Versailles,
by the sparkling fountain rising high in fantastic jets from its stone
basin, in the midst of an expanse of level turf, bordered by terraces
and stone steps, adorned with tall vases of flowers. On the balustrade
stood a peacock, bending his blue neck, and drooping his gorgeous train,
as if he was 'monarch of all he surveyed.'

Poor Violet felt as if no one but peacocks had a right here; and when
she remembered that less than twelve weeks ago the summit of her wishes
had been to go to the Wrangerton ball, it seemed to be a dream, and she
shut her eyes, almost expecting to open them on Annette's face, and the
little attic at home. But then, some one else must have been the fabric
of a vision! She made haste to unclose them, and her heart bounded at
thinking that he was born to all this! She started with joy as his step
approached, and he entered the room.

'Let us look at you,' he said. 'Have you your colour? Ay, plenty of it.
Are you getting tamer, you startled thing?'

'I hope I have not been doing wrong. Lady Martindale asked me to have
some tea. I never heard of such a thing before dinner, but I thought
afterwards it might have been wrong to refuse. Was it!'

He laughed. 'Theodora despises nothing so much as women who drink tea in
the middle of the day.'

'I am so afraid of doing what is unladylike. Your mother offered me
a maid, but I only thought of not giving trouble, and she seemed so
shocked at my undoing my own trunk.'

'No, no,' said he, much diverted; 'she never thinks people can help
themselves. She was brought up to be worshipped. Those are her West
Indian ways. But don't you get gentility notions; Theodora will never
stand them, and will respect you for being independent. However, don't
make too little of yourself, or be shy of making the lady's maids wait
on you. There are enough of them--my mother has two, and Theodora a
French one to her own share.

'I should not like any one to do my hair, if that is not wrong.'

'None of them all have the knack with it you have, and it is lucky, for
they cost as much as a hunter.'

'Indeed, I will try to be no expense.'

'I say, what do you wear this evening?'

'Would my white muslin be fit?'

'Ay, and the pink ribbons in your hair, mind. You will not see my aunt
till after dinner, when I shall not be there; but you must do the best
you can, for much depends on it. My aunt brought my mother up, and
is complete master here. I can't think how my father'--and he went on
talking to himself, as he retreated into his dressing-room, so that all
Violet heard was, 'wife's relations,' and 'take warning.'

He came back to inspect her toilette and suggest adornments, till,
finding he was overdoing them, he let her follow her own taste, and was
so satisfied with the result, that he led her before the glass, saying,
'There. Mrs. Martindale, that's what I call well got up. Don't you?'

'I don't mind seeing myself when I have you to look at.'

'You think we make a handsome couple? Well, I am glad you are tall--not
much shorter than Theodora, after all.'

'But, oh! how shall I behave properly all dinner-time? Do make a sign if
I am doing anything wrong.'

'Nonsense!'

'I know I shall make mistakes. Matilda says I shall. I had a letter from
her this morning to warn me against "solecisms in etiquette," and to
tell me to buy the number of the "Family Friend" about dinner-parties,
but I had not time, and I am sure I shall do wrong.'

'You would be much more likely, if you had Matilda and her prig of a
book,' said Arthur, between anger and diversion. 'Tell her to mind her
own business--she is not your mistress now, and she shall not teach you
affectation. Why, you silly child, should I have had you if you had not
been "proper behaved"? You have nothing to do but to remember you are my
wife, and as good as any of them, besides being twenty times prettier.
Now, are you ready?'

'Yes, quite; but how shall I find my way here again?'

'See, it is the third door from the stairs. The rest on this side are
spare rooms, except where you see those two green baize doors at the
ends. They lead to passages, the wings on the garden side. In this one
my aunt's rooms are, and Miss Piper, her white nigger, and the other is
Theodora's.'

'And all these opposite doors?'

'Those four belong to my father and mother; these two are John's. His
sitting-room is the best in the house. The place is altogether too big
for comfort. Our little parlour at Winchester was twice as snug as that
overgrown drawing-room down-stairs.'

'Dear little room! I hope we may go back to it. But what a view from
this end window! That avenue is the most beautiful thing I have seen
yet. It looks much older than the house.'

'It is. My father built the house, but we were an old county family long
before. The old Admiral, the first lord, had the peerage settled on my
father, who was his nephew and head of the family, and he and my Aunt
Nesbit having been old friends in the West Indies, met at Bath, and
cooked up the match. He wanted a fortune for his nephew, and she wanted
a coronet for her niece! I can't think how she came to be satisfied with
a trumpery Irish one. You stare, Violet; but that is my aunt's notion
of managing, and the way she meant to deal with all of us. She has
monstrous hoards of her own, which she thinks give her a right to rule.
She has always given out that she meant the chief of them for me, and
treated me accordingly, but I am afraid she has got into a desperately
bad temper now, and we must get her out of it as best we can.'

This not very encouraging speech was made as they stood looking from the
gallery window. Some one came near, and Violet started. It was a
very fashionably-dressed personage, who, making a sort of patronizing
sweeping bend, said, 'I was just about to send a person to assist Mrs.
Martindale. I hope you will ring whenever you require anything. The
under lady's maid will be most happy to attend you.'

'There,' said Arthur, as the lady passed on, 'that is the greatest
person in the house, hardly excepting my aunt. That is Miss Altisidora
Standaloft, her ladyship's own maid.'

Violet's feelings might somewhat resemble those of the Emperor Julian
when he sent for a barber, and there came a count of the empire.

'She must have wanted to look at you,' proceeded Arthur, 'or she would
never have treated us with such affability. But come along, here is
Theodora's room.'

It was a cheerful apartment, hung with prints, with somewhat of a
school-room aspect, and in much disorder. Books and music lay confused
with blue and lilac cottons, patterns, scissors, and papers covered
with mysterious dots; there were odd-looking glass bottles on the
mantel-shelf with odder looking things in them, and saucers holding what
Violet, at home, would have called messes; the straw-bonnet lay on the
floor, and beside it the Scotch terrier, who curled up his lips, showed
his white teeth, and greeted the invaders with a growl, which became
a bark as Arthur snapped his fingers at him. 'Ha! Skylark, that is bad
manners. Where's your mistress? Theodora!'

At the call, the door of the inner room opened, but only a little dark
damsel appeared, saying, in a French accent, that Miss Martindale was
gone to Miss Gardner's room.

'Is Miss Gardner here?' exclaimed Arthur.

'She is arrived about half an hour ago,' was the reply. Arthur uttered
an impatient interjection, and Violet begged to know who Miss Gardner
was.

'A great friend of Theodora's. I wish she would have kept further off
just now, not that she is not a good-natured agreeable person enough,
but I hate having strangers here. There will be no good to be got out
of Theodora now! There are two sisters always going about staying at
places, the only girls Theodora ever cared for; and just now, Georgina,
the youngest, who used to be a wild fly-away girl, just such as Theodora
herself, has gone and married one Finch, a miserly old rogue, that
scraped up a huge fortune in South America, and is come home old enough
for her grandfather. What should possess Theodora to bring Jane here
now? I thought she would never have forgiven them. But we may as well
come down. Here's the staircase for use and comfort.'

'And here is the hall! Oh!' cried Violet, springing towards it, 'this
really is the Dying Gladiator. Just like the one at Wrangerton!'

'What else should he be like!' said Arthur, laughing. 'Every one who
keeps a preserve of statues has the same.'

She would have liked to linger, recognizing her old friends, and
studying this museum of wonders, inlaid marble tables, cases of stuffed
humming birds, and stands of hot-house plants, but Arthur hurried her
on, saying it was very ill-contrived, a draught straight through it, so
that nothing warmed it. He opened doors, giving her a moment's glimpse
of yellow satin, gilding and pictures, in the saloon, which was next
to the drawing-room where she had been received, and beyond it the
dining-room. Opposite, were the billiard-room, a library, and Lord
Martindale's study; and 'Here,' said he, 'is where Theodora and I keep
our goods. Ha!' as he entered, 'you here, Theodora! Hallo! what's this?
A lot of wooden benches with their heels in the air. How is this? Have
you been setting up a charity school in my room?'

'I found the children by the wood were too far from school, so I have
been teaching them here. I came to see about taking the benches out of
your way. I did not expect you here.'

'I was showing her our haunts. See, Violet, here's my double barrel, and
here are the bows. I forget if you can shoot.'

'Matilda and Caroline do.'

'You shall learn. We will have the targets out. Where's the light bow
you used to shoot with, Theodora?'

'It is somewhere,' said Theodora, without alacrity; 'no, I remember, I
gave it to Mr. Wingfield's little nephew.'

'Unlucky! Yours will never do for those little fingers.' Theodora
abruptly turned to Violet, and said,' She must be tired of standing
there.' Violet smiled with pleasure at being addressed, thanked, and
disclaimed fatigue.

'She is of your sort, and does not know how to be tired,' said Arthur.
'I wondered to hear your bosom friend was here. What brings her about
now?'

'If you call her my bosom friend, you answer the question,' was the
proud reply, and it provoked him to carry on the teasing process.

'I thought she was not THE friend,' he continued; 'I ought to have
congratulated you on THE friend's capture. A goldfinch of the South
American breed is a rare bird.'

Theodora drew up her head, and impetuously heaped some school-books
together. 'Have you seen the pretty caged bird?'

'Never.'

In a soft tone, contrasting with the manner of his last sayings, Arthur
invited his wife to come out on the lawn, and walked away with her.
She was surprised and uneasy at what had taken place, but could not
understand it, and only perceived he would prefer her not seeming to
notice it.

It was all the strange influence of temper. In truth, Theodora's whole
heart was yearning to the brother, whom she loved beyond all others;
while on the other hand his home attachments centred on her, and he had
come to seek her with the fixed purpose of gaining her good-will and
protection for his young bride. But temper stepped between. Whether it
began from Theodora's jealousy of the stranger, or from his annoyance
at her cold haughty manner to his wife, he was vexed, and retaliated by
teasing; she answered coldly, in proud suffering at being taunted on a
subject which gave her much pain, and then was keenly hurt at his tone
and way of leaving her, though in fact she was driving him away. She
stood leaning against a pillar in the hall, looking after him with eyes
brimming with tears; but on hearing a step approach, she subdued all
signs of emotion, and composedly met the eye of her eldest brother. She
could not brook that any one should see her grief, and she was in no
mood for his first sentences: 'What are you looking at?' and seeing the
pair standing by the fountain, 'Well, you don't think I said too much in
her favour?'

'She is very pretty,' said Theodora, as if making an admission.

'It is a very sweet expression. Even as a stranger, it would be
impossible not to be interested in her, if only for the sake of her
simplicity.'

Theodora glanced at Violet's dress, and at the attitude in which she was
looking up, as Arthur gathered some roses from a vase; then turned her
eyes on John's thoughtful and melancholy countenance, and thought within
herself, that every man, however wise, can be taken in by a fair face,
and by airs and graces.

'Poor thing,' continued John, 'it must be very trying; you don't see
her to advantage, under constraint, but a few kind words will set her at
ease.'

He paused for an answer, but not obtaining one, said, 'I did not know
you expected Miss Gardner to-day.'

She surprised him, by answering with asperity, prompted by a second
attack on this subject, 'I can't help it. I could not put her off,--what
objection can there be?'

'Nothing, nothing,--I meant nothing personal. It was only that I would
have avoided having spectators of a family meeting like this. I am
afraid of first impressions.'

'My impressions are nothing at all.'

'Well, I hope you will make friends--I am sure she will repay your
kindness.'

'Do you know that you are standing in a tremendous draught?' interrupted
Theodora.

'And there's my mother on the stairs. I shall go and call them in; come
with me, Theodora.'

But she had turned back and joined her mother.

He found Violet all smiles and wonder: but she relapsed into constraint
and alarm as soon as she entered the drawing-room. Miss Gardner
presently came down,--a lady about five or six and twenty, not handsome,
but very well dressed, and with an air of ease and good society, as if
sure of her welcome. As Violet listened to her lively conversation with
Lord Martindale, she thought how impossible it was that she should ever
be equally at home there.

The grandeur of the dining-room was another shock, and the varieties of
courses revived her remorse for the cold mutton. She sat between Lord
Martindale and John, who talked to her as soon as he thought she
could bear the sound of her own voice, and, with Arthur opposite, her
situation was delightful compared to the moment when, without either
of her protectors, she must go with the imperial Lady Martindale to
encounter the dreaded aunt.

When the time came, Arthur held open the door, and she looked up in
his face so piteously, that he smiled, and whispered 'You goose,' words
which encouraged her more than their tenor would seem to warrant.

Warm as it was, the windows were shut, and a shawl was round Mrs.
Nesbit's tall, bending, infirm figure. Violet dared not look up at her,
and thought, with mysterious awe, of the caution not to shrink if she
were kissed, but it was not needed, Lady Martindale only said, 'My aunt,
Mrs. Arthur Martindale,' and Mrs. Nesbit, half rising, just took her
hand into her long skinny fingers, which felt cold, damp, and uncertain,
like the touch of a lizard.

Violet was conscious of being scanned from head to foot--nay, looked
through and through by black eyes that seemed to pierce like a dart from
beneath their shaggy brows, and discover all her ignorance, folly, and
unfitness for her position. Colouring and trembling, she was relieved
that there was another guest to call off Mrs. Nesbit's attention, and
watched the readiness and deference with which Miss Gardner replied to
compliments on her sister's marriage; and yet they were not comfortable
congratulations, thought Violet; at least they made her cheeks burn, and
Theodora stood by looking severe and melancholy; but Miss Gardner seemed
quite to enter into the sarcastic tone, and almost to echo it, as if to
humour the old lady.

'Your sister acted very sensibly,' said Mrs. Nesbit, with emphasis.
'Very good management; though Theodora was somewhat taken by surprise.'

'Yes, I know we used her very ill,' said Miss Gardner; 'but people have
unaccountable fancies about publishing those matters. Mr. Finch was
in haste, and we all felt that it was best to have it over, so it was
talked of a very short time previously.'

'Speed is the best policy, as we all know,' said Mrs. Nesbit; and Violet
felt as if there was a flash of those eyes upon her, and was vexed with
herself for blushing. She thought Miss Gardner's answer good-naturedly
unconscious:

'Oh, people always shake together best afterwards. There is not the
least use in a prolonged courtship acquaintance. It is only a field for
lovers' quarrels, and pastime for the spectators.'

'By the bye,' said Mrs. Nesbit, 'what is become of your cousin, Mrs.
George Gardner's son?'

'Mark! Oh, he is abroad. Poor fellow, I wish we could find something for
him to do. Lady Fotheringham asked her nephew, Percival, if he could not
put him in the way of getting some appointment.'

'Failed, of course,' said Mrs. Nesbit.

'Yes; I never expected much. Those diplomats are apt to be afraid
of having their heels trodden upon; but it is a great pity. He is so
clever, and speaks so many languages. We hope now that Mr. Finch may
suggest some employment in America.'

'Highly advisable.'

'I assure you poor Mark would be glad of anything. He is entirely
steadied now; but there are so few openings for men of his age.'

An interruption here occurring, Miss Gardner drew off to the window.
Theodora sat still, until her friend said, 'How lovely it is! Do you
ever take a turn on the terrace after dinner?'

Theodora could not refuse. Violet wished they had asked her to join
them; but they went out alone, and for some moments both were silent.
Miss Gardner first spoke, remarking, 'A beautiful complexion.'

There was a cold, absent assent; and she presently tried again, 'Quite
a lady,' but with the same brief reply. Presently, however, Theodora
exclaimed, 'Jane, you want me to talk to you; I cannot, unless you unsay
that about Percy Fotheringham. He is not to be accused of baseness.'

'I beg your pardon, Theodora, dear; I have no doubt his motives were
quite conscientious, but naturally, you know, one takes one's own
cousin's part, and it was disappointing that he would not help to give
poor Mark another chance.'

'That is no reason he should be accused of petty jealousies.'

'Come, you must not be so very severe and dignified. Make some allowance
for poor things who don't know how to answer Mrs. Nesbit, and say what
first occurs. Indeed, I did not know you were so much interested in
him.'

'I am interested in justice to the innocent.'

'There! don't annihilate me. I know he is a very superior person, the
pride of Lady Fotheringham's heart. Of course he would have recommended
Mark if he had thought it right; I only hope he will find that he was
mistaken.'

'If he was, he will be the first to own it.'

'Then I am forgiven, am I? And I may ask after you after this long
solitary winter. We thought a great deal of you.'

'I needed no pity, thank you. I was well off with my chemistry and the
parish matters. I liked the quiet time.'

'I know you do not care for society.'

'My aunt is a very amusing companion. Her clear, shrewd observation is
like a book of French memoirs.'

'And you are one of the few not afraid of her.'

'No. We understand each other, and it is better for all parties that she
should know I am not to be interfered with. Positively I think she has
been fonder of me since we measured our strength.'

'There is a mutual attachment in determined spirits,' said Miss Gardner.

'I think there must be. I fancy it is resolution that enables me to go
further with her than any one else can without offending her.'

'She is so proud of you.'

'What is strange is, that she is prouder of me than of mamma, who is so
much handsomer and more accomplished,--more tractable, too, and making a
figure and sensation that I never shall.'

'Mrs. Nesbit knows better,' said Miss Gardner, laughing.

'Don't say so. If John's illness had not prevented my coming out last
year, I might have gone into the world like other girls. Now I see the
worth of a young lady's triumph--the disgusting speculation! I detest
it.'

'Ah! you have not pardoned poor Georgina.'

'Do you wish for my real opinion?'

'Pray let me hear it.'

'Georgina had a grand course open to her, and she has shrunk from it.'

'A grand course!' repeated Jane, bewildered.

'Yes, honest poverty, and independence. I looked to her to show the
true meaning of that word. I call it dependence to be so unable to
exist without this world's trash as to live in bondage for its sake.
Independence is trusting for maintenance to our own head and hands.'

'So you really would have had us--do what? Teach music?--make lace?'

'If I had been lucky enough to have such a fate, I would have been a
village school-mistress.'

'Not even a governess?'

'I should like the village children better; but, seriously, I would
gladly get my own bread, and I did believe Georgina meant to wait to be
of age and do the same.'

'But, Theodora, seriously! The loss of position.'

'I would ennoble the office.'

'With that head that looks as if it was born in the purple, you would
ennoble anything, dear Theodora; but for ordinary--'

'All that is done in earnest towards Heaven and man ennobles and is
ennobled.'

'True; but it needs a great soul and much indifference to creature
comforts. Now, think of us, at our age, our relations' welcome worn
out--'

'I thought you were desired to make Worthbourne your home.'

'Yes, there was no want of kindness there; but, my dear, if you could
only imagine the dulness. It was as if the whole place had been potted
and preserved in Sir Roger de Coverley's time. No neighbours, no
club-books, no anything! One managed to vegetate through the morning by
the help of being deputy to good Lady Bountiful; but oh! the evenings!
Sir Antony always asleep after tea, and no one allowed to speak, lest
he should be awakened, and the poor, imbecile son bringing out the
draught-board, and playing with us all in turn. Fancy that, by way
of enlivenment to poor Georgina after her nervous fever! I was quite
alarmed about her,--her spirits seemed depressed for ever into apathy!'

'I should think them in more danger now.'

'Oh! her Finch is a manageable bird. Her life is in her own power, and
she will have plenty of all that makes it agreeable. It is winning a
home instead of working for it; that is the common sense view--'

'Winning it by the vow to love, honour, and obey, when she knows she
cannot?'

'Oh, she may in the end. He is tame, and kind, and very much obliged. My
dear Theodora, I could feel with you once; but one learns to see things
in a different light as one lives on. After all, I have not done the
thing.'

'If you did not promote it, you justify it.'

'May I not justify my sister to her friend?'

'I do no such thing. I do not justify Arthur. I own that he has acted
wrongly; but--No, I cannot compare the two cases. His was silly and bad
enough, but it was a marriage, not a bargain.'

'Well, perhaps one may turn out as well as the other.'

'I am afraid so,' sighed Theodora.

'It has been a sad grief to you, so fond of your brother as you were.'

'Not that I see much harm in the girl,' continued Theodora; 'but--'

'But it is the loss of your brother! Do you know, I think it likely he
may not be as much lost to you as if he had chosen a superior person.
When the first fancy is over, such a young unformed thing as this cannot
have by any means the influence that must belong to you. You will find
him recurring to you as before.'

Meanwhile, Violet sat formal and forlorn in the drawing-room, and Lady
Martindale tried to make conversation. Did she play, or draw? Matilda
played, Caroline drew, she had been learning; and in horror of a request
for music, she turned her eyes from the grand piano. Was she fond of
flowers? O, yes! Of botany? Caroline was. A beautifully illustrated
magazine of horticulture was laid before her, and somewhat relieved her,
whilst the elder ladies talked about their fernery, in scientific terms,
that sounded like an unknown tongue.

Perceiving that a book was wanted, she sprang up, begging to be told
where to find it; but the answer made her fear she had been officious.
'No, my dear, thank you, do not trouble yourself.'

The bell was rung, and a message sent to ask Miss Piper for the book. A
small, pale, meek lady glided in, found the place, and departed; while
Violet felt more discomposed than ever, under the sense of being a
conceited little upstart, sitting among the grand ladies, while such a
person was ordered about.

Ease seemed to come back with the gentlemen. Lord Martindale took her
into the great drawing-room, to show her Arthur's portrait, and the
show of the house--Lady Martindale's likeness, in the character of Lalla
Rookh--and John began to turn over prints for her, while Arthur devoted
himself to his aunt, talking in the way that, in his schoolboy days,
would have beguiled from her sovereigns and bank-notes. However, his
civilities were less amiably received, and he met with nothing but hits
in return. He hoped that her winter had not been dull.

Not with a person of so much resource as his sister. Solitude with her
was a pleasure--it showed the value of a cultivated mind.

'She never used to be famous for that sort of thing,' said Arthur.

'Not as a child, but the best years for study come later. Education is
scarcely begun at seventeen.'

'Young ladies would not thank you for that maxim.'

'Experience confirms me in it. A woman is nothing without a few years
of grown-up girlhood before her marriage; and, what is more, no one can
judge of her when she is fresh from the school-room. Raw material!'

Arthur laughed uneasily.

'There is Mrs. Hitchcock--you know her?'

'What, the lady that goes out with the hounds, and rides steeple-chases?
I saw her ride through Whitford to-day, and she stared so hard into the
carriage, that poor Violet pulled down her veil till we were out of the
town.'

'Well, she was married out of a boarding-school, came here the meekest,
shyest, little shrinking creature, always keeping her eyelids cast down,
and colouring at a word.'

Arthur thought there was a vicious look at his bride's bending head, but
he endured by the help of twisting the tassel of the sofa cushion, and
with another laugh observed, 'that all the lady's shyness had been used
up before he knew her.'

'Then there was Lord George Wilmot, who ran away with a farmer's
daughter. She made quite a sensation; she was quite presentable, and
very pretty and well-mannered--but such a temper! They used to be called
George and the Dragon. Poor man! he had the most subdued air--'

'There was a son of his in the Light Dragoons--' began Arthur, hoping to
lead away the conversation, 'a great heavy fellow.'

'Exactly so; it was the case with all of them. The Yorkshire farmer
showed in all their ways, and poor Lord George was so ashamed of it,
that it was positively painful to see him in company with his daughters.
And yet the mother was thought ladylike.'

Arthur made a sudden observation on John's improved looks.

'Yes. Now that unhappy affair is over, we shall see him begin life
afresh, and form new attachments. It is peculiarly important that he
should be well married. Indeed, we see every reason to hope that--' And
she looked significant and triumphant.

'Much obliged!' thought Arthur. 'Well! there's no use in letting oneself
be a target for her, while she is in this temper. I'll go and see what I
can make of her ladyship. What new scheme have they for John? Rickworth,
eh?'

He was soon at his mother's side, congratulating her on John's recovery,
and her looks were of real satisfaction. 'I am glad you think him
better! He is much stronger, and we hope this may be the period when
there is a change of constitution, and that we may yet see him a healthy
man.'

'Has he been going out, or seeing more people of late?'

'No--still keeping in his rooms all the morning. He did drive one day to
Rickworth with your father, otherwise he has been nowhere, only taking
his solitary ride.'

'I never was more surprised than to see him at Winchester!'

'It was entirely his own proposal. You could not be more surprised than
we were; but it has been of much benefit to him by giving his thoughts a
new channel.'

'He likes her, too,' said Arthur.

'I assure you he speaks most favourably of her.'

'What did he say?' cried Arthur, eagerly.

'He said she was a lady in mind and manners, and of excellent
principles, but he declared he would not tell us all he thought of her,
lest we should be disappointed.'

'Are you?' said Arthur, with a bright, confident smile.

'By no means. He had not prepared me for so much beauty, and such
peculiarly graceful movements. My drawing days are nearly past, or I
should be making a study of her.'

'That's right, mother!' cried Arthur. 'What a picture she would make.
Look at her now! The worst of it is, she has so many pretty ways, one
does not know which to catch her in!'

Perhaps Lady Martindale caught her aunt's eye, for she began to qualify
her praise. 'But, Arthur, excuse me, if I tell you all. There is nothing
amiss in her manners, but they are quite unformed, and I should dread
any contact with her family.'

'I never mean her to come near them,' said Arthur. 'Though, after all,
they are better than you suppose. She has nothing to unlearn, and will
pick up tone and ease fast enough.'

'And for education? Is she cultivated, accomplished?'

'Every man to his taste. You never could get learning to stick on me,
and I did not look for it. She knows what other folks do, and likes
nothing better than a book. She is good enough for me; and you must take
to her, mother, even if she is not quite up to your mark in the ologies.
Won't you? Indeed, she is a good little Violet!'

Arthur had never spoken so warmly to his mother, and the calm, inanimate
dignity of her face relaxed into a kind response, something was faltered
of 'every wish to show kindness;' and he had risen to lead his wife to
her side, when he perceived his aunt's bead-like eyes fixed on them,
and she called out to ask Lady Martindale if Lady Elizabeth Brandon had
returned.

The young ladies came in late; and Arthur in vain tried to win a look
from his sister, who kept eyes and tongue solely for Miss Gardner's
service.

At night, as, after a conversation with his brother, he was crossing the
gallery to his own room, he met her.

'Teaching my wife to gossip?' said he, well pleased.

'No, I have been with Jane.'

'The eternal friendship!' exclaimed he, in a changed tone.

'Good night!' and she passed on.

He stood still, then stepping after her, overtook her.

'Theodora!' he said, almost pleadingly.

'Well!'

He paused, tried to laugh, and at last said, rather awkwardly, 'I want
to know what you think of her?'

'I see she is very pretty.'

'Good night!' and his receding footsteps echoed mortification.

Theodora looked after him. 'Jane is right,' she said to herself, 'he
cares most for me. Poor Arthur! I must stand alone, ready to support him
when his toy fails him.'



CHAPTER 4


     They read botanic treatises
     And works of gardeners through there,
     And methods of transplanting trees
     To look as if they grew there.
                     --A. TENNYSON


Theodora awoke to sensations of acute grief. Her nature had an almost
tropical fervour of disposition; and her education having given her few
to love, her ardent affections had fastened upon Arthur with a vehemence
that would have made the loss of the first place in his love painful,
even had his wife been a person she respected and esteemed, but when she
saw him, as she thought, deluded and thrown away on this mere beauty,
the suffering was intense.

The hope Jane Gardner had given her, of his return to her, when he
should have discovered his error, was her first approach to comfort, and
seemed to invigorate her to undergo the many vexations of the day, in
the sense of neglect, and the sight of his devotion to his bride.

She found that, much as she had dreaded it, she had by no means realized
the discomposure she secretly endured when they met at breakfast, and
he, remembering her repulse, was cold--she was colder; and Violet, who,
in the morning freshness, was growing less timid, shrank back into awe
of her formal civility.

In past days it had been a complaint that Arthur left her no time to
herself. Now she saw the slight girlish figure clinging to his arm as
they crossed the lawn, and she knew they were about to make the tour of
their favourite haunts, she could hardly keep from scolding Skylark back
when even he deserted her to run after them; and only by a very strong
effort could she prevent her mind from pursuing their steps, while
she was inflicting a course of Liebig on Miss Gardner, at the especial
instance of that lady, who, whatever hobby her friends were riding,
always mounted behind.

Luncheon was half over, when the young pair came in, flushed with
exercise and animation; Arthur talking fast about the covers and the
game, and Violet in such high spirits, that she volunteered a history of
their trouble with Skylark, and 'some dear little partridges that could
not get out of a cart rut.'

In the afternoon Miss Gardner, 'always so interested in schools and
village children,' begged to be shown 'Theodora's little scholars,' and
walked with her to Brogden, the village nearly a mile off. They set off
just as the old pony was coming to the door for Violet to have a riding
lesson; and on their return, at the end of two hours, found Arthur still
leading, letting go, running by the side, laughing and encouraging.

'Fools' paradise!' thought Theodora, as she silently mounted the steps.

'That is a remarkably pretty little hat,' said Miss Gardner. Theodora
made a blunt affirmative sound.

'No doubt she is highly pleased to sport it. The first time of wearing
anything so becoming must be charming at her age. I could envy her.'

'Poor old pony!' was all Theodora chose to answer.

'There, they are leaving off,' as Arthur led away the pony, and Violet
began to ascend the steps, turning her head to look after him.

Miss Gardner came to meet her, asking how she liked riding.

'Oh, so much, thank you.'

'You are a good scholar?'

'I hope I shall be. He wants me to ride well. He is going to take me
into the woods to-morrow.'

'We have been admiring your hat,' said Miss Gardner. 'It is exactly what
my sister would like. Have you any objection to tell where you bought
it?'

'I'll ask him: he gave it to me.'

'Dressing his new doll,' thought Theodora; but as Violet had not been
personally guilty of the extravagance, she thought amends due to her for
the injustice, and asked her to come into the gardens.

'Thank you, I should like it; but will he, will Mr.--will Arthur know
what has become of me?'

'He saw you join us,' said Theodora, thinking he ought to be relieved to
have her taken off his hands for a little while.

'Have you seen the gardens?' asked Jane.

'Are not these the gardens?' said Violet, surprised, as they walked on
through the pleasure-ground, and passed a screen of trees, and a walk
trellised over with roses.

There spread out before her a sweep of shaven turf, adorned with
sparkling jets d'eau of fantastic forms, gorgeous masses of American
plants, the flaming or the snowy azalea, and the noble rhododendron, in
every shade of purple cluster among its evergreen leaves; beds of rare
lilies, purely white or brilliant with colour; roses in their perfection
of bloom; flowers of forms she had never figured to herself, shaded by
wondrous trees, the exquisite weeping deodara, the delicate mimosa,
the scaly Himalaya pines, the feathery gigantic ferns of the southern
hemisphere.

Violet stood gazing in a silent trance till Arthur's step approached,
when she bounded back to him, and clinging to his arm exclaimed, so
that he alone could hear, 'Oh, I am glad you are come! It was too like
enchanted ground!'

'So you like it,' said Arthur, smiling.

'I did not know there could be anything so beautiful! I thought the
pleasure-ground finer than anything--so much grander than Lord St.
Erme's; but this! Did you keep it to the last to surprise me!'

'I forgot it,' said Arthur, laughing to see her look shocked. 'It is not
in my line. The natives never have any sport out of a show-place.'

'It is simply a bore,' said Theodora, 'a self-sacrifice to parade.'

'To the good of visitors,' replied Miss Gardner, smiling, to Violet,
who, fearing her own admiration was foolish, was grateful to hear her
say, 'And in that capacity you will allow Mrs. Martindale and me to
enjoy.'

'Did not I bring you to make the grand tour!' said Theodora. 'Come,
prepare to be stifled. Here are all the zones up to the equator,' and
she led the way into the conservatory.

Arthur's protection and his satisfaction in Violet's pleasure set her at
ease to enter into all the wonders and beauties; but he did not know one
plant from another, and referred all her inquiries to his sister, who
answered them in a cold matter-of-fact way that discouraged her from
continuing them, and reduced her to listening to the explanations
elicited by Jane Gardner, until a new-comer met them, thus greeted
by Arthur--'Ah! here is the authority! Good morning, Harrison. Mrs.
Martindale wants to know the name of this queer striped thing.'

He bowed politely, and Violet, as she bent and smiled, supposed they
were too familiar for the hand-shake, while he went on to name the
plant and exhibit its peculiarities. Her questions and remarks seemed
to please him greatly, and while he replied graciously with much curious
information, he cut spray after spray of the choicest flowers and
bestowed them upon her, so that when the tour was completed, and
he quitted them, she said, with smiling gratitude, 'It is the most
exquisite bouquet I ever saw.'

'A poor thing, 'was the proud humility answer, 'but honoured by such
hands!'

'Well done, Harrison!' ejaculated Arthur, as soon as he was out of
ear-shot.

'Who is he?' asked Violet, still blushing; then, as the truth dawned on
her, 'can he be the gardener? I thought him some great botanist allowed
to study here.'

'Pray tell Miss Piper, Theodora,' said Arthur. 'If it goes round to him,
Violet will never want for flowers.'

'It is so exactly what he considers himself,' said Jane.

'Except his being allowed,' said Arthur. ''Tis we that are there on
sufferance.'

Miss Piper was seen advancing on the same walk, and Violet was
uncomfortable, dreading to see her treated as an inferior; but to her
great satisfaction, Arthur addressed the little lady in his cordial
manner, and Theodora congratulated her on being out of doors on this
fine evening.

'Mrs. Nesbit wished me to ask Mr. Harrison for a frond of the new
Trichomanes,' said Miss Piper.

'You will find him somewhere near the forcing-house,' said Theodora;
'but pray don't hurry in. I am going to my aunt's room, and you should
go and look at the Japan lilies, they are fine enough to make even me
admire them.' Then running after her to enforce her words, 'mind you
stay out--be quite at rest till dinner-time--I have scarcely been with
my aunt to-day. I am sure a walk will do you good.'

The kind solicitude went deep into the affections of the lonely little
woman. Violet longed for anything like such notice; then, in a state
between wonder, delight, and disappointment, went to her room to attempt
a description of the fairy land which she had been visiting, and to
enjoy the splendours by thinking how much it would gratify her mother
and sisters to hear of her sharing them.

Mrs. Nesbit greeted Theodora with exclamations on Miss Piper's
tardiness, and she explained in the authoritative way which she alone
ventured to use towards her aunt; then, in a tone of conciliation, spoke
of the garden and the beauty of the Japan lilies.

'Harrison grows too many; they are losing their rarity, and look like a
weed.'

'They are hardy, are they not?' said Theodora, maliciously. 'I shall get
some for my school garden.'

'That is your way of making everything common, and depreciating all that
is choice.'

'No,' said Theodora, 'I would have beauty as widely enjoyed and as
highly appreciated as possible.'

'And pray, if all privileges are extended to the lower classes, what is
left to the higher orders?'

'Themselves,' said Theodora, proudly. 'No, aunt, we only lower ourselves
by exclusiveness. It is degrading to ourselves and our tastes to make
them badges of vanity. Let them be freely partaken, we shall be first
still. The masses cannot mount higher without raising us.'

'A levelling theory,' said Mrs. Nesbit.

'No, exalting. Has Latin and Greek made Harrison a gentleman? Can even
dress in better taste make Pauline look as much a lady as Miss Piper?'

'There is a good deal in that,' said Mrs. Nesbit. 'Even Lady Elizabeth
Brandon cannot hide her good blood, though she does her best to do so.'

'And so does Emma,' said Theodora.

'Foolish girl,' said Mrs. Nesbit, 'I would have given anything to see
her attractive.'

'Too late now!' said Theodora, with a look of repressed scorn and
triumph.

'Too late for ARTHUR,' replied Mrs. Nesbit, with emphasis. 'And you'll
never, never succeed in the other quarter!'

'Young people always have those fancies. I know what you would say, but
John is not so young now. It is just the time of life when men take a
turn. Depend upon it, now he has had his boy's romance, he is not going
to play the disconsolate lover for the rest of his life. No! that girl
shall never be Lady Martindale.'

'Well, I shan't dispute' said Theodora; 'but--'

'Believe when you see, said Mrs. Nesbit.

'And so you mean it to be Emma Brandon,' said Theodora, with the same
sarcastic incredulity.

'Let me tell you there are things more unlikely. John thinks much of
Lady Elizabeth, and is just one of the men to marry a plain quiet girl,
fancying she would be the more domestic; and for yourself, you would
find Emma very accommodating--never in your way.'

'No indeed,' said Theodora.

'Nothing could give your mother more pleasure. It is more than ever
important now. What have you seen of Arthur's piece of wax? He seems to
have been playing with her all day long.'

'Yes, poor fellow,' said Theodora, sighing. 'However, it might have been
worse. I believe she is an innocent child, and very ladylike.'

'There is an instance of the effect of your dissemination notions! This
would never have happened if every country attorney did not bring up his
daughters to pass for ladies!'

'I am glad she is nothing outwardly to be ashamed of.'

'I had rather that she was than for her to have the opportunity of
worming herself into favour! Those modest airs and her way of peeping up
under her eyelashes seem to make a great impression,' said Mrs. Nesbit,
with a sneer.

'Really, I think she is simple and shy.'

Mrs. Nesbit laughed. 'You, too! What has she to do with shyness? She has
had her lesson; but you are like the rest! Your mamma actually proposing
to take her likeness, but I told her it was not to be thought of. There
will be plenty to fill her with presumption.'

'And papa--what does he think?' said Theodora, who was wont to obtain
the family politics from her aunt.

'Oh! men are sure to be caught by a pretty face, and they cannot make
enough of her. I thought your father had more sense, but since John has
had his ear, everything has been past my management. I cannot bear to
see Arthur's cool way--but no wonder. There will be no end to their
expectations, treated as they are.'

'Then papa means to do something for them?'

'I cannot tell. He may do as he pleases. It is no affair of mine. They
cannot touch my property. Your father may try how he likes supporting
them.'

'He will then?'

'He cannot help it, after having invited them here.'

Theodora could no longer bear to hear Arthur thus spoken of, and began
to read aloud, relieved in some degree by finding Arthur was not to
suffer poverty. If he had been persecuted, she must have taken his part;
now she could choose her own line. However, the world must not suppose
that she disapproved of his wife, and she was grateful to the unmeaning
words amiable and ladylike, especially when she had to speak to Mr.
Wingfield. He observed on the lady's beauty, and hoped that the affair
was as little unsatisfactory as possible under the circumstances, to
which she fully agreed. They proceeded to parish matters, on which they
had so much to say to each other, that Violet thus reflected--'Ah! it is
just as Mr. Martindale used to sit with me in the window at home! She is
going to give up all her grandeur for the sake of this good clergyman!
How good she is! If she could only like me one little bit.'

For the present this mattered the less to Violet, as she was
extremely happy out of doors with her husband, who took up her time so
exclusively, that she scarcely saw the rest, except at meals and in the
evening. Then, though less afraid of 'solecisms in etiquette,' she made
no progress in familiarity, but each day revealed more plainly how much
too lowly and ignorant she was to be ever one of the family.

Mrs. Nesbit was always formidable and sarcastic, alarming her the more
because she could not understand her irony, though conscious it was
levelled against her; Lady Martindale always chilling in condescending
courtesy, and daily displaying more of the acquirements that frightened
Violet by their number and extent; Theodora always gravely and coldly
polite and indifferent. Miss Gardner was her great resource. Her
pleasant manners and ready conversation were universally liked, and more
than once she dexterously helped Violet out of a state of embarrassment,
and made a connecting link, through which she ventured to talk to the
other ladies.

With the gentlemen she was happier. Lord Martindale was kind in manner,
and she improved in the power of speaking to him, while John was, as she
knew, her best friend; but she saw very little of him, he lived apart
from the family, often not meeting them till dinner-time, and she began
to understand Arthur's surprise at his doings at Winchester, when
she found that his usual habits were so solitary that his father was
gratified if he joined him in a ride, and his mother esteemed it a
favour if he took a turn in the garden with her.

The parish church was so distant that the carriage was always used
to convey thither the ladies, except Theodora, who ever since her
fourteenth year had made it her custom to walk early to the school, and
to remain there in the interval between the services. It was believed
that she enjoyed a wet Sunday, as an occasion for proving her
resolution, now so well established that no one thought of remonstrance,
let the weather be what it might. The first Sunday of Violet's visit
happened to be showery, and in the afternoon, Lord Martindale had gone
to John's room to dissuade him from going to church a second time, when,
as the door stood open, they heard Arthur's voice in the gallery.

'Hollo! you are not setting out in these torrents!'

'Do let me, please!' returned the pleading note.

'Why, the avenue is a river, and you are not a real goose yet, you
know.'

'We never did miss church for weather, and it is further off at
Wrangerton.'

'Nobody is going, I tell you. It is not in common sense. You are as bad
as Theodora, I declare.'

'I don't mean to be wilful!' said she, piteously; 'I won't go if you
tell me not, but please don't. I have no Sunday-book, and nothing to do,
and I should feel wrong all the week.'

'To be sure you can't smoke a cigar,' said Arthur, in a tone of
commiseration; 'so wilful will to water! Now for an aquatic excursion!'

Their steps and voices receded, and the father and brother looked
amused. 'A good honest child!' 'She will do something with him after
all!' and Lord Martindale (for Arthur had made too broad an assertion
in declaring no one was going) followed them down, and showed positively
paternal solicitude that Violet should be guarded from the rain, even
sending to Pauline for a cloak of Miss Martindale's.

It was early when they reached the village, and Lord Martindale, saying
he must speak to a workman, took them through a pretty garden to a
house, the front rooms of which were shut up; they entered by the back
door, and found themselves in a kitchen, where a couple of labouring
people were sitting, in church-going trim. While Violet shook off the
rain, and warmed herself at the fire, Lord Martindale spoke to the man;
and then opening a door, called her and Arthur to look.

There were several rooms, without trace of ever having been inhabited,
and not looking very inviting. The view of the park, which Violet would
fain have admired, was one gush of rain.

'This might be made something of,' said Lord Martindale. 'It was built
at the same time as the house. There was some idea of Mrs. Nesbit's
living here; and of late years it has been kept empty for poor John.'

He broke off. Violet wondered if it was to be her abode, and whether
those empty rooms could ever be as pleasant as the parlour at
Winchester; but no more passed, and it was time to go into church.

After this, Lord Martindale pressed to have their stay prolonged; which
Arthur could not persuade his wife to believe a great compliment to her,
though she was pleased, because he was, and because she hoped it was
a sign that she was tolerated for his sake. Personally, she could have
wished that his leave of absence might not be extended, especially when
she found that by the end of the next two months it was likely that the
regiment would be in London, so that she had seen the last of her
dear Winchester lodging; but she had so little selfishness, that she
reproached herself even for the moment's wish, that Arthur should not
remain to be happy at his own home.

It was a great loss to her that Miss Gardner was going away, leaving
her to the unmitigated coldness and politeness of the other ladies. She
grieved the more when, on the last morning, Jane made positive advances
of friendship, and talked affectionately of meeting in London.

'My home is with my sister, and we shall be delighted to see you. You
will be fixed there, no doubt.'

'Thank you. I cannot tell; but I shall be so glad to see you!'

'And I shall be delighted to introduce you to my sister. I know you will
be great friends. What a season it will be! Two such sisters as Mrs.
and Miss Martindale making their appearance together will be something
memorable.'

Violet blushed excessively, and made some inarticulate disavowals. She
felt it presumption to let her name be coupled with Miss Martindale's,
and there was a sense of something dangerous and wrong in expecting
admiration.

Miss Gardner only smiled encouragingly at her youthfulness. 'I will not
distress you, though I look forward to what I shall hear. I shall feel
that I have a right to be proud of you, from priority of acquaintance.'

'You are very kind; but, please, don't talk so. It is bad, I know, for
me.'

'You are very right, I quite agree with you. No doubt it is the wisest
way; but so very few feel as you do. I wish more were like you, or,
indeed, like Theodora, who is positively displeased with me for speaking
of her making a sensation.'

'Oh! of course she does not care,' said Violet. 'So very good as she
is.'

'Appallingly so, some people say,' returned Jane, with a peculiar look;
'but, I know her well, though she was more my sister's friend than
mine.'

'Then you have known her a long time?'

'All her life. We used to meet every day in London, when she and my
sister were two madcaps together, playing endless wild pranks. We used
to tell her she ruled the governesses, and no one could control her--nor
can--'

'But she is very good,' repeated Violet, puzzled.

'Ah! she took a serious turn at about fourteen, and carried it out
in her own peculiar way. She has worked out a great deal for herself,
without much guidance. She has a standard of her own, and she will not
acknowledge a duty if she does not intend to practise it.'

'I don't understand,' said Violet. 'I thought if one saw a duty one must
try to practise it.'

'I wish all the world went upon your principles' said Miss Gardner,
with a sigh. 'I am afraid you will find many not half so consistent with
their own views as yourself, or Theodora.'

'Oh! of course one must fail,' said Violet. 'One cannot do half one
means, but Theodora seems so strong and resolute.'

'Ay, no one has been able to cope with her, not even Mrs. Nesbit; who,
as a kindred spirit, might have had a chance!'

'Mrs. Nesbit has had a great deal to do with her education?'

'I dare say you have found out the real head of the family. I see you
are very acute, as well as very guarded.'

'Oh dear! I hope I have said nothing I ought not,' cried Violet, in a
fright.

'No, indeed, far from it. I was admiring your caution.'

Violet thought she had done wrong in betraying her dislike; she knew not
how; and trying to ascribe all to shyness, said, 'It was so strange and
new; I have never been out till now.'

'Yes, if you will allow me to say so, I thought you got on admirably,
considering how trying the situation was.'

'Oh! I was very much frightened; but they are very kind--Mr. Martindale
especially.'

'Poor Mr. Martindale! I wish he could recover his spirits. He has never
held up his head since Miss Fotheringham's death. He is an admirable
person, but it is melancholy to see him spending his life in that lonely
manner.'

'It is, indeed. I often wish anything would cheer him!'

'All the family are devoted to him, if that would comfort him. It is the
only point where Lady Martindale is not led by her aunt, that she almost
worships him!'

'I thought Mrs. Nesbit was fond of him.'

'Did you ever hear that Percy Fotheringham once said of her, "That
woman is a good hater"? She detested the Fotheringham family, and Mr.
Martindale, for his engagement. No, he is out of her power, and she
cannot endure him; besides, he is a rival authority--his father listens
to him.'

'I suppose Mrs. Nesbit is very clever.'

'She has been one of the cleverest women on earth. She formed her niece,
made the match, forced her forward into the very highest society--never
were such delightful parties--the best music--every lion to be met
with--Lady Martindale herself at once a study for beauty, and a
dictionary of arts and sciences--Mrs. Nesbit so agreeable. Ah! you
cannot judge of her quite, she is passee, broken, and aged, and, poor
thing! is querulous at feeling the loss of her past powers; but there
used to be a brilliance and piquancy in her conversation that has become
something very different now.'

Violet thought it most prudent only to remark on Lady Martindale's
varied accomplishments.

'She has carried them on much longer than usual. People generally give
them up when they marry, but she has gone on. I am not sure whether it
was the wisest course. There is much to be said on both sides. And I
have sometimes thought Theodora might have been a little less determined
and eccentric, if she had not been left so much to governesses, and if
her affections had had more scope for development.'

Theodora came in, and Violet blushed guiltily, as if she had been
talking treason.

Miss Gardner's object in life, for the present, might be said to be to
pick up amusement, and go about making visits; the grander the people
the better, adapting herself to every one, and talking a sort of
sensible scandal, with a superior air of regret; obtaining histories at
one house to be detailed at another, and thus earning the character
of being universally intimate. The sentiments of the young bride of
Martindale had been, throughout her visit, matter of curiosity; and even
this tete-a-tete left them guess work. Theodora's were not so difficult
of discovery; for, though Jane had never been the same favourite with
her as her more impetuous sister, she had, by her agreeable talk and
show of sympathy, broken down much of the hedge of thorns with which
Theodora guarded her feelings.

'I have been talking to Mrs. Martindale,' Jane began, as they went
up-stairs together. 'She is a graceful young thing, and Georgina and I
will call on her in London. Of course they will be settled there.'

'I don't know,' said Theodora. 'A notion has been started of his leaving
the Guards, and their coming to live at the cottage at Brogden.'

'Indeed!' exclaimed Miss Gardner.

'It is not settled, so don't mention it. I doubt how it would answer to
set Arthur down with nothing to do.'

'I doubt, indeed! I have seen a good deal of families living close
together.'

'Nothing shall make me quarrel with Arthur, or his wife. You smile,
but it needs no magnanimity to avoid disputes with anything so meek and
gentle.'

'You can't judge of her; a girl of sixteen in a house full of strangers!
Give her a house of her own, and she will soon learn that she is
somebody. As long as your eldest brother is unmarried, she will expect
to be looked upon as the wife of the heir. She will take offence, and
your brother will resent it.'

'And there will be discussions about her,' said Theodora.

'Depend upon it, 'tis easier to keep the peace at a distance. Fancy the
having to call for her whenever you go out to dinner. And oh! imagine
the father, mother, and half-dozen sisters that will be always staying
there.'

'No, Arthur has not married the whole family, and never means them to
come near her.'

'There are two words to that question,' said Miss Gardner, smiling.
'Quiet as she seems now, poor thing she has a character of her own, I
can see, and plenty of discernment. To be so guarded, as she is, at her
age, shows some resolution.'

'Guarded! has she been saying anything?'

'No, she is extremely prudent.'

'Inferring it, then,' exclaimed Theodora. 'Well, her expectations must
be high, if she is not satisfied; one comfort is, the Brogden scheme is
only John's and papa's. My aunt can't bear it, because it seems quite to
give up the chance of John's marrying.'

'Well, Georgina and I will do the best we can for her. I suppose you
wish it to be understood that you approve.'

'Of course: you can say everything with truth that the world cares for.
She is pleasing, and amiable, and all that.'

'She will be extremely admired.'

'And her head so much turned as to ruin all the sense there may be in
it! I hate the thought of it, and of what is to become of Arthur when he
wakes from his trance.'

'He will find that he has a sister,' said Jane, who had learnt that this
was the secret of consolation; and, accordingly, a softer 'Poor Arthur!'
followed.

'And will you write, dear Theodora?'

'I don't promise. I hardly ever write letters.'

'And you will not send your love to poor Georgina?'

'I forgive her for having pained and disappointed me. I hope she will
be happy, but I am very much afraid she has not gone the right way to be
so.'

'Am I to tell her so?'

'I dare say you will, but don't call it my message. If she makes a good
use of her means, I shall try to forget the way she obtained them.'

'I only hope, with your notions, that you will not get into a scrape
yourself. I'm a little afraid of that curate.'

'We both know better,' said Theodora.

Jane departed, and Violet felt as if she had a friend and protector the
less. She was sitting forlorn in the great drawing-room, waiting for
Arthur, who was trying horses; presently Theodora came in, and with
something of compassion, said, 'I hope you have an entertaining book
there.'

Oh yes, thank you, "La Vie de Philippe Auguste". I like it very much; it
is as amusing as "Philip Augustus" itself.'

'James's novel, you mean?'

'Have you read it?'

'His novels are exactly alike,' said Theodora, leaving the room, but
checked by the thought that it would be merciful to take her into her
room. 'No, nonsense,' said second thoughts; 'I shall have nothing but
chatter ever after, if I establish her coming to me when Arthur is
out; and if this cottage scheme comes to pass, she will be marching up
whenever she has nothing better to do. Give an inch, and she will take
an ell.'

She was interrupted by a diffident, hesitating call, and, looking
back, as she was mounting the stairs, beheld Violet, who changed the
appellation into 'Miss Martindale.'

'Well!' said she, feeling as if her citadel were in jeopardy.

'Would you--would you be so very kind as to lend me a French
dictionary?'

'Certainly; I'll give you one in a moment,' said Theodora; with so
little encouragement as would have deterred a person bent on gaining
the entree. Violet stood meekly waiting till she brought the book, and
received it with gratitude disproportionate to the favour conferred.



CHAPTER 5


   Some heavy business hath my lord in hand,
   And I must know it, else he loves me not.
                         --King Henry IV


Miss Gardner's departure threw the rest of the party more together,
and Theodora did not hold herself as much aloof as before. Indeed she
perceived that there were occasions when Arthur seemed to be returning
to his preference for her. She had more conversation, and it often fell
on subjects of which the bride had no knowledge, while the sister was
happy in resuming old habits. Sometimes Violet was entertained; but one
day when they were riding, the talk was going on eagerly on some subject
of which she knew nothing, while they rode faster than she liked, and
she fancied she was insecure in her saddle. Twice she timidly called
Arthur; but he was too much absorbed to attend to her, without a degree
of scream, which she did not feel would be justified. Each moment she
grew more alarmed and miserable, and though at last, when he perceived
that she wanted him, he was off his horse in a moment and set all to
rights, she completely forgot her distress,--the charm had been broken,
she was no longer his first thought.

The sensation of loneliness often returned during the next few weeks;
there was no real neglect, and she would not so have felt it if she had
not depended on him alone, and so long enjoyed his exclusive attention.
His fondness and petting were the same, but she perceived that he found
in his sister a companionship of which she did not feel capable. But to
Theodora herself, whenever she succeeded in engrossing Arthur, it seemed
a victory of sisterly affection and sense over beauty and frivolity.

Arthur was anxious to know the family politics, and resumed the habit of
depending on his sister for gathering intelligence from Mrs. Nesbit. On
her he bestowed his complaints that his father would not see things as
he wished, and with her talked over his projects. In truth, he could not
bear to disclose to his wife the footing on which he stood,--looking
on her as a mere child, sure to be satisfied, and not requiring to be
consulted.

Theodora gave him tidings of the proposal that he should settle in
the village, and finding him undecided, threw all her weight into the
opposite scale. She sincerely believed she was consulting his happiness
and the harmony of the family by speaking of the irksomeness of living
there with nothing to do, and by assisting him in calculating how large
an income would be necessary to enable him to keep hunters, go from
home, &c., without which he declared it would be intolerable, and
as there was little probability of his father allowing him so much,
continuing in his profession was the only alternative.

Violet saw them in frequent consultation, and once John said something
to her of his hopes of seeing her at Brogden; then, finding her in
ignorance, drew back, but not till he had said enough to make her
restless at hearing no more. She would, of course, have preferred living
in the country; but when she figured to herself Arthur always with
Theodora, and herself shut up in the little parlour she had seen in the
rain, she grew extremely disconsolate.

One morning, unable to read or sit quiet under these anticipations, she
went out to dispel them by a turn among the flowers, and a conversation
with the peacock. At the corner of the lawn, she heard Arthur's
voice--'Exactly so; two thousand is the very least. Ha, Violet!' as he
and Theodora emerged from a shady alley.

'Oh, I did not mean to interrupt you,' said Violet, confused; 'I only
came out for some fresh air.'

'Unbonneted, too, do you want to get roasted brown?' said Arthur.

'I never am burnt,' said Violet; 'but I will not be in your way, I'll
go.'

'Nonsense,' said he, drawing her arm into his. 'Come in good time,' and
he yawned, tired of the discussion. 'Ha, Mr. Peacock, are you there?'

'He always follows me,' said Violet. 'Miss Piper showed me where his
food is kept, and I can almost get him to eat out of my hand.'

Theodora walked off, thinking there was an end of her brother's sense,
and Violet looked after her rather sadly, thinking, while exhibiting to
Arthur her friendship with the peacock, 'he consults her, he only
plays with me. Perhaps it is all I am good for; but I wish we were at
Winchester.'

As Theodora went up-stairs, she saw her eldest brother standing at the
south window of the gallery. He called to her, saying, 'Here's a pretty
picture, Theodora.'

In front of the sparkling crystal arches of the fountain stood Violet,
bending forward, and holding out her hand full of grain to invite the
beautiful bird, which now advanced, now withdrew its rich blue neck,
as in condescension, then raised its crested head in sudden alarm, its
train sweeping the ground in royal splendour. Arthur, no unpicturesque
figure in his loose brown coat, stood by, leaning against the stand
of one of the vases of plants, whose rich wreaths of brightly coloured
blossoms hung down, making a setting for the group; and while Violet by
her blandishments invited the peacock to approach, he now and then, with
smiling slyness, made thrusts at it with her parasol, or excited Skylark
to approach.

'A pretty scene, is it not?' said John.

'Like a Sevres china cup,' Theodora could not help saying.

'Fountain and peacock, and parasol for shepherd's crook, forming a
French Arcadia,' said John, smiling. 'I suppose it would hardly make a
picture. It is too bright.'

Theodora only answered by a sigh, and was turning away, when John added,
'I am glad she has him at last, I was afraid she had a long solitary
morning while you were out with him. I saw you walking up and down so
long.'

'He was talking over his plans,' said Theodora, with an assumption of
sullen dignity.

'I have been wishing to speak to you about that very thing,' said John.
'I think you may be in danger of putting yourself between him and his
wife.'

It was a new thing to her to hear that this was a danger, but, in an
offended manner, she replied, 'I can hardly be accused of that. He
ceases all rational talk about his most important concerns to go to
child's play with her.'

'But why keep her out of the rational talk?'

'That is his concern. He knows what she is capable of, I suppose.'

'I doubt whether he does,' said John; 'but I don't want to interfere
with his behaviour, only to give you a caution. It is natural that you
should wish to have him what he was before. I knew his marriage was a
great blow to you.'

'I knew he would marry,' said Theodora, coldly; for she could not bear
compassion. 'It is the common course of things.'

'And that the wife should be first.'

'Of course.'

'Then would it not be better to bear that in mind, and make up your mind
to it, rather than try to absorb his confidence?'

'He is not bound to consult no one but that child. You would not drive
him back to her if he came to you for advice.'

'I should not pass her over; I should assume that her opinion was to be
respected.'

'I can't be untrue.'

'Then try to make it valuable.'

'He wants no help of mine to make him fond of her!' cried Theodora.
'Does not he dote on her, and make himself quite foolish about her
complexion and her dress!'

'That is a different thing. She cannot be always a toy; and if you want
to do the most inestimable service to Arthur, it would be by raising
her.'

'Trying to educate a married sister-in-law! No, thank you!'

'I don't see what is to become of them,' said John, sadly. 'He will
be always under some influence or other, and a sensible wife might do
everything for him. But she is a child; and he is not the man to form
her character. He would have spoilt her already if she did not take his
admiration, for mere affection; and just at the age when girls are most
carefully watched, she is turned out into the world without a guide! If
he ceases to be happy with her, what is before them? You think he will
fall back on you; but I tell you he will not. If you once loosen the tie
of home, and he seeks solace elsewhere, it will be in the pursuits that
have done him harm enough already.'

'He has given up his race-horses,' said Theodora.

The luncheon-bell interrupted them; but as they were going down, John
added, 'I hope I have said nothing to vex you. Indeed, Theodora, I feel
much for your loss.'

'I am not vexed,' was her haughty reply, little guessing how, in her
pursuit of the brother who had escaped her, she was repelling and
slighting one who would gladly have turned to her for sisterly
friendship. His spirits were in that state of revival when a mutual
alliance would have greatly added to the enjoyment of both; but Theodora
had no idea of even the possibility of being on such terms. He seemed
like one of an elder generation--hardly the same relation as Arthur.

'So, Lady Elizabeth comes,' said Lady Martindale, as they entered the
room.

'Is she coming to stay here!' asked John.

'Yes; did you not hear that we have asked her to come to us for the
Whitford ball?'

'Oh, are we in for the Whitford ball?' said Theodora, in a tone of
disgust that checked the delighted look on Violet's face.

'Yes, my dear; your papa wishes us to go.'

'What a bore!' exclaimed Theodora.

'Yes,' sighed Lady Martindale; 'but your papa thinks it right.'

'A necessary evil--eh, Violet?' said Arthur.

'I hope you don't mind it?' said Violet, looking anxiously at him.

'Ah, you will enjoy it,' said her ladyship, graciously regarding her
folly.

'Oh, yes, thank you,' said Violet, eagerly.

'Have you been to many balls?'

'Only to one;' and she blushed deeply, and cast down her eyes.

'And so the Brandons are coming to stay! For how long, mamma?' proceeded
Theodora.

'From Wednesday to Saturday,' said Lady Martindale. 'I have been writing
cards for a dinner-party for Wednesday; and your father says there are
some calls that must be returned; and so, my dear, will you be ready by
three?'

'You don't mean me, mamma?' said Theodora, as nobody answered.

'No; you are a resolute rebel against morning visits. You have no
engagement for this afternoon, my dear?'

Violet started, saying, 'I beg your pardon; I did not know you meant me.
Oh, thank you! I am very much obliged.'

'I suppose you will not go with us, Arthur?'

He looked as if he did not like it, but caught a beseeching glance from
his wife, and was beginning to consent, when Theodora exclaimed, 'Oh,
Arthur, don't; it will be such a famous opportunity for that ride.'

'Very well; you know where my cards are, Violet!'

'Yes,' she answered, submissively, though much disappointed, and in
dread of the drive and of the strangers.

'Really, I think you had better go, Arthur,' said John, greatly
displeased at Theodora's tone. 'It is the sort of occasion for doing
things regularly.'

'Indeed, I think so,' said Lady Martindale; 'I wish Arthur would go with
us this once. I doubt if it will be taken well if he does not.'

'You will find no one at home. His going won't make a bit of
difference,' said Theodora, who now regarded keeping him as a matter of
power.

'Surely your ride might wait,' said her mother. 'No, it won't, mamma. It
is to see that old man, Mary's father.'

'What Mary, my dear?'

'The scullery-maid. I want to speak to him about her confirmation; and
the only way is over Whitford Down--all manner of leaping places, so we
must go without Violet.'

Violet feared there was little hope for her, for Arthur looked much
invited by the leaping places, but John made another effort in her
favour, and a great one for him.

'Suppose you accept of me for your escort, Theodora?' Every one looked
astonished, Lady Martindale positively aghast.

'Were you ever on Whitford Down, John?' said Arthur.

'Why, yes,--in old times; I know the place, I believe.'

'You talk of knowing it, who never hunted!' said Arthur. 'No, no; you
are a great traveller, John, but you don't know the one horse-track on
Whitford Down that does not lead into a bog--'

'Theodora does, I dare say.'

'Yes, I know it, but it is too far for you, John, thank you, and not at
all what would suit you. I must give it up, if Arthur prefers playing
the disconsolate part of a gentleman at a morning call.'

'Do you really dislike going without me?' asked Arthur, and of course
nothing was left for Violet to say but, 'O, thank you, pray don't stay
with me. Indeed, I had much rather you had your ride.'

'You are sure?'

'O yes, quite. I shall do very well' and she smiled, and tried to make
a show of ease and confidence in his mother, by looking towards her, and
asking upon whom they were to call.

Lady Martindale mentioned several ladies who had left their cards for
Mrs. Arthur Martindale, adding that perhaps it would be better to leave
a card at Rickworth Priory.

'Is that where Lady Elizabeth Brandon lives?' asked Violet.

'Yes,' said Lady Martindale. 'It belongs to her daughter. Lady Elizabeth
is a highly excellent person, for whom Lord Martindale has a great
regard, and Miss Brandon is one of Theodora's oldest friends.'

'Hum!' said Theodora.

'My dear, she is a very nice amiable girl--just your own age, and
admirably brought up.'

'Granted,' said Theodora.

'I cannot see that Emma Brandon wants anything but style and
confidence,' proceeded Lady Martindale, 'and that I believe to be
entirely poor Lady Elizabeth's fault for keeping her so much in
retirement. That German finishing governess, Miss Ohnglaube, whom we
were so sorry to lose, would have been the person to teach her a little
freedom and readiness of manner. I wish we could have kept her a little
longer.'

'I told Lady Elizabeth about her,' said Theodora; but Lady Martindale,
without hearing, said she must go to her aunt, and renewing injunctions
to Violet to be ready by three, left the room.

'You did not astonish her weak mind with the ghost story?' said Arthur.

'With its cause.'

'You would not have thought, Violet,' continued Arthur, 'that we had a
ghost in the north wing.'

'What was it?' said Violet. 'You don't mean really?'

'Only a Turk's-head broom, with phosphorus eyes, and a sheet round the
handle,' said Theodora. 'It had a grand effect when Arthur stood on
the second landing-place, and raised it above the balusters--a sort of
bodilessness rising from vacancy.'

'Didn't she faint?' said Arthur.

'No, I was afraid she would, and then it would have been all over with
us; but I dragged her safe into the school-room, and there she was so
hysterical that I nearly relented.'

'Then was it all in play?' said Violet.

'In earnest,' said Arthur. 'It was the only way of getting quit of
mademoiselle.'

'That lady who used to talk metaphysics and sing!' said John. 'I
remember the lamentations at her not choosing to remain. Why was she
victimized?'

'There was no help for it,' said Theodora. 'She considered the book
of Genesis as a "sehr schone mythische Geschichte", and called the
Patriarchs the Hebrew Avatars.'

'Theodora! You don't mean it!' exclaimed John.

'I do, but I had my revenge, for, after the Turk's-head adventure, she
never slept without my Bible under her pillow. If by broad daylight she
would have renounced the Avatar theory, I really would have forgiven
her, for she was very good-natured, and she admired "the high Roman
fashion" so much, I was half afraid she might follow it herself if we
tormented her much more.'

'But why keep it to yourself! I can hardly believe it possible! Why play
these tricks instead of telling all?'

'I did tell Aunt Nesbit, but Miss Ohnglaube was always reading Jean Paul
with her and mamma; they were in raptures with her, and my aunt only
said I was too well instructed to be misled.'

'How old were you?'

'About fifteen.'

'It is beyond belief. Why could you not tell my father?' said John.

'I hardly saw him--I never spoke to him.'

'Was not I at home!'

'Yes, shut up in your room. I never thought of speaking to you. All I
could do was to be as restive as possible, and when she did not care for
that, there was nothing for it but playing on her German superstition.
So Arthur told her some awful stones about whipping blacks to death, and
declared West Indian families were very apt to be haunted; but that it
was a subject never to be mentioned to mamma nor my aunt.'

'And having paved the way, we treated her to the Turk's-head,' concluded
Arthur. 'I would do it again to hear her sigh and scream, and see
Theodora acting as coolly as if she was in daily intercourse with the
defunct nigger. If mademoiselle had not been frightened out of her
senses, her self-possession would have betrayed us.'

'I could not act fright,' said Theodora.

'And this was the best plan you could devise for getting rid of an
infidel governess!' said John.

And as they dispersed, he stood looking after his sister, thinking that
there was more excuse for her inconsistencies than he had yet afforded
her, and that, in fact, she deserved credit for being what she was. His
aunt had done even more harm than the ruin of his happiness.

Theodora triumphed, and carried Arthur off, but Violet found the reality
of the expedition less formidable than the anticipation. She knew her
mother would have enjoyed seeing her well dressed, and setting forth
in that style; the drive was agreeable, and Lady Martindale kind and
gracious. Alone with her, she lost much of her dread, and felt better
acquainted; but all froze up into coldness when they came home.

The ladies at Rickworth had not been at home; and as they did not arrive
on the Wednesday till Violet had gone to dress, she had time to frighten
herself by imagining an heiress on the pattern of Lady Martindale, and
an earl's daughter proportionably unapproachable. Her trepidation was
increased by Arthur's not coming in, though she heard guests arriving,
and when at last he appeared, it was so late, that he desired her to go
down and say he was 'just ready.'

It was a serious thing to encounter alone that great saloon full of
strangers, and with cheeks of the brightest carnation Violet glided in,
and after delivering her message to Lord Martindale, was glad to find
herself safely seated on an ottoman, whence she looked for the chief
guests. In the distance, beside Lady Martindale, sat a quiet elderly
lady in black; Theodora was paying a sort of scornful half-attention
to a fine showy girl, who was talking rather affectedly; and, thought
Violet, no one but an heiress could wear so many bracelets.

Her survey completed, she became conscious that a small, fair-haired,
pale girl was sitting near her, looking so piteously shy and
uncomfortable, that she felt bound to try and set her at ease, and
ventured an observation on the weather. It was responded to, and
something about the harvest followed; then, how pretty the country, and,
thereupon, Violet said it only wanted mountains to be beautiful.

'Ah! when one has once seen a mountain one cannot forget it.'

'Never!' said Violet. 'I miss Helvellyn every morning when I look out of
window.'

'Do you know the Lake country?' said the young lady.

'My home--my old home--is within sight of the Westmoreland hills. Have
you been there?'

'Mamma and I once spent a month there, and enjoyed it exceedingly.'

'Oh! and did you go up Helvellyn!'

'Yes, that we did, in spite of the showers; and what a view we had!'

They were surprised to find that dinner had been announced. Violet was
placed next to Mr. Martindale, and was able to ask the name of her new
acquaintance.

'Miss Brandon, you mean.' 'O no, not Miss Brandon, but that light pale
girl in the lilac worked muslin, who was talking to me!'

'I saw you talking to Miss Brandon.'

'Could it be? She looked all astray and frightened, like me!'

'That description answers to Emma Brandon,' said John, smiling.

'Who would have thought it! I should never have begun talking to her
if I had guessed who she was. I only did it because she looked so
uncomfortable. I hope it was not being forward.'

'Not in the least. You know you are at home here,--it was a great
kindness.'

'Do you like her?' said Violet.

'I believe she is a very good kind of girl, and her mother is one of our
oldest friends. They are very excellent sensible people, and do a great
deal of good in their own parish.'

'And only think! She has been in Westmoreland! She has seen Helvellyn!'

Violet was the only person who ever spoke to John in that hearty
confidence of sympathy in rejoicing; and quite refreshed by her bright
looks, he led her into a history of an ascent of Helvellyn, which had,
until this spring, been the great event of her life.

On coming into the drawing-room, Miss Brandon shrank up to her mother's
side. Violet wished she had a mother to protect her; and not daring
to place herself among the great ladies, stood in the group of younger
ones, with whom Theodora was keeping up a cold formal converse. Country
neighbours thought much of being asked to Martindale; but the parties
there were of the grandest and stiffest. Moreover, every one had to give
their friends a description of the bride; and the young ladies were more
inclined to study her appearance than to find conversation, regarding
her as an object of curiosity, as well as with some of their general
dread of the house of Martindale.

After an awkward ten minutes, Lady Martindale came towards her, and
said, 'My dear, Lady Elizabeth Brandon wishes to be introduced to you.'

'To me!' and Violet followed her, blushed and bent, then found her hand
cordially shaken, and a most comfortable voice addressing her. Room was
made for her on the sofa, between Lady Elizabeth and her daughter, and
she was supremely happy in talking about her own dear lake country.
Arthur smiled, and looked well pleased to see her in such company; and
Mr. Martindale came and talked to Lady Elizabeth all the evening.

Violet expected Theodora to monopolize Miss Brandon the next morning,
but Theodora had reasons of her own for not breaking her habit of
spending the morning in her own occupations. She knew Lady Elizabeth to
be perfectly guiltless of manoeuvring; but from the time she had become
conscious of Mrs. Nesbit's designs on Rickworth, first for Arthur and
now for John, it had been her decided purpose to give no colour for
throwing the heiress in their way by any friendship of hers; and as
she considered Emma one of the dullest and most silly girls of her
acquaintance, it was very pleasant to be justified in neglecting her.

The office of companionship to the younger visitor fell to Mrs.
Martindale. She showed off the peacock, and they wandered happily in
the gardens, most amiably received by Mr. Harrison, who delighted
in displaying his treasures, and almost overwhelmed Violet with his
graciousness, when she shyly asked if he could spare her a few of his
white roses for her hair.

Miss Brandon groaned and sighed about the ball, declaring it her
detestation; she should be tired to death; she hated dancing; and above
all, there was the nuisance of dressing.

'Oh! I am sorry you don't like it,' said Violet, 'but that is the way
with all sensible people.'

'No; mamma says it is not being sensible, but because I don't dance
well, and she wishes I did.'

'I am glad of that. My mamma does not think it foolish.'

'Do you like dancing, then?'

'That I do,' cried Violet, making a few steps; 'I only wish I might
dance with him still!'

This was the only difference of opinion--on school-teaching
books--heroes, historical and fictitious--on the "Bridal of
Triermain"--and Wordsworth's Waggoner, their sentiments accorded
exactly. Perhaps Emma's mind was the more formed and cultivated, but
Violet's was the more discerning and diffident in judgment.

Emma took the first opportunity of pouring out to her mother a perfect
rapture about Mrs. Martindale, dwelling on her right views, and all that
showed she had been well brought up.

'She is a sweet-looking creature,' said Lady Elizabeth, 'and I do hope
she is all she seems. Lord Martindale has been telling me how entirely
the marriage was her father's doing, and that she was perfectly ignorant
and innocent, poor thing.'

'She looks as if she could never do anything wrong. Mamma, I hardly know
whether you would like me to make friends with her, but I could not
help it, and she said such nice things that I knew you would like her.
I never could get on with any one before, you know, but, from the moment
she came blushing in, and spoke to me in that sweet low voice, I felt as
if I most be fond of her--before I made out who she was--and even then I
could not like her less.'

'She is so unaffected and unassuming!' said Lady Elizabeth. 'I little
expected Arthur Martindale's marriage to have turned out so well.'

'I don't wonder at his falling in love at first sight! I don't see how
he could help it. I am sure I should!'

'I think you have, said Lady Elizabeth, smiling.

'Wasn't it charming, mamma? Theodora never came near us all the
morning, and very soon got out of my way in the afternoon, so we were so
comfortable!'

'Take care what you say about her, my dear.'

'Oh, yes. We never spoke of her at all. I wonder what Mrs. Martindale
does here! It is a dreadful place, and they are all one more stately
than the other,'

'Not the sons.'

'Oh! poor Mr. Martindale is worse than stately. There's something in
that gentle melancholy tone of his that is so different from other
people--and he looks so refined and thoughtful. He frightens me more
than any of them!'

'I hope he is in rather better spirits. I have had a good deal of talk
with him this evening. Indeed, his father told me he had been roused by
all this affair about his brother. But, Emma, my dear, you have not
rung all this time! Here am I almost dressed. I shall have to fulfil my
threat, and leave you to come down alone.'

It had to be fulfilled. Emma left insufficient time for her maid to try
to set out her soft light scanty hair, to make her satin and gauze look
anything but limp and flabby, and to put on her jewels, in the vain hope
of their making her seem well dressed. Whatever was ordained for her to
wear, Emma always looked exactly the same. She opened her door at the
same moment as Violet advanced into the gallery, her tall taper figure
arrayed in bridal lace, not much whiter than her long neck and rounded
arms, a wreath of roses around her dark tresses, brilliant flowers
in her hand, her soft eyes bright with pleasure, and her beauteous
complexion deepened by bashfulness.

Emma could not repress her delight. 'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'you can't
think how beautiful you are!'

'Isn't she?' said a proud, playful voice. 'Thank you;' but seeing Emma
disconcerted, Arthur hastened down-stairs.

'Oh, I didn't know he was there!'

'Never mind!' said Violet, among her blushes. 'I'm glad he was. He liked
it.'

'I could not help it,' said Emma. 'You are so like a story! I can hardly
believe you are real!'

Violet felt familiar enough to prove herself substantial by a playful
pinch. 'But look here! See what I found on my table.'

'One of those serpent bracelets. It is very pretty!'

'Was not it kind of Lord Martindale?'

'You have to thank him for it! Oh! dreadful!'

'I don't mind speaking to him. It is so kind. "Mrs. A. Martindale, from
her affectionate father," the direction said. Oh! it is so very,
very pleasant that he should be so kind to me. Is not it a beautiful
creature! Look at its scales and its crown, and eyes. Arthur says they
are sapphires.'

'Yes, I never saw a prettier one.'

'I wish Annette could see it, and all at home. Is it not like a creature
in a fairy tale?'

'Like Zelinda's singing serpents?'

'Just like them. Do you know, I sometimes think I have got into a fairy
tale. Everything is so beautiful and so bewildering, and unlike what I
fancied.'

'Because you are so like a fairy princess yourself. Are you sure you
have not a talisman ring!'

'I think I have,' and Violet pulled off her glove. 'There--that
forget-me-not--the first ring I ever had. From the day he gave me that
it has all been so strange, that now and then I have been almost afraid
to awake, for fear it should not be true. But may I look at that diamond
butterfly of yours? It shines as if it would flash in the dark.'

'Never mind mine. Stupid things that came as heir-looms, and have no
pleasure belonging to them. The only thing I do care for is this'--and
she drew out a locket from within her dress. 'There, that is my father's
hair, and that is my little brother's. They both died before I can
remember; and there is dear mamma's nice pepper-and-salt lock round
them.'

Theodora swept by in black lace, her coronal of hair wreathed with large
pearls, and her lofty air like the Tragic Muse.

'Comparing ornaments! Worthy of such a friendship,' thought she, as
she held back, and made them go down before her, Emma glad to hold by
Violet's arm for protection.

Mrs. Nesbit was in the drawing-room talking to Lady Elizabeth, and with
her keen piercing eyes watching John, who was reading the newspaper by
the table. She was pleased to see him lay it aside, look up, and smile,
as the two friends entered, but she could have beaten them both, the one
for her insignificance, and the other for her radiant loveliness; and
she was still further provoked to see Miss Brandon sit down as near
her mother as possible, while Violet went up to him to show him her
bracelet. She stood by him for some little time, while he was examining
and praising it, and congratulating her on the choice bouquet that
Harrison had bestowed on her, but surprised to see her eyes cast
pensively down, and a grave look on that fair young face. He little
suspected that she was saddened by the contrast between her joys and his
sorrow and ill health, and thought it unkind to speak of her delight to
one so far removed from it.

Theodora began to indulge in a hearty grumbling.

'Well, my dear,' said Mrs. Nesbit, 'you will only show yourselves there,
and go home. Miss Brandon is not more inclined to Whitford balls than
you are.'

'No, I am rather surprised at having dragged Emma so far,' said Lady
Elizabeth. 'I hope they will both find it turn out better than they
expect. You must teach them,' and she looked smilingly at Violet.

Mrs. Nesbit was extremely annoyed at the quantity of notice Violet had
lately received, and was the more resolved to put her down. 'No one can
expect them to like country balls,' she said. 'One attends them as a
duty, for the sake of the neighbourhood; but as to pleasure in them,
that is only for the young ladies of the place on the look-out for the
military.'

She had fulfilled her purpose of making every one uncomfortable, except
one--namely, Violet. John looked at her, and perceived she was too
innocent and clear in conscience to understand or appropriate the taunt,
so he thought it better to leave the field open to Lady Elizabeth's calm
reply, 'Well, I used to enjoy country balls very much in my time.'

Arthur evaporated his indignation by shaking his foot, and murmuring,
not so low but that his sister heard it, 'Old hag!'

Lord and Lady Martindale came in together, and Violet's blushing
gratitude was so pretty and bright that it made Lord Martindale smile,
and silence it by a kiss, which perhaps surprised and gratified her more
than the bracelet did.

Lady Elizabeth begged to have her in her carriage; and growing intimate
in the sociable darkness, she found out that the mother was as loveable
as the daughter, and was as much at home with them as if she had known
them for years.

The evening exceeded even Violet's anticipations, though her one former
ball had been such as could never be equalled. Lord Martindale wished
every one to know how entirely he accepted his new daughter, so he gave
his arm to her, and presented her to the principal ladies, while she
felt herself followed by her husband's encouraging and exulting eye. It
certainly was a very different thing to go into society as Miss Violet
Moss or as Mrs. Arthur Martindale, and there was a start of fear as the
thought crossed her--was her pleasure pride and vanity?

She was chiefly sorry that she could not see Miss Brandon enjoy herself:
all that could be extracted from her by the most animated appeal was
a resigned smile, and a little quizzing of some of the sillier young
ladies. She professed, however, that she had never disliked any ball so
little, since she had the pleasure of watching Mrs. Martindale, hearing
how universally she was acknowledged to be the prettiest person present,
and telling Arthur all that was said of her.

Miss Brandon and Arthur had for some years past kept at a respectful
distance, each in dread of designs of the other; but now they were fast
resuming the childish familiarity of tone of the ancient times, when
the rough but good-natured, gentlemanlike boy had been a companion much
preferred to the determined, domineering girl. They danced a quadrille,
and talked a great deal of Violet. Emma began to think much better of
his capacity.

As to Theodora, she was talking, laughing, dancing, and appearing so
full of spirits, that Violet could not help venturing a remark, that she
surely liked it better than she expected.

'Not at all,' was the answer; 'but if one is to make oneself absurd, it
is as well not to do so by halves.'

So far was she from doing so by halves, that when her mother was ready
to go home, she was engaged so many deep, that it was settled she should
be left with Arthur and Violet. She danced indefatigably till morning
shone into the room, and was handed into the carriage by a gentleman
who, it was the private opinion of her young chaperone, had, like
Arthur, fallen in love at first sight. Poor man! it was a pity he could
not know about Mr. Wingfield; or she could almost suppose that Theodora
did not care so much for Mr. Wingfield, after all.

The drive home was very amusing. Violet was so tired that it was a
trouble to speak; but she liked to hear the brother and sister discuss
the ball, and laugh over the people; and leant back in her corner so
comfortably, that she only dreaded the moment of rousing herself to walk
up-stairs.

Theodora never stopped talking all the way, sprung nimbly out of the
carriage, ran up the steps, and admired the morning sky; and Violet
believed she did not go to bed at all, for it seemed a very short time
before the distant notes of the singing class were heard; yet she looked
as fresh and blooming as ever when they met at breakfast, and did not
flag in any of her usual employments.

The other ladies were capable of nothing but loitering; and it was a day
for making great advances in intimacy. Most delightful was that first
friendship, as they wandered arm-in-arm, talked gravely or gaily, and
entered more and more into each other's minds. Theodora held aloof,
despising their girlish caressing ways, and regarding the intimacy with
the less toleration because it was likely to serve as a pretext to Mrs.
Nesbit for promoting her views for John; and though the fewest words
possible had passed between him and Miss Brandon, she found that Mrs.
Nesbit was building hopes on the satisfaction he showed in conversing
with Lady Elizabeth. The visit ended with a warm invitation to Mr. and
Mrs. Arthur Martindale to come and stay at Rickworth before they left
the country.



CHAPTER 6


     Is it that they have a fear
     Of the dreary season near,
     Or that other pleasures be
     Sweeter even than gaiety?
                     --WORDSWORTH


Were they to leave the country? This was still under consideration.
The next fortnight made some difference in Theodora's wishes respecting
Brogden Cottage. Violet becoming less timid, ventured to show that she
took interest in poor people; and Theodora was pleased by finding her
able to teach at school, and to remember the names of the children.
Especially her sweet looks and signs gained the heart of little Charley
Layton, the dumb boy at the lodge--the creature on whom Theodora
bestowed the most time and thought. And on her begging to be shown the
dumb alphabet, as the two sisters crossed fingers, they became, for one
evening, almost intimate.

Theodora began to think of her as not only harmless, but likely to be
useful in the parish; and could afford to let Arthur have her for
a plaything, since he made herself his confidante. She withdrew her
opposition; but it was too late. Arthur had declared that he could not
live there without £2500 a year, and this his father neither could nor
would give him. The expense of building the house, and the keeping up of
such a garden and establishment, did not leave too much available of the
wealth Lady Martindale had brought, nor was the West Indian property
in a prosperous state; the demand was preposterous; and Theodora found
herself obliged to defend poor Violet, who, her aunt declared, must have
instigated it in consequence of the notice lavished upon her; while, as
Theodora averred with far more truth, 'it was as much as the poor thing
did to know the difference between a ten-pound note and a five.' Twelve
hundred pounds a year, and the rent of a house in London, was what
his elder brother would have married upon; and this, chiefly by John's
influence, was fixed as the allowance, in addition to his pay; and as
his promotion was now purchased for him, he had far more than he had
any right to expect, though he did not seem to think so, and grumbled
to Theodora about the expense of the garden, as if it was consuming his
patrimony.

How the income would hold out, between his carelessness and her
inexperience, was a question over which his father sighed, and gave good
advice, which Arthur heard with the same sleepy, civil air of attention,
as had served him under the infliction many times before.

John gave only one piece of advice, namely, that he should consign a
fixed sum for household expenses into his wife's hands; so that he might
not be subject to continued applications.

On this he acted; and subtracting to himself, wine, men, and horses, the
full amount of his bachelor income, he, for the first time, communicated
to Violet the result of the various consultations.

'So the upshot of it all is, that we are to have a house somewhere in
Belgravia,' he began.

'That is near Lord Martindale's London house, is it not?'

'Yes; you will be in the way of all that is going on.'

'Do we go there next month?'

'I suppose so.'

'Oh! I am glad.'

'Are you? I thought you liked being here.'

'Yes, yes, of course, that I do; but it will be so pleasant to be at
home, and to have you all to myself.'

She repented the next moment, as if it had been a complaint; but he was
gratified, and called her a little monopolist.

'Oh, I don't mean to be troublesome to you,' said she, earnestly; 'I
shall have so much more to do in our own house, that I shall not miss
you so much when you are out; besides, we can have Annette to stay with
us.'

'We'll see about that. But look here,' laying a paper with some figures
before her; 'that's all my father leaves me for you to keep house with.
I put it into your hands, and you must do the best you can with it.'

'You don t mean to put all that into my hands!' exclaimed Violet in
alarm. 'What a sum!'

'You won't think so by the end of the year; but mind, this must do; it
will be of no use to come to me for more.'

'Then is it little?' asked Violet.

'See what you think of it by and by; you won't find it such an easy
thing to make both ends meet.'

'I will write and ask mamma to tell me how to manage.'

'Indeed,' said Arthur, with sharpness such as she had never seen in him
before, 'I beg you will not. I won't have my affairs the town talk
of Wrangerton.' But seeing her look frightened, and ready to cry, he
softened instantly, and said, affectionately, 'No, no, Violet, we
must keep our concerns to ourselves. I don't want to serve for the
entertainment of Matilda's particular friends.'

'Mamma wouldn't tell--'

'I'll trust no house of seven women.'

'But how am I to know how to manage?'

'Never mind; you'll get on. It comes as naturally to women as if it was
shooting or fishing.'

'I wonder how I shall begin! I don't know anything.'

'Buy a cookery book.'

'Aunt Moss gave me one; I didn't mean that. But, oh, dear, there's the
hiring of servants, and buying things!'

'Don't ask me: it is woman's work, and always to be done behind the
scenes. If there's a thing I mortally hate, it is those housekeeper
bodies who go about talking of their good cooks.'

Violet was silenced, but after much meditation she humbly begged for
answers to one or two questions. 'Was she to pay the servants' wages out
of this?'

'Your maids--of course.'

'And how many are we to have?'

'As many as will do the work.'

'A cook and housemaid--I wonder if that would be enough?'

'Don't ask me, that's all'

'I know you don't like to be teased,' she said, submissively; 'but one
or two things I do want to know. Is James to be in the house?'

'Why, yes; he is a handy fellow. We will have him down for Simmonds to
give him some training.'

'Then ought we to have two maids or three?'

He held up his hands, and escaped.

That morning John, happening to come into the drawing-room, found Violet
disconsolately covering a sheet of paper with figures.

'Abstruse calculations?' said he.

'Yes, very,' said she, sighing, with the mystified face of a child
losing its way in a long sum.

He did not like to leave her in such evident difficulties, and said,
with a smile, 'Your budget? Are you good at arithmetic?'

'I can do the sums, if that was all, but I don't know what to set out
from, or anything about it. Mamma said she could not think how I should
keep house.'

'She would be the best person to give you counsel, I should think.'

'Yes, but--' and she looked down, struggling with tears, 'I must not
write to ask her.'

'How so!'

'Arthur says the Wrangerton people would gossip, and I should not like
that,' said she; 'only it is very hard to make out for myself, and those
things tease Arthur.'

'They are not much in his line,' said John; 'I don't know,' he added,
hesitating, 'whether it would be of any use to you to talk it over with
me. There was a time when I considered the management of such an income;
and though it never came to practice, mine may be better than no notions
at all.'

'Oh, thank you!' said Violet, eagerly; then, pausing, she said, with a
sweet embarrassment, 'only--you can't like it.'

'Thank you,' replied he, with kind earnestness; 'I should like to be of
use to you.'

'It is just what I want. I am sure Arthur would like me to do it. You
see this is what he gives me, and I am to buy everything out of it.'

'The best plan,' said John; 'it never answers to be always applying for
money.'

'No,' said Violet, thoughtfully, as she recollected certain home scenes,
and then was angry with herself for fancying Arthur could wear such
looks as those which all the house dreaded.

Meanwhile John had perceived how differently Arthur had apportioned the
income from what his own intentions had been. He had great doubts of the
possibility of her well-doing, but he kept them to himself. He advised
her to consider her items, and soon saw she was more bewildered than
helpless. He knew no more than Arthur on the knotty point of the number
of maids, but he was able to pronounce her plan sensible, and her eyes
brightened, as she spoke of a housemaid of mamma's who wanted to better
herself, and get out of the way of the little ones, 'who were always
racketing.'

'And now,' said John, 'we passed over one important question--or is that
settled otherwise?--your own pocket-money!'

'Oh! I have plenty. Arthur gave me fifty pounds when we went through
London, and I have twelve left.'

'But for the future! Is it included here?'

'I should think so. Oh!' shocked at the sum he set down, 'a quarter of
that would be enough for my dress.'

'I don't think Miss Standaloft would say so,' said John, smiling.

'But Arthur said we must economize, and I promised to be as little
expense as possible. Please let me write down half that.'

'No, no,' said John, retaining the pencil, 'not with my consent. Leave
yourself the power of giving. Besides, this is to cover all the sundries
you cannot charge as household expenses. Now let me mark off another
hundred for casualties, and here is what you will have for the year. Now
divide.'

'Surely, two people and three servants can't eat all that in one week.'

'Fires, candles,' said John, amused, but poor Violet was quite
overpowered.

'Oh, dear! how many things I never thought of! Mamma said I was too
young! These coals. Can you tell me anything about them?'

'I am afraid not. You are getting beyond me. If you wanted to know the
cost of lodgings in Italy or the south of France, I could help you; but,
after all, experience is better bought than borrowed.'

'But what shall I do? Suppose I make Arthur uncomfortable, or spend his
money as I ought not when he trusts me?'

'Suppose you don't,' said John. 'Why should you not become an excellent
housewife? Indeed, I think you will' he proceeded, as she fixed her eyes
on him. 'You see the principle in its right light. This very anxiety
is the best pledge. If your head was only full of the pleasure of being
mistress of a house, that would make me uneasy about you and Arthur.'

'Oh! that would be too bad! Mamma has talked to me so much. She said I
must make it a rule never to have debts. She showed me how she pays
her bills every week, and gave me a great book like hers. I began at
Winchester.'

'Why, Violet, instead of knowing nothing, I think you know a great
deal!'

She smiled, and said something about mamma. 'I don't say you will not
make mistakes,' he continued, 'but they will be steps to learn by. Your
allowance is not large. It seems only fair to tell you that it may not
be sufficient. So, if you find the expenses exceed the week's portion,
don't try to scramble on; it will only be discomfort at the time, and
will lead to worse. Go boldly to Arthur, and make him attend; it is the
only way to peace and security.'

'I see,' said Violet, thoughtfully. 'Oh, I hope I shall do right. One
thing I should like. I mean, I thought one ought to set apart something
for giving away.'

'That is one use in reserving something for yourself,' said John, in his
kindest manner. 'Of the rest, you are only Arthur's steward.'

'Yes, I hope I shall manage well.'

'You will if you keep your present frame of mind.'

'But I am so young and ignorant. I did not think enough about it when I
was married,' said Violet, sorrowfully, 'and how it seems all to come
on me. To have all his comfort and the well-being of a whole house
depending on such as I am.'

'I can only say one thing in answer, Violet, what I know was the best
comfort to one who, without it, would have sunk under the weight of
responsibility.' His whole countenance altered, his voice gave way, a
distressing fit of coughing came on, the colour flushed into his face,
and he pressed his hand on his chest. Violet was frightened, but it
presently ceased, and after sitting for a few moments, exhausted, with
his head resting on his hand, he took up the pencil, and wrote down--'As
thy day, so shall thy strength be'--pushed it towards her, and slowly
left the room.

Violet shed a few tears over the paper, and was the more grieved when
she heard of his being confined to his room by pain in the side. She
told Arthur what had passed. 'Ah! poor John,' he said, 'he never can
speak of Helen, and any agitation that brings on that cough knocks him
up for the rest of the day. So he has been trying to "insense" you, has
he? Very good-natured of him.'

'I am so grieved. I was afraid it would be painful to him. But what was
the responsibility he spoke of?'

'Looking after her grandfather, I suppose. He was imbecile all
the latter part of his life. Poor John, they were both regularly
sacrificed.'

John took the opportunity of a visit from his father that afternoon to
tell him how much good sense and right feeling Violet had shown, and
her reluctance to appropriate to herself what he had insisted on as
absolutely necessary.

'That is only inexperience, poor girl,' said Lord Martindale. 'She does
not know what she will want. If it is not confidential, I should like to
know what she allows herself.'

John mentioned the sum.

'That is mere nonsense!' exclaimed his father. 'It is not half as much
as Theodora has! And she living in London, and Arthur making such a
point about her dress. I thought you knew better, John!'

'I knew it was very little, but when I considered the rest, I did not
see how she could contrive to give herself more.'

'There must be some miscalculation,' said Lord Martindale. 'There is not
the least occasion for her to be straitened. You thought yourself the
allowance was ample.'

'That it is; but you know Arthur has been used to expensive habits.'

'More shame for him.'

'But one can hardly expect him to reduce at once. I do think he is
sincere in his promises, but he will be careless, even in ordinary
expenditure. I don't say this is what ought to be, but I fear it will
be. All the prudence and self-denial must be upon her side.'

'And that from a girl of sixteen, universally admired! What a business
it is! Not that I blame her, poor thing, but I don't see what is to
become of them.'

The conversation was not without results. Lord Martindale, some little
time after, put into Violet's hand an envelope, telling her she must
apply the contents to her own use; and she was astounded at finding it a
cheque for £100. He was going to London, with both his sons, to choose a
house for Arthur, and to bid farewell to John, who was warned, by a few
chilly days, to depart for a winter in Madeira.

Violet was, during her husband's absence, to be left at Rickworth;
and in the last week she had several other presents, a splendid
dressing-case from Lady Martindale, containing more implements than she
knew how to use, also the print of Lalla Rookh; and even little Miss
Piper had spent much time and trouble on a very ugly cushion. Theodora
declared her present should be useful, and gave all the household linen,
for the purpose of having it hemmed by her school-children;--and this,
though she and Miss Piper sat up for three nights till one o'clock to
hasten it, was so far from ready, that Captain and Mrs. Martindale would
have begun the world without one table-cloth, if old Aunt Moss had not
been hemming for them ever since the day of Arthur's proposal.

Theodora was weary and impatient of the conflict of influence, and
glad to be left to her own pursuits, while she thought that, alone with
Violet, Arthur must surely be brought to a sense of his mistake.

Violet's heart bounded at the prospect of a renewal of the happy days at
Winchester, and of a release from the restraint of Martindale, and the
disappointment of making no friends with the family,--Mr. Martindale was
the only one of them with whom she was sorry to part; and she had seen
comparatively little of him. Indeed, when the three gentlemen set out,
she thought so much of Arthur's being away for a week, that she could
not care for John's voyage to Madeira, and looked preoccupied when he
affectionately wished her good-bye, telling her to watch for him in the
spring,--her house would be his first stage on his return. Then, as he
saw her clinging to Arthur to the last moment, and coming down with him
to the bottom of the long steps, he thought within himself, 'And by that
time there will be some guessing how much strength and stability there
is with all that sweetness, and she will have proved how much there is
to trust to in his fondness!'

There was not much time for bewailing the departures before Emma Brandon
came to claim her guest; and the drive was pleasant enough to make
Violet shake off her depression, and fully enjoy the arrival at
Rickworth, which now bore an aspect so much more interesting than on her
former drive.

The wooded hills in the first flush of autumn beauty sloped softly down
to the green meadows, and as the carriage crossed the solid-looking old
stone bridge, Violet exclaimed with transport, at a glimpse she caught
of a gray ruin--the old priory! She was so eager to see it that she and
Emma left the carriage at the park gate, and walked thither at once.

Little of the building remained, only a few of the cloister arches, and
the stumps of broken columns to mark the form of the chapel; but the
arch of the west window was complete, and the wreaths of ivy hid its
want of tracery, while a red Virginian creeper mantled the wall. All was
calm and still, the greensward smooth and carefully mown, not a nettle
or thistle visible, but the floriated crosses on the old stone coffin
lids showing clearly above the level turf, shaded by a few fine old
trees, while the river glided smoothly along under the broad floating
water-lily leaves, and on its other side the green lawn was repeated,
cattle quietly grazing on the rich pasture, shut in by the gently rising
woods. The declining sun cast its long shadows, and all was peace,--the
only sounds, the robin's note and the ripple of the stream.

Violet stood with her hands resting on Emma's arm, scarcely daring to
break the silence. 'How lovely!' said she, after a long interval. 'O
Emma, how fond you must be of this place!'

'Yes, it is beautiful,' said Emma, but with less satisfaction than
Violet expected.

'It is worth all the gardens at Martindale.'

'To be sure it is,' said Emma, indignantly.

'It puts me in mind of St. Cross.'

'But St. Cross is alive, not a ruin,' said Emma, with a sigh, and she
asked many questions about it, while showing Violet the chief points of
interest, where the different buildings had been, and the tomb of
Osyth, the last prioress. Her whole manner surprised Violet, there was a
reverence as if they were actually within a church, and more melancholy
than pleasure in the possession of what, nevertheless, the young heiress
evidently loved with all her heart.

Turning away at length, they crossed the park, and passed through the
garden, which was gay with flowers, though much less magnificent than
Mr. Harrison's. Emma said, mamma was a great gardener, and accordingly
they found her cutting off flowers past their prime. She gave Violet a
bouquet of geranium and heliotrope, and conducted her to her room with
that motherly kindness and solicitude so comfortable to a lonely guest
in a strange house.

Not that the house could long seem strange to Violet. It was an
atmosphere of ease, where she could move and speak without feeling on
her good behaviour. Everything throughout was on an unpretending scale,
full of comfort, and without display, with a regularity and punctuality
that gave a feeling of repose.

Violet was much happier than she had thought possible without Arthur,
though her pleasures were not such as to make a figure in history. There
were talks and walks, drives and visits to the school, readings and
discussions, and the being perfectly at home and caressed by mother
and daughter. Lady Elizabeth had all the qualities that are better than
intellect, and enough of that to enter into the pursuits of cleverer
people. Emma had more ability, and so much enthusiasm, that it was well
that it was chastened by her mother's sound sense, as well as kept under
by her own timidity.

It was not till Violet was on the point of departure that she knew the
secret of Emma's heart. The last Sunday evening before Arthur was to
fetch her away, she begged to walk once more to the Priory, and have
another look at it. 'I think,' said she, 'it will stay in my mind like
Helvellyn in the distance.'

Emma smiled, and soon they stood in the mellow light of the setting sun,
beside the ruin. 'How strange,' said Violet, 'to think that it is three
hundred years since Sunday came to this chapel.'

'I wonder' said Emma, breaking off, then beginning, 'O Violet, it is the
wish of my heart to bring Sundays back to it.'

'Emma! but could it be built up again?'

'Mamma says nothing must be done till I am twenty-five--almost six years
hence. Not then, unless I am tame and sober, and have weighed it well.'

'Restore it?--build a church?'

'I could have a sort of alms-house, with old people and children, and we
could look after them ourselves.'

'That would be delightful. Oh, I hope you will do it.'

'Don't think of it more than as a dream to myself and mamma. I could not
help saying it to you just then; but it is down too deep generally even
for mamma. It must come back somehow to God's service. Don't talk of it
any more, Violet, dearest, only pray that I may not be unworthy.'

Violet could hardly believe a maiden with such hopes and purposes
could be her friend, any more than Prioress Osyth herself; and when,
half-an-hour afterwards, she heard Emma talking over the parish and
Sunday-school news in an ordinary matter-of-fact way, she did not seem
like the same person.

There were many vows of correspondence, and auguries of meeting next
spring. Lady Elizabeth thought it right that her daughter should see
something of London life, and the hope of meeting Violet was the one
thing that consoled Emma, and Violet talked of the delight of making her
friend and Annette known to each other.

To this, as Lady Elizabeth observed, Arthur said not a word. She could
not help lecturing him a little on the care of his wife, and he listened
with a very good grace, much pleased at their being so fond of her.

She wished them good-bye very joyously, extremely happy at having her
husband again, and full of pleasant anticipations of her new home.



PART II


     There's pansies for you, that's for thoughts.

     --Hamlet



CHAPTER 1


     How far less am I blest than they,
     Daily to pine, and waste with care,
     Like the poor plant, that from its stem
     Divided, feels the chilling air.
                       --MICKLE'S Cumnor Hall


Arthur and Violet arrived at their new home in the twilight, when
the drawing-room fire burnt brightly, giving a look of comfort. The
furniture was good; and by the fire stood a delightful little low chair
with a high back, and a pretty little rosewood work-table, on which
was a coloured glass inkstand, and a table-stand of books in choice
bindings.

'Arthur, Arthur, how charming! I am sure this is your doing.'

'No, it is John's; I can't devise knick-knackeries, but he is a thorough
old bachelor, and has been doing all sorts of things to the house, which
have made it more tolerable.'

'How very kind he is! The books--how beautiful! Just what I wanted.
That one he lent me--he talked to me of that. This Emma has--I saw your
sister reading that, and wished to see more of it. But I can't look at
them all now; I must see Sarah, she was to bring something from home.'

A Wrangerton face had great charms, though it was starched and severe,
without one smile in answer to the joyous greeting, 'Well, Sarah, I am
glad you could come. How are they all?'

'Thank you, ma'am, Mr. and Mrs. Moss, and the young ladies, and Mr.
Albert, are all very well, and desires their love,' replied a voice
solemn enough for the announcement that they were all at the point of
death. Violet's spirits would have been damped but for the sight of the
table spread with parcels directed in dear familiar writing, and she
was pouncing on them when Sarah began her grave requests for orders, and
Violet felt her own ignorance and incapacity growing more patent every
moment as questions about arrangements beset and tormented her on every
side. At last she was left to enjoy the out-spreading of the precious
gifts, the devices characteristic of the kind hands that had prepared
them, and all her own private possessions--a welcome sight.

It was a happy evening, and the days that followed were full of pleasure
and occupation--in settling her treasures and making purchases. When she
seated herself in her own carriage, she thought now indeed it would
be delightful to show herself to her mother and sisters. She had no
relation in London but an uncle, a solicitor, fond and proud of her,
but too sensible to wish to frequent her house. He gave her a silver
tea-pot; and being asked to dinner now and then on Sunday was all the
attention he required. Her brother Albert did, indeed, sometimes come
to town on business; and Violet, after many hopes, was, one evening,
charmed at seeing him make his appearance. Arthur asked him to stay to
dinner, after which they were going to a party.

Albert, a spruce, good-looking youth, had been too grand to make friends
with so young a sister; but, now that she was a person of consequence,
his tone was different. He talked his best, and she had a perfect feast
of Wrangerton news--showed him all her presents, and enjoyed the thought
of Annette's smile at hearing of her little Violet stepping into her
carriage for a party at a countess's.

Arthur said London was empty, but Violet thought her visitors
innumerable, and, as the autumn advanced towards winter, had many
invitations. She enjoyed going out; her shyness had nearly worn off;
and she was everywhere received so as to make Arthur, proud and pleased.
Indeed she had doubts whether she was not growing too gay, and if it was
right to pay so much attention to her appearance. She asked Arthur, and
was laughed at for her pains.

However, Violet was not without her troubles from the first. She was
very much afraid of Sarah, and never spoke to her without shrinking back
into Miss Violet, and being conscious that it was mere presumption in
her to try to order one so much wiser than herself. The cook, a relation
of Miss Standaloft, was much more smooth and deferential, full of
resources, which seemed to come from Mrs. Martindale herself; and though
the weekly bills always exceeded her reckonings, so many things were
wanting, as Mrs. Cook observed, just getting into a house. The first
time of having any guests at dinner, Violet was in much anxiety, but
all went off to general satisfaction until the bills came in on Monday
morning. The cost was beyond her calculations, exceeded her week's
portion, and devoured the savings of the days when they had not dined at
home. Invitations had been sent out for another party, and Violet tried
to bring it within bounds; but the cook was civilly superior--'It was
always so in the first families, such as she was accustomed to, but if
Mrs. Martindale liked to have things in a different style--'

She knew Arthur would consent to no external change, and all she could
do was to look at the price of all she ordered, reject sundry expensive
delicacies, and trust to living on the relics of the feast for the rest
of the week; but, behold! they scarcely served for one luncheon, and on
Monday the bills had mounted up in an inexplicable manner. There were no
savings left, and she made up the deficiency from her own resources. A
third party was impending, and she strove more resolutely for frugality.
'Well, ma'am, if you choose, it must be so; but it was not what I was
used to in the families such as I have lived in.'

But Violet was firm, whereupon the cook harassed her with contrarieties;
and late hours and London air had so far told upon her that she
could not shake off her cares cheerfully. She knew all would turn out
ill--tormented herself--brought on a headache, and looked unwell when
the evening came. The cook sent up the dinner with just enough want of
care to keep her in such continual apprehension that she could hardly
attend to the conversation.

'You did not make such a good hand of it to-day,' said Arthur, when the
guests were gone; 'that soup was ditch-water, and--'

Violet was so worn out that she burst into tears. 'Hey? What's the
matter now? I said nothing to cry for.'

She tried to speak, but the tears would not let her.

'Well, if you can't bear to be told everything is not perfection, I
don't know what is to be done.' And Arthur, in displeasure, took up a
candle and walked off to smoke a cigar in his sitting-room down-stairs.

Her tears were checked by consternation, and, earnest to be forgiven,
she followed; then, as he turned impatiently, said, in a trembling
pleading voice, 'Dear Arthur, I've done crying. I did not mean to be
cross.'

'Well, that's enough, never mind,' said he, not unkindly, but as if in
haste to dismiss the subject, and be left to the peaceful enjoyment of
his cigar.

'And you forgive me?'

'Forgive? nonsense--only don't begin crying about nothing again. There's
nothing more intolerable than for a woman to be always crying, whenever
one speaks to her.'

''Twas not so much that,' said Violet, meekly, 'as that I was vexed
at the dinner not looking well, and it won't, without spending such
quantities of money!'

'Quantities--what do you call quantities?'

She named the cost of the last dinner, and he laughed at her horror;
then, when she was going to prove that it was disproportionate to their
means, he silenced her:

'Well, well, never mind; we are not going to give any more dinners just
yet; but when we do, have done with pinching and squeezing. Why, you
don't look fit to be seen after it.'

'I'm only tired.'

'Ay, with worrying. Go to bed and to sleep, and forget it all!'

She was consoled for that time; but the perplexity continued. She strove
to reduce the ordinary expenditure, but Arthur had a fashion of bringing
home a friend to dinner without notice; and she underwent indescribable
miseries, while reflecting on her one chicken, or five mutton chops; and
though something was sure to be extemporized by the cook, the result was
that these casual guests were as expensive as a banquet. She ventured
to beg Arthur to tell her when he was going to ask any one, but he was
vexed, and said he liked to bring home a man by chance; there need be
nothing out of the common way, and a dinner for two was a dinner
for three. Poor Violet thought, 'Ah! this is not like the time at
Winchester. It is my own fault, I am not companion, enough.'

She began to grow tired of going out in the evening; late hours tried
her; she felt listless and unwell; and her finances could not support
the dress expenses, but when she tried to excuse herself, she found
Arthur determined on taking her out, though he had previously grumbled,
and declared he only went for her sake. When she looked pale and languid
he seemed annoyed, in a way that gave her the impression that he valued
nothing but her beauty. She believed he found home dull, and her not
what he expected.

The truth was, perhaps, that Violet's spirits were naturally not strong,
and she was scarcely equal to the cares that had come on her. She missed
the companionship of the large family at home; and a slight degree of
indisposition or of anxiety was sufficient to set her tormenting herself
with every imaginable fear and grief; above all, the dread that he was
not pleased with her.

She believed herself to have strictly adhered to the rule of paying
for everything at once; but she was dismayed by a shower of bills at
Christmas, for things ordered by the cook without her knowledge, several
of which she disowned altogether; and several that her memory and 'great
book' both declared she had paid; though the tradesmen and the cook,
through whom the money had been sent, stoutly denied it. She was
frightened, paid the sums, and so went the last remains of Lord
Martindale's present.

Sure that the woman was dishonest, yet not knowing how to prove it;
afraid to consult Arthur on the household concerns, that he detested;
and with a nervous dread of a disturbance, Violet made arrangements for
conveying no more payments through Mrs. Cook; and, for the rest, thought
she must go on as she could, till the time should come, when, near the
end of May, she reckoned on having her mother with her. She would repair
her mistakes, make her feel herself mistress in her own house, and help
her to all she wanted to know, without fear of Wrangerton gossip. That
hope strengthened and cheered her in all her troubles; and oh! suppose
Annette came too!

Poor Violet! the first time she referred to her mother's coming, Arthur
looked annoyed, gave a sort of whistle, and said, as if searching for an
excuse, 'Why, they never could spare her from Wrangerton.'

'O, that they would,' said Violet, eagerly; 'or if not mamma herself, at
least, I am sure, Matilda would come to me, or Annette.'

'Whew!' again whistled Arthur; 'I don't know whether that will do.'

'Arthur!'

'There will be my mother close by, and Lady Elizabeth. No, no, you won't
want to have any one up from there.'

'May I not have my own mamma?' pleaded poor Violet, urged into something
like pertinacity.

But Arthur cut her short; his great dislike to what he had to say making
him speak the more ungraciously: 'I don't want to vex you, Violet, but
once for all we must come to an understanding. You must not expect to
have your family here. They are good sort of people, and all that style
of thing,'--he faltered at her looks of imploring consternation, and
tried to work himself into anger in order to be able to finish. 'It
is of no use looking wretched, I tell you, you must put it out of your
head. They belong to a different set altogether, and it won't do any
way. There now, don't go and be nervous about yourself; Theodora shall
see to you, and you'll do very well, I have no doubt.'

With these words he hastily quitted her, that he might not witness the
distress he had occasioned, though he had not the least idea what his
refusal was to her.

The sense of her own helplessness and inexperience, and the prospect of
illness, without mother or sister, were lost in the more overpowering
sorrow at his unkindness. How could he love her if he denied her this at
such a time, and in such a manner?' He is ashamed of my family! ashamed
of me! He is disappointed in me! I can't make it pleasant to him at
home. I am not even good-tempered when I am not well, and I am not half
as pretty as I used to be! Oh! if he had but married me for anything
but my prettiness! But I was not worth vexing every one for! I am only a
plague and trouble! Well, I dare say I shall die, now there is no one
to take care of me, and then, perhaps, he will be sorry for me. Just at
last, I'll tell him how I did mean to be a good wife, and tried all I
could.'

But then poor Violet fell into a maze of terror. She roused herself and
dried her tears on hearing some one approaching. It was James, bringing
in a parcel. It contained a beautiful and costly silk dress. After the
first glance she pushed it from her, and her grief burst forth again.
'Does he think that can make up to me for my mother? How silly he must
think me! Yet he is kind and tries to please me still, though I am so
troublesome! Dear, dear Arthur!'

She took it back upon her lap, and tried to admire, but her heart failed
her; and she could not look at it till the sound of his entrance revived
her; she felt as if she had been injuring him, and recalling her smiles,
met him with what he thought delighted gratitude.

He was relieved to find the late subject blown over, and only wishing to
keep it out of her mind, he invited her to take a walk.

Violet had begun to dread his walks, for he was a loiterer, apt to go
further and stay out longer than he intended, and she could not bear
to tease him by hints of fatigue; but to-day she could not demur at
anything he asked, and she only observed that they had better not go
far, as they had an engagement for the evening.

At first the air and his attention did her good; but when she saw
Captain Fitzhugh approaching, she knew that Arthur's arm was the only
further use she should have of him, and there would be an endless
sauntering and talk about horses or fishing, while he would all the time
fancy himself going home.

The consequence was, that she was obliged to go at once to bed on coming
in, and was declared by Arthur to have been very silly never to have
mentioned her fatigue; while Sarah, bestowing grim and sour looks upon
them both, attended on her with the most assiduous and minute care.
Arthur was greatly concerned, and very unwilling to go to the party
alone, but Violet persuaded him, and he promised to return early; then
found the evening pleasant, and never knew how time went, while she was
lying awake, imagining that something dreadful had happened to him, and
mourning over her grievances.

The effects of that over-fatigue did not pass away, and she was forced
to give up all evening engagements. He meant to be kind, but was too
ignorant and inconsiderate not to do her as much harm as good. One day
he almost overwhelmed her with attentions, the next left her to herself.
He offered to refuse all invitations for her sake, but it ended in
her spending more than half her evenings alone; and when the horse was
wanted for him in the evening, she lost her drive. Very soon she fell
out of the habit of going out, for now that she was no companion for his
long rambles, he found other ways of disposing of his afternoons; and
she was still so countrified as to dislike and dread walking alone,
even in the quiet Belgravian regions, so that she was always relieved to
decide that the gray mist was such as could do no one any good, or that
she really was not well enough for a walk.

She did not know the use of change of scene, and the bracing effect
of resolution,--she had no experience of self-management, and had
not learnt that it was a duty not to let herself pine. Though most
conscientious, she had not yet grown up to understand religion as a
present comfort. To her it was a guide and an obligation, and as such
she obeyed its dictates, to the best of her power, but only as an
obedient child, without understanding the immediate reward in this
life, namely, confidence, support, and peace. It is a feeling generally
belonging to an age beyond hers, though only to be won by faithful
discipline. She was walking in darkness, and, by and by, light might
come. But there was one omission, for which she long after grieved; and
which, though she knew it not, added to her present troubles.

All heart and hope had been taken from her since she had been forbidden
to see her mother and sister. The present was dreary, the future
nothing but gloom and apprehension, and she had little to distract her
attention. She strove hard to fulfil what she knew were duties, her
household concerns and the readings she had fixed as tasks; but these
over, she did not try to rouse her mind from her cares; nor had she
perhaps the power, for her difficulties with the cook were too much for
her, and it was very trying to spend so many hours of the dingy London
day and long evening in solitude.

Her amusing books were exhausted, and she used to lie forlorn on the
sofa, with her needlework, hearing the roar of carriage-wheels, and,
her mind roaming from the perplexities of her accounts to her sad
forebodings and her belief in Arthur's coldness, till her heart seemed
ready to break,--and her tears gathered, first in solitary drops, then
in floods. She had no one to cheer her spirits, to share her hopes and
fears. Her plans and employments were tedious to her husband, and he
must not be troubled with them,--and so, locked up within herself, they
oppressed her with care and apprehension. In letter-writing there was
only pain; she could not bear to be supposed unwell or unhappy, and,
above all, dreaded saying what might lead to an offer from her mother
to come to her. Her letters became mere comments on home news; she wrote
less frequently, feared they would think her grown too fine to care for
them, and then wept and sobbed with home sickness. There was a little
more comfort in writing to Rickworth, for she expected the Brandons
early in May, and her only hope was in Lady Elizabeth for care and
counsel: for as to Arthur's dependence, his mother and sister, she felt
as if the fear and restraint of their presence would be unbearable.

Her husband never guessed how she languished. In his presence she was
a different creature, forgetting her griefs in the one wish of pleasing
him. No matter what she had been undergoing in his absence, his knock
raised her spirits, in a moment life darted into her limbs and colour
into her cheeks. She had no notion of complaining. Her mother had always
been silent, though often with greater cause for remonstrance; and poor
Violet, imagining herself a burden, would not for the world have made
herself more troublesome than she could help. Her whole desire was to
win a smile, a fond word, a caress, and she sat watching as if those
were life to her; her cheeks burning with eagerness so much that Arthur
little guessed how wan they were in his absence.

The colour was heightened by warm rooms, for Arthur was of a chilly
race, and could not understand how oppressive the close atmosphere of
London was to one used to mountain breezes. He would come in shivering,
and be provoked to find her sitting by the smallest of fires; till
she learnt that their estimate of heat was so different, that the only
safety was in keeping the room like an oven. The folding doors into the
back drawing-room had a trick of opening of their own accord; and the
trouble given her by this draught-trap, as Arthur called it, can hardly
be estimated, especially one windy week in March, when he had a cold.

She had never been wont to think seriously of colds but when it came to
coughing and feverishness all night, and Arthur, with his hand on his
chest, persisted that it was all in his throat and told her to send for
a blister, she grew alarmed, but this only displeased him. He disdained
her entreaty that he would remain in bed; and said women always made a
fuss about nothing, when she timidly suggested sending for 'some one.'

For three deplorable days he sat over the fire, with a distaste for
everything, while she did her utmost to make him comfortable, and
when she failed, thought it her own fault, reproached herself for
her inefficiency, and imagined that he was going to be as ill as his
brother, and that she should be of no use to him. How hard on him to
have such a bad wife! She could not even entertain him while he was kept
indoors--for she could not find anything to talk about, so long was it
since she had been out, or read anything amusing.

However, on the third afternoon, he brightened up, found the soup good,
talked and laughed, and declared that if to-morrow was fine, he should
be out again. And the next day she was so delighted to find his
cough was gone--more quickly than he had ever known so severe a cold
depart--that it was not till he was out of the house that she remembered
that she was condemned to solitude for many hours.

Here was quarter-day, bringing fresh confusion, in those inexplicable
household expenses, and a miserable sense of wastefulness, and
unfaithfulness to her charge. She thought of John's advice, to make her
husband attend, if she found her means insufficient; and set herself to
draw up a statement of the case, to lay before him; but she grew more
and more puzzled; the cook's dishonesty weighed on her, and her fears
of taking any measures increased. Her calculations always ended in
despairing tears.

She was lying on her bed, recovering from one of these almost hysterical
fits, when she was roused from a doze by a knock at her door; and
started up, trying to hide that anything had been the matter, as Sarah
came in, and said, with a tone of authority,

'Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner, ma'am! but I will say you are not well
enough to see them.'

'O no, Sarah, I am quite well, I was only asleep.'

'You had better not go down,' sternly repeated Sarah. 'You had much
best lie down, and have your sleep out, after being kept awake till two
o'clock last night, with Captain Martindale not coming home. And you
with the pillow all awry, and that bit of a shawl over you! Lie you
down, and I'll set it straight.'

But Violet was on her feet--the imputation on Captain Martindale had put
her on her mettle. 'Thank you, I don't want anything; I am going down
directly.'

Sarah shook her head, and looked significantly at the glass; and there,
indeed, Violet perceived that her eyes bore traces of recent weeping;
but, still, she would do anything rather than own her tears. 'My head
aches a little--that makes my eyes heavy,' said she. 'It will do me good
to see Miss Gardner. I knew her at Martindale.'

But when Violet found herself in the presence of Miss Gardner, and of
a tall fashionable lady, she did not like the recollection that she had
been talked of as a beauty.

She was glad to meet Miss Gardner, but Mrs. Finch's style was dashing
and almost boisterous, and her voice quick and loud, as she seized on
her hand, exclaiming, 'I want no introduction, I have heard so much of
you! I know we shall be excellent friends. I must hear of Theodora. You
know she is the greatest ally I have on earth. When did you hear of her
last? When are they coming to town! I would not miss Theodora's first
appearance for all the world.'

Violet felt overpowered by the torrent; but thought it was giving
no right impression of her husband to look disconsolate, and exerted
herself to be cheerful, and answer.

But they would speak of Martindale, and oblige her to expose her
ignorance. She did not know when the family were coming to town, nor had
she heard when Mr. Martindale's return might be expected.

If Miss Gardner had been alone, she thought she might have got on
better; but the quieter elder sister hardly put in a word, so unceasing
was the talk of the younger; whose patronage became oppressive, when she
began on Mrs. Martindale herself; told her she was lazy, taking too much
care, and growing nervous: and even declared she should come some day,
take her by storm, and carry her out for a drive in the park.

Poor Violet felt as if to be shut up in the carriage with this talking
lady would kill her outright; begged she would not take the trouble;
but only met with smiles, and declarations that Theodora would scold her
well when she came.

The next afternoon Violet listened with dread to the sounds of wheels,
and was not at all inclined to blame a headache, which was sufficient
excuse for sending down thanks and refusal. On the following, she had
just made up her mind that the danger was over for that day, when her
alarm was excited by a thundering knock, and in walked her brother.

'Well, Violet, I have caught you at home. I'm come to town about Lord
St. Erme's business--go back by the mail train. Are you dining at home?
Can you give me a dinner?'

'Oh, yes!' said Violet; but fears came over her of Arthur's not being
pleased, especially supposing he should bring back any one with him. And
therewith came dismay at finding herself giving no better welcome to her
own brother, and she eagerly asked for all at home.

'In a high state of preservation. And how are you? You don't look quite
the thing.'

'Oh, yes, I am, thank you.'

'And how is Martindale?'

'He would not call him so to his face!' thought the wife. 'Oh! I wish he
would sit anywhere but in Arthur's chair, and not fidget me with playing
with that horrid little piece of watch-chain!' 'He is very well, thank
you. He had a bad cold last week, but it is quite gone now. I hope he
will soon come in.'

'I am not sorry to have found you alone. I want to hear something of
these relations of yours.'

'Oh! I shall be sure to say something wrong!' thought she, and as the
best thing to put forward, announced that they would soon be in London.

'And they are not high with you? I hear fine accounts of their
grandeur,--they say the lady and her daughter are eaten up with pride,
and think no one fit to speak to.'

'Miss Martindale has the plainest ways in the world. She will do
anything for the poor people.'

'Ay, ay, that's the way with fine ladies,--they like to be condescending
and affable. And so you say they receive you well? make you one of the
family--eh?'

Violet hoped it was not wrong to utter a faint 'yes.'

'Does Martindale's sister write to you?'

'No; she does not write letters much. But I told you how very kind they
are--Mr. Martindale, his brother, especially.'

'Ay!' said Albert, 'he disconcerted our calculations. He seems to have
taken out a new lease.'

'He is a great deal better.'

'But he has no lungs left. His life can't be worth a year's purchase, by
what the governor heard. He would never have let Martindale have you on
such easy terms if he had not looked on you as good as her ladyship.'

Such shame and disgust came over Violet that she felt unworthy to sit
on John Martindale's chair, and moved to the sofa, trying to change the
subject; but Albert persisted in inquiries about Mr. Martindale's age,
health, and the likelihood of his marrying, till she could no longer be
without the perception that not only had her husband been to blame for
their marriage--her father's part had been far worse.

Albert hoped the old lord was coming down handsomely and tried to make
her tell their income. She was glad not to know and he began calculating
it from their style of living, with such disregard to her feelings, as
made her contrast his manners with those of the true gentlemen to whom
she was now accustomed, and feel sadly that there was reason in her
husband's wish to keep her family at a distance. There was no checking
or silencing this elder brother; she could only feel humiliated by
each proof of his vulgarity of mind, and blame herself, by turns, for
churlishness to him, and for permitting conversation Arthur would so
much dislike.

Why would not Arthur come and put a stop to it! It was not the first
time she had waited dinner for him in vain, and though she tried to make
Albert think she liked it, she knew she was a very bad dissembler.

When she at length ordered in dinner, the conversation changed to
Wrangerton doings, the Christmas gaieties, jokes about her sisters and
their imputed admirers, and a Miss Louisa Davies--a new-comer, about
whom Albert seemed to wish to be laughed at himself. But poor Violet
had no spirits even to perceive this,--she only thought of home and the
familiar scenes recalled by each name. What a gulf between her and them!
In what free, careless happiness they lived! What had her father done
in thrusting her into a position for which she was unfit,--into a family
who did not want her, and upon one to whom she was only a burthen! At
home they thought her happy and fortunate! They should never guess at
her wretchedness.

But when the time for Albert's departure came, Violet forgot his
inconvenient questions, and would have given the world to keep him.
He was her own brother--a part of home; he loved her--she had felt
inhospitable to him, and perhaps she should never see him again.

When he recurred to her pale looks and languid manner, and expressed
concern, it was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears, and
telling all her griefs; and she could not control the rapid agitated
tones that belied her repeated assurances that nothing was amiss, and
that he must not give a bad account of her and alarm her mother.

She could hardly let him go; and when he bade her goodbye, there was
a moment's intense desire to be going with him, from this lonely room,
home to her mother and Annette, instantly followed by a horror at such a
wish having occurred, and then came the sobs and tears. She dreaded that
Arthur might be displeased at the visit; but he came home full of
good humour, and on hearing of it, only hoped she had good news from
Wrangerton, and said he was glad he had been out of the way, so that she
had been able to have her brother all to herself.

Her fears of the effect of Albert's account of her were better founded;
for two mornings after, on coming down to breakfast, she found a letter
from her mother to exhort her to be careful, assuring her that she need
have no scruple in sending for her, and betraying so much uneasiness as
to add to all her terrors. She saw this in one glance; for she knew
that to dwell on the tender affectionate letter would bring on a fit of
weeping, and left it and the dreadful consideration of her reply till
Arthur should be gone, as he was to spend the day in fishing with a
friend in the country. He had come home late last night, and was not yet
dressed, and she waited long, gazing at the gleams of sunshine on the
square gardens, thinking how bright this second day of April must be
anywhere but here, where it was close and oppressive, and wondering
whether Helvellyn was beginning to lose his snow; then, as Helvellyn
brought the sensation that led to tears, she took the newspaper, and
had read more than she cared for before Arthur appeared, in the state of
impatience which voluntary lateness is sure to produce.

She gave him his tea as quickly as she could, but all went wrong: it
was a horrid cold day, ALL east wind--there was a cold wind coming in
somewhere.

'The back drawing-room window! I'm sorry I did not see it was open.'

'What makes you go to shut it?' said he, hastily marching across the
room, and closing it and the doors. 'I shall be gone in a moment, and
you may let in a hurricane if you like. Have you seen my cigar-case!'

'It was on the ledge of your wardrobe.'

'Some of your maids have been and hid it.'

'I told Sarah never to put your things away. I think I could find it.'

'No, don't go, I have looked everywhere.'

As he never found things, even when before his eyes, this was not
conclusive; and she undertook the search in spite of another careless
'No, no, don't,' knowing it meant the contrary.

She could not find it in his dressing-room, and he looked annoyed,
again accusing the maids. This made her feel injured, and though growing
exhausted, as well she might, as she had not even begun breakfast, she
said she would look in the sitting-room. He half remonstrated, without
looking up from the paper, but she hoped to be gladdened by thanks,
hunted in all his hiding-places in vain, and found she must give it up,
after a consultation with Sarah, who resentfully denied all knowledge of
it, and told her she looked ready to drop.

Dolefully coming into the hall, she saw Arthur's black travelling-bag.
Was it for more than the day? The evenings were bad enough--but a
desolate night! And he had never told her!'

'I suppose you have not found it?'

'No; I wish I could!'

'Never mind; it will turn up. You have tired yourself.'

'But, Arthur, are you not coming home to-night?'

'Didn't I tell you? If I can't get away by the seven o'clock train,
I thought of sleeping there. Ten o'clock, I declare! I shall miss the
train!'

She came to the head of the stairs with him, asking plaintively, 'When
DO you come home? To-morrow, at latest?'

Perhaps it was her querulous tone, perhaps a mere boyish dislike to
being tied down, or even it might be mere hurry, that made him answer
impatiently, 'I can't tell--as it may happen. D'ye think I want to run
away! Only take care of yourself.'

This was in his coaxing voice; but it was not a moment when she could
bear to be turned aside, like an importunate child, and she was going to
speak; but he saw the wrong fishing-rod carried out, called hastily to
James, ran down-stairs, and was gone, without even looking back at her.

The sound of the closing door conveyed a sense of utter desolation to
her over-wrought mind--the house was a solitary prison; she sank on the
sofa, sobbing, 'Oh, I am very, very miserable! Why did he take me from
home, if he could not love me! Oh, what will become of me? Oh, mamma!
mamma!'



CHAPTER 2


     What is so shrill as silent tears?
                      --GEORGE HERBERT


Arthur came home late in the afternoon of the following day. The door
was opened to him by his brother, who abruptly said, 'She is dying. You
must not lose a moment if you would see her alive.'

Arthur turned pale, and gave an inarticulate exclamation of
horror-stricken inquiry--'Confined?'

'Half-an-hour ago. She was taken ill yesterday morning immediately after
you left her. She is insensible, but you may find her still living.'

Nothing but strong indignation could have made John Martindale thus
communicate such tidings. He had arrived that day at noon to find that
the creature he had left in the height of her bright loveliness was
in the extremity of suffering and peril--her husband gone no one knew
whither; and the servants, too angry not to speak plainly, reporting
that he had left her in hysterics. John tried not to believe the half,
but as time went on, bringing despair of the poor young mother's life,
and no tidings of Arthur; while he became more and more certain that
there had been cruel neglect, the very gentleness and compassion of his
nature fired and glowed against him who had taken her from her home,
vowed to cherish her, and forsaken her at such a time. However, he was
softened by seeing him stagger against the wall, perfectly stunned, then
gathering breath, rush up-stairs without a word.

As Arthur pushed open the door, there was a whisper that it was he,
too late, and room was made for him. All he knew was, that those around
watched as if it was not yet death, but what else did he see on those
ashy senseless features?

With a cry of despair he threw himself almost over her, and implored her
but once to speak, or look at him. No one thought her capable even of
hearing, but at his voice the eyelids and lips slightly moved, and a
look of relief came over the face. A hand pressed his shoulder, and a
spoon containing a drop of liquid was placed in his fingers, while some
one said, 'Try to get her to take this.'

Scarcely conscious he obeyed, and calling her by every endearing name,
beyond hope succeeded in putting it between her lips. Her eyes opened
and were turned on him, her hand closed on his, and her features assumed
a look of peace. The spark of life was for a moment detained by the
power of affection, but in a short space the breath must cease, the
clasp of the hand relax.

Once more he was interrupted by a touch, and this time it was Sarah's
whisper--'The minister is come, sir. What name shall it be!'

'Anything--John,' said he, without turning his head or taking in what
she said.

The clergyman and John Martindale were waiting in the dressing-room,
with poor Violet's cathedral cup filled with water.

'She does not know him?' asked John, anxiously, as Sarah entered.

'Yes, sir, she does,' said Sarah, contorting her face to keep back the
tears. 'She looked at him, and has hold of his hand. I think she will
die easier for it, poor dear.'

'And at least the poor child is alive to be baptized?'

'O, yes, sir, it seems a bit livelier now,' said Sarah, opening a fold
of the flannel in her arms. 'It is just like its poor mamma.'

'Is it a girl?' he inquired, by no means perceiving the resemblance.

'A boy, sir. His papa never asked, though he did say his name should be
John.'

'It matters little,' said John, mournfully, for to his eye there was
nothing like life in that tiny form. 'And yet how marvellous,' thought
he, 'to think of its infinite gain by these few moments of unconscious
existence!'

At the touch of the water it gave a little cry, which Sarah heard with a
start and glance of infinite satisfaction.

She returned to the chamber, where the same deathly stillness prevailed;
the husband, the medical men, the nurse, all in their several positions,
as if they had neither moved nor looked from the insensible, scarcely
breathing figure.

The infant again gave a feeble sound, and once more the white features
moved, the eyes opened, and a voice said, so faintly, that Arthur, as he
hung over her, alone could hear it, 'My baby! O, let me see it!'

'Bring the child,' and at the sound of those words the gleam of life
spread over her face more completely.

He could not move from her side, and Sarah placed the little creature
upon his broad hand. He held it close to her. 'Our baby!' again she
murmured, and tried to kiss it, but it made another slight noise, and
this overcame her completely, the deathly look returned, and he hastily
gave back the infant.

She strove hard for utterance, and he could hardly catch her gasping
words, 'You'll be fond of it, and think of me.'

'Don't, don't talk so, dearest. You will soon be better. You are better.
Let me give you this.'

'Please, I had rather lie still. Do let me.' Then again looking up, as
if she had been losing the consciousness of his presence, 'Oh! it is
you. Are you come? Kiss me and wish me good-bye.'

'You are better--only take this. Won't you? You need not move; Violet,
Violet, only try. To please me! There, well done, my precious one. Now
you will be more comfortable.'

'Thank you, oh no! But I am glad you are come. I did wish to be a good
wife. I had so much to say to you--if I could--but I can't remember. And
my baby; but oh, this is dying,' as the sinking returned. 'O, Arthur,
keep me, don't let me die!' and she clung to him in terror.

He flung his arm closer round her, looking for help to the doctors. 'You
shall not, you will not, my own, my darling.'

'You can't help it,' sighed she. 'And I don't know how--if some one
would say a prayer?'

He could only repeat protests that she must live, but she grew more
earnest. 'A prayer! I can't recollect--Oh! is it wicked? Will God have
mercy? Oh! would you but say a prayer?'

'Yes, yes, but what? Give me a book.'

Sarah put one into his hand, and pointed to a place, but his eyes were
misty, his voice faltered, broke down, and he was obliged to press his
face down on the pillows to stifle his sobs.

Violet was roused to such a degree of bewildered distress and alarm at
the sight of his grief, that the doctors insisted on removing him, and
almost forced him away.

There had been prayers offered for her, of which she knew nothing.

The clergyman was gone, and John had despatched his melancholy letter to
Lord Martindale, when he heard the steps on the stairs. Was it over!
No, it was only one of the doctors with Arthur, and they did not come to
him, but talked in the back drawing-room for some moments, after which
the doctor took leave, repeating the words in John's hearing, that
Arthur must compose himself before returning to her--agitation would
be at once fatal. Arthur had thrown himself on the sofa, with his face
hidden in his hands, in such overpowering distress, that his brother's
displeasure could not continue for a moment, and he began to speak
soothingly of the present improvement.

'It cannot last,' said Arthur. 'They say it is but a question of minutes
or hours,' and again he gave way to a burst of grief, but presently it
changed to an angry tone. 'Why was I never sent for?'

John explained that no one knew whither to send. He could hardly credit
this, and his wrath increased at the stupidity of the servants; it
seemed to relieve him to declaim against them.

'Then you left her well?'

'Of course I did. She had been searching over the house for that
abominable cigar-case of mine, which was in my pocket all the time! I
shall never bear to see it again,' and he launched it into the fire with
vehemence. 'I suppose that upset her! Why did I not prevent her? Fool
that I was not to know it was not fit for her, though she chose to do
it. But I never took care of her.'

'She is so very unselfish,' said John.

'That was it. I thought women always looked out for themselves. I should
have known I had one not like the rest! She had never one thought
for herself, and it is killing her, the sweetest, loveliest, best--my
precious Violet! John, John! is there nothing that can be done for her?'
cried he, starting up in a tumultuous agony of grief, and striking his
foot on the floor.

'Could we not send for her mother? Brown might set off at once to fetch
her.'

'Thank you, but no, it is of no use. No railroad within forty miles of
the place. She could not be here till--till--and then I could not see
her.' He was pacing the room, and entangled his foot in Violet's little
work-table, and it fell. Her work-box flew open, and as they stooped to
pick up the articles, Arthur again wept without control as he took up a
little frock, half made, with the needle hanging to it. The table-drawer
had fallen out, and with it the large account-book, the weekly bills,
and a sheet of paper covered with figures, and blotted and blistered
with tears. The sight seemed to overwhelm him more than all. 'Crying
over these! My Violet crying! Oh! what have I been doing?'

'And why? What distressed her?'

'It was too much for her. She would plague herself with these wretched
household accounts! She knew I hated the sound of them. I never let
her bring them to me; but little did I think that she cried over them
alone!'

'She was cheerful with you?'

'Was not she?' I never saw that dear face without its sweet smile,
come when I would. I have never heard a complaint. I have left her to
herself, madman as I was, when she was unwell and anxious! But--oh! if
she could only recover, she should see--Ha! Sarah, can I come?'

'Yes, sir, she is asking for you; but, if you please, sir, Mr. Harding
says you must come very quiet. She seems wandering, and thinking you are
not come home, sir,' said Sarah, with a grisly satisfaction in dealing
her blow home.

John tried to rectify the confusion in the work-box with a sort of
reverential care; not able to bear to leave it in disorder, whether its
mistress were ever to open it again or not, yet feeling it an intrusion
to meddle with her little feminine hoards of precious trifles.

'Poor Arthur!' said he to himself, 'he may fairly be acquitted of
all but his usual inconsiderateness towards one too tender for such
treatment. He deserves more pity than blame. And for her--thank Heaven
for the blessing on them that mourn. Innocent creature, much will be
spared her; if I could but dwell on that rather than on the phantom
of delight she was, and my anticipations of again seeing the look that
recalls Helen. If Helen was here, how she would be nursing her!'

John saw his brother no more that evening--only heard of Violet 'as
barely kept alive, as it seemed, by his care.' Each report was such
that the next must surely be the last; and John sat waiting on till
his servant insisted on his going to bed, promising to call him if his
brother needed him.

The night passed without the summons, and in the morning there was still
life. John had been down-stairs for some little time, when he heard the
medical man, who had spent the night there, speaking to Arthur on the
stairs. 'A shade of improvement' was the report. 'Asleep now; and if we
can only drag her through the next few days there may be hope, as long
as fever does not supervene.'

'Thank Heaven!' said John, fervently. 'I did not venture to hope for
this.'

But Arthur was utterly downcast, and could not take heart. It was his
first real trouble, and there was little of the substance of
endurance in his composition. That one night of watching, grief, and
self-reproach, had made his countenance so pale and haggard, and his
voice so dejected and subdued, that John was positively startled, as he
heard his answer--

'I never saw any one so ill.'

'Come and have some breakfast, you look quite worn out'

'I cannot stay,' said he, sitting down, however. 'She must not miss me,
or all chance would be over. You don't mind the door being open?'

'No, indeed. Is she sensible now?'

'Clear for a minute, if she has my hand; but then she dozes off, and
talks about those miserable accounts--the numbers over and over again.
It cuts me to the heart to hear her. They talk of an over-strain on the
mind! Heigh-ho! Next she wakes with a dreadful frightened start, and
stares about wildly, fancying I am gone.'

'But she knows you,' said John, trying to speak consolingly.

'Yes, no one else can do anything with her. She does not so much as hear
them. I must be back before she wakes; but I am parched with thirst. How
is this? Where is the tea?'

'I suppose you put in none. Is this the chest?'

Arthur let his head drop on his hand, helpless and overcome, as this
little matter brought home the sense of missing his wife, and the
remembrance of the attentions he had allowed her to lavish upon him.
His brother tried the tea-chest, and, finding it locked, poured out some
coffee, which he drank almost unconsciously, then gave his cup for
more, sighed, pushed his hair back, and looked up somewhat revived. John
tended him affectionately, persuading him to take food; and when he had
passively allowed his plate to be filled, his appetite discovered that
he had tasted nothing since yesterday morning, and therewith his spirits
were refreshed; he looked up cheerfully, and there was less despondency
in his tone as he spoke of her sleep towards morning having been less
disturbed.

'The child woke her with a squall, and I thought we were undone, but
no such thing. I declare nothing has done her so much good; she had him
brought, and was so happy over him, then went off to sleep again.'

'This is a great relief,' said John. 'From your manner, I dreaded to ask
for him, but I hope he may be doing well.'

'I am sure I hope so, or it would be all over with her. I believe both
their lives hang on one thread. To see her with him this morning--I did
not know such fondness was in women. I declare I never saw anything like
it; and she so weak! And such a creature as it is; the smallest thing
that ever was born, they say, and looking--like nothing on earth but
young mice.'

John could not help smiling: 'That is better than yesterday, when I
could scarcely believe he was alive.'

'What! did you see him?'

'When he was baptized.'

'Was he? What did you call him?'

'You sent word to name him John.'

'Did I? I had not the least recollection of it. I forgot all about him
till he made himself heard this morning, and she wanted to know whether
he was boy or girl.'

'A son and heir,' said John, glad to see the young father able to look
gratified.

'Well, it is the best name; I hope she will like it. But, hollo,
John, where did you drop from?' as it suddenly occurred to him to be
surprised.

'I came home on some business of Fotheringham's. I landed early
yesterday, and came up from Southampton.'

'A fine state of things to come to,' sighed Arthur. 'But you will not go
away?'

'Certainly not till she is better.'

'Ah! you were always fond of her; you appreciated her from the first.
There is no one whom I should have liked so well to have here.' Then,
with a pause, he added, in a tone of deep feeling: 'John, you might well
give me that warning about making her happy; but, indeed, I meant to do
so!' and his eyes filled with tears.

'As far as affection could go, you have done so,' said John, 'or you
could not have recalled her to life now.'

'You little know,' said Arthur sadly; 'Heaven knows it was not want of
affection; but I never guessed what she underwent. Sarah tells me she
spent hours in tears, though she would never allow them to be noticed.'

'Poor Violet! But what could be her trouble?'

'Her household affairs seem to have overpowered her, and I never would
attend to them; little thinking how she let them prey upon her. I
never thought of her being lonely; and her sweet, bright face, and
uncomplaining ways, never reminded me. There never was any one like her;
she was too good for me, too good to live, that is the truth; and now I
must lose her!'

'Do not think so, Arthur; do not give way. The getting through this
night is more than could have been hoped. Happiness is often the best
cure; and if she is able to take so much pleasure in you, and in the
child, it is surely a hopeful sign.'

'So they said; that her noticing the child made them think better of
her. If she can but get over it, she shall see. But you will stay with
me, John,' said he, as if he clung to the support.

'That I will, thank you. I could not bear to go. I can sleep in Belgrave
Square, if you want my room for her mother.'

'We shall see how it is by post-time. I tried whether it would rouse her
to tell her I would write to Mrs. Moss, but she took no heed, and the
old nurse looked daggers at me.'

He was interrupted; Violet had awakened in an alarming fit of trembling,
imploring to be told why he was angry, and whether he would ever come
back.

So glimmered the feeble ray of life throughout the day; and when the
post went out, the end was apparently so near, that it was thought in
vain to send for Mrs. Moss; whom Arthur shrank from seeing, when it
should be too late. He was so completely overwhelmed with distress,
that in the short intervals he spent out of the sick-room, it was his
brother's whole work to cheer and sustain him sufficiently to perform
those offices, which Violet was incapable of receiving from any one
else.

It was no wonder he broke down; for it was a piteous sight to see that
fair young mother, still a child in years, and in her exhausted state of
wavering consciousness, alive only through her fond affections; gleams
of perception, and momentary flashes of life, called forth only by her
husband, or by the moanings of the little frail babe, which seemed to
have as feeble and precarious a hold of life as herself. The doctors
told John that they were haunted through the day by the remembrance of
her face, so sweet, even in insensibility, and so very lovely, when the
sound of her babe's voice, for a moment, lighted up the features. Their
anxiety for her was intense; and if this was the case with strangers,
what must it not have been for her husband, to whom every delirious
murmur was an unconscious reproach, and who had no root of strength
within himself! The acuteness of his grief, and his effectiveness as a
nurse, were such as to surprise his brother, who only now perceived how
much warmth of heart had been formerly stifled in a cold, ungenial home.

Sustained from hour to hour by his unremitting care, she did, however,
struggle through the next three days; and at last came a sounder sleep,
and a wakening so tranquil, that Arthur did not perceive it, till he
saw, in the dim lamp-light, those dark eyes calmly fixed upon him. The
cry of the infant was heard, and she begged for it, fondling it, and
murmuring over it with a soft inarticulate sound of happiness.

'You purr like an old cat over her kitten,' said Arthur, longing to
see her smile once more; and he was not disappointed; it was a bright,
contented, even joyous smile, that played on the colourless features,
and the eyes beamed softly on him as she said, 'Kiss him, papa.'

He would have done anything for her at that moment, and another bright
look rewarded him.

'Does mamma know about this dear little baby?' she said, presently.

'Yes, dearest, I have written every day. She sends you her love;' and as
Violet murmured something of 'Dear mamma--'

'Do you wish to have her here?'

'No, indeed, I don't wish it now,' said Violet; 'you do make me so very
happy.'

She was returning to her full self, with all her submission to his
will, and in fact she did not wish for any change; her content in his
attention was so complete, so peaceful, that in her state of weakness
there was an instinctive dread of breaking the charm. To lie still,
her babe beside her, and Arthur watching her, was the perfect repose of
felicity, and imperceptibly her faculties were, one by one, awakening.
Her thoughtfulness for others had revived; Arthur had been giving her
some nourishment, and, for the first time, she had taken it with a
relish, when it so chanced that the light fell for a moment on his face,
and she was startled by perceiving the effects of anxiety and want of
sleep. In vain he assured her there was nothing the matter. She accused
herself of having been exacting and selfish, and would not be comforted,
till he had promised to take a good night's rest. He left her, at
length, nearly asleep, to carry the tidings to his brother, and enjoy
his look of heart-felt rejoicing. Never had the two very dissimilar
brothers felt so much drawn together; and as John began, as usual,
to wait on him, and to pour out his coffee, he said, as he sat down
wearied, 'Thank you, John, I can't think what would have become of me
without you!'

'My father would have come to you if I had not been here.'

'Where's his letter?--I forgot all about it. Is there none from
Theodora?'

'No; I suppose she waited for further accounts.'

Arthur began reading his father's letter. 'Very kind! a very kind letter
indeed,' said he, warmly. '"Earned so high a place in our regard--her
sweetness and engaging qualities,"--I must keep that to show her. This
is very kind too about what it must be to me. I did not think he had
appreciated her so well!'

'Yes, indeed, he did,' said John. 'This is what he says to me. "Never
have I seen one more gentle and engaging, and I feel sure she would have
gained more on our affections every day, and proved herself a treasure
to the family."'

'That is right,' said Arthur. 'He will get to know her well when they
come to London! I'll write to him to-morrow, and thank him, and say, no
need for him to come now! "Hopes his grandson will live to be a comfort
to me!"' and Arthur could not help laughing.

'Well, I am not come to that yet!'

'He is much pleased at its being a son,' said John.

'Poor little mortal!' said Arthur, 'if he means to be a comfort I wish
he would stop that dismal little wail--have one good squall and have
done with it. He will worry his mother and ruin all now she takes more
notice. So here's Mrs. Moss's letter. I could not open it this morning,
and I have been inventing messages to Violet from her--poor woman! I
have some good news for her now. It is all about coming, but Violet says
she does not want her. I can't read it all, my eyes are so weak! Violet
said they were bloodshot,' and he began to examine them in the glass.

'Yes, you are not equal to much more nursing; you are quite done for.'

'I am!' said Arthur, stretching. 'I'm off to bed, as she begged me; but
the worst is over now! We shall do very well when Theodora comes; and
if she has a taste for the boy, she and Violet will make friends over
him,--good night.'

With a long yawn, Arthur very stiffly walked up-stairs, where Sarah
stood at the top waiting for him. 'Mrs. Martindale is asleep, sir;
you had best not go in,' said she. 'I have made up a bed in your
dressing-room, and you'd best not be lying down in your clothes, but
take a good sleep right out, or you'll be fit for nothing next. I'll see
and call if she wants you.'

'Thank you, Sarah; I wonder how long you have been up; you will be fit
for nothing next.'

'It don't hurt me,' said Sarah, in disdain; and as Arthur shut his
door, she murmured to herself, 'I'm not that sort to be knocked up with
nothing; but he is an easy kind-spoken gentleman after all. I'll never
forget what he has done for missus. There is not so much harm in him
neither; he is nothing but a great big boy as ought to be ashamed of
hisself.'

The night passed off well; Violet, with a great exertion of
self-command, actually composed herself on awaking in one of her nervous
fits of terror; prevented his being called; and fairly deserved all the
fond praise he lavished on her in the morning for having been so good a
child.

'You must not call me child now,' said she, with a happy little pride.
'I must be wiser now.'

'Shall I call you the prettiest and youngest mamma in England?'

'Ah! I am too young and foolish. I wish I was quite seventeen!'

'Have you been awake long?'

'Yes; but so comfortable. I have been thinking about baby's name.'

'Too late, Violet; they named him John: they say I desired it.'

'What! was he obliged to be baptized? Is he so delicate? Oh, Arthur!
tell me; I know he is tiny, but I did not think he was ill.'

Arthur tried to soothe her with assurances of his well-doing, and the
nurse corroborated them; but though she tried to believe, she was not
pacified, and would not let her treasure be taken from within her arms
till Mr. Harding arrived--his morning visit having been hastened by a
despatch from Arthur, who feared that she would suffer for her anxiety.
She asked so many questions that he, who last night had seen her too
weak to look up or speak, was quite taken by surprise. By a little
exceeding the truth, he did at length satisfy her mind; but after this
there was an alteration in her manner with her baby; it was not only the
mere caressing, there was a sort of reverence, and look of reflection
as she contemplated him, such as made Arthur once ask, what she could be
studying in that queer little red visage?

'I was thinking how very good he is!' was her simple answer, and
Arthur's smile by no means comprehended her meaning.

Her anxious mind retarded her recovery, and Arthur's unguarded voice on
the stairs having revealed to her that a guest was in the house, led to
inquiries, and an endless train of fears, lest Mr. Martindale should be
uncomfortable and uncared for. Her elasticity of mind had been injured
by her long course of care, and she could not shake off the household
anxieties that revived as she became able to think.

Indeed there were things passing that would have greatly astonished her.
Sarah had taken the management of everything, including her master; and
with iron composure and rigidity of demeanour, delighted in teasing him
by giving him a taste of some of the cares he had left her mistress to
endure. First came an outcry for keys. They were supposed to be in a
box, and when that was found its key was missing. Again Arthur turned
out the unfortunate drawer, and only spared the work-box on John's
testifying that it was not there, and suggesting Violet's watch-chain,
where he missed it, and Sarah found it and then, with imperturbable
precision, in spite of his attempts to escape, stood over him, and made
him unlock and give out everything himself. 'If things was wrong,' she
said, 'it was her business that he should see it was not owing to her.'

Arthur was generally indifferent to what he ate or drank,--the reaction,
perhaps, of the luxury of his home; but having had a present of some
peculiar trout from Captain Fitzhugh, and being, as an angler, a
connoisseur in fish, many were his exclamations at detecting that those
which were served up at breakfast were not the individuals sent.

Presently, in the silence of the house, John heard tones gradually
rising on the stairs, till Arthur's voice waxed loud and wrathful 'You
might as well say they were red herrings!'

Something shrill ensued, cut short by, 'Mrs. Martindale does as she
pleases. Send up Captain Fitzhugh's trout.'

A loud reply, in a higher key.

'Don't tell me of the families where you have lived--the trout!'

Here John's hand was laid upon his arm, with a sign towards his wife's
room; whereupon he ran down-stairs, driving the cook before him.

Soon he came hastily up, storming about the woman's impertinence, and
congratulating himself on having paid her wages and got rid of her.

John asked what was to be done next? and was diverted with his
crestfallen looks, when asked what was to become of Violet.

However, when Sarah was consulted, she gravely replied, 'She thought as
how she could contrive till Mrs. Martindale was about again;' and the
corners of her mouth relaxed into a ghastly smile, as she replied, 'Yes,
sir,' in answer to her master's adjurations to keep the dismissal a
secret from Mrs. Martindale.

'Ay!' said John, 'I wish you joy of having to tell her what revolutions
you have made.'

'I'll take care of that, if the women will only hold their tongues.'

They were as guarded as he could wish, seeing as plainly as he did, how
fretting over her household matters prolonged her state of weakness.
It was a tedious recovery, and she was not able even to receive a visit
from John till the morning when the cough, always brought on by London
air, obliged him reluctantly to depart.

He found her on the sofa, wrapped in shawls, her hair smoothed back
under a cap; her shady, dark eyes still softer from languor, and the
exquisite outline of her fair, pallid features looking as if it was cut
out in ivory against the white pillows. She welcomed him with a pleased
smile; but he started back, and flushed as if from pain, and his hand
trembled as he pressed hers, then turned away and coughed.

'Oh, I am sorry your cough is so bad,' said she.

'Nothing to signify,' he replied, recovering. 'Thank you for letting me
come to see you. I hope you are not tired?'

'Oh, no, thank you. Arthur carried me so nicely, and baby is so good
this morning.'

'Where is he? I was going to ask for him.'

'In the next room. I want to show him to you, but he is asleep.'

'A happy circumstance,' said Arthur, who was leaning over the back of
her sofa.

'No one else can get in a word when that gentleman is awake.'

'Now, Arthur, I wanted his uncle to see him, and say if he is not
grown.'

'Never mind, Violet,' said Arthur. 'Nurse vouches for it, that the child
who was put through his mother's wedding-ring grew up to be six feet
high!'

'Now, Arthur! you know it was only her bracelet.'

'Well, then, our boy ought to be twelve feet high; for if you had not
stuffed him out with long clothes, you might put two of him through your
bracelet.'

'If nurse would but have measured him; but she said it was unlucky.'

'She would have no limits to her myths; however, he may make a show in
the world by the time John comes to the christening.'

'Ah!' said Violet, with a sweet, timid expression, and a shade of red
just tinting her cheek as she turned to John. 'Arthur said I should ask
you to be his godfather.'

'My first godchild!' said John. 'Thank you, indeed; you could hardly
have given me a greater pleasure.'

'Thank you,' again said Violet. 'I like so much for you to have
him,--you who,' she hesitated, unable to say the right words, 'who DID
IT before his papa or I saw the little fellow;' then pausing--' Oh, Mr.
Martindale, Sarah told me all about it, and I have been longing to thank
you, only I can't!' and her eyes filling with tears, she put her
hand into his, glancing at the cathedral cup, which was placed on the
mantel-shelf. 'It was so kind of you to take that.'

'I thought you would like it,' said John; 'and it was the most
ecclesiastical thing I could find.'

'I little thought it would be my Johnnie's font,' said Violet,
softly. 'I shall always feel that I have a share in him beyond my
fellow-sponsors.'

'O, yes, he belongs to you,' said Violet; 'besides his other godfather
will only be Colonel Harrington, and his godmother--you have written to
ask your sister, have you not, Arthur?'

'I'd as soon ask Aunt Nesbit,' exclaimed Arthur, 'I do believe one cares
as much as the other.'

'You must send for me when you are well enough to take him to church,'
said John.

'That I will. I wish you could stay for it. He will be a month old
to-morrow week, but it may wait, I hope, till I can go with him. I must
soon get down-stairs again!'

'Ah! you will find the draught trap mended,' said Arthur. 'Brown set to
work on it, and the doors shut as tight as a new boot.'

'I am often amused to see Brown scent out and pursue a draught,' said
John.

'I have been avoiding Brown ever since Friday,' said Arthur; 'when he
met me with a serious "Captain Martindale, sir," and threatened me with
your being laid up for the year if I kept you here. I told him it was
his fault for letting you come home so early, and condoled with him on
your insubordination.'

'Ah! Violet does not know what order Sarah keeps you in?' retorted John.

'I am afraid you have both been very uncomfortable!'

'No, not in the least, Sarah is a paragon, I assure you.'

'She has been very kind to me, but so has every one. No one was ever so
well nursed! You must know what a perfect nurse Arthur is!'

Arthur laughed. 'John! Why he would as soon be nursed by a monkey as
by me. There he lies on a perfect bank of pillows, coughs whenever you
speak to him, and only wants to get rid of every one but Brown. Nothing
but consideration for Brown induces him to allow my father or Percy
Fotheringham now and then to sit up.'

'A comfortable misanthropical picture,' said John, 'but rather too true.
You see, Violet, what talents you have brought out.'

Violet was stroking her husband's hand, and looking very proud and
happy. 'Only I was so selfish! Does not he look very pale still?'

'That is not your fault so much as that of some one else,' said John.
'Some one who declares smoking cigars in his den down-stairs refreshes
him more than a sensible walk.'

'Of course,' said Arthur, 'it is only ladies, and men who have nursed
themselves as long as you have, who ever go out for a constitutional.'

'He will be on duty to-morrow,' said Violet, 'and so he will be obliged
to go out.'

'And you will write to me, Violet,' said John, 'when you are ready? I
wish I could expect to hear how you get on, but it is vain to hope for
letters from Arthur.'

'I know,' said Violet; 'but only think how good he has been to write to
mamma for me. I was so proud when he brought me the letter to sign.'

'Have you any message for me to take?' said John, rising.

'No, thank you--only to thank Lord and Lady Martindale for their kind
messages. And oh'--but checking herself--'No, you won't see them.'

'Whom?'

'Lady Elizabeth and Emma. I had such a kind letter from them. So anxious
about me, and begging me to let some one write; and I am afraid they'll
think it neglectful; but I turn giddy if I sit up, and when I can write,
the first letter must be for mamma. So if there is any communication
with Rickworth, could you let them know that I am getting better, and
thank them very much!'

'Certainly. I will not fail to let them know. Good-bye, Violet, I am
glad to have seen you.'

'Good-bye. I hope your cough will be better,' said Violet.

He retained her hand a moment, looked at her fixedly, the sorrowful
expression returned, and he hastened away in silence.

Arthur followed, and presently coming back said, 'Poor John! You put him
so much in mind of Helen.'

'Poor Mr. Martindale!' exclaimed Violet. 'Am I like her?'

'Not a bit,' said Arthur. 'Helen had light hair and eyes, a fat sort of
face, and no pretence to be pretty--a downright sort of person, not what
you would fancy John's taste. If any one else had compared you it would
have been no compliment; but he told me you had reminded him of her from
the first, and now your white cheeks and sick dress recalled her illness
so much, that he could hardly bear it. But don't go and cry about it.'

'No, I won't,' said Violet, submissively, 'but I am afraid it did not
suit him for us to be talking nonsense. It is so very sad.'

'Poor John! so it is,' said Arthur, looking at her, as if beginning
to realize what his brother had lost. 'However, she was not his wife,
though, after all, they were almost as much attached. He has not got
over it in the least. This is the first time I have known him speak of
it, and he could not get out her name.'

'It is nearly two years ago.'

'Nearly. She died in June. It was that cold late summer, and her funeral
was in the middle of a hail-storm, horridly chilly.'

'Where was she buried?'

'At Brogden. Old Mr. Fotheringham was buried there, and she was brought
there. I came home for it. What a day it was--the hailstones standing on
the grass, and I shall never forget poor John's look--all shivering and
shrunk up together.' He shivered at the bare remembrance. 'It put the
finishing touch to the damage he had got by staying in England with her
all the winter. By night he was frightfully ill--inflammation worse than
ever. Poor John! That old curmudgeon of a grandfather has much to answer
for, though you ought to be grateful to him, Violet; for I suppose it
will end in that boy of yours being his lordship some time or other.'

The next morning was a brisk one with Violet. She wished Arthur not to
be anxious about leaving her, and having by no means ceased to think it
a treat to see him in uniform, she gloried in being carried to her sofa
by so grand and soldierly a figure, and uttered her choicest sentence of
satisfaction--'It is like a story!' while his epaulette was scratching
her cheek.

'I don't know how to trust you to your own silly devices,' said he,
laying her down, and lingering to settle her pillows and shawls.

'Wise ones,' said she. 'I have so much to do. There's baby--and there's
Mr. Harding to come, and I want to see the cook--and I should not wonder
if I wrote to mamma. So you see 'tis woman's work, and you had better
not bring your red coat home too soon, or you'll have to finish the
letter!' she added, with saucy sweetness.

On his return, he found her spread all over with papers, her little
table by her side, with the drawer pulled out.

'Ha! what mischief are you up to? You have not got at those abominable
accounts again!'

'I beg your pardon,' said she, humbly. 'Nurse would not let me speak
to the cook, but said instead I might write to mamma; so I sent for
my little table, but I found the drawer in such disorder, that I was
setting it to rights. Who can have meddled with it!'

'I can tell you that,' said Arthur. 'I ran against it, and it came to
grief, and there was a spread of all your goods and chattels on the
floor.'

'Oh! I am so glad! I was afraid some of the servants had been at it.'

'What! aren't you in a desperate fright? All your secrets displayed like
a story, as you are so fond of saying--what's the name of it--where the
husband, no, it was the wife, fainted away, and broke open the desk with
her head.'

'My dear Arthur!' and Violet laughed so much that nurse in the next room
foreboded that he would tire her.

'I vow it was so! Out came a whole lot of letters from the old love, a
colonel in the Peninsula, that her husband had never heard of,--an old
lawyer he was.'

'The husband? What made her marry him?'

'They were all ruined horse and foot, and the old love was wounded,
"kilt", or disposed of, till he turned up, married to her best friend.'

'What became of her?'

'I forget--there was a poisoning and a paralytic stroke in it.'

'Was there! How delightful! How I should like to read it. What was its
name?'

'I don't remember. It was a green railway book. Theodora made me read
it, and I should know it again if I saw it. I'll look out for it, and
you'll find I was right about her head. But how now. Haven't you fainted
away all this time?'

'No; why should I?'

'How do you know what I may have discovered in your papers? Are you
prepared? It is no laughing matter,' added he, in a Blue Beard tone,
and drawing out the paper of calculations, he pointed to the tear marks.
'Look here. What's this, I say, what's this, you naughty child?'

'I am sorry! it was very silly,' whispered Violet, in a contrite ashamed
way, shrinking back a little.

'What business had you to break your heart over these trumpery butchers
and bakers and candlestick makers?'

'Only candles, dear Arthur,' said Violet, meekly, as if in extenuation.

'But what on earth could you find to cry about?'

'It was very foolish! but I was in such a dreadful puzzle. I could not
make the cook's accounts and mine agree, and I wanted to be sure whether
she really--'

'Cheated!' exclaimed Arthur. 'Well, that's a blessing!'

'What is?' asked the astonished Violet.

'That I have cleared the house of that intolerable woman!'

'The cook gone!' cried Violet, starting, so that her papers slid away,
and Arthur shuffled them up in his hand in renewed confusion. 'The cook
really gone? Oh! I am so glad!'

'Capital!' cried Arthur. 'There was John declaring you would be in
despair to find your precious treasure gone.'

'Oh! I never was more glad! Do tell me! Why did she go?'

'I had a skrimmage with her about some trout Fitzhugh sent, which I
verily believe she ate herself.'

'Changed with the fishmonger!'

'I dare say. She sent us in some good-for-nothing wretches, all mud, and
vowed these were stale--then grew impertinent.'

'And talked about the first families?'

'Exactly so, and when it came to telling me Mrs. Martindale was her
mistress, I could stand no more. I paid her her wages, and recommended
her to make herself scarce.'

'When did it happen?'

'Rather more than a fortnight ago.'

Violet laughed heartily. 'O-ho! there's the reason nurse scolds if I
dare to ask to speak to the cook. And oh! how gravely Sarah said "yes,
ma'am," to all my messages! How very funny! But how have we been living?
When I am having nice things all day long, and giving so much trouble!
Oh dear! How uncomfortable you must have been, and your brother too!'

'Am I not always telling you to the contrary? Sarah made everything look
as usual, and I suspect Brown lent a helping hand. John said the coffee
was made in some peculiar way Brown learnt in the East, and never
practises unless John is very ill, or they are in some uncivilized
place; but he told me to take no notice, lest Brown should think it
infra dig.'

'I'm afraid he thought this an uncivilized place. But what a woman Sarah
is! She has all the work of the house, and yet she seems to me to be
here as much as nurse!'

'She has got the work of ten horses in her, with the face of a death's
head, and the voice of a walking sepulchre!'

'But isn't she a thorough good creature! I can't think what will become
of me without her! It will be like parting with a friend.'

'What would you part with her for? I thought she was the sheet-anchor.'

'That she is; but she won't stay where there are children. She told me
so long ago, and only stayed because I begged her for the present. She
will go when I am well.'

'Better give double wages to keep her,' said Arthur.

'I'd do anything I could, but I'm afraid. I was quite dreading the
getting about again, because I should have to lose Sarah, and to do
something or other with that woman.'

'What possessed you to keep her?'

'I wasn't sure about her. Your aunt recommended her, and I thought you
might not like--and at first I did not know what things ought to cost,
nor how long they ought to last, and that was what I did sums for.
Then when I did prove it, I saw only dishonesty in the kitchen, and
extravagance and mismanagement of my own.'

'So the little goose sat and cried!'

'I could not help it. I felt I was doing wrong; that was the terrible
part; and I am glad you know the worst. I have been very weak and silly,
and wasted your money sadly, and I did not know how to help it; and
that was what made me so miserable. And now, dear Arthur, only say you
overlook my blunders, and indeed I'll try to do better.'

'Overlook! The only thing I don't know how to forgive is your having
made yourself so ill with this nonsense.'

'I can't be sorry for that,' said Violet, smiling, though the tears
came. 'That has been almost all happiness. I shall have the heart to try
more than ever--and I have some experience; and now that cook is gone, I
really shall get on.'

'Promise me you'll never go bothering yourself for nothing another time.
Take it easy! That's the only way to get through the world.'

'Ah! I will never be so foolish again. I shall never be afraid to make
you attend to my difficulties.'

'Afraid! That was the silliest part of all! But here--will you have
another hundred a year at once? and then there'll be no trouble.'

'Thank you, thank you! How kind of you! But do you know, I should like
to try with what I have. I see it might be made to do, and I want to
conquer the difficulty; if I can't, I will ask you for more.'

'Well, that may be best. I could hardly spare a hundred pounds without
giving up one of the horses; and I want to see you riding again.'

'Besides, this illness must have cost you a terrible quantity of money.
But I dare say I shall find the outgoings nothing to what the cook
made them.' And she was taking up the accounts, when he seized them,
crumpling them in his hand. 'Nonsense! Let them alone, or I shall put
them in the fire at once.'

'Oh, don't do that, pray!' cried she, starting, 'or I shall be ruined.
Oh, pray!'

'Very well;' and rising, and making a long arm, he deposited them on the
top of a high wardrobe. 'There's the way to treat obstinate women. You
may get them down when you can go after them--I shan't.'

'Ah! there's baby awake!'

'So, I shall go after that book at the library; and then I've plenty to
tell you of inquiries for Mrs. Martindale. Good-bye, again.'

Violet received her babe into her arms with a languid long-drawn sigh,
as of one wearied out with happiness. 'That he should have heard my
confession, and only pet me the more! Foolish, wasteful thing that I am.
Oh, babe! if I could only make you grow and thrive, no one would ever be
so happy as your mamma.'

Perhaps she thought so still more some hours later, when she awoke from
a long sleep, and saw Arthur reading "Emilia Wyndham", and quite ready
to defend his assertion that the wife broke open the desk with her head.



CHAPTER 3


   But there was one fairy who was offended because she was not invited
   to the Christening.--MOTHER BUNCH


Theodora had spent the winter in trying not to think of her brother.

She read, she tried experiments, she taught at the school, she
instructed the dumb boy, talked to the curate, and took her share of
such county gaieties as were not beneath the house of Martindale; but
at every tranquil moment came the thought, 'What are Arthur and his wife
doing!'

There were rumours of the general admiration of Mrs. Martindale, whence
she deduced vanity and extravagance; but she heard nothing more till
Jane Gardner, a correspondent, who persevered in spite of scanty and
infrequent answers, mentioned her call on poor Mrs. Martindale, who,
she said, looked sadly altered, unwell, and out of spirits. Georgina
had tried to persuade her to come out, but without success; she ought to
have some one with her, for she seemed to be a good deal alone, and no
doubt it was trying; but, of course, she would soon have her mother with
her.

He leaves her alone--he finds home dull! Poor Arthur! A moment of
triumph was followed by another of compunction, since this was not a
doll that he was neglecting, but a living creature, who could feel pain.
But the anticipation of meeting Mrs. Moss, after all those vows against
her, and the idea of seeing his house filled with vulgar relations,
hardened Theodora against the wife, who had thus gained her point.

Thus came the morning, when her father interrupted breakfast with an
exclamation of dismay, and John's tidings were communicated.

I wish I had been kind to her! shot across Theodora's mind with acute
pain, and the image of Arthur in grief swallowed up everything else. 'I
will go with you, papa--you will go at once!'

'Poor young thing!' said Lord Martindale; 'she was as pretty a creature
as I ever beheld, and I do believe, as good. Poor Arthur, I am glad he
has John with him.'

Lady Martindale wondered how John came there,--and remarks ensued on
his imprudence in risking a spring in England. To Theodora this seemed
indifference to Arthur's distress, and she impatiently urged her father
to take her to him at once.

He would not have delayed had Arthur been alone; but since John was
there, he thought their sudden arrival might be more encumbering than
consoling, and decided to wait for a further account, and finish affairs
that he could not easily leave.

Theodora believed no one but herself could comfort Arthur, and was
exceedingly vexed. She chafed against her father for attending to his
business--against her mother for thinking of John; and was in charity
with no one except Miss Piper, who came out of Mrs. Nesbit's room red
with swallowing down tears, and with the under lady's-maid, who could
not help begging to hear if Mrs. Martindale was so ill, for Miss
Standaloft said, 'My lady had been so nervous and hysterical in her own
room, that she had been forced to give her camphor and sal volatile.'

Never had Theodora been more surprised than to hear this of the mother
whom she only knew as calm, majestic, and impassible. With a sudden
impulse, she hastened to her room. She was with Mrs. Nesbit, and
Theodora following, found her reading aloud, without a trace of emotion.
No doubt it was a figment of Miss Standaloft, and there was a sidelong
glance of satisfaction in her aunt's eyes, which made Theodora so
indignant, that she was obliged to retreat without a word.

Her own regret and compassion for so young a creature thus cut off
were warm and keen, especially when the next post brought a new and
delightful hope, the infant, of whose life John had yesterday despaired,
was said to be improving. Arthur's child! Here was a possession for
Theodora, an object for the affections so long yearning for something
to love. She would bring it home, watch over it, educate it, be all the
world to Arthur, doubly so for his son's sake. She dreamt of putting his
child into his arms, and bidding him live for it, and awoke clasping the
pillow!

What were her feelings when she heard Violet was out of danger? For
humanity's sake and for Arthur's, she rejoiced; but it was the downfall
of a noble edifice. 'How that silly young mother would spoil the poor
child!'

'My brothers' had always been mentioned in Theodora's prayer, from
infancy. It was the plural number, but the strength and fervency of
petition were reserved for one; and with him she now joined the name
of his child. But how pray for the son without the mother? It was
positively a struggle; for Theodora had a horror of mockery and
formality; but the duty was too clear, the evil which made it
distasteful, too evident, not to be battled with; she remembered that
she ought to pray for all mankind, even those who had injured her, and,
on these terms, she added her brother's wife. It was not much from her
heart; a small beginning, but still it was a beginning, that might be
blessed in time.

Lord Martindale wished the family to have gone to London immediately,
but Mrs. Nesbit set herself against any alteration in their plans being
made for the sake of Arthur's wife. They were to have gone only in time
for the first drawing-room, and she treated as a personal injury the
proposal to leave her sooner than had been originally intended; making
her niece so unhappy that Lord Martindale had to yield. John's stay in
London was a subject of much anxiety; and while Mrs. Nesbit treated it
as an absurd trifling with his own health, and his father reproached
himself for being obliged to leave Arthur to him, Theodora suffered from
complicated jealousy. Arthur seemed to want John more than her, John
risked himself in London, in order to be with Arthur and his wife.

She was very eager for his coming; and when she expected the return of
the carriage which was sent to meet him at the Whitford station, she
betook herself to the lodge, intending him to pick her up there, that
she might skim the cream of his information.

The carriage appeared, but it seemed empty. That dignified, gentlemanly
personage, Mr. Brown, alighted from the box, and advanced with
affability, replying to her astonished query, 'Mr. Martindale desired me
to say he should be at home by dinner-time, ma'am. He left the train
at the Enderby station, and is gone round by Rickworth Priory, with a
message from Mrs. Martindale to Lady Elizabeth Brandon.'

Theodora stood transfixed; and Brown, a confidential and cultivated
person, thought she waited for more information.

'Mr. Martindale has not much cough, ma'am, and I hope coming out of
London will remove it entirely. I think it was chiefly excitement and
anxiety that brought on a recurrence of it, for his health is decidedly
improved. He desired me to mention that Mrs. Martindale is much better.
She is on the sofa to-day for the first time; and he saw her before
leaving.'

'Do you know how the little boy is?' Theodora could not help asking.

'He is a little stronger, thank you, ma'am,' said Brown, with much
interest; 'he has cried less these last few days. He is said to be
extremely like Mrs. Martindale.'

Brown remounted to his place, the carriage drove on, and Theodora
impetuously walked along the avenue.

'That man is insufferable! Extremely like Mrs. Martindale! Servants'
gossip! How could I go and ask him? John has perfectly spoilt a good
servant in him! But John spoils everybody. The notion of that girl
sending him on her messages! John, who is treated like something sacred
by my father and mother themselves! Those damp Rickworth meadows! How
could Arthur allow it? It would serve him right if he was to marry Emma
Brandon after all!'

She would not go near her mother, lest she should give her aunt the
pleasure of hearing where he was gone; but as she was coming down,
dressed for dinner, she met her father in the hall, uneasily asking a
servant whether Mr. Martindale was come.

'Arthur's wife has sent him with a message to Rickworth,' she said.

'John? You don't mean it. You have not seen him?'

'No; he went round that way, and sent Brown home. He said he should be
here by dinner-time, but it is very late. Is it not a strange proceeding
of hers, to be sending him about the country!'

'I don't understand it. Where's Brown?'

'Here's a fly coming up the avenue. He is come at last.'

Lord Martindale hastened down the steps; Theodora came no further than
the door, in so irritated a state that she did not like John's cheerful
alacrity of step and greeting. 'She is up to-day, she is getting
better,' were the first words she heard. 'Well, Theodora, how are you?'
and he kissed her with more warmth than she returned.

'Did I hear you had been to Rickworth?' said his father.

'Yes; I sent word by Brown. Poor Violet is still so weak that she cannot
write, and the Brandons have been anxious about her; so she asked me to
let them know how she was, if I had the opportunity, and I came round
that way. I wanted to know when they go to London; for though Arthur is
as attentive as possible, I don't think Violet is in a condition to be
left entirely to him. When do you go?'

'Not till the end of May--just before the drawing-room,' said Lord
Martindale.

'I go back when they can take the boy to church. Is my mother in the
drawing-room? I'll just speak to her, and dress--it is late I see.'

'How well he seems,' said Lord Martindale, as John walked quickly on
before.

'There was a cough,' said Theodora.

'Yes; but so cheerful. I have not seen him so animated for years. He
must be better!'

His mother was full of delight. 'My dear John, you look so much better!
Where have you been?'

'At Rickworth. I went to give Lady Elizabeth an account of Violet. She
is much better.'

'And you have been after sunset in that river fog! My dear John!'

'There was no fog; and it was a most pleasant drive. I had no idea
Rickworth was so pretty. Violet desired me to thank you for your kind
messages. You should see her to-day, mother; she would be quite a study
for you; she looks so pretty on her pillows, poor thing! and Arthur is
come out quite a new character--as an excellent nurse.'

'Poor thing! I am glad she is recovering,' said Lady Martindale. 'It
was very kind in you to stay with Arthur. I only hope you have not been
hurting yourself.'

'No, thank you; I came away in time, I believe: but I should have been
glad to have stayed on, unless I made room for some one of more use to
Violet.'

'I wish you had come home sooner. We have had such a pleasant
dinner-party. You would have liked to meet the professor.'

It was not the first time John had been sensible that that drawing-room
was no place for sympathy; and he felt it the more now, because he had
been living in such entire participation of his brother's hopes and
fears, that he could hardly suppose any one could be less interested in
the mother and child in Cadogan-place. He came home, wishing Theodora
would go and relieve Arthur of some of the care Violet needed in
her convalescence; and he was much disappointed by her apparent
indifference--in reality, a severe fit of perverse jealousy.

All dinner-time she endured a conversation on the subjects for which she
least cared; nay, she talked ardently about the past dinner-party, for
the very purpose of preventing John from suspecting that her anxiety had
prevented her from enjoying it. And when she left the dining-room,
she felt furious at knowing that now her father would have all the
particulars to himself, so that none would transpire to her.

She longed so much to hear of Arthur and his child, that when John came
into the drawing-room she could have asked! But he went to greet his
aunt, who received him thus:

'Well, I am glad to see you at last. You ought to have good reasons for
coming to England for the May east winds, and then exposing yourself to
them in London!'

'I hope I did not expose myself: I only went out three or four times.'

'I know you are always rejoiced to be as little at home as possible.'

'I could not be spared sooner, ma'am.'

'Spared? I think you have come out in a new capacity.'

John never went up his aunt without expecting to undergo a penance.

'I was sorry no one else could be with Arthur, but being there, I could
not leave him.'

'And your mother tells me you are going back again.'

'Yes, to stand godfather.'

'To the son and heir, as they called him in the paper. I gave
Arthur credit for better taste; I suppose it was done by some of her
connections?'

'I was that connection,' said John.

'Oh! I suppose you know what expectations you will raise?'

John making no answer, she grew more angry. 'This one, at least, is
never likely to be heir, from what I hear; it is only surprising that it
is still alive.'

How Theodora hung upon the answer, her very throat aching with anxiety,
but hardening her face because John looked towards her.

'We were very much afraid for him at first,' he said, 'but they now
think there is no reason he should not do well. He began to improve from
the time she could attend to him.'

A deep sigh from his mother startled John, and recalled the grief of his
childhood--the loss of two young sisters who had died during her absence
on the continent. He crossed over and stood near her, between her and
his aunt, who, in agitated haste to change the conversation, called out
to ask her about some club-book. For once she did not attend; and while
Theodora came forward and answered Mrs. Nesbit, she tremulously asked
John if he had seen the child.

'Only once, before he was an hour old. He was asleep when I came away;
and, as Arthur says, it is a serious thing to disturb him, he cries so
much.'

'A little low melancholy wailing,' she said, with a half sob. But Mrs.
Nesbit would not leave her at peace any longer, and her voice came
beyond the screen of John's figure:--

'Lady Martindale, my dear, have you done with those books! They ought to
be returned.'

'Which, dear aunt?' And Lady Martindale started up as if she had been
caught off duty, and, with a manifest effort, brought her wandering
thoughts back again, to say which were read and which were unread.

John did not venture to revert to a subject that affected his mother
so strongly; but he made another attempt upon his sister, when he could
speak to her apart. 'Arthur has been wondering not to hear from you.'

'Every one has been writing,' she answered, coldly.

'He wants some relief from his constant attendance,' continued John;
'I was afraid at first it would be too much for him, sitting up three
nights consecutively, and even now he has not at all recovered his
looks.'

'Is he looking ill?' said Theodora.

'He has gone through a great deal, and when she tries to make him go
out, he only goes down to smoke. You would do a great deal of good if
you were there.'

Theodora would not reply. For Arthur to ask her to come and be godmother
was the very thing she wished; but she would not offer at John's
bidding, especially when Arthur was more than ever devoted to his wife;
so she made no sign; and John repented of having said so much, thinking
that, in such a humour, the farther she was from them the better.

Yet what he had said might have worked, had not a history of the
circumstances of Violet's illness come round to her by way of Mrs.
Nesbit. John had told his father; Lord Martindale told his wife; Lady
Martindale told her aunt, under whose colouring the story reached
Theodora, that Arthur's wife had been helpless and inefficient, had done
nothing but cry over her household affairs, could not bear to be left
alone, and that the child's premature birth had been occasioned by a
fit of hysterics because Arthur had gone out fishing. No wonder Theodora
pitied the one brother, and thought the other infatuated. To write
to Arthur was out of the question; and she could only look forward to
consoling him when the time for London should come. Nor was she much
inclined to compassionate John, when, as he said, the east wind--as
his aunt said, the London fog--as she thought, the Rickworth
meadows--brought on such an accession of cough that he was obliged to
confine himself to his two rooms, where he felt unusually solitary.

She went in one day to carry him the newspaper. 'I am writing to
Arthur,' he said, 'to tell him that I shall not be able to be in London
next Sunday; do you like to put in a note?'

'No, I thank you.'

'You have no message?'

'None.'

He paused and looked at her. 'I wish you would write,' he said. 'Arthur
has been watching eagerly for your congratulation.'

'He does not give much encouragement,' said Theodora, moving to the
door.

'I wish he was a letter writer! After being so long with them, I don't
like hearing nothing more; but his time has been so much engrossed that
he could hardly have written at first. I believe the first letter he
looked for was from you.'

'I don't know what to say. Other people have said all the commonplace
things.'

'You would not speak in that manner--you who used to be so fond of
Arthur--if you by any means realized what he has gone through.'

Theodora was touched, but would not show it. 'He does not want me now,'
she said, and was gone, and then her lips relaxed, and she breathed a
heavy sigh.

John sighed too. He could not understand her, and was sensible that
his own isolation was as a consequence of having lived absorbed in
his affection and his grief, without having sought the intimacy of his
sister. His brother's family cares had, for the first time, led him to
throw himself into the interests of those around him, and thus aroused
from the contemplation of his loss, he began to look with regret on
opportunities neglected and influence wasted. The stillness of his own
room did not as formerly suffice to him; the fears and hopes he had
lately been sharing rose more vividly before him, and he watched eagerly
for the reply to his letter.

It came, not from Arthur, but in the pointed style of Violet's hardest
steel pen, when Matilda's instructions were most full in her mind;
stiff, cramped, and formal, as if it had been a great effort to write
it, and John was grieved to find that she was still in no state for
exertion. She had scarcely been down-stairs, and neither she nor the
baby were as yet likely to be soon able to leave the house, in spite
of all the kind care of Lady Elizabeth and Miss Brandon. Violet made
numerous apologies for the message, which she had little thought would
cause Mr. Martindale to alter his route.

In fact, those kind friends had been so much affected by John's account
of Violet's weak state, under no better nursing than Arthur's, that,
as he had hoped, they had hastened their visit to London, and were now
settled as near to her as possible, spending nearly the whole of their
time with her. Emma almost idolized the baby, and was delighted at
Arthur's grateful request that she would be its sponsor, and Violet was
as happy in their company as the restlessness of a mind which had not
yet recovered its tone, would allow her to be.

In another fortnight John wrote to say that he found he had come home
too early, and must go to the Isle of Wight till the weather was warmer.
In passing through London, he would come to Cadogan-place, and it was
decided that he should arrive in time to go with the baby to church on
the Tuesday, and proceed the next morning.

He arrived as Violet came down to greet her party of sponsors. Never
had she looked prettier than when her husband led her into the room,
her taper figure so graceful in her somewhat languid movements, and her
countenance so sweetly blending the expression of child and mother. Each
white cheek was tinged with exquisite rose colour, and the dark liquid
eyes and softly smiling mouth had an affectionate pensiveness far
lovelier than her last year's bloom, and yet there was something painful
in that beauty--it was too like the fragility of the flower fading under
one hour's sunshine; and there was a sadness in seeing the matronly
stamp on a face so young that it should have shown only girlhood's
freedom from care. Arthur indeed was boasting of the return of the
colour, which spread and deepened as he drew attention to it; but John
and Lady Elizabeth agreed, as they walked to church, that it was the
very token of weakness, and that with every kind intention Arthur did
not know how to take care of her--how should he?

The cheeks grew more brilliant and burning at church, for on being
carried to the font, the baby made his doleful notes heard, and when
taken from his nurse, they rose into a positive roar. Violet looked from
him to his father's face, and there saw so much discomposure that her
wretchedness was complete, enhanced as it was by a sense of wickedness
in not being able to be happy and grateful. Just as when a few days
previously she had gone to return thanks, she had been in a nervous
state of fluttering and trembling that allowed her to dwell on nothing
but the dread of fainting away. The poor girl's nerves had been so
completely overthrown, that even her powers of mind seemed to be
suffering, and her agitated manner quite alarmed Lady Elizabeth. She was
in good hands, however; Lady Elizabeth went home with her, kept every
one else away, and nursing her in her own kind way, brought her back to
common sense, for in the exaggeration of her weak spirits, she had been
feeling as if it was she who had been screaming through the service, and
seriously vexing Arthur.

He presently looked in himself to say the few fond merry words that were
only needed to console her, and she was then left alone to rest, not
tranquil enough for sleep, but reading hymns, and trying to draw her
thoughts up to what she thought they ought to be on the day of her
child's baptismal vows.

It was well for her that the christening dinner (a terror to her
imagination) had been deferred till the family should be in town, and
that she had no guest but John, who was very sorry to see how weary and
exhausted she looked, as if it was a positive effort to sit at the head
of the table.

When the two brothers came up to the drawing-room, they found her on the
sofa.

'Regularly done for!' said Arthur, sitting down by her. 'You ought to
have gone to bed, you perverse woman.'

'I shall come to life after tea,' said she, beginning to rise as signs
of its approach were heard.

'Lie still, I say,' returned Arthur, settling the cushion. 'Do you think
no one can make tea but yourself! Out with the key, and lie still.'

'I hope, Violet,' said John, 'you did not think the Red Republicans had
been in your drawers and boxes. I am afraid Arthur may have cast the
blame of his own doings on the absent, though I assure you I did my best
to protect them.'

'Indeed he did you more justice,' said Violet, 'he told me the box was
your setting to rights, and the drawer his. It was very honest of him,
for I must say the box did you most credit.'

'As to the drawer,' said Arthur, 'I wish I had put it into the fire at
once! Those accounts are a monomania! She has been worse from the day
she got hold of that book of hers again, and the absurd part of it is
that these are all bills that she pays!'

'Oh! they are all comfortable now,' said Violet.

'And what did you say to Arthur's bold stroke!' said John.

'Oh! I never laughed more in my life.'

'Ah ha'' said Arthur, 'it was all my admirable sagacity! Why, John, the
woman was an incubus saddled upon us by Miss Standaloft, that this poor
silly child did not know how to get rid of, though she was cheating us
out of house and home. Never were such rejoicings as when she found the
Old Man of the Sea was gone!'

'It is quite a different thing now,' said Violet. 'Nurse found me such
a nice niece of her own, who does not consume as much in a fortnight
as that dreadful woman did in a week. Indeed, my great book has some
satisfaction in it now.'

'And yet he accuses it of having thrown you back.'

'Everything does that!' said Arthur. 'She will extract means of tiring
herself out of anything--pretends to be well, and then is good for
nothing!'

'Arthur! Arthur! do you know what you are doing with the tea?' cried
Violet, starting up. He has put in six shellfuls for three people, and
a lump of sugar, and now was shutting up the unfortunate teapot
without one drop of water!' And gaily driving him away, she held up the
sugar-tongs with the lump of sugar in his face, while he laughed and
yielded the field, saying, disdainfully, 'Woman's work.'

'Under the circumstances,' said John, 'putting in no water was the best
thing he could do.'

'Ay,' said Arthur, 'a pretty fellow you for a West Indian proprietor, to
consume neither sugar nor cigars.'

'At this rate,' said John, 'they are the people to consume nothing.
There was such an account of the Barbuda property the other day, that my
father is thinking of going to see what is to be done with it.'

'No bad plan for your next winter,' said Arthur. 'Now, Violet, to your
sofa! You have brewed your female potion in your female fashion, and may
surely leave your betters to pour it out.'

'No, indeed! How do I know what you may serve us up?' said she, quite
revived with laughing. 'I won't give up my place.'

'Quite right, Violet,' said John, 'don't leave me to his mercy. Last
time he made tea for me, it consisted only of the other ingredient,
hot water, after which I took the law into my own hands for our mutual
benefit. Pray what became of him after I was gone?'

'I was obliged to have him up into my room, and give him his tea
properly there, or I believe he would have existed on nothing but
cigars.'

'Well, I shall have some opinion of you when you make him leave off
cigars.'

'Catch her!' quietly responded Arthur.

'There can't be a worse thing for a man that gets bad coughs.'

'That's all smoke, Violet,' said Arthur. 'Don't tell her so, or I shall
never have any peace.'

'At least, I advise you to open the windows of his den before you show
my mother and Theodora the house.'

'As to Theodora! what is the matter with her!' said Arthur.

'I don't know,' said John.

'In one of her moods? Well, we shall have her here in ten days' time,
and I shall know what to be at with her.'

'I know she likes babies,' said Violet, with confidence. She had quite
revived, and was lively and amused; but as soon as tea was over, Arthur
insisted on her going to bed.

The loss of her gentle mirth seemed to be felt, for a long silence
ensued; Arthur leaning against the mantel-shelf, solacing himself with
a low whistle, John sitting in meditation. At last he looked up, saying,
'I wish you would all come and stay with me at Ventnor.'

'Thank you; but you see there's no such thing as my going. Fitzhugh is
in Norway, and till he comes back, I can't get away for more than a day
or two.'

'Suppose,' said John, rather doubtingly; 'what should you think of
putting Violet under my charge, and coming backwards and forwards
yourself?'

'Why, Harding did talk of sea air, but she did not take to the notion;
and I was not sorry; for, of all things I detest, the chief is sticking
up in a sea place, with nothing to do. But it is wretched work going on
as we do, though they say there is nothing the matter but weakness. I
verily believe it is all that child's eternal noise that regularly wears
her out. She is upset in a moment; and whenever she is left alone, she
sets to work on some fidget or other about the house, that makes her
worse than before.'

'Going from home would be the best cure for that.'

'I suppose it would. I meant her to have gone out with my mother, but
that can't be anyway now! The sea would give her a chance; I could run
down pretty often; and you would see that she did not tire herself.'

'I would do my best to take care of her, if you would trust her to me.'

'I know you would; and it is very kind in you to think of it.'

'I will find a house, and write as soon as it is ready. Do you think the
end of the week would be too soon for her? I am sure London is doing her
harm.'

'Whenever you please; and yet I am sorry. I wanted my father to have
seen the boy; but perhaps he had better look a little more respectable,
and learn to hold his tongue first. Besides, how will it be taken, her
going out of town just as they come up?'

'I rather think it would be better for her not to meet them till she is
stronger. Her continual anxiety and effort to please would be too much
strain.'

'Very likely; and I am sure I won't keep her here to expose her to Miss
Martindale's airs. She shall come as soon as you like.'

Arthur was strengthened in his determination by the first sound that met
him on going up-stairs--the poor babe's lamentable voice; and by finding
Violet, instead of taking the rest she so much needed, vainly trying to
still the feeble moaning. He was positively angry; and almost as if the
poor little thing had been wilfully persecuting her, declared it would
be the death of her, and peremptorily ordered it up-stairs; the nurse
only too glad to carry it off, and agreeing with him that it was doing
more harm to its mother than she did good to it. Violet, in submissive
misery, gave it up, and hid her face. One of her chief subjects for
self-torment was an imagination that Arthur did not like the baby, and
was displeased with its crying; and she felt utterly wretched, hardly
able to bear the cheerful tone in which he spoke! 'Well, Violet, we
shall soon set you up. It is all settled. You are to go, at the end of
the week, to stay with John in the Isle of Wight.'

'Go away?' said Violet, in an extinguished voice.

'Yes; it is the very thing for you. I shall stay here, and go backwards
and forwards. Well, what is it now?'

She was starting up, as the opening of the door let out another scream.
'There he is still! Let me go to him for one minute.'

'Folly!' said Arthur, impatiently. 'There's no peace day or night. I
won't stand it any longer. You are half dead already. I will not have it
go on. Lie down; go to sleep directly, and don't trouble your head about
anything more till morning.'

Like a good child, though choking with tears, she obeyed the first
mandate; and presently was rather comforted by his listening at the foot
of the stairs, and reporting that the boy seemed to be quiet at last.
The rest of the order it was not in her power to obey; she was too much
fatigued to sleep soundly, or to understand clearly. Most of the night
was spent in broken dreams of being separated from her child and her
husband, and wakening to the knowledge that something was going to
happen.

At last came sounder slumbers; and she awoke with an aching head, but
to clearer perceptions. And when Arthur, before going down to breakfast,
asked what she wished him to say to John, she answered: 'It is very kind
of him--but you never meant me to go without you?'

'I shall take you there, and run down pretty often; and John has been
used to coddling himself all his life, so of course he will know how to
take care of you.'

'How kind he is, but I don't'--she broke off, and looked at the little
pinched face and shrivelled arms of the tiny creature, which she pressed
more closely to her; then, with a hesitating voice, 'Only, if it would
do baby good!'

'Of course it would. He can't be well while things go on at this rate.
Only ask Harding.'

'I wonder whether Mr. Martindale knew it was what Mr. Harding
recommended! But you would be by yourself.'

'As if I had not taken care of myself for three-and-twenty years without
your help!'

'And all your party will be in town, so that you will not miss me.'

'I shall be with you very often. Shall I tell John you accept?'

'Tell him it is very kind, and I am so much obliged to him,' said
Violet, unable to speak otherwise than disconsolately.

Accordingly the brothers agreed that Arthur should bring her to Ventnor
on Saturday, if, as John expected, he could be prepared to receive her;
placing much confidence in Brown's savoir faire, though Brown was beyond
measure amazed at such a disarrangement of his master's methodical
habits; and Arthur himself gave a commiserating shake of the head as he
observed that there was no accounting for tastes, but if John chose
to shut himself up in a lodging with the most squallingest babby in
creation, he was not the man to gainsay him; and further reflected, that
if a man must be a younger son, John was a model elder brother.

Poor Violet! Her half-recovered state must be an excuse for her dire
consternation on hearing it was definitively settled that she was to be
carried off to Ventnor in four days' time! How arrange for Arthur? Where
find a nursemaid? What would become of the baby so far from Mr. Harding?
The Isle of Wight seemed the ends of the earth--out of England! Helpless
and overpowered, she was in despair; it came to Arthur's asking, in
displeasure, what she wanted--whether she meant to go or not. She
thought of her drooping infant, and said at once she would go.

'Well, then, what's all this about?'

Then came tears, and Arthur went away, declaring she did not know
herself what she would be at. He had really borne patiently with much
plaintiveness, and she knew it. She accused herself of ingratitude and
unreasonableness, and went into a fresh agony on that score; but soon
a tap at the door warned her to strive for composure. It was Sarah, and
Violet felt sure that the dreaded moment was come of her giving warning;
but it was only a message. 'If you please, ma'am, there's a young person
wants to see you.'

'Come as a nursery maid?' said Violet, springing up in her nervous
agitated way. 'Do you think she will do?'

'I don't think nothing of her,' said Sarah, emphatically. 'Don't you go
and be in a way, ma'am; there's no hurry.'

'Yes, but there is, Sarah. Baby and I are to go next Saturday to the
Isle of Wight, and I can't take old nurse. I must have some one.'

'You won't get nobody by hurrying,' said Sarah.

'But what's to be done, Sarah? I can't bear giving the dear baby to a
stranger, but I can't help it.'

'As for that, said Sarah, gloomily, 'I don't see but I could look after
Master John as well as any that is like to offer for the present.'

'You! Oh, that would be nice! But I thought you did not like children?'

'I don't, but I don't mind while he is too little to make a racket, and
worrit one out of one's life. It is only for the present, till you can
suit yourself, ma'am--just that you may not be lost going into foreign
parts with a stranger.'

Sarah had been nursing the baby every leisure moment, and had, during
the worst part of Violet's illness, had more to do with him than the
regular nurse. This was happily settled, and all at which Violet still
demurred was how the house and its master should be provided for in
their absence; to which Sarah replied, 'Mary would do well enough
for he;' and before Violet knew to which she must suppose the pronoun
referred, there was a new-comer, Lady Elizabeth, telling her that Arthur
had just been to beg her to come to her, saying he feared he had hurried
her and taken her by surprise.

Under such kind soothing Violet's rational mind returned. She ceased to
attempt to put herself into a vehement state of preparation, and began
to take so cheerful a view of affairs that she met Arthur again in
excellent spirits.

Emma Brandon pitied her for being left alone with Mr. Martindale, but
this was no subject of dread to her, and she confessed that she was
relieved to escape the meeting with the rest of the family. The chief
regret was, that the two friends would miss the constant intercourse
with which they had flattered themselves--the only thing that made
London endurable to poor Emma. She amused Violet with her lamentations
over her gaieties, and her piteous accounts of the tedium of parties and
balls; whereas Violet declared that she liked them very much.

'It was pleasant to walk about with Arthur and hear his droll remarks,
and she liked seeing people look nice and well dressed.'

'Ah! you are better off. You are not obliged to dance, and you are safe,
too. Now, whenever any one asks to be introduced to me I am sure he
wants the Priory, and feel bound to guard it.'

'And so you don't like any one, and find it stupid?'

'So I do, of course, and I hope I always shall. But oh! Violet, I
have not told you that I saw that lady again this morning at the
early service. She had still her white dress on, I am sure it is
for Whitsuntide; and her face is so striking--so full of thought and
earnestness, just like what one would suppose a novice. I shall take her
for my romance, and try to guess at her history.'

'To console you for your godson going away?'

'Ah! it won't do that! But it will be something to think of, and I will
report to you if I make out any more about her. And mind you give me a
full account of the godson.'

Arthur wished the journey well over; he had often felt a sort of
superior pity for travellers with a baby in company, and did not relish
the prospect; but things turned out well; he found an acquaintance, and
travelled with him in a different carriage, and little Johnnie, lulled
by the country air, slept so much that Violet had leisure to enjoy the
burst into country scenery, and be refreshed by the glowing beauty of
the green meadows, the budding woods, and the brilliant feathery broom
blossoms that gilded the embankments. At Winchester Arthur came to her
window, and asked if she remembered last year.

'It is the longest year of my life,' said she. 'Oh, don't laugh as if I
had made a bad compliment, but so much has happened!' There was no time
for more; and as she looked out at the cathedral as they moved on, she
recollected her resolutions, and blamed herself for her failures, but
still in a soothed and happier frame of hope.

The crossing was her delight, her first taste of sea. There was a fresh
wind, cold enough to make Arthur put on his great-coat, but to her
it brought a delicious sense of renewed health and vigour, as she sat
inhaling it, charmed to catch a drop of spray on her face, her eyes and
cheeks brightening and her spirits rising.

The sparkling Solent, the ships at Spithead, the hills and wooded banks,
growing more defined before her; the town of Ryde and its long pier,
were each a new wonder and delight, and she exclaimed with such ecstasy,
and laughed so like the joyous girl she used to be, that Arthur felt old
times come back; and when he handed her out of the steamer he entirely
forgot the baby.

At last she was tired with pleasure, and lay back in the carriage in
languid enjoyment; fields, cottages, hawthorns, lilacs, and glimpses of
sea flitting past her like pictures in a dream, a sort of waking trance
that would have been broken by speaking or positive thinking.

They stopped at a gate: she looked up and gave a cry of delight. Such
a cottage as she and Annette had figured in dreams of rural bliss,
gable-ends, thatch, verandah overrun with myrtle, rose, and honeysuckle,
a little terrace, a steep green slope of lawn shut in with laburnum and
lilac, in the flush of the lovely close of May, a view of the sea, a
green wicket, bowered over with clematis, and within it John Martindale,
his look of welcome overpowering his usual gravity, so as to give him an
air of gladness such as she had never seen in him before.



CHAPTER 4


     The inmost heart of man if glad
     Partakes a livelier cheer,
     And eyes that cannot but be sad
     Let fall a brightened tear.
     Since thy return, through days and weeks
     Of hope that grew by stealth,
     How many wan and faded cheeks
     Have kindled into health.
                   --WORDSWORTH'S Ode to May


'I say,' called Arthur, standing half in and half out of the French
window, as Sarah paced round the little garden, holding a parasol
over her charge, 'if that boy kicks up a row at night, don't mind Mrs.
Martindale. Carry him off, and lock the door. D'ye hear?'

'Yes, sir,' said the unmoved Sarah.

'Stern, rugged nurse!' said Arthur, drawing in his head. 'Your boy ought
to be virtue itself, Violet. Now for you, John, if you see her at those
figures, take them away. Don't let her think what two and two make.'

'You are like one of my little sisters giving her doll to the other to
keep,' said Violet.

'Some folks say it is a doll, don't they, John?'

'Well, I will try to take as much care of your doll as she does of
hers,' said John, smiling.

'Good-bye, then! I wish I could stay!'

Violet went to the gate with him, while John stood at the window
watching the slender girlish figure under the canopy of clematis, as she
stood gazing after her husband, then turned and slowly paced back again,
her eyes on the ground, and her face rather sad and downcast.

That pretty creature was a strange new charge for him, and he dreaded
her pining almost as he would have feared the crying of a child left
alone with him.

'Well, Violet,' said he, cheerfully, 'we must do our best. What time
would you like to take a drive?'

'Any time, thank you,' said she, gratefully, but somewhat plaintively;
'but do not let me be a trouble to you. Sarah is going to hire a chair
for me to go down to the beach. I only want not to be in your way.'

'I have nothing to do. You know I am no great walker, and I am glad of
an excuse for setting up my carriage. Shall we dine early, and go out
when the sun is not so high?'

'Thank you! that will be delightful. I want to see those beautiful
places that I was too tired to look at on Saturday.'

Sarah's rounds again brought her in sight; Violet crossed the grass,
and the next moment was under the verandah with the little long-robed
chrysalis shape in her arms, declaring he was growing quite good, and
getting fat already; and though to John's eyes the face was as much
as ever like a very wizened old man, he could not but feel heartfelt
pleasure in seeing her for once enjoying a young mother's exultation.

'Poor thing!' said he to himself, as she carried the babe upstairs, 'she
has done too much, thought too much, felt too much for her years. Life
has begun before she has strength for the heat and burthen of the day.
The only hope is in keeping those overtasked spirits at rest, guarding
her from care, and letting her return to childhood. And should this work
fall on me, broken down in spirits and energy, with these long-standing
habits of solitude and silence? If Helen was but here!'

He was relieved by Violet's reappearance at dinner-time, full of smiles,
proud of Johnnie's having slept half the morning, and delighted with
"Mary Barton", which, on his system of diversion for her mind, he had
placed in her way. She was amazed and charmed at finding that he could
discuss the tale with interest and admiration.

'Arthur calls such books trash,' said she.

'He reads them, though.'

'Yes, he always reads the third volume while I read the first.'

'The best way. I always begin at the end to judge whether a book is
worth reading.'

'I saw a French book on the table; are you reading it?'

'Consulting it. You are welcome to it.'

'I think,' she said, timidly, 'I ought to read some history and French,
or I shall never be fit to teach my little boy.'

'I have a good many books at home, entirely at your service.'

'Thank you, thank you! I thought last winter if I could but have read, I
should not have minded half so much.'

'And why could you not?'

'I had finished all my own books, and they cost too much to hire, so
there was only a great Roman History that Arthur had had at school. I
could not read more than thirty pages of that a day, it was so stupid.'

'And you read those as a task! Very wise!'

'Matilda said my education was incomplete, and she feared I should be
found deficient; and mamma told me to make a point of reading something
improving every day, but I have not begun again.'

'I have some work on my hands,' said John. 'I was with Percy
Fotheringham eight years ago in Syria and Asia Minor. He has gone over
the same places a second time, and has made the journals up into a book
on the Crusaders, which he has sent from Constantinople for me to get
ready for publication. I shall come to you for help.'

'Me! How can I?' exclaimed Violet, colouring with astonishment.

'Let us enjoy our holiday first,' he replied, smiling. 'See there.'

A low open carriage and a pair of ponies came to the gate; Violet was
enchanted, and stood admiring and patting them, while John looked on
amused, telling her he was glad she approved, for he had desired Brown
to find something in which Captain Martindale would not be ashamed to
see her.

They drove along the Undercliff, and her enjoyment was excessive. To one
so long shut up in town, the fresh air, blue sky, and green trees were
charms sufficient in themselves, and when to these were added the bright
extent of summer sea, the beautiful curving outline of the bay ending
in the bold Culver Cliffs, and the wall of rocks above, clothed in
part with garland-like shrubs and festoons of creepers, it was to her
a perfect vision of delight. There was an alternation of long pauses of
happy contemplation, and of smothered exclamations of ecstasy, as if eye
and heart were longing to take a still fuller grasp of the beauty of the
scene. The expression her face had worn at the cathedral entrance was
on it now, and seemed to put a new soul into her features, varied by the
beaming smiles as she cried out joyously at each new object-the gliding
sails on the water, the curious forms of the crags, or the hawks that
poised themselves in the air.

The flowers, too! They came to a lane bordered with copse, blue with
wild hyacinth. 'Oh! it was so long since she had seen a wild flower!
Would he be so kind as to stop for one moment to let her gather one. She
did so much wish to pick a flower for herself once more!'

He drew up, and sat, leaning back, watching her with one of his smiles
of melancholy meaning, as she lightly sprang up the bank, and dived
between the hazel stems; and there he remained musing till, like a
vision of May herself, she reappeared on the bank, the nut-bushes making
a bower around her, her hands filled with flowers, her cheek glowing
like her wild roses, and the youthful delicacy of her form, and the
transient brightness of her sweet face, suiting with the fresh tender
colouring of the foliage, chequered with flickering sunshine.

'Oh! I hope I have not kept you waiting too long! but, indeed, I did
not know how to turn back. I went after an orchis, and then I saw some
Solomon's seal; and oh! such bluebells, and I could not help standing
quite still to feel how delicious it was! I hope that it was not long.'

'No, not at all, I am glad.'

There was a moisture around the bright eyes, and perhaps she felt a
little childish shame, for she put up her hand to brush it off. 'It is
very silly,' she said. 'Beautiful places ought not to make one ready to
cry--and yet somehow, when I stood quite still, and it was all so green,
and I heard the cuckoo and all the little birds singing, it would come
over me! I could not help thinking who made it all so beautiful, and
that He gave me my baby too.'--And there, as having said too much,
she blushed in confusion, and began to busy herself with her flowers,
delighting herself in silence over each many-belled hyacinth, each
purple orchis, streaked wood sorrel, or delicate wreath of eglantine,
deeming each in turn the most perfect she had ever seen.

John let her alone; he thought the May blossoms more suitable companions
for her than himself, and believed that it would only interfere with
that full contentment to be recalled to converse with him. It was
pleasure enough to watch that childlike gladsomeness, like studying a
new life, and the relief it gave him to see her so happy perhaps opened
his mind to somewhat of the same serene enjoyment.

That evening, when Brown, on bringing in the tea, gave an anxious glance
to judge how his master fared, he augured from his countenance that the
change of habits was doing him no harm.

In the evening, Mr. Fotheringham's manuscript was brought out: John
could never read aloud, but he handed over the sheets to her, and she
enjoyed the vivid descriptions and anecdotes of adventures, further
illustrated by comments and details from John, far more entertaining
than those designed for the public. This revision was their usual
evening occupation, and she soon became so well instructed in those
scenes, that she felt as if she had been one of the travellers, and had
known the handsome Arab sheik, whose chivalrous honour was only alloyed
by desire of backsheesh, the Turkish guard who regularly deserted on the
first alarm, and the sharp knavish Greek servant with his contempt for
them all, more especially for the grave and correct Mr. Brown, pining
to keep up Martindale etiquette in desert, caravanserai, and lazzeretto.
She went along with them in the researches for Greek inscription,
Byzantine carving, or Frank fortress; she shared the exultation of
deciphering the ancient record in the venerable mountain convent, the
disappointment when Percy's admirable entrenched camp of Bohemond
proved to be a case of 'praetorian here, praetorian there;' she listened
earnestly to the history, too deeply felt to have been recorded for the
general reader, of the feelings which had gone with the friends to the
cedars of Lebanon, the streams of Jordan, the peak of Tabor, the cave
of Bethlehem, the hills of Jerusalem. Perhaps she looked up the more
to John, when she knew that he had trod that soil, and with so true a
pilgrim's heart. Then the narration led her through the purple mountain
islets of the Archipelago, and the wondrous scenery of classic Greece,
with daring adventures among robber Albanians, such as seemed too
strange for the quiet inert John Martindale, although the bold and gay
temper of his companion appeared to be in its own element; and in truth
it was as if there was nothing that came amiss to Percival Fotheringham,
who was equally ready for deep and scholarly dissertation, or for
boyish drollery and good-natured tricks. He had a peculiar talent for
languages, and had caught almost every dialect of the natives, as well
as being an excellent Eastern scholar, and this had led to his becoming
attached to the embassy at Constantinople, where John had left him on
returning to England. He was there highly esteemed, and in the way
of promotion, to the great satisfaction of John, who took a sort of
affectionate fatherly pride in his well-doing.

The manuscript evinced so much ability and research, and was so full
of beautiful and poetical description, as not only charmed Violet,
but surpassed even John's expectations; and great was his delight in
dwelling on its perfections, while he touched it up and corrected it
with a doubtful, respectful hand, scarcely perceiving how effective
were his embellishments and refinements. Violet's remarks and
misunderstanding were useful, and as she grew bolder, her criticisms
were often much to the point. She was set to search in historical
authorities, and to translate from the French for the notes, work
which she thought the greatest honour, and which kept her mind happily
occupied to the exclusion of her cares.

Fresh air, busy idleness, the daily renewed pleasure of beautiful
scenery, the watchful care of her kind brother, and the progressive
improvement of her babe, produced the desired effect; and when the
promised day arrived, and they walked to the coach-office to meet
Arthur, it was a triumph to hear him declare that he had been thinking
that for once he saw a pretty girl before he found out it was Violet,
grown rosy in her sea-side bonnet.

If the tenor of John's life had been far less agreeable, it would have
been sufficiently compensated by the pleasure of seeing how happy he had
made the young couple, so joyously engrossed with each other, and full
of spirits and merriment.

Violet was gladsome and blithe at meeting her husband again, and Arthur,
wholesomely and affectionately gay, appearing to uncommon advantage. He
spoke warmly of his father. It seemed that they had been much together,
and had understood each other better than ever before. Arthur repeated
gratifying things which Lord Martindale had said of Violet, and, indeed,
it was evident that interest in her was the way to find out his heart.
Of his mother and sister there was less mention, and John began to
gather the state of the case as he listened in the twilight of the
summer evening, while Arthur and Violet sat together on the sofa, and he
leant back in his chair opposite to them, his book held up to catch the
fading light; but his attention fixed on their talk over Arthur's news.

'You have not told me about the drawing-room.'

'Do you think I am going there till I am obliged!'

'What! You did not go with Lady Martindale and Theodora? I should like
to have seen them dressed. Do tell me how they looked.'

'Splendid, no doubt; but you must take it on trust.'

'You did not see them! What a pity! How disappointed Theodora must have
been!'

'Were there not folks enough to look at her?'

'As if they were of any use without you.'

'Little goose! I am not her husband, thank goodness, and wishing him joy
that gets her.'

'O, Arthur, don't! I want to hear of Lady Albury's party. You did go to
that!'

'Yes, my mother lugged me into it, and a monstrous bore it was. I wish
you had been there.'

'Thank you, but if it was so dull--'

'Emma Brandon and I agreed that there was not a woman who would have
been looked at twice if you had been there. We wanted you for a specimen
of what is worth seeing. Fancy! it was such a dearth of good looks that
they were making a star of Mrs. Finch! It was enough to put one in
a rage. I told Theodora at last, since she would have it, there was
nothing in the woman but impudence.'

John glanced over his book, and perceived that to Arthur there appeared
profanation in the implied comparison of that flashy display of beauty
with the pure, modest, tender loveliness, whose every blush and smile,
as well as the little unwonted decorations assumed to honour his
presence, showed, that its only value was the pleasure it gave to him.
His last speech made her tone somewhat of reproof. 'Oh! that must have
vexed her, I am afraid. She is very fond of Mrs. Finch.'

'Out of opposition,' said Arthur. 'It is too bad, I declare! That
Georgina was well enough as a girl, spirited and like Theodora, only
Theodora always had sense. She was amusing then, but there is nothing so
detestable as a woman who continues "fast" after marriage.'

'Except a man,' observed John, in a tone of soliloquy. 'She has grown
so thin, too!' continued Arthur. 'She used to be tolerably handsome when
she was a fine plump rosy girl. Now she is all red cheek-bone and long
neck! We are come to a pretty pass when we take her for a beauty!'

Oh! but there is your sister,' said Violet. 'Do tell me how she likes
going out. She thought it would be such a penance.'

'All I know is, that at home she is as sulky as a Greenland bear, and
then goes out and flirts nineteen to the dozen.'

Arthur!' came the remonstrating voice again, 'how you talk--do you mean
that she is silent at home? Is she unhappy? What can be the matter with
her?'

'How should I know?'

'Has not she said anything about baby?'

'Not she. Not one of them has, except my father.'

'I thought she would have liked to have heard of baby,' said Violet,
in a tone of disappointment; 'but if there is anything on her spirits,
perhaps she cannot think about him. I wonder what it can be. It cannot
be any--any--'

'Any love affair! No! no! Miss Martindale may break hearts enough, but
she will take care of her own, if she has one.'

'Is she so much admired?'

'Of course she is. You do not often see her style, and she talks and
goes on at no end of a rate.'

'I remember how she grew excited at the ball, after disliking the
prospect.'

'Is this mere general admiration,' asked John, 'or anything more
serious?'

'Upon my word, I cannot say. There is no earnest on her part. She will
rattle on with a poor fellow one night as if she had eyes for no one
else, then leave him in the lurch the next. She cares not a rush for any
of them, only wants to be run after. As to her followers, some of them
are really smitten, I fancy. There was Fitzhugh, but he is an old hand,
and can pay her in her own coin, and that sober-faced young Mervyn--it
is a bad case with him. In fact, there is a fresh one whenever she goes
out--a Jenny Dennison in high life--but the most bitten of all, I take
it, is Lord St. Erme.'

'Lord St. Erme!' exclaimed both auditors in a breath.

'Ay. She met him at that breakfast, walked about the gardens with him
all the morning, and my mother wrote to my aunt, I believe, that she was
booked. Then at this Bryanstone soiree, the next night, Fitzhugh was in
the ascendant--poor St. Erme could not so much as gain a look.'

'So he is in London!' said Violet. 'Do tell me what he is like.'

'Like a German music-master,' said Arthur. 'As queer a figure as ever
I saw. Keeps his hair parted in the middle, hanging down in long lank
rats' tails, meant to curl, moustache ditto, open collar turned down,
black ribbon tie.'

'Oh! how amazed the Wrangerton people would be!'

'It is too much to study the picturesque in one's own person in
England!' said John, laughing. 'I am sorry he continues that fashion.'

'So, of course,' continued Arthur, 'all the young ladies are raving
after him, while he goes mooning after Theodora. How the fair sex must
solace itself with abusing "that Miss Martindale!"'

'I wish he would be a little more sensible,' said John. 'He really is
capable of something better.'

'Where did you know him?'

'At Naples. I liked him very much till he persecuted me beyond endurance
with Tennyson and Browning. He is always going about in raptures with
some new-fashioned poet.'

'I suppose he will set up Theodora for his muse. My mother is enchanted;
he is exactly one of her own set, music, pictures, and all. The
second-hand courtship is a fine chance for her when Miss Martindale is
ungracious.'

'But it will not come to anything,' said John. 'In the meantime, her
ladyship gets the benefit of a lion, and a very tawny lion, for her
soirees.'

'Oh! that soiree will be something pleasant for you,' said Violet.

'I shall cut it. It is the first day I can be here.'

'Not meet that great African traveller?'

'What good would Baron Munchausen himself do me in the crowd my mother
is heaping together?'

'I am sure your mother and sister must want you.'

'Want must be their master. I am not going to elbow myself about and be
squashed flat for their pleasure. It is a dozen times worse to be in a
mob at home, for one has to find chairs for all the ladies. Pah!'

'That is very lazy!' said the wife. 'You will be sorry to have missed it
when it is too late, and your home people will be vexed.'

'Who cares? My father does not, and the others take no pains not to vex
us.'

'O, Arthur! you know it makes it worse if you always come to me when
they want you. I could wait very well. Only one day above all you must
come,' said she, with lowered voice, in his ear.

'What's that?'

John could not see how, instead of speaking, she guided her husband's
hand to her wedding-ring. His reply transpired--'I'll not fail. Which
day is it?'

'Friday week. I hope you will be able!'

'I'll manage it. Why, it will be your birthday, too!'

'Yes, I shall be so glad to be seventeen. I shall feel as if baby would
respect me more. Oh! I am glad you can come, but you must be good, and
go to the soiree. I do think it would not be right always to leave them
when they want you. Tell him so, please, Mr. Martindale.'

John did so, but Arthur made no promises, and even when the day came,
they were uncertain whether they might think of him at the party, or as
smoking cigars at home.



CHAPTER 5


     Her scourge is felt, unseen, unheard,
     Where, though aloud the laughter swells,
     Her secret in the bosom dwells,
     There is a sadness in the strain
     As from a heart o'ercharged with pain.
                            --The Baptistery


Theodora had come to London, hating the idea of gaieties, liking nothing
but the early service and chemical lectures, and shrinking from the
meeting with her former friend. She enjoyed only the prospect of the
comfort her society would afford her brother, depressed by attendance on
a nervous wife, in an unsatisfactory home.

No Arthur met them at the station: he had left a message that he was
taking Mrs. Martindale to the Isle of Wight, and should return early on
Tuesday.

Theodora stayed at home the whole of that day, but in vain. She was
busied in sending out cards to canvass for her dumb boy's admission into
an asylum, when a message came up to her sitting-room. She started. Was
it Arthur? No; Mrs. Finch was in the drawing-room; and at that moment
a light step was on the stairs, and a flutter of gay ribbons advanced.
'Ha! Theodora! I knew how to track you. The old place! Dear old
school-room, how happy we have been here! Not gone out? Any one would
think you had some stern female to shut you up with a tough exercise!
But I believe you always broke out.'

'I stayed in to-day, expecting my brother.'

'Captain Martindale? Why, did not I see him riding with your father?
Surely I did.'

'Impossible!' exclaimed Theodora.

'Yes, but I did though; I am sure of it, for he bowed. He had that sweet
pretty little mare of his. Have you seen her, Theodora? I quite envy
her; but I suppose he bought it for his wife; and she deserves all that
is sweet and pretty, I am sure, and has it, too.'

Theodora could not recover from the thrill of pain so as to speak, and
Mrs. Finch rattled on. 'She was not in good looks when I saw her, poor
thing, but she looked so soft and fragile, it quite went to my heart;
though Jane will have it she is deep, and gets her own way by being meek
and helpless. I don't go along with Jane throughout; I hate seeing holes
picked in everybody.'

'Where is Jane?'

'Gone to some charity sermonizing. She will meet some great folks there,
and be in her element. I am glad to have you alone. Why, you bonny old
Greek empress, you are as jolly a gipsy queen as ever! How you will turn
people's heads! I am glad you have all that bright red-brown on your
cheeks!'

'No self-preservation like a country life and early rising,' said
Theodora, laughing. 'You have not kept yourself as well, Georgina. I am
sorry to see you so thin.'

'Me! Oh, I have battered through more seasons than you have dreamt of!'
said Mrs. Finch, lightly, but with a sigh. 'And had a fever besides,
which disposed of all my fat. I am like a hunter in fine condition,
no superfluous flesh, ready for action. And as to action--what are you
doing, Theodora?--where are you going?'

'I don't know. Mamma keeps the cards. I don't want to know anything
about it.'

Georgina burst into a laugh, rather unnecessarily loud.

'Just like you! Treat it as you used your music! What can't be cured
must be endured, you know. Well, you poor victim, are you going to
execution to-night?'

'Not that I know of.'

'Famous! Then I'll tell you what: there is going to be a lecture on
Mesmerism to-night. Wonderful! Clairvoyante tells you everything, past,
present, and to come! You'll detect all the impostures; won't it be fun?
I'll call for you at eight precisely.'

Theodora thought of Arthur, and that she should miss the tidings of
his child; then recollected that he had not afforded her one minute's
greeting. She would show him that she did not care, and therefore made
the agreement.

Cold and moody she came down to dinner, but her heart was beating with
disappointment at not seeing Arthur, though a place was prepared
for him. Mrs. Finch was right; he had been with his father all the
afternoon, but had not supposed the ladies to be at home; an explanation
which never occurred to Theodora.

He came in a few minutes after they had sat down; he was heated by
his hasty walk from his empty house, and his greeting was brief and
disconcerted at finding himself late. His mother made her composed
inquiries for the party at Ventnor, without direct mention of the child,
and he replied in the same tone. His cordial first intelligence had
been bestowed upon his father, and he was not disposed to volunteer
communications to the sister, whose apparent gloomy indifference
mortified him.

He had not sat down ten minutes before word came that Mrs. Finch was
waiting for Miss Martindale. Theodora rose, in the midst of her father
and brother's amazement. 'I told mamma of my arrangement to go with
Georgina Finch to a lecture on Mesmerism,' she said.

'Mesmerism!' was the sotto voce exclamation of Lord Martindale. 'But, my
dear, you did not know that Arthur was at home this evening?'

'Yes, I did,' said Theodora, coldly; mentally adding, 'and I knew he had
been five hours without coming near me.'

'Who is going with you? Is Mr. Finch?'

'I have not heard. I cannot keep Georgina waiting.'

It was no place for discussion. Lord Martindale only said--

'Arthur, cannot you go with your sister?'

Arthur muttered that 'it would be a great bore, and he was as tired as
a dog.' He had no intention of going out of his way to oblige Theodora,
while she showed no feeling for what concerned him most nearly; so
he kept his place at the table, while Lord Martindale, displeased and
perplexed, came out to say a few words to his daughter, under pretext
of handing her to the carriage. 'I am surprised, Theodora. It cannot
be helped now, but your independent proceedings cannot go on here as at
home.'

Theodora vouchsafed no answer. The carriage contained only Mrs. Finch
and Miss Gardner. Lord Martindale paused as his daughter stepped in,
gravely asking if they were going to take up Mr. Finch. Georgina's laugh
was not quite what it would have been to a younger inquirer, but it did
not tend to console him. 'Mr. Finch! O no! We left him to the society
of his port wine. I mean to test the clairvoyante by asking what he
is dreaming about. But there is no fear of our coming to harm. Here's
sister Jane for a duenna, and I always find squires wherever I go.'

Lord Martindale sat at home much annoyed, and preparing a lecture for
his wilful daughter on her return. Sooth to say, Theodora did not find
any great reward in her expedition. The sight was a painful one; and
her high principles had doubts whether it was a legitimate subject for
encouragement. She longed all the time to be sitting by Arthur's side,
and hearing of his little boy. How young and gay he looked to be a
father and head of a family! and how satisfying it seemed to have his
bright eyes in sight again! She looked so thoughtful that Georgina
roused her by threatening to set the poor clairvoyante to read her
meditations.

When Theodora came home, she would have gone straight up to her own
room, but her father waylaid her, and the first sound of his voice awoke
the resolution to defend her freedom of action. Perhaps the perception
that he was a little afraid of the rebuke he was about to administer
added defiance to her determination.

'Theodora, I wish to speak to you. I do not wish to restrain your
reasonable freedom, but I must beg that another time you will not fix
your plans without some reference.'

'I told mamma,' she answered.

'I am not satisfied with the subject you have chosen--and I do not quite
like what I see of Mrs. Finch. I had rather you made no engagements for
the present.'

'I will take care,' said Theodora: 'but when mamma does not go out,
I must have some one. I will do nothing worthy of disapproval. Good
night.'

She walked off, leaving Lord Martindale baffled. That evening seemed to
give its colour to the subsequent weeks. It was a time of much pain to
Theodora, estranging herself from her brother, fancying him prejudiced
against her, and shutting herself up from her true pleasures to throw
herself into what had little charm for her beyond the gratification of
her self-will.

She really loved Georgina Finch. There was the bond of old association
and girlish friendship, and this could not be set aside, even though the
pair had grown far asunder. Perhaps the strongest link had been their
likeness in strength of expression and disregard of opinion; but it now
seemed as if what in Theodora was vehemence and determination, was in
Georgina only exaggeration and recklessness. However, Georgina had a
true affection for Theodora, and looked up to her genuine goodness,
though without much attempt to imitate it, and the positive enthusiasm
she possessed for her friend was very winning to one who was always
pining for affection. Therefore Theodora adhered to her intimacy through
all the evidences of disapproval, and always carried the day.

Georgina was well-born, and her sphere was naturally in the higher
circles, and though her marriage had been beneath her own rank, this
was little thought of, as she was rich, and by many considered very
handsome, fashionable, and agreeable. Mr. Finch was hardly ever seen,
and little regarded when he was; he was a quiet, good-natured old man,
who knew nothing but of money matters, and was proud of his gay young
wife. She had her own way, and was much admired; sure to be in every
party, and certain to be surrounded with gentlemen, to whom she rattled
away with lively nonsense, and all of whom were ready to be her obedient
squires. Her manners were impetuous, and, as well as her appearance,
best to be described as dashing. Some people disliked her extremely; but
she was always doing good-natured generous things, and the worst that
could be said of her was, that she was careless of appearances, and, as
Arthur called her, "fast". Theodora knew there was sincerity and warmth
of heart, and was always trusting that these might develop into further
excellences; moreover, she was sensible of having some influence
for good. More than one wild freak had been relinquished on her
remonstrance; and there was enough to justify her, in her own eyes, for
continuing Georgina's firm friend and champion.

She had no other friendships; she did not like young ladies, and was
still less liked by them; and Jane Gardner was nobody when her sister
was by, though now and then her power was felt in double-edged sayings
which recurred to mind.

However, Theodora found society more intoxicating than she had expected.
Not that her sober sense enjoyed or approved; but in her own county she
was used to be the undeniable princess of her circle, and she could not
go out without trying to stand first still, and to let her attractions
accomplish what her situation effected at home. Her princely deportment,
striking countenance, and half-repelling, half-inviting manner, were
more effective than the more regular beauty of other girls; for there
was something irresistible in the privilege of obtaining a bright look
and smile from one whose demeanour was in general so distant; and
when she once began to talk, eager, decided, brilliant, original, and
bestowing exclusive and flattering attention, for the time, on the
favoured individual, no marvel that he was bewitched, and when, the next
night, she was haughty and regardless, he only watched the more ardently
for a renewal of her smiles. The general homage was no pleasure to her;
she took it as her due, and could not have borne to be without it. She
had rather been at home with her books, or preparing lessons to send to
her school at Brogden; but in company she could not bear not to reign
supreme, and put forth every power to maintain her place, though in her
grand, careless, indifferent manner, and when it was over, hating and
despising her very success.

Arthur had thawed after his second visit to Ventnor; he had brought away
too much satisfaction and good humour to be pervious to her moody looks;
and his freedom and ease had a corresponding effect upon her. They
became more like their usual selves towards each other; and when he
yielded, on being again exhorted to stay for the soiree, she deemed it a
loosening of the trammels in which he was held. He became available when
she wanted him; and avoiding all mention of his family, they were very
comfortable until Theodora was inspired with a desire to go to a last
appearance of Mademoiselle Rachel, unfortunately on the very evening
when Violet had especially begged him to be with her.

If he would have said it was his wedding-day, there could have been no
debate; but he was subject to a sort of schoolboy reserve, where he was
conscious or ashamed. And there were unpleasant reminiscences connected
with that day--that unacknowledged sense of having been entrapped--that
impossibility of forgetting his sister's expostulation--that disgust
at being conspicuous--that longing for an excuse for flying into a
passion--that universal hatred of everything belonging to the Mosses.
He could not give a sentimental reason, and rather than let it be
conjectured, he adduced every pretext but the true one; professed to
hate plays, especially tragedies, and scolded his sister for setting her
heart on a French Jewess when there were plenty of English Christians.

'If you would only give me your true reason, I should be satisfied,'
said she at last.

'I love my love with a V,' was his answer, in so bright a tone as should
surely have appeased her; but far from it; she exclaimed,

'Ventnor! Why, will no other time do for THAT?'

'I have promised,' Arthur answered, vexed at her tone.

'What possible difference can it make to her which day you go?'

'I have said.'

'Come, write and tell her it is important to me. Rachel will not appear
again, and papa is engaged. She must see the sense of it. Come, write.'

'Too much trouble.'

'Then I will. I shall say you gave me leave.'

'Indeed,' said Arthur, fully roused, 'you will say no such thing. You
have not shown so much attention to Mrs. Martindale, that you need
expect her to give way to your convenience.'

He walked away, as he always did when he thought he had provoked a
female tongue. She was greatly mortified at having allowed her eagerness
to lower her into offering to ask a favour of that wife of his; who, no
doubt, had insisted on his coming, after having once failed, and could
treat him to plenty of nervous and hysterical scenes.

Him Theodora pitied and forgave!

But by and by her feelings were further excited. She went with her
mother to give orders at Storr and Mortimer's, on the setting of some
jewels which her aunt had given her, and there encountered Arthur in the
act of selecting a blue enamel locket, with a diamond fly perched on it.
At the soiree she had heard him point out to Emma Brandon a similar
one, on a velvet round a lady's neck, and say that it would look well
on Violet's white skin. So he was obliged to propitiate his idol with
trinkets far more expensive than he could properly afford!

Theodora little guessed that the gift was received without one thought
of the white throat, but with many speculations whether little Johnnie
would soon be able to spare a bit of flaxen down to contrast with the
black lock cut from his papa's head.

There was nothing for it but to dwell no more on this deluded brother,
and Theodora tried every means to stifle the thought. She threw herself
into the full whirl of society, rattling on in a way that nothing but
high health and great bodily strength could have endured. After her
discontented and ungracious commencement, she positively alarmed her
parents by the quantity she undertook, with spirits apparently never
flagging, though never did she lose that aching void. Books, lectures,
conversation, dancing, could not banish that craving for her brother,
nothing but the three hours of sleep that she allowed herself. If she
exceeded them, there were unfailing dreams of Arthur and his child.

She thought of another cure. There was another kind of affection, not
half so valuable in her eyes as fraternal love; it made fools of people,
but then they were happy in their blindness, and could keep it to
themselves. She would condescend to lay herself open to the infection.
It would be satisfying if she could catch it. She examined each of her
followers in turn, but each fell short of her standard, and was repelled
just as his hopes had been excited. One 'Hollo, Theodora, come along,'
would have been worth all the court paid to her by men, to some of whom
Arthur could have ill borne a comparison.



CHAPTER 6


     Thy precious things, whate'er they be,
     That haunt and vex thee, heart and brain,
     Look to the Cross, and thou shall see
     How thou mayst turn them all to gain.
                             --Christian Year


All went well and smoothly at Ventnor, until a sudden and severe attack
of some baby ailment threatened to render fruitless all Mr. Martindale's
kind cares.

Violet's misery was extreme, though silent and unobtrusive, and John was
surprised to find how much he shared it, and how strong his own personal
affection had become for his little nephew; how many hopes he had built
on him as the point of interest for his future life; the circumstances
also of the baptism giving him a tenderness for him, almost a right in
him such as he could feel in no other child.

Their anxiety did not last long enough for Arthur to be sent for; a
favourable change soon revived the mother's hopes; and the doctor, on
coming down-stairs after his evening's visit, told John that the child
was out of danger for the present; but added that he feared there were
many more such trials in store for poor Mrs. Martindale; he thought
the infant unusually delicate, and feared that it would hardly struggle
through the first year.

John was much shocked, and sat in the solitary drawing-room, thinking
over the disappointment and loss, severely felt for his own sake, and
far more for the poor young mother, threatened with so grievous a
trial at an age when sorrow is usually scarcely known, and when she had
well-nigh sunk under the ordinary wear and tear of married life. She
had been so utterly cast down and wretched at the sight of the child's
suffering, that it was fearful to imagine what it would be when there
would be no recovery.

'Yes!' he mused with himself; 'Violet has energy, conscientiousness,
high principle to act, but she does not know how to apply the same
principle to enable her to endure. She knows religion as a guide, not as
a comfort. She had not grown up to it, poor thing, before her need came.
She wants her mother, and knows not where to rest in her griefs. Helen,
my Helen, how you would have loved and cherished her, and led her to
your own precious secret of patience and peace! What is to be done for
her? Arthur cannot help her; Theodora will not if she could, she is left
to me. And can I take Helen's work on myself, and try to lead our poor
young sister to what alone can support her? I must try--mere humanity
demands it. Yes, Helen, you would tell me I have lived within myself too
long. I can only dare to speak through your example. I will strive to
overcome my reluctance to utter your dear name.'

He was interrupted by Violet coming down to make tea. She was now happy,
congratulating herself on the rapid improvement in the course of the
day, and rejoicing that John and the doctor had dissuaded her from
sending at once for Arthur.

'You were quite right, she said, 'and I am glad now he was not here. I
am afraid I was very fretful; but oh! you don't know what it is to see a
baby so ill.'

'Poor little boy--' John would have said more, but she went on, with
tearful eyes and agitated voice.

'It does seem very hard that such a little innocent darling should
suffer. He is not three months old, and his poor little life has been
almost all pain and grief to him. I know it is wrong of me, but I cannot
bear it! If it is for my fault, why cannot it be myself? It almost makes
me angry.'

'It does seem more than we can understand, said John, mournfully;
'but we are told, "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know
hereafter."'

'When all the other young things--lambs, and birds, and all--are so
happy, and rejoicing in the sunshine!' continued Violet; 'and children
too!' as some gay young voices floated in on the summer air, and brought
the tears in a shower.

'Don't grudge it to them, dear Violet,' said John, in his gentlest tone;
'my dear little godson is more blessed in his gift. It seems to accord
with what was in my mind when we took him to church. I do not know
whether it was from my hardly ever having been at a christening before,
or whether it was the poor little fellow's distressing crying; but the
signing him with the cross especially struck me, the token of suffering
even to this lamb. The next moment I saw the fitness--the cross given
to him to turn the legacy of pain to the honour of partaking of the
Passion--how much more for an innocent who has no penalty of his own to
bear!'

'I have read things like that, but--I know I am talking wrongly--it
always seems hard and stern to tell one not to grieve. You think it very
bad in me to say so; but, indeed, I never knew how one must care for a
baby.'

'No, indeed, there is no blaming you; but what would comfort you would
be to think of the Hand that is laid on him in love, for his highest
good.'

'But he wants no good done to him,' cried Violet. 'He has been good and
sinless from the time before even his father or I saw him, when you--'

'We cannot tell what he may need. We are sure all he undergoes is sent
by One who loves him better than even you do, who may be disciplining
him for future life, or fitting him for brighter glory, and certainly
giving him a share in the cross that has saved him.'

His gentle tones had calmed her, and she sat listening as if she
wished him to say more. 'Do you remember,' he added, 'that picture you
described to me this time last year, the Ghirlandajo's Madonna?'

'Oh, yes,' said Violet, pleased and surprised.

'She does not hold her son back from the cross, does she, though the
sword was to pierce through her own heart?'

'Yes; but that was for the greatest reason.'

'Indeed, it was; but He who was a Child, the firstborn Son of His
mother, does not afflict your baby without cause. He has laid on him as
much of His cross as he can bear; and if it be yours also, you know that
it is blessed to you both, and will turn to glory.'

'The cross!' said Violet; adding, after some thought, 'Perhaps thinking
of that might make one bear one's own troubles better.'

'The most patient person I ever knew found it so,' said John; and with
some hesitation and effort, 'You know about her?'

'A little,' she timidly replied; and the tears flowed again as she said,
'I have been so very sorry for you.'

'Thank you,' he answered, in a suppressed tone of grateful emotion,
for never was sympathy more refreshing to one who had long mourned in
loneliness.

Eager, though almost alarmed, at being thus introduced to the melancholy
romance of his history, Violet thought he waited for her to speak. 'It
was dreadful,' she said; 'it was so cruel, to sacrifice her to those old
people.'

'Was it cruel? Was it wrong?' said John, almost to himself. 'I hope not.
I do not think I could have decided otherwise.'

'Oh, have I said anything wrong? I don't properly know about it. I
fancied Arthur told me--I beg your pardon.

'I do not think Arthur knew the circumstances; they have never been
much talked of. I do not know whether you would care to listen to a long
story; but I should like you, as far as may be, to understand her, and
consider her as your sister, who would have been very fond of you.'

'And do you like to talk of it?'

'That I do, now,' said John; her delicate, respectful sympathy so
opening his heart, that what had been an effort became a relief.

'I should be so glad. Baby is asleep, and I came down to stay with you.
It is very kind of you.'

'You are very kind to listen,' said John. 'I must go a long way back, to
the time when I lost my little sisters.'

'Had you any more sisters?' said Violet, startled.

'Two; Anna and another Theodora. They died at four and two years old,
within two days of each other, while my father and mother were abroad
with my aunt.'

'What was their illness, poor little things?' anxiously asked Violet.

'I never knew. We all of us have, more or less, a West Indian
constitution; that accounts for anything.'

'How old were you? Do you remember them?'

'I was five. I have no distinct recollection of them, though I was very
fond of Anna, and well remember the dreariness afterwards. Indeed,
I moped and pined so much, that it was thought that to give me young
companions was the only chance for me; and the little Fotheringhams were
sent for from the parsonage to play with me.'

'And it really began then!'

'Yes,' said John, more cheerfully. 'She was exactly of my own age, but
with all the motherly helpful kindness of an elder sister, and full of
pretty, childish compassion for the little wretched solitary being that
I was. Her guarding me from the stout riotous Percy--a couple of years
younger--was the first bond of union; and I fancy the nurses called her
my little wife, I know I believed it then, and ever after. We were a
great deal together. I never was so happy as with them; and as I was a
frail subject at the best, and Arthur was not born till I was nine years
old, I was too great a treasure to be contradicted. The parsonage was
the great balance to the home spoiling; Mr. and Mrs. Fotheringham were
most kind and judicious; and Helen's character could not but tell on all
around.'

'Was she grave?'

'Very merry, full of fun, but with a thoughtful staidness in her highest
spirits, even as a girl. I saw no change when we met again'--after a
pause: 'No, I cannot describe her. When we go home you shall see her
picture. No one ever reminded me of her as you do, though it is not
flattering you to say so. If the baby had been a girl, I think I should
have asked you to call it by your second name. Well, we seldom spent
a day without meeting, even after I had a tutor. The beginning of our
troubles was her fifteenth birthday, the 10th of July. I had saved up
my money, and bought a coral cross and a chain for her; but Mrs.
Fotheringham would not let her keep it; she said it was too costly for
me to give to any one but my sister. She tried to treat it lightly; but
I was old enough to perceive her reason; and I can feel the tingling
in all my veins as I vowed with myself to keep it till I should have a
right to offer it.'

'What did she do?'

'I cannot tell; we did not wish to renew the subject. The worst of
it was, that my aunt, who hears everything, found this out. She
interrogated me, and wanted me to give it to Theodora, a mere baby. I
felt as if I was defending Helen's possession, and refused to give it up
unless at my father's command.'

'I hope he did not order you.'

'He never said a word to me. But our comfort was over; suspicion was
excited; and I am afraid my aunt worried Mrs. Fotheringham. Nothing
was said, but there was a check upon us. I was sent to a tutor at a
distance; and when I was at home, either she went out on long visits in
the holidays, or there was a surveillance on me; and when I did get
down to the parsonage it was all formality. She took to calling me Mr.
Martindale (by the bye, Violet, I wish you would not), was shy, and
shrank from me.'

'Oh! that was the worst,' cried Violet. 'Did not she care?'

'I believe her mother told her we were too old to go on as before. They
were all quite right; and I can now see it was very good for me. When
Mr. Fotheringham died, and they were about to leave the parish, I spoke
to my father. He had the highest esteem for them all, was fond of
her, knew they had behaved admirably. I verily believe he would have
consented at once--nay, he had half done so, but--'

'Mrs. Nesbit, I am sure,' exclaimed Violet.

'He was persuaded to think I had not had time to know my own mind, and
ought not to engage myself till I had seen more of the world.'

'How old were you?'

'Nineteen.'

'Nineteen! If you did not know your own mind then, when could you?'

John smiled, and replied, 'It was better to have such a motive. My
position was one of temptation, and this was a safeguard as well as a
check on idle prosperity. An incentive to exertion, too; for my father
held out a hope that if I continued in the same mind, and deserved his
confidence, he would consent in a few years, but on condition I should
neither say nor do anything to show my feelings.'

'Then you never told her?'

'No.'

'I should not have liked that at all. But she must have guessed.'

'She went with her mother to live in Lancashire, with old Mr. and Mrs.
Percival, at Elsdale. There she lost her mother.'

'How long did it go on before Lord Martindale consented?' asked Violet,
breathlessly.

'Five years, but at last he was most kind. He did fully appreciate her.
I went to Elsdale'--and he paused. 'For a little while it was more than
I can well bear to remember.'

'You gave her the cross?' said Violet, presently.

'On her next birthday. Well, then came considerations. Old Mrs. Percival
was nearly blind, and could hardly move from her chair, the grandfather
was very infirm, and becoming imbecile. His mind had never been clear
since his daughter's death, and he always took Helen for her. She was
everything to them.'

'And they would not spare her?'

'She asked me what was to be done. She put it entirely in my hands,
saying she did not know where her duty lay, and she would abide by my
decision.'

'Then it was you! I can't think how you could.'

'I trust it was not wrong. So asked, I could not say she ought to leave
those poor old people to their helplessness for my sake, and I could not
have come to live with them, for it was when I was in Parliament, and
there were other reasons. We agreed, then, that she should not leave
them in her grandfather's lifetime, and that afterwards Mrs. Percival
should come to our home, Brogden, as we thought it would be. Indeed,
Violet, it was a piteous thing to hear that good venerable old lady
entreating my pardon for letting Helen devote herself, saying, she would
never have permitted it but for Mr. Percival, for what would become of
him without his granddaughter--hoping they would not long stand in
our way, and promising us the blessing that Helen enjoys. We could not
regret our decision, and to be allowed to stand on such terms with each
other was happiness enough then; yet all the time I had a presentiment
that I was giving her up for ever, though I thought it would be the
other way; the more when the next year I had the illness that has made
me good for nothing ever since. That made it much easier to me, for I
should have led her such a life of nursing and anxiety as I would not
inflict on any woman.'

'Surely she had the anxiety all the same?'

'There is a good deal spared by not being on the spot.'

'How can he think so! said Violet to herself. I can't imagine how she
lived as long as she did. 'Did you not see her at all when you were
ill?' she said.

'Yes, we had one great treat that winter when I was at the worst. It was
one of my father's especial pieces of kindness; he wrote to her himself,
and sent Simmonds to fetch her to Martindale.'

'And were you able to enjoy having her?'

'It was inflammation on the chest, so all my senses were free. She used
to sit by me with her sober face, at work, ready to read and talk to
me, and left sayings and thoughts that have brought refreshment at every
such time. It was indeed a blessing that she could come that first time
to teach me how to bear illness.'

'How long did she stay?'

'Only three weeks, for her absence only showed how little she could be
spared; but she left an influence on that room of mine that it has never
lost.'

'How solitary it must have been when you were recovering.'

'I had her letters. I will show you some of them some day. She used to
write almost daily.'

'And it was when you were getting better that you took the great journey
in the East?'

'Yes; Percy had just left Cambridge, and was ready to take the care of
me on his hands. Those two years went pleasantly by, and what a happy
visit it was at Elsdale afterwards! You can't think how this talking
over our travels has brought it back. As long as Mrs. Percival lived we
did pretty well. She made Helen take care of herself, and I could go and
stay there; but after her death the poor old man grew more childish and
exacting. I once tried staying at the curate's, but it did not answer.
He could not bear to have her out of his sight, and had taken an unhappy
aversion to me, fancying me some old admirer of his own daughter, and
always warning her against me.'

'How distressing! How wretched! It would have killed me long before! How
did she bear it? I know it was patiently, but I cannot understand it!'

'Her letters will best show you. It was the perfect trust that it was
good for us; but what she underwent in those last three years we never
knew. Her brother was at Constantinople. I could not go to Elsdale,
and there was no one to interfere. We could not guess from her cheerful
letters how she was wearing herself out, bearing his caprices, giving up
sleep and exercise. I knew how it would be the first moment I met her,
when I went to Elsdale to the funeral; but it was supposed to be only
over-fatigue, and her aunt, Lady Fotheringham, took her home to recover.
She grew worse, and went to London for advice. There I met her, and--and
there she herself told me she had disease of the heart, and could not
live a year.'

Violet gave a sort of sob.

'She held up to me that cross--that first gift--she bade me think of
the subjection of wills and affections it betokened. Little had we once
thought of that meaning!'

'And then?' asked Violet, with face flushed and hands clasped.

'Lady Fotheringham took her to Worthbourne.'

'Could you be with her?'

'Yes. One of the especial subjects of thankfulness was that I was well
enough to stay with her. She was perfectly happy and contented, chiefly
concerned to soften it to me. It was as if she had finished her work,
and was free to enjoy, as she sank into full repose, sunsets, hoar
frosts, spring blossoms, the having me with her, her brother's
return--everything was a pleasure. I can hardly call it a time of grief,
when she was so placid and happy. All the wishing and scheming was over,
and each day that I could look at her in her serenity, was only too
precious.'

'Was there much suffering?'

'At times there was, but in general there was only languor. She used to
lie by the window, looking so smiling and tranquil, that it was hard to
believe how much she had gone through; and so peaceful, that we could
not dare to wish to bring her back to care and turmoil. The last time
she was able to talk to me, she showed me the cross still round her
neck, and said she should like to think it would be as much comfort to
any one else as it had been to her. I did not see her again till I was
called in for her last look on anything earthly, when the suffering was
passed, and there was peaceful sinking.'

Violet was crying too much for words, until at last she managed to say,
'How could you--what could you do?'

'My illness was the best thing that could happen to me.'

'How sorry you must have been to get well.'

He replied,

                  'Her wings were grown,
                  To heaven she's flown,
                  'Cause I had none I'm left.'

'Those lines haunted me when I found myself reviving to the weary
useless life I spend here.'

'O how can you call it so?' cried Violet. 'How could Arthur and I do
without you?'

There was a sound up-stairs, and she started to the door, ran up, but
came down in a few moments. 'He is awake and better,' she said. 'I
cannot come down again, for Sarah must go to supper. Good night; thank
you for what you have told me;' then, with an earnest look, 'only I
can't bear you to say your life is useless. You don't know how we look
to you.'

'Thank you for your kind listening,' he answered. 'It has done me a
great deal of good; but do not stay,' as he saw her evidently longing to
return to her child, yet lingering in the fear of unkindness to him. 'I
am glad he is better; you and he must both have a good night.'

John was indeed refreshed by the evening's conversation. It had
disclosed to him a new source of comfort, for hitherto his grief had
never known the relief of sympathy. His whole soul had been fixed on
one object from his boyhood; the hopes of deserving Helen had been his
incentive to exertion in his youth, and when disabled by sickness, he
had always looked forward to a new commencement of active usefulness
with her. It had been a life of waiting: patient, but without present
action, and completely wrapped up in a single attachment and hope. When
that was taken from him he had not failed in faith and submission, but
he had nothing to occupy him or afford present solace and interest; he
had no future save lonely waiting still, until he should again rejoin
her who had been his all on earth.

However, the effort made to reconcile his brother with the family had
produced an unlooked-for influence, and enlarged his sphere of interest.
At first came languid amusement in contemplating the pretty young
bride, then liking and compassion for her, then the great anxiety in her
illness, and afterwards real affection and solicitude for her and her
child had filled his mind, and detached him from his own sorrows; and he
now became sensible that he had, indeed, while trying to serve her
and his brother, done much for his own relief. What she said of their
dependence on him was not only a pleasure to him, but it awoke him to
the perception that he had not been so utterly debarred from usefulness
as he had imagined, and that he had neglected much that might have
infinitely benefited his brother, sister, and father. He had lived for
himself and Helen alone!

He tried to draw out Helen's example to teach Violet to endure, and in
doing so the other side of the lesson came home to himself. Helen's
life had been one of exertion as well as of submission. It had not been
merely spent in saying, 'Thy will be done,' but in doing it; she had
not merely stood still and uncomplaining beneath the cross, but she had
borne it onward in the service of others.



CHAPTER 7


     Sweeter 'tis to hearken
     Than to bear a part,
     Better to look on happiness
     Than to carry a light heart,
     Sweeter to walk on cloudy hills,
     With a sunny plain below,
     Than to weary of the brightness
     Where the floods of sunshine flow.
                               --ALFORD


One morning John received a letter from Constantinople, which he had
scarcely opened before he exclaimed, 'Ha! what does he mean? Given up
his appointment! Coming home! It is just like him. I must read you what
he says, it is, so characteristic.'

'You must have been provoked at my leaving you all this time in doubt
what to do with our precious tour, but the fact is, that I have been
making a fool of myself, and as the Crusaders are the only cover my
folly has from the world, I must make the most of them. I give out
that my literary affairs require my presence; but you, as the means of
putting me into my post, deserve an honest confession. About six weeks
ago, my subordinate, Evans, fell sick--an estimable chicken-hearted
fellow. In a weak moment, I not only took his work on my hands, but
bored myself by nursing him, and thereby found it was a complaint only
to be cured by my shoes.'

'Shoes! exclaimed Violet. John read on.

'It was a dismal story of an engagement to a clergyman's daughter; her
father just dead, she reduced to go out as a governess, and he having
half nothing of his own, mending the matter by working himself into a
low fever, and doing his best to rid her of all care on his account. Of
course I rowed him well, but I soon found I had the infection--a bad fit
of soft-heartedness came over me.'

'Oh!' cried Violet, 'he gives up for this poor man's sake.'

'I thought all peace was over if I was to see poor Evans enacting the
enamoured swain every day of my life, for the fellow had not the grace
to carry it off like a man--besides having his business to do; or, if he
should succeed in dying, I should not only be haunted by his ghost,
but have to convey his last words to the disconsolate governess. So, on
calculation, I thought trouble would be saved by giving notice that I
was going home to publish the Crusaders, and sending him to fetch his
bride, on whose arrival I shall bid a long farewell to the Grand Turk. I
fancy I shall take an erratic course through Moldavia and some of those
out-of-the-way locations, so you need not write to me again here, nor
think of me till you see me about the end of August. I suppose about
that time Theodora will have finished the course of severe toil reserved
for young ladies every spring, so I shall come straight home expecting
to see you all.'

'Home; does that mean Martindale?' said Violet.

'Yes. He has never looked on any place but Brogden as his home.'

'You don't think he repents of what he has done?'

'No, certainly not. He has seen what a long engagement is.'

'Yes; I almost wonder at his writing to you in that tone.'

'He banters because he cannot bear to show his real feeling. I am
not anxious about him. He has £300 a year of his own, and plenty of
resources,--besides, the baronetcy must come to him. He can afford to do
as he pleases.'

'What a noble character he must be!' said Violet; 'it is like a story.
How old is he?'

'About nine-and-twenty. I am glad you should see him. He is a very
amusing fellow.'

'How clever he must be!'

'The cleverest man I know. I hope he will come soon. I should like to
have a little time with him before my winter migration. We have not
met since he was obliged to return, a fortnight after her death, when I
little expected ever to see him again.'

This prospect seemed to set John's mind more than ever on Helen, as if
he wanted to talk over her brother's conduct with her, and was imagining
her sentiments on it.

He spoke much of her in the day, and in the evening brought down a
manuscript-book.

'I should like to read some of this to you,' he said. 'She had so few
events in her life at Elsdale that her letters, written to occupy me
when I was laid up, became almost a journal of her thoughts. I copied
out some parts to carry about with me; and perhaps you would like to
hear some of them.'

'Indeed, I should, thank you, if you ought to read aloud.'

He turned over the pages, and seemed to be trying whether he could bear
to read different passages; but he gave up one after another, and nearly
half-an-hour had passed before he began.

'February 20. It was the winter after her coming to Martindale.'

'This morning was a pattern one for February, and I went out before the
brightness was passed, and had several turns in the walled garden. I am
afraid you will never be able to understand the pleasantness of such a
morning. Perhaps you will say the very description makes you shiver,
but I must tell you how beautiful it was. The frost last night was not
sharp, but just sufficient to detain the dew till the sun could turn it
into diamonds. There were some so brilliant, glancing green or red in
different lights, they were quite a study. It is pleasant to think that
this pretty frost is not adorning the plants with unwholesome beauty,
though the poor little green buds of currant and gooseberry don't like
it, and the pairs of woodbine leaves turn in their edges. It is doing
them good against their will, keeping them from spreading too soon. I
fancied it like early troubles, keeping baptismal dew fresh and bright;
and those jewels of living light went on to connect themselves with the
radiant coronets of some whom the world might call blighted in--'

It had brought on one of his severe fits of coughing. Violet was going
to ring for Brown, but he stopped her by a sign, which he tried to make
reassuring. It was worse, and lasted longer than the former one, and
exhausted him so much, that he had to rest on the sofa cushions before
he could recover breath. At last, in a very low voice, he said,

'There, it is of no use to try.'

'I hope you are better; pray don't speak; only will you have anything?'

'No, thank you; lying still will set me to rights. It is only that these
coughs leave a pain--nothing to mind.'

He settled himself on the sofa, not without threatenings of a return
of cough, and Violet arranged the cushions, concerned at his trying to
thank her. After a silence, he began to breathe more easily, and said,

'Will you read me the rest of that?'

She gave him the book to find the place, and then read--

'The world might call them blighted in their early bloom, and deprived
of all that life was bestowed for; but how different is the inner
view, and how glorious the thought of the numbers of quiet, commonplace
sufferers in homely life, like my currant and gooseberry bushes, who
have found their frost has preserved their dewdrops to be diamonds for
ever. If this is too fanciful, don't read it, but I go rambling on
as the notions come into my head, and if you only get a laugh at my
dreamings, they will have been of some use to you.'

'How beautiful!' said Violet; 'how you must have liked receiving such
letters!'

'Yes; the greatest blank in the day is post time.'

He held out his hand for the book, and found another passage for her.

'I have been thinking how kindly that sentence is framed: "Casting all
your care on Him." All, as if we might have been afraid to lay before
Him our petty perplexities. It is the knowing we are cared for in
detail, that is the comfort; and that when we have honestly done our
best in little things, our Father will bless them, and fill up our
shortcomings.

'That dressmaker must have been a happy woman, who never took home
her work without praying that it might fit. I always liked that story
particularly, as it shows how the practical life in the most trivial
round can be united with thus casting all our care upon Him--the being
busy in our own station with choosing the good part. I suppose it is as
a child may do its own work in a manufactory, not concerning itself for
the rest; or a coral-worm make its own cell, not knowing what branches
it is helping to form, or what an island it is raising. What a mercy
that we have only to try to do right from moment to moment, and not
meddle with the future!'

'Like herself,' said John.

'I never thought of such things,' said Violet. 'I never thought little
matters seemed worth treating in this way.'

'Everything that is a duty or a grief must be worth it,' said John.
'Consider the worthlessness of what we think most important in That
Presence. A kingdom less than an ant's nest in comparison. But, here,
I must show you a more everyday bit. It was towards the end, when she
hardly ever left her grandfather, and I had been writing to urge her to
spare herself.'

Violet read--

'You need not be afraid, dear John; I am quite equal to all I have to
do. Fatigue never knocks me up, which is a great blessing; and I can
sleep anywhere at the shortest notice. Indeed, I don't know what should
tire me, for there is not even any running up and down stairs; and as
to spirits, you would not think them in danger if you heard how I talk
parish matters to the curate, and gossip with the doctor, till grandpapa
brightens, and I have to shout an abstract of the news into his ear. It
is such a treat to bring that flash of intelligence on his face--and it
has not been so rare lately; he seems now and then to follow one of the
Psalms, as I read them to him at intervals through the day. Then for
pastime, there is no want of that, with the two windows looking out
different ways. I can't think how you could forget my two beautiful
windows--one with a view of the back door for my dissipation, and the
other with the garden, and the varieties of trees and the ever-changing
clouds. I never look out without finding some entertainment; my last
sight was a long-tailed titmouse, popping into the yew tree, and setting
me to think of the ragged fir tree at Brogden, with you and Percy spying
up, questioning whether golden-crest or long-tailed pye lived in the
dome above. No, no; don't waste anxiety upon me. I am very happy, and
have everything to be thankful for.'

'"My mind to me a kingdom is," she might have said,' observed John.

'She might indeed. How beautiful! How ashamed it does make one of
oneself!'

So they continued, he choosing passages, which she read aloud, till
the evening was over, when he asked her whether she would like to look
through the book?'

'That I should, but you had rather I did not.'

'Yes, I do wish you to read it, and to know Helen. There is nothing
there is any objection to your seeing. I wrote them out partly for
Percy's sake. Your reading these to me has been very pleasant.'

'It has been so to me, I am sure. I do not know how to thank you; only I
am grieved that you have hurt yourself. I hope you are better now.'

'Yes, thank you; I shall be quite right in the morning.'

His voice was, however, so weak, and he seemed so uncomfortable, that
Violet was uneasy; and as Brown lighted her candle in the hall, she
paused to consult him, and found that, though concerned, he did not
apprehend any bad consequences, saying that these attacks were often
brought on by a chill, or by any strong excitement; he had no doubt this
was occasioned by hearing of Mr. Fotheringham's intended return; indeed,
he had thought Mr. Martindale looking flushed and excited all day.

Never did charge appear more precious than those extracts. She had an
enthusiastic veneration for Helen, and there was a youthful, personal
feeling for her, which made her apply the words and admire them far more
than if they had been in print. As she dwelt upon them, the perception
grew on her, that not only was it a duty to strive for contentment, but
that to look on all trials as crosses to be borne daily, was the only
way to obtain it.

Helen's many homely trials and petty difficulties were what came to
her chiefly as examples and encouragements, and she began to make
resolutions on her own account.

Yet, one day, when Arthur was expected and did not come, she conjured
up so many alarms, that it was well that consideration for her companion
obliged her to let him divert her mind.

The next day John led her to the beach, and set her to find rare
sea-weeds for his mother. The charm of the pursuit, the curling tide,
the occasional peeps at Johnnie as he was paraded, serene and sleepy,
in Sarah's arms, made time speed so fast that she was taken by surprise
when voices hailed them, and she beheld Arthur and his father.

No wedding-day being in the case, Arthur had gladly put off his coming
on a proposal from his father to accompany him, see John's menage, and
be introduced to his grandson.

Much more warmly than in former times did Lord Martindale greet his
daughter-in-law, and quickly he asked for the baby. In spite of the
doctor's prognostications, the little fellow had begun to mend, and he
looked his best, nearly hidden in hood and mantle, and embellished by
his mother's happy face, as she held him in her arms, rejoicing in the
welcome bestowed on the first grandson.

Violet had never been so comfortable with Lord Martindale. There was the
advantage of being the only lady, and he unbent more than he ever did
at home. He had come partly to see what was to be the next arrangement.
Five weeks of London had been almost too much for Lady Martindale, with
whom it never agreed, and who had found a season with her unmanageable
daughter very different from what it had formerly been, when her aunt
arranged everything for her; and the family were about to return
home. Arthur was to bring his wife to Martindale as soon as his leave
began--but this would not be for a month; and his father, concerned to
see her still so delicate, advised him not to think of her return to
London in the hottest part of the year, and proposed to take her and
the baby home with him. John, however, declared that he should prefer
staying on at Ventnor with her; the place agreed with him, and he liked
the quiet for finishing Percy Fotheringham's work besides, it suited
Arthur better to be able to come backwards and forwards. The only doubt
was whether she was tired of his dull company.

Arthur answered for her, and she was well satisfied, thinking it a great
escape not to have to go to Martindale without him, but afraid John
was giving up a great deal to her, when she must be a very tiresome
companion; at which Arthur laughed, telling her of John's counter fears,
and adding, that he had never seen his brother in such good spirits in
all his life--he was now actually like other people.

Lord Martindale also feared that John found his undertaking wearisome,
and talked it over with him, saying it was very kind of him, very good
for Arthur's wife; but was she society enough? 'Would he not like to
have Theodora to relieve him of the charge, and be more of a companion?'

'Thank you,' said John, 'we shall be very glad to have Theodora, if she
likes to come. It is a very good opportunity for them to grow intimate.'

'I'll send her next time Arthur comes.'

'But you must not think it an act of compassion, as if Violet was on
my hands. She is a particularly agreeable person, and we do very well
together. In fact, I have enjoyed this time very much; and Theodora must
not think herself obliged to come for my sake, as if I wanted help.'

'I understand,' said his father; 'and of course it will depend on what
engagements they have made; but I should be very glad she should be more
with you, and if she saw more of Arthur's wife, it might detach her
from those friends of hers. I cannot think how it is Theodora is not
disgusted with Mrs. Finch! It is a comfort, after all, that Arthur did
not marry Miss Gardner!'

'A great one!'

'This girl has simplicity and gentleness at least, poor thing,'
continued Lord Martindale; 'and I am quite of your opinion, John,
that marriage has improved him greatly. I never saw him so free from
nonsense. Strangely as it has come about, this may be the making of him.
I only wish I could see her and the poor child looking stronger. I will
send your sister, by all means.'

So Lord Martindale returned, and proposed the plan to his daughter. At
first, she was flattered at being wanted, and graciously replied, 'Poor
John, he must want some variety.'

'Not exactly that,' said her father. 'They are so comfortable together,
it is a pleasure to see them. I should like to stay there myself, and it
is a very agreeable scheme for you.'

'I was considering my engagements,' said Theodora. 'Of course, if I am
really wanted, everything must be put aside.'

'John desired you would not think it an act of charity,' said her
father. 'He says he finds her a most agreeable companion, and you need
only look upon it as a pleasant scheme for all parties.'

'Oh,' said Theodora, in a different tone.

'He said you were not to put yourself out of the way. He would be
very glad of your company, and it will be very good for you all to be
together.'

'Oh! then I don't think it is worth while for me to go,' said Theodora.
'I am much obliged to John, but I should only interfere with his course
of education.'

'Not go?' said her father.

'No, there is no occasion; and I wish to be at home as soon as I can.'

'Well, my dear, you must decide your own way, but I thought you would be
glad of the opportunity of being with John, and I should be glad, too,
that you should see more of your sister. She is a very engaging person,
and I am sure you would find her a more satisfactory companion than Mrs.
Finch.'

After this speech, Theodora would have suffered considerably rather than
have gone.

'They will soon be at Martindale,' she said, 'and I cannot stay longer
away from the village.'

'I wish at least that you would go down as I did for a day with Arthur.
You would enjoy it, and it would give them all pleasure. Indeed, I think
it would only be a proper piece of attention on your part.'

She made no answer, but the next time Arthur was going, she instantly
stopped all her father's arrangements for her accompanying him, by
saying she was going to a lecture on electricity; then, when Lord
Martindale began asking if Arthur could not change his day, she
majestically said, 'No, Arthur would not disappoint Mrs. Martindale on
my account.'

'If you would go, Theodora,' said Arthur, eagerly, 'Violet would not
mind waiting. She would be specially pleased to show you the boy. It is
very jolly there.'

The first time he had spoken to her of his three months' old son. If she
had not been in a dire fit of sullen jealousy, it would have softened as
much as it thrilled her, but she had the notion that she was not wanted,
except to do homage to the universally-petted Violet.

'I cannot spare a day.'

So Arthur was vexed, and the frost was harder. John had not much
expected Theodora, and was more sorry for her sake than his own. The
last month was still better than the first, the brother and sister
understood each other more fully, and their confidence had become
thoroughly confirmed. The baby had taken a start, as Sarah called it,
left off unreasonable crying, sat up, laughed and stared about with
a sharp look of inquiry in his dark eyes and tiny thin face, so
ridiculously like his grandfather, Mr. Moss, that his mother could not
help being diverted with the resemblance, except when she tormented
herself with the fear that the likeness was unpleasing to Arthur, if
perchance he remarked it; but he looked so little at the child, that she
often feared he did not care for him personally, though he had a certain
pride in him as son and heir.

Violet herself, though still delicate and requiring care, had recovered
her looks and spirits, and much of her strength, and John walked and
conversed more than he had done for years, did not shrink from the
society of the few families they were acquainted with, and seemed to
have derived as much benefit from his kind scheme as the objects of it.
In fact his hopes and affections were taking a fresh spring--the effects
of his kindness to Arthur and Violet had shown him that he could be
useful to others, and he thus discovered what he had missed in his
indulged life, crossed in but one respect--he saw that he had set
himself aside from family duties, as well as from the more active ones
that his health prohibited, and with a feeling at once of regret and
invigoration, he thought over the course that lay open to him, and soon
began to form plans and discuss them with his ever ready listener. His
foreign winters need no longer be useless, he proposed to go to Barbuda
to look after his mother's estates--indeed, it seemed so obvious
that when he once thought of it he could not imagine why it had never
occurred to him before; it would save his father the voyage, and when
he and Violet began to figure to themselves the good that could be done
there, they grew animated and eager in their castles.

That month sped fast away, and their drives were now last visits to the
places that had charmed them at first. Their work was prepared for Mr.
Fotheringham's inspection, and Violet having copied out her favourite
passages of Helen's book, returned it on the last evening. 'I don't
think I half understand all she says, though I do admire it so much, and
wish I was like it.'

'You will be, you are in the way.'

'You don't know how foolish I am,' said Violet, almost as if he was
disrespectful to Helen.

'Helen was once seventeen,' said John, smiling.

'Oh, but I have no patience. I fret and tease myself, and fancy all
sorts of things, instead of trusting as she did. I don't know how to do
so.'

'I know how weakness brings swarming harassing thoughts,' said John;
'it is well for us that there are so many external helps to patience and
confidence.'

'Ah! that is what shows how bad I am,' said Violet, despondingly.
'I never keep my mind in order at church, yet I am sure I was more
unreasonably discontented when I was not able to go.'

'Which shows it is of use to you. Think of it not only as a duty that
must be fulfilled, but watch for refreshment from it, and you will find
it come.'

'Ah! I have missed all the great festivals this year. I have not stayed
to the full service since I was at Rickworth, and what is worse, I do
not dislike being prevented,' said Violet, falteringly; as if she must
say the words, 'I don't like staying alone.'

'You must conquer that,' said John, earnestly. 'That feeling must never
keep you away. Your continuance is the best hope of bringing him; your
leaving off would be fatal to you both. I should almost like you to
promise never to keep away because he did.'

'I think I can promise,' said Violet, faintly. 'It is only what mamma
has always had to do; and, last Christmas, it did keep me away. I did
think then he would have come; and when I found he did not--then I was
really tired--but I know I could have stayed--but I made it an excuse,
and went away.' The tears began to flow. 'I thought of it again when I
was ill; and afterwards when I found out how nearly I had been dying,
it was frightful. I said to myself, I would not miss again; but I have
never had the opportunity since I have been well.'

'It is monthly at home,' said John. 'Only try to look to it as a favour
and a comfort, as I said about church-going, but in a still higher
degree--not merely as a service required from you. Believe it is a
refreshment, and in time you will find it the greatest.'

'I'll try,' she said, in a low, melancholy voice; 'but I never feel as
good people do.'

'You have had more than usual against you,' said John; cares for which
you were not prepared, and weakness to exaggerate them; but you will
have had a long rest, and I hope may be more equal to the tasks of daily
life.'

They were interrupted by tea being brought; and the conversation
continued in a less serious style.

'Our last tea-drinking,' said John. 'Certainly, it has been very
pleasant here.'

'This island, that I thought so far away, and almost in foreign parts,'
said Violet, smiling; 'I hope it has cured me of foolish terrors.'

'You will bravely make up your mind to Martindale.'

'I shall like to show Johnnie the peacock,' said Violet, in a tone as if
seeking for some pleasant anticipation.

John laughed, and said, 'Poor Johnnie! I shall like to see him there in
his inheritance.'

'Dear little man! I hope his grandfather will think him grown. I am glad
they did not see him while he was so tiny and miserable. I am sure they
must like him now, he takes so much notice.'

'You must not be disappointed if my mother does not make much of him,'
said John; 'it was not her way with her own.'

Then, as Violet looked aghast, 'You do not know my mother. It requires
a good deal to show what she can be, beneath her distant manner. I never
knew her till two years ago.'

'When you were past thirty!' broke from Violet's lips, in a sort of
horror.

'When I was most in need of comfort,' he answered. 'There has been
a formality and constraint in our life, that has not allowed the
affections their natural play, but indeed they exist. There have been
times when even I distrusted my mother's attachment; but she could not
help it, and it was all the stronger afterwards. Madeira taught me what
she is, away from my aunt.'

'I do hope it is not wrong to feel about Mrs. Nesbit as I do! I am ready
to run away from her. I know she is spying for my faults. Oh! I cannot
like her.'

'That is a very mild version of what I have felt,' said John; 'I believe
she has done us all infinite harm. But I am hardly qualified to speak;
for, from the time she gave up the hope of my being a credit to the
family, she has disliked me, said cutting things, well-nigh persecuted
me. She did harass Helen to give me up; but, after all, poor woman, I
believe I have been a great vexation to her, and I cannot help being
sorry for her. It is a pitiable old age, straining to keep hold of what
used to occupy her, and irritated at her own failing faculties.'

'I will try to think of that,' said Violet.

'I wonder what powers she will give me over her West Indian property;
I must try,' said John; 'it will make a great difference to my
opportunities of usefulness. I must talk to my father about it.'

'How very kind Theodora is to poor little Miss Piper,' said Violet.

'Yes; that is one of Theodora's best points.'

'Oh! she is so very good; I wish she could endure me.'

'So do I,' said John. 'I have neglected her, and now I reap the fruits.
In that great house at home people live so much apart, that if they wish
to meet, they must seek each other. And I never saw her as a child but
when she came down in the evening, with her great black eyes looking so
large and fierce. As a wild high-spirited girl I never made acquaintance
with her, and now I cannot.'

'But when you were ill this last time, did she not read to you, and
nurse you?'

'That was not permitted; there might have been risk, and besides, as
Arthur says, I only wish to be let alone. I had not then realized that
sympathy accepted for the sake of the giver will turn to the good of the
receiver. No; I have thrown her away as far as I am concerned; and when
I see what noble character and religious feeling there is with that
indomitable pride and temper, I am the more grieved. Helen walked with
her twice or three times when she was at Martindale, and she told me how
much there was in her, but I never tried to develop it. I thought when
Helen was her sister--but that chance is gone. That intractable spirit
will never be tamed but by affection; but, unluckily, I don't know,'
said John, smiling, 'who would marry Theodora.'

'Oh! how can you say so? She is so like Arthur.'

 John laughed.  'No, I give up the hope of a Petruchio.'

'But Mr. Wingfield, I thought--'

'Wingfield!' said John, starting. 'No, no, that's not likely.'

'Nor Lord St. Erme!'

'I hope not. He is fancy-bit, I suppose, but he is not her superior.
Life with him would harden rather than tame her. No. After all,
strangely as she has behaved about him, when she has him in sight, I
suspect there is one person among us more likely to soften her than any
other.'

'Arthur?'

'Arthur's son.'

'Oh! of course, and if she will but love my Johnnie I don't much care
about his mamma.'



CHAPTER 8


     In glowing health, with boundless wealth,
     But sickening of a vague disease,
     You know so ill to deal with time,
     You needs must play such pranks as these.
                                    --TENNYSON


In spite of herself, Theodora's heart bounded at the prospect of having
Arthur's child in the house. She visited the babies in the village, and
multiplying their charms by the superior beauty of Arthur and his wife,
proportionably raised her expectations, but, of course, she betrayed
none of her eagerness, and would not give up one iota of her course of
village occupations for the sake of being at home for the arrival.

Nevertheless, she returned across the park, through burning sunshine, at
double-quick pace, only slackened on seeing a carriage, but it proved
to be her aunt, who was being assisted out of it, and tottering up the
steps with the help of Lady Martindale's arm, while Miss Piper, coming
down to give her assistance, informed them that the party had arrived
about an hour before. The two gentlemen had gone out, and Mrs. Arthur
Martindale was in her own room.

Trembling with eagerness, Theodora followed the tardy steps of her
mother and aunt as they mounted the stairs. As they entered the gallery,
a slender figure advanced to meet them, her apple-blossom face all
smiles, and carrying a thing like a middle-sized doll, if doll had ever
been as bald, or as pinched, or as skinny, or flourished such spare
arms, or clenched such claw-like fingers. Was this the best she could
give Arthur by way of son and heir? Yet she looked as proud and exulting
as if he had been the loveliest of children, and the little wretch
himself had a pert, lively air of speculation, as if he partook her
complacency.

Lady Martindale gave her stately greeting, and Mrs. Nesbit coldly
touched her hand; then Theodora, with some difficulty, pronounced the
words, 'How are you?' and brought herself to kiss Violet's cheek, but
took no apparent notice of the child, and stood apart while her mother
made all hospitable speeches, moving on, so as not to keep Mrs. Nesbit
standing.

Theodora followed her aunt and mother, and as soon as the baize door was
shut on them, Violet hugged her baby closely, whispering, 'No welcome
for the poor little boy! nobody cares for him but his own mamma! Never
mind, my Johnnie, we are not too grand to love each other.'

Theodora in the meantime could not help exclaiming, 'Poor child! It is
just like a changeling!'

'Don't talk of it, my dear,' said Lady Martindale, with a shudder and
look of suffering. 'Poor little dear! He looks exactly as your poor
little brother did!' and she left the room with a movement far unlike
her usually slow dignified steps.

'Ah!' said her aunt, in a tone between grief and displeasure; 'here's a
pretty business! we must keep him out of her way! Don't you ever bring
him forward, Theodora, to revive all that.'

'What is the meaning of it?' said Theodora. 'I did not know I ever had
another brother.'

'It was long before your time, my dear, but your mamma has never
entirely got over it, though he only lived nine weeks. I would not have
had the recollection recalled on any account. And now John has brought
this child here! If he was to die here I don't know what the effect on
your mamma would be.'

'He is not going to die!' said Theodora, hastily; 'but let me hear of my
other brother, aunt.'

'There is nothing to hear, my dear,' said Mrs. Nesbit. 'How could the
girl think of bringing him on us without preparation? An effect of
John's spoiling her, of course. She expects him to be made much of; but
she must be taught to perceive this is no house of which she can make
all parts a nursery.'

'Let me hear about my brother,' repeated Theodora. 'How old would he be?
What was his name?'

'His name was Theodore. He never could have lived,' said Mrs. Nesbit:
'it was much as it was with this child of Arthur's. He was born
unexpectedly at Vienna. Your mamma had a dreadful illness, brought on by
your father's blundering sudden way of telling her of the death of
poor little Dora and Anna. He has not a notion of self-command or
concealment; so, instead of letting me prepare her, he allowed her to
come home from the drive, and find him completely overcome.'

Theodora better understood her mother's stifled sympathy for Violet, and
her father's more openly shown feeling for Arthur.

'We were in great alarm for her,' continued Mrs. Nesbit, 'and the poor
child was a miserable little thing, and pined away till we thought it
best to send him home to be under English treatment; and your father
chose to go with him to see John, who was in a very unsatisfactory
state.'

'And mamma did not go?'

'She was unfit for the journey, and I remained with her. It was a
fortunate arrangement of mine, for I knew he could not survive, and
anxiety for him retarded her recovery, though we had hardly ever let her
see him.'

'Then he died?--how soon?'

'At Frankfort, a fortnight after we parted with him. It was a dreadful
shock to her; and if it had happened in the house, I do not think she
would ever have recovered it. Was it a fortnight? Yes, I know it was;
for it was on the 3rd of September that I had your papa's letter.
We were going to a party at Prince K--'s, where there was to be a
celebrated Italian improvisatrice, and I would not give her the letter
till the next morning.'

Theodora stared at her in incredulous horror.

'It threw her back sadly; but I did my utmost to rally her spirits, and
her health did not suffer so materially as I feared; but she has strong
feelings, and the impression has never been entirely removed. She
scarcely ventured to look at Arthur or at you. How could your papa have
let this child come here?'

'Is he like poor little Theodore?' said the sister.

'Only as one wretched-looking baby is like another. This one is not a
bit like the Martindales; it is exactly his mother's face.'

'Is he buried here?'

'Who--Theodore? Yes; your papa came home, and managed matters his own
way, sent off all the governesses, put John under that ignorant old
nurse, and began the precious intimacy with the Fotheringhams, that led
to such results. I could have told him how it would be; but I believe he
did repent of that!'

'Did John know about Theodore?'

'No; his sisters' death had such an effect on him that they kept the
knowledge from him. You had better never mention it, my dear; and
especially,' she added, somewhat pleadingly, 'I would not have the party
at the Prince's transpire to your papa.'

Theodora felt her indignation would not endure concealment much longer.
She called Miss Piper, and hastened away, the next moment finding
herself vis-a-vis with John.

'Are you just come in?' said he, greeting her.

'No, I have been with my aunt. How are you now?'

'Quite well, thank you. I wish you could have come to Ventnor. You would
have enjoyed it very much.'

'Thank you.'

'Have you seen Violet?'

'Yes, I have.'

'And the little boy?'

'Yes.'

'I can't say he is a beauty, but you who are such a baby fancier will
find him a very animated, intelligent child. I hope all fear is over
about him now; he has thriven wonderfully of late.'

Perverseness prompted Theodora to say, 'The baby at the lodge is twice
the size.'

John saw there was no use in talking, and shut himself into his room.
The next instant Sarah appeared, with the baby on one arm, and a pile of
clothes on the other.

No one was in sight, so Theodora could gratify her passionate yearnings
for her brother's babe; justifying herself to her own pride, by
considering it charity to an overloaded servant.

'Let me have him. Let me carry him up.'

'Thank you, ma'am, I'll not fash you,' said Sarah, stiffly.

'Let me! Oh! let me. I have often held a baby. Come to me, my precious.
Don't you know your aunt, your papa's own sister? There, he smiled at
me! He will come! You know me, you pretty one?'

She held him near the window, and gazed with almost devouring eyes.

'He will be handsome--he will be beautiful!' she said. 'Oh! it is a
shame to say you are not! You are like your papa--you are a thorough
Martindale! That is your papa's bright eye, and the real Martindale
brow, you sweet, little, fair, feeble, helpless thing! Oh, nurse, I
can't spare him yet, and you have to unpack. Let me hold him. I know he
likes me. Don't you love Aunt Theodora, babe?'

Sarah let her keep him, mollified by her devotion to him, and relieved
at having him off her hands in taking possession of the great, bare,
scantily-furnished nursery. Theodora lamented over his delicate looks,
and was told he would not be here now but for his mamma, and the Isle
of Wight doctor, who had done him a power of good. She begged to hear of
all his wants; rang the bell, and walked up and down the room, caressing
him, until he grew fretful, and no one answering the bell she rang again
in displeasure, Sarah thanking her, and saying she wished to have him
ready for bed before his mamma came up.

After her public reception, Theodora would not be caught nursing him in
secret, so hastily saying she would send some one, she kissed the little
blue-veined forehead, and rushing at full speed down the back stairs,
she flew into the housekeeper's room; 'Jenkins, there's no one attending
to the nursery bell. I wish you would see to it. Send up some one with
some hot water to Master Martindale directly.'

As fast she ran back to her own room, ordered off Pauline to help Master
Martindale's nurse, and flung herself into her chair, in a wild fit of
passion.

'Improvisatrice! Prince's parties! this is what it is to be great, rich,
horrid people, and live a heartless, artificial life! Even this silly,
affected girl has the natural instincts of a mother, she nurses her sick
child, it lies on her bosom, she guards it jealously! And we! we might
as well have been hatched in an Egyptian oven! No wonder we are hard,
isolated, like civil strangers. I have a heart! Yes, I have, but it is
there by mistake, while no one cares for it--all throw it from them. Oh!
if I was but a village child, a weeding woman, that very baby, so that
I might only have the affection that comes like the air to the weakest,
the meanest. That precious baby! he smiled at me; he looked as if he
would know me. Oh! he is far more lovable, with those sweet, little,
delicate features, and large considering eyes, than if he was a great,
plump, common-looking child. Dearest little Johnnie! And my own brother
was like him--my brother, whom my aunt as good as killed! If he had
lived, perhaps I might still have a brother to myself. He would be
twenty-eight. But I mind nothing now that dear child is here! Why,
Pauline, I sent you to Master Martindale.'

'Yes, ma'am; but Mrs. Martindale is there, and they are much obliged to
you, but want nothing more.'

Indeed Violet, who had been positively alarmed and depressed at first,
at the waste and desolate aspect of the nursery, which seemed so far
away and neglected, as almost, she thought, to account for the death of
the two little sisters, had now found Sarah beset on all sides by offers
of service from maids constantly knocking at the door, and Theodora's
own Pauline, saying she was sent by Miss Martindale.

Violet could hardly believe her ears.

'Yes,' said Sarah, 'Miss Martindale has been here herself ever so long.
A fine, well-grown lassie she is, and very like the Captain.'

'Has she been here?' said Violet. 'It is very kind of her. Did she look
at the baby?'

'She made more work with him than you do yourself. Nothing was not good
enough for him. Why, she called him the most beautifullest baby she ever
seen!'

'And that we never told you, my Johnnie,' said Violet, smiling. 'Are you
sure she was not laughing at you, baby?'

'No, no, ma'am,' said Sarah, affronted; 'it was earnest enough. She was
nigh ready to eat him up, and talked to him, and he look up quite 'cute,
as if he knew what it all meant, and was quite good with her. She was
ready to turn the house upside down when they did not answer the bell.
And how she did kiss him, to be sure! I'd half a mind to tell her of old
nurse telling you it warn't good for the child to be always kissing of
him.'

'No, no, she won't hurt him,' said Violet, in a half mournful voice.
'Let her do as she likes with him, Sarah.'

Violet could recover from the depression of that cold reception now
that she found Johnnie did not share in the dislike. 'She loves Arthur's
child,' thought she, 'though she cannot like me. I am glad Johnnie has
been in his aunt's arms!'

Violet, as she sat at the dinner-table, understood Lord Martindale's
satisfaction in hearing John talking with animation; but she wondered
at the chill of manner between her husband and his sister, and began to
perceive that it was not, as she had supposed, merely in an occasional
impatient word, that Arthur resented Theodora's neglect of her.

'How unhappy it must make her! how much it must add to her dislike!
they must be brought together again!' were gentle Violet's thoughts.
And knowing her ground better, she could venture many more steps towards
conciliation than last year: but Theodora disappeared after dinner, and
Violet brought down some plants from the Isle of Wight which John had
pronounced to be valuable, to his mother; but Mrs. Nesbit, at the first
glance, called them common flowers, and shoved them away contemptuously,
while Lady Martindale tried to repair the discourtesy by condescending
thanks and admiration of the neat drying of the specimens; but her
stateliness caused Violet to feel herself sinking into the hesitating
tremulous girl she used to be, and she betook herself to her work,
hoping to be left to silence; but she was molested by a very sharp,
unpleasant examination from Mrs. Nesbit on the style of John's
housekeeping at Ventnor, and the society they had met there. It was
plain she thought he had put himself to a foolish expense, and something
was said of 'absurd' when cross-examination had elicited the fact of
the pony-carriage. Then came a set of questions about Mr. Fotheringham's
return, and strong condemnation of him for coming home to idle in
England.

It was a great relief when John came in, and instantly took up the
defence of the ophrys, making out its species so indisputably, that Mrs.
Nesbit had no refuge but in saying, specimens were worthless that
had not been gathered by the collector, and Lady Martindale made all
becoming acknowledgments. No wonder Mrs. Nesbit was mortified; she was
an excellent botanist, and only failing eyesight could have made
even prejudice betray her into such a mistake. Violet understood the
compassion that caused John to sit down by her and diligently strive to
interest her in conversation.

Theodora had returned as tea was brought in, and Violet felt as if she
must make some demonstration out of gratitude for the fondness for her
child; but she did not venture on that subject, and moving to her side,
asked, with somewhat timid accents, after Charlie Layton, the dumb boy.

'He is very well, thank you. I hope to get him into an asylum next
year,' said Theodora, but half-pleased.

'I looked for him at the gate, and fancied it was him I saw with a broad
black ribbon on his hat. Is he in mourning?'

'Did you not hear of his mother's death?'

'No, poor little fellow.'

Therewith Theodora had the whole history to tell, and thawed as she
spoke; while Violet's deepening colour, and eyes ready to overflow,
proved the interest she took; and she had just begged to go to-morrow
to see the little orphan, when Arthur laid his hand on her shoulder,
and told her he had just come from the stables, where her horse was in
readiness for her, and would she like to ride to-morrow?

'What will suit you for us to do?' said Violet, turning to Theodora.

'Oh, it makes no difference to me.'

'Tuesday. It is not one of your schooldays, is it?' said Violet,
appearing unconscious of the chill of the answer; then, looking up to
Arthur, 'I am going, at any rate, to walk to the lodge with Theodora to
see the poor baby there. It is just the age of Johnnie.'

'You aren't going after poor children all day long,' said Arthur: and
somehow Violet made a space between them on the ottoman, and pulled him
down into it; and whereas he saw his wife and sister apparently sharing
the same pursuits, and on friendly terms, he resumed his usual tone with
Theodora, and began coaxing her to ride with them, and inquiring after
home interests, till she lighted up and answered in her natural manner.
Then Violet ventured to ask if she was to thank her for the delicious
geranium and heliotrope she had found in her room.

'Oh no! that is an attention of Harrison or Miss Piper, I suppose.'

'Or? probably and?' suggested Arthur. 'How does that go on?'

'Take care,' said Theodora, peeping out beyond the shadow of his broad
shoulder. 'Tis under the strictest seal of confidence; she asked my
advice as soon as she had done it.'

'What! has she accepted him!' said Violet. 'Has it come to that?'

'Ay; and now she wants to know whether people will think it odd and
improper. Let them think, I say.'

'A piece of luck for her,' said Arthur; 'better marry a coal-heaver than
lead her present life.'

'Yes; and Harrison is an educated man though a coxcomb, and knows she
condescends.'

'But why are they waiting!' asked Violet.

'Because she dares not tell my aunt. She trembles and consults, and
walks behind my aunt's chair in the garden, exchanging glances with
Harrison over her head, while he listens to discourses on things with
hard names. The flutter and mystery seem to be felicity, and, if they
like it, 'tis their own concern.'

'Now I know why Miss Piper told me Miss Martindale was so considerate,'
said Violet.

What had become of the estrangement! Arthur had forgotten it, Violet had
been but half-conscious of it, even while uniting them; Theodora thought
all was owing to his being at home, and she knew not who had restored
him.

Indeed, the jealous feeling was constantly excited, for Arthur's
devotion to his wife was greater than ever, in his delight at being
with her again, and his solicitude to the weakness which Theodora could
neither understand nor tolerate. She took all unclassified ailments as
fine lady nonsense; and was angry with Violet for being unable to teach
at school, contemptuous if Arthur observed on her looking pale, and
irate if he made her rest on the sofa.

John added to the jealousy. Little as Theodora apparently regarded him,
she could not bear to be set aside while Violet held the place of the
favourite sister, and while her father openly spoke of the benefit he
had derived from having that young bright gentle creature so much with
him.

The alteration was indeed beyond what could have been hoped for. The
first day, when his horse was led round with the others, it was supposed
to be by mistake, till he came down with his whip in his hand; and not
till they were past the lodge did Theodora believe he was going to
make one of the riding party. She had never seen him take part in their
excursions, or appear to consider himself as belonging to the younger
portion of the family, and when they fell in with any acquaintance
Arthur was amused, and she was provoked, at the surprised
congratulations on seeing Mr. Martindale with them.

Lord Martindale was delighted to find him taking interest in matters
to which he had hitherto scarcely paid even languid attention; and
the offer to go to Barbuda was so suitable and gratifying that it was
eagerly discussed in many a consultation.

He liked to report progress to Violet, and as she sat in the
drawing-room, the two brothers coming to her with all their concerns,
Theodora could have pined and raged in the lonely dignity of her citadel
up-stairs. She did not know the forbearance that was exercised towards
her by one whom she had last year taught what it was to find others
better instructed than herself in the family councils.

Violet never obtruded on her, her intimacy with John's designs, thinking
it almost unfair on his sister that any other should be more in his
confidence.

So, too, Violet would not spoil her pleasure in her stolen caresses of
little Johnnie by seeming to be informed of them. She was grateful for
her love to him, and would not thrust in her unwelcome self. In public
the boy was never seen and rarely mentioned, and Theodora appeared to
acquiesce in the general indifference, but whenever she was secure of
not being detected, she lavished every endearment on him, rejoiced in
the belief that he knew and preferred her enough to offend his doting
mamma, had she known it; never guessing that Violet sometimes delayed
her visits to the nursery, in order not to interfere with her enjoyment
of him.

Violet had not yet seen the Brandons, as they had been making visits
before returning home; but she had many ardent letters from Emma,
describing the progress of her acquaintance with Miss Marstone, the lady
who had so excited her imagination, and to whom she had been
introduced at a school festival. She seemed to have realized all Emma's
expectations, and had now come home with her to make some stay at
Rickworth. Violet was highly delighted when, a few days after their
return, her friends were invited to dinner, on the same evening that Mr.
Fotheringham was expected. The afternoon of that day was one of glowing
August sunshine, almost too much for Violet, who, after they had ridden
some distance, was rather frightened to hear Theodora propose to extend
their ride by a canter over the downs; but John relieved her by asking
her to return with him, as he wanted to be at home in time to receive
Mr. Fotheringham.

Accordingly, they rode home quietly together, but about an hour after,
on coming up-stairs, he was surprised to find Violet in her evening
dress, pacing the gallery with such a countenance that he exclaimed, 'I
hope there is nothing amiss with the boy.'

Oh, nothing, thank you, he is quite well,' but her voice was on the
verge of tears. 'Is Mr. Fotheringham come?'

No, I have given him up now, till the mail train; but it is not very
late; Arthur and Theodora can't be back till past seven if they go to
Whitford down,' said John, fancying she was in alarm on their account.

'I do not suppose they can.'

'I am afraid we took you too far. Why are you not resting?'

'It is cooler here,' said Violet. 'It does me more good than staying in
my room.'

'Oh, you get the western sun there.'

'It comes in hot and dazzling all the afternoon till it is baked
through, and I can't find a cool corner. Even baby is fretful in such a
hot place, and I have sent him out into the shade.'

'Is it always so?'

'Oh, no, only on such days as this; and I should not care about it
to-day, but for one thing'--she hesitated, and lowered her voice, partly
piteous, partly ashamed. 'Don't you know since I have been so weak and
stupid, how my face burns when I am tired? and, of all things, Arthur
dislikes a flushed race. There, now I have told you; but I could not
help it. It is vain and foolish and absurd to care, almost wicked, and
I have told myself so fifty times; but I have got into a fret, and I
cannot leave off. I tried coming here to be cool, but I feel it growing
worse, and there's the dinner-party, and Arthur will be vexed'--and she
was almost crying. 'I am doing what I thought I never would again, and
about such nonsense.'

'Come in here,' said John, leading her into a pleasant apartment fitted
up as a library, the fresh air coming through the open window. 'I was
wishing to show you my room.'

'How cool! Arthur told me it was the nicest room in the house,' said
Violet, her attention instantly diverted.

'Yes, am I not a luxurious man? There, try my great armchair. I am glad
to have a visit from you. You must come again.'

'Oh! thank you. What quantities of books! No wonder every book one wants
comes out of your room.'

'I shall leave you the use of them.'

'Do you mean that I may take any of your books home with me?'

'It will be very good for them.'

'How delightful,' and she was up in a moment reading their titles, but
he made her return to the great chair.

'Rest now, there will be plenty of time, now you know your way. You
must make this your retreat from the sun. Ah, by the bye, I have just
recollected that I brought something for you from Madeira. I chose it
because it reminded me of the flowers you wore at the Whitford ball.'

It was a wreath of pink and white brier roses, in the feather flowers
of Madeira, and she was delighted, declaring Arthur would think it
beautiful, admiring every bud and leaf, and full of radiant girlish
smiles. It would exactly suit her dress, Arthur's present, now worn for
the first time.

'You are not going yet?'

'I thought I might be in your way.'

'Not at all; if I had anything to do, I would leave you to the books;
but I have several things to show you.'

'I was wishing to look at those drawings. Who is that queen with the
cross on her arm?'

'St. Helena; it is a copy from a fresco by one of the old masters.'

'What a calm grave face! what strange stiff drawing!--and yet it suits
it: it is so solemn, with that matronly dignity. That other, too--those
apostles, with their bowed heads and clasped hands, how reverent they
look!'

'They are from Cimabue,' said John: 'are they not majestically humble in
adoration?'

Between, these two hung that awful dark engraving from Albert Durer.

'These have been my companions,' said John.

'Through all the long months that you have been shut up here?'

'My happiest times.'

'Ah! that does, indeed, make me ashamed of my discontent and
ingratitude,' sighed Violet.

'Nay,' said John, 'a little fit of fatigue deserves no such harsh
names.'

'When it is my besetting sin--all here speaks of patience and
unrepining.'

'No, no, said John--'if you cannot sit still; I have sat still too much.
We have both a great deal to learn.'

As he spoke he unlocked a desk, took out a miniature, looked at
it earnestly, and then in silence put it into her hand. She was
disappointed; she knew she was not to expect beauty; but she had figured
to herself a saintly, spiritual, pale countenance, and she saw that of a
round-faced, rosy-cheeked, light-haired girl, looking only as if she was
sitting for her picture.

After much doubt what to say, she ventured only, 'I suppose this was
done a long time ago?'

'When she was quite a girl. Mrs. Percival gave it to me; it was taken
for her long before. I used not to like it.'

'I did not think she would have had so much colour.'

'It was a thorough English face: she did not lose those rosy cheeks till
want of air faded them. Then I should hardly have known her, but the
countenance had become so much more--calm it had always been, reminding
me of the description of Jeanie Deans' countenance--I cannot tell you
what it was then! I see a little dawning of that serenity on the mouth,
even as it is here; but I wish anything could give you an idea of that
look!'

Thank you for showing it to me,' said Violet, earnestly.

After studying it a little while, he restored it to its place. He
then took out a small box, and, after a moment's hesitation, put into
Violet's hands a pink coral cross, shaped by the animals themselves, and
fastened by a ring to a slender gold chain.

'The cross!' said Violet, holding it reverently: 'it is very kind of you
to let me see it.'

'Would you like to keep it, Violet?'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, and stopped short, with tearful eyes.

'You know she wished some one to have it who would find comfort in it,
as she did.'

'No one will prize it more, but can you bear to part with it?'

'If you will take it, as her gift.'

'But just now, when I have been so naughty--so unlike her!'

'More like her than ever, in struggling with besetting failings; you are
learning to see in little trials the daily cross; and if you go on, the
serenity which was a gift in her will be a grace in you.'

They were interrupted: Brown, with beaming face, announced 'Mr.
Fotheringham'; and there stood a gentleman, strong and broad-shouldered,
his face burnt to a deep red, his dark brown hair faded at the tips to
a light rusty hue, and his irregular features, wide, smiling mouth, and
merry blue eyes, bright with good humour.

'Ha, Percy! here you are!' cried John, springing towards him with joyful
alacrity, and giving a hand that was eagerly seized.

'Well, John, how are you?' exclaimed a hearty voice.

'Arthur's wife:' and this unceremonious introduction caused her to be
favoured with a warm shake of the hand; but, much discomfited at being
in their way, she hastily gathered up her treasures, and glided away as
John was saying, 'I had almost given you up.'

'I walked round by Fowler's lodge, to bestow my little Athenian owl. I
brought it all the way in my pocket, or on my hand, and I put him in
Tom Fowler's charge while I am here. I could not think what fashionable
young lady you had here. How has that turned out?'

'Excellently!' said John, warmly.

'She is a beauty!' said Percival.

'She can't help that, poor thing,' said John: 'she is an admirable
creature; indeed, she sometimes reminds me of your sister.'

Then, as Percy looked at him, as if to be certain he was in his senses,
'I don't expect others to see it; it is only one expression.'

'How are you? You look in better case.'

'I am wonderfully well, thank you. Has your romance come to a
satisfactory denouement?'

'The happy pair were at Malta when I started.'

'And where have you been?'

'Oh! in all manner of queer places. I have been talking Latin with the
folks in Dacia. Droll state of things there; one could fancy it Britain,
or Gaul half settled by the Teutons, with the Roman sticking about them.
But that's too much to tell, I have heard nothing from home this age.
How is Theodora? I am afraid she has outgrown her antics.'

'She is not too much like other people.'

'Are you all at home, and in "statu quo"?'

'Yes, except that my aunt is more aged and feeble.'

'And Master Arthur has set up for a domestic character. It must be after
a fashion of his own.'

'Rather so,' said John, smiling; 'but it has done him a great deal of
good. He has more heart in him than you and I used to think; and home is
drawing it out, and making a man of him in spite of himself.'

'How came she to marry him?'

'Because she knew no better, poor thing; her family promoted it, and
took advantage of her innocence.'

'Is she a sensible woman?'

'Why, poor child, she has plenty of sense, but it is not doing her
justice to call her a woman. She is too fine a creature to come early to
her full growth--she is a woman in judgment and a child in spirits.'

'So, Arthur has the best of the bargain.'

'He does not half understand her; but they are very much attached, and
some day she will feel her influence and use it.'

'Form herself first, and then him. I hope Mark Gardner will keep out of
the way during the process.'

'He is safe in Paris.'

'And how have you been spending the summer?'

'I have been at Ventnor, getting through the Crusaders, and keeping
house with Violet and her child, who both wanted sea air.'

'What's her name?'

'Violet.'

'Well, that beats all! Violet! Why, Vi'let was what they called the old
black cart-horse! I hope the child is Cowslip or Daisy!'

'No, he is John, my godson.'

'John! You might as well be called Man! It is no name at all. That
Arthur should have gone and married a wife called Violet!!'

Meanwhile Violet was wondering over the honour she had received,
caressing the gift, and thinking of the hopes that had faded over it
till patience had done her perfect work. She did not remember her other
present till she heard sounds betokening the return of the riders. She
placed it on her head, and behold! the cheeks had no more than their own
roseate tinting, and she was beginning to hope Arthur would be pleased,
when she became aware of certain dark eyes and a handsome face set in
jet-black hair, presenting itself over her shoulder in the long glass.

'You little piece of vanity! studying yourself in the glass, so that you
never heard me come in? Well, you have done it to some purpose. Where
did you get that thing?'

'John brought it from Madeira.'

'I did not think he had so much taste. Where have you bottled it up all
this time!'

'He forgot it till there was an opportunity for wearing it. Is it not
pretty? And this is your silk, do you see?'

'Very pretty, that's the real thing. I am glad to find you in good trim.
I was afraid Theodora had taken you too far, and the heat would knock
you up, and the boy would roar till you were all manner of colours.'

'I was hot and tired, but John invited me into his nice cool room, and
only think! he showed me Helen's picture.'

'He has one, has he? She was nothing to look at; just like Percy--you
know he is come?'

'Yes, he came while I was in John's room. He is not at all like what I
expected.'

'No, ladies always expect a man to look like a hero or a brigand. She
had just that round face, till the last when I saw her in London, and
then she looked a dozen years older than John--enough to scare one.'

'See what he gave me.'

'Ha! was that hers? I remember, it was that my aunt kicked up such a
dust about. So he has given you that.'

'Helen said she should like some one to have it who would find as much
comfort in it as she did.'

'Comfort! What comfort do you want?'

'Only when I am foolish.'

'I should think so; and pray what is to be the comfort of a bit of coral
like that?'

'Not the coral, but the thoughts, dear Arthur,' said Violet, colouring,
and restoring the cross to its place within her dress.

'Well! you and John understand your own fancies, but I am glad you can
enter into them with him, poor fellow! It cheers him up to have some one
to mope with.'



CHAPTER 9


  P. Henry.--But do you use me thus, Ned; must I marry your sister?
  Poins.--May the wench have no worse fortune, but I never said so.

  --K. Henry IV


Arthur met the new-comer, exclaiming, 'Ha! Fotheringham, you have not
brought me the amber mouth-piece I desired John to tell you of.'

'Not I. I don't bring Turks' fashion into Christian countries. You ought
to learn better manners now you are head of a family.'

Theodora entered, holding her head somewhat high, but there was a
decided heightening of the glow on her cheek as Mr. Fotheringham shook
hands with her. Lord Martindale gave him an affectionate welcome, and
Lady Martindale, though frigid at first, grew interested as she asked
about his journey.

The arriving guests met him with exclamations of gladness, as if he was
an honour to the neighbourhood; and John had seldom looked more cheerful
and more gratified than in watching his reception.

At length came the names for which Violet was watching; and the presence
of Lady Elizabeth gave her a sense of motherly protection, as she was
greeted with as much warmth as was possible for shy people in the midst
of a large party. Emma eagerly presented her two friends to each other,
and certainly they were a great contrast. Miss Marstone was sallow, with
thin sharply-cut features, her eyes peered out from spectacles, her hair
was disposed in the plainest manner, as well as her dress, which was
anything but suited to a large dinner-party. Violet's first impulse was
to be afraid of her, but to admire Emma for being attracted by worth
through so much formidable singularity.

'And the dear little godson is grown to be a fine fellow,' began Emma.

'Not exactly that,' said Violet, 'but he is much improved, and so bright
and clever.'

'You will let us see him after dinner?'

'I have been looking forward to it very much, but he will be asleep, and
you won't see his pretty ways and his earnest dark eyes.'

'I long to see the sweet child,' said Miss Marstone. 'I dote on such
darlings. I always see so much in their countenances. There is the germ
of so much to be drawn out hereafter in those deep looks of thought.'

'My baby often looks very intent.'

'Intent on thoughts beyond our power to trace!' said Miss Marstone.

'Ah! I have often thought that we cannot fathom what may be passing in a
baby's mind,' said Emma.

'With its fixed eyes unravelling its whole future destiny!' said Miss
Marstone.

'Poor little creature!' murmured Violet.

'I am convinced that the whole course of life takes its colouring from
some circumstance at the time unmarked.'

'It would frighten me to think so,' said Violet.

'For instance, I am convinced that a peculiar bias was given to my own
disposition in consequence of not being understood by the nurse and
aunt who petted my brother, while they neglected me. Perhaps I was not
a prepossessing child, but I had deeper qualities which might have been
drawn out, though, on the whole, I do not regret what threw me early on
my own resources. It has made me what I am.'

Violet was rather surprised, but took it for granted that this was
something admirable.

'Your dear little boy, no doubt, occupies much of your attention.
Training and instruction are so important.'

'He is not five months old,' said Violet.

'You cannot begin too early to lead forward his mind. Well chosen
engravings, properly selected toys, the habit of at once obeying, the
choice of nursery songs, all are of much importance in forming these
dear little lambs to the stern discipline of life.'

'You must have had a great deal to do with little children,' said
Violet, impressed.

'Why, not much personally; but I believe Emma has sent you my little
allegory of the "Folded Lambs", where you will find my theories
illustrated.'

'Yes, Emma gave it to me--it is very pretty,' said Violet, looking down.
'I am too stupid to understand it all, and I have been hoping for Emma
to explain it to me.'

'Many people find it obscure, but I shall be delighted to assist you.
I am sure you will find some of the ideas useful to you. What were your
difficulties?'

It made Violet so very shy to be spoken to by an authoress in public
about her own books, that she was confused out of all remembrance of the
whole story of the "Folded Lambs", and could only feel thankful that the
announcement of dinner came to rescue her from her difficulties. She was
not to escape authors; for Mr. Fotheringham took her in to dinner, Lady
Martindale assigned Miss Brandon to John; but Arthur, with a droll look,
stepped between and made prize of her, leaving John to Miss Marstone.

Violet trusted she was not likely to be examined in the "Track of the
Crusaders", of which, however, she comprehended far more than of the
"Folded Lambs". Presently her neighbour turned to her, asking abruptly,
'Who is that next to Theodora?'

'Mr. Wingfield, the clergyman here.'

'I know. Is he attentive to the parish!'

'O yes, very much so.'

'Does Theodora take to parish work?'

'Indeed she does.'

'What, thoroughly?'

'She goes to school twice a week, besides Sundays, and has the farm
children to teach every morning.'

'That's right.'

'And she is so kind to the children at the Lodge.'

'Let me see, they were afraid the boy was deaf and dumb.'

'Yes, he is, poor little fellow, and Theodora teaches him most
successfully.'

'Well done! I knew the good would work out. How tall she is! and she
looks as full of spirit as ever. She has had a season in London, I
suppose!'

'Yes, she went out a great deal this spring.'

'And it has not spoilt her?'

'O no!' cried Violet, warmly, feeling as if she had known him all her
life, 'she is more eager than ever in her parish work. She spares no
trouble. She got up at four one morning to sit with old Betty Blain,
that her daughter might get a little rest.'

'That head and brow are a fine study. She has grown up more striking
than even I thought she would. Curious to see the difference between
natural pride and assumed,' and he glanced from Theodora to her mother.
'How well Lady Martindale preserves! She always looks exactly the same.
Who is that chattering in John's ear?

'Miss Marstone, a friend of Miss Brandon's.'

'What makes her go about such a figure?'

'She is very good.'

'I trust, by your own practice, that is not your test of goodness?'

'I should not think it was, said Violet, blushing and hesitating.

'What crypt did they dig her out of? Is she one of the Marstones of
Gothlands?'

'I believe she is. She has two sisters, gay people, whose home is with
an uncle. She lives with a lawyer brother.'

'Sam Marstone! I know him! I pity him. So Emma Brandon is come out?
Which is she?'

'She is next to Arthur, on this side the table where you cannot see
her.'

'What sort of girl is she!'

'Oh!' said Violet, and paused, 'she is the greatest friend I have in the
world!'

He looked surprised, laughed, and said, 'So I must ask no more
questions.'

Violet felt as if she had spoken presumptuously, and said, 'Lady
Elizabeth has been so very kind to me. Emma is my baby's godmother.'

'And John its godfather.'

'Yes. Did he tell you so?'

'Ay! he spoke as if it was very near his heart.'

'He has been--O, so very--I believe he is very fond of baby,' hastily
concluded Violet, as her first sentence stuck in her throat.

'I am heartily glad he has something to take interest in. He looks
better and less frail. Is he so, do you think?'

'O yes, much better. He hardly ever coughs--'

'Does he get those bad fits of cough and breathlessness?'

'Very seldom; he has not had one since the day we heard you were coming
home, and that, Brown thought, was from the excitement.'

'Ay! ay! he seems stronger every way.'

'Yes, he can bear much more exertion.'

'Then I hope he will be stirred up to do something. That's what he
wants.'

'I am sure he is always very busy,' said Violet, displeased.

'Ay? Cutting open a book was rather arduous. If he was not at his best
he left it to Brown.'

'No! no! I meant going over parchments; writing for Lord Martindale;'
she did not know if she might mention the West Indian scheme.

'Ho! there's something in that. Well, if he comes to life after all,
there's no one so capable. Not that I am blaming him. Illness and
disappointment broke him down, and--such a fellow seldom breathed. If I
had not had him at Cambridge it might have been a different story with
me. So you need not look like his indignant champion.'

'I don't know what Arthur and I should have done without him,' said
Violet.

'Where's the aunt? I don't see her.'

'She never comes down to dinner, she is only seen in the evening.'

There was a sound in reply so expressive of relief that Violet caught
herself nearly laughing, but he said, gravely, 'Poor woman, then she is
growing aged.'

'We thought her much altered this year.'

'Well!' and there was a whole sentence of pardon conveyed in the word.
Then, after an interval, 'Look at John and his neighbour.'

'I have been trying to catch what they are saying.'

'They! It is all on one side.'

'Perhaps,' said Violet, smiling, 'it was something about chants.'

'Yes. Is it not rare to see his polite face while she bores him with
that kind of cant which is the most intolerable of all, and he quietly
turning it aside?'

'Is it cant when people are in earnest?' asked Violet.

'Women always think they are.'

'How are they to know?'

'If they hold their tongues'--a silence--Well!'

'Well,' said Violet.

'Where's the outcry?'

'Did you mean me to make one!'

'What could you do but vindicate your sex?'

'Then you would not have thought me in earnest.'

He made a funny pleased face and a little bow.

'The truth was,' said Violet, 'I was thinking whether I understood you.'

'May I ask your conclusion?'

'I don't exactly know. I don't think you meant we should never talk of
what interests us.'

'When they know when to hold their tongues, perhaps I should have said.'

'O, yes, that I quite think.'

Another silence, while Violet pondered, and her neighbour continued his
malicious listening to Miss Marstone, who spoke in a key too audible for
such a party. Presently, 'He has got her to the Royal Academy. She
has gone forthwith to the Prae-Raffaelites. Oh! she is walking
Prae-Raffaelitism herself. Symbols and emblems! Unfortunate John!
Symbolic suggestive teaching, speaking to the eye! She is at it
ding-dong! Oh! he has begun on the old monk we found refreshing the
pictures at Mount Athos! Ay, talk yourself, 'tis the only way to stop
her mouth; only mind what you say, she will bestow it freshly hashed up
on the next victim on the authority of Mr. Martindale.'

Violet was excessively entertained; and, when she raised her eyes, after
conquering the laugh, was amazed to find how far advanced was the state
dinner, usually so interminable. Her inquiries after the Athenian owl
led to a diverting history of its capture at the Parthenon, and the
adventures in bringing it home. She was sorry when she found Lady
Martindale rising, while Mr. Fotheringham, as he drew back his chair,
said, 'How shall you get on with Prae-Raffaelitism? I should like to set
her and Aunt Nesbit together by the ears!'

Certainly it was not convenient to be asked by Emma what made her look
so much amused.

She felt as if it would be much pleasanter to show off her babe without
the stranger, and was glad to find that Miss Marstone had fallen into
a discussion with Theodora, and both looked much too eager to be
interrupted.

So Violet fairly skipped up-stairs before her friends, turning round to
speak to them with such smiling glee, that Lady Elizabeth dismissed
all fears of her present well-doing. Emma fell into raptures over her
godson's little cot, and quoted the "Folded Lambs", and "Pearls of the
Deep", another as yet unpublished tale of her friend's, to teach his
mother how to educate him, and stood by impatiently contemning the
nursery hints which Violet was only too anxious to gather up from Lady
Elizabeth.

'And are you not charmed with her!' said Emma, as they went down-stairs.

'I have seen so little of her,' replied Violet, embarrassed. 'Why does
she dress in that way?'

'That is just what I say,' observed Lady Elizabeth. 'I was sorry to see
her in that dress this evening.'

'Mamma does not like it,' said Emma; 'but Theresa feels it such a
privilege not to be forced to conform to the trammels of fashions and
nonsense.'

'She does everything on high principle,' said Lady Elizabeth, as if she
was trying to bring her mind as usual into unison with her daughter's.
'She is a very superior person, and one does not like to find fault with
what is done on right motives; but I should be sorry to see Emma follow
the same line. I have always been taught that women should avoid being
conspicuous.'

'That I could never bear to be, mamma,' said Emma; 'but Theresa is of a
firmer, less shrinking mould.'

Lady Elizabeth repeated that she was a very superior person, but was
evidently not happy in her guest.

Miss Marstone was holding earnest tete-a-tetes all the evening, but
Violet having sheltered herself under Lady Elizabeth's wing, escaped the
expected lecture on the allegories.

When the Rickworth party had taken leave, Mr. Wingfield, the last guest,
was heard to observe that Miss Marstone was an admirable person, a
treasure to any parish.

'Do you wish for such a treasure in your own?' said Mr. Fotheringham,
bluntly.

The curate shook his head, and murmuring something about Brogden being
already as fortunate as possible, departed in his turn: while Arthur
ejaculated, 'There's a step, Wingfield. Why, Theodora, he was setting up
a rival.'

'Who is she?' said Theodora. 'Where did Emma pick her up?'

'Emma was struck with her appearance--'

 The gentlemen all exclaimed so vehemently, that Violet had to repeat
it again, whereupon Mr. Fotheringham muttered, 'Every one to his taste;'
and Arthur said there ought to be a law against women making themselves
greater frights than nature designed.

'So, it is a fit of blind enthusiasm,' said John.

'Pray do you partake it?' asked Percy. 'How do you feel after it?'

'Why, certainly, I never met with a person of more conversation,' said
John.

'Delicately put!' said Arthur, laughing heartily. 'Why, she had even
begun lecturing my father on the niggers!'

'I would not be Lady Elizabeth!' said Mr. Fotheringham.

'Those romantic exaggerations of friendship are not satisfactory,'
said John. 'Emma is too timid to be eccentric herself at present; but a
governing spirit might soon lead her on.'

'That it might,' said Theodora, 'as easily as I used to drag her, in
spite of her terrors, through all the cows in the park. I could be worse
to her than any cow; and this Ursula--or what is her outlandish name,
Violet?'

'Theresa; Sarah Theresa.'

'Well, really,' said John, 'it is not for the present company to
criticize outlandish names.'

'No,' said Arthur, 'it was a happy instinct that made us give my boy a
good rational working-day name, fit to go to school in, and no choice
either to give him the opportunity of gainsaying it, like Emma's friend,
and some others--Sir Percival that is to be! A hero of the Minerva
press!'

'No, indeed--if I was to be Sir Anything, which probably I never shall
be, I would hold, like my forefathers, to my good old Antony, which it
was not my doing to disregard.'

'Which earned him the title of Lumpkin, by which only he was known to
his schoolfellow!' said Arthur. 'If you ask after Fotheringham, they
invariably say, "Oh, you mean old Lumpkin!" So much for romantic names!'

'Or imperial ones,' said Percy. 'Did not you tell me Theodora came
straight from the Palaeologos who died in the West Indies? I always
considered that to account for certain idiosyncrasies.'

Theodora was called away to assist Mrs. Nesbit up-stairs; and as Violet
followed, she heard the aunt observing that Percival Fotheringham
was more bearish than ever; and that it was intolerable to see him
encouraged in his free-and-easy manner when he had thrown away all his
prospects.

'For poor John's sake,' began Lady Martindale.

'For his own,' interrupted Theodora. 'He has every right to be at home
here, and it is an honour to the place that he should be so.'

'Oh, yes, I know; and he will be expecting your father to exert himself
again in his behalf.'

'No, he will be beholden to no one,' said Theodora.

'I do wish his manners were less rough and eccentric,' said Lady
Martindale.

'Presuming,' said Mrs. Nesbit; 'in extremely bad taste. I never was more
sensible of our good fortune in having missed that connection. There was
nothing but their being of a good old family that made it by any means
endurable.'

At this hit at her brother's wife, Theodora was going to speak, but she
forbore, and only wished her aunt good night. It would not be repressed,
however; she stood in the gallery, after parting with the elder ladies,
and said, loud enough for them to hear,

'I hate good old family, and all such humbug! She was a noble,
self-devoted creature; as much above the comprehension of the rest of
the world as her brother!'

'Did you know her well?' said Violet.

Theodora's tone instantly changed. She was not going to gratify childish
curiosity. 'I never had the opportunity,' she said, coolly. 'Good
night.'

Violet was disappointed; for the tone of enthusiasm had given her a
moment's hope that they had at last found a subject on which they could
grow warm together, but it was evident that Theodora would never so have
spoken had she been conscious of her presence.

The next morning as Arthur and his wife were going down to breakfast, he
said, 'We shall see some rare fun now Theodora and Fotheringham have got
together.'

Theodora, with her bonnet on, was, according to her usual Sunday
fashion, breakfasting before the rest of the party, so as to be in time
for school. John and his friend made their appearance together, and
the greetings had scarcely passed, before John, looking out of window,
exclaimed, 'Ah! there's the boy! Pray come and see my godson. Come,
Violet, we want you to exhibit him.'

Arthur looked up with a smile intended to be disdainful, but which was
gratified, and moved across, with the newspaper in his hand, to lean
against the window-shutter.

'There's John without his hat--he is growing quite adventurous. Very
pretty Violet always is with the boy in her arms--she is the show one of
the two. Hollo, if Percy has not taken the monkey himself; that's a pass
beyond me. How she colours and smiles--just look, Theodora, is it not a
picture?'

If he had called her to look at Johnnie, she must have come; but she
was annoyed at his perpetual admiration, and would not abet his making
himself ridiculous.

'I must not wait,' she said, 'I am late.'

Arthur shrugged his shoulders, and turned to his paper.

She put on her gloves, and took up her books. Percy meeting her, as she
came down the steps, said, 'I have been introduced to your nephew.'

'I hope you are gratified.'

'He has almost too much countenance,' said Percy. 'There is something
melancholy in such wistful looks from a creature that cannot speak, just
as one feels with a dog.'

'I am afraid he is very weakly,' said Theodora.

'I am sorry to hear it; it seems like a new life to John, and that
pretty young mother looks so anxious. Do you see much of her?'

'Not much; I have not time to join in the general Violet worship.'

'They are not spoiling her, I hope. It does one good to see such a
choice specimen of womankind.'

'There, don't come any further; I must make haste.'

'Like all the rest,' she thought; 'not a man but is more attracted by
feminine airs and graces than by sterling qualities.'

On coming out of church, in the afternoon, John, looking at the
beautiful green shady bank of the river, proposed a walk along it; all
the party gladly acceded, except Theodora, who, not without a certain
pleasure in separating herself from them, declared that there was a
child who must be made to say her hymn before going home.

'Can't you excuse her for once?' said Lord Martindale.

'No, papa.'

'Not if I beg her off publicly?'

'No, thank you. There is a temper that must be overcome.'

'Then flog her well, and have done with it,' said Arthur. Deigning no
reply, she pounced upon her victim as the procession of scholars came
out of church, 'Come, I am waiting to hear you say it. "How doth the
little--"'

The child stood like a post.

'That is a Benson, I am sure,' said Mr. Fotheringham. Theodora told him
he was right, and went on exhorting the child; 'Come, I know you can say
it. Try to be good.

'"How doth--"'

'You know I always keep my word, and I have said I will hear you before
either of us goes home.'

'"How doth--"'

'If you please, papa, would you go on? I shall never make her do it with
you all looking on.'

She sat down on a tombstone, and placed the child before her. After
an hour's walk, there was a general exclamation of amusement and
compassion, on seeing Theodora and the child still in the same
positions.

'She will never say it at all now, poor child,' said Violet; 'she
can't--she must be stupefied.'

'Then we had better send down the tent to cover Theodora for the night,'
said Arthur.

'As if Theodora looking at her in that manner was not enough to drive
off all recollection!' said John.

'It is too much!' said Lord Martindale. 'Arthur, go, and tell her it is
high time to go home, and she must let the poor child off.'

Arthur shrugged his shoulders, saying, 'You go, John.'

'Don't you think it might do harm to interfere?' said John to his
father.

'Interfere by no means,' said Arthur. 'It is capital sport. Theodora
against dirty child! Which will you back, Percy? Hollo! where is he? He
is in the thick of it. Come on, Violet, let us be in for the fun.'

'Patience in seven flounces on a monument!' observed Mr. Fotheringham,
in an undertone to Theodora, who started, and would have been angry, but
for his merry smile. He then turned to the child, whose face was indeed
stupefied with sullenness, as if in the resistance she had forgotten the
original cause. 'What! you have not said it all this time? What's your
name? I know you are a Benson, but how do they call you?' said he,
speaking with a touch of the dialect of the village, just enough to show
he was a native.

'Ellen,' said the girl.

'Ellen! that was your aunt's name. You are so like her. I don't think
you can be such a very stupid child, after all. Are you? Suppose you try
again. What is it Miss Martindale wants you to say?'

The child made no answer, and Theodora said, 'The Little Busy Bee.'

'Oh! that's it. Not able to say the Busy Bee? That's a sad story. D'ye
think now I could say it, Ellen?'

'No!' with an astonished look, and a stolid countrified tone.

'So you don't think I'm clever enough! Well, suppose I try, and you set
me right if I make mistakes. "How doth the great idle wasp--"'

'Busy bee!' cried the child, scandalized.

By wonderful blunders, and ingenious halts, he drew her into prompting
him throughout, then exclaimed, 'There! you know it much better. I
thought you were a clever little girl! Come, won't you say it once, and
let me hear how well it sounds?'

She was actually flattered into repeating it perfectly.

'Very well. That's right. Now, don't you think you had better tell Miss
Martindale you are sorry to have kept her all this time?'

She hung her head, and Theodora tried to give him a hint that the
apology was by no means desired; but without regarding this, he
continued, 'Do you know I am come from Turkey, and there are plenty of
ladies there, who go out to walk with a sack over their heads, but I
never saw one of them sit on a tombstone to hear a little girl say the
Busy Bee. Should you like to live there?'

'No.'

'Do you suppose Miss Martindale liked to sit among the nettles on old
Farmer Middleton's tombstone?'

'No.'

'Why did she do it then? Was it to plague you?'

'Cause I wouldn't say my hymn.'

'I wonder if it is not you that have been plaguing Miss Martindale all
the time. Eh? Come, aren't you sorry you kept her sitting all this time
among the nettles when she might have been walking to Colman's Weir, and
gathering such fine codlings and cream as Mrs. Martindale has there, and
all because you would not say a hymn that you knew quite well? Wasn't
that a pity?'

'Yes,' and the eyes looked up ingenuously.

'Come and tell her you are sorry. Won't you? There, that's right,' and
he dictated as she repeated after him, as if under a spell, 'I'm sorry,
ma'am, that I was sulky and naughty; I'll say it next Sunday, and make
no fuss.'

'There, that will do. I knew you would be good at last,' said Percy,
patting her shoulder, while Theodora signified her pardon, and they
turned homewards, but had made only a few steps before the gallop of
clumsy shoes followed, and there stood Ellen, awkwardly presenting a
bunch of the willow herb. Theodora gave well-pleased thanks, and told
her she should take them as a sign she was really sorry and meant to do
better.

'And as a trophy of the force of Percy's pathetic picture of Miss
Martindale's seven flounces among the nettles on Farmer Middleton's
tombstone,' said Arthur.

'You certainly are very much obliged to him,' said her father.

'And most ungratefully she won't confess it,' said Arthur.

'I despise coaxing,' said Theodora.

'The question is, what you would have done without it,' said John.

'As if I could not subdue a little sprite like that!'

'You certainly might if it was a question of physical force,' said
Percy, as he seemed to be measuring with his eye the strength of
Theodora's tall vigorous person.

'I spoke of moral force.'

'There the sprite had decidedly the advantage. You could "gar her
greet," but you could not "gar her know." She had only to hold out; and
when Miss Martindale found it time to go home to dinner, and began to
grow ashamed of her position, the victory was hers.'

'He has you there, Theodora,' said Arthur.

'I don't know what he is driving at,' said Theodora.

'I am trying to find out whether Miss Martindale has the power of
confessing that she was in a scrape.'

'That you may triumph,' said Theodora.

'No, not for the sake of triumph, but of old times,' he answered, in a
lower, more serious tone.

Theodora's face softened, and drawing nearer, she asked, 'How are old
times to be satisfied by such an admission?'

'Because then candour used to boast of conquering pride,' said Percy,
now speaking so as to be heard by her alone.

'Well. It was becoming a predicament, and you rescued me very
ingeniously. There, will that content you?' said Theodora, with one of
the smiles the more winning because so rare. I am perfectly ready to own
myself in the wrong when I see it.'

'When you see it,' said Percy, drily.

'I was wrong just now not to confess my obligation, because Arthur
teased and triumphed; but I don't see why you all treat me as if I was
wrong to set myself to subdue the child's obstinacy.'

'Not wrong, but mistaken,' said Percy. 'You forgot your want of power
to enforce obedience. You wanted victory, and treated her with the same
determination she was treating you with. It was a battle which had the
hardest will and could hold out longest.'

'And if I had conquered she would have gone away angry with me, only
having yielded because she could not help it. You softened her and made
her sorry. I see. She really is a good child on the whole, and I dare
say I shall do something with her now.'

'Is old Benson alive?'

And a long conversation on village matters ensued. Theodora was happier
that evening than she had been for more than a year. That home-thrust at
her pride, astonishing as it was that any one should venture it, and the
submission that followed, had been a positive relief. She thought the
pleasure was owing to the appeal to old times, recalling happy days
of wild frolics, sometimes shared, sometimes censured by her grown-up
playfellow; the few hours with his sister that had influenced her whole
life; and the lectures, earnest, though apparently sportive, by which he
had strengthened and carried on the impression; that brief time, also,
of their last spending together, when his sorrow for his sister was
fresh, and when John was almost in a hopeless state, and when she had
been the one of the family to whom he came to pour out his grief, and
talk over what his sister had been.

It was a renewal of happiness to her heart, wearied with jealousy, to
find one to whom old times were precious, and who took her up where
he had last seen her. His blunt ways, and downright attacks, were a
refreshment to a spirit chafing against the external smoothness and
refinement of her way of life, and the pleasure of yielding to his
arguments was something new and unexampled. She liked to gain the bright
approving look, and with her universal craving for attention, she could
not bear not to be engrossing him, whether for blame or praise, it did
not matter; but she had the same wish for his notice that she had for
Arthur's.

Not that she by any means always obtained it. He was in request with
every one except Mrs. Nesbit. Even Lady Martindale took interest in his
conversation, and liked to refer questions about prints and antiques to
his decision, and calls on his time and attention were made from every
quarter. Besides, he had his own manuscript to revise, and what most
mortified Theodora was to hear Violet's assistance eagerly claimed,
as she knew her way better than John did through the sheets, and could
point to the doubtful passages. Never was work more amusing than this,
interspersed with debates between the two friends, with their droll
counter versions of each other's anecdotes, and Mr. Fotheringham's
quizzings of John, at whom he laughed continually, though all the
time it was plain that there was no one in the world whom he so much
reverenced.

The solitary possession of her own mornings was now no boon to Theodora.
She was necessary to no one, and all her occupations could not drive
away the ever-gnawing thought that Violet attracted all the regard and
attention that belonged to her. If the sensation went away when she was
down-stairs, where Percy's presence obliged her to be amiable against
her will, it came back with double force in her lonely moments.

One day, when they had dispersed after luncheon, her father came in,
inquiring for Violet. He was going to Rickworth, and thought she would
like to go with him. He wished to know, as otherwise he should ride
instead of driving; and, as she was up-stairs, desired Theodora to go
and find out what would suit her.

'Papa, too!' thought Theodora, as with some reluctance she for the first
time knocked at her sister's door, and found her with the baby.

'How very kind!' said she. 'I should be delighted, but I don't know
whether Arthur does not want me. Is he there?'

'I think he is in the library.'

'If I could but go down! But I must not take baby, and Sarah is at
dinner. Should you mind holding him for one minute?'

Theodora held out her arms, but Johnnie, though usually delighted to
come to her from Sarah, turned his head away, unwilling to leave his
mother. He did not quite cry, but was so near it that she had to do her
utmost to amuse him. She caught up something bright to hold before him,
and was surprised to see it was a coral cross, which Violet, in changing
her dress, had laid for a moment on the dressing-table. The coincidence
was strange, thought Theodora.

Violet was coming back, and she would have laid it down, but Johnnie had
grasped it in his little fingers. As his mother appeared, his merriest
smile shone out, and his whole little person was one spring of eagerness
to return to her.

'Little man! Is he glad to come back to his mamma?' Violet could not
help saying, as he nestled joyously on her neck; but the cold face of
Theodora made her sorry that the words had escaped her, and she began to
express her thanks.

Theodora was stooping to pick up the cross, and a concerned exclamation
passed Violet's lips on observing its fall.

'It is safe,' said Theodora. 'I beg your pardon, I took it up to amuse
him.'

'Thank you,' said Violet. 'I am sorry I seemed vexed. There's no harm
done; but I was frightened, because it was Helen's.'

'Helen's' exclaimed Theodora, extremely amazed. 'Did John give it to
you?'

'Yes, a little while ago,' said Violet, colouring. 'He--'

But Theodora was gone, with bitterer feelings than ever. This girl was
absorbing every one's love! John had never given her anything that had
belonged to Helen; he had never even adverted to his engagement, when
she almost adored her memory! She had never supposed him capable of
speaking of his loss; and perhaps it was the hardest blow of all to find
Violet, whose inquiries she had treated as mere curiosity, preferred to
such confidence as this. She did not remember how she had once rejected
his sympathy. She forgot whose fault it was that she had not been in the
Isle of Wight; she laid it all on the proneness of men to be interested
by sweetness of manner, and thought of herself as a strong-minded
superior woman, who could never be loved, and who could only suffer
through her woman's heart.

Yet she could not entirely harden herself as she intended, while combats
with Percy cast brightening gleams across her existence. She thought
she should again settle into the winter's life of hard work and
indifference, which was on the whole most comfortable to her.

When the party should be broken up, Percy was to be the first to depart;
he was going to publish The Crusaders, take a lodging in London, and
there busy himself with literature while awaiting the fulfilment of a
promise of further diplomatic employment. Arthur and Violet were also to
return home after paying a visit at Rickworth, and John would soon after
sail for Barbuda. In the meantime he was much engaged in going over
accounts, and in consulting with his father and the man of business.

One morning, towards the end of September, he came down to Violet in the
drawing-room, looking much flushed and extremely annoyed.

'Well,' he said, 'I have often declared I would never let my aunt have a
discussion with me again. I have been obliged to submit to this. I hope
it will be the last.'

'About the West Indian property,' said Violet.

'Yes. She does give me power to act for her; but it is dearly bought!
I wish I had never asked her! Every subject that she knew to be most
unpleasant to me has she stirred up! How a woman of her age can go on
with her eyes fixed on these matters I cannot guess. I am sure it is a
warning what one sets one's heart upon!'

'You are quite worried and tired. Oh! it has made you cough! You had
better lie down and rest.'

'I want you to put me into good humour,' said he, half reclining on the
sofa. 'I feel as if I had been under a nutmeg-grater! What do you think
of her taking me to task for having Fotheringham here, for fear he
should marry Theodora! I wish there was any such chance for her; but
Percy has far too much sense!'

'Why, how could Mrs. Nesbit think it? They are always disputing!'

'I should not take that as a reason for thinking it impossible. But
Percy knows her far too well. No, it is only one of my aunt's fancies.
She has set her hopes on Theodora now; but it is of no use to talk of
it. I don't want to dwell on it. It is too pitiable to be angry about.
What are you reading?'

Violet was as glad to talk to him of her book as he was to lose the
thought of his vexatious conversation, which had been even more annoying
that he had chosen to tell her.

Mrs. Nesbit had taken occasion to speak of the reversion of an estate,
which she said she wished to go to augment the property of the title;
and now she should have no hesitation in bequeathing it to him, provided
she could see him, on his side, make such a connection as would be for
the consequence of the family.

John tried silence, but she drove him so hard that he was obliged to
reply that, since she had begun on the subject, he had only to say that
he should never marry; and, with thanks for her views, the disposal of
her property would make no difference to him.

She interrupted him by reproaches on a man of his age talking romantic
nonsense, and telling him that, for the sake of the family, it was his
duty to marry.

'With such health as mine,' replied John, quietly, 'I have long made up
my mind that, even if I could enter on a fresh attachment, it would not
be right. I am not likely to live many years, and I wish to form no new
ties. You will oblige me, ma'am, by not bringing forward this subject
again.'

'Ay, I know what you are intending. You think it will come to Arthur and
his wife; but I tell you what, Mr. Martindale, no attorney's daughter
shall ever touch a sixpence of mine.'

'That is as you please, ma'am. It was not to speak of these matters that
I came here; and if you have told me all you wish with regard to the
property, I will leave the papers for your signature.'

She was above all provoked by his complete indifference to the wealth,
her chief consideration throughout her life, and could not cease from
reproaching him with absurd disregard to his own interest, at which
he very nearly smiled. Then she revived old accusations, made in the
earlier days of her persecution about his engagement, that he was
careless of the consequence and reputation of the family, and had all
his life been trying to lower it in the eyes of the world; otherwise
why had he set himself to patronize that wife of Arthur's, or why bring
Percy Fotheringham here, just to put his sister in the way of marrying
beneath her? And when he had answered that, though he saw no probability
of such an event, opinions might differ as to what was beneath Theodora,
she took the last means that occurred to her for tormenting him, by
predicting that Arthur's sickly little child would never live to grow
up--he need not fix any hopes on him.

He escaped at last, leaving her much irritated, as Theodora presently
found her. She began to complain bitterly of the ingratitude of her
great-nephews, after all her labours for the family! John treating her
whole fortune as if it was not worth even thanks, when she had been
ready to settle the whole on him at once, as she would have done,
since (and she looked sharply at Theodora) he was now free from that
Fotheringham engagement; for none of that family should ever have a
share in her property.

Theodora looked, if possible, more indifferent than John, as she
answered,

'John could not want it. I always thought you meant it for Arthur.'

'Arthur! as if you did not know he had forfeited all claim upon me!'

'His marriage is a reason for his needing it more,' said Theodora.

'It is of no use to speak of him. No, Theodora, you alone have acted as
I could wish; and if you continue to deserve my regard--'

'Don't say that, Aunt Nesbit,' said Theodora. 'I shall act as, I hope,
may deserve regard; but I don't want anybody's fortune, and if you left
me yours it would be very unfair, and I certainly should give at least
half of it to Arthur. I give you fair warning; but I did not come to
talk of such hateful things, but to read to you.'

That afternoon Mrs. Nesbit wrote a letter to her lawyer, and surprised
Miss Piper by asking if that puny child up-stairs had any name but John.



CHAPTER 10


     Unschooled affections, strong and wild,
     Have been my playmates from a child,
     And strengthening in the breast unseen,
     Poisoned the fount within.
                    --Thoughts in Past Years


The morning of the next day had been fine, and was spent in shooting by
Arthur and Mr. Fotheringham; but the latter came home in time to ride
with John, to make a call on some old friends, far beyond what had long
been John's distance.

The afternoon closed in a violent storm of wind and rain, which drove
Arthur indoors, and compelled Violet to resort for exercise to the
gallery, where she paced up and down with Johnnie in her arms, watching
for the return of the others, as each turn brought her to the end
window. As Lord Martindale came up-stairs, he paused at the sight of the
slender young figure--her head bent over her little one. Perhaps he was
thinking what might have been, if his own children had ever been as much
to their mother; for when Violet turned towards him he sighed, as he
roused himself, and asked whether she saw John coming. Then joining her,
he looked at his grandson, saying, 'He is improving very fast. How like
you he grows!'

'Poor little fellow, he was not at all well yesterday, and I began to
think of asking whether I should send for Mr. Legh.'

'Whatever you do, beware of doctoring!' was Lord Martindale's rather
hasty answer. 'Of doctoring and governessing!--I have seen enough of
it, and I resolved my two youngest should run wholesomely wild, never be
dosed, and never learn a lesson till they were six years old.'

'But this poor little man is really delicate, and I have no experience,'
pleaded Violet.

'Depend upon it, my dear,' said Lord Martindale, with sorrowful emotion
in his voice, as he saw the little fair head resting caressingly on her
neck, 'you are doing more for him than all the physicians in England.
You must not tease him and yourself with fretting and anxiety.'

'I know it is my duty not to be over-anxious,' said Violet, with her
heart full, as she clasped her hands close round her tiny treasure.

'You must not,' said his grandfather. 'It was the notion that mine could
never have enough teaching or doctoring-as if that was what they wanted!
Some system or other was always being tried on them, and they were never
left to healthy action of mind or body, till the end was that I lost
my two pretty little girls! And poor John, I never saw a more
wretched-looking child than he was when I took him to Dr.--.'

'And what was his advice?'

'His advice was this. "Throw away lessons and physic. Give him other
children to play with, make him wear a brown holland pinafore, and
let him grope in the dirt." I believe it saved his life! I begged Mrs.
Fotheringham to let him do just like her children, little thinking what
was to come of that.' Then catching himself up, as if fearing to give
Violet pain, 'Not that I should have regretted that connection. She
was all that could be wished, and I judged by personal merits.' He
hesitated, but spoke warmly, as if applying the words to Violet. 'Their
youth was my only objection from the first. Nothing would have rejoiced
me more than their marriage.'

'O, yes,' said Violet, 'he says so much of your kindness.' She feared
she had said too much, but Lord Martindale caught at her words. 'Has he
ever adverted to that affair!'

'Sometimes,' said Violet, shyly.

'What! Actually spoken of poor Helen! I am heartily glad to hear it. How
is he bearing it? Does he speak calmly?'

'Yes, calmly and cheerfully, as if he liked to dwell on the thought.'

Lord Martindale laid his hand on her arm, and said, gratefully, 'You
have done him a great deal of good.'

Seldom had she been more gratified, but at that moment a dripping figure
burst on them, and Theodora's voice impetuously exclaimed, 'Violet!
you must know something of babies! What shall I do for the child at the
lodge? She will die if something is not done quickly.'

She was in an agony of breathless agitation; the motherless baby at the
lodge had been taken violently ill, the parish doctor was not at home,
and she feared that Mr. Legh could not arrive from Whitford in time!

Violet shared in her distress, and gathering from her description that
it might be such an attack as Johnnie's at Ventnor, longed to be on
the spot, and tried to believe the rain lessening enough for her to go.
Theodora seized on her proposal, but Lord Martindale interfered. 'How
can you be so thoughtless?' said he, in a far more decided manner than
usual.

'The child's life depends on it!' said Theodora, vehemently.

'Pshaw!' said Lord Martindale, 'Violet has her own life and her child's
to think of.'

'Then you won't come!'

'I am afraid I ought not,' said Violet, mournfully.

Theodora flung away in passionate despair and contempt, and was rushing
off, when Violet pursued her, and implored her to listen one moment, and
she could not let go her last hope. Violet offered some medicine that
had been prepared for Johnnie--which she was sure could at least do no
harm, and she could give some advice. Perhaps she mingled it with too
many excuses and lamentations at being forced to stay at home; at least,
Theodora thought her fanciful, rejoicing in the self-importance of
imaginary ill-health.

'Why! there's the carriage!' she exclaimed, as it drove down the avenue.

'Yes, it is gone for John,' said Theodora, bluntly.

'Where is he?'

'At the Goldingsby turnpike. He took shelter there, and Percy came back
to order the carriage to fetch him. Percy is gone on to Whitford for Mr.
Legh.'

'What a pity! I could have gone to the lodge in the carriage.'

Theodora was provoked that her impatience had made her miss this chance:
so, without answering, she ran down the steps, and was almost whirled
along the avenue by the wild wind that roared in the branches, tearing
the leaves from the trees, and whirling them round and round. She hardly
felt it--her whole soul was set upon the little orphan; the misery of
watching the suffering she could not relieve, joined with passionate
resentment at her father and sister-in-law, who she fancied made light
of it. Only Mr. Fotheringham, when stopping at the lodge on his way, had
shown what she thought tolerable humanity. He had shared her concern,
consoled her despair, suggested asking counsel of Mrs. Martindale, and
finally rode off five miles to Whitford in quest of the doctor.

Violet's advice proved not to be despicable; the measures she
recommended relieved the little one, and by the time Percy and the
apothecary made their appearance, it was asleep on Theodora's lap, and
Mr. Legh pronounced that it was in a fair way to do well. She wished she
could have watched it all night, but it was late, and Mr. Fotheringham
stood waiting at the door. So she laid it in the cradle, gave her
directions to the old woman who had charge of it, and resumed her brown
cloak and hood, in which she walked about in all weathers, without
umbrella, for which, as for parasols, she had a supreme aversion.

Mr. Legh wished to prevail on her to let him drive her home, but she
would not hear of it. Percy put up his umbrella, and offered to shelter
her, but she held aloof.

'No, no. Where did you get that elegant cotton machine?'

'I borrowed it at the turnpike.'

'And rode home with it on Arthur's mare?'

'Of course I did. I was not going to get wet through.'

'But how did you get her to let you carry it. She objects to his taking
out his handkerchief.'

'I am not going to be beaten by a mare, and she soon found that out.'

'What have you done with her?'

'I took her home, and came back again. I wonder what Arthur will say to
me for taking his gallant gray on to Whitford. I must get up a pathetic
appeal to the feelings of a father!'

'Well, I did not recollect you had the gray, or I would have told you to
take my horse. However, there's no harm done, and it saved time.'

'Whoo--h!' as the gust came roaring down furiously upon them, pelting
fiercely with rain, flapping and tearing at Theodora's cloak, like the
wind in the fable, trying to whirl her off her feet, and making vehement
efforts to wrench the umbrella out of Percy's hand. A buffet with wind
and weather was a frolic which she particularly enjoyed, running on
before the blast, then turning round to walk backwards and recover
breath to laugh at him toiling with the umbrella. Never had she looked
brighter, her dark eyes, lately so sad and soft, now sparkling and
dancing with mirth, her brown cheek glowing with fresh red from the rain
and wind that had loosened her hair, and was sporting with a long
black tress that streamed beyond her bonnet, and fluttered over her
face--life, strength, and activity in every limb, and her countenance
beaming with sportiveness and gaiety, the more charming because so
uncommon. It was a rare chance to catch Theodora at play.

'Ha! you'll be beat! You will have to shut up the miserable invention
unknown to our forefathers.'

'Not I. I shall not give up the distinction between man and beast in the
rain.'

'Man! Why even ants carry parasols.'

'That is in the sun. Parasols belong to an epoch of earlier
civilization. Vide Ninevite carvings--Persian satraps!'

'So you reduce yourself to a Persian satrap!'

'No; it was reserved for modern times to discover the true application
of the umbrella. Were you rational enough to come back in the carriage?'

'No, indeed. To do justice to Violet, she would have come down in it, if
I had not forgotten to tell her of it.'

'I am glad you do her justice for once.'

She would not answer, and took advantage of another combat with the wind
to cover her silence.

'Theodora,' said he, abruptly, 'I cannot help it; I must say it!'

'Well?'

'I do not think you feel as you ought towards your brother's wife.'

'John has told you this?'

'No; I have observed it. You had set your affections on Arthur; and
thinking he had thrown himself away, you do not resist the common
propensity to hate a sister-in-law.'

'You like to provoke me,' said Theodora; 'but,' and her voice trembled,
'it is unkind to bring this up--the pain and grief of my life, when I
was happy and forgetful for once.'

'Far, far from unkindness. It is because I cannot bear to see you
unhappy.'

'I trusted no one saw that.'

'I have known you too long, and thought of you too much, not to be
grieved at the sight of your forced spirits and suppressed sorrow.'

It would have angered her from another; from him it touched her to find
how closely and kindly he had watched her.

'I cannot help it,' she said. 'He was my all.'

'Have you striven with it?'

'Of course I have. I have lived in a tumult of occupation, but--'

'But you have not conquered yourself, and grappled with the serpents
that poison your life.'

'Pray what do you call those serpents?'

'If you look them in the face, I believe you will find they are pride
and jealousy.'

'You like to find generic names,' said Theodora, trying for a cold
smile.

'Because it is safer to know and crush a venomous beast than to dally
with it.'

'If I find there are such serpents, I will crush them and thank you.'

'No other woman would so have answered,' cried Percy, exultingly.

'Because,' said she, her throat swelling, 'no other man is true and
downright friend enough to warn me honestly.'

'Theodora, Theodora, you are a grand creature, nearly thrown away for
want of breaking in.'

'Too true,' said she, sadly.

'I must say it. Will you let me? Will you trust yourself and your
happiness to me? It has been the vision and hope of my solitude to see
you what you might be! the flaws in that noble nature corrected, its
grandeur and devotedness shining forth undimmed. Together we would crush
the serpents--bring out all that is excellent.'

'I think there might be a chance for me with you,' said she, in an odd
sort of tone.

'You mean it?' he exclaimed, trying to see her face, but her hood
flapped over it.

'I do. You appreciate me.'

She let him walk beside her, and hold the umbrella over her; but not
a word was spoken till they were ascending the steps, when she said,
'Don't tell papa till night. I do not choose to look foolish.'

'Good luck to thee, umbrella!' said Percy, holding it on high, ere
closing it. 'Thy sea-green dome has been a canopy of bliss. Honour to
thy whalebones!' Then, in a very different manner, 'Oh! Theodora, could
you but guess how you have mingled in every scheme or wish of mine; how
often I have laughed myself to scorn for dreaming, as if there could be
any chance!'

'Ah! what an uproar my aunt will make!' exclaimed Theodora, somewhat
exultingly. Some one crossed the hall, and she ran away, but stepped
back from the foot of the stairs, laid her hand on his arm, and with a
face inexpressibly sweet and brilliant, said, 'We shall get on very well
together. We need have no nonsense. But I did not know how happy you had
made me.'

She escaped again; she would not have said thus much if she had not
known there could be no reply, for Lady Martindale was sailing down the
grand staircase.

She met him no more till dinner, when he was silent, and she talkative
and flighty, so that Violet suspected there had been a quarrel.

The next morning, the first tidings were that John had a cold and was
confined to his bed by cough and pain in the chest; while something too
was said of his having been kept up late at night talking. Theodora
paid a visit to the sick child in the early morning, and after breakfast
accompanied Violet to the lodge, where Violet found the poor little
thing nursed with more goodwill than skill by its old aunt and Theodora,
took it into her own motherly arms, gave it food and medicine, and
hushed it to sleep so successfully, that Theodora respected what she
called the feminine element.

The two sisters walked back happily together; but at the door Lord
Martindale met them, exclaiming, 'Where have you been, Theodora? Come
here.'

Violet wished to be certified that John was not worse, but could find no
one but Mr. Fotheringham, who, with a little twist of the corner of
his mouth, assured her that there was no cause for uneasiness on that
account.

Some time had gone by; she was writing letters, while Percy stood in the
deep window, reading the newspapers, and making a great rustling with
them. Suddenly Arthur entered, exclaiming,

'Well, Violet, here is a piece of news! Guess!'

'That is the way people always tell wedding news.'

'Right. Now then for the victims.'

'Your sister? What really? And who? Oh, not Lord St. Erme?'

'The very antipodes, as Harrison would say! Guess again.'

'Help me, Mr. Fotheringham,' she began; but Arthur, with a tremendous
start, exclaimed, 'Hollo! if that is not a shame! How I wish I had said
what a shocking bad match it is!'

'You think so, do you?' said Percy, advancing, and heartily shaking
Arthur's ready hand.

'Oh! that is your look-out,' said Arthur, shrugging his shoulders.

'But, do you really mean it?' said Violet, looking from one to the
other, as Percy's hand seemed to claim the same welcome from her.

'Indeed, I do,' said Percy, earnestly. 'O, how glad John will be!' was
her congratulation.

'So, I must say nothing about the gray,' proceeded Arthur. 'What is it
some one says about Cupid's steeds? I vow I will call her Psyche, if it
is only to make Theodora savage!'

'Where is your father?' said Percy.

'With John. That was where I heard it.' Then, as Percy was leaving the
room, 'Well, you are a bold man! I hope you mean to kill the cat on the
wedding-day. That is all.'

'I am obliged for your experience,' said Percy.

'If you make her like this one by the end of a year--'

'O, hush, Arthur!'

Percy hastened from the room. Violet could not recover from her
astonishment. 'Could Lord Martindale actually have consented?'

'Makes no difficulty at all. He has grown wiser since poor John's time.
I have taught him one may be trusted to choose for oneself.'

'But your aunt?'

'Ah! there is nothing she hates like a Fotheringham; but she has not the
power over my father she once had. She will have to take up with us for
very spite. But what they are to live on I do not know, unless my father
keeps them.'

'I thought he was heir to a baronetcy.'

'Yes; but there is a half-witted son of old Sir Antony in the way, who
will keep Percy out of the property for the term of his natural life, as
well as if he was a wise man.'

After luncheon, Violet had a message from John to ask for a visit from
her. She found him on the sofa in the sitting-room, apparently oppressed
and uncomfortable; but he looked brightened by her entrance, and pleased
when she offered to stay and read to him.

'The very thing I have been figuring to myself as most agreeable. I
don't want to talk or think. I have been overdoing both.'

So she had to repress her curiosity, and give him the repose of her
pleasant reading, till he dropped asleep; and after waiting some time,
in the fear of awakening him, she gently left the room, and had time for
another visit to the lodge, where she fell in with the lovers, and found
them disputing about the cotton umbrella. Percy announced that he should
give his own in exchange, and retain it for ever, as a trophy of what
could be accomplished with both horse and woman. Theodora was a little
cross. If he wished to keep it out of sentiment, that was all very well;
but to give it the turn of glorying over her was displeasing. He wanted
to make her confess that she had submitted to its shelter.

'No, you only walked by me, and held it up.'

'I appeal to you, Mrs. Martindale. Is not that the popular view of being
under an umbrella?'

Theodora would not speak, and Violet thought him wrong in teasing her.
Silence ensued, but ended in his saying, as they came to the steps,
'Well, Theodora, shall I restore the umbrella as a hated object?'

'No, no,' said she; 'do what you please with it, only don't talk
nonsense about it.'

Then, when Violet was gone,--'You must not triumph over me, Percy; I
cannot bear it. If it is pride, have patience with me.'

'I should have asked you to forgive me,' said Percy, affected by the
tone of humility.

'No, no, indeed!' said Theodora, smiling; 'but I warn you, my serpent
is dealt with more safely by treading on it than by irritating it,' and
there was an indignant gleam in her dark eye. 'Now I am going to tell my
aunt.'

'I would wish you well through it; but I believe you are eager for the
battle. Only let me say one thing, Theodora--be forbearing, or you will
be fostering the enemy.'

'I can deal with her,' said Theodora.

But she was met in a manner she had not expected. Mrs. Nesbit beckoned
her to her side, laid her hand on hers, and peered up in her face with
witch-like eyes, that disconcerted her usually ready speech, and called
up a blush.

'I see,' said Mrs. Nesbit. 'I do not blame you for the fault of your
father and brother. I knew how it would be.'

'Has mamma told you?' said Theodora. 'Papa promised that I should be the
first to tell!'

'Your mamma does not know what will mortify her so extremely.'

'Then how have you heard it?'

'I have seen it. I knew what you had to tell from the instant you
entered. And your father has given you his consent?' raising her hand,
as if to say, 'I give up all hopes of him.'

'Yes, he highly approves.'

Here Lady Martindale came into the room.

'You need not be vexed, my dear,' began Mrs. Nesbit. 'It will not be
made public, and there will be no harm done.'

'What will not, dear aunt? you alarm me.'

'This foolish affair into which Lord Martindale and John have drawn this
poor child.'

'Aunt! aunt!' cried Theodora, 'you do not know what you say. It is of
my own free will--uninfluenced. I would choose him, and hold fast to him
through worlds of opposition.'

'Yes, yes; we understand all that,' said Mrs. Nesbit, with a
contemptuous accent; 'but as it cannot be at once, you will soon have
enough of that overbearing temper. At twenty, there is plenty of time to
get over such an affair, and form a more suitable connection.'

'Never!' cried Theodora.

'What, my dear!' said astonished Lady Martindale. 'You engaged, and you
have not told me!'

'Only since yesterday, mamma. He spoke to papa only this morning.'

'But who is it? Nothing that your aunt disapproves, I trust, my dear.'

'Percy Fotheringham,' said Theodora, standing firm, and exulting in
defiance; but her aunt continued that same provoking disregard.

'Yes, you see it is of no use to oppose her. For my part, I think her
papa has acted wisely in permitting the engagement. Contradiction would
embellish her hero; while, left to him, she will soon find him out. I do
not concern myself, for Miss Martindale can get over a little matter of
this kind.'

'It is of no use to make protestations,' said Theodora; and she left
the room much more annoyed than she could have been by the violent
opposition for which she was prepared. Cool contempt was beyond
everything irritating, especially where reply was impossible, and
argument undignified.

Mrs. Nesbit continued to behave as if the engagement did not exist,
and Violet could not suppose her informed of it. Lady Martindale looked
melancholy and distressed, especially after having been with John, whom,
however, she declared to be better, and desirous of seeing his sister.
Theodora went to him, but remained a very short time.

Violet ventured in with his mother, to wish him good night, and he
thanked her warmly for having read him to sleep. 'When I am laid up
again, you will know where to find a nurse for me,' added he to his
mother; a speech which obtained for Violet a positively cordial and
affectionate good night from Lady Martindale.

Though mending, he did not leave his room the next day, as it was damp
and chilly; and he again asked for Violet's company in the afternoon,
since he supposed she was not thinking of going out.

'O, no; no one does, except Theodora. I saw something brown half-way
across the park, which must be either her cloak, or the old cow-man's
worst round frock.'

'And Percy not in attendance?'

'No; he and Arthur are lingering at luncheon, talking about the Austrian
army. When did you hear about this?'

'As soon as I came in. He marched into my room, sat down, and said,
"There! I've done it." I thought he had broken the knees of Arthur's
gray, till he explained--"No; I have taken your sister on my hands."'

'So you were watching them all the evening!'

'Yes; I was very anxious as to how my father might view it.'

'I suppose that hurt you more than the rain?'

'Excitement, as Brown would say. Perhaps it might. We talked long and
late, and afterwards I fell into the old strain of thought. From what
Percy tells me, his sister must have influenced Theodora far more than I
thought possible. To her he ascribes her religious tone. If he is right,
my mistake in neglecting her has been worse than I supposed.'

'Then this is all the better! Do you remember saying you despaired of a
Petruchio?'

'It is on the Petruchio principle that he takes her, and avowedly. None
but Katharina was ever so wooed or so won!'

'That is very much to her honour.'

'If she realizes his being in earnest. She would make one doubt whether
she has any earnest. Yesterday evening she so treated, the subject that
I was on the point of saying, "Reply not to me with a fool-born jest."
And how do you think she answered my father, when he asked her if she
knew what she undertook? As my namesake said, "I shall wash all day and
ride out on the great dog at night."

'Was not that a sort of shyness?'

'I would fain hope so. If I had ever seen anything like deep earnest
feeling I should be satisfied. Yet Percy declares, I trust he may be
right, that she has the very strongest affections, and much tenderness
of character. He says her nature came straight from the tropics, and
must not be judged by sober English rules.'

'If you had seen her distress about the child at the lodge!'

'Ah! he said those tears settled the matter, and showed him that she
had the woman's heart as well as the candour that would conquer her
waywardness. It sounds a little too like a lover's self-justification.'

'Do you think so?' said Violet. 'You do not know what she is with the
dumb boy, and with Johnnie.'

'I was just going to have instanced her neglect of Johnnie.'

'I assure you,' cried Violet, eagerly, 'that is only because she does
not like me. You cannot think how fond she is of him. When I am out
of the way she goes to the nursery and pets him till Sarah is almost
jealous of his fondness for her.'

'I have no patience with her,' exclaimed John.

'I thought you would have been glad.'

'I do not like Percy to make a mistake, and get his feelings trifled
with. He deserves a wife like himself.'

'Did you hear of Arthur's advice to him?'

'To kill the cat on the wedding-day. That might answer if it were to be
at once; but it is a cat with nine lives, and I do not think she will
bear to have it killed before the wedding-day.'

'Then it is not to be soon?'

'No, my father thinks her not fit for a poor man's wife, and cannot give
her more than £5000, so they must wait till they can begin on an income
equal to yours.'

'And I suppose that will be when he gets some appointment.'

'And there is the Worthbourne estate as a provision for the future, so
that there is no imprudence. For my part, I regret the delay; Theodora
would shine if she had to rough it, provided always she was truly
attached to her husband.'

'She would bear poverty beautifully.'

'But it is not a thing to advise. I am accused already of being romantic
and imprudent, yet I would urge it on my father if I saw them desirous
to hasten it. I do not understand them, and perhaps I am unreasonable. I
do not like his happiness to be in such perverse hands, yet I am uneasy
at the delay. It suits my aunt's predictions, and they are far too apt
to come true. I feel them like a spell. She always foretold that Helen
and I should never marry. And it cannot be denied that she has great
insight into character, so that I am alarmed at her declaring this will
not come to good. If not, I have no hope for Theodora! She will either
be hard and unfeminine, or turn to worldliness, and be such another as
my aunt. She has it in her.'

'You are taking to horrid predictions yourself.'

'Well, I acknowledge her capabilities, but there has been woful
mismanagement, and my father feels it.'

'I was surprised at his consenting so readily.'

'He has once been too much grieved to be led to act against his own
judgment again. He thinks very highly of Percy, and is glad Theodora
should be in safe keeping; she was so wilful this last season in London
as to make him very uneasy.'

Mr. Fotheringham came in, and Violet was going, but was claimed for
some more work upon the Crusaders, and told that Arthur was gone out to
inspect his gray.

Arthur found the weather better than it appeared from indoors, and
strolled into the park to indulge in a cigar. Ere long he perceived the
brown waterproof cloak, and throwing away the end of his cigar, called
out, 'Halloa! a solitary ramble. Have you given Earl Percy the slip?'

'You do not expect him to be always philandering after me?'

'There's a popular delusion with regard to lovers.'

'We are not such ninnies.'

'But seriously, Theodora, what can induce Fotheringham to have you?'

'I expected you to ask what induced me to have him.'

'That in its own time! Tell me, first, why he takes you.'

'The same reason that you took Violet.'

'As if you and Violet were to be named together!'

'Or you and Percy!'

They laughed, and Theodora then spoke with deep feeling. 'It does
surprise me, Arthur, but it is the more pleasure. He has known me all my
life, and sees there is less humbug in me than in other women. He knows
I have a heart.'

'That scientific discovery is his reason. Now for yours.'

'Because he understands me.'

'So your partnership is founded on a stock of mutual understanding!
I devoutly hope it is; for my notion is that Percy will stand no
nonsense.'

'Of course not.'

'It remains to be proved how you will like that.'

'I am not given to nonsense.'

Arthur whistled.

'That means that I will not yield when I am not convinced.'

'And he will make you.'

'He will never be unreasonable,' exclaimed Theodora.

'It does not follow that you will not.'

'That is unjust. I yield where duty, good sense, or affection make it
needful.'

'Oho! Affection! That is like other people. Now I see some hope of you.'

'Did you think I would have had him without it?'

'Certainly, it is the only explanation. You will not find being wife to
a scrub of an attache the same thing as being Miss Martindale.'

'I am glad of it. My mind revolts at the hollowness of my present life.'

'Well done!' ejaculated Arthur.

'I do,' said Theodora, vehemently. 'Ours has never been a home; it was
all artificial, and we had separate worlds. You and I amalgamated best;
but, oh! Arthur, you never cared for me as I did for you. The misery
of my life has been want of affection. Any one who loved me could have
guided me at will. You doubt! You don't know what is in me! How I felt
as if I would work night and day at my lessons, if they were ever to be
heard by mamma! I remember once, after a day's naughtiness, lying awake,
sobbing, and saying, again and again, half aloud, "I would be good if
they would love me!"'

'No one would have thought such fancies were in a wild colt like you.'

'I would not have had them guessed for worlds. Then came that one gleam
of Helen. It was a new life; but it could not last. She went back, and I
cannot say things in letters. She told me to talk to John, but he was of
no use. He has always despised me.'

'I don't think you are right there.'

'He would help me in trouble, but I am nothing to him. You were all I
had, and when you gave yourself away from me I was left alone with the
heart-ache, and began to think myself born to live without love.'

'In spite of the lovers you had in London?'

'You know better. That was the Honourable Miss Martindale. What did they
know of the real Theodora?'

'Poor critturs, what indeed! They would have run far enough if they
had.'

'I knew it. It is the soft, gentle, feminine mould that attracts men.'

'Another curious discovery.'

'I cannot change my nature. But when he comes, superior to them all,
understanding my true self, seeing me high-spirited and cold-mannered,
but able to look into me, and perceive there is warmth and
soundness--oh! is not that a new well-spring of happiness!'

'Yes, he is as much out of the common run of folks as you are. You'll go
as well together as Smithson's pair of piebalds. I am satisfied; I only
wanted to know whether you cared for him, for you don't "act as sich."'

'I can't talk stuff. I managed pretty well with papa, but I could not
bear it with John. He began to praise Percy, which made me ready to
cry, and that provoked me: besides, I know he does not believe in me. He
cares for Helen's brother far more than for his own sister, and does
not think me good enough for him. I saw he thought I should trifle, and
meant to give me a lecture; and I could not stand that, you know, so I
got away as fast as I could.'

'John does not lecture as you might expect, if you give him his full
swing. He is the best and kindest fellow in the world.'

'I know how Percy looks up to him. The only thing I don't like is, that
I believe one cause of Percy's attachment is my being his sister.'

'I tell you, Theodora, if you are so outrageously jealous, you will
never get through the world in peace.'

'I shall have no reason for jealousy.'

'And for fear he should, had you not better give a hint to Wingfield?
You are turning the poor fellow's head with your confabulations over
the dirty children, and you'll have him languishing in an unrequited
attachment.'

'He understands me too well,' said Theodora.

'You reckon a great deal on understanding! And you put yourselves to the
test. Why don't you marry out of hand, and trust to the fates?'

'We have talked it over,' said Theodora. 'As to our income being equal
to yours, that is nonsense. We have no expensive habits; but Percy says
£450 a year is too little, so we shall wait for the appointment, or till
he has made it up to £700. But I own I did not expect such ready consent
from papa.'

'Ha! You would have liked a little opposition? You would sing a
different song if he had set his face against it. It is very knowing of
my aunt to take the line she does.'

'I wish my aunt was twenty years younger!'

'That you might fight it out, eh!'

'One comfort is, she will never leave me her money now! But I must
go in, and send Miss Piper for a walk with Harrison. My aunt must be
repaying herself on her.'

'Then I shall take another cigar, to get the damp out of my throat.'

'You wretch, you like to boast of it!'

'Ah! you don't know what Percy learnt in Turkey.'

'I know he always abominated smoking.'

'Perhaps he'll let you think so till you are married.'

'For shame, Arthur! That's the way you served your wife.'

'Not I. She is duly grateful to me for only smoking at fit times and
places, wherein I don't resemble her precious brother.'

Arthur thus reported this conversation to his wife. 'I met Theodora in
the park. She is as remarkable an article as ever I saw.'

'What do you think?--is she really attached to him?'

'I know as little as she does.'

It was determined that the secret should be strictly kept; it was the
one point on which Lady Martindale was anxious, being thereto prompted
by her aunt. Theodora declared she had no one to tell, and Mr.
Fotheringham only desired to inform his uncle and aunt, Sir Antony and
Lady Fotheringham. He was now going to pay them a visit before settling
in his lodgings in London. Theodora's engagement certainly made her
afford to be kinder to Violet, or else it was Percy's influence that in
some degree softened her. She was pleased at having one of her favourite
head girls taken as housemaid under Sarah's direction, her only doubt
being whether Violet was a sufficiently good mistress; but she had much
confidence in Sarah, whose love of dominion made her glad of a young
assistant.

The party was now breaking up, Violet in high spirits at returning home,
and having Arthur all to herself, as well as eager to put her schemes of
good management into practice. The sorrow was the parting with John, who
was likely to be absent for several years.

Before going he had one last conversation with his sister, apropos to
some mention of a book which she wished to send to London to be returned
to Miss Gardner.

'Does Violet visit her?' he asked.

'There have been a few calls; Jane Gardner has been very good-natured to
her.'

'Is that cousin of theirs, that Gardner, still abroad?'

'Yes, I believe so.'

'I hope he will stay there. He used to have a most baneful influence
over Arthur. Theodora, if by any chance it should be in your power, you
ought to do your utmost to keep them from coming in contact. It may be a
very superfluous fear, but your intimacy with those ladies might be the
means of bringing them together, and there is nothing I should so much
dread.'

'Surely Arthur may be trusted to choose his own friends.'

'You don't know what happened in their school days! No, you were too
young. It was discovered that there was a practice of gambling and
drinking wine in the boys' rooms, and Arthur was all but expelled;
but it turned out that he had been only weak, and entirely led by this
fellow, and so he was spared. Percy could tell you many histories of
Gardner's doings at Cambridge. Arthur's worst scrape since he has been
in the Guards was entirely owing to him, and it was evident he still had
the same power over him.'

'Arthur is no boy now.'

'I doubt,' said John, half smiling.

'No one can make the least charge against him since his marriage.'

'It has done much for him,' answered John, 'and she has improved
wonderfully. Theodora, now that I am going away, let me once more
tell you that you are throwing away a source of much happiness by
disregarding her.'

'Her romantic friendship with Emma Brandon is a proof that she cannot
have much in common with me.'

'There is one thing you have not in common with either,' exclaimed John,
'and that is an unassuming temper.'

'Yes, I know you all think me prejudiced. I do not want you to go away
misunderstanding me,' answered Theodora. 'She has good principles, she
is amiable and affectionate; but there are three points that prevent me
from esteeming her as you do. She has a weak fretful temper.'

'I am sure you have seen no sign of it.'

'It is just what is never shown; but I am convinced poor Arthur suffers
from it. Next, she thinks a great deal of her appearance; and, lastly,
she is fond of power, and tries to govern, if not by coaxing, by
weakness, tears, hysterics--all the artillery of the feeble. Now, a
woman such as that I can pity, but cannot love, nor think a fit wife for
my brother.'

'I can't tell, I don't know,' said John, hesitating in displeasure and
perplexity; 'but this once I must try whether it is of any use to talk
to you. Her spirits and nerves are not strong, and they were cruelly
tried last spring; but Arthur only saw her cheerful, and never guessed
at the tears she shed in secret, till we found her papers blistered
with them, when her never complaining and letting him go his own way had
almost cost her her life! and if you knew her, you would see that the
tendency to over-anxiety is the very failing with which she struggles. I
wish I could make you see her in her true light.'

'I cannot help it, John,' said Theodora, 'I must speak the truth. I see
how it is. Men are not clear-sighted in judging of a pretty woman of
engaging manners. They are under a fascination. I don't blame you--it is
exactly the same with papa and Percy.'

'Indeed?'

And for the last time baffled, John parted with his sister in much
anxiety and disappointment, such as made it repose to turn to that other
gentle, open-hearted, confiding sister, whose helplessness and sympathy
had first roused him from despondency and inaction.

He begged her to write to him; an honour and a pleasure indeed; and now
there was no fear of her letters being such as that she had sent him at
Martindale. He declared the correspondence would be a great pleasure to
him--he could not bear to think of hearing of those in whom he took so
much interest only at second-hand; and besides, he had been accustomed
to pour out his mind so much in his letters to Helen, that he felt the
want of full and free confidence. His letters to his mother were
not safe from the eye of his aunt, and neither his father nor Mr.
Fotheringham could be what a lady correspondent would be to a man of his
character, reflective, fond of description, and prone to dwell on the
details of what interested him.

So the time of his departure came, whereat Arthur lamented, vowing it
was a horrid bore that he could not live in England, and hoping that
Barbuda would patch him up for good; while Violet made arrangements for
his convenience and pleasure on the voyage, such as no sister had ever
supplied for him before.



CHAPTER 11


     So she had prayed, and He who hears,
     Through Seraph songs the sound of tears,
     From that beloved babe had ta'en
     The fever and the beating pain,
     And more and more smiled Isobel
     To see the baby sleep so well.
            --E. B. BROWNING (Isobel's Child)


On a bright cold afternoon the next spring, Theodora was setting out
for a walk, when she saw a carriage driving up the avenue, and Arthur
emerging from it. Joyously she sprang forward--'Arthur! Arthur! this is
pleasant. How glad I am. This is like old times.'

'Ay, I thought you would be ready for me. I have had a cold, and I am
come home to shake off the end of it.'

'A cold--not a bad one, I hope?'

'Not very. I wanted Violet to come too, but the boy is poorly.'

'Oh! I hope there is not much the matter?'

'Only teeth, I believe. He is desperately fretful, and she can't attend
to anything else.'

'Well, I hope you are come for a good long visit.'

'I can stay a week.'

'That's right, it will do you good. I was just going to write to you. I
have a great mind to go back with you, if I shall not be in the way.'

'Not at all. It will be famous having you; but what makes you come? To
gratify Fotheringham?'

'I have many reasons. I've got Charlie Layton elected to the Deaf and
Dumb Asylum, and I must take him there.'

'I'm not going to take him! 'Tis enough to have to carry about one's own
babies, without other people's.'

'We'll settle that,' said Theodora. 'Will you walk with me! There is no
one at home, and I am stupefied with reading French novels to my aunt.
Such horrid things! She has lost her taste for the natural, and likes
only the extravagant. I have been at it ever since luncheon, and at
last, when the wretches had all charcoaled themselves to death, I came
out to breathe fresh air and purity.'

'Where's the Piper!'

'Piper no longer. Have you not heard?'

'Not a word since Percy announced that my aunt and Harrison had come to
a split about the orchids.'

'You have great things to hear. Harrison got a magnificent appointment,
as he calls it--situation is not grand enough--to some botanic gardens;
splendid salary. Nothing hindered the wedding but Miss Piper's dread of
my aunt. It was not only that she could not tell her, but she could not
face her after it was told, though I offered to undertake that. So the
upshot was, that for very cowardice she preferred stealing the match and
taking French leave. It was a silly piece of business; but I could not
help that, and they were accountable to no one. I promised to announce
it to my aunt when the deed was done, and satisfied the poor little
woman's conscience by undertaking to be my aunt's white nigger till she
bought another.'

'If that's not self-devotion, I don't know what is,' said Arthur. 'I
trust she has got one.'

'She comes to-morrow.'

'How was the wedding managed?'

'Harrison came with his license from Whitford, and I walked forth with
sal volatile in one hand and salts in the other, administering them by
turns to the fainting bride. I dragged her all the way by main strength,
supported her through the service, and was very near giving her away by
mistake, for there was no one else to do it but old Brand. He and I are
the witnesses in the register. I received her hysterical farewells, and
Harrison's elegant acknowledgments; saw them into their fly, and
came home, trusting to Providence that I could inform my aunt without
bringing on a fit.'

'After surviving the news of your engagement she may bear anything.'

'Ah! there she takes refuge in incredulity. Now this was a fact. So
there was nothing for it but to take a high tone. I gave the history,
and told my own share; then, in the style of Richard II, when Wat Tyler
was killed, declared I would be her companion; and, after some bandying
of words, we settled down peaceably.'

'One thing amazes me. How did you get Wingfield to do it? I had plague
enough with the old parson at Wrangerton, and I should have thought
Wingfield harder to manage.'

'They had no consent to ask--no one could forbid the banns. He soon
saw the rights of it,' said Theodora, unable to prevent herself from
blushing.

'You talked him over, eh?'

'Arthur, you are looking at me as if you wanted to put me out of
countenance. Well, you shall hear the truth; it is safe with you, and no
one else knows it. It is my chief reason for wishing to go to London.'

'Ah ha!'

'Yes, you were right in warning me. He must needs think I worked in the
parish for his sake; and one fine day, as I was walking home, he joined
company, and before I knew where I was he was making me an offer.'

'And learnt what disdain means, if he did not know before.'

'No,' said Theodora, gravely, and blushing deeply. 'I recollected your
warning, and saw that if there had not been something like encouragement
he would not have forgotten the distance between us. This wedding has
occasioned conferences; besides, Percy was exacting at Christmas, and I
had rather tried to tease him. I thought, living close by, Mr. Wingfield
must have known the state of the case, and that I need not be on my
guard; so that, having so far taken him in, I thought it right to tell
him I was afraid he had not been fairly used, for I had trusted to his
knowing I was engaged. So we parted amicably; but it is a great bore,
for he is much more cut up than I expected, poor man. He went from home
the next Monday, and is but just come back, looking disconsolate enough
to set people wondering what is on his spirits, and avoids me, so as to
show them. It would be the best possible thing for me to get out of the
way till it is blown over, for I have no comfort in parish work. It has
been a relief to be always shut up with my aunt, since that was a reason
for not going into the village.'

'Then you will stay till the family migration?'

'I don't think there will be any this year. Papa talks about bad times,
and says the season in London is too expensive; and mamma was worried
and tired last year, and did not enjoy it, so she will be glad to avoid
it and stay with my aunt.'

'And, you being no longer a subject for speculation, there's no object.'

'Yes; I am glad to have ended that hateful consciousness.'

'Well, Violet will do her best for you.'

'I don't want her to trouble herself; I only want house-room.'

'And a change after a month's white niggering.'

'That's another reason. My aunt has grown so dependent on me, that this
new lady will not have a fair chance if I am at home; and if I don't
break the habit, I shall never call my time my own again.'

In fact, Theodora had been suffering under a fit of restlessness and
dissatisfaction, which made her anxious to change the scene. The school,
her great resource, was liable to be a place of awkward meetings. She
was going to lose her dumb charge; and with Percy and Arthur both at a
distance, there was no excitement nor relief to the tedium of home. The
thorough self-sacrificing attendance on her aunt had been the sole means
left her of maintaining the sense of fulfilling a duty.

The unexpected arrival of her favourite brother was as a reward. Her
spirits rose, and she talked with gaiety and animation, delighted to
find him claiming her company for walks and rides to be taken in his
holiday week, and feeling as if now the prediction had truly come to
pass, that he would be relieved to come to her from the annoyances of
his home.

Every one seemed glad to see Arthur--even Mrs. Nesbit. In the course
of the evening something was said about a dinner party for the ensuing
Saturday, and Lady Martindale asked if he could stay for it.

'Saturday? Yes; I need not go back till Monday.'

'I wish Violet could have come,' said Lord Martindale. 'I am glad you
can give us a week; but it is a long time for her to be alone. I hope
she has some friend to be with her.'

'Oh, she wants no one,' said Arthur. 'She begged me to go; and I fancy
she will be rather glad to have no distraction from the child. I am
only in the way of her perpetual walking up and down the room with him
whining in her arms.'

'Ah! it is an unlucky affair,' said Mrs. Nesbit, in her sarcastic tone
of condolence; 'she will never rear it.'

She seemed, in her triumph, to have forgotten that its father was
present, and his impatient speech had certainly not been such as to
bring it to mind; but this was too much, and, starting, he hastily
exclaimed, 'Children always do make a fuss about their teeth!'

'I do not speak without the authority of medical men,' said Mrs. Nesbit.
'I don't blame your wife, poor thing.'

What do you mean? cried Arthur, colour and voice both rising.

'I am surprised your brother kept it from you,' said she, gratified at
torturing him; 'you ought to have been informed.'

'Tell me at once,' said Arthur.

'Only this, Arthur,' said his father, interposing: 'when first the
doctor at Ventnor saw him he thought him very delicate, and told John
that he would hardly get through the first year without great care.'

'He has all but done that!' said Arthur, breathing more freely; 'he will
be a year old on the third.'

'Yes; afterwards the doctor thought much better of him, and John saw no
occasion to make you and Violet more anxious.'

'Then it all goes for nothing!' said Arthur, looking full at his aunt
with defiance, and moving to the furthest end of the room.

But it did not go for nothing. He could not shake off the impression.
The child's illness had never been so alarming as to stir up his
feelings, though his comfort had been interfered with; and there were
recollections of impatience that came painfully upon him. He knew that
Violet thought him more indifferent to his child than he really was;
and, though she had never uttered a complaint or reproach, he was sure
that he had hurt and distressed her by displeasure at the crying, and
by making light of the anxieties, which he now learnt were but too well
founded.

Arthur's easiness and selfishness made him slow to take alarm, but when
once awakened there was no limit to his anxiety. He knew now what it
would be to lose his first-born. He thought of the moment when the babe
had been laid on his hand, and of the sad hours when that feeble cry had
been like a charm, holding the mother to life; and his heart smote
him as he thought of never hearing again the voice of which he had
complained. What might not be happening at that moment? As grisly a
train of chances rose before him as ever had haunted Violet herself, and
he thought of a worse return home than even his last. Yet he had never
desired her to let him know whether all was well!

He could not sleep, and in the morning twilight he sought out writing
materials, and indited his first letter to his wife:--


'Dear Violet,--I hope you and the boy are well. I have not coughed since
I left London. I come home on Monday, if all goes well, and Theodora
with me. She has made the place too hot to hold her.

'Yours ever,

'A. N. MARTINDALE.

'P.S. Write and say how the boy is.'


Having hunted up a servant, and sent him with this missive to the early
post, Arthur's paternal conscience was satisfied; and, going to bed
again, he slept till breakfast was half over, then good-humouredly
listened to exclamations on his tardiness, and loitered about the rest
of the morning, to the great pleasure of his sister.

The companion, Mrs. Garth, the highly recommended widow of a marine
officer, arrived in the afternoon; and Arthur, meeting her on the
stairs, pronounced that she was a forbidding-looking female, and there
was no fear that she would not be able to hold her own.

Rejoicing in newly-recovered freedom, Theodora had a long ride with him;
and having planned another to a village near a trout-stream, where he
wanted to inquire about lodgings for his indefatigable fishing
friend, Captain Fitzhugh, she was working hard to dispose of her daily
avocations before breakfast the next day, when Arthur knocked at her
door. 'Good morning,' he said hastily. 'I must go home. My little boy is
very ill.'

'Is he? What is it?'

'A bad fit of croup. He was better when the letter went. My poor Violet!
She has called in further advice; but it may come back. Do you like to
come with me?'

'If you like to have me.'

'Only be quick. I must be gone by the ten o'clock train. You must be
ready to start by nine.'

'I'll be ready at once,' said Theodora, hastily ringing for Pauline, and
rushing upon her preparations. She could not bear to part with him in
his grief, and thought, in case of the child's severe illness or death,
that he would be in need of her comfort when he had his wife on his
hands. She would not take Pauline--she would not be dependent, and
trouble their small household with another servant; but Charles Layton
she could not leave, and having given orders to pack up her things, she
flew off down the avenue to desire his aunt to prepare him.

Up and down, backwards and forwards, giving directions to every one, she
hurried about till her father summoned her to breakfast.

'I am glad you are going with him, my dear,' he said, as he went down
the steps with her. 'We shall depend on you for hearing of the little
boy.'

That genuine cordial approbation was so pleasant that the thought
crossed her, 'Was she going to be a blessing to her family?'

'Good-bye, Arthur,' said Lord Martindale, warmly pressing his hand. 'I
hope you will find him better, and Violet not doing too much. Give my
love to her.'

Arthur was moved by his father's unwonted warmth, and leaned back in the
carriage in silence. Theodora watched him anxiously, and did not speak
for some time.

'Had there been any tendency to croup before?' she asked at last.

'Tender throat, I believe; Violet always was anxious. I wish I had not
come away; it is too much for her alone! Ha! what are we stopping for
now?'

'To pick up Charles Layton.'

'You'll make us miss the train.'

'No, here he is. He shall be in nobody's way. I'll put him into the
housemaid's charge in Belgrave square.'

And with her eyes and fingers she encouraged the poor child as he was
lifted up to the box. 'There, I've not stopped you long.'

'What shall you do with him on the railroad!'

'Take him with us, of course.'

'I won't have him going in a first-class with me.'

'Then I shall go in a second-class with him.'

Here it occurred to her that this was a strange way of fulfilling her
mission of comfort, and she would fain have recalled her words, but only
sat silent till they came to the station, where, without any further
question, they were all three lodged in the same carriage, where
presently a county neighbour entered, attracted by the sight of Arthur.
Theodora was provoked, feeling for Arthur, and thinking it was the
stranger's presence that hindered her from resuming the task of cheering
him, but she was more annoyed when Arthur plunged into a hunting
discussion.

She sat working up the scene which awaited them, the child just
expiring, his mother in hysterical agonies, and she herself displaying
all her energy and resources, perhaps saving Johnnie's life--at any
rate, being her brother's stay and support when his wife gave way.

His silence and anxious looks returned as they drove from the station,
and she could think of nothing to say but the old hope that the baby was
better. As they stopped, he threw open the carriage-door, and springing
out, impatiently rang.

'Child better?' were his hurried words to James.

'Yes, sir.'

Before even this brief answer was spoken, Arthur was halfway upstairs.
No one was in the drawing room; he dashed up to the bed-room; that, too,
was empty; he climbed on where he had never been before, and opened the
nursery-door.

There sat Violet on a low chair by the fire, with the little boy on her
lap. With a cry of joy she rose; and in another moment was standing,
almost unable to speak, as she saw Johnnie, looking much surprised, but
well pleased, to find himself in those strong arms, and his soft face
scrubbed by the black whiskers.

'He is pleased! He is smiling. You know papa, don't you, my Johnnie?'
cried the happy Violet.

'And he is all right again?'

'So much better to-day! We trust the cold is gone. Does he not breathe
softly and freely? If only there's no return to-night.'

'Was there last night?'

'Indeed there was. It was too dreadful!' said Violet, leaning against
him, and lowering her voice. 'Once Sarah and Mr. Harding both thought it
was all over, and I never dared to expect to see those eyes come back to
their own dear look at me! O, Arthur, when I thought if I could but once
have seen him in your arms! I never thought to be so happy as this!' and
she caressed the child to hide the tears of thankfulness. 'I'm glad you
weren't there.'

'My Violet, why!'

'You could not have borne to have seen and heard, and now you won't have
it to remember. At least, I trust not! Think of their once wanting me to
go away, saying it was not fit, and that I was of no use; but you knew
better, Johnnie. You held mamma's finger tight, and when you came to
yourself, your sweet look and smile were for her! And at last he went
to sleep over my shoulder, as he likes best; and I felt each one of his
breathings, but they grew soft and smooth at last, and after two good
hours he woke up quite himself.'

'And you! Sitting up all night! You are not fit for such things. How did
you get through it?'

'I don't know; I hardly remember,' said Violet. 'Your letter was such a
pleasure! and oh! I had help.'

'What, Harding--'

'I did not mean that, though he was very kind. No, I meant
thoughts--verses in the Bible,' said Violet, hanging her head, and
whispering, 'I don't mean at the worst. Then one could only pray he
might not suffer so much; but things his uncle had helped me to, did
come so comfortably while he was asleep. Don't you remember saying I had
no troubles for Helen's cross to comfort me in!'

'And did it?' said Arthur, half smiling.

'Not itself, you know; but it helped to put me in mind to be sure that
all he was going through would somehow be a blessing. I could bear it
then, and not be angry, as I was last year. Dear little fellow, it is as
if he would put me in mind himself, for the only thing like play he has
done to-day has been holding it up, and pulling its chain.'

'There! go to your mother, Johnnie,' said Arthur, giving him back. 'She
is a rare one, I tell you, and you understand each other. He does not
look much amiss either. He really is a very pretty little fellow!'

No wonder Arthur made the discovery, as he for the first time remarked
the large wistful dark eyes, the delicately fair skin, which the heat
of the fire had tinged with soft pink, on the cheeks, the shapely little
head, with its flaxen waves of curl; and the tiny, bare, rosy feet,
outstretched to enjoy the warmth. Very small, tender, and fragile he
looked, and his features had an almost mournful expression, but there
was something peculiarly engaging in this frail little being.

Violet was charmed with the tribute of admiration: indeed, she had
hardly known whether she might hope for Arthur's return, though she had
felt as if her heart would break if her child should die without his
coming. The winter, though cheerful, had been spent in endeavours
against her want of faith and hope, and this hard trial in the spring
had brought with it a comfort and beginning of resignation that proved
that her efforts had not been in vain.

Very happy she was as, Sarah coming up, she prepared to go down with
Arthur, who now remembered to inform her of the arrival of 'Theodora and
her dummy.'

These two personages were waiting in the drawing-room, Theodora in an
excited state of anticipation and energy, prepared for a summons to take
care of the baby, while Arthur was supporting his wife in hysterics.

Long she waited and listened; at last there was an opening of doors,
then what she fancied the first shriek, and she started, alarmed, in
spite of being wound up, but it sounded nearer--much too like a
bona fide laugh, the very girlish sound she had condemned--Arthur's
voice--Violet's gaily answering! They came in, full of smiles, Violet
with outstretched hands, and warm unconstrained welcome. 'How kind of
you to come! I'm sorry you have been so long alone, but I did not know
it,' said she, kissing her sister-in-law, and giving a kind silent
greeting to the dumb boy.

Disconcerted at her waste of preparation, Theodora stood for a moment,
fancying Violet triumphant in having spoilt Arthur's holiday by what
must have been an exaggerated trifle. She was almost ready to make no
inquiry for Johnnie, but 'conventional instinct' prevailed, and his
parents were so full of him, and of each other, that it set them off
into an eager conversation, such as made her, in her present mood,
believe herself neglected for the sake of Arthur's weak, tyrannical,
exacting idol. She resolved to take Charles at once to her father's
house. If it would not have been an insult to her brother, she would
have slept there herself. She surprised the others by rising from her
seat, and taking up the boy's cap.

'Oh!' exclaimed Violet, 'I had forgotten him, poor little fellow. I will
take him to Susan to have some tea.'

'Thank you, I am going to take him to the maid at our house.'

'O, pray do not,' said Violet, imploringly; 'there's plenty of room
here, and we can see about him so much better.'

'I had rather,' persisted Theodora.

'But see, it is getting dark. The lamps are lighted. You can't go now.'

'I shall not lose my way,' said Theodora, taking by the hand the poor
boy, who seemed unwilling to leave the fire and Mrs. Martindale's kind
looks.

'Now, Arthur! you wont let her go!' said Violet, distressed.

'What's the row?' said Arthur. 'Setting out on your travels again,
Theodora!'

'Only to take Charlie to Belgrave-square.'

'I sha'n't come with you.'

'I can go by myself.'

'Nonsense. You have rattled the poor child about enough for one day.
Stay at home like a rational woman, and Violet will see to him.'

The dumb child gazed as if he read their faces, and was begging to
remain; he gladly allowed Violet to take his hand, and she led him
away, inviting Theodora to come and give her own directions about him to
Susan, the girl from Brogden.

So sweet was the manner, so kind the welcome, and so pretty the
solicitude for her comfort, that pride and prejudice had much difficulty
in maintaining themselves. But Theodora thought that she did not like
blandishments, and she was angry at the sensation of being in the
inferior situation of Violet's guest, at a moment of its being so
signally shown that she could not permit Arthur to enjoy himself without
her. To get home again as fast as possible was her resolution, as
she merely unpacked the articles for immediate use, and after a hasty
toilette, returned to the drawing-room.

Arthur and Violet were in earnest conversation. She fancied herself
an interruption, and did not second their attempts to make it general.
Violet had received a letter from John, and was offering it to Arthur,
who only yawned.

'Five sheets! He writes an abominably small hand! You may tell me what
it is about. Niggers and humming-birds and such cattle, I suppose.'

'He has been to see the bishop. He wants a chaplain to live in the house
with him to teach the negroes, and have the church when it is built.'

'No chance of his coming home, then?'

'No, he is so well and busy. Percy Fotheringham is to send out some
plans for the church--and only think! he has told Percy to come and ask
me about Mr. Fanshawe--don't you remember him?'

'The curate at the chapel at Wrangerton?'

'I once told John of his wish for missionary work, so Percy is to see
about it, and if it will do, send him to Lord Martindale. Percy called
yesterday, but I could not see him; indeed, I had not time to read my
letter; and oh, Theodora, I am so glad you are come, for he wants all
manner of infant school pictures and books for the picaninnies, and it
is just the commission you understand.'

The hearing of John's letter read, so far from mollifying Theodora,
renewed the other grievance. At home, it was only by chance that she
heard of her eldest brother's plans, even when matured and submitted to
his father; and she now found that they were discussed from the first
with Violet, almost requiring her approval. The confidential ease and
flow made it seem unlike John's composition, used as Theodora was to
hear only such letters of his as would bear unfriendly inspection,
entertaining, but like a book of travels. It was a fresh injury to
discover that he had a style from his heart.

Theodora was in a mood to search for subjects of disapproval, but the
cheerful rooms, and even the extemporized dinner, afforded her none; the
only cause of irritation she could find was Arthur's anxiety when the
lamplight revealed Violet's pale exhausted looks. She had forgotten her
fatigue as long as there was anything to be done, and the delight of the
arrival had driven it away; but it now became evident that Arthur was
uneasy. Theodora was gloomy, and not responding to her languid attempts
at conversation, thinking there was affectation in her worn-out
plaintive voice.

As soon as the tedious dinner was over, Arthur insisted on her going
at once to bed, without listening to her entreaties that, as it was
Theodora's first evening, she might lie on the sofa and hear them talk.
She turned back at the door to tell Theodora that there was a new review
on the table, with something in it she would like to read, and then let
Arthur take her up-stairs.

'Ah!' thought Theodora, 'tormenting him about the child does not
suffice--she must be ill herself! It is even beyond what I expected.
When she had brought him home she might have let him have his evening in
peace; but I suppose she is displeased at my coming, and won't let him
stay with me. She will keep him in attendance all the evening, so I
may as well see what books she has got. "The West Indies"; "The
Crusaders"--of course! "Geoffroi de Villechardouin"--Percy's name in
it. Where's this review? Some puff, I suppose. Yes, now if I was a silly
young lady, how much I should make of Percy because he has made a
good hit, and is a literary lion; but he shall see the world makes no
difference to me. I thought the book good in manuscript; and all the
critics in the country won't make me think a bit better of it or of its
author. However, I'll just see what nonsense they talk till she chooses
to release Arthur.'

What would have been her displeasure if she had known that Arthur was
lingering up-stairs giving his wife a ludicrous version of her adventure
with Mr. Wingfield!

After a time the drawing-room door opened, but she did not heed it,
meaning to be distant and indifferent; but a browner, harder hand than
Arthur's was put down on the book before her, and an unexpected voice
said, 'Detected!'

'Percy! Oh, how are you?' she exclaimed.

'I am very glad you are come; I came to inquire at the door, and they
told me that you were here. How is she, poor thing?'

'She is gone to bed; Arthur thinks her knocked up.'

'It is well he is come; I was much concerned at her being alone
yesterday. So little Johnnie is better?'

'Like Mother Hubbard's dog.'

'The croup is no joke,' said Percy, gravely.

'Then you think there was really something in it?'

'Why, what do you mean? Do you think it was humbug?'

'Not at all; but it was such a terrific account, and alarmed poor Arthur
so much, that it gave one rather a revulsion of feeling to hear her
laughing.'

'I am very glad she could laugh.'

'Well, but don't you think, Percy, that innocently, perhaps, she
magnified a little alarm?'

'You would not speak of little alarms if you had seen Harding this
morning. I met him just coming away after a fearful night. The child
was in the utmost danger, but his mother's calmness and presence of mind
never failed. But I'll say no more, for the sound wholesome atmosphere
of this house must cure you of your prejudices.'

Arthur came down dispirited; and Percy, who had thought him an
indifferent father, was pleased with him, and set himself to cheer his
spirits, seconded by Theodora, who was really penitent.

She could not be at peace with herself till she had made some amends;
and when she had wished her brother good night, found her way to the
nursery, where her old friend Sarah sat, keeping solemn watch over the
little cot by the fire. One of her sepulchral whispers assured the aunt
that he was doing nicely, but the thin white little face, and spare hand
and arm, grieved Theodora's heart, and with no incredulity she listened
to Sarah's description of the poor little fellow's troubles and sweet
unconscious patience, and that perfect trust in his mother that always
soothed and quieted him. It appeared that many nights had been spent
in broken rest, and for the last two neither mother nor nurse had
undressed. Sarah was extremely concerned for her mistress, who, she
said, was far from strong, and she feared would be made as ill as she
was last year, and if so, nothing could save her. This made Theodora
feel as if she had been positively cruel, and she was the more bent on
reparation. She told Sarah she must be over-tired, and was told, as if
it was a satisfactory answer, that Mrs. Martindale had wished her to go
to bed at six this morning. However, her eyes looked extinguished, and
Theodora, by the fascinating manner she often exercised with inferiors,
at last persuaded her to lie down in her clothes, and leave her to keep
watch.

It was comfortable to hear the deep breathings of the weary servant,
and to sit by that little cot, sensible of being for once of substantial
use, and meaning that no one ever should know it. But she was again
disconcerted; for the stairs creaked, the door was softly opened, and
Arthur stood on the threshold. The colour mantled into her face, as if
she had been doing wrong.

'The poor maid is worn out; I am come for the first part of the night,'
she said, in a would-be cold whisper. But his smile and low-toned 'Thank
you,' were so different from all she had ever known from him, that she
could hardly maintain her attempt at impassibility.

'I thought Violet would sleep better for the last news,' said he,
kneeling on one knee to look at the child, his face so softened and
thoughtful that it was hardly like the same; but recovering, he gave a
broad careless smile, together with a sigh: 'Little monkey,' he said,
'he gets hold of one somehow--I wish he may have got through it.
Theodora, I hope you will have no alarms. Violet will take it very kind
of you.'

'Oh, don't tell her.'

'Good night,' and he leaned over her and kissed her forehead, in a
grave grateful way that brought the tears into her eyes as he silently
departed.

Her vigil was full of thoughts, and not unprofitable ones. Her best
feelings were stirred up, and she could not see Arthur, in this new
light, without tenderness untainted by jealousy. Percy had brought her
to a sense of her injustice--this was the small end of the wedge,
and the discovery of the real state of things was another blow. While
watching the placid sleep of the child, it was not easy to harden
herself against its mother; and after that first relenting and
acknowledgment, the flood of honest warm strong feeling was in a way to
burst the barrier of haughtiness, and carry her on further than she by
any means anticipated. The baby slept quietly, and the clock had
struck two before his first turn on the pillow wakened Sarah, though a
thunder-clap would not have broken her slumber. She was at his cradle
before he had opened his eyes, and feeding and fondling hushed his weak
cry before it had disturbed his mother. Theodora went to her room on
good terms with herself.

She had never allowed late hours to prevent her from going to the early
service, and as she left her room prepared for it, she met Violet coming
out of the nursery. Theodora for once did not attempt to disguise her
warmth of heart, and eagerly asked for the little boy.

'Quite comfortable--almost merry,' answered Violet, and taking the hand
stretched out in a very different way from the formal touch with which
it usually paid its morning greeting, and raising her eyes with her
gentle earnest look, she said, 'Dear Theodora, I am afraid you don't
like it, but you must let me this once thank you.'

Theodora's face was such that Violet ventured to kiss her, then found an
arm round her neck, and a warm kiss in return. Theodora ran down-stairs,
thinking it a discovery that there was more beauty in those eyes than
merely soft brown colour and long black lashes. It was a long time
since her heart had been so light. It was as if a cold hard weight was
removed. That one softening had been an inexpressible relief, and
when she had thrown aside the black veil that had shrouded her view,
everything looked so bright and sweet that she could hardly understand
it.

The whole scene was new. She had been seldom from home, and only as a
visitor in great houses, whither Lady Martindale carried formality; and
she had never known the charm of ease in a small family. Here it would
have been far more hard to support her cold solitary dignity than in
the 'high baronial pride' of Martindale. She was pleased to see how well
Arthur looked as master of the house, and both he and his wife were so
much delighted to make her welcome now that she would allow them,
that it seemed extraordinary that a year and three quarters had passed
without her ever having entered their house. Violet was, she owned, a
caressing, amiable, lovable creature, needing to be guarded and petted,
and she laid herself open to the pleasure of having something to make
much of and patronize.

After breakfast, Violet installed her in the back drawing-room,
promising that she should there be entirely free from interruption,
but she had no desire to shut herself up; she was eager to see little
Johnnie, and did not scruple to confess it. He was their chief bond of
union, and if she was charmed with him now, when feeble and ailing, how
much more as he recovered. Even at his best, he was extremely delicate,
very small, thin, and fair, so that face and arms, as well as flaxen
hair, were all as white as his frock, and were only enlivened by his
dark eyes. He was backward in strength, but almost too forward in
intelligence; grave and serious, seldom laughing, and often inclined to
be fretful, altogether requiring the most anxious care, but exceedingly
engaging and affectionate, and already showing patience and obedience
to his mother that was almost affecting. Their mutual fondness was
beautiful, and Theodora honoured it when she saw that the tenderness was
judicious, obviating whines, but enforcing obedience even when it was
pain and grief to cross the weakly child.

Moreover, Theodora was satisfied by finding that she had diligently kept
up the Sunday-school teaching of the little Brogden maid; and as to her
household management, Theodora set herself to learn it; and soon began
to theorize and devise grand plans of economy, which she wanted Violet
to put in practice at once, and when told they would not suit Arthur,
complacently answered, 'That would not be her hindrance.'

Violet wrote to John that if he could see Theodora and Percy now, he
would be completely satisfied as to their attachment and chances of
happiness.



CHAPTER 12


     I saw her hold Earl Percy at the point
     With lustier maintenance than I did look for
     Of such an ungrown warrior.

     --King Henry IV


As soon as Violet could leave her little boy without anxiety, the two
sisters deposited Charles Layton at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, with
hopes that a few years' training there would enable him to become Miss
Martindale's little page, the grand object of his desires.

Their next and merriest excursion was to Percy's lodgings, where he had
various Greek curiosities which he wished to show them; and
Theodora consented to come with her brother and sister in a simple
straightforward way that Violet admired.

His rooms were over a toy-shop in Piccadilly, in such a roar of sounds
that the ladies exclaimed, and Arthur asked him how much he paid for
noise.

'It is worth having,' said Percy; 'it is cheerful.'

'Do you think so?' exclaimed Violet. 'I think carriages, especially late
at night, make a most dismal dreary sound.'

'They remind me of an essay of Miss Talbot's where she speaks of
her companions hastening home from the feast of empty shells,' said
Theodora.

'Ay! those are your West-end carriages,' said Percy; 'I will allow
them a dreary dissatisfied sound. Now mine are honest, business-like
market-waggons, or hearty tradesfolk coming home in cabs from treating
their children to the play. There is sense in those! I go to sleep
thinking what drops of various natures make up the roar of that great
human cataract, and wake up dreaming of the Rhine falls.

    "Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
     And a river flows down the vale of Cheapside."

Eh, Mrs. Martindale?'

Violet, who always received a quotation of Wordsworth as a compliment to
the north, smiled and answered, 'I am afraid with me it would end in,

    "The stream will not flow, the hill will not rise."'

'Pish, Violet,' said her husband, 'how can you expect to feel like poets
and lovers? And halloo! he is coming it strong! "Poems by A."; "The
White Hind and other Poems"; "Gwyneth: a tale in verse"; "Farewell
to Pausilippo", by the Earl of St. Erme. Well done, Percy! Are you
collecting original serenades for Theodora? I'll never betray where they
came from.'

'It is all in the way of trade,' said Percy.

'Reviewing?' said Theodora.

'Yes; there has been such an absurd amount of flattery bestowed on them
that it must provoke any reasonable being. It really is time to put
forth a little common sense, since the magazines will have it that earls
write better than other people.'

'Some of the verses in Lord St. Erme's last volume seem to me very
pretty,' said Violet.

'There, she is taking up the cudgels for her countryman,' said Arthur,
always pleased when she put herself forward.

'Which do you mean?' said Percy, turning on her incredulously.

'I like those about the Bay of Naples,' she answered.

'You do not mean these?' and he read them in so good-humoured a tone
that no one could be vexed, but marking every inconsistent simile and
word tortured out of its meaning, and throwing in notes and comments on
the unfaithfulness of the description.

'There! it would do as well for the Bay of Naples as for the farm-yard
at Martindale--all water and smoke.'

Arthur and Theodora laughed, but Violet stood her ground, blushingly but
resolutely.

'Anything so read would sound ill,' she said. 'I dare say it is all
right about the faults, but some parts seem to me very pretty. This
stanza, about the fishermen's boats at night, like sparks upon the
water, is one I like, because it is what John once described to me.'

'You are right, Mrs. Martindale,' said Percy, reading a second time the
lines to which she alluded. 'They do recall the evening scene; Mount
Vesuvius and its brooding cloud, and the trails of phosphoric light upon
the sea. I mark these for approval. But have you anything to say for
this Address to the Mediterranean?'

He did not this time mar the poem in the reading, and it was not needed,
the compound words and twisted epithets were so extravagant that no one
gainsaid Arthur's sentence, 'Stilts and bladders!'

'And all that abuse of the savage north is unpardonable,' said Theodora.
'Sluggish torpid minds, indeed, frozen by skies bound in mist belts! If
he would stay at home and mind his own business, he would not have time
to talk such nonsense.'

'Now,' said the still undaunted Violet, when the torrent of unsparing
jest had expended itself, 'now it is my turn. Let me show you one short
piece. This--"To L."'

It was an address evidently to his orphan sister, very beautiful and
simple; and speaking so touchingly of their loneliness together and
dependence on each other, that Mr. Fotheringham was overcome, and fairly
broke down in the reading--to the dismay of Violet, who had little
thought his feelings so easily excited.

'Think of the man going and publishing it,' said Theodora. 'If I was
Lady Lucy, I should not care a rush for it now.'

'That is what you get by belonging to a poet,' said Arthur. 'He wears
his heart outside.'

'This came straight from the heart, at least,' said Percy. 'It is good,
very good. I am glad you showed it to me. It would never do not to be
candid. I will turn him over again.'

'Well done, councillor,' cried Arthur. 'She has gained a verdict for
him.'

'Modified the sentence, and given me some re-writing to do,' said Percy.
'I cannot let him off; the more good there is in him, the more it
is incumbent on some one to slash him. Authors are like spaniels, et
cetera.'

'Hear, hear, Theodora!' cried Arthur. 'See there, he has the stick
ready, I declare.'

For in truth Arthur would hardly have been so patient of hearing so much
poetry, if it had not been for the delight he always took in seeing
his wife's opinion sought by a clever man, and he was glad to turn for
amusement to Percy's curiosities. Over the mantel-piece there was a sort
of trophy in imitation of the title-page to Robinson Crusoe, a thick
hooked stick set up saltire-wise with the green umbrella, and between
them a yataghan, supporting a scarlet blue-tasselled Greek cap. Percy
took down the stick, and gave it into Theodora's hand, saying, 'It has
been my companion over half Europe and Asia; I cut it at--'

'By the well of St. Keyne?' suggested the malicious brother.

'No, at the source of the Scamander,' said Percy. It served us in good
stead when we got into the desert of Engaddi.'

'Oh! was that when the robbers broke into John's tent?' exclaimed
Violet. 'Surely you had some better weapon?'

'Not I; the poor rogues were not worth wasting good powder on, and a
good English drubbing was a much newer and more effective experiment.
I was thenceforth known by the name of Grandfather of Clubs, and Brown
always manoeuvred me into sleeping across the entrance of the tent. I do
believe we should have left him entombed in the desert sands, if John's
dressing-case had been lost!'

'What a capital likeness of John,' said Theodora. 'Mamma would be quite
jealous of it.'

'It belonged to my sister,' said Percy. 'He got it done by an Italian,
who has made him rather theatrically melancholy; but it is a good
picture, and like John when he looked more young-mannish and sentimental
than he does now.'

A hiss and cluck made Violet start. In a dark corner, shrouded by the
curtain, sat Pallas Athene, the owl of the Parthenon, winking at the
light, and testifying great disapproval of Arthur, though when her
master took her on his finger, she drew herself up and elevated her
pretty little feathery horns with satisfaction, and did not even object
to his holding her to a great tabby cat belonging to the landlady, but
which was most at home on the hearth-rug of the good-natured lodger.

'I always read my compositions to them,' said Percy. 'Pallas acts
sapient judge to admiration, and Puss never commits herself, applauding
only her own music--like other critics. We reserve our hisses for
others.'

'How do you feed the owl, Percy?'

'A small boy provides her with sparrows and mice for sixpence a dozen.
I doubted whether it was cruelty to animals, but decided that it was
diverting the spirit of the chase to objects more legitimate than
pocket-handkerchiefs.'

'Ho! so there you seek your proteges!'

'He sought me. I seized him fishing in my pocket. I found he had no
belongings, and that his most commodious lodging-house was one of the
huge worn-out boilers near Nine-Elms--an illustration for Watts's Hymns,
Theodora.'

'Poor little creature!' said Violet, horrified. 'What will become of
him?'

'He is doing justice to the patronage of the goddess of wisdom,' said
Percy. 'He is as sharp as a needle, and gets on in the world--has
discarded "conveying," and promoted himself to selling lucifers.'

'A happy family theirs will be,' said Arthur. 'Cat, owl, and two rival
pages!'

So, having duly admired all, curious books, potteries, red and black,
tiles and lachrymatories, coins, scraps of ancient armour, a stuffed
bee-eater, and the bottled remains of a green lizard that had been a pet
at Constantinople--and having been instructed in the difference between
various Eastern modes of writing--the merry visit closed; and as the two
sisters went home they planned a suit of clothes for the owl's provider,
Theodora stipulating for all the hard and unusual needlework.



CHAPTER 13


     I am ashamed that women are so simple
     To offer war when they should kneel for peace,
     Or seek the rule, supremacy, and sway,
     When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.

     --Taming of the Shrew


It was an early season, and Theodora had not been a fortnight at her
brother's before numerous arrivals necessitated a round of visits, to
which she submitted without more than moderate grumbling. The first call
was on the Rickworth ladies; but it was not a propitious moment, for
other visitors were in the drawing-room, and among them Miss Marstone.
Emma came to sit by Violet, and was very anxious to hear whether she had
not become intimate with Theresa. Violet could not give a good account
of herself in this respect; their hours did not suit, and they had only
twice met.

'And is she not delightful?'

'She is a very superior person' said Violet, looking down. 'Do you know
her sisters? I liked one of them.'

'We shall have to call on them, but they are mere ordinary girls--no
companions to Theresa. She laments it very much, and has had to make a
line for herself. I must come and tell you about it some morning. It is
nonsense to meet in this way and think of conversation.

Theodora had, in the meantime, had the exclusive attention of Miss
Marstone. 'So Emma is constant to the Prae-Raffaelite,' said Theodora,
as they drove from the door. 'What is all this about the Priory?'

'Did Miss Marstone talk about that?' said Violet, aghast.

'She said something about a restoration. What! is it a secret?'

'I suppose she thought you must know it, since I did. I was much
surprised by her beginning about it to me, for when Emma first mentioned
it to me, Lady Elizabeth seemed vexed, and begged me never to hint at
it.'

'So Emma wants to make restitution. Well done, little Emma! I did not
think it was in her.'

'It has been her darling scheme for years; but Lady Elizabeth has made
her promise to wait till she is five-and-twenty, and not to consider
herself pledged.'

'How like Lady Elizabeth! One respects her like an institution! I hope
Emma may hold out, but she has a firebrand in her counsels. I am glad
you are not infatuated.'

'I am sure I don't know what I think of Miss Marstone. I cannot like
her; yet I want to admire her--she is so good.'

'Let her be as good as she pleases; why should she be silly?'

'Oh! she is very clever.'

'When good and clever people are silly, they are the biggest simpletons
of all.'

'Then I don't think I quite know what you mean by silliness.'

'Not turning one's sense to the best advantage, I suppose,' said
Theodora. 'That Miss Marstone provokes me. If her principles were not
right I should not care; but when she has sound views, to see her go
on talking, with no reserve, only caring for what is out of the way, it
makes one feel oneself turned to ridicule. How can Lady Elizabeth endure
it?'

'I don't think she likes it, but Emma is so fond of her!'

'Oh! as to Emma, her poor little imagination is dazzled. It is
providential that she has four years to wait! Unless, indeed, there is
a reaction, and she marries either a broken-down fox-hunter or a popular
preacher.'

Violet's horrified protests were cut short by the carriage stopping. In
returning, they called at Mrs. Finch's house, to inquire when the family
were expected to return from Paris. They had arrived that morning, and
Violet said she would make a short visit, and then go home and send the
carriage back, but Theodora preferred walking home.

As they were announced, Mrs. Finch started up from a gilded sofa on
which she had been reclining, reading a French brochure. Her dress was
in the excess of the newest Parisian fashion, such as even to London
eyes looked outre, and, as well as her hair, had the disordered look
of being just off a journey. Her face had a worn aspect, and the colour
looked fixed. Theodora, always either rigidly simple or appropriately
splendid, did not like Violet to see her friend in such a condition, and
could almost have shrunk from the eager greeting. 'Theodora Martindale!
This is delightful! It is a real charity to look in on us to-day! Mrs.
Martindale, how are you? You look better than last time I saw you. Let
me introduce you to Mr. Finch.'

Mr. Finch was a little dried-up man, whose ceremonious bow put Violet
in mind of the Mayor of Wrangerton. Bending low, he politely gave her a
chair, and then subsided into oblivion; while Miss Gardner came forward,
as usual, the same trim, quiet, easy-mannered person, and began to talk
to Violet, while Mrs. Finch was loudly conversing with Theodora.

The apartment was much in the same style as the lady's dress, full of
gilding and bright colour, expensive, but not producing a good effect;
especially as the sofa had been dragged forward to the fire, and
travelling gear and newspapers lay about untidily. Altogether there was
something unsatisfactory to the feelings of both Theodora and Violet,
though Mrs. Finch was very affectionate in her impetuous way, and Miss
Gardner gently kind to Violet, asking many questions about her little
boy.

Violet soon took leave, and Mr. Finch went down with her to the
carriage.

'That is a fresh complexion that does one good to see!' cried Mrs.
Finch, when she was gone. 'I am glad to see her in better looks and
spirits.'

'She understands the art of dress,' said Miss Gardner. Theodora was on
the point of making a sharp answer. It was the consequence of having
once allowed her brother's wife to be freely canvassed, and she was glad
that an opening door checked the conversation.

There entered a tall fashionable-looking man, with a glossy brown
moustache, and a very hairy chin, but of prepossessing and gentlemanlike
appearance. He leant over the sofa, and said a few words in a low voice
to Mrs. Finch, who answered with nods, and a display of her white teeth
in smiles. Raising himself, as if to go, he said, 'Ah! by the bye, who
is that pretty friend of yours that I met Finch escorting down-stairs? A
most uncommon style of beauty--'

'That was Mrs. Martindale,' said Miss Gardner, rather in haste.

'Arthur Martindale's village maid? Ha! Jane, there's jealousy; I thought
you told me--'

'Georgina!' exclaimed Jane, 'you should have introduced Mark to Miss
Martindale.'

As Theodora moved her stately neck she felt as if a thunder-bolt had
fallen; but the gentleman's manner was particularly pleasing.

'It is Jane's concern,' said Mrs. Finch, laughing. 'I leave you to infer
why she checks his communications.'

'There is nothing more awkward than "You told me so,"' said Mr. Gardner,
'since the days of "Who is your next neighbour, sir?" I may be allowed
some interest in the matter, for your brother is an old school-fellow of
mine.'

'Come!' exclaimed Georgina, 'if you stay dawdling here, my letter won't
be written, and my vases won't come. Fancy, Theodora, such delicious
Sevres vases, big enough to hold the Forty Thieves, sky blue, with
medallions of Mars and Venus, and Cupids playing tricks--the loveliest
things imaginable--came from Versailles--absolutely historical.'

'Lauzun is supposed to have been hidden in one,' said Mr. Gardner.

'I vowed I would have them, and I never fail. Mark has been through fire
and water for them.'

'And I suppose they cost--' said Theodora.

'The keep of half-a-dozen starving orphans,' said Mrs. Finch,
triumphantly. 'Ay, you may look, Theodora; but they are my trophies.'

'I wish you joy of them,' said Theodora.

'So you shall, when you see them; and that she may, off with you, Mark,
or the post will go.'

'My cousin is a despot,' said Mark, moving off, with a bow to Theodora;
Mrs. Finch, following, spoke a few words, and then shut him into the
other room.

'Poor Mark'' said Jane, in the interval. 'We have brought him home. He
has had a little property left him, and means to clear off his debts and
make a fresh beginning. His poor mother is so delighted!'

'The coast is clear,' said Mrs. Finch, returning. 'Now, Theodora, is it
true that you are going to be married?'

Point blank questions did not excite Theodora's blushes; and she
composedly answered,

'Some time or other.'

'There! I knew it could not be true,' cried Jane.

'What is not true?' said Theodora.

'Not that you are going to have the curate!' said Mrs. Finch. 'Jane,
Jane, that has brought the rouge! Oh! I hope and trust it is not the
curate.'

'Certainly not,' said Theodora, in a grave deliberate voice.

'That's a mercy!' said Mrs. Finch. 'I had not the slightest confidence
in you. I always reckoned on your making some wild choice. Oh! by the
bye, do tell me where Percy Fotheringham is to be found. I must have him
at our first party. What a charming book that is!'

'Even at Paris every one is full of it, already,' said Jane. 'I feel
quite jealous of you, Theodora, for knowing him so well, when we, his
cousins, never saw him at all.'

'Cousins in royal fashion,' said Theodora, glad that the blush had begun
for Mr. Wingfield. 'What is the exact connection?'

'You explain, Jane; it is past me. I am content to count kindred with
the royal beast.'

'Lady Fotheringham, his uncle's wife, is sister to Mark's mother, my
uncle's wife,' said Jane. 'There! I trust that is lucidly done.'

'That is all, is it?' said Theodora.

'Enough for the sending of a card. Tell me where, if you know.'

Theodora named the place.

'Does he show off well? Mark says he has claws--'

'I have known him too long to tell how he appears to strangers,' said
Theodora, as the colour mounted again.

'Do you see much of him?'

'He comes to Arthur's house.'

'You have ventured there?' said Jane. 'It was hard not to be able to
come for the season otherwise.'

'I came up to bring the dumb boy to the Asylum. I am staying on because
I like it.'

'Do you mean to go out with her?'

'When she goes, I do so too, but I am not come for the season. My
brother's regiment is ordered to Windsor, and perhaps I may stay to be
with her.'

'She has more manner than last year,' said Jane: 'she is greatly
improved in looks. You will believe me, Theodora, all I said to Mark
only referred to her paleness.'

'It won't do, Jane,' said her sister; 'you only make it worse. I see how
it is; Theodora has found out that her sister-in-law is a pretty little
pet of a thing that does her no harm, and you have got into the wrong
box by flattering her first dislike. Yes, yes, Theodora, we know Jane of
old; and never could get her to see the only safe way is to tell one's
mind straight out.'

'I don't see it established that I did not tell Theodora my real
mind,' said Jane, quietly; 'I always thought Mrs. Martindale pretty and
elegant--'

'Self-evident,' said Georgina; 'but if I had been among you, would not
I have told Theodora the poor child was cowed by her dignities, and Mrs.
Nesbit and all the rest? Oh, I would have made much of her, and brought
her forward. She should have been my queen of Violets: I would have done
it last year if that unlucky baby had not come in the way.'

'And now she does not need patronage,' said Jane.

'No; and now Theodora has found her out for herself--a better thing,'
said Mrs. Finch. 'You look all the better for it! I never saw you look
so bright or so handsome, Theodora! You are a happy girl!'--and there
was a sigh. Some interruption here occurring, Theodora took her leave,
and walked home. She felt ruffled by her visit, and as she came indoors,
ran up-stairs and knocked at her sister's door. The room looked cool and
pleasant, and Violet was lying down in her white, frilled dressing-gown,
so freshly, purely, delicately neat, and with so calm and sweet a smile,
that the contrast marked itself strongly, and Theodora thought no one
ever looked more innocent and engaging. 'I hope you are not tired?'

'Oh, no; I only thought it wiser to rest, thank you.'

'I came to tell you that Georgina Finch wants us to go to a party next
Tuesday week. There's nothing to prevent it, is there?'

'I know of nothing; but Arthur will say--'

'We are to bring Percy. I meant to have told them of our affair; but
I did not think they deserved it just then. I am glad he is no real
relation to that Mr. Gardner.'

'Was it Mr. Gardner who met me going down-stairs?' said Violet, with an
unpleasant recollection of having been stared at. 'Is he their brother?'

'No; their cousin. I wonder what you think of them?' said Theodora,
hastily throwing aside her bonnet and gloves, and seating herself.

'Miss Gardner is very good-natured and pleasing.'

'Those words are made for her. But what of Georgina?'

'I hardly know her,' said Violet, hesitating. 'This is only the second
time I have seen her; and last year I was so unwell that her liveliness
was too much for me.'

'Overpowering,' said Theodora. 'So people say. It is time she should
steady; but she will not think. I'm provoked with her. I did not like
her looks to-day, and yet she has a good warm heart. She is worth a
dozen Janes! Don't prefer Jane to her, whatever you do, Violet!' Then
breaking off, she began earnestly: 'You see, Violet, those are my oldest
friends; I never could care for any girl but Georgina, and we have
done such things together as I never can forget. They had great
disadvantages; a set of wretched governesses--one worse than the other,
and were left entirely to their mercy. My education was no pattern; but
it was a beauty to theirs, thanks to my father. I do believe I was the
only person with any serious notions that Georgina ever came in contact
with, in all her growing up. Their father died just as she was coming
out, leaving very little provision for them; and they were shifted about
among fine relations, who only wanted to get rid of them, and gave them
to understand they must marry for a home.'

'Poor girls! What a miserable life!'

'Jane knew she was no beauty, and took to the obliging line. She fawns,
and is intimate and popular. I never liked her silkiness, though it
creeps into one at the time. Georgina had more in her. I wish you could
have seen her at eighteen. She was such a fine, glowing, joyous-looking
girl, with those bright cheeks, and her eyes dancing and light hair
waving, and exuberant spirits that no neglect or unkindness could
daunt--all wild gaiety, setting humbug at defiance, and so good-natured!
Oh! dear, it makes one melancholy!'

'And what made the change?'

'She had a long, low, nervous fever, as they called it; but I have never
known much about it, for it was when we were all taken up with John's
illness. She was very long in recovering, and I suppose her spirit was
broken, and that the homelessness grew unbearable; for, whereas she had
always declared for honest independence and poverty, the next thing I
heard of her was, that she had accepted this miserable money-making old
wretch!'

'Perhaps she liked him.'

'No, indeed! She despises him, and does not hide it! She is true! that
is the best of her. I cannot help caring for Georgina. Poor thing, I
hate to see it! Her spirits as high as ever, and with as little ballast;
and yet she looks so fagged. She was brought up to dissipation--and does
not know where else to turn. She has not a creature to say a word the
right way!'

'Not her sister?' said Violet. 'She seemed serious and good.'

'No one can tell what is the truth in Jane,' said Theodora; 'and her
sister, who knows her best, is the last person to be influenced by her.
Some one to whom she could look up is the only chance. Oh, how I wish
she had a child! Anything to love would make her think. But there was
something in the appearance of that room I cannot get over.'

'The confusion of arriving--'

'No, nothing ever could have made it so with you! I don't know what it
was, but--Well, I do think nothing else prevented me from telling them
about Percy. I meant it when I said I would stay after you; and they
talked about his book, and asked if I saw much of him, and I faced it
out, so that they never suspected it, and now I think it was cowardly.
I know! I will go at once, and write Georgina a note, and tell her the
truth.'

She went, and after a little interval, Violet began to dress for a party
at the house of a literary friend of Lady Martindale's, where they were
to meet an Eastern grandee then visiting London. As she finished, she
bethought herself that Theodora had never before had to perform a
grand toilette without a lady's maid; and going to her room, found
her, indeed, with her magnificent black tresses still spread over her
shoulders, flushed, humiliated, almost angry at her own failures in
disposing of them.

'Don't I look like an insane gipsy?' said she, looking up, and tossing
back the locks that hung over her face.

'Can I do anything to help you?'

'Thank you; sit down, and I'll put all this black stuff out of the way,'
said Theodora, grasping her hair with the action of the Tragic Muse.
'I'll put it up in every-day fashion. I wish you would tell me what you
do to yours to get it into those pretty plaits.'

'I could show you in a minute; but as it is rather late, perhaps you
would not dislike my trying to put it up for you.'

'Thank you--no, pray don't; you will tire yourself.' But it was spoken
with none of the old disdain, and left an opening for coaxing.

'I used to be thought a good hand with my sisters' hair. It will be such
a treat if you will only let me try,' said she, emboldened to stroke
the raven tresses, and then take the comb, while Theodora yielded, well
pleased. 'On condition you give me a lesson to-morrow. I am not to
be maid-ridden all my life,' and it ended with 'Thank you! That is
comfortable. You came in my utmost need. I am only ashamed of having
troubled you.'

'Don't say so. I am so much obliged to you for letting me try. It is
more like being at home with you,' murmured Violet, turning away; but
her voice as well as the glass betrayed her tearful eyes, and Theodora's
sensation was a reward for her pride having slumbered and allowed her to
accept a service.

Mr. Fotheringham came to dinner that he might go with them to the party.
As they were drinking coffee before setting out, Mrs. Finch's invitation
was mentioned.

'You had better leave your card for her, Percy,' said Theodora. He made
no answer.

'Will you dine with us first and go?' said Violet.

Thank you; I do not mean to visit them.'

'No!' exclaimed Theodora. 'They are connections!'

'The more cause for avoiding them.'

'I have promised to introduce you.'

'I am afraid you reckoned without your host.'

'Ha!' cried Arthur, 'the lion is grown coquettish with fine feeding. He
is not easy of leading.'

'She is my greatest friend,' said Theodora, as if it was conclusive; but
Percy only answered, I should be very sorry to believe so,' set down his
cup, and began to read the paper. She was the more irritated. 'Percy,'
she said, 'do you really not intend to go to the party!'

'Certainly not.'

'Not to visit a relation of your own, and my most intimate friend, when
it is my especial desire?'

'You do not know what you are talking of,' he answered, without raising
his eyes.

'Percy!' exclaimed Theodora, her pride and affection so mortified that
she forgot that Arthur was looking on with mischievous glee, 'have you
any reason for this neglect?'

'Of course I have,' said he, reading on.

'Then let me hear it.'

'You force it from me, Theodora,' said Percy, laying down the paper:
'it is because I will not enter into any intercourse I can avoid with
persons whose conduct I disapprove.'

Violet coloured and shrank closer to her husband. Theodora's face and
neck turned almost crimson, and her eyes sparkled, but her voice only
showed unmoved disdain. 'Remember, she is my FRIEND.'

'You do not know her history, or you would not call her so.'

'I do. What is there to be ashamed of?'

'I see, you know nothing of the prior attachment,' said Percy, not
without anger at her pertinacity.

'A boy and girl liking that had been long past.'

'O it had, had it?' said Percy, ironically. 'So you approve her marrying
an old rogue and miser, who had heaped up his hoards by extortion of
wretched Indians and Spaniards, the very scum of Mammon, coming to the
top like everything detestable?'

'I never heard his money was ill-gotten.'

'Those who spend don't ask whence gold comes. And you justify her
keeping the old love, this cousin, dangling about her house all the
winter till she is the talk of Paris!'

'I don't believe gossip.'

'Can you deny that he is in London in her train?'

'He has come into some property, and means to turn over a new leaf.'

'Ay, and a worse leaf than before.'

'How can you judge of his resolutions?'

Arthur laughed, saying, 'I'd not bet much on Mark Gardner's.'

Much to Violet's relief, the carriage was announced; the gentlemen
walked, and Theodora talked of indifferent matters fast and gaily. Percy
handed Mrs. Martindale out, and gave her his arm, leaving Theodora to
her brother.

It was a small select party, almost every one known to Theodora; and
she was soon in eager conversation at some distance from Violet, who was
sorry for Percy, as he stood in silence beside her own chair, vexation
apparent on his honest face.

'Who is that talking to Theodora?' he presently asked. It was a small
light-complexioned gentleman, whose head and face, and the whole style
of his dress and person, might have made him appear a boy of seventeen,
but for a pale moustache and tuft on the chin. Theodora looked very
animated, and his face was glowing with the pleasure of her notice.

'I cannot tell,' said Violet; 'there is Arthur, ask him.'

Percy was moving towards Arthur, when he was caught by the master of the
house, and set to talk to the Oriental in his own language. Violet had
never been so impressed by his talents as while listening to his fluent
conversation in the foreign tongue, making the stranger look delighted
and amused, and giving the English audience lively interpretations,
which put them into ready communication with the wonder at whom they had
hitherto looked in awkwardness. Theodora did not come near the group,
nor seem to perceive Violet's entreating glances; and when the Eastern
prince departed, Percy had also disappeared. Violet was gratified by
the ladies around her descanting on his book and his Syriac, and wished
Theodora could hear them.

At that moment she found Theodora close to her, presenting Lord St.
Erme to Mrs. Arthur Martindale! After so much dislike to that little
insignificant light man for being the means of vexing Percy, to find him
the poet hero, the feudal vision of nobility, the Lord of Wrangerton!
What an adventure for her mother to hear of!

It was a pleasant and rather pretty face when seen near, with very good
blue eyes, and an air of great taste and refinement, and the voice was
very agreeable, as he asked some question about the Eastern prince.
Violet hardly knew what she answered.

'I met him yesterday, but it was flat,' he said. 'They had a man there
whose Syriac was only learnt from books, and who could not understand
him. The interpreter to-night was far more au-fait--very clever he
seemed. Who was he?'

'Mr. Fotheringham,' said Theodora.

'The Crusader? Was it, indeed?' said Lord St. Erme, eagerly. 'Is he
here? I wish particularly to make his acquaintance.'

'I believe he is gone,' said Violet, pitying the unconscious victim, and
at once amused, provoked, and embarrassed.

'You know him?'

Violet marvelled at the composure of Theodora's reply. 'Yes, my eldest
brother was his travelling companion.'

'Is it possible? Your brother the "M" of the book?' exclaimed the young
Earl, with enthusiastic delight and interest. 'I never guessed it! I
must read it again for the sake of meeting him.'

'You often do meet him there,' said Theodora, 'as my sister can testify.
She was helping him to revise it last summer at Ventnor.'

'I envy you!' cried Lord St. Erme; 'to go through such a book with such
a companion was honour indeed!'

'It was delightful,' said Violet.

'Those are such delicious descriptions,' proceeded he. 'Do you remember
the scene where he describes the crusading camp at Constantinople? It
is the perfection of language--places the whole before you--carries you
into the spirit of the time. It is a Tasso unconscious of his powers,
borne along by his innate poetry;' then pausing, 'surely you admire it,
Miss Martindale?'

'O, yes,' said Theodora, annoyed at feeling a blush arising. The Earl
seemed sensible of a check, and changed his tone to a sober and rather
timid one, as he inquired after Mr. Martindale. The reply was left to
Violet.

'He has never been so well in his life. He is extremely busy, and much
enjoys the beauty of the place.'

'I suppose it is very pretty,' said Lord St. Erme.

'Nothing can be more lovely than the colour of the sea, and the
wonderful foliage, and the clearness. He says all lovers of fine scenery
ought to come there.'

'Scenery can hardly charm unless it has a past,' he replied.

'I can controvert that,' said Theodora.

With much diffidence he replied: 'I speak only of my own feeling. To
me, a fine landscape without associations has no soul. It is like an
unintellectual beauty.'

'There are associations in the West Indies,' said Theodora.

'Not the most agreeable,' said Lord St. Erme.

'There is the thought of Columbus,' said Violet, 'his whole character,
and his delight as each island surpassed the last.'

'Now, I have a fellow-feeling for the buccaneers,' said Theodora.
'Bertram Risingham was always a hero of mine. I believe it is an
ancestral respect, probably we are their descendants.'

Violet wondered if she said so to frighten him.

'"Rokeby" has given a glory to buccaneering,' he replied. 'It is the
office of poetry to gild nature by breathing a soul into her. It is what
the Americans are trying to do for their new world, still turning to
England as their Greece.'

'I meant no past associations,' said Theodora, bluntly. 'John carries
his own with him.'

'Yes; all may bear the colour of the imagination within.'

'And of the purpose,' said Theodora. 'It is work in earnest, no matter
where, that gives outward things their interest. Dreaming will never do
it. Working will.'

Their conversation here closed; but Theodora said as they went home:
'What did you think of him, Violet?'

'He looks younger than I expected.'

'He would be good for something if he could be made to work. I long to
give him a pickaxe, and set him on upon the roads. Then he would see the
beauty of them! I hate to hear him maunder on about imagination, while
he leaves his tenantry to take their chance. HE knows what eyes Percy
and John see things with!'

'I am glad to have seen him,' said Violet, reassured.

'He desired to be introduced to you.'

'I wonder--do you think--do you suppose he remembers--?'

'I don't suppose he thinks anything about it,' said Theodora, shortly.



CHAPTER 14


     I am not yet of Earl Percy's mind.

     --King Henry IV


'Violet,' said Theodora, the next morning, 'I want to know if Percy said
more to Arthur than to us?'

She spoke with deepening colour, and Violet's glowed still more, as
she answered: 'Arthur asked him, and he said he would not BEGIN an
acquaintance, but that there was no occasion to break off the ordinary
civilities of society. He accused her of no more than levity. Yes, those
were Arthur's words.'

'I am going to get to the bottom of it,' said Theodora; 'and give
Georgina a thorough lecture.'

She departed; and Violet sat down to her letters, with little Johnnie
crawling at her feet; but in a few minutes she was interrupted by the
entrance of Mr. Fotheringham, asking for Theodora.

'She is gone out. She could not rest without an explanation from Mrs.
Finch.'

'A proper farrago she will hear,' said Percy. 'I found I could settle to
nothing, so I thought it best to come and have it out.'

'I hope she will soon come in.'

'Don't let me interrupt you. Go on with your letters.--Ha! little
master!'

In his present temper, play with the baby was the most congenial
occupation, and he made the little fellow very happy till he was carried
off for his midday sleep. Then he tried to read, but seemed so uneasy,
that Violet wondered if it would be intermeddling to hint at Theodora's
real views. At last, as if he could bear it no longer, he abruptly said,
'Mrs. Martindale, do you know anything of these people?'

'Very little,' she answered. 'Theodora was telling me about them
yesterday, before you came. I believe she only likes them for old
acquaintance' sake.'

'Is it true that she used to go out with them last year?'

'I believe that she did sometimes.'

'At least, I hope that will not happen again.'

'No, I should not think it would. I am sure Theodora does not entirely
approve of Mrs. Finch.'

'She defended her through thick and thin.'

'You shocked her with the suddenness of what you said. She cannot forget
the having been happy together as children; but she thinks as you do,
and disliked the marriage very much. Before you came, she had been
lamenting over Mrs. Finch.'

'Then, it was pure perverseness!'

'If I said so, I wonder what you would answer,' said Violet, with a
bright, arch look.

'I should hear reason,' said Percy, roughly, as if to repel the
sweetness; yet it had a mollifying effect, and he presently spoke with
less irritation and more regret.

'She suspects no evil, and cannot understand any imputation on her
friend. She fancies I speak from report, but I have known this fellow,
Mark, all my life. His mother is a sister of my Aunt Fotheringham. They
wanted me to hunt up an appointment to get him out of the young lady's
way.'

'Before her marriage?'

'Ay. When I was last in England, there was a great to-do at the
discovery of an engagement between this youth and Miss Georgina. I
suppose, considering her bringing-up, she was not much to be blamed. I
remember my aunt thought the poor girl harshly dealt with.'

'O, that must have been the cause of the nervous fever Theodora
mentioned. She said she knew no particulars.'

'She has not been openly dealt with,' said Percy. 'They do not dare to
let her see their doings.'

'So the poor thing was tormented into this marriage?'

'No torment needed. The elder sister did try to warn her that it could
not turn out well. I should think the old rogue had found his punishment
for his extortions. Fine stories I could tell you of him in South
America. Now, am I not justified in keeping clear of them? Let Theodora
say what she will, it does not make it right for me to put myself in the
way of those great extravagant dinners and parties of theirs, where they
want me for nothing but a show-off.'

'I am sure Theodora will think with you, when she is cooler, and not
taken by surprise.'

The clock struck.

'There, I have an appointment!'

'I wish you could wait for luncheon. She must come then.'

'What are you going to do this evening?'

'I am sorry to say that we dine out; but to-morrow is Sunday, and you
will be sure to find us at home.'

He went, and one o'clock came, but no Theodora. Violet had waited ten
minutes for luncheon before she returned.

'I did not know how late it was,' said she. 'I wish you had begun
without me.'

Then, throwing her bonnet into a chair, and cutting some cake, she
proceeded: 'Such hours as they keep! No one but Jane was up when I came,
so I went to her room, and told her I would hear the rights of it.'

'Were you satisfied?'

'Georgina has been foolish and unguarded, and the world is very
ill-natured. I hate it altogether, from beginning to end,' said
Theodora, with an impatient gesture. 'Most decidedly,' she added,
'Georgina never ought to have married. I forced it from Jane that
she had never cared for any one but this Mark. The discovery of his
extravagance and misconduct was the real overthrow of my poor Georgina.
It was that which brought on her illness; the family were very unkind;
and at last weakness and persecution broke down her spirit, and she was
ready to do anything to escape.'

'Poor thing! poor thing!'

'She had nothing to fall back upon. Oh, if I had but been there! If I
had but known it at the time!'

'Well, and now?' said Violet, anxiously.

'The having Mr. Gardner there now? Really, I don't think she deserves
all this abuse. The other matter is entirely passed away. Mr. Finch
likes him, and they understand each other fully. Coming to them detaches
him from his former habits, and gives him the best chance. His mother is
so relieved to know he is with them. If Jane saw anything in the least
amiss, she says she would be the first to take alarm, and I do trust her
for that, for the sake of appearances.'

'I suppose it is a question of appearances,' said Violet, with the
diffident blushes of her eighteen years.

'Is she to throw away the hope of rescuing her cousin, to save herself
from spiteful tongues?' cried Theodora. 'Not that I suppose Lady
Fotheringham means to be spiteful, but Percy hears it all from her, and
we know very well that good ladies in the country have a tendency
to think every one good-for-nothing that lives in London or Paris,
especially their relations. That is all nonsense. If Percy goes by
gossip, I don't. I go by my own observation, and I see there is nothing
at which to take exception. I watched her and Mr. Gardner together, and
I do declare there was nothing but ease and frankness. I am sure he was
more inclined to pay that sort of attention to me. He really is very
entertaining. I must tell you some of his stories.'

'Percy has been here,' said Violet.

'Has he?'

'He waited till twelve, and then was obliged to go.'

Theodora kept silence for some minutes, then said: 'If he thinks to make
me give my friends up, he is much mistaken! You know I had written to
Georgina last night. Well, she thought I had come to be congratulated;
and if you had but seen the greeting--the whole manner--when she met me!
Oh! you would know how impossible it is not to feel for her, with all
one's heart!'

'Yes, yes. I suppose you could not say anything about this to her. No,
of course not.'

'Not of course at all, if I could have had her alone, but Jane was there
all the time. It was a pleasure to see the contrast between her manner
and Jane's. There was soul in her, real hopes I should be happy, while
Jane seemed only to think it tolerable, because I might end in being
an ambassadress. I will see her again before the party, and draw my own
conclusions.'

'Does she know that Percy will not go?'

'I know no such thing.'

She was too proud to ask what had passed in Violet's interview with him,
and indeed was ready to take fire at the idea of their affairs having
been discussed with her.

She strove to believe herself the offended party, but her conscience was
not easily appeased, though she tried to set it at rest by affectionate
care of Violet, and was much gratified by Arthur's stopping her after
Violet had gone up-stairs at night, to beg her to stay, while he was at
Windsor with his regiment.

'Thank you, for making me of use,' she said.

'I shall come backwards and forwards continually,' said Arthur, 'but she
must not be alone; I shall be very glad if you can stay, or I shall be
driven to have one of the Mosses here.'

'Oh, no, no! I shall be most happy to stay. I will take every care of
her.'

'Thank you, Theodora; good night. You have got to know her better now,'
he continued, lingering as on that first night to gain some word of
commendation of her.

'Much better,' said Theodora cordially. 'One cannot help growing fond of
her--so gentle and engaging.'

She was pleased with his satisfaction; and while she owned Violet's
sincerity and sweetness, considered her one of those soft dependent
beings formed to call forth tenderness from strong and superior spirits,
and gloried in being necessary to her: it almost restored her balance of
complacency.

On Sunday afternoon Violet stayed at home with little Johnnie, and the
vacant place in the seat at church was filled by Mr. Fotheringham. Many
thoughts floated through Theodora's mind; but whether the better or the
worse would gain the advantage seemed rather to depend on chance than on
herself. Perhaps she was not yet conscious what were her besetting sins,
and thus the conflict was merely a struggle between her feelings for her
friend and for her lover.

Arthur walked home with an acquaintance; but Theodora turned from Percy,
and threw herself into eager conversation with Lady Elizabeth.

On entering the house, as Violet was not in the drawing-room, Theodora
was going up-stairs, when Percy said, in a tone of authority, 'How long
do you intend to go on in this way!'

'In what way?'

'Do you wish to keep all our disputes as a spectacle for Arthur's
edification?'

Colouring with shame and displeasure, she sat down with a sort of 'I
am ready' air, and took off her walking things, laying them down
deliberately, and waiting in complete silence. Did she wish to embarrass
him, or did she await his first word to decide what line she should
take?

'Theodora,' he said at length, 'when I spoke last night, I did not know
how early your acquaintance with this lady had begun, or I should have
shown more regard to the feeling that arises between old companions. I
am afraid I gave you some unnecessary pain.'

This was unexpected; and she could not at once harden herself in
displeasure, so that though she spoke not, her countenance was
relenting.

'Did Mrs. Martindale mention what I told her yesterday!'

'No; she only said you had been here while I was gone to satisfy my
mind.'

'And did you?'

'I should never have defended Georgina's marriage if I had known the
whole; but the rest of what you have heard is slander.'

'That is what I came to explain;' and Percy repeated the history he
had before given to Violet, adding a warning of the same kind as John's
against placing Arthur in Mr. Gardner's way.

'The point is,' said Theodora, 'what construction is to be placed on the
present state of things? You and Lady Fotheringham, who have not
seen them, take one view; I, who do see them, and who know Georgina
intimately, take another, in which I agree with her husband and with the
elder sister, who lives with her.'

'Intimately! When you had no idea of this first affair!'

'Such follies are not to be published.'

'You WILL defend them!' cried Percy, impatiently.

'Am I to sit quiet when I hear injustice done to my oldest friend?'

'I wish that unhappy friendship had never begun!'

A silence broken by her coolly saying, 'Well, what is to come of all
this?'

Percy walked about the room and said, 'What do you mean?'

With a provoking air of meekness she said, 'I only want to know what you
expect of me.'

Excessively annoyed, he sharply answered, 'To be a reasonable woman.'

'Well?' said Theodora, with the same submissive voice. He had recovered
himself, and with no further show of temper, he sat down by her, saying,
'This is folly. We had better say what we mean. You feel strongly with
regard to your old playfellow; I cannot think well of her; but while
this is matter of opinion, it is childish to dispute. Time will show
which is the correct view--I shall be glad if it is yours. The elder
sister is a steady amiable person, whom my aunt likes, and that is in
their favour. I do not wish you to break with an old friend while we
know of no positive charge against her, though I should think there
could be little to attract you. For me it is another matter, and I will
not.'

'You will not adopt my friends?'

I will not be talked into it.'

'I do not understand your principle,' said Theodora, but without
asperity. 'Why do you decline an acquaintance to which you do not object
for me?'

'The beginning has been made in your case, and I know it is old
affection, not present approval. You can't be hurt by one like her. But
for my part, knowing what I do of them, I will enter on no acquaintance;
it is a line of which I have resolved to keep clear. She would think
herself patronizing a literary man.'

'Oh! you could not submit to that!' cried Theodora--'never. Stay away, I
beg of you.'

'It is for no such nonsense,' said Percy. 'But thinking of them as I
do, I cannot receive from them the favours which rich folks consider
invitations to poor ones. My connection with them makes it all the more
undesirable. I totally disapprove their style of conduct, and will not
seem to sanction it by beginning an acquaintance, or appearing at their
grand dinners and parties. If I had known them before, the case might be
different.'

'I will say no more. You are quite right,' said Theodora, well able to
appreciate the manliness of his independence.

She thought over several times the way of communicating to Mrs. Finch,
Percy's rejection of her invitation, and made some attempts at seeing
her, but without success, until the night of the party. Violet had an
undefined dread of it, and was especially glad that her husband was able
to go with them. It was one of the occasions when he was most solicitous
about her appearance; and he was well pleased, for she was in very good
looks, and prettily dressed with some Irish lace, that to Theodora's
amusement she had taken off Miss Marstone's hands; and with his
beautiful wife and distinguished-looking sister, he had his wish of
displaying woman as she should be.

The room was full, but Violet saw few acquaintance; as Mrs. Finch, with
much display of streamer, flounce, jewellery, and shoulders, came to
meet them with vehement welcome, and quite oppressed Violet with her
attention in finding a seat for her on the sofa.

With a nod and look of gay displeasure at Theodora, she said, 'So, you
have brought me no Crusader, you naughty girl! Where's your Red Cross
Knight?'

'He would not come,' said Theodora, gravely.

'You dare own it! Where's your power? Ah! you will say it was idleness.'

'I will tell you another time,' said Theodora, blushing inconveniently,
and Violet, as she felt her cheeks responding, fancied Mrs. Finch must
know why.

'You won't confess! No, you never tried. If you had once set your mind
on it, you would have accomplished it. I always cite Theodora Martindale
as the person who cannot be resisted.'

'You see your mistake,' returned Theodora. A gentleman here greeted her,
then claimed Mrs. Finch's attention, and evidently by his desire, she
turned to Violet, and presented him as her cousin, Mr. Gardner, an old
friend of Captain Martindale.

Violet acknowledged the courtesy, but it was in confusion and distress.

'I am delighted to make your acquaintance,' was his address. 'Is Captain
Martindale here? I have not seen him for years.'

'He is in the room,' said Violet, looking round for him, hoping either
that he would come, or that Mr. Gardner would go in search of him, but
the conversation continued, though she answered without knowing what
she said, till at last he moved away to communicate to Mrs. Finch
that Arthur Martindale's pretty wife had nothing but fine eyes and
complexion.

Theodora was satisfied to see a very slight recognition pass between
Mr. Gardner and her brother, who was intent on conducting to Violet
an officer newly returned from the West Indies, where he had met
John. After a pleasant conversation, the two gentlemen moved away, and
presently the place next to her was taken by Miss Gardner, with civil
inquiries for her little boy.

'We are so vexed at not seeing Mr. Fotheringham! Georgina is furious. We
reckoned on him as the lion of the night.'

Violet had no answer to make, and Jane continued. 'I have taken Theodora
to task. Fame makes men capricious, and he is very odd; but I tell her
she ought to have more influence, and I seriously think so. Do you not?'

'I believe he convinced her,' said Violet, wishing the next moment to
recall her words.

'Indeed! I am curious.'

'I believe he thinks it better--fashionable life--' faltered Violet.

'He might have made an exception in favour of such near connections!
Why, we shall be related ourselves, Mrs. Martindale. How charmed I shall
be.'

Violet turned a bracelet on her arm, and could make no response.

'It is strange enough that we have never met Percival Fotheringham,'
said Miss Gardner. 'He is an eccentric being, I hear, but our dear
Theodora has a spice of eccentricity herself. I hope it will be for the
best.'

'He is an admirable person,' said Violet.

'I rejoice to hear it. I had some doubts. The dear girl is so generous,
of such peculiar decision, so likely to be dazzled by talent, and so
warmly attached to her eldest brother, that I almost feared it might not
have been well weighed. But you are satisfied?'

'O, yes, entirely so.'

'I am relieved to hear it. In confidence I may tell YOU, it is said in
our OWN family, that there is a rough overbearing temper about him. I
could not bear to think of dear Theodora's high spirit being subjected
to anything of that kind.'

'He is abrupt,' said Violet, eagerly; 'but I assure you the better he is
known, the more he is liked. My little boy is so fond of him.'

'I am glad. No doubt you have every means of judging, but I own I was
surprised at such ready consent. You were behind the scenes, no doubt,
and can tell how that determined spirit carried the day.'

'Lord Martindale gave his consent most readily and gladly,' said
Violet; but Jane was only the more convinced that Mrs. Martindale was as
ignorant as ever of family secrets.

'It was best to do so with a good grace; but I did think our dear
Theodora might have looked higher! Poor Lord St. Erme! He would
have been a more eligible choice. The family must have been much
disappointed, for she might have had him at her feet any day last
summer.'

'I do not think he would have suited her.'

'Well! perhaps not, but an easy gentle temper might. However, it cannot
be helped! Only the long engagement is unfortunate--very trying to both
parties. I have seen so few turn out well! Poor Pelham Fotheringham! It
is a pity he should stand between them and the baronetcy.'

'Is he Sir Antony's son?'

'Yes; it is a sad affair. A fine tall youth, quite imbecile. He is his
poor mother's darling, but no more fit to take care of himself than a
child of five years old. A most melancholy thing! Old Sir Antony ought
to set him aside, and let Percival enjoy the estate. Indeed, I should
think it very probable he would do so--it would be greatly for the
happiness of all parties.'

'I think it would,' said Violet.

'Percival can do anything with the old people, and they will be so
delighted with the Martindale connection! Perhaps it is an understood
thing. Do you know whether it is?'

'I should not think so. I never heard anything of it.'

'Has Theodora ever been introduced to the uncle and aunt?'

'Never.'

'Good old folks, exceedingly primitive. Very kind too, and a fine
old-fashioned place; but, oh, so dull! All their ideas are of the
seventeenth century. It will be a severe ordeal for poor Theodora, but
if Lady Fotheringham, good old soul, is pleased with her, I shall expect
grand consequences.'

Violet was glad that Miss Gardner was asked to dance. Presently Arthur
returned to her side. 'Tired, Violet?' he asked. 'Slow work, is not it?
They have a queer lot here. Scarcely a soul one ever saw before.'

'I was thinking so. Are there not a great many foreigners? I saw some
immense moustaches.'

'Ay. Percy would think himself back in Blue Beard's country. There is
the King of the Clothes Brushes himself polking with Mrs. Finch. Can't
you see?'

'No! I wish I could.'

'An economical fellow! Every man his own clothes brush--two expenses
saved at once, to say nothing of soap, an article that mayhap he does
not deal in.'

'Oh! hush! you will make me laugh too much. Where 's Theodora?'

'Dancing with Gardner. He seems inclined to make up to her, unless it is
a blind.'

'He said he used to know you at school.'

'Yes, scamp that he is. I had rather he had never turned up again. He
is not worth Theodora's quarrelling about. I hear she is chattering away
like fun. Have you had any one to speak to?'

'Miss Gardner came to me. She seemed to think Sir Antony might settle
his property on Percy instead of on his son. Do you think there is any
chance of it?'

'I wish he would. He could not do a wiser thing. But of course it is
entailed--there's always a provision of nature for starving the younger
branches. What does she say to Percy's absence!'

'I fancy she guesses the reason, but I don't know.'

'He is a lucky fellow, I know!' said Arthur, 'to be safe in his bed at
home! This evening is a bore, and I wish the whole set were further
off, instead of deluding Theodora! I'll get her away when this dance is
over.'

'Ha!' cried Mrs. Finch, suddenly stopping in front of them, and
disengaging herself from her partner, as she breathlessly threw herself
down beside Violet. 'So there's Captain Martindale, after all! How
exemplary! And my poor Mrs. Martindale, that I told Jane and Mark to
take such care of, left deserted to her husband's mercy!'

'Suppose she wished for nothing better,' said Arthur, good-humouredly.

'I can't allow such things. Such a monopoly of our Guardsmen after
two years' marriage is beyond bearing! What would they say to you in
France?'

'We don't follow French fashions,' said Arthur, his gay tone making his
earnest like jest. 'I am going to take my ladies home. I shall see for
the carriage, Violet.'

'Mrs. Martindale will learn my maxim--Never bring a husband to an
evening party. There is nothing so much in the way.'

'Or that would be so glad to be let off,' said Arthur, going.

'You don't mean to take them away? That is the climax of all your
crimes. Quite unallowable.'

'Many things unallowable are done,' said Arthur; 'and I don't allow her
to be over-tired.'

'"Barbare",' began Mrs. Finch, but with a bow, as if it was a
compliment, he was gone in search of the carriage. She sat for a moment
silent, then said, 'Well, I must forgive him. I never thought to see him
so careful of anything. How happy Theodora seems in your "menage". Quite
a different creature; but perhaps that is from another cause?'

Violet made a little attempt at a laugh.

'I am glad of it,' said Mrs. Finch, heartily. 'It is a horrid stiff
place for her at home, is it not? And I am delighted she should escape
from it. How she got consent, I can't imagine; and Theodora has notions
of her own, and would do nothing without.'

'Lord Martindale has a very high opinion of Mr. Fotheringham.'

'I am not surprised. I read that book--a wonder for me, and was
perfectly "eprise". But I did not think a genius with empty pockets
would have gone down at Martindale; and he is a bit of a bear, too, they
say, though perhaps Theodora likes him the better for that.'

'Perhaps she does.'

'I hope he is worthy of her. He is the great pride of the old folks at
Worthbourne. One heard of Percy's perfections there morning, noon, and
night, till I could have hated the sound of his name. Very generous of
me to ask him here to-night, is it not? but I wish he would have come. I
want to judge of him myself. I could not bear all not to be perfect with
Theodora.'

There was little occasion for Violet to speak, Mrs. Finch always kept
the whole conversation to herself; but she could not but perceive that
though the exaggeration and recklessness of style were unpleasing,
yet it really was frank and genuine, and Theodora's declaration that
Georgina was far preferable to Jane was less incomprehensible.

The evening was over, much to her relief; but there remained Theodora's
bold undertaking to tell Mrs. Finch of Percy's refusal to visit her.
Any one else would have let the subject drop, but Theodora thought
this would be shabby and cowardly, and was resolved not to shrink from
warning her friend.

She found Georgina looking over some cards of invitation, with an air of
great dissatisfaction, and almost the first words that greeted her were,
'Have you a card for Lady Albury's party?'

'Yes; I heard Violet ask Arthur if he should be at home for it.'

'Very strange! We left our cards, I know, yet they never asked us to
their party this week, and now seem to have missed us again. I wished
particularly to go, for one is sure to meet all that is worth seeing,
your knight among the rest. They are prim, strait-laced, exclusive
people themselves; but it is a house worth going to.'

'I did not remember that you knew them.'

'Oh! yes, we did; we used to be there pretty often when we lived with my
Uncle Edward; and it is not that they do not think my poor old man
good enough for them, for we went to their parties last year. So, Mrs.
Martindale has a card, you say!'

Theodora's colour rose as she said, 'Georgina, I am going to say what
no one else will tell you. It is not your marriage, but you must take
care--'

The crimson of Mrs. Finch's cheeks, and the precipitation with which she
started to her feet, would have disconcerted most persons; but Theodora,
though she cast down her eyes, spoke the more steadily. 'You must
be more guarded and reserved in manner if you wish to avoid unkind
remarks.'

'What--what--what?' cried Georgina, passionately; 'what can the most
ill-natured, the most censorious, accuse me of?'

'It is not merely the ill-natured,' said Theodora. 'I know very well
that you mean no harm; but you certainly have an air of trying to
attract attention.'

'Well, and who does not? Some do so more demurely and hypocritically
than others; but what else does any one go into company for? Do you
expect us all to act the happy couple, like Captain and Mrs. Martindale
the other night? You should have brought your own Percy to set us the
example!' said she, ending with a most unpleasant laugh.

'Georgina, you must not expect to see Percy. He has rigid notions; he
always avoids people who seek much after fashion and amusement, and (I
must say it) he will not begin an acquaintance while you go on in this
wild way.'

'So!' exclaimed Georgina. 'It is a new thing for the gentlemen to be
particular and fastidious! I wonder what harm he thinks I should do him!
But I see how it is: he means to take you away, turn you against me, the
only creature in this world that ever cared for me. Are not you come to
tell me he forbids you ever to come near me!'

'No, no; he does not, and if he did, would I listen?'

'No, don't, don't displease him on my account,' cried Mrs. Finch. 'Go
and be happy with him; I am not worth caring for, or vexing yourself
about!'

The tears stood on her burning cheeks, and Theodora eagerly replied,
'Have no fancies about me. Nothing shall ever make me give up my oldest
friend. You ought to know me better than to think I would.'

'You are so unlike those I live with,' said Georgina sadly, as an excuse
for the distrust. 'Oh, you don't know what I have gone through, or you
would pity me. You are the only thing that has not failed me. There is
Jane, with her smooth tongue and universal obligingness, she is the most
selfish creature in existence--her heart would go into a nutshell!
One grain of sympathy, and I would never have married. It was all her
doing--she wanted luxuries! O Theodora, if I had but been near you!'

'Hush, Georgina, this is no talk for a wife,' said Theodora, severely.

'I thought you pitied me!'

'I do, indeed I do; but I cannot let you talk in that way.'

'I never do so: no one else would care to hear me.'

'Now listen to me, Georgina. You say you rely on me as you do on no one
else; will you hear me tell you the only way to be happy yourself--'

'That is past,' she murmured.

'Or to stand well in the opinion of others! I am putting it on low
grounds.'

'I know what you are going to say--Go and live in the country, and set
up a charity-school.'

'I say no such thing. I only ask you to be cautious in your manners, to
make Mr. Finch of more importance, and not to let yourself be followed
by your cousin--'

Again Georgina burst into her 'thorn crackling' laugh. 'Poor Mark! I
thought that was coming. People will treat him as if he was a dragon!'

'I know you mean no harm,' repeated Theodora; 'but it cannot be right to
allow any occasion for observations.'

'Now, Theodora, hear me. I dare say Jane has been telling you some of
her plausible stories, which do more harm than good, because no one
knows which part to believe. There was some nonsense between Mark and me
when we were young and happy--I confess that. Perhaps I thought he meant
more than he did, and dwelt upon it as silly girls do, especially when
they have nothing else to care for. Then came the discovery of all his
debts and scrapes, poor fellow, and--I won't deny it--it half killed me,
more especially when I found he had been attached to some low girl,
and avowed that he had never seriously thought of me--he believed I
understood it as all sport. I was very ill. I wish I had died. There
was no more to be done but to hate him. My uncle and aunt Edward were
horridly savage, chiefly because I hindered them from going to Italy;
and Mrs. George Gardner thought I had been deluding Mark! Then Lady
Fotheringham asked us, and--it was dull enough to be sure, and poor
Pelham was always in the way--but they were kind comfortable folks. Lady
Fotheringham is a dear old dame, and I was in dull spirits just then,
and rather liked to poke about with her, and get her to tell me about
your brother and his Helen--'

'Why, Jane said you were dying of low spirits!'

'Well, so I was. I hated it excessively sometimes. Jane is not entirely
false in that. The evenings were horrid, and Sundays beyond everything
unbearable. I confess I was delighted to get away to Bath; but there--if
Jane would but have helped me--I would, indeed I would, have been
thankful to have gone back to Worthbourne, even if I had had to play at
draughts with Pelham for the rest of my days. But Jane was resolved,
and all my strength and spirit had been crushed out of me. She would not
even let me write to you nor to Lady Fotheringham till it was too late.'

'Well, that is all past,' said Theodora, whose face had shown more
sympathy than she thought it right to express in words. 'The point is,
what is right now?'

And you see it is folly to say there is any harm or danger in my seeing
Mark: he never had any attachment to me seven years ago, nor any other
time, and whatever I felt for him had a thorough cure. I am not ashamed
to say I am glad he should be here to give him a chance of marrying a
fortune. That is the whole story. Are you satisfied?'

'Satisfied on what I never doubted, your own intentions, but no further.
You ought to abstain from all appearance of evil.'

'I am not going to give my cousin up to please Lady Albury--no, nor all
the Fotheringhams put together! You used to say you did not care for
gossip.'

'No more I do, but I care for a proper appearance.'

'Very well--hush--here he comes!

HE was Mr. Gardner, and whether it was that Mrs. Finch was more guarded,
or that her pleading influenced Theodora's judgment, nothing passed that
could excite a suspicion that anything remained of the former feeling
between the cousins. It was in truth exactly as Mrs. Finch said; for
whatever were her faults, she was perfectly frank and sincere, clinging
to truth, perhaps out of opposition to her sister. Mark was not a man
capable of any genuine or strong affection; and as Theodora rightly
perceived, the harm of Georgina's ways was not so much what regarded
him, as in the love of dissipation, the unguarded forward manner with
all gentlemen alike, and the reckless pursuit of excitement. There was
a heart beneath, and warmth that might in time be worked upon by better
things.

'It is a great pity that people will drop her,' she said to Violet. 'The
more she is left to that stamp of society, the worse it is for her whole
tone of mind.'

Violet agreed, pitied, and wished it could be helped; but whenever they
met Mrs. Finch in company, saw it was not wonderful that people did not
like her.

Mr. Gardner was, on the contrary, a general favourite. Every one called
him good for nothing; but then, he was so very amusing! Violet could
never find this out, shrank from his notice, and withdrew as much as
possible from his neighbourhood; Emma Brandon generally adhering closely
to her, so as to avoid one whom she viewed as a desperate designer on
the Priory.

It was in parties that Violet chiefly saw Emma this spring. Theodora's
presence in Cadogan-place frightened her away; and, besides, her
mornings were occupied by Miss Marstone's pursuits. Lady Elizabeth
made no objection to her sharing in these, though sometimes not fully
convinced of the prudence of all the accessories to their charities,
and still less pleased at the influence exercised by Theresa over her
daughter's judgment.

Emma's distaste to society was now far more openly avowed, and
was regarded by her not as a folly to be conquered, but a mark of
superiority. Her projects for Rickworth were also far more prominent.
Miss Marstone had swept away the veil that used to shroud them in the
deepest recess of Emma's mind, and to Violet it seemed as if they
were losing their gloss by being produced whenever the friends wanted
something to talk about. Moreover, Emma, who was now within a few months
of twenty-one, was seized with a vehement desire to extort her mother's
consent to put them at once in execution, and used to startle Violet
by pouring out lamentations over her promise, as if it was a cruel
thraldom. Violet argued that the scheme was likely to be much better
weighed by taking time to think.

'It has been the thought of my life! Besides, I have Theresa's judgment;
and, oh! Violet, mamma means it well, I know; but she does not know what
she asks of me! Think, think if I should die in the guilt of sacrilege!'

'Really, Emma, you should not say such dreadful things. It is not your
doing.'

'No; but I reap the benefit of it. My grandfather bought it. Oh! if it
should bring a curse with it!'

'Well, but, Emma, I should think, even if it be wrong to hold it, that
cannot be your fault yet. You mean to restore it; and surely it must
be better to keep it as yet, than to act directly against your mother's
wishes.'

'I don't mean to act against her wishes; but if she would only wish
otherwise!'

'Perhaps it is the best preparation to be obliged to wait patiently.'

'If it was for any good reason; but I know it is only because it would
better suit mamma's old English notions to see me go and marry in an
ordinary way, like any commonplace woman, as Theresa says. Ah! you would
like it too, Violet. It is of no use talking to you! As Theresa says,
the English domestic mind has but one type of goodness.'

Violet did not like to hear her dear Lady Elizabeth contemned; but she
had no ready answer, and humbly resigned herself to Emma's belief that
she was less able to enter into her feelings than that most superior
woman, Theresa Marstone.



CHAPTER 15


     Give unto me, made lowly wise,
     The spirit of self-sacrifice.


When Arthur went with his regiment to Windsor, the ladies intended to
spend their evenings at home, a rule which had many exceptions, although
Violet was so liable to suffer from late hours and crowded rooms, that
Lady Elizabeth begged her to abstain from parties, and offered more than
once to take charge of Theodora; but the reply always was that they went
out very little, and that this once it would not hurt her.

The truth was that Theodora had expressed a decided aversion to going
out with the Brandons. 'Lady Elizabeth sits down in the most stupid part
of the room,' she said, 'and Emma stands by her side with the air of a
martyr. They look like a pair of respectable country cousins set down
all astray, wishing for a safe corner to run into, and wondering at the
great and wicked world. And they go away inhumanly early, whereas if
I do have the trouble of dressing, it shall not be for nothing. I
ingeniously eluded all going out with them last year, and a great mercy
it was to them.'

So going to a royal ball was all Theodora vouchsafed to do under Lady
Elizabeth's protection; and as her objections could not be disclosed,
Violet was obliged to leave it to be supposed that it was for her own
gratification that she always accompanied her; although not only was the
exertion and the subsequent fatigue a severe tax on her strength, but
she was often uneasy and distressed by Theodora's conduct. Her habits in
company had not been materially changed by her engagement; she was
still bent on being the first object, and Violet sometimes felt that
her manner was hardly fair upon those who were ignorant of her
circumstances. For Theodora's own sake, it was unpleasant to see her in
conversation with Mr. Gardner; and not only on her account, but on
that of Lord St. Erme, was her uncertain treatment of him a vexation to
Violet.

Violet, to whom Theodora's lovers were wont to turn when suffering from
her caprice, was on very friendly terms with the young Earl. He used
to come and stand by her, and talk to her about Wrangerton, and seemed
quite amused and edified by her quiet enthusiasm for it, and for
Helvellyn, and her intimacy with all the pictures which he had sent home
and almost forgotten. His sister was another favourite theme; she was
many years younger than himself, and not yet come out; but he was very
desirous of introducing her to Mrs. and Miss Martindale; and Violet,
who had heard of Lady Lucy all her life, was much pleased when a day
was fixed for a quiet dinner at Mrs. Delaval's, the aunt with whom she
lived. How Mrs. Moss would enjoy hearing of it!

The day before was one of the first hot days of summer, and Violet was
so languid that she looked forward with dread to the evening, when
they were to go to a soiree at Mrs. Bryanstone's, and she lay nursing
herself, wishing for any pretence for declining it. Theodora coming in,
declared that her going was out of the question; but added, 'Georgina
Finch is to be there, she will call for me.'

'I shall be better when the heat of the day is over.'

'So you may, but you shall not go for all that. You know Arthur is
coming home; and you must save yourself for your Delavals to-morrow.'

'I thank you, but only'--she hesitated--'if only you would be so kind as
to go with Lady Elizabeth.'

'I will manage for myself, thank you. I shall not think of seeing you go
out to-night. Why, I went out continually with Georgina last summer'--as
she saw Violets look of disappointment.

'Yes, but all is not the same now.'

'The same in effect. I am not going to attend to nonsensical gossip.
Georgina is what she was then, and the same is right for me now as was
right last year. I am not going to turn against her--'

'But, Theodora,' said Violet's weak voice, 'Percy said he hoped you
never would go out with her; and I said you never should, if I could
help it.'

Never was Theodora more incensed than on hearing that Percy and this
young girl had been arranging a check on her actions, and she was the
more bent on defiance.

'Percy has nothing to do with it,' she began; but she was interrupted
by a message to know whether Lady Elizabeth Brandon might see Mrs.
Martindale.

Her entrance strengthened Theodora's hands, and she made an instant
appeal to her, to enforce on Violet the necessity of resting that
evening. Lady Elizabeth fully assented, and at once asked Theodora to
join her.

'I thank you, I have another arrangement,' she said, reckless of those
entreating eyes; 'I am to go with Mrs. Finch.'

'And I believe I shall be quite well enough by and by,' said Violet.

'My dear, it is not to be thought of for you.'

'Yes, Lady Elizabeth, I trust her to you to make her hear reason,' said
Theodora. 'I shall leave her to you.'

Poor Violet, already in sufficient dread of the evening, was obliged to
endure a reiteration of all its possible consequences. Lady Elizabeth
was positively grieved and amazed to find her, as she thought,
resolutely set upon gaieties, at all risks, and spared no argument that
could alarm her into remaining quietly at home, even assuring her
that it was her duty not to endanger herself for the sake of a little
excitement or amusement. Violet could only shut her eyes to restrain the
burning tears, and listen, without one word in vindication, until Lady
Elizabeth had exhausted her rhetoric, and, rising, with some coolness
told her she still hoped that she would think better of it, but that she
wished her husband was at home.

Violet would fain have hid her face in her good friend's bosom, and
poured out her griefs, but she could only feel that she was forfeiting
for ever the esteem of one she loved so much. She held out, however.
Not till the door had closed did she relax her restraint on herself,
and give way to the overwhelming tears. Helpless, frightened, perplexed,
forced into doing what might be fatal to her! and every one, even
Arthur, likely to blame her! The burst of weeping was as terrified, as
violent, as despairing as those of last year.

But she was not, as then, inconsolable; and as the first agitation
spent itself she resumed her self-command, checked her sobs by broken
sentences of prayer, growing fuller and clearer, then again soft and
misty, till she fairly cried herself to sleep.

She slept only for a short interval, but it had brought back her
composure, and she was able to frame a prayer to be directed to do right
and be guarded from harm; and then to turn her mind steadily to the
decision. It was her duty, as long as it was in her power, to be
with her husband's sister, and guard her from lowering herself by her
associates. She was bound by her promise to Percy, and she could only
trust that no harm would ensue.

'If it should,' thought poor Violet, 'I may honestly hope it is in the
way of what I believe my duty; so it would be a cross, and I should be
helped under it. And if the Brandons blame me--that is a cross again.
Suppose I was to be as ill again as I was before--suppose I should not
get through it--Oh! then I could not bear to have wilfully neglected a
duty! And the next party? Oh! no need for thinking of that! I must only
take thought for the day.'

And soon again she slept.

Theodora had gone out so entirely convinced that Violet would relinquish
her intention, that, meeting Mrs. Finch, she arranged to be taken up at
eleven o'clock.

On returning home she heard that Mrs. Martindale was asleep; and, as
they had dined early, she drank coffee in her own room, and read with
the Brogden girl, as part of her system of compensation, intending
to spare further discussion by seeing Violet no more that night. She
proceeded to dress her hair--not as helplessly as at first, for the
lessons had not been without fruit; but to-night nothing had a good
effect. Not being positively handsome, her good looks depended on
colour, dress, and light; and the dislike to failure, and the desire to
command attention, made it irritating to find her hair obstinate and her
ornaments unbecoming; and she was in no placid state when Violet entered
the room, ready dressed.

'Violet! This is too foolish!'

'I am a great deal better now, thank you.'

'But I have settled it with Georgina; she is coming to call for me.'

'This is not out of her way; it will make no difference to her.'

'But, Violet, I will not let you go; Arthur would not allow it. You are
not fit for it.'

'Yes, thank you, I believe I am.'

'You believe! It is very ridiculous of you to venture when you only
believe,' said Theodora, never imagining that those mild weary tones
could withstand her for a moment. 'Stay at home and rest. You know
Arthur may come at any time.'

'I mean to go, if you please; I know I ought.'

'Then remember, if you are ill, it is your fault, not mine.'

Violet attempted a meek smile.

Theodora could only show her annoyance by impatience with her toilette.
Her sister tried to help her; but nothing suited nothing pleased
her--all was untoward; and at last Violet said, 'Is Percy to be there?'

'Not a chance of it. What made you think so?'

'Because you care so much.'

Somehow, that saying stung her to the quick, and the more because it was
so innocently spoken.

'I do not care,' she said. 'You are so simple, Violet, you fancy all
courtships must be like your own. One can't spend six years like six
weeks.'

The colour rushed painfully into Violet's face, and she quitted the
room. It was a moment of dire shame and grief to Theodora, who had not
intended a taunt, but rather to excuse her own doings; and as the words
came back on her, and she perceived the most unmerited reproach they
must have conveyed, she was about to hurry after her sister, explain,
and entreat her pardon. Almost immediately, however, Violet returned,
with her hands full of some beautiful geraniums, that morning sent to
her by Mrs. Harrison.

'See!' said she; 'I think a wreath of these might look well.'

Theodora trusted the blush had been the work of her own guilty fancy,
and, recollecting how often Mrs. Nesbit's innuendoes had glanced aside,
thought it best not to revive the subject. She did not estimate even
the sacrifice it was to part with the glowing fragrant flowers, the
arrangement of which had freshened Violet's spirits that evening when
not in tune for other occupation; and she did not know that there was
one little sigh of fellow-feeling at their destiny of drooping and
fading in the crowd and glare. Their brilliant hues had great success,
and set off the deep black eyes and hair to unusual advantage when woven
by those dexterous fingers. The toilette was complete, and Theodora as
kind as she could be, between shame at her own speech and dislike to
being softened by little female arts.

'I only wish you looked better yourself,' she said. 'You are too pale
for that old white dress.'

'It is the coolest I have ready. It must do.'

Theodora could not accuse her of over-carefulness of her renown as a
beauty. Her dress was, of course, appropriate, but aimed at no more; and
her worn, languid appearance did not cause her a moment's thought, since
Arthur was not there to see.

They found the room very warm and crowded. Theodora saw Violet lodged
on an ottoman, and then strayed away to her own friends. Mrs. Finch soon
arrived, and attacked her for having let them go on a fool's errand.

'I could not help it,' said Theodora; 'she would come.'

'She looks very unwell,' said Mrs. Finch; 'but, poor thing, it would be
too hard to miss everything this year.'

'Or does she come as your trusty knight's deputy?' asked Jane.

There was dancing; but when Captain Fitzhugh brought Theodora back to
her seat, Violet whispered, 'I am sorry, but would you dislike coming
home now?'

'Oh! I am engaged to Lord St. Erme, and then to Mr. Gardner, and--but
you go home; you have done your duty, my dear. Go home, and to sleep.
Georgina will bring me. Captain Fitzhugh will find you the carriage.'

She walked off with Lord St. Erme, and came no more that way. Presently
there was some confusion.

'A lady fainting,' said her partner, and she saw Emma looking dreadfully
frightened. Conscience was enough, without the name passing from mouth
to mouth. Theodora sprang forward, and following the movement, found
herself in a room where Violet's insensible figure had just been placed
on a bed. Lady Elizabeth was there, and Emma, and Mrs. Bryanstone.
Theodora felt as if no one but herself should touch Arthur's wife; but
she had never before witnessed a fainting fit, and, in her consternation
and guiltiness, knew not how to be serviceable, so that all that was
required was done by the other ladies. She had never experienced such
alarm and remorse as now, while standing watching, until the eyes slowly
opened, looked round uneasily till they fell on her, then closed for a
few moments, but soon were again raised, while the soft low words
were heard, 'Thank you, I beg your pardon!' then, with an imploring,
deprecating gaze on her, 'I am sorry; indeed I could not help it!'

Theodora was almost overcome; but Lady Elizabeth gave a warning squeeze
to her arm, whispering, 'Take care, don't agitate her:' and this,
recalling the sense that others were present, brought back her
self-possession, and she only kissed Violet, tenderly bade her lie
still, and hoped she was better.

She smiled, and declared herself refreshed, as the wind blew on her from
the open window, and she felt the cold water on her face, and there was
no silencing her thanks and apologies for giving trouble. She said she
was well enough to go home; and, as soon as the carriage was found, sat
up, looking shivering and forlorn, but still summoning up smiles. 'Good
night, dear Lady Elizabeth,' she said; 'thank you very much. You see you
were right.'

Lady Elizabeth offered to go home with her; but she could not bear to
occasion further sensation, and, besides, understood Theodora's face.
She refused, and her friend kissed her, and promised to come early
to-morrow to see her; but, mingled with all this care and kindness there
was something of 'I told you so.'

She trembled so much when she stood up, that Theodora put her strong
arm round her, and nearly carried her down-stairs, gratified to find
her clinging to her, and refusing all other support. Scarcely a word was
spoken as they went home; but Theodora held the hand, which was cold,
limp, and shaking, and now and then she made inquiries, always answered
by 'Better, thank you.'

Theodora had her directions from Lady Elizabeth, and intended to make up
for her misdeeds by most attentive care; but, on coming home, they found
that Arthur had arrived, and gone to bed, so that nothing was in her
power but to express more kind wishes and regrets than she could stay to
hear or to answer in her extinguished voice.

Theodora was a good deal shocked, but also provoked, at having been
put in the wrong. She felt as if she had sustained a defeat, and as if
Violet would have an advantage over her for the future, managing her by
her health, just as she ruled Arthur.

'But I will not submit,' thought Theodora. 'I will not bear with
interference, if not from Percy, certainly not from his deputy--a mere
spoilt child, a very good child, but spoilt by her position, by John's
over-estimate of her, and by the deference exacted by her weakness and
her engagingness. She has very sweet, winning ways, and I am very fond
of her in reason, but it will be very good for her to see I can be kind
to her without being her slave.'

In this mind Theodora went to sleep, but was wakened in the early
morning by Arthur's voice on the stairs, calling to Sarah. She threw on
her dressing-gown, and half-opening her door, begged to know what was
the matter.

'Only that you have done for her with your freaks and your wilfulness,'
answered Arthur, roughly.

'She is not ill?' exclaimed the terrified sister.

'Of course she is. I can't think what possessed you.'

'I tried hard to keep her at home. But, oh! Arthur, where are you
going?'

'To fetch Harding.'

'Can I do anything? Can I be of use? Let me go to her. Oh! Arthur, pray
let me.'

He went into the room, and brought back word that Violet wanted no one
but Sarah, and was a little more comfortable; only begging Theodora
would be so kind as to go to the nursery, lest little Johnnie should
awake.

Thither she repaired, but without the satisfaction of usefulness, for
the child slept soundly till his nurse returned. Mr. Harding had been
there, and Mrs. Martindale was better, needing only complete quiet; but
Sarah was extremely brief, scornful, and indignant, and bestowed very
few words on Miss Martindale. 'Yes, ma'am--no, ma'am,' was all that hard
pumping could extract, except funereal and mysterious sighs and shakes
of the head, and a bustling about, that could only be understood to
intimate that she wished to have her nursery to herself.

It was still so early that Theodora had time to go to church; as usual,
she met the Brandons; and Lady Elizabeth, much concerned at her tidings,
came home with her to see how the patient was going on.

Lady Elizabeth forbore to reproach Violet, but she lectured Arthur on
allowing her to be imprudent. He took it in very good part, not quite
disagreeing when told they were all too young together, and made a
hearty protest that she should be well looked after for the future.

He was certainly doing his part. All the morning he was in and out, up
and down stairs, effectually preventing any rest, as his sister thought.

Theodora's time passed in strange variations of contrition, jealousy,
and perverseness. She was hurt at his displeasure,--she was injured by
her exclusion from Violet's room,--she was wounded even by her little
nephew, who cried down-stairs for mamma, and up-stairs for Sarah, and
would not be content with her best endeavours to make him happy. And
yet, when, after carefully looking to see that he could come to no harm,
Sarah was obliged to place him on the floor and leave him for the first
time alone with his father, he sat motionless, fixed in earnest, intent
contemplation, like a sort of distant worship of him, keeping him
likewise in a silent amused wonder, what would come next; and when it
ended in a gravely, distinctly pronounced, 'Papa!' Arthur started as if
it had been a jackdaw speaking, then picked up the little fellow in his
arms and carried him off to show, as a natural curiosity, to his mother!
At any other time, Theodora would have been charmed at the rare sight
of Arthur fondling his little boy; now she only felt that nobody wanted
her, and that she was deprived of even the dignity of a nursery-maid.

Her chief occupation was answering inquiries, and writing notes to
decline their evening engagements--the dinner at Mrs. Delaval's among
the rest; for she and Arthur were equally resolved to remain at home
that evening, and she wished to persuade herself that they were Violet's
friends, not her own.

In the midst, Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner called, and in her state of
irritation the smooth tongue of the latter was oil to the flame.

'Poor thing, no doubt she thinks she has been making a heroic exertion.
Well, she has her reward! It must be delightful to have caused such a
sensation. Your brother is a most devoted husband.'

'And did she really go because she would not trust you without her?'
said Mrs. Finch. 'Well, that is a good joke!'

'I think you must be glad they do not live at Brogden,' quietly added
Jane, in the midst of her sister's laughter.

'It has been put into her head,' said Theodora, 'that she ought to look
after me, and a great mistake it is.'

'Yes, you are not come here to be less free than last year, when Lord
and Lady Martindale had you in their own hands, said Georgina. 'If
I were you I would do something strong all at once, and settle that
matter. That was the way you used to dispose of the governesses.'

'I am not quite what I was then, Georgina.'

'But what is it that she objects to? I see,' as Jane made a sign, as if
to advise her not to inquire. 'Is it to your coming out with me? Well! I
declare, that is pretty well, considering who she was. I thought better
things of her, with her soft voice, as if she was thankful to be spoken
to, after all the notice I have taken of her.'

'Hush, hush! I tell you, she would never have originated the notion, but
it has been put into her, and when she thinks a thing right nothing will
stop her.'

'We will see that!' said Georgina. 'Come and dine with us to-night, and
then we are going to "Der Freischutz". Come--'

'That is impossible, thank you. We have given up the dinner at the
Delavals', and I do not intend to go out in the evening any more. I came
here to take care of her, and I mean to do so thoroughly.'

'Not to go out any more!' cried Georgina, horrified. 'I honour
Theodora,' said Jane. 'Such devotion is like her, and must win her
brother's gratitude.'

'No devotion at all. I like a rational evening with her much better than
a cram like last night's.'

'With her alone?' said Jane, slyly.

Theodora crimsoned. Percy had instigated Violet's opposition, and she
was in no charity with him. Jane saw there was annoyance, and turned
the subject before her sister could open on it. With all her quiet ways,
Jane had the mastery over the impetuous Georgina, whom she apparently
flattered and cherished as a younger sister, but in reality made
subservient to her own purposes. Indeed, Jane was like the Geraldine
of Christabel; without actually speaking evil she had the power of
insinuating her own views, so that even the lofty and sincere nature
of Theodora was not proof against her. Poor Violet! while she perilled
herself, and sacrificed her friend's good opinion, her sister's mind was
being hardened and poisoned against her.

'I am afraid,' said Jane, 'that it is of no use then to talk to you of
what Georgina and I have been planning.'

'Oh! Theodora must come to that at any rate,' cried Georgina, 'or I will
never forgive her nor Mrs. Martindale neither. Do you remember our old
birthday treat to Richmond?'

'To be sure I do!' cried Theodora. 'It was one of the most delightful
days I ever had in my life. I have loved cowslips doubly for the treat
the sight of them was, in the midst of London and masters, seven years
ago. Why, you will be twenty-four next week, Georgina.'

'Growing to an unmentionable age,' said Georgina. 'Well, I have set my
heart on a picnic to Richmond again. Mark is to take a steamer for us,
and I know of plenty of people who will make a charming party!'

'I should like it better without the people,' said Theodora.

'Oh, nonsense; one can't babble of green fields and run after cowslips,
at our age, unless one is in love,' said Georgina. 'If you were going to
bring your Percy, perhaps we would not interfere with your sweet rural
felicity, my dear.'

'We will bring some one else,' said Jane. 'After poor Mrs. Martindale
had carried you off', Theodora, I found the author of "Pausilippo"
looking extremely disconsolate, and hinting to him that such a scheme
was in agitation, and that you were included in it, he looked so eager,
that he will be for ever beholden to Georgina for an invitation.'

'Poor Lord St. Erme!' said Georgina. 'It really is a shame, Theodora. I
rather take him under my protection. Shall he come, or shall he not?'

'It makes no difference to me,' said Theodora, coolly.

'Whatever it does to him, eh?'

'But, Georgina, you are not in the least secure of Theodora,' said Jane,
satirically. 'She is devoted to Mrs. Martindale.'

'If my sister-in-law is not well I shall not leave her, if she is, you
may depend upon me.'

'I shall do no such thing, whatever Georgina does,' said Jane.

'I am sure Mrs. Martindale has ways and means.'

'I shall not stay without real reason.'

'And bring the Captain,' entreated Mrs. Finch.

'Still more doubtful,' suggested Jane.

'Yes, I think you will not get him,' said Theodora; 'but I will
certainly join you, provided Violet is not really ill.'

'I am very good friends with that pretty sister of yours,' said Jane. 'I
will call some day, and try to get her permission for him.'

'Once--twice--you have failed us,' said Mrs. Finch, rising to take
leave. 'This third time, and I shall believe it is some one else in the
shape of Theodora Martindale.'

'I will not fail,' repeated Theodora.

They departed, and presently Arthur came down. 'How long those women
have been here! Have they been hatching treason? I want you to go up and
sit with Violet; I am going out for an hour.'

It was a tame conclusion to the morning's alarms when a brisk voice
answered, 'Come in,' at her knock, and Violet lay very comfortably
reading, her eyes bright and lively, and her cheeks with almost their
own colour. Her sweet smile and grateful face chased away ill humour;
and Theodora was so affectionate and agreeable as to surprise herself,
and make her believe herself subject to the fascination Violet exercised
over her brothers.

She told Arthur, on his return, that Violet was just ill enough to make
waiting on her pretty pastime; but was something between alarmed and
angry to find him still uneasy.



CHAPTER 16


     Lord Percy sees my fall!

     --Chevy Chase


Two days after, Miss Gardner calling, found Mrs. Martindale alone in the
drawing-room, and pretty well again. The project for the party was now
fully developed, and it was explained to Violet with regrets that she
was unable to share it, and hopes that Theodora and her brother would
not fail to join it.

'Thank you, I believe Captain Martindale will be at Windsor; he will be
on guard next week.'

'Ah! that is provoking. He is so valuable at this kind of thing, and I
am sure would enjoy it. He would meet some old schoolfellows. You must
use your influence to prevent him from being lazy. Guardsmen can always
get leave when they think it worth while.'

'Perhaps if Theodora wishes to go, he may manage it; but I am afraid it
is not likely that he will be able.'

'You will trust us for taking care of our dear Theodora,' said Miss
Gardner; 'we know she is rather high-spirited, and not very fond of
control. I can quite enter into your feelings of responsibility, but
from my knowledge of her character, I should say that any sense of
restraint is most galling to her. But even if we have not the pleasure
of Captain Martindale's company, you may fully reckon on our watching
over her, myself in especial, as a most dear younger sister.'

'Is your party arranged?' asked Violet.

'Yes, I may say so. We hope for Mrs. Sedley and her daughters. Do you
know them? Charming people whom we met in Paris.'

Violet was not acquainted with them, and tried to find out who were the
rest. They seemed to be all young ladies, or giddy young wives, like
Mrs. Finch herself, and two or three foreigners. Few were personally
known to the Martindales; Lord St. Erme was the only gentleman of their
own set; and Violet could not smile, as her visitor expected, on hearing
how he had been enticed by hopes of meeting Miss Martindale.

Jane Gardner perceived the disapprobation. 'Ah! well,--yes. One cannot
but own that our dear Theodora's spirits do now and then make her a
little bit of a flirt. It is the way with all such girls, you know. I
am sure it was with my sister, but, as in her case, marriage is the only
cure. You need not be in the least uneasy, I assure you. All will right
itself, though a good deal may go on that startles sober-minded people
like us. I could condole with you on the charge, but you will find it
the only way not to seem to thwart her. Violet thought it best to laugh,
and talk of something else.

'Then I depend on you for the cream of our party,' said Miss Gardner,
taking leave.

'I cannot tell whether Captain Martindale can come,' said Violet,
somewhat bewildered by the conversation.

'Is that girl a nonentity, or is she a deep genius?' said Jane to
herself as she walked home. 'I cannot make her out. Now for the trial
of power! If Theodora Martindale yields to the Fotheringhams now, and
deserts Georgina, it will be a confirmation of all the absurd reports.
As long as I have it to say the Martindale family are as intimate as
ever, I have an answer for Lady Fotheringham, and if Mark is smitten
with her, so much the better. I hope Percy Fotheringham may be properly
rewarded for his presumption and ill-nature. The sooner they quarrel the
better. I will send Theodora a note to put her on her mettle.'

The note arrived while Percy was spending the evening in Cadogan-place,
and Theodora talking so happily that she grudged the interruption of
opening and reading it.


'DEAREST THEODORA,--One line further to secure you, though I told Mrs.
Martindale of our plans. She would make no promises, but we reckon on
your independence of action, at least. "Should auld acquaintance be
forgot?"

'Yours affectionately,

'J. GARDNER.


'P.S.--Mrs. Martindale looked very well. I hope she will have no
recurrence of faintings.'



'From Jane Gardner,' said Theodora; 'only to put me in mind of the
picnic. Will you go, Arthur?'

'I never was more glad to be on her Majesty's service. What an
abominable bore it would be!'

'That is what gentlemen always say of picnics,' said Theodora.

'Not at all,' said Percy. 'A real country party of merry happy people,
knowing each other well, and full of genuine honest glee, is one of the
most enjoyable things that can be.'

'That it is!' cried Violet. 'There was the day we went up Skiddaw, with
no one but our cousins and Mr. Fanshawe, and dined on the mountain in
sight of the valley of St. John; and the rain came on, and Mr. Fanshawe
sat all the time holding an umbrella over Annette and the pigeon-pie.'

'That was worth doing,' said Percy; 'but for a parcel of fine ladies and
gentlemen to carry the airs and graces, follies and competitions, born
in ball-rooms and nursed in soirees, out into pure country air and
daylight, is an insult to the green fields and woods.'

'That is a speech in character of author,' said Theodora.

'In character of rational being.'

'Which you would not have made if the party had not been Georgina
Finch's.'

'I had no notion whose it was, or anything about it.'

'It is for her birthday, Tuesday,' said Violet. 'They are to have a
steamer to Richmond, walk about and dine there; but I should not think
that it would be very pleasant. Mrs. Bryanstone had one of these parties
last year to Hampton Court, and she told me that unless they were well
managed they were the most disagreeable things in the world; people
always were losing each other, and getting into scrapes. She declared
she never would have another.'

'Mrs. Bryanstone has no idea of management,' said Theodora.

'I know who has less,' said Arthur. 'Your Georgina will let every one
take their chance, and the worse predicaments people get into the louder
she will laugh.'

'There is nothing so intolerable as a woman who thinks herself too
fashionable for good manners,' said Percy.

'Is any one waiting for an answer?' asked Violet.

'There is none,' said Theodora. 'They know I mean to go.'

'To go!' exclaimed all three, who had thought the question settled by
Arthur's refusal.

'Yes, of course; I go with Georgina.'

'With Mark Gardner, and the king of the clothes-brushes, and all
their train, in moustaches and parti-coloured parasols!' cried Percy.
'Theodora, I thought you were a sensible woman.'

'I am sorry if I forfeit that claim to your regard.'

'Well, if I was your mother! However, it is devoutly to be hoped that it
may rain.'

He then changed the conversation, and no more passed on this subject
till, as he wished her good night, he said, in a low voice, 'Think
better of it, Theodora.'

'My mind is made up,' was the proud reply. In a few seconds he called
Arthur to him on the stairs. 'Arthur,' he said, 'if your sister is set
on this wrong-headed scheme, at least don't let her go with no one to
look after her. Let her have some respectable person with her, merely
for propriety's sake. She fancies me prejudiced, and we have agreed to
dispute no more on the woman's goings on; but you have the keeping of
her now.'

'I wish Mrs. Finch was at Jericho, and Theodora after her!' exclaimed
Arthur, petulantly; 'they will worry my wife to death between them.'

'Then Theodora had better go home,' said Percy, soberly.

'No, no; we can't do without her. She takes good care of Violet, and
is very attentive and useful, and I can't have Violet left alone. If we
could but get her down off her high horse, and drive that impudent woman
out of her head!--if you can't, no one else can.'

'It is very unfortunate,' said Percy. 'There is so much generous feeling
and strong affection to prompt her resistance, that it is hard to oppose
her, especially as I do believe there is no worse than folly and levity
in this friend of hers. I wish these occasions would not arise. Left to
herself these people would soon disgust her but for her own sake we must
interfere, and that keeps up her partisanship.'

'What is to be done?' was Violet's disconsolate beginning, as soon as
she could see Arthur alone.

'Take it easy'--words which she had taught herself to regard as a
warning that she was doleful. 'Never mind; if Theodora is so pig-headed
as to rush into this scheme, it is no concern of yours. All you have to
do is to take care not to be worried.'

Violet had regained a cheerful voice. 'If you were going with her, it
would not signify.'

'It would signify pretty much to me to be bored with all that riff-raff.
One would think Theodora bewitched.'

'There is hardly any one of our acquaintance.'

'No, the lady has dropped pretty much in the scale.'

'I wish I knew what your father and mother would think of it.'

'They would hate it as much as we do, but they could not prevent it.
Nobody can stop Theodora when once she has the bit between her teeth. As
I told Percy, if he can't, 'tis past all power. I wonder if he thinks by
this time he has caught a Tartar?'

'Did he call you to speak about it?'

'Yes; to say I must by no means let her go without a respectable female
to look after her.'

'I don't know these ladies; but if Mrs. Finch would ask Mrs. Bryanstone,
she is so good-natured that I dare say she would go.'

'That would be the most tolerable way of doing it; but I would lay you
anything you please that nothing but unmitigated Finch will content
her.'

'And that is worse than no one.'

'I wish some stop could be put to it. It is worse than Percy knows. She
can't speak to a man without flirting, and we shall have her turning
some poor fellow's head, like Wingfield's. I don't think it is
respectable!'

'It is very strange, so good and religious as she is.'

'Where is the use of her religion if it does not bring down her pride or
cure her obstinacy? If it would, I should see some good in the rout she
makes about going to church and teaching dirty children.'

'Oh! Arthur, dear, don't say that.'

'It is the truth, though.'

'I think,' said Violet, diffidently, 'that some day the good will
conquer the rest. Some day she will feel these things to be wrong and
strive against them.'

'Do you mean that she does not know it is wrong to be as wilful and
proud as Lucifer?'

'I do not think she knows she has those tendencies.'

Arthur laughed and shook his head. 'One learns one's faults as one grows
older, you know,' continued Violet, 'and she is so very kind. Think
of her giving up all going out in the evening to stay with me; and you
don't know how she waits on baby and me. She is so grand and noble, that
kindness from her is delightful, and her face when it softens is so like
you! Some book says that high natures have the most trouble with their
faults.'

'Then hers ought to be high indeed.'

Violet began the day by telling Arthur that his sister would go to
make arrangements with Mrs. Finch, and asked him to tell her of their
decision before he returned to Windsor that morning.

'Our decision! What do you mean!'

'Don't you remember about Mrs. Bryanstone?'

'Oh! if that is to be done, you must say it. Ladies must manage their
own visiting affairs. I don't understand chaperons and stuff.'

'Arthur, you don't mean me to speak?'

'If it is to be done at all, it is woman's work, and I see no use in it.
She will toss her head, and only be more resolved on her own way.'

'Oh, Arthur, one moment! Did you not say it ought to be done?'

'Of course it ought; but it is of no use, and if you are wise, you will
not tease yourself.'

'But you said Percy insisted on it.'

'So he did, but if he cannot tackle her himself, I am sure we can't.
I'll have nothing to do with it--it is no affair of mine.'

'Then, am I to let her alone?'

'As you choose. I wish she would hear reason, but it is not worth
bothering yourself for, when it is of no use.'

'What do you wish me to do? I wish I knew--'

He shut the door behind him, and Violet tried to recover from her
dismay. Thankful would she have been for commands not to interfere; but
to be left to her own judgment was terrible when she knew that his true
opinion coincided with hers. How could she hope to prevail, or not to
forfeit the much-prized affection that seemed almost reluctantly to be
at last bestowed?

But, cost what it might, Violet never swerved from a duty, and her
mind was clear that to permit Theodora to join the party alone without
remonstrance, and without the knowledge of her parents, would be
improper. She resolved not to confuse herself with fears and anxieties,
and strove to dwell on whatever could steady or calm her mind for the
undertaking. How wide a difference in moral courage there was between
that tall grenadier and his timid delicate wife.

Arthur and Theodora were both down-stairs before her, and the latter was
preparing breakfast, when there was a knock. 'Percy!' she thought. 'He
shall see how useless it is to interfere!'

'Mr. Albert Moss!'

Arthur threw aside his newspaper, and held out his hand with a fair
show of welcome. 'Ha! Moss, how are you? Your sister will be down-stairs
directly. Miss Martindale--'

Theodora was resolved against being supercilious, but Mr. Moss's
intention of shaking hands obliged her to assert her dignity by a
princess-like inclination.

'Good morning,' said Albert. 'I came to town yesterday--slept at my
uncle's--have this day in London--much occupied--thought myself sure of
you at breakfast.'

'I will tell Mrs. Martindale,' said Theodora, glad to escape that she
might freely uplift her eyes at his self-sufficiency, and let her pity
for Arthur exhale safely on the stairs.

She met Violet, and was vexed at her start of joy, only consoling
herself by thinking that she did not look as if she was his sister.
Indeed, after the momentary instinct of gladness, came fears lest
Arthur might not be pleased, and Theodora be annoyed; but the familiar
home-like voice drove away all except pleasure as soon as she was
certified that her husband's brow was smooth. His presence was a
restraint, keeping Albert on his best behaviour, so that there
was nothing to disturb her present enjoyment of home tidings. That
good-humour and ease of his were indeed valuable ingredients of comfort.

He asked Albert to dinner, and desired him to bring Uncle Christopher,
if they chose to be entertained by the ladies alone, further offering
him a seat in his cab as far as their roads lay together. Highly
gratified, Albert proceeded to ask his sister whether she was able to
execute a commission for Matilda, the matching of a piece of chenille.
Violet readily undertook it, and he said, 'he would explain the occasion
on his return.'

When they were gone, the cares of the morning returned upon her, and
by the time her household affairs were finished, all her pulses were
throbbing at the prospect of the effort to which she was nerving
herself. She ordered herself to be quiet, and lay down on the sofa,
leaving the door open that Theodora might not go out without her
knowledge.

'It is my duty,' repeated she to herself. 'If I turn from it because
it is so dreadful to me, I shall not take up my cross! If she will only
listen and not be angry!'

Nearly an hour passed, the day seeming to grow warmer and more
oppressive, and a nervous headache coming on. Poor Violet! she was
still a frightened child, and when she saw Theodora coming down with
her bonnet on, the fluttering of her heart made her call so feeble that
Theodora supposed her ill, and came to her with kind solicitude that
rendered it still harder to say what she knew would be taken as an
affront.

With great difficulty she uttered the words, 'I only wanted to speak to
you about this expedition to Richmond.'

'Well,' said Theodora, smiling with what was meant for good-humour, but
was only scorn, 'you need not distress yourself, my dear, I am ready to
hear.'

'Would you get Mrs. Finch to ask Mrs. Bryanstone, and go with her?'
Violet could really speak at no more length.

'It would be folly. Mrs. Bryanstone would be out of her element, and
only a nuisance to herself and every one else. That will do. You have
discharged your conscience.'

'It is not myself alone,' said Violet, sitting up, and gathering force
to speak firmly and collectedly, but with her hand on her heart.
'Your brother and I both think it is not right, nor what Lord and Lady
Martindale would approve, that you should join this party without some
one they know and like.'

You mistake, Violet. This is not like a ball. There is no absurd
conventionality, tacking a spinster to a married woman.'

'No, but since. Arthur cannot be with you, it is needful to take
measures to prevent any awkwardness for you.'

'Thank you. I'll take care of that.'

'Dear Theodora, I did not mean to vex you; but will you only put
yourself in our place for one moment. Your father and mother let you
stay here on the understanding that you go out with us, and when we
cannot go, do you think we ought to see you put yourself under the
escort of a person to whom we believe they would object?'

'I have told you that I know what my own father and mother permit.'

Violet was silent, and pressed her hand on her brow, feeling as if all
her prepared arguments and resolutions were chased away by the cool
disregard which seemed to annihilate them even in her own eyes. By an
effort, however, she cleared her mind, conjured back her steadiness, and
spoke, preserving her voice with difficulty from being plaintive. 'You
may know what they permit you, but we owe them duties too. Theodora, if
you will not take some one with you whom we know they would approve, we
must write and ask what Lord Martindale would wish.'

'Arthur will never write,' said Theodora, in defiance; but the answer
took her by surprise--'If he does not, I shall.'

'If there is to be such a rout, I will not go at all.'

'Indeed I think it would be the best plan,' said Violet, removing the
hand that had been hiding the springing tears, to look up beseechingly,
and see whether the project were resigned, and herself spared the letter
which she well knew would be left to her lot.

But for those wistful eyes, Theodora would have felt caught in her own
trap; for such speeches had often brought governess, mother, and even
aunt, to humble entreaties that she would take her own course. She had
to recollect her words before she perceived that she had yielded, and
that she must abide by them. Anything was better than the humiliation
of Violets sending home complaints of her conduct. She was greatly
incensed; but a glance at the gentle, imploring face, and the hands
trying in vain not to tremble with nervousness, could not but turn away
her wrath. It was impossible to manifest displeasure; but to speak a
word of concession seemed still more impossible. She impetuously threw
off her bonnet, seized a pen, dashed off a few lines, and tossed the
note and its envelope into Violet's lap, saying, in her low voice of
proud submission, 'There! you will send it,' and left the room. Violet
read


'MY DEAR GEORGINA,--My brother is engaged at Windsor, and I cannot join
your party to Richmond.

'Yours sincerely,

'TH. A. MARTINDALE.


'Mrs. Martindale is pretty well, thank you.'


Violet almost expected Theodora's next note would announce her return
home. She had been forced to give up all the affection so slowly gained,
and to wound her proud sister-in-law where she was most sensitive.
Should she hold Theodora to this renunciation, and send the note she had
extorted, or should she once more ask whether this was in earnest, and
beg her to reconsider the alternative?

But Violet was convinced that Theodora intended to hear no more about
the matter, and that nothing would be such an offence as to be supposed
to have acted hastily. She was afraid of renewing the subject, lest her
weakness should lose her what she had gained. 'Better,' thought she,
'that Theodora should think me presumptuous and troublesome than that
she should mix herself up with these people, and, perhaps, displease
Percy for ever. But, oh! if I could but have done it without vexing her,
and to-day, too, when she has to bear with Albert.'

Violet felt that she must give way to her headache, trusting that when
it had had its will it might allow her to be bright enough to make a
fair show before Albert. She lay with closed eyes, her ear not missing
one tick of the clock, nor one sound in the street, but without any
distinct impression conveyed to her thoughts, which were wandering in
the green spots in the park at Wrangerton, or in John's descriptions of
the coral reefs of the West Indies. The first interruption was Sarah's
bringing down the baby, whom she was forced to dismiss at once.

Again all was still, but the half slumber was soon interrupted,
something cold and fragrant was laid on her brow, and, thinking Sarah
would not be satisfied without attending to her, she murmured
thanks, without opening her eyes. But the hand that changed the cool
handkerchief was of softer texture; and, looking up, she saw Theodora
bending over her, with the face so like Arthur's, and making every
demonstration of kindness and attention--drawing down blinds,
administering sal volatile, and doing everything in her service.

Not that Theodora was in the least subdued. She was burning with
resentment with every one--with Percy and his prejudice; with the
gossiping world; with her friends for making this a trial of power; with
Arthur for having put forward his poor young wife when it cost her
so much. 'He knew I should not have given way to him! Feebleness is a
tyrant to the strong. It was like putting the women and children on the
battlements of a besieged city. It was cowardly; unkind to her, unfair
on me. She is a witch!'

But candour was obliged to acknowledge that it had not been feebleness
that had been the conqueror. Violet had made no demonstration of going
into fits; it had been her resolution, her strength, not her weakness,
that had gained the victory. Chafe as Theodora might, she could not
rid herself of the consciousness that the sister of that underbred
attorney--that timid, delicate, soft, shrinking being, so much her
junior--had dared to grapple with her fixed determination, and had
gained an absolute conquest. 'Tyrant!' thought Theodora, 'my own brother
would have left me alone, but she has made him let her interfere.
She means to govern us all, and the show of right she had here has
overthrown me for once; but it shall not happen again.'

At this juncture Theodora discovered, from the sounds in the other room,
how much Violet had suffered from her effort, and her compassion was
instantly excited. 'I must go and nurse her. She meant to do right, and
I honour the real goodness. I am no petted child, to be cross because I
have lost a pleasure.'

So she took exemplary care of Violet, read aloud, warded off noises,
bribed the brass band at the other side of the square, went up to
see why Johnnie was crying, carried up her luncheon, waited on her
assiduously, and succeeded so well, that by the time the carriage came
round, the head was in a condition to be mended by fresh air.

Mere driving out was one of Theodora's aversions. If she did not ride,
she had district visiting and schooling; but to-day she went with
Violet, because she thought her unfit to be tired by Matilda's
commission. It proved no sinecure. The west-end workshops had not the
right article; and, after trying them, Theodora pronounced that Violet
must drive about in the hot streets no longer. One turn in the park, and
she would set her down, and go herself into the city, if necessary, to
match the pattern.

And this from Theodora, who detested fancy work, despised what she
called 'dabblers in silk and wool,' and hated the sight of a Berlin
shop!

Violet would not have allowed it; but Theodora threw her determination
into the scale, resolved to make herself feel generous and forgiving,
and not above taking any trouble to save Violet. So off she set, and
was gone so long that Violet had a long rest, and came down-stairs, much
revived, to welcome her brother.

Albert arrived alone. Uncle Christopher was engaged, and had charged him
with his excuses, for which Violet was sorry, as he was an unpretending,
sensible man, to whom she had trusted for keeping her brother in order;
but Albert was of a different opinion. 'No harm,' he said. 'It was very
good-natured of Martindale, but he is a queer old chap, who might not go
down so well in high life,' and he surveyed his own elegant toilette.

'We get on very well,' said Violet, quietly.

'Besides,' added Albert, attempting bashfulness, 'I have a piece of
intelligence, which being slightly personal, I should prefer--you
understand.'

Violet was prepared by her sister's letters for the news that Albert was
engaged to Miss Louisa Davis, very pretty, 'highly accomplished,' and
an heiress, being the daughter of a considerable county banker--a match
superior to what Albert could have expected. They had been engaged for
the last fortnight, but he had not allowed his sisters to mention it,
because he was coming to London, and wished to have the pleasure of
himself communicating the intelligence. Violet was much flattered; she
who used to be nobody to be thus selected! and she threw herself into
all the home feelings. The wedding was fixed for the beginning of July,
and this first made her remember the gulf between her and her family.

Seven o'clock was long past when Theodora entered, arrayed in rich blue
silk and black lace, put on that Violet's brother might see she meant
to do him honour; and so Violet understood it, but saw that he was only
contrasting it with her own quiet-coloured muslin.

Here ended Violet's comfort. Albert was so much elated that she was
afraid every moment of his doing something mal-a-propos. Theodora was
resolved to be gracious, and make conversation, which so added to his
self-satisfaction, that Violet's work was to repress his familiarity.
At dinner, she made Theodora take Arthur's place, and called her Miss
Martindale, otherwise she believed it would be Theodora the next moment
with him, and thus she lost all appearance of ease. She was shy for her
brother, and when he said anything she did not like, tried to colour it
rightly; but she was weary and languid, and wanted spirit to control the
conversation.

'So, Violet, Fanshawe's appointment was a pretty little bit of patronage
of yours; but the ladies of Wrangerton will never forgive you. They were
going to get up a subscription to give him a piece of plate.'

'O, yes! and he desired them to send the money to the "Society for the
Propagation of the Gospel,"' said Violet. 'Annette mentioned it.'

'I suppose it depends on Mr. Martindale, whether he makes a good thing
of it in Barbuda,' said Albert; but the gov--' at a dismayed look from
her, he turned it into 'My father is much obliged to you for getting
him out of the way. The girls were so taken up with him one hardly knew
whether something might not come of it; and really a poor curate--after
the manner in which some of the family have connected themselves.'

The ladies were sorry for each other--one ashamed and one amused,
neither venturing to look up, and Albert had no opportunity for the bow
he intended for Miss Martindale.

'By the bye,' continued he, 'who is this Fotheringham that was to settle
with Fanshawe? I thought he was Lord Martindale's solicitor; but my
uncle knows nothing about him.'

Violet coloured crimson, and wished herself under the table; Theodora
made violent efforts to keep from an explosion of laughing.

'No,' said Violet, rather indignantly; 'he is--he is--he is--' she
faltered, not knowing how to describe one so nearly a relation, 'a great
friend of--'

Theodora having strangled the laugh, came to her rescue, and replied,
with complete self-possession, 'His sister, who died, was engaged to my
eldest brother.'

'Oh! I beg your pardon. You look on him as a sort of family connection.
I suppose, then, he is one of the Fotheringhams of Worthbourne? Matilda
fancied he was the literary man of that name; but that could not be.'

'Why not?' said Theodora, extremely diverted.

'A poet, an author! I beg your pardon; but a lady alone could suppose
one of that description could be employed in a practical matter. Is not
it Shakespeare who speaks of the poet's eye in a fine frenzy rolling?
Eh, Violet? I shall never forget the gove--my father's indignation
when he detected your humble servant in the act of attempting a slight
tribute to the Muses. I believe the old gentleman looked on my fate as
sealed.'

'Albert!' said Violet, feeling as if she must stop his mouth, 'you are
quite mistaken. Mr. Fotheringham does belong to the family you mean, and
he did write "The Track of the Crusaders". He has been attached to
the embassy in Turkey, and is waiting for another appointment.' Then,
looking at Theodora, 'You never told me how far you went to-day.'

Theodora detailed her long pursuit of the chenille, and her successful
discovery of it at last. Albert's gratitude was extreme; his sister
would be delighted and flattered, the work would receive an additional
value in the eyes of all, and he might well say so, he was a party
concerned, the material was for a waistcoat, to be worn on an
occasion--but his sister would explain.

Violet thought he had exposed himself quite enough; and as dessert was
on the table, she rose with as good a smile as she could, saying, 'Very
well, I'll explain; you will find your way to the drawing-room,' and
retreated.

Theodora caressingly drew her arm into hers, much pleased with her, and
accepting her as entirely Martindale, and not at all Moss. 'What! is he
going to be married in it?'

'Yes, that is what he meant.'

'I hope you are satisfied.'

'O yes, I never saw her; but they are all very much pleased.'

'Now tell me frankly, which do you like? Shall I leave you at peace with
him, or will he think it rude in me?'

Violet decided in favour of Theodora's absence till tea-time. Alone she
had enjoyed Albert, but the toil of watching his manners was too much.

'Then I'll come down and make the tea.'

'Thank you, dear Theodora. It is so kind. I hope it will not be very
disagreeable. And one thing--could you tell him how well I really am,
except for to-day's headache, or he will go and take home another bad
account of me.'

'Your head is worse again. There, I'll fetch some lavender, and do you
lie still and rest it till he comes.'

He soon came.

'Well, Miss Martindale is a fine young lady, upon my word. Real high
blood and no mistake. And not so high in her manner after all, when one
knows how to deal with her.'

'She is very kind to me.'

'And how long does she stay?'

'O, for some time longer. Till August, most likely.'

'Why, she will get the command of your house altogether.'

'I am very glad to have her here.'

'Ah!' said Albert, looking confidential, 'you do right to be prudent,
but you may trust me, and I should be glad to know that it is more
comfortable than last year.'

'It never was otherwise,' said Violet.

'I hope so,' said Albert; 'I honour your prudence, and, after all, you
have a handsome establishment,--capital dinners, good turnout. I only
wish I could see you look in better spirits.'

Violet started forward and coloured. 'Albert, don't take up fancies. I
am perfectly happy, and you must believe it. They all pet and spoil me
with kindness. If you think me looking poorly to-day it is only from
a headache, which Miss Martindale has been nursing so carefully and
tenderly.'

'Well, you cannot be too cautious if you are to stand well with the
family. You do well to be on your guard. Martindale only the second son,
and the elder may marry any day. That was one thing I thought I ought to
speak to you about. You really should try to get some settlement made
on you. You have nothing to depend upon, and, you see, you cannot expect
anything from home.'

'Do not talk about such things.'

'You must not be childish, Violet; I am come as your best friend to give
you advice. You ought to consider what would become of you if you were
left with a family of young children, connected as you are. You depend
entirely on one life, and you must not reckon on us, as you MUST see.'

'I see,' said Violet, only wanting him to cease.

'Then you perceive I have your real interest in view when I tell you it
is your duty to use what influence you have to get some provision made.'

'Don't go on, Albert. As my marriage was brought about, it would be
improper in me to do anything of the kind.'

'I only wished you to see what you have to trust to. Ah! by the bye,
there's the old aunt. Have not you expectations from her?'

'No; she was so much offended at our marriage that there is no
likelihood of her doing anything for us.'

'Bless me! That's a bad case! But you have been staying there. Can't a
pretty engaging thing like you manage to come round the old lady and get
into her good graces?'

'Albert! don't talk so.'

'Really, Violet, it is time to give up being a silly child. You ought
not to throw away your true interests, or the time will come when you
will be sorry, and remember what I said; but you are not to depend on
me.'

'No,' said Violet, and scalding tears arose, 'I do not. You need not be
afraid. I have a brother who will take care of me and mine.'

'John Martindale?'

'Yes.'

'Well, you know your own ground. I thought it my duty to warn you, and
I hope you will take care to make the most of yourself--it will never do
to let yourself seem of no importance, and be overcrowed by this haughty
young lady.'

Violet nearly laughed, but the next speech was too much for her
patience. 'And you are satisfied at Martindale being so much from home?'

'He must be while his regiment is at Windsor;' and she rang for tea, and
sent a message to summon Miss Martindale, feeling her presence her only
protection.

Her head ached so much that she was obliged to lie on the sofa and let
things take their chance, and Theodora's attempt to represent her in
good health only appeared like blindness and indifference. Albert was
much enchanted with Miss Martindale, and made himself more ridiculous,
until it was a great satisfaction to his sister to see him depart.

'He always comes on unlucky days!' she said. 'I wish I could have made
it go off better. Thank you for taking all the trouble.'

'No trouble at all,' said Theodora, kindly. 'I am sorry you had so much
to tire you in the morning. Now, come up to your room. I wish I could
carry you, as Arthur does.'

She put her arm round her, helped her tenderly up the stairs, and came
in several times to her room to see that she was comfortable. At the
last good night, Violet whispered, 'Dear Theodora, don't think my
sisters like this--'

'I'll judge them from you, my dear little sister.'

'And you forgive me?'

'To be sure I do. You did as you thought right.' Strange to say,
Theodora had more sympathy for Violet after this awkward evening.

In the middle of the following day, Violet and little Johnnie were
together in the drawing-room, when Arthur came in, 'Well, how are you?
I am only here for two hours, but I wanted to know how you are getting
on.'

'Very well indeed, thank you.'

'Theodora sticks to her flight of Finches, I suppose?'

'She has been so kind! she has given it up.'

You don't mean it. I thought she was ready to go through fire and
water!' cried Arthur, incredulously.

'She has written to refuse.'

'What, Percy brought her to reason?'

'No, he has not been here, but I suppose his opinion influenced her.'

'What in the name of wonder prevailed! I never saw her turn when once
she had taken up a notion.'

'I believe it was that I said you or I must write to her father, and ask
what he wished.'

'So that settled her! Ha! Well done! Theodora forced to give up her
will, and by you! Well, that is the best thing I have heard a long time.
My little Violet to have got the upper hand of Miss Martindale!'
and Arthur burst into such a fit of triumphant laughter as to quite
discomfort Violet, but little Johnnie by her side on the sofa, catching
the infection of merriment, gave, what was very unusual with him, a
regular shout of baby fun, and went on laughing in ecstasy that set
Arthur off on a fresh score. 'So! young man, you think it very funny
that mamma has been too much for Aunt Theodora?'

Theodora could not have chosen a more unlucky moment for walking into
the room! However, it must remain uncertain whether she had heard. The
visible consequence of the late air was exemplary attention to Violet's
comfort; and that doubt, so often balanced in her sister's mind, whether
she loved Percy, now inclined to the affirmative, for there was
a concealed disquietude at his totally absenting himself from
Cadogan-place. They did not see him again till the very day of the
picnic, when, as they were driving in the park, the exclamation--'There
he is! broke from her, and then she leant back, vexed at having betrayed
her joy.

He came to speak to them with such an open beaming look of gratification
as Violet trusted was a recompense, but Theodora chose to keep an
unmoved countenance; and it was only Violet's happy congratulating face
that assured him that all was right and the Richmond scheme resigned.

She asked him to dinner for that day, and he gladly accepted; but
Theodora, considering it a sugar-plum to console her for staying at
home, behaved as if it was a matter of indifference.

Violet took care to leave them alone, and she began the subject
herself. 'You find me here to-day, Percy, but it is no proof that I am
convinced.'

'It shows, as I hoped, that your good sense would prevail when left to
itself.'

'No, it was Violet.'

'I honour her and you more than I ever did before.'

'That's your way,' said Theodora, with the bright smile that was an act
of oblivion for all her waywardness. 'All you value is a slave with no
will of her own.'

'One who has a will, but knows how to resign it.'

'That you may have the victory.'

'No, but that you may be greater than he that taketh a city.'

Theodora raised her eyes much softened. She never liked Percy so well as
when he made these direct attacks on her faults in general; when it came
to a combat over the individual questions, it was a different matter.

'I am very glad you have given this up,' Percy proceeded. 'It is a
positive relief to my mind to find that you can yield. Do not be ashamed
of it, it is the best thing you have done a long time.'

'But, Percy, I did not do it on principle; I did it because Violet would
have written to papa.'

'There's the true sort of spirit! Brave enough to confront even you for
the right, yet yielding her own will and wish at the first moment. I
think more highly of Mrs. Martindale the more I hear of her.'

'And you wish me to be like her?' said Theodora, watching for the blunt
negative.

'No, but to see you what you might and ought to be. It is repeating what
I told you when this first began. You have a noble nature, but you will
not check yourself, will not control your pride; you cannot bear any
attempt to curb you. You are proud of it; but I tell you, Theodora, it
is not high spirit, it is absolute sinful temper. If no one else will
tell you so, I must.'

Theodora bent her head and cast down her eyes, not in sullenness, but
in sorrow. 'It is true,' she murmured; 'I see it sometimes, and it
frightens me.'

'I know,' he said, much moved, 'the sense of right must conquer; but,
indeed, Theodora, it is time to begin, that it may not be some evil
consequence that subdues you.' He opened "The Baptistery" as it lay on
the table, and pointed to the sentence--'If thou refusest the cross sent
thee by an angel, the devil will impose on thee a heavier weight.'

Theodora looked up in his face; the words were applied in a sense new to
her. 'Are humility and submission my cross?' said she.

'If you would only so regard them, you would find the secret of peace.
If you would only tame yourself before trouble is sent to tame you! But
there, I have said what I felt it my duty to say; let us dwell on it no
longer.'

The large tears, however, fell so fast, that he could not bear to have
caused them, and presently she said, 'You are right, Percy, I am proud
and violent. I have grown up fearfully untamed. No one ever checked me
but you, and that is the reason I look up to you beyond all others.'

The lioness was subdued, and the rest of the evening there was a
gentleness and sober tone about her that made her truly charming: and
a softer sense of happiness was around her when she awoke the next
morning, making her feel convinced that this was indeed the only real
peace and gladness.



CHAPTER 17


     Call me false, or call me free,
     Vow, whatever light may shine,
     No man on your face shall see
     Any grief for change of mine.

     --E. B. BROWNING (The Lady's Yes)


It appeared as if Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner were offended at
Theodora's defection, for nothing was heard of them for several days,
and the household in Cadogan-place continued in a state of peacefulness.
Arthur was again at home for a week, and Theodora was riding with him
when she next met the two sisters, who at once attacked them for their
absence from the picnic, giving an eager description of its delights and
of the silence and melancholy of poor Lord St. Erme.

'He and Mark were both in utter despair,' said Jane.

'Well, it is of no use to ask you; I have vowed I never will,' said Mrs.
Finch; 'or I should try to make you come with us on Wednesday.'

'What are you going to do?'

'You living in Captain Martindale's house, and forgetting the Derby!'
And an entreaty ensued that both brother and sister would join their
party. Arthur gave a gay, unmeaning answer, and they parted.

'What do you think of it?' asked Theodora.

'Too much trouble,' said he, lazily. 'There is no horse running that
I take interest in. My racing days are over. I am an old domestic
character.'

'Nonsense! You don't look two-and-twenty! Lady Elizabeth's sister would
not believe you were my married brother. You have not the look of it.'

Arthur laughed, and said, 'Absurd!' but was flattered.

When he told his wife of the invitation, he added, 'I wonder if there is
a fresh breeze blowing up!'

'I trust not.'

'If she really wants to go, and she has never seen the thing, I had
rather take her in a sober way by ourselves, and come home at our own
time.'

'Why don't you! It would be very pleasant for you both, and I should be
so glad. Think how she shuts herself up with me!'

'We will see. Anything for a quiet life.'

Theodora, being fond of horses, and used to hear much about them from
her brother, had a real curiosity to go to Epsom, and broached the
subject the next morning at breakfast. Before any answer had been given,
Mr. Fotheringham made his appearance.

'Well, Percy,' said Arthur, 'you find this sister of mine bent on
dragging me to Epsom. Come with us! You will have an opportunity of
getting up an article against fashionable life.'

Theodora was ready to hide her desire for his consent, but thought
better of it, and said, 'It is of no use to ask him.'

'Indeed I would go,' said Percy; 'I wish I could; but I came here
to tell you that my Aunt Fotheringham is coming to London early on
Wednesday for advice for her son, and will only be there two days, so
that it is impossible to be away.'

'Is Sir Antony Fotheringham coming?' asked Violet, as Theodora did not
speak.

'No; he is a fixture. He has never even seen a railroad. My aunt could
hardly persuade him to let her come up without the old chariot and
posters.'

'You will bring them here to dinner,' said Arthur. 'Thank you, I must
not promise; I cannot tell what Pelham may be fit for. I must take him
to the Zoological Gardens. How he will enjoy them, poor fellow! The only
thing to guard against will be his growing too much excited.'

Percy was engaged that morning, and soon departed, with hardly a word
from Theodora, whose amiability had been entirely overthrown by finding
her service postponed to that of his aunt.

'There's the Derby happily disposed of!' said Arthur, rising from the
breakfast-table. 'I don't see why,' said Theodora.

'What! Is not this Percy's well-beloved aunt, who nursed Helen, and is
such a friend of John's?'

'I am not going to dance attendance on any one.'

'It is your concern,' said Arthur; 'but, if you don't take care, Percy
won't stand much more of this.'

Vouchsafing no answer, she quitted the room. Arthur made a gesture of
annoyance. 'She treats Percy like a dog!' he said. 'I believe my aunt is
right, and that it never will come to good!'

'Shall you go with her, then?'

'I must, I suppose. She will not let me off now.'

'If we do not vex her by refusing, I hope she will give it up of
herself. I am almost sure she will, if no one says anything about it.'

'Very well: I am the last person to begin. I am sick of her quarrels.'

Two wills were dividing Theodora: one calling on her to renounce her
pride and obstinacy, take up the yoke while yet there was time, earn the
precious sense of peace, and confer gladness on the honest heart which
she had so often pained. Violet was as the genius of this better mind,
and her very presence infused such thoughts as these, disposing her not
indeed openly to yield, but to allow it to drop in silence.

But there was another will, which reminded her that she had thrice
been baffled, and that she had heard the soft tyrant rejoicing with her
brother over her defeat! She thought of Violet so subjugating Arthur,
that he had not even dared to wish for his favourite amusement, as if he
could not be trusted!

Such recollections provoked her to show that there was one whose
determination would yield to no one's caprice, and impelled her to
maintain the unconquerable spirit in which she had hitherto gloried.
Violet's unexpressed opinion was tricked out as an object of defiance;
and if she represented the genius of meekness, wilfulness was not
without outward prompters.

Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner called, and found her alone. 'There!' said
the former, 'am I not very forgiving? Actually to come and seek you out
again, after the way you served us. Now, on your honour, what was the
meaning of it?'

'The meaning was, that this poor child had been told it was etiquette
for me to have a chaperon at my heels, and made such a disturbance that
I was obliged to give up the point. I am not ashamed. She is a good
girl, though a troublesome one at times.'

'Who would have thought that pretty face could be so prudish!'

'I suppose she is against your coming to Epsom!' said Jane, interrupting
her sister.

'No; my brother and I have been proposing to go, independently; so as to
be able to come home at our own time.'

'You had better be satisfied with that, Georgina,' said Jane. 'We shall
find ourselves together at the stand, and it will spare a few dangerous
hysterics.'

'I shall do nothing underhand,' said Theodora. 'I shall proclaim my
intention of joining you; but I doubt, because Lady Fotheringham is
coming to London.'

'Her ladyship herself?' cried Georgina. 'What, in the name of wonder,
brings her from her antediluvian hall?'

'She brings her son for advice.'

'We can say no more,' said Jane. 'Percy's expectations would be ruined
if the good lady found his intended concerned in such naughty doings.
She must stay at home.'

'To entertain Pelham!' cried Mrs. Finch, in a paroxysm of laughing, of
her most unreal kind.

'Let me give you one piece of advice,' said Jane. 'Don't make yourself
too great a favourite, as I unwittingly did, or you will have no
cessation of "I have a pony; it can trot; it can canter."'

'I have not decided.'

'No,' said Jane, 'you cannot do it. We know Lady Fotheringham too well
to ask you to lose your place in her regard for our sake. Probably this
is a most important visit, and all may depend on her first impressions.'

'I don't depend on her.'

'Ah! you don't understand. She is the managing partner, and I have
little doubt this is only an excuse for coming to inspect you. It is
quite in their power, you know, to do the only rational thing under the
circumstances--make an eldest son of Percy, and set poor Pelham aside,
with enough to make him happy.

'I do believe that must be it!' cried Georgina. 'She would be a dear old
woman if she would only do it!'

'And you see it would be fatal for Theodora to appear as a fashionable
young lady, given to races, and the like vanities.'

'I shall seem nothing but what I am.'

'She would find Mrs. Martindale sighing at her inability to keep you out
of bad company. So sorry to trust you with us. She did her utmost. No,
no, Theodora; you must stay at home, and the good lady will be charmed.'

'I do not intend to be turned from my course.'

'No! Now, Jane, you should not have spoken in that way,' said her
sister. 'You will only make Theodora more resolved to come with us; and,
indeed, I had rather she did not, if it is to do her any harm.'

'I shall leave you to settle it between you,' said Jane, with apparent
carelessness. 'I shall go home to appease for a little while the
unfortunate dressmaker, whom we are keeping so long waiting. Make the
most of Theodora, while you can have her.'

She would not have gone, had she not believed her work done.

'I have made up my mind,' said Theodora, as the door closed.

'Theodora! I do beg you will not,' cried Georgina, in an agitated voice,
fully meaning all she said. 'You will vex and displease them all. I know
you will, and I could not bear that! Your happiness is not wasted yet!
Go, and be happy with your Percy!'

'I have told Percy of my intentions. Do you think I would alter them for
this notion of Jane's?'

'That is my own dear Theodora! But it is not only that. They are such
good people--so kind! You must not risk their good opinion, for they
would be so fond of you!'

'If their good opinion depends on narrow-minded prejudice, I do not wish
for it.'

'If she would but come a day later,' said Georgina; 'for I do want you
to be with me very much, Theodora! I know I shall meet with nothing
but mortification, if you are not. People will only make that little
starched bow! And Mr. Finch has noticed your not being so much with me.
But no, no, you shall not come. You shall stay and see dear, good old
Lady Fotheringham! Oh! how I wish I could!' and her breast heaved with a
suppressed sob.

'Why do you not, then, dear Georgina? Let me tell her your feeling,
and--'

'No, no, no, no! I can never see her again! Don't talk to me about her!
She belongs to another state of existence.'

'This will not do, Georgina. It is vain to turn aside now from what will
and must come on you some day.'

'Don't! don't, Theodora!' said she, petulantly. 'Everything goes against
me! There's Jane taken to lecturing, and even Mr. Finch is growing
crabbed, and declares he shall take me to vegetate in this horrid place
he has bought in the country.'

'Oh, I am so glad!' exclaimed Theodora. 'Now then, there is a chance for
you. If you will throw yourself into the duties and pursuits--'

'What! be squiress and Lady Bountiful; doctor old women, and lecture
school-children? No, no, that may do for you, but I am at least no
hypocrite!'

'I should be a great hypocrite, if I did not believe the old women and
the children far better than myself,' said Theodora, gravely. 'But,
indeed, trying to make them comfortable would occupy your mind, and
interest you till--oh! if it would but help you on the only way to
happiness--'

'Don't talk of that word any more with me.'

'If not happiness, it would be peace.'

'Peace! I don't know what you mean.'

'If you watched my sister, you would.'

'She is happy!' said Mrs. Finch, in a tone of keen regret, laying her
hand on a toy of Johnnie's; but instantly changing her note, 'A cold,
inanimate piece of wax! That is what you call peace! I would not have
it.'

'You don't understand her--'

'I know one thing!' cried the fitful lady, vehemently; 'that it is she
who governs you all, and wants to divide you from me. 'Tis she and your
Percy who have robbed me of you, with their ill-natured stories.'

'There is no ill-nature in them, and no one governs me,' said Theodora.

'Then you hold fast by me, and come with me?'

'I do.'

'My thorough-going old Theodora! I knew they could not spoil you, say
what they would!' for she was by no means insensible of the triumph.

'But, Georgina,' continued her friend, earnestly, 'you must be prudent.
Let me speak to you for once.'

'Only don't talk of prudence. I am sick of that from Jane.'

'Yes! it is speaking on this world's grounds; I will speak of higher
motives. Think what is to come by and by: there are things that cannot
be kept off by being forgotten. You are weary and dissatisfied as it
is; try whether boldly facing the thoughts you dread might not lead
to better things. There will be pain at first; but content will come,
and--'

'If you will come and stay with me in the country, you shall teach me
all your ways. But no; it would put all the Fotheringhams in commotion!
If I had a happy home I might be good. You must not quite forsake me,
Theodora. But here's Mrs. Martindale!'

Violet entering, Mrs. Finch greeted her in a subdued manner, and,
indeed, looked so dejected that when she was gone, Violet asked if she
was well.

'Yes, poor thing, it is only the taste of the ashes she eats instead
of bread. But I have had her alone, and have got her to hear some grave
talk!'

'Oh, how glad I am.'

'But I cannot give up meeting her at Epsom. She would feel it a
desertion, and my influence is the best hope for her. Besides, I will
not sacrifice her to curry favour with the Worthbourne people.'

'Surely it would not be doing so.'

'I have made up my mind.'

Her better and worse feelings were alike enlisted in behalf of the
expedition. Sincerity, constancy, and generosity were all drawn in to
espouse the cause of pride and self-will; and she never once recollected
that the way to rescue her friend from the vortex of dissipation was not
to follow her into it.

Little was needed to rouse in Arthur the dormant taste so long the
prevalent one. So eager was he when once stirred up, that his sister
almost doubted whether she might not be leading him into temptation,
as she remembered the warning against Mr. Gardner; but she repelled the
notion of his being now liable to be led away, and satisfied herself by
recollecting that whenever he had met his former school-fellow, he had
shown no disposition to renew the acquaintance.

All the notice of Percy that she chose to take, was, that on the Tuesday
evening, she said, as she wished Violet good night, 'If Percy should
call with his aunt to-morrow, which I don't expect, you will explain,
and say I hope to call early next day.'

'Well! I hope you will get into no scrape,' said Arthur; 'but mind,
whatever comes of it, 'tis your doing, not mine.'

Words which she answered with a haughty smile, but which she was never
to forget.

Violet saw the brother and sister depart, and could only hope that
nothing might be heard of the Fotheringham party; but before half the
morning had passed, the knock, for the first time unwelcome, sounded
at the door, and there entered not only Percy, but an elderly lady who
might have been supposed the grandmother, rather than the mother, of the
tall comely youth who bashfully followed her.

Violet strove, by the warmth of her reception, to make up for what was
wanting; but her sentences were broken and confused; she was glad and
she was sorry, and they would be very sorry, and something about not
expecting and calling early, was all mixed together, while she watched
with deprecating looks the effect upon Percy.

'Is she gone?' he asked, in a low stern voice.

'Yes; but she told me to say, in case--we hardly thought it likely--but
in case Lady Fotheringham should be kind enough to call, she told me to
say she will certainly call early to-morrow.'

Violet knew she had made a most tangled speech, and that there was
great danger that her trembling sorrowful voice should convey to Lady
Fotheringham an impression that there was something amiss; but she could
only try to make the intelligence as little mortifying as possible.

The fact was enough. Percy stood in the window in silence, while his
aunt, on learning where Miss Martindale was, good-naturedly supposed
it had long been settled, and said it must be such a pleasure to the
brother and sister to go together, that she should have been grieved if
it had been prevented.

Violet spoke of the call to be made to-morrow; but Lady Fotheringham
seemed to have so little time free that it was not probable she would
be at home. Uneasy at Percy's silence, Violet did not prosper in her
attempts at keeping up the conversation, until Percy, suddenly coming
forward, begged that 'the boy' might be sent for; his aunt must see
John's godson. It was chiefly for his own solace, for he carried
the little fellow back to his window, and played with him there till
luncheon-time, while the ladies talked of Mr. Martindale.

Violet won her visitor's heart by her kind manner to the poor son, who
was very well trained, and behaved like an automaton, but grew restless
with the hopes of wild beasts and London shops. His mother was about to
take leave, when Percy proposed to take charge of him, and leave her to
rest for the afternoon with Mrs. Martindale, a plan very acceptable to
all parties.

Lady Fotheringham was a woman of many sorrows. Her husband was very
feeble and infirm, and of a large family, the youngest, this half-witted
son, was the only survivor. Grief and anxiety had left deep traces on
her worn face, and had turned her hair to a snowy whiteness; her frame
was fragile, and the melancholy kindness of her voice deeply touched
Violet. There was much talk of John, for whom Lady Fotheringham had a
sort of compassionate reverence, derived from his patient resignation
during Helen's illness, of which Violet now gathered many more
particulars, such as added to her affection and enthusiasm for both.

Of her nephew, Percival, Lady Fotheringham spoke in the highest terms,
and dwelt with pleasure on the engagement still connecting him with the
Martindale family. Violet was glad to be able to speak from her heart of
Theodora's excellence and kindness.

By and by, her visitor, in a sad voice, began to inquire whether she
ever saw 'a young connection of theirs, Mrs. Finch;' and as Violet
replied, said she was anxious to hear something of her, though she
feared it was a painful subject. 'I cannot help being interested
for her,' she said. 'She was a very fine girl, and had many good
dispositions; but I fear she was very ill managed. We grew very fond
of her, when she was at Worthbourne, poor thing, and if we and that
excellent elder sister could have kept her to ourselves, we might have
hoped--But it was very natural that she should grow tired of us, and
there was much excuse for her--'

'Indeed there was, from all Theodora has told me.'

'I am glad to hear Miss Martindale keeps up her friendship. While
that is the case, I am sure there is nothing positively wrong, though
imprudent I fear she must be.'

Violet eagerly explained how every one was fully satisfied that,
though Mrs. Finch was too free and dashing in manner, and too fond of
attracting notice, there was principle and rectitude at the bottom, and
that her life of dissipation was chiefly caused by the tedium of her
home. All attachment between her and Mark Gardner had evidently died
away; and though it might have been wiser to keep him at a distance, she
had some good motives for allowing him to be often at her house.

Lady Fotheringham was relieved to hear this, and added that she might
have trusted to Jane. Violet was surprised to find that Miss Gardner
held a very high place in Lady Fotheringham's esteem, and was supposed
by her to take most watchful, motherly care of her headstrong younger
sister. She had made herself extremely agreeable at Worthbourne, and
had corresponded with Lady Fotheringham ever since; and now Violet heard
that Jane had thought the marriage with Mr. Finch a great risk, and
would willingly have dissuaded her sister from it; but that Georgina
had been bent upon it! 'thinking, no doubt, poor girl, that riches and
gaiety would make her happy! I wish we could have made it pleasanter to
her at Worthbourne!'

'She has spoken very affectionately of you.'

'Ah, poor child! she had met with little kindness before. She used
to pour out her griefs to me. It was that wretched Mark who broke her
heart, and after that she seemed not to care what became of her. But I
am a little comforted by your account. I will try to see her to-morrow,
poor dear. Percy was hoping I should be able, although I think that he
is quite right not to visit them himself.'

Violet agreed to all, and was pleased at the notion of the good
old lady's influence being tried on one evidently amenable to right
impressions. As far as she herself was concerned, the visit was very
gratifying, and when the leave-taking came, it seemed as if they had
been intimate for years.

Violet sat pondering whether the dulness of Worthbourne and the
disappointment of her first love had been the appointed cross of
Georgina Gardner, cast aside in impatience of its weight. And then she
tried to reconcile the conflicting accounts of Jane's influence in the
matter, till she thought she was growing uncharitable; and after having
tried in vain to measure the extent of Percy's annoyance, she looked
from the window to see if carriages seemed to be returning from Epsom,
and then with a sigh betook herself to the book Theodora had provided
for her solitude.

She had long to wait. Arthur and his sister came home later than she had
expected, and did not bring the regale of amusing description that they
had promised her.

Arthur was silent and discontented, and went to his smoking-room.
Theodora only said it had been very hot, and for the first time really
looked tired, and owned that she was so. It had been hard work, first
to draw Arthur into Mrs. Finch's party, against which he exerted all his
lazy good-humoured "vis inertia"--undertaking to show her everything,
and explain all to her, be at her service all the day, if only she would
keep away from them and their nonsense. But when their carriage was
found, and Arthur was dragged into the midst of them, a still harder
task arose. She was frightened to see Mark Gardner conversing with him,
while he looked eager and excited, and she hastened to interrupt, put
forth every power of attraction, in the resolve entirely to monopolize
Mr. Gardner; and for a long time, at the expense of severe exertion in
talking nonsense, she succeeded. But some interruption occurred;
she missed Mr. Gardner, she missed Arthur; they were waited for;
she wondered and fretted herself in vain, and at length beheld
them returning in company-heard Mrs. Finch gaily scolding them, and
understood that there had been bets passing!

She called it fatigue, but it was rather blank dread, and the sense that
she had put herself and others in the way of evil.

It was possible that Arthur might have been only a spectator; or,
if not, that he might have known where to stop. He had bought his
experience long ago, at high cost; but Theodora was but too well aware
of his unsteadiness of purpose and facile temper; and in spite of his
resolutions, it was a fearful thing to have seen him in such a place,
in such company, and to know that almost against his own desire she had
conducted him thither for the gratification of her self-will.

Vainly did she strive to banish the thought, and to reassure herself by
his manner. She knew too well what it was wont to be when he had been
doing anything of which he was ashamed. One bet, however, was no great
mischief in itself. That book which Percy had given to her spoke of
'threads turning to cords, and cords to cables strong.' Had she put the
first thread once more into the hand of the Old Evil Habit'?

If she would confess the sin to herself and to her God, with earnest
prayer that the ill might be averted, perhaps, even yet, it might be
spared to them all.

But the proud spirit declared there was no sin. She had merely been
resolute and truthful. So she strengthened herself in her belief in her
own blamelessness, and drove down the misgiving to prey on the depths of
her soul, and sharpen her temper by secret suffering.

In the morning she accompanied Violet to call on Lady Fotheringham,
sullen, proud, and bashful at the sense of undergoing inspection, and
resolved against showing her best side, lest she should feel as if she
was winning Worthbourne for Percy.

That majestic ill-humour was wasted--Lady Fotheringham was not at home;
but Violet left a note begging her to come to luncheon the next day. It
passed, and she appeared not: but at twelve on Saturday, Percy's tread
hurried up-stairs and entered the back drawing-room, where Theodora was
sitting.

Sounds of voices followed--the buzz of expostulation; tones louder
and louder--words so distinct that to prevent her anxious ears from
listening, Violet began to practise Johnnie in all his cries of birds
and beasts.

All at once the other room door was opened, and Theodora's stately march
was heard, while one of the folding leaves was thrown back, and there
stood Percy.

Before a word could be spoken, he snatched up the child, and held him up
in the air to the full reach of his arms. Doubtful whether this was
to be regarded as play, Johnnie uttered 'Mamma,' in a grave imploring
voice, which, together with her terrified face, recalled Mr.
Fotheringham to his senses. With an agitated laugh he placed the boy
safely beside her, saying, 'I beg your pardon. What a good little fellow
it is!'

Violet asked him to ring for the nurse; and by the time Johnnie had
been carried away, he had collected himself sufficiently to try to speak
calmly.

'Do her parents know what is going on?' he said. 'I do not speak for my
own sake. That is at an end.'

'Oh!' exclaimed Violet.

'I told her I could not be made a fool of any longer, and when she
answered "Very well," what could that mean?'

'I am very much grieved that it has come to this,' sighed Violet.

'How could it come to anything else?' he said, his face full of sorrow
and severity. 'I was mad to suppose there was any hope for such a temper
of pride and stubbornness. Yet,' he added, softening, and his quick,
stern eyes filling with tears, 'it is a noble nature,--high-minded,
uncompromising, deeply tender, capable of anything. It has been a cruel
wicked thing to ruin all by education. What could come of it? A life
of struggle with women who had no notion of an appeal to principle and
affection--growing up with nothing worthy of her love and respect--her
very generosity becoming a stumbling-block, till her pride and
waywardness have come to such an indomitable pitch that they are
devouring all that was excellent.'

He paused; Violet, confused and sorrowful, knew not how to answer; and
he proceeded, 'I have known her, watched her, loved her from infancy!
I never saw one approaching her in fine qualities. I thought, and still
think, she needs but one conquest to rise above all other women. I
believed guidance and affection would teach her all she needed; and so
they would, but it was presumption and folly to think it was I who could
inspire them.'

'O, Mr. Fotheringham, indeed--'

'It was absurd to suppose that she who trifles with every one would not
do so with me. Yet, even now, I cannot believe her capable of carrying
trifling to the extent she has done.'

'She was in earnest,--oh! she was!'

'I would fain think so,' said he, sadly. 'I held to that trust, in spite
of the evidence of my senses. I persuaded myself that her manners were
the effect of habit--the triumph of one pre-eminent in attraction.'

'That they are! I don't even think she knows what she does.'

'So I believed; I allowed for her pleasure in teasing me. I knew all
that would come right. I ascribed her determination to run after that
woman to a generous reluctance to desert a friend.'

'Indeed, indeed it is so!'

'But how am I to understand her neglect of my aunt--the one relation
whom I have tried to teach her to value--my aunt, who was the comfort
of my sister and of her brother--who had suffered enough to give her a
claim to every one's veneration! To run away from her to the races, and
the society of Mark Gardner and Mrs. Finch! Ay, and what do you think we
heard yesterday of her doings there, from Gardner's own mother? That she
is giving him decided encouragement! That was the general remark, and
on this, poor Mrs. George Gardner is founding hopes of her son settling
down and becoming respectable.'

'Oh! how terrible for you to hear! But it cannot be true. It must be
mere report. Arthur would have observed if there had been more than her
usual manner.'

'A pretty manner to be usual! Besides, Jane Gardner did not deny it.'

'Jane Gardner?'

'Yes. My aunt called at Mrs. Finch's, but saw neither of them; but this
morning, before she went, Miss Gardner called. I did not see her. I was
out with Pelham, and my aunt spoke to her about all this matter. She
answered very sensibly, regretted her sister's giddy ways, but consoled
my aunt a good deal on that score, but--but as to the other, she could
not say, but that Mark was a great admirer of--of Miss Martindale, and
much had passed which might be taken for encouragement on Wednesday by
any one who did not know how often it was her way!'

'It is a pity that Miss Gardner has had to do with it,' said Violet.
'When I have been talking to her, I always am left with a worse
impression of people than they deserve.'

'You never have a bad impression of any one.'

'I think I have of Miss Gardner. I used to like her very much, but
lately I am afraid I cannot believe her sincere.'

'You have been taught to see her with Theodora's eyes. Of course,
Mrs. Finch despises and contemns prudence and restraint, and the elder
sister's advice is thrown aside.'

'You never saw Jane Gardner?'

'Never;--but that is not the point here. I am not acting on Jane
Gardner's report. I should never trouble myself to be jealous of such
a scoundrel as Mark. I am not imagining that there is any fear of her
accepting him. Though, if such a notion once possessed her, nothing
would hinder her from rushing on inevitable misery.'

'Oh, there is no danger of that.'

'I trust not. It would be too frightful! However, I can look on her
henceforth only as John's sister, as my little playmate, as one in
whom hopes of untold happiness were bound up.' He struggled with strong
emotion, but recovering, said, 'It is over! The reason we part is
independent of any Gardner. She would not bear with what I thought it my
duty to say. It is plain I was completely mistaken in thinking we
could go through life together. Even if there was reason to suppose her
attached to me, it would be wrong to put myself in collision with such a
temper. I told her so, and there is an end of the matter.'

'It is very, very sad,' said Violet, mournfully.

'You don't think I have used her ill.'

'Oh, no! You have borne a great deal. You could do no otherwise; but
Arthur and John will be very much vexed.'

'It is well that it is known to so few. Let it be understood by such as
are aware of what has been, that I bear the onus of the rupture. No more
need be known than that the break was on my side. We both were mistaken.
She will not be blamed, and some day'--but he could not speak calmly--'
she will meet one who will feel for her as I do, and will work a cure of
all these foibles. You will see the glorious creature she can be.'

'The good will conquer at last,' said Violet, through her tears.

'I am convinced of it, but I fear it must be through much trial and
sorrow. May it only not come through that man.'

'No, no!'

'Then good-bye.'

They shook hands with lingering regret, as if unwilling to resign their
relationship. 'You will explain this to Arthur, and give him my thanks
for his friendliness; and you--accept my very best thanks for your great
kindness and sympathy. If she had known you earlier--But good-bye. Only,
if I might venture to say one thing more--you and Arthur will not give
me up as a friend, will you?'

'Oh!' exclaimed Violet, as well as her tears would permit, 'I am sure we
are but too glad--'

He pressed her hand gratefully, and was gone; while overwhelmed with
the agitation she sank weeping on the sofa, only conscious that they all
were in some sort guilty of a great injury to Mr. Fotheringham. In this
state of distress she was found by Theodora, who came down so lofty
and composed, that no one could have divined who was the party chiefly
concerned in what had taken place.

Without comment, she treated Violet as for a nervous attack, taking
great care of her till the sobs subsided, and there only remained a
headache which kept her on the sofa for the rest of the day. Theodora
read aloud, but which of them marked the words? Late in the afternoon
she put down the book, and wrote a note, while Violet silently marvelled
at the unconcern of her countenance.

'There, I shall take it to the post. You may read it if you like, while
I put on my bonnet.' Violet read.


'MY DEAR MAMMA,--Our engagement is at an end. Mr. Fotheringham tried to
exercise a control over my actions to which I could not submit; and
in especial was affronted by my going to Epsom with Arthur, instead of
staying at home for the chance of seeing Lady Fotheringham. We came to
high words, perceived the error of thinking our tempers accorded, and
agreed to part. I have no cause of complaint, though I am at this moment
much displeased with him; for when he had done with me he went and
stormed to poor Violet till he brought on one of her hysterical
affections. No one can have acted with kinder or more conscientious
intentions than she has done throughout the affair. I do not mean to
come away till after her confinement. London is wide enough for him and
for me, and I would not leave her on any account. 'Your affectionate
daughter,

'THEODORA A. MARTINDALE.'


Violet glowed with indignation at such mention of Percy. She never loved
him! It is as John thought!

Theodora, returning, took the note, and began to put it into its
envelope without a word.

'Thank you,' said Violet; 'it is very kind in you to stay with me. It is
a great comfort to Arthur.'

'Is it no comfort to you?' said Theodora. 'If I am in your way, I will
go.'

'Oh! what should I do without you? It makes such a difference to me. I
rely upon you to take care of Arthur, and Johnnie, and everything. Only
don't do what is not pleasant to you.'

'I wish to live to be useful. I had rather be useful to you and Arthur
than to any one. If you will keep me, I stay.'

All the rest of the day Violet could only feel that she could not be
displeased with one so devoted to her. She wondered what Arthur would
say. His comment was--

'Well, I always expected it. It is a pity! She has thrown away her only
chance of being a reasonable woman.'

'You saw no cause for that horrid report?'

'Not a bit. She is not so frantic as that comes to. She went on in her
old way, only a little stronger than usual; but Percy was quite right
not to stand it, and so I shall tell her.'

However, Theodora kept him from the subject by the force of her
imperturbability, and he could only declaim against her to his wife.

'I don't believe she cared a farthing for him.'

'I almost fear not. Yet how could she accept him?'

'He was the biggest fish that had ever come to her bait. She could not
have played her pranks on him without hooking him; but he has broken the
line, and it serves her right. I only wish she took it to heart! It is a
lucky escape for him. What will his lordship think of it?'

Lord Martindale wrote, evidently in much annoyance, to desire Arthur to
send him a full history of the transaction, and after much grumbling, he
was obeyed. What he said to his daughter did not transpire, but Violet
gathered that the opinion at Martindale was, that she had not age or
authority sufficient for the care of the young lady. In this she
fully acquiesced, and, indeed, had some trouble in silencing repining
speculations on what might have happened if she had been older, or in
stronger health, or more judicious.

It was a universal failure, and she felt as if they were all to blame,
while it terrified her to recollect John's predictions as to the effect
on Theodora's disposition.

Another question was, how Mrs. Finch would feel on the matter. Theodora
had written to her, and received one of her warm impulsive answers,
as inconsistent as her whole nature; in one place in despair that her
friend's happiness had been sacrificed--in another, rejoicing in her
freedom from such intolerable tyranny, and declaring that she was the
noblest creature and the naughtiest, and that she must see her at once.

But she never came, and when Theodora called was not at home. Violet had
Jane to herself for an unpleasing hour of condolence and congratulation,
regrets and insinuations, ending with the by no means unwelcome news
that Mr. Finch was tired of London, and that they were going into the
country--and not Mark--going to set off in a week's time. Two more calls
failed, and Theodora only received a note, in which Mrs. Finch declared
herself "abimee desolee" that her husband would drag her off into the
country at such short notice, that her world of engagements had hindered
her from meeting her best of friends. Then, with a sudden transition to
slang, she promised excellent fun in riding, boating, &c., if Theodora
would come to see her, and plenty of admirers ready to have their heads
turned, ending rather piteously with 'Who knows but I might take a turn
for good? I know I wish I could, if it was not so horridly tiresome. You
won't forget your poor G. F.'



CHAPTER 18


     Oh! woman is a tender tree,
      The hand must gentle be that rears,
     Through storm and sunshine, patiently,
      That plant of grace, of smiles and tears.

     --A. CLEVELAND COX


The height of the season was over, and London was beginning to thin.
Lady Elizabeth Brandon had accepted invitations for a round of visits to
her friends and relations, and Violet thought with regret how little she
had seen of her and Emma.

In fact, that unfortunate party at Mrs. Bryanstone's had been a
sacrifice of the high esteem in which she had once been held. Emma, with
the harshness of youthful judgments, could not overlook the folly that
had hazarded so much for the sake of gaiety; and was the more pained
because of the enthusiasm she had once felt for her, when she
had believed her superior to all the world. She recollected her
love-at-first-sight for the pretty bride, and well-nigh regarded the
friendship as a romance of her girlhood. She did not blame poor Violet,
for no more could have been expected than that so simple a girl would
be spoiled by admiration, and by such a husband. She should always be
interested in her, but there could be no sympathy for deeper visions
and higher subjects in one devoted to the ordinary frivolities of life.
Violet owned she could not understand her; what could be more true?

So Emma betook herself more and more to her other friend, lamented over
present evils, made visionary amendments and erected dreamy worlds of
perfection, till she condemned and scorned all that did not accord with
them.

Lady Elizabeth would rather have seen her daughter intimate with Violet.
Mistaken though that party was, it was hard measure, she thought,
utterly to condemn a girl hardly eighteen. She could understand
Violet--she could not understand Miss Marstone; and the ruling
domineering nature that laid down the law frightened her. She found
herself set aside for old-fashioned notions whenever she hinted at any
want of judgment or of charity in the views of the friends; she could no
longer feel the perfect consciousness of oneness of mind and sufficiency
for each other's comfort that had been such happiness between her and
her daughter; and yet everything in Theresa Marstone was so excellent,
her labours among the poor so devoted, and her religion so evidently
heartfelt, that it was impossible to consider the friendship as
otherwise than an honour to Emma.

Lady Elizabeth could only feel that she should be more at ease when she
was not always in dread of interrupting a tete-a-tete, and when there
was no longer any need to force Emma into society, and see her put on
that resigned countenance which expressed that it was all filial duty
to a mother who knew no better. Moreover, Lady Elizabeth hoped for a
cessation of the schemes for the Priory, which were so extravagant as to
make her dread Emma's five-and-twentieth year.

Desirous as she was of leaving London, she would not consent to go to
her brother in the end of June, until she had certified herself that
Violet did not wish for her attendance.

Violet did think that it would have been a great comfort, but perceived
that it would be at some inconvenience; and further divined that to be
extremely useful and important was Theodora's ruling desire. She was
afraid of heart-burnings, and, as usual, yielded her own wishes, begged
Lady Elizabeth not to disturb her plans, made many declarations of
Theodora's kindness and attention; and in return, poor thing! was judged
by Emma to be in dread of lectures!

So the Brandons left London, and Violet sighed over the disappointment
their stay had been, knew she had given up the chance of a renewal of
intimacy, and thought Emma's estrangement all her own fault.

Arthur, likewise, had a fit of restlessness. Some of his friends were
intending to go grouse shooting to Scotland, and it was evident that
he was desirous of joining them if Violet could only recover in time to
spare him. Theodora also wished that he should go, for she had a strong
suspicion that he was gliding fast into frequent intercourse with Mr.
Gardner, and hoped that absence would put a stop to it.

Not a word, not a look, ever referred to Mr. Fotheringham. Violet
thought it inexplicable, and could only suppose that Theodora had been
under some delusion, and had never known the meaning of love, for there
was nothing like sorrow or disappointment; she almost seemed to be glad
of her release.

It was a trial when the Review was published, containing the critique
upon modern poetry. For a whole day it was left unopened, because
neither sister liked to touch it in the presence of the other; but when,
in the morning, Violet took it to read, she found the leaves cut. Lord
St. Erme had been treated with some censure, but with a fair amount of
praise, and her own favourite pieces were selected for commendation; but
there was sufficient satire and severity to cause the universal remark
that it was hard on poor Lord St. Erme.

Often was the observation made, for the article excited much
attention--it was so striking and able, keenly and drolly attacking
absurdity and affectation, good-humoured and lively, and its praise so
cordial and enthusiastic. Every visitor was sure to begin, 'Have you
read the paper on modern poetry?' 'Do you know who wrote it?' or, 'Is it
true it is by Mr. Fotheringham?'

Violet, though much confused, could not help having a sort of
satisfaction in seeing that neither could Theodora defend herself from
blushes, nor so preserve her equanimity as always to know what she was
saying, though she made heroic efforts, and those ignorant of the state
of affairs might not, perhaps, detect her embarrassment. If there had
been affection, surely this calmness must have given way!

One day Theodora was in a shop, and Violet waiting for her when Mr.
Fotheringham passed, and instantly coming to the carriage door, shook
hands warmly, seemed rejoiced at the meeting, spoke of his last letter
from John in high approval of Mr. Fanshawe, and told her that in two
days' time he was going to take a walking tour in Ireland. At that
instant the signal was made for taking up Miss Martindale, and with
a hasty farewell he disappeared, as Violet thought, unseen. On coming
home, Theodora went at once up-stairs; Violet some little time after
chanced to go to her room to ask her a question on her way to dress,
found her knock unanswered, but heard sounds which caused her gently to
open the door.

Theodora was kneeling by the bed; her face buried in her hands, her neck
crimson, sobbing and weeping in such violent grief as Violet had never
witnessed. She stood terrified, unnoticed, hardly able to bear not
to offer comfort; but she understood that nature too well not to be
convinced that no offence would be so great as to break into her grief
and to intrude upon what she chose to hide.

Violet, therefore, retreated, hoping that now there might be an
opening for sympathy, some depression that would allow her to show her
fellow-feeling; but no: when they met again Theodora was as cheerful
and disengaged as ever, and she could almost have persuaded herself that
these tears had been a dream.

Perhaps they so appeared to Theodora. She had been surprised into them,
and was angry at having been overcome--she who cared so little; but she
had woman's feelings, though she had proved to be unfit for the dominion
of man, and was henceforth ready to stand alone, and use her strength
for the benefit of the weak. She would be the maiden aunt, the treasure
of the family, and Arthur's house should be the centre of her usefulness
and attachments.

Therefore, so far from struggling against Violet, she delighted in the
care of one so tender and caressing; looked on her as the charm and
interest of her life, and rejoiced in being valuable at present, and
likely to render most important services, attaining in fact the solid
practical usefulness she had always coveted.

Everything that could please or amuse Violet she did, even to the length
of drawing her out about Wrangerton, and suppressing a certain jealousy
of Annette that was ready to spring up on discovering how strong was the
affection bestowed on that sister. Violet was especially happy in being
able to talk of home just now, when she was continually hearing of
Albert's marriage, and the arrangements consequent thereon, and would
have felt it blank, indeed, to have no one but Sarah to share her
interest.

Uncle Christopher went to the wedding, and was invited to dinner in
Cadogan-place the Sunday after his return. Theodora condescended to be
frankly entertained with his dry humorous account of the magnificent
doings that had diverted him extremely, and caused Arthur and Violet
to congratulate themselves that, in their case, Matilda had not been
allowed her own way.

'What a sensible, agreeable person your uncle is,' said Theodora, as
Violet lay down to rest on the sofa, after dinner, and to turn over and
fondle one by one the little presents sent to her from Wrangerton.

Violet smiled thanks and pleasure in the praise, and Theodora set to
work to gratify her, by admiring each gift as much as her conscience
would let her, and was well pleased to find that she was not at all
wanted to commend a wonderful embroidered sachet from the bride, nor a
pair of gorgeous screens from Matilda; but that what was dwelt upon
were some sketches in Wrangerton Park, and the most prized of all was a
little pair of socks, in delicate fancy knitting, for Johnnie.

'Dear, dear mamma! her own pretty rose-leaf pattern. Think of her
knitting for my Johnnie! He will soon know grandmamma's socks!' and she
put her fingers into one to judge of the size, and admire the stitch.
Theodora could see her do such things now, and not think her foolish.

'Theodora, dear,' said she, after a long pause, 'there is something I
have been wanting to say to you for a long time. If I should be as ill
as I was before, if I should not live, I should like one thing--'

Theodora took her hand between both hers, for she could not answer.

'I should like to know that his grandmamma would see my Johnnie, if it
was only for once. I know poor Arthur could not bear to hear me talk of
this, and he is anxious enough already, but you would tell him. You will
manage for mamma to see my boy, won't you?'

'I would take him to her at Wrangerton myself.'

'I am quite content that you should chiefly take care of him, you know.
I am glad you have been here so long that he has grown fond of you. It
makes it much better to think of leaving him and his dear papa, to know
they have you.'

'But, Violet, you must not talk so!' cried Theodora, in a half-choked
voice.

'No; I must not make myself cry,' said Violet, quietly. 'I will not go
on, when I have asked you one thing more, and that is, to write to John,
and tell him that I thank him for all he has done for me, and that this
has been a very happy year. You and John will comfort--'

Violet checked herself, for the tears could only be restrained by
silence, and she had made many resolutions against agitation.

'All you wish!' exclaimed Theodora; 'but, indeed, you must not think
there is any fear--'

'I will not talk about it,' said Violet, in her submissive voice.

'No; nor think about it.'

'I try not to do so more than I ought. I am glad you are here!'

It was dark enough for Theodora to allow her eyes to fill with soft
tears, without a struggle to keep them back. The pleasure of being
valued was very great, and the entire trust Violet reposed on her gave
her as deep delight as she had ever experienced. What would it not be
after having nursed her and been everything to Arthur! With Violet and
Arthur depending on her, she could feel herself good for something, and
filling a place in the world.



CHAPTER 19


     The lowliest flowers the closest cling to earth,
     And they first feel the sun; so violets blue,
     So the soft star-like primrose drenched in dew,
     The happiest of spring's happy fragrant birth,
     To gentlest touches, sweetest tones reply;
     So humbleness, with her low-breathed voice,
     Can steal o'er man's proud heart, and win his choice.


'She is ready to see you,' said Arthur, meeting Theodora, as she came
down at nine the next morning after church.

Violet's face, white as a lily, was on the pillow, and a little dark
downy head was beside her.

A sense of being too late, of neglect and disappointment, rushed over
Theodora, and made her looks not what the mother expected, as with
smiling eyes and feeble voice she said, 'Your niece, dear Theodora.'

'I did not know--' were Theodora's first words, and their dissatisfied
sound made Arthur regret his abrupt introduction; though she recovered
herself enough to say something of gladness, and of hopes that Violet
was comfortable.

'Yes, thank you, quite. I am so thankful! I am so glad of everything.
Now I hope Arthur will not lose the 12th of August.'

'Only don't talk now, my sweet one. Come, Theodora,' as if he only
wanted to get her out of the room.

'I have not looked at the baby. What a fine one!' and she was going to
take her.

'Oh, please don't!' said Violet; 'she will begin screaming again!' Then,
seeing the cloud return, 'Presently, dear aunt, when she wakes. Is not
she a beauty?'

Arthur, his hand on the door, hurried Theodora again.

'I will come' she said, impatiently, 'I will come and sit with you after
breakfast, Violet; I only wish I had been called.'

'Indeed, I know how kind you would have been,' said Violet, holding her
hand, and watching to see whether the displeasure was removed: 'but
it seemed a pity to disturb you. Please don't be vexed; I'll give you
plenty of trouble yet.'

She had, roused herself enough to alarm Arthur and the nurse.

'This will never do,' he said, laying his hand on his sister's arm, and
drawing her away almost by force: 'You MUST keep quiet, Violet.'

'I will, indeed, but please, Theodora--'

'She pleases all you wish. Never mind,' said Arthur, fairly putting her
out, then stepping back, 'Lie still, and mind your big baby; that is all
you have to do.'

'Only don't let her be vexed.'

'No such thing.'

But when out of Violet's hearing he could not refrain from telling
Theodora his displeasure. 'I thought you had more sense, or I would
never have let you in.'

'I knew nothing of it.'

'Your own fault for marching off at that time in the morning! I had been
up to tell you, and could not think where you were.'

'Why was I not allowed to be of use?'

'A pretty specimen of your usefulness, vexing her with your black looks,
till she was talking herself into a fever!'

'Surely she is doing well?'

'She was, unless you have undone everything with your humours.'

'I don't know what you mean.'

That was the last word. Theodora sat swelling under the sense of
injustice and neglect, where she had intended to be so important;
and Arthur was weary enough in mind and body to be more than usually
sensible of her ungraciousness, and to miss the refreshment of cheerful
sympathy. On going up after breakfast he found Violet weaker and more
ill than he had previously thought her, and her solicitous inquiries
about his sister made him the more attribute this to distress at those
moody looks. He would not hear of again admitting Theodora, and in
bitterness of spirit she wrote the letters, and tried to content
Johnnie--all in vain; for strive to conceal it as she would, he always
seemed to perceive her bad moods, and never would be happy with her when
she was in one of them.

Every hour brought fresh mortification. She was jealous of Arthur's
being needful to the patient, and jealous of being left by him; angry at
being treated as useless, and angry at the work she had to do; certain
that her ill temper was Arthur's fancy, yet certain he had caused it;
anxious about Violet, yet disdaining his anxiety. She was much
annoyed at his keeping aloof from her unpleasing looks, deserting the
dinner-table after the first course, and when she had waited long for
him, leaving her to discover that he had had a cup of tea in Violet's
room, and was gone down to smoke. The kindly affections that had always
been the hope of her character were rejected and thwarted, and thus
thrown back on herself, the wayward wilful spirit began to rise.

She paced the dull walk in the square gardens in the summer twilight,
and thought of the life before her, uncherished at home, an intruder in
the family where she had expected to earn fond gratitude, rejected by
him who had loved her from childhood!

There was an alternative! One look of encouragement, and Lord St. Erme
was at her disposal, ready to rejoice at acceptance, even if she should
tell him that she had no heart to bestow. She would be no longer spurned
and cast aside; she should be able to befriend Violet, she would live
uncontrolled, adored; above all, she would teach Percy Fotheringham
that she did not pine for him! She would belie those foolish tears that
Violet had seen her shed!

As she opened the gate to leave the gardens, Lord St. Erme rode by
with a young lady. Was he passing from her power? The spirit of
rivalry prompted a gracious bow and smile. He checked his horse, looked
delighted, and introduced 'his sister.'

A fair, delicate, blushing girl of sixteen, a pretty likeness of
himself, bent her head low, and Theodora felt that her blue eyes were
intently perusing her under their downcast lids, while the brother's
tones almost trembled with the pleasure of her unwonted look of
encouragement. He said that he was enjoying having his sister alone
with him, at his aunt's house in London, for a short time, and added
something about calling. She gave one of her bewitching smiles, and they
rode on.

There at least she was prized! How unlike this to the treatment she met
with from her own family! If she could not love the Earl, she could do
very well without that nonsense; and she should escape from her unloving
home, begin a new life, reign queen o'er herself and him, idolized,
uncontradicted, with ample opportunities of usefulness, triumphant over
him who had disdained her.

So she mused while taking off her bonnet, till Sarah brought a message
that Mrs. Martindale would be glad to see her. An hour ago and she would
have rejoiced; now, Arthur's household was becoming a secondary object,
since they had rejected her, and driven her to seek fresh interests.

She was received with hands outstretched. 'Dear Theodora, thank you.
Will you stay and take care of baby and me while nurse goes to supper?'

'If I may.'

'Thank you. Nurse, pray give baby to Miss Martindale. You need not
hurry; I shall be so comfortable.'

The sweet pale face and languid eyes were as a charm to expel all but
kindly thoughts, as Theodora sat down with the living weight warm on
her lap, and the gentle mother at intervals softly asking about her boy.
'Poor little man, they would not let him come in: they kept away both
the people I wanted.'

'Arthur guards you most jealously.'

'Yes, is not he a wonderful nurse? I had to exercise a little self-will
in getting you here. How good we must be to make him forgive us!'

Next. 'You cannot think what a difference it makes to have you here. I
never need think about Arthur's being made comfortable.'

Theodora's sincerity longed for confession, and she refrained with
difficulty. Those unconscious words set her vile temper before her in
its true light. She had resented the being treated with consideration,
and had been moody towards her brother, because he was under anxiety!

Self-convicted, she gave a deep sigh; but fearing again to distress
Violet, began to admire the baby, who was in truth a remarkably large
and handsome child, very dark and like the Martindales, and, both in
size and serenity, such a contrast to her brother, that, proud as
she was of her, her mamma only half liked praise of her that might be
depreciation of him, and began to defend him from the charge of crying
before he had had strength for it.

Her name, of course, was to be Helen, and to this Violet softly added,
Theodora.

'No, no; that will bring her no good. It is Aunt Nesbit's name.'

'It is one I love the sound of.'

'You won't another time.'

Violet vaguely perceived something amiss; but too weak to think about
it, closed her eyes and fell into a doze.

Those few gentle sayings had brought back Theodora's affection and sense
of right. She longed to recall her glance. If it had taken effect she
must persevere. She could not endure the humiliation of having a third
time trifled with a lover; she would not feel herself sunk into a mere
coquette. But what would Violet think!

Violet suddenly awoke with a terrified gaze. 'Arthur! Arthur! O, where
is he!'

'Down-stairs, dearest; he will come.' But to her extreme alarm, the
words had no effect.

'Arthur! O, when will he come? Why did he go away?'

Dismayed out of all presence of mind, Theodora rang with a violent
peal, and flew down-stairs, the baby in her arms, rousing Arthur from
a slumber in his chair by breathless tidings that Violet was worse--was
delirious; Mr. Harding must be sent for--

When Arthur had hurried up-stairs, it proved to be only a frightened
wakening, such as had often happened last year. She was perfectly
conscious, but so much fluttered and agitated by Theodora's own
proceedings, that it was with great difficulty that Arthur could soothe
and tranquillize her on her baby's account. The nurse was very angry,
and Theodora perceived her delinquency might have serious consequences,
especially when she beheld Violet, still tremulous from the alarm,
endeavouring to reassure them, to shield her from displeasure, and to
take all the blame to herself for her foolish terror.

There was an end of Theodora's grand designs of nursing! She could only
enter the room at all by favour of the patient and by sufferance of the
nurse; and she could attempt no remonstrance when ordered off by her
brother, and even felt unworthy of Violet's kiss.

That little scene of trivialities had been her first true humiliation.
It had shown her the vanity of her boast of strength of mind; for when
she thought of the morning's unreasonable ill-humour, and unkindness to
her brother and his wife at such a moment, and of the coquetry with Lord
St. Erme, she was indeed lowered in her own eyes; and it was sorrow, not
bitterness.

Her heart was very heavy, but less hard. Slowly had the power of
Violet's meekness and lowliness been stealing into her affections and
undermining her pride. Perhaps the direct attacks of Percy, though
strongly resisted, had in reality given a shock which prepared the way
for the silent effect of sweetness and forbearance. At any rate, she was
now sincerely sorry for the sin as well as the folly of the past day,
and felt that it might bring a penalty in perplexities about Lord St.
Erme, if he had really taken her smile for encouragement.

Many were her resolutions of amiability for to-morrow; but she was
disappointed. Violet had passed a restless night, and could not be
visited; and Arthur, after his experience of yesterday, was in no haste
to subject himself to his sister's humours. Her two years of caprice and
neglect had told even on his easy temper.

It had long been a scheme of hers to surprise Violet on her recovery
with a likeness of Johnnie, taken by a small, humble niece of Mrs.
Harrison's, lately started in life as an artist in crayons; and in
the midst of yesterday's sullenness she had taken measures which this
morning brought the lady to Cadogan-place, at the hour when he was most
likely to be in his best looks. Sarah, highly approving of anything that
exalted Master John, sedulously traced the one-sided masculine division
in his flaxen locks, and tied his best white frock with scarlet ribbons,
in honour, as she said, of his being 'a little granny-dear'; and
Theodora carried him down, and heard him pronounced 'a lovely
interesting darling.'

Sitting well was not, however, one of his perfections; he could not
be induced to show his face to a stranger, and turned from toys and
pictures, with arms stretched out to his aunt, and piteous calls for
mamma: to Theodora's further despair Arthur came in, and stood amazed,
so that she had to unfold her plans, and beg him to keep the secret. He
smiled, saying she might as well take a picture of a washed-out doll;
but that Violet would be sure to like it.

Meantime the child was presenting a golden opportunity; fixed in rapt
contemplation of his father, and gazing motionless, with one little foot
doubled under him, and one tiny white arm drooping over the crimson
sofa cushion. Miss Piper sketched as if for her life. Theodora directed
Arthur's attention to his little son. He spoke to him, and was surprised
and pleased at the plainness of the reply, and the animated spring
of gladness. In another minute he was sitting on the floor, most
successfully entertaining the child, while Miss Piper could hardly
help drawing that handsome black head in contrast with the small, white
creature, whose morsels of hands were coaxing his brown red cheeks;
and Theodora looked on, amused to see how papa succeeded in drawing out
those pretty, hesitating smiles, so embellishing to the little face,
that had generally more than the usual amount of baby gravity.

They were in full debate whether he should be represented smiling or
grave; the aunt wishing the latter as the habitual expression, the
father declaring that 'the fellow was only fit to be seen smiling like
his mother;' when suddenly there was an announcement--

'Lady Lucy Delaval and Lord St. Erme.'

Arthur hardly had time to start up from the ground, his colour deepening
with discomfiture as he glanced at the disarray of the room, littered
with playthings, displaced cushions, newspapers, with which he had been
playing bo-peep, drawing materials, all in as much confusion as the
hair, which, in an unguarded moment, he had placed at the mercy of
Johnnie's fingers.

Theodora comprehended the sharp click with which he rang the nursery
bell, and the half frown with which he watched in dread of a cry, while
Lady Lucy tried to make friends with Johnnie.

The drawing was brought under discussion, but he held aloof after one
look, which Theodora perceived to be disapproving, though she did not
know that the reason was that the smile, somewhat overdone by Miss
Piper, had brought out one of old Mr. Moss's blandest looks. Meantime
Lord St. Erme talked to the little artist, giving her some valuable
hints, which she seized with avidity, and then quietly retreated.

Arthur tried to talk to Lady Lucy; but she was very young, not yet come
out, timid, and, apparently, afraid of something that she had to say,
watching Miss Martindale as earnestly as she dared; while Lord St. Erme
spoke eagerly, yet as if he hardly knew what he was saying, of art,
music, books, striving in vain to obtain one of the looks of yesterday.

It warmed Theodora's heart to feel herself the object of such
enthusiastic admiration, but she preserved her look of rigid
indifference. It was a long visit; but at last the brother made the
move, looking at his sister, as if to remind her of something.

'Oh, Miss Martindale,' said she, with an effort, 'we thought you must be
staying in a great deal. Would you be so kind, now and then, as to walk
with me?'

This was an alarming request, and not very easy to refuse. Theodora said
something of seeing about it, and hoping--

'It would be such a treat,' said Lady Lucy, growing bolder, as the two
gentlemen were speaking to each other. 'My aunt is gone to her brother's
little parsonage, where there is no room for me, and my governess had to
go home, luckily, so that we are quite alone together; and St. Erme said
perhaps you would be so kind sometimes as to walk with me--'

Theodora smiled. 'I hope we may meet sometimes,' said she. 'If my sister
was down-stairs perhaps we might; but I am engaged to her.'

Thus ended the visit, and Arthur, hastily throwing the cushions back
into their places, demanded, 'What on earth could possess those folks to
come here now!'

'It was an inconvenient time,' said Theodora.

'Dawdling and loitering here!--a man with nothing better to do with his
time!'

'Nay,' said Theodora, touched by the injustice; 'Lord St. Erme is no man
not to know how to dispose of his time.'

'Whew!' whistled Arthur; 'is the wind gone round to that quarter? Well,
I thought better of you than that you would like a fellow that can do
nothing but draw, never shoots over his own moors, and looks like
a German singer! But do put the room tidy; and if you must have the
nursery down here, put it into the back room, for mercy sake!'

He went away, having thus stirred her feelings in the St. Erme
direction, and he left them to take their chance for the rest of the
day. She took a solitary walk; on her return saw a hat in the hall, and
asking whether Mr. Harding was there, was told no, but that Mr. Gardner
was with Captain Martindale. And after long waiting till Arthur should
come to dinner, he only put in his head, saying, 'Oh, Theodora, are you
waiting? I beg your pardon, I am going out to dinner. You can sit with
Violet; and if she should want me, which she won't, James knows where to
find me.'

Theodora scorned to inquire of the servant whither his master was gone;
but her appetite forsook her at the sight of the empty chair, and the
recollection of the warning against Mark Gardner.

This was not her last solitary dinner. Arthur had engagements almost
every day, or else went to his club; and when at home, if he was not
with Violet, he sat in his own room, and would never again assist at
the sittings, which were completed under less favourable auspices,
soon enough to allow time for the framing before the mamma should come
down-stairs. Her recovery proceeded prosperously; and Theodora was quite
sufficiently in request in her room to be satisfied, and to make it
difficult to find a spare afternoon to go and order one of her favourite
oak frames.

However, she was at length able to make the expedition; and she was busy
in giving directions as to the width of margin, when from the interior
of the shop there came forward no other than the Earl of St. Erme.

They shook hands, and she sent her excuses to Lady Lucy for having been
too much occupied to call, asking whether she was still in town.

'Only till Thursday,' he said, 'when I take her to join my aunt, who is
to show her the Rhine.'

'Do not you go with them?'

'I have not decided. It depends upon circumstances. Did not I hear
something of your family visiting Germany?'

'Perhaps they may,' said Theodora, dryly. He began to study the
portrait, and saw some likeness, but was distressed by something in the
drawing of the mouth.

'Yes,' said Theodora, 'I know it is wrong; but Miss Piper could not see
it as I did, and her alterations only made it worse, till I longed to be
able to draw.'

'I wonder if I might venture,' said Lord St. Erme, screwing up his eye,
and walking round the picture. 'I am sure, with your artist eye, you
must know what it is not to be able to keep your hands off.'

'Not I,' said Theodora, smiling. 'Pencils are useless tools to me. But
it would be a great benefit to the picture, and Miss Piper will fancy it
all her own.'

'You trust me, then?' and he turned to ask for a piece of chalk, adding,
'But is it not too bold a measure without the subject?'

'He is in the carriage, with his nurse;' and Theodora, unable to resist
so material an improvement to her gift, brought him in, and set him up
on the counter opposite to a flaming picture of a gentleman in a red
coat, which he was pleased to call papa, and which caused his face to
assume a look that was conveyed to the portrait by Lord St. Erme, and
rendered it the individual Johnnie Martindale, instead of merely a pale
boy in a red sash.

Theodora was too much gratified not to declare it frankly, and to say
how much charmed his mother would be; and she was pleased by a remark of
Lord St. Erme, that showed that his poet mind comprehended that wistful
intelligence that gave a peculiar beauty to Johnnie's thin white face.

She thought to pay off her obligations by an immediate visit to his
sister, while she knew him to be safe out of the way; and, driving to
Mrs. Delaval's, she sent her nephew home, intending to walk back.

Lady Lucy was alone, and she found her a gentle, simple-hearted girl,
with one sole affection, namely, for the brother, who was the whole
world to her; and taking Miss Martindale, on his word, as an object of
reverence and admiration. It was impossible not to thaw towards her: and
when Theodora spoke of the embellishment of the portrait, she needed
no more to make her spring up, and fetch a portfolio to exhibit her
brother's drawings. Admirable they were; sketches of foreign scenery,
many portraits, in different styles, of Lady Lucy herself, and the
especial treasure was a copy of Tennyson, interleaved with illustrations
in the German style, very fanciful and beautiful. Theodora was, however,
struck by the numerous traces she saw of the Lalla Rookh portrait. It
was there as the dark-eyed Isabel; again as Judith, in the Vision of
Fair Women; it slept as the Beauty in the Wood; and even in sweet St.
Agnes, she met it refined and purified; so that at last she observed,
'It is strange how like this is to my mother.'

'I think it must be,' said Lady Lucy; 'for I was quite struck by your
likeness to St. Erme's ideal sketches.'

Rather annoyed, Theodora laughed, and turning from the portfolio, asked
if she did not also draw?

'A little; but mine are too bad to be looked at.'

Theodora insisted, and the drawings were produced: all the best had
been done under Lord St. Erme's instruction. The affection between the
brother and sister touched her, and thinking herself neglectful of a
good little girl, she offered to take the desired walk at once. While
Lady Lucy was preparing, however, the brother came home, and oh! the
inconvenient satisfaction of his blushing looks.

Yet Theodora pardoned these, when he thanked her for being kind to his
sister; speaking with a sort of parental fondness and anxiety of his
wish to have Lucy with him, and of his desire that she should form
friendships that would benefit her.

Never had he spoken with so much reality, nor appeared to so much
advantage; and it was in his favour, too, that Theodora contrasted this
warm solicitude for his young sister with the indifference of her own
eldest brother. There was evidently none of the cold distance that was
the grievance of her home.

'Lady Lucy is almost out of the school-room,' she said. 'You will soon
be able to have her with you in the country.'

'There are certainly some considerations that might make me resolve on
an English winter,' said Lord St. Erme.

'Every consideration, I should think.'

'Fogs and frosts, and clouds, that hang like a weight on the whole
frame,' said Lord St. Erme, shivering.

'Healthy, freshening mists, and honest vigorous frosts to brace one for
service,' said Theodora, smiling.

'O, Miss Martindale!' cried Lady Lucy, entering, 'are you persuading St.
Erme to stay all the year in England? I do so wish he would.'

'Then you ought to make him,' said Theodora.

'If Miss Martindale were to express a wish or opinion--'

She saw it was time to cut him short. 'Every one's opinion must be the
same,' she said.

'O,' cried Lucy, 'of course Italy is pleasanter. It is selfish to
wish to keep him here; but if I had my will, we would live together at
Wrangerton, and have such nice poor people.'

'A "chateau en Espagne" indeed, my little sister. Wrangerton is a most
forlorn place, an old den of the worst period of architecture, set down
just beyond the pretty country, but in the programme of all the tourists
as a show place; the third-rate town touching on the park, and your nice
poor people not even the ordinary English peasantry, but an ill-disposed
set of colliers.'

Theodora looked, but did not speak.

'Miss Martindale thinks me a laggard, but she hears my excuse.'

'If they are ill-disposed,' said Theodora, in her low, severe voice
(she could not help it), 'it is for want of influence from the right
quarter.'

'My agent tells me they are perfectly impracticable.'

'Knights of old liked something impracticable.' She was almost ready
to check herself; but there was something inspiriting in the idea of
awakening this youth, who seemed to catch at her words as if she were a
damsel sending forth a champion. His reply was--

'Those were days worth living for. Then the knight's devoir was poetry
in real life.'

'Devoir is always poetry in real life,' said Theodora. 'What is it but
the work ready to hand? Shrinking from it is shrinking from the battle.
Come, Lady Lucy, I will not detain you.'

Lord St. Erme seemed about to say something as he shook hands, but it
did not come. The walk was passed by the simple-hearted Lucy discoursing
of the events by which she counted her eras, namely, his visits. Her
perfect brother was her only theme.



CHAPTER 20


     Yet learn the gamut of Hortensio.

     --Taming of the Shrew


Mrs. Nesbit was recommended to spend some months at Baden Baden; and
Theodora formed a design, which highly pleased Arthur and Violet, of
spending this time, while the family were absent, and while Arthur was
in Scotland, as hostess at Martindale to Violet and the children.

After seeing Arthur off to Windsor for the next fortnight, Theodora
had begun writing to propose the scheme to her father, when she was
interrupted by the announcement of Lord St. Erme.

To visit her alone was a strong measure, and she put on a panoply of
dignified formality. He began to say he had brought a German book, to
show her a poem of which their conversation had reminded him.

'I understand very little German,' said she, coldly. 'I once had a
German governess whom I disliked so much that I took a disgust to the
language.'

'There is so much that is beautiful and untranslatable in its
literature, that I am sure it would recompense you.'

'I do not like the German tone of mind. It is vapoury and unreal.'

'I should like to show you cause to alter your opinion, but--'

'This is English,' said Theodora, as her eye fell on a paper of verses
that marked the place.

'Ah, Lucy made me put it in. A few lines that occurred to me after
watching Mrs. Martindale's little boy.'

Thankful that they were not inspired by Venus's little boy, she glanced
over them, and saw they were in his best style, simple and pretty
thoughts on the child's content, wherever he traced any symbol of his
father.

'Poor little Johnnie is highly flattered,' she said. 'His mamma will be
delighted.'

He begged her attention to the German poem, she glanced onward as
he read, watching for shoals ahead, and spied something about a
"hochbeseeltes madchen" inspiring a "Helden sanger geist", and grew
hotter and hotter till she felt ready to box his ears for intoning
German instead of speaking plain English, and having it over. A cotton
umbrella arose before her eyes, she heard the plashing gravel, and an
honest voice telling her she was a grand creature in great need of being
broken in.

The critical stanza had commenced, the reader's voice trembled; Theodora
did not heed, her mind was in the avenue at home. An opening door
startled them.

'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Moss.'

Her brother's brother-in-law! the son and partner of Lord St. Erme's
steward! Was it thus his suit was to be checked?

There was no recognition; he went on reading his German to himself,
while Albert presented Mrs. Albert Moss, resplendent in bridal finery,
and displaying her white teeth in a broad smile, as with a nod,
half-gracious, half-apologetic, she said, 'I fear we interrupt a lesson;
but we will not inconvenience you; we will go at once to our dear
convalescent.'

'Thank you, you do not interrupt me, and I do not think my sister is
dressed yet. Indeed, I doubt whether I ought to allow her to see any
one.'

'O, you cannot be so cruel!' cried Mrs. Moss, holding up her hands;
'one little peep! our only day in town.'

'Yes,' said Albert. 'I could not but gratify my Louisa's anxiety to be
introduced to her new relatives.'

'I am afraid you must be disappointed, for my brother is with his
regiment at Windsor, and my sister is still so weak that she ought to
have no excitement.'

'And we have only a few hours in town. The inexorable claims of business
have recalled us to Wrangerton.'

The Earl looked up surprised, as if the word had recalled him from the
clouds.

'You have been in Wales, I think,' said Theodora. 'Were you pleased?'

'Oh, I was enraptured!' exclaimed the bride; 'the sublime and romantic
could be carried no higher! It makes me quite discontented with our home
scenery.

'Your sister would not approve of that,' said Theodora to Albert;' she
can bear no slight to Helvellyn.'

'I forget--is there a view of Helvellyn from Wrangerton?' said Lord St.
Erme, still somewhat dreamily.

Mrs. Moss started at hearing such good English from the German master,
and patronizingly said, 'Yes. Helvellyn is monarch of our picturesque.
Do you ever come northwards?'

'Not so often as, perhaps, I ought. I am afraid I know more of the Alps
than of Helvellyn.'

'I am sure,' continued the voluble lady, 'if ever you thought of such
a scheme when the season is over, it would be well worth your while.
I could reckon up many respectable families, who with such
introductions--let me see, there are the Joneses, and the Dunlops, and
the Evelyns, to say nothing of my new sisters, the Miss Mosses.'

'I have no doubt it is a very good neighbourhood,' said Lord St. Erme,
rising. 'I must go, or we shall miss the train. Can you tell me how soon
you expect Lord Martindale?'

'About the tenth or eleventh,' said Theodora.

'Thank you. Then I must wish you good-bye--'

'And I must thank you in my sister's name for the pleasure she will take
in what you have done for her little boy. Remember me to Lady Lucy.'

That name was a revelation to Albert, and the door had scarcely closed
before he exclaimed--'Surely, Miss Martindale, that could not be Lord
St. Erme!'

'Yes, it was.'

'Well!' cried Mrs. Moss, 'there was something decidedly the aristocrat
in his moustache!'

Albert could not recover from his vexation at having missed such a
chance, and was nearly setting off in pursuit of his lordship. Theodora
was glad to escape for a moment, on the plea of seeing whether Violet
could receive a visit.

In her absence the bride began--'I can't see that she is so handsome,
after all! And I should be ashamed to wear such a dress as that!'

'Distinguished people have freaks, my love. Bless me! if I had but known
the Earl!'

'I see how it is,' said the wife; 'a proud Countess we shall have.'

'If one of the girls had but been here! Every one of them is prettier
than this Miss Martindale. Who knows?'

'Ah! I shall take care in a friendly way to let your sister know how her
own family feel at her keeping aloof--'

'I do not believe it is her fault, poor child,' said Albert. 'Martindale
has set this haughty young lady to keep guard over her--'

'We shall see,' said the bride. 'I am not used to be refused, and once
with your sister, I will discover all her secrets.'

Fortunately for Violet, Theodora had found her so much exhausted by
the fatigue of dressing, that she thought it safest, considering what
a bride it was, not to divulge her presence in the house; and she came
down with this intelligence, trying to compensate for it by civility,
and by showing the children.

Mrs. Moss was not easily repulsed, she begged Miss Martindale to
reconsider her verdict.

'I must not relent; I am accountable to the doctor and to my brother.'

'It shall not be your fault. You shall know nothing of it. I will find
my way. Ah! I'm a giddy young thing. Nothing can stop me!' and she
stepped forward, laughing affectedly, and trying to look arch.

'I cannot permit this. It might do serious harm,' said Theodora, obliged
to stand in her path, and to put on such a look of haughty command, that
she was positively subdued and frightened, and went back to her seat
in a meek state of silence, whence she only recovered to overwhelm poor
Johnnie with her attentions. He cried and was sent away, and Mrs.
Moss was obliged to be satisfied with the baby, though she looked as
dignified and as little to be taken liberties with as any Martindale of
them all.

They lingered on, hoping to weary out Miss Martindale's patience, or
that some chance might reveal their presence to Violet; but in vain;
Theodora's politeness was exemplary, and she endured Mrs. Albert Moss's
familiarity so well, that when at length they departed, the last words
were a parting whisper, 'Good morning, Miss Martindale. If we had known
what we interrupted--but ah! I have gone through those things so lately,
that I know how to feel for you, and can keep your secret.'

'There is no subject of secrecy that I know of,' said Theodora, more
coldly than ever.

Hateful woman! Poor Violet! There, now, it will be all over the country
that I am engaged to him! I must take him now, or I hope he will give it
up on discovering my connections! Then I can despise him. Foolish man!
why could he not say what he wanted? I should have got rid of him then;
I was in the mood! However, he is out of the way for the present. Now to
make the best of it with Violet.

Violet was grieved, both for her own sake and the vexation at home, but
she so sweetly acquiesced in its having been right, and was so sure that
her sister meant nothing but kindness, that Theodora, knowing that she
herself could not have submitted with anything like patience, admired
and loved her more than ever.

The gentleness and quietness of her demeanour were a refreshment to
Theodora's tossed and undecided mind; and in administering to her
comfort and pleasure, the anxieties and remorse subsided into a
calm like her own. How delightful was the day of her introduction to
Johnnie's portrait; her admiration, and tearful gratitude to the kind
deviser of the gift, were the greatest pleasure Theodora had known for
months; the discussion of every feature, the comparison of Johnnie
with it, the history of the difficulties, and of his papa's assistance,
seemed a never-ending treat to both giver and receiver. The poem, too;
it was very amusing to see how she could hardly believe that original
verses could possibly be written on her boy, and then when set to guess
whose they were, she began with a hesitating 'Miss Marstone is the only
person near who makes verses, and these are too pretty to be hers.'

'Ah! if you would follow Emma's advice, and call the baby Osyth, after
the first Prioress, you might have a chance from that quarter.'

It could not be Mr. Fotheringham, the only poet she could think of, and
she could only beg to be told.

'There is one whom a Wrangerton woman should not forget.'

'Lord St. Erme! You ARE laughing at me, Theodora. He never even saw
Johnnie!'

Theodora explained the two meetings, anxious to see her way of thinking.
'It is a wonderful thing!' was her first remark. 'Who would have told me
how it would be three years ago? They are very pretty.'

'I do not think you like them the better for being his,' said Theodora.

'I ought,' said Violet; 'no other great man ever seems to me so grand as
our own Earl.'

'I want your real feeling.'

'You know,' said Violet, smiling, 'I cannot think them done only for
Johnnie's sake--'

'And, therefore, they do not please you.'

'Not exactly that; but--if you don't mind my saying so, I feel as if I
had rather--it might be better--I don't want to be ungrateful, but if
you were getting into a scrape for the sake of pleasing me, I should be
sorry. Forgive me, Theodora, you made me say so.'

'You are consideration itself,' said Theodora, affectionately. 'Never
mind, he is out of the way. We will let him go off poetizing to Germany;
and under your wing at home, I will get into no more mischief.'

That was a pleasant prospect, and Violet reposed on the thought of the
enjoyment of Martindale without its formidable inhabitants; trying in
it to forget the pain of parting with her husband for a month, and her
longings to spend it at her own home, and see Johnnie strengthened by
Helvellyn breezes; while to Theodora it seemed like the opening into
peace and goodness.

One forenoon, Violet, on coming down-stairs, found her sister writing
extremely fast, and seeing an envelope on the table in Lord Martindale's
writing, asked if it was his answer to Theodora's plan.

'Yes.'

'Ah!' said Violet, perceiving something was amiss, 'they have spared you
to me a long time already.'

'Don't be uneasy,' said Theodora; 'I'll settle it.'

'But,' exclaimed Violet, 'I could not bear that you should be with me if
they want you.'

'That is not it; papa has something in his head; I will settle it.'

Violet knew what was indicated by the over-erectness of Theodora's
head. To be the cause of family discussion was frightful, but she had a
nervous dread of thwarting Theodora.

'I wish you would not look at me,' exclaimed Theodora.

'I beg your pardon,' sighed she.

'What's the use of that when I know you are not satisfied, and do not
trust me?'

'Don't be angry with me,' implored Violet, with a quivering voice,
and tears of weakness in her eyes. 'I cannot help it. I do not want to
interfere, but as it is for me, I must beg you to tell me you are not
pressing to stay with me when Lady Martindale wishes for you.'

'No one ever wants me. No, but papa thinks that you and I cannot be
trusted together. He says he cannot leave me with one who has so little
authority.'

That indignant voice contrasted with the gentle answer, 'I do not
wonder; I have always thought if I had been older and better able to
manage--'

'No such thing!' exclaimed Theodora; 'you are the only person who ever
exercised any control over me.'

'O, hush! you do not know what you are saying.'

'It is the truth, and you know it. When you choose, every one yields to
you, and so do I.'

'Indeed, I did not know it,' said Violet, much distressed. 'I am very
sorry if I am overbearing; I did not think I was.'

Theodora fairly laughed at such a word being applied to the mild,
yielding creature, who looked so pale and feeble. 'Very domineering,
indeed!' she said. 'No, no, my dear, it is only that you are always
right. When you disapprove, I cannot bear to hurt and grieve you,
because you take it so quietly.'

'You are so very kind to me.'

'So, if papa wishes me to come to good, he had better leave me to you.'

'I don't think that ought to be,' said Violet, feebly.

'What, not that you should be my only chance--that you should calm me
and guide me when every one else has failed--'

'Theodora, dear, I do not think I ought to like to hear you say so. It
cannot be safe for you to submit to me rather than to your father.'

'He never had any moral power over me. He never convinced me, nor led
me to yield my will,' said Theodora, proud perhaps of her voluntary
submission to her gentle sister-in-law, and magnifying its extent; but
Violet was too right-minded, in her simplicity, to be flattered by an
allegiance she knew to be misplaced.

'I should not like baby to say so by and by,' she whispered.

'There's an esprit de corps in parents,' cried Theodora, half angrily;
'but Helen will never be like me. She will not be left to grow up
uncared for and unloved till one-and-twenty, and then, when old enough
for independence, be for the first time coerced and reproached. If
people never concern themselves about their children, they need not
expect the same from them as if they had brought them up properly.'

'That is a sad thought,' pensively said the young mother.

'I declare you shall hear the letter, that you may own that it is
unreasonable--unbearable!' And she read--

'"I have been considering your request to spend the time of our absence
at home with Mrs. Martindale, but I cannot think fit to comply with it.
Arthur's income is fully sufficient to provide change of air for his
family; and he ought not to expect always to leave his wife on other
people's hands, while he is pursuing his own diversions."'

Theodora was glad to see that this did rouse Violet's indignation.

'Oh! he does not know. Do tell him it was all your kindness! Tell him
that Arthur is not going for long. He must not think such things.'

'He thinks much more injustice,' said Theodora. 'Listen:--"After so long
an absence, it is high time you should rejoin us; and, considering what
has occurred, you cannot be surprised that I should be unwilling to
leave you with one so young and of so little authority over you. Though
I acquit her of all blame for your indiscretions--" (There, Violet, I
hope you are much obliged to him!) "I should not have consented to your
remaining with her up to the present time, if it had not been a case of
urgent necessity, as I wish to have you under my own eye." (As if he had
ever made any use of it?) "You might as well be alone here as with
her; and, after your late conduct, I cannot put the confidence in
your prudence that I should desire. Violet has, I have no doubt, acted
amiably; and her youth, inexperience, and gentleness fully excuse her
in my eyes for having been unable to restrain you; but they are reasons
sufficient to decide me on not leaving you with her at present. We shall
be in London on Monday, the 11th, and I wish you to be in readiness to
join us when we embark for Ostend on the following evening. Give my kind
love to Violet, and tell her I am glad she is going on well, and that I
am much pleased with my grand-daughter's intended name." There, Violet,
what do you think of that?'

'Pray make him understand that Arthur wanted a change very much, and
will not be long gone.'

'Arthur! You cannot feel for any one else!'

'I did not mean to be selfish!' said Violet, sorry for having seemed to
be wanting in sympathy.

'No, indeed! You never think what would become of you left alone, with
two babies that cannot walk!'

'Never mind me, I shall manage very well, I don't like to have a
disturbance made on my account. I cannot think how you can hesitate
after such a letter as this.'

'That is the very thing. He would never have dared to say these things
to my face! Now let me tell you. I know I have been much to blame; you
made me feel it. You are taming me; and if he leaves me to you I may
be more dutiful when he comes back. But if he strains his new notion of
authority too far, and if you throw me off, I shall be driven to do what
will grieve and disappoint you.'

'But surely,' said Violet, 'it cannot be the right beginning of being
dutiful to resist the first thing that is asked of you.'

'You wish me to go to be fretted and angered! to be without one
employment to drown painful thoughts, galled by attempts at controlling
me; my mind poisoned by my aunt, chilled by my mother--to be given up to
my worse nature, without perhaps even a church to go to!'

'It is very hard,' said Violet; 'but if we are to submit, it cannot be
only when we see fit. Would it not be better to make a beginning that
costs you something?'

'And lose my hope of peaceful guidance!'

'I do believe,' said Violet, 'that if you go patiently, because it is
your duty, that you will be putting yourself under the true guidance;
but for you to extort permission to stay with me, when your father
disapproves, would be only following your own way. I should be afraid. I
will not undertake it, for it would not be right, and mischief would be
sure to ensue.'

'Then you give me up?'

'Give you up! dear, dear sister;' and Violet rose and threw her arms
round Theodora. 'No, indeed! When I am so glad that I may love you as
I always wished! I shall think of you, and write to you, and pray for
you,' whispered she. 'All I can I will do for you, but you must not say
any more of staying with me now. I can help you better in my right place
than out of it.'

Theodora returned the caress and quitted the room, leaving Violet to her
regrets and fears. It was a great sacrifice of herself, and still worse,
of her poor little pale boy, and she dreaded that it might be the ruin
of the beneficial influence which, to her amazement, she found ascribed
to her, in the most unexpected quarter. It had gone to her heart to
refuse Theodora's kindness, and all that was left for her was to try to
still her fluttering, agitated spirits by the consciousness that she had
striven to do right, and by the prayer that all might work for good.

Indeed, it was very remarkable how, in this critical period of
Theodora's life, when repentance was engaged in so severe a conflict
with her long-nourished pride and passion, in all the tossings of
her mind she had, as it were, anchored herself to her docile, gentle
sister-in-law, treating her like a sort of embodiment of her better
mind. Violet's serenity and lowliness seemed to breathe peace on a
storm-tossed ocean; and her want of self-assertion to make Theodora
proud of submitting to her slightest wish without a struggle. Those
vehement affections were winding themselves about her and her children;
and the temper that had flown into fierce insubordination at the first
control from lawful authority, laid itself at the feet of one whose
power was in meekness. It was the lion curbed by the maiden; but because
the subjection was merely a caprice, it was no conquest of self-will.



CHAPTER 21


     But when the self-abhorring thrill
     Is past, as pass it must,
     When tasks of life thy spirit fill
     Risen from thy tears and dust,
     Then be the self-renouncing will
     The seal of thy calm trust.

     --Lyra Apostolica


Arthur quitted London the day after his little girl's christening,
talking of being absent only a fortnight, before taking his wife to
Windsor; and promising to return at once, if she should find herself in
the least unwell or dispirited. She was delighted to be well enough
not to spoil his sport, and Theodora was too anxious to have him at a
distance from Mr. Gardner to venture on any remonstrance.

It was the day the family were to come to London, and he left orders
with the ladies to say 'all that was proper', but the twelfth of August
was to him an unanswerable reason for immediate departure.

Theodora and Violet went to receive the party in the house in Belgrave
Square, both silent, yet conscious of each other's feelings. Theodora
paced the room, while Violet leant back in a great blue damask chair,
overcome by the beatings of her heart; and yet, when the carriage
arrived, it was she who spoke the word of encouragement: 'Your father is
so kind, I know he forgives us!'

Theodora knew Violet thought her own weakness and inefficiency needed
pardon, and therefore could bear the saying, and allow it to turn her
defiant shame into humility.

Mrs. Nesbit came in, supported between Lord and Lady Martindale, and
as Theodora hastened to wheel round the large arm-chair, and settle the
cushions for her, her eye glanced in keen inquiry from one niece to
the other, and they felt that she was exulting in the fulfilment of her
prediction.

Lord Martindale kissed his daughter with grave formality; and, as if
to mark the difference, threw much warm affection into his greeting of
Violet, and held her hand for some moments, while he asked solicitously
if she were well and strong, and inquired for her little ones.

She made Arthur's excuses and explanations, but broke off, blushing and
disconcerted, by that harsh, dry cough of Mrs. Nesbit's, and still
more, by seeing Lord Martindale look concerned. She began, with nervous
eagerness and agitation, to explain that it was an old engagement, he
would not be away long, and then would take her out of town--she was
hardly yet ready for a journey. From him she obtained kind smiles, and
almost fatherly tenderness; from Lady Martindale the usual ceremonious
civility. They asked her to dinner, but she was not equal to this; they
then offered to send her home in the carriage, and when she refused,
Lord Martindale said he would walk back with her, while Theodora
remained with her mother.

He was much displeased with his son for leaving her, especially when he
saw how delicate and weak she still looked; and he was much annoyed
at being unable to prevent it, without giving Arthur a premium for
selfishness; so that all he could do was to treat her with a sort of
compassionate affection, increased at each of her unselfish sayings.

'My dear,' he said, 'I wish to have a little conversation with you,
when it suits you. I am anxious to hear your account of this unfortunate
affair.'

'Very well;' but he felt her arm tremble.

'You must not alarm yourself. You are the last person deserving of
blame. I am only sorry that you should have had so much to harass you.'

'O, Theodora has been so very kind to me.'

'I rejoice to hear it; but tell me, will this evening or to-morrow
morning suit you best?'

'Thank you, to-morrow, if you please,' said Violet, glad to defer the
evil day.

At that moment she was astonished by the sudden apparition of Lord St.
Erme, and still more by his shaking hands with her. She thanked him for
his touches to her little boy's portrait; he smiled, rejoiced that she
did not think he had spoilt it, and remarked upon the likeness. Lord
Martindale, who knew him but slightly, listened in surprise; and having
now come to her own door, she bade them farewell, and entered the house.

Theodora came back much later than Violet had expected, with a flush on
her cheek, and hurry and uncertainty in her manner. She had previously
made a great point of their spending this last evening alone together,
but her mood was silent. She declared herself bent on finishing the
volume of Miss Strickland's "Queens", which they were reading together,
and went on with it till bed-time without intermission, then wished
Violet good night without another word.

But Violet was no sooner in bed than Theodora came in, in her
dressing-gown, and sat down at her feet, looking at her, but hardly
answering the few words she ventured to speak. It was not till the clock
struck twelve that she rose from her seat.

'Well, I must go; but I don't know how to tear myself from the sight of
you. I feel as if I was driven from the only place where I ever might be
good.'

'No,' whispered Violet; 'wherever our duty lies, we can be good.'

'I could, if you were with me, to calm me, and tell me such things.'

'You do not want me to tell you them. You have the Bible and Prayer
Book.'

'I never saw the right way to follow them; till now, when it was
gleaming on me, I have to go away.'

'The same grace that has shown you your way so far, dearest, will go on
to show you further, if you follow it on, even though the way be hard!'

'The grace may be with you--it is!' said Theodora, in a heavy, hopeless
manner; 'but oh! Violet, think how long I have been driving it away!'

Violet sat up, took her hand, pressed it between both hers, and with
tears exclaimed: 'You must not speak so. If you had not that grace,
should you be sorry now?'

'I don't know. I can hope and see my way to peace when you look at me,
or speak to me; but why should I be forced into the desert of my own
heart, to loneliness and temptation?'

'If you are really resting on me, instead of on the only true help,
perhaps it is better you should be left to it. Theodora, dearest, may I
tell you something about myself? When first I saw my difficulties, and
could not get at mamma, I felt as if there was no one to help me, but
somehow it grew up. I saw how to find out guidance and comfort in the
Bible and in such things, and ever since I have been so much happier.'

'How did you find it out?'

'John helped me; but I think it comes without teaching from without, and
there is my hope for you, Theodora.'

'Them that are meek shall He guide in judgment, and such as are gentle,
them shall He learn His way,' murmured Theodora, hanging over her, with
tears fast dropping.

'He shows Himself to those who will follow Him, and yield their own
will,' said Violet.

'Good night! Oh! what shall I do when I have not you to send me to bed
comforted? I had more to say to you, but you have smoothed it all, and I
cannot ruffle it up again.'

A night of broken sleep, and perplexed waking thoughts, was a bad
preparation for the morning's conference. Lord Martindale came to
breakfast, and, as before, reserved all his kindness for Violet and the
children. Theodora disappeared when the little ones were carried away,
and he began the conversation by saying to Violet, 'I am afraid you have
had a great deal of trouble and vexation.'

She replied by warm assurances of Theodora's kindness; whence he led
her to tell the history of the rupture, which she did very mournfully,
trying to excuse Theodora, but forbidden, by justice to Percival;
and finding some relief in taking blame to herself for not having
remonstrated against that unfortunate expedition to the races.

'No, my dear, it was no fault of yours. It was not from one thing more
than another. It was owing to unhappy, unbroken temper. Take care
of your children, my dear, and teach them submission in time.' Then
presently resuming: 'Is it your idea that she had any attachment to poor
Fotheringham?'

'Much more than she knew at the time,' said Violet.

'Ha! Then you do not think she has given encouragement to that
absurd-looking person, Lord St. Erme?'

'Lord St. Erme!' cried Violet, startled.

'Yes; when I parted with you yesterday, he walked back with me, and
proceeded to declare that he had been long attached to her, and to ask
my sanction to his following us to Germany to pay his addresses.'

'Surely he has not spoken to her?'

'No; he said something about not presuming, and of having been
interrupted. I could only tell him that it must rest with herself. There
is no objection to the young man, as far as I know, though he is an
idle, loitering sort of fellow, not what I should have thought to her
taste.'

'I do not believe she likes him,' said Violet.

'You do not? I cannot make out. I told her that she was at liberty to
do as she pleased; I only warned her neither to trifle with him, nor to
rush into an engagement without deliberation, but I could get nothing
like an answer. She was in one of her perverse fits, and I have no
notion whether she means to accept him or not.'

'I do not think she will.'

'I cannot say. No one knows, without a trial, what the notion of a
coronet will do with a girl. After all her pretensions she may be the
more liable to the temptation. I have not told her aunt, that she may
be the more unbiassed. Not that I say anything against him, it is
everything desirable in the way of connection, and probably he is an
amiable good sort of man. What do you know of him! Are you intimate with
him?'

Violet explained the extent of their acquaintance. 'I do not see my way
through it,' said Lord Martindale. 'I wish I could be clear that it is
not all coquetry. I wish John was at home.'

'I do not think,' said Violet, gathering courage--'I do not think you
know how much Theodora wishes to be good.'

'I wish she was half as good as you are, my dear!' said Lord Martindale,
as if he had been speaking to a child. And he talked to her warmly of
her own concerns, and hopes of her visiting Martindale on their return;
trying to divest himself of a sense of inhospitality and harshness,
which grew on him whenever he looked at her slender figure, and the
varying carnation of her thin cheek.

She felt herself obliged to set forth to call on Lady Martindale.
Theodora was busy, packing up, and could not accompany her;
unfortunately for her, since Mrs. Nesbit took the opportunity of
examining her on the same subject, though far from doing it in the
same manner; commenting with short sarcastic laughs, censuring Mr.
Fotheringham for trying to domineer, but finding much amusement in
making out the grounds of his objection to Mrs. Finch, and taking
pleasure in bringing, by her inquiries, a glow of confusion and distress
on Violet's cheeks. Next she began to blame her for having visited
such an imprudent person; and when Lady Martindale ventured to suggest
something about her not knowing, and Mrs. Finch having formerly been
a friend of the family, she put her down. 'Yes, my dear, we are not
blaming Mrs. Arthur Martindale. We know it is not possible for every one
to be fastidious. The misfortune was in Miss Martindale's being brought
into society which could not be expected to be select.'

Violet did not think herself called upon to stay to be insulted, and
rose to take leave, but did not escape without further taunts. 'So you
are to be in London alone for the next month?'

'Perhaps only for a fortnight!'

'I can promise you that it will be a month. Young men are not apt to
spend more time at home than they can help. I am sorry to interfere
with your scheme of being installed at Martindale, but it is out of the
question. Theodora's absence has been much felt by the curate, and our
past experience has prepared us for anything. I hope you will take care
of yourself.'

Mrs. Nesbit, as she lost her power of self-command and her cleverness,
without parting with her bitterness of spirit, had pitiably grown worse
and worse, so that where she would once have been courteously sarcastic,
she was now positively insolent.

It was too much for Lady Martindale, who, as she saw Violet colour
deeply, and tremble as she left the room, followed her to the head
of the stairs, and spoke kindly. 'You must not imagine, my dear, that
either my aunt, or any of us, find fault with you. We all know that
you are inexperienced, and that it is not easy to cope with Theodora's
eccentricity of character.'

Violet, still very weak, could have been hysterical, but luckily was
able to command herself, though, 'thank you!' was all she could say.

'Of course, though such things are unfortunate, we cannot regret the
match; Lord Martindale and I are quite convinced that you acted amiably
by all parties. Good-bye, my dear; I am sorry I have not time to call
and see the children.'

'Shall I send them to you when they wake?' said Violet, pleased that
they were at length mentioned.

'Thank you, my dear,' said Lady Martindale, as if much tempted. 'I am
afraid not, it might be too much for my aunt. And yet, I should have
liked to see the little girl.'

'She is such a beauty,' said Violet, much brightened. 'So exactly like
her papa.'

'I should like to see her! You have your carriage here, of course!'

'No; I walked.'

'Walked, my dear!' said Lady Martindale, dismayed.

Violet explained how short the distance was; but Lady Martindale seemed
not to know how to let her go, nor how to relinquish the thought of
seeing her grand-daughter. At last she said, as if it was a great
resolution, lowering her voice, 'I wonder if I could walk back with you,
just to see her.'

She took Violet into her room while she put on her bonnet, much as
if she feared being found out; and in passing the drawing-room door,
gathered her dress together so as to repress its rustling.

Wonder of wonders, to find Lady Martindale actually on foot by her side!
She went up at once to the nursery, where the children were asleep. At
Johnnie she looked little, but she hung over the cot where lay the
round plump baby face of little Helen. Though dreadfully afraid of being
missed, she seemed unable to turn away from the contemplation.

'My dear,' said she, in an agitated voice, as they left the nursery,
'you must not keep these children here in London. You must not sacrifice
their health. It is the first consideration. Don't let them stay in that
hot nursery! Pray do not.'

'We shall be in the country soon,' said Violet.

'Why not at once? Does expense prevent you? Tell me, my dear, what it
would cost. I always have plenty to spare. Would £100 do it? and you
need tell no one. I could give you £200,' said Lady Martindale, who
had as little idea of the value of money as any lady in her Majesty's
dominions. 'I must have that dear little girl in the country. Pray take
her to Ventnor. How much shall I give you?'

Much surprised, and more touched, Violet, however, could not accept the
offer. She felt that it would be casting a slight on Arthur; and she
assured Lady Martindale that she hoped soon to leave London, and how
impossible it was for her to move house without Arthur. It seemed to be
a great disappointment, and opened to Violet a fresh insight into Lady
Martindale's nature; that there was a warm current beneath, only stifled
by Mrs. Nesbit's power over a docile character. There seemed to be hopes
that they might love each other at last! In the midst there was a knock
at the door, and Lord Martindale entered, much surprised, as well as
pleased, to find his wife there, though put in some perplexity by her
instantly appealing to him to tell Violet that it was very bad for the
children to remain in town, and asking if it could not be managed to
send them to the sea-side. He made a grave but kind reply, that he was
sorry for it himself, but that Violet had assured him it would not be
for long; and Lady Martindale (who did not seem able to understand
why the lady of the house could not make everything give way to her
convenience)--now becoming alive to the fear of her aunt's missing her,
and taking to heart her stolen expedition--hurried him off with her at
once. It was not till after their departure that Violet discovered that
he had been trying to atone for deficiencies, by costly gifts to herself
and her children.

All this time Theodora had been in her own room, packing, as she said,
but proceeding slowly; for there was a severe struggle of feelings, and
she could not bear that it should be seen. In the pain of parting with
Violet, she shrank from her presence, as if she could not endure to
prolong the space for last words.

They came at last. Theodora sat ready for her journey, holding her
god-daughter in her arms, and looking from her to Violet, without a
word; then gazing round the room, which had been the scene of such
changes of her whole mind.

At last she spoke, and it was very different from what Violet expected,

'Violet, I will try to endure it; but if I cannot--if you hear of me as
doing what you will disapprove, will you refrain from giving me up, and
at least be sorry for me?'

After what Lord Martindale had said, Violet could guess at her meaning.
'Certainly, dear Theodora. You would not do it if it was wrong?'

'You know what I mean?'

'I think I do.'

'And you are not infinitely shocked?'

'No; for you would not do it unless you could rightly.'

'How do you mean?'

'Not if there was--anything remaining--of the former--'

'You are a good little thing, Violet,' said Theodora, trying to laugh;
'nearly as simple as your daughter. You will save her a great deal of
trouble, if you tame her while she is young.'

Then came a pause, lasting till Theodora thought she heard the carriage.

'You will forgive me if I accept him?'

'I shall know it is all right. I trust you, dear sister.'

'Tell me something to help me!'

Violet drew out Helen's cross. 'Be patient, be patient,' she said. 'The
worse things are, the more of the cross to be borne.'

Theodora held out her hand for it. 'I hope I am mending,' said she, as
she gave it back with a melancholy smile. 'It does not give me the
bad jealous thoughts I had when first I knew you possessed it. Tell me
something to make me patient.'

'May I tell you what came into my head after you were talking last night
of not seeing your way, and wanting to be led. I thought of a verse in
Isaiah.' Violet found the place and showed it.

'Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His
servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in
the name of the Lord and stay upon his God.'

'Thank you, Violet,' said Theodora, looking on to the next verse. 'I
will try to be patient; I will try not to kindle a fire for myself. But
if they tease me much, if I am very weary--'

The summons cut her short--Lord Martindale ran up to hasten her; a
fervent embrace--she was gone!

And Violet, with worn-out strength and spirits, remained to find how
desolate she was--left behind in dreary summer London. There was nothing
for it but to be as foolish as in old times, to lie down on the sofa and
cry herself to sleep. She was a poor creature, after all, and awoke to
weariness and headache, but to no repining; for she had attained to
a spirit of thankfulness and content. She lay dreamily, figuring
to herself Arthur enjoying himself on the moors and mountains, till
Helvellyn's own purple cap came to brighten her dreams.



CHAPTER 22


     Sigh no more, lady, lady, sigh no more,
     Men were deceivers ever,
     One foot on shore and one on land,
     To one thing constant never.

     --Percy's Reliques


'So, you say Miss Martindale has left town?'

'Yes; Violet writes me that the family passed through London, and took
her to the continent on Tuesday.'

'Then let Annette know she is to be ready to come with me to town on
Monday. We shall see if it is the young lady's doing, or whether Mrs.
Martindale intends to give herself airs with her father and sister.'

'Poor dear,' sighed the good care-worn mother, 'I do long to hear of
her; but may I not write first? I should not like to get the dear child
into trouble.'

'On no account write, or we shall have some excuse about
pre-engagements. I shall take Annette at once, and see with my own eyes.
Martindale can never have the face to hinder her from asking her own
sister to stay in the house, when once she is there.'

'I hope he is kind to her!' said Mrs. Moss. 'I long to hear whether she
is quite recovered; and she says so little of herself. She will be glad
to see her sister, and yet, one does not like to seem pushing.'

'Never you mind,' said the acute, sharp-faced attorney, putting her
aside as if she was presuming beyond her sphere; 'only you get Annette
ready. Since we found such a match for Violet, she is bound to help off
her sisters; and as to Annette, a jaunt is just what is wanting to
drive that black coat out of her head. I wish he had never come near the
place. The girl might have had the Irish captain, if she had not been
running after him and his school. Tell her to be ready on Monday.'

Meek Mrs. Moss never dared to question her husband's decision; and she
had suffered too much anxiety on her daughter's account, not to rejoice
in the prospect of a trustworthy report, for Violet's letters were
chiefly descriptions of her children.

There was much soreness in the Moss family respecting Violet, and two
opinions with regard to her; some inclining to believe her a fine lady,
willing to discard her kindred; others thinking her not a free agent,
but tyrannized over by Miss Martindale, and neglected by her husband.
So Annette, who had pined and drooped under the loss of the twin-like
companionship of her sister, was sent out as on an adventure, in much
trepidation and mysterious dread of Captain Martindale, by no means
consistent with the easy good nature of his days of courtship. And thus
her first letter was written and received with such feelings as attend
that of an explorer of a new country.


'Cadogan-place, August 19th.

'Well, dearest mamma, I am writing from Violet's house. Yes, she is her
own sweet self, our precious flower still--nobody must think anything
else--she is not changed one bit, except that she is terribly pale and
thin; but she calls herself quite well, and says that if I had seen
her when Johnny was five weeks old, I should give her credit now. But
Matilda will say I cannot write a comprehensible letter, so I will begin
regularly.

'We slept at Uncle Christopher's, and after an early breakfast walked
here. The man did not think his mistress could see any one, but when he
heard who we were, showed us to the drawing-room, and there was Violet,
quite alone, breakfasting by herself, for he is gone to Scotland! Poor
dear girl! When she saw us, she gave a little scream, and flew up to me,
clinging round my neck, and sobbing as she did on her wedding-day; it
was as if the two years were nothing. However, in a moment, she composed
herself, and said it was silly, but there was still a sob in her throat,
and she was shy and constrained as she used to be with papa, in old
times. She says she would not tell us Captain Martindale was going to
Scotland, because of not tantalizing us with his passing so near, but I
fear it is that she will not confess how often she is left alone. I am
so glad we are come, now he is out of the way. She has asked us to stay
while papa has to be in London, and I shall, but papa finds it more
convenient to sleep at Uncle Christopher's. If we are not here oftener,
I am sure it is no fault of hers; and her husband cannot be displeased
with this little visit--at least he ought not. She sent for the
children; the babe was asleep, but Johnnie came, and oh! how curious it
seemed to hear the voice calling her mamma, and see the little creature
holding out his arms to go to her. I felt, indeed, how long we have been
apart--it was our own Violet, and yet some one else. You would have been
amused to see how altered she was by having her son in her arms; how the
little morsel seemed to give her confidence, and the shy stiffness went
away, and she looked so proud and fond, and smiled and spoke with ease.
There was the dear little fair fellow standing on her lap, leaning
against her shoulder, with his arm round her neck, hiding his face when
I looked at him too much. She said he was puzzled not to see the aunt
he knew, and how I grudged his knowing any aunt better than me! They
do look lovely together, and so much alike; but I could cry to see them
both so white and wan; not a shade of her pretty colour on her cheek,
and the little darling so very tiny and weak, though he is as clever as
possible, and understands all you say to him. If I had but got them both
in our fresh north countree!

'Papa could not stay, and as soon as he was gone, she set her boy down
on the sofa, and threw her arms round my neck, and we were like wild
things--we kissed, and screamed, and laughed, and cried, till poor
Johnnie was quite frightened. "Now, Annette, come and see," said Violet,
and took me up-stairs to the nursery, and there half-waking, under
the archway of her cradle, lay, like a little queen, that beautiful
creature, Helen, opening her black eyes just as we came up, and moving
her round arms. How I longed for mamma to see her, and to see Violet's
perfect look of happiness as she lifted her out and said, "Now, is not
she worth seeing?" and then Sarah came up. Violet says Sarah threatened
to go away, when there were two to be always racketing, but when it came
to the point, could not leave Johnnie, whom she keeps in great order,
and treats with much ceremony, always calling him Master John. She
believes Sarah disapproves of poor Helen altogether, as an intruder upon
Johnnie's comfort; and she is quite savage at admiration of her, as if
it was a slight on him; but she has turned out an admirable nurse, in
her own queer way. Such a morning as we have had, chattering so fast!
all about you all. I am sure she loves us as much as ever, and I do not
believe she is unhappy. She talks of her husband as if they were happy,
and he has given her such quantities of pretty things, and I hear of so
much that seems as if she was on comfortable terms with them all. I am
satisfied about her, pray be so too, dear mamma.

'I am writing while waiting for her to drive to fetch my things
from Uncle Christopher's--She tells me to finish without minding her
visitor--I was interrupted by Sarah's bringing Johnnie down, and he was
very good with me, but presently a gentleman was announced, without
my catching his name. I feared Johnnie would cry, but he sprang with
delight, and the stranger saying, "Ha! master, you recollect me?" took
him in his arms. I said my sister would come directly, and he gave a
good-natured nod, and muttered half to himself, "Oh! another of the
genus Viola. I am glad of it." I cannot make him out; he must be a
relation, or one of the other officers. Violet did not know he was
there, and came in with the baby in her arms; he stepped towards her,
saying, "So you have set up another! Man or woman?" and then asked if
she was another flower. Violet coloured, as she spoke low, and said,
"Her name is Helen." I must ask Violet the meaning, for he looked
gravely pleased, and answered gratefully, "That is very good of you." "I
hope she will deserve it," Violet said, and was introducing me, but he
said Johnnie had done him that honour. He has been talking of Captain
Martindale (calling him Arthur), and telling curious things he has
seen in Ireland. He is very amusing, bluff, and odd, but as if he was
a distinguished person. Now I see that Violet is altered, and grown
older--he seems to have such respect for, and confidence in her; and she
so womanly and self-possessed, entering into his clever talk as Matilda
would, yet in the simple way she always had. You would be proud to see
her now--her manners must be perfection, I should think; so graceful and
dignified, so engaging and quiet. I wish Louisa had seen her. What are
they talking of now?

'Violet.--How did you find Pallas Athene?

'Unknown.--Alas, poor Pallas! With the judgment of the cockney who
buttered his horse's hay, the ragged boy skinned her mice and plucked
her sparrows in my absence. The consequence was her untimely end. I was
met by my landlady with many a melancholy "Ah, sir!" and actually the
good creature had had her stuffed.

'Violet.--Poor Pallas! then the poor boy has lost his employment?

'Unknown.--Happily, his honesty and his grief so worked upon my
landlady, that she has taken him as an errand boy. So that, in fact,
Minerva may be considered to have been the making of his fortune.

'I leave this for a riddle for the sisters. I am longing to ask Violet
who this gentleman is who seems to know all the negroes so well.'
(Scratched out.) 'What nonsense I have written! I was listening to some
letters they were reading from the Mr. Martindale in the West Indies.
Violet tells me to finish with her dearest love.

'Your most affectionate,

'A. Moss.


'P.S.--He will come to-morrow to take us to a private view of the Royal
Academy, before the pictures are removed.'


The same post carried a letter from Violet to her husband, communicating
the arrival of her guests, and telling him she knew that he could not
wish her not to have Annette with her for these few days, and that it
did make her very happy.

Having done this, she dismissed doubts, and, with a clear conscience,
gave herself up to the enjoyment of her sister's visit, each minute
of which seemed of diamond worth. Perhaps the delights were the more
intense from compression; but it was a precious reprieve when Arthur's
answer came, rejoicing at Violet's having a companion, and hoping that
she would keep her till his return, which he should not scruple to
defer, since she was so well provided for. He had just been deliberating
whether he could accept an invitation to the Highlands.

If the wife was less charmed than her sister, she knew that, under any
circumstances, she would have had to consent, after the compliment had
been paid of asking whether she could spare him; and it was compensation
enough that he should have voluntarily extended her sister's visit.

Annette, formerly the leader of her younger sister, was often pleasantly
surprised to find her little Violet become like her elder, and that
not only from situation, but in mind. With face and figure resembling
Violet's, but of a less uncommon order, without the beauteous complexion
and the natural grace, now enhanced by living in the best society,
Annette was a very nice-looking, lady-like girl, of the same refined
tone of mind and manners; and having had a longer space of young
ladyhood, she had more cultivation in accomplishments and book
knowledge, her good taste saving her from being spoilt, even by her
acquiescence in Matilda's superiority. She saw, however, that Violet
had more practical reflection, and though in many points simple and
youthful, was more of a woman than herself; and it was with that sweet,
innocent feeling, which ought not to bear the same name as pride, that
she exulted in the superiority of her beloved sister. Selfish jealousies
or petty vanities were far from her; it was like a romance to hear
Violet describe the splendours of Martindale, or the gaieties of
London; and laugh over the confession of the little perplexities as to
proprieties, and the mistakes and surprises, which she trusted she had
not betrayed.

Still Violet missed the power of fully reciprocating her sister's
confidence. Annette laid open every home interest and thought, but
Violet had no right to disclose the subjects that had of late engrossed
her, and at every turn found a separation, something on which she must
not be communicative.

The view of the Exhibition was happily performed under Mr.
Fotheringham's escort. Annette, thanks to Lord St. Erme's gallery, had
good taste in pictures; she drew well, and understood art better than
her sister, who rejoiced in bringing out her knowledge, and hearing her
converse with Percy. They had the rooms to themselves, and Annette was
anxious to carry away the outline of one or two noted pictures. While
she was sketching, Percy wandered to another part of the room, and stood
fixedly before a picture. Violet came to see what he was looking at.
It was a fine one by Landseer of a tiger submitting to the hand of the
keeper, with cat-like complacency, but the glare of the eye and curl of
the tail manifesting that its gentleness was temporary.

'It may be the grander animal,' muttered he; 'but less satisfactory for
domestic purposes.'

'What did you say?' asked Violet, thinking it addressed to her.

'That is a presumptuous man,' he said, pointing to the keeper. 'If he
trusts in the creature's affection, some day he will find his mistake.'

He flung himself round, as if he had done with the subject, and his tone
startled Violet, and showed her that more was meant than met the ear.
She longed to tell him that the creature was taming itself, but she
did not dare, and he went back to talk to Annette, till it ended in his
promising to come to-morrow, to take them to the Ellesmere gallery.

'That's the right style of woman,' soliloquized Percy, as he saw the
carriage drive off. 'Gentleness, meekness, and a dash of good sense, is
the recipe for a rational female--otherwise she is a blunder of nature.
The same stamp as her sister, I see; nothing wanting, but air and the
beauty, which, luckily for Arthur, served for his bait.'

When he came, according to appointment, Annette was in the drawing-room,
unable to desist from touching and retouching her copy of her nephew's
likeness, though Violet had long ago warned her to put it away, and to
follow her up to dress.

He carried the portrait to the light. 'M. Piper,' he read. 'That little
woman! That mouth is in better drawing than I could have thought her
guilty of.'

'Oh! those are Lord St. Erme's touches,' said unconscious Annette.
'He met Miss Martindale taking it to be framed, and he improved it
wonderfully. He certainly understood the little face, for he even wrote
verses on it.'

Here Violet entered, and Annette had to hurry away for her bonnet. Percy
stood looking at the drawing.

'So, Johnnie has a new admirer,' he said. Violet was sorry that he
should hear of this; but she laughed, and tried to make light of it.

'I hear he is in Germany.'

'Yes; with his sister and their aunt.'

'Well,' said Percy, 'it may do. There will be no collision of will, and
while there is one to submit, there is peace. A tigress can be generous
to a puppy dog.'

'But, indeed, I do not think it likely.'

'If she is torturing him, that is worse.'

Violet raised her eyes pleadingly, and said, in a low, mournful tone: 'I
do not like to hear you speak so bitterly.'

'No,' he said, 'it is not bitterness. That is over. I am thankful to
have broken loose, and to be able to look back on it calmly, as a past
delusion. Great qualities ill regulated are fearful things; and though
I believe trials will in time teach her to bring her religious principle
to bear on her faults, I see that it was an egregious error to think
that she could be led.'

He spoke quietly, but Violet could not divest herself of the impression
that there was more acute personal feeling than he was aware of. In the
Ellesmere gallery, he led them to that little picture of Paul Potter's,
where the pollard willows stand up against the sunset sky, the evening
sunshine gleaming on their trunks, upon the grass, and gilding the backs
of the cows, while the placid old couple look on at the milking, the
hooded lady shading her face with her fan.

'There's my notion of felicity,' said he.

'Rather a Dutch notion,' said Violet.

'Don't despise the Dutch,' said Percy. 'Depend upon it, that respectable
retired burgomaster and his vrow never had words, as we Brogden folk
say.'

'I think you would find that very stupid,' said Violet.

'Not I,' said Percy. 'When I want to pick a quarrel, I can get it
abroad.'

'When?' said Annette, smiling.

'Yes, I like to keep my teeth and claws sharpened,' said Percy; but one
wants repose at home. That burgomaster is my model.'

He continued to find sights for them, showing Violet more lions of
London than had ever come in her way. One day, when a thunder-storm
hindered their going to the Zoological Gardens, he stayed the whole
afternoon reading to them. In the midst, Violet thought of last
September's storm; she looked up--an idea flashed upon her!

'How delightful! How well they suit! I shall have my Annette close to
me! They can marry at once! My father will be satisfied. How happy they
will be! It will be the repose he wants. Dear Annette, what will she not
be under his training!' The joyous impulse was to keep him to dinner;
but she had scruples about inviting him in Arthur's absence, and
therefore only threw double warmth into her farewells. Her spirits were
up to nonsense pitch, and she talked and laughed all the evening with
such merriment as Annette had hardly ever known in her.

But when she was alone, and looked her joy in the face, she was amazed
to find how she had been forgetting Theodora, whose affairs had lately
been uppermost. Annette might be worth a hundred Theodoras: but that did
not alter right and justice.

If Theodora was accepting the Earl! Violet knew he was at Baden; he
could not yet have been dismissed: and the sister-in-law had proved
a disappointing correspondent, her nature being almost as averse to
letter-writing as was Arthur's. Let her marry him, and all would be
well. The question, however, really lay between Percy and Annette
themselves; and Violet thought he had made a wise discovery in
preferring her gentle, yielding sister to the former lady of his choice.
Matters might take their course; Arthur would be gratified by this
testimony to her family's perfections; John would rejoice in whatever
was for his friend's real happiness; to herself, in every way, it would
be complete felicity.

Still she hesitated. She had heard of pique driving persons to make
a fresh choice, when a former attachment appeared obliterated by
indignation, only to revive too late, and to be the misery of all
parties. Percy's late words, harsh when he fancied them indifferent,
made her doubtful whether it might not be so in his case. In his sound
principle she had entire confidence, but he might be in error as to the
actual state of his sentiments; and she knew that she should dread, for
the peace of mind of all parties, his first meeting, as her sister's
husband, with either Miss Martindale, or the Countess of St. Erme.

She decided that Annette ought to hear the whole, so as to act with her
eyes open. If she had been engaged, she should never have heard what
was past, but she should not encourage him while ignorant of the
circumstances, and, these known, Violet had more reliance on her
judgment than on her own. The breach of confidence being thus justified,
Violet resolved, and as they sat together late in the evening, found
an opportunity of beginning the subject. 'We used to expect a closer
connection with him, or I should never have learnt to call him Percy--'

'You told me about poor Mr. Martindale.'

'Yes, but this was to have been a live connection. He was engaged to
Theodora.'

Violet was satisfied that the responding interjection was more surprised
and curious than disappointed. She related the main features of the
story, much to Annette's indignation.

'Why, Violet, you speak as if you were fond of her!'

'That I am. If you knew how noble and how tender she can be! So generous
when most offended! Oh! no one can know her without a sort of admiring
love and pity.'

'I do not understand. To me she seems inexcusable.'

'No, no, indeed, Annette! She has had more excuse than almost any one.
It makes one grieve for her to see how the worse nature seems to have
been allowed to grow beyond her power, and how it is like something
rending her, when right and wrong struggle together for the mastery.'

So many questions ensued, that Violet found her partial disclosure had
rendered the curtain over Martindale affairs far less impenetrable; but
she had spoken no sooner than was needful, for the very next morning's
post brought an envelope, containing a letter for Miss Moss, and a few
lines addressed to herself:--


'My Dear Mrs. Martindale,--Trust me. I have discovered my error, and
have profited by my lesson. Will you give the enclosed to your sister? I
know you will act as kindly as ever by

'Yours, &c.,

'A. P. F.'


So soon! Violet had not been prepared for this. She gasped with wonder
and suspense, as she laid the letter before the place where Annette had
been sitting, and returned to her seat as a spectator, though far from
a calm one: that warmhearted note had made her wishes his earnest
partisans, and all her pulses throbbed with the desire that Annette
might decide in favour of him; but she thought it wrong to try to
influence her, and held her peace, though her heart leapt into her mouth
at her sister's exclamation on seeing the letter, and her cheeks glowed
when the flush darted into Annette's.

She glanced in a sort of fright over the letter, then looked for help to
Violet, and held it to her. 'Oh, Violet! do you know?'

'Yes, I have a note myself. My darling Annette!'

Annette threw herself down by her side, and sat on the floor, studying
her face while she read the note, which thus commenced:--


'My Dear Miss Moss,--You will say that our acquaintance is too short to
warrant my thus addressing you; but your sister knows me as well as most
people; and in knowing your sister, and seeing your resemblance to her,
I know you. If AM=VM, and VM=Wordsworth's "spirit yet a woman too," then
AM=the same.'

From this curious opening he proceeded to a more ordinary and very
earnest entreaty for her consent to his applying to her father.

'Well, Violet!'

'How exactly like him!'

'How highly he does esteem you!' said Annette; 'but if he thinks me like
you he would find his mistake. After what you told me--so soon! Oh, I
wish it had not happened! Violet, do tell me what to do.'

'I don't think any one can advise in a matter like this.'

'Oh! don't say so, Violet; you know the people, and I don't. Pray say
something.'

'He is a most excellent, admirable person,' said Violet, in an unmeaning
tone.

'Yes, I know that, but--'

'Really, I think nothing but your own feeling should decide.'

'Ah! you did not hesitate when you were asked!' said Annette, sighing;
and Violet at once blushed, smiled, and sighed, as she spoke her quick
conscious 'No, no!'

'Such a romance cannot always be expected,' said Annette, a little
mournfully. 'He is everything estimable, in spite of his oddness. But
then, this affair--so recent! Violet' (impatiently), 'what DO you think?
what do you wish?'

'What I wish? To have my own Annette near me. For two such people to
belong to each other! Don't you know what I like? But the question is
what you wish.'

'Yes!' sighed Annette.

'I don't think you wish it much,' said Violet, trying to get a view of
her face.

'I don't know whether I ought to make up my mind. I am not much inclined
to anything. But I dare say it would turn out well. I do like him very
much. But Miss Martindale! Now, Violet, will you not tell me what you
think? Take pity on me.'

'Annette,' said Violet, not without effort, 'I see you have not the
feeling that would make you unhappy in giving him up, so I may speak
freely. I am afraid of it. I cannot be certain that he is so completely
cured of his old attachment as he supposes himself to be while the anger
is fresh. He is as good as possible--quite sincere, and would never
willingly pain you, whatever he may feel. But his affection for Theodora
was of long standing; and without any one's fault there might be worries
and vexations--'

'Yes, yes,' said Annette, in a voice that reassured her.

'I think it wiser not, and perhaps more honourable to Theodora. Hitherto
I have been wishing that it might yet be made up again. If you had been
disposed that way, I should have been anxious,--as you seem doubtful, I
fancy it would be safer--'

'O, Violet, I am so glad! It is a great relief to me.'

'But, you know, it is only I that say so.'

'Better you than a hundred! My doubt was this. You know there are a
great many of us, and papa wants to see us well married. He has talked
more about it since you went. Now this is not romantic; but I was
considering whether, for the sake of the rest, I ought not to try
whether I could like him. But what you have said sets me quite at ease
in refusing him.'

'Poor Percy!' said Violet. 'I am afraid he will be vexed.'

'And it is a great compliment, though that is to you. He takes me on
trust from you.'

'And he took me on trust from John,' said Violet. 'I wish he had known
you before Theodora.'

'I only hope papa will never hear of it,' said Annette, shrinking. 'How
fortunate that he was not here. I shall tell no one at home.'

'If it had not been for Theodora,' sighed Violet, 'I know nothing that
would have been more delightful. It was too charming to come true!'

'Violet,' said Annette, with her face averted, 'don't be sorry, for I
could not have been glad of it now; though for their sakes I might have
tried to work myself into the feeling. I cannot help telling you, though
you will think it more wrong in me, for I shall never see HIM again, and
he never said anything.'

'I know whom you mean,' whispered Violet, rightly divining it was Mr.
Fanshawe.

'Don't call it anything,' said Annette, with her head drooping. 'I would
not have told even you, but to console you about this. Nothing ever
passed, and I was silly to dwell on the little things they laughed at me
about, but I cannot help thinking that if he had seen any prospect--'

'I wonder if John could--' Violet checked herself.

'O, don't say anything about it!' cried Annette, frightened. 'It may
be only my foolish fancy--but I cannot get it out of my mind. You see
I have no one to talk over things with now you are gone. I have lost my
pair in you, so I am solitary among them, and perhaps that has made me
think of it the more.'

'Dearest! But still I think you ought to try to draw away your mind from
it.'

'You do not think I ought to try to like Mr. Fotheringham?'

'Indeed, under present circumstances, I could not wish that.'

'But do you think me very wrong for considering whether I could? I hope
not, dear Violet,' said Annette, who shared her sister's scrupulous,
self-distrustful character, and had not, like her, been taught, by stern
necessity, to judge for herself.

'No, indeed,' said Violet; 'but, since that is settled, he ought to know
it at once, and not to be kept in suspense.'

It was not until after much affectionate exhortation that Violet could
rouse her sister from talking rather piteously over the perplexity
it would have been if his case or hers had been otherwise, arguing
to excuse herself in her own eyes for the notion of the marriage for
expediency, and describing the displeasure that the knowledge of the
rejection would produce at home. It was the first time she had had to
act for herself, and either she could not resolve to begin, or liked
to feel its importance. Perhaps she was right in saying that Mr.
Fotheringham would be disappointed if he supposed her Violet's equal,
for though alike in lowliness, amiability, and good sense, she had not
the same energy and decision.

At last the letter was begun, in the style of Matilda and the "Polite
Letter Writer" combined, though the meek-spirited Annette peeped through
in the connecting links of the set phrases. Violet, who was appealed to
at every stage, would fain have substituted the simple words in which
Annette spoke her meaning; but her sister was shocked. Such ordinary
language did not befit the dignity of the occasion nor Matilda's pupil;
and Violet, as much overruled as ever by respect for her elder sisters,
thought it an admirable composition.

'May I see yours?' asked Annette, resting before making her fair copy.

'And welcome, but it is not worthy of yours.'


'My Dear Mr. Fotheringham,--I wish with all my heart it could be--I am
very sorry it must not. Pray say nothing to my father: it would only
put her to needless pain. I beg your pardon for not being able to do
anything for you. You know how glad I should have been if I had not been
obliged to perceive that it would not be really right or kind to either.
Only do let me thank you for liking my dear sister, and forgive us if
you are grieved. I am very, very sorry.

'Yours, very sincerely,

'V. H. MARTINDALE.'


Annette raised her eyes in surprise. 'Ah!' said Violet, 'it is of no
use for me to try to write like Matilda. I did once, but I am not clever
enough; it looked so silly and affected, that I have been ashamed to
remember it ever since. I must write in the only way I can.'

Her sister wanted to tear up her letter as a piece of affectation,
but this she would not allow. It made her feel despairing to think
of spending two hours more over it, and she hoped that she would be
satisfied with the argument that the familiar style employed by Mrs.
Martindale towards an old friend might not be suited to Annette Moss
when rejecting his suit.

Each sentence underwent a revision, till Violet, growing as impatient
as was in her nature, told her at last that he would think more of the
substance than of the form.

Next, she had to contend against Annette's longing to flee home at once,
by Theodora's own saying, 'London was wide enough for both;' and more
effectually by suggesting that a sudden departure would be the best
means of proclaiming the adventure. It was true enough that Mr.
Fotheringham was not likely to molest her. No more was heard of him
till, two days after, the owl's provider brought a parcel with a
message, that Mr. Fotheringham had given up his lodging and was going to
Paris. It contained some books and papers of John's, poor little Pallas
Athene herself, stuffed, and directed to Master J. Martindale, and a
book in which, under his sister's name, he had written that of little
Helen. Violet knew he had intended making some residence at Paris, to be
near the public libraries, and she understood this as a kind, forgiving
farewell. She could understand his mortification, that he, after casting
off the magnificent Miss Martindale, should be rejected by this little
humble country girl; and she could not help thinking herself ungrateful,
so that the owl, which she kept in the drawing-room, as the object
of Johnnie's tender strokings, always seemed to have a reproachful
expression in its round glass eyes.

The hope of seeing the expediency of her decision waxed fainter, when
she received the unexpected honour of a letter from Lord Martindale,
who, writing to intrust her with some commission for John, added some
news. 'I have had the great pleasure of meeting with my cousin,
Hugh Martindale,' he said; 'who, since the death of his wife, has so
overworked himself in his large town parish, as to injure his eyesight,
and has been ordered abroad for his health. It does not appear that he
will ever be fit to return to his work at Fieldingsby, and I am in hopes
of effecting an exchange which may fix him at Brogden in the stead of
Mr. Wingfield. When you are of my age, you will understand the pleasure
I have in returning to old times. Theodora has likewise been much with
him, and I trust may be benefited by his advice. At present she has not
made up her mind to give any definite answer to Lord St. Erme, and
since I believe she hesitates from conscientious motives, I am the less
inclined to press her, as I think the result will be in his favour.
I find him improve on acquaintance. I am fully satisfied with his
principles and temper, he has extensive information, and might easily
become a valuable member of society. His sister, Lady Lucy, spends much
of her time with us, and appears to be an amiable pleasing girl.'

Lord Martindale evidently wished it to be forgotten that he had called
Lord St. Erme absurd-looking.

Violet sighed, and tried to counterbalance her regrets by hopes that
John would have it in his power to patronize his chaplain. However,
these second-hand cares did not hinder her from thriving and prospering
so that she triumphed in the hopes of confuting the threat that she
would not recover in London, and she gloried in the looks with which she
should meet Arthur. A dozen times a day she told her little ones that
papa was coming home, till Johnnie learnt to repeat it; and then she
listened in ecstasy as the news took a fresh charm from his lips.

She went to meet Arthur at the station; but instead of complimenting
her on the renewed carnation of her cheeks, as perhaps, in her pretty
conjugal vanity, she had expected, when she had taken such pains with
her pink ribbons, he gazed straight before him, and presently said,
abruptly, 'Is your sister here?'

Had she been displeasing him the whole time? She only breathed a faint
'Yes.'

'Is Fotheringham in town?'

'No; he is gone to Paris.'

'Then it is humbug, as I thought. I met that precious Miss Gardner in
the train going to Worthbourne, and she would have me believe you were
getting up a match between those two! A fine story,--not a year since
he proposed to Theodora! There was she congratulating me on the
satisfaction it must be to Mrs. Martindale!'

'So she wanted to make mischief between us,' said Violet, much hurt.

'Mischief is meat and drink to her. But not a jot did I believe, I tell
you, silly child. You are not wasting tears on that crocodile tongue!
I had a mind to tell her to her face that Percy is made of different
stuff; and for my own Violet blossom--'

The tears dropped bright and happy. 'Though, dear Arthur, it was true,
as far as Percy was concerned. Annette has had to refuse him.'

'A wise girl!' exclaimed Arthur, in indignant surprise. 'But Percy! I
could not have believed it. Why would she not have him?'

'Chiefly from thinking it not right to accept him. I hope I did not do
wrong in telling her all about it. I thought it only fair, and she did
not care enough for him to make the refusal an effort.'

'I should think not! The fickle dog. To go and take up with--No
disrespect to Annette,--but after Theodora! So soon, too!'

'I fancied it more pique than inconstancy. There is so much anger about
him that I suspect there is more affection than he knows.'

'And you think that mends matters,' said Arthur, laughing. 'Well, I hope
Theodora will marry St. Erme at once, so as to serve him right. I am
sure she will if she hears of this.'

'And I am afraid Miss Gardner will write to her.'

'That she will, with nice histories of you and me and Annette. And she
will tell them at Worthbourne till old Sir Antony disinherits Percy. No
more than he deserves!'

She might well be glad of the part she had taken, now that she found
her husband so much more alive to the affront to his sister than she
had expected. He was in high good-humour, and talked merrily of his
expedition, proceeding even to such a stretch of solicitude as to say he
supposed 'the brats were all right, as he had heard nothing of them.'

His greeting to Annette was warm and cordial, he complimented her on
her sister's recovered looks, and tried to extort a declaration that
she looked just like what she had been when he took her from Wrangerton.
Annette peeped out under her eyelashes, smiled, and shook her head
timidly.

'Ha! What's your treason, Miss Annette? Does not she look as well as
ever?'

'Better, in some ways,' said Annette, looking at Violet, glowing and
smiling, with her husband's hand on her shoulder.

'And what in others!'

'I like to look at her better than ever, but I cannot say she is not
paler and thinner.'

'Yes, and sober and matronly. That I am!' said Violet, drawing herself
up. 'I must stand on my dignity now I have two children. Don't I look
old and wise, Annette?'

'Not a bit now,' said Annette.

There was an end of Annette's doubt and dread of her grand
brother-in-law. He talked and laughed, took her on pleasant expeditions,
and made much of her with all his ready good-nature, till her heart was
quite won. She did not leave them till just as they were departing for
Windsor, and as she looked back from her railway carriage, at Violet and
her husband, arm-in-arm, she sighed a sigh on her own account, repented
of as soon as heaved, as she contrasted her own unsatisfactory home with
their happiness.

But the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and Annette little guessed
at the grief that lurked in the secret springs of her sister's joy,
increasing with her onward growth in the spirit that brought her sure
trust and peace. It was the want of fellowship with her husband, in her
true and hidden life. She could not seek counsel or comfort from above,
she could not offer prayer or thanksgiving, she could not join in the
highest Feast, without finding herself left alone, in a region whither
he would not follow. It was a weariness to him. In the spring she had
had hopes. At Easter, an imploring face, and timid, 'Won't you come?'
had made him smile, and say he was not so good as she, then sigh, and
half promise, 'Next time, when he had considered.' But next time he had
had no leisure for thinking; she should do as she liked with him when
they got into the country. And since that, some influence that she could
not trace seemed, as she knew by the intuition of her heart, rather than
the acknowledgment of her mind, to have turned him away; the distaste
and indifference were more evident, and he never gave her an opening for
leading to any serious subject. It was this that gave pain even to her
prayers, and added an acuter pang to every secret anxiety.

'When his children are older, and he feels that they look up to him'
thought Violet, hopefully, and in the meantime she prayed.



CHAPTER 23


     Not so, bold knight, no deed of thine
      Can ever win my hand;
     That hope, poor youth, thou must resign,
      For barriers 'twixt us stand.
     Yet what doth part us I will now reveal,
      Nor, noblest one, from thee the truth conceal.

     --FOUQUE


Arthur guessed rightly. Miss Gardner's first leisure was spent in
writing her tidings to Theodora.

It was on a strange state of mind that they fell. Theodora had gone
abroad, softened and conscious of her faults, but her indomitable will
boiling up at each attempt to conquer them; knowing that her fate hung
in the balance, but helpless in the power of her own pride and temper.
Miserable, and expecting to be more wretched, her outward demeanour,
no longer checked by Violet, was more than ever harsh, capricious, and
undutiful, especially under her present deprivation of the occupations
that had hitherto been channels of kindly feeling.

She was less patient than formerly with her aunt, who was in truth more
trying. Quickly gathering the state of affairs with regard to Lord St.
Erme, she was very angry with Lord Martindale for not having consulted
her, and at the same time caressed her great-niece beyond endurance.
Besides, it was unbearable to hear sweet Violet scoffed at. Theodora
spoke hastily in her defence; was laughed at for having been gained
over; replied vehemently, and then repented of losing temper with one
so aged and infirm. Her attention to Mrs. Nesbit had been one of her
grounds of self-complacency; but this had now failed her--distance was
the only means of keeping the peace and Theodora left her chiefly to her
companion, Mrs. Garth, a hard-looking, military dame, who seemed so well
able to take care of herself, that there was none of the compassion that
had caused Theodora to relieve poor little Miss Piper.

It was not long before Lord St. Erme persuaded his aunt that her tour
in Germany would not be complete without a visit to Baden-Baden. Mrs.
Delaval and Lady Martindale immediately began to be as intimate as was
possible with the latter. Theodora intended to stand aloof, and to be
guarded and scornful; but Lady Lucy was such an engaging, affectionate,
honest-hearted little thing, regarding Miss Martindale with all her
brother's enthusiastic devotion, and so grateful for the slightest
notice, that it really was impossible to treat her with the requisite
cold dignity.

And to admit Lady Lucy to her friendship was much the same thing as
admitting the brother. 'St. Erme' was the one engrossing subject of the
young girl's thoughts and discourse, and it was soon plain that not a
conversation passed but was reported to him. If Theodora expressed an
opinion, 'St. Erme's' remarks on it were certain to be brought to her
the next day; if a liking or a wish, he was instantly taking measures
for its gratification. She might try to keep him at a distance,
but where was the use of it when, if his moustached self was safely
poetizing in the Black Forest, his double in blue muslin was ever at her
elbow?

By and by it was no longer a moustached self. The ornaments were shaved
off, and she heartily wished them on again. What could be said when Lucy
timidly begged to know how she liked the change in St. Erme's face, and
whether she shared her regrets for his dear little moustache? Alas! such
a sacrifice gave him a claim, and she felt as if each departed hair was
a mesh in the net to ensnare her liberty.

And what could she say when Lucy WOULD talk over his poems, and try to
obtain her sympathy in the matter of that cruel review which had cut
the poor little sister to the heart? It had been so sore a subject in
London, that she could not then bear to speak of it, and now, treating
it like a personal attack on his character, she told how 'beautifully
St. Erme bore it,' and wanted Miss Martindale to say how unjust
and shocking it was. Yet Miss Martindale actually, with a look
incomprehensible to poor Lucy, declared that there was a great deal of
truth in it.

However, in process of time, Lucy came back reporting that her brother
thought so too, and that he had gathered many useful hints from it; but
that he did not mean to attend to poetry so much, he thought it time
to begin practical life; and she eagerly related his schemes for being
useful and distinguishing himself.

It was not easy to help replying and commenting on, or laughing at,
plans which showed complete ignorance of English life, and then Theodora
found herself drawn into discussions with Lord St. Erme himself, who
took her suggestions, and built his projects with a reference to her, as
his understood directress and assistant; till she grew quite frightened
at what she had let him take for granted, and treated him with a fresh
fit of coldness and indifference, soon thawed by his sister. She could
not make up her mind to the humiliating confession by which alone she
could have dismissed him, and the dominion she should enjoy with him
appeared more and more tempting as she learnt to know him better, and
viewed him as a means of escape from her present life. If it had not
been for recollections of Violet, she would have precipitated the step,
in order to end her suspense, but that perfect trust that she would not
accept him unless she could do so with a clear conscience always held
her back.

It was at this juncture that, one day when walking with her father,
there was a sudden stop at the sight of another elderly gentleman. 'Ha!
Hugh!' 'What, you here, Martindale!' were mutually exclaimed, there
was an ardent shaking of hands, and she found herself introduced to a
cousin, whom she had not seen since she was a child.

He and her father had been like brothers in their boyhood, but the
lines they had since taken had diverged far and wide. The hard-working
clergyman had found himself out of his element in visits to Martindale,
had discontinued them, and almost even his correspondence, so that Lord
Martindale had heard nothing of his cousin since his wife's death, two
years ago, till now, when he met him on the promenade at Baden, sent
abroad to recruit his worn-out health and eyesight.

All have either felt or beheld, how two such relations, on the verge of
old age, meet and refresh themselves with looking back, beyond the tract
of middle life, to the days shared together in youth! Lord Martindale
had not looked so bright, nor talked and laughed so much for years,
as over his boyish reminiscences, and his wanderings up and down the
promenade with his cousin seemed as if nothing could terminate them.

Clergymen and school-loving young ladies have a natural affinity,
and Theodora found a refuge from the Delavals and an opportunity for
usefulness. She offered to read to Cousin Hugh, she talked over parish
matters, and after relieving her mind with a conversation on the
question of how much the march of intellect ought to penetrate into
country schools, it was wonderful how much more equable and comfortable
she became. The return to the true bent of her nature softened her on
every side; and without the least attempt to show off, she was so free
from the morose dignity with which she had treated her own family since
going abroad, that Mr. Hugh Martindale could hardly believe the account
of her strange ungovernable character, as it was laid before him by her
father, in his wish for counsel.

He watched her anxiously, but made no attempt to force her confidence,
and let her talk to him of books, school discipline, parish stories,
and abstruse questions as much as she pleased, always replying in a
practical, sobering tone, that told upon her, and soothed her almost
like Violet's mild influence, and to her great delight, she made him
quite believe in Violet's goodness, and wish to be acquainted with her.

But all the time, Lord St. Erme was treated as her acknowledged suitor.
Perhaps Mr. Martindale thought it might be better if she were safely
married; or, at any rate, only knowing her personally as a high-minded
person of much serious thought, he believed her to be conscientiously
waiting to overcome all doubts, and honoured her scruples: while it
might be, that the desire for his good opinion bound Theodora the more
to Lord St. Erme, for with all her sincerity, she could not bear the
idea of his discovering the part she was playing, at the very time she
was holding such conversations on serious subjects. The true history
of her present conduct was that she could not endure to be known as the
rejected and forsaken of Mr. Fotheringham, and thus, though outwardly
tamer, she was more melancholy at heart, fast falling into a state of
dull resignation; if such a name can be applied to mere endurance of the
consequences of her own pride and self-will.

Now came Jane Gardner's letter. Theodora read it through, then, with
calm contempt, she tore it up, lighted a taper, and burnt it to ashes.

'There, Jane!' said she, as it shrivelled, black and crackling, 'there
is all the heed I take. Violet would no more allow me to be supplanted
than Percy could be inconstant.'

Inconstant! Where was her right so to term him? Was he not released, not
merely by the cold 'Very well,' which seemed to blister her lips in the
remembrance, but by her whole subsequent course? That thought came like
the stroke of a knife, and she stood motionless and stunned. Love of
Percival Fotheringham was a part of herself! Certain from her confidence
in Violet that Jane's news was untrue, the only effect of hearing it was
to reveal to her like a flash that her whole heart was his. He had loved
her in spite of her faults. Suppose he should do so still! Her spirits
leapt up at this glimpse of forfeited unattainable joy; but she beheld a
forlorn hope. At least she would restore herself to a condition in which
she might meet him without despairing shame. The impulse was given,
and eager to obey it, while it still buoyed her above the dislike to
self-abasement, she looked round for the speediest measure, caring
little what it might be.

Her father was reading his letters in the next room, when, with flushed
cheek, and voice striving for firmness, she stood before him, saying,
'It is time to put an end to this. Will you let Lord St. Erme know that
it cannot be!'

'Now, Theodora!' exclaimed the much-astonished Lord Martindale, 'what is
the meaning of this?'

'It cannot be,' repeated Theodora. 'It must be put a stop to.'

'What has happened! Have you heard anything to change your mind?'

'My mind is not changed, but I cannot have this going on.'

'How is this? You have been encouraging him all this time, letting him
come here--'

'I never asked him to come here,' said Theodora, temper coming in, as
usual.

'Theodora! Theodora! did I not entreat you to tell me what you wished,
when I first heard of this in London? Could I get a reasonable answer
from you?'

Theodora was silent.

'Do you know what the world thinks of young ladies who go on in this
manner?'

'Let it think as it may, I cannot accept him, and you must tell him so,
papa--'

'No, indeed. I will not be responsible for such usage! It must be your
own doing,' said Lord Martindale, thoroughly displeased. 'I should be
ashamed to look him in the face!'

Theodora turned to leave the room.

'What are you going to do?' asked her father.

'I am going to write to Lord St. Erme.'

'Come back, Theodora. I must know that you are not going to carry
further this ill-usage of a most excellent man, more sincerely attached
to you than you deserve. I insist on knowing what you intend to say to
him.'

To insist was not the way to succeed with Theodora.

'I do not exactly know,' said she.

'I wish I knew what to do with you!' sighed Lord Martindale, in anger,
grief, and perplexity. 'You seem to think that people's affections are
made to serve for your vanity and sport, and when you have tormented
them long enough, you cast them off!'

Theodora drew her head up higher, and swelled at the injustice. It was
at that moment that Lord St. Erme entered the room. She went forward to
meet him, and spoke at once. 'I am glad you are here,' said she, proudly
pleased that her father should see her vindication from the charge of
trifling. 'You are come to hear what I had been desiring my father to
tell you. I have used you very ill, and it is time to put a stop to it.'

Lord St. Erme looked from her to her father in wonder and dismay.

'First understand,' said Lord Martindale, 'that this is no doing of
mine; I am heartily grieved, but I will leave you. Perhaps you may
prevail on this wilful girl--'

Theodora began a protest, and desired him to remain; but he would not,
and she found herself alone with her bewildered lover.

'What is this? what have I done?' he began.

'You have done nothing,' said she. 'It is all my own fault. The truth
will be a cure for your regrets, and I owe you an explanation. I was
engaged to one whom I had known from childhood, but we disputed--my
temper was headstrong. He rejected me, and I thought I scorned him, and
we parted. You came in my way while I was angry, before I knew that I
can never lose my feelings towards him. I know I have seemed to trifle
with you; but false shame hindered me from confessing how matters really
stood. You ought to rejoice in being freed from such as I am.'

'But with time!' exclaimed Lord St. Erme, in broken words. 'May I not
hope that time and earnest endeavours--?'

'Hope nothing,' said Theodora. 'Every one would tell you you have had a
happy escape.'

'And is this all? My inspiration!--you who were awakening me to a sense
of the greatness of real life--you who would have led me and aided me to
a nobler course--'

'That is open to you, without the evils I should have entailed on you.
I could never have returned your feelings, and it would have been misery
for both. You will see it, when you come to your senses, and rejoice.'

'Rejoice! If you knew how the thought of you is entwined in every
aspiration, and for life!'

'Do not talk so,' said Theodora. 'It only grieves me to see the pain I
have given; but it would be worse not to break off at once.'

'Must it be so?' said he, lingering before his fleeting vision.

'It must. The kindest thing by both of us is to cut this as short as
possible.'

'In that, as in all else, I obey. I know that a vain loiterer, like
myself, had little right to hope for notice from one whose mind was bent
on the noblest tasks of mankind. You have opened new views to me, and
I had dared to hope you would guide me in them; but with you or without
you, my life shall be spent in them.'

'That will be some consolation for the way I have treated you,' said
Theodora.

His face lighted up. 'My better angel!' he said, 'I will be content to
toil as the knights of old, hopelessly, save that if you hear of me
no longer as the idle amateur, but as exerting myself for something
serviceable, you will know it is for your sake.'

'It had better be for something else,' said Theodora, impatiently. 'Do
not think of me, nor delude yourself with imagining you can win me by
any probation.'

'I may earn your approval--'

'You will earn every one's,' she interrupted. 'Put mine out of your
head. Think of life and duty, and their reward, as they really are, and
they will inspirit you better than any empty dream of me.'

'It is vain to tell me so!' said the Earl, looking at her glancing eye
and earnest countenance. 'You will ever seem to beckon me forwards.'

'Something better will beckon you by and by, if you will only begin.
Life is horrid work--only endurable by looking after other people, and
so you will find it. Now, let us have done with this. Wish your sister
good-bye for me, and tell her that I beg her to forgive me for the pain
I have given you. I am glad you have her. She will make you happy--I
have only tormented those I loved best; so you are better off with her.
Good-bye. Shake hands, to show that you forgive me.'

'I will not harass you by pertinacity,' said poor Lord St. Erme,
submissively. 'It has been a happy dream while I was bold enough to
indulge in it. Farewell to it, though not, I trust, to its effects.'

Lingering as he held her hand, he let it go; then, returning to the
grasp, bent and kissed it, turned away, as if alarmed at his own
presumption, and hastened from the room.

She flung herself into her father's chair to consider of seeing Lady
Lucy, of writing to Violet, of breaking the tidings to her aunt, of
speaking to her Cousin Hugh; but no connected reflection could be
summoned up--nothing but visions of an Athenian owl, and green cotton
umbrella. At length the sound of the opening door made her start up.

'Have I interrupted you?' asked her cousin. 'I thought I should find
your father here.'

'I do not know where he is,' said Theodora. 'Can I do anything for you?
Oh! I beg your pardon; I had forgotten it was time to read to you.'

'You know I always hoped that you would not make it a burden.'

'If you knew the relief it is to be of any sort of use,' returned she,
hastily setting his chair, and fetching the books.

Perhaps her attention wandered while she read, for they had hardly
finished before she looked up and said, 'That always puts me in mind of
Arthur's wife. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is so entirely
her adorning--her beauty only an accessory.'

'Yes; I wish I knew her,' said Mr. Martindale.

'Oh! how I wish she was here!' sighed Theodora.

'For any special reason?'

'Yes; I want her to soften and help me. She seems to draw and smooth
away the evil, and to keep me from myself. Nothing is so dreary where
she is.'

'I should not have expected to hear you, at your age, and with your
prospects, talk of dreariness.'

'That is all over,' said Theodora. 'I have told him that it cannot be. I
am glad, for one reason, that I shall not seem to deceive you any more.
Has papa told you what he thinks my history!'

'He has told me of your previous affair.'

'I wonder what is his view?'

'His view is one of deep regret; he thinks your tempers were
incompatible.'

Theodora laughed. 'He has a sort of termagant notion of me.'

'I am afraid you do no justice to your father's affection and anxiety.'

'It is he who does me no justice,' said Theodora.

'Indeed, I do not think that can be your sister's teaching,' said Mr.
Martindale.

'I wish she was here!' said Theodora, again. 'But now you have heard my
father's story, you shall hear mine;' and with tolerable fairness,
she related the history of the last few months. The clergyman was much
interested in the narrative of this high-toned mind,--'like sweet bells
jangled,' and listened with earnest and sorrowful attention. There was
comfort in the outpouring; and as she spoke, the better spirit so far
prevailed, that she increasingly took more blame to herself, and threw
less on others. She closed her confession by saying, 'You see, I may
well speak of dreariness.'

'Of dreariness for the present,' was the answer; 'but of hope. You put
me in mind of some vision which I have read of, where safety and peace
were to be attained by bowing to the dust, to creep beneath a gateway,
the entrance to the glorious place. You seem to me in the way of
learning that lesson.'

'I have bent to make the avowal I thought I never could have spoken,'
said Theodora.

'And there is my hope of you. Now for the next step.'

'The next! what is it?'

'Thankfully and meekly to accept the consequences of these sad errors.'

'You mean this lonely, unsatisfactory life?'

'And this displeasure of your father.'

'But, indeed, he misjudges me.'

'Have you ever given him the means of forming a different judgment?'

'He has seen all. If I am distrusted, I cannot descend to justify
myself.'

'I am disappointed in you, Theodora. Where is your humility?'

With these words Mr. Martindale quitted her. He had divined that her
feelings would work more when left to themselves, than when pressed, and
so it proved.

The witness within her spoke more clearly, and dislike and loathing of
her proceedings during the last year grew more strongly upon her. The
sense of her faults had been latent in her mind for months past, but the
struggle of her external life had kept it down, until now it came forth
with an overpowering force of grief and self-condemnation. It was
not merely her sins against Mr. Fotheringham and Lord St. Erme that
oppressed her, it was the perception of the wilful and rebellious life
she had led, while making so high a profession.

Silently and sadly she wore through the rest of the day, unmolested
by any remark from the rest of the family, but absorbed in her own
thoughts, and the night passed in acute mental distress; with longings
after Violet to soothe her, and to open to her hopes of the good and
right way of peace.

With morning light came the recollection that, after all, Violet would
rejoice in what she had just done. Violet would call it a step in the
right direction; and she had promised her further help from above and
within, when once she should have had patience to take the right move,
even in darkness. 'She told me, if I put my trust aright, and tried to
act in obedience, I should find a guide!'

And, worn out and wearied with the tossings of her mind, Theodora
resolved to have recourse to the kind clergyman who had listened to her
confidence. Perhaps he was the guide who would aid her to conquer
the serpents that had worked her so much misery; and, after so much
self-will, she felt that there would be rest in submitting to direction.

She sought him out, and joined his early walk.

'Help me,' she said; 'I repent, indeed I do. Teach me to begin afresh,
and to be what I ought. I would do anything.'

'Anything that is not required of you, Theodora, or anything that is?'

'Whatever you or Violet required of me,' said she, 'that I would do
readily and gladly, cost me what it might.'

'It is not for me to require anything,' said Mr. Martindale. 'What
I advise you is to test the sincerity of your repentance by humbling
yourself to ask your father's forgiveness.'

He watched her face anxiously, for his hopes of her almost might be said
to depend upon this. It was one of those efforts which she made with
apparent calmness. 'You and Violet ask the same thing,' she said; 'I
will.'

'I am glad to hear you say this. I could not think you going on right
while you denied him the full explanation of your conduct.'

'Did you mean that I should tell him all?' exclaimed Theodora.

'It would be a great relief to his mind. Few fathers would have left you
such complete liberty of action, consented to your engagement, and then
acted so kindly and cautiously in not forcing on you this, for which he
had begun to wish ardently. You have grieved him extremely, and you owe
it to him to show that this has not all been caprice.'

I have promised,' repeated Theodora.

'Your second effort,' said Mr. Martindale, encouragingly. They were
nearly opposite an hotel, where a carriage was being packed. Theodora
turned, he understood her, and they walked back; but before they could
quit the main road, the travellers rolled past them. Lord St. Erme
bowed. Theodora did not look up; but when past asked if any one was with
him.

'Yes; his sister.'

'I am glad of it,' said Theodora. 'She is an excellent little thing, the
very reverse of me.'

Without failure of resolution, Theodora returned to breakfast, her
mind made up to the effort, which was more considerable than can be
appreciated, without remembering her distaste to all that bore the
semblance of authority, and the species of proud reserve that had
prevented her from avowing to her father her sentiments respecting Mr.
Fotheringham, even in the first days of their engagement; and she
was honest enough to feel that the manner, as well as the subject of
conversation, must show the sincerity of her change. She would not let
herself be affronted into perverseness or sullenness, but would try to
imagine Violet looking on; and with this determination she lingered in
the breakfast-room after her mother and cousin had left it.

'Papa,' said she, as he was leaving the room, 'will you listen to me?'

'What now, Theodora?' said poor Lord Martindale, expecting some of those
fresh perplexities that made him feel the whole family to blame.

It was not encouraging, but she had made up her mind. 'I have behaved
very ill about all this, papa; I want you to forgive me.'

He came nearer to her, and studied her face, in dread lest there should
be something behind. 'I am always ready to forgive and listen to you,'
he said sadly.

She perceived that she had, indeed, given him much pain, and was
softened, and anxious for him to be comforted by seeing that her fault,
at least, was not the vanity and heartlessness that he supposed.

'It was very wrong of me to answer you as I did yesterday,' she said. 'I
know it was my own fault that Lord St. Erme was allowed to follow us.'

'And why did you consent!'

'I don't know. Yes, I do, though; but that makes it worse. It was
because my perverse temper was vexed at your warning me,' said Theodora,
looking down, much ashamed.

'Then you never meant to accept him!' exclaimed her father.

'No, not exactly that; I thought I might,' said she, slowly, and with
difficulty.

'Then what has produced this alteration?'

'I will tell you,' said she, recalling her resolution. 'I did not know
how much I cared for Percy Fotheringham. Yesterday there came a foolish
report about his forming another attachment. I know it was not true;
but the misery it gave me showed me that it would be sin and madness to
engage myself to another.'

Lord Martindale breathed more freely. 'Forgive me for putting the
question, it is a strange one to ask now: were you really attached to
Percy Fotheringham?'

'With my whole heart,' answered Theodora, deliberately.

'Then why, or how--'

'Because my pride and stubbornness were beyond what any man could bear,'
she answered. 'He did quite right: it would not have been manly to
submit to my conduct. I did not know how bad it was till afterwards, nor
how impossible it is that my feelings towards him should cease.'

'And this is the true history of your treatment of Lord St. Erme!'

'Yes. He came at an unlucky moment of anger, when Violet was ill, and
could not breathe her saving influence over me, and I fancied--It was
very wrong, and I was ashamed to confess what I have told you now.'

'Have you given him this explanation?'

'I have.'

'Well, I am better satisfied. He is a most generous person, and told me
he had no reason to complain of you.'

'Yes, he has a noble character. I am very sorry for the manner in which
I have treated him, but there was nothing to be done but to put an end
to it. I wish I had never begun it.'

'I wish so too!' said Lord Martindale. 'He is grievously disappointed,
and bears it with such generous admiration of you and such humility on
his own part, that it went to my heart to talk to him, especially while
feeling myself a party to using him so ill.'

'He is much too good for me,' said Theodora, 'but I could not accept him
while I contrasted him with what I have thrown away. I can only repent
of having behaved so badly.'

'Well! after all, I am glad to hear you speak in this manner,' said her
father.

'I know I have been much to blame,' said Theodora, still with her head
bent down and half turned away. 'Ever since I was a child, I have been
undutiful and rebellious. Being with Violet has gradually brought me to
a sense of it. I do wish to make a fresh beginning, and to ask you to
forgive and bear with me.'

'My dear child!' And Lord Martindale stepped to her side, took her hand,
and kissed her.

No more was needed to bring the drops that had long been swelling in
her eyes; she laid her head on his shoulder, and felt how much she had
hitherto lost by the perverseness that had made her choose to believe
her father cold and unjust.

There was another trial for the day. The departure of Lord St. Erme and
his sister revealed the state of affairs to the rest of the world; Mrs.
Delaval came to make Lady Martindale a parting visit, and to lament over
their disappointment, telling how well Lord St. Erme bore it, and how
she had unwillingly consented to his taking his sister with him to
comfort him at that dull old place, Wrangerton.

Lady Martindale, as usual, took it very quietly. She never put herself
into collision with her daughter, and did not seem to care about her
freaks otherwise than as they affected her aunt. Mrs. Nesbit, who had
thought herself on the point of the accomplishment of her favourite
designs, was beyond measure vexed and incensed. She would not be
satisfied without seeing Theodora, reproaching her, and insisting on
hearing the grounds of her unreasonable conduct.

Theodora was silent.

Was it as her mother reported, but as Mrs. Nesbit would not believe,
that she had so little spirit as to be still pining after that
domineering, presuming man, who had thrown her off after she had
condescended to accept him?

'I glory in saying it is for his sake,' replied Theodora.

Mrs. Nesbit wearied herself with invectives against the Fotheringhams
as the bane of the family, and assured Theodora that it was time to lay
aside folly; her rank and beauty would not avail, and she would never be
married.

'I do not mean to marry,' said Theodora.

'Then remember this. You may think it very well to be Miss Martindale,
with everything you can desire; but how shall you like it when your
father dies, and you have to turn out and live on your own paltry five
thousand pounds! for not a farthing of mine shall come to you unless I
see you married as I desire.'

'I can do without it, thank you,' said Theodora.

Mrs. Nesbit burst into a passion of tears at the ingratitude of her
nephews and nieces. Weeping was so unusual with her that Lady Martindale
was much terrified, sent Theodora away and did her utmost to soothe and
caress her; but her strength and spirits were broken, and that night she
had another stroke. She was not in actual danger, but was a long time
in recovering even sufficiently to be moved to England; and during
this period Theodora had little occupation, except companionship to her
father, and the attempt to reduce her temper and tame her self-will. Mr.
Hugh Martindale went to take possession of the living of Brogden, and
she remained a prisoner at Baden, striving to view the weariness and
enforced uselessness of her life, as he had taught her, in the light of
salutary chastisement and discipline.



PART III


     Heartsease In thy heart shall spring
      If content abiding,
     Where, beneath that leafless tree,
      Life's still stream is gliding.
     But, transplanted thence, it fades,
      For it bloometh only
     Neath the shadow of the Cross,
      In a valley lonely.

     --J. E. L.



CHAPTER 1


     Love, hope, and patience, these must be thy graces,
     And in thine own heart let them first keep school.

     --COLERIDGE


The avenue of Martindale budded with tender green, and in it walked
Theodora, watching for the arrival of the sister-in-law, scarcely seen
for nearly four years.

Theodora's dress was of the same rigid simplicity as of old, her figure
as upright, her countenance as noble, but a change had passed over her;
her bearing was less haughty; her step, still vigorous and firm, had
lost its wilfulness, the proud expression of lip had altered to one of
thought and sadness, and her eyes had become softer and more melancholy.
She leaned against the tree where the curate had brought her the first
tidings of Arthur's marriage, and she sighed, but not as erst with
jealousy and repining.

There was, indeed, an alteration--its beginning may not be traced, for
the seed had been sown almost at her birth, and though little fostered,
had never ceased to spring. The first visible shoot had been drawn forth
by Helen Fotheringham; but the growth, though rapid, had been one-sided;
the branches, like those of a tree in a sea-wind, all one way, blown
aside by gusts of passion and self-will. In its next stage, the attempt
to lop and force them back had rendered them more crooked and knotty,
till the enterprise had been abandoned as vain. But there was a soft
hand that had caressed the rugged boughs, softened them with the dews of
gratitude and affection, fanned them with gales from heaven, and gently
turned them to seek training and culture, till the most gnarled and
hardened had learnt patiently to endure the straightening hand and
pruning knife.

Under such tranquil uneventful discipline, Theodora had spent the last
four years, working with all her might at her labours in the parish,
under Mr. Hugh Martindale, and what was a far more real effort,
patiently submitting when family duties thwarted her best intentions.
Parish work was her solace, in a somewhat weary life, isolated from
intimate companionship.

She had, indeed, Mr. Hugh Martindale for a guide and adviser, and to her
father she was a valuable assistant and companion; but her mother was
more than ever engrossed by the care of Mrs. Nesbit; her eldest brother
was still in the West Indies and Arthur only seen in fleeting visits, so
short that it had never been convenient for his family to accompany him,
nor had Theodora even been spared to attend Violet, when a little girl,
now nearly two years old, had been added to her nursery.

Letters ill supplied the lack of personal intercourse: Theodora did
not write with ease, and Violet could not pour herself out without
reciprocity; so that though there was a correspondence, it languished,
and their intimacy seemed to be standing still. Another great and heavy
care to Theodora was a mistrust of Arthur's proceedings. She heard of
him on the turf, she knew that he kept racers; neither his looks nor
talk were satisfactory; there were various tokens of extravagance;
and Lord Martindale never went to London without bringing back some
uncomfortable report.

Very anxious and sad at heart, she hoped to be better satisfied by
judging for herself; and after long wearying for a meeting, her wishes
were at length in the way of fulfilment--Arthur's long leave was to be
spent at home.

The carriage turned in at the lodge gates. She looked up--how
differently from the would-be careless air with which she had once
watched! But there was disappointment--she saw no brother! In a moment
Violet had descended from the carriage, and warmly returned her embrace;
and she was kissing the little shy faces that looked up to her, as all
got out to walk up the avenue.

'But where is Arthur?'

'He is soon coming,' said the soft sweet voice. 'He would not let us
wait for him.'

'What! Has he not got his leave?'

'Yes; but he is going to stay with some of his friends. Mr. Herries came
yesterday and insisted.'

Theodora thought there was a mournful intonation, and looked anxiously
at her face. The form and expression were lovely as ever; but the bright
colouring had entirely faded, the cheeks were thin, and the pensive
gentleness almost mournful. A careworn look was round the eyes and
mouth, even while she smiled, as Theodora gave a second and more
particular greeting to the children.

Johnnie was so little changed that she exclaimed at finding the same
baby face. His little delicate features and pure fair skin were as white
as ever; for not a spring had gone by without his falling under the
grasp of his old enemy the croup; and his small slight frame was the
more slender from his recent encounter with it. But he was now a
very pretty boy, his curls of silken flax fringing his face under his
broad-leafed black hat, and contrasting with his soft dark eyes, their
gentle and intelligent expression showing, indeed, what a friend and
companion he was to his mother; and it was with a shy smile, exactly
like hers, that he received his aunt's notice.

'And Helen, my godchild, I have not looked at her! Where are you?'

But the tread of country turf seemed to have put wildness into little
Helen. She had darted off, and hidden behind a tree, peeping out with
saucy laughter flashing in her glorious black eyes, and dimpling in the
plump roseate cheeks round which floated thick glossy curls of rich dark
chestnut. Theodora flew to catch her; but she scampered round another
tree, shouting with fun, till she was seized and pressed fast in her
aunt's arms and called a mischievous puss, while Theodora exulted in the
splendour of her childish beauty, exuberant with health and spirits. The
moment she was released, with another outcry of glee, she dashed off
to renew the frolic, with the ecstasy of a young fawn, while the round
fat-faced Annie tumbled after her like a little ball, and their aunt
entered into the spirit of the romp, and pursued them with blitheness
for the moment like their own. Johnnie, recovering his mamma's hand,
walked soberly beside her, and when invited to join in the sport, looked
as if he implored to be excused. Violet, rather anxiously, called them
to order as they came near the house, consigned Annie to Sarah, and
herself took Helen's hand, observing, gravely, that they must be very
good.

'One thing,' she half-whispered; 'I once had a hint from Miss Piper that
Mrs. Nesbit did not like Lady Martindale to be called grandmamma. What
do you think?'

'What nonsense! Mamma ought to be proud of her grandchildren, and my
aunt will probably never see them or hear them at all. She never comes
out of the room.'

'Indeed! Is she so much more infirm?'

'Yes, very much aged. Her mind has never been quite itself since the
last stroke, though I can hardly tell the difference, but I think it has
softened her.'

'I suppose Lady Martindale is very much with her!'

'Almost always. She seems to cling to our presence, and I am never quite
secure that Mrs. Garth does not domineer over her in our absence, but
with all my watching I cannot discover. My aunt says nothing against
her, but I sometimes fancy she is afraid of her.'

'Poor Mrs. Nesbit. She must be altered indeed!'

'She is altered, but I never am clear how far it is any real change,
or only weakness. One comfort is, that she seems rather to like Cousin
Hugh's coming to read to her twice a week. How he will delight in these
creatures of yours.'

'Ah! we know him,' said Violet. 'You know he comes to us if he is in
London. How pleasant it must be for you.'

'Ah, very unlike the days when poor Mr. Wingfield used to come to ask
me how to manage the parish,' said Theodora, between a laugh and a sigh.
'When did you hear from John?'

'His godson had a letter from him on his birthday.'

'O, Johnnie! that was an honour! Could you write and answer him?'

'Mamma helped me,' whispered the boy, while eyes and mouth lengthened
into a bright blushing smile.

'Steady, Helen, my child! Quiet!' exclaimed Violet, as the little girl's
delight grew beyond bounds at the sight of the peacock sunning himself
on the sphinx's head, and Johnnie was charmed with the flowers in the
parterre; and with 'look but not touch' cautions, the two were trusted
to walk together hand-in-hand through the gravelled paths.

'The spirits will break out in little skips!' said Theodora, watching
Helen. 'She preserves her right to be called a splendid specimen! What a
pair they are!'

'Poor Helen! I shall be in dread of an outbreak all the time we are
here,' said Violet; 'but she means to be good, and every one cannot be
like Johnnie.'

'Ah! Johnnie one speaks of with respect.'

'I don't know what I should do but for him,' said Violet, with her sad
smile; 'he is so entirely my companion, and I suppose he seems more
forward in mind from being so much in the drawing-room.'

'Well! he is come to a time of life to merit his papa's notice.'

'More than the rest,' said Violet; 'but unluckily he is a little bit of
a coward, and is afraid when papa plays with him. We make resolutions,
but I really believe it is a matter of nerves, and that poor Johnnie
cannot help it.'

'What! Arthur is rough and teasing?'

'He does not understand this sort of timidity; he is afraid of Johnnie's
not being manly; but I believe that would come if his health would but
be stronger. It is very unlucky,' said Violet, 'for it vexes papa, and I
think it hurts Johnnie, though I am always forced to blame him for being
so silly. One comfort is, that it does not in the least interfere with
Johnnie's affection--he admires him almost as he used when he was a
baby.'

They were at the foot of the steps, where Charles Layton, now a brisk
page, was helping to unpack the carriage, more intelligently than many a
youth with the full aid of his senses.

Lord Martindale met them with his grave kind welcome, which awed even
Helen into quiet and decorum, though perhaps, from the corners of her
eyes, she was spying the Scagliola columns as places for hide-and-seek.
She opened them to their roundest extent as her grandmamma came
down-stairs, and she tried to take shelter behind her brother from the
ceremonious kiss, while Johnnie tightly squeezed his aunt's hand, and
Lady Martindale was quite as much afraid of them as they could be of
her.

So began the visit--a very different one from any Violet had hitherto
paid at Martindale. Theodora's room was now her chief resort in the
morning, and there Johnnie went through his lessons with almost too
precocious ease and delight, and Helen was daily conquered over Mrs.
Barbauld. There they were sure to be welcome, though they were seldom
seen downstairs. Johnnie used to appear in the space before dinner, very
demure and well-behaved, and there seemed to be a fellow-feeling arising
between him and his grandfather, who would take possession of him if
he met him out-of-doors, and conduct him to any sight suited to his
capacity; but who was so much distressed at his forwardness in intellect
and his backwardness in strength, that Violet hardly dared to hold a
conversation about him for fear of a remonstrance on letting him touch a
book.

One day Mrs. Nesbit suddenly said to Theodora, 'Arthur's wife and
children are here, are not they?'

'Yes; Violet would have come to see you, but we doubted if you were
equal to it.'

'I have nothing to say to Mr. Moss's daughter, but bring that eldest boy
here, I want to see him.'

Theodora stepped out into the gallery, where Johnnie was often to be
found curled up in the end window, poring over and singing to himself
the "White Doe of Rylstone", which he had found among his uncle's books.

She led him in, exhorting him not to be shy, and to speak out boldly in
answer to Aunt Nesbit; but perhaps this only frightened him more. Very
quiet and silent, he stood under his aunt's wing with eyes cast down,
answering with a trembling effort the questions asked in that sharp
searching tone.

'His mother all over!' she said, motioning him away; but, the next day,
she sent for him again. Poor Johnnie did not like it at all; he could
hardly help shuddering at her touch, and at night begged his mamma not
to send him to Aunt Nesbit; for he could not bear it without her. She
had to represent that Aunt Nesbit was old and ill, and that it would
be unkind not to go to her: but then came the difficult question, 'Why
don't you go, mamma?' However, when his compassionate feelings were
aroused, he bore it better; and though he never got beyond standing
silently by her chair for ten minutes, replying when spoken to, and
once or twice reading a few sentences, or repeating some verses, when
Theodora thought it would please her, it was evident that his visit had
become the chief event of her day. One day she gave him a sovereign,
and asked what he would do with it. He blushed and hesitated, and she
suggested, 'Keep it, that will be the wisest.'

'No,' came with an effort, and an imploring glance at Aunt Theodora.

'Well, then, what? Speak out like a man!' Still reluctant, but it was
brought out at last: 'Cousin Hugh told us about the poor sick Irish
children that have no potatoes. May I give it to him to send them?'

'Never mind the Irish children. This is for yourself.'

'Myself?' Johnnie looked up, bewildered, but with a sudden thought,
'Oh! I know, Aunt Theodora, won't it buy that pretty work-basket to
give mamma on her birthday? She said she could not afford it. And Helen
wanted the great donkey in the shop-window. Oh! I can get Helen the
great donkey; thank you, Aunt Nesbit!'

The next day Aunt Nesbit received Johnnie by giving him five sovereigns
to take to Cousin Hugh for the Irish, desiring him to say it was his own
gift; and while Johnnie scrupulously explained that he should say that
she gave it to him to give, she began to instruct him that he would be a
rich man by and by, and must make a handsome and yet careful use of
his money. 'Shall I?' said Johnnie, looking up, puzzled, at his younger
aunt.

'Yes, that you will,' replied Mrs. Nesbit. 'What shall you do then?'

'Oh! then I shall buy mamma and my sisters everything they want, and
mamma shall go out in the carriage every day.

'She can do that now,' said Theodora, who had expected less commonplace
visions from her nephew.

'No,' said Johnnie, 'we have not got the carriage now. I mean, we have
no horses that will draw it.'

It was another of those revelations that made Theodora uneasy; one of
those indications that Arthur allowed his wife to pinch herself, while
he pursued a course of self-indulgence. She never went out in the
evening, it appeared, and he was hardly ever at home; her dress, though
graceful and suitable, had lost that air of research and choiceness that
it had when everything was his gift, or worn to please his eye; and as
day after day passed on without bringing him, Theodora perceived that
the delay was no such extraordinary event as to alarm her; she was
evidently grieved, but it was nothing new. It was too plain that Arthur
gave her little of his company, and his children none of his attention,
and that her calmness was the serenity of patience, not of happiness.

This was all by chance betrayed; she spoke not of herself, and the
nightly talks between the two sisters were chiefly of the children. Not
till more than a week had passed to renew their intimacy, did Theodora
advert to any subject connected with the events of her memorable stay in
London, and then she began by asking, 'What did I overhear you telling
papa about Lord St. Erme?'

'I was speaking of his doings at Wrangerton.'

'Tell me.'

'Oh! they are admirable. You know he went there with that good little
Lady Lucy, and they set to work at once, doing everything for the
parish--'

'Do your sisters know Lady Lucy?'

'Very little; it is only formal visiting now and then. She leads a very
retired life, and they know her best from meeting her at the schools and
cottages.'

'Good little girl! I knew there was something in her!'

'She is always with her brother, walking and riding and writing for him,
carrying out all his views.'

'I saw how he came forward about those poor colliery children. Such a
speech, as that, was turning his talents to good account, and I am glad
to hear it is not all speechifying.'

'No, indeed, it is real self-denial. The first thing he did was to take
his affairs into his own hands, so that my father has comparatively
nothing to do with them. He found them in a bad state, which papa could
not help, with him living abroad, and attending to nothing, only sending
for money, whatever papa could say. So there was a great outlay wanted
for church and schools for the collieries at Coalworth, and nothing to
meet it, and that was the way he came to sell off all the statues and
pictures.'

'Did he? Well done, Lord St. Erme!' cried Theodora. 'That was something
like a sacrifice.'

'O yes! My sisters say they could have cried to see the cases go by
the windows, and I cannot help grieving to think of those rooms being
dismantled. I am glad they have kept the little Ghirlandajo, that is the
only one remaining.'

'I honour them,' said Theodora.

'And it was for the sake of such a set,' proceeded Violet; 'there is a
bad Chartist spirit among those colliers, and they oppose him in every
way; but he says it is his own fault for having neglected them so long,
and goes on doing everything for them, though they are as surly and
sullen as possible.

Theodora looked thoughtful. 'Poor Lord St. Erme! Yes, he has found
a crusade! I wish--! Well, I ought to be thankful that good has been
brought out of evil. I deserved no such thing. Violet, I wish he would
marry one of your sisters!'

'O no, don't wish that. I am glad there is no chance of it. Ranks
had better not be confounded,' said Violet, with a sad seriousness of
manner.

'You have just had a wedding in the family. A satisfactory one, I hope?'

'Yes, I think so. Mamma and Annette like Mr. Hunt very much. They say
there is such a straightforward goodness about him, that they are sure
dear Olivia will be happy.'

'Was there any difficulty about it!'

'Why--Matilda and Albert seemed to think we should not think it grand
enough,' said Violet, half-smiling. 'He is a sort of great farmer on his
own estate, a most beautiful place. He is quite a gentleman in manners,
and very well off, so that my father made no difficulty, and I am very
glad of it. Olivia is the very person to enjoy that free country life.'
Violet sighed as if town life was oppressive.

'To be sure! If one could be a farmer's daughter without the pretension
and vulgarity, what a life it would be! That was my favourite notion
when I used to make schemes with poor Georgina Gardner. Do you ever hear
what she is doing, Violet? They have quite left off writing to me.'

'Last time I heard of them they were in Italy.'

'Going on in the old way, I fear. Poor Georgina! she was sadly thrown
away. But, at least, that Mark is not with them.'

'O no,' said Violet, sighing more deeply this time; 'he is always about
in London.'

'Ah! you see more of him than you wish, I fear?'

'I see very little of him. Arthur would not ask him to our house at
Chichester for the Goodwood races, and it was such an escape!'

'I am glad at least Arthur does not trouble you with him.'

Violet sat with her forehead resting on her hand, and there was a short
space of thoughtful silence. It resulted in Theodora's saying, in a sad,
low, humble tone, her eyes looking straight into the red fire, 'Do you
ever hear of Mr. Fotheringham?'

'I believe he is still at Paris,' said Violet. 'I only hear of him
through John, who said he had been thinking of going to Italy. When he
came through London, after Lady Fotheringham's death, he left his card,
but we were at Chichester. Have you seen that last article of his?'

'What, that on modern novels? I was almost sure it was his, and yet I
doubted. It was like and yet not like him.'

'It was his,' said Violet. 'He always has his things sent to me. I am
glad you observed the difference. I thought it so much kinder and less
satirical than his writings used to be.'

'It was so,' exclaimed Theodora. 'There were places where I said to
myself, "This cannot be his; I know what he would have said," and yet it
was too forcible and sensible to have been written by any one else.'

'The strength is there, but not the sort of triumph in sarcasm that
sometimes made one sorry,' said Violet; 'and were you not struck by his
choice of extracts! I have fancied a different strain in his writings of
late.'

Theodora squeezed Violet's hand. 'I feared I had hardened him,' she
said. 'Thank you, good night.'



CHAPTER 2


     St. Osyth's well is turned aside.

     --CRABBE


On the first convenient day, Lord Martindale sent Violet to call at
Rickworth Priory, a visit which she was the more desirous of making,
as Emma's correspondence, after languishing for awhile, had ceased,
excepting that she sent a fresh allegory of Miss Marstone's to Johnnie
on each birthday; and the Brandons having given up coming to London for
the season, she scarcely knew anything about them, excepting through
Theodora, who reported that they retired more and more from society, and
that Miss Marstone was much with them.

Theodora would have accompanied Violet, but she was sure that her
absence would be a boon to Emma, whom she had of late tried in vain to
draw out; and, besides, one of the housemaids was ill, and Theodora,
whom her Cousin Hugh called the mother of the maids, wished not to be
away at the doctor's visit. So little Johnnie was his mother's only
companion; but she was disappointed in her hopes of introducing him to
his godmother. To her surprise Lady Elizabeth was alone, Emma was at
Gothlands with her friend Miss Marstone.

'They were very kind in asking me,' said Lady Elizabeth, 'and so was
Emma about leaving me; but I do not wish to be a drag upon her.'

'Oh! how can you say so?' exclaimed Violet.

'It did not suit,' said Lady Elizabeth. 'The uncle, old Mr. Randal, is
an old-fashioned, sporting squire, and the other Miss Marstones are gay
ladies. I felt myself out of my element when I was there before; but now
I almost wish I was with her.'

'You must miss her very much, indeed.'

'It is what we must all come to, my dear,' said Lady Elizabeth, looking
at the young mother, with her boy leaning against her knee, deep in a
book of illustrations. 'You have a good many years to look forward to
with your little flock; but, one way or other, they will go forth from
us.'

Lady Elizabeth thought Johnnie too much absorbed to hear; but Violet
found his hand lightly squeezing hers.

'I thought you at least had kept your daughter,' she said.

'Emma will be five-and-twenty in the autumn.'

'But, oh! Lady Elizabeth, I thought--'

'I cannot tell, my dear. I hope Emma's arrangements may be such that we
may go on together as before.'

'How do you mean?' exclaimed Violet, confounded.

'Her judgment is sound,' continued Lady Elizabeth, 'if she will only use
it; and when it comes to the point, Miss Marstone's may be the same.'

'Is she gone to Gothlands to settle her plans?'

'Yes; I could not well have gone with her, for we have four little
orphan girls in the house, whom I could not well leave to the servants.
That is quite as I wish, if the rest could be added without Theresa
Marstone making this her home, and introducing all the plans they talk
of.'

'She could not introduce anything to make you uncomfortable!'

'It is not so much comfort that I mean, my dear. I do not think that I
should object to giving up some of the servants, though in my time it
was thought right to keep up an establishment. Perhaps a family of women
are not called upon to do things in the same style, and there is no
doubt that our means may be better employed. We have too many luxuries,
and I would not wish to keep them. No, if it was entirely Emma's doing.
I should be satisfied; but there is more influence from Miss Marstone
than I quite like. I cannot fully rely on her judgment, and I think she
likes to manage.'

'She could never presume to manage in your house!'

'Emma's house, my dear.'

'But that is the same.'

Lady Elizabeth sighed, and made a movement with her head, then said,
'All that they think right and conscientious they will do, I am sure,
but the worst of it is that Theresa has friends who are not of our
Communion, and she does speak strongly of things that do not accord
with her notions. I cannot go along with her, and I must confess she
sometimes alarms me.

'And does Emma think with her entirely?'

'I fear--I mean I think she does; and, by the bye, my dear, do you know
anything of a Mr. Gardner?'

'I do know a Mr. Mark Gardner.'

'That is his name. He is staying in the neighbourhood of Gothlands,
and seems very deep in their counsels. I am afraid he is leading them
farther than Theresa Marstone herself would have gone.'

'Oh, then, he cannot be the same person. I meant a very different
style of man, a cousin to those Miss Gardners who used to be friends of
Theodora.'

'Ah! I meant to ask you about Miss Gardner and Percival Fotheringham.
What! you have not heard?'

'No, nothing. What do you mean?'

'Married.'

'Married! No, never!'

'I thought you would have known, all about it, and I was anxious to hear
what kind of connection it was for Percival.'

'Do tell me, how did you hear of it? When was it?'

'Not long ago, in Italy. I heard of it the other day from my nephew,
Edward Howard, who is just returned, and he told me that Mrs. Finch was
leading a dashing life at Florence, and that her sister had just married
Mr. Fotheringham, "the author."'

'O, I do not know how to think it possible! Yet it is such an uncommon
name.'

'Do you know whether his name is Antony?'

'Yes, it is his first name. I remember Arthur's laughing at him for
being ashamed of it, as he said.'

'That confirms it. I asked Edward if the Christian name was Percival,
and he said it was Antony, and some such name, but he could not be
sure.'

'Ah! there would be a confusion owing to his being always called Percy.'

'He said, too, that it was a good match for Miss Gardner, as he was heir
to an estate in Yorkshire.'

'Worthbourne! Then I am afraid it must be too true. The author, too!'

'So Edward was told.'

'I must write and ask John Martindale. He will be sure to know the whole
history.'

The rest of the visit and the homeward drive were like a dream. Violet
was lost in amazement, compassion, and disappointment, and in the debate
how Theodora should be informed. Should she wait till there were further
particulars to confirm it! But when she thought it over, there seemed no
more wanting. She knew that Percy had been thinking of visiting Italy a
year ago, and the name, the authorship, and connection with Worthbourne
swept away all doubt. As to making inquiries, she did not know Arthur's
present address; and even if she had had it, she would have shrunk from
saying anything that should lead to one additional conversation with
Mark Gardner; besides which, Arthur had a fashion of never answering any
question asked by letter.

Nor could Violet venture to delay. It was better that such tidings
should come from sympathizing lips than through the gossip of the
neighbourhood; and Theodora ought to be aware of them as soon as
possible, that she might no longer cherish the shade of her affection.
Alas! that he should have done this at the very moment when she had
truly become worthy of him, or, at least, of what he had once been!

At night, when Theodora came to linger over her fire, the intelligence
was reluctantly and hesitatingly spoken; Violet's eyes were bent down,
for she knew how little that spirit could brook that its suffering
should be marked.

Theodora stood up before her, at her full height, with flashing eye and
indignant voice: 'Do you think I believe it? No, indeed! I may have lost
him for ever, but he would never lose himself. I scorn this as I did
Jane Gardner's own story that you were going to marry him to your
sister. I knew you both too well.'

Violet put her arm round Theodora. 'Dearest, I am the more afraid that
we must believe this, because he was not always constant. He did think
of Annette.'

'Think of her! What do you mean! Did he make her an offer!'

'Yes. I would never have told you if I did not think it might help you
in this.'

'I don't want help,' said Theodora, raising her head and turning from
Violet. 'Let him do as he likes.'

But, ere she had made two steps towards the door, her breast heaved with
a convulsive sob. She threw herself on the ground, and rested her
face on Violet's lap. The sobs came at long intervals, with a tight,
oppressed sound. Much alarmed, Violet caressed her, and tried to soothe
her with gentle words, and at last they unlocked her lips.

'It is not myself! Oh, no! I knew I had forfeited him long ago. I had
proved myself unworthy. I had no right to hope. But that he should have
changed--let his clear sense be blinded by her art! He, to whom I could
have looked up all my life!--who was so noble in rejecting me!'

The large drops had gathered and flowed, seeming to scald their course
down her cheeks. 'O Violet! I wish your sister had married him! Then
he would have been happy--he would not have degraded himself. Oh! what
change can have come over him?'

'You know Lady Fotheringham was fond of Jane Gardner, and he might have
taken her upon her word.'

'As if Percy would see with any old woman's eyes, when once he came in
contact with her! No, I see but one explanation. It must have been I who
lowered his estimate of woman. Well I might do so, when I treated like
a toy the happiness he had confided to me. I, on whom he had fixed his
ardent soul for so many years past. No wonder he learnt to hold all
women cheap alike! O, that summer of madness! If I have dimmed the
brightness of that noble nature!'

'Dear, dear Theodora, what can I say to comfort you? She may be altered;
he may have improved her.'

'She is not capable of it,' said Theodora; 'there is nothing in her but
time-serving and selfishness. And he, with that large true heart, so
detesting falsehood--he must either be wretched or deceived--debased!
No, there is no comfort--there never will be.'

'Except the best sort,' tenderly whispered Violet. Theodora rested her
head on her hands, and remained perfectly still for some moments, then
looked up, and spoke in a depressed voice.

'I cannot talk any more. I feel shattered from head to foot. I must be
quiet.'

'Then, dearest, pray go to bed at once, and I will come and see you.'

'I cannot. I undertook to give Maria her draught at one o'clock. May I
stay here while you go to bed?'

'Anything, dearest, dearest sister.'

'Only let me be in the room with you, and be quiet.'

She would not, as Violet entreated, lie down on the bed beside her,
but remained seated on the floor, her eyes riveted on the fire, never
looking round, her face stupefied, her hands hanging motionless, like
one stunned; and when Violet's anxious gaze was closed by irresistible
sleep, that dark head was still motionless before the fire.

Her mind was indeed a blank, sensible of nothing but the effect of the
shock. The phrase now and then occurred, 'Percy is married to Jane;'
but her perceptions were so sluggish that she scarcely knew that it
concerned her. She seemed to have forgotten who Percy was, and to shrink
from recalling the remembrance. There was a repose in this state of
stupor which she was reluctant to break; and after the great clock, so
melancholy in the silence, had tolled half-past twelve, her sensations
were absorbed in the dread of hearing One! the summons to exertion.

The single note pealed out, and died quivering slowly away; she rose,
lighted her candle, and quitted the room, feeling as if the maid's
illness and the doctor's directions belonged to some period removed by
ages.



CHAPTER 3


     This house of splendour and of princely glory
     Doth now stand desolated, the affrighted servants
     Rush forth through all its doors.  I am the last
     Therein.

     --Wallenstein


Theodora was no sooner in the gallery than she was recalled to the
present. There was a strange gleam of light reflected on the avenue.
Roused at once to action, she hurried towards the window. The fire was
within the house. She pushed open the door leading to Mrs. Nesbit's
apartments. Light was flashing at every chink of the bed-room door. She
threw it back. Out rolled a volume of smoke, the glare of flame burst on
her, the curtains were blazing! 'Aunt! Aunt Nesbit, are you there?
she cried, in tones low with horror and choked with smoke; she plunged
between the burning curtains, felt that she had a hold of something,
dragged it out, found it move and gasp, bore it from the room, and,
depositing it on a couch in the gallery, only then could perceive that
it was indeed Mrs Nesbit, uninjured, though half-suffocated.

Mrs. Garth, who slept in the adjoining room, with the door open, had
been waked by her call, and came running out. An old soldier, she had
full self-possession, and was at once effective, and it was well, for
she exclaimed, 'Miss Martindale, you are on fire,' just as the light and
the scorching were revealing the same to herself. There was no time for
personal terror, barely for pain, the fire was crushed out between them
by the help of a woollen table-cover, they scarcely knew how, they only
saw that the draught had increased the blaze in the room, and dense
clouds of smoke came bursting out upon them.

Mrs. Nesbit clung terrified to her niece, but Theodora, with a word or
two of encouragement, freed herself from her grasp, and leaving her
to Mrs. Garth's care, flew up the nursery stairs. She must have the
children in their mother's sight before the alarm should reach her.
Sarah's first waking impulse was to growl, that Master Johnnie would
catch his death of cold, but the next moment she was equal to any
emergency; and the little ones were at their mother's door just as
she was opening it, thinking the noise more than Maria's illness could
occasion, and setting forth to see whether there was anything amiss in
the nursery. Theodora put Annie into her arms. 'All safe. It is only the
north wing. Don't be frightened. Stay where you are.'

Violet could only obey, thankful at having her three around her,
and trying to keep her terror from being visible enough to increase
Johnnie's exceeding alarm, or to frighten Helen out of her happy state
of inquisitive excitement and curiosity.

Theodora had hurried to call her parents. They were already in motion.
Lord Martindale's first care was for Violet and the children, Lady
Martindale's for her aunt, and almost instantly she was embracing and
supporting the pale shrunken figure, now feebly tottering along the
gallery, forsaken by Mrs. Garth, who had gone back to secure her own
valuables.

By this time, the gallery was full of screaming maids, whom Sarah had,
with difficulty, prevented from leaping at once from attic windows; and
staring men, hallooing for water, which no one brought, except little
Helen, who, escaping from her mother's room, ran barefooted into the
midst, holding aloft the water-bottle triumphantly, and very indignant
at being captured, and carried back in the butler's arms.

The fire was spreading so fast that Lord Martindale decided on removing
all the helpless to the gardener's house at the end of the pleasure
ground. He came himself to call Violet, told her not to be alarmed, and,
taking his grandson in his arms, led the way. Mrs. Nesbit was carried on
a mattress between two of the servants, Lady Martindale walking beside
her, absorbed in trying to guard her from injury or alarm; Annie, asleep
and unconscious, was in her mother's arms, and Theodora carried
the amused and chattering Helen. At the foot of the stairs, Violet
exclaimed, 'My cross, I must not leave it!' and would have turned, but
Theodora prevented her. 'I know where it is,' she said, 'I am going to
see how they are moving Maria;' and putting Helen into the nearest pair
of arms, she ran back.

Harrison's successor, Mr. Armstrong and his wife were on foot, and ready
to receive them. Their spare bed was for Mrs. Nesbit, in their own the
three children were placed. In all his haste, Lord Martindale paused
till he could lay his little shivering ice-cold charge in the bed, and
see him hide his head in his mother's bosom. 'Good boy!' he said, 'I
told him not to cry for you, and he has not made a sound, though I have
felt him trembling the whole way. Take care of him.'

Little did she need the recommendation, though it sent a thrill of
gladness through her that it should have been made at such a time. She
had great apprehension of the effect of the shock on the child's tender
frame and timid nature, his obedience and self-command seeming almost
to enhance the excess of terror. The shuddering horror and convulsive
clinging were beyond control, and were renewed whenever a fresh glare
broke out from the burning house; to turn him away from the window,
or to put up blinds and curtains made it worse, for the shadows of the
trees, flickering mysteriously, seemed still more terrific. His sister
screamed with excitement and delight at each brighter burst of flame,
till she suddenly laid down her head and fell fast asleep; but still his
nervous trembling continued at intervals, and his mother could not leave
him, nor cease from saying consoling words of his heavenly Guardian,
the only means that soothed him, especially when his sighing exclamation
recurred, 'O, if papa was but here!' the tune to which her heart was
throbbing throughout that dreadful night. She felt guilty of being
useless, but he was her first care, and her power of real service was
small: so she could only hang over him, and as she watched the healthful
sleep of her little girls, join her prayers and thanksgivings with his,
that all papa's treasures were safe. Not till the flames were dying
down, morning twilight showing cold and gray, and Sarah coming in with
bundles of rescued garments, was Johnnie's mind free enough to unclasp
his hand, and show something fast held in it. 'Aunt Helen's cross,
mamma; I thought I might keep hold of it, because I was frightened.'

Her caresses lulled him at last to sleep, while she grieved at
Theodora's having gone in search of the cross. She knew of her safety
from Sarah, who reported that she had been working like any ten; but she
had not yet seen her, and the silence and suspense became oppressive.

Theodora had hardly spent a moment in seeking the cross, she tied on
Violet's bonnet over the hair falling round her, hurried to assist in
carrying the sick maid to a bed made up for her at the stables, and
then, missing the dumb page from among the servants, she rushed back
to look for him, dashed up the stairs through thick smoke, found him
asleep, and crossing a floor that almost burnt her foot, she shook
him awake, and saw him too in safety. She bethought her of her brother
John's possessions, now that the living were all secure; she hurried
into the work, she tore down his prints and pictures, carried them and
his books out,--desks, drawers, weights she would never have dreamt of
lifting, were as nothing to her. Many times did her father meet her,
exclaim and urge her to desist, and to go to Armstrong's; she said she
was just going: he went in one of the thousand directions in which he
was called at once, and presently again encountered her, where he least
expected it, coming out of a cloud of smoke with a huge pile of books
in her arms! On she worked, regardless of choking, blinding
smoke--regardless of the glare of flame--never driven from the field but
by a deluge from a fire-engine; when stumbling down-stairs, guided by
the banisters, she finally dismayed her father, who thought her long
ago in safety, by emerging from the house, dragging after her a
marble-topped chess table, when half the upper windows were flashing
with flame.

Then he locked her arm into his, and would not let her stir from his
side.

Water had been the great deficiency. Fire-engines were slow in coming,
and the supply from the fountains was as nothing, so that the attempt
had necessarily been to carry out property rather than to extinguish the
fire. Sarah, after coolly collecting all that belonged to her mistress
or the children, had taken the command of Miss Altisidora Standaloft,
(who usually regarded her as vulgarity personified,) scolded away her
hysterics, and kept guard over her, while she packed up her lady's
jewels and wardrobe, not until then allowing her the luxury of shrieking
at every jet of flame. The other servants and the villagers had worked
with hearty goodwill below stairs; and when Theodora had time to look
around, the pleasure-ground presented a strange scene. Among the trodden
plants and shrubs lay heaps of furniture, sofas, chairs lying tumbled
here and there, with plate, pictures, statues, ornaments heaped in wild
confusion, crowds of people, in every variety of strange dishabille,
gathered round; two long lines of them handing bucket after bucket,
with machine-like regularity, from the fountain; others removing the
furniture from the terrace; cushions, ormolu, fine china, handed out of
the lower windows; the whole seen by the wild lurid light that flashed
from the windows above, strangely illuminating the quiet green trees,
and bringing out every tiny leaf and spray by its fierce brilliancy,
that confused every accustomed shadow, while the clouds of smoke rolled
down as if to wither all around.

And above the rushing roaring sound! the thunder of falling ceilings;
the red light within some familiar windows; the gray sky reflected in
others, till, after a few uncertain flickers, the glow awoke in them
also. Then arose the whiter gusts of vapour, when water, hissing and
boiling, contended with fire.

In vain! the flame surmounted! Shouts, cries! Lord Martindale pushing
nearer, calling to all for heaven's sake to come out, leave all, only
come out; men rushing from the doors, leaping from the lower windows;
one dark figure emerging at the moment before a tremendous crash shook
the earth beneath their feet; the fire seemed for a moment crushed out,
then clouds of smoke rose wilder and denser, yellowed by the light of
the morning; the blaze rushed upwards uncontrolled, and the intensity of
brightness, behind and above the walls, glared on the mass of awe-struck
faces. There was not a movement, not a word, not a sound, save that of
the roaring flame.

The first voice was Lord Martindale's: 'Are all out? Is every one safe?'

'Yes, my lord, all but the claret of 1826,' said that last to escape,
half-clad, grimy, and singed, only in courteous voice, the butler.

'Thank God!' said Lord Martindale, fervently. 'And, Simmonds, thank you
for what you have done to-night;' and he heartily shook the butler's
hand.

'Oh, my lord, if it had been more! If that claret was but safe, I should
feel I had done my duty,' said Simmonds, almost overcome, but giving
place to Mr. Hugh Martindale, who, just released from a chain of buckets
in the kitchen yard, was coming up to wring his cousin's hand, say there
seemed no more to be done, and repeat his congratulations on the safety
of life and limb. But a fresh alarm arose, lest the fire might extend to
the stabling; and in watching the horses led out, the spreading of wet
tarpaulins on the roof, the engines playing on the burning mass in
the house, and the flames rising with diminishing fierceness in the
intervals of the bursts of steam, there was such intense excitement that
no one could think of aught but the sight before them.

At last there was a touch on Lord Martindale's arm; a message from the
gardener's house that he must come directly: Mrs. Nesbit was in a fit.

The morning dewiness and calmness of the garden had a curious effect,
as they walked hastily through it, out of sight of the confusion on the
lawn; everything looked so blue and pale, especially Violet, who came
down to meet them.

'I have sent for Mr. Legh,' she said. 'It is very terrible. She is quite
insensible, but--'

She broke off suddenly. Theodora had sat down, untied her bonnet, then
tried to rise, but tottered, and sank senseless on the floor.

Her father lifted her, so as to place her with her head on Violet's lap.
Violet removed the bonnet, the hair came with it, burnt off in masses,
the very eyelashes and brows were singed, the forehead, cheeks, and neck
frightfully reddened and blistered. Lord Martindale took her hands
to chafe them: they were bleeding, and purple from bruises, the arms
scorched and burnt--injuries overlooked in the excitement, but ready to
repay themselves after her five hours' violent and incessant exertion.
It was a frightfully long swoon; and her father, almost in despair,
had sent a second messenger for medical aid before Violet could look
up consolingly, and direct his attention to the signs of returning
animation. She presently half opened her eyes, perceived in whose arms
she lay, and who was bending over her--she heard his fond words; but
reviving no further, closed her eyes, without attempting to speak.

Lord Martindale could no longer delay going up-stairs. There the scene
was most distressing; there was complete insensibility, with a tendency
to convulsive movement, a condition so plainly hopeless that he would
fain have removed his wife, hitherto so unaccustomed to any spectacle of
suffering. But Lady Martindale was not to be detached from her who
had absorbed her affection from infancy. Wrapped in that one idea, she
hardly heard his representations of their daughter's state, and, with
piteous looks, repelled his assurances that her care was unavailing, and
ought to be relinquished to Mrs. Garth and the maids. He was obliged
at length to desist, and returned just as Violet and Mr. Martindale had
succeeded in moving Theodora to a slippery horse-hair sofa. She looked
up and replied, 'Better, thank you,' to his first inquiry; but when
asked if she was in pain, was forced to answer, 'Yes, not much,' and
closed her eyes, as if she only wished not to be disturbed.

They held council over her: Mr. Martindale urged taking her at once to
his parsonage; he would find the carriage, and Violet should bring her,
leaving the children to follow under Sarah's charge when they should
awake. Violet only demurred at leaving Lady Martindale; but Lord
Martindale authoritatively told her, that it was not fit for her to
be in Mrs. Nesbit's room, and he should be much obliged to her to see
Theodora properly taken care of.

The transit was serious, every one longed to have it over, but dreaded
the arrival of the carriage, which came before it was expected. Resolute
as ever, Theodora astonished them by springing at once on her feet,
disdaining aid, but she had hardly taken a step, before she faltered,
and was just falling, when her father caught her in his arms and carried
her to the carriage, where Violet was ready to uphold her sinking head.
Mr. Martindale took the short way, and was at home before them, to lift
her out, and transport her at once to her room. Since the marriage of
Pauline, Theodora had given up a personal attendant, and no ladies'
maids were forthcoming, except Miss Standaloft, whose nerves could not
endure the sight of Mrs. Nesbit, far less of Miss Martindale, so the
whole business of undressing fell upon Violet, and the rector's little
under-maid, who, having been a school-girl, was of course devoted
to Miss Martindale. A difficult task it was, for besides the burns,
bruises, and faintness, every muscle and sinew were so strained and
tender from the violent exertion, and the blows she had unconsciously
received, that the gentlest touch and slightest movement were severely
painful. Violet was most grateful for her never-failing resolution.
Every move was made unhesitatingly the moment it was requisite, and not
a complaint was uttered, scarcely even a confession of suffering; on
anxious inquiry, 'Never mind, it can't be helped,' was the utmost reply,
given in a blunt, almost annoyed manner, as if she could not bear to be
disturbed out of that silence of endurance.

In the same manner, between stupefaction and fortitude, the surgeon's
visit was gone through, and Violet heard from him that there was no
serious consequence to be apprehended, provided fever could be averted.
Violet, much alarmed as to the effect of the tidings of the previous
night, thought it right to mention that she had undergone a severe
shock, and perceived that he thought it greatly increased the chance
of serious illness; but he could do nothing but insist on tranquillity;
and, as Theodora had now fallen into an exhausted sleep, he returned to
his other patient.

The hours seemed to have forgotten their reckoning; it was to Violet as
if she had been years without looking after her children, and when
she found it was only half-past nine, she was dismayed to think of the
length of day yet to come. Leaving Theodora's sleep to be guarded by the
little maid, she ventured down. The dumb boy was watching, with tearful
eyes, at the foot of the stairs, his whole face one question about Miss
Martindale. Answering him reassuringly on the slate, she opened the
dining-room door, and a refreshing sight met her eyes. Round the
breakfast-table sat her own three, from their glossy heads to their
little shining shoes, in order trim, as if no disaster had ever come
near them;--little Annie on Cousin Hugh's knee; Helen's tongue going
as fast as ever; Johnnie in shy good behaviour. A general cry of joy
greeted her, and they were in an instant around her, telling of the
wonders of the lawn, how the dying gladiator was lying on the blue
damask bed, and the case of stuffed humming-birds on the top of the
kitchen dresser, and the poor peacock so frightened that he hid himself
in the laurels, and would not come near them.

All alarms had gone away like a dream of the night, and the day had
dawned on the happy creatures in all its freshness and newness, which
their elders would fain have shared, but the necessity of attending to
them had something reviving in it, and Violet could not look at them
without renewed thrills of thankfulness. It was like rescued mariners
meeting after a shipwreck, when her father-in-law came in and embraced
her and the children affectionately, with a special caress for Johnnie,
'the best little boy he ever saw.' He looked worn and depressed, and
Violet hastened to help Mr. Martindale in setting breakfast before him,
while he anxiously bade her rest, hoped she had not been hurt by all
she had undergone; and asked for Theodora, whose illness, and his wife's
despair at her aunt's condition, were the chief actual distress. For the
rest, he was so thankful that no life had been lost, as to have hardly a
thought to bestow on the ruin and destruction.

There was now time for the question, how did the fire begin? Mrs.
Nesbit, before her attack came on, had said, that wishing to take a
draught, and not liking to call Mrs. Garth, she had drawn the light near
to the curtains, and had, doubtless, left it there. It seemed as if
Mrs. Garth had taught her to dread disturbing her at night, and now
Lady Martindale shrank with horror from letting her even approach the
patient.

But how had Mrs. Nesbit been rescued without the slightest burn, and
what had occasioned Theodora's injuries? Not till Violet began to
explain did it dawn on her what a heroine she was describing. All had
been so simply and fearlessly done, that it had not struck her till she
heard it in her own narration.

Lord Martindale was much affected. 'My brave girl!' he said; 'then under
Providence the safety of every one of us is owing to her. I wish she was
awake that I might tell her so this minute!'

It was delightful to see how this seemed to compensate for everything;
and, indeed, he said it was almost worth while to have been burnt out
for the sake of seeing how nobly every one had behaved, servants and
neighbours, rich and poor, working alike at the risk of their lives, and
he was positively overcome as he spoke of the warm sympathy that met him
on all sides, testifying the universal respect and affection with
which he was regarded. Notes and messages were coming in from all the
neighbourhood to intreat to be allowed to shelter his family; but it was
impossible to move at present, and his views were fixed on occupying the
house which had so long stood empty.

'Arthur can have a room fitted up there directly,' he said. 'Where is
he, my dear? How soon can he come?'

Violet was obliged to confess her ignorance. He had said he should be
going about, and had given her no address. Much vexed, Lord Martindale
forbore to distress her by remarks, and replied to his cousin's question
whether the house was insured--

'For twenty thousand pounds, but that is nothing like the amount of
damage. I hardly know how we shall meet it. I must have John at home to
settle matters. How strange it is to look back. I remember as if it was
yesterday, when John was born, Mrs. Nesbit insisting on my pulling down
the poor old house, to make the place fit, as she said, for my son's
inheritance, and there is an end of it! Who would have told her that
she would burn it down herself, poor woman? She always detested the
old hall. Don't you remember the stags' antlers, Hugh? Ay, Johnnie, you
would have wondered at those--a dozen stags' heads with branching horns
in the hall.'

'Oh! tell me, grandpapa! Was it where you lived when you were a little
boy?'

'Ay, Johnnie,' said Lord Martindale, pausing to take him on his
knee. 'Cousin Hugh could tell you how we went on together there! Such
jackdaws' nests as used to be in the chimneys--'

'I do believe,' said his cousin, 'you have more regret at this moment
for the old house than for this one!'

'Well! when I think of going home, the old red pediment with the white
facings always comes into my mind, as it used to look up the avenue,
when we came back for the holidays. Those old shields with the
martlets--see, Johnnie, like that--' holding up the crest on a spoon,
'where the martins used to build their nests over the windows, were such
as I never saw anywhere else. I found one of them lying about at the
farm the other day.'

'Do you remember the hornet's nest in the wall of the garden--?'

'What a garden that was! They have never found any pear equal to that
jargonelle, where you ate twenty the first day of the holidays. What do
you think of that, Johnnie?'

'Ay, Johnnie, and I can tell you of something grandpapa did,' retorted
Mr. Hugh Martindale; and to Violet's diversion, the two old cousins
continued to make Johnnie an excuse for bringing up their boyish
memories, which seemed to rise on them the more vividly, now that the
great mansion no longer obstructed their view. It was complete oblivion
of everything else, and seemed to do infinite good to Lord Martindale,
but soon it was interrupted; Lady Elizabeth had driven over to beg to
carry the whole party back to Rickworth with her, or at least to take
home Violet and the children; but this could not be; Violet could not
leave Theodora, and though Lord Martindale pressed her to consult her
own comfort by removing, he was evidently gratified by her begging to
be allowed to remain at the parsonage. He then returned to his wife, and
Lady Elizabeth, after offers of every service in her power, took leave,
while Violet returned to her charge.

Theodora awoke with less fever than they had ventured to hope, and
quite composed, though much surprised with her first acquaintance with
illness, and not even comprehending that she could not get up, till the
pain of the attempt corroborated Violet's assurance.

'How base it is,' said she, 'not to be able to do a few hours' work
without having to take to one's bed. I flattered myself I was not so
despicably weak, for a woman.'

'You might be satisfied,' said Violet, her heart too full to say more.

'Not while your Sarah walks about as if nothing had happened.'

'Where should any of us be but for you?' said Violet, bending over her.

'There's not an inch of me fit for kissing!' exclaimed Theodora, turning
away.

'Lord Martindale will soon come to tell you what he thinks of it.'

'Papa! Where is he? I don't remember him since we went down to
Armstrong's. Yes, I do though!' she paused, 'but I can't think of
it. Crying would be worse. What a queer thing fainting is! I used to
speculate what it was like.'

'How do you like it?' said Violet, perceiving her mood.

'Tolerably, in some respects; but it makes one's memory hazy. What has
become of mamma? I suppose she is afraid of the sight of my visage.'

'Oh! no, no!'

'My aunt, of course! How could I forget! Mrs. Armstrong spoke of
her being ill. Was it another stroke!' said Theodora, alarmed as her
recollection returned, and Violet was obliged to tell the whole.

'My poor mother!' said Theodora, gravely, 'I wish I could help--'

There was a knock at the door. Miss Standaloft stood hesitating and
making signs to Violet.

'Is there any news of Mrs. Nesbit?' asked Theodora. 'There can be only
one thing to hear. Is it over?'

It was, and the end had been quiet. Theodora drew a long breath, and
repeated, 'Poor mamma!'

'Do you want me? Do you think I might go to her!' said Violet. 'She has
no one with her but the gentlemen.'

'I should be very glad if you were there. Only don't hurt yourself, or
Arthur will be angry; and to have you to nurse would be more than could
be borne. My poor aunt! I think she softened at the last, and she loved
us all very much at one time.'

'I am glad she was kind to Johnnie,' said Violet.

Miss Altisidora was induced to sit on the other side the curtain,
intending to call Sarah if anything was wanted, and Violet walked across
the park, dreading to enter for the first time the presence of the
shadow of death, fearing in her lowliness to intrude or presume, but
drawn onwards by the warmhearted yearning to perform a daughter's part,
if perchance her husband's mother could derive the least solace from her
attentions.

She crossed the trodden grass, and gazed on the ruin of the abode that
had once almost oppressed her with its grandeur. Past away! and with
it, she whose hopes and schemes were set on the aggrandizement of the
family--she had gone where earthly greatness was weighed in its true
balance! And the lime trees budded, new and young in their spring
greenness, as when the foundation-stone was laid!

Violet thought how she had been taught to look on this as her boy's
inheritance, and therewith came the prayer that he might win his true
inheritance, made without hands, ever spring-like and beyond the power
of the flame! She looked up at the shell, for it was no more, she only
recognized the nursery windows by their bars; the woodwork was charred,
the cement blackened by the fire, where yesterday Helen's and Annie's
faces had been watching her return! A sick horror passed over her as she
thought how much had depended on Theodora's watchful night, and imagined
what might have awaited Arthur!

Then with hopeful, grateful anticipation, she looked to his coming,
and his greeting after such perils endured in his absence. 'O, will not
thankfulness bring him those thoughts! It must! He must join with me,
when he owns the mercy and sees our children safe. Oh! then blessings on
this night's danger! Let me see, he will learn it from the paper!
When can he come? Oh! how his looks and one word from him will reward
Theodora!'

She felt as if her happy anticipation had been selfish when she came
near the cottage with its blinded windows. Lord Martindale was speaking
to some one, but turned at once to her. 'You here, my dear? You have
heard?'

'Yes, I have; but Theodora and I thought as Lady Martindale has no maid
here, that I had better come and see if I could do anything for her. Can
I?' said she, with her humble sweetness.

'I cannot tell, my dear,' he answered. 'She attends to nothing, and has
not been able to shed tears. We cannot rouse her. Indeed, I am sorry you
came; you ought to be resting.'

'O, no, we both wished it. Should I be troublesome to her?'

'No, indeed, my dear child,' said he, affectionately. 'It is a great
relief to me that you should be with her, for here is much that I must
attend to, and I wish nothing so much as to get her to the parsonage.
The carriage is waiting, but she will not hear of coming away, and I do
not know how to leave her here.'

So saying, he led her into the room; Violet gave one shrinking glance
towards the bed, while the chill of awe shot through her veins; but
the chief thought was needed for her who sat rigid and motionless, with
fixed tearless eyes, and features in cold stillness more than ever like
marble. Violet felt as if that deathly life was more painful to look
upon than death itself, and her hand trembled in Lord Martindale's
grasp; he pressed it closer, and going up to his wife, said, 'Anna, my
dear, here is our child Violet so kind as to come and see you.'

Lady Martindale made a courteous movement, as if by mechanism, but
without looking up. He was delaying, unable to leave them thus, though
he was much wanted below stairs.

'I will stay while you go,' whispered Violet, though she longed to keep
him, for that presence filled her with trembling, and promising speedy
return, he departed.

For some minutes she could venture nothing, and the silence in which
she heard only the beatings of her own heart seemed more than she
could bear; but at last she collected herself, and an impulse suddenly
occurring to her, she ventured to touch her mother-in-law, and said,
'Theodora has been asking for you.'

Lady Martindale shook her head. 'I cannot come, I cannot leave her.'

'Poor Theodora is so much hurt!' pleaded Violet; 'you will be surprised
to see how she is scorched! Such arms and hands, that she cannot help
herself--and she wants cold applications continually.'

Lady Martindale once looked attentive, but a glance at her aunt brought
back her face of silent misery. Violet was perplexed, but strove
on--'Poor Theodora! I hope you will come to her. She wants care very
much. Did you know that it was in saving her that she was so sadly
burnt?'

'No: was it?'

'Yes; she snatched her out through the burning curtains. That was the
way Theodora's hair was all burnt off, and her arms are so blistered!'
continued Violet, controlling her trembling, and speaking as when she
was persuading one of the children--'Poor Theodora! Will you not come
and see her?'

'Where is she?'

'She is at the parsonage. They are ready to take us.'

'Oh, no! I cannot go. You go to her.'

'Pray, pray come with me. Theodora is so ill! It would do her so much
good to see you; and we are afraid of her being anxious or distressed,
lest she should have fever. Won't you come?'

A motion, as if she could not bear this, made Violet fear she must
desist, and she paused for a short interval, then said, 'SHE was very
fond of Theodora.'

'Oh! Yes, yes--'

'She would not like her to be left so long.'

'I thought you were taking care of her.'

'Oh, yes! but I cannot be the same as you would. One always wants one's
mother so much in illness.'

'She was always a mother to me!' The tears came at last, and she wept
unrestrainedly; while Violet hung over her with soft caressing words
of sympathy that cannot be detailed, till the first grief had had its
course, and she again tried the experiment of repeating Theodora's name,
and saying how much she was suffering.

Lady Martindale did not reply, but suffered Violet to put on her cloak,
and gradually lead her from the room, saying at each pause something of
'poor Theodora.'

The deed was done; it might be by importunity, but it was worth
achieving, even at the risk of being vexatious. Lord Martindale could
hardly believe his eyes when he saw his wife on her way to the carriage,
and Theodora was equally astonished when she appeared at her bedside.

It was a new thing to see one, hitherto healthy and independent, so
completely prostrated; and no more was needed to awaken the natural
affection so long stifled or thrust aside. Lady Martindale was greatly
shocked, and, perhaps magnifying her daughter's illness, had no room for
any other thought. She wished to do everything for her herself--would
hardly admit Violet's assistance--and took every care, with skilfulness
that was marvellous in one trained to ineffectiveness.

To Theodora her attendance was a new and exquisite repose. It was the
first taste of her mother's love, and made her content to be helpless;
as there she lay, murmuring thanks, and submitting to be petted with a
grateful face of childlike peace, resting in her mother's affection, and
made happy by the depth of warm feeling in her father's words.

'It is a good speculation to be ill,' said she, with a smile of strong
feeling when they had bidden her good night, and left her to Violet, who
was to sleep on a mattress on the floor.



CHAPTER 4


     Will you walk into my parlour?' said a spider to a fly.

     --MARY HOWITT


And where was Arthur?

Spending the day with his sporting friends, much to his own
satisfaction, till in the evening, greatly against his will, he was
taken out to dine with an old Mr. Randall, of Gothlands, the master of
the hounds.

His nieces, the Misses Marstone, were the ladies of the
house--well-dressed people, a little 'passees', but apparently not
having found it out. Arthur watched the arrivals hoping that the order
of precedence might not consign him to the flow of talk, of which he
had already had quite a sufficiency, when, to his surprise, two ladies,
evidently at home, entered together.

One--thin, sallow, spectacled--was, as he knew, an inhabitant; but the
other--small, slight, and retiring, and, in spite of clinging unfresh
muslin and shrinking figure, with the unmistakable air of high breeding,
was a most unexpected sight. At least, thought he, here was one lady
who would not bore him, and making his way to her, he inquired for
Lady Elizabeth. Emma, on the other hand, asked after Violet; and it was
curious that both questions were put and answered with constraint, as if
each was conscious of being something like a truant.

Another surprise. 'Mr. Gardner.' In walked Mark himself, and, after
shaking hands with the elder Miss Marstone, came towards Emma and her
friend, and was received with cordial familiarity. He entered into
conversation with Arthur, drawing a little further from Miss Brandon at
each step, till having brought him close to old Mr. Randall, and placed
him under the infliction of a long prose about the hounds, he retreated,
and was soon again in conversation with the two friends, Emma's face
raised and lighted up with eagerness.

Colonel Martindale had no escape from the head of the table and the
eldest of the Misses Marstone. Resigning himself to his fate, he made
talk; and, though now broader, redder, and somewhat coarser in feature
and complexion than he had been a few years ago, he looked so gay and
unencumbered, that his neighbour speculated as to whether he could be
the eldest son, and resolved to discover what her sister, Sarah Theresa,
knew of him.

'It is so pleasant when friends meet unexpectedly,' said she. 'I did not
know you were acquainted with either of our guests.'

'Miss Brandon is a near neighbour of my father, and a great friend of
Mrs. Martindale.'

Death to any incipient scheme of Miss Marstone; but she smiled on,
and remarked, 'A very amiable girl, and a beautiful place, is it not,
Rickworth?'

'Very pretty, a fine property,' said Arthur, talking as if in his
sleep, for he had caught Mark Gardner's voice saying something about an
oratory.

'My sister is often staying there,' proceeded the lady. 'You know Miss
Brandon's scheme of restoring the Priory?'

'I did not know that was anything more than talk.'

'I used to think so,' said Miss Marstone; 'but both she and my
sister Sarah treat it quite seriously, and Mr. Gardner is their prime
counsellor.'

Arthur started, and with difficulty refrained from laughing.

'Ah! I believe he has been a little wild, but that is all over now. He
has taken quite a different turn now, and given up everything of that
sort--throws himself into all their views.'

'Indeed!' said Arthur, who knew to his cost that if the reform had taken
place at all, it must have been of extremely recent date.

'O, yes, I assure you. He is staying with the curate, Mr. Silworth.'

'Ha! that is an old name at school.'

'Yes; he was an old schoolfellow--a very good man, to whose persuasions
everything is owing.'

She pointed him out, and the first glance was a revelation to Arthur,
who recognized him as the boy who, at school, had been the most easily
taken in. He soon understood the state of affairs. Mark, clever,
gentlemanly in appearance, and apt at catching the tone of the society
around him, was making a bold stroke--had persuaded his kind-hearted,
simple friend to believe him a sincere penitent, and to introduce him
as such to the ladies at Gothlands, from whom he caught the talk most
pleasing to them. At present it was all ecclesiastical aesthetics, and
discontent with the existing system, especially as regarded penitence;
by and by, when his hold should be secure, he would persuade the heiress
that she had been the prime instrument in his conversion, and that she
had gained his heart.

A bit of rhapsody from Miss Sarah Theresa, and poor Emma's embellished
and animated countenance, were sufficient indications that they were
smoothly gliding into the snare; and accustomed as Arthur was to see
Mark Gardner in a very different aspect, he was astonished at his
perfect performance of his part--the humility and deference befitting
the sense of his errors, and conversation so entirely at home in all
their peculiar language and predilections, that Arthur was obliged to
feel for the betting-book in his own pocket to convince himself that
he was still deeply involved with this most admirable and devoted of
penitents. He could not help, as he took leave, giving a knowing look,
conveying how easily he could spoil his game.

However, Arthur was in reality much annoyed. Of late years his easy
temper had well-nigh surrendered itself to the ascendency of Mark
Gardner; and though dissatisfied, remorseful, and anxious, he had
allowed himself to be led farther and farther into extravagance. The
sight of his home excited regrets, therefore he shunned it; and though
weary and discontented in his chains, he was devoid of force or will to
break them, and a sort of torpor seemed to make it impossible for him to
resist Mark Gardner. Their money matters were much entangled. They had
entered into a partnership for keeping horses for the turf, and there
was a debt shared between them, the amount of which Arthur dreaded to
investigate.

That Gardner should obtain a rich wife would be the greatest relief to
Colonel Martindale; but he had rather it should have been any heiress in
the world but Emma Brandon. He had a friendly feeling towards her, and a
respect for her mother, that made him shrink from allowing her to become
a victim, especially when he would himself be the gainer; and, on the
other hand, he could not endure to betray a friend,--while he knew that
his wife, his father, and his sister would be horrified at his secrecy.

After a night spent in execrating the dinner-party, he received a call
from Mr. Gardner, who, without being aware that he took any interest
in Miss Brandon, came to put him upon his guard, but found him less
manageable than usual. Arthur made a formidable description of Lady
Elizabeth's discretion, underrated the value of Rickworth, and declared
that it would be so tied up that Mark would gain nothing but a dull,
plain little wife. Not thus deterred, Mark only asked of him discretion;
and when, trying to cloak his earnest under faltering jest, he declared
that he had a regard for the Brandons, and should get into a scrape
with his father, his friend held out the allurement of freedom from his
difficulties, but was obliged to touch on this lightly, for Arthur's
honour was ready to take fire at the notion of being bought. It ended
in Gardner's treating the matter as if he had engaged not to betray
him, and being hardly gainsaid, otherwise than by a sort of bantering
proviso, that in case of an appeal direct, he could not be expected to
vouch for Mark's entire and disinterested reformation.

With an intense dislike to the world in general, Arthur was considering
how to prevent his wife from meeting Lady Elizabeth, and how to be out
of the way before the report should spread of Mark's addresses, when
everything else was driven from his mind by the arrival of the papers,
with the announcement of the fire at Martindale.

The safety of the infant family of the Honourable Lieutenant-Colonel
Martindale was the first news that met his eye; next, that of the
death of Mrs. Nesbit,--the chief thought that occupied him in his hasty
homeward journey.

He had been taught to think himself her heir; and though never forgiven
for his marriage, hoped that the will might not have been altered,
and considered that, whether it were in his favour or not, so large
a property coming into the family could not fail to render his
circumstances more easy, by enabling his father to augment his
allowance, which, though ample in itself, appeared far from sufficient
to a man with expensive tastes and an increasing family. The hope of
independence, and of not being obliged to wish success to Gardner, was
an opening into liberty and happiness.

By night he was at the parsonage, and Violet in his arms as soon as the
door was opened. That moment was perfect--he was so eagerly tender, so
solicitous lest she should have been injured by terror or exertion, so
shocked at her peril in his absence. In the fulness of her heart she
even asked him to come and see the children safely asleep.

'Now? What should I do that for?'

There was no unkindness, but the full felicity of the evening was
marred.

There was no room for him at the parsonage, and an apartment in the
empty house had been fitted up for him, so that she only saw him for
an hour of confused talk over the events of the fire, and Theodora's
condition, which was very uncomfortable; for though the fever was
slight, the burns and bruises were in an unsatisfactory state, and eyes,
arms, and hands of very little use. She was patient, and resolute as
ever, and so grateful to her nurses that waiting on her was a pleasure.

In fact, attendance on her was the only resource for occupying Lady
Martindale, who, when not thus engaged, was listless and dejected,
attending to nothing that passed around her, and sometimes giving way
to inconsolable bursts of grief. It was as if her aunt had been her one
idea in life, and without her she could turn to nothing else. Violet
was very anxious to prevent the children from molesting her, and in much
dread of their troubling her, now that all were in such close quarters.
It was trying to be engaged with Theodora, and to hear the little feet
and voices where they were not intended to be.

But when she was able to hasten to the rescue, she beheld Helen in Lady
Martindale's lap, and Johnnie by her side, all three intent on making
bouquets; and all apologies and proposals to fetch them away were
replied to by assurances of their goodness, and the pleasure afforded by
their company.

It appeared that while playing in the garden, the little brother and
sister had been, as it were, fascinated by watching her fixed melancholy
figure in the drawing-room. Again and again they had peeped in at the
window, striving to forget, but ever attracted by the sweet compassion
of their hearts; till at last, after much pausing and whispering, they
had betaken themselves to the corner of the garden where Cousin Hugh had
given permission to gather as they liked, and at the expense of his own
small fingers, Johnnie had pulled the first bud of sweet-brier. Lady
Martindale had felt a soft touch, and heard a little timid, coaxing
voice--'Grandmamma, may we? Would you like this little, young rose?'
while towards her was raised a face delicate and glowing with pale pink
like the bud itself.

Grandchildren and flower were at once in her bosom. Warm, womanly
child-love had been forced down to a far corner of her heart; but there
it was, and like the rod piercing to the hidden spring, that fragrant
gift of love touched it home, and thenceforth it was such fondling
as Violet almost feared might be spoiling, especially of Helen; who,
however unruly or exacting she might be, seemed only to endear herself
the more, and was visibly far more her grandmother's darling than her
gentle, well-behaved brother. This new affection for the children opened
her heart to their mother, on whom she leant more than she knew. To her
she talked of all her aunt's unwearied fondness and care, ever since she
had come into her hands an orphan in her infancy. There had been real
and entire devotion to each other on the part of the aunt and niece;
and the affection she had been able to inspire, together with the solemn
feelings towards the newly dead, gave her memory a softness that almost
enabled Violet to think of her in Lady Martindale's point of view,
forget her harshness, and the worldly pride for her niece and her
family, to which she had sacrificed their best happiness.

It was a melancholy retrospect. Mrs. Nesbit might be said to have
perfectly succeeded in the object of her life. She had formed her
beloved niece, like the fabled image of snow, moulded by the enchanter
and animated by no will but his, and had seen her attain the summit of
her wishes, universally admired and distinguished for every talent and
grace; while still completely under her influence, and as affectionate
and devoted as ever. Could any desire be more fully attained? But there
had ever been further craving, disappointment, combats, hatred,
avarice, disgust; and with all around that could make old age happy and
honourable, it had been a querulous melancholy struggle for power, spent
in clutching at the toys that had no pleasure in them--in trying to
force worldly advantages on those who cared not for them, then revenging
their indifference as a personal insult. She had sunk into the grave
without any one having the power to regret her save that one fond,
faithful niece, the one creature she had always regarded with genuine
unselfish affection.

Lord Martindale, whose wife she had ruled, and whose children had been
made unhappy by her, could hardly help owning to himself that her death
was a relief to him; and Arthur barely made a fair show of moderate
respect, in his anxiety for the property that would free him from
embarrassment. His first inquiry was whether the will were burnt. No,
it was in the hands of a lawyer, who would bring it on the day of the
funeral. Lord Martindale might look reprovingly at Arthur's eagerness,
but the matter was no less important to him. He had begun life with an
expenditure as large as his income could bear; and as his children
had grown up, and unprosperous times had come, he had not been able to
contract his expenses. Of late he had almost been in difficulty as to
the means of meeting the calls for the year, economy was a thing unknown
and uncomprehended by his wife; and the giving up the house in London
had been the only reduction he could accomplish. No one else in the
family had an idea of self-denial except Theodora, who, perceiving how
matters stood, had refused to have a maid of her own, and had begged him
no longer to keep a horse for her. Some change ought to be made, but
he had gone on in this unsatisfactory manner, trusting that at Mrs.
Nesbit's death all would be straight. Her West Indian estates and
accumulation of wealth must be bequeathed either to his wife or among
his children; and in either case he would be set at ease--either
relieved from supporting Arthur, or enabled to do so without difficulty.

The funeral took place in full grandeur. Lady Martindale had made it a
special request that every one would mourn as if for her mother, and it
was just one of the occasions when pomp was needed to supply the place
of grief.

The only real mourner shut herself up in her own room, whither Theodora
begged Violet to follow her. She found her stretched on her bed,
abandoned to grief. It was the sense of orphanhood; the first time
she had come so close to death and its circumstances, and it was
overpowering sorrow; but Violet had better learnt how to deal with her,
and could venture to caress and soothe--entreat her to remember how much
was left to love her--and then listen to what Lady Martindale began as
the rehearsal of her aunt's care to shield her from sorrow; but Violet
soon saw it was the outpouring of a pent-up grief, that had never dared
to come forth. The last time the vault had been opened it had been for
the infant she had lost, and just before for the little girls, who had
died in her absence. 'My dear,' she said, 'you do not know how it is all
brought back to me. It is as if your three darlings were the same I left
when we went abroad. Your sweet Helen is exactly like my precious little
Anna, whom I little thought I was never to see again! Oh, my babies!'

Violet was quite relieved to find this excessive grief was not spent on
her aunt, but that it was the long-restrained sorrow for an affliction
in which she could so much better sympathize. It had been of no avail
for Mrs. Nesbit, in mistaken kindness, and ignorance of a mother's
heart, to prevent her from ever adverting to her darlings; it had only
debarred her from the true source of comfort, and left the wound to ache
unhealed, while her docile outward placidity was deemed oblivion. The
fear of such sorrow had often been near Violet, and she was never able
to forget on how frail a tenure she held her firstborn; and from the
bottom of her heart came her soothing sympathy, as she led her on to
dwell on the thought of those innocents, in their rest and safety. Lady
Martindale listened as if it was a new message of peace; her tears were
softer, and she dwelt fondly on little Anna's pretty ways, speaking, and
Violet hearing, as if it had been a loss of to-day, instead of more than
thirty long years ago.

Lady Martindale opened a dressing-box, saying how relieved she had been
to find it safe, and from a secret drawer drew out a paper and showed
Violet some soft locks of chestnut hair. 'Their papa gave me these,' she
said. 'My dear aunt would not let me look at them--she thought it hurt
me; but I must see if Anna's hair is not just like Helen's.' And then
she begged Violet not to be alarmed at the resemblance, and kissed her
for saying she was glad of it, and had no fears on that score. She dwelt
on these reminiscences as if they were a solace of which she could never
taste enough, and did not cease talking over them till Lord Martindale
entered. Violet understood his feeling and the reserve hitherto shown
to him sufficiently to attempt breaking it down, and ventured, as
she quitted the room, to lay her hand on the little curl, and say,
'Grandmamma thinks Helen like her little Anna.'

Seeing Arthur leaning on the balusters, looking discomposed, she went
down to him. 'Where have you been!' he said, rather sulkily.

'With your mother; I hope she is growing more calm.'

'Very absurd of her to take it so much to heart!' said Arthur, entering
the drawing-room. 'Have you heard about this will?'

'No. What?'

'Never was such a will on this earth! It ought to be brought into court!
I verily believe the old hag studied to make it a parting emanation of
malice!'

'Oh, hush! hush!' cried Violet, shocked.

'It is all very well saying Hush, hush; but I should like to know what
you mean to live upon?'

'What has she done?'

'She has gone and left it all to that child!'

'What child?'

'My son--your boy John, I tell you; but, mark you, so as to do no good
to a living soul. Not a penny is he to touch till we are all dead, if we
starve meantime. She has tied it up to accumulate till my eldest son--or
John's, if he has one--comes to the title, and much good may it do him!'

'Poor little dear!' said Violet, inexpressibly pained by his tone.

'Anything but poor! It is £100,000 to begin with, and what will it
be when he gets it? Think of that doing nothing, and of us with no
dependence but the trumpery £5000 by the marriage settlements. It is
enough to drive one crazy.'

'It is a pity,' said Violet, frightened by his vehemence.

'It is an end of all chance for me. When she had always taught me to
look to it! It is absolute cheating.'

'Of late she never led us to expect anything.'

'No; and you never took pains to stand well with her. Some people--'

'O, Arthur, Arthur!'

'Well, don't be foolish! You could not help it. Her spitefulness was
past reckoning. To see her malice! She knew John and Theodora would not
let me be wronged, so she passes them over, and my mother too, for fear
it should be made up to me. Was ever man served so before? My own son,
as if to make it more aggravating!'

At an unlucky moment Johnnie ran in, and pulled his mother's dress.
'Mamma, may Helen dig in the bed by the garden door!'

'Go away!' said Arthur, impatiently. 'We can't have you bothering here.'

Though inattentive and indifferent to his children, he had never been
positively unkind, and the anger of his tone filled the timid child's
eyes with tears, as he looked appealingly at his mother, and moved away,
lingering, and beginning a trembling, 'but, mamma--'

'Don't stay here!' cried Arthur, in an indiscriminating fit of anger,
striking his hand on the table. 'Did I not order you to go this moment,
sir?'

Poor Johnnie fled, without hearing his mother's consoling 'I'll come;'
which only, with her look of grief, further irritated Arthur. 'Ay, ay!
That's always the way. Nothing but the boy, whenever I want you.'

Violet saw defence would make it worse, and tried to give him the
attention he required; though quivering with suppressed distress for his
harshness to his poor little boy, whom she could hardly help going at
once to comfort. She hardly heard his storming on about the unhappy
will, it only seemed to her like the apple of discord, and great was the
relief when it was ended by Lord Martindale's coming down, asking why
Johnnie was crying. She hoped this might cause Arthur some compunction,
but he only answered, gruffly, 'He was troublesome, he is always
fretting.'

Violet found the poor little fellow with tear-glazed face trying to
suppress the still heaving sobs, and be grateful to his grandmamma, who
had brought him into her room, and was trying to console him, though
unable to discover the secret of his woe. As he sprung to his mother's
lap, his grief broke forth afresh. His affection for his father was a
deep, distant, almost adoring worship; and the misery inflicted by those
looks and words was beyond what could be guessed, save by his mother.
He thought himself naughty, without knowing why, and could hardly be
soothed by her caresses and assurances that papa was not really angry,
but he must not interrupt another time.

'But, mamma, Helen wanted to dig up all Cousin Hugh's little green
things.'

Violet was thus reminded that she must seek after her daughter, whom
she found revelling in mischief, and was obliged to sentence to dire
disgrace, causing general commiseration, excepting that her papa,
ignorant that it was his own fault, declared children to be the greatest
plagues in the world.

She saw him no more in private, but grieved at his moodiness all the
evening, and at bed-time watched a red spark moving to and fro in the
garden. Her heavy sigh made Theodora ask what was the matter.

'I wish Arthur would not stay out in the dew. He has a little cough
already,' said she, putting forward the care that would best bear
mention.

'You used to be above caring for dews and night airs.'

'I must for him and Johnnie!' said Violet.

'Ah! what do you say to your son's prospects?'

'I don't suppose it will make much difference to him,' was the dejected
answer, Violet's eyes still following the red end of the cigar in the
darkness.

'Well! that is contempt for wealth! Fancy what will be in his hands. I
thought you would be moralizing on the way to bring him up to use it.'

'I have not thought of that,' said Violet; 'besides, it will be long
enough before he has it.'

'What! will it not be when he is of age!'

'No, when he comes to the title.'

'Oh! I see. Mamma did not understand that! She thought it absolutely
left to him. How is it, then?'

'It is put in trust till either he, or John's son, if he should have
one, comes to the title.'

'Then, it does you no good?'

'Only harm,' Violet could not help saying.

'How harm? It might be worse for you to have it.'

'Most likely,' said Violet's submissive voice. 'But it vexes Arthur so
much!' and the tears fell unseen.

'Well it may!' said Theodora. 'One cannot say what one thinks of it NOW,
but--Poor Arthur! I was very much afraid she was going to leave it to
me. Now I wish she had.'

'I wish so too.'

'It was silly of me to warn her that Arthur should have his share;
but after all, I don't regret it. I would not have had it on false
pretences. Did you hear when the will was dated?'

'September, 18--.'

'When Johnnie was a baby. Ah! I remember. Well, I am glad we all
forfeited it. I think it is more respectable. I only wish mamma had
come in for it, because she is the right person, and papa is a good deal
straitened. That really was a shame! Why did not she let them have it?'

'Arthur thinks it was for fear we should be helped.'

'No doubt,' said Theodora. 'Well. I wish--! It is a horrid thing to find
people worse after they are dead than one thought them. There! I have
had it out. I could not have borne to keep silence. Now, let us put the
disgusting money matter out of our heads for good and all. I did not
think you would have been distressed at such a thing, Violet.'

'I don't want it,' said Violet, amid her tears. 'It is Arthur's
disappointment, and the knowing I brought it on him.'

'Nonsense!' cried Theodora. 'If I had Arthur here, I would scold him
well; and as to you, he may thank you for everything good belonging
to him. Ten million fortunes would not be worth the tip of your little
finger to him, and you know he thinks so. Without you, and with this
money, he would be undone. Now, don't be silly! You have got your
spirits tired out, and sleep will make you a sensible woman.'

Violet was always the better for an affectionate scolding, and went
to bed, trusting that Arthur's disappointment might wear off with the
night. But his aunt's inheritance had been too much the hope of
his life, for him to be without a strong sense of injury, and his
embarrassments made the loss a most serious matter. He applied to his
father for an increase of allowance, but he could not have chosen a
worse time; Lord Martindale had just advanced money for the purchase of
his company, and could so ill afford to supply him as before, that but
for the sake of his family, he would have withdrawn part of his actual
income. So, all he obtained was a lecture on extravagance and neglect
of his wife and children; and thus rendered still more sullen, he became
impatient to escape from these grave looks and reproofs, and to return
to town before the disclosure of Mr. Gardner's courtship. He made it his
pretext that Violet was unwell and overworked in the general service;
and she was, in truth, looking very ill and harassed; but he was far
more the cause than were her exertions, and it was a great mortification
to be removed from his parents and sister when, for the first time, she
found herself useful to them, and for such an ungracious reason too,
just when they were so much drawn together by the dangers they
had shared, and the children seemed to be making progress in their
grandmother's affections. Poor Johnnie, too! it was hard to rob him of
another month of country air, just as he was gaining a little strength
and colour.

But pleading was useless; the mention of Johnnie revived the grievance,
and she was told she must not expect everything to give way to that boy
of hers; every one was ready enough to spoil him without his help.
He would not stay crammed into this small house, with the children
eternally in the way, and his father as black as thunder, with no
diversion, and obliged to sleep out in that den of a cottage, in a damp,
half-furnished room--an allegation hardly true, considering Violet's
care to see the room aired and fitted up to suit his tastes; but he was
determined, and she had not even the consolation of supposing care for
her the true reason; the only ground she could find for reconciling
herself to the measure was, that night walks were not mending his cough,
which, though so slight that he did not acknowledge it, and no one
else perceived it, still made her uneasy. Especially Violet felt the
ingratitude of leaving Theodora in her weak, half-recovered state;
but it was almost as if he had a sort of satisfaction in returning his
father's admonitions on the care of his wife, by making it a plea
for depriving them of her in their need, and he fixed his day without
remorse.



CHAPTER 5


     E'en in sleep, pangs felt before,
     Treasur'd long in memory's store,
     Bring in visions back their pain,
     Melt into the heart again.
     By it crost affections taught
     Chastened will and sobered thought.

     --AESCHYLUS.--Anstice


Arthur did not succeed in eluding Lady Elizabeth. She called the day
after the funeral, begging especially to see Mrs. Martindale. She looked
absent and abstracted, while Lord Martindale was talking to her, and
soon entreated Violet to come with her for a short drive.

No sooner were they in the carriage than she said, 'Violet, my dear, can
you or Arthur tell me anything of this Mr. Gardner?'

'I know very little of him personally,' said Violet, for he was too much
an associate of her husband's for her to be willing to expose him; 'but
are you sure we mean the same person?'

'Quite sure. Did you not hear that Arthur met him at Gothlands?'

'No; I have had very little talk with him since he came back, and this
fire has put everything out of our minds.'

'Of course it must, my dear. However, Arthur came with Mr. Herries to
dine there, and met Mr. Gardner as an old friend; so he must be the
same, and I am particularly anxious for some account of him. I must tell
you why--I know I am safe with you--but you will be very much surprised,
after all her declarations--'

'O, Lady Elizabeth, it cannot be that.'

'I have always been prepared for something of the sort. But what, my
dear?' seeing her agitation, and quickly infected by it.

'O, don't let her,' was all Violet could utter.

'Tell me! what is he?--what do you know of him? They spoke of him as
once having been extravagant--'

Violet drew a long breath, and tried to speak with composure. 'He is a
dreadful man, gambling, betting, dissipated--such a person that Arthur
never lets him come near me or the children. How could he dare think of
her?'

'Can it be the same?' said Lady Elizabeth, infinitely shocked, but
catching at the hope. 'This man is Lady Fotheringham's nephew.'

'Yes, he is,' said Violet sadly. 'There is no other cousin named Mark.
Why, don't you remember all the talk about Mrs. Finch?'

So little had Lady Elizabeth heeded scandal, that she had hardly known
these stories, and had not identified them with the name of Gardner.
Still she strove to think the best. 'Arthur will be able to tell me,'
she said; 'but every one seems fully satisfied of his reformation--the
curate of the parish and all. I do not mean that I could bear to think
of her being attached to a person who had been to blame. Her own account
of him alarmed me enough, poor dear child, but when I hear of the
clergyman, and Theresa Marstone, and all admiring his deep feeling of
repentance--'

'How can he be so wicked!' exclaimed Violet.

'You are convinced that he is not sincere?'

'Why, of course, one does not like to say anything uncharitable; but
there is something shocking in the notion of his talking of being good.
If he did repent he would know how horrible it would be for him to marry
Emma--'

'He does affect great humility. He declares that no one can be more
conscious of his unfitness than himself; but he was betrayed into this
confession of his sentiments--Emma's purity and devotedness, as Theresa
writes to me, having been such powerful instruments in leading him to
a better course. If it was not for poor Emma's fortune, one might trust
this more! Oh! Violet, I never so much was inclined to wish that her
brother had been spared!'

'But surely--surely Emma cannot like him?'

'I grieve to say that she and her friend have been in one of their fits
of enthusiasm. He seemed to accord with their idea of a penitent--only
longing for stricter rules than are to be found with us. From what I
have heard, I should have been much less surprised if he had become a
monk of La Trappe; in fact, I was almost afraid of it.'

'And does not this undeceive them?'

'No; poor Emma's only doubt is because she cannot bear to be unstable,
and to desert the work to which she was almost pledged; but she says she
is ashamed to perceive how much the sacrifice would cost her. She adds,
that decide as she may, he concurs with her in devoting everything to
the restoration of the Priory.'

'Poor Emma! He has debts enough to swallow two-thirds! And Miss
Marstone, what does she say?'

'His becoming a suitor seems to have been a surprise and disappointment
to her; but if she thinks him a pupil of her own, or expects to govern
the Priory in poor Emma's stead, she will be in his favour. No; I have
no hope from Theresa Marstone's discretion.'

'The rest of the family?'

'Theresa despises the others too much to attend to them. Mr. Randall
seems to be startled at the present aspect of affairs, and asks me to
come; and I should have set off this morning, but that I thought I might
learn something from you and Arthur.'

'Every one would tell you the same. He was expelled from the University,
and has gone on shockingly ever since, breaking his mother's heart! Poor
Emma! after dreading every gentleman!'

'I fear she has much to suffer. He made her think him not a marrying
man, and put her off her guard. Did you say he was agreeable?'

'Perhaps I might think so if I knew nothing about him; but I have always
had a repugnance to him, and it is all I can do not to dislike him more
than is right. If I saw him speak to Johnnie, I think I should!'

'And now tell me, for I ought to have every proof, if you know anything
that would convince Emma that this present repentance is assumed?'

Violet coloured excessively. 'Arthur could tell' she said, half choked,
and as Lady Elizabeth still waited, she was obliged to add, He was
active in the same way at the last races. I know there are things going
on still that a man who really meant to reform would have broken off.
Arthur could give you proofs.'

Violet could not bear to be more explicit. Her own secret feeling was
that Mr. Gardner was her husband's evil genius, leading him astray, and
robbing her of his affection, and she was not far mistaken. Sneers, as
if he was under her government, were often employed to persuade him to
neglect her, and continue his ruinous courses; and if she shrunk from
Gardner, he in return held her in malicious aversion, both as a counter
influence and as a witness against him. It was the constant enmity of
light to darkness, of evil to innocence.

The whole drive was spent in conversing on this engrossing theme; Lady
Elizabeth lamenting the intimacy with Sarah Theresa, a clever, and
certainly in many respects an excellent person, but with a strong taste
for singularity and for dominion, who had cultivated Emma's naturally
ardent and clinging nature into an exclusive worship of her; and, by
fostering all that was imaginative in her friends composition, had
led her to so exalted an estimate of their own ideal that they alike
disdained all that did not coincide with it, and spurned all mere common
sense. Emma's bashfulness had been petted and promoted as unworldly,
till now, like the holes in the philosopher's cloak, it was
self-satisfaction instead of humility. This made the snare peculiarly
dangerous, and her mother was so doubtful how far she would be guided,
as to take no comfort from Violet's assurances that Mr. Gardner's
character could be proved to be such that no woman in her senses could
think, a second time, of accepting him.

'I cannot tell,' said poor Lady Elizabeth; 'they will think all wiped
out by his reform. Emma speaks already of aiding him to redeem the past.
Ah! my dear,' in answer to a look, 'you have not seen my poor child
of late: you do not know how much more opinionative she has become, or
rather, Theresa has made her. I wish she could have been more with you.'

'I never was enough of a companion to her, said Violet. 'In my best days
I was not up to her, and now, between cares and children, I grow more
dull every day.'

'Your best days! my dear child. Why, how old are you?'

'Almost twenty-two,' said Violet; 'but I have been married nearly six
years. I am come into the heat and glare of middle life. Not that I
mean to complain,' said she, rousing her voice to cheerfulness; 'but
household matters do not make people companions for those who have their
youthfulness, and their readings, and schemes.'

'I wish Emma could have been drawn to take interest in your sound
practical life.'

'If she would make a friend of Theodora!'

'Yes, but the old childish fear of her is not gone; and Emma used to
think her rather wild and flighty, and so indeed did I; but how she is
changed! I have been much pleased with conversations with her of late.
Do you think it is owing to Mr. Hugh Martindale's influence?'

'In great part it is. What a blessing it is to them all to have him
here.'

'Ah! it has been one of the things that made me most dread Theresa, that
she will not like that good man.'

'What can she say against him?'

'I don't exactly understand them. They called him a thorough Anglican,
and said he did not feel the universal pulse! Now, I know it has been
unfortunate for Emma that our own vicar does not enter into these ways
of thinking; but I thought, when Mr. Hugh Martindale came into the
neighbourhood, that there would be some one to appeal to; but I believe
Theresa will trust to no one but of her own choosing.'

They had come back to the parsonage-gate, and Lady Elizabeth set Violet
down, promising to write as soon as she arrived at Gothlands; Arthur was
sauntering in the garden, and as soon as the carriage was out of sight,
came to meet her.

'O, Arthur, Lady Elizabeth wanted to speak to you. Cannot you catch
her?'

'I? No. Nonsense.'

'She wanted to ask you about Mr. Gardner. Was it he whom you met at
Gothlands?'

'Well, what of that?'

'Poor Lady Elizabeth! Is it not shocking that he has been making an
offer to Emma?'

'He has, has he? Well, and what is she going to do?'

'There can be but one answer,' said Violet. 'Lady Elizabeth came to hear
about him.'

'A fine chance for gossip for you.'

'I was forced to tell her,' said she, trying to hide the pain given
her by his contemptuous tone. 'I would not have spoken if I could have
helped it.'

'Ay!' said Arthur, 'as he says, set on a lady to talk of her husband's
friends.'

'But, oh! Arthur, what could I do? Think of poor Emma.'

'Emma is a fool.'

'Only you must not be angry with me. I would have said nothing without
cause, but when it comes to this,--and he is pretending to be reformed.'

'Well, so he might be if you would let him.'

'But, Arthur!' then eagerly seizing a new hope, 'you don't mean that he
is really improving? Oh! has he given up those horses, and released you?

He turned petulantly away. 'How can he? You have taken away any chance
of it now. You have done for him, and it is of no use to go on any more
about it.'

He marched off to his own abode, while she was obliged to sit down under
the verandah to compose herself before Theodora should see her.

Theodora perceived that much was amiss; but was spared much anxiety by
not being with the family, and able to watch her brother. The cottage
was completely furnished from the wreck of Martindale; but the removal
thither was deferred by her slow recovery. Though not seriously ill, she
had been longer laid up than had been anticipated in a person so healthy
and strong; the burns would not heal satisfactorily, and she was weak
and languid. It seemed as if the unsparing fatigues she had been in the
habit of undergoing; her immoderate country walks--her over late and
over early hours, had told on her frame, and rendered the effects of her
illness difficult to shake off. Or, thought Violet, those tidings might
be the secret cause, although she never referred to them, and continued
not merely patient, but full of vigour of mind, cheerful, and as
independent and enterprising as submission to orders permitted. Her
obedience to irksome rules was so ready and implicit, that Violet
marvelled, till she perceived that it was part of her system of combat
with self-will; and she took the departure of her sister in the same
manner, forbearing to harass Violet with lamentations; and when her
mother deplored it, made answer, 'It is my fault. If I had not persuaded
Arthur out of living at Brogden, we should be staying with them.'

As to the chance of permanent disfigurement, she treated it very coolly,
listening with indifference to her mother's frequent inquiries of the
surgeon. 'Never mind, mamma, you and Violet will keep up the beauty of
the family till Helen comes out.'

The first time she was able to come down-stairs was the last evening
before they were to depart. One of Arthur's sparks of kindly feeling
awoke when he beheld his once handsome, high-spirited sister, altered
and wrapped up, entering the room with an invalid step and air; and
though she tried to look about in a bright 'degage' manner, soon sinking
into the cushioned chair by the window with a sigh of languor. The
change was greater than he had anticipated from his brief visits to
her in her bed-room; and, recollecting the cause of the injuries, he
perceived the ingratitude of depriving her of Violet; but his contrition
came too late, for he had already exchanged his leave of absence with
another officer.

All that was in his power was to wait upon her with that engaging
attention that rendered him so good a nurse. He was his pleasantest
self, and she was so lively as to put every one else into good spirits.
It was pretty to see the universal pleasure in her recovery--the weeding
woman, going home late, and looking up at the window to see if she was
there, as Miss Helen had promised, and curtseying, hardly able to speak
for joy and grief together, when Theodora beckoned her to the window,
and asked after her children. The dumb page, too, had watched an hour
for her crossing the hall and when Arthur would have taken the tea
from him, to hand to her, he gave such a beseeching glance as was quite
irresistible, and the more affecting as Theodora's hands were not yet in
condition to converse with him, and she was forced to constitute Johnnie
her interpreter.

It was long since any of them had spent so happy an evening; and at
night Arthur insisted on helping her up-stairs, and said, 'I declare it
is a shame not to leave you Violet. Suppose you keep her till you are
all right again?'

'O, thank you, Arthur; but--' for Violet looked doubtful.

'Why, I thought you wanted to stay, Violet?' said Arthur.

'If you could.'

'Too late for that; but you must settle it between you before to-morrow
morning. Good night.'

Lady Martindale warmly pressed Violet to stay, and she found it much
worse to have personally to make the choice than to be only a piece of
property at Arthur's disposal. She was, however, firm, saying that he
would be uncomfortable without her; and she was grateful to Theodora for
perceiving her motives, and preventing further entreaties.

'You are right,' said Theodora, when her mother was gone. 'It would not
be fit to leave him with an empty house, so I must yield you up; but I
cannot bear to think of you in London.'

'I am used to it,' said Violet, with her patient smile.

'And it will not be four years before we meet again. I shall try hard to
come to you in the autumn.'

'How comfortable that would be! But you must not be uneasy about me, nor
put any one out of the way. I can get on very well, as long as I have
Johnnie.'

It was not till both had laid down to rest, and the room was dark, that
Theodora said, 'I understand it now. Her poor sister must have brought
her into some bad foreign society, from which he could only rescue her
by marrying her.'

So abrupt was this commencement that Violet had to recollect who was
meant, and so decided was the tone, that she asked, 'What have you
heard?'

'Nothing fresh; have you?'

'No. Arthur had heard nothing from Mr. Mark Gardner; and I am afraid we
shall hear no more till John answers my letter.'

'No matter; I have found out how it must have been. Lady Fotheringham,
of whom he made a sort of mother, always liked Jane. Depend upon it,
she was anxious about the way in which poor Georgina was reported to be
going on abroad, and told Percy, when she died, to try if he could do
anything to save Jane. You see he goes to Italy, and there finds, of
course, that there is no way of fulfilling his aunt's wishes but by
sacrificing himself.'

'You have arranged it all most fully!'

'See if I am not right--or, rather, you will not see; but I know that
was the way. It is his nature to be fantastically generous, as
some people would call it; and as long as he is the same Percival
Fotheringham, the rest is as nothing. I was unjust at the first moment.
Jane has a better nature, which he can develop. There is a sense of
religion to work on--a power of adaptation to those she is with, and if
what she has seen in Italy has shocked her and made her turn to him, he
may be the making of her. She is clever enough; and when she finds that
nothing but truth and honesty will succeed with him, she will learn them
at last.'

'How glad I am you take it in this way.'

'This quiet time has been good for me,' said Theodora. 'It would have
been maddening to have had no pause before waking to ordinary life.'

'Then the fire came at the right time for you.'

'Have you not read of men rushing into battle, hoping each shot would
strike them?'

'O, Theodora!'

'It did not last long. Don't be frightened. Woman fear, and the stifling
smell, and burning feel, and the sight of the red-hot gulf, were
enough to drive it off. I shall never forget the touch of the floor in
Charles's room! I thought of nothing but the fire. The feeling only came
back with the fainting. I remember a confused notion that I was glad to
be dying with you holding my head and papa so kind. How savage I felt
when every one would rouse me, and tell me I was better! I was in hopes
the world was all over with me; but I see I have a great deal to do
first, and the comfort of lying torpid here has been very great. I have
had time to be stunned, and to get a grasp of it and of my own mind.'

'Dear Theodora! It is indeed sometimes a blessing to be laid up. It
brings out so much kindness. It is the easiest of all the crosses.'

'I should not wonder if my rampant health had helped to make me the more
wayward,' said Theodora. 'I would not but have been ill for the sake
of the kindness from my father and mother. I was sure of you, but there
is--It has given me spirit to look out upon life.'

'I hope there is peace at least in the look.'

'There is. It is not worse than before, except the vanishing of a
lingering foolish hope, and that is safest. Repentance must always be
there. My life is like myself; the wounds may heal, but the marks will
remain and the freshness and glow will never return here. I am glad I
am so much altered. I should not like to be again within the pale of
attractive people.'

'It is strange to hear you say such things so calmly.'

'I made up my mind long ago. In following poor Georgina--or rather,
my own self-will--I threw away the bloom of life. Percy warned me that
those who reject light crosses have heavy loads imposed. I made what now
seems hardly a cross of reed, into a scourge! Oh, Violet! would that I
had done no harm but to myself by those races!'

'Hush!' said Violet's smothered voice.

'But for that,' said Theodora, recovering steadiness of tone, 'I should
bear everything peacefully. I was unworthy of Percy, and am better off
than I deserve. Oh, Violet! I have wished to thank you for making me
go to Baden, and promising that if I would submit, guidance would come.
There it was, the instant I really sought it. What would have become of
me if I had not been haunted by your look and your words? How many
times they saved me from accepting Lord St. Erme! And if I had, how my
self-will, and pride, and jealousy would have grown! and how wretched I
should be making him now!'

'It is much better as it is.'

'Yes, whatever pain I did give him by my very shameful usage, it would
have been far worse to have gone on. I was thankful that I was stopped.
Now I think I see my own life. There are my home duties; and oh! how
could I have spoken as I once did of papa! How shocking it must have
seemed to you!'

'I do not know what it was, but it was under great provocation, and you
did not understand him then.'

'No, you and Hugh drove me to him, and in seeing him pleased with
anything I can do for him, there is solid happiness. I have learnt to
enter into his affection and deep feeling and anxieties, and I would not
have missed these four years of reciprocity with him for anything! And
I shall get on better with mamma now. I fancy she has a different nature
after all, from what my aunt forced on her. Well, then, you know I
have long set up for a maiden aunt, and there is John, who might want
a housekeeper. Or if I am of no use to my own folks, there are the poor
always. Perhaps I may come to Emma Brandon's priory. It would be fine
discipline to be under Mother Theresa.

This unexpected pleasantry Violet could only answer by a groan.

'Seriously,' continued Theodora, 'my doubt would be whether it would be
right to turn to such a course only when one has nothing else to do. It
is a different thing from giving the energies and wishes and visions of
youth, as Emma has done. I could only offer the worn-out. But that
is speculation. There is present duty at home and in the village, and
brightness in your children, and my hopes are on John. I have used him
vilely, because he tried to teach me to take to you, and I do long
to see him and ask his pardon, and you will help me, so that he shall
believe in my sorrow, and we will be a sober old brother and sister
together.'

'I believe he wishes for nothing more. He will feel your having worked
for him, instead of saving anything of your own.'

'I had little to care for: my childhood had few recollections, and I had
nothing of Helen's. It was a pleasure to work for him. Do you know, when
I saw that marble chess-table which had belonged to the parsonage, and
which Percy had left in John's charge, a horrid feeling came that I
would not save it for Jane, and I left it. Then I remembered that was a
nasty spiteful bit of revenge, and I hated myself, and dashed in when I
really did know that it was not safe. I was altogether mad, I believe. I
felt desperate, and rather enjoyed facing danger for it. And then I
felt the heat of the fire from the gallery again, and the spout from the
fire-engine came, and the smoke was so thick that I missed my footing
with that great heavy thing, and fell down-stairs to the first landing,
and I believe that must have been what hurt my hand and side so much.'

Then as she heard Violet's tightened breath at the thought of the
frightful peril,

'Well for me I did not perish with these wild thoughts! I am glad I have
told you at last. I have felt as if I ought to confess it, and yet I was
ashamed. Is the thing safe?'

'Yes, I saw it at Brogden; but oh, to think of it!'

'I am glad it is safe; it was John's charge, and he ought to restore it:
but you will dream of it, like poor little Johnnie, if you take it so
much to heart. I should not have told you at night. Put it out of your
head, and let us sleep in peace.'

'Good night, dear sister. Thank you for talking to me. O, this is better
than the night we parted before.'

'As much better as it is to have found one's anchor than to be tossed at
the will of the waves. That was a frightful time. Thank heaven that you
made me feel for the cable! There is a dreary voyage to come, but after
all, every day we end the Creed with "The life everlasting."'



CHAPTER 6


     What have I?  Shall I dare to tell?
     A comfortless and hidden well,
     A well of love, it may be deep,
     I trust it is, and never dry.
     What matter if the waters sleep
     In silence and obscurity?

     --WORDSWORTH


Violet experienced the trials to which she knew she was returning.
For some time past her husband's habits had been growing less and less
domestic, and his disappointment alienated him still more. It was as
if Mrs. Nesbit had left behind her a drop of poison, that perverted and
envenomed the pride he used to take in his son, as heir to the family
honours, and made him regard the poor child almost in the light of a
rival, while he seemed to consider the others as burdens, and their
number a hardship and misfortune.

He was so impatient of interruption from them, that Violet kept them
carefully out of his way, while he was in the house, and this was seldom
for a long space of time. All the fancied trials of the first year of
her marriage seemed to have actually come upon her! She hardly saw him
from morning to night, and when he did spend an evening at home, he was
sullen and discontented, and found fault with everything. She was far
from well, but his days of solicitude were gone by, and he was too much
wrapped up in his own concerns to perceive her failure in strength,
and the effort it cost her to be cheerful. The children were her great
solace, but the toil of attending to them was almost beyond her powers,
and if it had not been for her boy, she felt as if she must have been
quite overwhelmed. Quiet, gentle, and thoughtful, he was a positive
assistance in the care of his sisters; and to read with him, hear his
remarks, watch his sweet obedience, and know herself the object of his
earnest affection, was her chief enjoyment, though even here there was
anxiety. His innocence and lovingness had something unearthly, and there
was a precocious understanding, a grave serious turn of mind, and a
want of childish mirth, which added to the fears caused by his fragile
health. Play was not nearly so pleasant to him as to sit by her, reading
or talking, or to act as her little messenger; and it was plain that he
missed fondness from his father almost as much as she did for him. To be
in the room with papa was his most earnest desire, and it saddened her
to see that little slight figure silent in the corner, the open book on
his lap, but his pale face, soft dark eyes, and parted lips, intent on
every movement of his father, till the instant a want was expressed, or
the least occasion for a service offered, there was a bound to execute
it, and the inattentive indifferent 'thank you' was enough to summon
up the rosy hue of delight. Would Arthur only have looked, how could he
have helped being touched? But he continued neglectful and unheeding,
while the child's affection seemed to thrive the more under disregard.

Violet's only satisfaction was in the absence of Mr. Gardner. She heard
constantly from Lady Elizabeth Brandon; but there was little that was
hopeful in that quarter. Emma's heart was more entirely in the power
of her suitor than even their fears had anticipated. She had kept so
entirely aloof from gentlemen, and so suspiciously repelled the most
ordinary attention, that when once she had permitted any intimacy the
novelty gave it a double charm. He had come upon her at first as one
bowed down with sorrow for the follies of his youth, seeking only for
the means of repairing what was past, and professing that happiness was
over, and all he could hope was to evidence the depth of his repentance
by his devotion and self-sacrifice in the cause of the Church. Then,
when at unawares he allowed it to be discovered by Theresa that the
heart, supposed to be awake only to remorse, had been gained by the
earnestness and excellence of her young friend, and that in her was the
most powerful means of consoling and aiding him, when he seemed sunk in
the depths of despair at having allowed his sentiments to transpire, and
only too much humiliated by the idea of being named together with Miss
Brandon, it was impossible but that Emma's gentle and enthusiastic
spirit should go more than half way to raise him from his despondency.
She could not believe his errors so great, after all; or even if they
were, who would not overlook them, and rejoice to have the power of
comforting such a penitent? Theresa Marstone, with a woman's latent love
of romance, was prime confidante to both, encouraged all, and delighted
in the prospect of being supreme in the Priory, and moulding the pattern
household of the pair formed and united under her auspices.

In the midst of such a dream as this, what chance had Lady Elizabeth
of convincing the friends that their penitent, scarcely persuaded to
relinquish plans of a hermitage, was a spendthrift adventurer, seeking
to repair his extravagance with the estates of Rickworth?

Emma shed indignant tears, and protested that it was cruel to bring up
his past faults; talked of the Christian duty of forgiving the returning
sinner; and when Lady Elizabeth showed that he had very recently
been engaged in his usual courses, Theresa, with a sensible face and
reasonable voice, argued that ordinary minds could not enter into the
power of the Church's work, and adduced many cases of equally sudden
change of life.

She did not mention whether there was always the heiress of ten thousand
a year ready as a reward.

The list of charges against Mark's character deepened every day, and
added to poor Lady Elizabeth's horror, but he always contrived to render
them as nothing to Emma. He had always confessed them beforehand, either
to her or to Theresa, with strong professions of sorrow, and so
softened and explained away, that they were ready to receive each
fresh accusation as an exaggeration of a fault long past, and deeply
regretted, and only admired their injured Mark the more. Lady Elizabeth
wrote to beg Violet to give her the clue which she had said Arthur
possessed to Mark's actual present character.

In much distress Violet wrote the letter, mentioning some disgraceful
transactions which she knew to have been taking place at the very time
when the good curate believed his friend sincerely repentant. She had
heard them, not from Arthur, but from Mrs Bryanstone, who always learnt
from her brother every such piece of gossip, but still, after what had
passed, and Lady Elizabeth's appeal direct to Arthur, she thought it
her duty to tell him before she sent the letter, and to ask if the facts
were correct.

It was a most unpleasant duty; but Arthur was not in such a mood as when
first she had mentioned the subject to him. He muttered something about
the intense folly of a woman who could believe a word out of Gardner's
mouth; said if Emma desired to be made miserable for life she could not
take a better way; wished he had never set eyes on the fellow, and then,
grumbling at Violet's begging him to read the letter, he cast his eye
over it, and said it was all true, and there was worse, too, if Lady
Elizabeth did but know it; but what this was he would not tell her. He
made no objection to her sending the letter, saying he supposed it
must be done, since she was asked; but it was all her doing, and Lady
Elizabeth might have gone to some one else; and inconsistently ended
with, 'After all, what's the use of making such an uproar about it? Such
things have happened twenty times before, and will again.'

'Not with my poor Emma, I hope. Imagine her with such a man as that!'

'Well! there are plenty of such couples. I wonder what would become of
the world if wives were not better than their husbands.'

Every rational person at Gothlands thought this letter conclusive; Emma
herself was shaken; but a walk in the shrubbery with Mark settled it
in her mind that his newly-formed wishes of amendment had then been
weak--he had not then seen her, he had not learnt so much as at present.
He had not been able to confess these deeds, because others, who had now
spoken, were concerned in them; but now it was a relief to be able to
tell all to his Emma! The end of it was, that Emma herself was almost
ready to press forward the marriage, so as to give him the means of
clearing himself from the debts, which, as he insinuated, were the true
cause of Colonel Martindale's accusations. He forgave him, however,
though if all was known of his dealings with Arthur Martindale--! And
then there was a long confidential talk with Theresa Marstone, after
which she told Lady Elizabeth that, though Mr. Gardner spared Emma's
feelings with regard to her friend, there could be no doubt that Colonel
Martindale had done much to lead him astray.

At last, as a dutiful concession, Emma resolved on a compromise, and put
him on his probation for a year. This was particularly inconvenient to
him, but he was very resigned and humble; 'perhaps he had hoped more
from her affection, but he knew it was his penalty, and must submit.
If there was but some religious house to which he could retire for the
intermediate space; for he dreaded the effect of being sent back to the
world.'

Theresa was wrought upon to counsel haste; but Emma had principle at the
bottom of her effervescence of folly, and was too right-minded, as well
as too timid, to act in direct opposition to her mother, however she
might be led to talk. Therefore they parted, with many tears on Emma's
part, and tender words and promises on Mark's. Lady Elizabeth had little
hope that he would not keep them; but she took advantage of the reprieve
to conduct Emma to make visits amongst her relations--sober people,
among whom sense was more likely to flourish, and among whom Mr. Gardner
could never dare to show himself.

He went, as he told Emma, to seek for some continental convent, where
perhaps he might be received as a boarder, and glean hints for the
Priory. Ordinary minds believed that his creditors being suspicious
of the delay of his marriage with the heiress, had contributed to this
resolution.

He spent a few days in London on his way, came to call on Colonel
Martindale, and was much with him, as Violet afterwards found, though
she did not know of it at the time.

She perceived the renewal of his influence in a project of which Arthur
began to talk, of leaving the army and establishing himself at Boulogne.
Though by rigid economy and self-denial she had continued to make the
original sum apportioned to her cover all household expenses, and his
promotion had brought an increase of income, Arthur declared that, with
such a family, his means were inadequate to the requirements of his
profession, and that unless his father could assist them further,
they must reside abroad. Lord Martindale treated the threat with great
displeasure, and to Violet it was like annihilation. When thankful for
Mark Gardner's absence, she was to be made to pursue him, probably in
order that he might continue to prey on Arthur in secret, and then, at
the year's end, bring them as witnesses that he had abstained from open
transgression; she was to see her husband become the idling Englishman
abroad, in the society most likely to be his ruin; to have her children
exposed to the disadvantages of a foreign education--what more was
wanting to her distress? She ventured to expostulate on their account;
but Arthur laughed, and told her they would learn French for nothing;
and when she spoke of the evils of bringing up a boy in France, it was
with the look which pained her so acutely, that she was answered, 'No
fear but that he will be looked after: he is of consequence in the
family.'

Never had the future looked so desolate; but sufficient unto the day was
the evil thereof. She had the root of peace and strength, and had long
been trained in patient trust and endurance. To pray, to strive, to
dwell on words of comfort, to bear in mind the blessings of the cross,
to turn resolutely from gloomy contemplations, and to receive thankfully
each present solace,--these were the tasks she set herself, and they
bore the fruit of consolation and hidden support. Her boy's affection
and goodness, the beauty and high health of her little girls, and the
kindlier moments when Arthur's better nature shone out, were balm and
refreshment, because she accepted them as gifts from the Fatherly Hand
that laid the trial upon her.

Her submissive distress so far worked on Arthur, that she heard no more
of the Boulogne scheme for the present, and she drove it out of her
mind, grateful for his silence, whether it was only from consideration
for her, or whether he had really relinquished the design, now that Mr.
Gardner was no longer near to maintain his ascendancy.

The summer was dreary at Brogden, as well as in Cadogan-place. Theodora
soon was able to call herself well, and to resume her usual avocations,
but she had not the same sense of energy and strength of body, and her
days were combats with inertness and fatigue. She did not slacken her
exertions, but they had no zest, and she suffered for them. Moreover,
she was uneasy about Arthur and his wife; and to partake her father's
confidence was to share his many anxieties, and to be perplexed by his
cares as well as her own. With her mother there were other difficulties.
Lady Martindale had been kept so far apart from her daughter, that now
it seemed as if they could not amalgamate, and when Theodora no longer
was ill, the old habit of reserve returned. Assiduously did Theodora
wait on her, read to her, and go out with her in the carriage; but still
without becoming familiar, or being able to cheer her spirits. In truth,
after having been for years an obedient attendant on her aunt, Lady
Martindale felt the blank of the want of occupation, and thus the sense
of her loss was ever renewed. Science, literature, and accomplishments
had been her pursuits, chiefly because her aunt led her to them, and
they had been gradually dropped with Mrs. Nesbit's interest in them. In
themselves they had no charm for her, and she turned from them now
as painfully recalling what she had lost. Dispirited, and without
employment, the natural consequence was that her health suffered, and
she became a prey to the varied torments of neuralgia, while Theodora
proved herself a better nurse than could have been expected for an
illness in which she only half believed.

Many hopes were fixed on John's return; but this was deferred,--he
was in the midst of church building, and establishing schemes to which
absence would be fatal, and he could only promise to come home next
year, when things should be put in train. To his sister he wrote a
letter so full of warm affectionate gratitude for her exertions in his
behalf, that she was positively soothed and refreshed, and reckoned the
more on beginning with him the fraternal union so long delayed, but to
which she looked as the solace of her future life.

As to Percival Fotheringham, there was no further explanation of his
marriage. John wrote to Violet that he had not heard from him for many
months, for it was difficult to keep up a correspondence between Barbuda
and the continental towns whither he was journeying. His last letter
had spoken of a tour in Italy in contemplation, and that in which he had
communicated Lady Fotheringham's death, mentioned some of her last
cares being for Jane and Georgina, and how she had tried to leave some
provision which might rescue the former from the necessity of following
her sister into the undesirable society she found abroad. This only
served to confirm Theodora's conjecture.

From other sources no intelligence was gained. London was empty, and
Violet saw no one likely to know anything of his movements; and when she
heard that Mark Gardner had been in town, and eagerly inquired whether
he had been asked, she found that Arthur had forgotten the whole matter.
Lady Elizabeth finished the letter, rejoicing in his departure, by
saying--'He confirms what I told you of the marriage of his cousin
and Mr. Fotheringham, and calls it a lucky thing for her. I had no
opportunity of hearing the particulars.' And, finally, Mrs. Bryanstone
had heard of Miss Gardner's marriage with one of the Fotheringhams of
Worthbourne, and only wanted Mrs. Martindale to strengthen her in the
belief that it was the dear, eccentric Crusader.



CHAPTER 7


     'Mid sombre shades of evening dim
       Upon the rock so lone, so drear,
     Scorning weak frame and sinking limb,
       My heart grows bright and bold of cheer;
     Out of the depths of stormy night
       My hope looks up with cloudless eyes,
     And to the one true deathless light,
       Its joyful pinions swiftly rise:
     Thanks to the seraph shape that beamed
       Benign upon my darkened breast,
     So for her service worthy deemed,
       My grateful heart abounds in rest.

     --FOUQUE'S Minstrel Love


'Wrangerton, August 20th.

'You must not be frightened, dearest Violet--Albert is safe; thanks to
that most noble-hearted, admirable Lord St. Erme, and above all, thanks
to Him who directed this dreadful stroke away from us. I hope you will
receive this before you see the newspaper. Mamma has gone up with them,
to help them to break it to poor Lady Lucy. May she be supported!

'The history, as far as I can toll you, is this:--The men at the
collieries have been as troublesome and insubordinate as ever, seeming
to think opposition to Lord St. Erme an assertion of their rights as
free-born Englishmen; and at last, finding it impossible to do anything
with them as long as they did not depend immediately upon himself,
he took the pits into his own hands when Mr. Shoreham went away, a
fortnight ago. It seems that Mr. Shoreham, knowing that he was going,
had let everything fall into a most neglected state, and the overlookers
brought reports to Albert that there were hardly any safety-lamps
used in the great pit, and that the galleries were so insufficiently
supported that there was great danger in continuing to work there.
However, the reports were contradictory, and after trying in vain to
settle what was to be done, Lord St. Erme rode this morning to the
collieries, to make a personal inspection, and insist on the men using
the Davy-lamp. After trying to dissuade him, Albert proposed to go down
with him; but he would not consent--he only smiled, and said there was
no need for it. It did not strike Albert till afterwards that he was
conscious of the risk, and would not allow another to share it! He was
waiting for him, not far from the shaft, when the earth seemed to give
way under his feet; there was a thundering sound, a great cry, and he
fell. When he recovered his footing, the mouth of the shaft was
gone, the scaffolding prostrate, the people around in horror and
consternation. The pit had fallen in, and there were at least twenty
men there, besides Lord St. Erme. Oh! how you will share that shuddering
thankfulness and sorrow, that we felt, when Albert galloped up to the
door and threw himself into the arm-chair, so unnerved by the shock that
he could not at first speak. Happily his wife was here, so she heard all
at once. He is gone with mamma and papa to tell the poor sister. Alas!
though we think most of her, there are many other sufferers.

'Three, o'clock.--Albert is come back. He says Lady Lucy met them in the
hall, pale and trembling, as if she had already worked herself into an
agony of fright. She begged them to tell her at once, and stood quite
still, only now and then moaning to herself, "Oh, St. Erme! St. Erme!"
Mamma took her by the hand, and tried to speak soothingly; but she did
not seem to attend, and presently looked up, flushed and quivering,
though she had been so still before, and declared that the whole might
not have fallen; she had heard of people being dug out alive; they must
begin at once, and she would go to the spot. There is no hope, Albert
says; even if not crushed, they must have perished from the foul air,
but the poor girl has caught fast hold of the idea, and insists on going
to Coalworth at once to urge it on. They cannot prevent her, and mamma
cannot bear that she should be alone, and means to go with her. The
carriage was ordered when Albert came here! Poor thing, there was never
fonder love between a brother and sister; she hardly had a thought that
did not centre in him. It breaks my heart to think how often we have
seen them walking arm-in-arm together, and said they might be taken for
a pair of lovers.

'Five o'clock.--Annette begs me to conclude her letter. My father has
returned home, and fetched her to Coalworth, to be with my mother, and
the poor young lady (already, I fear, Countess of St. Erme), who, he
tells us, continues buoyed up by the delusion that her brother may yet
be found alive, and is calling on all around to use the utmost exertions
for his recovery. I regret that I cannot go in Annette's stead; but I
cannot leave home in mamma's absence, as poor Louisa is much affected by
Albert's peril, and in so nervous a state that she will not hear of my
quitting her for a moment. We have indeed received a lesson, that no
rank, however exalted, can protect from the strokes of Providence, or
the uncertainties of human life. But the postman calls. Adieu.

'Your affectionate sister,

'Matilda Moss.'


(The last moral sentiment, be it observed, readied Miss Martindale,
rendered illegible by scrawls of ink from Violet's hand.)


'Coalworth, August 21st.

'Dearest Violet,--Matilda told you how I was sent for to come here. They
are working on,--relays relieving each other day and night; but no one
but poor Lady Lucy thinks there is any hope. Mr. Alder, the engineer,
says Lord St. Erme must have been in the farthest gallery, and they
cannot reach it in less than a week, so that if the other perils should
be escaped, there would be starvation. The real number lost is fourteen,
besides Lord St. Erme. It was a strange scene when I arrived at about
seven o'clock yesterday evening. The moor looking so quiet, and like
itself, with the heath and furze glowing in the setting sun, as if they
had no sympathy for us, till, when we came near the black heaps of coal,
we saw the crowd standing round,--then getting into the midst, there was
the great broken down piece of blackened soil and the black strong-armed
men working away with that life-and-death earnestness. By the ruins of
a shed that had been thrown down, there was a little group, Lady Lucy,
looking so fair and delicate, so unlike everything around, standing by
an old woman in a red cloak, whom she had placed in the chair that had
been brought for herself, the mother of one of the other sufferers.
Mamma and papa were with her; but nothing seems to comfort her so much
as going from one to the other of the women and children in the same
trouble with herself. She talks to them, and tries to get them to be
hopeful, and nurses the babies, and especially makes much of the old
woman. The younger ones look cheered when she tells them that history
which she dwells on so much, and seem as if they must believe her, but
the poor old dame has no hope, and tells her so. "'Tis the will of God,
my lady, don't ye take on so now. It will be all one when we come to
heaven, though I would have liked to have seen Willy again; but 'tis the
cross the Lord sends, so don't ye take on," and then Lady Lucy sits down
on the ground, and looks up in her face, as if her plain words did
her more good than anything we can say, or even the clergyman, who is
constantly going from one to the other. Whenever the men come to work,
or go away, tired out, Lady Lucy thanks them from the bottom of her
heart; and a look at her serves to inspirit and force them on to
wonderful exertions. But alas! what it must end in! We are at the house
that was Mr. Shoreham's, the nearest to the spot. It was hard work to
get poor Lady Lucy to come in last night. She stood there till long
after dark, when the stars were all out, and mamma could only get her
away by telling her, that her brother would be vexed, and that, if she
made herself ill, she would not be able to nurse him. She did not sleep
all night, and this morning she was out again with daylight, and we
were obliged to bring her out some breakfast, which she shared with the
fellow-sufferers round her, and would have taken nothing herself if
the old dame had not coaxed her, and petted her, calling her "My pretty
lady," and going back to her lecture on its being a sin to fret at His
will. Mamma and I take turns to be with her. When I came in, she was
sitting by the old woman, reading to her the Psalms, and the good old
creature saying at the end of each, "Yes, yes, He knows what is good for
them. Glory be to Him."

'Aug. 22nd.--As before. They have tried if they can open a way from the
old shaft, but cannot do it with safety. Lady Lucy still the same, but
paler and more worn, I think, less hopeful; I hope, more resigned.

'Aug. 23rd.--Poor Lucy was really tired out, and slept for two whole
hours in the heat of the noon, sitting on the ground by old Betty,
fairly overpowered. It was a touching sight; the old woman watching her
so sedulously, and all the rough people keeping such strict silence, and
driving off all that could disturb her. The pitmen look at her with
such compassionate reverence! The look and word she gives them are ten
thousand times more to them, I am sure, than the high pay they get for
every hour they work! Next Wednesday is the first day they can hope to
come to anything. This waiting is dreadful. Would that I could call it
suspense!

'Aug. 24th, Sunday.--She has been to church this morning. I did not
think she could, but at the sound of the bell, she looked up, and the
old woman too, they seemed to understand each other without a word, and
went together. The service was almost more than one could bear, but she
was composed, except at the references in the sermon to our state of
intense anxiety, and the need of submission. At the special mention in
the Litany of those in danger, I heard from beneath her hands clasped
over her face, that low moan of "O, brother, brother!" Still I think
when the worst comes, she will bear it better and be supported.

'Five o'clock.--THESE IS HOPE!--O Violet! We went to church again
this afternoon. The way leads past the old shaft. As we came by it in
returning, Lady Lucy stood still, and said she heard a sound. We could
hear nothing, but one of the wives said, "Yes, some one was working, and
calling down there." I flew to the main shaft, and called Mr. Alder. He
was incredulous, but Lady Lucy insisted. A man went down, and the sound
was certain. No words can be made out. They are working to meet them.
Lucy burst into tears, and threw her arms round my neck as soon as she
heard this man's report; but oh! thankful as we are, it is more cruel
than ever not to know who is saved, and this letter must go to-night
without waiting for more.

'25th.--He is alive, they say, but whether he can rally is most
uncertain. All night they worked on, not till six o'clock this morning
was any possibility of communication opened. Then questions were asked,
"How many were there?" "Fifteen, all living, but one much crushed." Oh!
the suspense, the heart-beating as those answers were sent up from the
depths of the tomb--a living tomb indeed; and how Lady Lucy pressed the
women's hard hands, and shed her tears of joy with them. But there was
a damp to her gladness. Next message was that Lord St. Erme bad
fainted--they could not tell whether he lived--he could not hold out any
longer! Then it was that she gave way, and indeed it was too agonizing,
but the old woman seemed better able to calm her than we could. Terrible
moments indeed! and in the midst there was sent up a folded paper that
had been handed out at the small aperture on the point of a tool, when
the poor things had first been able to see the lights of their rescuers.
It was to Lady Lucy; her brother had written it on the leaf of a
pocket-book, before their single lamp went out, and had given it in
charge to one of the men when he found his strength failing. She was too
dizzy and trembling to make out the pencil, and gave it to me to read to
her. I hope I am not doing wrong, for I must tell you how beautiful and
resigned a farewell it was. He said, in case this note ever came to her,
she must not grieve at the manner of his death--it was a comfort to him
to be taken, while trying to repair the negligence of earlier years;
they were a brave determined set of men who were with him, and she must
provide for their widows and children. There was much fond thought for
her, and things to console her, and one sentence you must have--"If ever
you meet with the "hoch-beseeltes Madchen", let her know that her knight
thanks and blesses her in his last hour for having roused him and sent
him forth to the battlefield. I would rather be here now than what I
was when she awoke me. Perhaps she will now be a friend and comforter to
you."

'I think those were the words. I could not help writing them. Poor Lucy
cried over the note, and we lowered down baskets of nourishment to be
handed in, but we heard only of Lord St. Erme's continued swoon, and it
was a weary while before the opening could be widened enough to help
the sufferers out. They were exhausted, and could work no more on their
side. But for him, it seems they would have done nothing; he was the
only one who kept his presence of mind when the crash came. One lamp
was not extinguished, and he made them at once consider, while the light
lasted, whether they could help themselves. One of the hewers knew that
they were not far from this old shaft, and happily Lord St. Erme had
a little compass hung to his watch, which he used to carry in his
wanderings abroad; this decided the direction, and he set them to
work, and encouraged them to persevere most manfully. He did not work
himself--indeed, the close air oppressed him much more than it did the
pitmen, and he had little hope for his own life, however it might end,
but he sat the whole time, supporting the head of the man who was hurt,
and keeping up the resolution of the others, putting them in mind of
the only hope in their dire distress, and guiding them to prayer and
repentance, such as might fit them for life or death. "He was more than
ten preachers, and did more good than forty discourses," said one man.
But he had much less bodily strength than they, though more energy and
fortitude, and he was scarcely sensible when the first hope of rescue
came. It seemed as if he had just kept up to sustain them till then,
and when they no longer depended on him for encouragement, he sank. The
moment came at last. He was drawn up perfectly insensible, together with
a great brawny-armed hewer, a vehement Chartist, and hitherto his great
enemy, but who now held him in his arms like a baby, so tenderly and
anxiously. As soon as he saw Lady Lucy, he called out, "Here he is,
Miss, I hope ye'll be able to bring him to. If all lords were like he
now!" and then his wife had hold of him, quite beside herself with joy;
but he shook her off with a sort of kind rudeness, and, exhausted as he
was, would not hear of being helped to his home, till he had heard the
doctors (who were all in waiting) say that Lord St. Erme was alive.
Lady Lucy was hanging over him in a sort of agony of ecstasy, and yet of
grief; but still she looked up, and put her little white hand into the
collier's big black one, and said, "Thank you," and then he fairly burst
out crying, and so his wife led him away. I saw Lord St. Erme for one
moment, and never was anything more death-like, such ghastly white,
except where grimed with coal-dust. They are in his room now, trying
to restore animation. He has shown some degree of consciousness, and
pressed his sister's hand, but all power of swallowing seems to be
gone, and the doctors are in great alarm. The others are doing well--the
people come in swarms to the door to ask for him.

'26th.--Comfort at last. He has been getting better all night, and this
morning the doctors say all danger is over. Mamma says she can hardly
keep from tears as she watches the happy placid looks of the brother and
sister, as he lies there so pale and shadowy, and she hangs over him, as
if she could never gaze at him enough. Several of the men, who were with
him, came to inquire for him early this morning; none of them suffered
half so much as he did. I went down to speak to them, and I am glad I
did; it is beautiful to see how he has won all their hearts, and to hear
their appreciation of his conduct. They say he tended the man who
was hurt as if he had been his mother, and never uttered one word of
complaint. "He told us," said one man, "God could hear us out of the
depth, as well as when we said our prayers in church; and whenever our
hearts were failing us, there was his voice speaking somewhat good to
cheer us up, or help us to mind that there was One who knew where we
were, and would have a care for us and our wives and children." "Bless
him," said another, "he has been the saving of our lives;" "Bless him;"
and they touched their hats and said Amen. I wish his sister could have
seen them!

'Five o'clock.--Mrs. Delaval is come, and there is no room nor need
for us, so we are going home. It is best, for mamma was nursing him all
night, and is tired out. He has improved much in the course of the day,
and they hope that he may soon be moved home. The pitmen want to carry
him back on his mattress on their shoulders. He has made himself king of
their hearts! He has been able to inquire after them, and Lady Lucy,
who forgets no one, has been down-stairs to see the old Betty. "Ah! my
pretty lady," she said, "you are not sorry now that you tried to take
the Lord's Cross patiently, and now, you see, your sorrow is turned into
joy." And then Lady Lucy would not have it called patience, and said she
had had no submission in her, and Betty answered her, "Ah! well, you
are young yet, and He fits the burden to the shoulder." How an adventure
like this brings out the truth of every character, as one never would
have known it otherwise. Who would have dreamt of that pattern of
saintly resignation in the Coalworth heath, or that Lady Lucy Delaval
would have found a poor old woman her truest and best comforter? and
this without the least forwardness on the old woman's part.

'Just going! Lady Lucy so warm-hearted and grateful--and Lord St. Erme
himself wished mamma good-bye in such a kind cordial manner, thanking
her for all she had done for his sister. I am sorry to go, so as not to
be in the way of seeing anything more of them, but it is time, for mamma
is quite overcome. So I must close up this last letter from Coalworth, a
far happier one than I thought to end with.

'Your most affectionate,

A. M.


'P. S.--Is he not a hero, equal to his "hoch-beseeltes Madchen"? I am
ashamed of having written to you what was never meant for other eyes,
but it will be safe with you. If you had seen how he used to waylay us,
and ask for our tidings from you after the fire, you would see I cannot
doubt who the "madchen" is. Is there no hope for him? The other affair
was so long ago, and who could help longing to have such minstrel-love
rewarded?'


That postscript did not go on to Brogden, though Annette's betrayal of
confidence had been suffered to meet the eye of the high-souled maiden.

The accounts of Lord St. Erme continued to improve, though his recovery
was but slow. To talk the adventure over was a never-failing interest
to Lady Martindale, who, though Theodora suppressed Annette's quotation,
was much of the opinion expressed in the postscript, and made some quiet
lamentations that Theodora had rejected him.

'No, we were not fit for each other,' she answered.

'You would not say so now,' said Lady Martindale. 'He has done things as
great as yourself, my dear.'

'I am fit for no one now,' said Theodora, bluntly.

'Ah, my dear!--But I don't know why I should wish you to marry; I could
never do without you.'

'That's the most sensible thing you have said yet, mamma.'

But Theodora wished herself less necessary at home, when, in a few weeks
more, she had to gather that matters were going on well from the large
round-hand note, with nursery spelling and folding, in which Johnnie
announced that he had a little brother.

An interval of peace to Violet ensued. Arthur did not nurse her as in
old times; but he was gentle and kind, and was the more with her as the
cough, which had never been entirely removed, was renewed by a chill in
the first cold of September. All went well till the babe was a week old,
when Arthur suddenly announced his intention of asking for a fortnight's
leave, as he was obliged to go to Boulogne on business.

Here was a fresh thunderbolt. Violet guessed that Mr. Gardner was there,
and was convinced that, whatever might be Arthur's present designs,
he would come back having taken a house at Boulogne. He answered her
imploring look by telling her not to worry herself; he hoped to get
'quit of the concern,' and, at any rate, could not help going. She
suggested that his cough would bear no liberties; he said, change of air
would take it off, and scouted her entreaty that he would consult Mr.
Harding. Another morning, a kind careless farewell, he was gone!

Poor Violet drew the coverlet over her head; her heart failed her, and
she craved that her throbbing sinking weakness and feverish anxiety
might bring her to her final rest. When she glanced over the future, her
husband deteriorating, and his love closed up from her; her children
led astray by evil influences of a foreign soil; Johnnie, perhaps, only
saved by separation--Johnnie, her precious comforter; herself far from
every friend, every support, without security of church ordinances--all
looked so utterly wretched that, as her pulses beat, and every sensation
of illness was aggravated, she almost rejoiced in the danger she felt
approaching.

Nothing but her infant's voice could have recalled her to a calmer mind,
and brought back the sense that she was bound to earth by her children.
She repented as of impatience and selfishness, called back her
resolution, and sought for soothing. It came. She had taught herself the
dominion over her mind in which she had once been so deficient. Vexing
cares and restless imaginings were driven back by echoes of hymns and
psalms and faithful promises, as she lay calm and resigned, in her
weakness and solitude, and her babe slept tranquilly in her bosom, and
Johnnie brought his books and histories of his sisters; and she could
smile in thankfulness at their loveliness of to-day, only in prayer
concerning herself for the morrow. She was content patiently to abide
the Lord.



CHAPTER 8


     But one, I wis, was not at home,
       Another had paid his gold away,
     Another called him thriftless loone,
       And bade him sharply wend his way.

     --Heir of Lynne


'He is done for. That wife of his may feel the consequence of meddling
in other folk's concerns. Not that I care for that now, there's metal
more attractive; but she has crossed me, and shall suffer for it.' These
short sentences met the ear of a broad-shouldered man in a rough coat,
as, in elbowing his way through the crowd on the quay at Boulogne, he
was detained for a moment behind two persons, whose very backs had all
the aspect of the dissipated Englishman abroad. Struggling past, he
gained a side view of the face of the speaker. It was one which he
knew; but the vindictive glare in the sarcastic eyes positively made him
start, as he heard the laugh of triumph and derision, in reply to some
remark from the other.

'Ay! and got enough to get off to Paris, where the old Finch has dropped
off his perch at last. That was all I wanted of him, and it was time
to wring him dry and have done with him. He will go off in consumption
before the year is out--'

As he spoke, the stranger turned on him an honest English face, the lips
compressed into an expression of the utmost contempt, while indignation
flashed in the penetrating gray eyes, that looked on him steadily.
His bold defiant gaze fell, quailing and scowling, he seemed to become
small, shrink away, and disappeared.

'When scamp number two looks round for scamp number one, he is lost
in the crowd,' muttered the traveller, half smiling; then, with a deep
breath, 'The hard-hearted rascal! If one could only wring his neck!
Heaven help the victim! though, no doubt, pity is wasted on him.'

He ceased his reflections, to enter the steamer just starting for
Folkestone, and was soon standing on deck, keeping guard over his
luggage. The sound of a frequent cough attracted his attention, and,
looking round, he saw a tall figure wrapped in great-coats leaning on
the leeward side of the funnel.

'Hollo! you here, Arthur! Where have you been?'

'What, Percy? How d'ye do?' replied a hoarse, languid voice.

'Is Mrs. Martindale here?'

'No.' He was cut short by such violent cough that he was obliged to rest
his forehead on his arm; then shivering, and complaining of the cold, he
said he should go below, and moved away, rejecting Percy's offered arm
with some impatience.

The weather was beautiful, and Percy stood for some time watching the
receding shore, and scanning, with his wonted keen gaze, the various
countenances of the passengers. He took a book from his pocket, but did
not read long; he looked out on the sea, and muttered to himself,
'What folly now? Why won't that name let one rest? Besides, he looked
desperately ill; I must go and see if they have made him comfortable in
that dog-hole below.'

Percy shook himself as if he was out of humour; and, with his hands in
his pockets, and a sauntering step, entered the cabin. He found Arthur
there alone, his head resting on his arms, and his frame shaken by the
suppressed cough.

'You seem to have a terrible cold. This is a bad time to be crossing.
How long have you been abroad?'

'Ten days.--How came you here?'

'I am going to Worthbourne. How are all your folks!'

'All well;' and coughing again, he filled up a tumbler with spirits and
water, and drank it off, while Percy exclaimed:

'Are you running crazy, to be feeding such a cough in this way?'

'The only thing to warm one,' said he, shuddering from head to foot.

'Yes, warm you properly into a nice little fever and inflammation. Why,
what a hand you have! And your pulse! Here, lie down at once,' as he
formed a couch with the help of a wrapper and bag. Arthur passively
accepted his care; but as the chill again crept through his veins, he
stretched out his hand for the cordial.

'I won't have it done!' thundered Percy. 'I will not look on and see you
killing yourself!'

'I wish I could,' murmured Arthur, letting his hand drop, as if unequal
to contest the point.

The conviction suddenly flashed on Percy that he was the victim! 'You
have got yourself into a scrape' he said.

'Scrape! I tell you I am ruined! undone!' exclaimed Arthur, rearing
himself up, as he burst out into passionate imprecations on Mark
Gardner, cut short by coughing.

'You! with your wife and little children entirely depending on you! You
have allowed that scoundrel, whose baseness you knew, to dupe you to
your own destruction!' said Percy, with slowness and severity.

Too ill and wretched to resent the reproach, Arthur sank his head with a
heavy groan, that almost disarmed Percy; then looking up, with sparkling
eyes, he exclaimed, 'No! I did not know his baseness; I thought him a
careless scape-grace, but not much worse than he has made me. I would
as soon have believed myself capable of the treachery, the unfeeling
revenge--' Again he was unable to say more, and struggling for
utterance, he stamped his foot against the floor, and groaned aloud with
rage and pain.

Percy persuaded him to lie down again, and could not refrain from
forcible expressions of indignation, as he recollected the sneering
exultation of Gardner's tone of triumph over one so open-hearted and
confiding.

It was a moment when sympathy unlocked the heart, and shame was lost
in the sense of injury. Nothing more was needed to call from Arthur the
history of his wrongs, as well as he was able to tell it, eking out with
his papers the incoherent sentences which he was unable to finish, so
that Percy succeeded in collecting, from his broken narration, an idea
of the state of affairs.

The horses, kept jointly at his expense and that of Gardner, had been
the occasion of serious debts; and on Gardner's leaving England, there
had been a pressure on Colonel Martindale that rendered him anxious to
free himself, even at the cost of his commission. Gardner, on the other
hand, had, it appeared, been desirous to have him at Boulogne, perhaps,
at first, merely as a means of subsistence during the year of probation,
and on the failure of the first attempt at bringing him thither, had
written to invite him, holding out as an inducement, that he was himself
desirous of being disembarrassed, in order that Miss Brandon might
find him clear of this entanglement, and representing that he had still
property enough to clear off his portion of the liability.

With this view Arthur had gone out to Boulogne to meet him, but had
found him dilatory in entering on business, and was drawn into taking
part in the amusements of the place; living in a state of fevered
excitement, which aggravated his indisposition and confused his
perceptions, so that he fell more completely than ever into the power
of his false friend, and was argued into relinquishing his project of
selling the horses, and into taking up larger sums for keeping them on.
In fact, the sensation that a severe cold was impending, and disgust at
the notion of being laid up in such company rendered him doubly facile;
and, in restless impatience to get away and avoid discussion, he acceded
to everything, and signed whatever Gardner pleased. Not till he was
on the point of embarking, after having gambled away most of his ready
money, did he discover that the property of which he had heard so much
was only a shadow, which had served to delude many another creditor; and
that they had made themselves responsible for a monstrous amount, for
which he was left alone to answer, while the first demand would be the
signal for a multitude of other claims. As they parted, Gardner
had finally thrown off the mask, and let him know that this was the
recompense of his wife's stories to the Brandons. She might say what she
pleased now, it mattered not; Mark was on his way to the rich widow of
Mr. Finch, and had wanted nothing of Arthur but to obtain the means of
going to her, and to be revenged on him.

So Arthur half-expressed, and his friend understood. Save for this
bodily condition, Percy could hardly have borne with him. His reckless
self-indulgence and blind folly deserved to be left to reap their
own fruit; yet, when he beheld their victim, miserable, prostrated by
illness and despair, and cast aside with scornful cruelty, he could
not, without being as cold-hearted as Gardner himself, refrain from kind
words and suggestions of consolation. 'Might not his father assist him?'

'He cannot if he would. Everything is entailed, and you know how my aunt
served us. There is no ready money to be had, not even the five thousand
pounds that is the whole dependence for the poor things at home in case
of my death, which may come soon enough for aught I care. I wish it was!
I wish we were all going to the bottom together, and I was to see none
of their faces again. It would be better for Violet than this.'

Percy could say little; but, though blunt of speech, he was tender of
heart. He did all in his power for Arthur's comfort, and when he helped
him on shore at Folkestone, recommended him to go to bed at once, and
offered to fetch Mrs. Martindale.

'She