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Title: Magnum Bonum; Or, Mother Carey's Brood
Author: Yonge, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Mary)
Language: English
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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.

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MAGNUM BONUM

or, Mother Carey’s Brood

By Charlotte M. Yonge



LIST OF CONTENTS.


I. JOE BROWNLOW’S FANCY

II. THE CHICKENS

III. THE WHITE SLATE

IV. THE STRAY CHICKENS

V. BRAINS AND NO BRAINS

VI. ENCHANTED GROUND

VII. THE COLONEL’S CHICKENS

VIII. THE FOLLY

IX. FLIGHTS

X. ELLEN’S MAGNUM BONUMS

XI. UNDINE

XII. KING MIDAS

XIII. THE RIVAL HEIRESSES

XIV. PUMPING AWAY

XV. THE BELFOREST MAGNUM BONUM

XVI. POSSESSION

XVII. POPINJAY PARLOUR

XVIII. AN OFFER FOR MAGNUM BONUM

XIX. THE SNOWY WINDING-SHEET

XX. A RACE

XXI. AN ACT OF INDEPENDENCE

XXII. SHUTTING THE STABLE DOOR

XXIII. THE LOST TREASURE

XXIV. THE ANGEL MOUNTAIN

XXV. THE LAND OF AFTERNOON

XXVI. MOONSHINE

XXVII. BLUEBEARD’S CLOSET

XXVIII. THE TURN OF THE WHEEL

XXIX. FRIENDS AND UNFRIENDS

XXX. AS WEEL OFF AS AYE WAGGING

XXXI. SLACK TIDE

XXXII. THE COST

XXXIII. BITTER FAREWELLS

XXXIV. BLIGHTED BEINGS

XXXV. THE PHANTOM BLACKCOCK OF KILNAUGHT

XXXVI. OF NO CONSEQUENCE

XXXVII. THE TRAVELLER’S JOY

XXXVIII. THE TRUST FULFILLED

XXXIX. THE TRUANT

XL. EVIL OUT OF GOOD

XLI. GOOD OUT OF EVIL

XLII. DISENCHANTED



MAGNUM BONUM

OR, MOTHER CAREY’S BROOD



CHAPTER I.--JOE BROWNLOW’S FANCY.



     The lady said, “An orphan’s fate
     Is sad and hard to bear.”--Scott.


“Mother, you could do a great kindness.”

“Well, Joe?”

“If you would have the little teacher at the Miss Heath’s here for the
holidays. After all the rest, she has had the measles last and worst,
and they don’t know what to do with her, for she came from the asylum
for officers’ daughters, and has no home at all, and they must go away
to have the house purified. They can’t take her with them, for their
sister has children, and she will have to roam from room to room before
the whitewashers, which is not what I should wish in the critical state
of chest left by measles.”

“What is her name?”

“Allen. The cry was always for Miss Allen when the sick girls wanted to
be amused.”

“Allen! I wonder if it can be the same child as the one Robert was
interested about. You don’t remember, my dear. It was the year you were
at Vienna, when one of Robert’s brother-officers died on the voyage out
to China, and he sent home urgent letters for me to canvass right and
left for the orphan’s election. You know Robert writes much better than
he speaks, and I copied over and over again his account of the poor
young man to go with the cards. ‘Caroline Otway Allen, aged seven years,
whole orphan, daughter of Captain Allen, l07th Regiment;’ yes, that’s
the way it ran.”

“The year I was at Vienna, and Robert went out to China. That was eleven
years ago. She must be the very child, for she is only eighteen. They
sent her to Miss Heath’s to grow a little older, for though she was at
the head of everything at the asylum, she looks so childish that they
can’t send her out as a governess. Did you see her, mother?”

“Oh, no! I never had anything to do with her; but if she is daughter to
a friend of Robert’s--”

Mother and son looked at each other in congratulation. Robert was the
stepson, older by several years, and was viewed as the representative of
sober common sense in the family. Joe and his mother did like to feel
a plan quite free from Robert’s condemnation for enthusiasm or
impracticability, and it was not the worse for his influence, that he
had been generally with his regiment, and when visiting them was a good
deal at the United Service Club. He had lately married an heiress in a
small way, retired from the army, and settled in a house of hers in a
country town, and thus he could give his dicta with added weight.

Only a parent or elder brother would, however, have looked on “Joe” as
a youth, for he was some years over thirty, with a mingled air of
keenness, refinement, and alacrity about his slight but active form,
altogether with the air of some implement, not meant for ornament but
for use, and yet absolutely beautiful, through perfection of polish,
finish, applicability, and a sharpness never meant to wound, but
deserving to be cherished in a velvet case.

This case might be the pretty drawing-room, full of the choice artistic
curiosities of a man of cultivation, and presided over by his mother,
a woman of much the same bright, keen, alert sweetness of air and
countenance: still under sixty, and in perfect health and spirits--as
well she might be, having preserved, as well as deserved, the exclusive
devotion of her only child during all the years in which her early
widowhood had made them all in all to each other. Ten years ago, on his
election to a lectureship at one of the London hospitals, the son had
set up his name on the brass plate of the door of a comfortable house in
a once fashionable quarter of London; she had joined him there, and
they had been as happy as affection and fair success could make them.
He became lecturer at a hospital, did much for the poor, both within
and without its walls, and had besides a fair practice, both among the
tradespeople, and also among the literary, scientific, and artistic
world, where their society was valued as much as his skill. Mrs.
Brownlow was well used to being called on to do the many services
suggested by a kind heart in the course of a medical man’s practice, and
there was very little within, or beyond, reason that she would not have
done at her Joe’s bidding. So she made the arrangement, exciting much
gratitude in the heads of the Pomfret House Establishment for Young
Ladies; though without seeing little Miss Allen, till, from the Doctor’s
own brougham, but escorted only by an elderly maid-servant, there came
climbing up the stairs a little heap of shawls and cloaks, surmounted by
a big brown mushroom hat.

“Very proper of Joe. He can’t be too particular,--but such a child!”
 thought Mrs. Brownlow as the mufflings disclosed a tiny creature,
angular in girlish sort, with an odd little narrow wedge of a face,
sallow and wan, rather too much of teeth and mouth, large greenish-hazel
eyes, and a forehead with a look of expansion, partly due to the crisp
waves of dark hair being as short as a boy’s. The nose was well cut,
and each delicate nostril was quivering involuntarily with emotion--or
fright, or both.

Mrs. Brownlow kissed her, made her rest on the sofa, and talked to her,
the shy monosyllabic replies lengthening every time as the motherliness
drew forth a response, until, when conducted to the cheerful little room
which Mrs. Brownlow had carefully decked with little comforts for the
convalescent, and with the ornaments likely to please a girl’s eye, she
suddenly broke into a little irrepressible cry of joy and delight. “Oh!
oh! how lovely! Am I to sleep here? Oh! it is just like the girls’ rooms
I always _did_ long to see! Now I shall always be able to think about
it.”

“My poor child, did you never even see such a room?”

“No; I slept in the attic with the maid at old Aunt Mary’s, and always
in a cubicle after I went to the asylum. Some of the girls who went home
in the holidays used to describe such rooms to us, but they could never
have been so nice as this! Oh! oh! Mrs. Brownlow, real lilies of the
valley! Put there for me! Oh! you dear, delicious, pearly things! I
never saw one so close before!”

“Never before.” That was the burthen of the song of the little bird with
wounded wing who had been received into this nest. She had the dimmest
remembrance of home or mother, something a little clearer of her sojourn
at her aunt’s, though there the aunt had been an invalid who kept her in
restraint in her presence, and her pleasures had been in the kitchen and
in a few books, probably ‘Don Quixote’ and ‘Evelina,’ so far as could
be gathered from her recollection of them. The week her father had spent
with her, before his last voyage, had been the one vivid memory of her
life, and had taught her at least how to love. Poor child, that happy
week had had to serve her ever since, through eleven years of unbroken
school! Not that she pitied herself. Everybody had been kind to
her--governesses, masters, girls, and all. She had been happy and
successful, and had made numerous friends, about whom, as she grew more
at home, she freely chatted to Mrs. Brownlow, who was always ready to
hear of Mary Ogilvie and Clara Cartwright, and liked to draw out the
stories of the girl-world, in which it was plain that Caroline Allen had
been a bright, good, clever girl, getting on well, trusted and liked.
She had been half sorry to leave her dear old school, half glad to go
on to something new. She was evidently not so comfortable, while Miss
Heath’s lowest teacher, as she had been while she was the asylum’s
senior pupil. Yet when on Sunday evening the Doctor was summoned and the
ladies were left tete-a-tete, she laughed rather than complained. But
still she owned, with her black head on Mrs. Brownlow’s lap, that she
had always craved for something--something, and she had found it now!

Everything was a fresh joy to her, every print on the walls, every
ornament on the brackets, seemed to speak to her eye and to her soul
both at once, and the sense of comfort and beauty and home, after the
bareness of school, seemed to charm her above all. “I always did want to
know what was inside people’s windows,” she said.

And in the same way it was a feast to her to get hold of “a real book,”
 as she called it, not only the beginnings of everything, and selections
that always broke off just as she began to care about them. She had been
thoroughly well grounded, and had a thirst for knowledge too real to
have been stifled by the routine she had gone through--though, said she,
“I do want time to get on further, and to learn what won’t be of any
use!”

“Of no use!” said Mr. Brownlow laughing--having just found her trying to
make out the Old English of King Alfred’s ‘Boethius’--“such as this?”

“Just so! They always are turning me off with ‘This won’t be of any use
to you.’ I hate use--”

“Like Ridley, who says he reads a book with double pleasure if he is not
going to review it.”

“That Mr. Ridley who came in last evening?”

“Even so. Why that opening of eyes?”

“I thought a critic was a most formidable person.”

“You expected to see a mess of salt and vinegar prepared for his diet?”

“I should prepare something quite different--milk and sweetbreads, I
think.”

“To soften him? Do you hear, mother? Take advice.”

Caroline--or Carey, as she had begged to be called--blushed, and drew
back half-alarmed, as she always was when the Doctor caught up any of
the little bits of fun that fell so shyly and demurely from her, as they
were evoked by the more congenial atmosphere.

It was a great pleasure to him and to his mother to show her some of the
many things she had never seen, watch her enjoyment, and elicit whether
the reality agreed with her previous imaginations. Mr. Brownlow used
to make time to take the two ladies out, or to drop in on them at some
exhibition, checking the flow of half-droll, half-intelligent remarks
for a moment, and then encouraging it again, while both enjoyed that
most amusing thing, the fresh simplicity of a grown-up, clever child.

“How will you ever bear to go back again?” said Carey’s school-friend,
Clara Cartwright, now a governess, whom Mrs. Brownlow had, with some
suppressed growls from her son, invited to share their one day’s
country-outing under the horse-chestnut trees of Richmond.

“Oh! I shall have it all to take back with me,” was the answer, as Carey
toyed with the burnished celandine stars in her lap.

“I should never dare to think of it! I should dread the contrast!”

“Oh no!” said Carey. “It is like a blind person who has once seen,
you know. It will be always warm about my heart to know there are such
people.”

Mrs. Brownlow happened to overhear this little colloquy while her son
was gone to look for the carriage, and there was something in the bright
unrepining tone that filled her eyes with tears, more especially as the
little creature still looked very fragile--even at the end of a month.
She was so tired out with her day of almost rapturous enjoyment that
Mrs. Brownlow would not let her come down stairs again, but made her go
at once to bed, in spite of a feeble protest against losing one evening.

“And I am afraid that is a recall,” said Mrs. Brownlow, seeing a letter
directed to Miss Allen on the side-table. “I will not give it to her
to-night, poor little dear; I really don’t know how to send her back.”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” said the Doctor, leaning over the fire,
which he was vigorously stirring.

“You don’t think her strong enough? If so, I am very glad,” said the
mother, in a delighted voice. “Eh, Joe?” as there was a pause; and as
he replaced the poker, he looked up to her with a colour scarcely to be
accounted for by the fire, and she ended in an odd, startled, yet not
displeased tone, “It is that--is it?”

“Yes, mother, it is that,” said Joe, laughing a little, in his relief
that the plunge was made. “I don’t see that we could do better for your
happiness or mine.”

“Don’t put mine first” (half-crying).

“I didn’t know I did. It all comes to the same thing.”

“My dear Joe, I only wish you could do it to-morrow, and have no fuss
about it! What will Robert do?”

“Accept the provision for his friend’s daughter,” said Joe, gravely; and
then they both burst out laughing. In the midst came the announcement
of dinner, during which meal they refrained themselves, and tried
to discuss other things, though not so successfully but that it was
reported in the kitchen that something was up.

Joseph was just old enough for his mother, who had always dreaded his
marriage, to have begun to wish for it, though she had never yet seen
her ideal daughter-in-law, and the enforced silence during the meal
only made her more eager, so that she began at once as soon as they were
alone.

“When did you begin to think of this, Joe?”

“Not when I asked you to invite her--that would have been treacherous.
No, but when I began to realise what it would be to send her back to her
treadmill; though the beauty of it is that she never seems to realise
that it is a treadmill.”

“She might now, though I tried so hard not to spoil her. It is that
content with such a life which makes me think that in her you may have
something more worth than the portion, which--which I suppose I ought to
regret and say you will miss.”

“I shall get all that plentifully from Robert, mother.”

“I am afraid it does entail harder work on you, and later on in life,
than if you had chosen a person with something of her own.”

“Something of her own? Her own, indeed! Mother, she has that of her own
which is the very thing to help and inspire me to make a name, and work
out an idea, worth far more than any pounds, shillings, and pence, or
even houses or lands I might get with a serene and solemn dame, even
with clear notions as to those same L. s. d.!”

“For shame, Joe! You may be as much in love as you please, but don’t be
wicked.”

For this description was applicable to the bride whom Robert had
presented to them about a year ago, on retiring with a Colonel’s rank.

“So I may be as much in love as I please? Thank you. I always knew you
were the very best mother in the world:” and he came and kissed her.

“I wonder what she will say, the dear child!”

“May be that she has no taste for such an old fellow. Hush, mother.
Seriously, my chief scruple is whether it be fair to ask a girl to marry
a man twice her age, when she has absolutely seen nothing of his kind
but the German master!”

“Trust her,” said Mrs. Brownlow. “Nay, she never could have a freer
choice than now, when she is too young and simple to be weighted with a
sense of being looked down on. It is possible that she may be startled
at first, but I think it will be only at life opening on her; so don’t
be daunted, and imagine it is your old age and infirmity,” said the
mother, smoothing back the locks which certainly were not the clustering
curls of youth.

How the mother watched all the next morning, while the unconscious Carey
first marvelled at her nervousness and silence, and then grew almost
infected by it. It was very strange, she thought, that Mrs. Brownlow,
always so kind, should say nothing but “humph” on being told that Miss
Heath’s workmen had finished, and that she must return next Monday
morning. It was the Doctor’s day to be early at the hospital, and he
had had a summons to see some one on the way, so that he was gone before
breakfast, when Carey’s attempts to discuss her happy day in the country
met with such odd, fitful answers; for, in fact, Mrs. Brownlow could not
trust herself to talk, and had no sooner done breakfast than she went
off to her housekeeping affairs and others, which she managed unusually
to prolong.

Carey was trying to draw some flowers in a glass before her--a little
purple, green-winged orchis, a cowslip, and a quivering dark-brown tuft
of quaking grass. He came and stood behind her, saying--

“You’ve got the character of those.”

“They are very difficult,” sighed Carey; “I never tried flowers before,
but I wanted to take them with me.”

“To take them with you?” he repeated, rather dreamily.

“Yes, back to another sort of Heath,” she said, with a little laugh;
“don’t you know I go next Monday?”

“If you go, I hope it will only be to come back.”

“Oh! if Mrs. Brownlow is so good as to let me come again in the
holidays!” and she was all one flush of joy, looking round, and up in
his face, to see whether it could be true.

“Not only for holidays--for work days,” he said, and his voice shook.

“But Mrs. Brownlow can’t want a companion?”

“But I do. Caroline, will you come back to us to make home doubly sweet
to a busy man, who will do his best to make you happy?”

The little creature looked up in his face bewildered, and then said
shyly, the colour surging into her face--

“Please, what did you say?”

“I asked if you would stay with us, and make this place bright for us,
as my wife,” he said, taking both the little brown hands into his own,
and looking into the widely-opened wondering eyes; while she answered,
“if I may,”--the very words, almost the very tone, in which she had
replied to his invitation to come to recover at his house.

“Ah, my poor child, you have no one’s leave to ask!” he said; “you
belong to us, only to us,”--and he drew her into his arms, and kissed
her.

Then he felt and heard a great sob, and there were two tears on her
cheek when he could see her face, but she smiled with happy, quivering
lip, and said--

“It was like when papa kissed me before he went away; he would be so
glad.”

In the midst of the caress that answered this, a bell sounded, and in
the certainty that the announcement of luncheon would instantly follow,
they started apart.

Two seconds later they met Mrs. Brownlow on the landing--

“There, mother,” said the Doctor.

“My child!” and Carey was in her arms.

“Oh, may I?--Is it real?” said the girl in a stifled voice.

After that, they took it very quietly. Carey was so young and ignorant
of the world that she was not nearly so much overpowered as if she had
had the slightest external knowledge either of married life, or of the
exceptional thing the doctor was doing. Her mother had died when she
was three years old, and she had never since that time lived with wedded
folk, while even her companions at school being all fatherless, she had
gathered nothing of even second-hand experience from them. All she knew
was from books, which had given glimpses into happy homes; and though
she had feasted on a few novels during this happy month, they had been
very select, and chiefly historical romance. She was at the age when
nothing is impossible to youthful dreams, and if Tancredi had come out
of the Gerusalemme and thrown himself at her feet, she would hardly have
felt it more strangely dream-like than the transformation of her kind
doctor into her own Joe: and on the other hand, she had from the first
moment nestled so entirely into the home that it would have seemed more
unnatural to be torn away from it than to become a part of it. As to
her being an extraordinary and very disadvantageous choice for him, she
simply knew nothing of the matter; she was used to passiveness as to her
own destiny, and now that she did indeed “belong to somebody” she let
those somebodies think and decide for her with the one certainty that
what Mr. Brownlow and his mother liked was sure to be the truly right
and happy thing.

So, instead of being alarmed and scrupulous, she was sweetly, shyly, and
yet confidingly gay and affectionate, enchanting both her companions,
but revealing by her naive questions and remarks such utter ignorance
of all matters of common life that Mrs. Brownlow had no scruples in not
stirring the question, that had never occurred to her son or his little
betrothed, namely, her own retirement. Caroline needed a mother far too
much for her to be spared.

What was to be done about Miss Heath? It was due to her for Miss Allen
to offer to return till her place could be supplied, Mrs. Brownlow
said--but that was only to tease the lovers--for a quarter, at which Joe
made a snarling howl, whereat Carey ventured to laugh at him, and say
she should come home for every Sunday, as Miss Pinniwinks, the senior
governess, did.

“Come home,--it is enough to say that,” she added.

Mrs. Brownlow undertook to negotiate the matter, her son saying
privately--

“Get her off, if you have to advance a quarter. I’d rather do anything
than send her back for even a week, to have all manner of nonsense put
into her head. I’d sooner go and teach there myself.”

“Or send me?” asked his mother.

“Anything short of that,” he said.

Miss Heath, as Mrs. Brownlow had guessed, thought an engaged girl as
bad as a barrel of gunpowder, and was quite as much afraid of Miss Allen
putting nonsense into her pupils’ heads as the doctor could be of the
reverse process: so, young teachers not being scarce, Carey’s brief
connection with Miss Heath was brought to an end in a morning call,
whence she returned endowed with thirteen book-markers, five mats, and a
sachet.

Carey had of her own, as it appeared, twenty-five pounds a year, which
had hitherto clothed her, and of which she only knew that it was paid to
her quarterly by a lawyer at Bath, whose address she gave. Mr. Brownlow
followed up the clue, but could not learn much about her belongings. The
twenty-five pounds was the interest of the small sum, which had remained
to poor Captain Allen, when he wound up his affairs, after paying the
debts in which his early and imprudent marriage had involved him. He did
not seem to have had any relations, and of his wife nothing was known
but that she was a Miss Otway, and that he had met her in some colonial
quarters. The old lady, with whom the little girl had been left, was her
mother’s maternal aunt, and had lived on an annuity so small that on her
death there had not been funds sufficient to pay expenses without a sale
of all her effects, so that nothing had been saved for the child, except
a few books with her parents’ names in them--John Allen and Caroline
Otway--which she still kept as her chief treasures. The lawyer, who had
acted as her guardian, would hand over to her five hundred pounds on her
coming of age.

That was all that could be discovered, nor was Colonel Robert Brownlow
as much flattered as had been hoped by the provision for his friend’s
daughter. Nay, he was inclined to disavow the friendship. He was sorry
for poor Allen, he said, but as to making a friend of such a fellow,
pah! No! there was no harm in him, he was a good officer enough, but he
never had a grain of common sense; and whereas he never could keep
out of debt, he must needs go and marry a young girl, just because he
thought her uncle was not kind to her. It was the worst thing he could
have done, for it made her uncle cast her off on the spot, and then
she was killed with harass and poverty. He never held up his head again
after losing her, and just died of fever because he was too broken down
to have energy to live. There was enough in this to weave out a tender
little romance, probably really another aspect of the truth, which made
Caroline’s bright eyes overflow with tears, when she heard it couched in
tenderer language from Joseph, and the few books and treasures that
had been rescued agreed with it--a Bible with her father’s name, a few
devotional books of her mother’s, and Mrs. Hemans’s poems with “To Lina,
from her devoted J. A.”

Caroline would fain have been called Lina, but the name did not fit her,
and would not _take_.

Colonel Brownlow was altogether very friendly, if rather grave and dry
towards her, as soon as he was convinced that “it was only Joe,” and
that pity, not artfulness, was to blame for the undesirable match. He
was too honourable a man not to see that it could not be given up, and
he held that the best must now be made of it, and that it would be more
proper, since it was to be, for him to assume the part of father, and
let the marriage take place from his house at Kenminster. This was a
proposal for which it was hard to be as grateful as it deserved; since
it had been planned to walk quietly into the parish church, be married
“without any fuss,” and then to take the fortnight’s holiday, which was
all that the doctor allowed himself.

But as Robert was allowed to be judge of the proprieties, and as the
kindness on his part was great, it was accepted; and Caroline was
carried off for three weeks to keep her residence, and make the house
feel what a blank her little figure had left.

Certainly, when the pair met again on the eve of the wedding, there
never was a more willing bride.

She said she had been very happy. The Colonel and Ellen, as she had
been told to call her future sister, had been very kind indeed; they
had taken her for long drives, shown her everything, introduced her to
quantities of people; but, oh dear! was it absolutely only three weeks
since she had been away? It seemed just like three years, and she
understood now why the girls who had homes made calendars, and checked
off the days. No school term had ever seemed so long; but at Kenminster
she had had nothing to do, and besides, now she knew what home was!

So it was the most cheerful and joyous of weddings, though the bride was
a far less brilliant spectacle than the bride of last year, Mrs. Robert
Brownlow, who with her handsome oval face, fine figure, and her tasteful
dress, perfectly befitting a young matron, could not help infinitely
outshining the little girlish angular creature, looking the browner
for her bridal white, so that even a deep glow, and a strange misty
beaminess of expression could not make her passable in Kenminster eyes.

How would Joe Brownlow’s fancy turn out?



CHAPTER II. -- THE CHICKENS.



     John Gilpin’s spouse said to her dear,
       “Though wedded we have been
     These twice ten tedious years, yet we
       No holiday have seen.”--Cowper.


No one could have much doubt how it had turned out, who looked, after
fifteen years, into that room where Joe Brownlow and his mother had once
sat tete-a-tete.

They occupied the two ends of the table still, neither looking much
older, in expression at least, for the fifteen years that had passed
over their heads, though the mother had--after the wont of active old
ladies--grown smaller and lighter, and the son somewhat more bald and
grey, but not a whit more careworn, and, if possible, even brighter.

On one side of him sat a little figure, not quite so thin, some angles
smoothed away, the black hair coiled, but still in resolute little
mutinous tendrils on the brow, not ill set off by a tuft of carnation
ribbon on one side, agreeing with the colour that touched up her gauzy
black dress; the face, not beautiful indeed--but developed, softened,
brightened with more of sweetness and tenderness--as well as more
of thought--added to the fresh responsive intelligence it had always
possessed.

On the opposite side of the dinner-table were a girl of fourteen and a
boy of twelve; the former, of a much larger frame than her mother,
and in its most awkward and uncouth stage, hardly redeemed by the keen
ardour and inquiry that glowed in the dark eyes, set like two hot coals
beneath the black overhanging brows of the massive forehead, on which
the dark smooth hair was parted. The features were large, the complexion
dark but not clear, and the look of resolution in the square-cut chin
and closely shutting mouth was more boy-like than girl-like. Janet
Brownlow was assuredly a very plain girl, but the family habit was to
regard their want of beauty as rather a mark of distinction, capable of
being joked about, if not triumphed in.

Nor was Allen, the boy, wanting in good looks. He was fairer, clearer,
better framed in every way than his sister, and had a pleasant, lively
countenance, prepossessing to all. He had a well-grown, upright figure,
his father’s ready suppleness of movement, and his mother’s hazel eyes
and flashing smile, and there was a look of success about him, as well
there might be, since he had come out triumphantly from the examination
for Eton College, and had been informed that morning that there were
vacancies enough for his immediate admission.

There was a pensiveness mixed with the satisfaction in his mother’s eyes
as she looked at him, for it was the first break into the home. She had
been the only teacher of her children till two years ago, when Allen
had begun to attend a day school a few streets off, and the first
boy’s first flight from under her wing, for ever so short a space, is
generally a sharp wound to the mother’s heart.

Not that Allen would leave an empty house behind him. Lying at full
length on the carpet, absorbed in a book, was Robert, a boy on whom the
same capacious brow as Janet’s sat better than on the feminine creature.
He was reading on, undisturbed by the pranks of three younger children,
John Lucas, a lithe, wiry, restless elf of nine, with a brown face and
black curly head, and Armine and Barbara, young persons of seven and
six, on whom nature had been more beneficent in the matter of looks,
for though brown was their prevailing complexion, both had well-moulded,
childish features, and really fine eyes. The hubbub of voices, as
they tumbled and rushed about the window and balcony, was the regular
accompaniment of dinner, though on the first plaintive tone from the
little girl, the mother interrupted a “Well, but papa,” from Janet, with
“Babie, Babie.”

“It’s Jock, Mother Carey! He _will_ come into Fairyland too soon.”

“What’s the last news from Fairyland, Babie?” asked the father as the
little one ran up to him.

“I want to be Queen Mab, papa, but Armine wants to be Perseus with the
Gorgon’s head, and Jock is the dragon; but the dragon will come before
we’ve put Polly upon the rock.”

“What! is Polly Andromeda--?” as a grey parrot’s stand was being
transferred from the balcony.

“Yes, papa,” called out Armine. “You see she’s chained, and Bobus won’t
play, and Babie will be Queen Mab--”

“I suppose,” said the mother, “that it is not harder to bring Queen Mab
in with Perseus than Oberon with Theseus and Hippolyta--”

“You would have us infer,” said the Doctor with grave humour, “that
your children are at their present growth in the Elizabethan age of
culture--”

But again began a “Well, but papa!” but, he exclaimed, “Do look at that
boy--Well walloped, dragon!” as Jock with preternatural contortions,
rolled, kicked and tumbled himself with extended jaws to the rock,
alias stand, to which Polly was chained, she remarking in a hoarse, low
whisper, “Naughty boy--”

“Well moaned, Andromeda!”

“But papa,” persisted Janet, “when Oliver Cromwell--”

“Oh! look at the Gorgon!” cried the mother, as the battered head of an
ancient doll was displayed over his shoulder by Perseus, decorated
with two enormous snakes, one made of stamps, and the other a spiral of
whalebone shavings out of a box.

The monster immediately tumbled over, twisted, kicked, and wriggled
so that the scandalised Perseus exclaimed: “But Jock--monster, I
mean--you’re turned into stone--”

“It’s convulsions,” replied the monster, gasping frightfully, while
redoubling his contortions, though Queen Mab observed in the most
admonitory tone, touching him at the same time with her wand, “Don’t you
know, Skipjack, that’s the reason you don’t grow--”

“Eh! What’s the new theory! Who says so, Babie?” came from the bottom of
the table.

“Nurse says so, papa,” answered Allen; “I heard her telling Jock
yesterday that he would never be any taller till he stood still and gave
himself time.”

“Get out, will you!” was then heard from the prostrate Robert, the
monster having taken care to become petrified right across his legs.

“But papa,” Janet’s voice was heard, “if Oliver Cromwell had not helped
the Waldenses--”

It was lost, for Bobus and Jock were rolling over together with too much
noise to be bearable; Grandmamma turned round with an expostulatory “My
dears,” Mamma with “Boys, please don’t when papa is tired--”

“Jock is such a little ape,” said Bobus, picking himself up. “Father,
can you tell me why the moon draws up the tides on the wrong side?”

“You may study the subject,” said the Doctor; “I shall pack you all off
to the seaside in a day or two.”

There was one outcry from mother, wife, and boys, “Not without you?”

“I can’t go till Drew comes back from his outing--”

“But why should we? It would be so much nicer all together.”

“It will be horribly dull without; indeed I never can see the sense of
going at all,” said Janet.

There was a confused outcry of indignation, in which waves--crabs--boats
and shrimps, were all mingled together.

“I’m sure that’s not half so entertaining as hearing people talk in the
evening,” said Janet.

“You precocious little piece of dissipation,” said her mother, laughing.

“I didn’t mean fine lady nonsense,” said Janet, rather hotly; “I meant
talk like--”

“Like big guns. Oh, yes, we know,” interrupted Allen; “Janet does not
think anyone worth listening to that hasn’t got a whole alphabet tacked
behind his name.”

“Janet had better take care, and Bobus too,” said the Doctor, “or we
shall have to send them to vegetate on some farm, and see the cows
milked and the pigs fed.”

“I’m afraid Bobus would apply himself to finding how much caseine matter
was in the cow’s milk,” said Janet in her womanly tone.

“Or by what rule the pigs curled their tails,” said her father, with a
mischievous pull at the black plaited tail that hung down behind her.

And then they all rose from the table, little Barbara starting up as
soon as grace was said. “Father, please, you _are_ the Giant Queen Mab
always rides!”

“Queen Mab, or Queen Bab, always rides me, which comes to the same
thing. Though as to the size of the Giant--”

There was a pause to let grandmamma go up in peace, upon Mother Carey’s
arm, and then a general romp and scurry all the way up the stairs,
ending by Jock’s standing on one leg on the top post of the baluster,
like an acrobat, an achievement which made even his father so giddy that
he peremptorily desired it never to be attempted again, to the great
relief of both the ladies. Then, coming into the drawing-room,
Babie perched herself on his knee, and began, without the slightest
preparation, the recitation of Cowper’s “Colubriad”:--


          “Fast by the threshold of a door nailed fast
           Three kittens sat, each kitten looked aghast.”


And just as she had with great excitement--


          “Taught him never to come there no more,”


Armine broke in with “Nine times one are nine.”

It was an institution dating from the days when Janet made her first
acquaintance with the “Little Busy Bee,” that there should be something,
of some sort, said or shown to papa, whenever he was at home or free
between dinner and bed-time, and it was considered something between a
disgrace and a misfortune to produce nothing.

So when the two little ones had been kissed and sent off to bed, with
mamma going with them to hear their prayers, Jock, on being called for,
repeated a Greek declension with two mistakes in it, Bobus showed a long
sum in decimals, Janet, brought a neat parallelism of the present tense
of the verb “to be” in five languages--Greek, Latin, French, German, and
English.

“And Allen--reposing on your honours? Eh, my boy?”

Allen looked rather foolish, and said, “I spoilt it, papa, and hadn’t
time to begin another.”

“It--I suppose I am not to hear what till it has come to perfection. Is
it the same that was in hand last time?”

“No, papa, much better,” said Janet, emphatically.

“What I want to see,” said Dr. Brownlow, “is something finished. I’d
rather have that than ever so many magnificent beginnings.”

Here he was seized upon by Robert, with his knitted brow and a book in
his hands, demanding aid in making out why, as he said, the tide swelled
out on the wrong side of the earth.

His father did his best to disentangle the question, but Bobus was not
satisfied till the clock chimed his doom, when he went off with Jock,
who was walking on his hands.

“That’s too tough a subject for such a little fellow,” said the
grandmother; “so late in the day too!”

“He would have worried his brain with it all night if he had not worked
it out,” said his father.

“I’m afraid he will, any way,” said the mother. “Fancy being troubled
with dreams of surging oceans rising up the wrong way!”

“Yes, he ought to be running after the tides instead of theorising about
them. Carry him off, Mother Carey, and the whole brood, without loss of
time.”

“But Joe, why should we not wait for you? You never did send us away
all forlorn before!” she said, pleadingly. “We are all quite well, and I
can’t bear going without you.”

“I had much rather all the chickens were safe away, Carey,” he said,
sitting down by her. “There’s a tendency to epidemic fever in two or
three streets, which I don’t like in this hot weather, and I had rather
have my mind easy about the young ones.”

“And what do you think of my mind, leaving you in the midst of it?”

“Your mind, being that of a mother bird and a doctor’s wife, ought to
have no objection.”

“How soon does Dr. Drew come home?”

“In a fortnight, I believe. He wanted rest terribly, poor old fellow.
Don’t grudge him every day.”

“A fortnight!” (as if it was a century). “You can’t come for a
fortnight. Well, perhaps it will take a week to fix on a place.”

“Hardly, for see here, I found a letter from Acton when I came in.
They have found an unsophisticated elysium at Kyve Clements, and are in
raptures which they want us to share--rocks and waves and all.”

“And rooms?”

“Yes, very good rooms, enough for us all,” was the answer, flinging
into her lap a letter from his friend, a somewhat noted artist in
water-colours, whom, after long patience, Carey’s school friend, Miss
Cartwright, had married two years ago.

There was nothing to say against it, only grandmamma observed, “I am too
old to catch things; Joe will let me stay and keep house for him.”

“Please, please let me stay with granny,” insisted Janet; “then I shall
finish my German classes.”

Janet was granny’s child. She had slept in her room ever since Allen
was born, and trotted after her in her “housewifeskep,” and the sense
of being protected was passing into the sense of protection. Before she
could be answered, however, there was an announcement. Friends were apt
to drop in to coffee and talk in the evening, on the understanding that
certain days alone were free--people chiefly belonging to a literary,
scientific, and artist set, not Bohemian, but with a good deal of quiet
ease and absence of formality.

This friend had just returned from Asia Minor, and had brought an
exquisite bit of a Greek frieze, of which he had become the happy
possessor, knowing that Mrs. Joseph Brownlow would delight to see it,
and mayhap to copy it.

For Carey’s powers had been allowed to develop themselves; Mrs. Brownlow
having been always housekeeper, she had been fain to go on with the
studies that even her preparation for governess-ship had not rendered
wearisome, and thus had become a very graceful modeller in clay--her
favourite pursuit--when her children’s lessons and other occupations
left her free to indulge in it. The history of the travels, and the
account of the discovery, were given and heard with all zest, and in the
midst others came in--a barrister and his wife to say good-bye before
the circuit, a professor with a ticket for the gallery at a scientific
dinner, two medical students, who had been made free of the house
because they were nice lads with no available friends in town.

It was all over by half-past ten, and the trio were alone together.
“How amusing Mr. Leslie is!” said the young Mrs. Brownlow. “He knows how
describe as few people do.”

“Did you see Janet listening to him,” said her grandmother, “with her
brows pulled down and her eyes sparkling out under them, wanting to
devour every word?”

“Yes,” returned the Doctor, “I saw it, and I longed to souse that
black head of hers with salt water. I don’t like brains to grow to the
contempt of healthful play.”

“People never know when they are well off! I wonder what you would have
said if you had had a lot of stupid dolts, boys always being plucked,
&c.”

“Don’t plume yourself too soon, Mother Carey; only one chick has gone
through the first ordeal.”

“And if Allen did, Bobus will.”

“Allen is quite as clever as Bobus, granny, if--” eagerly said the
mother.

“If--” said the father; “there’s the point. If Allen has the stimulus,
he will do well. I own I am particularly pleased with his success,
because perseverance is his weak point.”

“Carey kept him up to it,” said granny. “I believe his success is quite
as much her work as his own.”

“And the question is, how will he get on without his mother to coach
him?”

“Now you know you are not one bit uneasy, papa!” cried his wife,
indignantly. “But don’t you think we might let Janet have her will
for just these ten days? There can’t be any real danger for her with
grandmamma, and I should be happier about granny.”

“You don’t trust Joe to take care of me?”

“Not if Joe is to be out all day. There will be nobody to trot up and
down stairs for you. Come, it is only what she begs for herself, and she
really is perfectly well.”

“As if I could have a child victimised to me,” said granny.

“The little Cockney thinks the victimising would be in going to the
deserts with only the boys and me,” laughed Carey; “But I think a week
later will be quite time enough to sweep the cobwebs out of her brain.”

“And you can do without her?” inquired Mrs. Brownlow. “You don’t want
her to help to keep the boys in order?”

“Thank you, I can do that better without her,” said Carey. “She
exasperates them sometimes.”

“I believe granny is thinking whether she is not wanted to keep Mother
Carey in order as well as her chickens. Hasn’t mother been taken for
your governess, Carey?”

“No, no, Joe, that’s too bad. They asked Janet at the dancing-school
whether her sister was not going to join.”

“Her younger sister?”

“No, I tell you, her half-sister. But Clara Acton will do discretion for
us, granny; and I promise you we won’t do anything her husband says is
very desperate! Don’t be afraid.”

“No,” said grandmamma, smiling as she kissed her daughter-in-law, and
rose to take her candle; “I am never afraid of anything a mother can
share with her boys.”

“Even if she is nearly a tomboy herself,” laughed the husband, with
rather a teasing air, towards his little wife. “Good night, mother.
Shall not we be snug with nobody left but Janet, who might be
great-grandmother to us both?”

“I really am glad that Janet should stay with granny,” said Carey, when
he had shut the door behind the old lady; “she would be left alone so
many hours while you are out, and she does need more waiting on than she
used to do.”

“You think so? I never see her grow older.”

“Not in the least older in mind or spirits; but she is not so strong,
nor so willing to exert herself, and she falls asleep more in the
afternoon. One reason for which I am less sorry to go on before, is that
I shall be able to judge whether the rooms are comfortable enough for
her, and I suppose we may change if they are not.”

“To another place, if you think best.”

“Only you will not let her stay at home altogether. That’s what I’m
afraid of.”

“She will only do so on the penalty of keeping me, and you may trust her
not to do that,” said Joe, laughing with the confidence of an only son.

“I shall come back and fetch you if you don’t appear under a fortnight.
Did you do any more this morning to the great experiment, Magnum Bonum?”

She spoke the words in a proud, shy, exulting semi-whisper, somewhat as
Gutenberg’s wife might have asked after his printing-press.

“No. I haven’t had half an hour to myself to-day; at least when I could
have attended to it. Don’t be afraid, Carey, I’m not daunted by the
doubts of our good friends. I see your eyes reproaching me with that.”

“Oh no, as you said, Sir Matthew Fleet mistrusts anything entirely
new, and the professor is never sanguine. I am almost glad they are so
stupid, it will make our pleasure all the sweeter.”

“You silly little bird, if you sit on that egg it will be sure to be
addled. If it should come to any good, probably it will take longer than
our life-time to work into people’s brains.”

“No,” said Carey, “I know the real object is the relieving pain and
saving life, and that is what you care for more than the honour and
glory. But do you remember the fly on the coach wheel?”

“Well, the coach wheel means to stand still for a little while. I don’t
mean to try another experiment till my brains have been turned out to
grass, and I can come to it fresh.”

“Ah! ‘tis you that really need the holiday,” said Carey, wistfully;
“much more than any of us. Look at this great crow’s foot,” tracing it
with her finger.

“Laughing, my dear. That’s the outline of the risible muscle. A Mother
Carey and her six ridiculous chickens can’t but wear out furrows with
laughing at them.”

“I only know I wish it were you that were going, and I that were staying
at home.”


          “‘You shall do my work to-day,
            And I’ll go follow the plough,’”


said her husband, laughing. “There are the notes of my lecture, if
you’ll go and give it.”

“Ah! we should not be like that celebrated couple. You would manage the
boys much better than I could doctor your patients.”

“I don’t know that. The boys are never so comfortable, when I’ve
got them alone. But, considering the hour, I should think the best
preliminary would be to put out the lamp and go to bed.”

“I suppose it is time; but I always think this last talk before going
upstairs, the best thing in the whole day!” said the happy wife as she
took the candle.



CHAPTER III. -- THE WHITE SLATE.



     Dark house, by which once more I stand
     Here in the long unlovely street.
     Doors, where my heart was wont to beat
     So quickly, waiting for a hand--
     A hand that can be clasped no more.
     Behold me, for I cannot sleep.--Tennyson.


“Mother Carey,” to call her by the family name that her husband had
given the first day she held a baby in her arms, had a capacity of
enjoyment that what she called her exile could not destroy. Even Bobus
left theory behind him and became a holiday boy, and the whole six
climbed rocks, paddled, boated, hunted sea weeds and sea animals, lived
on the beach from morning to night; and were exceedingly amused by the
people, who insisted on addressing the senior of the party as “Miss,”
 and thought them a young girl and her brothers under the charge of Mrs.
Acton. She, though really not a year older than her friend, looked like
a worn and staid matron by her side, and was by no means disposed to
scramble barefoot over slippery seaweed, or to take impromptu a part in
the grand defence of the sand and shingle edition of Raglan Castle.

Even to Mrs. Acton it was a continual wonder to see how entirely under
control of that little merry mother were those great, lively, spirited
boys, who never seemed to think of disobeying her first word, and, while
all made fun together, and she was hardly less active and enterprising
than they, always considered her comfort and likings.

So went things for a fortnight, during which the coming of the others
had been put off by Dr. Drew’s absence. One morning Mr. Acton sought
Mrs. Brownlow on the beach, where she was sitting with her brood round
her, partly reading from a translation, partly telling them the story of
Ulysses.

He called her aside, and told her that her husband had telegraphed to
him to bid him to carry her the tidings that good old Mrs. Brownlow had
been taken from them suddenly in the night, evidently in her sleep.

Carey turned very white, but said only “Oh! why did I go without them?”

It was such an overwhelming shock as left no room for tears. Her first
thought, the only one she seemed to have room for, was to get back to
her husband by the next train. She would have taken all the children,
but that Mrs. Acton insisted, almost commanded, that they should be left
under her charge, and reminded her that their father wished them to be
out of London; nor did Allen and Robert show any wish to return to a
house of mourning, being just of the age to be so much scared at sorrow
as to ignore it. And indeed their mother was equally new to any real
grief; her parents had been little more than a name to her, and the only
loss she had actually felt was that of a favourite schoolfellow.

She had no time to think or feel till she had reached the train and
taken her seat, and even then the first thing she was conscious of was
a sense of numbness within, and frivolous observation without, as she
found herself trying to read upside down the direction of her opposite
neighbour’s parcels, counting the flounces on her dress, and speculating
on the meetings and partings at the stations; yet with a terrible weight
and soreness on her all the time, though she could not think of the dear
grannie, of whom it was no figure of speech to say that she had been
indeed a mother. The idea of her absence from home for ever was too
strange, too heartrending to be at once embraced, and as she neared the
end of her journey on that long day, Carey’s mind was chiefly fixed on
the yearning to be with her husband and Janet, who had suffered such a
shock without her. She seemed more able to feel through her husband--who
was so devoted to his mother, than for herself, and she was every moment
more uneasy about her little daughter, who must have been in the room
with her grandmother. Comfort them? How, she did not know! The others
had always petted and comforted her, and now--No one to go to when the
children were ailing or naughty--no one to share little anxieties
when Joe was out late--no one to be the backbone she leant on--no dear
welcome from the easy chair. That thought nearly set her crying; the
tears burnt in her strained eyes, but the sight of the people opposite
braced her, and she tried to fix her thoughts on the unseen world, but
they only wandered wide as if beyond her own control, and her head was
aching enough to confuse her.

At last, late on the long summer day, she was at the terminus, and with
a heart beating so fast that she could hardly breathe, found herself in
a cab, driving up to her own door, just as the twilight was darkening.

How dark it looked within, with all the blinds down! The servant who
opened the door thought Miss Janet was in the drawing-room, but the
master was out. It sounded desolate, and Carey ran up stairs, craving
and eager for the kiss of her child--the child who must have borne the
brunt of the shock.

The room was silent, all dusky and shadowed; the window-frames were
traced on the blinds by the gas freshly lighted outside, and moving in
the breeze with a monotonous dreariness. Carey stood a moment, and then
her eyes getting accustomed to the darkness, she discerned a little
heap lying curled up before the ottoman, her head on a great open book,
asleep--poor child! quite worn out. Carey moved quietly across and sat
down by her, longing but not daring to touch her. The lamp was brought
up in a minute or two, and that roused Janet, who sprang up with a
sudden start and dazzled eyes, exclaiming “Father! Oh, it’s Mother
Carey! Oh, mother, mother, please don’t let him go!”

“And you have been all alone in the house, my poor child,” said Carey,
as she felt the girl shuddering in her close embrace.

“Mrs. Lucas came to stay with me, but I didn’t want her,” said Janet,
“so I told her she might go home to dinner. It’s father--”

“Where is father?”

“Those horrid people in Tottenham Court Road sent for him just as he had
come home,” said Janet.

“He went out as usual?”

“Yes, though he had such a bad cold. He said he could not be spared;
and he was out all yesterday till bedtime, or I should have told him
grandmamma was not well.”

“You thought so!”

“Yes, she panted and breathed so oddly; but she would not let me say a
word to him. She made me promise not, but being anxious about him helped
to do it. Dr. Lucas said so.”

There was a strange hardness and yet a trembling in Janet’s voice; nor
did she look as if she had shed tears, though her face was pale and her
eyes black-ringed, and when old nurse, now very old indeed, tottered
in sobbing, she flung herself to the other end of the room. It was more
from nurse than from Janet that Carey learnt the particulars, such as
they were, namely, that the girl had been half-dressed when she had
taken alarm from her grandmother’s unresponsive stillness, and had
rushed down to her father’s room. He had found that all had long
been over. His friend, old Dr. Lucas, had come immediately, and had
pronounced the cause to have been heart complaint.

Nurse said her master had been “very still,” and had merely given the
needful orders and written a few letters before going to his patients,
for the illness was at its height, and there were cases for which he was
very anxious.

The good old woman, who had lived nearly all her life with her mistress,
was broken-hearted; but she did not forget to persuade Caroline to
take food, telling her she must be ready to cheer up the master when
he should come in, and assuring her that the throbbing headache which
disgusted her with all thoughts of eating, would be better for the
effort. Perhaps it was, but it would not allow her to bring her thoughts
into any connection, or to fix them on what she deemed befitting, and
when she saw that the book over which Janet had been asleep in the
twilight was “The Last of the Mohicans,” she was more scandalised than
surprised.

It was past Janet’s bedtime, but though too proud to say so, she
manifestly shrank from her first night of loneliness, and her mother,
herself unwilling to be alone, came with her to her room, undressed
her, and sat with her in the darkness, hoping for some break in the dull
reticence, but disappointed, for Janet hid her head in the clothes, and
slept, or seemed to sleep.

Perhaps Carey herself had been half dozing, when she heard the
well-known sounds of arrival, and darted down stairs, meeting indeed the
welcoming eye and smile; but “Ah, here she is!” was said so hoarsely and
feebly, that she exclaimed “Oh Joe, you have knocked yourself up!”

“Yes,” said Dr. Lucas, whom she only then perceived. “He must go to bed
directly, and then we will see to him. Not another word, Brownlow, till
you are there, nor then if you are wise.”

He strove to disobey, but cough and choking forbade; and as he began to
ascend the stairs, Caroline turned in dismay to the kind, fatherly old
man, who had always been one of the chief intimates of the house, and
was now retired from practice, except for very old friends.

He told her that her husband was suffering from a kind of sore throat
that sometimes attacked those attending on this fever, though generally
not unless there was some predisposition, or unless the system had
been unduly lowered. Joe had indeed been over-worked in the absence of
several of the regular practitioners and of all those who could give
extra help; but this would probably have done little harm, but for a
cold caught in a draughty room, and the sudden stroke with which the day
had begun. Dr. Lucas had urged him to remain at home, and had undertaken
his regular work for the day, but summonses from his patients had been
irresistible; he had attended to everyone except himself, and finally,
after hours spent over the critical case of the wife of a small
tradesman, he had found himself so ill that he had gone to his friend
for treatment, and Dr. Lucas had brought him home, intending to stay all
night with him.

Since the wife had arrived, the good old man, knowing how much rather
they would be alone, consented to sleep in another room, after having
done all that was possible for the night, and cautioned against talking.

Indeed, Joe, heavy, stupefied, and struggling for breath, knew too well
what it all meant not to give himself all possible chance by silent
endurance, lying with his wife’s hand in his, or sometimes smoothing
her cheek, but not speaking without necessity. Once he told her that her
head was aching, and made her lie down on the bed, but he was too ill
for this rest to last long, and the fits of struggling with suffocation
prevented all respite save for a few minutes.

With the early light of the long summer morning Dr. Lucas looked in,
and would have sent her to bed, but she begged off, and a sign from her
husband seemed to settle the matter, for the old physician went away
again, perhaps because his eyes were full of tears.

The first words Joe said when they were again alone was “My tablets.”
 She went in search of them to his dressing-room, and not finding them
there, was about to run down to the consulting-room, when Janet came out
already dressed, and fetched them for her, as well as a white slate, on
which he was accustomed to write memorandums of engagements.

Her father thanked her by a sign, but there was possibility enough
of infection to make him wave her back from kissing him, and she took
refuge at the foot of the bed, on a sofa shut off by the curtains which
had been drawn to exclude the light.

Joe meantime wrote on the slate the words, “Magnum bonum.”

“Magnum bonum?” read his wife, in amazement.

“Papers in bureau,” he wrote; “lock all in my desk. Mention to no one.”

“Am I to put them in your desk?” asked Caroline, bewildered as to his
intentions, and finding it hard to read the writing, as he went on--

“No word to anyone!” scoring it under, “not till one of the boys is
ready.”

“One of the boys!” in utter amazement.

“Not as a chance for himself,” he wrote, “but as a great trust.”

“I know,” she said, “it is a great trust to make a discovery which will
save life. It is my pride to know you are doing it, my own dear Joe.”

“It seems I am not worthy to do it,” was traced by his fingers. “It is
not developed enough to be listened to by anyone. Keep it for the fit
one of the boys. Religion, morals, brains, balance.”

She read each word aloud, bending her head in assent; and, after a
pause, he wrote “Not till his degree. He could not work it out sooner.
These is peril to self and others in experimenting--temptation to
rashness. It were better unknown than trifled with. Be an honest
judge--promise. Say what I want.”

Spellbound, almost mesmerised by his will, Caroline pronounced--“I
promise to keep the magnum bonum a secret till the boys are grown up,
and then only to confide it to the one that seems fittest, when he has
taken his degree, and is a good, religious, wise, able man, with brains
and balance, fit to be trusted to work out and apply such an invention,
and not make it serve his own advancement, but be a real good and
blessing to all.”

He gave her one of his bright, sweet smiles, and, as she sealed her
promise by a kiss, he took up the slate again and wrote, “My dear
comfort, you have always understood. You are to be trusted. It must be
done worthily or not at all.”

That was the burthen of everything; and his approval and affection gave
a certain sustaining glow to the wife, who was besides so absorbed in
attending to him, as not to look beyond the moment. He wrote presently,
after a little more, “You know all my mind for the children. With God’s
help you can fill both places to them. I should like you to live at
Kenminster, under Robert’s wing.”

After that he only used the tablets for temporary needs, and to show
what he wanted Dr. Lucas to undertake for his patients. The husband and
wife had little more time for intimate communings, for the strangulation
grew worse, more remedies were tried, and one of the greatest physicians
of the day was called in, but only to make unavailing efforts.

Colonel Brownlow arrived in the middle of the day, and was thunderstruck
at the new and terrible disaster. He was a large, tall man, with a
good-humoured, weather-beaten face, and an unwieldy, gouty figure;
and he stood, with his eyes brimming over with tears, looking at
his brother, and at first unable to read the one word Joe traced for
him--for writing had become a great effort--“Carey.”

“We will do our best for her, Ellen and I, my dear fellow. But you’ll
soon be better. Horrid things, these quinsies; but they pass off.”

Poor Joe half-smiled at this confident opinion, but he merely wrung his
brother’s hand, and only twice more took up the pencil--once to write
the name of the clergyman he wished to see, and lastly to put down the
initials of all his children: “Love to you all. Let God and your mother
be first with you.--J. B.”

The daylight of the second morning had come in before that deadly
suffocation had finished its work, and the strong man’s struggles were
ended.

When Colonel Brownlow tried to raise his sister-in-law, he found her
fainting, and, with Dr. Lucas’s help, carried her to another room,
where she lay, utterly exhausted, in a kind of faint stupor, apparently
unconscious of anything but violent headache, which made her moan from
time to time, if anything stirred her. Dr. Lucas thought this the effect
of exhaustion, for she had not slept, and hardly taken any food since
her breakfast at Kyve three days ago; and finding poor old nurse too
entirely broken down to be of any use, he put his own kind wife in
charge of her, and was unwilling to admit anyone else--even Mrs.
Robert Brownlow, who arrived in the course of the day. She was a tall,
fine-looking person, with an oval face--soft, pleasant brown skin, mild
brown eyes, and much tenderness of heart and manner, but not very well
known to Caroline; for her periodical visits had been wholly devoted to
shopping and sight-seeing. She was exceedingly shocked at the tidings
that met her, and gathered Janet into her arms with many tears over the
poor orphan girl! It was an effusiveness that overwhelmed Janet, who had
a miserable, hard, dried-up feeling of wretchedness, and injury too; for
the more other people cried, the less she could cry, and she heard them
saying to one another that she was unfeeling.

Still Aunt Ellen’s presence was a sort of relief, for it made the house
less empty and dreary, and she took upon her the cares that were greatly
needed in the bereaved household, where old nurse had lost her head,
and could do nothing, and the most effective maid was away with the
children. So Janet wandered about after her aunt, with an adverse
feeling at having her home meddled with, but answering questions
and giving opinions, called or uncalled for. Her longing was for her
brothers, and it was a great blow to find that her uncle had written to
both Allen and Mr. Acton that they had better not come home at present.
She thought it cruel and unjust both towards them and herself; and in
her sickening sense of solitude and injury she had a vague expectation
that they were all going to be left wholly orphans, like the children
of fiction, dependent on their uncle and aunt, who would be unjust, and
prefer their own children; and she had a prevision of the battles she
was to fight, and the defensive influence she was to exert.

That brought to her mind the white slate on which her father had been
writing, and she hurried to secure it, though she hardly knew where to
go or to look; but straying into her father’s dressing-room, she found
both it and the tablets among a heap of other small matters that had
been, cleared away when the other chamber had been arranged into the
solemnity of the death-room. Hastily securing them, she carried them to
her own desk in the deserted school-room, feeling as if they were her
charge, and thus having no scruple in reading them.

She had heard what passed aloud; and, as the eldest girl, had been so
constantly among the seniors, and so often supposed to be intent on
her own occupations when they were conversing, that she had already
the knowledge that magnum bonum, was the pet home term for some great
discovery in medical, science that her father had been pursuing, with
many disappointments and much incredulity from the few friends to whom
it had been mentioned, but with absolute confidence on his own part.
What it was she did, not know, but she had fully taken in the injunction
of secrecy and the charge to hand on the task to one of her brothers;
only, while her father had spoken of it as a grave trust, she viewed it
as an inheritance of glory; and felt a strange longing and repining that
it could not be given to her to win and wear the crown of success.

Janet, did not, however, keep the treasure long, for that very evening
Mrs. Lucas sought her out to tell her that her mother had been saying
something, about a slate, and Dr. Lucas thought it was one on which her
father had been writing. If she could find it, they hoped her mother
would rest better.

Janet produced it, and, being evidently most unwilling to let it go out
of her hands, was allowed to carry it in, and to tell her mother that
she had it. There was no need for injunctions to do so softly and
cautiously, for she was frightened by her mother’s dull, half-closed
eye, and pale, leaden look; but there was a little air of relief as she
faltered, “Here’s the slate, dear mother:” and the answer, so faint that
she could hardly hear it, was, “Lock it up, my dear, till I can look.”

Mrs. Lucas told Janet she might kiss her, and then sent the girl away.
There was need of anxious watch lest fever should set in, and therefore
all that was exciting was kept at a distance as the poor young widow
verged towards recovery.

Once, when she heard voices on the stairs, she started nervously, and
asked Mrs. Lucas, “Is Ellen there?”

“Yes, my dear; she shall not come to you unless you wish it,” seeing her
alarm; and she laid her head down again.

The double funeral was accomplished while she was still too ill to hear
anything about it, though Mrs. Lucas had no doubt that she knew; and
when he came home, Colonel Brownlow called for Janet, and asked her
whether she could find her grandmother’s keys and her father’s for him.

“Mother would not like anyone to rummage their things,” said Janet, like
a watch-dog.

“My dear,” said her uncle, in a surprised but kind tone, as one who
respected yet resented her feeling; “you may trust me not to rummage,
as you call it, unnecessarily; but I know that I am executor, if you
understand what that means, my dear.”

“Of course,” said Janet, affronted as she always was by being treated as
a child.

“To both wills,” continued her uncle; “and it will save your mother much
trouble and distress if I can take steps towards acting on them at once;
and if you cannot tell where the keys are, I shall have to look for
them.”

“Janet ought to obey at once,” said her aunt, not adding to the serenity
of Janet’s mind; but she turned on her heel, ungraciously saying, “I’ll
get them;” and presently returned with her grandmother’s key-box, full
of the housekeeping keys, and a little key, which she gave to her uncle
with great dignity, adding, “The key of her desk is the Bramah one; I’ll
see for the others.”

“A strange girl, that!” said her uncle, as she marched out of the room.

“I am glad our Jessie has not her temper!” responded his wife; and then
they both repaired to old Mrs. Brownlow’s special apartment, the back
drawing-room, while Janet quietly dropped downstairs with the key she
had taken from her father’s table on her way to the consulting-room. She
intended to prevent any search, by herself producing the will from among
his papers, for she was in an agony lest her uncle should discover the
clue to the magnum bonum, of which she regarded herself the guardian.

Till she had actually unlocked the sloping lid of the old-fashioned
bureau, it did not occur to her that she did not know either what the
will was like, nor yet the magnum bonum, which was scarcely likely to be
so ticketed. She only saw piles of letters and papers, marked, some with
people’s names, some with a Greek or Latin word, or one of the curious
old Arabic signs, for which her father had always a turn, having, as his
mother used to tell him, something of the alchemist in his composition.
One of these parcels, fastened with elastic rings, must be magnum bonum,
and Janet, though without much chance of distinguishing it, was reading
the labels with a strange, sad fascination, when, long before she had
expected him, her uncle stood before her, with greatly astonished and
displeased looks, and the word “Janet.”

She coloured scarlet, but answered boldly, “There was something that I
know father did not want anyone but mother to see.”

“Of course there is much,” said her uncle, gravely--“much that I am
fitter to judge, of than any little girl.”

Words cannot express the offence thus given to Janet. Something swelled
in her throat as if to suffocate her, but there could be no reply, and
to burst out crying would only make him think her younger still; so as
he turned to his mournful task, she ensconced herself in a high-backed
chair, and watched him from under her dark brows.

She might comfort herself by the perception that he was less likely
than even herself to recognise the magnum bonum. He would scarcely have
thought it honourable to cast a glance upon the medical papers, and
pushing them aside from where she had pulled them forward, searched till
he had found a long cartridge-paper envelope, which he laid on the table
behind him while he shut up the bureau, and Janet, by cautiously craning
up her neck, managed to read that on it was written “Will of Joseph
Brownlow, Executors: Mrs. Caroline Otway Brownlow, Lieutenant-Colonel
Robert Brownlow.”

Her uncle then put both that and the keys in his pocket, either not
seeing her, or not choosing to notice her.



CHAPTER IV. -- THE STRAY CHICKENS.



     But when our father came not here,
       I thought if we could find the sea
     We should be sure to meet him there,
       And once again might happy be.--Ballad.



“What was Dr. Lucas saying to you?” asked Carey, sitting up in bed after
her breakfast.

“He said, my dear, that you were really well now,” said Mrs. Lucas,
tenderly; “and that you only wanted rousing.”

She clasped her hands together.

“Yes, I know it. I have been knowing it all yesterday and last night. It
hasn’t been right of me, keeping you all this time, and not facing it.”

“I don’t think you could, my dear.”

“Not at first. It seems to me like having been in a whirlpool, and those
two went down in it.” She put her hands to her temples. “But I must do
it all now, and I will. I’ll get up now. Oh! dear, if they only would
let me come down and go about quietly.” Then smiling a piteous smile.
“It is very naughty, but of all things I dread the being cried over and
fondled by Ellen!”

Mrs. Lucas shook her head, though the tears were in her eyes, and
bethought her whether she could caution Mrs. Robert Brownlow not to be
too demonstrative; but it was a delicate matter in which to interfere,
and after all, whatever she might think beforehand, Caroline might miss
these tokens of feeling.

She had sat up for some hours the evening before, so that there was no
fear of her not being strong enough to get up as she proposed; but how
would it be when she left her room, and beheld all that she could not
have realised?

However, matters turned out contrary to all expectation. Mrs. Lucas was
in the drawing-room, talking to the Colonel’s wife, and Janet up stairs
helping her mother to dress, when there was a sound of feet on the
stairs, the door hastily opened for a moment, and two rough-headed,
dusty little figures were seen for one moment, startling Mrs. Brownlow
with the notion of little beggars; but they vanished in a moment, and
were heard chattering up stairs with calls of “Mother! Mother Carey!”
 And looking out, they beheld at the top of the stairs the two little
fellows hanging one on each side of Carey, who was just outside her
door, with her hair down, in her white dressing gown, kneeling between
them, all the three almost devouring one another.

“Jockie! Armie! my dears! How did you come? Where are the rest?”

“Still at Kyve,” said Jock. “Mother we have done such a thing--we came
to tell you of it.”

“We’ve lost the man’s boat,” added Armine, “and we must give him the
money for another.”

“What is it? What is it, Caroline?” began her sister-in-law; but Mrs.
Lucas touched her arm, and as a mother herself, she saw that mother
and sons had best be left to one another, and let them retreat into the
bedroom, Carey eagerly scanning her two little boys, who had a battered,
worn, unwashed look that puzzled her as much as their sudden appearance,
which indeed chimed in with the strange dreamy state in which she had
lived ever since that telegram. But their voices did more to restore her
to ordinary life than anything else could have done; and their hearts
were so full of their own adventure, that they poured it out before
remarking anything,--

“How did you come, my dear boys?”

“We walked, after the omnibus set us down at Charing Cross, because we
hadn’t any more money,” said Armine. “I’m so tired.” And he nestled
into her lap, seeming to quell the beating of her aching heart by his
pressure.

“This is it, mother,” said Jock, pulling her other arm round him. “We
two went down to the beach yesterday, and we saw a little boat--Peter
Lary’s pretty little boat, you know, that is so light--and we got in to
rock in her, and then I thought I would pull about in her a little.”

“Oh! Jock, Jock, how could you?”

“I’d often done it with Allen and Young Pete,” said Jock, defensively.

“But by yourselves!” she said in horror.

“Nobody told us not,” said Jock rather defiantly; and Armine, who, with
his little sister Barbara, always seemed to live where dreamland and
reality bordered on each other, looked up in her face and innocently
said--

“Mrs. Acton read us about the Rocky Island, and she said father and
granny had brought their boats to the beautiful country, and that we
ought to go after them, and there was the bright path along the sea, and
I thought we would go too, and that it would be nicer if Jock went with
me.”

“I knew it did not mean that,” said Jock, hanging his mischievous black
head a little, as he felt her shudder; “but I thought it would be such
fun to be Columbus.”

“And then? Oh! my boys, what a fearful thing! Thank God I have you
here.”

“I wasn’t frightened,” said Jock, with uplifted head; “we could both
row, couldn’t we, Armie? and the tide was going out, and it was so
jolly; it seemed to take us just where we wanted to go, out to that
great rock, you know, mother, that Bobus called the Asses’ Bridge.”

Carey knew that the current at the mouth of the river did, at high tide,
carry much drift to the base of this island, and she could understand
how her two boys had been floated thither. Jock went on--

“We had a boat-hook, and I pulled up to the island; I did, mother, and
I made fast the boat to a little stick, and we went out to explore the
island.”

“It has a crater in the top, mother, and we think it must be an instinct
volcano,” said Armine, looking up sleepily.

“And there were such lots of jolly little birds,” went on Jock.

“Never mind that now. What happened?”

“Why, the brute of a boat got away,” said Jock, much injured, “when I’d
made her ever so fast. She pulled up the stick, I’m sure she did, for I
can tie a knot as well as Pete.”

“So you could not get away?”

“No, and we’d got nothing to eat but chocolate creams and periwinkles,
and Armie wouldn’t look at them, and I don’t think I could while they
were alive. So I hoisted a signal of distress, made of my tie, for we’d
lost our pocket-handkerchiefs. I was afraid they would think we were
pirates, and not venture to come near us, for we’d only got black flags,
and it was a very, very long time, but at last, just as it got a little
darkish, and Armie was crying--poor little chap--that steamer came
by that always goes between Porthole and Kyvemouth on Tuesdays and
Thursdays. I hailed and I hailed, and they saw or heard, and sent a boat
and took us on board. The people all came and looked at us, and one of
them said I was a plucky little chap; he did, mother, and that I’d the
making of an admiral in me; and a lady gave us such a jolly paper of
sandwiches. But you see the steamer was going to Porthole, and the
captain said he could not anyhow put back to Kyve, but he must take us
on, and we must get back by train.”

Mother Carey understood this, for the direct line ran to Porthole, and
there was a small junction station whence a branch ran to Kyvemouth,
from which Kyve St. Clements was some three miles distant.

“Were you carried on?” she asked.

“Well, yes, but we meant it,” said Jock. “I remembered the boat. I knew
father would say we must buy another, so I asked the captain what was
the price of one, for Armine and I had each got half-a-sovereign.”

“How was that?”

“An old gentleman the day before was talking to Mr. Acton. I think he is
some great swell, for he has got a yacht, and servants, and a carriage,
and lots of things; and he said, ‘What! are those poor Brownlow’s boys?
bless me!’ and he tipped us each. Allen and Bobus were to go with Mr.
Acton and have a sail in his yacht, but they said we should be too many,
so we thought we’d get a new boat, but the Captain--”

“Said your money would go but a little way,” put in Caroline.

“He laughed!” said Jock, as a great offence; “and said that was a matter
for our governor, and we had better go home and tell as fast as we
could. There was a train just starting when we got in to Porthole, and
somebody got our tickets for us, and Armie went fast off to sleep, and
I, when I came to think about it, thought we would not get out at the
junction, but come on home at once, Mother Carey, and tell you all about
it. When Armie woke--why, he’s asleep now--he said he would rather come
home than to Kyve.”

“Then you travelled all night?”

“Yes, there was a jolly old woman who made us a bed with her shawl,
only I tumbled off three times and bumped myself, and she gave us
gooseberries, and cake, and once when we stopped a long time a porter
got us a cup of tea. Then when we came to where they take the tickets,
I think the man was going to make a row, but the guard came up and told
him all about it, and I gave him my two half-sovereigns, and he gave me
back fourteen shillings change, for he said we were only half-price and
second class. Then when once I was in London,” said Jock, as if his foot
was on his native heath, “of course I knew what to be at.”

“Have you had nothing to eat?”

“We had each a bun when we got out at Charing Cross, but I’m awfully
hungry, mother!”

“I should think so. Janet, my dear, go and order some breakfast for
them.”

“And,” said Janet, “must not the others be dreadfully frightened about
them at Kyve?”

That question startled her mother into instant action.

“Of course they must! Poor Clara! poor Allen! They must be in a dreadful
state. I must telegraph to them at once.”

She lifted Armine off gently to her bed, scarcely disturbing him,
twisted up her hair in summary fashion, and the dress, which her friends
had dreaded her seeing, was on, she hardly knew how, as she bade old
nurse see to Jock’s washing, dressing, and making himself tidy, and
then amazed the other ladies by running into the drawing-room crying
breathlessly--

“I must telegraph to the Actons,” and plunging to the depths of a drawer
in the davenport.

“Caroline, your cap!”

For it was on the back of the head that had never worn a cap before. And
not only then, but for the most part whenever they met, those tears and
caresses, that poor Mother Carey so much feared, were checked midway by
the instinct that made Aunt Ellen run at her with a great pin and cry--

“Caroline, your cap.”

She was still, after having had it fixed, kneeling down, searching for
a form for telegraphing, when the door was opened, and in came Colonel
Brownlow, looking very pale and fearfully shocked.

“Ellen!” he began, “how shall I ever tell that poor child? Here is Mr.
Acton.”

But at that moment up sprang Mother Carey, and as Mr. Acton entered the
room she leapt forward--

“Oh! I was just going to telegraph! They are safe! they are here! Jock,
Jock!”

And downstairs came tumbling and rushing that same little imp, while the
astonishment of his uncle and aunt only allowed them to utter the one
word, “John!”

Mr. Acton drew a long breath, and said, “You have given us a pretty
fright, boy.”

“Here’s the paper,” added Carey; “telegraph to Clara at once. Ring the
bell, Jock; I’ll send to the office.”

All questions were suspended while Mr. Acton wrote the telegram, and
then it appeared that the boat had been picked up empty, with Armine’s
pocket-handkerchief full of shells in it, and the boys had been given up
for lost, it having been concluded that, if they had been seen, the boat
also would have been taken in tow, and not cast loose to tell the tale.
The two elder boys were almost broken-hearted, and would have been wild
to come back to their mother, had it not been impossible to leave poor
little Barbara, who clung fast to them, as the only shreds left to her
of home and protection. They would at least be comforted in the space of
a quarter of an hour!

Carey was completely herself and full of vigour while Mr. Acton was
there, consoling him when he lamented not having taken better care, and
refusing when he tried to persuade her to accompany him back to Kyve.
Neither would Janet return with him, feeling it impossible to relax such
watch as she could keep over the Magnum Bonum papers, even though she
much longed for her brothers.

“I should insist on her going,” said Aunt Ellen, “after all she has gone
through.”

“I don’t think I can,” said Carey. “You would not send away your
Jessie?”

Ellen did not quite say that her pretty, sweet, caressing Jessie was
different, but she thought it all the same.

Carey did not fulfil her intentions of going into matters of business
with her brother-in-law that day, for little Armine, always delicate,
had been so much knocked up by his course of adventures, that he needed
her care all the rest of the day. Nor would she have been fit for
anything else, for when his aunt recommended a totally different
treatment for his ailments, she had no spirit to argue, but only
looked pale and determined, being too weary and dejected to produce her
arguments.

Jock was sufficiently tired to be quiescent in the nursery, where she
kept him with her, feeling, in his wistful eyes, and even in poor little
Armine’s childish questions, something less like blank desolation than
her recent apathy had been, as if she were waking to thrills of pain
after the numbness of a blow.

Urged by a restless night and an instinctive longing for fresh air, she
took a long walk in the park before anyone came down the next morning,
with only Jock for her companion, and she came to the breakfast table
with a freshened look, though with a tremulous faintness in her voice,
and she let Janet continue tea maker, scarcely seeming to hear or
understand the casual remarks around her; but afterwards she said in a
resolute tone, “Robert, I am ready whenever you wish to speak to me.”

So in the drawing-room the Colonel, with the two wills in his hand,
found himself face to face with her. He was the more nervous of the two,
being, much afraid of upsetting that composure which scandalised his
wife, but which he preferred to tears; and as he believed her to be a
mere child in perception, he explained down to her supposed level,
while she listened in a strange inert way, feeling it hard to fix her
attention, yet half-amused by the simplicity of his elucidations. “Would
Ellen need to be told what an executor meant?” thought she.

She was left sole guardian of the children, “the greatest proof of
confidence a parent can give,” impressively observed the Colonel,
wondering at the languor of her acquiescence, and not detecting the
thought, “Dear Joe! of course! as if he would have done anything else!”

“Of course,” continued the Colonel, “he never expected that it would
have proved more than a nominal matter, a mere precaution. For my own
part, I can only say that I shall be always ready to assist you with
advice or authority if ever you should find the charge too onerous for
you.”

“Thank you,” was all she could bring herself to say at that moment,
feeling that her boys were her own, though the next she was recollecting
that this was no doubt the reason Joe had bidden her live at
Kenminster, and in a pang of self-reproach, was hardly attending to the
technicalities of the matters of property which were being explained to
her.

Her husband had not been able to save much, but his life insurance was
for a considerable sum, and there was also the amount inherited from his
parents. A portion of the means which his mother had enjoyed passed to
the elder brother, and Mrs. Brownlow had sunk most of her individual
property in the purchase of the house in which they lived. By the terms
of Joseph’s will, everything was left to Caroline unreservedly, save
for a stipulation that all, on her death, should be divided among the
children, as she should appoint. The house was not even secured to
Allen, so that she could let or sell it as she thought advisable.

“I could not sell it,” said Carey quickly, feeling it her first and only
home. “I hope to see Allen practising there some day.”

“It is not in a situation where you could sell it to so much advantage
as you would have by letting it to whoever takes the practice.”

She winced, but it was needful to listen, as he told her of the offers
that had been made for the house and the good-will of the practice.
What he had thought the best offer was, however, rejected by her with
vehemence. She was sure that Joe would never stand that man coming in
upon his patients, and when asked for her reasons, would only reply,
that “None of us could bear him.”

“That is no reason why he should not be a good practitioner and
respectable man. He may not be what you like in society, and yet--”

“Ask Dr. Lucas,” hastily interrupted Carey.

“Perhaps that will be the best way,” said the Colonel gravely. “Will you
promise to abide by his decision?”

“I don’t know! I mean, if everyone decided against me, _nothing_ should
induce me to let _that_ Vaughan into Joe’s house to meddle with his
patients.”

Colonel Brownlow made a sign of displeased acquiescence, so like his
brother when Carey was a little impetuous or naughty, that she instantly
felt shocked at herself, and faltered, “I beg your pardon.”

He seemed not to notice this, but went on, “As you say, it may be wise
to consult Dr. Lucas. Perhaps, putting it up to competition would be the
best way.”

“Oh, no,” said Caroline. “Have you a letter from Dr. Drake?”

“No.”

“Then depend upon it he must have too much delicacy to begin about it so
soon. I had rather he had it than anyone else.”

“Can he make a fair offer for it? You cannot afford to throw away a
substantial benefit for preferences,” said the Colonel. “At the outside,
you will not have more than five hundred pounds a year, and I fear you
will feel much straitened after what you are used to, with four boys,
and such ideas as to their education,” he added smiling.

“I don’t know, but I am sure it is what Joe would wish. He had rather
trust his patients to Harry--to Dr. Drake--than to anyone, and he is
just going to be married, and wants a practice; I shall write to him. It
is so nice of him not to have pressed forward.”

“You will not commit yourself?” said Colonel Brownlow. “Remember that
your children’s interests are at stake, and must not be sacrificed to a
predilection.”

Again Caroline felt fiery and furious, and less inclined than ever to
submit her judgment as she said, “You can inquire, but I know what Joe
thought of him.”

“His worthiness is not the point, but whether he can indemnify you.”

“His worthiness not the point!” cried Caroline, indignantly. “I think it
all the point.”

“You misunderstand me; you totally misunderstand me,” exclaimed the
Colonel trying hard to be gentle. “I never meant to recommend an
unworthy man.”

“You wanted Vaughan,” murmured Mother Carey, but he did not regard the
words, perhaps did not hear them, for he went on: “My brother in such
a case would have taken a reasonable view, and placed the good of his
children before any amiable desire to benefit a--a--one unconnected with
him. However,” he added, “there is no reason against writing to him,
provided you do not commit yourself.”

Caroline hated the word, but endured it, and the rest of the interview
was spent upon some needful signatures, and on the question of her
residence at Kenminster, an outlook which she contemplated as part of
the darkness into which her life seemed to have suddenly dashed forward.
One place would be much the same as another to her, and she could only
hear with indifference about the three houses, possible, and the rent,
garden, and number of rooms.

She was very glad when it was over, and the Colonel, saying he should go
and consult Dr. Lucas, gave her back the keys he had taken from Janet,
and said that perhaps she would prefer looking over the papers before
he himself did so, with a view to accounts; but he should advise all
professional records to be destroyed.

It may be feared that the two executors did not respect or like each,
other much the better for the interview, which had made the widow feel
herself even more desolate and sore-hearted.

She ran, downstairs, locked the door of the consulting room, opened the
lid of the bureau, and kneeling down with her head among all the papers,
she sobbed with long-drawn, tearless sobs, “O father! O Joe! how could
you bid me live there? He makes me worse! They will make me worse and
worse, and now you are gone, and Granny is gone, there’s nobody to make
me good; and what will become of the children?”

Then she looked drearily on the papers that lay before her, as if his
hand-writing at least gave a sort of nearness. There was a memorandum
book which had been her birthday present to him, and she felt drawn to
open it. The first she saw after her own writing of his name was--

“‘Magnum Bonum. So my sweet wife insists on calling this possibility, of
which I will keep the notes in her book.

“‘Magnum Bonum! Whether it so prove, and whether I may be the means of
making it known, must be as God may will. May He give me the power of
persevering, to win, or to fail, or to lay the foundation for other men,
whichever may be the best, with a true heart, heeding His glory, and
acting as His servant to reveal His mysteries of science for the good of
His children.

“‘And above all, may He give us all to know and feel the true and only
Magnum Bonum, the great good, which alone makes success or failure, loss
or gain, life or death, alike blessed in Him and through Him.’”

Carey gazed on those words, as she sat in the large arm-chair, whither
she had moved on opening the book. She had always known that religion
was infinitely more to her husband than ever it had been to herself. She
had done what he led her to do, and had a good deal of intellectual and
poetical perception and an uprightness, affection, and loyalty of
nature that made her anxious to do right, but devotion was duty, and
not pleasure to her; she was always glad when it was over, and she was
feeling that the thoughts which were said to comfort others were quite
unable to reach her grief. There was no disbelief nor rebellion about
her, only a dull weariness, and an inclination which she could hardly
restrain, even while it shocked her, to thrust aside those religious
consolations that were powerless to soothe her. She knew it was not
their fault, she did not doubt of their reality; it was she who was not
good enough to use them.

These words of Joe were to her as if he were speaking to her again. She
laid them on her knee, murmured them over fondly, looked at them, and
finally, for she was weak still and had had a bad night, fell fast
asleep over them, and only wakened, as shouts of “Mother” were heard
over the house.

She locked the bureau in a hurry, and opened the door, calling back to
the boys, and then she found that Aunt Ellen had taken all the three out
walking, when Jock and Armine, with the remains of their money burning
in their pockets, had insisted on buying two little ships, which must
necessarily be launched in the Serpentine. Their aunt could by no means
endure this, and Janet did not approve, so there seemed to have been a
battle royal, in which Jock would have been the victor, if his little
brother had not been led off captive between his aunt and sister,
when Jock went along on the opposite side of the road, asserting his
independence by every sort of monkey trick most trying to his aunt’s
rural sense of London propriety.

It was very ridiculous to see the tall, grave, stately Mrs. Robert
Brownlow standing there describing the intolerable naughtiness of
that imp, who, not a bit abashed, sat astride on the balustrade in the
comfortable conviction that he was not hers.

“I hope, at least,” concluded the lady, “that you will make them feel
how bad their behaviour has been.”

“Jock,” said Carey mechanically, “I am afraid you have behaved very ill
to your aunt.”

“Why, Mother Carey,” said that little wretch, “it is just that she
doesn’t know anything about anything in London.”

“Yes,” chimed in little Armine, who was hanging to his mother’s skirts;
“she thought she should get to the Park by Duke Street.”

“That did not make it right for you not to be obedient,” said Carey,
trying for severity.

“But we couldn’t, mother.”

“Couldn’t?” both echoed.

“No,” said Jock, “or we should be still in Piccadilly. Mother Carey, she
told us not to cross till it was safe.”

“And she stood up like the Duke of Bedford in the Square,” added Armine.

Janet caught her mother’s eye, and both felt a spasm of uncontrollable
diversion in their throats, making Janet turn her back, and Carey gasp
and turn on the boys.

“All that is no reason at all. Go up to the nursery. I wish I could
trust you to behave like a gentleman, when your aunt is so kind as to
take you out.”

“I _did_, mother! I did hand her across the street, and dragged her out
from under all the omnibus horses,” said Jock in an injured tone, while
Janet could not refrain from a whispered comparison, “Like a little
steam-tug,” and this was quite too much for all of them, producing an
explosion which made the tall and stately dame look from one to another
in such bewildered amazement, that struck the mother and daughter as so
comical that the one hid her face in her hands with a sort of hysterical
heaving, and the other burst into that painful laughter by which
strained spirits assert themselves in the young.

Mrs. Robert Brownlow, in utter astonishment and discomfiture, turned and
walked off to her own room. Somehow Carey and Janet felt more on
their ordinary terms than they had done all these sad days, in their
consternation and a certain sense of guilt.

Carey could adjudicate now, though trembling still. She made Jock own
that his Serpentine plans had been unjustifiable, and then she added,
“My poor boy, I must punish you. You must remember it, for if you are
not good and steady, what _will_ become of us.”

Jock leapt at her neck. “Mother, do anything to me. I don’t mind, if you
only won’t look at me like that!”

She sat down on the stairs, all in a heap again with him, and sentenced
him to the forfeit of the ship, which he endured with more tolerable
grace, because Armine observed, “Never mind, Skipjack, we’ll go partners
in mine. You shall have half my cargo of gold dust.”

Carey could not find it in her heart to check the voyages of the
remaining ship, over the uncarpeted dining-room; but as she was going,
Armine looked at her with his great soft eyes, and said, “Mother Carey,
have you got to be the scoldy and punishy one now?”

“I must if you need it,” said she, going down on her knees again to
gather the little fellow to her breast; “but, oh, don’t--don’t need it.”

“I’d rather it was Uncle Robert and Aunt Ellen,” said Jock, “for then I
shouldn’t care.”

“Dear Jock, if you only care, I think we sha’n’t want many punishments.
But now I must go to your aunt, for we did behave horribly ill to her.”

Aunt Ellen was kind, and accepted Carey’s apology when she found that
Jock had really been punished. Only she said, “You must be firm with
that boy, Caroline, or you will be sorry for it. My boys know that what
I have said is to be done, and they know it is of no use to disobey. I
am happy to say they mind me at a word; but that John of yours needs
a tight hand. The Colonel thinks that the sooner he is at school the
better.”

Before Carey had time to get into a fresh scrape, the Colonel was
ringing at the door. He had to confess that Dr. Lucas had said Mrs. Joe
Brownlow was right about Vaughan, and had made it plain that his offer
ought not to be accepted, either in policy, or in that duty which the
Colonel began to perceive towards his brother’s patients. Nor did he
think ill of her plan respecting Dr. Drake; and said he would himself
suggest the application which that gentleman was no doubt withholding
from true feeling, for he had been a favourite pupil of Joe Brownlow,
and had been devoted to him. He was sure that Mrs. Brownlow’s good sense
and instinct were to be trusted, a dictum which not a little surprised
her brother-in-law, who had never ceased to think of “poor Joe’s fancy”
 as a mere child, and who forgot that she was fifteen years older than at
her marriage.

He told his wife what Dr. Lucas had said, to which she replied, “That’s
just the way. Men know nothing about it.”

However, Dr. Drake’s offer was sufficiently eligible to be accepted.
Moreover, it proved that the most available house at Kenminster could
not be got ready for the family before the winter, so that the move
could not take place till the spring. In the meantime, as Dr. Drake
could not marry till Easter, the lower part of the house was to be given
up to him, and Carey and Janet felt that they had a reprieve.



CHAPTER V. -- BRAINS AND NO BRAINS.



     I do say, thou art quick in answers:
     Thou heatest my blood.--Love’s Labours Lost.


Kem’ster, as county tradition pronounced what was spelt Kenminster, a
name meaning St. Kenelm’s minster, had a grand collegiate church and a
foundation-school which, in the hands of the Commissioners, had of
late years passed into the rule of David Ogilvie, Esq., a spare, pale,
nervous, sensitive-looking man of eight or nine and twenty, who sat one
April evening under his lamp, with his sister at work a little way off,
listening with some amusement to his sighs and groans at the holiday
tasks that lay before him.

“Here’s an answer, Mary. What was Magna Charta? The first map of the
world.”

“Who’s that ingenious person?”

“Brownlow Major, of course; and here’s French, who says it was a new
sort of cow invented by Henry VIII.--a happy feminine, I suppose, to
the Papal Bull. Here’s a third! The French fleet defeated by Queen
Elizabeth. Most have passed it over entirely.”

“Well, you know this is the first time you have tried such an
examination, and boys never do learn history.”

“Nor anything else in this happy town,” was the answer, accompanied by a
ruffling over of the papers.

“For shame, David! The first day of the term!”

“It is the dead weight of Brownlows, my dear. Only think! There’s
another lot coming! A set of duplicates. They haven’t even the sense to
vary the Christian names. Three more to be admitted to-morrow.”

“That accounts for a good deal!”

“You are laughing at me, Mary; but did you never know what it is to feel
like Sisyphus? Whenever you think you have rolled it a little way,
down it comes, a regular dead weight again, down the slope of utter
indifference and dulness, till it seems to crush the very heart out of
you!”

“Have you really nobody that is hopeful?”

“Nobody who does not regard me as his worst enemy, and treat all my
approaches with distrust and hostility. Mary, how am I to live it down?”

“You speak as if it were a crime!”

“I feel as if it were one. Not of mine, but of the pedagogic race before
me, who have spoilt the relations between man and boy; so that I cannot
even get one to act as a medium.”

“That would be contrary to esprit de corps.”

“Exactly; and the worst of it is, I am not one of those genial fellows,
half boys themselves, who can join in the sports con amore; I should
only make a mountebank of myself if I tried, and the boys would distrust
me the more.”

“Quite true. The only way is to be oneself, and one’s best self, and the
rest will come.”

“I’m not so sure of that. Some people mistake their vocation.”

“Well, when you have given it a fair trial, you can turn to something
else. You are getting the school up again, which is at least one
testimony.”

David Ogilvie made a sound as if this were very base kind of solace,
and his sister did not wonder when she remembered the bright hopes and
elaborate theories with which he had undertaken the mastership only
nine months ago. He was then fresh from the university, and the loss
of constant intercourse with congenial minds had perhaps contributed
as much as the dulness of the Kenminster youth to bring him into a
depressed state of health and spirits, which had made his elder sister
contrive to spend her Easter at the seaside with him, and give him a few
days at the beginning of the term. Indeed, she was anxious enough
about him, when he went down to the old grammar-school, to revolve the
possibility of acceding to his earnest wish, and coming to live with
him, instead of continuing in her situation as governess.

He came back to luncheon next day with a brightened face, that made his
sister say, “Well, have you struck some sparks?”

“I’ve got some new material, and am come home saying, ‘What’s in a
name?’”

“Eh! Is it those very new Brownlows, that seemed yesterday to be the
last straw on the camel’s back?”

“I wish you could have seen the whole scene, Mary. There were
half-a-dozen new boys to be admitted, four Brownlows! Think of that!
Well, there stood manifestly one of the old stock, with the same oval
face and sleepy brown eyes, and the very same drawl I know so well in
the ‘No--a--’ to the vain question, ‘Have you done any Latin?’ And how
shall I do justice to the long, dragging drawl of his reading?
Aye, here’s the sentence I set him on:
‘The--Gowls--had--con--sen--ted--to--accept--a--sum--of--gold--and--retire.
They were en--gagged--in--wag--ging out the sum--required, and--’ I had
to tell him what to call Brennus, and he proceeded to cast the sword
into the scale, exclaiming, just as to a cart-horse, ‘Woh! To the
Worsted’ (pronounced like yarn). After that you may suppose the feelings
with which I called his ditto, another Joseph Armine Brownlow; and forth
came the smallest sprite, with a white face and great black eyes, all
eagerness, but much too wee for this place. ‘Begun Latin?’ ‘Oh, yes;’
and he rattled off a declension and a tense with as much ease as if he
had been born speaking Latin. I gave him Phaedrus to see whether that
would stump him, and I don’t think it would have done so if he had not
made os a mouth instead of a bone, in dealing with the ‘Wolf and the
Lamb.’ He was almost crying, so I put the Roman history into his hand,
and his reading was something refreshing to hear. I asked if he knew
what the sentence meant, and he answered, ‘Isn’t it when the geese
cackled?’ trying to turn round the page. ‘What do you know about the
geese?’ said I. To which the answer was, ‘We played at it on the stairs!
Jock and I were the Romans, and Mother Carey and Babie were the geese.’”

“Poor little fellow! I hope no boys were there to listen, or he will
never hear the last of those geese.”

“I hope no one was within earshot but his brothers, who certainly did
look daggers at him. He did very well in summing and in writing, except
that he went out of his way to spell fish, p h y c h, and shy, s c h y;
and at last, I could not resist the impulse to ask him what Magna Charta
is. Out came the answer, ‘It is yellow, and all crumpled up, and you
can’t read it, but it has a bit of a great red seal hanging to it.’”

“What, he had seen it?”

“Yes, or a facsimile, and what was more, he knew who signed it. Whoever
taught that child knew how to teach, and it is a pity he should be
swamped among such a set as ours.”

“I thought you would be delighted.”

“I should be, if I had him alone, but he must be put with a crew who
will make it their object to bully him out of his superiority, and the
more I do for him, the worse it will be for him, poor little fellow; and
he looks too delicate to stand the ordeal. It is sheer cruelty to send
him.”

“Hasn’t he brothers?”

“Oh, yes! I was going to tell you, two bigger boys, another Robert and
John Brownlow--about eleven and nine years old. The younger one is
a sort of black spider monkey, wanting the tail. We shall have some
trouble with that gentleman, I expect.”

“But not the old trouble?”

“No, indeed; unless the atmosphere affects him. He answered as no boy
of twelve can do here; and as to the elder one, I must take him at once
into the fifth form, such as it is.”

“Where have they been at school?”

“At a day school in London. They are Colonel Brownlow’s nephews. Their
father was a medical man in London, who died last summer, leaving a
young widow and these boys, and they have just come down to live in
Kenminster. But it can’t be owing to the school. No school would
give all three that kind of--what shall I call it?--culture, and
intelligence, that they all have; besides, the little one has been
entirely taught at home.”

“I wonder whether it is their mother’s doing?”

“I am afraid it is their father’s. The Colonel spoke of her as a poor
helpless little thing, who was thrown on his hands with all her family.”

After the morning’s examination and placing of the boys, there was a
half-holiday; and the brother and sister set forth to enjoy it together,
for Kenminster was a place with special facilities for enjoyment. It was
built as it were within a crescent, formed by low hills sloping down to
the river; the Church, school, and other remnants of the old collegiate
buildings lying in the flat at the bottom, and the rest of the town, one
of the small decayed wool staples of Somerset, being in terraces on
the hill-side, with steep streets dividing the rows. These were of very
mixed quality and architecture, but, as a general rule, improved the
higher they rose, and were all interspersed with gardens running up or
down, and with a fair sprinkling of trees, whose budding green looked
well amid the yellow stone.

On the summit were some more ornamental villa-like houses, and grey
stone buildings with dark tiled roofs, but the expansion on that side
had been checked by extensive private grounds. There were very beautiful
woods coming almost close to the town, and in the absence of the owner,
a great moneyed man, they were open to all those who did not make
themselves obnoxious to the keepers; and these, under an absentee
proprietor, gave a free interpretation to rights of way. Thither were
the Ogilvies bound, in search of primrose banks, but their way led
them past two or three houses on the hill-top, one of which, being
constructed on supposed Chinese principles of architecture, was known
to its friends as “the Pagoda,” to its foes as “the Folly.” It had been
long untenanted, but this winter it had been put into complete repair,
and two rooms, showing a sublime indifference to consistency of
architecture, had been lately built out with sash windows and a slated
roof, contrasting oddly with the frilled and fluted tiles of the tower
from which it jutted.

Suddenly there sounded close to their ears the words--“School time, my
dear!”

Starting and looking round for some impertinent street boy, Mr. Ogilvie
exclaimed, “What’s that?”

“Mother Carey! We are all Mother Carey’s chickens.”

“See, there,” exclaimed Mary, and a great parrot was visible on the
branch of a sumach, which stretched over the railings of the low wall of
the pagoda garden. “O you appropriate bird,--you surely ought not to be
here!”

To which the parrot replied, “Hic, haec, hoc!” and burst out in a wild
scream of laughing, spreading her grey wings, and showing intentions of
flying away; but Mr. Ogilvie caught hold of the chain that hung from her
leg.

Just then voices broke out--

“That’s Polly! Where is she? That’s you, Jock, you horrid boy.”

“Well, I didn’t see why she shouldn’t enjoy herself.”

“Now you’ve been and lost her. Poll, Poll!”

“I have her!” called back Mr. Ogilvie. “I’ll bring her to the gate.”

Thanks came through the hedge, and the brother and sister walked on.

“It’s old Ogre. Cut!” growled in what was meant to be an aside, a voice
the master knew full well, and there was a rushing off of feet, like
ponies in a field.

When the sheep gate was reached, a great furniture van was seen standing
at the door of the “Folly,” and there appeared a troop of boys and girls
in black, eager to welcome their pet.

“Thank you, sir; thank you very much. Come, Polly,” said the eldest boy,
taking possession of the bird.

“I think we have met before,” said the schoolmaster to the younger ones,
glad to see that two--i.e. the new Robert and Armine Brownlow--had not
joined in the sauve qui peut.

Nay, Robert turned and said, “Mother, it is Mr. Ogilvie.”

Then that gentleman was aware that one of the black figures had a
widow’s cap, with streamers flying behind her in the breeze, but while
he was taking off his hat and beginning, “Mrs. Brownlow,” she held out
her hands to his sister, crying, “Mary, Mary Ogilvie,” and there was an
equally fervent response. “Is it? Is it really Caroline Allen?” and
the two friends linked eager hands in glad pressure, turning, after the
first moment, towards the house, while Mary said, “David, it is my dear
old schoolfellow; Carey, this is my brother.”

“You were very kind to these boys,” said Carey, warmly shaking hands
with him. “The name sounded friendly, but I little thought you were
Mary’s brother. Are you living here, Mary? How delightful!”

“Alas, no; I am only keeping holiday with David. I go back to-morrow.”

“Then stay now, stay and let me get all I can of you, in this frightful
muddle,” entreated Caroline. “Chaos is come again, but you won’t mind.”

“I’ll come and help you,” said Mary. “David, you must go on alone and
come back for me.”

“Can’t I be of use?” offered David, feeling rather shut out in the cold;
“I see a bookcase. Isn’t that in my line?”

“And here’s the box with its books,” said Janet. “Oh! mother, do let
that be finished off at least! Bobus, there are the shelves, and I have
all their pegs in my basket.”

The case was happily in its place against the wall, and Janet had seized
on her recruit to hold the shelves while she pegged them, while the two
friends were still exchanging their first inquiries, Carey exclaiming,
“Now, you naughty Mary, where have you been, and why didn’t you write?”

“I have been in Russia, and I didn’t write, because nobody answered, and
I didn’t know where anybody was.”

“In Russia! I thought you were with a Scottish family, and wrote to you
to the care of some laird with an unearthly name.”

“But you knew that they took me abroad.”

“And Alice Brown told me that letters sent to the place in Scotland
would find you. I wrote three times, and when you did not answer my
last--” and Caroline broke off with things unutterable in her face.

“I never had any but the first when you were going to London. I answered
that. Yes, I did! Don’t look incredulous. I wrote from Sorrento.”

“That must have miscarried. Where did you address it.”

“To the old place, inside a letter to Mrs. Mercer.”

“I see! Poor Mrs. Mercer went away ill, and did not live long after, and
I suppose her people never troubled themselves about her letters. But
why did not you get ours.”

“Mrs. McIan died at Venice, and the aunts came out, and considering me
too young to go on with the laird and his girls, they fairly made me
over to a Russian family whom we had met. Unluckily, as I see now, I
wrote to Mrs. Mercer, and as I never heard more I gave up writing. Then
the Crimean War cut me off entirely even from David. I had only one
letter all that time.”

“How is it that you are a governess? I thought one was sure of a pension
from a Russian grandee!”

“These were not very grand grandees, only counts, and though they paid
liberally, they could not pension one. So when I had done with the
youngest daughter, I came to England and found a situation in London. I
tried to look up our old set, but could not get on the track of anyone
except Emily Collins, who told me you had married very soon, but was not
even sure of your name. Very soon! Why, Caroline, your daughter looks as
old as yourself.”

“I sometimes think she is older! And have you seen my Eton boy?”

“Was it he who received the delightful popinjay, who ‘Up and spak’ so
much to the purpose?” asked Mr. Ogilvie.

“Yes, it was Allen. He is the only one you did not see in the morning.
Did they do tolerably?”

“I only wish I had any boys who did half as well,” said Mr. Ogilvie, the
lads being gone for more books.

“I was afraid for John and Armine, for we have been unsettled, and I
could not go on so steadily with them as before,” she said eagerly, but
faltering a little. “Armine told me he blundered in Phaedrus, but I hope
he did fairly on the whole.”

“So well that if you ask my advice, I should say keep him to yourself
two years more.”

“Oh! I am so glad,” with a little start of joy. “You’ll tell his uncle?
He insisted--he had some impression that they were very naughty boys,
whom I could not cope with, poor little fellows.”

“I can decidedly say he is learning more from you than he would in
school among those with whom, at his age, I must place him.”

“Thank you, thank you. Then Babie won’t lose her companion. She wanted
to go to school with Armie, having always gone on with him. And the
other two--what of them? Bobus is sure to work for the mere pleasure of
it--but Jock?”

“I don’t promise that he may not let himself down to the standard of his
age and develop a capacity for idleness, but even he has time to spare,
and he is at that time of life when boys do for one another what no one
else can do for them.”

“The Colonel said the boys were a good set and gentlemanly,” said Carey
wistfully.

“I think I may say that for them,” returned their master. “They are not
bad boys as boys go. There is as much honour and kindliness among them
as you would find anywhere. Besides, to boys like yours this would be
only a preparatory school. They are sure to fly off to scholarships.”

“I don’t know,” said Carey. “I want them to be where physical science is
an object. Or do you think that thorough classical training is a better
preparation than taking up any individual line?”

“I believe it is easier to learn how to learn through languages than
through anything else.”

“And to be taught how to learn is a much greater thing than to be
crammed,” said Carey. “Of course when one begins to teach oneself,
the world has become “mine oyster,” and one has the dagger. The point
becomes how to sharpen the dagger.”

At that moment three or four young people rushed in with arms full of
books, and announcing that the uncle and aunt were coming. The next
moment they appeared, and stood amazed at the accession of volunteer
auxiliaries. Mr. Ogilvie introduced his sister, while Caroline explained
that she was an old friend,--meanwhile putting up a hand to feel for her
cap, as she detected in Ellen’s eyes those words, “Caroline, your cap.”

“We came to see how you were getting on,” said the Colonel, kindly.

“Thank you, we are getting on capitally. And oh, Robert, Mr. Ogilvie
will tell you; he thinks Armine too--too--I mean he thinks he had better
not go into school yet,” she added, thankful that she had not said “too
clever for the school.”

The Colonel turned aside with the master to discuss the matter, and the
ladies went into the drawing-room, the new room opening on the lawn,
under a verandah, with French windows. It was full of furniture in the
most dire confusion. Mrs. Robert Brownlow wanted to clear off at once
the desks and other things that seemed school-room properties, saying
that a little room downstairs had always served the purpose.

“That must be nurse’s sitting-room,” said Carey.


“Old nurse! She can be of no use, my dear!”

“Oh yes, she is; she has lived with us ever since dear grandmamma
married, and has no home, and no relations. We could not get on without
dear old nursey!”

“Well, my dear, I hope you will find it answer to keep her on. But as
to this room! It is such a pity not to keep it nice, when you have such
handsome furniture too.”

“I want to keep it nice with habitation,” said Caroline. “That’s the
only way to do it. I can’t bear fusty, shut-up smart rooms, and I think
the family room ought to be the pleasantest and prettiest in the house
for the children’s sake.”

“Ah, well,” said Mrs. Brownlow, with a serene good nature, contrasting
with the heat with which Caroline spoke, “it is your affair, my dear,
but my boys would not thank me for shutting them in with my pretty
things, and I should be sorry to have them there. Healthy country boys
like to have their fun, and I would not coop them up.”

“Oh, but there’s the studio to run riot in, Ellen,” said Carey. “Didn’t
you see? The upper story of the tower. We have put the boy’s tools
there, and I can do my modelling there, and make messes and all that’s
nice,” she said, smiling to Mary, and to Allen, who had just come in.

“Do you model, Carey?” Mary asked, and Allen volunteered to show his
mother’s groups and bas-reliefs, thereby much increasing the litter
on the floor, and delighting Mary a good deal more than his aunt, who
asked, “What will you do for a store-room then?”

“Put up a few cupboards and shelves anywhere.”

It is not easy to describe the sort of air with which Mrs. Robert
Brownlow received this answer. She said nothing but “Oh,” and
was perfectly unruffled in a sort of sublime contempt, as to the
hopelessness of doing anything with such a being on her own ground.

There did not seem overt provocation, but poor Caroline, used to petting
and approval, chafed and reasoned: “I don’t think anything so important
as a happy home for the boys, where they can have their pursuits, and
enjoy themselves.”

Mrs. Brownlow seemed to think this totally irrelevant, and observed,
“When I have nice things, I like to keep them nice.”

“I like nice boys better than nice things,” cried Carey.

Ellen smiled as though to say she hoped she was not an unnatural mother,
and again said “Oh!”

Mary Ogilvie was very glad to see the two gentlemen come in from the
hall, the Colonel saying, “Mr. Ogilvie tells me he thinks Armine too
small at present for school, Caroline.”

“You know I am very glad of it, Robert,” she said, smiling gratefully,
and Ellen compassionately observed, “Poor little fellow, he is very
small, but country air and food will soon make a man of him if he is not
overdone with books. I make it a point never to force my children.”

“No, that you don’t,” said Caroline, with a dangerous smile about the
corners of her mouth.

“And my boys do quite as well as if they had their heads stuffed and
their growth stunted,” said Ellen. “Joe is only two months older than
Armine, and you are quite satisfied with him, are you not, Mr. Ogilvie?”

“He is more on a level with the others,” said Mr. Ogilvie politely; “but
I wish they were all as forward as this little fellow.”

“Schoolmasters and mammas don’t always agree on those points,” said the
Colonel good-humouredly.

“Very true,” responded his wife. “I never was one for teasing the poor
boys with study and all that. I had rather see them strong and well
grown. They’ll have quite worry enough when they go to school.”

“I’m sorry you look at me in that aspect,” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“Oh, I know you can’t help it,” said the lady.

“Any more than Trois Echelles and Petit Andre,” said Carey, in a low
voice, giving the two Ogilvies the strongest desire to laugh.

Just then out burst a cry of wrath and consternation, making everyone
hurry out into the hall, where, through a perfect cloud of white powder,
loomed certain figures, and a scandalised voice cried “Aunt Caroline,
Jock and Armine have been and let all the arrowroot fly about.”

“You told me to be useful and open parcels,” cried Jock.

“Oh, jolly, jolly! first-rate!” shouted Armine in ecstasy. “It’s just
like Paris in the cloud! More, more, Babie. You are Venus, you know.”

“Master Armine, Miss Barbara! For shame,” exclaimed the nurse’s voice.
“All getting into the carpet, and in your clothes, I do declare! A whole
case of best arrowroot wasted, and worse.”

“‘Twas Jessie’s doing,” replied Jock. “She told me.”

Jessie, decidedly the most like Venus of the party, being a very pretty
girl, with an oval face and brown eyes, had retreated, and was with
infinite disgust brushing the white powder out of her dress, only in
answer ejaculating, “Those boys!”

Jock had not only opened the case, but had opened it upside down, and
the classical performances of Armine and Barbara had powdered themselves
and everything around, while the draught that was rushing through all
the wide open doors and windows dispersed the mischief far and wide.

“Can you do nothing but laugh, Caroline?” gravely said Mrs. Brownlow.
“Janet, shut that window. Children, out of the way! If you were mine, I
should send you to bed.”

“There’s no bed to be sent to,” muttered Jock, running round to give a
sly puff to the white heap, diffusing a sprinkling of white powder over
his aunt’s dress.

“Jock,” said his mother with real firmness and indignation in her voice,
“that is not the way to behave. Beg your aunt’s pardon this instant.”

And to everyone’s surprise the imp obeyed the hand she had laid on
him, and muttered something like, “beg pardon,” though it made his face
crimson.

His uncle exclaimed, “That’s right, my boy,” and his aunt said, with
dignity, “Very well, we’ll say no more about it.”

Mary Ogilvie was in the meantime getting some of the powder back into
the tin, and Janet running in from the kitchen with a maid, a soup
tureen, and sundry spoons, everyone became busy in rescuing the
remains--in the midst of which there was a smash of glass.

“Jock again!” quoth Janet.

“Oh, mother!” called out Jock. “It’s so long! I thought I’d get the
feather-brush to sweep it up with, and the other end of it has been and
gone through this stupid lamp.”

“Things are not unapt to be and go through, where you are concerned, Mr.
Jock, I suspect,” said Mr. Ogilvie. “Suppose you were to come with me,
and your brothers too, and be introduced to the swans on the lake at
Belforest.”

The boys brightened up, the mother said, “Thank you most heartily, if
they will not be a trouble,” and Babie put her hand entreatingly into
the schoolmaster’s, and said, “Me too?”

“What, Venus herself! I thought she had disappeared in the cloud! Let
her come, pray, Mrs. Brownlow.”

“I thought the children would have been with their cousins,” observed
the aunt.

“So we were,” returned Armine; “but Johnnie and Joe ran away when they
saw Mr. Ogilvie coming.”

Babie having by this time had a little black hat tied on, and as
much arrowroot as possible brushed out of her frock; Carey warned the
schoolmaster not to let himself be chattered to death, and he walked off
with the three younger ones.

Caroline would have kept her friend, but Mary, seeing that little good
could be gained by staying with her at present, replied that she would
take the walk now, and return to her friend in a couple of hours’ time;
and Carey was fain to consent, though with a very wistful look in her
eyes.

At the end of that time, or more, Janet met the party at the garden
gate. “You are to go down to my uncle’s, children,” she said; “mother
has one of her very bad headaches.”

There was an outcry that they must take her the flowers, of which their
hands and arms were full; but Janet was resolute, though Babie was very
near tears.

“To-morrow--to-morrow,” she said. “She must lie still now, or she won’t
be able to do anything. Run away, Babie, they’ll be waiting tea for you.
Allen’s there. He’ll take care of you.”

“I want to give Mother Carey those dear white flowers,” still entreated
Babie.

“I’ll give them, my dear. They want you down there--Ellie and Esther.”

“I don’t want to play with Ellie and Essie,” sturdily declared Barbara.
“They say it is telling falsehoods when one wants to play at anything.”

“They don’t understand pretending,” said Armine. “Do let us stay, Janet,
we’ll not make one smallest little atom of noise, if Jock doesn’t stay.”

“You can’t,” said Janet, “for there’s nothing for you to eat, and nurse
and Susan are as savage as Carribee islanders.”

This last argument was convincing. The children threw their flowers into
Janet’s arms, gave their hands to Miss Ogilvie, and Babie between her
two brothers, scampered off, while Miss Ogilvie uttered her griefs and
regrets.

“My mother would like to see you,” said Janet; “indeed, I think it will
do her good. She told me to bring you in.”

“Such a day of fatigue,” began Mary.

“That and all the rest of it,” said Janet moodily.

“Is she subject to headaches?”

“No, she never had one, till--” Janet broke off, for they had reached
her mother’s door.

“Bring her in,” said a weary voice, and Mary found herself beside a low
iron bed, where Carey, shaking off the handkerchief steeped in vinegar
and water on her brow, and showing a tear-stained, swollen-eyed face,
threw herself into her friend’s arms.

But she did not cry now, her tears all came when she was alone, and when
Mary said something of being so sorry for her headache, she said, “Oh!
it’s only with knocking one’s head against a mattress like mad people,”
 in such a matter-of-fact voice, that Mary for a moment wondered whether
she had really knocked her head.

Mary doubted what to say, and wetted the kerchief afresh with the
vinegar and water.

“Oh, Mary, I wish you were going to stay here.”

“I wish! I wish I could, my dear!”

“I think I could be good if you were here!” she sighed. “Oh, Mary, why
do they say that troubles make one good?”

“They ought,” said Mary.

“They don’t,” said Carey. “They make me wicked!” and she hid her face in
the pillow with a great gasp.

“My poor Carey!” said the gentle voice.

“Oh! I want to tell you all about it. Oh! Mary, we have been so happy!”
 and what a wail there was in the tone. “But I can’t talk,” she added
faintly, “it makes me sick, and that’s all her doing too.”

“Don’t try,” said Mary tenderly. “We know where to find each other now,
and you can write to me.”

“I will,” said Caroline; “I can write much better than tell. And you
will come back, Mary?”

“As soon as I can get a holiday, my dear, indeed I will.”

Carey was too much worn out not to repose on the promise, and though she
was unwilling to let her friend go, she said very little more.

Mary longed to give her a cup of strong coffee, and suggested it to
Janet; but headaches were so new in the family, that domestic remedies
had not become well-known. Janet instantly rushed down to order it, but
in the state of the house at that moment, it was nearly as easy to get a
draught of pearls.

“But she shall have it, Miss Ogilvie,” said Janet, putting on her hat.
“Where’s the nearest grocer?”

“Oh, never mind, my dear,” sighed the patient. “It will go off of
itself, when I can get to sleep.”

“You shall have it,” returned Janet.

And Mary having taken as tender a farewell as Caroline was able to bear,
they walked off together; but the girl did not respond to the kindness
of Miss Ogilvie.

She was too miserable not to be glum, too reserved to be open to a
stranger. Mary guessed a little of the feeling, though she feared that
an uncomfortable daughter might be one of poor Carey’s troubles, and
she could not guess the girl’s sense of banishment from all that she had
enjoyed, society, classes, everything, or her feeling that the Magnum
Bonum itself was imperilled by exile into the land of dulness, which
of course the poor child exaggerated in her imagination. Her only
consolation was to feel herself the Masterman Ready of the shipwreck.



CHAPTER VI. -- ENCHANTED GROUND.



     And sometimes a merry train
     Comes upon us from the lane
     All through April, May, or June,
     Every gleaming afternoon;
     All through April, May, and June,
     Boys and maidens, birds and bees,
     Airy whisperings from all trees.
                       Petition of the Flowers--Keble.


The headache had been carried off by a good night’s rest; a droll,
scrambling breakfast had been eaten, German fashion, with its
headquarters on the kitchen table; and everybody running about
communicating their discoveries. Bobus and Jock had set off to school,
and poor little Armine, who firmly believed that his rejection was in
consequence of his confusion between os, ossis, and os, oris, and was
very sore about it, had gone with Allen and Barbara to see them on their
way, and Mother Carey and Janet had agreed to get some real work done
and were actually getting through business, when in rushed, rosy and
eager, Allen, Armine, and Babie, with arms stretched and in breathless
haste.

“Mother Carey! Oh, mother! mammie, dear! come and see!”

“Come--where?”

“To fairy-land. Get her bonnet, Babie.”

“Out of doors, you boy? just look there!”

“Oh! bother all that! It can wait.”

“Do pray come, mother,” entreated Armine; “you never saw anything like
it!”

“What is it? Will it take long?” said she, beginning to yield, as Babie
danced about with her bonnet, Armine tugged at her, and Allen look
half-commanding, half-coaxing.

“She is not to know till she sees! No, don’t tell her,” said Armine.
“Bandage her eyes, Allen. Here’s my silk handkerchief.”

“And Janet. She mustn’t see,” cried Babie, in ecstasy.

“I’m not coming,” said Janet, rather crossly. “I’m much too busy, and it
is only some nonsense of yours.”

“Thank you,” said Allen, laughing; “mother shall judge of that.”

“It does seem a shame to desert you, my dear,” said Carey, “but you
see--”

What Janet was to see was stifled in the flap of the handkerchief
with which Allen was binding her eyes, while Armine and Babie sang
rapturously--


          “Come along, Mother Carey,
           Come along to land of fairy;”


an invocation to which, sooth to say, she had become so much accustomed
that it prevented her from expecting a fairy-land where it was not
necessary to “make believe very much.”

Janet so entirely disapproved of the puerile interruption that she
never looked to see how Allen and Babie managed the bonnet. She only
indignantly picked up the cap which had fallen from the sofa to the
floor, and disposed of it for security’s sake on the bronze head of
Apollo, which was waiting till his bracket could be put up.

Guided most carefully by her eldest son, and with the two little ones
dancing and singing round her, and alternately stopping each other’s
mouths when any premature disclosure was apprehended, pausing in wonder
when the cuckoo note, never heard before, came on them, making them
laugh with glee.

Thus she was conducted much further than she expected. She heard the
swing of the garden gate and felt her feet on the road and remonstrated,
but she was coaxed on and through another gate, and a path where Allen
had to walk in front of her, and the little ones fell behind.

Then came an eager “Now.”

Her eyes were unbound, and she beheld what they might well call
enchanted ground.

She was in the midst of a curved bank where the copsewood had no doubt
been recently cut away, and which was a perfect marvel of primroses,
their profuse bunches standing out of their wrinkled leaves at every
hazel root or hollow among the exquisite moss, varied by the pearly
stars of the wind-flower, purple orchis spikes springing from
black-spotted leaves, and deep-grey crested dog-violets. On one side
was a perfect grove of the broad-leaved, waxen-belled Solomon’s seal,
sloping down to moister ground where was a golden river of king-cups,
and above was a long glade between young birch-trees, their trunks
gleaming silvery white, the boughs over head breaking out into foliage
that looked yellow rather than green against the blue sky, and the
ground below one sheet of that unspeakably intense purple blue which is
only produced by masses of the wild hyacinth.

“There!” said Allen.

“There!” re-echoed the children. “Oh mammy, mammy dear! Is it not
delicious?”

Carey held up her hand in silence, for a nightingale was pouring out
his song close by; she listened breathlessly, and as it ceased she burst
into tears.

“O mother!” cried Allen, “it is too much for you.”

“No, dear boy, it is--it is--only too beautiful. It is what papa always
talked of and would have so enjoyed.”

“Do you think he has better flowers up there?” asked Babie. “I don’t
think they can be much better.”

And without waiting for more she plunged down among the primroses and
spread her little self out with a scream of ecstasy.

And verily the strange sense of rapture and enchantment was no less
in the mother herself. There is no charm perhaps equal to that of a
primrose bank on a sunny day in spring, sight, sound, scent all alike
exquisite. It comes with a new and fresh delight even to those to whom
this is an annual experience, and to those who never saw the like before
it gives, like the first sight of the sea or of a snowy mountain, a
sensation never to be forgotten. Fret, fatigue, anxiety, sorrow all
passed away like dreams in that sweet atmosphere. Carey, like one of her
children, absolutely forgot everything in the charm and wonder of the
scene, in the pure, delicate unimaginable odour of the primroses, in
debating with Allen whether (cockneys that they were) it could be a
nightingale “singing by day when every goose is cackling,” in listening
to the marvellous note, only pausing to be answered from further depths,
in the beauty of the whole, and in the individual charm of every flower,
each heavily-laden arch of dark blue-bells with their curling tips, so
infinitely more graceful than their pampered sister, the hyacinth of
the window-glass, of each pure delicate anemone she gathered, with its
winged stem, of the smiling primrose of that inimitable tint it only
wears in its own woodland nest; and when Allen lighted on a bed of
wood-sorrel, with its scarlet stems, lovely trefoil leaves, and purple
striped blossoms like insect’s wings, she absolutely held her breath in
an enthusiasm of reverent admiration. No one can tell the happiness of
those four, only slightly diminished by Armine’s getting bogged on his
way to the golden river of king-cups, and his mother in going after him,
till Allen from an adjacent stump pulled them out, their feet deeply
laden with mud.

They had only just emerged when the strokes of a great bell came pealing
up from the town below; Allen and his mother looked at each other in
amused dismay, then at their watches. It was twelve o’clock! Two hours
had passed like as many minutes, and the boys would be coming home to
dinner.

“Ah! well, we must go,” said Carey, as they gathered up their armloads
of flowers. “You naughty children to make me forget everything.”

“You are not sorry you came though, mother. It has done you good,” said
Allen solicitously. He was the most affectionate of them all.

“Sorry! I feel as if I cared for nothing while I have a place like that
to drink up delight in.”

With which they tried to make their way back to the path again, but it
was not immediately to be found; and their progress was further impeded
by a wood-pigeon dwelling impressively on the notes “Take two cows,
Taffy; Taffy take TWO!” and then dashing out, flapping and grey, in
their faces, rather to Barbara’s alarm, and then by Armine’s stumbling
on his first bird’s nest, a wren’s in the moss of an old stump, where
the tiny bird unadvisedly flew out of her leafy hole full before their
eyes. That was a marvel of marvels, a delight equal to that felt by
any explorer the world has seen. Armine and Barbara, who lived in one
perpetual fairy tale, were saying to one another that

“One needn’t make believe here, it was every bit real.”

“And more;” added the other little happy voice. Barbara did however
begin to think of the numerous children in the wood, and to take comfort
that it was unprecedented that their mother and big brother should be
with them, but they found the park palings at last, and then a little
wicket gate, where they were very near home.

“Mother, where _have_ you been?” exclaimed Janet, somewhat suddenly
emerging from the door.

“In Tom Tiddler’s ground, picking up gold and silver,” said Carey,
pointing to the armsful of king-cups, cuckoo-flowers, and anemones,
besides blue-bells, orchises, primroses, &c. “My poor child, it was a
great shame to leave you, but they got me into the enchanted land and I
forgot all about everything.”

“I think so,” said a gravely kind voice, and Caroline was aware of
Ellen’s eye looking at her as the Court Queen might have looked at
Ophelia if she had developed her taste for “long purples” as Hamlet’s
widow. At least so it struck Mother Carey, who immediately became
conscious that her bonnet was awry, having been half pulled off by a
bramble, that her ankles were marked by the bog, and that bits of green
were sticking all over her.

“Have you been helping Janet? Oh, how kind!” she said, refreshed by her
delightsome morning into putting a bright face on it.

“We have done all we could in your absence,” said her sister-in-law, in
a reproachful voice.

“Thank you; I’m sure it is very good of you. Janet--Janet, where’s the
great Dutch bowl--and the little Salviati? Nothing else is worthy of
this dear little fairy thing.”

“What is it? Just common wood-sorrel,” said the other lady, in utter
amaze.

“Ah, Ellen, you think me demented. You little know what it is to see
spring for the first time. Ah! that’s right, Janet. Now, Babie, we’ll
make a little bit of fairy-land--”

“Don’t put all those littering flowers on that nice clean chintz,
children,” exclaimed the aunt, as though all her work were about to be
undone.

And then a trampling of boy’s boots being heard and shouts of “Mother,”
 Carey darted out into the hall to hear fragments of school intelligence
as to work and play, tumbling over one another, from Bobus and Jock both
at once, in the midst of which Mrs. Robert Brownlow came out with her
hat on, and stood, with her air of patient serenity, waiting for an
interval.

Caroline looked up, and said, “I beg your pardon, Ellen--what is it?”

“If you can attend a moment,” said she, gravely; “I must be going to
my boys’ dinner. But Robert wishes to know whether he shall order this
paper for the drawing-room. It cannot be put up yet, of course; but
Smith has only a certain quantity of it, and it is so stylish that he
said the Colonel had better secure it at once.”

She spread the roll of paper on the hall table. It was a white paper,
slightly tinted, and seemed intended to represent coral branches, with
starry-looking things at the ends.

“The aquarium at the Zoo,” muttered Bobus; and Caroline herself, meeting
Allen’s eye, could not refrain from adding,


          “The worms they crawled in,
           And the worms they crawled out.”


“Mother!” cried Jock, “I thought you were going to paint it all over
with jolly things.”

“Frescoes,” said Allen; “sha’n’t you, mother?”

“If your uncle does not object,” said his mother, choking down a giggle.
“Those plaster panels are so tempting for frescoes, Ellen.”

“Frescoes! Why, those are those horrid improper-looking gods and
goddesses in clouds and chariots on the ceilings at Belforest,” observed
that lady, in a half-puzzled, half-offended tone of voice, that most
perilously tickled the fancy of Mother Carey and her brood! and she
could hardly command her voice to make answer, “Never fear, Ellen; we
are not going to attempt allegorical monstrosities, only to make a bower
of green leaves and flowers such as we see round us; though after what
we have seen to-day that seems presumptuous enough. Fancy, Janet! golden
green trees and porcelain blue ground, all in one bath of sunshine. Such
things must be seen to be believed in.”

Poor Mrs. Robert Brownlow! She went home and sighed, as she said to her
husband, “Well, what is to become of those poor things I do not know.
One would sometimes think poor Caroline was just a little touched in the
head.”

“I hope not,” said the Colonel, rather alarmed.

“It may be only affectation,” said his lady, in a consolatory tone. “I
am afraid poor Joe did live with a very odd set of people--artists, and
all that kind of thing. I am sure I don’t blame her, poor thing! But she
is worse to manage than any child, because you can’t bid her mind what
she is about, and not talk nonsense. When she leaves her house in such a
state, and no one but that poor girl to see to anything, and comes home
all over mud, raving about fairyland, and gold trees and blue ground;
when she has just got into a bog in Belforest coppice--littering the
whole place, too, with common wild flowers. If it had been Essie and
Ellie, I should just have put them in the corner for making such a
mess!”

The Colonel laughed a little to himself, and said, consolingly, “Well,
well, you know all these country things are new to her. You must be
patient with her.”

Patient! That had to be the burthen of the song on both sides. Carey was
pushing back her hair with a fierce, wild sense of impatience with that
calm assumption that fretted her beyond all bearing, and made her feel
desolate beyond all else. She would have, she thought, done well enough
alone with her children, and scrambled into her new home; but the
directions, however needful, seemed to be continually insulting her
understanding. When she was advised as to the best butcher and baker,
there was a ring in her ears as if Ellen meant that these were safe men
for a senseless creature like her, and she could not encounter them with
her orders without wondering whether they had been told to treat her
well.

Indeed, one of the chief drawbacks to Carey’s comfort was her difficulty
in attending to what her brother and sister-in-law said to her.
Something in the measured tones of the Colonel always made her thoughts
wander as from a dull sermon; and this was more unlucky in his case than
in his wife’s--for Ellen used such reiterations that there was a fair
chance of catching her drift the second or third time, if not the first,
whereas all he said was well weighed and arranged, and was only too
heavy and sententious.

Kencroft, the home of the Colonel and his family, Mrs. Robert Brownlow’s
inheritance, was certainly “a picture of a place.” It had probably
been an appendage of the old minster, though the house was only of the
seventeenth century; but that was substantial and venerable of its kind,
and exceedingly comfortable and roomy, with everything kept in perfect
order. Caroline could not quite think the furniture worthy of it, but
that was not for want of the desire to do everything handsomely and
fashionably. Moreover, in spite of the schoolroom and nurseryful of
children, marvels of needlework and knitting adorned every table, chair,
and sofa, while even in the midst of the town Kencroft had its own
charming garden; a lawn, once devoted to bowls and now to croquet, an
old-fashioned walled kitchen garden, sloping up the hill, and a paddock
sufficient to make cows and pigs part of the establishment.

The Colonel had devoted himself to gardening and poultry with the
mingled ardour and precision of a man who needed something to supply the
place of his soldierly duties; and though his fervour had relaxed under
the influence of ease, gout, and substantial flesh, enough remained to
keep up apple-pie order without-doors, and render Kencroft almost a show
place. The meadow lay behind the house, and a gravel walk leading along
its shaded border opened into the lane about ten yards from the gate of
the Pagoda, as Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow and the post office laboured to
call it; the Folly, as came so much more naturally to everyone’s lips.
It had been the work of the one eccentric man in Mrs. Robert Brownlow’s
family, and was thus her property. It had hung long on hand, being
difficult to let, and after making sufficient additions, it had been
decided that, at a nominal rent, it would house the family thrown upon
the hands of the good Colonel.



CHAPTER VII. -- THE COLONEL’S CHICKENS.



     They censured the bantam for strutting and crowing,
     In those vile pantaloons that he fancied looked knowing;
     And a want of decorum caused many demurs
     Against the game chicken for coming in spurs.
                                           The Peacock at Home.


Left to themselves, Mother Carey, with Janet and old nurse, completed
their arrangements so well that when Jessie looked in at five o’clock,
with a few choice flowers covering a fine cucumber in her basket, she
exclaimed in surprise, “How nice you have made it all look, I shall be
so glad to tell mamma.”

“Tell her what?” asked Janet.

“That you have really made the room look nice,” said Jessie.

“Thank you,” said her cousin, ironically. “You see we have as many hands
as other people. Didn’t Aunt Ellen think we had?”

“Of course she did,” said Jessie, a pretty, kindly creature, but slow of
apprehension; “only she said she was very sorry for you.”

“And why?” cried Janet, leaping up in indignation.

“Why?” interposed Allen, “because we are raw cockneys, who go into
raptures over primroses and wild hyacinths, eh, Jessie?”

“Well, you have set them up very nicely,” said Jessie; “but fancy taking
so much trouble about common flowers.”

“What would you think worth setting up?” asked Janet. “A big dahlia, I
suppose, or a great red cactus?”

“We have a beautiful garden,” said Jessie: “papa is very particular
about it, and we always get the prize for our flowers. We had the first
prizes for hyacinths and forced roses last week, and we should have had
the first for forced cucumbers if the gardener at Belforest had not
had a spite against Spencer, because he left him for us. Everybody said
there was no comparison between the cucumbers, and Mr. Ellis said--”

Janet had found the day before how Jessie could prattle on in an endless
quiet stream without heeding whether any one entered into it or replied
to it; but she was surprised at Allen’s toleration of it, though he
changed the current by saying, “Belforest seems a jolly, place.”

“But you’ve only seen the wood, not the gardens,” said Jessie.

“I went down to the lake with Mr. Ogilvie,” said Allen, “and saw
something splendiferous looking on the other side.”

“Oh! they are beautiful!” cried Janet, “all laid out in ribbon gardens
and with the most beautiful terrace, and a fountain--only that doesn’t
play except when you give the gardener half-a-crown, and mamma says,
that is exorbitant--and statues standing all round--real marble
statues.”

“Like the groves of Blarney,” muttered Janet:


          “Heathen goddesses most rare,
           Homer, Venus, and Nebuchadnezzar,
           All standing naked in the open air.”


Allen, seeing Jessie scandalised, diverted her attention by asking,
“Whom does it belong to?”

“Mr. Barnes,” said Jessie; “but he is hardly ever there. He is an old
miser, you know--what they call a millionaire, or mill-owner; which is
it?”

“One is generally the French for the other,” put in Janet.

“Never mind her, Jessie,” said Allen, with a look of infinite
displeasure at his sister. “What does he do which keeps him away?”

“I believe he is a great merchant, and is always in Liverpool,” said
Jessie. “Any way, he is a very cross old man, and won’t let anybody go
into his park and gardens when he comes down here; and he is very cruel
too, for he disinherited his own nephew and niece for marrying. Only
think Mrs. Watson at the grocer’s told our Susan that there’s a little
girl, who is his own great-niece, living down at River Hollow Farm with
Mr. and Mrs. Gould, just brought up by common farmers, you know, and he
won’t take any notice of her, nor give one farthing for bringing her up.
Isn’t it shocking? And even when he is at home, he only has two chops
or two steaks, or just a bit of kidney, and that when he is literally
rolling in gold.”

Jessie opened her large brown eyes to mark her horror, and Allen, made a
gesture of exaggerated sympathy, which his sister took for more earnest
than it was, and she said, scornfully, “I should like to see him
literally rolling in gold. It must be like Midas. Do you mean that he
sleeps on it, Jessie? How hard and cold!”

“Nonsense,” said Jessie; “you know what I mean.”

“I know what literally rolling in gold means, but I don’t know what you
mean.”

“Don’t bully her, Janet,” said Allen; “we are not so stupid, are we,
Jessie? Come and show me the walnut-tree you were telling me about.”

“What’s the matter, Janet?” said her mother, coming in a moment or two
after, and finding her staring blankly out of the window, where the two
had made their exit.

“O mother, Jessie has been talking such gossip, and Allen likes it, and
won’t have it stopped! I can’t think what makes Allen and Bobus both so
foolish whenever she is here.”

“She is a very pretty creature,” said Carey, smiling a little.

“Pretty!” repeated Janet. “What has that to do with it?”

“A great deal, as you will have to find out in the course of your life,
my dear.”

“I thought only foolish people cared about beauty.”

“It is very convenient for us to think so,” said Carey, smiling.

“But mother--surely everybody cares for you just as much or more than
if you were a great handsome, stupid creature! How I hate that word
handsome!”

“Except for a cab,” said Carey.

“Ah! when shall I see a Hansom again?” said Janet in a slightly
sentimental tone. But she returned to the charge, “Don’t go, mother, I
want you to answer.”

“Beauty versus brains! My dear, you had better open your eyes to the
truth. You must make up your mind to it. It is only very exceptional
people who, even in the long run, care most for feminine brains.”

“But, mother, every one did.”

“Every one in our world, Janet; but your father made our home set of
those exceptional people, and we are cast out of it now!” she added,
with a gasp and a gesture of irrepressible desolateness.

“Yes, that comes of this horrid move,” said the girl, in quite another
tone. “Well, some day--” and she stopped.

“Some day?” said her mother.

“Some day we’ll go back again, and show what we are,” she said, proudly.

“Ah, Janet! and that’s nothing now without _him_.”

“Mother, how can you say so, when--?” Jane just checked herself, as she
was coming to the great secret.

“When we have his four boys,” said her mother. “Ah! yes, Janet--if--and
when--But that’s a long way off, and, to come back to our former
subject,” she added, recalling herself with a sigh, “it will be wise in
us owlets to make up our minds that owlets we are, and to give the place
to the eaglets.”

“But eaglets are very ugly, and owlets very pretty,” quoth Janet.

Carey laughed. “That does not seem to have been the opinion of the Beast
Epic,” said she, and the entrance of Babie prevented them from going
further.

Janet turned away with one of her grim sighs at the unappreciative world
to which she was banished. She had once or twice been on the point of
mentioning the Magnum Bonum to her mother, but the reserve at first made
it seem as if an avowal would be a confession, and to this she could not
bend her pride, while the secrecy made a strange barrier between her and
her mother. In truth, Janet had never been so devoted to Mother Carey as
to either granny or her father, and now she missed them sorely, and felt
it almost an injury to have no one but her mother to turn to.

Her character was not set in the same mould, and though both could meet
on the common ground of intellect, she could neither enter into
the recesses of her mother’s grief, nor understand those flashes of
brightness and playfulness which nothing could destroy. If Carey had
chosen to unveil the truth to herself, she would have owned that Allen,
who was always ready, tender and sympathetic to her, was a much greater
comfort than his sister; nay, that even little Babie gave her more rest
and peace than did Janet, who always rubbed against her whenever they
found themselves tete-a-tete or in consultation.

Meantime Babie had been out with her two little cousins, and came home
immensely impressed with the Belforest gardens. The house was shut up,
but the gardens were really kept up to perfection, and the little one
could not declare her full delight in the wonderful blaze she had seen
of banks of red, and flame coloured, and white, flowering trees. “They
said they would show me the Americans,” she said. “Why was it, mother?
I thought Americans were like the gentleman who dined with you one
day, and told me about the snow birds. But there were only these
flower-trees, and a pond, and statues standing round it, and I don’t
think they were Americans, for I know one was Diana, because she had a
bow and quiver. I wanted to look at the rest, but Miss James said they
were horrid heathen gods, not fit for little girls to look at;
and, mother, Ellie is so silly, she thought the people at Belforest
worshipped them. Do come and see them, mother. It is like the Crystal
Palace out-of-doors.”

“Omitting the Crystal,” laughed some one; but Babie had more to say,
exclaiming, “O mother, Essie says Aunt Ellen says Janet and I are to do
lessons with Miss James, but you won’t let us, will you?”

“Miss James!” broke out Janet indignantly; “we might as well learn of
old nurse! Why, mother, she can’t pronounce French, and she never heard
of terminology, and she thinks Edward I. killed the bards!” For the
girls had spent a day or two with their cousins in the course of the
move.

“Yes,” broke in Barbara, “and she won’t let Essie and Ellie teach their
dolls their lessons! She was quite cross when I was showing them how,
and said it was all nonsense when I told her I heard you say that I
half taught myself by teaching Juliet. And so the poor dolls have no
advantages, mother, and are quite stupid for want of education,” pursued
the little girl, indignantly. “They aren’t people, but only dolls, and
Essie and Ellie can’t do anything with them but just dress them and take
them out walking.”

“That’s what they would wish to make Babie like!” said her elder sister.

“But you’ll not let anybody teach me but you, dear, dear Mother Carey,”
 entreated the child.

“No, indeed, my little one.” And just then the boys came rushing in to
their evening meal, full of the bird’s nest that they had been visiting
in their uncle’s field, and quite of opinion that Kenminster was “a
jolly place.”

“And then,” added Jock, “we got the garden engine, and had such fun, you
don’t know.”

“Yes,” said Bobus, “till you sent a whole cataract against the house,
and that brought out her Serene Highness!”

The applicability of the epithet set the whole family off into a laugh,
and Jock further made up a solemn face, and repeated--


          “Buff says Buff to all his men,
           And I say Buff to you again.
           Buff neither laughs nor smiles,
           But carries his face
           With a very good grace.”


It convulsed them all, and the mother, recovering a little, said, “I
wonder whether she ever can laugh.”

“Poor Aunt Ellen!” said Babie, in all her gravity; “she is like King
Henry I. and never smiled again.”

And with more wit than prudence, Mrs. Buff, her Serene Highness, Sua
Serenita, as Janet made it, became the sobriquets for Aunt Ellen, and
were in continual danger of oozing out publicly. Indeed the younger
population at Kencroft probably soon became aware of them, for on the
next half-holiday Jock crept in with unmistakable tokens of combat about
him, and on interrogation confessed, “It was Johnnie, mother. Because
we wanted you to come out walking with us, and he said ‘twas no good
walking with one’s mother, and I told him he didn’t know what a really
jolly mother was, and that his mother couldn’t laugh, and that you said
so, and he said my mother was no better than a tomboy, and that she said
so, and so--”

And so, the effects were apparent on Jock’s torn and stained collar and
swelled nose.

But the namesake champions remained unconvinced, except that Johnnie may
have come over to the opinion that a mother no better than a tomboy was
not a bad possession, for the three haunted the “Folly” a good deal, and
made no objection to their aunt’s company after the first experiment.

Unfortunately, however, their assurances that their mother could laugh
as well as other people were not so conclusive but that Jock made it his
business to do his utmost to produce a laugh, in which he was apt to be
signally unsuccessful, to his own great surprise, though to that of no
one else. For instance, two or three days later, when his mother and
Allen were eating solemnly a dinner at Kencroft, by way of farewell ere
Allen’s return to Eton, an extraordinarily frightful noise was heard
in the poultry yard, where dwelt various breeds of Uncle Robert’s prize
fowls.

Thieves--foxes--dogs--what could it be? Even the cheese and celery were
deserted, and out rushed servants, master, mistress, and guests, being
joined by the two girls from the school-room; but even then Carey
was struck by the ominous absence of boys. The poultry house door was
shut--locked--but the noises within were more and more frightful--of
convulsive cocks and hysterical hens, mingled with human scufflings and
hushes and snortings and snigglings that made the elders call out in
various tones of remonstrance and reprobation, “Boys, have done! Come
out! Open the door.”

A small hatch door was opened, a flourish on a tin trumpet was heard,
and out darted, in an Elizabethan ruff and cap, a respectable Dorking
mother of the yard, cackling her displeasure, and instantly dashing
to the top of the wall, followed at once by a stately black Spaniard,
decorated with a lace mantilla of cut paper off a French plum box,
squawking and curtseying. Then came a dapper pullet, with a doll’s hat
on her unwilling head, &c., &c.

The outsiders were choking with breathless surprise at first, then the
one lady began indignantly to exclaim, “Now, boys! Have done--let
the poor things alone. Come out this minute.” The other fairly reeled
against the wall with laughter, and Janet and Jessie screamed at each
fresh appearance, till they made as much noise as the outraged chickens,
though one shrieked with dismay, the other with diversion. At last the
Colonel, slower of foot than the rest, arrived on the scene, just as the
pride of his heart, the old King Chanticleer of the yard, made his exit,
draped in a royal red paper robe and a species of tinsel crown, out
of which his red face looked most ludicrous as he came halting and
stupefied, having evidently been driven up in a corner and pinched
rather hard; but close behind him, chuckling forth his terror and
flapping his wings, came the pert little white bantam, belted and
accoutred as a page.

Colonel Brownlow’s severe command to open the door was not resisted for
one moment, and forth rushed a cloud of dust and feathers, a quacking
waggling substratum of ducks, and a screaming flapping rabble of
chickens, behind whom, when the mist cleared, were seen, looking as
if they had been tarred and feathered, various black and grey figures,
which developed into Jock, Armine, Robin, Johnny, and Joe. Jock, the
foremost, stared straight up in his aunt’s face, Armine ran to his
mother with--“Did you see the old king, mother, and his little page?
Wasn’t it funny--”

But he was stopped by the sight of his uncle, who laid hold of his
eldest son with a fierce “How dare you, sir?” and gave him a shake
and blow. Robin stood with a sullen look on his face, and hands in his
pockets, and his brothers followed suit. Armine hid his face in his
mother’s dress, and burst out crying; but Jock stepped forth and, with
that impish look of fearlessness, said, “I did it, Uncle Robert! I
wanted to make Aunt Ellen laugh. Did she laugh, mother?” he asked in so
comical and innocent a manner that, in spite of her full consciousness
of the heinousness of the offence, and its general unluckiness, Mother
Carey was almost choked. This probably added to the gravity with which
the other lady decreed with Juno-like severity, “Robin and John must be
flogged. Joe is too young.”

“Certainly,” responded the Colonel; but Caroline, instead of, as they
evidently expected of her, at once offering up her victim, sprang
forward with eager, tearful pleadings, declaring it was all Jock’s
fault, and he did not know how naughty it was--but all in vain. “Robert
knew. He ought to have stopped it,” said the Colonel. “Go to the study,
you two.”

Jock did not act as the generous hero of romance would have done, and
volunteer to share the flogging. He cowered back on his mother, and
put his arm round her waist, while she said, “Jock told the truth, so
I shall not ask you to flog him, Uncle Robert. He shall not do such
mischief again.”

“If he does,” said his uncle, with a look as if her consent would not be
asked to what would follow.



CHAPTER VIII. -- THE FOLLY.



     There will we sit upon the rocks,
     And see the shepherds feed their flocks
     By summer rivers, by whose falls
     Melodious birds sing madrigals.--Marlowe.



“How does my little schoolfellow get on?” asked Mary Ogilvie, when she
had sat down for her first meal with her brother in her summer holidays.

“Much as Ariel did in the split pine, I fancy.”

“For shame, David! I’m afraid you are teaching her to see Sycorax and
Caliban in her neighbours.”

“Not I! How should I ever see her! Do you hear from her?”

“Sometimes; and I heard of her from the Actons, who had an immense
regard for her husband, who, they say, was a very superior man.”

“It is hardly necessary to be told so.”

“They mean to take lodgings somewhere near here this next month, and
see what they can do to cheer her in her present life, which must be the
greatest possible contrast to her former one. Do you wish to set out on
our expedition before August, Davie? I should like you to see them.”

“By all means let us wait for them. Indeed I should not be at liberty
till the last week in July.”

“And how go the brains of Kenminster? You look enlivened since last time
I saw you.”

“It is the infusion the brains have received. That one woman has made
more difference to the school than I could have done in ten years.”

“You find her boys, at any rate, pupils worth teaching.”

“More than that. Of course it is something to have a fellow capable of
ideas before one; but besides that, lads who had gone on contentedly at
their own level have had to bestir themselves not to be taken down by
him. When he refused to have it forced upon him that study was not the
thing at Kenminster, they found the only way to make him know his place
was to keep theirs, and some of them have really found the use of their
wits, and rejoice in them. Even in the lower form, the Colonel’s second
boy has developed an intellect. Then the way those boys bring their work
prepared has raised the standard!”

“I heard something of that on my way.”

“You did?”

“Yes; two ladies were in full career of talk when the train stopped at
the Junction, and I heard--‘I am always obliged to spend one hour every
evening seeing that Arthur knows his lessons. So troublesome you know;
but since that Mrs. Joseph Brownlow has come, she helps her boys so with
their home-work that the others have not a chance if one does not look
to it oneself.’ Then it appeared that she told Mr. Ogilvie it wasn’t
fair, and that he would give her no redress.”

“Absurd woman! It is not a matter of unfairness, as I told her. They
don’t get help in sums or exercises; they only have grammar to learn and
construing to prepare, and all my concern is that it should be got up
thoroughly. If their mothers help them, so much the better.”

“The mothers don’t seem to think so. However, she branched off into
incredulity that Mrs. Joe Brownlow could ever really teach her children
anything, for she was always tramping all over the country with them at
all hours of the day and night. She has met her herself, with all those
boys after her, three miles from home, in a great straw hat, when her
husband hadn’t been dead a year.”

“I’m sure she is always in regulation veils, and all the rest of it, at
Church, if that’s what you ladies want.”

“But the crown of the misdoings seemed to be that she had been met at
some old castle, sacred to picnics, alone with her children--no party
nor anything. I could not make out whether the offence consisted in
making the ruin too cheap, or in caring for it for its own sake, and not
as a lion for guests.”

“The latter probably. She has the reputation of being very affected!!!”

“Poor dear! I heard that she was a great trial to dear Mrs. Brownlow,”
 said Mary, in an imitative voice. “Why, do you know, she sometimes is
up and out with her children before six o’clock in the morning; and then
Colonel Brownlow went in one day at twelve o’clock, and found the whole
family fast asleep on different sofas.”

“The sensible way, too, to spend such days as these. To go out in the
cool of the morning, and take a siesta, is the only rational plan!”

“I’m afraid one must conform to one’s neighbours’ ways.”

“Trust a woman for being conventional.”

“I confess I did not like the tone in which my poor Carey was spoken
of. I am afraid she can hardly have taken care enough not to be thought
flighty.”

“Mary! you are as absurd as the rest of them!”

“Why? what have you seen of her?”

“Nothing, I tell you, except once meeting her in the street, and once
calling on her to ask whether her boy should learn German.” And David
Ogilvie spoke with a vehemence that somewhat startled his sister.

It was a July evening, and though the walls of the schoolmaster’s house
were thick, it was sultry enough within to lead the brother and sister
out immediately after dinner, looking first into the play-fields, where
cricket was of course going on among the bigger boys, but where Mary
looked in vain for her friend’s sons.

“No, they are not much of cricketers,” said her brother; “they are small
for it yet, and only take their turn in watching-out by compulsion. I
wish the senior had more play in him. Shall we walk on by the river?”

So they did, along a paved causeway which presently got clear of the
cottages and gables of old factories, and led along, with the brightly
glassy sheet of water on one side, and the steep wooded slope on the
other, loose-strife and meadow-sweet growing thickly on the bank,
amid long weeds with feathery tops, rich brown fingers of sedge, and
bur-reeds like German morgensterns, while above the long wreaths of
dog-roses projected, the sweet honeysuckle twined about, and the white
blossoms of traveller’s joy hung in festoons from the hedge of the
bordering plantation. After a time they came on a kind of glade, opening
upwards though the wood, with one large oak-tree standing alone in the
centre, and behold! on the grass below sat or lay a company--Mrs. Joseph
Brownlow in the midst, under the obnoxious mushroom-hat, reading aloud.
Radiating from her were five boys, the biggest of all on his back, with
his hat over his eyes, fast asleep; another cross-legged, with a basket
between his knees, dividing his attention between it and the book; two
more lying frog-like, with elbows on the ground, feet erected behind
them, chin in hand, devouring the narrative with their eyes; the fifth
wriggling restlessly about, evidently in search of opportunities of
mischief or of tormenting tricks. Just within earshot, but sketching the
picturesque wooden bridge below, sat one girl. The little one, with her
youngest brother, was close at their mother’s feet, threading flowers
to make a garland. It was a pretty sight, and so intent were most of the
party on their occupations that they never saw the pair on the bank till
Joe, the idler, started and rolled round with “Hollo!” when all turned,
it may be feared with muttered growls from some of the boys; but Carey
herself gave a cry of joy, ran down the bank like a girl, and greeted
Mary Ogilvie with an eager embrace.

“You are holding a Court here,” said the school-master.

“We have had tea out here. It is too hot for indoors, and I am reading
them the ‘Water Babies.’”

“To a large audience, I see.”

“Yes, and some of which are not quite sure whether it is fact or
fiction. Come and sit down.”

“The boys will hate us for breaking up their reading,” said Mary.

“Why should not we listen!” said her brother.

“Don’t disturb yourselves, boys; we’ve met before to-day.”

Bobus and Jock were, however, on their feet, and Johnny had half risen;
Robin lay still snoring, and Joe had retreated into the wood from the
alarming spectacle of “the schoolmaster abroad.”

After a greeting to the two girls, who comported themselves, according
to their ages, as young ladies might be expected to do, the Ogilvies
found accommodation on the roots of the tree, and listened. The “Water
Babies” were then new, and Mr. Ogilvie had never heard them. Luckily the
reading had just come to the history of the “Do as You Likes,” and the
interview between the last of the race and M. Du Chaillu diverted him
beyond measure. He laughed so much over the poor fellow’s abortive
attempt to say “Am I not a man and a brother?” that his three scholars
burst out into a second edition of shouts of laughter at the sight of
him, and thus succeeded in waking Robin, who, after a great contortion,
sat up on the grass, and, rubbing his eyes, demanded in an injured tone
what was the row?

“‘The Last of the Do as You Likes,’” said Armine.

“Oh I say--isn’t it jolly,” cried Jock, beating his breast
gorilla-fashion and uttering a wild murmur of “Am I not a man and
a brother?” then tumbling head over heels, half in ecstasy, half in
imitation of the fate of the Do as You Like, setting everybody off into
fits again.

“It’s just what Robin is coming to,” observed Bobus, as his namesake
stretched his arms and delivered himself of a waking howl; then suddenly
becoming conscious of Mr. Ogilvie, he remained petrified, with one arm
fully outstretched, the other still lifted to his head.

“Never mind, Brownlow maximus,” said his master; “it was hardly fair to
surprise you in private life, was it?”

The boy made no answer, but scrambled up, sheepish and disconcerted; and
indeed the sun was entirely down and the dew almost falling, so that the
mother called to the young ones to gather up their things and come home.

Such a collection! Bobus picked up a tin-case and basket full of
flowers, interspersed with bottles of swimming insects. The trio and
Armine shouldered their butterfly-nets, and had a distribution of
pill-boxes and bottles, in some of which were caterpillars intended to
live, in others butterflies dead (or dying, it may be feared) of laurel
leaves. Babie had a mighty nosegay; Janet put up the sketch, which
showed a good deal of power; and the whole troop moved up the slope to
go home by the lanes.

“What collectors you are!” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“For the museum,” answered Armine, eagerly.

“Haven’t you seen our museum?” cried Barbara, who had taken his hand.
“Oh, it is such a beauty! We have got an Orobanche major, only it is not
dry yet.”

“I’m afraid Babie likes fine words,” said her mother; “but our museum is
a great amusement to us Londoners.”

They all walked home together, talking merrily, and Mr. and Miss Ogilvie
came in with them, on special entreaty, to share the supper--milk,
fruit, bread and butter and cheese, and sandwiches, which was laid out
on the round table in the octagon vestibule, which formed the lowest
story of the tower. It was partaken of standing, or sitting at case on
the window-seats, a form or two, an old carved chair, or on the stairs,
the children ascending them after their meal, and after securing in
their own fashion their treasures for the morrow. The two cousins had
already bidden good-night at the gate and gone home, and the Ogilvies
followed their example in ten minutes, Caroline begging Mary to come up
to her as soon as Mr. Ogilvie was disposed of by school hours.

“But you will be busy?” said Mary.

“Never mind, I am afraid we are not very regular,” said Carey.

It was by this time ten o’clock, and the two younger children were still
to be heard shouting to one another up stairs about the leaves for their
chrysalids. So when Mary came up the hill at half-past ten the next
morning, she was the less surprised to find these two only just
beginning breakfast, while their mother was sitting at the end of the
table knitting, and hearing Janet repeat German poetry. The boys had
long been in school.

Caroline jumped up and threw her arms round Mary’s neck, declaring that
now they would enjoy themselves. “We are very late,” she added, “but
these late walks make the little people sleep, and I think it is better
for them than tossing about, hot and cross.”

Mary was rather entertained at this new code, but said nothing, as Carey
pointed out to the children how they were to occupy themselves under
Janet’s charge, and the work they had to do showed that for their age
they had lost no time.

The drawing-room showed indeed a contrast to the chaotic state in which
it had been left. It was wonderfully pleasant-looking. The windows of
the deep bay were all open to the lawn, shaded with blinds projecting
out into the garden, where the parrot sat perched on her pole; pleasant
nooks were arranged in the two sides of the bay window, with light
chairs and small writing-tables, each with its glass of flowers; the
piano stood across the arc, shutting off these windows into almost a
separate room; low book-cases, with chiffonier cupboards and marble
tops, ran round the walls, surmounted with many artistic ornaments.
The central table was crowned with a tall glass of exquisitely-arranged
grasses and wild flowers, and the choice and graceful nicknacks round it
were such as might be traced to a London life in the artist world, and
among grateful patients.

Brackets with vases and casts here and there projected from the walls,
and some charming crayons and water-colours hung round them. The
plastered walls had already been marked out in panels, and a growth of
frescoes of bulrushes, ivy, and leaves of all kinds was beginning to
overspread them, while on a nearer inspection the leaves proved to be
fast becoming peopled with living portraits of butterflies and other
insects; indeed Mary started at finding herself in, as she thought,
unpleasant proximity to a pair of cockchafers.

“Ah! I tell the children that we shall be suspected of putting those
creatures there as a trial to the old ladies’ nerves,” said Caroline,
laughing.

“I confess they are startling to those who don’t like creeping things!
Have you many old ladies, Carey?”

“Not very many. I fancy they don’t take to me more than I take to them,
so we are mutually satisfied.”

“But is that a good thing?” said Mary anxiously.

“I don’t know,” said Carey, indifferently. “At least I do know,” she
added, “that I always used to be told I didn’t try to make small talk,
and I can do it less than ever now that it is the smallest of small, and
my heart faints from it. Oh Mary!”

“My poor dear Caroline! But you say that you were told you ought to do
it?”

“Well, yes. Dear granny wished it; but I think that was rather with a
view to Joe’s popularity, and we haven’t any patients to think of now. I
should think the less arrant gossip the children heard, the better.”

“But is it well to let them despise everybody?”

“Then the less they see of them, the better!”

“For shame, Carey!”

“Well, Mary, I dare say I am naughty. I do feel naughtier now than
ever I did in my life; but I can’t help it! It just makes me mad to
be worried or tied down,” and she pushed back her hair so that her
unfortunate cap was only withheld from tumbling entirely off by the pin
that held it.

“Oh, that wretched cap!” she cried, jumping up, petulantly, and going
to the glass to set it to rights, but with so hasty a hand that the pin
became entangled in her hair, and it needed Mary’s quiet hand to set it
to rights; “it’s just an emblem of all the rest of it; I wouldn’t
wear it another day, but that I’m afraid of Ellen and Robert, and it
perfectly drives me wild. And I know Joe couldn’t have borne to see me
in it.” At the Irishism of which she burst out laughing, and laughed
herself into the tears that had never come when they were expected of
her.

Mary caressed and soothed her, and told her she could well guess it was
sadder to her now than even at first.

“Well, it is,” said Carey, looking up. “If one was sent out to sea in a
boat, it wouldn’t be near so bad as long as one could see the dear
old shore still, as when one had got out--out into the wide open--with
nothing at all.”

And she stretched out her hands with a dreary, yearning gesture into the
vacant space, such as it went to her friend’s heart to see.

“Ah! but there’s a haven at the end.”

“I suppose there is,” said Carey; “but it’s a long way off, and there’s
dying first, and when people want to begin about it, they get so
conventional, and if there’s one thing above another that I can’t stand,
it is being bored.”

“My poor child!”

“There, don’t be angry with me, because I’m telling you just what I am!”

Before any more could be said Janet opened the door, saying, “Mother,
Emma wants to see you.”

“Oh! I forgot,” cried Carey, hurrying off, while Janet came forward to
the guest in her grown-up way, and asked--

“Have you been to the Water-Colour Exhibition, Miss Ogilvie?”

“Yes; Mr. Acton took me one Saturday afternoon.”

“Oh! then he would be sure to show you Nita Ray’s picture. I want so
much to know how it strikes people.”

And Janet had plunged into a regular conversation about exhibitions,
pictures, artists, concerts, lectures, &c., before her mother came back,
talking with all the eagerness of an exile about her native country. As
a governess in her school-room, Miss Ogilvie had had little more than a
key-hole view of all these things; but then what she had seen and heard
had been chiefly through the Actons, and thus coincided with Janet’s own
side of the world, and they were in full discussion when Caroline came
back.

“There, I’ve disposed of the butcher and baker!” she said. “Now we can
be comfortable again.”

Mary expected Janet to repair to her own lessons, or to listen to those
scales which Babie might be heard from a distance playing; but she only
appealed to her mother about some picture of last year, and sat down to
her drawing, while the conversation on pictures and books continued in
animated style. So far from sending her away, Mary fancied that Carey
was rather glad to keep to surface matters, and to be prevented from
another outbreak of feeling.

The next interruption was from the children, each armed with a pile of
open books on the top of a slate. Carey begged Mary to wait, and went
outside the window with them, sitting down under a tree whence the
murmured sounds of repetition could be heard, lasting about twenty
minutes between the two, and then she returned, the little ones jumping
on each side of her, Armine begging that Miss Ogilvie would come and see
the museum, and Barbara saying that Jock wanted to help to show it off.

“Well, run now and put your own corners tidy,” suggested their mother.
“If Jock does not stay in the playground, he will come back in a quarter
of an hour.”

“And Mr. Ogilvie will come then. I invited him,” said Babie.

At which Carey laughed incredulously; but Janet, observing that she must
go and see that the children did not do more harm than good, walked off,
and Mary said--

“I should not wonder if he did act on the invitation.”

“I hope he will. It would have only been civil in me to have asked him,
considering that I have taken possession of you,” said Caroline.

“I fully expect to see him on Miss Barbara’s invitation. Do you know,
Carey, he says you have transformed his school.”

“Translated it, like Bottom the Weaver.”

“In the reverse direction. He says you have made the mothers see to
their boys’ preparation, and wakened up the intellects.”

“Have I? I thought I had only kept my own boys up to the mark. Yes, and
there’s Johnny. Do you know, Mary, it is very funny, but that boy Johnny
has adopted me. He comes after me everywhere like a shadow, and there’s
nothing he won’t do for me, even learning his lessons. You see the poor
boy has a good deal of native sense, Brownlow sense, and mind had been
more stifled than wanting in him. Nobody had ever put things to him by
the right end, and when he once let me do it for him, it was quite a
revelation, and he has been so happy and prosperous that he hardly knows
himself. Poor boy, there is something very honest and true about him,
and so affectionate! He is a little like his uncle, and I can’t help
being fond of him. Then Robin is just as devoted to Jock, though I can’t
say the results are so very desirable, for Jock _is_ a monkey, I must
confess, and it is irresistible to a monkey to have a bear that he can
lead to do anything. I hear that Robin used to be the good boy of the
establishment, and I am afraid he is not that now.”

“But can’t you stop that?”

“My dear, nobody could think of Jock’s devices so as to stop them, who
had not his own monkey brain. Who would have thought of his getting the
whole set to dress up as nigger singers, with black faces and banjoes,
and coming to dance and sing in front of the windows?”

“There wasn’t much harm in that.”

“There wouldn’t have been if it had been only here. And, oh dear, the
irresistible fun of Jock’s capering antics, and Rob moving by mechanism,
as stiff and obedient as the giant porter to Flibberti-gibbet.” Carey
stopped to laugh. “But then I never thought of their going on to present
themselves to Ellen in the middle of a mighty and solemn dinner party!
All the grandees, the county people (this in a deep and awful voice),
sitting up in their chignons of state, in the awful pause during the
dishing-up, when these five little wretches, in finery filched from the
rag bag, appear on the smooth lawn, mown and trimmed to the last extent
for the occasion, and begin to strike up at their shrillest, close to
the open window. Ellen rises with great dignity. I fancy I can see her,
sending out to order them off. And then, oh dear, Jock only hopping more
frantically than ever round the poor man the hired waiter, who, you must
know, is the undertaker’s chief mute, and singing--


          ‘Leedle, leedle, leedle,
           Our cat’s dead.
           What did she die wi’?
           Wi’ a sair head.
           A’ you that kenned her
           While she was alive,
           Come to her burying
           At half-past five.’


And then the Colonel, bestirring himself to the rescue, with ‘go away
boys, or I’ll send for the police.’ And then the discovery, when in the
height of his wrath, Jock perked up, and said, ‘I thought you would
like to have the ladies amused, Uncle Robert.’ He did box his ears
then--small blame to him, I must say. I could stand that better than the
jaw Ellen gave us afterwards. I beg your pardon, Mary, but it really
was one. She thinks us far gone in the ways of depravity, and doesn’t
willingly let her little girls come near us.”

“Isn’t that a pity?”

“I don’t know; Essie and Ellie have feelings in their clothes, and don’t
like our scrambling walks, and if Ellie does get allured by our wicked
ways, she is sure to be torn, or splashed, or something, and we have
shrieks and lamentations, and accusations of Jock and Joe, amid floods
of tears; and Jessie comes to the rescue, primly shaking her head and
coaxing her little sister, while she brings out a needle and thread. I
can’t help it, Mary. It does aggravate me to look at her!”

Mary could only shake her head with a mixture of pity, reproof, and
amusement, and as a safer subject could not help asking--

“By the bye, why do you confuse your friends by having all the two
families named in pairs?”

“We didn’t know we were going to live close together,” said Carey. “But
the fact is that the Janets were named after their fathers’ only sister,
who seems to have been an equal darling to both. We would have avoided
Robert, but we found that it would have been thought disrespectful not
to call the boy after his grandfather and uncle.”

“And Bobus _is_ a thoroughly individual name.”

“Then Jock’s name is John Lucas, and we did mean to call him by the
second, but it wouldn’t stick. Names won’t sometimes, and there’s a
formality in Lucas that would never fit that skipjack of a boy. He
got called Jock as a nickname, and now he will abide by it. But Joseph
Armine’s second name does fit him, and so we have kept to it; and
Barbara was dear grandmamma’s own name, and quite our own.”

Therewith Babie rushed downstairs with “He’s coming, Mother Carey,” and
darted out at the house door to welcome Mr. Ogilvie at the gate, and
lead him in in triumph, attended by her two brothers. The two ladies
laughed, and Carey said, with a species of proud apology--

“Poor children, you see they have been used to be noticed by clever
men.”

“Mr. Ogilvie is come to see our museum,” cried Babie, in her patronising
tone, jumping and dancing round during his greetings and remarks that
he hoped he might take advantage of her invitation; he had been thinking
whether to begin a school museum would not be a very good thing for the
boys, and serve to open their minds to common things. On which, before
any one else could answer, the parrot, in a low and sententious tone,
observed, “Excellent.”

“There, you have the consent of your first acquaintance,” said Carey,
while the bird, excited by one of those mysterious likings that her
kind are apt to take, held her grey head to Mr. Ogilvie to be scratched,
chuckling out, “All Mother Carey’s chickens,” and Janet exclaimed--

“That’s an adoption.”

The troop were climbing the stairs to the third story, where Armine and
Bobus were already within an octagon room, corresponding to the little
hall below, and fitted with presses and shelves, belonging to the
store-room of the former thrifty inhabitant; but now divided between
the six children, Mother Carey, as Babie explained, being “Mine own, and
helping me more specially.”

The table was likewise common to all; but one of the laws of the place
was that everything left there after twelve o’clock on Saturday was,
as Babie’s little mouth rolled out the long words, “confiscated by the
inexorable Eumenides.”

“And who are they?” asked Mr. Ogilvie, who was always much entertained
by the simplicity with which the little maid uttered the syllables as if
they were her native speech.

“Janet, and Nurse, and Emma,” she said; “and they really are
inex-o-rable. They threw away my snail shell that a thrush had been
eating, though I begged and prayed them.”

“Yes, and my femur of a rabbit,” said Armine, “and said it was a
nasty old bone, and the baker’s Pincher ate it up; but I did find my
turtle-dove’s egg in the ash-heap, and discovered it over again, and you
don’t see it is broken now; it is stuck down on a card.”

“Yes,” said his mother, “it is wonderful how valuable things become
precisely at twelve on Saturday.”

Each had some department: Janet’s, which was geology, was the fullest,
as she had inherited some youthful hoards of her father’s; Bobus’s,
which was botany, was the neatest and most systematic. Mary thought at
first that it did not suit him; but she soon saw that with him it was
not love of flowers, but the study of botany. He pronounced Jock’s
butterflies to be perfectly disgraceful.

“You said you’d see to them,” returned Jock.

“Yes, I shall take up insects when I have done with plants,” said Bobus,
coolly.

“And say, ‘Solomon, I have surpassed thee’?” asked Mr. Ogilvie.

Bobus looked as if he did not like it; but his mother shook her head
at him as one who well deserved the little rebuke for self-sufficiency.
There was certainly a wonderful winning way about her--there was a
simplicity of manner almost like that of Babie herself, and yet the
cleverness of a highly-educated woman. Mary Ogilvie did not wonder
at what Mr. and Mrs. Acton had said of the charm of that unpretending
household, now broken up.

There was, too, the perception that, beneath the surface on which, like
the children, she played so lightly, there were depths of sorrow that
might not be stirred, which added a sweetness and pathos to all she said
and did.

Of many a choice curiosity the children said, in lowered tones of
reverence, that “_he_ found it;” and these she would not allow to be
passed over, but showed fondly off in all their best points, telling
their story as if she loved to dwell upon it.

Barbara, who had specially fastened herself on Mr. Ogilvie, according
to the modern privileges of small girls, after having much amused him
by doing the honours of her own miscellaneous treasury, insisted on
exhibiting “Mother Carey’s studio.”

Caroline tried to declare that this meant nothing deserving of so grand
a name; it was only the family resort for making messes in. She never
touched clay now, and there was nothing worth seeing; but it was in
vain; Babie had her way; and they mounted to the highest stage of the
pagoda, where the eaves and the twisted monsters that supported them
were in close juxtaposition with the four windows.

The view was a grand one. Belforest Park on the one side, the town
almost as if in a pit below, with a bird’s-eye prospect of the roofs,
the gardens and the school-yard, the leaden-covered church, lying like a
great grey beetle with outspread wings. Beyond were the ups-and-downs of
a wooded, hilly country, with glimpses of blue river here and there,
and village and town gleaming out white; a large house, “bosomed high in
tufted trees;” a church-tower and spire, nestled on the hill-side, up
to the steep grey hill with the tall land-mark tower, closing in the
horizon--altogether, as Carey said, a thorough “allegro” landscape, even
to “the tanned haycock in the mead.” But the summer sun made the place
dazzling and almost uninhabitable, and the visitors, turning from the
glare, could hardly see the casts and models that filled the shelves;
nor was there anything in hand; so that they let themselves be hurried
away to share the midday meal, after which Mr. Ogilvie and the boys
betook themselves to the school, and Carey and her little ones to the
shade of the garden-wall, to finish their French reading, while Mary
wondered the less at the Kenminster ladies.



CHAPTER IX. -- FLIGHTS.



     Have you no wit, manners, nor honesty, but to gabble like
     tinkers at this time of night?  Is there no respect of
     place, persons, nor time in you?--Twelfth-Night.


The summer holidays not only brought home Allen Brownlow from Eton, but
renewed his mother’s intercourse with several of her friends, who so
contrived their summer outing as to “see how poor little Mrs. Brownlow
was getting on,” and she hailed them as fragments of her dear old former
life.

Mr. and Mrs. Acton came to a farmhouse at Redford, about a mile and a
half off, where Mr. Acton was to lay up a store of woodland and home
sketches, and there were daily meetings for walks, and often out-of-door
meals. Mr. Ogilvie declared that he was thus much more rested than by a
long expedition in foreign scenery, and he and his sister stayed on,
and usually joined in the excursion, whether it were premeditated or
improvised, on foot, into copse or glade, or by train or waggonette, to
ruined abbey or cathedral town.

Then came two sisters, whom old Mrs. Brownlow had befriended when
the elder was struggling, as a daily governess, to provide home and
education for the younger. Now, the one was a worthy, hard-working
law-copier, the other an artist in a small way, who had transmogrified
her name of Jane into Juanita or Nita, wore a crop, short petticoats,
and was odd. She treated Janet on terms of equal friendship, and was
thus a much more charming companion than Jessie. They always came into
cheap sea-side lodgings in the vacation, but this year had settled
themselves within ten minutes walk of the Folly, a title which became
more and more applicable, in Kenminster eyes, to the Pagoda, and above
all in those of its proper owner. Mrs. Robert Brownlow, in the calm
dignity of the heiress, in a small way, of a good family, had a bare
toleration for professional people, had regretted the vocation of her
brother-in-law, and classed governesses and artists as “that kind of
people,” so that Caroline’s association with them seemed to her
absolute love of low company. She would have stirred up her husband
to remonstrate, but he had seen more of the world than she had, and
declared that there was no harm in Caroline’s friends. “He had met Mr.
Acton in the reading-room, smoked pipes with him in the garden, and
thought him a very nice fellow; his wife was the daughter of poor
Cartwright of the Artillery, and a sensible ladylike woman as ever he
saw.”

With a resigned sigh at the folly of mankind, his wife asked, “How about
the others? That woman with the hair? and that man with the velvet coat?
Jessie says Jock told her that he was a mere play-actor!”

“Jock told Jessie! Nonsense, my dear! The man is going out to China
in the tea trade, and is come to take leave. I believe he did sing in
public at one time; but Joe attended him in an illness which damaged
his voice, and then he put him in the way of other work. You need not be
afraid. Joe was one of the most particular men in the world in his own
way.”

Mrs. Brownlow could do no more. She had found that her little
sister-in-law could be saucy, and personal squabbles, as she justly
thought, had better be avoided. She could only keep Jessie from the
contamination by taking her out in the carriage and to garden parties,
which the young lady infinitely preferred to long walks that tired
her and spoilt her dress; to talk and laughter that she could not
understand, and games that seemed to her stupid, though everybody else
seemed to find them full of fun. True, Allen and Bobus were always ready
to push and pull her through, and to snub Janet for quizzing her; but
Jessie was pretty enough to have plenty of such homage at her command,
and not specially to prefer that of her cousins, so that it cost her
little to turn a deaf ear to all their invitations.

Her brothers were not of the same mind, for Rob was never happy out of
sight of Jock. Johnny worshipped his aunt, and Joe was gregarious,
so there was generally an accompanying rabble of six or seven boys,
undistinguishable by outsiders, though very individual indeed in
themselves and adding a considerable element of noise, high spirits, and
mischievous enterprise. The man in the velvet coat, whose proper name
was Orlando Hughes, was as much of a boy as any of them, and so could
Mr. Acton be on occasion, thus giving a certain Bohemian air to their
doings.

Things came to a crisis on one of the dog-days. Young Dr. Drake had
brought his bride to show to his old friend, and they were staying at
the Folly, while a college friend of Mr. Ogilvie’s, a London curate, had
come to see him in the course of a cathedral tour, and had stayed on,
under the attraction of the place, taking the duty for a few Sundays.

The weather was very sultry, forbidding exertion on the part of all save
cricketers; but there was a match at Redford, and Kenminster was eager
about it, so that all the boys, grown up or otherwise, walked over to
see it, accompanied by Nita Ray with her inseparable Janet, meaning to
study village groups and rustic sports. The other ladies walked in the
cool to meet them at the Acton’s farmhouse, chiefly, it was alleged, in
deference to the feelings of the bride, who could not brave the heat,
but had never yet been so long separated from her bridegroom.

The little boys, however, were alone to be found at the farm, reporting
that their elders had joined the cricket supper. So Mrs. Acton made them
welcome, and spread her cloth in the greensward, whence could be seen
the evening glow on the harvest fields. Then there was a feast of
cherries, and delicious farmhouse bread and butter, and inexhaustible
tea, which was renewed when the cricketers joined them, and called for
their share.

Thus they did not set out on their homeward walk, over fragrant
heath and dewy lanes, till just as the stars were coming out, and a
magnificent red moon, scarcely past the full, was rising in the east,
and the long rest, and fresh dewiness after the day’s heat, gave a
delightful feeling of exhilaration.

Babie went skipping about in the silvery flood of light, quite wild with
delight as they came out on the heath, and, darting up to Mr. Ogilvie,
asked if now he did not think they might really see a fairy.

“Perhaps I do,” he said.

“Oh where, where, show me?”

“Ah! you’re the one that can’t see her.”

“What, not if I did my eyes with that Euphrasia and Verbena
officinalis?” catching tight hold of his hand, as a bright red light
went rapidly moving in a straight line in the valley beneath their feet.

“Robin Goodfellow,” said Mr. Hughes, overhearing her, and immediately
began to sing--


          “I know a bank”--


Then the curate, as he finished, began to sing some other appropriate
song, and Nita Ray and others joined in. It was very pretty, very
charming in the moonlight, very like “Midsummer Night’s Dream;” but Mary
Ogilvie, who was a good way behind, felt a start of dismay as the clear
notes pealed back to her. She longed to suggest a little expediency;
but she was impeded; for poor Miss Ray, entirely unused to long country
walks and nocturnal expeditions, and further tormented by tight boots,
was panting up the hill far in the rear, half-frightened, and a good
deal distressed, and could not, for very humanity’s sake, be left
behind.

“And after all,” thought Mary, as peals of the boys’ merry laughter came
to her, and then again echoes of “spotted snakes with double tongue”
 awoke the night echoes; “this is such a solitary place that it cannot
signify, if they will only have the sense to stop when we get into the
roads.”

But they hadn’t. Mary heard a chorus from “Der Freischutz,” beginning
just as she was dragging her companion over a stile, which had been
formidable enough by day, but was ten times worse in the confusing
shadows. That brought them into a lane darkened by its high hedges,
where there was nothing for it but to let Miss Ray tightly grapple her
arm, while the songs came further and further on the wind, and Mary
felt the conviction that middle-aged spinsters must reckon on being
forgotten, and left behind alike by brothers, sisters, and friends.

Nor did they come up with the party till they found them waiting in the
road, close to the Rays’ lodgings, having evidently just missed them,
for Mr. Ogilvie and the clergyman were turning back to look for them
when they were gladly hailed, half apologised to, half laughed at by
a babel of voices, among which Nita’s was the loudest, informing her
sister that she had lost the best bit of all, for just at the turn of
the lane there had come on them Babie’s fiery-eyed monster, which had
“burst on the path,” when they were in mid song, flashing over them,
and revealing, first a horse, and then a brougham, wherein there sat
the august forms of Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow, going home from a state
dinner, the lady’s very marabouts quivering with horror.

Mary stepped up to Nita, and gave her a sharp, severe grasp.

“Hush! remember their boys are here,” she whispered; and, with an
exaggerated gesture, Nita looked about her in affected alarm, and,
seeing that none were near, added--

“Thank you; I was just going to say it would be a study for Punch”

“O do send it up, they’ll never know it,” cried Janet; but there
Caroline interfered--

“Hush, Janet, we ought to be at home. Don’t stand here, Armine is tired
to death! 11.5 at the station to-morrow. Good-night.”

They parted, and Mary and her brother turned away to their own home. If
it had not been for the presence of the curate, Mary would have said a
good deal on the way home. As it was, she was so silent as to inspire
her brother with enough compunction for having deserted her, to make him
follow her, when she went to her own room. “Mary, I am sorry we missed
you,” he said; “I ought to have looked about for you more, but I
thought--”

“Nonsense, David; of course I do not mind that, if only I could have
stopped all that singing.”

“That singing; why it was very pretty, wasn’t it?”

“Pretty indeed! Did it never occur to you what a scrape you may be
getting that poor little thing into with her relations, and yourself,
too?”

David looked more than half-amused, and she proceeded more resolutely--

“Well! what do you think must be Mrs. Brownlow’s opinion of what she saw
and heard to-night? I blame myself exceedingly for not having urged the
setting off sooner; but you must remember that what is all very well
for holiday people, only here for a time, may do infinite mischief to
residents.”

David only observed, “I didn’t want all those men, if that’s what you
mean. They made the noise, not I.”

“No, nor I; but we swelled the party, and I am much disposed to believe
that the best thing we can do is to take ourselves off, or do anything
to break up this set.”

He looked for a moment much disconcerted; but then with a little
masculine superiority, answered--

“Well, well, we’ll think over it, Mary. See how it appears to you
to-morrow when you aren’t tired,” and then, with a smile and a kiss,
bade her good-night.

“So that’s what we get,” said Mary, to herself, half amused, half
annoyed; “those men think it is all because one is left behind in the
dark! David is the best boy in the world, but there’s not a man of them
all who has a notion of what gets a woman into trouble! I believe he was
rather gratified than otherwise to be found out on a lark. Well, I’ll
talk to Clara; she will have some sense!”

They were all to meet at the station the next morning, to go to an old
castle, about an hour from Kenminster by railway; and they filled the
platform, armed with sketching tools, sandwich baskets, botanical tins,
and all other appliances; but when Mr. Ogilvie accosted Mrs. Joseph
Brownlow, saying, “You have only half your boys,” she looked up, with
a drolly guilty air, saying, “No, there’s an embargo on the other poor
fellows.”

They had just taken their seats, and the train was in motion, when a
heated headlong boy came dashing over the platform, and clung to the
door of the carriage, standing on the step. It was Johnny. Orlando
Hughes, who was next the window, grasped his hands, and, in answer to
the cries of dismay and blame that greeted him, he called out, “Yes,
here I am; Rob and Joe couldn’t run so fast.”

“Then you’ve got leave?” asked his aunt.

Johnny’s grin said “No.”

She looked up at Mr. Ogilvie in much vexation and anxiety.

“Don’t say any more to him now. It might put him in great danger. Wait
till the next station,” he said.

It was a stopping train, and ten minutes brought a halt, when the guard
came up in a fury, and Johnny found no sympathy for his bold attempt.
Carey had no notion of fostering flat disobedience, and she told Johnny
that unless he would promise to go home by himself and beg his father’s
pardon, she should stay behind and go back with him, for she could
have no pleasure in an expedition with him when he was behaving so
outrageously.

The boy looked both surprised and abashed. His affection for his aunt
was very great, as for one who had opened to him the gates of a new
world, both within himself and beyond himself. He would not hear of her
giving up the expedition, and promised her with all his heart to walk
home, and confess, “Though ‘twasn’t papa, but mamma!” were his last
words, as they left him on the platform, crestfallen, but with a twinkle
in his eye, and with the station-master keeping watch over him as a
dangerous subject.

Mr. Ogilvie said it would do the boy good for life; Caroline mourned
over him a little, and wondered how his mother would treat him; and Mary
sat and thought till the arrival at their destination, when they had
to walk to the castle, dragging their appurtenances, and then to rouse
their energies to spread out the luncheon.

Then, when there had been the usual amount of mirth, mischief, and
mishap, and the party had dispersed, some to sketch, some to scramble,
some to botanize, the “Duck and Drake to spoon,”--as said the boys, Mary
Ogilvie found a turfy nook where she could hold council with Mrs. Acton
about their poor little friend, for whose welfare she was seriously
uneasy.

But Clara did not sympathise as much as she expected, having been much
galled by Mrs. Robert Brownlow’s supercilious manner, and thinking the
attempt to conciliate her both unworthy and useless.

“Of course I do not mean that poor Carey should truckle to her,” said
Mary, rather nettled at the implication; “but I don’t think these
irregular hours, and all this roaming about the country at all times,
can be well in themselves for her or the children.”

“My dear Mary, did you never take a party of children into the country
in the spring for the first time? If not, you never saw the prettiest
and most innocent of intoxications. I had once to take the little
Pyrtons to their place in the country one April and May, months that
they had always spent in London; and I assure you they were perfectly
mad, only with the air, the sight of the hawthorns, and all the smells.
I was obliged to be content with what they could do, not what ought to
be done, of lessons. There was no sitting still on a fine morning. I was
as bad myself; the blood seemed to dance in one’s veins, and a room to
be a prison.”

“This is not spring,” said Mary.

“No, but she began in spring, and habits were formed.”

“No doubt, but they cannot be good. They keep up flightiness and
excitability.”

“Oh, that’s grief, poor dear!”

“We bain’t carousing, we be dissembling grief, as the farmer told the
clergyman who objected to merry-making after a funeral,” said Mary,
rather severely. Then she added, seeing Clara looked annoyed, “You think
me hard on poor dear Carey, but indeed I am not doubting her affection
or her grief.”

“Remember, a woman with children cannot give herself entirely up to
sorrow without doing them harm.”

“Poor Carey, I am sure I do not want to see her given up to sorrow, only
to have her a little more moderate, and perhaps select--so as not to do
herself harm with her relations--who after all must be more important to
her than any outsiders.”

The artist’s wife could not but see things a little differently from the
schoolmaster’s sister, who moreover knew nothing of Carey’s former life;
and Clara made answer--

“Sending her down to these people was the greatest error of dear good
Dr. Brownlow’s life.”

“I am not sure of that. Blood is thicker than water.”

“But between sisters-in-law it is apt to be only ill-blood, and very
turbid.”

“For shame, Clara.”

“Well, Mary, you must allow something for human nature’s reluctance to
be treated as something not quite worthy of a handshake from a little
country town Serene Highness! I may be allowed to doubt whether Dr.
Brownlow would not have done better to leave her unbound to those who
can never be congenial.”

“Granting that (not that I do grant it, for the Colonel is worthy),
should not she be persuaded to conform herself.”

“To purr and lay eggs? My dear, that did not succeed with the ugly
duckling, even in early life.”

“Not after it had been among the swans? You vain Clara!”

“I only lay claim to having seen the swans--not to having brought many
specimens down here.”

“Such as _that_ Nita, or Mr. Hughes?”

“More like the other bird, certainly,” said Clara, smiling; “but Mary,
if you had but seen what that house was. Joe Brownlow was one of those
men who make themselves esteemed and noted above their actual position.
He was much thought of as a lecturer, and would have had a much larger
practice but for his appointment at the hospital. It was in the course
of the work he had taken for a friend gone out of town that he caught
the illness that killed him. His lectures brought men of science about
him, and his practice had made him acquainted with us poor Bohemians, as
you seem to think us. Old Mrs. Brownlow had means of her own, and theirs
was quite a wealthy house among our set. Any of us were welcome to drop
into five o’clock tea, or at nine at night, and the pleasantness and
good influence were wonderful. The motherliness and yet the enthusiasm
of Mrs. Brownlow made her the most delightful old lady I ever saw. I
can’t describe how good she was about my marriage, and many more would
say they owed all that was brightest and best in them to that house. And
there was Carey, like a little sunshiny fairy, the darling of everyone.
No, not spoilt--I see what you are going to say.”

“Only as we all spoilt her at school. Nobody but her Serene Highness
ever could help making a pet of her.”

“That’s more reasonable, Mary,” said Mrs. Acton, in a more placable
voice; “she did plenty of hard work, and did not spare herself, or have
what would seem indulgences to most women; but nobody could see the
light of her eyes and smile without trying to make it sparkle up; and
she was just the first thought in life to her husband and his mother.
I am sure in my governess days I used to think that house paradise, and
her the undoubted queen of it. And now, that you should turn against
her, Mary, when she is uncrowned, and unappreciated, and brow-beaten.”

She had worked herself up, and had tears in her eyes.

Mary laughed a little.

“It is hard, when I only want to keep her from making herself be
unappreciated.”

“And I say it is in vain!” cried Clara, “for it is not in the nature
of the people to appreciate her, and nothing will make them get on
together.”

Poor Mary! she had expected her friend to be more reasonable and less
defensive; but she remembered that even at school Clara had always
protected Caroline whenever she had attempted to lecture her. All she
further tried to say was--

“Then you won’t help me to advise her to be more guarded, and not shock
them?”

“I will not tease the poor little thing, when she has enough to torment
her already. If you had known her husband, and watched her last winter,
you would be only too thankful to see her a little more like herself.”

Mary was silent, finding that she should only argue round and round if
they went on, and feeling that Clara thought her old-maidish, and could
not enter into her sense that, the balance-weight being gone, gusts of
wind ought to be avoided. She sat wondering whether she herself was
prim and old-maidish, or whether she was right in feeling it a duty to
expostulate and deliver her testimony.

There was no doing it on this day. Carey was always surrounded by
children and guests, and in an eager state of activity; but though again
they all went home in the cool of the evening, an attempt to sing in
the second-class carriage, which they filled entirely, was quashed
immediately--no one knew how, and nothing worse happened than that a
very dusty set, carrying odd botanical, entomological, and artistic
wares, trailed through the streets of Kenminster, just as Mrs.
Coffinkey, escorted by her maid, was walking primly home from drinking
tea at the vicarage.

Still Mary’s reflections only strengthened her resolution. On the next
day, which was Sunday, she ascended to the Folly, at about four o’clock
in the afternoon, and found the family, including the parrot, spread out
upon the lawn under the shade of the acacia, the mother reading to them.

“Oh, please don’t stop, mother,” cried Babie; while the more courteous
Armine exclaimed--

“Miss Ogilvie, don’t you like to hear about Bevis and Jocelin Joliffe?”

“You don’t mind waiting while we finish the chapter,” added their
mother; “then we break up our sitting.”

“Pray go on with the chapter,” said Mary, rather coolly, for she was a
good deal taken aback at finding them reading “Woodstock” on a Sunday;
“but afterwards, I do want to speak to you.”

“Oh! don’t want to speak to me. The Colonel has been speaking to me,”
 she said, with a cowering, shuddering sort of action, irresistibly
comic.

“And he ate up half our day,” bemoaned more than one of the boys.

Miss Ogilvie sat down a little way off, not wishing to listen
to “Woodstock” on a Sunday, and trying to work out the difficult
Sabbatarian question in her mind.

“There!” said Caroline, closing the book, amid exclamations of “I know
who Lewis Kerneguy was.” “Wasn’t Roger Wildrake jolly?” “O, mother,
didn’t he cut off Trusty Tomkins’ head?” “Do let us have a wee bit more,
mother; Miss Ogilvie won’t mind.”

But Carey saw that she did mind, and answered--

“Not now; there won’t be time to feed all the creatures, or to get
nurse’s Sunday nosegays, if you don’t begin.” Then, coming up to her
guest, she said, “Now is your time, Mary; we shall have the Rays and Mr.
Hughes in presently; but you see we are too worldly and profane for the
Kencroft boys on Sunday; and so they make experiments in smoking, with
company less desirable, I must say, than Sir Harry Lee’s. Am I very bad
to read what keeps mine round me?”

“Is it an old fashion with you?”

“Well, no; but then we had what was better than a thousand stories! And
this is only a feeble attempt to keep up a little watery reflection of
the old sunshine.”

It was a watery reflection indeed!

“And could it not be with something that would be--”

“Dull and goody?” put in Carey. “No, no, my dear, that would be utterly
futile. You can’t catch my birds without salt. Can we, Polly?”

To which the popinjay responded, “We are all Mother Carey’s chickens.”

“I did mean salt--very real salt,” said Mary, rather sadly.

“I have not got the recipe;” said Carey. “Indeed I do try to do
what must be done. My boys can hold their own in Bible and Catechism
questions! Ask your brother if they can’t. And Army is a dear little
fellow, with a bit of the angel, or of his father, in him; but when
we’ve done our church, I see no good in decorous boredom; and if I did,
what would become of the boys?”

“I don’t agree to the necessity of boredom,” said Mary; “but let that
pass. There are things I wanted to say.”

“I knew it was coming. The Colonel has been at me already, levelling his
thunders at my devoted head. Won’t that do?”

“Not if you heed him so little.”

“My dear, if I heeded, I should be annihilated. When he says ‘My good
little sister,’ I know he means ‘You little idiot;’ so if I did not
think of something else, what might not be the consequence? Why, he said
I was not behaving decently!”

“No more you are.”

“And that I had no proper feeling,” continued she, laughing almost
hysterically.

“No one can wonder at his being pained. It ought never to have
happened.”

“Are you gone over to Mrs. Grundy? However, there’s this comfort, you’ll
not mention Mrs. Coffinkey’s sister-in-law.”

“I’m sure the Colonel didn’t!”

“Ellen does though, with tragic effect.”

“You are not like yourself, Carey.”

“No, indeed I’m not! I was a happy creature a little while ago; or was
it a very long, long time ago? Then I had everybody to help me and
make much of me! And now I’ve got into a great dull mist, and am always
knocking my head against something or somebody; and when I try to keep
up the old friendships and kindnesses--poor little fragments as they
are--everybody falls upon me, even you, Mary.”

“Pardon me, dearest. Some friendships and kindnesses that were once
admirable, may be less suitable to your present circumstances.”

“As if I didn’t know that!” said Carey, with an angry, hurt little
laugh; “and so I waited to be chaperoned up to the eyes between Clara
Acton and the Duck in the very house with me. Now, Mary, I put it to
you. Has one word passed that could do harm? Isn’t it much more
innocent than all the Coffinkey gossip? I have no doubt Mrs. Coffinkey’s
sister-in-law looks up from her black-bordered pocket-handkerchief to
hear how Mrs. Brownlow’s sister-in-law went to the cricket-match. Do you
know, Robert really thought I had been there? I only wonder how many I
scored. I dare say Mrs. Coffinkey’s sister-in-law knows.”

“It just shows how careful you should be.”

“And I wonder what would become of the children if I shut myself up with
a pile of pocket-handkerchiefs bordered an inch deep. What right have
they to meddle with my ways, and my friends, and my boys?”

“Not the Coffinkeys, certainly,” said Mary; “but indeed, Carey, I myself
was uncomfortable at that singing in the lanes at eleven at night.”

“It wasn’t eleven,” said Carey, perversely.

“Only 10.50--eh?”

“But what was the possible harm in it?”

“None at all in itself, only remember the harm it may do to the children
for you to be heedless of people’s opinion, and to get a reputation for
flightiness and doing odd things.”

“I couldn’t be like the Coffinkey pattern any more than I could be tied
down to a rope walk.”

“But you need not do things that your better sense must tell you may
be misconstrued. Surely there was a wish that you should live near the
Colonel and be guided by him.”

“Little knowing that his guidance would consist in being set at me by
Ellen and the Coffinkeys!”

“Nonsense,” said Mary, vexed enough to resume their old school-girl
manners. “You know I am not set on by anybody, and I tell you that
if you do not pull up in time, and give no foundation for ill-natured
comments, your children will never get over it in people’s estimation.
And as for themselves, a little steadiness and regularity would be much
better for their whole dispositions.”

“It is holiday time,” said Carey, in a tone of apology.

“If it is only in holiday time--”

“The country has always seemed like holiday. You see we used to go--all
of us--to some seaside place, and be quite free there, keeping no
particular hours, and being so intensely happy. I haven’t yet got over
the feeling that it is only for a time, and we shall go back into the
dear old home and its regular ways.” Then clasping her hands over her
side as though to squeeze something back, she broke out, “O Mary, Mary,
you mustn’t scold me! You mustn’t bid me tie myself to regular hours
till this summer is over. If you knew the intolerable stab when I
recollect that he is gone--gone--gone for ever, you would understand
that there’s nothing for it but jumping up and doing the first thing
that comes to hand. Walking it down is best. Oh! what will become of
me when the mornings get dark, and I can’t get up and rush into those
woods? Yes”--as Mary made some affectionate gesture--“I know I have gone
on in a wild way, but who would not be wild who had lost _him_? And then
they goad me, and think me incapable of proper feeling,” and she laughed
that horrid little laugh. “So I am, I suppose; but feeling won’t go
as other people think _proper_. Let me alone, Mary, I won’t damage the
children. They are Joe’s children, and I know what he wanted and wished
for them better than Robert or anybody else. But I must go my own way,
and do what I can bear, and as I can, or--or I think my heart would
break quite, and that would be worse for them than anything.”

Mary had tears in her eyes, drawn forth by the vehement passion of grief
apparent in the whole tone of her poor little friend. She had no doubts
of Carey’s love, sorrow, or ability, but she did seriously doubt of her
wisdom and judgment, and thought her undisciplined. However, she could
say no more, for Nita Ray and Janet were advancing on them.

The next day Caroline was in bed with one of her worst headaches. Mary
felt that she had been a cruel and prim old duenna, and meekly bore
Clara’s reproachful glances.



CHAPTER X. -- ELLEN’S MAGNUM BONUMS.



     He put in his thumb
     And he pulled out a plum,
     And cried, “What a good boy am I!”
                                  Jack Horner.


Whether it were from the effects of the warnings, or from that of native
good sense, from that time forward Mrs. Joseph Brownlow sobered down,
and became less distressing to her sister-in-law. Mary carried off her
brother to Wales, and the Acton and Ray party dispersed, while Dr. and
Mrs. Lucas came for a week, giving much relief to Mrs. Brownlow, who
could discuss the family affairs with them in a manner she deemed
unbecoming with Mrs. Acton or Miss Ogilvie. Had Caroline heard the
consultation, she would have acquitted Ellen of malice; and indeed her
Serene Highness was much too good to gossip about so near a connection,
and had only confided her wonder and perplexity at the strange
phenomenon to her favourite first cousin, who unfortunately was not
equally discreet.

With the end of the holidays finished also the trying series of first
anniversaries, and their first excitements of sorrow, so that it became
possible to be more calm and quiet.

Moreover, two correctives came of themselves to Caroline. The first was
Janet’s inordinate correspondence with Nita Ray, and the discovery that
the girl held herself engaged to stay with the sisters in November.

“Without asking me!” she exclaimed, aghast.

“I thought you heard us talking,” said Janet, so carelessly, that her
mother put on her dignity.

“I certainly had no conception of an invitation being given and accepted
without reference to me.”

“Come, now, Mother Carey,” said this modern daughter; “don’t be cross!
We really didn’t know you weren’t attending.”

“If I had I should have said it was impossible, as I say now. You can
never have thought over the matter!”

“Haven’t I? When I am doing no good here, only wasting time?”

“That is my fault. We will set to work at once steadily.”

“But my classes and my lectures!”

“You are not so far on but that our reading together will teach you
quite as much as lectures.”

Janet looked both sulky and scornful, and her mother continued--

“It is not as if we had not modern books, and I think I know how to read
them so as to be useful to you.”

“I don’t like getting behindhand with the world.”

“You can’t keep up even with the world without a sound foundation.
Besides, even if it were more desirable, the Rays cannot afford to keep
you, nor I to board you there.”

“I am to pay them by helping Miss Ray in her copying.”

“Poor Miss Ray!” exclaimed Carey, laughing. “Does she know your
handwriting?”

“You do not know what I can do,” said Janet, with dignity.

“Yes, I hope to see it for myself, for you must put this notion of
going to London out of your head. I am sure Miss Ray did not give the
invitation--no, nor second it. Did she, Janet?”

Janet blushed a little, and muttered something about Miss Ray being
afraid of stuck-up people.

“I thought so! She is a good, sensible person, whom grandmamma esteemed
very much; but she has never been able to keep her sister in order;
and as to trusting you to their care, or letting you live in their set,
neither papa nor grandmamma would ever have thought of it.”

“You only say so because her Serene Highness turns up her nose at
everything artistic and original.”

“Janet, you forget yourself,” Caroline exclaimed, in a tone which
quelled the girl, who went muttering away; and no more was ever heard
of the Ray proposal, which no doubt the elder sister at least had never
regarded as anything but an airy castle.

However, Caroline was convinced that the warnings against the intimacy
had not been so uncalled for as she had believed; for she found, when
she tried to tighten the reins, that her daughter was restive, and had
come to think herself a free agent, as good as grown up. Spirit was not,
however, lacking to Caroline, and when she had roused herself, she
made Janet understand that she was not to be disregarded or disobeyed.
Regular hours were instituted, and the difficulty of getting broken
into them again was sufficient proof to her that she had done wrong in
neglecting them. Armine yawned portentously, and declared that he could
not learn except at his own times; and Babie was absolutely naughty more
than once, when her mother suffered doubly in punishing her from the
knowledge of whose fault it was. However, they were good little things,
and it was not hard to re-establish discipline with them. After a little
breaking in, Babie gave it to her dolls as her deliberate opinion that
“Wegulawity settles one’s mind. One knows when to do what.”

Janet could not well complain of the regularity in itself, though she
did cavil at the actual arrangements, and they were altered all round
to please her, and she showed a certain contempt for her teacher in
the studies she resumed with her mother; but after the dictionary,
encyclopaedia and other authorities, including Mr. Ogilvie, proved
almost uniformly to be against her whenever there was a difference of
opinion, she had sense enough to perceive that she could still learn
something at home.

Moreover, after one or two of these references, Mr. Ogilvie offered to
look over her Latin and Greek exercises, and hear her construe on his
Saturday half-holidays, declaring that it would be quite a refreshment.
Caroline was shocked at the sacrifice, but she could not bear to affront
her daughter, so she consented; but as she thought Janet was not old
enough to need a chaperon, and as her boys did want her, she was hardly
ever present at the lessons.

Moreover, Mr. Ogilvie had a lecturer from London to give weekly lectures
on physical science to his boys, and opened the doors to ladies. This
was a great satisfaction, chiefly for the sake of Bobus and Jock, but
also for Janet’s and her mother’s. The difficulty was to beat up for
ladies enough to keep one another in countenance; but happily two
families in the country, and one bright little bride in the town,
were found glad to open their ears, so that Ellen had no just cause of
disapproval of the attendance of her sister and niece.

Ellen had more cause to sigh when Michaelmas came, and for the first
time taught poor Carey what money matters really meant. Throughout her
married life, her only stewardship had concerned her own dress and
the children’s; Mrs. Brownlow’s occasional plans of teaching her
housekeeping had always fallen through, Janet being always her
grandmamma’s deputy.

Thus Janet and nurse had succeeded to the management when poor Carey was
too ill and wretched to attend to it; and it had gone on in their hands
at the Pagoda. Janet was pleased to be respected accordingly by
her aunt, who always liked her the best, in spite of her much worse
behaviour, for were not her virtues her own, and her vices her mother’s?

Caroline had paid the weekly books, and asked no questions, until the
winding up of the executor’s business; and the quarterly settlement of
accounts made startling revelations that the balance at her bankers was
just eleven shillings and fourpence halfpenny, and what was nearly as
bad, the discovery was made in the presence of her fellow executor, who
could not help giving a low whistle. She turned pale, and gasped for
breath, in absolute amazement, for she was quite sure they were living
at much less expense than in London, and there had been no outgoings
worth mentioning for dress or journeys. What were they to do? Surely
they could not live upon less! Was it her fault?

She was so much distressed, that the good-natured Colonel pitied her,
and answered kindly--

“My good little sister, you were inexperienced. You will do better
another year.”

“But there’s nothing to go on upon!”

He reminded her of the rent for the London house, and the dividends that
must soon come in.

“Then it will be as bad as ever! How can we live more cheaply than we
do?”

“Ellen is an excellent manager, and you had better consult her on the
scale of your expenditure.”

Caroline’s spirit writhed, but before she had time to say anything, or
talk to Janet, the Colonel had heard his excellent housewife’s voice,
and called her into the council. She was as good as possible, too
serenely kind to manifest surprise or elation at the fulfilment of
her forebodings. To be convicted of want of economy would have been so
dreadful and disgraceful, that she deeply felt for poor Caroline, and
dealt with her tenderly and delicately, even when the weekly household
books were opened, and disclosed how much had been spent every week
in items, the head and front of which were oft repeated in old nurse’s
self-taught writing--

          “Man......  Glas of beare. 1d.
           Creme........... 3d.”

For had not the Colonel’s wife warned against the endless hospitality
of glasses of beer to all messengers; and had not unlimited cream with
strawberries and apple-tarts been treated as a kind of spontaneous
luxury produced at the Belforest farm agent’s? To these, and many other
small matters, Caroline was quite relieved to plead guilty, and to
promise to do her best by personal supervision; and Ellen set herself
to devise further ways of reduction, not realising how hopeless it is to
prescribe for another person’s household difficulties. It is not in the
nature of things that such advice should be palatable, and the proverb
about the pinching of the shoe is sure to be realised.

“Too many servants,” said prudence. “If old nurse must be provided
for--and she ought to have saved enough to do without--it would be much
better to pension her off, or get her into an almshouse.”

Caroline tried to endure, as she made known that she viewed nurse as a
sacred charge, about whom there must be no question.

Ellen quietly said--

“Then it is no use to argue, but she must be allowed no more discretion
in the housekeeping.”

“No, I shall do that myself,” said Caroline.

“An extravagant cook.”

“That may be my fault. I will try to judge of that.”

“Irregular hours.”

“They shall end with the holidays.”

There was still another maid, whom Ellen said was only kept to wait on
nurse, but who, Caroline said, did all their needlework, both making and
mending.

“That,” said Ellen, “I should have thought you and Janet could do. I do
nearly all our work with the girls’ help; I am happy to say that Jessie
is an excellent needlewoman, and Essie and Ellie can do something. I
only direct the nursery maid; I never trust anything to servants.”

“I could never bear not to trust people,” said Caroline.

Ellen sighed, believing that she would soon be cured of that; and Carey
added--

“On true principles of economy, surely it is better that Emma, who knows
how, should mend the clothes, than that I should botch them up in any
way, when I can earn more than she costs me!”

“Earn!”

“Yes; I can model, and I can teach. Was I not brought up to it?”

“Yes, but now it is impossible! It is not a larger income that you want,
but proper attention to details in the spending of it, as I will show
you.”

Whereupon Mrs. Brownlow, in her neat figures, built up a pretty little
economical scheme, based on a thorough knowledge of the subject.
Caroline tried to follow her calculations, but a dreaminess came over
her; she found herself saying “Yes,” without knowing what she was
assenting to; and while Ellen was discoursing on coals and coke, she was
trying to decide which of her casts she could bear to offer for sale,
and going off into the dear old associations connected with each,
so that she was obliged at the end, instead of giving an unqualified
assent, to say she would think it over; and Ellen, who had marked
her wandering eye, left off with a conviction that she had wasted her
breath.

Certainly she was not prepared for the proposal with which Mother Carey
almost rushed into the room the next day, just as she was locking up
her wine, and the Colonel lingering over his first glance at the day’s
Times.

“I know what to do! Miss James is not coming back? And you have not
heard of any one? Then, if you would only let me teach your girls with
mine! You know that is what I really can do. Yes, indeed, I would be
regular. I always was. You know I was, Robert, till I came here, and
didn’t quite know what I was about; and I have been regular ever since
the end of the holidays, and I really can teach.”

“My dear sister,” edged in the Colonel, as she paused for breath, “no
one questions your ability, only the fitness of--”

“I had thought over two things,” broke in Caroline again. “If you don’t
like me to have Jessie, and Essie, and Ellie, I would offer to prepare
little boys. I’ve been more used to them than to girls, and I know
Mr. Ogilvie would be glad. I could have the little Wrights, and Walter
Leslie, and three or four more directly, but I thought you might like
the other way better.”

“I can see no occasion for either,” said Ellen. “You need no increase in
income, only to attend to details.”

“And I had rather do what I can--than what I can’t,” said Caroline.

“Every lady should understand how to superintend her own household,”
 said her Serene Highness.

“Granted; oh, granted, Ellen! I’m going to superintend with all my might
and main, but I don’t want to be my own upper servant, and I know I
should make no hand of it, and I had much rather earn something by my
wits. I can do it best in the way I was trained; and you know it is what
I have been used to ever since my own children were born.”

Ellen heaved a sigh at this obtuseness towards what she viewed as the
dignified and ladylike mission of the well-born woman, not to be the
bread-winner, but the preserver and steward, of the household. Here was
poor little Caroline so ignorant as actually to glory in having been
educated for a governess!

The Colonel, wanting to finish his Times in peace, looked up and said,
with the gracious tone he always used to his brother’s wife--

“My good little sister, it is very praiseworthy in you to wish to exert
yourself, and very kind and proper to desire to begin at home, but you
must allow us a little time to consider.”

She took this as a hint to retreat; and her Serene Highness likewise
feeling it a dismissal, tried at once to obviate all ungraciousness by
saying, “We are preserving our magnum bonums, Caroline dear; I will send
you some.”

“Magnum bonum!” gasped Caroline, hearing nothing but the name. “Do you
know--?”

“I know the recipe of course, and can give you an excellent one. I will
come over by-and-by and explain it to you.”

Caroline stood confounded. Had Joe revealed all to his brother? Was
it to be treated as a domestic nostrum? “Then you know what the magnum
bonum is?” she faltered.

“Are you asking as a philosopher,” said the Colonel, amused by her tone

“I don’t know what you mean, Colonel,” said his wife. “I offered
Caroline a basket of magnum bonums for preserving, and one would think I
had said something very extraordinary.”

“Perhaps it is my cockney ignorance,” said Caroline, beginning to
breathe freely, and thinking it would have been less oppressive if
Sua Serenita would have either laughed or scolded, instead of gravely
leading her past the red-baize door which shut out the lower regions
to the room where white armies of jam-pots stood marshalled, and in the
midst two or three baskets of big yellow plums, which awoke in her a
remembrance of their name, and set her laughing, thanking, and preparing
to carry home the basket.

This, however, as she was instantly reminded, was not country-town
manners. The gardener was to be sent with them, and Ellen herself would
copy out the recipe, and by-and-by bring it, with full directions.

Each lady felt herself magnanimously forbearing, as Caroline went
home to the lessons, and Ellen repaired to her husband on his morning
inspection of his hens and chickens.

“Poor thing,” she said, “there are great allowances to be made for her.
I believe she wishes to do right.”

“She knows how to teach,” rejoined the Colonel. “Bobus is nearly at the
head of the school, and Johnny has improved greatly since he has been so
much with her.”

“Johnny was always clever,” said his mother. “For my part, I had rather
see them playing at good honest games than messing about with that
museum nonsense. The boys did not do half so much mischief, nor destroy
so many clothes, before they were always running down to the Pagoda. And
as to this setting up a school, you would never consent to have Joe’s
wife doing that!”

“There is no real need.”

“None at all, if she only would--if she only knew how to attend to her
proper duties.”

“At the same time, I should be very glad of an excuse for making her
an advance, enough to meet the weekly bills, till her rent comes in, so
that she may not begin a debt. Could you not send the girls to her for a
few hours every day?”

“That’s not so bad as her taking pupils, for nobody need know that she
was paid for it,” said his wife, considering. “I don’t believe it will
answer, or that she will ever keep to it steadily; but it can hardly
hurt the children to try, if Jessie has an eye on Essie and Ellie. I
will not have them brought on too fast, nor taught Latin, and all that
poor little Babie is learning. I am sure it is dreadful to hear that
child talk. I am always expecting that she will have water on the
brain.”

The decision, which really involved a sacrifice and a certain sense of
risk on the part of these good people, was conveyed in a note, together
with a recipe for the preservation of magnum bonums, and a very liberal
cheque in advance for the first quarter of her three pupils, stipulating
that no others should be admitted, that the terms should be kept secret,
that the hours should be regular, and above all, that the pupils should
not be forced.

Caroline was touched and grateful, but could hardly keep a little satire
out of her promise that Essie and Ellie should not be too precocious.
She wrote her note of thanks, despatched it, and then, in the interest
of some arithmetical problems which she was working with Janet, forgot
everything else, till a sort of gigantic buzz was heard near at hand. A
sudden thought struck her, and out she darted into the hall. There stood
the basket in the middle of the table, just where the boys were wont to
look for refections of fruit or cake when they tumbled in from school.
Six boys and Babie hovered round, each in the act of devouring a
golden-green, egg-like plum, and only two or three remained in the
leaves at the bottom!

“Oh, the magnum bonums!” she cried; and Janet came rushing out in dismay
at the sound, standing aghast, but not exclaiming.

“Weren’t they for us?” asked Bobus, the first to get the stone out of
his mouth.

“No; oh, no!” answered his mother, as well as laughter would permit;
“they are your aunt’s precious plums, which she gave us as a great
favour, and I was going to be so good and learn to preserve and pickle
them! Oh, dear!”

“Never mind, Mother Carey,” mumbled her nephew Johnny, with his stone
swelling out his cheek, where it was tucked for convenience of speech;
“I’ll go and get you another jolly lot more.”

“You can’t,” grunted Robin; “they are all gathered.”

“Then we’ll get them off the old tree at the bottom of the orchard,
where they are just as big and yellow, and mamma will never know the
difference.”

“But they taste like soap!”

“That doesn’t matter. She’d no more taste a magnum bonum, before it is
all titivated up with sugar, than--than--than--”

“Babie’s head with brain sauce,” gravely put in Bobus, as his cousin
paused for a comparison. “It’s a wasting of good gifts to make jam of
these, for jam is nothing but a vehicle for sugar.”

“Then the grocer’s cart is jam,” promptly retorted Armine, “for I saw a
sugarloaf come in one yesterday.”

“Come on, then,” cried Jock, ripe for the mischief; “I know the tree!
They are just like long apricots. Aunt Ellen will think her plums have
been all a-growing!”

“No, no, boys!” cried his mother, “I can’t have it done. To steal your
aunt’s own plums to deceive her with!”

“We always may do as we like with that tree,” said Johnny, “because they
are so nasty, and won’t keep.”

“How nice for the preserves!” observed Bobus.

“They would do just as well to hinder Mother Carey from catching it.”

“No, no, boys; I ought to ‘catch it!’ It was all my fault for not
putting the plums away.”

“You won’t tell of us,” growled Robin, between lips that he opened wide
enough the next moment to admit one of three surviving plums.

“If I tell her I left them about in the boys’ way, she will arrive at
the natural conclusion.”

“Do they call those things magnum bonum?” asked Janet, as the boys
drifted away.

“Yes,” said her mother, looking at her rather wonderingly; and
adding, as Janet coloured up to the eyes, “My dear, have you any other
association with the name?”

Many a time Janet had longed to tell all she knew; now, when so good an
opportunity had come, all was choked back by the strange leaden weight
of reserve, and shame in that long reserve.

She opened her eyes and stared as stupidly at her mother as Robin
could have done, feeling an utter incapacity of making any reply; and
Caroline, who had for a moment thought she understood, was baffled,
and durst not pursue the subject for fear of betraying her own secret,
deciding within herself that Janet might have caught up the word without
understanding.

They were interrupted the next minute, and Janet ran away, feeling that
she had had an escape, yet wishing she had not.

Caroline did effectually shelter her nephews under her general term “the
boys,” and if their mother was not conciliated, their fellow-feeling
with her was strengthened, as well as their sense of honour. Nay, Johnny
actually spent the next half-holiday in walking three miles and back to
his old nurse, whom he beguiled out of a basket of plums--hard, little
blue things, as unlike magnum bonums as could well be, but which his
aunt received as they were meant, as full compensation; nay, she took
the pains to hunt up a recipe, and have them well preserved, in hopes of
amazing his mother.

It was indeed one difficulty that the two sisters-in-law had such
different notions of the aim and end of economy. The income at Kencroft
had not increased with the family, which numbered eight, for there were
two little boys in the nursery, and it was only by diligent housewifery
that Mrs. Brownlow kept up the somewhat handsome establishment she had
started with at her marriage. Caroline felt that she neither could nor
would have made herself such a slave to domestic details; yet this was
life and duty and interest to Ellen. Where one sister would be unheeding
of shabby externals, so that all her children might be free and on an
equality, if they did not go beyond her, in all enjoyments, physical,
artistic, or intellectual; the other toiled to keep up appearances, kept
her children under restraint and in the background, and made all sorts
of unseen sacrifices to the supposed duty of always having a handsome
dinner for whomsoever the Colonel might bring in, and keeping the
horses, carriages, and servants that she thought his due.

But then Ellen had a husband, and, as Caroline sighed to herself, that
made all the difference! and she was no Serene Highness, and had no
dignity.

The three girls from Kencroft did actually become pupils at the Folly,
but the beginnings were not propitious, for, in her new teacher’s eyes,
Jessie knew nothing accurately, but needed to have her foundations
looked to--to practise scales, draw square boxes, and work the four
first rules of arithmetic.

“Simple things,” complained Jessie to her mother, “that I used to do
when I was no bigger than Essie, and yet she is always teasing one about
how and why! She wanted me to tell why I carried one.”

“Have a little patience for the present, my dear, your papa wants to
help her just at present, and after this autumn we will manage for you
to have some real good music lessons.”

“But I don’t like wasting time over old easy things made difficult,”
 sighed Jessie.

“It is very tiresome, my dear; but your papa wishes it, and you see,
poor thing, she can’t teach you more than she knows herself; and while
you are there, I am sure it is all right with Essie and Ellie.”

“She does not teach them a bit like Miss James,” said Jessie. “She makes
their sums into a story, and their spelling lessons too. It is like a
game.”

Indeed, Essie and Ellie were so willing to go off to their lessons every
morning, that their mother often thought it could not be all right,
and that the progress, which they undoubtedly made, must be by some
superficial trick; but as their father had so willed it, she submitted
to the present arrangement, deciding that “poor Caroline was just able
to teach little children.”

The presence of Essie and Ellie much assisted in bringing Babie back to
methodical habits; nor was she, in spite of her precocious intelligence,
too forward in the actual drill of education to be able to work with her
little cousins.

The incongruous elements were the two elder girls, who could by no means
study together, since they were at the two opposite ends of the scale;
but as Jessie was by no means aggressive, being in fact as sweet and
docile a shallow girl as ever lived, things went on peaceably, except
when Janet could not conceal her displeasure that Bobus would not share
her contempt for Jessie’s intellect.

If she told him that Jessie thought that the Odyssey was about a voyage
to Odessa, and was written by Alfred Tennyson, he only declared that
anything was better than being a spiteful cat; and when he came in from
school, and found his cousin in wild despair over the conversion
of 2,861 florins into half-crowns, he stood by, telling her every
operation, and leaving her nothing to do but to write down the figures.
He was reckless of Janet, who tried to wither them both by her scorn;
but Jessie looked up with her honest eyes, saying--

“I wish you hadn’t put it into my head, Janet, for now I must rub it out
and do it again, and it won’t be so hard now Bobus has shown me how.”

“No, no, Jessie,” said Bobus; “I wouldn’t be bullied.”

“For shame, Bobus,” said his sister; “how is she to learn anything in
that way?”

“And if she doesn’t?” said Bobus.

“That’s a disgrace.”

“A grace,” said provoking Bobus. “She is much nicer as she is, than you
will ever be.”

“Don’t talk such nonsense,” said Janet, with an elder sisterly air.
“It is not kind to encourage Jessie to think anyone can care for an
empty-headed doll.”

“Empty-headed dolls are all the go,” said Bobus. “Never mind, Jessie, a
girl’s business is to be pretty and good-humoured, not to stuff herself
with Latin and Greek. You should leave that to us poor beggars!”

“Yes, I know, that’s all your envy and jealousy,” retorted Janet.

All the time Jessie stood by, plump, gentle, and pretty, though with
a certain cloud of perplexity on her white open brow, and as her aunt
returned into the room, she said--

“I think my sum is right now, Aunt Caroline; but Bobus helped me. Must I
do it over again?”

“You shall begin with it to-morrow, my dear,” said her aunt; “then I
daresay it will go off easily.”

Jessie thanked with an effusion of gratitude which made her prettier
than ever, and then was claimed by Bobus to help him in the making of
some paper bags that he needed for some of his curiosities.

Janet liked to fancy that it was beauty versus genius that made Jessie
the greater favourite. She had not taken into account that she was
always too much engrossed with her own concerns to be helpful, while
Jessie’s pretty dexterous hands were always at everyone’s service,
and without in the least entering into the cause of science, she was
invaluable in the museum, whenever her ideas of neatness and symmetry
were not in too absolute opposition to the requirements of system.

The two little ones, Essie and Ellie, were equally graceful, or indeed
still more so, as being still in their kittenhood, and their attitudes
were so charming as to revive their aunt’s artistic instincts.

All the earlier part of the year, when her time was her own, it had been
mere wretchedness and heart-sickness to think of the art which had given
her husband so much pleasure, and, but for Allen, the studio would
never have been arranged. But no sooner was her time engrossed, than
the artist fever awoke in her, and all the time she could steal by early
rising, or on wet afternoons, and birthday holidays, was devoted to her
clay.

Before the end of the autumn she had sent up to Mr. Acton some lovely
little groups of children, illustrating Wordsworth’s poems. She had been
taught anatomy enough to make her work superior to that of most women,
and Mr. Acton found no difficulty in disposing of them to a porcelain
manufactory, to be copied in Parian, bringing in a sum that made her
feel rich.

Vistas opened before her sanguine eyes of that clay educating her son
for the Magnum Bonum, her great thought. Her boys must be brought up to
be worthy of the quest, high-minded, disinterested, and devoted, as well
as intellectual and religious. So said their father; and thus the Magnum
Bonum had become very nearly a religion to her, giving her a definite
aim and principle.

Unfortunately there was not much in her present surroundings to lead her
higher. The vicar, Mr. Rigby, was a dull, weak man, of a wornout type,
a careful visitor of the sick and poor, but taking little heed to the
educated, except as subscribers and Sunday-school teachers. Carey had
done little in the first capacity, Janet had refused to act in the
latter.

His sermons were very sleepy performances, except for a tendency to
jumble up metaphors, that kept the audience from the Folly just awake
enough to watch for them. The hearer was proud who could repeat by heart
such phrases as “let us not, beloved brethren, as gaudy insects, flutter
out life’s little day, bound to the chariot wheels of vanity, whirling
in the vortex of dissipation, until at length we lie moaning over
the bitter dregs of the intoxicating draught.” Some of these became
household proverbs at “the Folly,” under the title of “Rigdum
Funnidoses,” and might well be an extreme distress to the good,
reverent, and dutiful Jessie.

Mrs. Rigby was an inferior woman, a sworn member of the Coffinkey
clique, admiring and looking up to her Serene Highness as the great lady
of the place, and wearing an almost abject manner when receiving good
counsels from her. Neither of them commanded respect, nor were they
likely to change the belief, which prevailed at the Folly, that all
ability resided among the London clergy.



CHAPTER XI. -- UNDINE.



     Lithest, gaudiest harlequin,
     Prettiest tumbler ever seen,
     Light of heart and light of limb.
                                Wordsworth.


Long walks continued to be almost a necessity to Mrs. Joseph Brownlow,
even when comparatively sobered down, and there were few days on which
she was not to be met a mile or two from Kenminster, attended by a train
of boys larger or smaller, according to the demands of the school for
work or play.

The winter was of the description least favourable to collective boyish
sports, as there was no snow and very little frost. The Christmas
holidays led to more walking than ever. The gravelled roads of Belforest
were never impassable, even in moist weather; and even the penetralia
of the place had been laid open to the Brownlows, in consequence of a
friendship which the two Johns had established with Alfred Richards,
the agent’s son. They had brought him in to see the museum, and he had
proved so nice and intelligent a lad, that Mother Carey, to the great
scandal of her Serene Highness, allowed Jock to ask him to partake of a
birthday feast.

When Allen came home at Christmas, he introduced stilt walking, and the
Coffinkey world had the pleasure of communicating to one another that
“Mrs. Folly Brownlow” had been seen with all her boys walking on stilts;
and of course in the next stage, Mrs. “Folly” Brownlow herself was said
to have been walking on stilts with all her boys, a libel, which caused
Mrs. Robert Brownlow much pain and trouble in the contradiction.

“Poor Caroline! walking seemed to be necessary to her health, and she
was out a great deal, but always walking along in the lanes on foot with
her little girls--yes, I assure you, always on foot!”

It was thus that Caroline, with Babie and Armine, was descending a hill
on the other side of Belforest Park, fully employed in picking the way
through the mud from stone to stone, when a cry of dismay came to them
from a distance, and whilst they were still struggling towards a gate,
which broke the line of the high hedge, the two Johns came back at
speed, crying--“Mother, Mother Carey! come quick, here’s Allen had a
spill--came down on his shoulder--his stilt went into a hole, and he
went right over; they think he must have broken something, he howls so
when they touch him.”

Feeling her limbs and breath inadequate to bear her on as fast as her
spirit flew forward, Caroline dashed through the slippery mud far too
swiftly for poor little Babie to keep up with her, leaving one boy to
take care of the little ones, while the other acted as her guide down
the long steep lane. She was unable to see over the hedges till she came
through a gate into a meadow, where Jock looked about, rubbed his eyes,
and exclaimed--“Hallo, where are they?” pointing to the place where
Allen had fallen, but whence he seemed to have been spirited away like
Sir Piercie Shafton. However, Rob and Joe came running out of a farmyard
at a little distance, with tidings that Allen had been taken in there,
and replying to her breathless question, that they could not tell how
much he was hurt.

A fine looking white-haired farmer met her next, saying--“Your young
gentleman is not very seriously hurt, ma’am. I think a dislocation of
the shoulder is the extent of the injury. He is feeling rather faint,
but you must not be alarmed.”

It was spoken with a kind courtesy that gave her confidence, and the old
man led her to the parlour, where his daughter-in-law, a gentle looking
person, was most kindly attending on Allen, who lay on the sofa,
exceedingly white, and in much pain, but able to smile at his mother,
and assure her that he should soon be all right.

“Had they sent for a surgeon?”

“No, but they had sent for a bone-setter, who would be there in a
minute.”

The old farmer explained that it would be two hours at the least before
a surgeon could be fetched from Kenminster, while Higg, the blacksmith,
who lived close at hand, was better for man and beast than any surgeon
he had known, and his son had instantly set out to fetch him. As the
mother doubtfully asked of his fitness, instances were quoted of his
success. The family had a “gift,” inherited and kept up from time
immemorial, and the farmer’s wife declared that he was as tender as
possible; she had seen him operate on a neighbour’s child, and should
not be afraid to trust him with one of her own.

The man’s voice was heard; they went out to speak to him, and Caroline
was left with her boy.

“What do you think, Ali, my dear,” she said, kneeling by him, “I
have often heard dear papa speak of the wonderful instinct of those
bone-setting families.”

“I’d have nothing to do with a humbugging quack,” put in Bobus.

“He may humbug as much as he likes, if he’ll only get me out of this
pain,” said poor Allen.

“He will only make it ever so much worse, and then you’ll have to have
it done over again,” croaked Bobus.

“That is not the way to talk of it, Bobus,” said his mother. “I know
a dislocated shoulder does not require any great skill, and that
promptness is of greater use than knowledge in such a case.”

“Well, if you like to encourage abominable humbug and have Allen lamed
for life, I don’t,” said Bobus. “I shan’t stay in the house with the
blackguard.”

He stalked out of the room with great loftiness of demeanour, just as
the operator was being introduced--a tall, sinewy man, with one of those
strong yet meek faces often to be found among the peasantry. He came in
after the old farmer, pulling his forelock to the lady, and waiting for
orders as if he had been sent for to mend the grate; but Caroline saw in
a moment that he was a man to trust in, and that his hands were not
only clean, but were well-formed, and powerful, with a great air of
dexterity.

“I am afraid my boy’s arm is put out,” she said, trembling a good deal.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And--and,” said she, feeling sick, and more desolate and left to her
own judgment than ever before. “Can you undertake to push it in again.”

“Please God, ma’am,” Higg said, gravely, coming nearer for examination.

Allen shrank and shuddered.

“Won’t it hurt awfully?” he asked.

“Well, sir, it won’t just be a bed of roses, but it won’t last, not
long, if you sets your will to it.”

He asked for various needments, and while he was inspecting them,
Allen’s courage began to fail, and he breathed out whispers that the man
was rougher and more ignorant than he expected, and they had better
wait and send to Kenminster for a doctor; but those who thought Caroline
helpless and childish would have been amazed at the gentle resolution
with which she refused to listen to his falterings, and braced him to
endure, knowing well that her husband had said that skill was hardly
needed in such a case, only resolution. She would not let herself be
taken out of the room, and indeed never thought of herself, only
of Allen, whose other hand she held, and to whom she seemed to give
patience and courage. When all was well over, there was a hospitable
invitation to the patient to remain till he was fit to return, and an
extension of the invitation to his mother, but with promises of every
care if she must leave him, and this she was forced to decide on doing,
as such a household as hers could not well spare her, especially on a
Saturday evening; and she also saw that the inconvenience to her hosts
would have been great.

Allen was so much relieved, that she had no fear of leaving him to these
kind people, to whom she had taken a great fancy.

“I shall learn the habits of the genuine species, British farmer,”
 said he, as his mother kissed him, and declared him the best and most
conformable of boys.

Old Mr. Gould would not be denied driving her home in his gig, and when
she thought about it, she found she had a strange relaxed aching of the
knees, which made her glad of kindness for herself and the little ones.
In the fine old kitchen she found that Armine had had an overpowering
fit of crying, which had been kindly soothed by motherly Mrs. Gould, and
the whole party were partaking of a luxurious tea, enlivened by mince
pies and rosy-cheeked apples, which had diverted his attention to the
problem why the next year’s prosperity should depend on the number of
mince pies consumed before Christmas.

Bobus was not among them, having marched off in his contempt of the
bone-setter, and his mother was not without fears that he might bring a
real surgeon down on her at any moment, so she quickly drank off her cup
of tea, and took her seat in Farmer Gould’s gig with Babie as bodkin in
front, and Joe and Armine in the little seat behind. Robin and the two
Johns were to stilt themselves home, while she was taken so long and
rugged a way, that at every jolt she was ready to renew her thanks for
sparing it to her son’s shoulder; and they were at home before her.

The whole family came pouring out to meet her, and the Colonel made warm
acknowledgments of the farmer’s kindness, speaking of him when he was
gone as one of the most estimable men in the neighbourhood, staunch in
his politics, and very ill-used by old Barnes of Belforest.

Caroline looked anxiously for Bobus; and Janet, who had stayed at home
to finish some papers for her essay society, said that he had only
hurried in to tell her and take off his stilts, and had then gone down
to Dr. Leslie’s.

“Then has Dr. Leslie gone? We did not meet him, but he may have gone
through Belforest,” exclaimed Caroline.

“O no, he has not gone; he would not when he heard about that Higg,”
 said Janet, with uneasy and much disgusted face. “He couldn’t do any
good after his meddling.”

“Do you mean that he said so?” asked Carey, much alarmed.

“Never mind,” said the Colonel, “you did quite right, Caroline, whatever
the doctor says. Any man of sense, with good strong hands, can manage
a shoulder like that, and I should have thought Leslie had sense to see
it; but those professional men can’t stand outsiders.”

“Where is Bobus?” asked Caroline; “I should like to distinguish between
what Dr. Leslie said to him and what he told Janet. He might be more
zealous for Dr. Leslie than Dr. Leslie for himself.”

Bobus was unearthed, and by much pumping was made to allow that Dr.
Leslie had told him that there was nothing more to be done, and that
his brother was quite safe in Higg’s hands; but Bobus evidently did not
believe it. He kept silence while his uncle remained, but he had hunted
up his father’s surgical books, and went on about humeral clavicles and
ligatures all the evening, till his mother felt sick, in the nervous
contemplation of possibilities, though her better sense was secure that
she had done right, while Janet was moodily silent and angered with her,
in the belief that she had weakly let Allen be injured for life; and
Bobus seemed as if he had rather it should be so than that he should be
wrong, and Higg’s native endowments turn out a reality.

Caroline abstained from looking at the book herself, partly because she
thought she might only alarm herself the more without confuting Bobus,
and partly because she knew that the old law which forbade Janet to
meddle with the medical books, would be considered as abrogated if she
touched them herself.

Both she and Janet were much more anxious than they confessed, except
by the looks which betrayed their broken rest the next morning. Each
was bent on walking to River Hollow, and they would fain have done so
immediately after breakfast, but to take the whole tribe was impossible;
and to let them go to Church without her, would infallibly lead to
Jock’s getting into a scrape with his relatives, if not with the whole
congregation. Was it not all her eyes could do to hinder palpable smiles
in the sermon, and her monkey from playing tricks on his bear, who, by
some fatality, always sat in front, with his irresistible broad back,
down which, in spite of all her vigilance, Jock had once thrust a large
bluebottle fly. She also knew that both her husband and his mother would
have thought she ought to go to Church, and that if matters went
amiss with her boy, she should reproach herself with the omission. Her
children, too, influenced her, though very oppositely, for Janet was
found preparing to start for River Hollow, and on being told that she
must wait, to go with her mother, till after Church, declared defiantly
that “she saw no sense in staying at home to hear Rigdum when she did
not know how ill Allen might be.”

“You would not have said that to grandmamma,” said Carey.

“Well, if you like to go to Church, you can. I can go alone.”

“No, I will not have you take that long walk alone.”

“Then I will take one of the boys.”

“No, Janet, I mean to be obeyed. Go and put on your other hat, and do
not make us late for Church.”

Janet was forced to submit, for she never came to the point of actual
disobedience to her mother. Caroline’s ruffled feelings were soothed by
little Armine, who ran in from feeding his rabbits to ask to have the
place in his Prayer-book shown to him where he should pray for poor
Allen. She marked the Litany sentence for him, and meant to have thrown
her own heart into it, but when the moment came, her mind was far
astray, building vague castles about her boys.

Still she felt as if her church going had its reward, for Dr. Leslie
met her a little way outside the porch, and, after asking after her boy,
said--

“I hope his brother explained to you that Higg is quite to be trusted.
He always knows what he can do, and when a case is beyond him. If I had
come there would have been nothing for me to do.”

“There!” said Jock, triumphantly to his brother and sister.

“Much you know about it,” grunted Bobus.

“Mother Carey was right. She always is,” persisted Jock.

“It would have been just the same if the man had known nothing about
it,” said Janet. “I hate your irregular practitioners, and it was very
weak in mother to encourage them.” Then, as Bobus snarled at the censure
of his mother--“You said so yourself yesterday.”

“I didn’t say any such beastly thing of mother. She could tell whether
it was just a simple dislocation, and she was right, having ever so much
more sense than _you_, Janet.”

“You didn’t say so yesterday,” repeated Janet.

“I don’t like irregular practitioners a bit better than you do, Janet,”
 said Bobus with dignity; “and I thought it right to call in a qualified
surgeon, but I never said mother couldn’t judge.”

However, Bobus would not countenance the irregular practitioner by
escorting his mother to River Hollow; and as he was in one of the
surly moods in which he was dangerous to any one who meddled with him,
especially Janet, his mother was glad not to have to keep the peace
between them.

Janet, though not in the most amiable mood, chose to go with her, and
they set forth by the shorter way, across Belforest park, skirting the
gardens where the statues stood up, looking shivery and forlorn, as if
they were not suited to English winters, and the huge house looked
down on them like a London terrace that had lost its way, with a dreary
uninhabited air about it. Even by this private way they had two miles
and a half of park to traverse, before they reached a heavy miry lane,
where the beds of mud, alternated with rugged masses of stone, intended
to choke them. It led up between high hedges to the brow of one of the
many hills of the county, whence they could look down into the hollow, a
perfect cup, scooped out as it were between the hills that closed it in,
except at the outlet of the river that intersected it, making the meadow
on either side emerald green, even in the winter. Corn lands of rich red
soil, pasture fields dotted with cattle, and broad belts of copse wood
between clothed the slopes; and a picturesque wooden bridge, with a
double handrail, crossed the river. The farm-house, built of creamy
stone, stood on the opposite side of the river, some way above the bank,
and the mother and daughter agreed that it deserved to be sketched next
summer.

They had to pick their way down a lane that was almost a torrent, and
emerging at the foot of the bridge, they stood still in amazement, for
in the very centre was something vibrating rapidly, surrounded by a
perfect halo of gold and scarlet. It was like a gigantic humming-bird
moth at first, but it presently resolved itself into a little girl,
clad in something dark purple below, and above with a bright scarlet
cloaklet, which flew out and streamed back, beneath the floating locks
of glistening gold that glinted in the sun, as with a hand on each rail
of the bridge she swung herself backwards and forwards with the most
bewildering rapidity. Suddenly becoming aware of the approach of
strangers, she stood for one moment gazing in astonishment, then fled
so swiftly that she almost seemed to fly, and vanished in the farm
buildings!

They stood laughing and declaring that Babie would be convinced that
fairies came out on Sunday, then crossed the river and were beginning
to ascend the path when a volley of sounds broke on them, a shrill yap
giving the alarm, louder notes joining in, and the bass being supplied
by a formidable deep-mouthed bark, as out of the farmyard-gate dashed
little terrier, curly spaniel, slim greyhounds, surly sheep-dog of the
old tailless sort, and big and mighty Newfoundland, and there they stood
in a row, shouting forth defiance in all gradations of note, so that,
though frightened, Carey and Janet could not help laughing, as the
former said--

“This comes of gadding about on Sunday.”

“If we went on boldly they would see we are not tramps,” said Janet.

“Depend on it they will let no one pass in Church time.”

So it proved, for Janet’s attempt to move forward elicited a growl from
the sheep-dog, and a leap forward of the “little dogs and all,” which
daunted even her stout heart.

However, calls were heard, and the bright vision of the bridge came
darting among the dogs, scolding and driving them in, and Allen himself
came out to the gate, all bandaged up on one side, but waving his arm as
a signal to his mother and sister to advance. They did so nervously but
safely, while the growls of the sheep-dog sounded like distant thunder,
and the terrier uttered his protest from the door. Allen declared
himself much better, and said he should be quite able to go home
to-morrow, only this was such a jolly place; and then he brought them
into the beautiful old kitchen with a magnificent open hearth, inclosed
by two fine dark walnut-wood settles, making a little carpeted chamber
between them. Here Allen had the farmer’s armchair and a footstool, and
with “Foxe’s Martyrs” open at a flaming illustration on the little round
table before him, appeared to be spending his Sunday as luxuriously as
the big tabby cat who shared the hearth with him.

“They have only one service at Woodbridge, morning and afternoon by
turns,” he explained, “and so they are all gone to it.”

“Who is that girl?” asked Janet.

“Undine,” he coolly replied.

“She certainly appeared on the bridge,” said his mother, “but I should
think Undine’s colouring had been less radiant--more of the blue and
white.”

“She had not a whiter skin nor bluer eyes,” said Allen, “nor made
herself more ridiculous either. Did you ever see such hair, mother?
Hullo, Elfie. There she is, peeping in at the window, just as Undine
did; Come in!” he cried at the door. “No, not she,” as he returned
baffled; “she is off again!”

“But, Allen, who is she? Not Farmer Gould’s daughter.”

“Of course not. Don’t you know she was fished up in a net, and belonged
to a palace under the ocean full of pearls and diamonds. She took such a
fancy to me that no power on earth would make her go to Church with the
rest. She ran away, and hid, and when they were all gone she came out
and curled herself up at my feet and chattered, till I happened to
offend her majesty, and off she went like a shot. I’m only thankful
that she did not make her pearly teeth meet in my finger in true Undine
fashion.”

“But who is she, really?”

“I can’t quite make out. They call her Elfie, and she calls them
grandpapa, and uncle and aunt, but she has been sitting here complaining
of everything being cold and dull, and talking about seas and islands,
palm-trees, and coral caves, and humming birds, yes, and black slaves,
and strings of pearls, so that if she is romancing, like Armine and
Babie, she does it uncommonly naturally.”

They saw no more of this mysterious little being, and the family soon
returned from Church. The father was a fine, old-fashioned yeoman,
the son had the style of a modern farmer, and the wife was so quiet,
sensible, and matronly as to be almost ladylike. Her two little girls
were dressed as well as Essie and Ellie, but all were essentially
commonplace. They were very kind and friendly, anxious that Allen
should stay as long as was good for him, as well as pressing in their
hospitality to the two ladies. Mr. Gould was very anxious to drive them
home in his gig, though he allowed that the road was very rough unless
you went through Belforest Park, and that he never did.

This was surprising, for Belforest had always seemed as free as the
turnpike-road, and River Hollow was apparently part of the estate, but
there was an air of discouraging questions, so Carey suspected quarrels
and asked none.

She was enlightened the next day when Colonel Brownlow brought his
phaeton to fetch Allen home over the smooth park road. He told her
that the Goulds were freeholders who had owned River Hollow from time
immemorial, though each successive lord of Belforest tried to buy them
out. The alienation between them and Mr. Barnes, the present master, had
however much stronger grounds than these. His nephew and intended heir
has stolen a match with the old man’s pretty daughter, and this had
never been forgiven. The young couple had gone out to the West Indian
isles, where the early home of her husband had been, and where he held
some government office, and there fell a victim to the climate. Old Mr.
Gould had gone home to fetch his daughter and her child, but the former
had died before he reached her, and he had only brought back the little
girl about two years ago.

Mr. Barnes ignored her entirely, and the Goulds, who had a good deal
of pride, did not choose to apply to him. It was very unfortunate,
for unless he had any other relations the child must be heiress to his
immense wealth, though it was as likely as not that he would leave it
all to hospitals out of pure vindictiveness.

They found Allen out of doors attended by the three little girls, all
eagerly watching the removal of a sheep-fold. He was a pleasant-mannered
boy, ready to adapt himself to all circumstances and to throw ready
intelligent interest into everything, and he had won the hearts of
the whole River Hollow establishment, from old Mr. Gould down to the
smallest puppy.

Elfie, as he called her, stood her ground, and as she looked up under
her brown mushroom hat Caroline was struck with her beauty, fair, but
with a southern richness of bloom and glow--the carnation cheek of a
depth of tint more often found in brunette complexions. The eyes were
not merely blue by courtesy, but of a wonderful deep azure, shaded by
very long lashes, dark except when the sun glinted them with gold, and
round her shoulders hung masses of hair of that exquisite light auburn
which cannot be accused of being red.

She let herself be greeted by the strangers with much more ease and
grace than the other two children, but the slow walk of her grandfather
and Colonel Brownlow seemed more than she could brook, and she went off,
flying and spinning round like a little dog.

While all the acknowledgments and farewells were being made, and Colonel
Brownlow was taking directions for finding Higg’s house and forge so
as to remunerate him for his services, Elfie came hurrying up to Allen,
holding out a great, gorgeous pink-lined shell, and laid within it two
heads of scarlet geranium on a green leaf.

“O Elfie, Elfie! how could you?” exclaimed he, knowing them to be the
only flowers in bloom.

“You must have them. There’s nothing else pretty to give you, and I love
you,” said the child, holding up her face to kiss him.

“Elvira!” said her aunt in warning, “how can you! What will this lady
think of you?”

Elvira’s gesture would in any other child have seemed a sulky thrust
of the elbow, but in her it was more like the flutter of the wing of a
brilliant bird.

“You must,” she repeated; and when he hesitated with “If Mrs. Gould,”
 she broke away, dashed the flowers, shell and all, into the middle of a
clump of rosemary, and rushed out of sight like a little fury.

“You will excuse her, Mrs. Brownlow,” said Mrs. Gould, much annoyed.
“She has been sadly spoilt, living among negro servants and having her
own way, so that she is sometimes quite ungovernable.”

“Nay, nay, she is a warm-hearted little thing if you don’t cross her,”
 said the old farmer; “and the young gentleman has been very kind to
her.”

Mrs. Gould looked as if she thought she knew her niece better than
grandpapa did, but she was too wise to speak; and the little girls,
having assisted Allen in the recovery of the shell and the flowers, he
tendered them again to her.

“You had better keep them, Mr. Brownlow,” she said. “The shell is her
own, and if you did not take it she is so _tenacious_ that she would be
sure to smash it to atoms.”

Allen accepted perforce and proceeded with his farewells, but as he was
stooping down to kiss little five-year-old Kate Gould, something wet,
cold, and sloppy came with great force on them both, almost knocking
them down and bespattering them both with black drops. The missile
proved to be a dripping sod pulled up from the duck-pond in the
next field, and a glimpse might be caught of Elvira’s scarlet legs
disappearing over the low wall between.

Over poor Mrs. Gould’s apologies a veil had best be drawn. Mother Carey
pitied her heartily, but it was impossible not to make fun at home
over the black tokens on Allen’s shirt-collar. His brothers and sisters
laughed excessively, and Janet twitted him with his Undine, till he,
contrary to his wont, grew so cross as to make his mother recollect that
he was still a suffering patient, and insist on his lying quiet on the
sofa, while she banished every one, and read Tennyson to him. Poetry,
read aloud by her, was Allen’s greatest delight, but not often enjoyed,
as Bobus and Jock scouted it, and Janet was getting too strong-minded
and used to break in with inopportune, criticisms.

So to have Mother Carey to read “Elaine” undisturbed was as great an
indulgence as Allen could well have, but she had not gone far before he
broke out--

“Mother, please, I wish you could do something for that girl. She really
is a lady.”

“So it appears,” said Carey, much disposed to laugh.

“Now, mother, don’t be tiresome. You have more sense than Janet. Her
father was Vice-consul at Sant Ildefonso, one of the Antilles.”

“But, my dear, I am afraid that is not quite so grand as it sounds--”

“Hush, mother. He was nephew to Mr. Barnes, and they lived out of the
town in a perfect paradise of a place, looking out into the bay. Mr.
Gould says he can hardly believe he ever saw anything so gorgeously
beautiful, and there this poor little Elvira de Menella lived like a
princess with a court of black slaves. Just fancy what it must be to her
to come to that farm, an orphan too, with an aunt who can’t understand a
creature like that.”

“Poor child.”

“Then she can’t get any education. Old Gould is a sensible man, who says
any school he could afford would only turn her out a sham, and he means,
when Mary and Kate are a little older, to get some sort of governess for
the three. But, mother, couldn’t you just let him bring her in on market
days and teach her a little?”

“My dear boy, what would your aunt do? We can’t have sods of mud flying
about the house.”

“Now, mother, you know better! You could make anything of her, you know
you could! And what a model she would make! Think what a poor little
desolate thing she is. You always have a fellow feeling for orphans, and
we do owe those people a great deal of gratitude.”

“Allen, you special pleader, it really will not do! If I had not
undertaken Essie and Ellie, I might think about it, but I promised your
aunt not to have any other pupils.”

Allen bothered Essie and Ellie, but was forced to acquiesce, which was
fortunate, for when on the last day of the holidays it was found that
he had walked to River Hollow to take leave of the Goulds, his aunt
administered to his mother a serious warning on the dangers of allowing
him to become intimate there.

Caroline tingled all over during the discourse, and at last jumped up,
exclaiming--

“My dear Ellen, half the harm in the world is done by making a fuss.
Things don’t die half so hard when they die a natural death.”

Ellen knew Carey thought she had said something very clever, but was all
the more unconvinced.



CHAPTER XII. -- KING MIDAS.



     When I did him at this advantage take,
     An ass’s nowl I fixed upon his head.
                          Midsummer Night’s Dream.


In the early spring an unlooked-for obstacle arose to all wanderings in
the Belforest woods. The owner returned and closed the gates. From
time that seemed immemorial, the inhabitants of Kenminster had disported
themselves there as if the grounds had been kept up for their sole
behoof, and their indignation at the monopoly knew no bounds.

Nobody saw Mr. Barnes save his doctor, whose carriage was the only one
admitted within the lodge gates, intending visitors being there informed
that Mr. Barnes was too unwell to be disturbed.

Mrs. “Folly” Brownlow’s aberrations lost their interest in the Coffinkey
world beside the mystery of Belforest. Opinions varied as to his being
a miser, or a lunatic, a prey to conscience, disease, or deformity; and
reports were so diverse, that at the “Folly” a journal was kept of them,
with their dates, as a matter of curiosity--their authorities marked:--

March 4th.--Mr. Barnes eats nothing but fresh turtle. Brings them down
in tubs alive and flapping. Mrs. Coffinkey’s Jane heard them cooing at
the station. Gives his cook three hundred pounds per annum.

5th.--Mr. Barnes so miserly, that he turned away the housemaid for
burning candles eight to the pound. (H. S. H.)

6th.--Mr. B. keeps a bloodhound trained to hunt Indians, and has six
pounds of prime beef steaks for it every day. (Emma.)

8th.--Mr. B.’s library is decorated with a string of human ears, the
clippings of his slaves in “the Indies.” (Nurse.)

12th.--Mr. B. whipped a little black boy to death, and is so haunted by
remorse, that he can’t sleep without wax-candles burning all round him.
(Mrs. Coffinkey’s sister-in-law.)

14th.--Mr. Barnes’s income is five hundred thousand pounds, and he does
not live at the rate of two hundred pounds. (Col. Brownlow.)

l5th.--He has turned off all his gardeners, and the place will be
desolation. (H. S. H.)

16th.--He did turn off one gardener’s boy for staring at him when he was
being wheeled about in his bath-chair. (Alfred Richards.)

17th.--He threw a stone, which cut the boy’s head open, and he lies at
the hospital in a dangerous state. (Emma.)

18th.--Mr. Barnes was crossed in love when he was a young man by one
Miss Anne Thorpe, and has never been the same man since, but has hated
all society. (Query: Is this a version of being a misanthrope?)

19th.--He is a most unhappy man, who has sacrificed all family
affections and all humanity to gold, and whose conscience will not let
him rest. He is worn to a shadow, and is at war with mankind. In fine,
he is a lesson to weak human nature. (Mrs. Rigby.)

22nd.--All his toilet apparatus is of “virgin gold;” he lets nothing
else touch him. (Jessie.)

“Exactly like King Midas.” (Babie.)

The exclusion from the grounds was a serious grievance, entailing much
loss of time and hindrance to the many who had profited by the private
roads. The Sunday promenade was a great deprivation; nurses and children
were cut off from grass and shade, and Mother Carey and her brood from
all the delights of the enchanted ground.

She could bear the loss better than in that first wild restlessness,
which only free nature could allay. She had made her occupations, and
knew of other haunts, though many a longing eye was cast at the sweet
green wilderness, and many regrets spent on the rambles, the sketches,
the plants, and the creatures that had seemed the certain entertainment
of the summer.

To one class of the population the prohibition only gave greater
zest--namely, the boys. Should there be birds’ nests in Belforest
unscathed by the youth of St. Kenelm’s? What were notice-boards,
palings, or walls to boys with arms and legs ready to defy even the
celebrated man-traps of Ellangowan, “which, if a man goes in, they will
break a horse’s leg?” The terrific bloodhound alarmed a few till his
existence was denied by Alfred Richards, the agent’s son; and dodging
the keepers was a new and exciting sport. At first, these men were not
solicitous for captures, but their negligence was so often detected,
that they began to believe that their master kept telescopes that could
penetrate through trees, and their vigilance increased.

Bobus, in quest of green hellebore, got off with a warning; but a week
later, Robin and Jock were inspecting the heronry, when they caught
sight of a keeper, and dashed off to find themselves running into the
jaws of another. Swift as lightning, Jock sprung up into an ivied ash;
but the less ready Bob was caught by the leg as he mounted, and pulled
down again, while his captor shouted, “If there’s any more of you young
varmint up yonder, you’d best come down before I fires up into the
hoivy.”

He made a click and pointed his gun, and Robin shrieked, “Oh, don’t!
We are Colonel Brownlow’s sons; at least, I mean nephews. Don’t! I say.
Skipjack, come down.”

“You ass!” muttered Jack, as he crackled down, and was collared by the
keeper. “Hollo! what’s that for?”

“Now, young gents, why will you come larking here to get a poor chap out
of his situation. It’s as much as my place is worth not to summons you,
and yet I don’t half like to do it to young gents like you.”

“What could they do to us?” asked Jock.

“Well, sir, may be they’d keep you in the lock-up all night; and what
would your papa and mamma say to that?”

“My father is Colonel Brownlow,” growled Robin.

“More shame for you, sir, to want to get a poor man out of his place.”

“Look here, my man,” said Jock with London sharpness and impudence, “if
you want to bully us into tipping you, it’s no go. We’ve only got one
copper between us, and nothing else but our knives; and if we had, we
wouldn’t do such a sneaking thing!”

“I never meant no such thing, sir,” said the keeper; “only in case Mr.
Barnes should hear of our good nature.”

“Come along, Robin,” said Jock; “if we are had up, we’ll let ‘em know
how Leggings wanted us to buy off!”

Wherewith Jock made a rush, Rob plunged after him into the brambles, and
they never halted till they had tumbled over the park wall, and lay in a
breathless heap on the other side. The adventure was the fruitful cause
of mirth at the Folly, but not a word was breathed of it at Kencroft.

A few other lads did actually pay toll to the keepers, and some
penniless ones were brought before the magistrates and fined for
trespass, “because they could not afford it,” as Caroline said, and
to the Colonel’s great disgust she sent two sovereigns by Allen to pay
their fines and set them free.

“It was my own money,” she said, in self-defence, “earned by my models
of fungi.”

The Colonel thought it an unsatisfactory justification, and told
her that she would lay up trouble for herself by thus encouraging
insubordination. He little thought that the laugh in her eyes was at his
complacent ignorance of his own son’s narrow escape.

Allen was at home for Easter, when Eton gave longer holidays than did
St. Kenelm, so that his brothers were at work again long before he
was. One afternoon, which had ended in a soaking mist, the two pairs of
Roberts and Johns encountered him at the Folly gate so disguised in mud
that they hardly recognised the dainty Etonian.

“That brute Barnes,” he ejaculated; “I had to come miles round through a
disgusting lane. I wish I had gone on. I’d have proved the right of way
if he chose to prosecute me!”

“Father says that’s no go,” said Robin.

“I say, Allen, what a guy you are,” added Johnny.

“And he’s got his swell trousers on,” cried Jock, capering with glee.

“I see,” gravely observed Bobus, “he had got himself up regardless of
expense for his Undine, and she has treated him to another dose of her
native element.

“She had nothing to do with it,” asseverated Allen, “she was as good as
gold--”

“Ah! I knew he wasn’t figged out for nothing,” put in Jock.

“Don’t be ashamed, Ali, my boy,” added Bobus. “We all understand her
little tokens.”

“Stop that!” cried Allen, catching hold of Jock’s ear so as to end his
war-dance in a howl, bringing the ponderous Rob to the rescue, and there
was a general melee, ending by all the five rolling promiscuously on the
gravel drive. They scrambled up with recovered tempers, and at the sight
of an indignant housemaid rushed in a general stampede to the two large
attics opening into one another, which served as the lair of the Folly
lads. There, while struggling, with Jock’s assistance, to pull off
his boots, Allen explained how he had been waylaid “by a beast in
velveteens,” and walked off to the nearest gate.

“Will he summons you, Ali? We’ll all go and see the Grand Turk in the
dock,” cried Jock.

“Don’t flatter yourself; he wouldn’t think of it.”

“How much did you fork out?” asked Bobus.

Allen declaimed in the last refinement of Eton slang (carefully
treasured up by the others for reproduction) against the spite of the
keeper, who he declared had grinned with malice as he turned him out at
a little back gate into a lane with a high stone wall on each side,
and two ruts running like torrents with water, leading in the opposite
direction to Kenminster, and ending in a bottom where he was up to the
ankles in red clay.

“The Eton boots, oh my!” cried Jock, falling backwards with one of them,
which he had just pulled off.

“And then,” added Allen, “as I tried to get along under the wall by the
bank, what should a miserable stone do, but turn round with me and send
me squash into the mud and mire, floundering like a hippopotamus. I
should like to get damages from that villain! I should!”

Allen was much more angry than was usual with him, and the others,
though laughing at his Etonian airs, fully sympathised with his wrath.

“He ought to be served out.”

“We will serve him out!”

“How?”

“Get all our fellows and make a jolly good row under his windows,” said
Robin.

“Decidedly low,” said Allen.

“And impracticable besides,” said Bobus. “They’d kick you out before you
could say Jack Robinson.”

“There was an old book of father’s,” suggested Jock, “with an old scamp
who starved and licked his apprentices, till one of them dressed himself
up in a bullock’s hide, horns and hoofs, and tail and all, and stood
over his bed at night and shouted--


     “‘Old man, old man, for thy cruelty,
       Body and soul thou art given to me;
       Let me but hear those apprentices’ cries,
       And I’ll toss thee, and gore thee, and bore out thine eyes.’


And he was quite mild to the apprentices ever after.”

Jock acted and roared with such effect as to be encored, but Rob
objected. “He ain’t got any apprentices.”

“It might be altered,” said Allen.


       “Old man, old man, thy gates thou must ope,”


Bobus chimed in.


       “Nor force Eton swells in quagmire to grope.”


“Bother you, don’t humbug and put me out.


       “Old man, old man, if for aught thou wouldst hope,
        Thy heart, purse, and gates thou must instantly ope.
        Let me but--”


“Get Mother Carey to write it,” suggested his cousin John.

“No; she must know nothing about it,” said Bobus.

“She’d think it a jolly lark,” said Jock.

“When it’s over,” said Allen. “But it’s one of the things that the old
ones are sure to stick at beforehand, if they are ever so rational and
jolly.”

“‘Tis a horrid pity she is not a fellow,” sighed Johnny.

“And who’ll do the verses?” said Rob.

“Oh, any fool can do them,” returned Bobus. “The point is to bell the
cat.”

“There’d be no getting in to act the midnight ghost,” said Allen.

“No,” said Jock; “but one could hide in the big rhododendron in the
wolf-skin rug, and jump out on him in his chair.”

In Allen’s railway rug, Jock rehearsed the scene, and was imitated if
not surpassed by both cousins; but Allen and Bobus declared that it
could not be carried out in the daylight.

“I could do it still better,” said Jock, “if I blacked myself all
over, not only my face, but all the rest, and put on nothing but my red
flannel drawers and a turban. They’d take me for the ghost of the little
nigger he flogged to death, and Allen could write something pathetic and
stunning.”

“You might cut human ears out of rabbit-skins and hang them round your
neck,” added Bobus.

“You’d be awfully cold,” said Allen.

“You could mix in a little iodine,” suggested Bobus. “That stings like
fun, and a coppery tinge would be more natural.”

There was great acclamation, but the difficulty was that the only time
for effecting an entrance into the garden was between four and five in
the morning, and it would be needful to lurk there in this light costume
till Mr. Barnes went out. No one would be at liberty from school but
Allen, and he declined the oil and lamp-black even though warmed up with
iodine.

“Could it not be done by deputy?” said Bobus; “we might blacken the
little fat boy riding on a swan, the statue, I mean.”

“What, and gild the swan, to show how far his golden goose can carry
him?” said Jock.

“Or,” said Allen, “there’s the statue they say is himself, though that’s
all nonsense. We could make a pair of donkey’s ears in Mother Carey’s
clay, and clap them on him, and gild the thing in his hand.”

“What would be the good of that?” asked Robert.

However, the fun was irresistible, and the only wonder was that the
secret was kept for the whole day, while Allen moulded in the studio
two things that might pass for ass’s ears, and secreted cement enough to
fasten them on. The performance elicited such a rapture of applause that
the door had to be fast locked against the incursion of the little ones
to learn the cause of the mirth. When Mother Carey asked at tea what
they were having so much fun about they only blushed, sniggled, and
wriggled in their chairs in a way that would have alarmed a more
suspicious mother, but only made her conclude that some delightful
surprise was preparing, for which she must keep her curiosity in
abeyance.

“Nor was she dismayed by the creaking of boots on the attic stairs
before dawn, and when the boys appeared at breakfast with hellebore,
blue periwinkle, and daffodils, clear indications of where they had
been, she only exclaimed--

“Forbidden sweets! O you naughty boys!” when ecstatic laughter alone
replied.

She heard no more till the afternoon, when the return from school was
notified by shouts from Allen, and the boys rushed up to the verandah
where he was reading.

“I say! here’s a go. He thinks Richards has done it, and has written to
Ogilvie to have him expelled.”

“How do you know?”

“He told me himself.”

“But Ogilvie has too much sense to expel him!”

“Of course, but there’s worse, for old Barnes means to turn off his
father. Nothing will persuade the old fellow that it wasn’t his work,
for he says that it must be a grammar-school boy.”

“Does Dicky Bird guess?”

“Yes, but he’s all right, as close as wax. He says he was sure no one
but ourselves could have done it, for nobody else could have thought of
such things or made them either.”

“Then he has seen it?”

“Yes, and he was fit to kill himself with laughing, though his father
and old Barnes were mad with rage and fury. His father believes him, but
old Barnes believes neither of them, and swears his father shall go.”

“We shall have to split on ourselves,” elegantly observed Johnny.

“We had better tell Mother Carey. Hullo! here she is, inside the
window.”

“Didn’t you know that,” said Allen.

Therefore the boys, leaning and sprawling round her, half in and
half out of the window, told the story, the triumph overcoming all
compunction, as they described the morning raid, the successful scaling
of the park-wall, the rush across the sward, the silence of the garden,
the hoisting up of Allen to fasten on the ears, and the wonderful charms
of the figure when it wore them and held a golden apple in its hand.
“Right of Way,” and “Let us in,” had been written in black on all the
pedestals.

“It is a peculiar way of recommending your admission,” said Caroline.

“That’s Rob’s doing,” said Allen. “I couldn’t look after him while I
was gilding the apple or I would have stopped him. He half blacked the
little boy on the swan too--”

“And broke the swan’s bill off, worse luck,” added Johnny.

“Yes,” said Allen, “that was altogether low and unlucky! I meant the old
fellow simply to have thought that his statue had grown a pair of ears
in the night.”

“And what would have been the use of that?” said Robin.

“What was the use of all your scrawling,” said Allen, “except just to
show it was not the natural development of statues.”

“Yes,” added Bobus, “it all came of you that poor Dickey Bird is
suspected and it is all blown up.”

“As if he would have thought it was done by nobody,” said Rob.

“Why not?” said Jock. “I’m sure I’d never wonder to see ass’s ears
growing on you. I think they are coming.”

There was a shout of laughter as Rob hastily put up his hands to feel
for them, adding in his slow, gruff voice--“A statue ain’t alive.”

“It made a fool of the whole matter,” proceeded Bobus. “I wish we’d kept
a lout like you out of it.”

“Hush, hush, Bobus,” put in his mother, “no matter about that. The
question is what is to be done about poor Mr. Richards and Alfred.”

“Write a poetical letter,” said Allen, beginning to extemporise in
Hiawatha measure.


          “O thou mighty man of money,
           Barnes, of Belforest, Esquire,
           Innocent is Alfred Richards;
           Innocent his honest father;
           Innocent as unborn baby
           Of development of Midas,
           Of the smearing of the Cupid,
           Of the fracture of the goose-bill,
           Of the writing of the mottoes.
           All the Brownlows of St. Kenelm’s,
           From the Folly and from Kencroft.
           Robert, the aspiring soldier,
           Robert, too, the sucking chemist,
           John, the Skipjack full of mischief,
           John, the great originator,
           Allen, the--”


“Allen the uncommon gaby,” broke in Bobus. “Come, don’t waste time,
something must be done.”

“Yes, a rational letter must be written and signed by you all,” said
his mother. “The question is whether it would be better to do it through
your uncle or Mr. Ogilvie.”

“I don’t see why my father should hear of it, or Mr. Ogilvie either,”
 growled Rob. “I didn’t do those donkeyfied ears.”

“You did the writing, which was five hundred times more donkeyfied,”
 said Jock.

“It is quite impossible to keep either of them in ignorance,” said
Caroline.

“Yes,” repeated all her own three; Jock adding “Father would have known
it as soon as you, and I don’t see that my uncle is much worse.”

“He ain’t so soft,” exclaimed Johnny, roused to loyal defence of his
parent.

“Soft!” cried Jock, indignantly; “I can tell you father did pitch
into me when I caught the old lady’s bonnet out at the window with a
fishing-rod.”

“He never flogged you,” said Johnny contemptuously.

“He did!” cried Jock, triumphantly. “At least he flogged Bobus, when--”

“Shut up, you little ape,” thundered Bobus, not choosing to be offered
up to the manes of his father’s discipline.

“You think you must explain it to my uncle, mother,” said Allen, rather
ruefully.

“Certainly. He ought to be told first, and Mr. Ogilvie next. Depend upon
it, he will be far less angry if it is freely confessed and put into
his hands and what is more important, Mr. Barnes must attend to him, and
acquit the Richardses.”

The general voice agreed, but Rob writhed and muttered, “Can’t you be
the one to tell him, Mother Carey?”

“That’s cool,” said Allen, “to ask her to do what you’re afraid of.”

“He couldn’t do anything to her,” said Rob.

However, public opinion went against Rob, and the party of boys
dragged him off in their train the less reluctantly that Allen would be
spokesman, and he always got on well with his uncle. No one could tell
how it was, but the boy had a frank manner, with a sort of address in
the manner of narration, that always went far to disarm displeasure, and
protected his comrades as well as himself. So it was that, instead of
meeting with unmitigated wrath, the boys found that they were allowed
the honours and graces of voluntary confession. Allen even thought that
his uncle showed a little veiled appreciation of the joke, but this was
not deemed possible by the rest.

To exonerate young Richards was the first requisite, and Allen, under
his uncle’s eye, drew up a brief note to this effect:--


“SIR,--We beg to apologise for the mischief done in your grounds, and to
assure you on our word and honour that it was suggested by no one, that
no one admitted us, and no one had any share in it except ourselves.

                            “ALLEN BROWNLOW.
                            “ROBERT FRIAR BROWNLOW.
                            “ROBERT OTWAY BROWNLOW.
                            “JOHN FRIAR BROWNLOW.
                            “JOHN LUCAS BROWNLOW.”


This letter was taken up the next morning to Belforest by Colonel
Brownlow, and the two eldest delinquents, one, curious, amused, and with
only compunction enough to flavour an apology, the other cross, dogged,
and sheepish, dragged along like a cur in a sling, “just as though he
were going to be hanged,” said Janet.

The report of the expedition as given by Allen was thus:--“The servant
showed us into a sort of anteroom, and said he would see whether his
master would see us. Uncle Robert sent in his card and my letter, and
we waited with the door open, and a great screen in front, so that we
couldn’t help hearing every word. First there was a great snarl, and
then a deferential voice, ‘This alters the case, sir.’ But the old man
swore down in his throat that he didn’t care for Colonel Brownlow or
Colonel anybody. ‘A gentleman, sir; one of the most respected.’ ‘Then he
should bring up his family better.’ ‘Indeed, sir, it might be better
to accept the apology. This might not be considered actionable damage.’
‘We’ll see that!’ ‘Indeed, don’t you agree with me, Mr. Richards, the
magistrates would hardly entertain the case.’ ‘Then I’ll appeal; I’ll
send a representation to the Home Office.’ ‘Is it not to be considered,
sir, whether some of these low papers might not put it in a ludicrous
light?’ Then,” continued Allen, who had been most dramatically mimicking
the two voices, “we heard a crackling as if he were opening my letter,
and after an odd noise or two he sent to call us in to where he was
sitting with Richards, and the attorney he had got to prosecute us.
He is a regular old wizened stick, the perfect image of an old miser;
almost hump-backed, and as yellow as a mummy. He looked just ready to
bite off our heads, but he was amazingly set on finding out which was
which among us, and seemed uncommonly struck with my name and Bobus’s.
My uncle told him I was called after your father, and he made a snarl
just like a dog over a bone. He ended with, ‘So you are Allen Brownlow!
You’ll remember this day’s work, youngster.’ I humbly said I should, and
so the matter ended.”

“He did not mean any prosecution?”

“O no, that was all quashed, even if it was begun. He must have been
under an hallucination that he was a stern parent, cutting me off with a
shilling.”

The words had also struck the Colonel, who sought the first opportunity
of asking his sister-in-law whether she knew the names of any of her
mother’s relations.

“Only that her name was Otway,” said Caroline. “You know I lived with my
father’s aunt, who knew nothing about her, and I have never been able to
find anything out. Do you know of any connection? Not this old man? Then
you would have known.”

“That does not follow, for I was scarcely in Jamaica at all. I had a
long illness immediately after going there, was sent home on leave, and
then to the depot, and only joined again after the regiment had gone to
Canada, when the marriage had taken place. I may have heard the name of
Mrs. Allen’s uncle, but I never bore it in my mind.”

“Is there any way of finding out?”

“I will write to Norton. If he does not remember all about it, his wife
will.”

“He is the present lieutenant-colonel, I think.”

“Yes, and he was your father’s chief friend. Now that they are at home
again, we must have him here one of these days.”

“It would be a wonderful thing if this freak were an introduction to a
relation,” said Caroline.

“There was no doubt of his being struck by the combination of Allen and
Otway. He chose to understand which were my sons and which my nephews,
and when I said that Allen bore your maiden name he assented as if he
knew it before, and spoke of your boy having cause to remember this; I
am afraid it will not be pleasantly.”

“No,” said Caroline, “it sounded much like a threat. But one would like
to know, only I thought Farmer Gould’s little granddaughter was his
niece.”

“That might be without preventing your relationship; I will do my best
to ascertain it.”

Colonel Norton’s letter gave decisive information that Barnes was the
name of the uncle with whom Caroline Otway had been living at the time
of her marriage. She had been treated as a poor relation, and seemed to
be half-slave, half-governess to the children of the favoured sister,
little semi-Spanish tyrants. This had roused Captain Allen’s chivalry,
and his friend remembered his saying that, though he had little or
nothing of his own, he could at least make her happier than she was in
such a family. The uncle was reported to have grown rich in the mahogany
trade, and likewise by steamboat speculations, coupled with judicious
stock-jobbing among the distressed West Indians, after the emancipation.

“He was a sinister-looking old fellow,” ended Colonel Norton, “and I
should think not very particular; but I should be glad to hear that he
had done justice to poor Allen’s daughter. He was written to when she
was left an orphan, but vouchsafed no answer.”

“Still he may have kept an eye upon you,” added Uncle Robert. “I do not
think it was new to him that you had married into our family.”

“If only those unfortunate boys have not ruined everything,” sighed
Ellen.

“Little Elvira’s father must have been one of those cousins,” said
Caroline. “I wonder what became of the others? She must be--let me
see--my second cousin.”

“Not very near,” said Ellen.

“I never had a blood relation before since my old aunt died. I am so
glad that brilliant child belongs to me!”

“I daresay old Gould could tell you more,” said the Colonel.

“Is it wise to revive the connection?” asked his wife.

“The Goulds are not likely to presume,” said the Colonel; “and I think
that if Caroline takes up the one connection, she is bound to take up
the other.”

“How am I to make up to this cross old man?” said Carey. “I can’t go and
fawn on him.”

“Certainly not,” said her brother-in-law; “but I think you ought to make
some advance, merely as a relation.”

On the family vote, Caroline rather unwillingly wrote a note, explaining
that she had only just discovered her kinship with Mr. Barnes, and
offering to come and see him; but not the smallest notice was taken of
her letter, rather to her relief, though she did not like to hear Ellen
augur ill for the future.

Another letter, to old Mr. Gould, begging him to call upon her next
market day, met with a far more ready response. When at his entrance she
greeted him with outstretched hands, and--“I never thought you were a
connection;” the fine old weather-beaten face was strangely moved, as
the rugged hand took hers, and the voice was husky that said--

“I thought there was a likeness in the voice, but I never imagined you
were grandchild to poor Carey Barnes; I beg your pardon, to Mrs. Otway.”

“You knew her? You must let me see something of my little cousin! I know
nothing of my relations and my brother-in-law said he thought you could
tell me.”

“I ought to be able, for the family lived at Woodbridge all my young
days,” said the farmer.

The history was then given. The present lord of the manor had been the
son of a land surveyor. He was a stunted, sickly, slightly deformed lad,
noted chiefly for skill in cyphering, and therefore had been placed in
a clerkship. Here a successful lottery ticket had been the foundation of
his fortunes; he had invested it in the mahogany trade, and had been one
of those men with whom everything turned up a prize. When a little over
thirty, he had returned to his own neighbourhood, looking any imaginable
age. He had then purchased Belforest, furnished it sumptuously, and laid
out magnificent gardens in preparation for his bride, a charming young
lady of quality. But she had had a young Lochinvar, and even in her
wedding dress, favoured by sympathising servants, had escaped down the
back stairs of a London hotel, and been married at the nearest Church,
leaving poor Mr. Barnes in the case of the poor craven bridegroom, into
whose feelings no one ever inquired.

Mr. Barnes had gone back to the West Indies at once, and never appeared
in England again till he came home, a broken and soured old man, to die.
There had been two sisters, and Caroline fancied that the old farmer had
had some tenderness for the elder one, but she had married, before
her brother’s prosperity, a poor struggling builder, and both had died
young, leaving their child dependent on her uncle. His younger sister
had been the favourite; he had taken her back with him to America, and,
married her to a man of Spanish blood, connected with him in business.
The only one of her children who survived childhood was educated
in England, treated as his uncle’s heir, and came to Belforest for
shooting. Thus it was that he had fallen in love with Farmer Gould’s
pretty daughter, and as it seemed, by her mother’s contrivance, though
without her father’s consent, had made her his wife.

The wrath of Mr. Barnes was implacable. He cast off the favourite nephew
as entirely as he had cast off the despised niece, and deprived him of
all the means he had been led to look on as his right. The young man had
nothing of his own but an estate in the small island of San Ildefonso,
of very little value, and some of his former friends made interest to
obtain a vice-consulship for him at the Spanish town. Then, after a few
years, both husband and wife died, leaving this little orphan to the
care of her grandfather, who had written to Mr. Barnes on her father’s
death, but had heard nothing from him, and had too much honest pride to
make any further application.

“My little cousin,” said Caroline, “the first I ever knew. Pray bring
her to see me, and let her stay with me long enough for me to know her.”

The old man began to prepare her for the child’s being shy and wild,
though perhaps her aunt was too particular with her, and expected too
much. Perhaps she would be homesick, he said, so wistfully that it was
plain that he did not know how to exist without his darling; but he was
charmed with the invitation, and Caroline was pleased to see that he
did not regard her as his grandchild’s rival, but as representing the
cherished playmate of his youth.



CHAPTER XIII. -- THE RIVAL HEIRESSES.



     You smile, their eager ways to see,
     But mark their choice when they
     To choose their sportive garb are free,
     The moral of their play.
                                 Keble.


One curious part of the reticence of youth is that which relates to
its comprehension of grown-up affairs. There is a smile with which
the elders greet any question on the subject, half of wonder, half
of amusement, which is perfectly intolerable to the young, who remain
thinking that they are regarded as presumptuous and absurd, and thus
will do anything rather than expose themselves to it again.

Thus it was that Mrs. Brownlow flattered herself that her children never
put two and two together when she let them know of the discovery of
their relationship. Partly she judged by herself. She was never in
the habit of forecasting, and for so clever and spirited a woman, she
thought wonderfully little. She had plenty of intuitive sense, decided
rapidly and clearly, and could easily throw herself in other people’s
thoughts, but she seldom reflected, analysed or moralised, save on the
spur of the moment. She lived chiefly in the present, and the chief
events of her life had all come so suddenly and unexpectedly upon her,
that she was all the less inclined to guess at the future, having always
hitherto been taken by surprise.

So, when Jock observed in public--“Mother, they say at Kencroft that the
old miser ought to leave you half his money. Do you think he will?” it
was with perfect truth that she answered, “I don’t think at all about
it.”

It was taken in the family as an intimation that she would not talk
about it, and while she supposed that the children drew no conclusions,
they thought the more.

Allen was gone to Eton, but Janet and Bobus had many discussions over
their chemical experiments, about possibilities and probabilities, odd
compounds of cleverness and ignorance.

“Mother must be heir-at-law, for her grandmother was eldest,” said
Janet.

“A woman can’t be heir-at-law,” said Bobus.

“The Salique law doesn’t come into England.”

“Yes it does, for Sir John Gray got Graysnest only last year, instead of
the old man’s daughter.

“Then how comes the Queen to be Queen?”

“Besides,”--Bobus shifted his ground to another possibility--“when
there’s nobody but a lot of women, the thing goes into abeyance among
them.”

“Who gets it, then?”

“Chancery, I suppose, or some of the lawyers. They are all
blood-suckers.”

“I’m sure,” said Janet, superior by three years of wisdom, “that
abeyance only happens about Scotch peerages; and if he has not made a
will, mother will be heiress.”

“Only halves with that black Undine of Allen’s,” sturdily persisted
Bobus. “Is she coming here, Janet?”

“Yes, to-morrow. I did not think we wanted another child about the
house; Essie and Ellie are quite enough.”

“If mother gets rich she won’t have all that teaching to bother her,”
 said Bobus.

“And I can go on with my education,” said Janet.

“Girl’s education does not signify,” said Bobus. “Now I shall be able to
get the very best instruction in physical science, and make some great
discovery. If I could only go and study at Halle, instead of going on
droning here.”

“Oh! boys can always get educated if they choose. You are going to Eton
or Winchester after this term.”

“Not if I can get any sense into mother. I don’t want to waste my time
on those stupid classics and athletics. I say, Janet, it’s time to see
whether the precipitation has taken place.”

The two used to try experiments together, in Bobus’s end of the attic,
to an extent that might make the presence of a strange child in the
house dangerous to herself as well as to everyone else.

Mrs. Gould herself brought the little girl, trying to impress on
Mrs. Brownlow that if she was indocile it was not her fault, but her
grandfather could not bear to have her crossed.

The elders did not wonder at his weakness, for the creature was
wonderfully lovely and winning, with a fearless imperiousness that
subdued everyone to her service. So brilliant was she, that Essie and
Ellie, though very pretty little girls, looked faded and effaced beside
this small empress, whose air seemed to give her a right to bestow her
favours.

“I am glad to be here!” she observed, graciously, to her hostess, “for
you are my cousin and a lady.”

“And pray what are you?” asked Janet.

“I am la Senora Dona Elvira Maria de Guadalupe de Menella,” replied the
damsel, with a liquid sonorousness so annihilating, that Janet made a
mocking courtesy; and her mother said it was like asking the head of the
house of Hapsburg if she were a lady!

With some disappointment at Allen’s absence, the little Donna motioned
Bobus to sit by her side at dinner-time, and when her grandfather looked
in somewhat later to wish her good-bye, in mingled hope and fear of
her insisting on going home with him, she cared for nothing but his
admiration of her playing at kings and queens with Armine and Barbara,
in the cotton velvet train of the dressing up wardrobe.

“No, she did not want to go home. She never wanted to go back to River
Hollow.”

Nor would she even kiss him till she had extorted the assurance that he
had been shaved that morning.

The old man went away blessing Mrs. Brownlow’s kindness to his child,
and Janet was universally scouted for muttering that it was a heartless
little being. She alone remained unenthralled by Elvira’s chains. The
first time she went to Kencroft, she made Colonel Brownlow hold her up
in his arms to gather a bough off his own favourite double cherry; and
when Mother Carey demurred, she beguiled Aunt Ellen into taking her on
her own responsibility to the dancing lessons at the assembly rooms.

There she electrified the dancing-master, and all beholders, seeming
to catch inspiration from the music, and floating along with a
wondrous swimming grace, as her dainty feet twinkled, her arms wreathed
themselves, and her eyes shone with enjoyment.

If she could only have always danced, or acted in the garden! Armine’s
and Babie’s perpetual romantic dramas were all turned by her into homage
to one and the same princess. She never knew or cared whether she were
goddess or fairy, Greek or Briton, provided she had the crown and
train; but as Babie much preferred action to magnificence, they got on
wonderfully well without disputes. There was a continual performance,
endless as a Chinese tragedy, of Spenser’s Faery Queene, in which Elfie
was always Gloriana, and Armine and Babie were everybody else in turn,
except the wicked characters, who were represented by the cabbages and a
dummy.

“Reading was horrid,” Elvira said, and certainly hers deserved the
epithet. Her attainments fell far behind those of Essie and Ellie, and
she did not mean to improve them. Her hostess let her alone till she
had twice shaken her rich mane at her grandfather, and refused to return
with him; and he had shown himself deeply grateful to Mrs. Brownlow for
keeping her there, and had said he hoped she was good at her lessons.

The first trial resulted in Elvira’s going to sleep over her book, the
next in her playing all sorts of ridiculous tricks, and sulking when
stopped, and when she was forbidden to speak or go out till she had
repeated three answers in the multiplication table, she was the next
moment singing and dancing in defiance in the garden. Caroline did not
choose to endure this, and went to fetch her in, thus producing such
a screaming, kicking, rolling fury that Mrs. Coffinkey might have some
colour for the statement that Mrs. Folly Brownlow was murdering all her
children. The cook, as the strongest person in the house, was called,
carried her in and put her to bed, where she fell sound asleep, and
woke, hungry, in high spirits, and without an atom of compunction.

When called to lessons she replied--“No, I’m going back to grandpapa.”

“Very well,” was all Caroline answered, thinking wholesome neglect the
best treatment.

In an hour’s time Mr. Gould made his appearance with his grandchild. She
had sought him out among the pigs in the market-place, pulled him by the
coat, and insisted on being taken home.

His politeness was great, but he was plainly delighted, and determined
to believe that her demand sprang from affection, and not naughtiness.
Elvira stood caressing him, barely vouchsafing to look at her hostess,
and declaring that she never meant to come back.

Not a fortnight had passed, however, before she burst upon them again,
kissing them all round, and reiterating that she hated her aunt, and
would live with Mother Carey. Mr. Gould had waited to be properly
ushered in. He was distressed and apologetic, but he had been forced
to do his tyrant’s behest. There had been more disturbances than ever
between her and her aunt, and Mrs. Gould had declared that she would
not manage the child any longer, while Elvira was still more vehement
to return to Mother Carey. Would Mrs. Brownlow recommend some school or
family where the child would be well cared for? Mrs. Brownlow did more,
offering herself to undertake the charge.

Spite of all the naughtiness, she loved the beautiful wild creature, and
could not bear to think of intrusting her to strangers; she knew, too,
that her brother and sister-in-law had no objection, and it was the
obvious plan. Mr. Gould would make some small payment, and the child was
to be made to understand that she must be obedient, learn her lessons,
and cease to expect to find a refuge with her grandfather when she was
offended.

She drew herself up with childish pride and grace saying, “I will attend
to Mrs. Brownlow, for she is my cousin and my equal.”

To a certain degree the little maiden kept her word. She was the
favourite plaything of the boys, and got on well with Babie, who was too
bright and yielding to quarrel with any one.

But Janet’s elder-sisterly authority was never accepted by the newcomer.
“I couldn’t mind her, she looked so ugly,” said she in excuse; and
probably the heavy, brown, dull complexion and large features were
repulsive in themselves to the sensitive fancy of the creature of life
and beauty. At any rate, they were jarring elephants, as said Eleanor,
who was growing ambitious, and sometimes electrified the public with
curious versions of the long words more successfully used by Armine and
Babie.

Caroline succeeded in modelling a very lovely profile in bas-relief of
the exquisite little head, and then had it photographed. Mary Ogilvie,
coming to Kenminster as usual when her holidays began in June, found the
photograph in the place of honour on her brother’s chimney-piece, and a
little one beside it of the artist herself.

So far as Carey herself was concerned, Mary was much better satisfied.
She did not look so worn or so flighty, and had a quieter and more
really cheerful tone and manner, as of one who had settled into her home
and occupations. She had made friends, too--few, but worth having;
and there were those who pronounced the Folly the pleasantest house in
Kenminster, and regarded the five o’clock tea, after the weekly physical
science lecture at the school, as a delightful institution.

Of course, the schoolmaster was one of these; and when Mary found
how all his paths tended to the Pagoda, she hated herself for being a
suspicious old duenna. Nevertheless, she could not but be alarmed by
finding that her project of a walking tour through Brittany was not,
indeed, refused, but deferred, with excuses about having work to finish,
being in no hurry, and the like.

“I think you ought to go,” said Mary at last.

“I see no ought in the case. Last year the work dragged, and was
oppressive; but you see how different it has become.”

“That is the very reason,” said Mary, the colour flying to her checks.
“It will not do to stay lingering here as we did last summer, and not
only on your own account.”

“You need not be afraid,” was the muttered answer, as David bent down
his head over the exercise he was correcting. She made no answer, and
ere long he began again, “I don’t mean that her equal exists, but I am
not such a fool as to delude myself with a spark of hope.”

“She is too nice for that,” said Mary.

“Just so,” he said, glad to relieve himself when the ice had been
broken. “There’s something about her that makes one feel her to be
altogether that doctor’s, as much as if he were present in the flesh.”

“Are you hoping to wear that out? For I don’t think you will.”

“I told you I had no hope,” he answered, rather petulantly. “Even were
it otherwise, there is another thing that must withhold me. It has got
abroad that she may turn out heiress to the old man at Belforest.”

“In such a hopeless case, would it not be wiser to leave this place
altogether?”

“I cannot,” he exclaimed; then remembering that vehemence told against
him, he added, “Don’t be uneasy; I am a reasonable man, and she is a
woman to keep one so; but I think I am useful to her, and I am sure she
is useful to me.”

“That I allow she has been,” said Mary, looking at her brother’s much
improved appearance; “but--”

“Moths and candles to wit,” he returned; “but don’t be afraid, I attract
no notice, and I think she trusts me about her boys.”

“But what is it to come to?”

“I have thought of that. Understand that it is enough for me to live
near her, and be now and then of some little service to her.”

They were interrupted by a note, which Mr. Ogilvie read, and handed to
his sister with a smile:--


“DEAR MR. OGILVIE,--Could you and Mary make it convenient to look in
this evening? Bobus has horrified his uncle by declining to go up for a
scholarship at Eton or Winchester, and I should be very glad to talk it
over with you. Also, I shall have to ask you to take little Armine into
school after the holidays.

“Yours sincerely,

“C. O. BROWNLOW.”


“What does the boy mean?” asked Mary. “I thought he was the pride of
your heart.”

“So he is; but he is ahead of his fellows, and ought to be elsewhere.
All measures have been taken for sending him up to stand at one of the
public schools, but I thought him very passive about it. He is an
odd boy--reserved and self-concentrated--quite beyond his uncle’s
comprehension, and likely to become headstrong at a blind exercise of
authority.”

“I used to like Allen best,” said Mary.

“He is the pleasantest, but there’s more solid stuff in Bobus.
That boy’s school character is perfect, except for a certain cool
opinionativeness, which seldom comes out with me, but greatly annoys the
undermasters.”

“Is he a prig?”

“Well, yes, I’m afraid he is. He’s unpopular, for he does not care for
games; but his brother is popular enough for both.”

“Jock?--the monkey!”

“His brains run to mischief. I’ve had to set him more impositions than
any boy in the school, and actually to take his form myself, for simply
the undermasters can’t keep up discipline or their own tempers. As to
poor M. le Blanc, I find him dancing and shrieking with fury in the
midst of a circle of snorting, giggling boys; and when he points out ce
petit monstre, Jock coolly owns to having translated ‘Croquons les,’ let
us croquet them; or ‘Je suis blesse,’ I am blest.”

“So the infusion of brains produces too much effervescence.”

“Yes, but the whole school has profited, and none more so than No. 2 of
the other family, who has quite passed his elder brother, and is above
his namesake whenever it is a case of plodding ability versus idle
genius. But, after all, how little one can know of one’s boys.”

“Or one’s girls,” said Mary, thinking of governess experiences.

It was a showery summer evening when the brother and sister walked up
to the Folly in a partial clearing, when the evening sun made every bush
twinkle all over with diamond drops. Childish voices were heard near the
gate, and behind a dripping laurel were seen Elvira, Armine, and Barbara
engaged in childhood’s unceasing attempt to explore the centre of the
earth.

“What do you expect to find there?” they were asked.

“Little kobolds, with pointed caps, playing at ball with rubies and
emeralds, and digging with golden spades,” answered Babie.

“And they shall give me an opal ring,” said Elfie, “But Armine does not
want the kobolds.”

“He says they are bad,” said Babie. “Now are they, Mr. Ogilvie? I know
elder women are, and erl kings and mist widows, but poor Neck, that
sat on the water and played his harp, wasn’t bad, and the dear little
kobolds were so kind and funny. Now are they bad elves?”

Her voice was full of earnest pleading, and Mr. Ogilvie, not being
versed in the spiritual condition of elves could best reply by asking
why Armine thought ill of their kind.

“I think they are nasty little things that want to distract and bewilder
one in the real great search.”

“What search, my boy?”

“For the source of everything,” said Armine, lowering his voice and
looking into his muddy hole.

“But that is above, not below,” said Mary.

“Yes,” said Armine reverently; “but I think God put life and the
beginning of growing into the earth, and I want to find it.”

“Isn’t it Truth?” said Babie. “Mr. Acton said Truth was at the bottom of
a well. I won’t look at the kobolds if they keep one from seeing Truth.”

“But I must get my ring and all my jewels from them,” put in Elfie.

“Should you know Truth?” asked Mr. Ogilvie. “What do you think she is
like?”

“So beautiful!” said Babie, clasping her fingers with earnestness. “All
white and clear like crystal, with such blue, sweet, open eyes. And she
has an anchor.”

“That’s Hope?” said Armine.

“Oh! Hope and Truth go hand in hand,” said Babie; “and Hope will be all
robed in green like the young corn-fields in the spring.”

“Ah, Babie, that emerald Hope and crystal Truth are not down in the
earth, earthy,” said Mary again.

“Nay, perhaps Armine has got hold of a reality,” said Mr. Ogilvie. “They
are to be found above by working below.”

“Talking paradox to Armine?” said the cheerful voice of the young
mother. “My dear sprites, do you know that it is past eight! How wet you
are! Good night, and mind you don’t go upstairs in those boots.”

“It is quite comfortable to hear anything so commonplace,” said Mary,
when the children had run away, to the sound of its reiteration after
full interchange of good nights. “Those imps make one feel quite eerie.”

“Has Armine been talking in that curious fashion of his,” said Carey,
as they began to pace the walks. “I am afraid his thinker is too big--as
the child says in Miss Tytler’s book. This morning over his parsing he
asked me--‘Mother, which is _realest_, what we touch or what we feel?’
knitting his brows fearfully when I did not catch his meaning, and going
on--‘I mean is that fly as real as King David?’ and then as I was more
puzzled he went on--‘You see we only need just see that fly now with our
outermost senses, and he will only live a little while, and nobody cares
or will think of him any more, but everybody always does think, and
feel, and care a great deal about King David.’ I told him, as the best
answer I could make on the spur of the moment, that David was alive in
Heaven, but he pondered in and broke out--‘No, that’s not it! David was
a real man, but it is just the same about Perseus and Siegfried, and
lots of people that never were men, only just thoughts. Ain’t thoughts
_realer_ than things, mother?’”

“But much worse for him, I should say,” exclaimed Mary.

“I thought of Pisistratus Caxton, and wrote to Mr. Ogilvie. It is a
great pity, but I am afraid he ought not to dwell on such things till
his body is grown up to his mind.”

“Yes, school is the approved remedy for being too clever,” said Mr.
Ogilvie. “You are wise. It is a pity, but it will be all the better for
him by-and-by.”

“And the elder ones will take care the seasoning is not too severe,”
 said Caroline, with a resolution she could hardly have shown if this had
been her first launch of a son. “But it was about Bobus that I wanted
to consult you. His uncle thinks him headstrong and conceited, if not
lazy.”

“Lazy he is certainly not.”

“I knew you would say so, but the Colonel cannot enter into his wish to
have more physical science and less classics, and will not hear of his
going to Germany, which is what he wishes, though I am sure he is too
young.”

“He ought not to go there till his character is much more formed.”

“What do you think of his going on here?”

“That’s a temptation I ought to resist. He will soon have outstripped
the other boys so that I could not give him the attention he needs, and
besides the being with other boys, more his equals, would be invaluable
to him.”

“Well, he is rather bumptious.”

“Nothing is worse for a lad of that sort than being cock of the walk. It
spoils him often for life.”

“I know exactly the sort of man you mean, always liking to lay down the
law and talking to women instead of men, because they don’t argue with
him. No, Bobus must not come to that, and he is too young to begin
special training. Will you talk to him, Mr. Ogilvie? You know if my
horse is not convinced I may bring him to the water, but it will be all
in vain.”

They had reached the outside of the window of the dining-room, where
the school-boys were learning their lessons for the morrow. Bobus was
sitting at the table with a small lamp so shaded as to concentrate
the light on him and to afford it to no one else. On the floor was a
servant’s flat candlestick, mounted on a pile of books, between one John
sprawling at full length preparing his Virgil, the other cross-legged,
working a sum with ink from a doll’s tea-cup placed in the candlestick,
and all the time there was a wonderful mumbling accompaniment, as there
always was between those two.

“I say, what does pulsum come from?”

“What a brute this is of a fraction! Skipjack, what will go in 639 and
852?”

“Pulsum, a pulse--volat, flies. Eh! Three’ll do it. Or common measure it
at once.”

“Bother common measure. The threes in--”

“Fama, fame; volat, flies; pulsum, the pulse; cecisse, to have ceased;
paternis regnis, in the paternal kingdom. I say wouldn’t that rile
Perkins like fun?”

“The threes in seven--two--in eighteen--”

“I say, Johnny, is pulsum from pulco?”

“Never heard of it.”

“Bobus, is it pulco, pulxi, pulsum?”

“Pulco--I make an ass of myself,” muttered Bobus.

“O murder,” groaned Johnny, “it has come out 213.”

“Not half so much murder as this pulsum. Why it will go in them both. I
can see with half an eye.”

“Isn’t it pello--pulsum?”

“Pello, to drive out. Hurrah! That fits it.”

“Look out, Skipjack, there’s a moth.”

“Anything worth having?” demanded Bobus.

“Only a grass eggar. Fama, fame; volat, flies; Idomoeea ducem, that
Idomaeeus the leader; pulsum, expelled. Get out, I say, you foolish
beggar” (to the moth).

“Never mind catching him,” said Bobus, “we’ve got dozens.”

“Yes, but I don’t want him frizzling alive in my candle.”

“Don’t kick up such a shindy,” broke out Johnny, as a much stained
handkerchief came flapping about.

“You’ve blotted my sum. Thunder and ages!” as the candlestick toppled
over, ink and all. “That is a go!”

“I say, Bobus, lend us your Guy Fawkes to pick up the pieces.”

“Not if I know it,” said Bobus. “You always smash things.”

“There’s a specimen of the way we learn our lessons,” said Caroline, in
a low voice, still unseen, as Bobus wiped, sheathed, and pocketed his
favourite pen, then proceeded to turn down the lamp, but allowed the
others to relight their candle at the expiring wick.

“The results are fair,” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“I think of your carpet,” said Mary, quaintly.

“We always lay down an ancient floorcloth in the bay window before the
boys come home,” said Carey, laughing. “Here, Bobus.”

And as he came out headforemost at the window, the two ladies discreetly
drew off to leave the conversation free.

“So, Brownlow,” said Mr. Ogilvie, “I hear you don’t want to try your
luck elsewhere.”

“No, sir.”

“Do you object to telling me why?”

“I see no use in it,” said Bobus, never shy, and further aided by the
twilight; “I do quite well enough here.”

“Should you not do better in a larger field among a higher stamp of
boys?”

“Public school boys are such fools!”

“And what are the Kenites?”

“Well, not much,” said Bobus, with a twitch in the corner of his mouth;
“but I can keep out of their way.”

“You mean that you have gained your footing, and don’t want to have to
do it again.”

“Not only that, sir,” said the boy, “but at a public school you’re
fagged, and forced to go in for cricket and football.”

“You would soon get above that.”

“Yes, but even then you get no peace, and are nobody unless you go in
for all that stuff of athletics and sports. I hate it all, and don’t
want to waste my time.”

“I don’t think you are quite right as to there being no distinction
without athletics.”

“Allen says it is so now.”

“Allen may be a better judge of the present state of things, but I
should think there was always a studious set who were respectable.”

“Besides,” proceeded Bobus, warming with his subject, “I see no good in
nothing but classics. I don’t care what ridiculous lies some old man who
never existed, or else was a dozen people at once, told about a lot of
ruffians who never lived, killing each other at some place that never
was. I like what you can lay your finger on, and say it’s here, it’s
true, and I can prove it, and explain it, and improve on it.”

“If you can,” said Mr. Ogilvie, struck by the contrast with the little
brother.

“That’s what I want to do,” said Bobus; “to deal with real things, not
words and empty fancies. I know languages are necessary; but if one can
read a Latin book, and understand a Greek technical term, that’s all
that is of use. If my uncle won’t let me study physical science in
Germany, I had rather go on here, where I can be let alone to study it
for myself.”

“I do not think you understand what you would throw away. What is the
difference between Higg, the bone-setter, and Dr. Leslie?”

“Higg can do that one thing just by instinct. He is uneducated.”

“And in a measure it is so with all who throw themselves into some
special pursuit without waiting for the mind and character to have full
training and expansion. If you mean to be a great surgeon--”

“I don’t mean to be a surgeon.”

“A physician then.”

“No, sir. Please don’t let my mother fancy I mean to be in practice, at
everyone’s beck and call. I’ve seen too much of that. I mean to get a
professorship, and have time and apparatus for researches, so as to get
to the bottom of everything,” said the boy, with the vast purposes of
his age.

“Your chances will be much better if you go up from a public school,
trained in accuracy by the thorough work of language, and made more
powerful by the very fact of not having followed merely your own bent.
Your contempt for the classics shows how one-sided you are growing.
Besides, I thought you knew that the days are over of unmitigated
classics. You would have many more opportunities, and much better ones,
of studying physical science than I can provide for you here.”

This was a new light to Bobus, and when Mr. Ogilvie proved its truth
to him, and described the facilities he would have for the study, he
allowed that it made all the difference.

Meantime the two ladies had gone in, Mary asking where Janet was.

“Gone with Jessie and her mother to a birthday party at Polesworth
Lawn.”

“Not a good day for it.”

“It is the perplexing sort of day that no one knows whether to call it
fine or wet; but Ellen decided on going, as they were to dance in
the hall if it rained. I’m sure her kindness is great, for she takes
infinite trouble to make Janet producible! Poor Janet, you know dressing
her is like hanging clothes on a wooden peg, and a peg that won’t stand
still, and has curious theories of the beautiful, carried out in a
still more curious way. So when, in terror of our aunt, the whole female
household have done their best to turn out Miss Janet respectable,
between this house and Kencroft, she contrives to give herself some
twitch, or else is seized with an idea of the picturesque, which sets
every one wondering that I let her go about such a figure. Then Ellen
and Jessie put a tie here, and a pin there, and reduce the chaotic mass
to order.”

It was not long before Janet appeared, and Jessie with her, the latter
having been set down to give a message. The two girls were dressed in
the same light black-and-white checked silk of early youth, one with
pink ribbons and the other with blue; but the contrast was the more
apparent, for one was fresh and crisp, while the other was flattened and
tumbled; one said everything had been delightful, the other that it had
all been very stupid, and the expression made even more difference than
the complexion, in one so fair, fresh, and rosy, in the other so sallow
and muddled. Jessie looked so sweet and bright, that when she had gone
Miss Ogilvie could not help exclaiming, “How pretty she is!”

“Yes, and so good-tempered and pleasant. There is something always
restful to me in having her in the room,” said Caroline.

“Restful?” said Janet, with one of her unamiable sneers. “Yes, she
and H. S. H. sent me off to sleep with their gossip on the way home! O
mother, there’s another item for the Belforest record. Mr. Barnes has
sent off all his servants again, even the confidential man is shipped
off to America.”

“You seem to have slept with one ear open,” said her mother. “And oh!”
 as Janet took off her gloves, “I hope you did not show those hands!”

“I could not eat cake without doing so, and Mr. Glover supposed I had
been photographing.”

“And what had you been doing?” inquired Mary, at sight of the brown
stains.

“Trying chemical experiments with Bobus,” said her mother.

“Yes!” cried Janet, “and I’ve found out why we did not succeed. I
thought it out during the dancing.”

“Instead of cultivating the ‘light fantastic toe,’ as the Courier calls
it.”

“I danced twice, and a great plague it was. Only with Mr. Glover and
with a stupid little middy. I was thinking all the time how senseless it
was.”

“How agreeable you must have been!”

“One can’t be agreeable to people like that. Oh, Bobus!” as he came into
the room with Mr. Ogilvie, “I’ve found out--”

“I thought Jessie was here,” he interrupted.

“She’s gone home. I know what was wrong yesterday. We ought to have
isolated the hypo--”

“Isolated the grandmother,” said Bobus. “That has nothing to do with
it.”

“I’m sure of it. I’ll show you how it acts.”

“I’ll show you just the contrary.”

“Not to-night,” cried their mother, as Bobus began to relight the lamp.
“You two explosives are quite perilous enough by day without lamps and
candles.”

“You endure a great deal,” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“I’m not afraid of either of these two doing anything dangerous singly,
for they are both careful, but when they are of different minds, I never
know what the collision may produce.”

“Yes,” said Bobus, “I’d much sooner have Jessie to help me, for she does
what she is bid, and never thinks.”

“That’s all you think women good for,” said Janet.

“Quite true,” said Bobus, coolly.

And Mr. Ogilvie was acknowledged by his sister to have done a good deed
that night, since the Folly might be far more secure when Janet tried
her experiments alone.



CHAPTER XIV. -- PUMPING AWAY.



     The rude will scuffle through with ease enough,
     Great schools best suit the sturdy and the rough.
     Soon see your wish fulfilled in either child,
     The pert made perter, and the tame made wild.
                                                  Cowper.


Robert Otway Brownlow came out fourth on the roll of newly-elected
scholars of S. Mary, Winton, and his master was, as his sister declared,
unwholesomely proud of it, even while he gave all credit to the Folly,
and none to himself.

Still Mary had her way and took him to Brittany, and though her present
pupils were to leave the schoolroom at Christmas, she would bind herself
to no fresh engagement, thinking that she had better be free to make a
home for him, whether at Kenminster or elsewhere.

When the half-year began again Bobus was a good deal missed, Jock was in
a severe idle fit, and Armine did not come up to the expectations formed
of him, and was found, when “up to Mr. Perkins,” to be as bewildered and
unready as other people.

All the work in the school seemed flat and poor, except perhaps
Johnny’s, which steadily improved. Robert, whose father wished him to be
pushed on so as to be fit for examination for Sandhurst, opposed, to all
pressure, the passive resistance of stolidity. He was nearly sixteen,
but seemed incapable of understanding that compulsory studies were for
his good and not a cruel exercise of tyranny. He disdainfully rejected
an offer from his aunt to help him in the French and arithmetic which
had become imminent, while of the first he knew much less than Babie,
and of the latter only as much as would serve to prevent his being daily
“kept in.”

One chilly autumn afternoon, Armine was seen, even by the unobservant
under-master, to be shivering violently, and his teeth chattering so
that he could not speak plainly.

“You ought to be at home,” said Mr. Perkins. “Here, you, Brownlow
maximus, just see him home, and tell his mother that he should be seen
to.”

“I can go alone,” Armine tried to say; but Mr. Perkins thought the
head-master could not say he neglected one who was felt to be a favoured
scholar if he sent his cousin with him.

So presently Armine was pushed in at the back door, with these words
from Rob to the cook--“Look here, he’s been and got cold, or something.”

Rob then disappeared, and Armine struggled in to the kitchen fire,
white, sobbing and panting, and, as the compassionate maids discovered,
drenched from head to foot, his hair soaked, his boots squishing with
water. His mother and sisters were out, and as cook administered the
hottest draught she could compound, and Emma tugged at his jacket, they
indignantly demanded what he had been doing to himself.

“Nothing,” he said. “I’ll go and take my things off; only please don’t
tell mother.”

“Yes,” said old nurse, who had tottered in, but who was past fully
comprehending emergencies; “go and get into bed, my dear, and Emma shall
come and warm it for him.”

“No,” stoutly said the little boy; “there’s nothing the matter, and
mother must not know.”

“Take my word for it,” said cook, “that child have a been treated
shameful by those great nasty brutes of big boys.”

And when Armine, too cold to sit anywhere but by the only fire in the
house, returned with a book and begged humbly for leave to warm himself,
he was installed on nurse’s footstool, in front of a huge fire, and hot
tea and “lardy-cake” tendered for his refreshment, while the maids by
turns pitied and questioned him.

“Have you had a haccident, sir,” asked cook.

“No,” he wearily said.

“Have any one been doing anything to you, then?” And as he did not
answer she continued: “You need not think to blind me, sir; I sees it as
if it was in print. Them big boys have been a-misusing of you.”

“Now, cook, you ain’t to say a word to my mother,” cried Armine,
vehemently. “Promise me.”

“If you’ll tell me all about it, sir,” said cook, coaxingly.

“No,” he answered, “I promised!” And he buried his head in nurse’s lap.

“I calls that a shame,” put in Emma; “but you could tell _we_, Master
Armine. It ain’t like telling your ma nor your master.”

“I said no one,” said Armine.

The maids left off tormenting him after a time, letting him fall asleep
with his head on the lap of old nurse, who went on dreamily stroking his
damp hair, not half understanding the matter, or she would have sent him
to bed.

Being bound by no promise of secrecy, Emma met her mistress with a
statement of the surmises of the kitchen, and Caroline hurried thither
to find him waking to headache, fiery cheeks, and aching limbs, which
were not simply the consequence of the position in which he had been
sleeping before the fire. She saw him safe in bed before she asked any
questions, but then she began her interrogations, as little successfully
as the maids.

“I can’t, mother,” he said, hiding his face on the pillow.

“My little boy used to have no secrets from me.”

“Men must have secrets sometimes, though they rack their hearts
and--their backs,” sighed poor Armine, rolling over. “Oh, mother, my
back is so bad! Please don’t bother besides.”

“My poor darling! Let me rub it. There, you might trust Mother Carey!
She would not tell Mr. Ogilvie, nor get any one into trouble.”

“I promised, mother. Don’t!” And no persuasions could draw anything from
him but tears. Indeed he was so feverish and in so much pain that she
called in Dr. Leslie before the evening was over, and rheumatic fever
was barely staved off by the most anxious vigilance for the next day
or two. It was further decreed that he must be carefully tended all the
winter, and must not go to school again till he had quite got over
the shock, since he was of a delicate frame that would not bear to be
trifled with.

The boy gave a long sigh of content when he heard that he was not to
return to school at present; but it did not induce him to utter a word
on the cause of the wetting, either to his mother or to Mr. Ogilvie, who
came up in much distress, and examined him as soon as he was well enough
to bear it. Nor would any of his schoolfellows tell. Jock said he had
had an imposition, and was kept in school when “it” happened; John said
“he had nothing to do with it;” and Rob and Joe opposed surly negatives
to all questions on the subject, Rob adding that Armine was a disgusting
little idiot, an expression for which his father took him severely to
task.

However there were those in Kenminster who never failed to know all
about everything, and the first afternoon after Armine’s disaster
that Caroline came to Kencroft she was received with such sympathetic
kindness that her prophetic soul misgave her, and she dreaded hearing
either that she was letting herself be cheated by some tradesman, or
that she was to lose her pupils.

No. After inquiries for Armine, his aunt said she was very sorry, but
now he was better she thought his mother ought to know the truth.

“What--?” asked Caroline, startled; and Jessie, the only other person
in the room, put down her work, and listened with a strange air of
determination.

“My dear, I am afraid it is very painful.”

“Tell me at once, Ellen.”

“I can’t think how he learnt it. But they have been about with all sorts
of odd people.”

“Who? What, Ellen? Are you accusing my boy?” said Caroline, her limbs
beginning to tremble and her eyes to flash, though she spoke as quietly
as she could.

“Now do compose yourself, my dear. I dare say the poor little fellow
knew no better, and he has had a severe lesson.”

“If you would only tell me, Ellen.”

“It seems,” said Ellen, with much regret and commiseration, “that all
this was from poor little Armine using such shocking language that Rob,
as a senior boy, you know, put him under the pump at last to put a stop
to it.”

Before Caroline’s fierce, incredulous indignation had found a word,
Jessie had exclaimed “Mamma!” in a tone of strong remonstrance; then,
“Never mind, Aunt Carey, I know it is only Mrs. Coffinkey, and Johnny
promised he would tell the whole story if any one brought that horrid
nonsense to you about poor little Armine.”

Kind, gentle Jessie seemed quite transported out of herself, as she flew
to the door and called Johnny, leaving the two mothers looking at each
other, and Ellen, somewhat startled, saying “I’m sure, if it is not
true, I’m very sorry, Caroline, but it came from--”

She broke off, for Johnny was scuffling across the hall, calling out
“Holloa, Jessie, what’s up?”

“Johnny, she’s done it!” said Jessie. “You said if the wrong one was
accused you would tell the whole story!”

“And what do they say?” asked John, who was by this time in the room.

“Mamma has been telling Aunt Carey that Rob put poor little Armine under
the pump for using bad language.”

“I say!” exclaimed John; “if that is not a cram!”

“You said you knew nothing of it,” said his mother.

“I said I didn’t do it. No more I did,” said John.

“No more did Rob, I am sure,” said his mother.

But Johnny, though using no word of denial, made it evident that she was
mistaken, as he answered in an odd tone of excuse, “Armie was cheeky.”

“But he didn’t use bad words!” said Caroline, and she met a look of
comfortable response.

“Let us hear, John,” said his mother, now the most agitated. “I can’t
believe that Rob would so ill-treat a little fellow like Armie, even if
he did lose his temper for a moment. Was Armine impertinent?”

“Well, rather,” said John. “He wouldn’t do Rob’s French exercise.” And
then--as the ladies cried out, he added--“O yes, he knows ever so much
more French than Rob, and now Bobus is gone Rob could not get anyone
else.”

“Bobus?”

“O yes, Bobus would do anybody’s exercises at a penny for Latin, two for
French, and three for Greek,” said John, not aware of the shock he gave.

“And Armine would not?” said his mother. “Was that it?”

“Not only that,” said John; “but the little beggar must needs up and say
he would not help to act a falsehood, and you know nobody could stand
that.”

Caroline understood the gravity of such an offence better than Ellen
did, for that good lady had never had much in common with her boys after
they outgrew the nursery. She answered, “Armine was quite right.”

“So much the worse for him, I fear,” said Caroline.

“Yes,” said John, “it would have been all very well to give him a cuff
and tell him to mind his own business.”

“All very well!” ejaculated his mother.

“But you know,” continued Johnny to his aunt, “the seniors are always
mad at a junior being like that; and there was another fellow who
dragged him to the great school pump, and put him in the trough, and
they said they would duck him till he swore to do whatever Rob ordered.”

“Swore!” exclaimed his mother. “You don’t mean that, Johnny?”

“Yes, I do, mamma,” said John. “I would tell you the words, only you
wouldn’t like them. And Armine said it would be breaking the Third
Commandment, which was the very way to aggravate them most. So they
pumped on his head, and tried if he would say it. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You
may kill me like the forty martyrs, but I won’t,’ and of course that set
them on to pump the more.”

“But, Johnny, did you see it all?” cried Caroline. “How could you?”

“I couldn’t help it, Aunt Carey.”

“Yes, Aunt Carey,” again broke in Jessie, “he was held down. That
horrid--well, I won’t say whom, Johnny--held him, and his arm was
so twisted and grazed that he was obliged to come to me to put some
lily-leaves on it, and if he would but show it, it is all black and
yellow still.”

Carey, much moved, went over and kissed both her boy’s champions, while
Ellen said, with tears in her eyes, “Oh, Johnny, I’m glad you were at
least not so bad. What ended it?”

“The school-bell,” said Johnny. “I say, please don’t let Rob know I
told, or I shall catch it.”

“Your father--”

“Mamma! You aren’t going to tell him!” cried Jessie and Johnny, both in
horror, interrupting her.

“Yes, children, I certainly shall. Do you think such wickedness as that
ought to be kept from him? Nearly killing a fatherless child like that,
because he was not as bad as they were, and telling falsehoods about
it too! I never could have believed it of Rob. Oh! what school does to
one’s boys!” She was agitated and overcome to a degree that startled
Carey, who began to try to comfort her.

“Perhaps Rob did not understand what he was about, and you see he was
led on. Armine will soon be all right again, and though he is a dear,
good little fellow, maybe the lesson may have been good for him.”

“How can you treat it so lightly?” cried poor Ellen, in her agitated
indignation. “It was a mercy that the child did not catch his death; and
as to Rob--! And when Mr. Ogilvie always said the boys were so improved,
and that there was no bullying! It just shows how much he knows about
it! To think what they have made of my poor Rob! His father will be so
grieved! I should not wonder if he had a fit of the gout!”

The shock was far greater to her than to one who had never kept her boys
at a distance, and who understood their ways, characters, and code of
honour; and besides Rob was her eldest, and she had credited him with
every sterling virtue. Jessie and Johnny stood aghast. They had only
meant to defend their little cousin, and had never expected either that
she would be so much overcome, or that she would insist on their father
knowing all, as she did with increasing anger and grief at each of their
attempts at persuading her to the contrary. Caroline thought he ought
to know. Her children’s father would have known long ago, but then
his wrath would have been a different thing from what seemed to be
apprehended from his brother; and she understood the distress of Jessie
and John, though her pity for Rob was but small. Whatever she tried to
say in the way of generous mediation or soothing only made it worse; and
poor Ellen, far from being her Serene Highness, was, between scolding
and crying, in an almost hysterical state, so that Caroline durst not
leave her or the frightened Jessie, and was relieved at last to hear the
Colonel coming into the house, when, thinking her presence would do more
harm than good, and longing to return to her little son, she slipped
away, and was joined at the door by her own John, who asked--

“What’s up, mother?”

“Did you know all about this dreadful business, Jock?”

“Afterwards, of course, but I was shut up in school, writing three
hundred disgusting lines of Virgil, or I’d have got the brutes off some
way.”

“And so little Armie is the brave one of all!”

“Well, so he is,” said Jock; “but I say, mother, don’t go making him
cockier. You know he’s only fit to be stitched up in one of Jessie’s
little red Sunday books, and he must learn to keep a civil tongue in his
head, and not be an insufferable little donkey.”

“You would not have had him give in and do it! Never, Jock!”

“Why no, but he could have got off with a little chaff instead of coming
out with his testimony like that, and so I’ve been telling him. So don’t
you set him up again to think himself forty martyrs all in one, or there
will be no living with him.”

“If all boys were like him.”

Jock made a sound of horror and disgust that made her laugh.

“He’s all very well,” added he in excuse; “but to think of all being
like that. The world would be only one big muff.”

“But, Jock, what’s this about Bobus being paid for doing people’s
exercises?”

“Bobus is a cute one,” said Jock.

“I thought he had more uprightness,” she sighed. “And you, Jock?”

“I should think not!” he laughed. “Nobody would trust me.”

“Is that the only reason?” she said, sadly, and he looked up in her
face, squeezed her hand, and muttered--

“One mayn’t like dirt without making such a row.”

“That’s like father’s boy,” she said, and he wrung her hand again.

They found Armine coiled up before the fire with a book, and Jock
greeted him with--

“Well, you little donkey, there’s such a shindy at the Croft as you
never heard.”

“Mother, you know!” cried Armine, running into her outstretched arms and
being covered with her kisses. “But who told?” he asked.

“John and Jessie,” said Jock. “They always said they would if anyone
said anything against you to mother or Uncle Robert.”

“Against me?” said Armine.

“Yes,” said Jock. “Didn’t you know it got about through some of the
juniors or their sisters that it was Brownlow maximus gently chastising
you for bad language, and of course Mrs. Coffinkey told Aunt Ellen.”

“Oh, but Jock,” cried Armine, turning round in consternation, “I hope
Rob does not know.”

And on further pressing it was extracted that Rob, when sent home with
him, had threatened him with the great black vaulted cellars of Kencroft
if he divulged the truth. When Jock left them the relief of pouring out
the whole history to the mother was evidently great.

“You know, mother, I couldn’t,” he cried, as if there had been a
physical impossibility.

“Why, dear child. How did you bear their horrid cruelty?”

“I thought it could not be so bad as it was for the forty soldiers on
the Lake. Dear grandmamma read us the story out of a little red book one
Sunday evening when you were gone to Church. They froze, you know, and
it was only cold and nasty for me.”

“So the thought of them carried you through?”

“God carried me through,” said the child reverently. “I asked Him not to
let me break His Commandment.”

Just then the Colonel’s heavy tread was heard, and with him came Mr.
Ogilvie, whom he had met on the road and informed. The good man was
indeed terribly grieved, and his first words were, “Caroline, I cannot
tell you how much shocked and concerned I am;” and then he laid his hand
on Armine’s shoulder saying--“My little boy, I am exceedingly sorry for
what you have suffered. One day Robert will be so too. You have been
a noble little fellow, and if anything could console me for the part
Robert has played it would be the seeing one of my dear brother’s sons
so like his father.”

He gave the downcast brow a fatherly kiss, so really like those of days
gone by that the boy’s overstrained spirits gushed forth in sobs and
tears, of which he was so much ashamed that he rushed out of the room,
leaving his mother greatly overcome, his uncle distressed and annoyed,
and his master not much less so, at the revelation of so much evil, so
hard either to reach or to understand.

“I would have brought Robert to apologise,” said the Colonel, “if he had
been as yet in a mood to do so properly.”

“Oh! that would have been dreadful for us all,” ejaculated Caroline,
under her breath.

“But I can make nothing of him,” continued he, “He is perfectly stolid
and seems incapable of feeling anything, though I have talked to him as
I never thought to have to speak to any son of mine; but he is deaf to
all.”

The Colonel, in his wrath, even while addressing only Caroline and Mr.
Ogilvie, had raised his voice as if he were shouting words of command,
so that both shrank a little, and Carey said--

“I don’t think he knew it was so bad.”

“What? Cheating his masters and torturing a helpless child for not
yielding to his tyranny?”

“People don’t always give things their right names even to themselves,”
 said Mr. Ogilvie. “I should try to see it from the boy’s point of view.”

“I have no notion of extenuating ill-conduct or making excuses! That’s
the modern way! So principles get lowered! I tell you, sir, there are
excuses for everything. What makes the difference is only the listening
to them or not.”

“Yes,” ventured Caroline, “but is there not a difference between finding
excuses for oneself and for other people?”

“All alike, lowering the principle,” said the Colonel, with something
of the same slowness of comprehension as his son. “If excuses are to be
made for everything, I don’t wonder that there is no teaching one’s boys
truth or common honesty and humanity.”

“But, Robert,” said Caroline, roused to defence; “do you really mean
that in your time nobody bullied or cribbed?”

“There was some shame about it if they did,” said the Colonel. “Now, I
suppose, I am to be told that it is an ordinary custom to be connived
at.”

“Certainly not by me,” said Mr. Ogilvie. “I had hoped that the standard
of honour had been raised, but it is very hard to mete the exact level
of the schoolboy code from the outside.”

“And your John and mine have never given in to it,” added Caroline.

“What do you propose to do, Mr. Ogilvie?” said the Colonel. “I shall do
my part with my boy as a father. What will you do with him and the other
bully, who I find was Cripps.”

“I shall see Cripps’s father first. I think it might be well if we both
saw him before deciding on the form of discipline. We have to think not
only of justice but of the effect on their characters.”

“That’s the modern system,” said the Colonel indignantly. “Fine work it
would make in the army. I know when punishment is deserved. I don’t set
up to be Providence, to know exactly what work it is to do. I leave that
to my Maker and do my duty.”

He was cut short by his son Joe rushing in headlong, exclaiming--

“Papa, papa, please come! Rob has knocked Johnny down and he doesn’t
come round.”

Colonel Brownlow hurried off, Caroline trying to make him hear her offer
to follow if she could be useful, and sending Jock to see whether there
was any opening for her. Unless the emergency were very great indeed
she knew her absence would be preferred, and so she and Mr. Ogilvie
remained, talking the matter over, with more pity for the delinquent
than his own family would have thought natural.

“It really is a terrible thing to be stupid,” she said. “I don’t imagine
that unlucky boy ever entered into his father’s idea of truth and
honour, which really is fine in its way.”

“Very fine, and proved to have made many fine fellows in its time.
I dare say the lad will grow up to it, but just now he simply feels
cruelly injured by interference with a senior’s claim to absolute
submission.”

“Which he sees as singly as his father sees the simple duty of justice.”

“It would be comfortable if we poor moderns could deal out our measures
with that straightforward military simplicity. I cannot help seeing in
that unfortunate boy the victim of examinations for commissions. Boys
must be subjected to high pressure before they can thoroughly enter into
the importance of the issues that depend upon it; and when a sluggish,
dull intellect is forced beyond endurance, there is an absolute instinct
of escape, impelling to shifts and underhand ways of eluding work.
Of course the wrong is great, but the responsibility rests with the
taskmaster in the same manner as the thefts of a starved slave might on
his owner.”

“The taskmaster being the country?”

“Exactly so. Happy those boys who have available brains, like yours.”

“Ah! I am very sorry about Bobus; what ought I to do?”

“Hardly more than write a few words of warning, since the change may
probably have put an end to the practice.”

Jock presently brought back tidings that his namesake was all right,
except for a black eye, and was growling like ten bears at having been
sent to bed.

“Uncle Robert was more angry than ever, in a white heat, quiet and
terrible,” said Jock, in an awe-struck voice. “He has locked Rob up in
his study, and here’s Joe, for Aunt Ellen is quite knocked up, and they
want the house to be very quiet.”

No tragical consequences, however, ensued. Mother and sons both appeared
the next morning, and were reported as “all right” by the first inquirer
from the Folly; but Jessie came to her lessons with swollen eyelids
as if she had cried half the night; and when her aunt thanked her for
defending Armine, she began to cry again, and Essie imparted to Barbara
that Rob was “just like a downright savage with her.”

“No; hush, Essie, it is not that,” said Jessie; “but papa is so
dreadfully angry with him, and he is to be sent away, and it is all my
fault.”

“But Jessie, dear, surely it is better for Rob to be stopped from those
deceitful ways.”

“O yes, I know. But that I should have turned against him!” And Jessie
was so thoroughly unhappy that none of her lessons prospered and her
German exercise had three great tear blots on it.

Rob’s second misdemeanour had simplified matters by deciding his father
on sending him from home at once into the hands of a professed coach,
who would not let him elude study, and whose pupils were too big to
be bullied. To the last he maintained his sullen dogged air of
indifference, though there might be more truth than the Folly was
disposed to allow in his sister’s allegations that it was because he did
feel it so very much, especially mamma’s looking so ill and worried.

Ellen did in truth look thoroughly unhinged, though no one saw her give
way. She felt her boy’s conduct sorely, and grieved at the first parting
in her family. Besides, there was anxiety for the future. Rob’s manner
of conducting his studies was no hopeful augury of his success, and
the expenses of sending him to a tutor fell the more heavily because
unexpectedly. A horse and man were given up, and Jessie had to resign
the hope of her music lessons. These were the first retrenchments, and
the diminution of dignity was felt.

The Colonel showed his trouble and anxiety by speaking and tramping
louder than ever, ruling his gardener with severe precision, and
thundering at his boys whenever he saw them idle. Both he and his wife
were so elaborately kind and polite that Caroline believed that it was
an act of magnanimous forgiveness for the ill luck that she and her
boys had brought them. At last the Colonel had the threatened fit of the
gout, which restored his equilibrium, and brought him back to his usual
condition of kindly, if somewhat ponderous, good sense.

He had not long recovered before Number Nine made his appearance at
Kencroft, and thus his mother had unusual facilities for inquiries of
Dr. Leslie respecting the master of Belforest.

The old man really seemed to be in a dying state. A hospital nurse had
taken charge of him, but there was not a dependent about the place, from
Mr. Richards downwards, who was not under notice to quit, and most were
staying on without his knowledge on the advice of the London solicitor,
to whom the agent had written. There was even more excitement on the
intelligence that Mr. Barnes had sent for Farmer Gould.

On this there was no doubt, for Mr. Gould, always delicately honourable
towards Mrs. Brownlow, came himself to tell her about the interview. It
seemed to have been the outcome of a yearning of the dying man towards
the sole survivor of the companions of his early days. He had talked
in a feeble wandering way of old times, but had said nothing about the
child, and was plainly incapable of sustained attention.

He had asked Mr. Gould to come again, but on this second visit he was
too far gone for recognition, and had returned to his moody instinctive
aversion to visitors, and in three days more he was dead.



CHAPTER XV. -- THE BELFOREST MAGNUM BONUM.



     Where is his golden heap?
                    Divine Breathings.


Mrs. Robert Brownlow was churched with all the expedition possible, in
order that she might not lose the sight of the funeral procession, which
would be fully visible from the studio in the top of the tower.

The excitement was increased by invitations to attend the funeral being
sent to the Colonel and to his two eldest nephews, who were just
come home for the holidays, also to their mother to be present at the
subsequent reading of the will.

A carriage was sent for her, and she entered it, not knowing or caring
to find out what she wished, and haunted by the line, “Die and endow a
college or a cat.”

Allen met her at the front door, whispering--“Did you see, mother, he
has still got his ears?” And the thought crossed her--“Will those ears
cost us dear?”

She was the only woman present in the library--a large room, but with
an atmosphere as if the open air had not been admitted for thirty years,
and with an enormous fire, close to which was the arm-chair whither she
was marshalled, being introduced to the two solicitors, Mr. Rowse and
Mr. Wakefield, who, with Farmer Gould, the agent, Richards, the Colonel,
and the two boys, made up the audience.

The lawyers explained that the will had been sent home ten years ago
from Yucatan, and had ever since been in their hands. Search had been
made for a later one, but none had been found, nor did they believe that
one could exist.

It was very short. The executors were Charles Rowse and Peter Ball, and
the whole property was devised to them, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Robert
Brownlow, as trustees for the testator’s great-niece, Mrs. Caroline
Otway Brownlow, daughter of John and Caroline Allen, and wife of Joseph
Brownlow, Esq., M.D., F.R.C.S., the income and use thereof to be enjoyed
by her during her lifetime; and the property, after her death, to be
divided among her children in such proportions as she should direct.

That was all; there was no legacy, no further directions.

“Allow me to congratulate--” began the elder lawyer.

“No--no--oh, stay a bit,” cried she, in breathless dismay and
bewilderment. “It can’t be! It can’t mean only me. There must be
something about Elvira de Menella.”

“I fear there is not,” said Mr. Rowse; “I could wish my late client had
attended more to the claims of justice, and had divided the property,
which could well have borne it; but unfortunately it is not so.”

“It is exactly as he led us to expect,” said Mr. Gould. “We have no
right to complain, and very likely the child will be much happier
without it. You have a fine family growing up to enjoy it, Mrs.
Brownlow, and I am sure no one congratulates you more heartily than I.”

“Don’t; it can’t be,” cried the heiress, nearly crying, and wringing the
old farmer’s hand. “He must have meant Elvira. You know he sent for you.
Has everything been hunted over? There must be a later will.”

“Indeed, Mrs. Brownlow,” said the solicitor, “you may rest assured that
full search has been made. Mr. Richards had the same impression, and we
have been searching every imaginable receptacle.”

“Besides,” added Colonel Brownlow, “if he had made another will there
would have been witnesses.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Richards; “but to make matters certain, I wrote to
several of the servants to ask whether they remembered any attestation,
but no one did; and indeed I doubt whether, after his arrival here, poor
Mr. Barnes ever had sustained power enough to have drawn up and executed
a will without my assistance, or that of any legal gentleman.”

“It is too hard and unjust,” cried Caroline; “it cannot be. I must halve
it with the child, as if there had been no will at all. Robert! you know
that is what your brother would have done.”

“That would be just as well as generous, indeed, if it were
practicable,” said Mr. Rowse; “but unfortunately Colonel Brownlow
and myself (for Mr. Ball is dead) are in trust to prevent any such
proceeding. All that is in your power is to divide the property among
your own family by will, in such proportion as you may think fit.”

“Quite true, my dear sister,” said the Colonel, meeting her despairing
appealing look, “as regards the principal, but the ready money at the
bank and the income are entirely at your own disposal, and you can,
without difficulty, secure a very sufficient compensation to the little
girl out of them.”

“No doubt,” said Mr. Rowse.

“You’ll let me--you’ll let me, Mr. Gould,” implored Caroline; “you’ll
let me keep her, and do all I can to make up to her. You see the Colonel
thinks it is only justice; don’t you, Robert?”

“Mrs. Brownlow is quite right,” said the Colonel, seeing that her
vehemence was a little distrusted; “it will be only an act of justice to
make provision for your granddaughter.”

“I am sure, Colonel Brownlow, nothing can be handsomer than your conduct
and Mrs. Brownlow’s,” said the old man; “but I should not like to take
advantage of what she is good enough to say on the spur of the moment,
till she has had more time to think it over.”

Therewith he took leave, while Caroline exclaimed--

“I always say there is no truer gentleman in the county than old Mr.
Gould. I shall not be satisfied about that will till I have turned
everything over and the partners have been written to.”

Again she was assured that she might set her mind at rest, and then
the lawyers began to read a statement of the property which made Allen
utter, under his breath, an emphatic “I say!” but his mother hardly
took it in. The heated room had affected her from the first, and the
bewilderment of the tidings seemed almost to crush her; her heart and
temples throbbed, her head ached violently, and while the final words
respecting arrangements were passing between the Colonel and the
lawyers, she was conscious only of a sickening sense of oppression, and
a fear of committing the absurdity of fainting.

However, at last her brother-in-law put her into the brougham, desiring
the boys to walk home, which they did very willingly, and with a
wonderful air of lordship and possession.

“Well, Caroline,” said the Colonel, “I congratulate you on being the
richest proprietor in the county.”

“O Robert, don’t! If--if,” said a suffocated voice, so miserable that he
turned and took her hand kindly, saying--

“My dear sister, this feeling is very--it becomes you well. This is a
fearful responsibility.”

She could not answer. She only leant back in the carriage, with closed
eyes, and moaned--

“Oh! Joe! Joe!”

“Indeed,” said his brother, greatly touched, “we want him more than
ever.”

He did not try to talk any more to her, and when they reached the
Pagoda, all she could do was to hurry up stairs, and, throwing off her
bonnet, bury her face in the pillow.

Janet and her aunt both followed, the latter with kind and tender
solicitude; but Caroline could bear nothing, and begged only to be left
alone.

“Dear Ellen, it is very kind, but nothing does any good to these
headaches. Please don’t--please leave me alone.”

They saw it was the only true kindness, and left her, after all attempts
at bathing her forehead, or giving her sal volatile, proved only to
molest her. She lay on her bed, not able to think, and feeling nothing
but the pain of her headache and a general weight and loneliness.

The first break was from Allen, who came in tenderly with a cup of
coffee, saying that they thought her time was come for being ready for
it. His manner always did her good, and she sat up, pushed back her
hair, smiled, took the cup, and thanked him lovingly.

“Uncle Robert is waiting to hear if you are better,” he said.

“Oh yes,” she said; “thank him; I am sorry I was so silly.”

“He wants me to dine there to-night, mother, to meet Mr. Rowse and Mr.
Wakefield,” said Allen, with a certain importance suited to a lad of
fifteen, who had just become “somebody.”

“Very well,” she said, in weary acquiescence, as she lay down again,
just enough refreshed by the coffee to become sleepy.

“And mother,” said Allen, lingering in the dark, “don’t trouble about
Elfie. I shall marry her as soon as I am of age, and that will make all
straight.”

Her stunned sleepiness was scarcely alive to this magnanimous
announcement, and she dreamily said--

“Time enough to think of such things.”

“I know,” said Allen; “but I thought you ought to know this.”

He looked wistfully for another word on this great avowal, but she was
really too much stupefied to enter into the purport of the boy’s words,
and soon after he left her she fell sound asleep. She had a curious
dream, which she remembered long after. She seemed to have identified
herself with King Midas, and to be touching all her children, who
turned into hard, cold, solid golden statues fixed on pedestals in the
Belforest gardens, where she wandered about, vainly calling them. Then
her husband’s voice, sad and reproachful, seemed to say, “Magnum Bonum!
Magnum Bonum!” and she fancied it the elixir which alone could restore
them, and would have climbed a mountain in search of it, as in the
Arabian tale; but her feet were cold, heavy, and immovable, and she
found that they too had become gold, and that the chill was creeping
upwards. With a scream of “Save the children, Joe,” she awoke.

No wonder she had dreamt of cold golden limbs, for her feet were really
chilly as ice, and the room as dark as at midnight. However it was not
yet seven o’clock; and presently Janet brought a light, and persuaded
her to come downstairs and warm herself. She was not yet capable of
going into the dining-room to the family tea, but crept down to lie
on the sofa in the drawing-room; and there, after taking the small
refreshment which was all she could yet endure, she lay with closed
eyes, while the children came in from the meal. Armine and Babie were
the first. She knew they were looking at her, but was too weary to exert
herself to speak to them.

“Asleep,” they whispered. “Poor Mother Carey.”

“Armie,” said Babie, “is mother unhappy because she has got rich?”

Armine hesitated. His brief experience of school had made him less
unsophisticated, and he seldom talked in his own peculiar fashion even
to his little sister, and she added--

“Must people get wicked when they are rich?”

“Mother is always good,” said faithful little Armine.

“The rich people in the Bible were all bad,” pondered Babie. “There was
Dives, and the man with the barns.”

“Yes,” said Armine; “but there were good ones too--Abraham and Solomon.”

“Solomon was not always good,” said Babie; “and Uncle Robert told Allen
it was a fearful responsibility. What is a responsibility, Armie? I am
sure Ali didn’t like it.”

“Something to answer for!” said Armine.

“To who?” asked the little girl.

“To God,” said the boy reverently. “It’s like the talent in the parable.
One has got to do something for God with it, and then it won’t turn to
harm.”

“Like the man’s treasure that changed into slate stones when he made a
bad use of it,” said Babie. “Oh! Armie, what shall we do? Shall we give
plum-puddings to the little thin girls down the lane?”

“And I should like to give something good to the little grey workhouse
boys,” said Armine. “I should so hate always walking out along a
straight road as they do.”

“And oh! Armie, then don’t you think we may get a nice book to write out
Jotapata in?”

“Yes, a real jolly one. For you know, Babie, it will take lots of room,
even if I write my very smallest.”

“Please let it be ruled, Armie. And where shall we begin?”

“Oh! at the beginning, I think, just when Sir Engelbert first heard
about the Crusade.”

“It will take lots of books then.”

“Never mind, we can buy them all now. And do you know, Bab, I think
Adelmar and Ermelind might find a nice lot of natural petroleum and
frighten Mustafa ever so much with it!”

For be it known that Armine and Barbara’s most cherished delight was in
one continued running invention of a defence of Jotapata by a crusading
family, which went on from generation to generation with unabated
energy, though they were very apt to be reduced to two young children
who held out their fortress against frightful odds of Saracens, and
sometimes conquered, sometimes converted their enemies. Nobody but
themselves was fully kept au courant with this wonderful siege, which
had hitherto been recorded in interlined copy-books, or little paper
books pasted together, and very remarkably illustrated.

The door began to creak with an elaborate noisiness intended for perfect
silence, and Jock’s voice was heard.

“Bother the door! Did it wake mother? No? That’s right;” and he squatted
down between the little ones while Bobus seated himself at the table
with a book.

“Well! what colour shall our ponies be?” began Jock, in an attempt at a
whisper.

“Oh! shall we have ponies?” cried the little ones.

“Zebras if we like,” said Jock. “We’ll have a team.”

“Can’t,” growled Bobus.

“Why not? They can be bought!”

“Not tamed. They’ve tried it at the Jardin d’Acclimatisation.”

“Oh, that was only Frenchmen. A zebra is too jolly to let himself be
tamed by a Frenchman. I’ll break one in myself and go out with the
hounds upon him.”

“Jack-ass on striped-ass--or off him,” muttered Bobus.

“Oh! don’t, Jock,” implored Babie, “you’ll get thrown.”

“No such thing. You’ll come to the meet yourself, Babie, on your Arab.”

“Not she,” said Bobus, in his teasing voice. “She’ll be governessed up
and kept to lessons all day.”

“Mother always teaches us,” said Babie.

“She’ll have no time, she’ll be a great lady, and you’ll have three
governesses--one for French, and one for German, and one for deportment,
to make you turn out your toes, and hold up your head, and never sit on
the rug.”

“Never mind, Babie,” said Jock. “We’ll bother them out of their lives if
they do.”

“You’ll be at school,” said Bobus, “and they’ll all three go out walking
with Babie, and if she goes out of a straight line one will say ‘Fi
donc, Mademoiselle Barbe,’ and the other will say, ‘Schamen sie sich,
Fraulein Barbara,’ and the third will call for the stocks.”

“For shame, Robert,” cried his mother, hearing something like a sob;
“how can you tease her so!”

“Mother, must I have three governesses?” asked poor little Barbara.

“Not one cross one, my sweet, if I can help it!”

“Oh! mother, if it might be Miss Ogilvie?” said Babie.

“Yes, mother, do let it be Miss Ogilvie,” chimed in Armine. “She tells
such jolly stories!”

“She ain’t a very nasty one,” quoted Jock from Newman Noggs, and as
Janet appeared he received her with--“Moved by Barbara, seconded by
Armine, that Miss Ogilvie become bear-leader to lick you all into
shape.”

“What do you think of it, Janet?” said her mother.

“It will not make much difference to me,” said Janet. “I shall depend on
classes and lectures when we go back to London. I should have thought a
German better for the children, but I suppose the chief point is to find
some one who can manage Elfie if we are still to keep her.”

“By the bye, where is she, poor little thing?” asked Caroline.

“Aunt Ellen took her home,” said Janet. “She said she would send her
back at bed-time, but she thought we should be more comfortable alone
to-night.”

“Real kindness,” said Caroline; “but remember, children, all of you,
that Elfie is altogether one of us, on perfectly equal terms, so don’t
let any difference be made now or ever.”

“Shall I have a great many more lessons, mother?” asked Babie.

“Don’t be as silly as Essie, Babie,” said Janet. “She expects us all to
have velvet frocks and gold-fringed sashes, and Jessie’s first thought
was ‘Now, Janet, you’ll have a ladies’ maid.’”

“No wonder she rejoiced to be relieved of trying to make you
presentable,” said Bobus.

“Shall we live at Belforest?” asked Armine.

“Part of the year,” said Janet, who was in a wonderfully expansive and
genial state; “but we shall get back to London for the season, and know
what it is to enjoy life and rationality again, and then we must all go
abroad. Mother, how soon can we go abroad?”

“It won’t make a bit of difference for a year. We shan’t get it for ever
so long,” said Bobus.

“Oh!”

“Fact. I know a man whose uncle left him a hundred pounds last year, and
the lawyers haven’t let him touch a penny of it.”

“Perhaps he is not of age,” said Janet.

“At any rate,” said Jock, “we can have our fun at Belforest.”

“O yes, Jock, only think,” cried Babie, “all the dear tadpoles belong to
mother!”

“And all the dragon-flies,” said Armine.

“And all the herons,” said Jock.

“We can open the gates again,” said Armine.

“Oh! the flowers!” cried Babie in an ecstasy.

“Yes,” said Janet. “I suppose we shall spend the early spring in the
country, but we must have the best part of the season in London now
that we can get out of banishment, and enjoy rational conversation once
more.”

“Rational fiddlestick,” muttered Bobus.

“That’s what any girl who wasn’t such a prig as Janet would look for,”
 said Jock.

“Well, of course,” said Janet. “I mean to have my balls like other
people; I shall see life thoroughly. That’s just what I value this for.”

Bobus made a scoffing noise.

“What’s up, Bobus?” asked Jock.

“Nothing, only you keep up such a row, one can’t read.”

“I’m sure this is better and more wonderful than any book!” said Jock.

“It makes no odds to me,” returned Bobus, over his book.

“Oh! now!” cried Janet, “if it were only the pleasure of being free from
patronage it would be something.”

“Gratitude!” said Bobus.

“I’ll show my gratitude,” said Janet; “we’ll give all of them at
Kencroft all the fine clothes and jewels and amusements that ever they
care for, more than ever they gave us; only it is we that shall give and
they that will take, don’t you see?”

“Sweet charity,” quoth Bobus.

Those two were a great contrast; Janet had never been so radiant,
feeling her sentence of banishment revoked, and realising more vividly
than anyone else was doing, the pleasures of wealth. The cloud under
which she had been ever since the coming to the Pagoda seemed to have
rolled away, in the sense of triumph and anticipation; while Bobus
seemed to have fallen into a mood of sarcastic ill-temper. His mother
saw, and it added to her sense of worry, though her bright sweet nature
would scarcely have fathomed the cause, even had she been in a state to
think actively rather than to feel passively. Bobus, only a year younger
than Allen, and endowed with more force and application, if not with
more quickness, had always been on a level with his brother, and
felt superior, despising Allen’s Eton airs and graces, and other
characteristics which most people thought amiable. And now Allen had
become son and heir, and was treated by everyone as the only person of
importance. Bobus did not know what his own claims might be, but at any
rate his brother’s would transcend them, and his temper was thoroughly
upset.

Poor Caroline! She did not wholly omit to pray “In all time of our
tribulation, in all time of our wealth, deliver us!” but if she had
known all that was in her children’s hearts, her own would have trembled
more.

And as to Ellen, the utmost she allowed herself to say was, “Well, I
hope she will make a good use of it!”

While the Colonel, as trustee and adviser, had really a very
considerable amount of direct importance and enjoyment before him,
which might indeed be--to use his own useful phrase--“a fearful
responsibility,” but was no small boon to a man with too much time on
his hands.



CHAPTER XVI. -- POSSESSION.



     Vain glorious Elf, said he, dost thou not weete
     That money can thy wants at will supply;
     Shields, steeds and armes, and all things for thee meet,
     It can purvey in twinkling of an eye.
                                              Spenser.


Bobus’s opinion that it would be long before anything came of this
accession of wealth was for a few days verified in the eyes of the
impatient family, for Christmas interfered with some of the necessary
formalities; and their mother, still thinking that another will might
be discovered, declared that they were not to go within the gates of
Belforest till they were summoned.

At last, after Colonel Brownlow had spent a day in London, he made his
appearance with a cheque-book in his hand, and the information that he
and his fellow-trustee had so arranged that the heiress could open an
account, and begin to enter on the fruition of the property. There were
other arrangements to be made, those about the out-door servants and
keepers could be settled with Richards, but she ought to remove her
two sons from the foundation of the two colleges, though of course they
would continue there as pupils.

“And Robert,” she said, colouring exceedingly, “if you will let me,
there is a thing I wish very much--to send your John to Eton with mine.
He is my godson, you know, and it would be such a pleasure to me.”

“Thank you, Caroline,” said the Colonel, after a moment’s hesitation,
“Johnny is to stand at the Eton election, and I should prefer his owing
his education to his own exertions rather than to any kindness.”

“Yes, yes; I understand that,” said Caroline; “but I do want you to let
me do anything for any of them. I should be so grateful,” she added,
imploringly, with a good deal of agitation; “please--please think of it,
as if your brother were still here. You would never mind how much he did
for them.”

“Yes, I should,” said the Colonel, decidedly, but pausing to collect his
next sentence. “I should not accept from him what might teach my sons
dependence. You see that, Caroline.”

“Yes,” she humbly said. “He would be wise about it! I don’t want to be
disagreeable and oppressive, Robert; I will never try to force things on
you; but please let me do all that is possible to you to allow.”

There was something touching in her incoherent earnestness, which made
the Colonel smile, yet wink away some moisture from his eyes, as he
again thanked her without either acceptance or refusal. Then he said he
was going to Belforest, and asked whether she would not like to come
and look over the place. He would go back and call for her with the pony
carriage.

“But would not Ellen like to go?” she said. “I will walk with the boys.”

The Colonel demurred a little, but knowing that his wife really longed
to go, and could not well be squeezed into the back seat, he gave a sort
of half assent; and as he left the house, Mother Carey gave a summoning
cry to gather her brood, rushed upstairs, put on what Babie called her
“most every dayest old black hat;” and when Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow,
with Jessie behind, drove into the park, it was to see her careering
along by the short cut over the hoar-frosty grass, in the midst of
seven boys, three girls, and two dogs, all in a most frisky mood of
exhilaration.

Distressed at appearing to drive up like the lady of the house, her
Serene Highness insisted on stopping at the iron gates of the stately
approach. There she alighted, and waited to make the best setting to
rights she could of the heiress’s wind-tossed hat and cloak, and would
have put her into the carriage, but that no power could persuade her to
mount that triumphal car, and all that could be obtained was that she
should walk in the forefront of the procession with the Colonel.

There was nobody to receive them but Richards, for the servants had been
paid off, and only a keeper and his wife were living in the kitchen in
charge. There was a fire in the library, where the Colonel had business
to transact with Richards, while the ladies and children proceeded with
their explorations. It was rather awful at first in the twilight gloom
of the great hall, with a painted mythological ceiling, and cold white
pavement, varied by long perspective lines of black lozenges, on which
every footfall echoed. The first door that they opened led into a vast
and dreary dining-room, with a carpet, forming a crimson roll at one
end, and long ranks of faded leathern chairs sitting in each other’s
laps. At one end hung a huge picture by Snyders, of a bear hugging one
dog in his forepaws and tearing open the ribs of another with his hind
ones. Opposite was a wild boar impaling a hound with his tusk, and the
other walls were occupied by Herodias smiling at the contents of
her charger, Judith dropping the gory head into her bag, a brown St.
Sebastian writhing among the arrows; and Juno extracting the painfully
flesh and blood eyes of Argus to set them in her peacock’s tail.

“I object to eating my dinner in a butcher’s shop,” observed Allen.

“Yes, we must get them out of this place,” said his mother.

“They are very valuable paintings,” interposed Ellen. “I know they are
in the county history. They were collected by Sir Francis Bradford, from
whom the place was bought, and he was a great connoisseur.”

“Yes, they are just the horrid things great connoisseurs of the last
century liked, by way of giving themselves an appetite,” said Caroline.

“Are not fine pictures always horrid?” asked Jessie, in all simplicity.

The drawing-rooms, a whole suite--antechamber, saloon, music-room, and
card-room, were all swathed up in brown holland, hanging even from
the picture rods along the wall. Even in the days of the most liberal
housekeeper, Ellen had never done more than peep beneath. So she
revelled in investigations of gilding and yellow satin, ormolu and
marble, big mirrors and Sevres clocks, a three-piled carpet, and a
dazzling prismatic chandelier, though all was pervaded with such a
chill of unused dampness and odour of fustiness, that Caroline’s first
impression was that it was a perilous place for one so lately recovered.
However, Ellen believed in no danger till she came on two monstrous
stains of damp on the walls, with a whole crop of curious fungi in one
corner, and discovered that all the holland was flabby, and all the
damask clammy! Then she enforced the instant lighting of fires, and
shivered so decidedly, that Caroline and Jessie begged her to return to
the fire in the library, while Jessie went in search of Rob to drive her
home.

All the rest of the younger population had deserted the state
apartments, and were to be heard in the distance, clattering along the
passages, banging doors, bawling and shouting to each other, with freaks
of such laughter as had never awakened those echoes during the Barnes’
tenure, but Jessie returned not; and her aunt, going in quest of her up
a broad flight of shallow stairs, found herself in a grand gallery, with
doors leading to various corridors and stairs. She called, and the
tramp of the boots of youth began to descend on her, with shouts of “All
right!” and downstairs flowed the troop, beginning with Jock, and
ending with Armine and Babie, each with some breathless exclamation, all
jumbled together--

Jock. “Oh, mother! Stunning! Lots of bats fast asleep.”

Johnny. “Rats! rats!”

Rob. “A billiard-table.”

Joe. “Mother Carey, may Pincher kill your rats?”

Armine. “One wants a clue of thread to find one’s way.”

Janet. “I’ve counted five-and-thirty bedrooms already, and that’s not
all.”

Babie. “And there’s a little copper tea-kettle in each. May my dolls
have one?”

Bobus. “There’s nothing else in most of them; and, my eyes! how musty
they smell.”

Elvira. “I will have the room with the big red bed, with a gold crown at
the top.”

Allen. “Mother, it will be a magnificent place, but it must have a vast
deal done to it.”

But Mother Carey was only looking for Jessie. No one had seen her. Janet
suggested that she had taken a rat for a ghost, and they began to look
and call in all quarters, till at last she appeared, looking rather
white and scared at having lost herself, being bewildered by the voices
and steps echoing here, there, and everywhere. The barrenness and
uniformity did make it very easy to get lost, for even while they were
talking, Joe was heard roaring to know where they were, nor would he
stand still till they came up with him, but confused them and himself by
running to meet them by some deluding stair.

“We’ve not got a house, but a Cretan labyrinth,” said Babie.

“Or the bewitched castle mother told us of,” said Allen, “where
everybody was always running round after everybody.”

“You’ve only to have a grain of sense,” said Bobus, who had at last
recovered Joe, and proceeded to give them a lecture on the two main
arteries, and the passages communicating with them, so that they might
always be able to recover their bearings.

They were more sober after that. Rob drove his mother home, and the
Colonel made the round to inspect the dilapidations, and estimate what
was wanting. The great house had never been thoroughly furnished since
the Bradfords had sold it, and it was, besides, in manifest need of
repair. Damp corners, and piles of crumbled plaster told their own
tale. A builder must be sent to survey it, and on the most sanguine
computation, it could hardly be made habitable till the end of the
autumn.

Meantime, Caroline must remain a tenant of the Pagoda, though, as she
told the eager Janet, this did not prevent a stay in London for the sake
of the classes and the society, of whom she was always talking, only
there must be time to see their way.

The next proposition gave universal satisfaction, Mother Carey would
take her whole brood to London for a day, to make purchases, the three
elder children each with five pounds, the younger with two pounds
a-piece. She actually wanted to take two-thirds of those from Kencroft
also, with the same bounty in their pockets, but to this their parents
absolutely refused consent. To go about London with a train of seven was
bad enough; but that was her own affair, and they could not prevent it;
and they absolutely would not swell the number to thirteen. It would be
ridiculous; she would want an omnibus to go about in.

“I did not mean all to go about together. The elder boys will go their
own way.”

But, as the Colonel observed, that was all very well for boys, whose
home had always been in London, but she would find his country lads
much in her way. She then reduced her demand by a third, for she really
wished for Johnny; but the Colonel’s principles would not allow him to
accept so great an indulgence for Rob.

That unlucky fellow had, of course, failed in his examination, and this
had renewed the Colonel’s resentment at his laziness and shuffling. He
was, however, improved by contact with strangers, looked and behaved
less bearishly, and had acquired a will to do better. Still, it was not
possible to regret his absence, except because it involved that of his
brother; and, with a great effort, and many assurances of her being
really needed, Jessie’s company was secured.

Never was the taste of wealth sweeter than in that over-filled railway
carriage, before it was light on the winter morning, with a vista of
endless possibilities contained in those crackling notes and round gold
pieces, Jessie being, of course, as well off as the rest, and feeling
the novelty and wonder even more.

Mrs. Acton’s house was to be the place of rendezvous, and she would take
charge of the girls for part of the day, the boys wished to shift for
themselves; and Allen and Bobus had friends of their own with whom they
meant to lunch.

Clara met her friend with an agitated manner, half-laughing,
half-crying, as she said--

“Well, Mother Carey dear, you haven’t quite soared above us yet?”

“Petrels never take high flights,” said Carey; “I hope and trust that
it may prove impossible to make a fine lady of me. I am caught late, you
see.”

“Your daughters are not. You won’t like to have them making excuses for
mamma’s friends.”

“Janet’s exclusiveness will not be of that sort, and for warm-hearted
little Babie, trust her. Do you know where the Ogilvies can be written
to, Clara? Are they at Rome, or Florence?”

“They were to be at Florence by the 14th. Mary has learnt to be such a
traveller, that she always drags her brother abroad for however short a
time St. Kenelm may give her.”

“I hope I shall catch her in time. We want her for our governess.”

“Now, really, Carey, you are a woman for old friends! But do you think
you will get on? You know she won’t spare you.”

“That’s the very reason I want her.”

“It is very generous of you! You always were the best little thing in
the world, with a strong turn for being under the lash; so you’re going
to keep the slave in the back of your triumphal chariot, like the Roman
general.”

“I see, you’re afraid she will teach me to be too proper behaved for
you.”

“Precisely so, after her experience of Russian countesses. I don’t know
whether she will let you be mistress of your own house.”

“She will make me mistress all the more,” said Caroline; “for she will
make me all the more ‘queen o’er myself.’”

Then began the shopping, such shopping extraordinary as none of the
family had ever enjoyed except in dreams; and when it was the object
of everybody to conceal their purchases from everybody else. Caroline
contrived to make time for a quiet luncheon with Dr. and Mrs. Lucas, to
which she took her two youngest boys, since Jock was the godson of
the house, and had moreover been shaken off by his two elder brothers.
Happily he was too good-tempered to grumble at being thrown over, and
his mind was in a beatific state of contemplation of his newly-purchased
treasures, a small pistol, a fifteen-bladed knife, and a box of
miscellaneous sweets, although his mother had so far succumbed to the
weakness of her sex as to prevent the weapon from being accompanied by
any ammunition.

As to Armine, she wanted to consult Dr. Lucas about the fragile looks
and liability to cold that had alarmed her ever since Rob’s exploit.
Besides, he was so unlike the others! Had she not seen him quietly
make his way into the drawing-room, where Mrs. Lucas kept a box for the
Children’s Hospital, and drop into it two bright florins, one of which
she had seen Babie hand over to him?

“I do think it is not canny,” she said, as if it had been one of his
symptoms.

“Do you want me to prescribe for it?”

“I did try one prescription for having too big a soul; I turned my poor
little boy loose into school, and there they half killed him for me, and
made the original complaint worse.”

“Happily no prescription, ‘neither life, nor death, nor any other
creature,’ can cure that complaint,” said the good old doctor, “though,
alas! it is only too apt to dry up from within.”

“Still I can’t help feeling it rather awful to have to do with a being
so spiritual as that, and it appears to me to increase on him, so that
he never seems quite to belong to me. And precocity is a dangerous sign,
is it not?”

“I see,” said the doctor, smiling; “you are going to be a treasure to
the faculty, and indulge in anxieties and consultations.”

“Now, Dr. Lucas, you know that we were always anxious about Armine. You
remember his father said he needed more care than the rest.”

Dr. Lucas allowed that this was true; but he only recommended flannel,
pale ale, moderation in study, and time to recover the effects of the
pump.

Both the good old friends were very kind and full of tender
congratulation, mingled with a little anxiety, though they were pleased
with her good taste and simplicity and absence of all elation. But then
she had hardly realised the new position, and seemed to look neither
behind nor before. Her only scheme seemed to be to take a house in
London for a few months, and then perhaps to go abroad, but of this
she could not talk in those old scenes which vividly brought back that
castle in the air, never fulfilled, of a holiday in Switzerland with
Joe.

On leaving the Lucases, she sent her boys on before her to the nearest
bazaar, and was soon at her old home. Kind Mrs. Drake effaced herself as
much as possible, and let her roam about the house alone, but furniture
had altered every room, so that no responsive chord was touched till she
came to the study, which was little changed. There she shut herself in
and strove to recall the touch of the hand that was gone, the sound of
the voice that was still. She stood, where she had been wont to stand
over her husband, when he had been busy at his table and she had run
down with some inquiry, and with a yearning ache of heart she clasped
her hands, and almost breathed out the words, “O Joe, Joe, dear father!
Oh! for one moment of you to tell me what to do, and how to keep true to
the charge you gave me--your Magnum Bonum!”

So absolutely had she asked the question, that she waited, almost
expecting a reply, but there was no voice and none to answer her; and
she was turning away with a sickening sense of mockery at her own folly
in seeking the empty shrine whence the oracle of her life had departed,
when her eye fell on the engraving over the mantel-piece. It was the one
thing for which Mr. Drake had begged as a memorial of Joe Brownlow, and
it still hung in its old place. It was of the Great Physician, consoling
and healing all around--the sick, the captive, the self-tormenting
genius, the fatherless, the widow.

Was this the answer? Something darted through her mind like a pang
followed by a strange throb--“Give yourself up to Him. Seek the true
good first. The other may lie on its way.”

But it was only a pang. The only too-natural recoil came the next
minute. Was not she as religious as there was any need to be, or at
least as she could be without alienating her children or affecting more
than she felt? Give herself to Him? How? Did that mean a great deal of
church-going, sermon-reading, cottage visiting, prayers, meditations,
and avoidance of pleasure? That would never do; the boys would not bear
it, and Janet would be alienated; besides, it would be hypocrisy in one
who could not sit still and think, or attend to anything lengthy and
wearisome.

So, as a kind of compromise, she looked at the photograph which hung
below, and to it she almost spoke out her answer. “Yes, I’ll be very
good, and give away lots of things. Mary Ogilvie shall come and keep me
in order, and she won’t let me be naughty, if I ever want to be naughty
when I get away from Ellen. Then Magnum Bonum shall have its turn too.
Don’t be afraid, dearest. If Allen does not take to it now, I am sure
Bobus will be a great chemical discoverer, able to give all his time
and spare no expense, and then we will fit up this dear old house for
a hospital for very poor people. That’s what you would have done if you
had been here! Oh, if this money had only come in time! But here are
these horrid tears! If I once begin crying I shall be good for nothing.
If I don’t go at once, there’s no saying what Jock mayn’t have bought.”

She was just in time to find Jock asking the price of all the animals
in the Pantheon Bazaar, and expecting her to supply the cost of a
vicious-looking monkey. The whole flock collected in due time at the
station, and so did their parcels. Allen brought with him his chief
purchase, the most lovely toy-terrier in the world, whom he presented on
the spot to Elvira, and who divided the journey between licking himself
and devouring the fragments of biscuit with which Jock supplied him.
Allen had also bought a beautiful statuette for himself, and a set of
studs. Janet had set herself up with a case of mathematical instruments
and various books; Bobus’s purchases were divers chemical appliances
and a pocket microscope, also what he thrust into Jessie’s lap and she
presently proclaimed to be a lovely little work-case; Jessie herself was
hugging a parcel, which turned out to contain warm pelisses for the two
nursery boys just above the baby. For the adaptation of their seniors’
last year’s garments had not proved so successful as not to have much
grieved the good girl and her mother.

Elvira’s money had all gone into an accordion, and a necklace of large
blue beads.

“Didn’t you get anything for your grandfather or your cousins?” said
Caroline.

“I wanted it all,” said Elfie; “and you only gave me two sovereigns, or
I would have had the bracelets too.”

“Never mind, Elfie,” cried Babie, “I’ve got something for Mr. Gould and
for Kate and Mary.”

“Have you, Babie? So have I,” returned Armine; and the two, who had
been wedged into one seat, began a whispering conversation, by which
the listeners might have learnt that there was a friendly rivalry as
to which had made the two pounds provide the largest possible number
of presents. Neither had bought anything for self, for the chest of
drawers, bath, and broom were for Babie’s precious dolls, not for
herself. Mother Carey, uncle and aunt, brothers, sisters, cousins,
servants, Mr. Gould, the gardener’s grandson, the old apple-woman, “the
little thin girls,” had all been provided for at that wonderful German
Bazaar, and the only regret was that gifts for Mr. Ogilvie and Alfred
Richards could not be brought within the powers of even two pounds. What
had Mother Carey bought? Ah! Nobody was to know till Twelfth-day, and
then the first tree cut at Belforest would be a Christmas-tree. Then
came a few regrets that everybody had proclaimed their purchases, and
therewith people began to grow weary and drop asleep. It was by gaslight
that they arrived at home and bundled into the flys that awaited them,
and then in the hall at home came Elvira’s cry--

“Where’s my doggie, my Chico?”

“Here; I took him out,” said Jock.

“That’s not Chico; that’s a nasty, horrid, yellow cur. Chico was black.
You naughty boy, Jock, you’ve been and changed my dog.”

“Has Midas changed him to gold?” cried Babie.

“Ah,” said Bobus, meaningly.

“You’ve done it then, Bobus! You’ve put something to him.”

“_I_ haven’t,” said Bobus, “but he’s been licking himself all the way
home. Well, we all know green is the sacred colour of the Grand Turk.”

“No! You don’t mean it!” said Allen, catching up the dog and holding him
to the lamp, while Janet observed that he was a sort of chameleon, for
his body, which had been black, was now yellow, and his chops which had
been tan, had become black.

Elvira began to cry angrily, still uncomprehending, and fancying Bobus
and Jock had played her a trick and changed her dog; Allen abused the
horrid little brute, and the more horrid man who had deceived him; and
Armine began pitying and caressing him, seriously distressed lest
the poor little beast should have poisoned himself. Caroline herself
expected to have heard that he was dead the next morning, and would
have felt more compassion than regret; but, to her surprise and Allen’s
chagrin, Chico made his appearance, very rhubarb-coloured and perfectly
well.

“I think,” said Elvira, “I will give Chico to grandpapa, for a nice
London present.”

Everybody burst out laughing at this piece of generosity, and though the
young lady never quite understood what amused them, and Allen heartily
wished Chico among the army of dogs at River Hollow, he did somehow or
other remain at the Folly, and, after the fashion of dogs, adopted Jock
as the special object of his devotion.

Ellen came in, expecting to regale her eyes with the newest fashions. Or
were they all coming down from the dressmaker?

“I had no time to be worried with dressmakers,” said Caroline.

“I thought you went there while the girls were going about with Mrs.
Acton.”

“Indeed no. I had just got my new bonnet for the winter.”

“But!”

“And _indeed_, I have not inherited any more heads.”

Ellen sighed at the impracticability of her sister-in-law and the
blindness of fortune. But nobody could sigh long in the face of that
Twelfth-day Christmas-tree. What need be said of it but that each member
of the house of Brownlow, and each of its dependents, obtained the very
thing that the bright-eyed fairy of the family had guessed would be most
acceptable.



CHAPTER XVII. -- POPINJAY PARLOUR.



     Happiest of all, in that her gentle spirit
     Commits itself to yours to be directed.
                                 Merchant of Venice.


“It is our melancholy duty to record the demise of James Barnes, Esq.,
which took place at his residence at Belforest Park, near Kenminster,
on the 20th of December. The lamented gentleman had long been in failing
health, and an attack of paralysis, which took place on the 19th,
terminated fatally. The vast property which the deceased had
accumulated, chiefly by steamboat and railway speculations in the West
Indies, rendered him one of the richest proprietors in the county.
We understand that the entire fortune is bequeathed solely to his
grand-niece, Mrs. Caroline Otway Brownlow, widow of the late Joseph
Brownlow, Esq., and at present resident in the Pagoda, Kenminster Hill.
Her eldest son, Allen Brownlow, Esq., is being educated at Eton.”

That was the paragraph which David Ogilvie placed before the eyes of
his sister in a newspaper lent to him in the train by a courteous
fellow-traveller.

“Poor Caroline!” said Mary.

They said no more till the next day, when, after the English service at
Florence, they were strolling together towards San Miniato, and feeling
themselves entirely alone.

“I wonder whether this is true,” began Mary at last.

“Why not true?”

“I thought Mr. Barnes had threatened the boys that they should remember
the Midas escapade.”

“It must have been only a threat. It could only lie between her and
the Spanish child; and, if report be true, even the half would be an
enormous fortune.”

“Will it be fortune or misfortune, I wonder?”

“At any rate, it puts an end to my chances of being of any service to
her. Be it the half or the whole, she is equally beyond my reach.”

“As she was before.”

“Don’t misinterpret me, Mary. I mean out of reach of helping her in any
way. I was of little use to her before. I could not save little Armine
from those brutal bullies, and never suspected the abuse that engulphed
Bobus. I am not fit for a schoolmaster.”

“To tell the truth, I doubt whether you have enough high spirits or
geniality.”

“That’s the very thing! I can’t get into the boys, or prevent
their thinking me a Don. I had hoped there was improvement, but the
revelations of the half-year have convinced me that I knew just nothing
at all about it.”

“Have you thought what you will do?”

“As soon as I get home, I shall send in my notice of resignation at
Midsummer. That will see out her last boy, if he stays even so long.”

“And then?”

“I shall go for a year to a theological college, and test my fitness to
offer myself for Holy Orders.”

A look of satisfaction on his sister’s part made him add, “Perhaps you
were disappointed that I was not ordained on my fellowship seven years
ago.”

“Certainly I was; but I was in Russia, and I thought you knew best, so I
said nothing.”

“You were right. You would only have heard what would have made you
anxious. Not that there was much to alarm you, but it is not good for
any one to be left so entirely without home influences as I was all the
time you spent abroad. I fell among a set of daring talkers, who thought
themselves daring thinkers; and though the foundations were never
disturbed with me, I was not disposed to bind myself more closely to
what might not bear investigation, and I did not like the aspect of
clerical squabbles on minutiae. There was a tide against the life that
carried me along with it, half from sound, half from unsound, motives,
and I shrank from the restraint, outward and inward.”

“Very likely it was wise, and the best thing in the end. But what has
brought you to it?”

“I hope not as the resource of a shelved schoolmaster.”

“Oh, no; you are not shelved. See how you have improved the school. Look
at the numbers.”

“That is no test of my real influence over the boys. I teach them, I
keep them in external order, but I do not get into them. The religious
life is at a low ebb.”

“No wonder, with that vicar; but you have done your best.”

“Even if my attempts are a layman’s best, they always get quenched by
the cold water of the Rigby element. It is hard for boys to feel the
reality of what is treated with such business-like indifference, and set
forth so feebly, not to say absurdly.”

“I know. It is a terrible disadvantage.”

“Listening to Rigby, has, I must say, done a good deal to bring about my
present intention.”

“By force of contradiction.”

“If that means of longing to be in his place and put the thing as it
ought to be put.”

“It is a contradiction in which I most sincerely rejoice, David,” she
said; “one of the wishes of my heart fulfilled when I had given it up.”

“You do not know that it will be fulfilled.”

“I think it will, though you are right to take time, in case the
decision should be partly due to disappointment.”

“If there can be disappointment where hope has never existed. But if
a man finds he can’t have his great good, it may make him look for the
greater.”

Mary sighed a mute and thankful acquiescence.

“The worst of it is about you, Mary. It is throwing you over just as you
were coming to make me a home.”

“Never mind, Davie. It is only deferred, and at any rate we can keep
together till Midsummer. Then I can go out again for a year or two, and
perhaps you will settle somewhere where the curate’s sister could get a
daily engagement.”

The next day they found the following letter at the post office:--


                                         “The Folly, Jan. 3rd.

“My Dear Mary,--I suppose you may have attained the blessed realms that
lie beyond the borders of Gossip, and may not have heard the nine days’
wonder that Belforest had descended on the Folly, and that poor old Mr.
Barnes has left his whole property to me. My dear, it would be something
awful even if he had done his duty and halved it between Elvira and
me, and he has ingeniously tied it up with trustees so as to make
restitution impossible. As it is, my income will be not less than forty
thousand pounds a year, and when divided among the children they will
all be richer than perhaps is good for them.

“And now, my dear old dragon, will you come and keep me in order under
the title of governess to Barbara and Elvira? For, of course, the child
will go on living with us, and will have it made up to her as far as
possible. You know that I shall do all manner of foolish things, but
I think they will be rather fewer if you will only come and take me in
hand. My trustees are the Colonel and an old solicitor, and will both
look after the estate; but as for the rest, all that the Colonel can say
is, that it is a frightful responsibility, and her Serene Highness is
awe-struck. I could not have conceived that such a thing could have made
so much difference in so really good a woman. Now I don’t think you will
be subject to gold dust in the eyes, and, I believe, you will still see
the same little wild goose, or stormy petrel, that you used to bully at
Bath, and will be even more willing to perform the process. As I should
have begun by saying, on the very first evening Babie showed her sense
by proposing you as governess, and you were unanimously elected in full
and free parliament. It really was the child’s own thought and proposal,
and what I want is to have those two children made wiser and better
than I can make them, as well as that you should be the dear comrade and
friend I need more than ever. You will see more of your brother than you
could otherwise, for Belforest will be our chief home, and I need not
say how welcome he will always be there. It is not habitable at present,
so I mean to stay on in the Folly till Easter, and then give Janet the
London lectures and classes she has been raving for these two years, and
take Jessie also for music lessons, if she can be spared.

“I’m afraid it is a come down for a finisher like you to condescend to
my little Babie, but she is really worth teaching, and I would say, make
your own terms, but that I am afraid you would not ask enough. Please
let it be one hundred and fifty pounds, there’s a good Mary! I think
you would come if you knew what a relief it would be. Ever since that
terrible August, two years and a half ago, I have felt as if I were
drifting in an endless mist, with all the children depending on me, and
nobody to take my hand and lead me. You are one of the straws I grasp
at. Not very complimentary after all, but when I thought of the strong,
warm, guiding hands that are gone, I could not put it otherwise. Do,
Mary, come, I do need you so.

“Your affectionate

“C. O. BROWNLOW.”


“May I see it?” asked David.

“If you will; but I don’t think it will do you any good. My poor Carey!”

“Few women would have written such a letter in all the first flush of
wealth.”

“No; there’s great sweetness and humility and generosity in it, dear
child.”

“It changes the face of affairs.”

“I’m engaged to you.”

“Nonsense! As if that would stand in the way. Besides, she will be at
Kenminster till Easter. You are not hesitating, Mary?”

“I don’t think I am, and yet I believe I ought to do so.”

“You are not imagining that I--”

“I was not thinking of you; but I am not certain that it would not be
better for our old friendship if I did not accept the part poor Carey
proposes to me. I might make myself more disagreeable than could be
endured by forty thousand a year.”

“You do yourself and her equal injustice.”

“I shall settle nothing till I have seen her.”

“Then you will be fixed,” he said, in a tone of conviction.

So she expected, though believing that it would be the ruin of her
pleasant old friendship. Her nineteen years of governess-ship had shown
her more of the shady side of high life than was known to her brother or
her friend. She knew that, whatever the owner may be at the outset,
it is the tendency of wealth and power to lead to arbitrariness and
impatience of contradiction and censure, and to exact approval
and adulation. Even if Caroline Brownlow’s own nature should, at
five-and-thirty, be too much confirmed in sweetness and generosity to
succumb to such temptation, her children would only too probably resent
any counter-influence, and set themselves against their mother’s
friend, and guide, under the title of governess. Moreover, Mary was
too clear-sighted not to feel that there was a lack in the Brownlow
household of what alone could give her confidence in the charming
qualities of its mistress. Yet she knew that her brother would never
forgive her for refusing, and that she should hardly forgive herself for
following--not so much her better, as her more prudent, judgment. For
she was infinitely touched and attracted by that warmhearted letter,
and could not bear to meet it with a refusal. She hoped, for a time at
least, to be a comfort, and to make suggestions, with some chance
of being attended to. Such aid seemed due from the old friendship at
whatever peril thereto, and she would leave her final answer till she
should see whether her friend’s letter had been written only on the
impulse of the moment, and half retracted immediately after.

The brother and sister crossed the Channel at night, and arrived at
Kenminster at noon, on a miserably wet day. At the station they were
met by Jock and a little yellow dog. His salutation, as he capped his
master, was--

“Please, mother sent me up to see if you were come by this train,
because if you’d come to early dinner, she would be glad, because
there’s a builder or somebody coming with Uncle Robert about the repairs
afterwards. Mother sent the carriage because of the rain. I say, isn’t
it jolly cats and dogs?”

Mary was an old traveller, who could sleep anywhere, and had made her
toilet on landing, so as to be fresh and ready; but David was yellow
and languid enough to add force to his virtuous resolution to take no
advantage of the invitation, but leave his sister to settle her affairs
her own way, thinking perhaps she might trust his future discretion the
more for his present abstinence, so he went off in the omnibus. Jock,
with the unfailing courtesy of the Brood, handed Miss Ogilvie into a
large closed waggonette, explaining, “We have this for the present, and
a couple of job horses; but Uncle Robert is looking out for some
real good ones, and ponies for all of us. I am going over with him to
Woolmarston to-morrow to try some.”

It was said rather magnificently, and Mary answered, “You must be glad
to get back into the Belforest grounds.”

“Ain’t we? It was just in time for the skating,” said Jock. “Only the
worst of it is, everybody will come to the lake, and so mother won’t
learn to skate. We thought we had found a jolly little place in the
wood, where we could have had some fun with her, but they found it out,
though we halloed as loud as ever we could to keep them off.”

“Can your mother skate?”

“No, you see she never had a chance at home. Father was so busy, and we
were so little; but she’d learn. Mother Carey can learn anything, if
one could hinder her Serene Highness from pitching into her. I say,
Miss Ogilvie, you’ll give her leave to skate, won’t you?” he asked in an
insinuating tone.

“I give her leave!”

“She always says she’ll ask you when we want her to be jolly and not
mind her Serene Highness.”

Mary avoided pledging herself, and Jock’s attention was diverted to the
dog, who was rising on his hind legs, vainly trying to look out of the
window; and his history, told with great gusto by Jock, lasted till they
reached home.

The drawing-room was full of girls about their lessons as usual--sums,
exercises, music, and grammar all going on at once! but Caroline put an
end to them, and sent the Kencroft party home at once in the carriage.

“So you have not dropped the old trade?” said Mary.

“I couldn’t. Ellen is not strong enough yet to have the children on her
hands all day. I said I’d be responsible for them till Easter, and
I dare say you won’t mind helping me through it as the beginning of
everything. Will you condescend? You know I want to be your pupil too.”

“You can be no one’s pupil but your own, my dear! no one’s on earth, I
mean.”

“Oh, don’t! I know that, Mary. I’m trying and trying to be their pupil
still. Indeed I am! It makes me patient of Robert, and his fearful
responsibility, and his good little sister, to know that my husband
always thought him right, and meant him to look after me. But as one
lives on, those dear voices seem to get farther and farther away, as if
one was drifting more out of reach in the fog. I do hate myself for it,
but I can’t help it.”

“Is there not a voice that can never go out of reach, and that brings
you nearer to them?”

“You dear old Piety, Prudence, and Charity all in one! That is if you
have the charity to come and infuse a little of your piety and prudence
into me. You know you could always make me mind you, and you’ll make
me--what is it that Mrs. Coffinkey says?--a credit to my position before
you’ve done. I’ve had your room got ready; won’t you come and take off
your things?”

“I think, if you don’t object, I had better sleep at the schoolhouse,
and come up here after David’s breakfast.”

“Very well; I won’t try to rob him of you more than can be helped.
Though you know he would be welcome here every evening if he liked.”

“Thank you very much, I can help him more at home; but I’ll come for the
whole day, for I am sure you must have a great deal on your hands.”

“Well! I’ve almost as many classes as pupils, and then there are so many
interruptions. The Colonel is always bringing something to be signed,
and then people will come and offer themselves, though I’m sure I never
asked them. Yesterday there was a stupendous butler and house-steward
who could also act as courier, and would do himself the honour of
arranging my household in a truly ducal style. Just as I got rid of him,
came a man with a future history of the landed gentry in quest of my
coat of arms and genealogy, also three wine merchants, a landscape
gardener, and a woman with a pitcher of goldfish. Emma is so soft
she thinks everybody is a gentleman. I am trying to get the good old
man-servant we had in our old home to come and defend me; not that he
is old, for he was a boy whom Joe trained. Oh Mary, the bewilderment
of it!” and she pushed back the little stray curly rings of hair on her
forehead, while a peal at the bell was heard and a card was brought in.
“Oh! Emma! don’t bring me any more! Is it a gentleman?”

“Y--es, ma’am. Leastways it is a clergyman.”

The clergyman turned out to be a Dissenting minister seeking
subscriptions, and he was sent off with a sovereign.

“I know it was very weak,” she said; “but it was the only way to stop
his mouth, and I must have time to talk to you, so don’t begin your
mission by scolding me.”

Terms were settled; Mary would remain at the schoolhouse, but daily
come to the Pagoda till the removal to London, when her residence was to
begin in earnest.

She took up her line from the first as governess, dropping her friend’s
Christian name, and causing her pupils to address herself as Miss
Ogilvie, a formality which was evidently approved by Mrs. Robert
Brownlow, and likewise by Janet.

That young lady was wonderfully improved by prosperity. She had lost
her caustic manner and air of defiance, so that her cleverness and
originality made her amusing instead of disagreeable. She piqued herself
on taking her good fortune sensibly, and, though fully seventeen,
professed not to know or care whether she was out or not, but threw
herself into hard study, with a view to her classes, and gladly availed
herself of Miss Ogilvie’s knowledge of foreign languages.

Mrs. Coffinkey supposed that she would be presented at court with her
dear mamma; but she laughed at courts and ceremonies, and her mother
said that the first presentation in the family would be of Allen’s wife
when he was a member of parliament. But Janet was no longer at war with
Kenminster. She laughed good-humouredly, and was not always struggling
for self-assertion, since the humiliations of going about as the poor,
plain cousin of the pretty Miss Brownlow were over. Now that she was the
rich Miss Brownlow, she was not likely to feel that she was the plain
one.

The sense of exile was over when the house in London was taken, and so
Janet could afford to be kind to Kenminster; and she was like the Janet
of old times, without her slough of captious disdain. Even then there
was a sense that the girl was not fathomed; she never seemed to pour out
her inner self, but only to talk from the surface, and certainly not to
have any full confidence with her mother--nay, rather to hold her cheap.

Mary Ogilvie detected this disloyal spirit, and was at a loss whether
to ascribe it to modern hatred of control, to the fact that Caroline had
been in her old home more like the favourite child than the mother, or
to her own eager naturalness of demeanour, and total lack of assumption.
She was anything but weak, yet she could not be dignified, and was
quite ready to laugh at herself with her children. Janet could hardly
be overawed by a mother who had been challenged by her own gamekeeper
creeping down a ditch, with the two Johns, to see a wild duck on her
nest, and with her hat half off, and her hair disordered by the bushes.

The “Folly” laughed till its sides ached at the adventure, and Caroline
asked Mary if she were not longing to scold her.

“No, I think you will soon grow more cautious about getting into
ridiculous positions.”

“Isn’t laughing a wholesome pastime?”

“Not when it is at those who ought to be looked up to.”

“Oh! I’m not made to be looked up to. I’m not going to be a hero to my
valet de chambre, or to anybody else, my dear, if that’s what you want
of me!”

Mary secretly hoped that a little more dignity would come in the London
life, and was relieved when the time came for the move. The new abode
was a charming house, with the park behind it, and the space between
nearly all glass. Great ferns, tall citrons, fragrant shrubs, brilliant
flowers, grew there; a stone-lined pool, with water-lilies above,
gold-fish below, and a cool, sparkling, babbling fountain in the middle.
There was an open space round it, with low chairs and tables, and the
parrot on her perch. Indeed, Popinjay Parlour was the family title of
this delightful abode; but it might almost as well have been called
Mother Carey’s bower. Here, after an audience with the housekeeper,
who was even more overpowering than her Serene Highness, would Caroline
retreat to write notes, keep accounts, and hear Armine’s lessons, secure
before luncheon from all unnecessary interruption; and here was her
special afternoon and evening court.

This first summer she was free to take her own course as to society, for
Janet cared for the Cambridge examination far more than for gaiety, and
thus she had no call, and no heart for “going out,” even if she had as
yet been more known. Some morning calls were exchanged, but she sent
refusals on mourning cards to invitations to evening parties, though she
took her young people to plays, concerts, and operas, and all that was
pleasant. Her young people included Jessie. Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow
made her a visit as soon as she was settled, and were so much edified
by the absence of display and extravagance, that they did not scruple to
trust their daughter to her for the long-desired music-lessons.

Caroline had indeed made no attempt to win her way into the great world;
but she had brought together as much as possible of the old society
of her former home. On two evenings in the week, the habitues of Joe
Brownlow’s house were secure of finding her either in the drawing-room
or conservatory; beautiful things, and new books and papers on the
tables, good music on the piano, sometimes acted charades, or paper
games, according to the humour or taste of the party. If she had been
a beautiful duchess, Popinjay Parlour would have been a sort of salon
bleu; but it was really a kind of paradise to a good many clever,
hardworked men and women. Those of the upper world, such as Kenminster
county folks, old acquaintances of her husband, or natural adherents of
Midas, who found their way to these receptions, either thought them odd
but charming, or else regretted that Mrs. Brownlow should get such queer
people together, and turn Hyde Corner House into another Folly.

Mary Ogilvie enjoyed, but not without misgivings. It was delightful,
and yet, what with Joe Brownlow and his mother had been guarded, might
become less safe with no leader older or of more weight than Carey, who
could easily be carried along by what they would have checked. The older
and more intimate friends always acted as a wholesome restraint; but
when they were not present there was sometimes a tone that jarred on
the reverent ear, or dealt with life and its mysteries in a sneering,
mocking style. This was chiefly among new-comers, introduced by former
acquaintances, and it never went far; but Mary was distressed by seeing
Janet’s relish for such conversation. Nita Ray was the chief female
offender in this way, and this was the more unfortunate as Sunday was
her only free day.

Those Sundays vexed Mary’s secret soul. No one interfered with her way
of spending them; but that was the very cause of misgiving. Everybody
went to Church in the morning, but just where, and as, they pleased,
meeting at luncheon, with odd anecdotes of their adventures, and
criticisms of music or of sermons. It was an easy-going meal, lasting
long, and haunted by many acquaintances, for whose sake the table was
always at its full length, and spread with varieties of delicacies that
would endure waiting.

People dropped in, helped themselves, ate and drank, and then adjourned
to Popinjay Parlour, where the afternoon was spent in an easy-going,
loitering way, more like a foreign than an English Sunday. Miss Ogilvie
used to go to the Litany at one of the Churches near; Armine always came
with her, and often brought Babie, and Jessie came too, as soon as that
good girl had swallowed the fact that the Litany could stand alone.

Janet was apt to be walking with Nita, or else in some eager and
amusing conversation in the conservatory; and as to Elvira, she was the
prettiest, most amusing plaything that Mrs. Brownlow’s house afforded, a
great favourite, and a continual study to the artist friends. Mary used
to find her chattering, coquetting, and romping on coming in to the
afternoon tea, which she would fain have herself missed; but that her
absence gave pain, and as much offence as one so kind as Mrs. Brownlow
could take.

Carey argued that most of her guests were people who seldom had leisure
to enjoy rest, conversation, and variety of pretty things, and that it
would be mere Puritan crabbedness to deny them the pleasures of Popinjay
Parlour on the only day they could be happy there. It was not easy to
answer the argument, though the strong feeling remained that it was
not keeping Sunday as the true Lord’s Day. While abstinence from such
enjoyments created mere negative dulness, there must be something wrong.

Otherwise, Mary was on the happiest terms, made her own laws and duties,
and was treated like a sister by Caroline, while the children were
heartily fond of her, all except Elvira, who made a fierce struggle
against her authority, and then, finding that it was all in vain,
conformed as far as her innate idleness and excitability permitted.

She behaved better to Miss Ogilvie than to Janet, with whom she kept up
a perpetual petty warfare, sometimes, Mary thought, with the pertinacity
of a spiteful elf, making a noise when Janet wanted quiet, losing no
opportunity of upsetting her books or papers, and laughing boisterously
at any little mishap that befell her. The only reason she ever gave
when pushed hard, was that “Janet was so ugly, she could not help it,” a
reason so utterly ridiculous, that there was no going any further.

Janet, on the whole, behaved much better under the annoyance than could
have been expected. She entered enough into the state of affairs to see
that the troublesome child could hardly be expelled, and she was too
happy and too much amused to care much about the annoyance. There was
magnanimity enough about her not to mind midge bites, and certainly this
summer was exceptionally delightful with all the pleasures of wealth,
and very few of its drawbacks.

By the time the holidays were coming round, Belforest was not half
habitable, and they had to return to the Pagoda. A tenant had been found
for it, and such of the old furniture as was too precious to be parted
with was to be removed to Belforest. Things were sufficiently advanced
there for the rooms to be chosen, and orders given as to the decoration
and furniture, and then, gathering up her sons, Caroline meant to start
for the Rhine, Switzerland, and Italy. Old nurse was settled in a small
pair of rooms, with Emma to wait on her, and promises from Jessie to
attend to her comforts; but the old woman had failed so much in their
absence, and had fretted so much after “Mrs. Joseph” and the children,
that it was hard to leave her again.

Everything that good taste and wealth could do to make a place
delightful was at work. The “butcher’s shop” was relegated to a dim
corner of the gallery, and its place supplied from the brushes of the
artists whom Caroline viewed with loving respect; the drawing-room was
renovated, a forlorn old library resuscitated into vigorous life, a
museum fitted with shelves, drawers, and glass cases which Caroline said
would be as dangerous to the vigorous spirit of natural history as new
clothes to a Brownie, and a billiard and gun room were ceded to the
representations of Allen, who comported himself as befitted the son and
heir.

Caroline would not part with her room-mate, little Barbara, and was to
have for herself a charming bedroom and dressing-room, with a balcony
and parapet overlooking the garden and park, and a tiny room besides,
for Babie to call her own.

Janet chose the apartments which had been Mr. Barnes’, and which being
in the oldest part of the house, and wainscoted with dark oak, she could
take possession of at once. There was one room down stairs with very
ugly caryatides, supporting the wooden mantelpiece, and dividing the
panels, one of which had a secret door leading by an odd little stair to
the bedroom above--that in which Mr. Barnes had died.

It had of course another door opening into the corridor, and it was
on these rooms that Janet set her affections. To the general surprise,
Elvira declared that this was the very room she had chosen, with the red
velvet curtains and gold crown, the day they went over the house, and
that Mother Carey had promised it to her, and she would have it.

No one could remember any such promise, and the curtains of crimson
moreen did not answer Elfie’s description; but she would not be denied,
and actually put all her possessions into the room.

Janet, without a word, quietly turned them out into the passage, and
Elfie flew into one of those furious kicking and screaming passions
which always ended in her being sent to bed. Caroline felt quite shaken
by it, but stood firm, though, as she said, it went to her heart to deny
the child who ought to have had equal shares with herself, and she would
have been thankful if Janet would have given way.

Of this, however, Janet had no thoughts, strong in the conviction that
the child could not make the same reasonable use of the fittings of the
room as she could herself, and by no means disposed not “to seek her
own.”

She had numerous papers, notes of lectures, returned essays from her
society, and the like to dispose of, and she rejoiced in placing them in
the compartments of the great bureau, in the lower room. The lawyers had
cleared all before her, and the space was delightful. All personals must
have been carried off by the servants as perquisites, for she found no
traces of the former occupant till she came to a little bed-side table.
The drawer was not locked, but did not open without difficulty, being
choked with notes and letters in envelopes, directed to J. Barnes,
Esquire. This perhaps accounted for the drawer not having been observed
and emptied. Janet shook the contents out into a basket, and was going
to take them to her uncle, but thought it could do no harm first to see
whether there were anything curious or interesting in them.

Several were receipted bills; but then she came to her mother’s
handwriting, and read her conciliatory note, which whetted her
curiosity; and looking further she got some amusement out of the polite
notes and offers of service, claims to old family friendship, and
congratulations which had greeted Mr. Barnes, and he had treated with
grim disregard.

Presently, thrust into an envelope with another letter, and written on
a piece of note-paper, was something that made her start as if at the
sting of a viper. No! it could not be a will! She knew what wills were
like. They were sheets of foolscap, written by lawyers, while this was
only an old man’s cramped and crooked writing. Perhaps, when he was in
a rage, he had so far carried out his threat, that Allen should remember
King Midas as to make a rough draft of a will, leaving everything to
Elvira de Menella, for there at the top was the date, plainly visible,
the very April when the confession had been made. But no doubt he had
never carried out his purpose so far as to get it legally drawn out and
attested. As Mr. Richards had said, he had never been in health to take
any active measures, and probably he had rested satisfied with this
relief to his feelings.

Should she show it to her mother and uncle, and let them know their
narrow escape? No. Mother Carey and Allen made quite fuss enough already
about that little vixen, and if they discovered how nearly she had been
the sole heiress, they would be far worse. Besides, her mother might
have misgivings, as to this unhappy document being morally though not
legally, binding. Suppose she were seized with a fit of generosity,
and gave all up! or even half. Elfie, the little shrew, to have equal
rights! The sweets of wealth only just tasted to be resigned, and the
child, overweening enough already, to be set in their newly-gained
place!

The sagacity of seventeen decided that mother had better not be worried
about it for her own sake, and that of everyone else. So what was to
be done. No means of burning it were at hand, and to ask for them might
excite suspicion. The safest way was to place it in one of the drawers
of the bureau, lock it up, and keep the key.



CHAPTER XVIII. -- AN OFFER FOR MAGNUM BONUM.



     They had gold and gold and gold without end,
     Gold to lay by and gold to spend,
     Gold to give and gold to lend,
     And reversions of gold in futuro.
     In gold his family revelled and rolled,
     Himself and his wife and his sons so bold,
     And his daughters who sang to their harps of gold
                                 O bella eta dell’ oro.


Four years of wealth had not made much external alteration in Mrs.
Joseph Brownlow. As she descended the staircase of her beautiful London
house, one Monday morning, late in April, between flower-stands filled
with lovely ferns and graceful statues, she had still the same eager
girlish look. It was true that her little cap was of the most costly
lace, her hair manipulated by skilful hands, and her thin black summer
dress was of material and make such as a scientific eye alone could have
valued in their simplicity. But dignity still was wanting. Silks and
brocades that would stand alone, and velvets richly piled only crushed
and suffocated the little light swift figure, and the crisp curly hair
was so much too wilful for the maid, that she had been even told that
madame’s style would be to cut it short, and wear it a l’ingenue, which
she viewed as insulting; and altogether her general air was precisely
what it had been when her dress cost a twentieth part of what it did at
present.

Her face looked no older. It was thin, eager, bright, and sunny, yet
with an indescribable wistfulness in the sparkling eyes, and something
worn in the expression, and, as usual, she moved with a quiet nimbleness
peculiar to herself.

The breakfast-table, sparkling with silver and glass, around a
magnificent orchid in the centre, and a rose by every plate, was spread
in the dining-room, sweet sounds and scents coming in through the
widely-opened glass doors of the conservatory, while a bright wood fire,
still pleasant to look at, shone in the grate.

As she rang the bell, Bobus came in from the conservatory, book in hand,
to receive the morning kiss, for which he had to bend to his little
mother. He was not tall, but he had attained his full height, and had a
well-knit sturdy figure which, together with his heavy brow and deep-set
eyes, made him appear older than his real age--nineteen. His hair and
upper lip were dark, and his eyes keen with a sense of ready power and
strong will.

“Good morning, Bobus; I didn’t see you all day yesterday,” said his
mother.

“No, I couldn’t find you before you went out on Saturday night, to tell
you I was going to run down to Belforest with Bauerson. I wanted to
enlighten his mind as to wild hyacinths. They are in splendid bloom all
over the copses, and I thought he would have gone down on his knees to
them, like Linnaeus to the gorse.”

“I’m afraid he didn’t go on his knees to anything else.”

“Well, it is not much in his line.”

“Then can he be a nice Sunday companion?”

“Now, mother, I expected credit for not scandalising the natives. We got
out at Woodgate, and walked over, quite ‘unknownst,’ to Kenminster.”

“I was not thinking of the natives, but of yourself.”

“As you are a sensible woman, Mother Carey, wasn’t it a more goodly
and edifying thing to put a man like Bauerson in a trance over
the bluebells, than to sit cramped up in foul air listening to the
glorification of a wholesale massacre.”

“For shame, Bobus; you know I never allow you to say such things.”

“Then you should not drag me to Church. Was it last Sunday that I was
comparing the Prussians at Bazeille with--”

“Hush, my dear boy, you frighten me; you know it is all explained.
Fancy, if we had to deal with a nation of Thugs, and no means of
guarding them--a different dispensation and all. But here come the
children, so hush.”

Bobus gave a nod and smile, which his mother understood only too well
as intimating acquiescence with wishes which he deemed feminine and
conventional.

“My poor boy,” she said to herself, with vague alarm and terror, “what
has he not picked up? I must read up these things, and be able to talk
it over with him by the time he comes back from Norway.”

There, however, came the morning greeting of Elvira and Barbara, girls
of fourteen and eleven, with floating hair and short dresses, the one
growing up into all the splendid beauty of her early promise, the other
thin and brown, but with a speaking face and lovely eyes. They were
followed by Miss Ogilvie, as trim and self-possessed as ever, but with
more ease and expansiveness of manner.

“So Babie,” said her brother, “you’ve earned your breakfast; I heard you
hammering away.”

“Like a nuthatch,” was the merry answer.

“And Elfie?” asked Mrs. Brownlow.

“I’m not so late as Janet,” she answered; and the others laughed at the
self-defence before the attack.

“It is a lazy little Elf in town,” said Miss Ogilvie; “in the country
she is up and out at impossible hours.”

“Good morning, Janet,” said Bobus, at that moment, “or rather, ‘Marry
come up, mistress mine, good lack, nothing is lacking to thee save a
pointed hood graceless.’”

For Janet was arrayed in a close-fitting pale blue dress, cut in
semblance of an ancient kirtle, and with a huge chatelaine, from which
massive chains dangled, not to say clattered--not merely the ordinary
appendages of a young lady, but a pair of compasses, a safety inkstand,
and a microscope. Her dark hair was strained back from a face not
calculated to bear exposure, and was wound round a silver arrow.

Elfie shook with laughter, murmuring--

“Oh dear! what a fright!” in accents which Miss Ogilvie tried to hush;
while Babie observed, as a sort of excuse, “Janet always is a figure of
fun when she is picturesque.”

“My dear, I hope you are not going to show yourself to any one in that
dress,” added her mother.

“It is perfectly correct,” said Janet, “studied from an old Italian
costume.”

“The Marchioness of Carabbas, in my old fairy-tale book. Oh, yes, I
see!” and Babie went off again in an ecstatic fit of laughter.

“I hope you’ve got boots and a tail ready for George,” added Bobus.
“Being a tiger already, he may serve as cat.”

Therewith the post came in, and broke up the discourse; for Babie had a
letter from Eton, from Armine who was shut up with a sore throat.

Her mother was less happy. She had asked a holiday for the next day for
her two Eton boys and their cousin John, and the reply had been that
though for two of the party there could be no objection, her elder boy
was under punishment for one of the wild escapades to which he was too
apt to pervert his excellent abilities.

“Are not they coming, mother?” asked Babie. “Armie does not say.”

“Unfortunately Jock has got kept in again.”

“Poor Jock!” said Bobus; “sixpence a day, and no expectations, would
have been better pasture for his brains.”

“Yes,” said his mother with a sigh, “I doubt if we are any of us much
the better or the wiser for Belforest.”

“The wiser, I’m sure, because we’ve got Miss Ogilvie,” cried Babie.

“Do I hear babes uttering the words of wisdom?” asked Allen, coming into
the room, and pretending to pull her hair, as the school-room party rose
from the breakfast-table, and he met them with outstretched hands.

“Ay, to despise Lag-last,” said Elvira, darting out of his reach, and
tossing her dark locks at him as she hid behind a fern plant in the
window; and there was a laughing scuffle, ended by Miss Ogilvie, who
swept the children away to the school-room, while Allen came to the
table, where his mother had poured out his coffee, and still waited to
preside over his breakfast, though she had long finished her own.

Allen Brownlow, at twenty, was emphatically the Eton and Christchurch
production, just well made and good-looking enough to do full justice
to his training and general getting up, without too much individual
personality of his own. He looked only so much of a man as was needful
for looking a perfect gentleman, and his dress and equipments were in
the most perfect quietly exquisite style, as costly as possible, yet
with no display, and nothing to catch the eye.

“Well, Bobus,” he said, “you made out your expedition. How did the place
look?”

“Wasting its sweetness,” said his mother; “it is tantalising to think of
it.”

“It could hardly be said to be wasted,” said Bobus; “the natives were
disporting themselves all over it.”

“Where?” asked Allen, with displeased animation.

“O, Essie and Ellie were promenading a select party about the gardens. I
could almost hear Mackintyre gnashing his teeth at their inroads on the
forced strawberries, and the park and Elmwood Spinney were dotted so
thick with people, that we had to look sharp not to fall in with any
one.”

“Elmwood Spinney!” exclaimed Allen; “you don’t mean that they were
running riot over the preserves?”

“I don’t think there were more than half-a-dozen there. Bauerson was
quite edified. He said, ‘So! they had on your English Sunday quite
falsely me informed.’ There were a couple of lovers spooning and some
children gathering flowers, and it had just the Arcadian look dear to
the German eye.”

“Children,” cried Allen, as if they were vipers. “That’s just what I
told you, mother. If you will persist in throwing open the park, we
shall not have a pheasant on the place.”

“My dear boy, I have seen them running about like chickens in a
farmyard.”

“Yes, but what’s the use, if all the little beggars in Kenminster are to
be let in to make them wild! And when you knew I particularly wished to
have something worth asking Prince Siegfried down to.”

“Never mind, Allen,” put in Janet; “you can ask him to shoot into the
poultry yard. The poor things are just as thick there, and rather tamer,
so the sport will be the more noble.”

“You know nothing about it, Janet,” said Allen, in displeasure.

“But Allen,” said his mother, apologetically, though she felt with
Janet, “the woods are locked up.”

“Locked! As if that was any use when you let a lot of boys come
marauding all over the place!”

“Really, Allen,” said his mother, “when I remember what we used to say
about old Mr. Barnes, I cannot find it in my heart to play the same
game!”

“It is quite a different thing.”

“How?”

“He did it out of mere surliness.”

“I don’t suppose it makes much difference to the excluded whether it is
done out of mere surliness, or for the sake of the preserves.”

“Mother!” Allen spoke as if the absurdity of the argument were quite too
much for him; but his brother and sister both laughed, which nettled him
into adding--

“Well! All I have to say is, that if Belforest is to be nothing but a
people’s park for all the ragamuffins in Kenminster, there will soon
not be a head of game in the place, and I shall be obliged to shoot
elsewhere!”

Poor Caroline! If there was a thing she specially hated, it was a
battue, both for the thing itself, and all the previous preparation of
preserving, and of prosecuting poachers; and yet sons have their mothers
so much in their power by that threat of staying away from home, that
she could not help faltering, “Oh, Allen, I’ll do my best, and tell the
keepers to be very careful, and lock the gates of all the preserves.”

Allen saw she was vexed, and spoke more kindly, “There, never mind,
mother. It is more than can be expected that ladies should see things in
a reasonable light.”

“What is the reasonable light?” asked Bobus.

Allen did not choose to hear, regarding Bobus not indeed as a woman, but
as something as little capable of appreciating his reason. It was Janet
who took up the word. “The reasonable light is that the enjoyment of
the many should be sacrificed to the vanity of the few, viz., that all
Kenminster should be confined to dusty roads all the year round in order
that Allen may bring down the youngest son of the youngest son of
a German prince for one day to fire amongst some hundreds of tame
pheasants who come up expecting to be fed.”

“Oh, yes,” said Allen, “we all know that you are a regular out-and-out
democrat, Janet.”

“I confess, without being a democrat,” said his mother, “that I do
wonder that you gentlemen, who wish the game laws to continue, should so
work them as to be more aggravating than ever.”

“It is a simple question of the rights of property,” said Allen. “If I
do a thing, I like it to be well done, and not half-and-half.”

Caroline rose from the table, dreading, like many a mother, a regular
skirmish about game-preserving, between those who cared to shoot,
and those who did not. Like other ladies, she could never understand
exaggerated preserving, nor why men who loved sport should care to have
game multiplied and tamed so as apparently to spoil all the zest of the
chase; but she had let Allen and his uncle do what ever they told her
was right by the preserves, except shutting up the park and all the
footpaths. Colonel Brownlow, whose sporting instincts were those of a
former generation, was quite satisfied; Allen never would be so; and it
was one of the few bones of contention in the family.

For Allen was walking through Oxford in a quiet, amiable way, not
troubling himself more about study than to secure himself from an
ignominious pluck, and doing whatever was supposed to be “good form.”

His brother accused him of carrying his idolatry of “good form” to a
snobbish extent, but Allen could carry it out so naturally that no one
could have suspected that he had not been to the manner born. If he
did appreciate the society of people with handles to their names, he
comported himself among them as their easy equal; and he was so lavish
as to be a very popular man. He had no vicious tastes or tendencies,
and was too gentlemanly and quiet ever to come into collision with the
authorities. At home, except when his notions of “good form” were at
variance with strong opinions of his mother’s, nothing could be more
chivalrously deferential than his whole demeanour to her; and the worst
that could be said of him was that he managed to waste a large amount of
time and money with very little to show for it. His profession was to
be son and heir to a large fortune, and he took to the show part of the
affair very kindly.

But was this being the man his father had expected him to be? The
thought would come across Caroline at times, but not very often, as
she floated along easily in the stream of life. Most of the business
troubles of her property were spared her by her trustees, and her income
was so large that even Allen’s expenditure had not yet been felt as an
inconvenience. As to the responsibilities, she contributed largely to
county subscriptions, gave her clergyman whatever he asked, provided
Christmas treats and summer teas for their school-children, and
permitted Miss Ogilvie and Babie to do whatever they pleased among the
poor when they were at home. But she was not very much at Belforest. She
generally came there at Midsummer and at Christmas, and filled the house
with friends. All kinds of amusements astonished the neighbourhood, and
parties of the newest kinds, private theatricals, tableaux, charades,
all that taste or ingenuity could devise were in vogue.

But before the spring east winds the party were generally gone to
some more genial climate, and the early autumn was often spent in
Switzerland. Pictures, art, and scenery were growing to be necessaries
of life, and to stay at home with no special diversion in view seemed
unthought of. The season was spent in London, not dropping the artist
society on the one hand, but adding to it the amount of intercourse into
which she was drawn by the fact of her being a rich and charming woman,
having a delightful house, and a son and daughter who might be “grands
partis.” Allen liked high life for her, so she did not refuse it;
but probably her social success was all the greater from her entire
indifference, and that of her daughter, to all the questions of
exclusiveness and fashion. If they had been born duchesses they could
not have been less concerned about obtaining invitations to what their
maid called “the first circles,” and they would sometimes reduce Allen
to despair by giving the preference to a lively literary soiree, when he
wanted them to show themselves among the aristocracy at a drum.

Engagements of all kinds grew on them with every season, and in this
one especially, Caroline had grown somewhat weary of the endeavour to
satisfy both him and Janet, and was not sorry that her two eldest sons
were starting on a yacht voyage to Norway, where Allen meant to fish,
and Bobus to study natural history. She had her interview with the
housekeeper, and proceeded to her own place in Popinjay Parlour, a quiet
place at this time of day, save for the tinkling of the fountain and
the twitterings of the many little songsters in the aviary, whom the
original parrot used patronisingly to address as “Pretty little birds.”

Janet was wandering about among the flowers, evidently waiting for her,
and began, as she came in--

“I wanted to speak to you, mother.”

“Well, Janet,” said Caroline, reviewing in one moment every unmarried
man, likely or unlikely, who had approached the girl, and with a
despairing conviction that it would be some one very unlikely indeed!

“You know I am of age, mother.”

“Certainly. We drank your health last Monday.”

“I made up my mind that till I was of age I would go on studying, and at
the same time see something of the world and of society.”

“Certainly,” said Caroline, wondering what her inscrutable daughter was
coming to.

“And having done this, I wish to devote myself to the study of
medicine.”

“Be a lady doctor, Janet!”

“Mother, you are surely above all the commonplace, old world nonsense!”

“I don’t think I am, Janet. I don’t think your father would have wished
it.”

“He would have gone on with the spirit of the times, mother; men do,
while women stand still.”

“I don’t think he would in this.”

“I think he would, if he knew me, and the issues and stake, and how his
other children are failing him.”

“Janet!”--and the colour flushed into her mother’s face--“I don’t quite
know what you mean; but it is time we came to an understanding.”

“I think so,” returned Janet.

“Then you know--”

“I heard what papa said to you. I kept the white slate till you thought
of it,” said Janet, in a tone that sounded soft from her.

“And why did you never say so, my dear?”

“I can hardly tell. I was shy at first; and then reserve grows on a
person; but I never ceased from thinking about it through all these
years. Mother, you do not think there is any chance of the boys taking
it up as my father wished?”

“Certainly not Allen,” said Caroline with a sigh. “And as to Bobus, he
would have full capacity; but a great change must come over him, poor
fellow, before he would fulfil your father’s conditions.”

“He has no notion of the drudgery of the medical profession,” said
Janet; “he means to read law, get up social and sanitary questions, and
go into parliament.”

“I know,” said her mother, “I have always lived in hopes that sanitary
theories would give him his father’s heart for the sufferers, and that
search into the secrets of nature would lead him higher; but as long
as he does not turn that way of himself it would be contrary to your
father’s charge to hold this discovery out to him as an inducement.”

“And Jock?” said Janet, smiling. “You don’t expect it of the born
soldier--nor of Armine?”

“I am not sure about Armine, though he may not be strong enough to bear
the application.”

“Armine will walk through life like Allen,” scornfully said Janet;
“besides he is but fourteen. Now, mother, why should not I be worthy?”

“My dear Janet, it is not a question of worthiness; it is not a thing a
woman could work out.”

“I do not ask you to give it to me now, nor even to promise it to me,”
 said Janet, with a light in those dark wells, her eyes; “but only to
let me have the hope, that when in three years’ time I am qualified, and
have passed the examinations, if Bobus does not take it up, you will let
me claim that best inheritance my father left, but which his sons do not
heed.”

“My child, you do not know what you ask. Remember, I know more about it
than only what you picked up on that morning. It is a matter he could
not have made sure of without a succession of experiments very hard even
for him, and certainly quite impossible for any woman. The exceeding
difficulty and danger of the proof was one reason of his guarding it
so much, and desiring it should only be told to one good as well as
clever--clever as well as good.”

“Can you give me no hint of the kind of thing,” said Janet, wistfully.

“That would be a betrayal of his trust.”

Janet looked terribly disappointed.

“Mother,” said she, “let me put it to you. Is it fair to shut up a
discovery that might benefit so many people.”

“It is not his fault, Janet, that it is shut up. He talked of it to
several of the most able men he was connected with, and they thought it
a chimera. He could not carry it on far enough to convince them. I do
not know what he would have done if his illness had been longer, or he
could have talked it out with any one, but I know the proof could only
be made out by a course of experiments which he could not commit to any
one not highly qualified, or whom he could not entirely trust. It is not
a thing to be set forth broadcast, while it might yet prove a fallacy.”

“Is it to be lost for ever, then?”

“I shall try to find light as to the right thing to be done about it.”

“Well,” said Janet, drawing a long breath, “three years of study
must come, any way, and by that time I may be able to triumph over
prejudice.”

There was no time to reply, for at that moment the letters of the second
delivery were brought in; and the first that Caroline opened told
her that the cold which Armine had mentioned on Saturday seemed to be
developing into an attack of a rather severe hybrid kind of illness,
between measles and scarlatina, from which many persons had lately been
suffering.

Armine was never strong, and his illnesses were always a greater anxiety
than those of other people, so that his mother came to the immediate
decision of going to Eton that same afternoon and remaining there,
unless she found that it had been a false alarm.

She did not find it so; and as she remained with her boy, Janet’s
conversation with her could not be resumed. There was so much chance of
infection that she could not see any of the family again. Both the Johns
sickened as soon as Armine began to improve, and Miss Ogilvie took the
three girls down to Belforest. After the first few days it was rather a
pleasant nursing. There was never any real alarm; indeed, Armine was the
least ill of the three, and Johnny the most, and each boy was perfectly
delighted to have her to attend to him, her nephew almost touchingly
grateful. The only other victim was Jock’s most intimate friend, Cecil
Evelyn, whose fag Armine was. He became a sharer of her attentions and
the amusements she provided. She received letters of grateful thanks
from his mother, who was, like herself, a widow, but was prevented from
coming to him by close attendance on her mother-in-law, who was in a
lingering state of decay when every day might be the last.

The eldest son, Lord Fordham, was so delicate that he was on no account
to be exposed to the infection, and the boys were exceedingly anxious
that Cecil should join them in the expedition that their mother
projected making with them, to air them in Switzerland before returning
to the rest of the family. But Mrs. Evelyn (her husband had not lived
to come to the title) declined this. Fordham was in the country with his
tutor, and she wished Cecil to come and spend his quarantine with her
in London before joining him. The boys grumbled very much, but Caroline
could hardly wonder when she talked with their tutor.

He, like every one else, liked, and even loved personally that
perplexing subject, John Lucas Brownlow, alias Jock. The boy was too
generous, honourable, truthful, and kindly to be exposed to the stigma
of removal; but he was the perplexity of everybody. He could not be
convinced of any necessity for application, and considered a flogging
as a slight risk quite worth encountering for the sake of diversion.
He would execute the most audacious pranks, and if he was caught, would
take it as a trial of skill between the masters and himself, and accept
punishment as amends, with the most good humoured grace in the world.
Fun seemed to be his only moving spring, and he led everybody along with
him, so as to be a much more mischievous person than many a worse lad.

The only exceptions in the house to his influence seemed to be his
brother and cousin. Both were far above the average boy. Armine, for
talent, John Friar Brownlow at once for industry and steadiness. They
had stood out resolutely against more than one of his pranks, and had
been the only boys in the house not present on the occasion of his last
freak--a champagne supper, when parodies had been sung, caricaturing all
the authorities; and when the company had become uproarious enough to
rouse the whole family, the boys were discovered in the midst of the
most audacious but droll mimicry of the masters.

As to work, Jock was developing the utmost faculties for leaving it
undone, trusting to his native facility for putting on the steam at any
crisis; and not believing in the warnings that he would fail in passing
for the army.

What was to be done with him? Was he to be taken away and sent to a
tutor? His mother consulted himself as he sat in his arm-chair.

“Like Rob!” he said, and made up a face.

“Rob is doing very well in the militia.”

“No; don’t do that, mother! Never fear, I’ll put on a spurt when the
time comes!”

“I don’t believe a spurt will do. Now, seriously, Jock--”

“Don’t say, seriously, mother: it’s like H.S.H.”

“Perhaps if I had been like her, you would not be vexing me so much
now.”

“Come, come, mother, it’s nothing to be vexed about. My tutor needn’t
have bothered you. I’ve done nothing sneaking nor ungentlemanly.”

“There is plenty of wrong without that, Jock. While you never heed
anything but fun and amusement I do not see how you are to come to
anything worth having; and you will soon get betrayed into something
unworthy. Don’t let me have to take you away in disgrace, my boy; it
would break my heart.”

“You shan’t have to do that, mother.”

“But don’t you think it would be wiser to be somewhere with fewer
inducements to idleness?”

“Leave Eton? O no, mother! I can’t do that till the last day possible. I
shall be in the eight another year.”

“You will not be here another year unless you go on very differently.
Your tutor will not allow it, if I would.”

“Has he said so?”

“Yes; and the next half is to be the trial.”

Jock applied himself to extracting a horsehair from the stuffing of
the elbow of his chair; and there was a look over his face as near
sullenness as ever came to his gay, careless nature.

Would he attend? or even could he?

When his bills came in Caroline feared, as before, that he was the
one of all her children whom Belforest was most damaging. Allen was
expensive, but in an elegant, exquisite kind of way; but Jock was
simply reckless; and his pleasures were questionable enough to be on the
borders of vices, which might change the frank, sweet, merry face that
now looked up to her into a countenance stained by dissipation and
licence!

A flash of horror and dismay followed the thought! But what could she
do for him, or for any of her children? Censure only alienated them and
made them worse, and their love for her was at least one blessing. Why
had this gold come to take away the wholesome necessity for industry?



CHAPTER XIX. -- THE SNOWY WINDING-SHEET.



     Cold, cold, ‘tis a chilly clime
     That the youth in his journey hath reached;
        And he is aweary now,
        And faint for lack of food.
     Cold! cold! there is no sun in heaven.
                                         Southey.


Very merry was the party which arrived at the roughly-built hotel of
Schwarenbach which serves as a half-way house to the Altels.

Never had expedition been more enjoyed than that of Mrs. Brownlow
and her three boys. They had taken a week by the sea to recruit their
forces, and then began their journey in earnest, since it was too late
for a return to Eton, although so early in the season that to the Swiss
they were like the first swallows of the spring, and they came in for
some of the wondrous glory of the spring flowers, so often missed by
tourists.

In her mountain dress, all state and ceremony cast aside, Caroline rode,
walked, and climbed like the jolly Mother Carey she was, to use her
son’s favourite expression, and the boys, full of health and recovery,
gambolled about her, feeling her companionship the very crown of their
enjoyment.

Johnny, to whom all was more absolutely new than to the others, was the
quietest of the three. He was a year older than Lucas, as Jock was now
called to formal outsiders, while Friar John, a reversal of his cousin’s
two Christian names, was a school title that sometimes passed into
home use. Friar John then had reached an age open to the influences of
beautiful and sublime scenery, and when the younger ones only felt the
exhilaration of mountain air, and longings to get as high as possible,
his soul began to expand, and fresh revelations of glory and majesty to
take possession of him. He was a very different person from the rough,
awkward lad of eight years back. He still had the somewhat loutish
figure which, in his mother’s family, was the shell of fine-looking
men, and he was shy and bashful, but Eton polish had taken away the rude
gruffness, and made his manners and bearing gentlemanly. His face was
honest and intelligent, and he had a thoroughly good, conscientious
disposition; his character stood high, and he was the only Brownlow of
them all who knew the sweets of being “sent up for good.” His aunt could
almost watch expression deepening on his open face, and he was enjoying
with soul and mind even more than with body. Having had the illness
later and more severely than the other two, his strength had not so
fully returned, and he was often glad to rest, admire, and study the
subject with his aunt, to whose service he was specially devoted, while
the other two climbed and explored. For even Armine had been invigorated
with a sudden overflow of animal health and energy, which made him far
more enterprising and less contemplative than he had ever been before.

They four had walked up the mountain after breakfast from Kandersteg,
bringing their bags for a couple of nights, the boys being anxious to go
up the Altels the next day, as their time was nearly over and they were
to be in school in ten days’ time again. After luncheon and a good rest
on the wooden bench outside the door, they began to stroll towards the
Daubensee, along a path between desolate boulders, without vegetation,
except a small kind of monkshood.

“I call this dreary,” said the mother. “We don’t seem to get a bit
nearer the lake. I shall go home and write to Babie.”

“I’ll come back with you,” said Johnny. “My mother will be looking for a
letter.”

“Not giving in already, Johnny,” said Armine. “I can tell you I mean to
get to the lake.”

“The Friar is the slave of his note-book,” said Jock. “When are we to
have it--‘Crags and Cousins,’ or ‘From Measles to Mountains’?”

“I don’t want to forget everything,” said Johnny, with true Kencroft
doggedness.

“Do you expect ever to look at that precious diurnal again?”

“He will leave it as an heirloom to his grandchildren!”

“And they will say how slow people were in the nineteenth century.”

“There will have been a reaction by that time, and they will only wonder
how anybody cared to go up into such dreary places.”

“Or perhaps they will have stripped them all, and eaten the glaciers up
as ices and ice-creams!”

“I think I’ll set up that as my pet anxiety,” said their mother,
laughing; “just as some people suffer from perplexity as to what is to
become of the world when all the coal is used up! You are not turning on
my account, are you, Johnny? I am quite happy to go back alone.”

“No, indeed. I want to write my letter, and I have had enough,” said
John.

“Tired!” said Armine. “Poor old monk! Swiss air always makes me feel
like a balloon full of gas. I could go on, up and up, for ever!”

“Well, keep to the path, and don’t do anything imprudent,” she said,
turning back, the boys saying, “We’ll only have a look down the pass!
Here, Chico! Chico! Chick! Chick!”

Chico, the little dog so disdainfully rejected by Elvira, had attached
himself from the first to Jock. He had been in the London house when
they spent a day there, and in rapture at the meeting had smuggled
himself, not without his master’s connivance, among the rugs and
wrappers, and had already been the cause of numerous scrapes with
officials and travellers, whence sometimes money, sometimes politeness,
sometimes audacity, bought off his friends as best they could.

There was a sort of grave fascination in the exceeding sternness of
the scene--the grey heaps of stone, the mountains raising their shining
white summits against the blue, the dark, fathomless, lifeless lake, and
the utter absence of all forms of life. Armine’s spirit fell under
the spell, and he moved dreamily on, hardly attending to Jock, who was
running on with Chico, and alarming him by feints of catching him and
throwing him into the water.

They came to the gap where they expected to look over the pass, but
it was blotted out by a mist, not in itself visible though hiding
everything, and they were turning to go home when, in the ravine near
at hand, the white ruggedness of the Wildstrube glacier gleamed on their
eyes.

“I didn’t know it was so near,” said Jock. “Come and have a look at it.”

“Not on it,” said Armine, who had somewhat more Swiss experience than
his brother. “There’s no going there without a guide.”

“There’s no reason we should not get on the moraine,” said Jock; and
they presently began to scramble about among the rocks and boulders,
trying to mount some larger one whence they might get a more general
view of the form of the glacier. Chico ran on before them, stimulated
by some reminiscence of the rabbit-holes of Belforest, and they were
looking after him and whistling him back; Armine heard a sudden cry and
fall--Jock had disappeared. “Never mind!” he called up the next instant.
“I’m all right. Only, come down here! I’ve twisted my foot somehow.”

Armine scrambled round the rock over which he had fallen, a loose stone
having turned with him. He had pulled himself up, but even with an arm
round Armine’s neck, he could not have walked a step on even ground,
far less on these rough debris, which were painful walking even for the
lightest, most springy tread.

“You must get to the inn and bring help,” he said, sinking down with a
sigh.

“I suppose there’s nothing else to be done,” said Armine, unwillingly.
“You’ll have a terrible time to wait, unless I meet some one first. I’ll
be as quick as I can.”

“Not too quick till you get off this place,” said Jock, “or you’ll be
down too, and here, help me off with this boot first.”

This was not done quickly or easily. Jock was almost sick with the pain
of the effort, and the bruise looked serious. Armine tried to make him
comfortable, and set out, as he thought, in the right direction, but he
had hardly gone twenty steps before he came to a sudden standstill with
an emphatic “I say!” then came back repeating “I say, Jock, we are close
upon the glacier; I was as near as possible going down into an awful
blue crack!”

“That’s why it’s getting so cold,” said Jock. “Here, Chick, come and
warm me. Well, Armie, why ain’t you off?”

“Yes,” said Armine, with a quiver in his voice, “if I keep down by the
side of the glacier, I suppose I must come to the Daubensee in time.”

“What! Have we lost the way?” said Jock, beginning to look alarmed.

“There’s no doubt of that,” said Armine, “and what’s worse, that fog
is coming up; but I’ve got my little compass here, and if I keep to the
south-west, and down, I must strike the lake somewhere. Goodbye, Jock.”

He looked white and braced up for the effort. Jock caught hold of him.
“Don’t leave me, Armie,” he said; “you can’t--you’ll fall into one of
those crevasses.”

“You’d better let me go before the fog gets worse,” said Armine.

“I say you can’t; it’s not fit for a little chap like you. If you fell
it would be ever so much worse for us both.”

“I know! But it is the less risk,” said Armine, gravely.

“I tell you, Armie, I can’t have you go. Mother will send out for us,
and we can make no end of a row together. There’s a much better chance
that way than alone. Don’t go, I say--”

“I was only looking out beyond the rock. I don’t think it would be
possible to get on now. I can’t see even the ridge of stones we climbed
over.”

“I wish it was I,” said Jock, “I’ll be bound I could manage it!” Then
impatiently--“Something must be done, you know, Armie. We can’t stay
here all night.”

Yet when Armine went a step or two to see whether there was any
practicability of moving, he instantly called out against his attempting
to go away. He was in a good deal of pain, and high-spirited boy as
he was, was thoroughly unnerved and appalled, and much less able to
consider than the usually quieter and more timid Armine. Suddenly
there was a frightful thunderous roar and crash, and with a cry of “An
avalanche,” the brothers clasped one another fast and shut their eyes,
but ere the words “Have mercy” were uttered all was still again, and
they found themselves alive!

“I don’t think it was an avalanche,” said Armine, recovering first. “It
was most likely to be a great mass of ice tumbling off the arch at the
bottom of the glacier. They do make a most awful row. I’ve heard one
before, only not so near. Anyway we can’t be far from the bottom of the
glacier, if I only could crawl there.”

“No, no;” cried Jock, holding him tight; “I tell you, you can’t do it.”

Jock could not have defined whether he was most actuated by fears
for his brother’s safety or by actual terror at being left alone and
helpless. At any rate Armine much preferred remaining, in all the
certain misery and danger, to losing sight of his brother, with the
great probability of only being further lost himself.

“I wonder whether Chico would find mother,” he said.

Jock brightened; Armine found an envelope in his pocket, and scribbled--

“On the moraine. Jock’s ankle sprained--Come.”

Then Jock produced a bit of string, wherewith it was fastened to the
dog’s collar, and then authoritatively bade Chico go to mother.

Alas! cleverness had never been Chico’s strong point, and the present
extremity did not inspire him with sagacity. He knew the way as little
as his masters did, and would only dance about in an unmeaning way, and
when ordered home crouch in abject entreaty. Jock grew impatient and
threatened him, but this only made him creep behind Armine, put his tail
between his legs, hold up his little paw, and look piteously imploring.

“There’s no use in the little brute,” sighed Jock at last, but the
attempt had done him good and recalled his nerve and good sense.

“We are in for a night of it,” he said, “unless they find us; and how
are they ever to do that in this beastly fog?”

“We must halloo,” said Armine, attempting it.

“Yes, and we don’t know when to begin! We can’t go on all night, you
know,” said Jock; “and if we begin too soon, we may have no voice left
just at the right time.”

“It is half-past seven now,” said Armine, looking at his watch. “The
food was to be at seven, so they must have missed us by this time.”

“They won’t think anything of it till it gets dark.”

“No. Give them till half-past eight. Somewhere about nine or half-past
it may be worth while to yodel.”

“And how awfully cold it will be by that time. And my foot is aching
like fun!”

Armine offered to rub it, and there was some occupation in this and in
watching the darkening of the evening, which was very gradual in the
dense white fog that shut them in with a damp, cold, moist curtain of
undeveloped snow.

The poor lads were thinly clad for a summer walk, Jock had left his
plaid behind him, and they were beginning to feel only too vividly that
it was past supper-time, when they could dimly see that it was
past nine, and began to shout, but they soon found this severe and
exhausting.

Armine suggested counting ten between each cry, which would husband
their powers and give them time to listen for an answer. Yet even
thus there was an empty, feeble sound about their cries, so that Jock
observed--

“It’s very odd that when there’s no good in making a row, one can make
it fast enough, and now when it would be of some use, one seems to have
no more voice than a little sick mouse.”

“Not so much, I think,” said Armine. “It is hunger partly.”

“Hark! That sounded like something.”

Invigorated by hope they shouted again, but though several times they
did hear a distant yodel, the hope that it was in answer to themselves
soon faded, as the sound became more distant, and their own exertions
ended soon in an utter breakdown--into a hoarse squeak on Jock’s part
and a weak, hungry cry on Armine’s. Jock’s face was covered with tears,
as much from the strain as from despair.

“There!” he sighed, “there’s our last chance gone! We are in for a night
of it.”

“It can’t be a very long night,” Armine said, through chattering teeth.
“It’s only a week to the longest day.”

“Much that will matter to us,” said Jock, impatiently. “We shall be
frozen long before morning.”

“We must keep ourselves awake.”

“You little ass,” said poor Jock, in the petulant inconsistency of his
distress; “it is not come to that yet.”

Armine did not answer at once. He was kneeling against the rock, and a
strange thrill came over Jock, forbidding him again to say--“It was not
come to that,” but a shoot of aching pain in his ankle presently drew
forth an exclamation.

Armine again offered to rub it for him, and the two arranged themselves
for this purpose, the curtain of damp woolliness seeming to thicken on
them. There was a moon somewhere, and the darkness was not total, but
the dreariness and isolation were the more felt from the absence of all
outlines being manifest. They even lost sight of their own hands if they
stretched out their arms, and their light summer garments were already
saturated with damp and would soon freeze. No part of their bodies was
free from that deadly chill save where they could press against one
another.

They were brave boys. Jock had collected himself again, and for some
time they kept up a show of mirth in the shakings and buffetings they
bestowed on one another, but they began to grow too stiff and spent to
pursue this discipline. Armine thought that the night must be nearly
over, and Jock tried to see his watch, but decided that he could not,
because he could not bear to believe how far it was from day.

Armine was drowsily rubbing the ankle, mechanically murmuring something
to himself. Jock shook him, saying--

“Take care, don’t doze off. What are you mumbling about leisure?”

“O tarry thou the Lord’s leisure. Be strong and--Was I saying it aloud?”
 he broke off with a start.

“Yes; go on.”

Armine finished the verse, and Jock commented--

“Comfort thine heart. Does the little chap mean it in a fix like this?”

“Jock,” said Armine, now fully awake, “I do want to say something.”

“Cut on.”

“If you get out of this and I don’t--”

“Stop that! We’ve got heat enough to last till morning.”

“Will they find us then? These fogs last for days and turn to snow.”

“Don’t croak, I say. I can’t face mother without you.”

“She’ll be glad enough to get you. Please listen, Jock, while I’m awake.
I want you to give her and all of them my love, and say I’m sorry for
all the times I’ve vexed them.”

“As if you had ever--”

“And please Jock, if I was nasty and conceited about the champagne--”

“Shut up, I can’t stand this,” cried Jock, chiefly from force of habit,
for it was a tacit agreement among the elder brothers that Armine
must not be suffered to “be cocky and humbug,” by which they meant
no implication on his sincerity, but that they did not choose to hear
remonstrances or appeals to higher motives, and this had made him very
reticent with all except his sister Barbara and Miss Ogilvie, but he now
persisted.

“Indeed I want you to forgive me, Jock. You don’t know how often I’ve
thought all sorts of horridness about you.”

Jock laughed, “Not more than I deserved, I’ll be bound. How can you be
so absurd! If anyone wants forgiveness, it is I. I say, Armie, this is
all nonsense. You don’t really think you are done for, or you would not
take it so coolly.”

“Of course I know Who can bring us through if He will,” said
Armine. “There’s the Rock. I’ve been asking Him all this time--every
moment--only I get so sleepy.”

“If He will; but if He won’t?”

“Then there’s Paradise. And Himself and father,” said Armine, still in a
dreamy tone.

“Oh, yes; that’s for you! But how about a mad fellow like me? It’s so
sneaking just to take to one’s prayers because one’s in a bad case.”

“Oh, Jock! He is always ready to hear! More ready than we to pray!”

“Now don’t begin to improve the occasion,” broke out Jock. “By all the
stories that ever were written, I’m the one to come to a bad end, not
you.”

“Don’t,” said Armine, with an accent of pain that made Jock cry, hugging
him tighter. “There, never mind, Armie; I’ll let you say all you like.
I don’t know what made me stop you, except that I’m a beast, and always
have been one. I’d give anything not to have gone on playing the fool
all my life, so as to be able to mind this as little as you do.”

“I don’t seem awake enough to mind anything much,” said the little boy,
“or I should trouble more about Mother and Babie; but somehow I can’t.”

“Oh!” wailed Jock, “you must! You must get out of it, Armie. Come
closer. Shove in between me and the rock. Here, Chico, lie down on the
top of us! Mother must have you back any way, Armie.”

The little fellow was half-dozing, but words of prayer and faith kept
dropping from his tongue. Pain, and a stronger vitality alike, kept
Jock free from the torpor, and he used his utmost efforts to rouse
his brother; but every now and then a horrible conviction of the
hopelessness of their condition came over him.

“Oh!” he groaned out, “how is it to be if this is the end of it? What is
to become of a fellow that has been like me?”

Armine only spoke one word; the Name that is above every name.

“Yes, you always cared! But I never cared for anything but fun! Never
went to Communion at Easter. It is too late.”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Armine, rousing up, “not too late! Never! You are
His! You belong to Him! He cares for you!”

“If He does, it makes it all the worse. I never heeded; I thought it all
a bore. I never let myself think what it all meant. I’ve thrown it all
away.”

“Oh! I wish I wasn’t so stupid,” cried Armine, with a violent effort
against his exhaustion. “Mother loves us, however horrid we are! He is
like that; only let us tell Him all the bad we’ve done, and ask Him to
blot it out. I’ve been trying--trying--only I’m so dull; and let us
give ourselves more and more out and out to Him, whether it is here or
there.”

“That I must,” said Jock; “it would be shabby and sneaking not.”

“Oh, Jock,” cried Armine, joyfully, “then it will all be right any
way;” and he raised his face and kissed his brother. “You promise, Jock.
Please promise.”

“Promise what? That if He will save us out of this, I’ll take a new
line, and be as good as I know how, and--”

Armine took the word, whether consciously or not: “And manfully to fight
under His banner, and continue Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants
unto our lives’ end. Amen!”

“Amen,” Jock said, after him.

After that, Jock found that the child was repeating the Creed, and said
it after him, the meanings thrilling through him as they had never done
before. Next followed lines of “Rock of Ages,” and for some time longer
there was a drowsy murmur of sacred words, but there was no eliciting a
direct reply any more; and with dull consternation, Jock knew that the
fatal torpor could no longer be broken, and was almost irritated that
all the words he caught were such happy, peaceful ones. The very last
were, “Inside angels’ wings, all white down.”

The child seemed almost comfortable--certainly not suffering like
himself, bruised and strained, with sharp twinges rending his damaged
foot; his limbs cramped, and sensible of the acute misery of the cold,
and the full horror of their position; but as long as he could shake
even an unconscious murmur from his brother, it seemed like happiness
compared with the utter desolation after the last whisper had died away,
and he was left intolerably alone under the solid impenetrable shroud
that enveloped him, and the senseless form he held on his breast. And if
he tried to follow on by that clue which Armine had left him, whirlwinds
of dismay seemed to sweep away all hope and trust, while he thought of
wilfulness, recklessness, defiance, irreverence, and all the yet darker
shades of a self-indulgent and audacious school-boy life!

It was a little lighter, as if dawn might be coming, but the cold was
bitterer, and benumbing more than paining him. His clothes were stiff,
his eyelashes white with frost, he did not feel equal to looking at his
watch, he _would_ not see Armine’s face, he found the fog depositing
itself in snow, but he heeded it no longer. Fear and hope had alike
faded out of his mind, his ankle seemed to belong to some one else far
away, he had left off wishing to see his mother, he wanted nothing but
to be let alone!

He did not hear when Chico, finding no comfort, no sign of life in his
masters, stood upon them as they lay clasped together in the drift of
fine small snow, and in the climax of misery he lifted up the long and
wretched wailing howlings of utter dog-wretchedness.



CHAPTER XX. -- A RACE.



     Speed, Melise, speed! such cause of haste
     Thine active sinews never braced,
     Bend ‘gainst the steepy hill thy breast,
     Burst down like torrent from its crest.
                                          Scott.


“Hark!”

The guides and the one other traveller, a Mr. Graham, who had been
at the inn, were gathered at the border of the Daubensee, entreating,
almost ready to use force to get the poor mother home before the
snow should efface the tracks, and render the return to Schwarenbach
dangerous.

Ever since the alarm had been given there had been a going about with
lights, a shouting and seeking, all along the road where she had parted
with her sons. It was impossible in the fog to leave the beaten track,
and the traveller told her that rewards would be but temptations to
suicide.

Johnny had fortunately been so tired out that he had gone to bed soon
after coming in, and had not been wakened by the alarm till eleven
o’clock. Then, startled by the noises and lights, he had risen and made
his way to his aunt. Substantial help he could not give--even his German
was halting, but he was her stay and help, and she would--as she knew
afterwards--have been infinitely more desolate without him. And now,
when all were persuading her to wait, as they said, till more aid could
be sent for to Kandersteg, he knew as well as she did that it was but
a kindly ruse to cover their despair, and was striving to insist that
another effort in daylight should be made.

He it was who uttered the “Hark,” and added, “That is Chico!”

At first the tired, despairing guides did not hear, but going along
the road by the lake in the direction from which the sound came, the
prolonged wail became more audible.

“It is on the moraine,” the men said, with awe-struck looks at one
another.

They would fain not even have taken John with them, but with a resolute
look he uttered “Ich komm.”

Mr. Graham, an elderly man, not equal to a moraine in the snow, stayed
with the mother. He wanted to take her back to prepare for them, as he
said--in reality to lesson any horrors there might be to see.

But she stood like a statue, with clasped hands and white face, the
small feathery snow climbing round her feet and on her shoulders.

“O God, spare my boys! Though I don’t deserve it--spare them!” had been
her one inarticulate prayer all night.

And now--shouts and yodels reach her ears. They are found! But how
found! The cries are soon hushed. There is long waiting--then,
through the snow, John flashes forward and takes her hand. He does not
speak--only as their eyes meet, his pale lips tremble, and he says,
“Don’t fear; they will revive in the inn. Jock is safe, they are sure.”

Safe? What? that stiff, white-faced form, carried between two men, with
the arm hanging lifelessly down? One man held the smaller figure of
Armine, and kept his face pressed inwards. Kind words of “Liebe Frau,”
 and assurances that were meant to be cheering passed around her, but
she heard them not. Some brandy had, it seemed, been poured into their
mouths. They thought Jock had swallowed, Armine had not.

At intervals on the way back a little more was administered, and the
experienced guides had no doubt that life was yet in him. When they
reached the hotel the guides would not take them near the stove,
but carried them up at once by the rough stair to the little
wood-partitioned bedrooms. There were two beds in each room, and their
mother would have had them both together; but the traveller, and the
kindly, helpful young landlady, Fraulein Rosalie, quietly managed
otherwise, and when Johnny tried to enforce his aunt’s orders, Mr.
Graham, by a sign, made him comprehend why they had thus arranged,
filling him with blank dismay.

A doctor? The guides shook their heads. They could hardly make their way
to Leukerbad while it was snowing as at present, and if they had done
so, no doctor could come back with them. Moreover the restoratives were
known to the mountaineers as well as to the doctors themselves, and
these were vigorously applied. All the resources of the little way-side
house were put in requisition. Mr. Graham and Johnny did their best for
Jock, his mother seemed to see and think of nothing but Armine, who lay
senseless and cold in spite of all their efforts.

It was soon that Jock began to moan and turn and struggle painfully back
to life. When he opened his eyes with a dazed half-consciousness, and
something like a word came from between his lips, Mr. Graham sent John
to call the mother, saying very low, “Get her away. She will bear it
better when she sees this one coming round.”

John had deep and reverent memories connected with Armine. He knew--as
few did know--how steadfastly that little gentle fellow could hold the
right, and more than once the two had been almost alone against their
world. Besides, he was Mother Carey’s darling! Johnny felt as if his
heart would break, as with trembling lips he tried to speak, as if in
glad hope, as he told his aunt that Jock was speaking and wanted her,
while he looked all the time at the still, white, inanimate face.

She looked at him half in distrust.

“Yes! Indeed, indeed,” he said, “Jock wants you.”

She went; Johnny took her place. The efforts at restoration were
slackening. The attendants were shaking their heads and saying, “der
Arme.”

Mr. Graham came up to him, saying in his ear, “She is engrossed with the
other. He will not let her go. Let them do what is to be done for this
poor little fellow. So it will be best for her.”

There was a frantic longing to do something for Armine, a wild wonder
that the prayers of a whole night had not been more fully answered in
John’s mind, as he threw himself once more over the senseless form,
propped with pillows, and kissed either cheek and the lips. Then
suddenly he uttered a low cry, “He breathed. I’m sure he did; I felt it!
The spoon! O quick!”

Mr. Graham and the Fraulein looked pitifully at one another at the
delusion; but they let the lad have the spoon with the drops of brandy.
He had already gained experience in giving it, and when they looked for
disappointment, his eyes were raised in joy.

“It’s gone down,” he said.

Mr. Graham put his hand on the pulse and nodded.

Another drop or two, and renewed rubbing of hands and feet. The icy
cold, the deadly white, were certainly giving way, the lips began to
quiver, contract, and gasp.

Was it for death or life? They would not call his mother for that
terrible, doubtful minute; but she could not long stay away. When Jock’s
fingers first relaxed on hers, she crept to the door of the other room,
to see Armine upheld on Johnny’s breast, with heaving chest and working
features, but with eyes opening: yes, and meeting hers.

Johnny always held that he never had so glad a moment in all his life as
that when he saw her countenance light up.

The first word was “Jock!”

Armine’s full perceptions were come back, unlike those of Jock, who
was moaning and wandering in his talk, fancying himself still in the
desolation of the moraine, with Armine dead in his arms, and all the
miseries, bodily, mental and spiritual, from which he had suffered were
evidently still working in his brain, though the words that revealed
them were weak and disjointed. Besides, he screamed and moaned with
absolute and acute pain, which alarmed them much, though Armine was
sufficiently himself to be able to assure them that there had been no
hurt beyond the strain.

It was well that Armine was both rational and unselfish, for nothing
seemed to soothe Jock for a moment but his mother’s hand and his
mother’s voice. It was plain that fever and rheumatism had a hold upon
him, and what or who was there to contend with them in this wayside inn?
The rooms, though clean, were bare of all but the merest necessaries,
and though the young hostess was kind and anxious, her maids were the
roughest and most ignorant of girls, and there were no appliances for
comfort--nothing even to drink but milk, bottled lemonade, and a tisane
made of yellow flowers, horrible to the English taste.

And Jock, ill as he was, did not fill his mother with such dread for the
future as did Armine, when she found him, quiet indeed, but unable to
lie down, except when supported on John’s breast and in his arms--with a
fearful oppression and pain in his chest, and every token that the lungs
were suffering. He had not let them call her. Jock’s murmurs and cries
were to be heard plainly through the wooden partition, and the little
fellow knew she could not be spared, and only tried to prevent John and
Mr. Graham from alarming her. “She--can’t--do--any--good,” he gasped out
in John’s ear.

No, nobody could, without medical skill and appliances. The utmost that
the house could do was to produce enough mustard to make two plasters,
and to fill bottles with hot water, to warm stones, and to wrap them
in blankets. And what was this, in such cold as penetrated the wooden
building, too high up in the mountains for the June sun as yet to have
full power? The snow kept blinding and drifting on, and though everyone
said it could not last long at that time in the summer, it might easily
last too long for Armine’s fragile life. Here was evening drawing on and
no change outside, so that no offer of reward could make it possible for
any messenger to attempt the Gemmi to fetch advice from Leukerbad.

Caroline could not think. She was in a dull, dreary state of
consternation, and all she could dwell on was the immediate need of
the moment, soothing Jock’s terrors, and, what was almost worse, his
irritable rejection of the beverages she could offer him, and trying to
relieve him by rubbing and hot applications. If ever she could look into
Armine’s room, she was filled with still greater dismay, even though a
sweet, patient smile always met her, and a resolute endeavour to make
the best of it.

“It--does--not--make--much--difference,” gasped Armine. “One would not
like anything.”

John came out in a character no one could have expected. He showed
himself a much better nurse, and far more full of resource than the
traveller. It was he who bethought him of keeping a kettle in the room
over the inevitable charcoal, so as slightly to mitigate the chill of
the air, or the fumes of the charcoal, which were equally perilous and
distressing to the labouring lungs. He was tender and handy in lifting,
tall and strong, so as to be efficient in supporting, and then Armine
and he understood one another. They had never been special companions;
John had too much of the Kencroft muscularity about him to accord with a
delicate, imaginative being like Armine, but they respected one another,
and made common cause, and John had more than once been his little
cousin’s protector. So when they were so much alone that all reserves
were overcome, Armine had comfort in his cousin that no one else in the
place could have afforded him. The little boy perfectly knew how ill he
was, and as he lay in John’s arms, breathed out his messages to Babie as
well as he could utter them.

“And please, you’ll be always mother’s other son,” said Armine.

“Won’t I? She’s been the making of me every way,” said John.

“If ever--she does want anybody--” said Armine, feeling, but not
uttering, a vague sense of want of trust in others around her.

“I will, I will. Why, Armie, I shall never care for any one so much.”

“That’s right.”

And again, after an interval, Armine spoke of Jock, saying, “You’ll help
him, Johnny. You know sometimes he can be put in mind--”

John promised again, perhaps less hopefully, but he saw that Armine
hoped.

“Would you mind reading me a Psalm,” came, after a great struggle for
breath. “It was so nice to know Babie was saying her Psalms at night,
and thinking of us.”

So the evening wore away and night came on, and John, after full
six-and-twenty hours’ wakeful exertion and anxiety, began to grow
sleepy, and dozed even as he held his cousin whenever the cough did not
shake the poor little fellow. At last, with Armine’s consent, or rather,
at his entreaty, Mr. Graham, though knowing himself a bad substitute,
took him from the arms of the outwearied lad, who, in five minutes more,
was lying, dressed as he was, in the soundest of dreamless slumbers.

When he awoke, the sun was up, an almost midsummer sun, streaming on the
fast-melting snow with a dazzling brilliancy. Armine was panting under
the same deadly oppression on his pillows, and Mother Carey was standing
by him, talking to Mr. Graham about despatching a messenger to Leukerbad
in search of one of the doctors, who were sure to be found at the baths.
How haggard her face looked, and Armine gasped out--

“Mother, your hair.”

The snow had been there; the crisp black waves on her brow were quite
white. Jock had fallen into a sort of doze from exhaustion, but moaning
all the time. She could call him no better, and Armine’s sunken face
told that he was worse.

John went in search of more hot water, and on the way heard voices which
made him call Mr. Graham, who knew more of the vernacular German patois
than himself, to understand it. He thought he had caught something about
English, and a doctor at Kandersteg. It was true. A guide belonging to
the other side of the pass, who had been weather-bound at Kandersteg,
had just come up with tidings that an English party were there, who had
meant to cross the Gemmi but had given it up, finding it too early in
the season for the kranklicher Milord who was accompanied by his doctor.

“An English doctor! Oh!” cried John, “there’s some good in that. Some
one must take a note down to him at once.”

But after some guttural conversation of which he understood only a word
or two, Mr. Graham said--

“They declare it is of no use. The carriage was ordered at nine. It is
past seven now.”

“But it need not take two hours to go that distance downhill, the lazy
blackguards!” exclaimed John.

“In the present state of the path, they say that it will,” said Mr.
Graham. “In fact, I suspect a little unwillingness to deprive their
countrymen of the job.”

“I’ll go,” said John, “then there will be no loss of time about writing.
You’ll look after Armine, sir, and tell my aunt.”

“Certainly, my boy; but you’ll find it a stiffish pull.”

“I came in second for the mile race last summer at Eton,” said Johnny.
“I’m not in training now; but if a will can do it--”

“I believe you are right. If you don’t catch him, we shall hardly have
lost time, for they say we must wait an hour or two for the Gemmi road
to get clear of snow. Stay; don’t go without eating. You won’t keep it
up on an empty stomach. Remember the proverb.”

Prayer had been with him all night, and he listened to the remonstrance
as to provender enough to devour a bit of bread, put another into his
pocket, and swallow a long draught of new milk. Mr. Graham further
insisted on his taking a lad to show him the right path through the fir
woods; and though Johnny looked more formed for strength than speed, and
was pale-cheeked and purple-eyed with broken rest, the manner in which
he set forth had a purpose-like air that was satisfactory--not over
swift at the outset over the difficult ground, but with a steadfast
resolution, and with a balance and knowledge of the management of his
limbs due to Eton athletics.

Mr. Graham went up to encourage Mrs. Brownlow. She clasped her hands
together with joy and gratitude.

“That dear, dear boy,” she said, “I shall owe him everything.”

Jock had wakened rational, though only to be conscious of severe
suffering. He would hardly believe that Armine was really alive till Mr.
Graham actually carried in the boy, and let them hold each other’s hands
for a moment before placing Armine on the other bed.

Indeed it seemed that this might be the poor boys’ last meeting.
Armine could only look at his brother, since the least attempt to speak
increased the agonised struggle for breath, which, doctor or no doctor,
gave Mr. Graham small expectation that he could survive another of these
cold mountain nights.

Their mother was so far relieved to have them together that it was
easier to attend to them; and Armine’s patient eyes certainly acted as
a gentle restraint upon Jock’s moans, lamentations, and requisitions for
her services. It was one of those times that she only passed through
by her faculty of attending only to present needs, and the physical
strength and activity that seemed inexhaustible as long as she had
anything to do, and which alone alleviated the despair within her heart.

Meantime John found the rock slippery, the path heavy, and his young
guide a drag on him. The path through the fir woods which had been
so delightful two days (could it be only two days?) ago, was now a
baffling, wearisome zigzag; yet when he tried to cut across, regardless
of the voice of his guide, he found he lost time, for he had to clamber,
once fell and rolled some distance, happily with no damage as he found
when he picked himself up, and plodded on again, without even stopping
to shake himself.

At last came an opening where he could see down into the Kandersteg
valley. There was the hotel in clear sunshine, looking only too like a
house in a German box of toys, and alas! there was also a toy carriage
coming round to the front!

Like the little foot-page of old ballads, John “let down his feet and
ran,” ran determinately on, down the now less precipitous slope--ran
till he was beyond the trees, with the summer sun beating down on him,
and in sight of figures coming out from the hotel to the carriage.

Johnny scarce ventured to give one sigh. He waved his hat in a desperate
hope of being seen. No, they were in the carriage. The horses were
moving!

But he remembered a slight steep on the further road where they must go
slower. Moreover, there were a few curves in the horse-road. He set his
teeth with the desperate resolution of a moment, clenched his hands,
intensified his mental cry to Heaven, and with the dogged determination
of Kencroft dashed on, not daring to look at the carriage, intent only
on the way.

He was past the inn, but his breath was short and quick; his knees
were failing, an invisible hand seemed to be on his chest making him
go slower and slower; yet still he struggled on, till the mountain tops
danced before his eyes, cascades rushed into his ears, the earth seemed
to rise up and stop him; but through it all he heard a voice say,
“Hullo, it’s the Monk! What is the matter?”

Then he knew he was on the ground on his face, with kind but tormenting
hands busy about him, and his heart going so like a sledge hammer, that
the word he would have given his life to utter, would not come out of
his lips, and all he could do was to grasp convulsively at something
that he believed to be a garment of the departing travellers.

“Here, the flask! Don’t speak yet,” said a man’s voice, and a choking
stimulant was poured into his mouth. When the choking spasm it cost him
was over, his eyes cleared, and he could at least gasp. Then he saw that
it was his housemate, Evelyn, at whom he was clutching, and who asked
again in amaze--

“What is up, old fellow?”

“Hush, not yet,” said the other voice; “let him alone till he gets his
breath. Don’t hurry, my boy,” he added, “we will wait.”

Johnny, however, felt altogether absorbed in getting out one panting
whisper, “A doctor.”

“Yes, yes, he is,” cried Evelyn. “What’s the matter? Not Brownlow!”

“Both--oh,” sobbed John in the agony of contending with the bumping,
fluttering heart which _would_ not let him fetch breath enough to speak.

“You will tell us presently. Don’t be afraid. We will wait,” said the
voice of the man who, as John now felt, was supporting him. “Hush,
Cecil, another minute, and he will be able to tell us.”

Indeed the rushing of every pulse was again making it vain for Johnny to
try to utter anything, and he shut his eyes in the realisation that he
had succeeded and found help. If his heart would have not bumped and
fluttered so fearfully, it would have been almost rest, as he was helped
up by those kind, strong arms. It was really for little more than five
seconds before he gathered his powers to say, still between gasps--

“Out all night--the moraine--fog--snow--Jock--very
bad--Armine--worse--up there.”

“At Schwarenbach?”

“Yes. Oh, come! They are so ill.”

“I am sure Dr. Medlicott will do all he can for them,” said another
voice, which John saw proceeded from a very tall, slight youth, with a
fair, delicate, girlish face. “Had he not better get into the carriage
and return to the hotel?”

“By all means.”

And John found himself without much volition lifted and helped into the
carriage, where Cecil Evelyn scrambled up beside him, and put an arm
round him.

“Poor old Monk, you are dead beat,” he said, as the carriage turned, the
other two walking beside it. “Did you come that pace all the way down?”

“Only after the wood.”

“Well, ‘twas as plucky a thing as I ever saw. But is Skipjack so bad?”

“Dreadful! Light-headed all yesterday--horrid pain! But not so bad as
Armine. If something ain’t done soon--he’ll die.”

“Poor little Brownlow! You’ve come to the right shop. Medlicott is first
rate. Did you know it was we?”

“No--only--an English doctor,” said John.

“Mother sent us abroad with him, because they said Fordham must have
Swiss air; and poor old Granny still goes on in the same state,” said
Cecil. “We got here on Tuesday evening, and saw your names; but then the
fog came, and it snowed all yesterday, and the doctor said it would not
do for Fordham to go so high. And the more I wanted them to come up with
you, the more they would not. Were they out in that snow?”

Here came an order from the doctor not to make his friend talk, and
Johnny was glad to obey, and reserve his breath for the explanation. He
did not hear what passed between the other two, as they walked behind
the carriage.

“A fine fellow that! Is he Cecil’s friend?”

“No, I wish he were. However, it can’t be helped now, in common
humanity; and my mother will understand.”

“You mean that it was her wish that we should avoid them.”

“She thinks the influence has not been good for Cecil.”

“That was the reason you gave up the Gemmi so easily.”

“It was. But, as I say, it can’t be helped now, and no harm can be done
by going to see whether they are really so ill.”

“Brownlow is the name. I wonder if they are any relation to a man I once
knew--a lecturer at one of the hospitals?”

“Not likely. These are very rich people, with a great house in Hyde Park
regions, and a place in the country. They are always asking Cecil there;
only my mother does not fancy it. It is not a matter of charity after
the first stress. They can easily have advice from England, or anywhere
they like.”

By this time they reached the hotel, and John alighted briskly enough,
and explained the state of affairs in a few words.

“My dear boy,” said Dr. Medlicott, “I’ll go up at once, as soon as I
can get at our travelling medicine-chest. Luckily we have what is most
likely to be useful.”

“Thank you,” said Johnny, and therewith he turned dizzy, and reeled
against the wall.

“It is nothing--nothing,” he said, as the doctor having helped him into
a sitting-room, laid his hand on his pulse. “Don’t delay about me! I
shall be all right in a minute.”

“They are getting down the boxes. No time is lost,” said the doctor,
quietly. “See whether they can let us have some soup, Cecil.”

“I couldn’t swallow anything,” said Johnny, imploringly.

“Have you had any breakfast this morning?”

“Yes, a bit of bread and a drink of milk. There was not time for more.”

“And you had been searching all one night, and nursing the next?”

“Most of it,” was the confession. “But I shall be all right--if there is
any pony I could ride upon.”

“You shall by-and-by; but first, Reeves,” as a servant with grizzled
hair and moustache brought in a neatly-fitted medicine-chest, “I give
this young gentleman into your care. He is to lie down on my bed for
half an hour, and Mr. Evelyn is not to go near him. Then, if he is
awake--”

“If--” ejaculated John.

“Give him a basin of soup--Liebig, if you can’t get anything here.”

“Liebig!” broke out John. “Oh, please take some. There’s nothing up
there but old goat, and nothing to drink but milk and lemonade, like
beastly hair-oil; and Jock hates milk.”

“Never fear,” said Dr. Medlicott; “Liebig is going, and a packet of tea.
Mrs. Evelyn does not send us out unprovided. If you eat your soup like a
good boy, you may then ride up--not walk--unless you wish to be on your
mother’s hands too.”

“She’s my aunt; but it is all the same. Tell her I’m coming.”

“I shall go with you, doctor,” said Cecil. “I must know about Brownlow.”

“Much good you’ll do him! But I’d rather leave this fellow in Fordham’s
charge than yours.”

So Johnny had no choice but to obey, growling a little that it was
all nonsense, and he should be all right in five minutes, but that
expectation continued, without being realised, for longer than Johnny
knew. He awoke with a start to find the Liebig awaiting him; and Lord
Fordham’s eyes fixed on him, with (though neither understood it)
the generous, though melancholy envy of an invalid youth for a young
athlete.

“Have I been asleep?” he asked, looking at his watch. “Only ten minutes
since I looked last? Well, now I am all right.”

“You will be when you have eaten this,” said Lord Fordham.

Johnny obeyed, and ate with relish.

“There!” said he; “now I am ready for anything.”

“Don’t get up yet. I’ll go and order a horse for you.”

When Lord Fordham came back from doing so, he found his patient really
fast asleep, and with a little colour coming into the pale cheeks. He
stole back, bade that the pony should wait, went on writing his letter,
and waited till one hour, two, three hours had passed, and at last the
sleeper woke, greatly disgusted, willing to accept the bath which Lord
Fordham advised him to take, and which made him quite himself again.

“You’ll let me go now,” he said. “I can walk as well as ever.”

“You will be of more use now, if you ride,” said Lord Fordham. “There,
I hear our luncheon coming in. You must eat while the pony is coming
round.”

“If it won’t lose time--thank you,” said Johnny, recovered enough now
to know how hungry he was, “But I ought not to have stayed away. My aunt
has no one but me.”

“And you can really help her?” said Lord Fordham, with some experience
of his brother’s uselessness.

“Not well, of course,” said Johnny; “but it is better than nobody; and
Armine is so patient and so good, that I’m the more afraid. Is not it
a very bad sign,” he added, confidentially; for he was quite won by the
youth’s kind, considerate way, and evident liking and sympathy.

“I don’t know,” faltered Lord Fordham. “My brother Walter was like that!
Is this the little fellow who is Cecil’s fag?”

“Yes; Jock asked him to take him, because he was sure never to bully him
or lick him when he wouldn’t do things.”

This not very lucid description rejoiced Lord Fordham.

“I am glad of that,” he said. “But I hope the little boy will get over
this. My mother had a very excellent account of Dr. Medlicott’s skill;
and you know an illness from a misadventure is not like anything
constitutional.”

“No; but Armine is always delicate, and my aunt has had to take care of
him.”

“Do you live with them?”

“O no; I have lots of people at home. I only came with them because I
had had these measles at Eton; and my aunt is--well, the very jolliest
woman that ever was.”

Lord Fordham smiled.

“Yes, indeed she is. I don’t mean only kind and good-natured. But if
you just knew her! The whole world and everything else have just been
something new and glorious ever since I knew her. I seem to myself to
have lived in a dark hole till she made it all light.”

“Ah! I understand that you would do anything for her.”

“_That_ I would, if there was anything I could do,” said Johnny, hastily
finishing his meal.

“Well, you’ve done something to-day.”

“That--oh, that was nothing. I shouldn’t have made such a fool of myself
if I hadn’t been seedy before. I hear the pony,” he added. “Excuse me.”
 And, with a murmured grace, he rose. Then, recollecting himself, “No end
of thanks. I don’t know how to thank you enough.”

“Don’t; I’ve done nothing,” said Lord Fordham, wringing his hand. “I
only hope--”

The words stuck in his throat, and with a sigh he watched the lad ride
off.



CHAPTER XXI. -- AN ACT OF INDEPENDENCE.



     Soldier now and servant true;
     Earth behind and heaven in view.
                            Isaac Williams.


Marmaduke Alwyn Evelyn, Viscount Fordham, was the fourth bearer of that
title within ten years. His father had not lived to wear it, and his two
elder brothers had both died in early youth. His precarious existence
seemed to be only held on a tenure of constant precaution, and if his
mother ventured to hope that it might be otherwise with the two youngest
of the family, it was because they were of a shorter, sturdier, more
compact form and less transparent complexion than their elders, and
altogether seemed of a different constitution.

More delicate from the first than the two brothers who had gone before
him, Lord Fordham had never been at school, had studied irregularly, and
had never been from under his mother’s wing till this summer, when
she was detained by the slow decay of his grandmother. Languor and
listlessness had beset the youth, and he had been ordered mountain
air, and thus it was that Mrs. Evelyn had despatched both her sons to
Switzerland, under the attendance of a highly recommended physician,
a young man bright and attractive, who had over-worked himself at an
hospital, and needed thorough relaxation. Rightly considering Lucas
Brownlow as the cause of most of Cecil’s Eton follies, she had given her
eldest son a private hint to elude joining forces with the family, and
he was the most docile and obedient of sons. Yet was it the perversity
of human nature that made him infinitely more animated and interested in
John Brownlow’s race and the distressed travellers on the Schwarenbach
than he had been since--no one could tell when?

Perhaps it was the novelty of being left alone and comparatively
unwatched. Certain it was that he ate enough to rejoice the heart of
his devoted and tyrannical attendant Reeves; and that he walked about in
much anxiety all the afternoon, continually using his telescope to look
up the mountain wherever a bit of the track was visible through the pine
woods.

In due time Cecil rode back the pony which John had taken up. The
alacrity with which the long lank bending figure stepped to meet him was
something unwonted, but the boy himself was downcast and depressed.

“I’m afraid you’ve nothing good to tell.”

Cecil shook his head, and after some more seconds broke out--

“It’s awful!”

“What is?”

“Brownlow’s pain. I never saw anything like it!”

“Rheumatism? If that is from the exposure, I hope it will not last
long.”

“No. They’ve sent for some opiates to Leukerbad, and the doctor says
that is sure to put him to sleep.”

“Medlicott stays there?”

“Yes. He says if little Armine is any way fit, he must move him away
to-morrow at all risks from the night-cold up there, and he wants Reeves
to see about men to carry him, that is if--if to-night does not--”

Cecil could not finish.

“Then it is as bad as we heard?”

“Quite,” said Cecil, “or worse. That dear little chap, just fancy!” and
his eyes filled with tears. “He tried to thank me for having been good
to him--as if I had.”

“He was your fag?”

“Yes; Skipjack asked me to choose him because he’s that sort of little
fellow that won’t give into anything that goes against his conscience,
and if one of those fellows had him that say lower boys have no business
with consciences, he might be licked within an inch of his life and
he’d never give in. He did let himself be put under a pump once at some
beastly hole in the country, for not choosing to use bad language, and
he has never been so strong since.”

“Mother would be glad that at least you allowed him the use of his
conscience.”

“I’m glad I did now,” said Cecil, with a sigh, “though it was a great
nuisance sometimes.”

“Was the Monk, as you call him, one of that set?”

“Bless you, no, he’s a regular sap, as steady as old time.”

“I wonder if he is the son of the doctor whom Medlicott talks of.”

“No; his father is alive. He is a colonel, living near their place. The
other two are the doctor’s sons; their mother came into the property
after his death. Their Maximus was in college at first, and between
ourselves, he was a bit of a snob, who couldn’t bear to recollect it.”

“Not your friend?”

“No, indeed. The eldest one, who has left these two years, and is at
Christchurch.”

“I am sure the one who came down here was a gentleman.”

“So they are, all three of them,” said Cecil, who had never found his
brother so ready to hear anything about his Eton life, since in general
accounts of the world, from which he was debarred, so jarred on his
feelings that he silenced it with apparent indifference, contempt, or
petulance. Now, however, Cecil, with his heart full of the Brownlows,
could not say more of them than Fordham was willing to hear; nay, he
even found an amused listener to some of his good stories of courageous
pranks.

Fordham was not yet up the next morning when there was a knock at his
door, and the doctor came in, answering his eager question with--

“Yes, he has got through this night, but another up in that place would
be fatal. We must get them down to Leukerbad.”

“Over that long precipitous path?”

“It is the only chance. I came down to look up bearers, and rig up a
couple of hammocks, as well as to see how you are getting on.”

“Oh! I’m very well,” said Lord Fordham, in a tone that meant it, sitting
up in bed. “We might ride on to Leukerbad with Reeves, and get rooms
ready.”

“The best thing you could do,” said Dr. Medlicott, joyfully. “When we
are there we can consider what can be done next; and if you wish to go
on, I could look up some one there in whose charge to leave them till
they could get advice from home; but it is touch and go with that little
fellow.”

“I’m in no particular hurry,” said Lord Fordham, answering the doctor’s
tone rather than his words. “I would not do anything hasty or that
might add to their distress. Are there likely to be good doctors at this
place?”

“It is a great watering-place, chiefly for rheumatic complaints, and
that is all very well for the elder boy. As to the little one, he is
in as critical a state as I ever saw, and--His mother is an excellent
linguist, that is one good thing.”

“Yes; it would be very trying for her to have a foreigner to attend the
boy in such a state, however skilled he might be,” said Lord Fordham.
“I think we might make up our minds to stay with them till they can get
some one from England.”

Dr. Medlicott caught at the words.

“It rests with you,” he said. “Of course I am your property and Mrs.
Evelyn’s, but I should like to tell you why this is more to me than
a matter of common humanity. I went up to study in London, a simple,
foolish lad, bred up by three good old aunts, more ignorant of the world
than their own tabby cat. Of course I instantly fell in with the worst
stamp of fellows, and was in a fair way of being done for, body
and soul, if one of the lecturers, after taking us to task for some
heartless, disgusting piece of levity, seeing perhaps that it was more
than half bravado on my part and nearly made me sick, managed to get me
alone. He talked it out with me, found out the innocent-hearted fool I
was, cured me of my false shame at what the good old souls at home had
taught me, showed me what manhood was, found a good friend and a better
lodging for me, in short, was the saving of me. He died three months
after I first knew him, but whatever is worth having in me is owing to
him.”

“Was he the father of these boys?”

“Yes; I saw a likeness in the nephew who came down yesterday, and I see
it in both the others.”

“Of course you would wish to do all that is possible for them?”

“I should feel it the greatest honour. Still my first duty is to you,
and you have told me that your mother wished you to keep your brother
out of the way of his schoolfellow.”

“My mother would not wish to deprive her worst enemy of your care in
such need as this,” said Lord Fordham, smiling. “Besides if this friend
of Cecil’s were ever so bad, he couldn’t do him much harm while he is
ill, poor boy. We will at any rate stay to get them through the next few
days, and then we can judge. I will settle it with my mother.”

“I knew you would say so,” rejoined the doctor. “Thank you. Then it
seems to me that the right course will be to write to Mrs. Evelyn,
inclosing a note to Dr. Lucas--who it seems is Mrs. Brownlow’s chief
reliance--asking him to find someone to send out. She, can send it on
to him if she disapproves of our remaining together longer than is
absolutely necessary, or if Leukerbad disagrees with you. Meantime, I’ll
go and see whether Reeves has found any men to carry the poor boys.”

Unfortunately it was too early in the season for the hotels to have
marshalled their full establishment, and such careful and surefooted
bearers as the sufferers needed could not be had in sufficient numbers,
so that Dr. Medlicott was forced to decide on leaving the elder patient
for a night at Schwarenbach. The move might be matter of life or death
to Armine; but Jock was better, the pain could be somewhat allayed by
anodynes, the fever was abating, and he would rather gain than lose by
another day of rest, provided he would only accept his fate patiently,
and also if he could be properly attended to. If Mr. Graham would stay
with him--

So breakfast was eaten, bills were paid, horses hired, and the whole
cavalcade started from Kandersteg in time to secure the best part of a
bright hot day for the transit.

They met Mr. Graham, who had been glad to escape as soon as Mrs.
Brownlow had found other assistance, so that the doctor was disappointed
in his hope of a guardian for Jock. Lord Fordham offered to lend Reeves,
but that functionary absolutely refused to separate himself from his
charge, observing--

“I am responsible for your lordship to your mamma, and it does not lie
within my province to leave you on any account.”

Reeves always called Mrs. Evelyn “your mamma” when he wished to be
particularly authoritative with his young gentlemen. If they were
especially troublesome he called her “your ma.”

“And after all,” said the doctor, “I don’t know what sort of
preparations the young gentlemen would make if we let them go by
themselves. A bare room, perhaps--with no bed-clothes, and nothing to
eat till the table d’hote”

Reeves smiled. He had found the doctor much less of a rival than he had
expected, and he was a kind-hearted man, so long as his young lord was
made the first object; so he declared his willingness to do anything
that lay in his power for the assistance of the poor lady and her sons.
He would gladly sit up with them, if it were in the same house with his
lordship.

No one came out to meet the party. John was found with Armine, who had
been taken back at night to his own room; Mrs. Brownlow, as usual, with
Jock, who would endure no presence but hers, and looked exceedingly
injured when, sending Cecil in to sit with him, the doctor called her
out of the room.

It was a sore stroke on her to hear that her charges must be separated;
and there was the harrowing question whether she should stay with one or
go with the other.

“Please, decide,” she said.

“I think you should be with the most serious case.”

“And that, I fear, means my little Armine. Yes, I will do as you tell
me. But what can be done for Jock?--poor Jock who thinks he needs me
most. And perhaps he does. You know best, though, Dr. Medlicott, and you
shall settle it.”

“That is a wise nurse,” said he, kindly; “I wish I could take your place
myself, but I must be with the little fellow myself; and I am afraid we
can only leave his brother to your nephew for this one night. Should you
be afraid to be sole nurse?” he added, as Johnny came to Armine’s door.

“I think I know what to do, if Jock can stand having me,” said Johnny,
stoutly, as soon as he understood the question.

“Mother!” just then shouted Jock, and as Johnny obeyed the call, he
began--“I want my head higher--no--I say not you--Mother Carey!”

“She is busy with the doctor.”

“Can’t she come and do this? No, I say,” and he threw the nearest thing
at hand at him.

“Come,” said Cecil, “I’m glad you can do such things as that.”

But Jock gave a cry of pain, and protested that it was all John’s fault
for making him hurt himself instead of fetching mother.

“You had better let me lift you,” said John, “you know she is tired, and
I _really_ am stronger.”

“No, you shan’t touch me--a great clumsy lout.”

In the midst of these amenities, the doctor appeared, and Jock looked
slightly ashamed, especially when the doctor, instead of doing what
was wanted, directed John where to put an arm, and how to give support,
while moving the pillow, adding that he was a handy fellow, more so than
many a pupil after half a year’s training at the hospital, and smiling
down Jock’s growls and groans, which were as much from displeasure as
from pain. They were followed by some despairing sighs at the horrors of
the prospect of being moved.

“Ah! what will you give me for letting you off?” said the Doctor.

Jock uttered a sound of relief, then, rather distrustfully,
asked--“Why?”

“We can only get bearers enough for one; and as it is most important to
move your brother, while you will gain by a night’s rest, he must have
the first turn.”

“And welcome,” said Jock; “my mother will stay with me.”

“That’s the very point,” said Dr. Medlicott. “I want you not only to
give her up, but to do so cheerfully.”

“I’m sure mother wants to stay with me. Armine does not need her half so
much.”

“He does not require the same kind of attention; but he is in so
critical a state that I do not think I ought to separate her from him.”

“Why, what is the matter with him?” asked Jock, startled.

“Congestion of the right lung,” said the doctor, seeing that he was
strong enough to bear the information, and feeling the need of rousing
him from his monopolising self-absorption.

“People get over that, don’t they?” said Jock, with an awestruck
interrogation in his voice.

“They _do_; and I hope much from getting him into a warmer atmosphere,
but the child is so much reduced that the risk is great, and I should
not dare not to have his mother with him.” Then, as Jock was silent, “I
have told you because you can make a great difference to their comfort
by not showing how much it costs you to let her go.”

Jock drew the bed clothes over his face, and an odd stifled sound was
heard from under them. He remained thus perdu, while directions were
being given to John for the night, but as the doctor was leaving the
room, emerged and said--

“Bring him in before he goes.”

In a short time, for it was most important not to lose the fine weather,
the doctor carried Armine in swathed in rugs and blankets, a pale,
sunken, worn face, and great hollow eyes looking out at the top.

The mother said something cheerful about a live mummy, but the two poor
boys gazed at one another with sad, earnest, wistful eyes, and wrung one
another’s hands.

“Don’t forget,” gasped Armine, labouring for breath.

And Jock answered--

“All right, Armie; good-bye. I’m coming to morrow,” with a choking,
quivering attempt at bravery.

“Yes, to-morrow,” said poor Mother Carey, bending over him. “My boy--my
poor good boy, if I could but cut myself in two! I can’t tell you how
thankful I am to you for being so good about it. That dear good Johnny
will do all he can, and it is only till tomorrow. You’ll sleep most of
the time.”

“All right, mother,” was again all that Jock could manage to utter, and
the kisses that followed seemed to him the most precious he had known.
He hid his face again, bearing his trouble the better because the lull
of violent pain quelled by opiates, so that his senses were all as in
a dream bound up. When he looked up again at the clink of glass, it was
Cecil whom he saw measuring off his draught.

“You!” he exclaimed.

“Yes, Medlicott said I might stay till four, and give the Monk a chance
of a sleep. That fellow can always snooze away off hand, and he is as
sound as a top in the next room; but I was to give you this at two.”

“You’re sure it’s the right stuff?”

“I should think so. We’ve practice enough in the family to know how to
measure off a dose by this time.”

“How is it you are out here still? This is Thursday, isn’t it? We meant
to have been half way home, to be in time for the matches.”

“I’m not going back this half, worse luck. They were mortally afraid
these measles would make me get tender in the chest, like all the rest
of us, so I’ve got nothing to do but be dragged about with Fordham after
churches and picture galleries and mountains,” said Cecil, in a tone of
infinite disgust. “I declare it made me half mad to look at the Lake of
Lucerne, and recollect that we might have been in the eight.”

“Not this year.”

“No, but next.”

In this contemplation Cecil was silent, only fondling Chico, until Jock,
instead of falling asleep again, said, “Evelyn, what does your doctor
really think of the little chap?”

Cecil screwed up his face as if he had rather not be asked.

“Never you think about it,” he said. “Doctors always croak. He’ll be all
right again soon.”

“If I was sure,” sighed Jock; “but you know he has always been such a
religious little beggar. It’s a horrid bad sign.”

“Like my brother Walter,” said Cecil gravely. “Now, Duke can be ever so
snappish and peevish; I’m not half so much afraid for him.”

“You never heard anything like the little fellow that night,” said Jock,
and therewith he gave his friend by far the most connected account
of the adventure that had yet been arrived at. He even spoke of the
resolution to which he had been brought, and in a tone of awe described
how he had pledged himself for the future.

“So you see I’m in for it,” he concluded; “I must give up all our jolly
larks.”

“Then I shan’t get into so many rows with my mother and uncle,” said
Cecil, by no means with the opposition his friend had anticipated.

“Then you’ll stand by me?” said Jock.

“Gladly. My mother was at me all last Easter, telling me my goings on
were worse to her than losing George or Walter, and talking about my
Confirmation and all. She only let me be a communicant on Easter Day,
because I did mean to make a fresh start--and I did mean it with all my
heart; only when that supper was talked of, I didn’t like to stick out
against you, Brownlow; I never could, you know, and I didn’t know what
it was coming to.”

“Nor I,” said Jock; “that’s the worst of it. When a lark begins one
doesn’t know how far one will get carried on. But that night I thought
about the Confirmation, and how I had made the promise without really
thinking about it, and never had been to Holy Communion.”

“I meant it all,” said Cecil, “and broke it, so I’m worst.”

“Well!” said Jock, “if I go back from the promise little Armie made me
make about being Christ’s faithful soldier and servant I could never
face him again--no, nor death either! You can’t think what it was like,
Evelyn, sitting in the dead stillness--except for an awful crack and
rumbling in the ice, and the solid snow fog shutting one in. How ugly,
and brutish, and horrid all those things did look; and how it made me
long to have been like the little fellow in my arms, or even this
poor little dog, who knew no better. Then somehow came now and then a
wonderful sense that God was all round us, and that our Lord had done
all that for my forgiveness, if I only meant to do right in earnest. Oh!
how to go on meaning it!”

“That’s the thing,” said Cecil. “I mean it fast enough at home, and when
my mother talks to me and I look at my brothers’ graves, but it all
gets swept away at Eton. It won’t now, though, if you are different,
Brownlow. I never liked any fellow like you I knew you were best, even
when you were worst. So if you go in for doing right, I shan’t care for
anyone else--not even Cressham and Bulford.”

“If they choose to make asses of themselves they must,” said Jock. “It
will be a bore, but one mustn’t mind things. I say, Evelyn, suppose we
make that promise of Armine’s over again together now.”

“It is only the engagement we made when we were sworn into Christ’s army
at our baptism,” said the much more fully instructed Cecil. “We always
were bound by it.”

“Yes, but we knew nothing about it then, and we really mean it now,”
 said Jock. “If we do it for ourselves together, it will put us on our
honour to each other, and to Christ our Captain, and that’s what we
want. Lay hold of my hand.”

The two boys, with clasped hands, and grave, steadfast eyes, with one
voice, repeated together--

“We, John Lucas Brownlow and Cecil Fitzroy Evelyn, promise with all
our hearts manfully to fight under Christ’s banner, and continue His
faithful soldiers and servants to our lives’ end. Amen.”

Then Cecil touched Lucas’s brow with his lips, and said--

“Fellow-soldiers, Brownlow.”

“Brothers in arms,” responded Jock.

It was one of those accesses of deep enthusiasm, and even of sentiment,
which modern cynicism and false shame have not entirely driven out of
youth. Their hearts were full; and Jock, the stronger, abler, and more
enterprising had always exercised a fascination over his friend, who was
absolutely enchanted to find him become an ally instead of a tempter,
and to be no longer pulled two opposite ways.

“Ought we not to say a prayer to make it really firm? We can’t stand
alone, you know,” he said, diffidently.

“If you like; if you know one,” said Jock.

Cecil knelt down and said the Lord’s Prayer and the collect for the
Fourth Epiphany Sunday.

“That’s nice,” was Jock’s comment. “How did you know it?”

“Mother made us learn the collects every Sunday, and she wrote that in
my little book. I always begin the half with it, but afterwards I can’t
go on.”

“Then it doesn’t do you much good,” was the not unnatural remark.

“I don’t know,” said Cecil, hesitating; “may be all this--your getting
right, I mean, is the coming round of prayers--my mother’s, I mean, for
if you take this turn, it will be much easier for me! Poor mother! it’s
not for want of her caring and teaching.”

“My mother doesn’t bother about it.”

“I wish she did,” said Cecil. “If she had gone on like mine, you would
have been ever so much better than I.”

“No, I should have been bored and bothered into being regularly
good-for-nothing. You don’t know what she’s really like. She’s nicer
than anyone--as jolly as any fellow, and yet a lady all over.”

“I know that,” said Cecil; “she was uncommonly jolly to me at Eton, and
I know my mother and she will get on like a house on fire. We’re too old
to have a scrimmage about them like disgusting little lower boys,” he
added, seeing Jock still bristling in defence of Mother Carey.

This produced a smile, and he went on--

“Look here, Skipjack, we will be fellow-soldiers every way. My Uncle
James can do anything at the Horse Guards, and he shall have us set down
for the same regiment. I’ll tell him you are my good influence.”

“But I’ve been just the other way.”

“Oh, but you will be--a year or two will show it. Which shall it be? Do
you go in for cavalry or infantry? I like cavalry, but he’s all for the
other.”

Jock was wearied enough not to have much contribution to make to the
conversation, and he thus left Cecil such a fair field as he seldom
enjoyed for Uncle James’s Indian and Crimean campaigns, and for the
comparative merits of the regiments his nephew had beheld at reviews.

He was interrupted by a message from the guide that there was a cloud
in the distance, and the young Herr had better set off quickly unless he
wished to be weather-bound.

Johnny was on his feet as soon as there was a step on the stairs, and
was congratulated on his ready powers of sleeping.

“It’s in the family,” said Jock. “His brother Rob went to sleep in the
middle of the examination for his commission.”

“Then I should think he could sleep on the rack,” said Cecil.

“I’m sure I wish I could,” rejoined Jock.

“What a sell for the torturers, to get some chloroform!” said John. And
so Cecil departed amid laughter, which gave John little idea how serious
the talk had been in his absence.

The rain came on even more rapidly than the guide had foretold, and it
was a drenched and dripping object that rode into the court of the tall
hotel at Leukerbad, and immediately fell into the hands of Dr. Medlicott
and Reeves, who deposited him ignominiously in bed, in spite of all his
protestations and murmurs. However, he had the comfort of hearing that
his little fag was recovering from the exhaustion of the journey. He
had at first been so faint that the doctor had watched, fearing that he
would never revive again, and he had not yet attempted to speak; but
his breathing was certainly already less laboured, and the choking,
struggling cough less frequent. “He really seems likely to have a little
natural sleep,” was Lord Fordham’s report somewhat later, on coming in
to find Cecil sitting up in bed to discuss a very substantial supper. “I
hope that with Reeves and the doctor to look to him, his mother may get
a little rest to-night.”

“Have you seen her?”

“Only for a moment or two, poor thing; but I never did see such eyes or
such a wonderful sad smile as she tried to thank us with. Medlicott is
ready to do anything for her husband’s sake; I am sure anyone would do
the same for hers. To get such a look is something to remember!”

“Well done, Duke!” ejaculated Cecil under his breath, for he had never
seen his senior so animated or so enthusiastic. “Then you mean to stay,
and let Medlicott look after them?”

“Of course I do,” said Fordham, in a much more decided tone than he had
used in the morning. “I’m not going to do anything so barbarous as to
leave them to some German practitioner; and when we are here, I
don’t see why they should have advice out from home--not half so good
probably.”

“You’re a brick, Duke,” uttered Cecil; and though Fordham hated slang,
he smiled at the praise.

“And now, Duke, be a good fellow, and give me some clothes. That brute
Reeves has not brought me in one rag.”

“Really it is hardly worth while. It is nearly eight o’clock, and I
don’t know where your portmanteau was put. Shall I get you a book?”

“No; but if you’d get me a pen and ink, I want to write to mother.”

Such a desire was not too frequent in Cecil, and Fordham was glad enough
to promote it, bringing in his own neat apparatus, with only a mild
entreaty that his favourite pen might be well treated, and the sheets
respected. He had written his own letter of explanation of his first act
of independence, and he looked with some wonder at his brother’s rapid
writing, not without fear that some sudden pressure for a foolish debt
might have been the result of his tete-a-tete with his dangerous friend.
Cecil’s letters were too apt to be requests for money or confessions of
debts, and if this were the case, what would be Mrs. Evelyn’s view of
the conduct of the whole party in disregarding her wishes?

Had he been with his mother, he would have probably been called into
consultation over the letter, but he was forced to remain without the
privilege here offered to the reader:--


                                “Baden Hotel, Leukerbad, June 14.

“Dearest Mother,--Duke has written about our falling in with the
Brownlows, and how pluckily Friar caught us up. It was a regular mercy,
for the little one couldn’t have lived without Dr. Medlicott, and most
likely Lucas is in for a rheumatic fever. He has been telling me all
about it, and how frightful it was to be all night out on the edge
of the glacier in a thick fog with his ankle strained, and how little
Armine went on with his texts and hymns and wasn’t a bit afraid, but
quite happy. You never would believe what a fellow Brownlow is. We have
had a great talk, and you will never have to say again that he does me
harm.

“Mammy, darling, I want to tell you that I was a horrible donkey last
half, worse than you guessed, and I am sorrier than ever I was before,
and this is a real true resolution not to do it again. Brownlow and
I have promised to stand by one another about right and wrong to our
lives’ end. He means it, and what Brownlow means he does, and so do I.
We said your collect, and somehow I do feel as if God would help us now.

“Please, dearest mother, forgive me for all I have not told you.

“Duke is very well and jolly. He is quite smitten with Mrs. Brownlow,
and, what is more, so is Reeves, who says she is ‘such a lady that it is
a pleasure to do anything for her.’

“Your loving son,

“C. F. E.”


Cecil’s letter went off with his brother’s in early morning; but it was
such a day as only mails and postmen encounter. Mountains, pine-woods,
nay, even the opposite houses, were blotted out by sheets of driving
rain, and it was impossible to think of bringing Jock down! Dr.
Medlicott heard and saw with dismay. What would the mother say to
him--nay, what ought he to have done? He could hardly expect her not to
reproach him, and he fairly dreaded meeting her eyes when they turned
from the streaming window.

But all she said was, “We did not reckon on this.”

“If I had--” began the doctor.

“Please don’t vex yourself,” said she; “you could not have done
otherwise, and perhaps the move would have hurt him more than staying
there. You have been so very kind. See what you have done here!”

For Armine, after some hours that had been very distressing, had sunk
into a calm sleep, and there was a far less oppressed look on his wan
little face.

The doctor would have had her take some rest, but she shook her head.
The only means of allaying the gnawing anxiety for Jock, and the
despairing fancies about his suffering and Johnny’s helplessness, was
the attending constantly to Armine.

“Anyway, I will see him to-day,” said Dr. Medlicott, impelled far more
by the patient silence with which she sat, one hand against her beating
heart, than he would have been by any entreaty. But how she thanked him
when she found him really setting forth! She insisted on his taking a
guide, as much for his own security as to carry some additional comforts
to the prisoners, and she committed to him two little notes, one to each
boy, written through a mist of tears. Yes; tears, unusual as they were
with her, were called forth as much by the kindness she met with as
by her sick yearning after the two lonely boys. And when she knew the
doctor was on his way, she could yield to Armine’s signs of entreaty,
lie back in her chair and sleep, while Reeves watched over him.

When the doctor, by a strong man’s determination, had made his way
up the pass, he found matters better than he had dared to expect. The
patient was certainly not worse, and the medicine had kept him in a
sleepy, tranquil state, in which he hardly realised the situation. His
young attendant was just considering how to husband the last draught,
when the welcome, dripping visitor appeared. The patient was not in bad
spirits considering, and could not but feel himself reprieved by the
weather. He was too sleepy to feel the dulness of his present position,
and even allowed that his impromptu nurse had done tolerably well.
Johnny had been ready at every call, had rubbed away an attack of pain,
hurt wonderfully little in lifting him, and was “not half a bad lot
altogether”--an admission of which doctor and nurse knew the full worth.

Johnny himself was pleased and grateful, and had that sort of
satisfaction which belongs to the finding out of one’s own available
talent. He had done what was pronounced the right thing; and not only
that, but he had liked the doing it, and he declared himself not afraid
to encounter another night alone with his cousin. He had picked up
enough vernacular German to make himself understood, and indeed was a
decided favourite with Fraulein Rosalie, who would do anything for her
dear young Herr. It was possible to get a fair amount of sleep, and Dr.
Medlicott felt satisfied that the charge was not too much for him, and
indeed there was no other alternative. The doctor stayed as long as he
could, and did his best to enliven the dulness by producing a pocketful
of Tauchnitzes, and sitting talking while the patient dozed. Johnny
showed such intelligent curiosity as to the how and why of the symptoms
and their counteraction, that after some explanation the doctor said,
“You ought to be one of us, my friend.”

“I have sometimes thought about it,” said John.

“Indeed!” cried the doctor, like an enthusiast in his profession; and
John, though not a ready speaker, was drawn on by his notes of interest
to say, “I don’t really like anything so much as making out about man
and what one is made of.”

“Physiology?”

“Yes,” said the boy, who had been shy of uttering the scientific term.
“There’s nothing like it for interest, it seems to me. Besides, one is
more sure of being of use that way than in any other.”

“Capital! Then what withholds you? Isn’t it _swell_ enough?”

Johnny laughed and coloured. “I’m not such a fool, but I am not sure
about my people.”

“I thought your uncle was Joseph Brownlow.”

“My aunt would be delighted, but it is my own people. They would say my
education--Eton and all that--was not intended for it.”

“You may tell them that whatever tends to make you more thoroughly a
man and gentleman, and less of a mere professional, is a benefit to your
work. The more you are in yourself, the higher your work will be. I hope
you will go to the university.”

“I mean to go up for a scholarship next year; but I’ve lost a great deal
of time now, and I don’t know how far that will tell.”

“I think you will find that what you may have lost in time, you will
have gained in power.”

“I do want to go in for physical science, but there’s another
difficulty. One of my cousins does so, but the effect on him has not
made my father like it the better--and--and to tell the truth--” he half
mumbled, “it makes me doubt--”

“The effect on his faith?”

“Yes.”

“If faith is unsettled by looking deeper into the mysteries of God’s
works it cannot have been substantial faith, but merely outward,
thoughtless reception,” said the doctor, as he met two thoughtful dark
eyes fixed on him in inquiry and consideration.

“Thank you, sir,” after a pause.

“Had this troubled you?”

“Yes,” said John; “I couldn’t stand doubt there. I would rather break
stones on the road than set myself doubting!”

“Why should you think that there is danger?”

“It seems to be so with others.”

“Depend upon it, Doubting Castle never lay on the straight road. If men
run into it, it is not simple study of the works of creation that leads
them there; but either they have only acquiesced, and never made their
faith a living reality, or else they are led away by fashion and pride
of intellect. One who begins and goes on in active love of God and man,
will find faith and reverence not diminished but increased.”

“But aren’t there speculations and difficulties?”

“None which real active religion, and love cannot regard as the mere
effects of half-knowledge--the distortions of a partial view. I speak
with all my heart, as one who has seen how it has been with many of my
own generation, as well as with myself.”

Johnny bent his head, and the young physician, somewhat surprised at
finding himself saying so much on such points, left that branch of the
subject, and began to talk to him about his uncle.



CHAPTER XXII. -- SHUTTING THE STABLE DOOR.



     Presumptuous maid, with looks intent,
     Again she gazed, again she bent,
       Nor knew the gulf between.
                               Grey.


“Hurrah! It’s Johnny!”

“Georgie. Recollect yourself.”

“But, mamma, it was Johnny.”

“Johnny does not come till evening. Sit still, children, or I shall have
to send you to dine in the nursery.”

“Somebody did pass the window, mamma, but I thought it was Rob,” said
Jessie, now grown into a very fine-looking, tall, handsome maiden, with
a grandly-formed head and shoulders, and pleasant soft brown eyes.

“It was Johnny,” reiterated little George; and at that moment the
dining-room door opened, and the decorum of the luncheon dinner entirely
giving way, the three little ones all precipitated themselves towards
the entering figure, while Jessie and her mother rose at their two
ends of the table, and the Colonel, no luncheon eater, came in from the
study.

“What, Johnny, already!”

“The tidal train was earlier than I expected, so I have another
half-day.”

“Well! are you all well?”

“Quite well. Why--how you are grown! I thought it was Rob when you
passed my window,” said his father.

“So did I at first,” added Jessie, “but Rob is much broader.”

“Yes,” said his mother. “I am glad you are come back, Johnny; you look
thin and pale. Sit down. Some mutton or some rabbit-pie? No, no, let
Jessie help you; you shan’t have all the carving; I’m sure you are
tired; you don’t look at all well.”

“I was crossing all night, you know,” said Johnny laughing, “and am
as hungry as a hunter, that’s all. What a blessing to see a nice clean
English potato again without any flummery!”

“Ah! I thought so,” said his mother; “they didn’t know how to feed you.
It was an unfortunate business altogether.”

“How did you leave those poor boys, Johnny?” asked his father.

“Better,” said Johnny. “Jock is nearly well,--will be quite so after
the baths; and Armine is getting better. He sat up for an hour the day
before I came away.”

“And your aunt?” said his father.

“Wonderful,” said John, with a quiver of feeling on his face. “You never
saw anything like her. She keeps up, but she looks awfully thin and
worn. I couldn’t have left her, if Dr. Medlicott and Lord Fordham and
his man had not all been bent on saving her whatever they could.”

Her Serene Highness virtuously forbore a sigh. She never could believe
those chains with which Caroline bound all men to her service to be
either unconscious or strictly proper. However, she only said--

“It was high time that you came away; you were quite knocked up with
being left a week alone with Lucas in that horrid place. I can’t think
how your aunt came to think of it.”

“She didn’t think,” said John, bluntly. “It was only a week, and it
couldn’t be helped. Besides it was rather jolly.”

“But it knocked you up.”

“Oh! that was only a notion of the doctor and my aunt. They said I was
done up first because I caught cold, and I was glad to wait a day or two
longer at Leukerbad, in hopes Allen and Bobus would have come out before
I went.”

“They come out! Not they!” said the Colonel. “‘Tis not the way of young
men nowadays to give up anything for their fathers and mothers. No,
no, Bobus can’t spare a week from his reading-party, but must leave his
mother to a set of chance acquaintance, and Allen--whom poor Caroline
always thinks the affectionate one, if he is nothing else--can’t give up
going to gape at the sun at midnight, and Rob was wanting to make one of
their freight of fools, but I told him it was quite enough to have one
son wandering abroad at other people’s expense, when it couldn’t be
helped; and that I wouldn’t have another unless he was prepared to lay
down his share in the yacht, out of his pay and allowance. I’m glad you
are come home, Johnny; it was quite right to come as soon as your aunt
could spare you, poor thing! She writes warmly about you; I am glad
you were able to be of use to her, but you ought not to waste any more
time.”

“No. I wrote to my tutor that I would be at Eton to-morrow night, in
time to begin the week’s work.”

“Papa!” cried out Mrs. Brownlow, “you will never let him start so soon?
He is so pulled down, I must have him at home to get him right again;
and there are all his clothes to look over!”

Colonel Brownlow gave the odd little chuckling noise that meant to all
the family that he did not see the force of mamma’s objections, and John
asseverated that he was perfectly well, and that his Eton garments were
all at Hyde Corner, where he should take them up. Meantime, he thought
he ought to walk to Belforest to report to his cousins, and carry a key
which his aunt had sent by him to Janet.

“They will be coming in this evening,” said his mother; “you had better
stay and rest.”

“I must go over, thank you,” said John. “There is a book Armine wants to
have sent out to him. Jessie, will you walk with me?”

“And me!” cried George.

“And me!” cried Edmund.

“And me, Lina go!” cried the smallest voice.

But the Colonel disconcerted the petitioners by announcing that he had
business at Belforest, and would drive Johnny over in the dogcart. So
Jessie had to console herself by agreeing with her mother that Johnny
looked much more manly, yes, and had an air and style about him which
both admired very much, though, while Mrs. Brownlow deemed it the true
outcome of the admixture of Friar and Brownlow, Jessie gave more credit
to Eton and Belforest, for Jessie was really fond of her aunt, to whom
she had owed most of her extra gaieties. Moreover, Mrs. Brownlow, though
often chafing secretly, had the power of reticence, and would not
set the minds of her children against one who was always doing them
kindnesses. True, these favours were more than she could easily brook,
since her pride and independence were not, like her husband’s, tempered
by warm affection. It was his doing that the expenses of Johnny’s
education had been accepted, and that Esther and Ellen had been sent by
their aunt to a good school; thus gratitude, unpalatable though it were,
prevented unguarded censure. She abstained from much; and as there
was no quick intuition in the family, even Jessie, the most in her
confidence, only vaguely knew that mamma thought Aunt Caroline too
clever and fly-away; but mamma was grave and wise, and it was very nice
to have an aunt who was young and lively, and always had pleasant things
going on in her house. Jessie always had her full share, not indeed
appreciating the intellect, but possessing beauty and charm enough to
be always appreciated there. “Sweetly pretty,” as Mrs. Coffinkey
called her, was exactly what she was, for she was thoroughly good and
unselfish, and a happy, simple nature looked out through her brown
smiling eyes. She was very fond of her cousins, had shared all the
anxieties of the last fortnight to the utmost, and was a good deal
disappointed at being baulked of the walk with her brother, in which
she would have heard so much more about Armine, Jock, and Aunt Caroline,
than would be communicated in public.

Johnny, however, was glad of the invitation, even though a little shy
of it. The tete-a-tete drive was an approach to the serious business of
life, since it was evidently designed to give opportunity for answering
a letter which he had thought out and written while laid up at Leukerbad
by a bad cold and the reaction from his exertions at Schwarenbach.

Still his father did not speak till they had driven up the hill, and
were near the gates of Belforest. Then he said--

“That was not a bad letter that you wrote me, Johnny.”

Johnny flushed with pleasure. The letter had cost him much thought and
pains, and commendation from his father was rare.

“But it will take a great deal of consideration.”

“Yes,” said Johnny. “You don’t disapprove, do you, papa?”

“Well,” said the Colonel, in his ponderous way, “you have advantages,
you know, and you might do better for yourself.”

There was a quivering impulse on Johnny’s lips to say that it was not to
himself that he wanted to do good; but when his father was speaking
in that deliberate manner, he was not to be interrupted, and there was
nothing for it but to hear him out.

“Your aunt is providing you with the best of educations, you have good
abilities and industry, and you will be a well-looking fellow besides,”
 added the Colonel, glancing over him with an approving eye of fatherly
satisfaction; “and it seems to me that you could succeed in some
superior line. Your mother and I had always hoped to see you at the bar.
Every opportunity for distinction is given you, and I do not understand
this sudden desire to throw them up for a profession of much greater
drudgery and fewer chances of rising, unless it were from some influence
of your aunt.”

“She never spoke of it. She does not know that I have thought of it, nor
of my letter to you.”

“Then it is simply from enthusiasm for this young doctor?”

“Not exactly,” said John, “but I always wished I could be like my uncle.
I remember hearing mamma read a bit of one of the letters of condolence
which said ‘His was one of the most beautiful lives I have ever known,’
and I never forgot it. It stayed in my mind like a riddle, till I
gradually found out that the beauty was in the good he was always
doing--”

“Ah!” said the Colonel, in a tone betokening that he was touched, and
which encouraged John to continue,--

“Besides, I really do like and enter into scientific subjects better
than any others; I believe it is my turn.”

“Perhaps--you do sometimes put me in mind of your uncle. But why have
you only spoken of it now?”

“I don’t think I really considered what I should be,” said John. “There
was quite enough to think of with work, and cricket, and all the rest,
till this spring, when I have been off it all, and then when I talked it
over with Dr. Medlicott, he settled my mind about various things that I
wanted to know.”

“Did he persuade you?”

“No more than saying that I managed well for Jock when I was left alone
with him, and that he thought I had the makings of a doctor in me. He
loves his profession of course, and thinks it a grand one. Yes, papa,
indeed I think it is. To be always learning the ways of God’s working,
for the sake of lessening all the pain and grief in the world--”

“Johnny! That’s almost what my brother said to me thirty years ago, and
what did it come to? Being at the beck and call night and day of every
beggar in London, and dying at last in his prime, of disease caught in
their service.”

“Yes,” said John, with a low, gruff sound in his voice, “but is not that
like being killed in battle?”

“The world doesn’t think it so, my boy,” said the soldier. “Well! what
is it you propose to do?”

“I don’t suppose it will make much difference yet,” said John, “except
that at Oxford I should go in more for physical science.”

“You don’t want to give up the university?”

“Oh, no! Dr. Medlicott said a degree there is a great help, besides
that, all the general study one can get is the more advantage, lifting
one above the mere practitioner.”

“That is well,” said the Colonel. “If you are to go to the university,
there is no need to dwell further on the matter at present. You will
have had time to see more of the world, and you will know whether this
wish only comes from enthusiasm for a pleasant young man who has been
kind to you, or if it be your real deliberate choice, and if so, your
mother will have had time to reconcile herself to the notion. At any
rate we will say no more about it for the present. Though I must say,
Johnny,” he added, as he turned his horse’s head between the ribbon
borders of the approach, “you have thought and spoken like a sensible
lad, and so like my dear brother, that I could not deny you.”

If Johnny could hardly believe in the unwonted commendation which made
his heart throb, and sent a flood of colour into his cheeks. Colonel
Brownlow was equally amazed at the boy’s attainment of a manly and
earnest thought and purpose, so utterly unlike anything he had hitherto
seen in the stolid Rob, or the easy-going Allen, or even in Bobus,
who--whatever there might be in him--never thought it worth while to
show it to his uncle.

However, discussion was cut short by a little flying figure which came
rushing across the garden, and Babie with streaming hair clung to her
cousin, gasping--

“Oh! Johnny, Johnny, tell me about Armie and Jock.”

“They are ever so much better, Babie,” said Johnny, lifting the slim
little thing up in his arms, as he had lifted his own five-year-old
brother; “I’ve got a thick parcel of acrostics for you, Armie makes them
in bed, and Lord Fordham writes them out.”

“Will you come to the rosary, Uncle Robert?” said Babie, recovering her
manners, as Johnny set her down. “It is the coolest place, and they are
sitting there.”

“Why, Babie, what a sprite you look,” said Johnny. “You look as if you
were just off the sick-list too!”

“I’m all right,” said Babie, shaking her hair at him, and bounding on
before with the tidings of their coming, while her uncle observed in a
low voice--

“Poor little thing! I believe she has been a good deal knocked up
between the heat and the anxiety; there was no making her eat or sleep.
Ah! Miss Elfie, are you acting queen of roses?” as Babie returned
together with Elvira, who with a rich dark red rose over one ear, and a
large bouquet at her bosom, justified the epithet at which she bridled,
and half curtsied in her graceful stately archness, as she gave her hand
in greeting, and exclaimed--

“Ah, Johnny! are you come? When is Mother Carey going to send for us?”

“When they leave Leukerbad I fancy,” said John. “That’s a tiresome place
for anyone who does not need to lead the life of a hippopotamus.”

“It can’t be more tiresome than this is,” said Elvira, with a yawn.
“Lessons all day, and nobody to come near us.”

“Isn’t this a dreadful place?” said John, merrily, as he looked into
the rosary, a charming bowery circle of fragrance, inclosed by arches
of trellis-work on which roses were trained, their wreaths now bearing
a profusion of blossoms of every exquisite tint, from deep crimson
or golden-yellow, to purest white, while their more splendid standard
sisters bloomed out in fragrant and gorgeous magnificence under their
protection.

At the shady end there was a little grass plat round a tiny fountain,
whose feather of spray rose and plashed coolness. Near it were seats
where Miss Ogilvie and Janet were discovered with books and work. They
came forward with greetings and inquiries, which Johnny answered in
detail.

“Yes, they are both better. Armine sat by the window for an hour the day
before I came away.”

“Will they be able to come back to Eton after the holidays?” asked his
father.

“Certainly not Armine, but Jock seems to be getting all right. If he
was to catch rheumatism he did it at the right place, for that’s what
Leukerbad is good for. Oh, Babie, you never saw such a lark! Fancy a
great room, and where the floor ought to be, nothing but muddy water or
liquid mud, with steps going down, and a lot of heads looking out of it,
some with curly heads, some in smoking-caps, some in fine caps of lace
and ribbons.”

“Oh! Johnny; like women!”

“Like women! They are women.”

“Not both together.”

“Yes, I tell you, the whole boiling of them, male and female. There’s
a fat German Countess, who always calls Jock her liebes Kind, and comes
floundering after him, to his very great disgust. The only things they
have to show they are human still, and not frogs, are little boards
floating before them with their pocket-handkerchiefs and coffee-cups and
newspapers.”

“Oh! like the little blacks in the dear bright bays at San Ildefonso,”
 cried Elvira.

“You don’t mean that they have no clothes on?” said Babie, with shocked
downrightness of speech that made everybody laugh; and Johnny satisfied
her on that score, adding that Dr. Medlicott had made a parody of
Tennyson’s “Merman,” for Jock’s benefit, on giving him up to a Leukerbad
doctor, who was to conduct his month’s Kur. It was to go into the
“Traveller’s Joy,” a manuscript magazine, the “first number of which
was being concocted and illustrated amongst the Leukerbad party, for the
benefit of Babie and Sydney Evelyn. As a foretaste, Johnny produced from
the bag he still carried strapped on his shoulder, a packet of acrostics
addressed to Miss Barbara Brownlow, and a smaller envelope for Janet.

“Is it the key?” asked Colonel Brownlow.

“Yes,” said Janet, “the key of her davenport, and directions in which
drawer to find the letters you want. Do you like to have them at once,
Uncle Robert?”

“Thank you--yes, for then I can go round and settle with that fellow
Martin, which I can’t do without knowing exactly what passed between him
and your mother.”

Janet went off, observing--“I wonder whether that is a possibility;”
 while Miss Ogilvie put in an anxious inquiry for Mrs. Brownlow’s health
and spirits, and a good many more details were elicited than Johnny had
given at home. She had never broken down, and now that she was hopeful,
was, in spite of her fatigue, as bright and merry as ever, and was
contributing comic pictures to the “Traveller’s Joy,” while Lord Fordham
did the sketches. Those kind people were as careful of her as any could
be.

“And what are her further plans?” asked Miss Ogilvie. “Has she been able
to form any?”

“Hardly,” said Johnny. “They must stay at Leukerbad for a month for Jock
to have the course of waters rightly, and indeed Armine could hardly be
moved sooner. I think Dr. Medlicott wants them to keep in Switzerland
till the heat of the weather is over, and then winter in the south.”

“And when may I go to Armine?”

“When shall we get away from here?” asked Babie and Elfie in a breath.

“I don’t quite know,” said John. “There is not much room to spare in the
hotel where they are at Leukerbad, and it is a dreadfully slow place.
Evelyn is growling like a dozen polar bears at it.”

“Why isn’t he gone back with you to Eton?”

“I believe it was settled that he was not to go back this half, for fear
of his lungs, and you see he is a swell who takes it easily. He would
have been glad enough to return with me though, and would scarcely have
endured staying, but that he is so fond of Jock.”

“What is there to be done there?”

“Nothing, except to wade in tepid mud. Fordham has routed out a German
to read Faust with, and that puts Evelyn into a sweet temper. They go on
expeditions, and do sketching and botany, which amuses Armine; but they
get up some fun over the queer people, and _do_ them for the mag., but
it is all deadly lively, not that I saw much of it, for we only got down
from Schwarenbach on Monday, and they kept me in bed all the two next
days; but Jock and Evelyn hate it awfully. Indeed Jock is so down in
the mouth altogether I don’t know what to make of him, and just when
the German doctors say the treatment makes people particularly brisk and
lively.”

“Perhaps what makes a German lively makes an Englishman grave,” sagely
observed Babie.

“Jock grave must be a strange sight,” said the Colonel; “I am afraid he
can’t be recovering properly.”

“The doctor thinks he is,” said John; “but then he doesn’t know the
nature of the Skipjack. But,” he added, in a low voice, “that night was
enough to make any one grave, and it was much the worst to Jock, because
he kept his senses almost all the time, and was a good deal hurt besides
to begin with. His sprain is still so bad that he has to be carried
upstairs and to go to the baths in a chair.”

“And do you think,” said the Colonel, “that this young lord is going
to stay on all this time in this dull place for the sake of an utter
stranger?”.

“Jock and Evelyn were always great friends at Eton,” said John. “Then my
uncle did something, I don’t know what, that Medlicott is grateful for,
and they have promised to see Armine through this illness. The place
agrees with Fordham; they say he has never been so well or active since
he came out.”

“What is he like?” inquired Babie.

“Like, Babie? Like anything long and limp you can think of. He sits all
in a coil and twist, and you don’t think there’s much of him; but when
he gets up and pulls himself upright, you go looking and looking till
you don’t know where’s the top of him, till you see a thin white face
in washed-out hair. He is a good fellow, awfully kind, and I suppose he
can’t help being such a tremendous--” John hesitated, in deference to
his father, for a word that was not slang, and finally chose “don.”

“Oh,” sighed Babie, “Armie said in his note he was jolly beyond
description.”

“Well, so he is,” said John; “he plays chess with Armie, and brings him
flowers and books, and waits on him as you used to do on a sick doll.
And that’s just what he is; he ought to have been a woman, and he would
have been much happier too, poor fellow. I’d rather be dead at once than
drag about such a life of coddling as he does.”

“Poor lad!” said his father. “Did Janet understand that I was waiting
for those letters, I wonder?”

“You had better go and see, Babie,” said Miss Ogilvie. “Perhaps she
cannot find them.”

Babie set off, and John proceeded to explain that Mrs. Evelyn was still
detained in London by old Lady Fordham, who continued to be kept between
life and death by her doctors. Meantime, the sons could dispose of
themselves as they pleased, while under the care of Dr. Medlicott, and
were not wanted at home, so that there was little doubt but that they
would remain with Armine as long as he needed their physician’s care.

All the while Elfie was flitting about, pelting Johnny with handfuls
snatched from over-blown roses, and though he returned the assault at
every pause, his grey travelling suit was bestrewn with crimson, pink,
cream, and white petals.

At last the debris of a huge Eugenie Grandet hit him full on the bridge
of his nose, and caused him to exclaim--

“Nay, Elfie, you little wretch; that was quite a good rose--not fair
game,” and leaping up to give her chase in and out among the beds, they
nearly ran against Janet returning with the letters, and saying “she was
sorry to have been so long, but mother’s hoards were never easy places
of research.”

Barbara came more slowly back, and looked somewhat as if she had had a
sharper rebuke than she understood or relished.

Poor child! she had suffered much in this her first real trouble, and
a little thing was enough to overset her. She had not readily recovered
from the petulant tone of anger with which Janet told her not to come
peeping and worrying.

Janet had given a most violent start when she opened the door of her
mother’s bedroom where the davenport stood; and Janet much resented
being startled; no doubt that was the reason she was so cross, thought
Barbara, but still it was very disagreeable.

That room was the child’s also. She had been her mother’s bed-fellow
ever since her father’s death, and she felt her present solitude. The
nights were sultry, and her sleep had been broken of late.

That night she was in a slumber as cool as a widely-opened window would
make it, but not so sound that she was not haunted all the time by dread
for Armine.

Suddenly she was awakened to full consciousness by seeing a light in the
room. No, it was not the maid putting away her dresses. It was Janet,
bending over her mother’s davenport.

Babie started up.

“Janet! Is anything the matter?”

“Nothing! Nonsense! go to sleep, child.”

“What are you about?”

“Never mind. Only mother keeps her things in such a mess; I was setting
them to rights after disturbing them to find the book.”

There was something in the tone like an apology.

Babie did not like it, but she well knew that she should be
contemptuously put down if she attempted an inquiry, far less a
remonstrance, with Janet. Only, with a puzzled sort of watch-dog sense,
she sat up in bed and stared.

“Why don’t you lie down?” said Janet.

Babie did lie down, but on her back, her head high up on the pillow, and
her eyes well open still.

Perhaps Janet did not like it, for she gave an impatient shuffle to the
papers, shut the drawer with a jerk, locked it, took up her candle, and
went away without vouchsafing a “good-night.”

Babie lay wondering. She knew that the davenport contained all that was
most sacred and precious to her mother, as relics of her old life, and
that only dire necessity would have made her let anyone touch it. What
could Janet mean? To speak would be of no use. One-and-twenty was not
likely to listen to thirteen, though Babie, in her dreamy wakefulness,
found herself composing conversations in which she made eloquent appeals
to Janet, which she was never likely to utter.

At last the morning twitterings began outside, doves cooed, peacocks
miawed, light dawned, and Babie’s perceptions cleared themselves. In
the wainscoted room was a large closet, used for hanging up cloaks and
dresses, and fortunately empty. No sooner did the light begin to reflect
itself in its polished oak-panelled door, than an idea struck Babie, and
bounding from her bed, she opened the door, wheeled in the davenport,
shut it in, turned the big rusty key with both hands and a desperate
effort, then repairing to her own little inner room, disturbed the
honourable retirement of the last and best-beloved of her dolls in a
pink-lined cradle in a disused doll’s house, and laying the key beneath
the mattress, felt heroically ready for the thumbscrew rather than yield
it up. She knew Armine would say she was right, and be indignant that
Janet should meddle with mother’s private stores. So she turned over on
the pillow, cooled by the morning breeze, and fell into a sound sleep,
whence she was only roused by the third “Miss Barbara,” from her maid.

She heard no more of the matter, and but for the absence of the
davenport could really have thought it all a dream.

She was driving her two little fairy ponies to Kenminster with Elvira,
to get the afternoon post, when a quiet, light step came into the
bedroom, and Janet stood within it, looking for the davenport, as if she
did not quite believe her senses. However, remembering Babie’s eyes,
she had her suspicions. She looked into the little girl’s room and saw
nothing, then tried the closet door, and finding it locked, came to
a tolerably correct guess as to what had become of it, and felt hotly
angry at “that conceited child’s meddling folly.”

For the awkward thing was that the clasped memorandum-book, containing
“Magnum Bonum,” was in her hand, locked out of, instead of into, its
drawer.

When searching for the account-book for her uncle, it had, as it were,
offered itself to her; and though so far from being green, with “Garden”
 marked on it, it was Russia leather, and had J. B. upon it. She had
peeped in and read “Magnum Bonum” within the lid. All day the idea had
haunted her, that there lay the secret, in the charge of her little
thoughtless mother, who, ignorant of its true value, and deterred by
uncomprehended words and weak scruples, was withholding it from the
world, and depriving her own family, and what was worst of all, her
daughter, of the chances of becoming illustrious.

“I am his daughter as much as hers,” thought she. “Why should she
deprive me of my inheritance?”

Certainly Janet had been told that the great arcanum could not be dealt
with by a woman; but this she did not implicitly believe, and she was in
consequence the more curious to discover what it really was, and whether
it was reasonable to sacrifice the best years of her life to preparing
for it. The supposed unfairness of her exclusion seemed to her to
justify the act, and thus it was that she had stolen to the davenport
when she supposed that her little sister would be asleep, and finding it
impossible to attend or understand with Babie’s great brown eyes lamping
on her, she had carried off the book.

She had been reading it even till the morning light had surprised her,
and had been able to perceive the general drift, though she had leaped
over the intermediate steps. She had just sufficient comprehension
of the subject for unlimited confidence that the achievement was
practicable, without having knowledge enough to understand a tithe
of the difficulties, though she did see that they could hardly be
surmounted by a woman unassisted. However, she might see her way by the
time her studies were completed, and in the meantime her mother might
keep the shell while she had the essence.

However, to find the shell thus left on her hands was no slight
perplexity. Should she, as eldest daughter left in charge, demand the
desk, Barbara would produce her reasons for its abstraction, and for
this Janet was not prepared. Unless something else was wanted from it,
so as to put Babie in the wrong, Janet saw no alternative but to secure
the book in her own bureau, and watch for a chance of smuggling it back.

Thus Babie escaped all interrogation, but she did not release the
captive davenport, and indeed she soon forgot all about it in her
absorption in Swiss letters.



CHAPTER XXIII. -- THE LOST TREASURE.



     But solemn sound, or sober thought
       The Fairies cannot bear;
     They sing, inspired with love and joy,
       Like skylarks in the air.
     Of solid sense, or thought that’s grave,
       You find no traces there.
                               Young Tamlane.


When old Lady Fordham’s long decay ended in death, Mrs. Evelyn would
not recall her sons to the funeral, but meant to go out herself to
join them, and offered to escort Mrs. Brownlow’s daughters to the
meeting-place. This was to be Engelberg, for Dr. Medlicott had decided
that after the month at Leukerbad all his patients would be much
the better for a breath of the pine-woods on the Alpine height, and
undertook to see them conveyed thither in time to meet the ladies.

This proposal set Miss Ogilvie free to join her brother, who had a
curacy in a seaside place where the season began just when the London
season ended. Her holiday was then to begin, and Janet was to write to
Mrs. Evelyn and declare herself ready to meet her in London at the time
appointed.

The arrangement was not to Janet’s taste. She thought herself perfectly
capable of escorting the younger ones, especially as they were to take
their maid, a capable person named Delrio, daughter of an Englishwoman
and a German waiter, and widow of an Italian courier, who was equal to
all land emergencies, and could speak any language. She belonged to the
young ladies. Their mother, not liking strangers about her, had, on old
nurse’s death, caused Emma to learn enough of the lady’s maid’s art for
her own needs at home, and took care of herself abroad.

Babie was enraptured to be going to Mother Carey and Armine, and Elvira
was enchanted to leave the schoolroom behind her, being fully aware that
she always had more notice and indulgence from outsiders than at home,
or indeed from anyone who had been disappointed at her want of all real
affection.

“You are just like a dragon fly,” said Babie to her; “all brightness
outside and nothing within.”

This unusually severe remark came from Babie’s indignation at Elvira’s
rebellion against going to River Hollow to take leave. It would be a
melancholy visit, for her grandfather had become nearly imbecile since
he had had a paralytic stroke, in the course of the winter, and good
sensible Mrs. Gould had died of fever in the previous autumn.

Elvira, who had never liked the place, now loathed it, and did not seem
capable of understanding Babie’s outburst.

“Not like to go and see them when they are ill and unhappy! Elfie, how
can you?”

“Of course I don’t! Grandpapa kisses me and makes me half sick.”

“But he is so fond of you.”

“I wish he wasn’t then. Why, Babie, are you going to cry? What’s the
matter?”

“It is very silly,” said Babie, winking hard to get rid of her tears;
“but it does hurt me so to think of the good old gentleman caring more
for you than anybody, and you not liking to go near him.”

“I can’t see what it matters to you,” said Elvira; “I wish you would go
instead of me, if you are so fond of him.”

“He wouldn’t care for me,” said Babie; “I’m not his ain lassie.”

“_His_ lassie! I’m a lady,” exclaimed the senorita, with the haughty
Spanish turn of the neck peculiar to herself.

“That’s not what I mean by a lady,” said Babie.

“What do you mean by it?” said Elvira, with a superior air.

“One who never looks down on anybody,” said Babie, thoughtfully.

“What nonsense!” rejoined the Elf; “as if any lady could like to hear
grandpapa maunder, and Mary scold and scream at the farm people, just
like the old peahen.”

“Miss Ogilvie said poor Mary was overstrained with having more to attend
to than she could properly manage, and that made her shrill.”

“I know it makes her very disagreeable; and so they all are. I hate the
place, and I don’t see why I should go,” grumbled Elvira.

“You will when you are older, and know what proper feeling is,” said
Miss Ogilvie, who had come within earshot of the last words. “Go and put
on your hat; I have ordered the pony carriage.”

“Shall I go, Miss Ogilvie?” asked Babie, as Elfie marched off sullenly,
since her governess never allowed herself to be disobeyed.

“I think I had better go, my dear; Elfie may be under more restraint
with me.”

“Please give old Mr. Gould and Mary and Kate my love, and I will run
and ask for some fruit for you to take to them,” said Babie, her tender
heart longing to make compensation.

Miss Ogilvie and her pouting companion were received by a
fashionable--nay, extra fashionable--looking person, whom Mary and Kate
Gould called Cousin Lisette, and the old farmer, Eliza Gould. While the
old man in his chair in the sun in the hot little parlour caressed, and
asked feeble repetitions of questions of his impatient granddaughter,
the lady explained that she had thrown up an excellent situation as
instructress in a very high family to act in the same capacity to her
motherless little cousins. She professed to be enchanted to meet Miss
Ogilvie, and almost patronised.

“I know what the life is, Miss Ogilvie, and how one needs companionship
to keep up one’s spirits. Whenever you are left alone, and would drop me
a line, I should be quite delighted to come and enliven you; or whenever
you would like to come over here, there’s no interruption by uncle; and
he, poor old gentleman, is quite--quite passe. The children I can always
dismiss. Regularity is my motto, of course, but I consider that an
exception in favour of my own friends does no harm, and indeed it is no
more than I have a right to expect, considering the sacrifices that I
have made for them. Mary, child, don’t cross your ankles; you don’t see
your cousin do that. Kate, you go and see what makes Betsy so long in
bringing the tea. I rang long ago.”

“I will go and fetch it,” said Mary, an honest, but harassed-looking
girl.

“Always in haste,” said Miss Gould, with an effort at good humour,
which Miss Ogilvie direfully mistrusted. “No, Mary, you must remain
to entertain your cousin. What are servants for but to wait on us? She
thinks nothing can be done without her, Miss Ogilvie, and I am forced to
act repression sometimes.”

“Indeed we do not wish for any tea,” said Miss Ogilvie, seeing Elvira
look as black as thunder; “we have only just dined.”

“But Elfie will have some sweet-cake; Elfie likes auntie’s sweet-cake,
eh?” said the old man.

“No, thank you,” said Elfie, glumly, though in fact she did care
considerably for sweets, and was always buying bonbons.

“No cake! Or some strawberries--strawberries and cream,” said her
grandfather. “Mr. Allen always liked them. And where is Mr. Allen now,
my dear?”

“Gone to Norway. It’s the fifth time I’ve told him so,” muttered Elvira.

“And where is Mr. Robert? And Mr. Lucas?” he went on. “Fine young
gentlemen all of them; but Mr. Allen is the pleasant-spoken one. Ain’t
he coming down soon? He always looks in and says, ‘I don’t forget your
good cider, Mr. Gould,’” and there was a feeble chuckling laugh and old
man’s cough.

“Do let me go into the garden; I’m quite faint,” cried Elvira, jumping
up.

It was true that the room was very close, rather medicinal, and not
improved by Miss Gould’s perfumes; but there was an alacrity about
Elfie’s movements, and a vehemence in the manner of her rejection of the
said essences, which made her governess not think her case alarming, and
she left her to the care of the young cousins, while trying to make
up for her incivility by courteously listening to and answering her
grandfather, and consuming the tea and sweet-cake.

When she went out to fetch her pupil to say goodbye, Miss Gould detained
her on the way to obtain condolence on the “dreadful trial that old
uncle was,” and speak of her own great devotion to him and the children,
and the sacrifices she had made. She said she had been at school
with Elvira’s poor mamma, “a sweetly pretty girl, poor dear, but so
indulged.”

And then she tried to extract confidences as to Mrs. Brownlow’s
intentions towards the child, in which of course she was baffled.

Elvira was found ranging among the strawberries, with Mary and Kate
looking on somewhat dissatisfied.

Both the poor girls looked constrained and unhappy, and Miss Ogilvie
wondered whether “Cousin Lisette’s” evident intentions of becoming a
fixture would be for their good or the reverse.

“Are you better, my dear?” asked she, affectionately.

“Yes, it was only the room,” said Elvira.

“You are a good deal there, are not you?” said Miss Ogilvie to Mary, who
had the white flabby look of being kept in an unwholesome atmosphere.

“Yes,” said Mary, wistfully, “but grandpapa does not like having me half
so much as Elvira. He is always talking about her.”

“You had better come back to him now, Elfie,” said Miss Ogilvie.

“It makes me ill,” said Elvira, with her crossest look.

Her governess laid her hand on her shoulder, and told her in a few
decided words, in the lowest possible voice, that she was not going away
till she had taken a properly respectful and affectionate leave of her
grandfather. Whereupon she knew further resistance was of no use, and
going hastily to the door of the room, called out--

“Good-bye, then, grandpapa.”

“Ah! my little beauty, are you there?” he asked, in a tone of bewildered
pleasure, holding out the one hand he could use.

Elvira was forced to let herself be held by it. She hoped to kiss his
brow, and escape; but the poor knotted fingers which had once been so
strong, would not let her go, and she had to endure many more kisses and
caresses and blessings than her proud thoughtless nature could endure
before she made her escape. And then “Cousin Lisette” insisted on a
kiss for the sake of her dear mamma; and Elfie could only exhale her
exasperation by rushing to the pony-carriage, avoiding all kisses to her
young cousins, taking the driving seat, and whipping up the ponies more
than their tender-hearted mistress would by any means have approved.

Miss Ogilvie abstained from either blame or argument, knowing that
it would only make her worse; and recollecting the old Undine theory,
wondered whether the Elf would ever find her soul, and think with tender
regret of the affection she was spurning.

The next day the travellers started, sleeping a couple of nights in Hyde
Corner, for convenience of purchases and preparations.

They were to meet Mrs. Evelyn at the station; but Janet, who foretold
that she would be another Serene Highness, soured by having missed the
family title, retarded their start till so late that there could be no
introduction on the platform; but seats had to be rushed for, while a
servant took the tickets.

However, a tall, elderly, military-looking gentleman with a great white
moustache, was standing by the open door of a carriage.

“Miss Brownlow,” said he, handing them in--Babie first, next Janet, and
then Elvira.

He then bowed to Miss Ogilvie, took his seat, handed in the
appurtenances, received, showed, and pocketed the tickets, negotiated
Janet’s purchase of newspapers, and constituted himself altogether
cavalier to the party.

Sir James Evelyn! Janet had no turn for soldiers, and was not gratified;
but Elvira saw that her blue eyes and golden hair were producing the
effect she knew how to trace; so she was graciously pleased to accept
Punch, and to smile a bewitching acceptance of the seat assigned to her
opposite to the old general.

Barbara was opposite to Mrs. Evelyn, and next to Sydney, a girl a few
months older than herself, but considerably taller and larger. Mother
and daughter were a good deal alike, save that the girl was fresh plump,
and rosy, and the mother worn, with the red colouring burnt as it were
into her thin cheeks. Yet both looked as if smiles were no strangers to
their lips, though there were lines of anxiety and sorrow traced round
Mrs. Evelyn’s temples. Their voices were sweet and full, and the elder
lady spoke with a tender intonation that inspired Babie with trustful
content and affection, but caused Janet to pass a mental verdict of
“Sugared milk and water.”

She immersed herself in her Pall Mall, and left Babie to exchange scraps
of intelligence from the brother’s letters, and compare notes on the
journey.

By-and-by Mrs. Evelyn retired into her book, and the two little girls
put their heads together over a newly-arrived acrostic, calling on Elfie
to assist them.

“Do you like acrostics?” she said, peeping up through her long eyelashes
at the old general.

“Oh, don’t tease Uncle James,” hastily interposed Sydney, as yet
inexperienced in the difference between the importunities of a merely
nice-looking niece, and the blandishments of a brilliant stranger. Sir
James said kindly--

“What, my dear?”

And when Elvira replied--

“Do help us to guess this. What does man love most below?” he put on a
droll face, and answered--

“His pipe.”

“O Uncle James, that’s too bad,” cried Sydney.

“If Jock had made this acrostic, it might be pipe,” said Babie; “but
this is Armine’s.”

It was thereupon handed to the elders, who read, in a boyish
handwriting--


          Twins, parted from their rocky nest,
            We run our wondrous race,
          And now in tumult, now at rest,
            Flash back heaven’s radiant face.

       1. While both alike _this_ name we bear,
            And both like life we flow,
       2. And near us nestle sweet and fair
            What man most loves below.

          Alike it is our boasted claim
            To nurse the precious juice
       3. That maddened erst the Theban dame,
            With streaming tresses loose.

       4. The evening land is sought by one,
            One rushes towards midday,
          One to a vigil song has run,
            One heard Red Freedom’s lay.

          Tall castles, glorious battlefields
            Graced this in ages past,
          But now its mighty power that yields
       5.   To work my busy last.


“Is that your brother Armine’s own?” asked Sir James, surprised.

“O yes,” said Janet with impressive carelessness, “all my brothers have
a facility in stringing rhymes.”

“Not Bobus,” said Elvira.

“He does not think it worth while,” said Janet, again absorbing herself
in her paper, while the public united in guessing the acrostic; and the
only objection was raised by the exact General, who would not allow
that the “Marseillaise” was sung at the mouth of the Rhone, and defended
Ino’s sobriety.

Barbara and Sydney lived upon those acrostics in their travelling bags
till they reached Folkestone, and had grown intimate over them.
Sir James looked after the luggage, putting gently aside Janet’s
strong-minded attempt to watch over it, and she only retained her own
leathern travelling case, where she carried her personals, and which,
heavy as it was, she never let out of her immediate charge.

They all sat on deck, for there was a fine smooth summer sea, and no
one was deranged except the two maids, whom every one knew to be always
disabled on a voyage.

Janet had not long been seated, and was only just getting immersed in
her Contemporary, when she received a greeting which gratified her. It
was from somewhat of a lion, the author of some startling poems and
more startling essays much admired by Bobus, who had brought him to
some evening parties of his mother’s, not much to her delectation, since
there were ugly stories as to his private character. These were ascribed
by Bobus to pious malevolence, and Janet had accepted the explanation,
and cultivated a bowing acquaintance.

Hyde Corner was too agreeable a haunt to be despised, and Janet owed
her social successes more to her mother’s attractions than her own.
Conversation began by an inquiry after her brothers, whose adventures
had figured in the papers, and it went on to Janet’s own journey and
prospects. Her companion was able to tell her much that she wanted
to know about the university of Zurich, and its facilities for female
study. He was a well-known advocate of woman’s rights, and she scrupled
not to tell him that she was inquiring on her own account. Many men
would have been bored, and have only sought to free themselves from
this learned lady, but the present lion was of the species that prefer
roaring to an intelligent female audience, without the rough male
argumentative interruption, and Janet thus made the voyage with the
utmost satisfaction to herself.

Mrs. Evelyn asked Babie who her sister’s friend was. The answer was, “Do
you know, Elfie? You know so many more gentlemen than I do.”

“No,” replied Elvira, “I don’t. He looks like the stupid sort of man.”

“What is the stupid sort of man?” asked the General, as she intended.

“Oh! that talks to Janet.”

“Is everyone that talks to Janet stupid?”

“Of course,” said Elvira. “They only go on about stupid things no better
than lessons.”

Sir James laughed at her arch look, and shook his head at her, but then
made a tour among the other passengers, leaving her pouting a little
at his desertion. On his return, he sat down by his sister-in-law and
mentioned a name, which made her start and glance an inquiry whether she
heard aright. Then as he bent his head in affirmation, she asked, “Is
there anything to be done?”

“It is only for the crossing, and she is quite old enough to take care
of herself.”

“And it is evidently an established acquaintance, for which I am not
responsible,” murmured Mrs. Evelyn to herself.

She was in perplexity about these friends of her son’s. Ever since Cecil
had been at Eton, his beloved Brownlow had seemed to be his evil genius,
whose influence none of his resolutions or promises could for a moment
withstand. If she had acted on her own judgment, Cecil would never have
returned to Eton, but his uncle disapproved of his removal, especially
with the disgrace of the champagne supper unretrieved; and his penitent
letter had moved her greatly. Trusting much to her elder son and to Dr.
Medlicott, she had permitted the party to continue together, feeling
that it might be life or death to that other fatherless boy in whom Duke
was so much interested; and now she was going out to judge for herself,
and Sir James had undertaken to escort her, that they might together
come to a decision whether the two friends were likely to be doing one
another good or harm.

Mrs. Evelyn had lived chiefly in the country since her husband’s death,
and knew nothing of Mrs. Joseph Brownlow. So she looked with anxiety for
indications of the tone of the family who had captivated not only Cecil,
but Fordham, and seemed in a fair way of doing the same by Sydney. The
two hats, brown and black, were almost locked together all the voyage,
and indeed the feather of one once became entangled with the crape
of the other, so that they had to be extricated from above. There was
perhaps a little maternal anxiety at this absorption; but as Sydney was
sure to pour out everything at night, her mother could let things take
their course, and watch her delight in expanding, after being long shut
up in a melancholy house without young companions.

Elvira had a tone of arch simplicity which, in such a pretty creature,
was most engaging, and she was in high spirits with the pleasure of
being with new people, away from her schoolroom and from England,
neither of which she loved, so she chattered amiably and amusingly,
entertained Mrs. Evelyn, and fascinated Sir James.

Janet and her companion were less complacently regarded. Certainly the
girl (though less ancient-looking at twenty-one than at fourteen) had
the air of one well used to independence, so that she was no great
subject for responsibility; but she gave no favourable impression, and
was at no pains to do so. When she rejoined the party, Mrs. Evelyn asked
whether she had known that gentleman long.

“He is a friend of my brother Robert,” she answered. “Shall I introduce
you?”

Mrs. Evelyn declined in a quiet civil tone, that provoked a mental
denunciation of her as strait-laced and uncharitable, and as soon as the
gentleman returned to the neighbourhood, Janet again sought his company,
let him escort her ashore, and only came back to the others in the
refreshment-room, whither she brought a copy of a German periodical
which he had lent her. With much satisfaction Mrs. Evelyn filled the
railway carriage with her own party, so that there was no room for any
addition to their number. Nor indeed did they see any more of their
unwelcome fellow-traveller, since he was bound for the Hotel du Louvre,
and, to Janet’s undisguised chagrin, rooms were already engaged at the
Hotel Castiglione.

They came too late for the table d’hote, and partook of an extemporised
meal in their sitting-room immediately on their arrival, as the start
was to be early. Then it was that Janet missed her bag, her precious
bag! Delrio was sent all over the house to make inquiries whether it had
been taken to any other person’s room, but in vain. Mrs. Evelyn said she
had last seen it when they took their seats on board the steamer.

“Yes,” added Elvira, “you left it there when you went to walk up and
down with that gentleman.”

“Then why did not you take care of it? I don’t mean Elfie--nobody
expects her to be of any use; but you, Babie?”

“You never told me!” gasped Babie, aghast.

“You ought to have seen; but you never think of anything but your own
chatter.”

“It is a very inconvenient loss,” said Mrs. Evelyn, kindly. “Have you
sent to the station?”

“I shall, as soon as I am satisfied that it is not here. I can send
out for the things I want for use; but there are books and papers of
importance, and my keys.”

“The key of mother’s davenport?” cried Babie. “Was it there? O Janet,
Janet!”

“You should have attended to it, then,” said Janet sharply.

Delrio knocked at the door with an account of her unsuccessful mission,
and Sir James, little as the young lady deserved it, concerned himself
about sending to the station, and if the bag were not forthcoming there,
telegraphing to Boulogne the first thing in the morning.

While Janet was writing particulars and volubly instructing the
commissionaire, Mrs. Evelyn saw Babie’s eyes full of tears, and her
throat swelling with suppressed sobs. She held out an arm and drew the
child to her, saying kindly, “I am sure you would have taken care of the
bag if you had been asked, my dear.”

“It’s not that, thank you,” said Babie, laying her head on the kind
shoulder, “for I don’t think it was my fault; but mother will be so
sorry for her key. It is the key of her davenport, and father’s picture
is there, and grandmamma’s, and the card with all our hairs, and she
will be so sorry.”

And Babie cried the natural tears of a tired child, whom anything would
overcome after her long absence from her mother. Mrs. Evelyn saw how
it was, and, as Delrio was entirely occupied with the hue and cry,
she herself took the little girl away, and helped her to bed, tenderly
soothing and comforting her, and finding her various needments. Among
them were her “little books,” but they could not be found, and her eyes
looked much too tired to use them, especially as the loss again brought
the ready moisture. “My head feels so funny, I can’t think of anything,”
 she said.

“Shall I do as I used when Sydney was little?” and Mrs. Evelyn knelt
down with her, and said one or two short prayers.

Babie murmured her thanks, nestled up to her and kissed her, but added
imploringly, “My Psalm. Armie and I always say our Psalm at bed-time,
and think of each other. He did it out on the moraine.”

“Will it do if you lie down and I say it to you?”

There was another fond, grateful nestling kiss, and some of the Psalms
were gone through in the soft, full cadences of a voice that had gained
unconscious pathos by having many times used them as a trustful lullaby
to a weary sufferer.

If Babie heard the end, it was in the sweetness of sleep, and when Mrs.
Evelyn left her, it was with far less judicial desire to inquire into
the subject of that endless conversation which had lasted, with slight
intermission, from London to Paris. She was not long left in ignorance,
for no sooner had Sydney been assured that nothing ailed Barbara but
fatigue, than she burst out, “Mamma, she is the nicest girl I ever saw.”

“Do you like her better than Elvira?”

“Of course I do,” most emphatically. “Mamma, she loves Sir Kenneth of
the Leopard as much as I do.”

Mrs. Evelyn was satisfied. While Sir Kenneth of the Leopard remained
the object of the young ladies’ passion, there was not much fear of any
nonsense that was not innocent and happy.

No news of the bag. Janet was disposed to go back herself or send
Delrio, but Sir James declared this impossible; nor would the Evelyns
consent to disturb the plan of the journey, and disappoint those who
expected them at Engelberg on Saturday by waiting at Paris for tidings.
Janet in vain told herself that she was not under their control, and
tried to remain behind by herself with her maid. They had a quiet,
high-bred decisive way of taking things for granted, and arranging
for her and she found herself unable to resist; but whenever, in after
times, she was unpleasantly reminded of her loss, she always charged it
upon them.

Otherwise the journey was prosperous. Elfie was on the terms of a
saucy pet with the General, and Babie’s bright, gentle courtesy and
unselfishness won Mrs. Evelyn’s heart, while she and Sydney were as
inseparable as ever.

In fact Sydney had been made free of Jotapata. That celebrated
romance had been going on all these years with the elision of several
generations; because though few members of the family were allowed to
see their twenty-fifth year, it was impossible to squeeze them all into
the crusading times; and besides the reigning favourites must be treated
to an adventure with Coeur de Lion.

Even thus abridged, it bade fair to last throughout the journey, both
the little maidens being sufficiently experienced travellers to care
little for the sights from the French railway, and being only stimulated
to talk and listen the more eagerly when interrupted by such trifles as
meals, companions, and calls to look at objects far less interesting.

“Look, my dears; we are coming to the mountains. There is the first
snowy head.”

“Yes, mamma,” but the hats were together again in the corner.

“Come, Sydney, don’t lose this wonderful winding valley.”

“I see, Uncle James. Beautiful!” popping back instantly with, “Go on,
Babie, dear. How did Sir Gilbert get them out of that horrid defile full
of Turks? It is true, you said.”

“True that Louis VII. and Queen Eleanor got into that dreadful mess.
Armine found it in Sismondi, but nobody knew who Sir Gilbert was except
ourselves; and we are quite sure he was Sir Gilbert of the Ermine, the
son of the brother who thought it his duty to stay at home.”

“Sir Philibert? Oh, yes! I know.”

“There are some verses about the Iconium Pass, written out in our
spotted book, but I can say some of them.”

“Oh, do!”

          “‘The rock is steep, the gorge is deep,
              Mount Joye St. Denys;
            But King Louis bold his way doth hold,
              Mount Joye St. Denys.

            Ho ho, the ravine is ‘narrow I ween,
              Lah billah el billah, hurrah.
            The hills near and far the Frank’s way do bar,
              Lah billah el billah, hurrah.”


“It ought to be ‘Allah el Allah,’ but you know that really does mean a
holy name, and Armine thought we ought not to have it. It was delightful
making the ballad, for all the Christian verses have ‘Mount Joye St.
Denys’ in the different lines, and all the Turkish ones ‘Lah billah,’
till Sir Gilbert comes in, and then his war-cry goes instead--


          “‘On, on, ye Franks, hew down their ranks,
              Up, merry men, for the Ermine!
            For Christian right ‘gainst Pagan might,
              Up, merry men, for the Ermine!’


but one day Jock got hold of it, and wrote a parody on it.”

“Oh what a shame! Weren’t you very angry?”

“It was so funny, one could not help laughing.


          “‘Come on, old Turk, you’ll find hot work--
              Pop goes the weasel!
            They cut and run; my eyes, what fun!--
              Pop goes the weasel!’”


“How could you bear it? I won’t hear a bit more. It is dreadful.”

“Miss Ogilvie says if one likes a thing very much, parodies don’t hurt
one’s love,” said Babie.

“But what did Sir Gilbert do?”

“He rode up to where Louis was standing with his back against a rock,
and dismounted saying ‘My liege--’”

“I thought he was an Englishman?”

“Oh, but you always called a king ‘my liege,’ whoever you were. ‘My
liege,’ he said--”

“Look at that charming little church tower.”

“I see, thank you.”

“I see, Uncle James. No, thank you, I don’t want to look out any more. I
saw it. Well, Babie, ‘My liege--’”

“Never mind, James,” said Mrs. Evelyn, “one can’t be more than in
Elysium.”

There were fewer conveniences for the siege on the last day of the
journey, when railroads were no more; but something could be done on
board the steamer in spite of importunities from those who thought it
a duty to look at the shores of the Lake of Lucerne, and when arrival
became imminent, happy anticipation inclined Barbara to a blissful
silence. Mrs. Evelyn saw her great hazel eyes shining like stars, and
began to prefer the transparent mask of that ardent little soul to the
external beauty which made Elvira a continual study for an artist.



CHAPTER XXIV. -- THE ANGEL MOUNTAIN.



     To your eager prayer, the Voice
     Makes awful answer, “Come to Me.”
      Once for all now seal your choice
     With Christ to tread the boisterous sea.
                                         Keble.


The Leukerbad section of the party had only three days’ start of the
others, for Jock was not released till after a whole month’s course of
the baths, and Armine’s state fluctuated so much that the journey would
not have been sooner possible.

It had been a trying time. While Dr. Medlicott thought he could not
rouse Mrs. Brownlow to the sense of the little fellow’s precarious
condition, deadly alarm lay couched in the bottom of her heart, only
kept at bay by defiantly cheerful plans and sanguine talk.

Then Jock was depressed, and at his age (and, alas! at many others)
being depressed means being cross, and very cross he was to his mother
and his friend, and occasionally to his brother, who, in some moods,
seemed to him merely a rival invalid and candidate for attention, and
whom he now and then threatened with becoming as frightful a muff as
Fordham. He missed Johnny, too, and perhaps longed after Eton. He was
more savage to Cecil than to any one else, treating his best attentions
with growls, railings, and occasionally showers of slippers, books, and
cushions, but, strange as it sounds, the friendship only seemed cemented
by this treatment, and this devoted slave evidently preferred being
abused by Jock to being made much of by any one else.

The regimen was very disagreeable to his English habits, and the tedium
of the place was great. His mother thought it quite enough to account
for his captiousness, and the doctor said it was recovery, but no one
guessed how much was due to the good resolutions he had made on the
moraine and ratified with Cecil. To no one else had he spoken, but all
the more for his reserve did he feel himself bound by the sense of
the shame and dishonour of falling back from vows made in the time of
danger. No one else was aware of it, but John Lucas Brownlow was not of
a character to treat a promise or a resolution lightly. If he could
have got out of his head the continual echo of the two lines about the
monastic intentions of a certain personage when sick, he would have been
infinitely better tempered.

For to poor Jock steadiness appeared renunciation of all “jest and
youthful jollity,” and religion seemed tedious endurance of what might
be important, but, like everything important, was to him very wearisome
and uninteresting. To him all zest and pleasure in life seemed
extinguished, and he would have preferred leaving Eton, where he must
change his habits and amaze his associates. Indeed, he was between
hoping and fearing that all this would there seem folly. But then he
would break his word, the one thing that poor half-heathen Jock truly
cared about.

Meantime he was keeping it as best he knew how under the circumstances,
by minding his prayers more than he had ever done before, trying to
attend when part of the service was read on Sundays, and endeavouring to
follow the Evelyn sabbatical code, but only succeeding in making himself
more dreary and savage on Sunday than on any other day.

By easy journeys they arrived at Engelberg early on a Friday afternoon,
and found pleasant rooms in the large hotel, looking out in front on the
grand old monastery, once the lord of half the Canton, and in the rear
upon pine-woods, leading up to a snow-crowned summit. The delicious
scent seemed to bring invigoration in at the windows.

However, Jock and Armine were both tired enough to be sent to bed,
if not to sleep, immediately after the--as yet, scantily filled table
d’hote. The former was lying dreamily listening to the evening bells of
the monastery, when Cecil came in, looking diffident and hesitating.

“I say, Jock,” he began, “did you see that old clergyman at the table
d’hote?”

“Was there one?”

“Yes; and there is to be a Celebration on Sunday.”

“O! Then Armine can have his wish.”

“Fordham has been getting the old cleric to talk to your mother about
it.”

Armine was unconfirmed. The other two had been confirmed just before
Easter, but on the great Sunday Jock had followed his brother Robert’s
example and turned away. He had recollected the omission on that
terrible night, and when after a pause Cecil said, “Do you mean to
stay?” he answered rather snappishly, “I suppose so.”

“I fancied,” said Cecil, with wistful hesitation, “that if we were
together it would be a kind of seal to--”

Jock actually forced back the words, “Don’t humbug,” which were not his
own, but his ill-temper’s, and managed to reply--

“Well, what?”

“Being brothers in arms,” replied Cecil, with shy earnestness that
touched the better part of Jock, and he made a sound of full assent,
letting Cecil, who had a turn for sentiment, squeeze his hand.

He lay with a thoughtful eye, trying to recall some of the good seed his
tutor had tried to sow on a much-trodden way-side, very ready for the
birds of the air. The outcome was--

“I say, Evelyn, have you any book of preparation? Mine is--I don’t know
where.”

Neither his mother, nor Reeves, nor, to do him justice, Cecil himself,
would have made such an omission in his packing, and he was heartily
glad to fetch his manual, feeling Jock’s reformation his own security in
the ways which he really preferred.

Poor Jock, who, whatever he was, was real in all his ways, and could
not lead a double life, as his friend too often did, read and tried to
fulfil the injunctions of the book, but only became more confused and
unhappy than ever. Yet still he held on, in a blind sort of way, to
his resolution. He had undertaken to be good, he meant therefore
to communicate, and he believed he repented, and would lead a new
life--if--if he could bear it.

His next confidence was--

“I say, Cecil, can you get me some writing things? We--at least I--ought
to write and tell my tutor that I am sorry about that supper.”

“Well, he was rather a beast.”

“I think,” said Jock, who had the most capacity for seeing things from
other people’s point of view, “we did enough to put him in a wax. It was
more through me than any one else, and I shall write at once, and get it
off my mind before to-morrow.”

“Very well. If you’ll write, I’ll sign,” said Cecil. “Mother said I
ought when I saw her in London, but she didn’t order me. She said she
left it to my proper feeling.”

“And you hadn’t any?”

“I was going to stick by you,” said Cecil, rather sulkily; on which Jock
rewarded him with something sounding like--

“What a donkey you can be!”

However, with many writhings and gruntings the letter was indited, and
Jock was as much wearied out as if he had taken a long walk, so that his
mother feared that Engelberg was going to disagree with him. He had
not energy enough to go out in the evening of Saturday to meet the new
arrivals, but stayed with Armine, who was in a state of restless joy and
excitement, marvelling at him, and provoking him by this surprise as if
it were censure.

With his forehead against the window, Armine watched and did his utmost
to repress the eagerness that seemed to irritate his brother, and at
last gave vent to an irrepressible hurrah.

“There they are! Cecil has got his sister! Oh! and there she is!
Babie--holding on to mother, and that must be Mrs. Evelyn with
Fordham--and there’s Elf making up already to the Doctor! Aren’t you
coming down, Jock?”

“Not I! I don’t want to see you make a fool of yourself before
everybody!--I say--you’ll have to come up stairs again, you know! Shut
the door I say!”--shouted Jock, as he found Armine deaf to all his
expostulations, and then getting up, he banged it himself, and then
shuffling back to the sofa, put his hands over his face and exclaimed,
“There! What an eternal brute I am!”

A few moments more and the door was open again, and Cecil, with his arm
round his sister, thrust her forwards, exclaiming--“Here he is, Syd.”

Jock had recovered his gentlemanly manners enough to shake hands
courteously, as well as to receive and return Babie’s kiss, when she
and Armine staggered in together, reeling under their weight of delight.
Janet kissed him too, and then, scanning both brothers, observed to her
mother--

“I think Lucas is the more altered of the two.” In which sentiment
Elvira seemed to agree, for she put her hands behind her and exclaimed--

“O Jock, you do look such a fright; I never knew how like Janet you
were!”

“You are letting every one know what a spiteful little Elf you can
be,” returned Janet, indignantly. “Can’t you give poor Jock a kinder
greeting?”

Whereupon the Elf put on a cunning look of innocence and said--

“I didn’t know it was unkind to say he was like you, Janet.”

The Evelyn pair had gone--after this introduction of Jock and Sydney--to
their own sitting-room, which opened out of that of the Brownlows, and
the door was soon unclosed, for the two families meant to make up only
one party. The two mothers seemed as if they had been friends of old
standing, and Mrs. Evelyn was looking with delighted wonder at her
eldest son, who had gained much in flesh and in vigour ever since Dr.
Medlicott’s last and most successful prescription of a more pressing
subject of interest than his own cough.

She had an influence about her that repressed all discords in her
presence, and the evening was a cheerful and happy one, leaving a
soothing sense upon all.

Then came the awakening to the sounds of the monastery bells, and in
due time the small English congregation assembled, and one at least was
trying to force an attention that had freely wandered ever before.

The preacher was the chance visitor, an elderly clergyman with silvery
hair. He spoke extempore from Job xxviii.


          Where shall wisdom be found?
          And where is the place of understanding?
          Man knoweth not the price thereof;
          Neither is it found in the land of the living.
          The depth saith, “It is not in me:”
           And the sea saith, “It is not with me.”
           It cannot be gotten for gold.
          Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.


What he said was unlike any sermon the young people had heard before.
It began with a description of the alchemist’s labours, seeking for ever
for the one great arcanum, falling by the way upon numerous precious
discoveries, yet never finding the one secret which would have rendered
all common things capable of being made of priceless value. He drew this
quest into a parable of man’s search for the One Great Good, the wisdom
that is the one thing necessary to give weight, worth, and value to the
life which, without it, is vanity of vanities. Many a choice gift of
thought, of science, of philosophy, of beauty, of poetry, has been
brought to light in its time by the seekers, but in vain. All rang
empty, hollow, and heartless, like sounding brass or tinkling cymbal,
till the secret should be won. And it is no unattainable secret. It is
the love of Christ that truly turneth all things into fine gold. One who
has attained that love has the true transmuting and transforming power
of making life golden, golden in brightness, in purity, in value, so as
to be “a present for a mighty King.”

Then followed a description of the glory and worth of the true, noble,
faithful manhood of a “happy warrior,” ever going forward and carrying
through achievements for the love of the Great Captain. Each in turn,
the protector of the weak, the redresser of wrong, the patriot, the
warrior, the scholar, the philosopher, the parent, the wife, the
sister, or the child, the healthful or the sick, whoever has that one
constraining secret, the love of Christ, has his service even here,
whether active or passive, veritably golden, the fruit unto holiness,
the end everlasting life.

Perhaps it was the cluster of young faces that led the preacher thus to
speak, and as he went on, he must have met the earnest and responsive
eyes that are sure to animate a speaker, and the power and beauty of
his words struck every one. To the Evelyns it was a new and beautiful
allegory on a familiar idea. Janet was divided between discomfort
at allusions reminding her of her secret, and on criticisms of the
description of alchemy. Her mother’s heart beat as if she were hearing
an echo of her husband’s thoughts about his Magnum Bonum. Little Armine
was thrilled as, in the awe of drawing near to his first Communion, this
golden thread of life was put into his hand. But it was Jock to whom
that discourse came like a beam of light into a dark place. When upon
the dreary vista of dull abnegation on which he had been dwelling for a
month past, came this vision of the beauty, activity, victory, and glory
of true manhood, as something attainable, his whole soul swelled and
expanded with joyful enthusiasm. The future that he had embraced as lead
had become changed to gold! Thus the whole ensuing service was to him a
continuation of that blessed hopeful dedication of himself and all his
powers. It was as if from being a monk, he had become a Red Cross Knight
of the Hospital. Yet, after his soiled, spoiled, reckless boyhood, how
could that grand manhood be attained?

Later in the afternoon, when the denizens of the hotel had gone their
several ways, some to look and listen at Benediction in the Convent
church, some to climb through the pine-woods to the Alp, some to saunter
and rest among the nearer trees, the clergyman, with his Greek Testament
in his hand, was sitting on a seat under one of the trees, enjoying the
calm of one of his few restful Sundays; when he heard a movement, and
beheld the pale thin lad, who still walked so lame, who had been so
silent at the table d’hote, and whose dark eyes had looked up with such
intensity of interest, that he had more than once spoken to them.

“You are tired,” said the clergyman, kindly making room for him.

“Thanks,” said the boy, mechanically moving forward, but then pausing
as he leant on his stick, and his eyes suddenly dimmed with tears as he
said, “Oh, sir, if you would only tell me how to begin--”

“Begin what?” said the old man, holding out his hand.

“To turn it to gold,” said Jock. “Can I, after being the mad fool I’ve
been?”

They talked for more than an hour; even till Dr. Medlicott, coming down
from the Alp, laid his hand on Jock’s shoulder, and told him the evening
chill was coming, and he must sit still no longer. And when the boy
looked up, the restless weary distress of his face was gone.

Jock never saw that old clergyman again, nor heard of him, unless it
were his death that he read of in the paper six months later. But
he never heard the name of Engelberg without an echo of the parting
benediction, and feeling that to him it had indeed been an Angel
mountain.

This had been a happy day to several others. Cecil, after ten minutes
with his mother, which filled her with hope and thankfulness, had gone
to show his sister the charms of the place, and Armine and Babie, on
a sheltered seat, were free to pour out their hearts to one another,
ranging from the heights of pure childish wisdom to its depths of
blissful ignorance and playful folly, as they talked over the past and
the future.

Armine knew there was no chance of an immediate and entire recovery for
him, and this was a severe stroke to Babie, who was quite unprepared.
And, as her face began to draw up with tears near the surface, he hugged
her close, and consolingly whispered that now they would be together
always, he should not have to go away from his own dear Babie
Bunting, and there was a little kissing match, ending by Babie saying,
disconsolately, “But you did like Eton so, and you were going to get the
Newcastle and the Prince Consort’s prize, and to be in the eleven and
all--and you were so sure of a high remove! Oh, dear!” and she let her
head drop on his shoulder, and was almost crying again.

“Don’t, don’t, Babie! or you’ll make me as bad again,” said Armine. “It
does come over me now and then, and I wish I had never known what it was
to be strong and jolly, and to expect to do all sorts of things.”

“I shall always be wishing it,” said Babie.

“No, you are not to cry! You would be more sorry if I was dead, and not
here at all, Babie; and you have got to thank God for that.”

“I do--I have! I’ve done it ever since we got Johnny’s dreadful
letter. Oh, yes, Armine, I’ll try not to mind, for perhaps if we aren’t
thankful, I mayn’t keep you at all,” said poor Babie, with her arms
round her treasure. “But are you quite sure, Armine? Couldn’t Dr. Lucas
get you quite well? You see this Dr. Medlicott is very young,” added the
small maiden sapiently.

“Young doctors are all the go. Dr. Lucas said so when mother wrote to
ask if she had better bring me home for advice,” said Armine. “He knows
all about Dr. Medlicott, and said he was first-rate, and they’ve been
writing to each other about me. The doctor stethoscoped me all over, and
then he did a map of my lungs, Cecil said, to send in his letter.”

“Oh!” gasped Babie, “didn’t it frighten you?”

“I wanted to know, for I saw mother was in a way. She did talk and whisk
about so fast, and made such a fuss, that I thought I must be much worse
than I knew. So I told Dr. Medlicott I wished he would tell me right out
if I was going to die, in time to see you, and then I shouldn’t mind.
So he said not now, and he thought I should get over it in the end, but
that most likely I should have a long time, years perhaps, of being very
careful. And when I asked if I should be able to go back to Eton, he
said he hardly expected it; and that he believed it was kinder to let me
know at once than let me be straining and hoping on.”

“Was it?” said Babie.

“I thought not,” said Armine, “when I shut my eyes and the
playing-fields and the trees and the river stood up before me. I thought
if I could have hoped ever so little, it would have been nice. And
then to think of never being able to run, or row, or stay out late, and
always to be bothering about one’s stockings and wraps, and making a
miserable muff of oneself just to keep in a bit of uncomfortable life,
and being a nuisance to everybody.”

Babie fairly shrieked and sobbed her protest that he could never be a
nuisance to her or mother.

“You are Babie, and mother is mother, I know that; but it did seem such
a long burthen and bore, and when--oh, Babie--don’t you know--”

“How we always thought you would go on and be something great, and do
something great, like Bishop Selwyn, or like that Mr. Denison that Miss
Ogilvie has a book about,” said Babie. “But you will get well and do it
when you are a man, Armie! Didn’t you think about it when you heard all
about the golden life in the sermon to-day?” I thought, “That’s going to
be Armie’s life,” and I looked at you, but you were looking down. Were
you thinking how it was all spoilt, Armie, poor dear Armie. For perhaps
it isn’t.”

“No, I know nobody can spoil it but myself,” said Armine. “And you know
he said that one might make weakliness and sickness just as golden, by
that great Love, as being up and doing. I was going to tell you, Babie,
I was horridly wretched and dismal one day at Leukerbad when I thought
mother and all were out of the way--gone out driving, I believe--and
then Fordham came in. He had stayed in, I do believe, on purpose--”

“But, but,” said Babie, not so much impressed as her brother wished;
“isn’t he rather a spoon? Johnny said he ought to have been a girl.”

“I didn’t think Johnny was such a stupid,” said Armine, “I only know
he has been no end of a comfort to me, though he says he only wants to
hinder me from getting like him.”

“Don’t then,” said Babie, “though I don’t understand. I thought you were
so fond of him.”

“So must you be,” said Armine; “I never got on with anybody so well. He
knows just how it is! He says if God gives one such a life, He will help
one to find out the way to make the best of it for oneself and other
people, and to bear to see other people doing what one can’t, and we are
to help one another. Oh, Babie! you must like Fordham!”

“I must if you do!” said Babie. “But he is awfully old for a friend for
you, Armie.”

“He is nineteen,” said Armine, “but people get more and more of the same
age as they grow older. And he likes all our books, and more too, Babie.
He had such a delicious book of French letters, that he lent me, with
things in them that were just what I wanted. If we are to be abroad all
the winter, he will get his mother to go wherever we do. Suppose we went
to the Holy Land, Babie!”

“Oh! then we could find Jotapata! Oh, no,” she added, humbly, “I
promised Miss Ogilvie not to talk of Jotapata on a Sunday.”

“And going to the Holy Land only to look for it would be much the same
thing,” said Armine. “Besides, I expect it is up among the Druses, where
one can’t go.”

“Armie,” in the tone of a great confession, “I’ve told Sydney all about
it. Have you told Lord Fordham?”

“No,” said Armine, who was less exclusively devoted to the great
romance. “I wonder whether he would read it?”

“I’ve brought it. Nineteen copybooks and a dozen blank ones, though it
was so hard to make Delrio pack them up.”

“Hurrah for the new ones! We did so want some for the ‘Traveller’s Joy,’
the paper at Leukerbad was so bad. You should hear the verses the
Doctor wrote on the mud baths. They are as stunning as ‘Fly Leaves.’ Mr.
Editor, I say,” as Lord Fordham’s tall figure strode towards them,
“she has brought out a dozen clean copybooks. Isn’t that a joy for the
‘Joy’?”

“Had you no other intentions for them?” said Fordham, detecting
something of disappointment in Babie’s face. “You surely were not going
to write exercises in them?”

“Oh, no!” said Babie, “only--”

“She can’t mention it on Sunday,” said Armine, a little wickedly. “It’s
a wonderful long story about the Crusaders.”

“And,” explained Babie, “our governess said we--that is I--thought of
nothing else, and made the Lessons at Church and everything else apply
to it, so she made me resolve to say nothing about it on Sunday.”

“And she has brought out nineteen copybooks full of it,” added Armine.

“Yes,” said Babie, “but the little speckled ones are very small, and
have half the leaves torn out, and we used to write larger when we
began. I think,” she added, with the humility of an aspirant contributor
towards the editor of a popular magazine, “if Lord Fordham would be so
kind as to look at it, Armie thought it might do what people call, I
believe, supplying the serial element of fiction, and I should be happy
to copy it out for each number, if I write well enough.”

The word “happy,” was so genuine, and the speech so comical, that the
Editor had much ado to keep his countenance as he gave considerable
hopes that the serial element should be thus supplied in the MS.
magazine.

Meantime, the two mothers were walking about and resting together,
keeping their young people in some degree in view, and discussing at
first the subject most on their minds, their sons’ bodily health, and
the past danger, for which Caroline found a deeply sympathetic listener,
and one who took a hopeful view of Armine.

Mrs. Evelyn was indeed naturally disposed to augur well whenever the
complaint was not hereditary, and she was besides in excellent spirits
at the very visible progress of both her sons, the one in physical,
the other in moral health, and she could not but attribute both to the
companionship that she had been so anxious to prevent. She had never
seen Duke look so well, nor seem so free from languor and indifference
since he was a mere child, and all seemed due to his devotion to Armine;
while as to Cecil, he seemed to have a new spring of improvement, which
he ascribed altogether to his friend.

“It is strange to me to hear this of my poor Jock,” said Caroline,
“always my pickle and scapegrace, though he is a dear good-hearted boy.
His uncle says it is that he wants a strong hand, but don’t you think an
uncle’s strong hand is much worse than any mother’s weakness?”

“Not than her weakness,” said Mrs. Evelyn. “It is her love, I think,
that you mean. There are some boys with whom strong hands are vain, but
who will guide themselves for love, and that we mothers are surely the
ones to infuse.”

“My boys are affectionate enough, dear fellows,” said Caroline proudly,
forgetting her sore disappointment that neither Allen nor Robert had
chosen to come to her help.

“I did not only mean love of oneself,” said Mrs. Evelyn, gently. “I was
thinking of the fine gold we heard of this morning. When our boys once
have found that secret, the chief of our work is done.”

“Ah! and I never understood how to give them that,” said Caroline. “We
have been all astray ever since their father left us.”

“Do you know,” said Mrs. Evelyn, with a certain sweet shyness, “I can’t
help thinking that your dear Lucas found that gold among the stones of
the moraine, and will help my poor weak Cecil to keep a fast hold of
it.”

Mrs. Evelyn’s opinion was confirmed, when a few days later came the
answer to Jock’s letter to his tutor, pleasing and touching both friends
so much that each showed it to his mother. Another important piece of
intelligence came in a letter from John to his cousin, namely that the
present Captain of the house, with two or three more “fellows,” were
leaving Eton at the Midsummer holidays, and that his tutor had been
talking to him about becoming Captain.

Jock and Cecil greatly rejoiced, for the departing Captain had been a
youth whose incapacity for government had been much better known to his
subordinates than to his master, and the other two had been the special
tempters and evil geniuses of the house, those who above all had set
themselves to make obedience and religion seem contemptible, and vice
daring and manly.

“I should have hated the notion of being Captain,” wrote John, “if those
impracticable fellows had stayed on, and if I did not feel sure of you
and Evelyn. You are such a fellow for getting hold of the others, but
with you two at my back, I really think the house may get a different
tone into it.”

“And every one told us what an excellent character it had,” said Mrs.
Evelyn, when the letter, through a chain of strict confidence, came
round to her, the boys little knowing how much it did to decide their
continuance together, and at Eton. Sir James had never been willing that
Cecil should be taken away, and he had become as sensible as any of the
rest to the Brownlow charm.

That was a very happy time in the pine-woods and the Alp. The whole
of the nineteen copy books were actually read by Babie to Sydney and
Armine; and Lord Fordham, over his sketches, submitted to hear a good
deal. He told his mother that the story was the most diverting thing
he had ever heard, with its queer mixture of childish simplicity and
borrowed romance, of natural poetry and of infantine absurdity, of
extraordinary knowledge and equally comical ignorance, of originality
and imitation, so that his great difficulty had been not to laugh in the
wrong place, when Babie had tears in her eyes at the heights of pathos
and sublimity, and Sydney was shedding them for company. It was funny to
come to places where Armine’s slightly superior age and knowledge of the
world began to tell, and when he corrected and criticised, or laughed,
with appeals to his elder friend. Babie was so perfectly good-humoured
about the sacrifice of her pet passages, and even of her dozen
copybooks, that the editor of the “Traveller’s Joy” could not help
encouraging the admission of “Jotapata” into the magazine, in spite of
the remonstrances of the rest of his public, who declared it was
merely making the numbers a great deal heavier for postage, and all for
nothing.

The magazine was well named, for it was a great resource. There were
illustrations of all kinds, from Lord Fordham’s careful watercolours,
and Mrs. Brownlow’s graceful figures or etchings, to the doctor’s clever
caricatures and grotesque outlines, and the contributions were equally
miscellaneous. There were descriptions of scenery, fragmentary notes
of history and science, records more or less veracious or absurd of
personal adventures, and conversations, and advertisements, such as--


     Stolen or strayed.--A parasol, white above, black
     below, minus a ring, with an ivory loop handle,
     and one broken whalebone.  Whoever will bring
     the same to the Senora Donna Elvira de Menella,
     will he handsomely rewarded with a smile or a
     scowl, according to her mood.

     Lost.--On the walk from the Alp, of inestimable
     value to the owner, and none to any one else,
     an Idea, one of the very few originated by the
     Honble. C. F. Evelyn.


Small wit went a good way, and personalities were by no means
prohibited, since the editor could be trusted to exercise a safe
discretion in the riddles, acrostics, and anagrams deposited in the
bag at his door; and immense was the excitement when the numbers were
produced, with a pleasing irregularity as to time, depending on when
they became bulky enough to look respectable, and not too thick to be
sewn up comfortably by the great Reeves, who did not mind turning his
hand to anything when he saw his lordship so merry.

The only person who took no interest in the “Traveller’s Joy” was
Janet, who could not think how reasonable people could endure such
nonsense. Her first affront had been taken at a most absurd description
which Jock had illustrated by a fancy caricature of “The Fox and the
Crow,” “Woman’s Progress,” in which “Mr. Hermann Dowsterswivel” was
represented as haranguing by turns with her on the steamer, and, during
her discourse, quietly secreting her bag. It was such wild fun that Lord
Fordham never dreamt of its being an affront, nor perhaps would it have
been, if Dr. Medlicott would have chopped logic, science, and philosophy
with her in the way she thought her due from the only man who could
be supposed to approach her in intellect. He however took to chaff. He
would defend every popular error that she attacked, and with an acumen
and ease that baffled her, even when she knew he was not in earnest,
and made her feel like Thor, when the giant affected to take three blows
with Miolner for three flaps of a rat’s tail.

The magazine contained a series of notes on the nursery rhymes, where
the “Song of Sixpence” was proved to be a solar myth. The pocketful of
rye was the yield of the earth, and the twenty-four blackbirds sang at
sunrise while the king counted out the golden drops of the rain, and the
queen ate the produce while the maid’s performance in the garden was,
beyond all doubt, symbolic of the clouds suddenly broken in upon by the
lightning!

Moreover the man of Thessaly was beautifully illustrated, blinding
himself by jumping into the prickly bush of science, where each
gooseberry was labelled with some pseudo study. When he saw his eyes
were out, he stood wondrously gazing after them with his sockets
while they returned a ludicrous stare from the points of thorns, like
lobsters. In his final leap deeper into truth, he scratched them in
again, and walked off, in a crown of laurels, triumphant.

Janet was none the less disposed to leap into her special
gooseberry-bush; and her importunity prevailed, so that before Dr.
Medlicott returned to England he escorted her and her mother to Zurich.
Then after full inquiries it was decided that she should have her will,
and follow out her medical course of study, provided she could find a
satisfactory person to board with.

She proposed, and her mother consented, that the two Miss Rays should be
her chaperons, of course with liberal payment. Nita could carry on her
studies in art, and made the plan agreeable to Janet, while old Miss
Ray’s eyes, which had begun to suffer from the copying, would have a
rest, and Mrs. Brownlow had as much confidence in her as in any one
Janet would endure.



CHAPTER XXV. -- THE LAND OF AFTERNOON.



     And all at once they sang, “Our island home
     Is far beyond the wave, we will no longer roam.”
                                               Tennyson.


We must pass over three more years and a half, and take up the scene in
the cloistered court of a Moorish house in Algeria, adapted to European
habits. The slender columns supporting the horse-shoe arches were
trained with crimson passion-flower and bougainvillia, while orange
and gardenia blossom scented the air, and in the midst of a pavement of
mosaic marbles was a fountain, tinkling coolness to the air which was
already heated enough to make it impossible to cross the court without
protection from the sunshine even at nine o’clock in the morning.

Mrs. Brownlow had a black lace veil thrown over her head; and both
she and the clergyman with her, in muslin-veiled hat, had large white
sunshades.

“Little did we think where we should meet again, and why, Mr. Ogilvie.
Do you feel as if you had got into ‘Tales of the Alhambra,’ or into the
‘Tempest’?”

“I hope not to continue in the ‘Tempest,’ at any rate, after this Algier
wedding.”

“Though no doubt you feel, as I do, that the world goes very like a game
at consequences. Who would ever have put together The Vicar of Benneton
and Mary Ogilvie in the amphitheatre at Constantina, eating lion-steaks.
Consequence was, an engaged ring. What the world said, ‘Who would have
thought it?’”

“The world in my person should say you have been Mary’s kindest friend,
Mrs. Brownlow. Little did I think, when I persuaded Charles Morgan to
give himself six months’ rest from his parish by reading with Armine,
that this was to be the end of it, though I am sure there is not a man
in the world to whom I am so glad to give my sister.”

“And is it not delightful to see dear old Mary? She looks younger now
than ever she did in her whole life, and has broken out of all her
primmy governessy crust. Oh! it has been such fun to watch it, so
entirely unconscious as both of them were. Mrs. Evelyn and I gloated
over it together, all the more that the children had not a suspicion.
I don’t think Babie and Sydney realise any one being in love nearer
our own times than ‘Waverley’ at the very latest. They received the
intelligence quite as a shock. Allen said, as if they had heard that the
Greek lexicon was engaged to the French grammar! It will be their first
bridesmaid experience.”

“Did they miss the wedding at Kenminster?”

“Yes; Jessie’s old General chose to marry her in the depth of winter,
when we could not think of going home. You know I have not been at
Belforest for four years.”

“Four years! I suppose I knew, but I did not realise it.”

“Yes. You know there was the first summer, when, just as we got back to
London after our Italian winter, poor Armie had such a dreadful attack
on the lungs, that Dr. Medlicott said he was in more danger than when he
was at Schwarenbach; and, as soon as he could move, we had to take him
to Bournemouth, to get strength for going to the Riviera. I can say now
that I never did expect to bring him back again! But I am thankful to
say he has been getting stronger ever since, and has scarcely had a real
drawback.”

“Yes, I was astonished to see him looking so well. He would scarcely
give a stranger the impression of being delicate.”

“They told me last summer in London that the damage to the lungs had
been quite outgrown, and that he would only need moderate care for the
future. Indeed, we should have stayed at home this year, but last summer
twelvemonth there was a fever, and that set on foot a perquisition into
our drains at Belforest, and it was satisfactorily proved that we ought
by good rights to have been all dead of typhoid long ago. So we turned
the workmen in, and they could not of course be got out again. And then
Allen fell in love with parquet and tiles, and I was weak enough to
think it a good opportunity when all the floors were up. But when a man
of taste takes to originality, there’s no end of it. Everything has had
to be made on purpose, and certain little tiles five times over; for
when they did come out the right shape, they were of a colour that Allen
pronounced utter demoralisation. However, we are quite determined to
get home this summer, and you and Mary must meet there, and show old
Kenminster to Mr. Morgan. Ah! here she comes, and I shall leave you
to enjoy this lucid interval of her while Mr. Morgan is doing his last
lessons with the children.”

“How exactly like herself!” exclaimed Mr. Ogilvie, as Mrs. Brownlow
vanished under one of the arches.

“Like! yes; but much more, much better,” said Mary, eagerly.

“Ah, do you remember when you told me coming to her was an experiment,
and you thought it might be better for the old friendship if you did not
accept the situation?”

“You triumph at last, David; but I can confess now that for the first
four years I held to that opinion, and felt that my poor Carey and I
could have loved each other better if our relative situations had been
different, and we had not seen so much of one another. My life used to
seem to me half-unspoken remonstrance, half-truckling compliance, and
nothing but our mutual loyalty to old times, and dear little Babie’s
affection, could have borne us through.”

“And her extraordinary sweetness and humility, Mary.”

“Yes, I allow that. Very few employers would have treated me as she did,
knowing how I regretted much that went on in her household. However,
when I met her at Pontresina, after the boys’ terrible adventure in
Switzerland, there was an indefinable change. I cannot tell whether it
is owing to the constant being with such a boy as Armine, while he was
for more than a year between life and death, or whether it was from the
influence of living with Mrs. Evelyn; but she has certainly ever since
had the one thing that was wanting to all her sweetness and charm.”

“I never thought so!”

“No; but you were never a fair judge. I think she has owed unspeakably
much to Mrs. Evelyn, who, so far as I can see, is the first person
who, at any rate since the break-up of the original home, made
conscientiousness, or indeed religion, appear winning to her, neither
stiff, nor censorious, nor goody.”

“Is not this close combination of the two families rather odd?”

“I don’t think it is. Poor Lord Fordham is very fond of Armine, and he
hates the being driven abroad every winter so much, that the meeting
Armine is the only pleasant ingredient. And it has been convenient for
Sydney to join our school-room party. I was very glad also, that these
last two summers, there have been visits at Fordham. Staying there has
given Mrs. Brownlow and the younger ones some insight into what the life
at Belforest might be, but never has been; and they will not be kept out
of it any longer.”

“Then they are going home!”

“After the London season.”

“Why, little Barbara is surely not coming out yet?”

“No; but Elvira is.”

“Ah! by the bye, was I not told that I was to have two weddings?”

“Allen wished it, but the Elf won’t hear of it. She says she had no
notion of turning into a stupid old married woman before she has had any
fun.”

“Does she care for him?”

“I don’t think she is capable of caring for any one much. I don’t know
whether she may ever soften with age; but--”

“Say it, Mary--out with it.”

“I never saw such a heartless little butterfly! She did not care a rush
when her good old grandfather died, and I don’t believe she has one
fraction more love for Mrs. Brownlow, or Allen, or anybody else. The
best thing I can see is that she is too young to perceive the prudence
of securing Allen; but perhaps that is only frivolity, and he, poor
fellow, is so devoted to her, that it is quite provoking to see how she
trifles with and torments him.”

“Isn’t it rather good for the great Mr. Brownlow? Not much besides has
contradicted him, I should imagine.”

“His mother thinks that it is the perpetual restlessness in which Elvira
keeps him that renders him so unsettled, and that if they were once
married he would have some peace of mind, and be able to begin life in
earnest. But to hurry on the marriage is such a fearful risk, with such
a creature as that sprite, that she has persuaded him to wait, and let
the child be satisfied by this season in London, that she may not think
they are cheating her of her young lady life.”

“It is on the cards, I suppose, that she might see some one whom she
preferred to him?”

“Which might, in some aspects of the matter, be the best thing possible;
but Mrs. Brownlow would have many conscientious scruples about the
property, and Allen would be in utter despair.”

“Though, of course, all this would be far better than exposing that
tropical-natured Spanish butterfly to meeting the subject of a grand
passion too late,” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“Yes; of course that must be in his mother’s mind, though I don’t
suppose she expresses it even to herself. Miss Evelyn is coming out too,
and is to be presented, which reconciles the younger ones to putting off
all their schemes for working at Belforest, after the true Fordham and
story-book fashion. Besides, Mrs. Brownlow always feels that she has a
duty towards Elvira, even apart from Allen.”

“And what do you think of Allen? He seems very pleasant and
gentlemanly.”

“That’s just what he is! He has always been as agreeable and nice as
possible all these eight years that I have been with them, and has
treated me entirely as his mother’s old friend. I can’t help liking
Allen very much, and wondering what he would have been if--if he had
had to work for his living--or if Elvira had not been such a little
tormenting goose--or if, all manner of ifs--indeed; but they all resolve
themselves into one question if there be much stuff in him!”

“If not, he is the only one of the family without, except, perhaps,
Jock.”

“Oh! if you saw Jock now, you would not doubt that there’s plenty of
substance in him! He has been a very different person ever since his
illness in Switzerland, as full of life and fun as ever, but thoroughly
in earnest about doing right. He had an immense number of marks for the
army examination, and seems by all accounts to be keeping up to regular
work, now that it is more voluntary.”

“Is he not rather wasted on the Guards!”

“Well, that was Sir James Evelyn’s doing. They are glad enough to have
him there to look after his friend, Mr. Evelyn, and it was one of the
cases where the decision for life has to be made before the youth is old
enough to understand his full capabilities. I expect Lucas, to give him
his right name, will do something distinguished yet, perhaps be a great
General; and I hope Sir James has interest enough to get him employment
before he has eaten his heart out on drill and parade. Now that Armine’s
health is coming round, I do leave Caroline very happy about the younger
half of her family.”

“And the elder half?”

“Well! I sometimes think that there must have been something defective
in the management of that excellent doctor and his mother, as if they
had never taught the children proper loyal respect for her! The three
younger ones have it all right, and the two elder sons are as fond of
her as possible; but she never had any authority over those three from
the first. Only Allen is too gentle and has too much good taste to show
it; while as to the other two, Bobus’s contempt is of a kindly, filial,
petting description; Janet’s, a nasty, defiant, overt disregard.”

“Impossible! They could not dare to despise her.”

“They do, for the very things that are best in her; and so far I think
the Evelyn intercourse has been unlucky, since they ascribe her greater
religiousness to what it suits their democratic notions to scorn. Not
that there is much to complain of in Bobus’s manner when we do see him.
He only uses little stings of satire, chiefly about Lord Fordham. I
don’t think he would knowingly pain his mother if he could help it; and
for that reason there is a reserve between them.”

“He is eating his terms in the Temple, is he not? And Janet? Is she
studying medicine still? Does she mean to practise?”

“I can’t make out. She has only been with us twice in these four years,
once at Sorrento and once in London; but she has a very active dislike
to Mrs. Evelyn, and vexes her mother by making no secret of it. I
believe she is to take her degree at Zurich this spring, but I don’t
think she means to practise. She is too well off for the drudgery, but
she is bent on making researches of some kind, and I think I heard of
some plan of her going to attend lectures, to which her degree may admit
her, but I am not sure where. The two Miss Rays seem to be happy to
escort her anywhere, and that is a sort of comfort to Mrs. Brownlow.
Miss Ray keeps us informed of their comings and goings, for Janet seldom
deigns to write.”

“It is very strange that there should be such alienation, and from such
a mother.”

“The two characters are as unlike as can be, but I have always thought
there must be some cause that no one but Janet herself could perhaps
explain. I cannot help thinking that she has some definite purpose in
this study of medicine; for I do not think it is for the sake either of
the emancipation of women or of general philanthropy. They must be an
odd party. Miss Ray attends to the household matters, mends the clothes,
and pays the bills. Nita sketches, reads at the libraries, and talks at
the table d’hote, like a strong-minded woman, as she is; and Janet goes
her own way. Bobus looked in on them once and described them to us with
great gusto.”

There Mary’s face became illuminated as a step approached, and a
gentleman with grizzled hair, and a thoughtful, gentle face came out,
and sat down on her other side.

He had been college tutor to her brother, though not much older, and had
stayed on at Oxford, till two years back he had taken a much neglected
living. His health had broken down under the severe work of organising,
and he had accepted the easy task of reading with Armine Brownlow for
the winter in a perfect climate, as a welcome mode of recruiting his
strength. He had truly recruited it in an unexpected manner, and was
about to take home with him one who would prove such a helpmeet as would
lighten all the troubles and difficulties that had weighed so heavily on
him, and remove some of them entirely.

So he came out and testified to the remarkable ability and zeal he had
found in his pupil, and likewise to the spirit of industry which had
prevented the desultory life of travelling and ill-health from having
made him nearly so much behindhand as might have been expected. If he
only had health to work steadily for the next two years, he would be
quite as well prepared to matriculate at the university as all but the
very foremost scholars from the public schools. Mr. Morgan thought his
intellect equal to that of his brother Robert, who had taken a double
first-class, but of a finer order, being open to those poetical
instincts which went for nothing with the materialistic Bobus.

Wherewith the friends fell into conversation more immediately
interesting to themselves, while at the other end of the court,
sheltered by a great orange-tree, a committee of the “Traveller’s Joy”
 was held.

For that serial still survived, though it could never be called a
periodical, since it was an intermittent, and sometimes came out very
rapidly, sometimes with intervals of many months; but it was always sent
to, and greatly relished by, the absent members of the original party,
at first at Eton, and later, two in their barracks, and one at his
college at Oxford, whither, to his great satisfaction, he had gone by
means of a well-won scholarship, not at his aunt’s expense.

Jotapata’s lengthy romance had died a natural death in the winter that
had been spent between Egypt and Palestine. So far from picking up ideas
from it there, Babie, in the actual sight of Mount Hermon’s white
crown, had begged not to be put in mind of such nonsense, and had never
recurred to it; but the wells of fancy had never been dried, and the
young people were happily putting together their bits of journal, their
bits of history, the description of the great amphitheatre, a poem of
Babie’s on St. Louis’s death, a spirited translation in Scott-like metre
of Armine’s of the opening of the AEneid, also one from the French, by
Sydney, on Arab customs, and all Lord Fordham had been able to collect
about Hippo, also “The Single Eye,” by Allen, and “Marco’s Felucca,” by
Armine and Babie in partnership, and a fair proportion of drollery.

“There was a space left for the wedding, the greatest event the
‘Traveller’s Joy’ had ever had on record,” said Sydney, as she touched
up the etching at the top of her paper, sitting on a low stool by a low
mother-of-pearl inlaid Eastern table.

“The greatest and the last,” chimed in Babie, as she worked away at the
lace she was finishing for the bride.

“I don’t see why it should be the last of the poor old ‘Joy,’” said Lord
Fordham, sorting the MSS. which were scattered round him on the ground.

“Well, somehow I feel as if we had come to the end of a division of our
lives,” returned Babie.

“Having done with swaddling bands, eh, Infanta?” said Lord Fordham,
while Armine hastily sketched in pen and ink, Babie, with her hair
flying and swaddling bands off, executing a war-dance. She did not like
it.

“For shame, Armine! Don’t you know how dreadful it is to lose dear Miss
Ogilvie?”

“Of course, Babie,” said her brother, “I didn’t think you were such a
Babie as not to know that things go by contraries.”

“It is too tender a spot for irony, Armie,” said Lord Fordham.

“Well,” said Armine, “I shall be obliged to do something outrageous
presently, so look out!”

“Not really!” said Sydney.

“Yes, really,” said Babie, recovering; “I see what he means. He would
like to do anything rather than sit and think that this is the last time
we shall all be together again in this way.”

“I’m sure I don’t see why we should not,” said Sydney. “To say nothing
of meetings in England; Duke and Armine have only to cough three times
in October, and we should all go off together again, and be as jolly as
ever.”

“I don’t mean to cough,” said Armine, gravely, “I’ve wasted enough of my
life already.”

“In our company, eh?” said Sydney, “or are you to be taken by
contraries?”

“No,” said Armine. “One has duties, and lotus-eating is uncommonly nice,
but it won’t do to go on for ever. I wouldn’t have given in to it this
winter if Allen hadn’t _floored_ us.”

“And then when you thought I had got a tutor, and should do some good
with him,” chimed in Babie, “he must needs go and fall in love and spoil
our Miss Ogilvie.”

The disgust with which she uttered the words was so comic, that all the
others burst out laughing.

And Fordham said--

“The Land of Afternoon was too strong for him. Shall you really pine
much for Miss Ogilvie, Infanta?”

“I shall miss her dreadfully,” said Babie, “and I think it is very
stupid of her to leave mother, whom she has known all her life, and all
of us, for a strange man she never saw till four months ago.”

“Oh, Babie, you to be the author of a chivalrous romance!” said Fordham.

“I was young and silly then,” said the young lady, who was within a
month of sixteen.

“And all your romances are to be henceforth without love,” said Armine.

“I think they would be much more sensible,” said Babie. “Why do you all
laugh so? Don’t you see how stupid poor Allen always is? And it can even
spoil Miss Ogilvie, and make her inattentive.”

“Poor Allen,” echoed one or two voices, in the same low tone, for as
they peeped out beyond the orange-tree, Allen might be seen, extended on
a many-coloured rug, in an exceedingly deplorable attitude.

“O yes,” said Sydney; “but if one has such a--such a--such an object as
that, one must expect to be stupid and miserable sometimes!”

“She must have been worrying him again,” said Babie.

“O yes, didn’t you see?” said Armine. “No, I remember you didn’t go out
riding early to-day.”

“No, I was finishing Miss Ogilvie’s wedding lace.”

“Well, that French captain, that Elfie went on with at the commandant’s
ball, came riding up in full splendour, and trotted alongside of her,
chattering away, she bowing and smiling, and playing off all her airs,
and at last letting him give her a great white flower. Didn’t you see
it in her breast at breakfast? Poor Allen was looking as if he had eaten
wormwood all the time when he was forced to fall back upon me, and I
suppose he has been having it out with her and has got the worst of it.”

“O, it is that, is it?” said Lord Fordham; “I thought she wanted to
pique Allen, she was so empressee with me.”

“If people will be so foolish as to care for a pretty face,” sagely said
Sydney.

“You know it is not only that,” said Babie; “Allen is bound in honour to
marry Elvira, to repair the great injustice. It is a great pity she will
not marry him now at once, but I think she is afraid, because then, you
know, she would get to have a soul, like Undine, and she doesn’t want
one yet.”

“That’s a new view of the case,” said Lord Fordham in his peculiar lazy
manner, “and taken allegorically it may be the true one.”

“But one would like to have a soul,” said Sydney.

“I’m not sure,” said Babie, with a great look of awe. “One would know it
was best, but it would be very tremendous to feel all sorts of thoughts
and perceptions swelling up in one.”

“If that is the soul,” said Armine.

“Which is the soul?” said Babie, “our understanding, or our feelings, or
both?”

“Both,” said Sydney, undoubtingly.

“I don’t know,” said Babie. “Poor little Chico has double the heart of
his mistress.”

“It is quite true,” said Fordham. “We may share intellect with demons,
but we do share what is called heart with animals.”

“I think good animals have a sort of soul,” observed Armine.

“And of course, Elvira has a soul,” said Sydney, who was getting
bewildered.

“Theologically speaking--yes,” said Armine, making them all laugh, “and
I suppose Undine hadn’t. But it was sense and heart that was wanting.”

“The heart would bring the sense,” said Lord Fordham, “and so we have
come round to the Infanta’s first assertion that the young lady shrinks
from the awakening.”

“I’ll tell you what she really does care for,” said Babie, “and what I
believe would waken up her soul much better than marrying poor Allen.”

The announcement was so extraordinary that they all turned their heads
to listen.

“Her old black nurse at San Ildefonso,” said Babie. “I believe going
back there would do her all the good in the world.”

“There’s something in that notion,” said Armine. “She is always
better-tempered in a hot country.”

“Yes,” added Babie, “and you didn’t see her when somebody advised our
trying the West Indies for the winter. Her eyes gleamed, and she panted,
and I didn’t know what she was going to do. I told mother at night, but
she said she was afraid of going there, because of the yellow fever, and
that San Ildefonso had been made a coaling-station by the Americans, so
it would only disappoint her. But Elfie looked--I never saw any one look
as she did--fit to kill some one when she found it was given up, and she
did not get over it for ever so long.”

“Take care; here’s an apparition,” said Armine, as a brilliant figure
darted out in a Moorish dress, rich jacket, short full white tunic, full
trousers tied at the ankles, coins pendulous on the brow, bracelets,
anklets, and rows of pearls. It was a dress on which Elvira had set
her heart in readiness for fancy balls; it had been procured with great
difficulty and expense, and had just come home from the French modiste
who had adapted it to European wear.

Allen started up in admiration and delight. Even Mr. Morgan was roused
to make an admiring inspection of the curious ornaments and devices;
and Elvira, with her perfect features, rich complexion, dark blue eyes,
Titian coloured hair, fine figure, and Oriental air, formed a splendid
study.

Lord Fordham begged her to stand while he sketched her; and Babie, with
Sydney, was summoned to try on the bridesmaids’ apparel.

The three girls, Elvira, Sydney, and Barbara acted as bridesmaids the
next day, when, in the English chapel, Mr. Ogilvie gave his sister to
his old friend, to begin her new life as a clergyman’s wife.

What could be called Elvira de Menella’s character? Those who knew her
best, such as Barbara Brownlow, would almost have soon have thought of
ascribing a personal character to a cloud as to her. She smiled into
glorious loveliness when the sun shone; she was gloomy and thunderous
when displeased, and though she had a passionate temper, and could be
violent, she had no fixed purpose, but drifted with the external impulse
of the moment. She had not much mind or power of learning, and was
entirely inattentive to anything intellectual, so that education had not
been able at the utmost to do more than fit her to pass in the crowd,
and could get no deeper; and what principles she had it was not easy
to tell. Not that she did or said objectionable things, since she had
outgrown her childish outbreaks; but she seemed to have no substance,
and to be kept right by force of circumstances. She had the selfishness
of any little child, and though she had never been known to be
untruthful, this might be because there was not the slightest temptation
to deceive. She was just as much the spoilt child, to all intents and
purposes, as if she had been the heiress; perhaps more so, for Mrs.
Brownlow had always been so remorseful for the usurpation as to be extra
indulgent--lenient to her foibles, and lavish in gifts and pleasures,
even inconveniencing herself for her fancies; whilst Allen had, from the
first, treated her with the devotion of a lover. No stranger had ever
supposed that she was not the equal in all respects of the rest of the
family, nor had she realised it herself.



CHAPTER XXVI. MOONSHINE.



     But still the lady shook her head,
       And swore by yea and nay
     My whole was all that he had said,
       And all that he could say.
                             W. M. Praed.


Mrs. Brownlow had intended to go at once to London on her return to
England, but the joint entreaties of Armine and Barbara prevailed on her
to give them one week at Belforest, now in that early spring beauty in
which they had first seen it.

How delightful the arrival was! Easter had been very late, so it was the
last week of the vacation, and dear old Friar John’s handsome face was
the first thing they saw at the station, and then his father’s portly
form, with a tall pretty creature on each side of him, causing Babie
to fall back with a cry of glad amazement, “Oh! Essie and Ellie! Such
women!”

Then the train stopped, and there was a tumult of embracings and
welcomes, in the midst of which Jock appeared, having just come by the
down train.

“You’ll all come to dinner this evening?” entreated Caroline. “My love
to Ellen. Tell her you must all of you come.”

It was a most delightsome barouche full that drove from the station.
Jock took the reins, and turned over coachman and footman to the break,
and in defiance of dignity, his mother herself sprang up beside him. The
sky was blue, the hedges were budding with pure light-green above, and
resplendent with rosy campion and white spangles of stitchwort below.
Stars of anemone, smiling bunches of primrose, and azure clouds of
bluebell made the young hearts leap as at that first memorable sight.
Armine said he was ready to hurrah and throw up his hat, and though
Elvira declared that she saw nothing to be so delighted about, they only
laughed at her.

Gorgeous rhododendrons and gay azaleas rose in brilliant masses nearer
the house, beds of hyacinths and jonquils perfumed the air, judiciously
arranged parterres of gay little Van Thol tulips and white daisies
flashed on the eyes of the arriving party, while the exquisite fresh
green provoked comparisons with parched Africa.

Bobus was standing on the steps to receive them, and when they had
crossed the hall, with due respect to its Roman mosaic pavement, they
found the Popinjay bowing, dancing, and chattering for joy, and tea and
coffee for parched throats in the favourite Dresden set in the morning
room, the prettiest and cosiest in the house.

“How nice it is! We are all together except Janet,’ exclaimed Babie.

“And Janet is coming to us in London,” said her mother. “Did you see her
on her way to Edinburgh boys?”

“No,” said Jock. “She never let us know she was there.”

“But I’ll tell you an odd thing I have just found out,” said Bobus. “It
seems she came down here on her way, unknown to anyone, got out at the
Woodside station, and walked across here. She told Brock that she wanted
something out of the drawers of her library-table, of which the key had
been lost, and desired him to send for Higg to break it open; but Brock
wouldn’t hear of it. He said his Missus had left him in charge, and
he could not be answerable to her for having locks picked without her
authority--or leastways the Colonel’s. He said Miss Brownlow was in a
way about it, and said as how it was her own private drawer that no one
had a right to keep her out of, but he stood to his colours; he said
the house was Mrs. Brownlow’s, and under his care, and he would have no
tampering with locks, except by her authority or the Colonel’s. He even
offered to send to Kenminster if she would write a note to my uncle,
but she said she had not time, and walked off again, forbidding him to
mention that she had been here.”

“Janet always was a queer fish!” said Jock.

“Poor Janet, I suppose she wanted some of her notes of lectures,” said
her mother. “Brock’s sound old house-dog instinct must have been very
inconvenient to her. I must write and ask what she wanted.”

“But she forbade him to mention it,” said Bobus.

“Of course that was only to avoid the fuss there would have been if it
had been known that she had been here without coming to Kencroft. By the
bye, I didn’t tell Brock those good people were coming to dinner. How
well the dear old Monk looks, and how charming Essie and Ellie! But I
shall never know them apart, now they are both the same size.”

“You won’t feel that difficulty long,” said Bobus. “There really is no
comparison between them.”

“Just the insipid English Mees,” said Elvira. “You should hear what the
French think of the ordinary English girl!”

“So much the better,” said Bobus. “No respectable English girl would
wish for a foreigner’s insulting admiration.”

“Well done, Bobus! I never heard such an old-fashioned insular sentiment
from you. One would think it was your namesake. By the bye, where is the
great Rob?”

“At Aldershot,” said Jock. “I assure you he improves as he grows older.
I had him to dine the other day at our mess, and he cut a capital figure
by judiciously holding his tongue and looking such a fine fellow, that
people were struck with him.”

“There,” said Armine, slyly, “he has the seal of the Guards’ approval.”

Jock could afford to laugh at himself, for he was entirely devoid of
conceit, but he added, good humouredly--

“Well, youngster, I can tell you it goes for something. I wasn’t at all
sure whether the ass mightn’t get his head out of the lion-skin.”

“Oh, yes! they are all lions and no asses in the Guards,” said Babie;
whereupon Jock fell on her, and they had a playful skirmish.

Nobody came to dinner but John and his two sisters. It had turned out
that the horse had been too much worked to be used again, and there
was a fine moon, so that the three had walked over together. Esther and
Eleanor Brownlow had always been like twins, and were more than ever so
now, when both were at the same height of five feet eight, both had the
same thick glossy dark-brown hair, done in the very same rich coils,
the same clearly-cut regular profiles, oval faces, and soft carnation
cheeks, with liquid brown eyes, under pencilled arches. Caroline was in
confusion how to distinguish them, and trusted at first solely to the
little coral charms which formed Esther’s ear-rings, but gradually
she perceived that Esther was less plump and more mobile than her
sister--her colour was more variable, and she seemed as timid as ever,
while Eleanor was developing the sturdy Friar texture. Their aunt had
been the means of sending them to a good school, and they had a much
more trained and less homely appearance than Jessie at the same age,
and seemed able to take their part in conversation with their cousins,
though Essie was manifestly afraid of her aunt. They had always been
fond of Barbara, and took eager possession of her, while John’s Oxford
talk was welcome to all,--and it was a joyous evening of interchange
of travellers’ anecdotes and local and family news, but without any
remarkable feature till the time came for the cousins to return. They
had absolutely implored not to be sent home in the carriage, but to walk
across the park in the moonlight; and it was such a lovely night that
when Bobus and Jock took up their hats to come with them, Babie begged
to go too, and the same desire strongly possessed her mother, above all
when John said, “Do come, Mother Carey;” and “rowed her in a plaidie.”

That youthful inclination to frolic had come on her, and she only waited
to assure herself that Armine did not partake of her madness, but was
wisely going to bed. Allen was holding out a scarf to Elvira, but she
protested that she hated moonlight, and that it was a sharp frost, and
she went back to the fire.

As they went down the steps in the dark shadow of the house, John gave
his aunt his arm, and she felt that he liked to have her leaning on him,
as they walked in the strong contrasts of white light and dark shade in
the moonshine, and pausing to look at the wonderful snowy appearance
of the white azaleas, the sparkling of the fountain, and the stars
struggling out in the pearly sky; but John soon grew silent, and after
they had passed the garden, said--

“Aunt Caroline, if you don’t mind coming on a little way, I want to ask
you something.”

The name, Aunt Caroline, alarmed her, but she professed her readiness to
hear.

“You have always been so kind to me” (still more alarming, thought she);
“indeed,” he added, “I may say I owe everything to you, and I should
like to know that you would not object to my making medicine my
profession.”

“My dear Johnny!” in an odd, muffled voice.

“Had you rather not?” he began.

“Oh, no! Oh, no, no! It is the very thing. Only when you began I was so
afraid you wanted to marry some dreadful person!”

“You needn’t be afraid of that. Ars Medico, will be bride enough for me
till I meet another Mother Carey, and that I shan’t do in a hurry.”

“You silly fellow, you aren’t practising the smoothness of tongue of the
popular physician.”

“Don’t you think I mean it?” said John, rather hurt.

“My dear boy, you must excuse me. It is not often one gets so many
compliments in a breath, besides having one of the first wishes of one’s
heart granted.”

“Do you mean that you really wished this?”

“So much that I am saying, ‘Thank God!’ in my heart all the time.”

“Well, my father and mother thought you might be wishing me to be a
barrister, or something swell.”

“As if I could--as if I ever could be so glad of anything,” said she
with rejoicing that surprised him. “It is the only thing that could make
up for none of my own boys taking that line. I can’t tell you now how
much depends on it, John, you will know some day. Tell me what put it
into your head--”

He told her, as he had told his father nearly four years before, how
the dim memory of his uncle had affected him, and how the bent had been
decidedly given by his attendance on Jock, and his intercourse with Dr.
Medlicott. At Oxford, he had availed himself of all opportunities, and
had come out honourably in all examinations, including physical science,
and he was now reading for his degree, meaning to go up for honours. His
father, finding him steady to his purpose, had consented, and his mother
endured, but still hoped his aunt would persuade him out of it. She was
so far from any such intention, that a hint of the Magnum Bonum had very
nearly been surprised out of her. For the first time since Belforest had
come to her, did she feel in the course of carrying out her husband’s
injunctions; and she felt strengthened against that attack from Janet to
which she looked forward with dread. She talked with John of his plans
till they actually reached the lodge gate, and there found Jock, Babie,
and Eleanor chattering merrily about fireflies and glowworms a little
way behind, and Bobus and Esther paired together much further back. When
all had met at the gate and the parting good-nights had been spoken,
Bobus became his mother’s companion, and talked all the way home of his
great satisfaction at her wandering time being apparently over, of his
delight in her coming to settle at home at last, his warm attachment to
the place, and his desire to cultivate the neighbouring borough with a
view to representing it in Parliament, since Allen seemed to be devoid
of ambition, and so much to hate the mud and dust of public life, that
he was not likely to plunge into it, unless Elvira should wish for
distinction. Then Bobus expatiated on the awkward connection the Goulds
would be for Allen, stigmatising the amiable Lisette, who of course
by this time had married poor George Gould, as an obnoxious, presuming
woman, whom it would be very difficult to keep in her right position. It
was not a bad thing that Elvira should have a taste of London society,
to make her less likely to fall under her influence.

“That is not a danger I should have apprehended,” said Caroline.

“The woman can fawn, and that is exactly what a haughty being like
Elvira likes. She is always pining for a homage she does not get in the
family.”

“Except from poor Allen.”

“Except from Allen, but that is a matter of course. He is a slave to be
flouted! Did you ever see a greater contrast than that between her and
our evening guests?”

“Esther and Eleanor? They have grown up into very sweet-looking girls.”

“Not that there can be any comparison between them. Essie has none of
the ponderous Highness in her--only the Serenity.”

“Yes, there is a very pleasant air of innocent candour about their
faces--”

“Just what it does a man good to look at. It is like going out into the
country on a spring morning. And there is very real beauty too--”

“Yes, Kencroft monopolises all the good looks of the family. What a fine
fellow the dear old Friar has grown.”

“If you bring out those two girls this year, you will take the shine out
of all the other chaperons!”

“I wonder whether your aunt would like it.”

“She never made any objection to Jessie’s going out with you.”

“No. I should like it very much; I wonder I had not thought of it
before, but I had hardly realised that Essie and Ellie were older than
Babie, but I remember now, they are eighteen and seventeen.”

“It would be so good for you to have something human and capable of a
little consideration to go out with,” added Bobus, “not to be tied to
the tail of a will-of-the-wisp like that Elf--I should not like that for
you.”

“I am not much afraid,” said Caroline. “You know I don’t stand in such
awe of the little donna, and I shall have my Guardsman to take care of
me when we are too frivolous for you. But it would be very nice to have
those two girls, and make it pleasanter for my Infanta, who will miss
Sydney a good deal.”

“I thought the Evelyns were to be in town.”

“Yes, but their house is at the other end of the park. What are Jock and
the Infanta looking at?”

Jock and Babie, who were on a good way in advance in very happy and
eager conversation, had come to a sudden stop, and now turned round,
exclaiming “Look, mother! Here’s the original Robin Goodfellow.”

And on the walk there was a most ludicrous shadow in the moonlight,
a grotesque, dancing figure, with one long ear, and a hand held up in
warning. It was of course the shadow of the Midas statue, which the boys
had never permitted to be restored to its pristine state. One ear had
however crumbled away, but in the shadow this gave the figure the air
of cocking the other, in the most indescribably comical manner, and
the whole four stood gazing and laughing at it. There was a certain
threatening attitude about its hand, which, Jock said, looked as if
the ghost of old Barnes had come to threaten them for the wasteful
expenditure of his hoards. Or, as Babie said, it was more like the
ghastly notion of Bertram Risingham in Rokeby, of some phantom of a
murdered slave protecting those hoards.

“I don’t wonder he threatens,” said Caroline. “I always thought he meant
that audacious trick to have forfeited the hoards.”

“Very lucky he was balked,” said Bobus, “not only for us, but for human
nature in general. Fancy how insufferable that Elf would have been if
she had been dancing on gold and silver.”

“Take care!” muttered Jock, under his breath. “There’s her swain coming;
I see his cigar.”

“And we really shall have it Sunday morning presently,” said his mother,
“and I shall get into as great a scrape as I did in the old days of the
Folly.”

It was a happy Sunday morning. The Vicar of Woodside had much improved
the Church and services with as much assistance in the way of money as
he chose to ask for from the lady of Belforest, though hitherto he had
had nothing more; but he and his sister augured better things when the
lady herself with her daughter and her two youngest sons came across
the park in the freshness of the morning to the early Celebration. The
sister came out with them and asked them to breakfast. Mrs. Brownlow
would not desert Allen and Bobus, but she wished Armine to spare himself
more walking. Moreover, Babie discovered that some desertion of teachers
would render their aid at the Sunday School desirable on that morning.

This was at present her ideal of Sunday occupation, and she had gained a
little fragmentary experience under Sydney’s guidance at Fordham. So
she was in a most engaging glow of shy delight, and the tidy little
well-trained girls who were allotted to her did not diminish her
satisfaction. To say that Armine’s positive enjoyment was equal to hers
would not be true, but he had intended all his life to be a clergyman,
and he was resolved not to shrink from his first experience of the kind.
The boys were too much impressed, by the apparition of one of the young
gentlemen from Belforest, to comport themselves ill, but they would
probably not have answered his questions even had they been in their
own language, and they stared at him in a stolid way, while he
disadvantageously contrasted them with the little ready-tongued peasant
boys of Italy. However, he had just found the touch of nature which made
the world kin, and had made their eyes light up by telling them of a
scene he had beheld in Palestine, illustrating the parable they had been
repeating, when the change in the Church bells was a signal for leaving
off.

Very happy and full of plans were the two young things, much pleased
with the clergyman and his sister, who were no less charmed with the
little, bright, brown-faced, lustrous-eyed girl, with her eager yet
diffident manner and winning vivacity, and with the slender, delicate,
thoughtful lad, whose grave courtesy of demeanour sat so prettily upon
him.

Though not to compare in numbers, size, or beauty with the Kencroft
flock, the Belforest party ranged well in their seat at Church, for
Robert never failed to accompany his mother once a day, as a concession
due from son to mother. It was far from satisfying her. Indeed there was
a dull, heavy ache at her heart whenever she looked at him, for however
he might endeavour to conform, like Marcus Aurelius sacrificing to the
gods, there was always a certain half-patronising, half-criticising
superciliousness about his countenance. Yet, if he came for love of her,
still something might yet strike him and win his heart?

Had her years of levity and indifference been fatal to him? was ever her
question to herself as she knelt and prayed for him.

She felt encouraged when, at luncheon, she asked Jock to walk with her
to Kenminster for the evening service, after looking in at Kencroft,
Robert volunteered to be of the party.

Caroline, however, did not think that he was made quite so welcome
at Kencroft as his exertion deserved. Colonel and Mrs. Brownlow were
sitting in the drawing-room with the blinds down, presumably indulging
in a Sunday nap in the heat of the afternoon, for the Colonel shook
himself in haste, and his wife’s cap was a little less straight than
suited her serene dignity, and though they kissed and welcomed the
mother, they were rather short and dry towards Bobus. They said the
children had gone out walking, whereupon the two lads said they would
try to meet them, and strolled out again.

This left the field free for Caroline to propose the taking the two
girls to London with her.

“I am sure,” said Ellen, “you have always been very kind to the
children. But indeed, Caroline, I did not think you would have
encouraged it.”

“It?--I don’t quite understand,” said Caroline, wondering whether Ellen
had suddenly taken an evangelically serious turn.

“There!” said the Colonel, “I told you she was not aware of it,” and on
her imploring cry of inquiry, Ellen answered, “Of this folly of Robert.”

“Bobus, do you mean,” she cried. “Oh!” as conviction flashed on her, “I
never thought of _that_.”

“I am sure you did not,” said the Colonel kindly.

“But--but,” she said, bewildered, “if--if you mean Esther--why did you
send her over last night, and let him go out to find her now.”

“She is safe, reading to Mrs. Coffinkey,” said Ellen. “I did not know
Robert was at home, or I should not have let her come without me.”

“Esther is a very dear, sweet-looking girl,” said Caroline. “If only she
were any one else’s daughter! Though that does not sound civil! But
I know my dear husband had the strongest feeling about first cousins
marrying.”

“Yes, I trusted to your knowing that,” said the Colonel. “And I rely on
you not to be weak nor to make the task harder to us. Remembering, too,”
 he added in a voice of sorrow and pity that made the words sound not
unkind, “that even without the relationship, we should feel that there
were strong objections.”

“I know! My poor Bobus!” said Caroline, sadly. “That makes it such a
pity she is his cousin. Otherwise she might do him so much good.”

“I have not much faith in good done in that manner,” said the Colonel.

Caroline thought him mistaken, but could not argue an abstract question,
and came to the personal one. “But how far has it gone? How do you know
about it? I see now that I might have detected it in his tone, but one
never knows, when one’s children grow up.”

“The Colonel was obliged to tell him in the autumn that we did not
approve of flirtations between cousins,” said Mrs. Brownlow.

“And he answered--?”

“That flirtation was the last thing he intended,” said the Colonel. “On
which I told him that I would have no nonsense.”

“Was that all?”

“Except that at Christmas he sent her, by way of card, a drawing that
must have cost a large sum,” said the Colonel. “We thought it better to
let the child keep it without remark, for fear of putting things into
her head; though I wrote and told him such expensive trumpery was folly
that I was much tempted to forbid. So what does he do on Valentine’s
Day but send her a complete set of ornaments like little birds, in Genoa
silver--exquisite things. Well, she was very good, dear child. We told
her it was not nice or maidenly to take such valuable presents; and she
was quite contented and happy when her mother gave her a ring of her
own, and we have written to Jessie to send her some pretty things from
India.”

“She said she did not care for anything that Ellie did not have too,”
 added her mother.

“Then you returned them?”

“Yes, and my young gentleman patronisingly replies that he ‘appreciates
my reluctance, and reserves them for a future time.’”

“Just like Bobus!” said Caroline. “He never gives up his purpose! But
how about dear little Esther? Is she really untouched?”

“I hope so,” replied her mother. “So far it has all been put upon
propriety, and so on. I told her, now she was grown up and come home
from school she must not run after her cousins as she used to do, and I
have called her away sometimes when he has tried to get her alone. Last
evening, she told me in a very simple way--like the child she is--that
Robert would walk home with her in the moonlight, and hindered her when
she tried to join the others, telling me she hoped I should not be angry
with her. He seems to have talked to her about this London plan; but I
told her on the spot it was impossible.”

“I am afraid it is!” sighed Caroline. “Dear Essie! I will do my best to
keep her peace from being ruffled, for I know you are quite right; but I
can’t help being sorry for my boy, and he is so determined that I don’t
think he will give up easily.”

“You may let him understand that nothing will ever make me consent,”
 returned the Colonel.

“I will, if he enters on it with me,” said Caroline; “but I think it
is advisable as long as possible to prevent it from taking a definite
shape.”

Caroline was much better able now to hold her own with her brother and
sister-in-law. Not only did her position and the obligations they were
under give her weight, but her character had consolidated itself in
these years, and she had much more force, and appearance of good sense.
Besides, John was a weight in the family now, and his feeling for
his aunt was not without effect. They talked of his prospects and of
Jessie’s marriage, over their early tea. The elders of the walking party
came in with hands full of flowers, namely, the two Johns and Eleanor,
but ominously enough, Bobus was not there. He had been lost sight of
soon after they had met.

Yes, and at that moment he was loitering at a safe distance from the
door of the now invalid and half-blind Mrs. Coffinkey, to whom the
Brownlow girls read by turns. She lived conveniently up a lane not
much frequented. This was the colloquy which ensued when the tall,
well-proportioned maiden, with her fresh, modest, happy face, tripped
down the steps:--

“So the Coffinkey is unlocked at last! Stern Proserpine relented!”

“Robert! You here?”

“You never used to call me Robert.”

“Mamma says it is time to leave off the other.”

“Perhaps she would like you to call me Mr. Robert Otway Brownlow.”

“Don’t talk of mamma in that way.”

“I would do anything my queen tells me except command my tones when
there is an attempt to stiffen her. She is not to be made into buckram.”

“Please, Robert,” as some one met and looked at them, “let me walk on by
myself.”

“What? Shall I be the means of getting you into trouble?”

“No, but I ought not--”

“The road is clear now, never mind. In town there are no gossips, that’s
one comfort. Mother Carey is propounding the plan now.”

“Oh, but we shall not go. Mamma told me so last night.”

“That was before Mother Carey had talked her over.”

“Do you think she will?”

“I am certain of it! You are a sort of child of Mother Carey’s own, you
know, and we can’t do without you.”

“Mother would miss us so, just as we are getting useful.”

“Yes, but Ellie might stay.”

“Oh! we have never been parted. We _couldn’t_ be.”

“Indeed! Is there no one that could make up to you for Ellie?”

“No, indeed!” indignantly.

“Ah, Essie, you are too much of a child yet to understand the force of
the love that--”

“Don’t,” broke in Esther, “that is just like people in novels; and mamma
would not like it.”

“But if I feel ten times far more for you than ‘the people in novels’
attempt to express?”

“Don’t,” again cried Esther. “It is Sunday.”

“And what of that, my most scriptural little queen?”

“It isn’t a time to talk out of novels,” said Esther, quickening her
pace, to reach the frequented road and throng of church-goers.”

“I am not talking out of any novel that ever was written,” said Bobus
seriously; but she was speeding on too fast to heed him, and started as
he laid a hand on her arm.

“Stay, Essie; you must not rush on like a frightened fawn, or people
will stare,” he said; and she slackened her pace, though she shook him
off and went on through the numerous passengers on the footpath, with
her pretty head held aloft with the stately grace of the startled
pheasant, not choosing to seem to hear his attempts at addressing her,
and taking refuge at last in the innermost recesses of the family seat
at Church, though it was full a quarter to five.

There the rest of the party found her, and as they did not find Bobus,
they concluded that all was safe. However, when the two Johns were
walking home with Mother Carey, Bobus joined them, and soon made
his mother fall behind with him, asking her, “I hope your eloquence
prevailed.”

“Far from it, Bobus,” she said. “In fact you have alarmed them.”

“H. S. H. doesn’t improve with age,” he replied carelessly. “She never
troubled herself about Jessie.”

“Perhaps no one gave her cause. My dear boy, I am very sorry for you,”
 and she laid her hand within his arm.

“Have they been baiting you? Poor little Mother Carey!” he said. “Force
of habit, you know, that’s all. Never mind them.”

“Bobus, my dear, I must speak, and in earnest. I am afraid you may be
going on so as to make yourself and--some one else unhappy, and you
ought to know that your father was quite as determined as your uncle
against marriages between first cousins.”

“My dear mother, it will be quite time to argue that point when the
matter becomes imminent. I am not asking to marry any one before I am
called to the bar, and it is very hard if we cannot, in the meantime,
live as cousins.”

“Yes, but there must be no attempt to be ‘a little more than kin.’”

“Less than kind comes in on the other side!” said Bobus, in his throat.
“I tell you the child _is_ a child who has no soul apart from her
sister, and there’s no use in disturbing her till she has grown up to
have a heart and a will of her own.”

“Then you promise to let her alone?”

“I pledge myself to nothing,” said Bobus, in an impracticable voice. “I
only give warning that a commotion will do nobody any good.”

She knew he had not abandoned his intention, and she also knew she had
no power to make him abandon it, so that all she could say was, “As long
as you make no move there will be no commotion, but I only repeat my
assurance that neither your uncle nor I, acting in the person, of your
dear father, will ever consent.”

“To which I might reply, that most people end by doing that against
which they have most protested. However, I am not going to stir in the
matter for some time to come, and I advise no one else to do so.”



CHAPTER XXVII. -- BLUEBEARD’S CLOSET.



     A moment then the volume spread,
     And one short spell therein he read.
                                       Scott.


The reality of John’s intention to devote himself to medicine made
Caroline anxious to look again at the terms of the trust on which she
held the Magnum Bonum secret.

Moreover, she wanted some papers and accounts, and therefore on Monday
morning, while getting up, she glanced towards the place where her
davenport usually stood, and to her great surprise missed it. She asked
Emma, who was dressing her, whether it had been moved, and found that
her maid had been as much surprised as herself at its absence, and that
the housekeeper had denied all knowledge of it.

“Other things is missing, ma’am,” said Emma; “there’s the key of the
closet where your dresses hangs. I’ve hunted high and low for it, and
nobody hasn’t seen it.”

“Keys are easily lost,” said Caroline, “but my davenport is very
important. Perhaps in some cleaning it has been moved into one of the
other rooms and forgotten there. I wish you would look. You know I had
it before I came here.”

Not only did Emma look, but as soon as her mistress was ready to leave
the room she went herself on a voyage of discovery, peeping first into
the little dressing-room, where seeing Babie at her morning prayers, she
said nothing to disturb her, and then going on to look into some spare
rooms beyond, where she thought it might have been disposed of, as being
not smart enough for my lady’s chamber. Coming back to her room she
found, to her extreme amazement, the closet open, and Babie pushing the
davenport out of it, with her cheeks crimson and a look of consternation
at being detected.

“My dear child! The davenport there! Did you know it? How did it get
there?”

“I put it,” said Barbara, evidently only forced to reply by sheer
sincerity.

“You! And why?”

“I thought it safer,” mumbled Babie.

“And you knew where the key of the closet was?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“In my doll’s bed, locked up in the baby-house.”

“This is most extraordinary. When did you do this?”

“Just before we came out to you at Leukerbad,” said Babie, each reply
pumped out with great difficulty.

“Four years ago! It is a very odd thing. I suppose you had a panic, for
you were too old then for playing monkey tricks.”

To which Babie made no answer, and the next minute her mother, who had
become intent on the davenport, exclaimed, “I suppose you haven’t got
the key of this in your doll’s bed?”

“Don’t you remember, mother,” said Barbara, “you sent it home to Janet,
and it was lost in her bag on the crossing?”

“Oh, yes, I remember! And it is a Bramah lock, more’s the pity. We must
have the locksmith over from Kenminster to open it.”

The man was sent for, the davenport was opened, desk, drawers, and all.
Caroline was once more in possession of her papers. She turned them over
in haste, and saw no book of Magnum Bonum. Again, more carefully she
looked. The white slate, where those precious last words had been
written, was there, proving to her that her memory had not deceived her,
but that she had really kept her treasure in that davenport.

Then, in her distress, she thought of Barbara’s strange behaviour, went
in quest of her, and calling her aside, asked her to tell her the real
reason why she had thought fit to secure the davenport in the closet.

“Why,” asked Babie, her eyes growing large and shining, “is anything
missing?”

“Tell me first,” said Caroline, trembling.

Then Babie told how she had wakened and seen Janet with the desk
part raised up, reading something, and how, when she lay watching and
wondering, Janet had shut it up and gone away. “And I did not feel
comfortable about it, mother,” said Babie, “so I thought I would lock up
the davenport, so that nobody could get at it.”

“You did not see her take anything away?”

“No, I can’t at all tell,” said Babie. “Is anything gone?”

“A book I valued very much. Some memoranda of your father were in that
desk, and I cannot find them now. You cannot tell, I suppose, whether
she was reading letters or a book?”

“It was not letters,” said Babie, “but I could not see whether it was
print or manuscript. Mother, I think she must have taken it to read and
could not put it back again because I had hidden the davenport. Oh!
I wish I hadn’t, but I couldn’t ask any one, it seemed such a wicked,
dreadful fancy that she could meddle with your papers.”

“You acted to the best of your judgment, my dear,” said Caroline. “I
ought never to have let it out of my own keeping.”

“Do you think it was lost in the bag, mother?”

“I hope not. That would be worst of all!” said Caroline. “I must ask
Janet. Don’t say anything about it, my dear. Let me think it over.”

When Caroline recollected Janet’s attempt, as related by Robert, to
break open her bureau, she had very little doubt that the book was
there. It could not have been lost in the bag, for, as she remembered,
reference had been made to it when Janet had extorted permission to go
to Zurich, and she had warned her that even these studies would not be
a qualification for the possession of the secret. Janet had then smiled
triumphantly, and said she would make her change her mind yet;
had looked, in fact, very much as Bobus did when he put aside her
remonstrances. It was not the air of a person who had lost the records
of the secret and was afraid to confess, though it was possible she
might have them in her own keeping. Caroline longed to search the
bureau, but however dishonourably Janet might have acted towards
herself, she could not break into her private receptacles without
warning. So after some consideration, she made Barbara drive her to the
station, and send the following telegraphic message to Janet’s address
at Edinburgh:--

“Come home at once. Father’s memorandum book missing. Must be searched
for.”

All that day and the next the sons wondered what was amiss with their
mother, she was so pensive, with starts of flightiness. Allen thought
she was going to have an illness, and Bobus that it was a very strange
and foolish way of taking his resistance, but all the time Armine was
going about quite unperceiving, in a blissful state. The vicar’s
sister, a spirited, active, and very winning woman of thirty-five,
had captivated him, as she did all the lads of the parish. He had been
walking about with her, being introduced to all the needs of the parish,
and his enthusiastic nature throwing itself into the cause of religion
and beneficence, which was in truth his congenial element; he was ready
to undertake for himself and his mother whatever was wanted, without a
word of solicitation, nay rather, the vicar, who thought it all far too
good to be true, held him back.

And when he came in and poured out his narrative, he was, for the first
time in his life, even petulant that his mother was too much preoccupied
to confirm his promises, and angry when Allen laughed at his vehemence,
and said he should beware of model parishes.

By dinner-time the next day Janet had actually arrived. She looked
thin and sharp, her keen black eyes roamed about uneasily, and some
indescribable change had passed over her. Her brothers told her study
had not agreed with her, and she did not, as of old, answer tartly,
but gave a stiff, mechanical smile, and all the evening talked in a
woman-of-the-world manner, cleverly, agreeably, not putting out her
prickles, but like a stranger, and as if on her guard.

Of course there was no speaking to her till bedtime, and Caroline at
first felt as if she ought to let one night pass in peace under the home
roof; but she soon felt that to sleep would be impossible to herself,
and she thought it would be equally so to her daughter without coming
to an understanding. She yearned for some interchange of tenderness
from that first-born child from whom she had been so long separated, and
watched and listened for a step approaching her door; till at last, when
the maid was gone and no one came, she yielded to her impulse; and in
her white dressing-gown, with softly-slippered feet, she glided along
the passage with a strange mixed feeling of maternal gladness that Janet
was at home again, and of painful impatience to have the interview over.

She knocked at the door. There was no answer. She opened it. There
was no one there, but the light on the terrace below, thrown from
the windows of the lower room, was proof to her that Janet was in her
sitting-room, and she began to descend the private stairs that led down
to it. She was as light in figure and in step as ever, and her soft
slippers made no noise as she went down. The door in the wainscot was
open, and from the foot of the stairs she had a strange view. Janet’s
candle was on the chair behind her, in front of it lay half-a-dozen
different keys, and she herself was kneeling before the bureau, trying
one of the keys into the lock. It would not fit, and in turning to try
another, she first saw the white figure, and started violently at the
first moment, then, as the trembling, pleading voice said, “Janet,” she
started to her feet, and cried out angrily--

“Am I to be always spied and dogged?”

“Hush, Janet,” said her mother, in a voice of grave reproof, “I simply
came to speak to you about the distressing loss of what your father put
in my charge.”

“And why should I know anything about it?” demanded Janet.

“You were the last person who had access to the davenport,” said her
mother.

“This is that child Barbara’s foolish nonsense,” muttered Janet to
herself.

“Barbara has nothing to do with the fact that I sent you the key of the
davenport where the book was. It is now missing. Janet, it is bitterly
painful to me to say so, but your endeavours to open that bureau
privately have brought suspicion upon you, and I must have it opened in
my presence.”

“I have a full right to my own bureau.”

“Of course you have; but I had these notes left in my trust. It is my
duty towards your father to use every means for their recovery.”

“You call it a duty to my father to shut up his discovery and keep it
useless for the sake of a lot of boys who will never turn it to profit.”

“Of that I am judge. My present duty is to recover it. Your conduct is
such as to excite suspicion, and I therefore cannot allow you to take
anything out of that bureau except in my presence, till I have satisfied
myself that his memoranda are not there. I would not search your drawers
in your absence, and therefore telegraphed for you.”

“Thank you. Since you like to treat your daughter like a maidservant,
you may go on and search my boxes,” said Janet, sulkily.

“I beg your pardon, my poor child, if I am unjustly causing you this
humiliation,” said Caroline humbly, as Janet sullenly flumped down into
a chair without answering. She took up the keys that Janet had brought
with her, and tried them one by one, where Janet had been using them.
The fourth turned in the lock, and the drawer was open!

“I will disarrange nothing unnecessarily,” said Caroline. “Look for
yourself.”

Janet would not, however, move hand, foot, or eye, while her mother put
in her hand and took out what lay on the top. It was the Magnum Bonum.
She held it to the light and was sure of it; but she had taken up an
envelope at the same time, and her eye fell on the address as she was
laying it down. It was to--“James Barnes, Esq.” And as her eye caught
the pencilled words “My Will,” a strange electric thrill went through
her, as she exclaimed, “What is this, Janet? How came it here?”

“Oh! take it if you like,” said Janet. “I put it there to spare you
worry; but if you will pursue your researches, you must take the
consequences.”

Caroline, thus defied, still instinctively holding Magnum Bonum close
to her, drew out the contents of the envelope, and caught in the broken
handwriting of the old man, the words--“Will and Testament--George
Gould--Wakefield--Elvira de Menella--whole estate.” Then she saw
signature, seal, witnesses--date, “April 24th, 1862.”

“What is this? Where did it come from?” she asked.

“I found it--in his table drawer; I saw it was not valid, so I kept it
out of the way from consideration for you,” said Janet.

“How do you know it was not valid?”

“Oh--why--I didn’t look much, or know much about it either,” said Janet,
in an alarmed voice. “I was a mere child then, you know. I saw it was
only scrawled on letter-paper, and I thought it was only a rough draft,
which would just make you uncomfortable.”

“I hope you did, Janet. I hope you did not know what you were doing!”

“You don’t mean that it has been executed?”

“Here are witnesses,” said Caroline--her eyes swam too much to see their
names. “It must be for better heads than ours to decide whether this is
of force; but, oh, Janet! if we have been robbing the orphan all these
years!”

“The orphan has been quite as well off as if it had been all hers,” said
Janet. “Mother, just listen! Give me the keeping of my father’s secret,
and--even if we lose this place--it shall make up for all--”

“You do not know what you are talking of, Janet,” said Caroline, pushing
back those ripples of white hair that crowned her brow, “nor indeed I
either! I only know you have spoken more kindly to me, and that you are
under my own roof again. Kiss me, my child, and forgive me if I have
pained you. You did not know what you did about the will, and as to this
book, I know you meant to put it back again.”

“I did--I did, mother--if Barbara had not hidden the desk,” cried Janet.
And as her mother kissed her, she laid her head on her shoulder, and
wept and sobbed in an hysterical manner, such as Caroline had never seen
in her before. Of course she was tired out by the long journey, and the
subsequent agitation; and Caroline soothed and caressed her, with the
sole effect of making her cry more piteously; but she would not hear of
her mother staying to undress and put her to bed, gathered herself up
again as soon as she could, and when another kiss had been exchanged at
her bedroom door, Caroline heard it locked after her.

Very little did Caroline sleep that night. If she lost consciousness
at all, it was only to know that something strange and wonderful was
hanging over her. Sometimes she had a sense that her trust and mission
as a rich woman had been ill-fulfilled, and therefore the opportunity
was to be taken away; but more often there was a strange sense of relief
from what she was unfit for. She remembered that strange dream of
her children turning into statues of gold, and the Magnum Bonum
disenchanting them, and a fancy came over her that this might yet be
realised, a fancy to whose lulling effect she was indebted for the sleep
she enjoyed in the morning, which made her unusually late, but prevented
her from looking as haggard as Janet did, with eyelids swollen, as if
she had cried a good deal longer last night.

The postbag was lying on the table, and directly after family prayers
(which she had for some years begun when at home), Mrs. Brownlow
beguiled her nervousness by opening it, and distributing the letters.

The first she opened was such a startling one, that her head seemed to
reel, and she doubted whether the shock of last night was confusing her
senses.


“MY DEAR MRS. BROWNLOW,--What will you think of us now that the full
truth has burst on you? Of me especially, to whom you entrusted your
dear daughter. I never could have thought that Nita would have lent
herself to the transaction, and alas! I let the two girls take care of
themselves more than was right. However, I can at least give you the
comfort of knowing that it was a perfectly legal marriage, for Nita was
one of the witnesses, and looked to all that--”


Here Caroline could read no more. Sick and stunned, she began to
dispense her teacups, and even helped herself to some of the food that
was handed round, but her hand trembled so, and she looked so white and
bewildered, that Allen exclaimed--

“Mother, you are really ill. You should not have come down.”

She could not bear the crowd and buzz of voices and all the anxious eyes
any longer. She pushed back her chair, and as sons came hurrying round
with offered arms, she took the nearest, which was Jock’s, let him take
her to the morning-room, and there assured him she was not ill, only she
had had a letter. She wanted nothing, only that he should go back, and
send her Janet. She tried once more to master the contents of Miss Ray’s
letter, but she was too dizzy; and when Janet came in, she could only
hold it out to her.

“Oh!” said Janet, “poor old Maria has forestalled me. Yes, mother, it
is what I meant to tell you, only I thought you could not bear a fresh
shock last night.”

“Married! Oh, Janet; why thus?”

“Because we wished to avoid the gossip and conventionality. My uncle and
aunt were to be avoided.”

“Let me hear at once who it is,” said Caroline, with the sharpness of
misery.

“It is Professor Demetrius Hermann, a most able lecturer, whose course
we have been following. I met him a year ago, at the table d’hote, at
Zurich, where he delivered a series of lectures on physiology on a new
and original system. He is now going on with them in Scotland, where his
wonderful acuteness and originality have produced an immense sensation,
and I have no doubt that in his hands this discovery of my father’s will
receive its full development.”

There was no apology in her tone; it was rather that of one who was
defying censure; and her mother could only gasp out--

“How long?”

“Three weeks. When we heard you were returning, we thought it would save
much trouble and difficulty to secure ourselves against contingencies,
and profit by Scottish facilities.” Wherewith Janet handed her mother
a certificate of her marriage, at Glasgow, before Jane Ray and another
witness, and taking her wedding-ring from her purse, put it on, adding,
“When you see him, mother, you will be more than satisfied.”

“Where is he?” interrupted Caroline.

“At the Railway Hotel, waiting till you are prepared to see him. He
brought me down, but he is to give a lecture at Glasgow the day after
tomorrow, so we can only remain one night.”

“Oh, Janet--Janet, this is very fearful!”

At that moment, Johnny strolled up to the window from the outside, and,
as he greeted Janet with some surprise, he observed--

“There’s a most extraordinary looking foreign fellow loitering about out
here. I warned him he was on private ground, and he made me a bow, as if
I, not he, were the trespasser.”

On this Janet darted out at the window without another word, and John
exclaiming, in dismay--

“Mother Carey! what is the matter?”

She gasped out, “Oh, Johnny! she’s married to him! And the children
don’t know it. Send them in--Allen and Bobus I mean--make haste; I must
prepare them. Take that letter, and let the others know.”

John saw the truest kindness was implicit obedience; and Allen and Bobus
instantly joined her, the latter asking what new tomfoolery Janet had
brought home, Allen following with a cup of coffee.

Caroline’s lips felt too dry to speak, and she held out the certificate.

It was received by Allen, with the exclamation--

“By Jove!”

And by Bobus, with an odd, harsh laugh--“I thought she would do
something monstrous one of these days.”

“Did you ever hear of him, Bobus?” she found voice to say, after
swallowing a mouthful of coffee.

“I fancy I have. Yes, I remember now; he was lecturing and vapouring
about at Zurich; he is half Greek, I believe, and all charlatan. Well,
Janet _has_ been and gone and done for herself now, and no mistake.”

“But he is a professor,” pleaded Caroline. “He must be of some
university.”

“Don’t make too sure,” said Allen, “A professor may mean a writing
master. Good heavens! what a connection.”

“It can’t be so bad as that,” said Caroline. “Remember, your sister is
not foolish.”

“Flatter an ugly woman,” said Bobus, “and it’s a regular case of fox and
crow.”

“Mercy! here they come!” cried Allen.

“Mother, do you go away! This is not work for you. Leave us to settle
the rascal,” said Bobus.

“No, Bobus,” she said; “this ought to be settled by me. Remember that,
whatever the man may be, he is Janet’s husband, and she is your sister.”

“Worse luck!” sighed Allen.

“And,” she added, “he has to go away to-morrow, at latest,” a sentence
which she knew would serve to pacify Allen.

They had crossed the parterre by this time, and were almost at the
window.

It was Bobus who took the initiative, bowing formally as he spoke, in
German--

“Good morning, Herr Professor. You seem to have a turn for entering
houses by irregular methods.”

The new-comer bowed with suavity, saying, in excellent English--

“It is to your sister that in both senses I owe my entrance, and to the
lady, your mother, that I owe my apology.”

And before Caroline well knew what was going on, he had one knee to the
ground, and was kissing her hand.

“The tableau is incomplete, Janet,” said Bobus, whom Caroline heartily
wished away. “You ought to be on your knees beside him.”

“I have settled it with my mother already,” said Janet.

Both Caroline and her eldest son were relieved by the first glance at
the man. He was small, and had much more of the Greek than of the
German in his aspect, with neat little features, keen dark eyes, and
no vulgarity in tone or appearance. His hands were delicate; there
was nothing of the “greasy foreigner” about him, but rather an air of
finesse, especially in his exquisitely trimmed little moustache and
pointed beard, and his voice and language were persuasive and fluent. It
might have been worse, was the prominent feeling, as she hastily said--

“Stand up, Mr. Hermann; I am not used to be spoken to in that manner.”

“Nor is it an ordinary occasion on which I address madame,” said her new
son-in-law, rising. “I am aware that I have transgressed many codes, but
my anxiety to secure my treasure must plead for me; and she assured me
that she might trust to the goodness of the best of mothers.”

“There is such a thing as abusing such goodness,” said Bobus.

“Sir,” said Hermann, “I understand that you have rights as eldest son,
but I await my sentence from the lips of madame herself.”

“No, he is not the eldest,” interrupted Janet. “This is Allen--Allen,
you were always good-natured. Cannot you say one friendly word?”

Something in the more childish, eager tone of Janet’s address softened
Allen, and he answered--

“It is for mother to decide on what terms we are to stand, Janet, and
strange as all this has been, I have no desire to be at enmity.”

Caroline had by this time been able to recover herself and spoke.

“Mr. Hermann can hardly expect a welcome in the family into which he
has entered so unexpectedly, and--and without any knowledge of his
antecedents. But what is done cannot be undone; I don’t want to be harsh
and unforgiving. I should like to understand all about everything, and
of course to be friends; as to the rest, it must depend on how they go
on, and a great deal besides.”

It was a lame and impotent conclusion, but it seemed to satisfy the
gentleman, who clasped her hand and kissed it with fervour, wrung that
of Allen, which was readily yielded, and would have done the same by
that of Bobus, if that youth had done more than accord very stiff cold
tips.

Immediately after, John said at the door--

“Aunt Caroline, my father is here. Will you see him?”

That was something to be got over at once, and she went to the Colonel,
who was very kind and pitiful to her, and spared her the “I told you
so.” He did not even reproach her with being too lenient, in not having
turned the pair at once out of her house; indeed, he was wise enough to
think the extremity of a quarrel ought to be avoided, but he undertook
to make every inquiry into Mr. Demetrius Hermann’s history, and observed
that she should be very cautious in pledging herself as to what she
would do for him, since she had, as he expressed it, the whip-hand of
him, since Janet was totally dependent upon her.

“Oh! but Robert, I forgot; I don’t know if there is anything for
anybody,” she said, putting her hand to her forehead; “there’s that
other will! Ah! I see you think I don’t know what I am saying, and my
head is getting past understanding much, but I really did find the other
will last night.”

“What other will?”

“The one we always knew there must be, in favour of Elvira. This
dreadful business put it out of my head; the children don’t know it yet,
and I don’t seem able to think or care.”

It was true; severe nervous headache had brought her to the state in
which she could do nothing but lie passively on her bed. The Colonel saw
this, and bade her think of nothing for the present, and sent Barbara to
take care of her.

She spent the rest of the day in the sort of aniantissement which that
sort of headache often produces, and in the meantime everybody held
tete-a-tetes. The Colonel held his peace about the will, not half
crediting such a catastrophe, and thinking one matter at a time quite
enough for his brain; but he talked to the Professor, to Janet,
to Allen, and to Bobus, and tried to come to a knowledge of the
bridegroom’s history, and to decide what course ought to be pursued,
feeling as the good man always did and always would do, that he was, or
ought to be, the supreme authority for his brother’s widow and children.

Allen was quite placable, and ready to condone everything. He thought
the Athenian Professor a very superior man, with excellent classical
taste, by which it was plain that his mosaic pavement, his old china,
and his pictures had met with rare appreciation. Moreover, the Professor
knew how to converse, and could be brilliantly entertaining; there
was nothing to find fault with in his appearance; and if Janet was
satisfied, Allen was. He knew his uncle hated foreigners, but for his
own part, he thought nothing so dull as English respectability.

For once the Colonel declared that Bobus had more sense! Bobus had
come to a tolerably clear comprehension of the matter, and his first
impressions were confirmed by subsequent inquiries. Demetrius Hermann
was the son of some lawyer of King Otho’s court who had married a
Greek lady. He had studied partly at Athens, partly at so many other
universities, that Bobus thought it rather suspicious; while his
uncle, who held that a respectable degree must be either of Oxford or
Cambridge, thought this fatal to his reputation. He had studied medicine
at one time, but had broached some theory which the German faculty were
too narrow to appreciate; “Which means,” quoth Bobus, “either that he
could not get a licence to practise, or else had it revoked.”

Then he had taken to lecturing. The professorship was obscure; he said
it was Athenian, and Bobus had no immediate means of finding out
whether it were so or not, nor of analysing the alphabet of letters that
followed his name upon the advertisement of his lectures.

Apparently he was a clever lecturer, fluent and full of illustration,
with an air of original theory that caught people’s attention. He knew
his ground, and where critically scientific men were near to bring him
to book, was cautious to keep within the required bounds, but in the
freer and less regulated places, he discoursed on new theories and
strange systems connected with the mysteries of magnetism, and producing
extraordinary and unexplained effects.

Robert and Jock were inclined to ascribe to some of these arts the
captivation of so clever a person as their sister, by one whom they both
viewed with repulsion as a mere adventurer.

They had not the clue which their mother had to the history of the
matter, when the next day, though still far from well, she had an
interview with her daughter and the Athenian Professor before their
return to Scotland.

He knew of the Magnum Bonum matter. It seemed that Janet, as her
knowledge increased, had become more sensible of the difficulties in the
pursuit, and being much attracted by his graces and ability, had so
put questions for her own enlightenment as to reveal to him that she
possessed a secret. To cajole it from her, so far as she knew it, had
been no greater difficulty than it was to the fox to get the cheese from
the crow: and while to him she was the errant unprotected young lady of
large and tempting fortune, he could easily make himself appear to her
the missing link in the pursuit. He could do what as a woman she could
not accomplish, and what her brothers were not attempting.

In that conviction, nay, even expecting her mother to be satisfied with
his charms and his qualifications, she claimed that he might at least
read the MS. of the book, assuring her mother that all she had intended
the night before was to copy out the essentials for him.

“To take the spirit and leave me the letter?” said Caroline. “O Janet,
would not that have been worse than carrying off the book?”

“Well, mother, I maintain that I have a right to it,” said Janet, “and
that there is no justice in withholding it.”

“Do you or your husband fulfil these conditions Janet?” and Caroline
read from the white slate those words about the one to whom the pursuit
was intrusted being a sound, religious man, who would not seek it for
his own advancement but for the good of others.

Janet exultantly said that was just what Demetrius would do. As to the
being a sound religious man, her mother might seek in vain for a man of
real ability who held those old-fashioned notions. They were very well
in her father’s time, but what would Bobus say to them?

She evidently thought Demetrius would triumph in his private interview
with her mother, but if Caroline had had any doubt before, that would
have removed it. Janet honestly had a certain enthusiasm for science,
beneficence, and the honour of the family, but the Professor besieged
Mrs. Brownlow with his entreaties and promises just as if--she said to
herself--she had been the widow of some quack doctor for whose secret he
was bidding.

If she would only grant it to him and continue her allowance to Janet
while he was pursuing it, then, there would be no limit to the share
he would give her when the returns came in. It was exceedingly hard to
answer without absolutely insulting him, but she entrenched herself in
the declaration that her husband’s conditions required a full diploma
and degree, and that till all her sons were grown up she had been
forbidden to dispose of it otherwise. Very thankful she was that Armine
was not seventeen, when a whole portfolio of testimonials in all sorts
of languages were unfolded before her! Whatever she had ever said of
Ellen’s insular prejudices, she felt that she herself might deserve, for
she viewed them all as utterly worthless compared with an honest English
or Scottish degree. At any rate, she could not judge of their value, and
they did not fulfil her conditions. She made him understand at last that
she was absolutely impracticable, and that the only distant hope she
would allow to be wrung from her by his coaxing, wheedling tones, soft
as the honey of Hybla, was, that if none of her sons or nephews were
in the way of fulfilling the conditions, and he could bring her
satisfactory English certificates, she might consider the matter, but
she made no promises.

Then he most politely represented the need of a maintenance while he
was thus qualifying himself. Janet had evidently not told him about the
will, and Caroline only said that from a recent discovery she thought
her own tenure of the property very insecure, and she could undertake
nothing for the future. She would let him know. However, she gave him a
cheque for 100 pounds for the present, knowing that she could make it up
from the money of her own which she had been accumulating for Elvira’s
portion.

Then Janet came in to take leave. Mr. Hermann described what the
excellent and gracious lady had granted to him, and he made it sound so
well, and his wife seemed so confident and triumphant, that her mother
feared she had allowed more to be inferred than she intended, and tried
to explain that all depended on the fulfilment of the conditions of
which Janet at least was perfectly aware. She was overwhelmed, however,
with his gratitude and Janet’s assurances, and they went away, leaving
her with a hand much kissed by him, and the fondest, most lingering
embrace she had ever had from Janet. Then she was free to lie still,
abandoned to fears for her daughter’s future and repentance for her own
careless past, and, above all crushed by the ache that would let her
really feel little but pain and oppression.



CHAPTER XXVIII. -- THE TURN OF THE WHEEL.



     Is there, for honest poverty,
       That hangs his head and a’ that,
     The coward slave, we pass him by,
       A man’s a man for a’ that.
                               Burns.


Thinking and acting were alike impossible to Caroline for the remainder
of the day when her daughter left her, but night brought power of
reflection, as she began to look forward to the new day, and its
burthen.

Her headache was better, but she let Barbara again go down to breakfast
without her, feeling that she could not face her sons at once, and that
she needed another study of the document before she could trust herself
with the communication. She felt herself too in need of time to pray for
right judgment and steadfast purpose, and that the change might so work
with her sons that it might be a blessing, not a curse. Could it be for
nothing that the finding of Magnum Bonum had wrought the undoing of this
wrong? That thought, and the impulse of self-bracing, made her breakfast
well on the dainty little meal sent up to her by the Infanta, and look
so much refreshed, that the damsel exclaimed--

“You are much better, mother! You will be able to see Jock before he
goes--”

“Fetch them all, Babie; I have something to tell you--”

“Writs issued for a domestic parliament,” said Allen, presently
entering. “To vote for the grant to the Princess Royal on her marriage?
Do it handsomely, I say, the Athenian is better than might be expected,
and will become prosperity better than adversity.”

“Being capable of taking others in besides Janet,” said the opposition
in the person of Bobus. “He seemed so well satisfied with the Gracious
Lady house-mother that I am afraid she has been making him too many
promises.”

“That was impossible. It was not about Janet that I sent for you, boys.
It was to think what we are to do ourselves. You know I always thought
there must be another will. Look there!”

She laid it on the table, and the young men stood gazing as if it were a
venomous reptile which each hesitated to touch.

“Is it legal, Bobus?” she presently asked.

“It looks--rather so--” he said in an odd, stunned voice.

“Elvira, by all that’s lucky!” exclaimed Jock. “Well done, Allen, you
are still the Lady Clare!”

“Not till she is of age,” said Allen, rather gloomily.

“Pity you didn’t marry her at Algiers,” said Jock.

“Where did this come from?” said Bobus, who had been examining it
intently.

“Out of the old bureau.”

“Mother!” cried out Barbara, in a tone of horror, which perhaps was a
revelation to Bobus, for he exclaimed--

“You don’t mean that Janet had had it, and brought it out to threaten
you?”

“Oh, no, no! it was not so dreadful. She found it long ago, but did not
think it valid, and only kept it out of sight because she thought it
would make me unhappy.”

“It is a pity she did not go a step further,” observed Bobus. “Why did
she produce it now?”

“I found it. Boys, you must know the whole truth, and consider how best
to screen your sister. Remember she was very young, and fancied a thing
on a common sheet of paper, and shut up in an unfastened table drawer
could not be of force, and that she was doing no harm.” Then she told of
her loss and recovery of what she called some medical memoranda of their
father, which she knew Janet wanted, concluding--“It will surely be
enough to say I found it in his old bureau.”

“That will hardly go down with Wakefield,” said Bobus; “but as I see he
stands here as trustee for that wretched child, as well as being yours,
there is no fear but that he will be conformable. Shall I take it up and
show it to him at once, so that if by any happy chance this should turn
out waste paper, no one may get on the scent?”

“Your uncle! I was so amazed and stupefied yesterday that I don’t know
whether I told him, and if I did, I don’t think he believed me.”

“Here he comes,” said Barbara, as the wheels of his dog-cart were heard
below the window.

“Ask him to come up. It will be a terrible blow to him. This place has
been as much to him as to any of us, if not more.”

“Mother, how brave you are!” cried Jock.

“I have known it longer than you have, my dear. Besides, the mere loss
is nothing compared with that which led to it. The worst of it is the
overthrow of all your prospects, my dear fellow.”

“Oh,” said Jock, brightly, “it only means that we have something and
somebody to work for now;” and he threw his arms round her waist and
kissed her.

“Oh! my dear, dear boy, don’t! Don’t upset me, or your uncle will think
it is about this.”

“And don’t, for Heaven’s sake, talk as if it were all up with us,” cried
Bobus.

By this time the Colonel’s ponderous tread was near, and Caroline met
him with an apology for giving him the trouble of the ascent, but said
that she had wanted to see him in private.

“Is this in private?” asked the Colonel, looking at the five young
people.

“Yes. They have a right to know all. Here it is, Robert.”

He sat down, deliberately put on his spectacles, took the will, read
it once, and groaned, read it twice, and groaned more deeply, and then
said--

“My poor dear sister! This is a bad business! a severe reverse! a very
severe reverse!”

“He has hit on his catch-word,” thought Caroline, and Jock’s arm still
round her gave a little pressure, as if the thought had occurred to him.
The moment of amusement gave a cheerfulness to her voice as she said--

“We have been doing sad injustice all this time; that is the worst of
it. For the rest, we shall be no worse off than we were before.”

“It will be in Allen’s power to make up to you a good deal. That is a
fortunate arrangement, but I am afraid it cannot take place till the
girl is of age.”

“You are all in such haste,” said Bobus. “It would take a good deal to
make me accept such an informal scrap as this. No doubt one could drive
a coach and horses through it.”

“That would not lessen the injustice,” said his mother.

“Could there not be a compromise?” said Allen.

“That is nonsense,” said his uncle. “Either _this_ will stand, or
_that_, and I am afraid this is the later. April 18th. Was that the time
of that absurd practical joke of yours?”

“Too true,” said Allen. “You recollect the old brute said I should
remember it.”

“Witnesses--? There’s Gomez, the servant who was drowned on his way out
after his dismissal--Elizabeth Brook--is it--servant.--Who is to find
her out?”

“Richards may know.”

“It is not our business to hunt up the witnesses. That’s the lookout of
the other party,” said Bobus impatiently.

“You don’t suppose I mean to contest it?” said his mother. “It is bad
enough to go on as we have been doing these eight years. I only want to
know what is right and truth, and if this be a real will.”

“Where did it come from?” asked the Colonel, coming to the critical
question. “Did you say you found it yourself, Caroline?”

“Yes.”

“Where?”

“In the old bureau.”

“What! the one that stood in his study? You don’t say so! I saw
Wakefield turn the whole thing out, and look for any secret drawer
before I would take any steps; I could have sworn that not the thickness
of that sheet of paper escaped us. I should like, if only out of
curiosity, to see where it was.”

“Just as I said, mother,” said Bobus; “there’s no use in trying to blink
it to any one who knows the circumstances.”

“You do not insinuate that there was any foul play!” said his uncle
hotly.

“I don’t know what else it can be called,” said Caroline, faintly; “but
please, Robert, and all the rest, don’t expose her. Poor Janet found the
thing in the back of the bedside table-drawer, fancied it a mere rough
draft, and childlike, put it out of sight in the bureau, where I lighted
on it in looking for something else. Surely there is no need to mention
her?”

“Not if you do not contest the will,” replied the Colonel, who looked
thunderstruck; “but if you did, it must all come out to exonerate us,
the executors, from shameful carelessness. Well, we shall see what
Wakefield says! A severe reverse! a very severe reverse!”

When he found that Bobus meant to go in search of the lawyer that
afternoon, he decided on accompanying him. And with a truly amazing
burst of intuition, he even suggested carrying off Elvira to spend the
day with Essie and Ellie, and even that an invitation might arise to
stay all night, or as long as the first suspense lasted. Then muttering
to himself, “A severe reverse--a most severe reverse!” he took his
leave. Caroline went down stairs with him, as thinking she could the
most naturally administer the invitation to Elvira, and the two eldest
sons proceeded to make arrangements for the time of meeting and the
journey.

“A severe reverse!” said Jock, finding himself alone with the younger
ones. “When one has a bitter draught, it is at least a consolation to
have labelled it right.”

“Shall we be very poor, Jock?” asked Barbara.

“I don’t know what we were called before,” he said; “but from what I
remember, I fancy we had about what I have been using for my private
delectation. Just enough for my mother and you to be jolly upon.”

“That’s all you think of!” said Armine.

“All that a man need think of,” said Jock; “as long as mother and Babie
are comfortable, we can do for ourselves very well.”

“Ourselves!” said Armine, bitterly. “And how about this wretched place
that we have neglected shamefully all these years!”

“Armine!” cried Jock, indignantly. “Why, you are talking of mother!”

“Mother says so herself.”

“You went on raging about it; and, just like her, she did not defend
herself. I am sure she has given away loads of money.”

“But see what is wanting! The curate, and the school chapel, and the
cottages; and if the school is not enlarged, they will have a school
board. And what am I to say to Miss Parsons? I promised to bring
mother’s answer about the curate this afternoon at latest.”

“If she has the sense of a wren, she must know that a cataclysm like
Janet’s may account for a few trifling omissions.”

“That’s true,” said Babie! “She can’t expect it. Do you know, I am
rather sorry we are not poorer? I hoped we should have to live in a very
small way, and that I should have to work like you--for mother.”

“Not like us, for pity’s sake, Infanta!” cried Jock. “We have had enough
of that. The great use of you is to look after mother; and keep her from
galloping the life out of herself, and this chap from worrying it out of
her.”

“Jock!” cried Armine, indignantly.

“Yes, you will, if you go on moaning about these fads, and making her
blame herself for them. I don’t say we have all done the right thing
with this money, I’m sure I have not, and most likely it serves us right
to lose it, but to have mother teased about what, after all, was chiefly
owing to her absence, is more than I will stand. The one duty in hand is
to make the best of it for her. I shall run down again as soon as I
hear how this is likely to turn out--for Sunday, perhaps. Keep up a good
heart, Babie Bunting, and whatever you do, don’t let him worry mother.
Good-bye, Armie! What’s the use of being good, if you can’t hold up
against a thing like this?”

“Jock doesn’t know,” said Armine, as the door closed. “Fads indeed!”

“Jock didn’t mean that,” pleaded Babie. “You know he did not; dear, good
Jock, he could not!”

“Jock is a good fellow, but he lives a frivolous, self-indulgent life,
and has got infected with the spirit and the language,” said Armine, “or
he would understand that myself or my own loss is the very last thing I
am troubled about. No, indeed, I should never think of that! It is the
ruin of these poor people and all I meant to have done for them. It is
very strange that we should only be allowed to waken to a sense of our
opportunities to have them taken away from us!”

No one would have expected Armine, always regarded as the most religious
of the family, to be the most dismayed, and neither he nor Barbara could
detect how much of the spoilt child lay at the bottom of his regrets;
but his little sister’s sympathy enabled him to keep from troubling his
mother with his lamentations.

Indeed Allen was usually in presence, and nobody ever ventured on what
might bore Allen. He was in good spirits, believing that the discovery
would put an end to all trifling on Elvira’s part, and that he and she
would thus together be able to act the beneficent genii of the whole
family. Even their mother had a sense of relief. She was very quiet, and
moved about softly, like one severely shaken and bruised; but there
was a calm in knowing the worst, instead of living in continual vague
suspicion.

The Colonel returned with tidings that Mr. Wakefield had no doubt of
the validity of the will, though it might be possible to contest it if
Elizabeth Brook, the witness, could not be found; but that would involve
an investigation as to the manner of the loss, and the discovery. It
was, in truth, only a matter of time; and on Monday Mr. Wakefield would
come down and begin to take steps. That was the day on which the family
were to have gone to London, but Caroline’s heart failed her, and she
was much relieved when a kind letter arrived from Mrs. Evelyn, who was
sure she could not wish to go into society immediately after Janet’s
affair, and offered to receive Elvira for as long as might be
convenient, and herself--as indeed had been already arranged--to present
her at court with Sydney. It was a great comfort to place her in such
hands during the present crisis, all the more that Ellen was not at
all delighted with her company for Essie and Ellie. She rushed home on
Saturday evening to secure Delrio, and superintend her packing up, with
her head a great deal too full of court dresses and ball dresses, fancy
costumes, and Parisian hats, to detect any of the tokens of a coming
revolution, even in her own favour.

Jock too came home that same evening, as gay and merry apparently as
ever, and after dinner, claimed his mother for a turn in the garden.

“Has Drake written to you, mother?” he asked. “I met him the other day
at Mrs. Lucas’s, and it seems his soul is expanding. He wants to give
up the old house--you know the lease is nearly out--and to hang out in a
more fashionable quarter.”

“Dear old house!”

“Now, mother, here’s my notion. Why should not we hide our diminished
heads there? You could keep house while the Monk and I go through the
lectures and hospitals, and King’s College might not be too far off for
Armine.”

“You, Jock, my dear.”

“You see, it is a raving impossibility for me to stay where I am.”

“I am afraid so; but you might exchange into the line.”

“There would be no great good in that. I should have stuck to the Guards
because there I am, and I have no opinion of fellows changing about for
nothing--and because of Evelyn and some capital fellows besides. But I
found out long ago that it had been a stupid thing to go in for. When
one has mastered the routine, it is awfully monotonous; and one has
nothing to do with one’s time or one’s brains. I have felt many a time
that I could keep straight better if I had something tougher to do.”

“Tell me, just to satisfy my mind, my dear, you have no debts.”

“I don’t owe forty pounds in the world, mother; and I shall not owe
that, when I can get my tailor to send in his bill. You have given me as
jolly an allowance as any man in the corps, and I’ve always paid my way.
I’ve got no end of things about my rooms, and my horses and cab, but
they will turn into money. You see, having done the thing first figure,
I should hate to begin in the cheap and nasty style, and I had much
rather come home to you, Mother Carey. I’m not too old, you know--not
one-and-twenty till August. I shall not come primed like the Monk, but
I’ll try to grind up to him, if you’ll let me, mother.”

“Oh, Jock, dear Jock!” she cried, “you little know the strength and life
it gives me to have you taking it so like a young hero.”

“I tell you I’m sick of drill and parade,” said Jock, “and heartily
glad of an excuse to turn to something where one can stretch one’s wits
without being thought a disgrace to humanity. Now, don’t you think we
might be very jolly together?”

“Oh, to think of being there again! And we can have the dear old
furniture and make it like home. It is the first definite notion any one
has had. My dear, you have given me something to look forward to. You
can’t guess what good you have done me! It is just as if you had shown
me light at the end of the thicket; ay, and made yourself the good stout
staff to lead me through!”

“Mother, that’s the best thing that ever was said to me yet; worth ever
so much more than all old Barnes’s money-bags.”

“If the others will approve! But any way it is a nest egg for my own
selfish pleasure to carry me through. Why, Jock, to have your name on
the old door would be bringing back the golden age!”

Nobody but Jock knew what made this such a cheerful Sunday with his
mother. She was even heard making fun, and declaring that no one knew
what a relief it would be not to have to take drives when all the roads
were beset with traction engines. She had so far helped Armine out of
the difficulties his lavish assurances had brought him into, that she
had written a note to the Vicar, Mr. Parsons, telling him that she
should be better able to reply in a little while; but Armine, knowing
that he must not speak, and afraid of betraying the cause of his
unhappiness and of the delay, was afraid to stir out of reach of the
others lest Miss Parsons should begin an inquiry.

The Vicar of Woodside was, in fact, as some people mischievously called
her, the Reverend Petronella Parsons. Whether she wrote her brother’s
sermons was a disputed question. She certainly did other things in his
name which she had better have let alone. He was three or four years her
junior, and had always so entirely followed her lead, that he seemed
to have no personal identity; but to be only her male complement. That
Armine should have set up a lady of this calibre for the first goddess
of his fancy was one of the comical chances of life, but she was a fine,
handsome, fresh-looking woman of five-and-thirty, with a strong vein
of sentiment--ecclesiastical and poetic--just ignorant enough to
gush freely, and too genuine to be _always_ offensive. She had been
infinitely struck with Armine, had hung a perfect romance of renovation
on him, sympathised with his every word, and lavished on him what
perhaps was not quite flattery, because she was entirely in earnest, but
which was therefore all the worse for him.

Barbara had a natural repulsion from her, and could not understand
Armine’s being attracted, and for the first time in their lives this was
creating a little difference between the brother and sister. Babie had
said, in rather an uncalled-for way, that Miss Parsons would draw back
when she knew the truth, and Armine had been deeply offended at such an
ungenerous hint, and had reduced her to a tearful declaration that she
was very sorry she had said anything so uncalled for.

Petronella herself had been much vexed at Armine’s three days’
defection, which was ascribed to the worldly and anti-ecclesiastical
influences of the rest of the family. She wanted her brother to preach
a sermon about Lot’s wife; but Jemmie, as she called him, had on certain
occasions a passive force of his own, and she could not prevail. She
regretted it the less when Armine and Babie duly did the work they had
undertaken in the Sunday-school, though they would not come in for any
intermediate meals.

“What did Mrs. Brownlow tell you in her note?” she asked of her brother
while giving him his tea before the last service.

“That in a few days she shall be able to answer me.”

“Ah, well! Do you know there is a belief in the parish that something
has happened--that a claim is to be set up to the whole property, and
that the whole family will be reduced to beggary?”

“I never heard of an estate to which there was not some claimant in
obscurity.”

“But this comes from undoubted authority.” Mr. Parsons smiled a little.
“One can’t help it if servants _will_ hear things. Well! any way it
will be overruled for good to that dear boy--though it would be a cruel
stroke on the parish.”

It was the twilight of a late spring evening when the congregation
streamed out of Church, and Elvira, who had managed hitherto to avoid
all intercourse with the River Hollow party, found herself grappled by
Lisette without hope of rescue. “My dear, this is a pleasure at last; I
have so much to say to you. Can’t you give us a day?”

“I am going to town to-morrow,” said Elvira, never gracious to any
Gould.

“To-morrow! I heard the family had put off their migration.”

“I go with Lucas. I am to stay with Mrs. Evelyn, Lord Fordham’s mother,
you know, who is to present me at the Drawing-room,” said Elvira,
magnificently.

“Oh! if I could only see you in your court dress it would be memorable,”
 cried Mrs. Gould. “A little longer, my dear, our paths lie together.”

“I must get home. My packing--”

“And may I ask what you wear, my dear? Is your dress ordered?”

“O yes, I had it made at Paris. It is white satin, with lilies--a kind
of lily one gets in Algiers.” And she expatiated on the fashion till
Mrs. Gould said--

“Well, my love, I hope you will enjoy yourself at the Honourable Mrs.
Evelyn’s. What is the address, in case I should have occasion to write?”

“I shall have no time for doing commissions.”

“That was not my meaning,” was the gentle answer; “only if there be
anything you ought to be informed of--”

“They would write to me from home. Why, what do you mean?” asked the
girl, her attention gained at last.

“Did it never strike you why you are sent up alone?”

“Only that Mrs. Brownlow is so cut up about Janet.”

“Ah! youth is so sweetly unconscious. It is well that there are those
who are bound to watch for your interests, my dear.”

“I can’t think what you mean.”

“I will not disturb your happy innocence, my love. It is enough for your
uncle and me to be awake, to counteract any machinations. Ah! I see
your astonishment! You are so simple, my dear child, and you have been
studiously kept in the dark.”

“I can’t think what you are driving at,” said Elvira, impatiently. “Mrs.
Brownlow would never let any harm happen to me, nor Allen either. Do let
me go.”

“One moment, my darling. I must love you through all, and you will know
your true friends one day. Are you--let me ask the question out of my
deep, almost maternal, solicitude--are you engaged to Mr. Brownlow?”

“Of course I am!”

“Of course, as you say. Most ingenuous! Ah? well, may it not be too
late!”

“Don’t be so horrid, Lisette! Allen is not half a bad fellow, and
frightfully in love with me.”

“Exactly, my dear unsuspicious dove. There! I see you are impatient. You
will know the truth soon enough. One kiss, for your mother’s sake.”

But Elvira broke from her, and rejoined Allen.

“I have sounded the child,” said Lisette to her husband that evening,
“and she is quite in the dark, though the very servants in the house are
better informed.”

“Better informed than the fact, may be,” said Mr. Gould (for a man
always scouts a woman’s gossip).

“No, indeed. Poor dear child, she is blinded purposely. She never
guessed why she was sent to Kencroft while the old Colonel was called
in, and they all agreed that the will should be kept back till the
wedding with Mr. Allen should be over, and he could make up the rest. So
now the child is to be sent to town, and surrounded with Mrs. Brownlow’s
creatures to prey upon her innocence. But you have no care for your own
niece--none!”



CHAPTER XXIX. -- FRIENDS AND UNFRIENDS.



                           Ay, and, I think,
     One business doth command us all; for mine
     Is money.
                            Timon of Athens.


Before the door of one of the supremely respectable and aristocratic
but somewhat gloomy-looking houses in Cavendish Square, whose mauve
plate-glass windows and link-extinguishers are like fossils of a past
era of civilisation, three riding horses were being walked up and down,
two with side-saddles and one for a gentleman. They were taken aside as
a four-wheel drove up, while a female voice exclaimed--

“Ah! we are just it time!”

Cards and a note were sent in with a request to see Miss Menella.

Word came back that Miss Menella was just going out riding; but on
the return of a message that the visitors came from Mrs. Brownlow on
important business, they were taken up-stairs to an ante-room.

They were three--Mr. Wakefield and Mr. Gould, and, to the great
discontentment of the former, Mrs. Gould likewise. Fain would he have
shaken her off; but as she truly said, who could deprive her of her
rights as kinswoman, and wife to the young lady’s guardian?

After they had waited a few moments in the somewhat dingy surroundings
of a house seldom used by its proper owners, Elvira entered in plumed
hat and habit, a slender and exquisite little figure, but with a haughty
twitch in her slim waist, superb indifference in the air of her little
head, and a grasp of her coral-handled whip as if it were a defensive
weapon, when Lisette flew up to offer an embrace with--

“Joy, joy, my dear child! Remember, I was the first to give you a hint.”

“Good morning,” said Elvira, with a little bend of her head, presenting
to each the shapely tip of a gauntleted hand, but ignoring her uncle and
aunt as far as was possible. “Is there anything that need detain me, Mr.
Wakefield? I am just going out with Miss Evelyn and Lord Fordham, and I
cannot keep them waiting.”

“Ah! it is you that will have to be waited for now, my sweet one,” began
Mrs. Gould.

“Here is a note from Mrs. Brownlow,” said Mr. Wakefield, holding it to
Elvira, who looked like anything but a sweet one. “I imagine it is to
prepare you for the important disclosure I have to make.”

A hot colour mounted in the fair cheek. Elvira tore open the letter and
read--


“MY DEAR CHILD,--I can only ask your pardon for the unconscious wrong
which I have so long been doing to you, and which shall be repaired as
soon as the processes of the law render it possible for us to change
places.

“Your ever loving,

“MOTHER CAREY.”


“What does it all mean?” cried the bewildered girl.

“It means,” said the lawyer, “that Mrs. Brownlow has discovered a will
of the late Mr. Barnes more recent than that under which she inherited,
naming you, Miss Elvira Menella, as the sole inheritrix.”

“My dear child, let me be the first to congratulate you on your recovery
of your rights,” said Mrs. Gould, again proffering an embrace, but
again the whip was interposed, while Elvira, with her eyes fixed on Mr.
Wakefield, asked “What?” so that he had to repeat the explanation.

“Then does it all belong to me?” she asked.

“Eventually it will, Miss Menella. You are sole heiress to your great
uncle, though you cannot enter into possession till certain needful
forms of law are gone through. Mrs. Brownlow offers no obstruction, but
they cannot be rapid.”

“All mine!” repeated Elvira, with childish exultation. “What fun! I must
go and tell Sydney Evelyn.”

“A few minutes more, Miss Menella,” said Mr. Wakefield. “You ought to
hear the terms of the will.”

And he read it to her.

“I thought you told me it was to be mine. This is all you and uncle
George.”

“As your trustees.”

“Oh, to manage as the Colonel does. You will give me all the money I ask
you for. I want some pearls, and I must have that duck of a little Arab.
Uncle George, how soon can I have it?”

“We must go through the Probate Court,” he began, but his wife
interrupted--

“Ways and means will be forthcoming, my dear, though for my part I think
it would be much better taste in Mrs. Brownlow to put you in possession
at once.”

“Mr. Wakefield explained, my dear,” said her husband, “that, much as
Mrs. Brownlow wishes to do so, she cannot; she has no power. It is her
trustees.”

“Oh yes, I know every excuse will be found for retaining the property as
long as possible,” said the lady.

“Then I shall have to wait ever so long,” said the young lady. “And I do
so want the Arab. It is a real love, and Allen would say so.”

“I have another letter for you,” said Mr. Wakefield, on hearing that
name. “We will leave it with you. If you wish for further information, I
would call immediately on receiving a line at my office.”

Just then a message was brought from Mrs. Evelyn inviting Miss Menella’s
friends to stay to luncheon. It incited Elvira, who knew neither awe nor
manners, to run across the great drawing-room, leaving the doors open
behind her, to the little morning-room, where sat Mrs. Evelyn, with
Sydney, in her habit standing by the mantelpiece.

“Oh, Mrs. Evelyn,” Elvira began, “it is Mr. Wakefield and my uncle and
his wife. They have come to say it is all mine; Uncle Barnes left it all
to me.”

“So I hear from Mrs. Brownlow,” said Mrs. Evelyn gravely.

“Oh, Elfie, I am so sorry for you. Don’t you hate it?” cried Sydney.

“Oh, but it is such fun! I can do everything I please,” said the
heiress.

“Yes, that’s the best part,” said Sydney. “I do envy you the day when
you give it all back to Allen.”

That reminded Elvira to open the note, and as she read it her great eyes
grew round.


“SWEETEST AND DEAREST,--How I have always loved, and always shall love
you, you know full well. But these altered circumstances bring about
what you have so often playfully wished. Say the word and you are free,
no longer bound to me by anything that has passed between us, though the
very fibres of my heart and life are as much as ever entwined about you.
Honour bids my dissolution of our engagement, and I await your answer,
though nothing can ever make me other than

“Your wholly devoted,

“ALLEN.”


Mrs. Evelyn had been prepared by a letter from her friend for what was
now taking place; Mr. Wakefield had likewise known the main purport of
Allen’s note, and had allowed that Mr. Brownlow could not as a gentleman
do otherwise than release the young lady; though he fully believed that
it would be only as a matter of form, and that Elvira would not hear
of breaking off. He had in fact spent much eloquence in persuading Mrs.
Brownlow to continue to take the charge of the heiress during the three
years before her majority. Begun in generous affection by Allen long
ago, the engagement seemed to the lawyer, as well as to others, an
almost providential means of at least partial restitution.

He had meant Elvira to read her letter alone, but she had opened
it before the two ladies, and her first exclamation was a startled,
incredulous--

“Ha! What’s this? He says our engagement is dissolved.”

“He is of course bound to set you free, my dear,” said Mrs. Evelyn, “but
it only depends on yourself.”

“Oh! and I shall tease him well first,” cried Elvira, her face lighting
up with fun and mischief. “He was so tiresome and did bother so! Now I
shall have my swing! Oh, what fun! I won’t let him worry me again just
yet, I can tell him!”

“You don’t seem to consider,” began Sydney,--but Mrs. Gould took this
moment for advancing.

From the whole length of the large drawing-room the trio had been
spectators, not quite auditors, though perhaps enough to perceive what
line the Evelyns were taking.

So Mrs. Gould advanced into the drawing-room; Mrs. Evelyn came forward
to assume the duties of hostess; and Sydney turned and ran away so
precipitately that she shut the door on the trailing skirt of her habit
and had to open it again to release herself.

Mr. Wakefield hoped the young ladies would pardon him for having spoilt
their ride, and Elvira was going off to change her dress, when, to his
dismay, Mrs. Evelyn desired her to take her aunt to her room to prepare
for luncheon. He had seen enough of Mrs. Gould to know that this was a
most unlucky measure of courtesy on good simple Mrs. Evelyn’s part, but
of course he could do nothing to prevent it, and had to remain with
Mr. Gould, both speaking in the strongest manner of Mrs. Brownlow’s
uprightness and bravery in meeting this sudden change. Mr. Wakefield
said he hoped to prevail on her to retain the charge of the young lady
for the present, and Mr. Gould assented that she could not be in better
hands. Then Mrs. Evelyn (by way of doing anything for her friend)
undertook to make Elvira welcome as long as it might be convenient, and
was warmly thanked. She further ascertained that the missing witness had
been traced; and that the most probable course of action would be that
there would be an amicable suit in the Probate Court and then another of
ejectment. Until these were over, things would remain in their present
state for how many weeks or months would depend upon the Law Courts,
since Mrs. Brownlow’s trustees would be legally holders of the property
until the decision was given against them, and Miss Menella would be
as entirely dependent on her bounty as she had been all these years.
Meanwhile, as Mrs. Brownlow had no inclination to come to London and
exhibit herself as a disinherited heroine, Mr. Wakefield and the Colonel
strongly advised her remaining on at Belforest.

All this, Mrs. Evelyn had been anxious to understand, and thus was more
glad of the delay of Elvira and her aunt up-stairs than she would have
been, if she could ever have guessed what work a designing, flattering
tongue could make with a vain, frivolous, selfish brain, with the same
essential strain of vulgarity and worldliness.

Still, Elvira was chiefly shallow and selfish, and all her affection and
confidence naturally belonged to her home of the last eight years. She
was bewildered, perhaps a little intoxicated at the sense of riches, but
was really quite ready to lean as much as ever upon her natural friends
and protectors.

However, Lisette’s congratulations and exultation rang pleasantly
upon her ear, and she listened and talked freely, asking questions and
rejoicing.

Now Mrs. Gould, to do her justice, measured others by herself, and
really and truly believed that only accident had disconcerted a plan for
concealing the will till Elvira should have been safely married to Allen
Brownlow, and that thus it was the fixed purpose of the family to keep
her and her fortune in their hands, a purpose which every instinct bade
Mrs. Lisette Gould to traverse and overthrow, if only because she hated
such artfulness and meanness. Unfortunately, too, as she had been a
governess, and her father had been a Union doctor, she could put herself
forward as something above a farmer’s wife, indeed “quite as good as
Mrs. Brownlow.”

All Mrs. Evelyn’s civility had not redeemed her from the imputation of
being “high,” and Elvira was quite ready to call hers a very dull house.
In truth, there was only moderate gaiety, and no fastness. The ruling
interests were religious and political questions, as befitted Fordham’s
maiden session, the society was quietly high-bred, and intelligent,
and there was much attention to health; for, strong as Sydney was, her
mother would have dreaded the full whirl of the season as much for her
body as for her mind.

At all this the frivolous, idle little soul chafed and fretted, aware
that the circle was not a fashionable one, eager for far more diversion
and less restraint, and longing to join the party in Hyde Corner, where
she could always make Allen do what she pleased.

With the obtuseness of an unobservant, self-occupied mind, she was taken
by surprise when Mrs. Gould said that Mrs. Brownlow was not coming to
town, adding, “It would be very unbecoming in her, though of course she
will hold on at Belforest as long as there is any quibble of the law.”

“Oh, I don’t want to lose the season; she promised me!”

Then Mrs. Gould made a great stroke.

“My dear, you could not return to her. Not when the young man has just
broken with you. You would have more proper pride.”

“Poor Allen!” said Elvira. “If he would only let me alone, to have my
fun like other girls.”

“You see he could not afford to let you gratify your youthful spirits.
Too much was at stake, and it is most providential that things had gone
no further, and that your own good sense has preserved you to adorn a
much higher sphere.”

“Allen could be made something,” said Elvira, “I know, for he told me
he could get himself made a baronet. He always does as I tell him. Will
they be very poor, Lisette?”

“Oh no, my dear, generous child, Mrs. Brownlow was quite as well
provided for as she had any right to expect. You need have no anxieties
on that score.”

To Elvira, the change from River Hollow to the Pagoda had been from
rustic to gentle life, and thus this reply sounded plausible enough to
silence a not much awakened compassion, but she still said, “Why can’t
I go home? I’ve nowhere else to go. I could not stay at the Farm,” she
added in her usual uncomplimentary style.

“No, my dear, I should not think of it. An establishment must be formed,
but in the meantime, it would be quite beneath you to return to Mrs.
Brownlow, again to become the prey of underground machinations. Besides,
how awkward it would be while the lawsuits are going on. Impossible! No
my dear, you must only return to Belforest in a triumphal procession.
Surely there must be a competition for my lovely child among more
congenial friends.”

“Well,” said Elvira, “there were the Folliots. We met them at Nice, and
Lady Flora did ask me the other day, but Mrs. Brownlow does not like
them, and Allen says they are not good form.”

“Ah! I knew you could not want for friends. You are not bound by those
who want to keep you to themselves for reasons of their own.”

Thus before Elvira brought her aunt down stairs, enough had been done
to make her eager to be with one who would discuss her future splendour
rather than deplore the change to her benefactor, and thus she readily
accepted a proposal she would naturally have scouted, to go out driving
with Mrs. Gould. She came back in a mood of exulting folly, and being
far too shallow and loquacious to conceal anything, she related in full
all Mrs. Gould’s insinuations, which, to do her justice, the poor
child did not really understand. But Sydney did, and was furious at the
ingratitude which could seem almost flattered. Mrs. Evelyn found the two
girls in a state of hot reproach and recrimination, and cut the matter
short by treating them as if they were little children, and ordering
them both off to their rooms to dress for dinner.

Elvira went away sobbing, and saying that nobody cared for her;
everybody was wrapped up in the Brownlows, who had been enjoying what
was hers ever so long.

And Sydney presently burst into her mother’s room to pour out her
disgust and indignation against the heartless, ungrateful, intolerable--

“Only foolish, my dear, and left all day in the hands of a flattering,
designing woman.”

“To let such things be said. Mamma, did you hear--?”

“I had rather not hear, Sydney; and I desire you will not repeat them
to any one. Be careful, if you talk to Jock to-night. To repeat words
spoken in her present mood might do exceeding mischief.”

“She speaks as if she meant to cast them all off--Allen and all.”

“Very possibly she may see things differently when she wakes to-morrow.
But Sydney, while she is here, the whole subject must be avoided.
It would not be acting fairly to use any influence in favour of our
friends.”

“Don’t you mean to speak to her, mamma?”

“If she consults me, of course I shall tell her what I think of the
matter, but I shall not force my advice on her, or give these Goulds
occasion to say that I am playing into Mrs. Brownlow’s hands.”

They were going to an evening party, and Lucas and Cecil came to dinner
to go with them. Cecil looked grave and gloomy, but Jock rattled away
so merrily that Sydney began to wonder whether all this were a dream, or
whether he were still unaware of the impending misfortune.

But Jock only waited for the friendly cover of a grand piece of
instrumental music to ask Mrs. Evelyn if she had heard from his
mother, and she was very glad to go into details with him, while he was
infinitely relieved that the silence was over, and he could discuss the
matter with his friends.

“Tell me truly, Jock, will she be comfortably off?”

“Very fairly. Yes, indeed. My father’s savings were absolutely left to
her, and have been accumulating all this time, and they will be a very
fair maintenance for her and Babie.”

“There is no danger of her having to pay the mesne profits?”

“No, certainly not, as it stands. Mr. Wakefield says that cannot happen.
Then the old house in Bloomsbury, where we were all born, is our own,
and she likes the notion of returning thither. Mrs. Evelyn, after all
you and Sir James have done for me, what should you think of my giving
it up, and taking to the pestle and mortar?”

“My dear Lucas!” Then after a moment’s reflection, “I suppose it would
be folly to think of going on as you are?”

“Raving insanity,” said Jock, “and this notion really does seem to
please my mother.”

“Is it not just intolerable to hear him?” said Cecil, who had made his
way to them.

“‘What is bred in the bone--’” said Jock. “What’s that? Chopin? Sydney,
will you condescend to the apothecary’s boy?”

As he led her to the dancing-room, she asked, “You can’t really mean
this, Jock. Cecil is breaking his heart about it.”

“There are worse trades.”

“But it is such a cruel pity!”

“What? The execution I shall make,” he said lightly.

“For shame, Jock!”

But he went on teasing her, because their hearts were so very full.
“‘Tis just the choice between various means of slaughter.”

“Don’t!” she exclaimed. “Something can be done to prevent your throwing
yourself away. Why can’t you exchange?”

“It is too late to get into any corps where I should not be an expense
to my mother,” said Jock, regretting his decision a good deal more when
he found how she regarded it.

“Well, sacrifice is something!” sighed Sydney.

Jock defied strange feelings by a laugh and the reply, “Equal to the
finest thing in the ‘Traveller’s Joy,’ and that was the knight who
let the hyena eat up his hand that his lady might finish her rosary
undisturbed.”

“It is as bad--or as good--to let the hyena eat up your sword hand as to
cut yourself off from all that is great and noble--all we used to think
you would do.”

So spoke Sydney Evelyn in her girlish prejudice, and the prospects that
had recently seemed to Lucas so fair and kindly, suddenly clouded over
and became dull, gloomy, and despicable. She felt as if she were saving
him from becoming a deserter as she went on--

“I am sure Babie must be shocked!”

“I don’t know whether Babie has heard. She has serious thoughts of
coming out as a lady-help, editing the ‘Traveller’s Joy’ as a popular
magazine, giving lessons in Greek, or painting the crack picture in the
Royal Academy. In fact, she would rather prefer to have the whole family
on her hands.”

“It is all the spirit of self-sacrifice,” said Sydney; “but oh, Lucas,
let it be any sacrifice but that of your sword! Think how we should all
feel if there was a great glorious war, and you only a poor creature of
a civilian, instead of getting--as I know you would--lots of medals and
Victoria Crosses, and knighthood--real knighthood! Oh, Jock, think of
that! When your mother thinks of that, she can’t want you to make
any such mistaken sacrifice to her. Live on a crust if you like, but
don’t--don’t give up your sword.”

“This is coming it strong,” muttered Jock. “I did not think anyone cared
so much.”

“Of course I care.”

The words were swept off as they whirled together into the dance, where
the clasping hands and flying feet had in them a strange impulse, half
tenderness, half exultation, as each felt an importance to the other
unknown before. Childishness was not exactly left behind in it, but a
different stage was reached. Sydney felt herself to have done a noble
work, and gloried in watching till her hero should have achieved
greatness on a crust a day, and Jock was equally touched and elated at
the intimation that his doings were so much to her.

Friendship sang the same note. Cecil, honest lad, had never more than
the average amount either of brains or industry, and despised medicines
to the full as much as did his sister. Abhorring equally the toil and
the degradation, he deemed it a duty to prevent such a fall, and put his
hope in his uncle. Nay, if his mother had not assured him that it was
too late, he would have gone off at once to seek Sir James at his club.

Lord Fordham had been in bed long before the others returned, but in the
morning a twisted note was handed to his mother, briefly saying he was
running down to see how it was with them at Belforest.

When a station fly was seen drawing to the door, Allen, who was drearily
leaning over the stone wall of the terrace, much disorganised by having
received no answer to his letter, instantly jumped to the conclusion
that Elvira had come home, sprang to the door, and when he only saw the
tall figure emerge, he concluded that something dreadful had happened,
grasped Fordham’s hand, and demanded what it was.

It fell flat that she had last been seen full-dressed going off to a
party.

“Then, if there’s nothing, what brought you here? I mean,” said poor
Allen, catching up his courtesy, “I’m afraid there’s nothing you or any
one else can do.”

“Can I see your mother?”

Allen turned him into the library and went off to find his mother,
and instruct her to discover from “that stupid fellow” how Elvira
was feeling it. When, after putting away the papers she was trying to
arrange, Caroline went downstairs, she had no sooner opened the door
than Barbara flew up to her, crying out--

“Oh, mother, tell him not!”

“Tell him what, my dear?” as the girl hung on her, and dragged her into
the ante-room. “What is the matter?”

“If it is nonsense, he ought not to have made it so like earnest,” said
Babie, all crimson, but quite gravely.

“You don’t mean--”

“Yes, mother.”

“How could he?” cried Caroline, in her first annoyance at such things
beginning with her Babie.

“You’ll tell him, mother. You’ll not let him do it again?”

“Let me go, my child. I must speak to him and find out what it all
means.”

Within the library she was met by Fordham.

“Have I done very wrong, Mrs. Brownlow? I could not help it.”

“I wish you had not.”

“I always meant to wait till she was older, and I grew stronger, but
when all this came, I thought if we all belonged to one another it might
be a help--”

“Very, very kind, but--”

“I know I was sudden and frightened her,” he continued; “but if she
could--”

“You forget how young she is.”

“No, I don’t. I would not take her from you. We could all go on
together.”

“All one family? Oh, you unpractised boy!”

“Have we not done so many winters? But I would wait, I meant to have
waited, only I am afraid of dying without being able to provide for her.
If she would have me, she would be left better off than my mother, and
then it would be all right for you and Armie. What are you smiling at?”

“At your notions of rightness, my dear, kind Duke. I see how you mean
it, but it will not do. Even if she had grown to care for you, it would
not be right for me to give her to you for years to come.”

“May not I hope till then?”

She could not tell how sorry she should be to see in her little daughter
any dawnings of an affection which would be a virtual condemnation to
such a life as his mother’s had been.

“You don’t guess how I love her! She has been the bright light of my
life ever since the Engelberg,--the one hope I have lived for!”

“My poor Duke!”

“Then do you quite mean to deny me all hope?”

“Hope must be according to your own impressions, my dear Fordham. Of
course, if you are well, and still wishing it four or five years hence,
it would be free to you to try again. More, I cannot say. No, don’t
thank me, for I trust to your honour to make no demonstrations in the
meantime, and not to consider yourself as bound.”

It was a relief that Armine here came in, attracted by a report of his
friend’s arrival, and Mrs. Brownlow went in search of her daughter, to
whom she was guided by a sonata played with very unnecessary violence.

“You need not murder Haydn any more, you little barbarian,” she said,
with a hand on the child’s shoulder, and looking anxiously into the
gloomy face. “I have settled him.”

Babie drew a long breath, and said--

“I’m glad! It was so horrid! You’ll not let him do it any more?”

“Then you decidedly would not like it?” returned her mother.

“Like it? Poor Duke! Mother! As if I could ever! A man that can’t sit in
a draught, or get wet in his feet!” cried Babie, with the utmost scorn;
and reading reproof as well as amused pity in her mother’s eyes, she
added, “Of course, I am very sorry for him; but fancy being very _sorry_
for one’s love!”

“I thought you liked wounded knights?”

“Wounded! Yes, but they’ve done something, and had glorious wounds. Now
Duke--he is very good, and it is not his fault but his misfortune; but
he is such a--such a muff!”

“That’s enough, my dear; I am quite content that my Infanta should
wait for her hero. Though,” she added, almost to herself, “she is too
childish to know the true worth of what she condemns.”

She felt this the more when Babie, who had coaxed the housekeeper into
letting her begin a private school of cookery, started up, crying--

“I must go and see my orange biscuits taken out of the oven! I should
like to send a taste to Sydney!”

Yes, Barbara was childish for nearly sixteen, and, as it struck her
mother at the moment, rather wonderfully so considering her cleverness
and romance. It was better for her that the softening should not come
yet, but, mother as she was, Caroline’s sympathies could not but be at
the moment with the warm-hearted, impulsive, generous young man, moved
out of all his habitual valetudinarian habits by his affection, rather
than with the light-hearted child, who spurned the love she did not
comprehend, and despised his ill-health. Had the young generation no
hearts? Oh no--no--it could not be so with her loving Barbara, and she
ought to be thankful for the saving of pain and perplexity.

Poor Armine was not getting much comfort out of his friend, who was too
much preoccupied to attend to what he was saying, and only mechanically
assented at intervals to the proposition that it was an inscrutable
dispensation that the will and the power should so seldom go together.
He heard all Armine’s fallen castles about chapels, schools, curates,
and sisters, as in a dream, really not knowing whether they were or were
not to be. And with all his desire to be useful, he never perceived the
one offer that would have been really valuable, namely, to carry off the
boy out of sight of the scene of his disappointment.

Fordham was compelled to stay for an uncomfortable luncheon, when
there were spasmodic jerks of talk about subjects of the day to keep
up appearances before the servants, who flitted about in such an
exasperating way that their mistress secretly rejoiced to think how soon
she should be rid of the fine courier butler.

Just as the pony-carriage came round for Armine to drive his friend back
to the station, the Colonel came in, and was an astonished spectator of
the farewells.

“So that’s your young lord,” he said. “Poor lad! if our nobility is
made of no tougher stuff, I would not give much for it. What brought him
here?”

“Kindness--sympathy--” said Caroline, a little awkwardly.

“Much of that he showed,” said Allen, “just knowing nothing at all about
anybody! No! If it were not so utterly ridiculous I should think he had
come to make an offer to Babie:” and as his sister flew out of the room,
“You don’t mean that he has, mother?”

“Pray, don’t speak of it to any one!” said Caroline. “I would not have
it known for the world. It was a generous impulse, poor dear fellow; and
Babie has no feeling for him at all.”

“Very lucky,” said the uncle. “He looks as if his life was not worth a
year’s purchase. So you refused him? Quite right too. You are a sensible
woman, Caroline, in the midst of this severe reverse!”



CHAPTER XXX. -- AS WEEL OFF AS AYE WAGGING



     ‘Lesbia hath a beaming eye,
        But no one knows for whom it beameth,
      Right and left its arrows fly,
        But what they aim at, no one dreameth.’


By the advice, or rather by the express desire, of her trustees, Mrs.
Brownlow remained at Belforest, while they accepted an offer of renting
the London house for the season. Mr. Wakefield declared that there was
no reason that she should contract her expenditure; but she felt as if
everything she spent beyond her original income, except of course the
needful outlay on keeping up the house and gardens, were robbery of
Elvira, and she therefore did not fill up the establishment of servants,
nor of horses, using only for herself the little pair of ponies which
had been turned out in the park.

No one had perhaps realised the amount of worry that this arrangement
entailed. As Barbara said, if they could have gone away at once and
worked for their living like sensible people in a book, it would
have been all very well--but this half-and-half state was dreadful.
Personally it did not affect Babie much, but she was growing up to the
part of general sympathiser, and for the first time in their lives there
was a pull in contrary directions by her mother, and Armine.

Every expenditure was weighed before it was granted. Did it belong
rightly to Belforest estate or to Caroline Brownlow? And the claims
of the church and parish at Woodside were doubtful. Armine, under the
influence of Miss Parsons, took a wide view of the dues of the parish,
thought there was a long arrear to be paid off, and that whatever could
be given was so much out of the wolf’s mouth.

His mother, with ‘Be just before you are generous’ ringing in her ears,
referred all to the Colonel, and he had long had a fixed scale of the
duties of the property as a property, and was only rendered the more
resolute in it by that vehemence of Armine’s which enhanced his dislike
and distrust of the family at the vicarage.

“Bent on getting all they could while they could,” he said, quite
unjustly as to the vicar, and hardly fairly by the sister, whose demands
were far exceeded by those of her champion.

The claims of the cottages for repair, and of the school for
sufficient enlargement and maintenance to obviate a School Board,
were acknowledged; but for the rest, the Colonel said, “his sister was
perfectly at liberty. No one could blame her if she threw her balance at
the bank into the sea. She would never be called to account; but since
she asked him whether the estate was bound to assist in pulling the
church to pieces, and setting up a fresh curate to bring in more
absurdities, he could only say what he thought,” etc.

These thoughts of his were of course most offensive to Armine, who set
all down to sordid Puritan prejudice, could not think how his mother
could listen, and, when Babie stood up for her mother, went off to blend
his lamentations with those of Miss Parsons, whose resignation struck
him as heroic. “Never mind, Armine, it will all come in time. Perhaps
we are not fit for it yet. We cannot expect the world’s justice to
understand the outpouring of the saints’ liberality.”

Armine repeated this interesting aphorism to Barbara, and was much
disappointed that the shrewd little woman did not understand it, or only
so far as to say, “But I did not know that it was saintly to be liberal
with other people’s money.”

He said Babie had a prejudice against Miss Parsons; and he was so far
right that the Infanta did not like her, thought her a humbug, and
sorely felt that for the first time something had come between herself
and Armine.

Allen was another trouble. He did not agree to the retrenchments, in
which he saw no sense, and retained his horse and groom. Luckily he had
retained only one when going abroad, and at this early season he needed
no more. But his grievous anxiety and restlessness about Elvira did
not make him by any means insensible to the effects of a reduced
establishment in a large house, and especially to the handiwork of the
good woman who had been left in charge, when compared with that of the
80L cooks who had been the plague of his mother’s life.

No one, however, could wonder at his wretchedness, as day after day
passed without hearing from Elvira, and all that was known was that
she had left Mrs. Evelyn and gone to stay with Lady Flora Folliott, a
flighty young matron, who had been enraptured with her beauty at a table
d’hote a year ago, and had made advances not much relished by the rest
of the party.

No more was to be learnt till Lucas found a Saturday to come down.
Before he could say three words, he was cross-examined. Had he seen
Elvira?

“Several times.”

“Spoken to her?”

“Yes.”

“What had she said?”

“Asked him to look at a horse.”

“Did she know he was coming home?”

“Yes.”

“Had she sent any message?”

“Well--yes. To desire that her Algerine costume should be sent up.
Whew!” as Allen flung himself out of the room. “How have I put my foot
in it, mother?”

“You don’t mean that that was all?”

“Every jot! What, has she not written? The abominable little elf! I’m
coming.” And he shrugged his shoulders as Allen, who had come round to
the open window, beckoned to him.

“He was absolutely grappled by a trembling hand, and a husky voice
demanded, ‘What message did she really send? I can’t stand foolery’.”

“Just that, Allen--to Emma. Really just that. You can’t shake more out
of me. You might as well expect anything from that Chinese lantern. Hold
hard. ‘Tis not I--”

“Don’t speak! You don’t know her! I was a fool to think she would
confide to a mere buffoon,” cried poor Allen, in his misery. “Yet if
they were intercepting her letters--”

Wherewith he buried himself in the depths of the shrubbery, while Jock,
with a long whistle, came back through the library window to his mother,
observing--

“Intercepted! Poor fellow! Hardly necessary, if possible, though Lady
Flora might wish to catch her for Clanmacnalty. Has the miserable imp
really vouchsafed no notice of any of you?”

“Not the slightest; and it is breaking Allen’s heart.”

“As if a painted little marmoset were worth a man’s heart! But Allen
has always been infatuated about her, and there’s a good deal at stake,
though, if he could only see it in the right fight, he is well quit
of such a bubble of a creature. I wouldn’t be saddled with it for all
Belforest.”

“Don’t call her any more names, my dear! I only wish any one would
represent to her the predicament she keeps Allen in. He can’t press for
an answer, of course; but it is cruel to keep him in this suspense. I
wonder Mrs. Evelyn did not make her write.

“I don’t suppose it entered her mind that the little wretch (beg your
pardon) had not done it of her own accord, and with those Folliotts
there’s no chance. They live in a perpetual whirl, enough to distract an
Archbishop. Twenty-four parties a week at a moderate computation.”

“Unlucky child!”

“Wakefield is heartily vexed at her having run into such hands,” said
Jock; “but there is no hindering it, no one has any power, and even if
he had, George Gould is a mere tool in his wife’s hands.”

“Still, Mr. Wakefield might insist on her answering Allen one way or the
other. Poor fellow! I don’t think it would cost her much, for she
was too childish ever to be touched by that devotion of his. I always
thought it a most dangerous experiment, and all I wish for now is
that she would send him a proper dismissal, so that his mind might be
settled. It would be bad enough, but better than going on in this way.”

“I’ll see him,” said Jock, “or may be I can do the business myself, for,
strange to say, the creature doesn’t avoid me, but rather runs after
me.”

“You meet her in society?”

“Yes, I’ve not come to the end of my white kids yet, you see. And
mother, I came to tell you of something that has turned up. You know the
Evelyns are all dead against my selling out. I dined with Sir James on
Tuesday, and found next day it was for the sake of walking me out before
Sir Philip Cameron, the Cutteejung man, you know. He is sure to be sent
out again in the autumn, and he has promised Sir James that if I can
get exchanged into some corps out there, he will put me on his staff at
once. Mother!”

He stopped short, astounded at the change of countenance, that for a
moment she could neither control nor conceal, as she exclaimed “India!”
 but rallying at once she went on “Sir Philip Cameron! My dear boy,
that’s a great compliment. How delighted your uncle will be!”

“But you, mother!”

“Oh yes, my dear, I shall, I will, like it. Of course I am glad and
proud for my Jock! How very kind of Sir James!”

“Isn’t it? He talked it over with me as if I had been Cecil, and said I
was quite right not to stay in the Guards; and that in India, if a man
has any brains at all and reasonable luck, he can’t help getting on.
So I shall be quite and clean off your hands, and in the way of working
forward, and perhaps of doing something worth hearing of. Mother, you
will be pleased then?”

“Shall I not, my dear, dear Jockey! I don’t think you could have a
better chief. I have always heard that Sir Philip was such a good man.”

“So Mrs. Evelyn said. She was sure you would be satisfied. You can’t
think how kind they were, making the affair quite their own,” said Jock,
with a little colour in his face. “They absolutely think it would be
wrong to give up the service.”

“Yes; Mrs. Evelyn wrote to me that you ought not to be thrown away. It
was very kind and dear, but with a little of the aristocratic notion
that the army is the only profession in the world. I can’t help it; I
can’t think your father’s profession unworthy of his son.”

“She didn’t say so!”

“No, but I understood it. Perhaps I am touchy; I don’t think I am
ungrateful. They have always made you like one of themselves.”

“Yes, so much that I don’t like to run counter to their wishes when they
have taken such pains. Besides, there are things that can be thought of,
even by a poor man, as a soldier, which can’t in the other line.”

This speech, made with bent head, rising colour, and hand playing with
his mother’s fan, gave her, all unwittingly on his part, a keen sense
that her Jock was indeed passing from her, but she said nothing to damp
his spirits, and threw herself heartily into his plans, announcing
them to his uncle with genuine exultation. To this the Colonel fully
responded, telling Jock that he would have given the world thirty years
ago for such a chance, and commending him for thus getting off his
mother’s hands.

“I only wish the rest of you were doing the same,” he said, “but each
one seems to think himself the first person to be thought of, and her
the last.”

“The Colonel’s wish seemed in course of fulfilment, for when Lucas went
a few days later to his brother Robert’s rooms, he found him collecting
testimonials for his fitness to act as Vice-principal to a European
college at Yokohama for the higher education of the Japanese.

“Mother has not heard of it,” said Jock.

“She need not till it is settled,” answered Bobus. “It will save her
trouble with her clerical friends if she only knows too late for a
protest.”

Jock understood when he saw the stipulations against religious teaching,
and recognised in the Principal’s name an essayist whose negations of
faith had made some stir. However, he only said, “It will be rather a
blow.”

“There are limits to all things,” replied Bobus. “The truest kindness to
her is to get afloat away from the family raft as speedily as possible.
She has quite enough to drag her down.”

“I should hope to act the other way,” said Jock.

“Get your own head above water first,” said Bobus. “Here’s some good
advice gratis, though I’ve no expectation of your taking it. Don’t go in
for study in the old quarters! Go to Edinburgh or Paris or anywhere you
please, but cut the connection, or you’ll never be rid of loafers for
life. Wherever mother is, all the rest will gravitate. Mark me, Allen is
spoilt for anything but a walking gentleman, Armine will never be good
for work, and how many years do you give Janet’s Athenian to come to
grief in? Then will they return to the domestic hearth with a band of
small Grecians, while Dr. Lucas Brownlow is reduced to a rotifer or
wheel animal, circulating in a trap collecting supplies, with ‘sic vos
non vobis’ for his motto.”

Jock looked startled. “How if there be no such rotifer?” he said. “You
don’t really think there will be nothing to depend when we are both
gone?”

“When?”

“Yes, I’ve a chance of getting on Cameron’s staff in India.”

“Oh, that’s all right, old fellow! Why, you’ll be my next neighbour.”

“But about mother? You don’t seriously think Ali and Armie will be
nothing but dead weights on her?”

“Only as long as there’s anybody to hold them up”, said Bobus,
perceiving that his picture had taken an effect the reverse of what he
intended. “They have no lack of brains, and are quite able to shift for
themselves and mother too, if only they have to do it, even if she were
a pauper, which she isn’t.”

But it was with a less lightsome heart that Jock went to his quarters
to prepare for a fancy ball, where he expected to meet Elvira, though
whether he should approach her or not would depend on her own caprice.

It was a very splendid affair. A whole back garden, had been transformed
into a vast pavilion, containing an Armida’s garden, whose masses of
ferns and piles of gorgeous flowers made delightful nooks for strangers
who left the glare of the dancing-room, and the quaint dresses
harmonised with the magic of the gaslight and the strange forms of the
exotics.

The simple scarlet of the young Guardsman was undistinguished among the
brilliant character-groups which represented old fairy tales and nursery
rhymes. There were ‘The White Cat and her Prince,’ ‘Puss-in-Boots and
the Princess,’ ‘Little Snowflake and her Bear,’ and, behold, here was
the loveliest Fatima ever seen, in the well-known Algerine dress, mated
with a richly robed and turbaned hero, whose beard was blue, though in
ordinary life red, inasmuch as he was Lady Flora’s impecunious and
not very reputable Scottish peer of a brother. That lady herself, in
a pronounced bloomer, represented the little old woman of doubtful
identity, and her husband the pedlar, whose ‘name it was Stout’; while
not far off the Spanish lady, in garments gay, as rich as may be, wooed
her big Englishman in a dress that rivalled Sir Nicolas Blount’s.

There was a pretty character quadrille, and then a general melee, in
which Jock danced successively with Cinderella and the fair equestrian
of Banbury Cross, and lost sight of Fatima, till, just as he was
considering of offering himself to little Bo-peep, he saw her looking a
good deal bored by the Spanish lady’s Englishman.

Tossing her head till the coins danced on her forehead, she exclaimed,
“Oh, there’s my cousin; I must speak to him!” and sprang to her old
companion as if for protection. “Take me to a cool corner, Jock,” she
said, “I am suffocating.”

“No wonder, after waltzing with a mountain.”

“He can no more waltz than fly! And he thinks himself irresistible! He
says his dress is from a portrait of his ancestor, Sir Somebody; and
Flora declares his only ancestor must have been the Fat Boy! And he
thought I was a Turkish Sultana! Wasn’t it ridiculous! You know he never
says anything but ‘Exactly.’”

“Did he intone it so as to convey all this?”

“He is a little inspired by his ruff and diamonds. Flora says he wants
to dazzle me, and will have them changed into paste before he makes them
over to his young woman. He has just tin enough to want more, and she
says I must be on my guard.”

“You want no guard, I should think, but your engagement.”

“What are you bringing that up for? I suppose you know how Allen wrote
to me?” she pouted.

“I know that he thought it due to you to release you from your promise,
and that he is waiting anxiously for your reply. Have you written?”

“Don’t bore so, Jock,” said Elvira pettishly. “It was no doing of mine,
and I don’t see why I should be teased.”

“Then you wish me to tell him that he is to take your silence as a
release from you.”

“I authorise nothing,” she said. “I hate it all.”

“Look here, Elvira,” said Jock, “do you know your own mind? Nobody wants
you to take Allen. In fact, I think he is much better quit of you; but
it is due to him, and still more to yourself, to cancel the old affair
before beginning a new one.”

“Who told you I was beginning a new one?” asked she pertly.

“No one can blame you, provided you let him loose first. It is
considered respectable, you know, to be off with the old love before you
are on with the new. Nay, it may be only a superstition.”

“Superstition!” she repeated in an awed voice that gave him his cue, and
he went on--“Oh yes, a lady has been even known to come and shake hands
with the other party after he had been hanged to give back her troth,
lest he should haunt her.”

“Allen isn’t hanged,” said Elvira, half frightened, half cross. “Why
doesn’t he come himself?”

“Shall he?” said Jock.

“My dear child, I’ve been running madly up and down for you!” cried Lady
Flora, suddenly descending on them, and carrying off her charge with
a cursory nod to the Guardsman, marking the difference between a
detrimental and even the third son of a millionaire.

He saw Elvira no more that night, and the next post carried a note to
Belforest.


                                                      31st May.

DEAR ALLEN--I don’t know whether you will thank me, but I tried to get a
something definite out of your tricksy Elf, and the chief result, so far
as I can understand the elfish tongue, is, that she sought no change,
and the final sentence was, ‘Why doesn’t he come himself?’ I believe it
is her honest wish to go on, when she is left to her proper senses;
but that is seldom. You must take this for what it is worth from the
buffoon,                                                       J. L. B.


Allen came full of hope, and called the next morning. Miss Menella was
out riding. He got a card for a party where she was sure to be present,
and watched the door, only to see her going away on the arm of Lord
Clanmacnalty to some other entertainment. He went to Mr. Folliott’s
door, armed with a note, and heard that Lady Flora and Miss Menella were
gone out of town for a few days. So it went on, and he turned upon
Jock with indignation at having been summoned to be thus deluded.
The undignified position added venom to the smart of the disregarded
affection and the suspense as to the future, and Jock had much to endure
after every disappointment, though Allen clung to him rather than to
any one else because of his impression that Elvira’s real preference was
unchanged (such as it was), and that these failures were rather due to
her friend than to herself.

This became more clear through Mrs. Evelyn. Her family had connections
in common with the Dowager Lady Clanmacnalty, and the two ladies met
at the house of their relation. Listening in the way of duty to the old
Scottish Countess’s profuse communications, she heard what explained a
good deal.

Did she know the Spanish girl who was with Flora--a handsome creature
and a great heiress? Oh yes; she had presented her. Strange affair!
Flora understood that there was a deep plot for appropriating the young
lady and her fortune.

“She had been engaged to Mr. Brownlow long before claims were known,”
 began Mrs. Evelyn.

“Oh yes! It was very ingeniously arranged, only the discovery was made
too soon. I have it on the best authority. When the girl came to stay
with Flora, her aunt asked for an interview--such a nice sensible
woman--so completely understanding her position. She said it was such a
distress to her not to be qualified to take her niece into society,
yet she could not take her home, living so near, to be harassed by this
young man’s pursuit.”

“I saw Mrs. Gould myself,” said Mrs. Evelyn. “I cannot say I was
favourably impressed.”

“Oh, we all know she is not a lady; never professes it poor thing. She
is quite aware that her niece must move in a different sphere, and all
she wants is to have her guarded from that young Brownlow. He follows
them everywhere. It is quite the business of Flora’s life to avoid him.”

“Perhaps you don’t know that Mrs. Brownlow took that girl out of a
farmhouse, and treated her like a daughter, merely because they were
second or third cousins. The engagement to Allen Brownlow was made when
the fortune was entirely on his side.”

“Precaution or conscience, eh?” said the old lady, laughing. “By the by,
you were intimate with Mrs. Brownlow abroad. How fortunate for you that
nothing took place while they had such expectations! Of no family, I
hear, of quite low extraction. A parish doctor he was, wasn’t he?”

“A distinguished surgeon.”

“And _she_ came out of some asylum or foundling hospital?”

“Only the home for officers’ daughters,” said Mrs. Evelyn, not able to
help laughing. “Her father, Captain Allen, was in the same regiment with
Colonel Brownlow, her husband’s brother. I assure you the Menellas and
Goulds have no reason to boast.”

“A noble Spanish family,” said the dowager. “One can see it every
gesture of the child.”

It was plain that the old lady intended Mr. Barnes’s hoards to repair
the ravages of dissipation on the never very productive estates of
Clanmacnalty, and that while Elvira continued in Lady Flora’s custody,
there was little chance of a meeting between her and Allen. The girl
seemed to be submitting passively, and no doubt her new friends could
employ tact and flattery enough to avoid exciting her perverseness.
No doubt she had been harassed by Allen’s exaction of response to his
ardent affection, and wearied of his monopoly of her. Maiden coyness and
love of liberty might make her as willing to elude his approach as her
friends could wish.

Once only, at a garden party, did he touch the tips of her fingers, but
no more. She never met his eye, but threw herself into eager flirtation
with the men he most disliked, while the lovely carnation was mounting
in her cheek, and betraying unusual excitement. It became known that she
was going early in July into the country with some gay people who were
going to give a series of fetes on some public occasion, and then that
she was to go with Lady Clanmacnalty and her unmarried daughter to
Scotland, to help them entertain the grouse-shoot-party.

Allen’s stay in London was clearly of no further use, as Jock perceived
with a sensation of relief, for all his pity could not hinder him from
being bored with Allen’s continual dejection, and his sighs over each
unsuccessful pursuit. He was heartily tired of the part of confidant,
which was the more severe, because, whenever Allen had a fit of shame
at his own undignified position, he vented it in reproaches to Jock for
having called him up to London; and yet as long as there was a chance
of seeing Elvira, he could not tear himself away, was wild to get
invitations to meet her, and lived at his club in the old style and
expense.

Bobus was brief with Allen, and ironical on Jock’s folly in having
given the summons. For his own part he was much engrossed with his
appointment, going backwards and forwards between Oxford and London,
with little time for the concerns of any one else; but the evening after
this unfortunate garden party, when Jock had accompanied his eldest
brother back to his rooms, and was endeavouring, by the help of a pipe,
to endure the reiteration of mournful vituperations of destiny in the
shape of Lady Flora and Mrs. Gould, the door suddenly opened and Bobus
stood before them with his peculiarly brisk, self-satisfied air, in
itself an aggravation to any one out of spirits.

“All right,” he said, “I didn’t expect to find you in, but I thought
I would leave a note for the chance. I’ve heard of the very identical
thing to suit you, Ali, my boy.”

“Indeed,” said Allen, not prepared with gratitude for his younger
brother’s patronage.

“I met Bulstrode at Balliol last night, and he asked if I knew of any
one (a perfect gentleman he must be, that matters more than scholarship)
who would take a tutorship in a Hungarian count’s family. Two little
boys, who live like princes, tutor the same, salary anything you like
to ask. It is somewhere in the mountains, a feudal castle, with capital
sport.”

“Wolves and bears,” cried Jock, starting up with his old boyish
animation. “If I wasn’t going pig-sticking in India, what wouldn’t I
give for such a chance. The tutor will teach the young ideas how to
shoot, of course.”

“Of course,” said Bobus. “The Count is a diplomate, and there’s not
a bad chance of making oneself useful, and getting on in that line. I
should have jumped at it, if I hadn’t got the Japs on my hands.”

“Yes, you,” said Allen languidly.

“Well, you can do quite as well for a thing like this,” said Bobus, “or
better, as far as looking the gentleman goes. In fact, I suspect as much
classics as Mother Carey taught us at home would serve their countships’
turn. Here’s the address. You had better write by the first post
to-morrow, for one or two others are rising at it; but Bulstrode said he
would wait to hear from you. Here’s the letter with all the details.”

“Thank you. You seem to take a good deal for granted,” said Allen, not
moving a finger towards the letter.

“You won’t have it?”

“I have neither spirits nor inclination for turning bear-leader, and it
is not a position I wish to undertake.”

“What position would you like?” cried Jock. “You could take that rifle
you got for Algeria, and make the Magyars open their eyes. Seriously,
Allen, it is the right thing at the right time. You know Miss Ogilvie
always said the position was quite different for an English person among
these foreigners.”

“Who, like natives, are all the same nation,” quietly observed Allen.

“For that matter,” said Jock, “wasn’t it in Hungarie that the beggar of
low degree married the king’s daughter? There’s precedent for you, Ali!”

Allen had taken up the letter, and after glancing it slightly over,
said--

“Thanks, Vice-principal, but I won’t stand in the light of your other
aspirants.”

“What can you want better than this?” cried Jock. “By the time the law
business is over, one may look in vain for such a chance. It is a new
country too, and you always said you wanted to know how those fellows
with long-tailed names lived in private life.”

Both brothers talked for an hour, till they hoped they had persuaded
him that even for the most miserable and disappointed being on earth the
Hungarian castle might prove an interesting variety, and they left
him at last with the letter before him, undertaking to write and make
further inquiries.

The next day, however, just as Jock was about to set forth, intending,
as far as might be, to keep him up to the point, Bobus made his
appearance, and scornfully held out an envelope. There was the letter,
and therewith these words:--


“On consideration, I recur to my first conclusion, that this situation
is out of the question. To say nothing of the injury to my health and
nerves from agitation and suspense, rendering me totally unfit for
drudgery and annoyance, I cannot feel it right to place myself in a
situation equivalent to the abandonment of all hope. It is absurd to act
as if we were reduced to abject poverty, and I will never place myself
in the condition of a dependent. This season has so entirely knocked me
up that I must at once have sea air, and by the time you receive this I
shall be on my way to Ryde for a cruise in the Petrel.”


“_His_ health!” cried Bobus, his tone implying three notes, scarcely of
admiration.

“Well, poor old Turk, he is rather seedy,” said Jock. “Can’t sleep, and
has headaches! But ‘tis a regular case of having put him to flight!”

“Well, I’ve done with him,” said Bobus, “since there’s a popular
prejudice against flogging, especially one’s elder brother. This is a
delicate form of intimation that he intends doing the dolce at mother’s
expense.”

“The poor old chap has been an ornamental appendage so long that he
can’t make up his mind to anything else,” said Jock.

“He is no worse off than the rest of us,” said Bobus.

“In age, if in nothing else.”

“The more reason against throwing away a chance. The yacht, too! I
thought there was a Quixotic notion of not dipping into that Elf’s
money. I’m sure poor mother is pinching herself enough.”

“I don’t think Ali knows when he spends money more than when he spends
air,” returned Jock. “The Petrel can hardly cost as much in a month as
I have seen him get through in a week, protesting all the while that he
was living on absolutely nothing.”

“I know. You may be proud to get him down Oxford Street under thirty
shillings, and he never goes out in the evening much under half that.”

“Yes, he told me selling my horses was shocking bad economy.”

“Well, it was your own doing, having him up here,” said Bobus.

“I wonder how he will go on when the money is really not there.”

“Precisely the same,” said Bobus; “there’s no cure for that sort of
complaint. The only satisfaction is that we shall be out of sight of
it.”

“And a very poor one,” sighed Jock, “when mother is left to bear the
brunt.”

“Mother can manage him much better than we can,” said Bobus; “besides,
she is still a youngish woman, neither helpless nor destitute; and as I
always tell you, the greatest kindness we can do her is to look out for
ourselves.”

Bobus himself had done so effectually, for he was secure of a handsome
salary, and his travelling expenses were to be paid, when, early in the
next year, he was to go out with his Principal to confer on the Japanese
the highest possible culture in science and literature without any bias
in favour of Christianity, Buddhism, or any other sublime religion.

Meantime he was going home to make his preparations, and pack such
portions of his museum as he thought would be unexampled in Japan.
He had fulfilled his intention of only informing his mother after his
application had been accepted; and as it had been done by letter, he
had avoided the sight of the pain it gave her and the hearing of her
remonstrances, all of which he had referred to her maternal dislike of
his absence, rather than to his association with the Principal, a writer
whose articles she kept out of reach of Armine and Barbara.

The matter had become irrevocable and beyond discussion, as he intended,
before his return to Belforest, which he only notified by the post of
the morning before he walked into luncheon. By that time it was a fait
accompli, and there was nothing to be done but to enter on a lively
discussion on the polite manners and customs of the two-sworded nation
and the wonderful volcanoes he hoped to explore.

Perhaps one reason that his notice was so short was that there might
be the less time for Kencroft to be put on its guard. Thus, when, by
accident of course, he strolled towards the lodge, he found his cousin
Esther in the wood, with no guardians but the three youngest children,
who had coaxed her, in spite of the heat, to bring them to the slopes of
wood strawberries on their weekly half-holiday.

He had seen nothing, but had only been guided by the sound of voices
to the top of the sloping wooded bank, where, under the shade of the
oak-trees, looking over the tall spreading brackens, he beheld Essie
in her pretty gipsy hat and holland dress, with all her bird-like
daintiness, kneeling on the moss far below him, threading the scarlet
beads on bents of grass, with the little ones round her.

“I heard a chattering,” he said, as, descending through the fern, he met
her dark eyes looking up like those of a startled fawn; “so I came to
see whether the rabbits had found tongues. How many more are there? No,
thank you,” as Edmund and Lina answered his greeting with an offer of
very moist-looking fruit, and an ungrammatical “Only us.”

“Then _us_ run away. They grow thick up that bank, and I’ve got a prize
here for whoever keeps away longest. No, you shan’t see what it is. Any
one who comes asking questions will lose it. Run away, Lina, you’ll miss
your chance. No, no, Essie, you are not a competitor.”

“I must, Robert; indeed I must.”

“Can’t you spare me a moment when I am come down for my last farewell
visit?”

“But you are not going for a good while yet.”

“So you call it, but it will seem short enough. Did you ever hear of
minutes seeming like diamond drops meted out, Essie?”

“But, you know, it is your own doing,” said Essie.

“Yes, and why, Essie? Because misfortune has made such an exile as this
the readiest mode of ceasing to be a burden to my mother.”

“Papa said he was glad of it,” said Esther, “and that you were quite
right. But it is a terrible way off!”

“True! but there is one consideration that will make up to me for
everything.”

“That it is for Aunt Caroline!”

“Partly, but do you not know the hope which makes all work sweet to me?”
 And the look of his eyes, and his hand seeking hers, made her say,

“Oh don’t, Robert, I mustn’t.”

“Nay, my queen, you were too duteous to hearken to me when I was rich
and prosperous. I would not torment you then, I meant to be patient;
but now I am poor and going into banishment, you will be generous and
compassionate, and let me hear the one word that will make my exile
sweet.”

“I don’t think I ought,” said the poor child under her breath. “O,
Robert, don’t you know I ought not.”

“Would you if that ugly cypher of an ought did not stand in the way?”

“Oh don’t ask me, Robert; I don’t know.”

“But I do know, my queen,” said he. “I know my little Essie better than
she knows herself. I know her true heart is mine, only she dares not
avow it to herself; and when hearts have so met, Esther, they owe one
another a higher duty than the filial tie can impose.”

“I never heard that before,” she said, puzzled, but not angered.

“No, it is not a doctrine taught in schoolrooms, but it is true and
universal for all that, and our fathers and mothers acted on it in their
day, and will give way to it now.”

Esther had never been told all her father’s objections to her cousin.
Simple prohibition had seemed to her parents sufficient for the gentle,
dutiful child. Bobus had always been very kind to her, and her heart
went out enough to him in his trouble to make coldness impossible to
her. Tears welled into her eyes with perplexity at the new theory, and
she could only falter out--

“That doesn’t seem right for me.”

“Say one word and trust to me, and it shall be right. Yes, Esther, say
the word, and in it I shall be strong to overcome everything, and win
the consent you desire. Say only that, with it, you would love me.”

“If?” said Esther.

It was an interrogative _if,_ and she did not mean it for “the one
word,” but Bobus caught at it as all he wanted. He meant it for the
fulcrum on which to rest the strong lever of his will, and before Esther
could add any qualification, he was overwhelming her with thanks and
assurances so fervent that she could interpose no more doubts, and
yielded to the sweetness of being able to make any one so happy, above
all the cousin whom most people thought so formidably clever.

Edmund interrupted them by rushing up, thus losing the prize, which was
won by the last comer, and proved to be a splendid bonbon; but there was
consolation for the others, since Bobus had laid in a supply as a means
of securing peace.

He would fain have waited to rivet his chains before manifesting them,
but he knew Essie too well to expect her to keep the interview a secret;
and he had no time to lose if, as he intended, though he had not told
her so, he was to take her to Japan with him.

So he stormed the castle without delay, walked to Kencroft with the
strawberry gatherers, found the Colonel superintending the watering of
his garden, and, with effrontery of which Essie was unconscious, led
her up, and announced their mutual love, as though secure of an ardent
welcome.

He did, mayhap, expect to surprise something of the kind out of his
slowly-moving uncle, but the only answer was a strongly accentuated
“Indeed! I thought I had told you both that I would have none of this
foolery. Esther, I am ashamed of you. Go in directly.”

The girl repaired to her own room to weep floods of tears over her
father’s anger, and the disobedience that made itself apparent as soon
as she was beyond the spell of that specious tongue. There were a few
fears too for his disappointment; but when her mother came up in great
displeasure, the first words were--

“O, mamma, I could not help it!”

“You could not prevent his accosting you, but you might have prevented
his giving all this trouble to papa. You know we should never allow it.”

“Indeed I only said if!”

“You had no right to say anything. When a young lady knows a man is not
to be encouraged, she should say nothing to give him an advantage. You
could never expect us to let you go to a barbarous place at the other
end of the world with a man of as good as no religion at all.”

“He goes to church,” said Essie, too simple to look beyond.

“Only here, to please his mother. My dear, you must put this out of your
head. Even if he were very different, we should never let you marry a
first cousin, and he knows it. It was very wrong in him to have spoken
to you.”

“Please don’t let him do it again,” said Esther, faintly.

“That’s right, my dear,” with a kiss of forgiveness. “I am sure you are
too good a girl really to care for him.”

“I wish he would not care for me,” sighed poor Essie, wearily. “He
always was so kind, and now they are in trouble I couldn’t vex him.”

“Oh, my dear, young men get over things of this sort half a dozen times
in their lives.”

Essie was not delighted with this mode of consolation, and when her
mother tenderly smoothed back her hair, and bade her bathe her face and
dress for dinner, she clung to her and said--

“Don’t let me see him again.”

It was a wholesome dread, which Mrs. Brownlow encouraged, for both she
and her husband were annoyed and perplexed by Robert’s cool reception
of their refusal. He quietly declared that he could allow for their
prejudices, and that it was merely a matter of time, and he was
provokingly calm and secure, showing neither anger nor disappointment.
He did not argue, but having once shown that his salary warranted his
offer, that the climate was excellent, and that European civilisation
prevailed, he treated his uncle and aunt as unreasonably prejudiced
mortals, who would in time yield to his patient determination.

His mother was as much annoyed as they were, all the more because her
sister-in-law could hardly credit her perfect innocence of Robert’s
intentions, and was vexed at her wish to ascertain Esther’s feelings.
This was not easy! the poor child was so unhappy and shamefaced, so
shocked at her involuntary disobedience, and so grieved at the pain
she had given. If Robert had been set before her with full consent of
friends, she would have let her whole heart go out to him, loved him,
and trusted him for ever, treating whatever opinions were unlike hers
as manly idiosyncrasies beyond her power to fathom. But she was no Lydia
Languish to need opposition as a stimulus. It rather gave her tender
and dutiful spirit a sense of shame, terror, and disobedience; and she
thankfully accepted the mandate that sent her on a visit to her married
sister for as long as Bobus should remain at Belforest.

He did not show himself downcast, but was quietly assured that he should
win her at last, only smiling at the useless precaution, and declaring
himself willing to wait, and make a home for her.

But this matter had not tended to make his mother more at ease in her
enforced stay at Belforest, which was becoming a kind of gilded prison.



CHAPTER XXXI. -- SLACK TIDE.



     If...
     Thou hide thine eyes and make thy peevish moan
     Over some broken reed of earth beneath,
     Some darling of blind fancy dead and gone.
                                                Keble.


There is such a thing as slack tide in the affairs of men, when a crisis
seems as if it would never come, and all things stagnate. The Law Courts
had as yet not concerned themselves about the will, vacation time had
come and all was at a standstill, nor could any steps be taken for
Lucas’s exchange till it was certain into what part of India Sir Philip
Cameron was going. In the meantime his regiment had gone into camp, and
he could not get away until the middle of September, and then only for
a few days. Arriving very late on a Friday night, he saw nobody but his
mother over his supper, and thought her looking very tired. When he
met her in the morning, there was the same weary, harassed countenance,
there were worn marks round the dark wistful eyes, and the hair,
whitened at Schwarenbach, did not look as incongruous with the face as
hitherto.

No one else except Barbara had come down to prayers, so Jock’s first
inquiry was for Armine.

“He is pretty well,” said his mother; “but he is apt to be late. He gets
overtired between his beloved parish work and his reading with Bobus.”

“He is lucky to get such a coach,” said Jock. “Bob taught me more
mathematics in a week than I had learnt in seven years before.”

“He is terribly accurate,” said Babie.

“Which Armie does not appreciate?” said Jock.

“I’m afraid not,” said his mother. “They do worry each other a good
deal, and this Infanta most of all, I’m afraid.”

“O no, mother,” said Babie. “Only it is hard for poor Armie to have two
taskmasters.”

“What! the Reverend Petronella continues in the ascendant?”

Bobus here entered, with a face that lightened, as did everyone’s, at
sight of Lucas.

“Good morning. Ah! Jock! I didn’t sit up, for I had had a long day out
on the moors; we kept the birds nearer home for you. There are plenty,
but Grimes says he has heard shots towards River Hollow, and thinks some
one must have been trespassing there.”

“Have you heard anything of Elvira? apropos to River Hollow,” said his
mother.

“Yes,” said Jock. “One of our fellows has been on a moor not far
from where she was astonishing the natives, conjointly with Lady Anne
Macnalty. There were bets which of three men she may be engaged to.”

“Pending which,” said his mother, “I suppose poor Allen will continue to
hover on the wings of the Petrel?”

“And send home mournful madrigals by the ream,” said Bobus. “Never was
petrel so tuneful a bird!”

“For shame, Bobus; I never meant you to see them!”

“‘Twas quite involuntary! I have trouble enough with my own pupil’s
effusions. I leave him a bit of Latin composition, and what do I find
but an endless doggerel ballad on What’s his name?--who hid under
his father’s staircase as a beggar, eating the dogs’ meat, while
his afflicted family were searching for him in vain;--his favourite
example.”

“St. Alexis,” said Babie; “he was asked to versify it.”

“As a wholesome incentive to filial duty and industry,” said Bobus.
“Does the Parsoness mean to have it sung in the school?”

“It might be less dangerous than ‘the fox went out one moonshiny
night,’” said their mother, anxious to turn the conversation. “Mr.
Parsons brought Mr. Todd of Wrexham in to see the school just as the
children were singing the final catastrophe when the old farmer ‘shot
the old fox right through the head.’ He was so horrified that he
declared the schools should never have a penny of his while they taught
such murder and heresy.”

“Served them right,” said Jock, “for spoiling that picture of domestic
felicity when ‘the little ones picked the bones, oh!’ How many guns
shall we be, Bobus?”

“Only three. My uncle has a touch of gout, the Monk has got a tutorship,
Joe has gone back to his ship, but the mighty Bob has a week’s leave,
and does not mean a bird to survive the change of owners.”

“Doesn’t Armine come?”

“Not he!” said Bobus. “Says he doesn’t want to acquire the taste, and he
would knock up with half a day.”

“But you’ll all come and bring us luncheon?” entreated Jock. “You will,
mother! Now, won’t you? We’ll eat it on a bank like old times when we
lived at the Folly, and all were jolly. I beg your pardon, Bob; I didn’t
mean to turn into another poetical brother on your hands, but enthusiasm
was too strong for me! Come, Mother Carey, _do_!”

“Where is it to be?” she asked, smiling.

“Out by the Long Hanger would be a good place,” said Bobus, “where we
found the Epipactis grandiflora.”

“Or the heathery knoll where poor little mother got into a scrape for
singing profane songs by moonlight,” laughed Jock.

“Ah! that was when hearts were light,” she said; “but at any rate we’ll
make a holiday of it, for Jock’s sake.”

“Ha! what do I see?” exclaimed Jock, who was opposite the open window.
“Is that Armine, or a Jack-in-the-Green?”

“Oh!” half sighed Barbara. “It’s that harvest decoration!” And Armine,
casting down armfuls of great ferns, and beautiful trailing plants, made
his entrance through the open window, exchanging greetings, and making a
semi-apology for his late appearance as he said--

“Mother, please desire Macrae to cut me the great white orchids. He
won’t do it unless you tell him, and I promised them for the Altar
vases.”

“You know, Armie, he said cutting them would be the ruin of the plant,
and I don’t feel justified in destroying it.”

“Macrae’s fancy,” muttered Armine. “It is only that he hates the whole
thing.”

“Unhappy Macrae! I go and condole with him sometimes,” said Bobus. “I
don’t know which are most outraged--his Freekirk or his horticultural
feelings!”

“Babie,” ordered Armine, who was devouring his breakfast at double
speed, “if you’ll put on your things, I’ve the garden donkey-cart ready
to take down the flowers. You won’t expect us to luncheon, mother?”

Barbara, though obedient, looked blank, and her mother said--

“My dear, if I went down and helped at the Church till half past twelve,
could not we all be set free? Your brothers want us to bring their
luncheon to them at the Hanger.”

“That’s right, mother,” cried Jock; “I’ve half a mind to come and
expedite matters.”

“No, no, Skipjack!” cried Bobus; “I had that twenty stone of solid flesh
whom I see walking up to the house to myself all yesterday, and I can’t
stand another day of it unmitigated!”

Entered the tall heavy figure of Rob. He reported his father as much the
same and not yet up, delivered a note to his aunt, and made no objection
to devouring several slices of tongue and a cup of cocoa to recruit
nature after his walk; while Bobus reclaimed the reluctant Armine from
cutting scarlet geraniums in the ribbon beds to show him the scene in
the Greek play which he was to prepare, and Babie tried to store up all
the directions, perceiving from the pupil’s roving eye that she should
have to be his memory.

Jock saw that the note had brought an additional line of care to his
mother’s brow, and therefore still more gaily and eagerly adjured her
not to fail in the Long Hanger, and as the shooting party started, he
turned back to wave his cap, and shout, “Sharp two!”

Two o’clock found three hungry youths and numerous dead birds on the
pleasant thymy bank beneath the edge of the beach wood, but gaze as
they might through the clear September air, neither mother, brother, nor
sister was visible. Presently, however, the pony-carriage appeared, and
in it a hamper, but driven only by the stable-boy. He said a gentleman
was at the house, and Mrs. Brownlow was very sorry that she could not
come, but had sent him with the luncheon.

“I shall go and see after her,” said Jock; and in spite of all
remonstrance, and assurance that it was only a form of Parsonic tyranny,
he took a draught of ale and a handful of sandwiches, sprang into the
carriage, and drove off, hardly knowing why, but with a yearning towards
his mother, and a sense that all that was unexpected boded evil. Leaving
the pony at the stables, and walking up to the house, he heard sounds
that caused him to look in at the open library window.

On one side of the table stood his mother, on the other Dr. Demetrius
Hermann, with insinuating face, but arm upraised as if in threatening.

“Scoundrel!” burst forth Jock. Both turned, and his mother’s look of
relief and joy met him as he sprang to her side, exclaiming, “What does
this mean? How dare you?”

“No, no!” she cried breathlessly, clinging to his arm. “He did not
mean--it was only a gesture!”

“I’ll have no such gestures to my mother.”

“Sir, the honoured lady only does me justice. I meant nothing violent.
Zat is for you English military, whose veapon is zie horsewhip.”

“As you will soon feel,” said Jock, “if you attempt to bully my mother.
What does it mean, mother dear?”

“He made a mistake,” she said, in a quick, tremulous tone, showing how
much she was shaken. “He thinks me a quack doctor’s widow, whose secret
is matter of bargain and sale.”

“Madame! I offered most honourable terms.”

“Terms, indeed! I told you the affair is no empirical secret to be
bought.”

“Yet madame knows that I am in possession of a portion of zie discovery,
and that it is in my power to pursue it further, though, for family
considerations, I offer her to take me into confidence, so that all may
profit in unison,” said the Greek, in his blandest manner.

“The very word profit shows your utter want of appreciation,” said Mrs.
Brownlow, with dignity. “Such discoveries are the property of the entire
faculty, to be used for the general benefit, not for private selfish
profit. I do not know how much information may have been obtained, but
if any attempt be made to use it in the charlatan fashion you propose, I
shall at once expose the whole transaction, and send my husband’s papers
to the Lancet.”

Hermann shrugged his shoulders and looked at Lucas, as if considering
whether more or less reason could be expected from a soldier than from a
woman. It was to him that he spoke.

“Madame cannot see zie matter in zie light of business. I have offered
freely to share all that I shall gain, if I may only obtain the data
needful to perfect zie discovery of zie learned and venerated father. I
am met wit anger I cannot comprehend.”

“Nor ever will,” said Caroline.

“And,” pursued Dr. Hermann, “when, on zie oder hand, I explain that my
wife has imparted to me sufficient to enable me to perfectionate
the discovery, and if the reserve be continued, it is just to demand
compensation, I am met with indignation even greater. I appeal to zie
captain. Is this treatment such as my proposals merit?”

“Not quite,” said Jock. “That is to be kicked out of the house, as you
shortly will be, if you do not take yourself off.”

“Sir, your amiable affection for madame leads you to forget, as she
does, zie claim of your sister.”

“No one has any claim on my mother,” said Jock.

“Zie moral claim--zie claim of affection,” began the Greek; but Caroline
interrupted him--

“Dr. Hermann is not the person fitly to remind me of these. They have
not been much thought of in Janet’s case. I mean to act as justly as
I can by my daughter, but I have absolutely nothing to give her
at present. Till I know what my own means may prove to be I can do
nothing.”

“But madame holds out zie hope of some endowment. I shall be in a
condition to be independent of it, but it would be sweet to my wife as a
token of pardon. I could bear away a promise.”

“I promise nothing,” was the reply. “If I have anything to give--even
then, all would depend on your conduct and the line you may take. And
above all, remember, it is in my power to frustrate and expose any
attempt to misuse any hints that may have been stolen from my husband’s
memoranda. In my power, and my duty.”

“Madame might have spared me this,” sighed the Athenian. “My poor
Janette! She will not believe how her husband has been received.”

He was gone. Caroline dropped into a chair, but the next moment she
almost screamed--

“Oh, we must not let him go thus! He may revenge it on her! Go after
him, get his address, tell him she shall have her share if he will
behave well to her.”

Jock fulfilled his mission according to his own judgment, and as he
returned his mother started up.

“You have not brought him back!”

“I should rather think not!”

“Janet’s husband! Oh, Jock, it is very dreadful! My poor child!”

She had been a little lioness in face of the enemy, but she was
trembling so hopelessly that Jock put her on a couch and knelt with his
arm round her while she laid her head on his strong young shoulder.

“Let me fetch you some wine, mother darling,” he said.

“No, no--to feel you is better than anything,” putting his arm closer--

“What was it all about, mother?”

“Ah! you don’t know, yet you went straight to the point, my dear
champion.”

“He was bullying you, that was enough. I thought for a moment the brute
was going to strike you.”

“That was only gesticulation. I’m glad you didn’t knock him down when
you made in to the rescue.”

She could laugh a little now.

“I should like to have done it. What did he want? Money, of course?”

“Not solely. I can’t tell you all about it; but Janet saw some memoranda
of your father’s, and he wants to get hold of them.”

“To pervert them to some quackery?”

“If not, I do him great injustice.”

“Give them up to a rogue like that! I should guess not! It will be some
little time before he tries again. Well done, little mother!”

“If he will not turn upon her.”

“What a speculation he must have thought her.”

“Don’t talk of it, Jock; I can’t bear to think of her in such hands.”

“Janet has a spirit of her own. I should think she could get her way
with her subtle Athenian. Where did he drop from?”

“He overtook me on my way back from the Church, for indeed I did not
mean to break my appointment. I don’t think the servants knew who was
here. And Jock, if you mention it to the others, don’t speak of this
matter of the papers. Call it, as you may with truth, an attempt to
extort money.”

“Very well,” he gravely said.

“It is true,” she continued, “that I have valuable memoranda of your
father’s in my charge; but you must trust me when I say that I am not at
liberty to tell you more.”

“Of course I do. So the mother was really coming, like a good little
Red-riding-hood, to bring her son’s dinner into the forest, when she met
with the wolf! Pray, has he eaten up the two kids at a mouthful?”

“No, Miss Parsons had done that already. They are making the Church so
beautiful, and it did not seem possible to spare them, though I hope
Armine may get home in time to get his work done for Bobus.”

“Is not he worked rather hard between the two? He does not seem to
thrive on it.”

“Jock, I can say it to you. I don’t know what to do. The poor boy’s
heart is in these Church matters, and he is so bitterly grieved at the
failure of all his plans that I cannot bear to check him in doing all he
can. It is just what I ought to have been doing all these years; I only
saw my duties as they were being taken away from me, and so I deserve
the way Miss Parsons treats me.”

“What way?”

“You need not bristle up. She is very civil; but when I hint that
Armine has study and health to consider, I see that in her eyes I am the
worldly obstructive mother who serves as a trial to the hero.”

“If she makes Armine think so--”

“Armie is too loyal for that. Yet it may be only too true, and only my
worldliness that wishes for a little discretion. Still, I don’t think
a sensible woman, if she were ever so good and devoted, would encourage
his fretting over the disappointment, or lead him to waste his time when
so much depends on his diligence. I am sure the focus of her mind must
be distorted, and she is twisting his the same way.”

“And her brother follows suit?”

“I think they go in parallel grooves, and he lets her alone. It is very
unlucky, for they are a constant irritation to Bobus, and he fancies
them average specimens of good people. He sneers, and I can’t say but
that much of what he says is true, but there is the envenomed drop in it
which makes his good sense shocking to Armine, and I fear Babie relishes
it more than is good for her. So they make one another worse, and so
they will as long as we are here. It was a great mistake to stay on, and
your uncle must feel it so.”

“Could you not go to Dieppe, or some cheap place?”

“I don’t feel justified in any more expense. Here the house costs
nothing, and our personal expenditure does not go beyond our proper
means; but to pay for lodging elsewhere would soon bring me in excess of
it, at least as long as Allen keeps up the yacht. Then poor Janet must
have something, and I don’t know what bills may be in store for me, and
there’s your outfit, and Bobus’s.”

“Never mind mine.”

“My dear, that’s fine talking, but you can’t go like Sir Charles Napier,
with one shirt and a bit of soap.”

“No, but I shall get something for the exchange. Besides, my kit was
costly even for the Guards, and will amply cover all that.”

“And you have sold your horses?”

“And have been living on them ever since! Come, won’t that encourage you
to make a little jaunt, just to break the spell?”

“I wish it could, my dear, but it does not seem possible while those
bills are such a dreadful uncertainty. I never know what Allen may have
been ordering.”

“Surely the Evelyns would be glad to have you.”

“No, Jock, that can’t be. Promise me that you will do nothing to lead to
an invitation. You are to meet some of them, are you not?”

“Yes, on Thursday week, at Roland Hampton’s wedding. Cecil and I and
a whole lot of us go down in the morning to it, and Sydney is to be a
bridesmaid. What are you going to do now, mother?”

“I don’t quite know. I feel regularly foolish. I shall have a headache
if I don’t keep quiet, but I can’t persuade myself to stay in the house
lest that man should come back.”

“What! not with me for garrison?”

“O nonsense, my dear. You must go and catch up the sportsmen.”

“Not when I can get my Mother Carey all to myself. You go and lie down
in the dressing-room, and I’ll come as soon as I have taken off my boots
and ordered some coffee for you.”

He returned with the step of one treading on eggs, expecting to find her
half asleep; but her eyes were glittering, and there were red spots on
her cheeks, for her nerves were excited, and when he came in she began
to talk. She told him, not of present troubles, but of the letters
between his father and grandmother, which, in her busy, restless life,
she had never before looked at, but which had come before her in her
preparations for vacating Belforest. Perhaps it was only now that she
had grown into appreciation of the relations between that mother and
son, as she read the letters, preserved on each side, and revealing
the full beauty and greatness of her husband’s nature, his perfect
confidence in his mother, and a guiding influence from her, which
she herself had never thought of exerting. Does not many an old
correspondence thus put the present generation to shame?

Jock was the first person with whom she had shared these letters, and
it was good to watch his face as he read the words of the father whom he
remembered chiefly as the best of playfellows. He was of an age and in
a mood to enter into them with all his heart, though he uttered little
more than an occasional question, or some murmured remark when anything
struck him. Both he and his mother were so occupied that they never
observed that the sky clouded over and rain began to fall, nor did they
think of any other object till Bobus opened the door in search of them.

“Halloo, you deserter!”

“Hush! Mother has a headache.”

“Not now, you have cured it.”

“Well, you’ve missed an encounter with the most impudent rascal I ever
came across.”

“You didn’t meet Hermann?”

“Well, perhaps I have found his match; but you shall hear. Grimes said
he heard guns, and we came upon the scoundrel in Lewis Acre, two brace
on his shoulder.”

“The vultures are gathering to the prey,” said his mother.

“I’m not arrived at lying still to be devoured!” said Bobus. “I gave him
the benefit of a doubt, and sent Grimes to warn him off; but the fellow
sent his card--_his_ card forsooth, ‘Mr. Gilbert Gould, R.N.,’--and
information that he had Miss Menella’s permission.”

“Not credible,” said Jock.

“Mrs. Lisette’s more likely,” said his mother. “I think he is her
brother.”

“I sent Grimes back to tell him that Miss Menella had as much power
to give leave as my old pointer, and if he did not retire at once, we
should gently remove his gun and send out a summons.”

“Why did you not do so at once?” cried Jock.

“Because I have brains enough not to complicate matters by a personal
row with the Goulds,” said Bobus, “though I could wish not to have been
there, when the keepers would infallibly have done so. Shall I write to
George Gould, or will you, mother?”

“Oh dear,” sighed Caroline, “I think Mr. Wakefield is the fittest
person, if it signifies enough to have it done at all.”

“Signifies!” cried Jock. “To have that rascal loafing about! I wouldn’t
be trampled upon while the life is in me!”

“I don’t like worrying Mr. Gould. It is not his fault, except for having
married such a wife, poor man.”

“Having been married by her, you mean,” said Bobus. “Mark me, she means
to get that fellow married to that poor child, as sure as fate.”

“Impossible, Bobus! His age!”

“He is a good deal younger than his sister, and a prodigious swell.”

“Besides, he is her uncle,” said Jock.

“No, no, only her uncle’s wife’s brother.”

“That’s just the same.”

“I wish it were!” But Jock would not be satisfied without getting a
Prayer-book, to look at the table of degrees.

“He is really her third cousin, I believe,” said his mother, “and I’m
afraid that is not prohibited.”

“Is he a ship’s steward?” said Jock, looking at the card with infinite
disgust.

“A paymaster’s assistant, I believe.”

“That would be too much. Besides, there’s the Scot!”

“I don’t think much of that,” said Jock. “The mother and sister are keen
for it, but Clanmacnalty is in no haste to marry, and by all accounts
the Elf carries on promiscuously with three or four at once.”

“And she has no fine instinct for a gentleman,” added Bobus. “It is who
will spread the butter thickest!”

“A bad look out for Belforest,” said Jock.

“It can’t be much worse than it has been with me,” said his mother.

“That’s what that little ass, Armine, has been presuming to din into
your ears,” said Bobus; “as if the old women didn’t prefer beef and
blankets to your coming poking piety at the poor old parties.”

“By the bye,” cried Caroline, starting, “those children have never come
home, and see how it rains!”

Jock volunteered to take the pony carriage and fetch them, but he had
not long emerged from the park in the gathering twilight before he
overtook two figures under one umbrella, and would have passed them had
he not been hailed.

“You demented children! Jump in this instant.”

“Don’t turn!” called Armine. “We must take this,” showing a parcel which
he had been sheltering more carefully than himself or his sister. “It
is cord and tassels for the banner. They sent wrong ones,” said Barbara,
“and we had to go and match it. They would not let me go alone.”

“Get in, I say,” cried Jock, who was making demonstrations with the
“national weapon” much as if he would have liked to lay it about their
shoulders.

“Then we must drive onto the Parsonage,” stipulated Armine.

“Not a bit of it, you drenched and foolish morsel of humanity. You are
going straight home to bed. Hand us the parcel. What will you give me
not to tie this cord round the Reverend Petronella’s neck?”

“Thank you, Jock, I’m so glad,” said Babie, referring probably to
the earlier part of his speech. “We would have come home for the pony
carriage, but we thought it would be out.”

“Take care of the drip,” was Armine’s parting cry, as Babie turned the
pony’s head, and Jock strode down the lane. He meant merely to have
given in the parcel at the door, but Miss Parsons darted out, and not
distinguishing him in the dark began, “Thank you, dear Armine; I’m so
sorry, but it is in the good cause and you won’t regret it. Where’s your
sister? Gone home? But you’ll come and have a cup of tea and stay to
evensong?”

“My brother and sister are gone home, thank you,” said Jock, with
impressive formality, and a manly voice that made her start.

“Oh, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Brownlow. I was so sorry to let them go;
but it had not begun to rain, and it is such a joy to dear Armine to be
employed in the service.”

“Yes, he is mad enough to run any risk,” said Jock.

“Oh, Mr. Brownlow, if I could only persuade you to enter into the joy of
self-devotion, you would see that I could not forbid him! Won’t you come
in and have a cup of tea?”

“Thank you, no. Good night.” And Miss Parsons was left rejoicing at
having said a few words of reproof to that cynical Mr. Robert Brownlow,
while Jock tramped away, grinning a sardonic smile at the lady’s notions
of the joys of self-sacrifice.

He came home only just in time for dinner, and found Armine enduring,
with a touching resignation learnt in Miss Parsons’s school, the sarcasm
of Bobus for having omitted to prepare his studies. The boy could
neither eat nor entirely conceal the chills that were running over him;
and though he tried to silence his brother’s objurgations by bringing
out his books afterwards, his cheeks burnt, he emitted little grunting
coughs, and at last his head went down on the lexicon, and his breath
came quick and short.

The Harvest Festival day was perforce kept by him in bed, blistered and
watched from hour to hour to arrest the autumn cold, which was the one
thing dreaded as imperilling him in the English winter which he must
face for the first time for four years.

And Miss Parsons, when impressively told, evidently thought it was the
family fashion to make a great fuss about him.

Alas! why are people so one-sided and absorbed in their own concerns as
never to guess what stumbling-blocks they raise in other people’s paths,
nor how they make their good be evil spoken of?

Babie confided her feelings to Jock when he escorted her to Church in
the evening, and had detected a melancholy sound in her voice which made
him ask if she thought Armine’s attack of the worst sort.

“Not particularly, except that he talks so beautifully.”

Jock gave a small sympathetic whistle at this dreadful symptom, and
wondered to hear that he had been able to talk.

“I didn’t mean only to-day, but this is only what he had made up
his mind to. He never expects to leave Belforest, and he thinks--oh,
Jock!--he thinks it is meant to do Bobus good.”

“He doesn’t go the way to edify Bobus.”

“No, but don’t you see? That is what is so dreadful. He only just reads
with Bobus because mother ordered him; and he hates it because he thinks
it is of no use, for he will never be well enough to go to college.
Why, he had this cold coming yesterday, and I believe he is glad, for
it would be like a book for him to be very bad indeed, bad enough to be
able to speak out to Bobus without being laughed at.”

“Does he always go on in this way?”

“Not to mother; but to hear him and Miss Parsons is enough to drive one
wild. They went on such a dreadful way yesterday that I was furious,
and so glad to get away to Kenminster; only after I had set off, he came
running after me, and I knew what that would be.”

“What does she do? Does she blarney him?”

“Yes, I suppose so. She means it, I believe; but she does natter him so
that it would make me sick, if it didn’t make me so wretched! You see he
likes it, because he fancies her goodness itself; and so I suppose she
is, only there is such a lot of clerical shop”--then, as Jock made a
sound as if he did not like the slang in her mouth--“Ay, it sounds like
Bobus; but if this goes on much longer, I shall turn to Bobus’s way. He
has all the sense on his side!”

“No, Babie,” said Jock very gravely. “That’s a much worse sort of
folly!”

“And he will be gone before long,” said Barbara, much struck by a tone
entirely unwonted from her brother. “O Jock, I thought reverses would be
rather nice and help one to be heroic, and perhaps they would, if they
would only come faster, and Armine could be out of Miss Parsons’s way;
but I don’t believe he will ever be better while he is here. I think!--I
think!” and she began to sob, “that Miss Parsons will really be the
death of him if she is not hindered!”

“Can’t he go on board the Petrel with Allen?”

“Mother did think of that,” said Babie, “but Allen said he wasn’t in
spirits for the charge, and that cabin No. 2 wasn’t comfortable enough.”

Jock was not the least surprised at this selfishness, but he said--

“We _will_ get him away somehow, Infanta, never fear! And when you have
left this place, you’ll be all right. You’ll have the Friar, and he is a
host in himself.”

“Yes,” said Babie, ruefully, “but he is not a brother after all. Oh,
Jock! mother says it is very wrong in me, but I can’t help it.”

“What is wrong, little one?”

“To feel it so dreadful that you and Bobus are going! I know it is
honour and glory, and promotion, and chivalry, and Victoria crosses,
and all that Sydney and I used to care for; but, oh! we never thought of
those that stayed at home.”

“You were a famous Spartan till the time came,” said Jock, in an odd
husky voice.

“I wouldn’t mind so much but for mother,” said poor Barbara, in an
apologetic tone; “nor if there were any stuff in Allen; nor if dear
Armie were well and like himself; but, oh dear! I feel as if all the
manhood and comfort of the family would be gone to the other end of the
world.”

“What did you say about mother?”

“I beg your pardon, Jock, I didn’t mean to worry you. I know it is a
grand thing for you. But mother was so merry and happy when we thought
we should all be snug with you in the old house, and she made such nice
plans. But now she is so fagged and worn, and she can’t sleep. She began
to read as soon as it was light all those long summer mornings to keep
from thinking; and she is teasing herself over her accounts. There
were shoals of great horrid bills of things Allen ordered coming in at
Midsummer, just as she thought she saw her way! Do you know, she thinks
she may have to let our own house and go into lodgings.”

“Is that you, Barbara?” said a voice at the Parsonage wicket. “How is
our dear patient?”

“Rather better to-night, we think.”

“Tell him I hope to come and see him to-morrow. And say the vases are
come. I thought your mother would wish us to have the large ones, so I
put them in the Church. They are £3.”

Babie thought Jock’s face was dazed when he came among the lights in
Church, and that he moved and responded like an automaton, and she could
hardly get a word out of him all the way home. There, they were sent
for to Armine, who was sufficiently better to want to hear all about the
services, the procession, the wheat-sheaf, the hymns, and the sermons.
Jock stood the examination well till it came to evensong, when, as his
sister had conjectured, he knew nothing, except one sentence, which he
said had come over and over again in the sermon, and he wanted to know
whence it came. It was, “Seekest thou great things for thyself.”

Even Armine only knew that it was in a note in the “Christian Year,” and
Babie looked out the reference, and found that it was Jeremiah’s rebuke
to Baruch for self-seeking amid the general ruin.

“I liked Baruch,” she said. “I am sorry he was selfish.”

“Noble selfishness, perhaps,” said Armine. “He may have aimed at saving
his country and coming out a glorious hero, like Gideon or Jephthah.”

“And would that have been self-seeking too, as well as the commoner
thing?” said Babie.

“It is like a bit of New Testament in the midst of the Old,” said
Armine. “They that are great are called Benefactors--a good sort of
greatness, but still not the true Christian greatness.”

“And that?” said Babie.

“To be content to be faithful servant as well as faithful soldier,” said
Armine, thoughtfully. “But what had it to do with the harvest?”

He got no satisfaction, Babie could remember nothing but Jock’s face,
and Jock had taken the Bible, and was looking at the passages referred
to He sat for a long time resting his head on his hand, and when at last
he was roused to bid Armine goodnight, he bent over him, kissed him,
and said, “In spite of all, you’re the wise one of us, Armie boy. Thank
you.”



CHAPTER XXXII. -- THE COST.



     O well for him who breaks his dream
       With the blow that ends the strife,
     And waking knows the peace that flows
       Around the noise of life.
                                   G. MacDonald.


“Jock! say this is not true!”

The wedding had been celebrated with all the splendour befitting a
marriage in high life. Bridesmaids and bridesmen were wandering about
the gardens waiting for the summons to the breakfast, when one of
the former thus addressed one of the latter, who was standing, gazing
without much speculation in his eyes, at the gold fish disporting
themselves round a fountain.

“Sydney!” he exclaimed, “are not your mother and Fordham here? I can’t
find them.”

“Did you not hear, Duke has one of his bad colds, and mamma could not
leave him? But, Jock, while we have time, set my mind at rest.”

“What is affecting your mind?” said Jock, knowing only too well.

“What Cecil says, that you mean to disappoint all our best hopes.”

“There’s no help for it, Sydney,” said Jock, too heavy-hearted for
fencing.

“No help. I don’t understand. Why, there’s going to be war, real war,
out there.”

“Frontier tribes!”

“What of that? It would lead to something. Besides, no one leaves a
corps on active service.”

“Is mine?”

“It is all the same. You were going to get into one that is.”

“Curious reasoning, Sydney. I am afraid my duty lies the other way.”

“Duty to one’s country comes first. I can’t believe Mrs. Brownlow wants
to hold you back; she--a soldier’s daughter!”

“It is no doing of hers,” said Jock; “but I see that I must not put
myself out of reach of her.”

“When she has all the others! That is a mere excuse! If you were an only
son, it would be bad enough.”

“Come this way, and I’ll tell you what convinced me.”

“I can’t see how any argument can prevail on you to swerve from the path
of honour, the only career any one can care about,” cried Sydney, the
romance of her nature on fire.

“Hush, Sydney,” he said, partly from the exquisite pain she inflicted,
partly because her vehemence was attracting attention.

“No wonder you say Hush,” said the maiden, with what she meant for noble
severity, “No wonder you don’t want to be reminded of all we talked of
and planned. Does not it break Babie’s heart?”

“She does not know.”

“Then it is not too late.”

But at that moment the bride’s aunt, who felt herself in charge of
Miss Evelyn, swooped down on them, and paired her off with an equally
honourable best man, so that she found herself seated between two
comparative strangers; while it seemed to her that Lucas Brownlow was
keeping up an insane whirl of merriment with his neighbours.

Poor child, her hero was fallen, her influence had failed, and nothing
was left her but the miserable shame of having trusted in the power of
an attraction which she now felt to have been a delusion. Meanwhile the
aunt, by way of being on the safe side, effectually prevented Jock from
speaking to her again before the party broke up; and he could only see
that she was hotly angered, and not that she was keenly hurt.

She arrived at home the next day with white cheeks and red eyes, and
most indistinct accounts of the wedding. A few monosyllables were
extracted with difficulty, among them a “Yes” when Fordham asked whether
she had seen Lucas Brownlow.

“Did he talk of his plans?”

“Not much.”

“One cannot but be sorry,” said her mother; “but, as your uncle says,
his motives are to be much respected.”

“Mamma,” cried Sydney, horrified, “you wouldn’t encourage him in turning
back from the defence of his country in time of war?”

“His country!” ejaculated Fordham. “Up among the hill tribes!”

“You palliating it too, Duke! Is there no sense of honour or glory left?
What are you laughing at? I don’t think it a laughing matter, nor Cecil
either, that he should have been led to turn his back upon all that is
great and glorious!”

“That’s very fine,” said Fordham, who was in a teasing mood. “Had you
not better put it into the ‘Traveller’s Joy?’”

“I shall never touch the ‘Traveller’s Joy’ again!” and Sydney’s high
horse suddenly breaking down, she flew away in a flood of tears.

Her mother and brother looked at one another rather aghast, and Fordham
said--

“Had you any suspicion of this?”

“Not definitely. Pray don’t say a word that can develop it now.”

“He is all the worthier.”

“Most true; but we do not know that there is any feeling on his side,
and if there were, Sydney is much too young for it to be safe to
interfere with conventionalities. An expressed attachment would be very
bad for both of them at present.”

“Should you have objected if he had still been going to India?”

“I would have prevented an engagement, and should have regretted her
knowing anything about it. The wear of such waiting might be too great a
strain on her.”

“Possibly,” said Fordham. “And should you consider this other profession
an insuperable objection?”

“Certainly not, if he goes on as I think he will; but such success
cannot come to him for many years, and a good deal may happen in that
time.”

Poor Lucas! He would have been much cheered could he have heard the
above conversation instead of Cecil’s wrath, which, like his sister’s,
worked a good deal like madness on the brain.

Mr. Evelyn chose to resent the slight to his family, and the ingratitude
to his uncle, in thus running counter to their wishes, and plunging into
what the young aristocrat termed low life. He did not spare the warning
that it would be impossible to keep up an intimacy with one who chose to
“grub his nose in hospitals and dissecting rooms.”

Naturally Lucas took these as the sentiments of the whole family, and
found that he was sacrificing both love and friendship. Sir James Evelyn
indeed allowed that he was acting rightly according to his lights. Sir
Philip Cameron told him that his duty to a widowed mother ought to come
first, and his own Colonel, a good and wise man, commended his decision,
and said he hoped not to lose sight of him. The opinions of these
veterans, though intrinsically worth more than those of the two young
Evelyns, were by no means an equivalent to poor Lucas. The “great
things” he had resolved not to seek, involved what was far dearer. It
was more than he had reckoned on when he made his resolution, but he had
committed himself, and there was no drawing back. He was just of age,
and had acted for himself, knowing that his mother would withhold her
consent if she were asked for it; but he was considering how to convey
the tidings to her, when he found that a card had been left for him by
the Reverend David Ogilvie, with a pencilled invitation to dine with him
that evening at an hotel.

Mr. Ogilvie, after several years of good service as curate at a district
Church at a fashionable south coast watering place, sometimes known as
the English Sorrento, had been presented to the parent Church. He had
been taking his summer holiday, and on his way back had undertaken to
relieve a London friend of his Sunday services. His sister’s letters
had made him very anxious for tidings of Mrs. Brownlow, and he had
accordingly gone in quest of her son.

He ordered dinner with a half humorous respect for the supposed
epicurism of a young Guardsman, backed by the desire to be doubly
correct because of the fallen fortunes of the family, and he awaited
with some curiosity the pupil, best known to him as a pickle.

“Mr. Brownlow.”

There stood, a young man, a soldier from head to foot, slight, active,
neatly limbed, and of middle height, with a clear brown cheek, dark hair
and moustache, and the well-remembered frank hazel eyes, though their
frolic and mischief were dimmed, and they had grown grave and steadfast,
and together with the firm-set lip gave the impression of a mind
resolutely bent on going through some great ordeal without flinching or
murmuring. With a warm grasp of the hand Mr. Ogilvie said--

“Why, Brownlow, I should not have known you.”

“I should have known you, sir, anywhere,” said Jock, amazed to find
the Ogre of old times no venerable seignior, but a man scarce yet
middle-aged.

They talked of Mr. Ogilvie’s late tour, in scenes well known to Jock,
and thence they came to the whereabouts of all the family, Armine’s
health and Robert’s appointment, till they felt intimate; and the
unobtrusive sympathy of the old friend opened the youth’s heart, and he
made much plain that had been only half understood from Mrs. Morgan’s
letters. Of his eldest brother and sister, Jock said little; but there
was no need to explain why his mother was straitening herself, and
remaining at Belforest when it had become so irksome to her.

“And you are going out to India?” said Mr. Ogilvie.

“That’s not coming off, sir.”

“Indeed, I thought you were to have a staff appointment.”

“It would not pay, sir; and that is a consideration.”

“Then have you anything else in view?”

“The hospitals,” said Jock, with a poor effort to seem diverted;
“the other form of slaughter.” Then as his friend looked at him
with concerned and startled eyes, he added, “Unless there were some
extraordinary chance of loot. You see the pagoda tree is shaken bare,
and I could do no more than keep myself and have nothing for my mother,
and I am afraid she will need it. It is a chance whether Allen, at his
age, or Armine, with his health, can do much, and some one must stay and
get remunerative work.”

“Is not the training costly?”

“Her Majesty owes me something. Luckily I got my commission by purchase
just in time, and I shall receive compensation enough to carry me
through my studies. We shall be all together with Friar Brownlow, who
takes the same line in the old house in Bloomsbury, where we were all
born. That she really does look forward to.”

“I should think so, with you to look after her,” said Mr. Ogilvie
heartily.

“Only she can’t get into it till Lady Day. And I wanted to ask you, Mr.
Ogilvie, do you know anything about expenses down at your place? What
would tolerable lodgings be likely to come to, rent of rooms, I mean,
for my mother and the two young ones. Armie has not wintered in England
since that Swiss adventure of ours, and I suppose St. Cradocke’s would
be as good a place for him as any.”

“I had a proposition to make, Brownlow. My sister and I invested in a
house at St. Cradocke’s when I was curate there, and she meant to retire
to me when she had finished Barbara. My married curate is leaving it
next week, when I go home. The single ones live in the rectory with me,
and I think of making it a convalescent home; but this can’t be begun
for some months, as the lady who is to be at the head will not be at
liberty. Do you think your mother would do me the favour to occupy it?
It is furnished, and my housekeeper would see it made comfortable for
her. Do you think you could make the notion acceptable to her?” he said,
colouring like a lad, and stuttering in his eagerness.

“It would be a huge relief,” exclaimed Jock. “Thank you, Mr. Ogilvie.
Belforest has come to be like a prison to her, and it will be everything
to have Armine in a warm place among reasonable people.”

“Is Kenminster more unreasonable than formerly?”

“Not Kenminster, but Woodside. I say, Mr. Ogilvie, you haven’t any one
at St. Cradocke’s who will send Armine and Babie to walk three miles and
back in the rain for a bit of crimson cord and tassels?”

“I trust not,” said Mr. Ogilvie, smiling. “That is the way in which good
people manage to do so much harm.”

“I’m glad you say so,” cried Jock. “That woman is worse for him than six
months of east wind. I declare I had a hard matter to get myself to go
to Church there the next day.”

“Who is _she_?”

“The sister of the Vicar of Woodside, who is making him the edifying
martyr of a goody book. Ah, you know her, I see,” as Mr. Ogilvie looked
amused.

“A gushing lady of a certain age? Oh yes, she has been at St.
Cradocke’s.”

“She is not coming again, I hope!” in horror.

“Not likely. They were there for a few months before her brother had the
living, and I could quite fancy her influence bringing on a morbid state
of mind. There is something exaggerated about her.”

“You’ve hit her off exactly!” cried Jock, “and you’ll unbewitch our poor
boy before she has quite done for him! Can’t you come down with me on
Saturday, and propose the plan?”

“Thank you, I am pledged to Sunday.”

“I forgot. But come on Monday then?”

“I had better go and prepare. I had rather you spoke for me. Somehow,”
 and a strange dew came in David Ogilvie’s eyes, “I could not bear to see
_her_ there, where we saw her installed in triumph, now that all is so
changed.”

“You would see her the brightest and bravest of all. Neither she nor
Babie would mind the loss of fortune a bit if it were not, as Babie
says, for ‘other things.’ But those other things are wearing her to a
mere shadow. No, not a shadow--that is dark--but a mere sparkle! But to
escape from Belforest will cure a great deal.”

So Jock went away with the load on his heart somewhat lightened. He
could not get home on Saturday till very late, when dinner had long been
over. Coming softly in, through the dimly lighted drawing-rooms, over
the deeply piled carpets, he heard Babie’s voice reading aloud in the
innermost library, and paused for a moment, looking through the heavy
velvet curtains over the doorway before withdrawing one and entering.
His mother’s face was in full light, as she sat helping Armine to
illuminate texts. She did indeed look worn and thin, and there were
absolute lines on it, but they were curves such as follow smiles, rather
than furrows of care; feet rather of larks than of crows, and her whole
air was far more cheerful and animated than that of her youngest son.
He was thin and wan, his white cheeks contrasting with his dark hair and
brown eyes, which looked enormous in their weary pensiveness, as he lent
back languidly, holding a brush across his lips in a long pause, while
she was doing his work. Barbara’s bright keen little features were
something quite different as, wholly wrapped up in her book, she read--


          “Oh! then Ladurlad started,
           As one who, in his grave,
           Has heard an angel’s call,
           Yea, Mariately, thou must deign to save,
           Yea, goddess, it is she,
           Kailyal--”


“Are you learning Japanese?” asked Jock, advancing, so that Armine
started like Ladurlad himself.

“Dear old Skipjack! Skipped here again!” and they were all about him.
“Have you had any dinner?”

“A mouthful at the station. If there is any coffee and a bit of
something cold, I’d rather eat it promiscuously here. No dining-room
spread, pray. It is too jolly here,” said Jock, dropping into an
armchair. “Where’s Bob?”

“Dining at the school-house.”

“And what’s that Mariolatry?”

“Mariately,” said Babie. “An Indian goddess. It is the ‘Curse of
Kehama,’ and wonderfully noble.”

“Moore or Browning?”

“For shame, Jock!” cried the girl. “I thought you did know more than
examination cram.”

“It is the advantage of having no Mudie boxes,” said his mother. “We are
taking up our Southey.”

“And, Armie, how are you?”

“My cough is better, thank you,” was the languid answer. “Only they
won’t let me go beyond the terrace.”

“For don’t I know,” said his mother, “that if once I let you out, I
should find you croaking at a choir practice at Woodside?”

Then, after ordering a refection for the traveller, came the question
what he had been doing.

“Dining with Mr. Ogilvie. It is quite a new sensation to find oneself on
a level with the Ogre of one’s youth, and prove him a human mortal after
all.”

“That’s a sentiment worthy of Joe,” said Babie. “You used to know him in
private life.”

“Always with a smack of the dominie. Moreover, he is so young. I thought
him as ancient as Dr. Lucas, and, behold, he is a brisk youth, without a
grey hair.”

“He always was young-looking,” said his mother. “I am glad you saw him.
I wish he were not so far off.”

“Well then, mother, here’s an invitation from Mahomet to the mountain,
which Mahomet is too shy to make in person. That house which he and
his sister bought at his English Sorrento has just been vacated by his
married curate, and he wants you to come and keep it warm till he begins
a convalescent home there next spring.”

“How very kind!”

“Oh! mother, you couldn’t,” burst out Armine in consternation.

“Would it be an expense or loss to him, Jock?” said his mother,
considering.

“I should say not, unless he be an extremely accomplished dissembler. If
it eased your mind, no doubt he would consent to your paying the rates
and taxes.”

“But, mother,” again implored Armine, “you said you would not force me
to go to Madeira, with the Evelyns!”

“Are they going to Madeira?” exclaimed Jock, thunderstruck.

“Did you not hear it from Cecil?”

“He has been away on leave for the last week. This is a sudden
resolution.”

“Yes, Fordham goes on coughing, and Sydney has a bad cold, caught at the
wedding. Did you see her?”

“Oh yes, I saw her,” he mechanically answered, while his mother
continued--

“Mrs. Evelyn has been pressing me most kindly to let Armine go with
them; but as Dr. Leslie assures me it is not essential, and he seems so
much averse to it himself--”

“You know, mother, how I wish to hold my poor neglected Woodside to the
last,” cried Armine. “Why is my health always to be made the excuse for
deserting it?”

“You are not the only reason,” said his mother. “It is hard to keep
Esther in banishment all this time, and I am in constant fear of a row
about the shooting with that Gilbert Gould.”

“Has he been at it again!” exclaimed Jock, fiercely.

“You are as bad as Rob,” she said. “I fully expect a disturbance between
them, and I had rather be no party to it. Oh, I shall be very thankful
to get away, I feel like a prisoner on parole.”

“And I feel,” said Armine, “as if all we could do here was too little to
expiate past carelessness.”

“Mind, you are talking of mother!” said Jock, firing up.

“I thought she felt with me,” said Armine, meekly.

“So I do, my dear; I ought to have done much better for the place,
but our staying on now does no good, and only leads to perplexity and
distress.”

“And when can you come, mother?” said Jock. “The house is at your
service instanter.”

“I should like to go to-night, without telling any one or wishing any
one good-bye. No, you need not be afraid, Armie. The time must depend
on your brother’s plans. St. Cradocke’s is too far off for much running
backwards and forwards. Have you any notion when you may have to leave
us, Jock? You don’t go with Sir Philip?”

“No, certainly not,” said Jock. Then, with a little hesitation, “In
fact, that’s all up.”

“He has not thrown you over?” said his mother; “or is there any
difficulty about your exchange?”

Here Babie broke in, “Oh, that’s it! That’s what Sydney meant! Oh, Jock!
you don’t mean that you let it prey upon you--the nonsense I talked? Oh,
I will never, never say anything again!”

“What did she say?” demanded Jock.

“Sydney? Oh, that it would break her heart and Cecil’s if you persisted,
and that she could not prevent you, and it was my duty. Mother, that was
the letter I didn’t show you. I could not understand it, and I thought
you had enough to worry you.”

“But what does it all mean?” asked their mother. “What have you been
doing to the Evelyns?”

“Mother, I have gone back to our old programme,” said Jock. “I have sent
in my papers; I said nothing to you, for I thought you would only vex
yourself.”

“Oh, Jock!” she said, overpowered; “I should never have let you!”

“No, mother, dear, I knew that, so I didn’t ask you.”

“You undutiful person!” but she held out her arm, and as he came to her,
she leant her head against him, sobbing a little sob of infinite relief,
as though fortitude found it much pleasanter to have a living column.

“You’ve done it?” said Armine.

“You will see it gazetted in a day or two.”

“Then it is all over,” cried Babie, again in tears; “all our dreams of
honour, and knighthood, and wounds, and glorious things!”

“You can always have the satisfaction of believing I should have got
them,” said Jock, but there was a quiver in his voice, and a thrill
through his whole frame that showed his mother that it was very sore
with him, and she hastened to let him subside into a chair while she
asked if it was far to the end of the canto, and as Babie was past
reading, she took the book and finished it herself. Nobody had much
notion of the sense, but the cadence was soothing, and all were composed
by the time the prayer-bell rang.

“Come to my dressing-room presently,” she said to Lucas, as he lighted
her candle for her.

Just as she had gone up stairs, the front door opened to admit Bobus.

“Oh, you are here!” was his salutation. “So you have done for yourself?”

“How do you know?”

“Your colonel wrote to my uncle. He was at the dinner, and made me come
back with him to ask if I knew about it.”

“How does he take it?”

“He will probably fall on you, as he did on me to-night, calling it all
my fault.”

“As how?”

“For looking out for myself. For my part, I had thought it praiseworthy,
but he says none of the rest of us care a rush for my mother, and so the
only one of us good for anything has to be the victim. But don’t plume
yourself. You’ll be the scum of the earth when he has you before him.
Poor old boy, it is a sore business to him, and it doesn’t improve his
temper. I believe this place is a greater loss to him than to my mother.
What are your plans?”

“Rotifer, as before.”

“Chacun a son gout,” said Bobus, shrugging his shoulders.

“I should have thought you would respect curing more than killing.”

“If there were not a whole bag of stones about your neck.”

“Magnets,” said Jock.

“That’s just it. All the heavier.”

The brothers went upstairs together, and Jock was kept waiting a little
while in the dressing-room, till his mother came out, shutting the door
on Barbara.

“The poor Infanta!” she said. “She is breaking her foolish little heart
over something she said to you. ‘As bad as the woman in the “Black
Brunswicker,”’ she says, only she didn’t mean it. Was it so, Jock?”

“I had pretty well made up my mind before. Mother, are you vexed that I
did not tell you?”

“You spared me much. Your uncle would never have consented. But oh,
Jock! I’m not a Spartan mother. My heart _will_ bound.”

“My colonel said it was right,” said Jock; “so did Cameron, and even Sir
James, though he did not like it.”

“With such an array of old soldiers on our side we may let the young
ladies rage,” said his mother, but she checked her mirth on seeing how
far from a joke their indignation was to her son.

He turned and looked into the fire as he said--

“When did Sydney write that letter, mother?”

“Before meeting you at the wedding. She has not written since.”

“I thought not,” muttered Jock, his brow against the mantel-piece.

“No, but Mrs. Evelyn has written such a nice letter, just like herself,
though I did not understand it then. I think she was doubtful how much
I knew, for she only said how thankworthy it must be to have such a
self-sacrificing spirit among my sons, moral courage, in fact, of the
highest kind, and how those who were lavish of strong words in their
first disappointment would be wiser by-and-by. I was puzzled then. But
oh, my dear, this must have been very grievous to you!”

“I couldn’t go back, but I did not know how it would be,” said Jock, in
a choked voice, collapsing at last, and hiding his face on his mother’s
lap.

“My Jock, I am so sorry! I wish it were not too late. I could not have
let you give up so much,” and she fondled his head. “I did not think I
had been so weak as to let you see.”

“No, mother. It was not that you were so weak, but that you were so
brave. Besides, I ought to take the brunt of it. I ruined you all by
being the prime mover with that assification, and I was the cause of
Armie’s illness too. I ought to take my share. If ever I can be any good
to any one again,” he added, in a dejected tone.

“Good!--unspeakably good! This is my first bright spot of light through
the wood. If it were but bright to you! I am afraid they have been very
unkind.”

“Not unkind. _She_ couldn’t be that, but I’ve shocked and disappointed
her,” and his head dropped again.

“What, in not being a hero? My dear, you are a true hero in the eyes of
us old mothers; but I am afraid that is poor comfort. My Jock, does it
go so deep as that? Giving up _all_ that for me! O my boy!”

“It is nonsense to talk of giving up,” said Jock, rousing himself to a
common-sense view. “What chance had I of her if I had gone to India ten
times over?” but the wave of grief broke over him again. “She would have
believed in me, and, may be, have waited.”

“She will believe in you again.”

“No, I’m below her.”

“My poor boy, I didn’t know it had come to this. Do you mean that
anything had ever passed between you?”

“No, but it was all the same. Even Evelyn implied it, when he said they
must give me up, if we took such different lines.”

“Cecil too! Foolish fellow! Jock, don’t care about such absurdity. They
are not worth it.”

“They’ve been the best of my life,” said poor Jock, but he stood up,
shook himself, and said, “A nice way this of helping you! I didn’t think
I was such a fool. But it is over now. I’ll buckle to, and do my best.”

“My brave boy!” and as the thought of the Magnum Bonum darted into her
mind, she said, “You may have greater achievements than are marked by
Victoria Crosses, and Sydney herself may own it.”

And Jock went to bed, cheered in spite of himself by his mother’s
pleasure, and by Mrs. Evelyn’s letter, which she allowed him to take
away with him.

Colonel Brownlow was not so much distressed by Lucas’s retirement as
had been apprehended. He knew the life of a soldier with small means
too well to recommend it. The staff appointment, he said, might mean
anything or nothing, and could only last a short time unless Lucas had
extraordinary opportunities. It might be as well, he was very like his
grandfather, poor John Allen, and might have had his history over again.

The likeness was a new idea to Caroline and a great pleasure to her.
Indeed, she seemed to Armine unfeelingly joyous, as she accepted Mr.
Ogilvie’s invitation, and hurried her preparations. There was a bare
possibility of a return in the spring, which prevented final farewells,
and softened partings a little. The person who showed most grief of all
was Mrs. Robert Brownlow, who, glad as she must have been to be free of
Bobus and able to recall her daughter, wept over her sister-in-law as
if she had been going into the workhouse, with tears partly penitent for
the involuntary ingratitude with which past kindness had been received.
She was, as Babie said, much more sorry for Mother Carey than Mother
Carey for herself.

Yet the relief was all the greater that it was plain that Esther was
not happy in her banishment; and that General Hood thought her visit
had lasted long enough, while the matter was complicated at home by her
sister Eleanor’s undisguised sympathy with her cousin Bobus, for whom
she would have sent messages if her mother had not, with some difficulty
exacted a promise never to allude to him in her letters.



CHAPTER XXXIII. -- BITTER FAREWELLS.



     But he who lets his feelings run
       In soft luxurious flow
     Shrinks when hard service must be done
       And faints at every woe.
                                 J. H. Newman.


Welcome shone in Mr. Ogilvie’s face in the gaslight on the platform
as the train drew up, and the Popinjay in her cage was handed out,
uttering, “Hic, haec, hoc. We’re all Mother Carey’s chicks.”

Therewith the mother and the two youngest of her chicks were handed to
their fly, and driven, through raindrops and splashes flashing in the
gas, to a door where the faithful Emma awaited them, and conveyed them
to a room so bright and comfortable that Babie piteously exclaimed--

“Oh, Emma, you have left me nothing to do!”

Presently came Mr. Ogilvie to make sure that the party needed nothing.
He was like a child hovering near, and constantly looking to assure
himself of the reality of some precious acquisition.

Later in the evening, on his way from the night-school, he was at the
door again to leave a parish magazine with a list of services that ought
to have rejoiced Armine’s heart, if he had felt capable of enjoying
anything at St. Cradocke’s, and at which Babie looked with some dismay,
as if fearing that they would all be inflicted on her. He was in a
placid, martyr-like state. He had made up his mind that the air was of
the relaxing sort that disagreed with him, and no doubt would be fatal,
though as he coughed rather less than more, he could hardly hope to
edify Bobus by his death-bed, unless he could expedite matters by
breaking a blood-vessel in saving someone’s life. On the whole, however,
it was pleasanter to pity himself for vague possibilities than to
apprehend the crisis as immediate. It was true that he was very forlorn.
He missed the admiring petting by which Miss Parsons had fostered his
morbid state; he missed the occupations she had given him, and he missed
the luxurious habits of wealth far more than he knew. After his winters
under genial skies, close to blue Mediterranean waves, English weather
was trying; and, in contrast with southern scenery, people, and art,
everything seemed ugly, homely, and vulgar in his eyes. Gorgeous
Cathedrals with their High Masses and sweet Benedictions, their bannered
processions and kneeling peasantry, rose in his memory as he beheld
the half restored Church, the stiff, open seats, and the Philistine
precision of the St. Cradocke’s Old Church congregation; and Anglicanism
shared his distaste, in spite of the fascinations of the district
Church.

He was languid and inert, partly from being confined to the house on
days of doubtful character. He would not prepare any work for Bobus,
who, with Jock, was to follow in ten days, he would not second Babie’s
wish to get up a St. Cradocke’s number of the ‘Traveller’s Joy,’ to
challenge a Madeira one; he did little but turn over a few books, say
there was nothing to read, and exchange long letters with Miss Parsons.

“Armine,” said Mr. Ogilvie, “I never let my friends come into my parish
without getting work out of them. I have a request to make you.”

“I’m afraid I am not equal to much,” said Armine, not graciously.

“This is not much. We have a lame boy here for the winter, son to a
cabinet maker in London. His mind is set on being a pupil-teacher, and
he is a clever, bright fellow, but his chance depends on his keeping up
his work. I have been looking over his Latin and French, but I have not
time to do so properly, and it would be a great kindness if you would
undertake it.”

“Can’t he go to school?” said Armine, not graciously.

“It is much too far off. Now he is only round the corner here.”

“My going out is so irregular,” said Armine, not by any means as he
would have accepted a behest of Petronella’s.

“He could often come here. Or perhaps the Infanta would fetch and carry.
He is with an uncle, a fisherman, and the wife keeps a little shop.
Stagg is the name. They are very respectable people, but of a lower
stamp than this lad, and he is rather lost for want of companionship.
The London doctors say his recovery depends on sea air for the winter,
so here he is, and whatever you can do for him will be a real good
work.”

“What is the name?” asked Mrs. Brownlow.

“Stagg. It is over a little grocery shop. You must ask for Percy Stagg.”

Perhaps Armine suspected the motive to be his own good, for he took a
dislike to the idea at once.

“Percy Stagg!” he began, as soon as Mr. Ogilvie was gone. “What a
detestable conjunction, just showing what the fellow must be. And to
have him on my hands.”

“I thought you liked teaching?” said his mother.

“As if this would be like a Woodside boy!”

“Yes,” said Babie; “I don’t suppose he will carry onions and lollipops in
his pockets, nor put cockchafers down on one’s book.”

“Babie, that was only Ted Stokes!”

“And I should _think_ he might have rather cleaner hands, and not leave
their traces on every book.”

“He’ll do worse!” said Armine. “He will be vulgarly stuck up, and
excruciate me with every French word he attempts to pronounce.”

“But you’ll do it, Armie?” said his mother.

“Oh, yes, I will try if it be possible to make anything of him, when I
am up to it.”

Armine was not “up to it” the next day, nor the next. The third was very
fine, and with great resignation, he sauntered down to Mrs. Stagg’s.

Percy turned out to be a quiet, gentle, pale lad of fourteen, without
cockney vivacity, and so shy that Armine grew shyer, did little but mark
the errors in his French exercise, hear a bit of reading, and retreat,
bemoaning the hopeless stupidity of his pupil.

A few days later Mr. Ogilvie asked the lame boy how he was getting on.

“Oh, sir,” brightening, “the lady is so kind. She does make it so plain
in me.”

“The lady? Not the young gentleman?”

“The young gentleman has been here once, sir.”

“And his sister comes when he is not well?”

“No, sir, it is his mother, I think. A lady with white hair--the nicest
lady I ever saw.”

“And she teaches you?”

“Oh yes, sir! I am preparing a fable in the Latin Delectus for her, and
she gave me this French book. She does tell me such interesting facts
about words, and about what she has seen abroad, sir! And she brought me
this cushion for my knee.”

“Percy thinks there never was such a lady,” chimed in his aunt. “She is
very good to him, and he is ever so much better in his spirits and
his appetite since she has been coming to him. The young gentleman was
haughty like, and couldn’t make nothing of him; but the lady--she’s so
affable! She is one of a thousand!”

“I did not mean to impose a task on you,” said Mr. Ogilvie, next time he
could speak to Mrs. Brownlow.

“Oh! I am only acting stop-gap till Armine rallies and takes to it,” she
said. “The boy is delightful. It is very amusing to teach French to a
mind of that age so thoroughly drilled in grammar.”

“A capital thing for Percy, but I thought at least you would have
deputed the Infanta.”

“The Infanta was a little overdone with the style of thing at Woodside.
She and Sydney Evelyn had a romance about good works, of which Miss
Parsons completely disenchanted her--rather too much so, I fear.”

“Let her alone; she will recover,” said Mr. Ogilvie, “if only by seeing
you do what I never intended.”

“I like it, teacher as I am by trade.”

So each day Armine imagined himself bound to the infliction of Percy
Stagg, and compelled by headache, cough, or weather, to let his mother
be his substitute.

“She is keeping him going on days when I am not equal to it,” he said to
Mr. Ogilvie.

“Having thus given you one of my tasks,” said that gentleman, “let me
ask whether I can help you in any of your studies?”

“I have been reading with Bobus, thank you.”

“And now?”

“I have not begun again, though, if my mother desires it, I shall.”

“So I should suppose; but I am sorry you do not take more interest in
the matter.”

“Even if I live,” said Armine, “the hopes with which I once studied are
over.”

“What hopes?”

The boy was drawn on by his sympathy to explain his plans for the
perfection of church and charities at Woodside, where he would have
worked as curate, and lavished all that wealth could supply in all
institutions for its good and that of Kenminster. It was the vanished
castle over which he and Miss Parsons had spent so many moans, and yet
at the end of it all, Armine saw a sort of incredulous smile on his
friend’s face.

“I don’t think it was impossible or unreasonable,” he said. “I could
have been ordained as curate there, and my mother would have gladly
given land, and means, and all.”

“I was not thinking of that, my boy. What struck me was how people put
their trust in riches without knowing it.”

“Indeed I should have given up all wealth and luxury. I am not
regretting that!” exclaimed Armine, in unconscious blindness.

“I did not say you were.”

“I beg your pardon,” said Armine, thinking he had not caught the words.

“I said people did not know how they put their trust in riches.”

“I never thought I did.”

“Only that you think nothing can be done without them.”

“I don’t see how it can.”

“Don’t you? Well, the longer I live the more cause I see to dread and
distrust what is done easily by force of wealth. Of course when the
money is there, and is given along with one’s self (as I know you
intended), it is providential, but I verily believe it intensifies
difficulties and temptations. Poverty is almost as beneficial a sieve of
motives and stimulus to energy as persecution itself.”

“There are so many things one can’t do.”

“Perhaps the fit time is not come for their being done. Or you want more
training for doing them. Remember that to bring one’s good desires to
good effect, there is a _how_ to be taken into account. I know of a
place where the mere knowledge that there are unlimited means to bestow
seems to produce ingratitude and captiousness for whatever is done. On
the other hand, I have seen a far smaller gift, that has cost an effort,
most warmly and touchingly received. Again, the power of at once acting
leads to over-haste, want of consideration, domineering, expectation of
adulation, impatience of counsel or criticism.”

“I suppose one does not know till one has tried,” said Armine, “but I
should mind nothing from Mr. or Miss Parsons.”

“I did not allude to any special case, I only wanted to show you that
riches do not by any means make doing good a simpler affair, but rather
render it more difficult not to do an equal amount of harm.”

“Of course,” said Armine, “as this misfortune has happened, it is plain
that we must submit, and I hope I am bowing to the disappointment.”

“By endeavouring to do your best for God with what is left you?”

“I hope so, but with my health there seems nothing left for me but
unmurmuring resignation.”

Mr. Ogilvie was amused at Armine’s notion of unmurmuring resignation,
but he added only, “Which would be much assisted by a little exertion.”

“I did exert myself at home, but it is all aimless now.”

“I should have thought you still equally bound to learn and labour to do
your duty in Him and for Him. Will you think about what I have said?”

“Yes, Mr. Ogilvie, thank you. I know you mean it kindly, and no one can
be expected to enter into my feeling of the uselessness of wasting my
time over classical studies when I know I shall never be able to be
ordained.”

“Are you sure you are not wasting it now?”

It was not possible to continue the subject. Mr. Ogilvie had failed in
both his attempts to rouse Armine, and had to tell his mother, who had
hoped much from this new influence. “I think,” he said, “that Armine is
partly feeling the change from invalidism to ordinary health. He
does not know it, poor fellow; but it is rather hard to give up being
interesting.”

Caroline saw the truth of this when Armine showed himself absolutely
nettled at his brothers, on their arrival, pronouncing that he looked
much better--in fact quite jolly, an insult which he treated with
Christian forgiveness.

Bobus had visited Belforest. His mother had never intended this, and
still less that he should walk direct from the station to Kencroft,
surprising the whole family at luncheon, and taking his seat among them
quite naturally. Thereby he obtained all he had expected or hoped, for
when the meal was over, he was able, though in the presence of all the
family, to take Esther by both hands, and say in his resolute earnest
voice, “Good-bye, my sweet and only love. You will wait for me,
and by-and-by, when I have made you a home, and people see things
differently, I shall come for you,” and therewith he pressed on her
burning, blushing, drooping brow four kisses that felt like fire.

Her mother might fret and her father might fume, but they were as
powerless as the parents of young Lochinvar’s bride, and the words of
their protest were scarcely begun when he loosed the girl’s hands, and,
turning to her mother, said, “Good-bye, Aunt Ellen. When we meet again,
you will see things otherwise. I ask nothing till that time comes.”

This was not the part of his visit of which he told his mother, he only
dwelt on a circumstance so opportune that he had almost been forgiven
even by the Colonel. He had encountered Dr. Hermann, who had come down
to make another attempt on the Gracious Lady, and had thus found himself
in the presence of a very different person. An opening had offered
itself in America, and he had come to try to obtain his wife’s fortune
to take them out. The opportunity of making stringent terms had seemed
to Bobus so excellent that he civilly invited Demetrius to dine and
sleep, and sent off a note to beg his uncle to come and assist in a
family compact. Colonel Brownlow, having happily resisted his impulse
to burn the letter unread as an impertinent proposal for his daughter,
found that it contained so sensible a scheme that he immediately
conceived a higher opinion of his namesake than he had ever had before.

Thus Dr. Hermann found himself face to face with the very last members
of the family he desired to meet, and had to make the best of the
situation. Of secrets of the late Joseph Brownlow he said nothing, but
based his application on the offer of a practice and lectureship he said
he had received from New Orleans. He had evidently never credited that
Mrs. Brownlow meant to resign the whole property without giving away
among her children the accumulation of ready money in hand, and as
he knew himself to be worth buying off, he reckoned upon Janet’s full
share. He had taken Mrs. Brownlow’s own statements as polite refusals,
and a lady’s romance until he found the uncle and nephew viewing the
resignation of the whole as common honesty, and that she was actually
gone. They would not give him her address, and prevented his coming
in contact with the housekeeper, so that no more molestation might be
possible, and meantime they offered him terms such as they thought she
would ratify.

All that Joseph Brownlow had left was entirely in her power, and the
amount was such that if she had died intestate, each of her six children
would have been entitled to about £l600, exclusive of the house in
London. Janet had no right to claim anything now or at her mother’s
death, but the uncle and nephew knew that Mrs. Brownlow would not endure
to leave her destitute, and they thought the deportation to America
worth a considerable sacrifice. Therefore they proposed that on the
actual bona fide departure, £500 should be paid down, the interest of
the £1100 should be secured to her, and paid half-yearly through Mr.
Wakefield, who was to draw up the agreement; but the final disposal of
the sum was not to be promised, but to depend on Mrs. Brownlow’s will.

Such a present boon as £500 had made Hermann willing to agree to
anything. Bobus had seen the lawyer in London, and with him concocted
the agreement for signature, making the payments pass through the
Wakefield office, the receipts being signed by Janet Hermann herself.

“Why must all payments go through the office?” asked Caroline.

“Because there’s no trusting that slippery Greek,” said Bobus.

“I should have liked my poor Janet to have been forced to communicate
with me every half-year,” she sighed.

“What, when she has never chosen to write all this time?”

“Yes. It is very weak, but I can’t help it. It would be something only
to see her name. I have never known where to write to her, or I would
have done so.”

“O, very well,” said Bobus, “you had better invite them both to share
the menage in Collingwood Street.”

“For shame, Bobus,” said Jock. “You have no right to say such things.”

“Only that all this might as well have been left undone if my mother
is to rush on them to ask their pardon and beg them to receive her with
open arms. I mean, mother,” he added with a different manner, “if you
give one inch to that Greek, he will make it a mile, and as to Janet,
if she can’t bring down her pride to write to you like a daughter, I
wouldn’t give a rap for her receipt, and it might lead to intolerable
pestering. Now you know she can’t starve on £50 a year besides her
medical education. Wakefield will always know where she is, and you may
be quite easy about her.”

Caroline gave way to her son’s reasoning, as he thought, but no sooner
was she alone with Jock than she told him that he must take her to
London to see Janet in her lodgings before the departure for the States.

He was at her service, and as they did not mean to sleep in town, they
started at a preposterously early hour, with a certain mirth and gaiety
at thus eloping together, as the mother’s spirits rose at the bare idea
of seeing the first-born child for whom she had famished so long. Jock
was such a perfect squire of dames, and so chivalrously charmed to be
her escort, that her journey was delightful, nor did she grow sad till
it was over. Then, she could not eat the food he would have had her take
at the station, and he saw tears standing in her eyes as he sat beside
her in the omnibus. When they were set down they walked swiftly and
without a word to the lodgings.

Dr. and Mrs. Hermann had “left two days ago,” said the untidy girl,
whose aspect, like that of the street and house, betokened that Janet
was drinking of her bitter brewst.

“What shall we do, mother?” asked Jock. “You ought to rest. Will you go
to Mrs. Acton or Mrs. Lucas, while I run down to Wakefield’s office and
find out about them?”

“To Miss Ray’s, I think,” she said faintly. “Nita may know their plans.
Here’s the address,” taking a little book from her pocket, and ruffling
over the leaves, “you must find it. I can’t see. O, but I can walk!” as
he hailed a cab, and helped her into it, finding the address and jumping
after her, while she sank back in the corner.

Very small and shrunken did she look when he took her out at the door
leading to rooms over a stationer’s shop. The sisters were somewhat
better off than formerly, though good old Miss Ray was half ashamed
of it, since it was chiefly owing to the liberal allowance from Mrs.
Brownlow for the chaperonage in which she felt herself to have so sadly
failed.

Jock saw his mother safe in the hands of the kind old lady, heard that
the pair were really gone, and departed for his interview with Mr.
Wakefield. No sooner had the papers been signed, and the £500 made over
to them, than the Hermanns had hurried away a fortnight earlier than
they had spoken of going. It was much like an escape from creditors, but
the reason assigned was an invitation to lecture in New York.

So there was nothing for it but to put up with Miss Ray’s account of
Janet, and even that was second-hand, for the gentle spirit of the good
old lady had been so roused at the treachery of the stolen marriage that
she had refused to see the couple, and when Nita had once brought them
in, she had retired to her bedroom.

Nita was gone on a professional engagement into the country for a week.
According to what she had told her sister, Demetrius and Janet were
passionately attached, and his manner was only too endearing; but Miss
Ray had disliked the subject so much that she had avoided it in a way
she now regretted.

“Everything I have done has turned out wrong,” she said with tears
running down her cheeks. “Even this! I would give anything to be able to
tell you of poor Janet, and yet I thought my silence was for the best,
for Nita and I could not mention her without quarrelling as we had never
done before. O, Mrs. Brownlow, I can’t think how you have ever forgiven
me.”

“I can forgive every one but myself,” said Caroline sadly. “If I had
understood how to be a better mother, this would never have been.”

“You! the most affectionate and devoted.”

“Ah! but I see now it was only human love without the true moving
spring, and so my poor child grew up without it, and these are the
fruits.”

“But my dear, my dear, one can’t _give_ these things. Poor Janet always
was a headstrong girl, like my poor Nita. I know what you mean, and
how one feels that if one had been better oneself,” said poor Miss Ray,
ending in utter entanglement, but tender sympathy.

“She might have been a child of many prayers,” said the poor mother.

“Ah! but that she can still be,” said the old lady. “She will turn back
again, my dear. Never fear. I don’t think I could die easy if I did not
believe she would!”

Jock brought back word that the lawyer had been entirely unaware of the
Hermanns’ departure, and thought it looked bad. He had seen them both,
and his report was less brilliant than Nita’s. Indeed Jock kept back the
details, for Mr. Wakefield had described Mrs. Hermann as much altered,
thin, haggard, shabby, and anxious, and though her husband fawned upon
her demonstratively before spectators, something in her eyes betokened
a certain fear of him. He had also heard that Elvira was still making
visits. There was a romance about her, which, in addition to her beauty
and future wealth, made people think her a desirable guest. She was
always more agreeable with strangers than in her own family; and as
to the needful funds, she had her ample allowance; and no doubt her
expectations secured her unlimited credit. Her conduct was another pang,
but it was lost in the keener pain Janet had given.

As his mother could not bear to face any one else, Jock thought the
sooner he could get her home the better, and all they did was to
buy some of Armine’s favourite biscuits, and likewise to stop at
Rivington’s, where she chose the two smallest and neatest Greek
Testaments she could find.

They reached home three hours before they were expected, and she went up
at once to her room and her bed, leaving Jock to make the explanations,
and receive all Bobus’s indignation at having allowed her to knock
herself up by such a foolish expedition.

Chill, fatigue, and, far more, grief after her long course of worry
really did bring on a feverish attack, so unprecedented in her that it
upset the whole family, and if Mr. Ogilvie had not been almost equally
wretched himself, he would have been amused to see these three great
sons wandering forlorn about the house like stray chicks who had lost
their parent hen, and imagining her ten times worse than she really was.

Babie was really useful as a nurse, and had very little time to comfort
them. And indeed they treated her as childish and trifling for assuring
them that neither patient, maid, nor doctor thought the ailment at all
serious. Bobus found some relief in laying the blame on Jock, but
when Armine heard the illness ascribed to a long course of anxiety and
harass, he was conscience-stricken, as he thought how often his
perverse form of resignation had baffled her pleadings and added to her
vexations. Words, impatiently heard at the moment, returned upon him,
and compunction took its outward effect in crossness. It was all that
Jock could do by his good-humoured banter and repartee to keep the peace
between the other two who, when unchecked by regard to their mother
and Babie, seemed bent on discussing everything on which they most
disagreed.

Babie was a welcome messenger to Jock at least, when she brought word
that mother hoped Armine would attend to Percy Stagg, and would take him
the book she sent down for him. Her will was law in the present state of
things, and Armine set forth in dutiful disgust; but he found the lad so
really anxious about the lady, and so much brightened and improved, that
he began to take an interest in him and promised a fresh lesson with
alacrity.

His next step in obedience was to take out his books; but Bobus had no
mind for them, and said it was too late. If Armine had really worked
diligently all the autumn, he might have easily entered King’s College,
London; but now he had thrown away his chance.

Mr. Ogilvie found him with his books on the table, plunged in utter
despondency. “Your mother is not worse?” he asked in alarm.

“Oh no; she is very comfortable, and the doctor says she may get up
to-morrow.”

“Then is it the Greek?” said Mr. Ogilvie, much relieved.

“Yes. Bobus says my rendering is perfectly ridiculous.”

“Are you preparing for him?”

“No. He is sick of me, and has no time to attend to me now.”

“Let me see--”

“Oh! Mr. Ogilvie,” said Armine, looking up with his ingenuous eyes. “I
don’t deserve it. Besides, Bobus says it is of no use now. I’ve wasted
too much time ever to get into King’s.”

“I should like to judge of that. Suppose I examined you--not now, but
to-morrow morning. Meantime, how do you construe this chorus? It is a
tough one.”

Armine winked out of his eyes the tears that had risen at the belief
that he had really in his wilfulness lost the hope of fulfilling the
higher aims of his life, and with a trembling voice translated the
passage he had been hammering over. A word from Mr. Ogilvie gave him the
clue, and when that stumbling-block was past, he acquitted himself well
enough to warrant a little encouragement.

“Well done, Armine. We shall make a fair scholar of you, after all.”

“I don’t deserve you should be so kind. I see now what a fool I have
been,” said Armine, his eyes filling again, with tears.

“I have no time to talk of that now,” said Mr. Ogilvie. “I only looked
in to hear how your mother was. Bring down whatever books you have been
getting up at twelve to-morrow; or if it is a wet day, I will come to
you.”

Armine worked for this examination as eagerly as he had decorated for
Miss Parsons, and in the face of the like sneers; for Bobus really
believed it was all waste of time, and did not scruple to tell him so,
and to laugh when he consulted Jock, whose acquirements lay more in
the way of military mathematics and modern languages than of university
requirements.

Perhaps the report that Armine was reading Livy with all his might was
one of his mother’s best restoratives,--and still more that when he
came to wish her good-night, he said, “Mother, I’ve been a wretched,
self-sufficient brute all this time; I’m very sorry, and I’ll try to go
on better.”

And when she came downstairs to be petted and made much of by all the
four, she found that the true and original Armine had come back, instead
of Petronella’s changeling. Indeed, the danger now was that he would
overwork himself in his fervour, for Bobus’s continued ill-auguries
only acted as a stimulus; nor were they silenced till she begged as a
personal favour that he would not torment the boy.

Indeed her presence made life smooth and cheerful again to the young
people; there were no more rubs of temper, and Bobus, whose departure
was very near, showed himself softened. He was very fond of his mother,
and greatly felt the leaving her. He assured her that it was all for her
sake, and that he trusted to be able to lighten some of her burdens when
his first expenses were over.

“And mother,” he said, on his last evening, “you will let me sometimes
hear of my Esther?”

“Oh, Bobus, if you could only forget her!”

“Would you rob me of my great incentive--my sweet image of purity, who
rouses and guards all that is best in me? My ‘loyalty to my future wife’
is your best hope for me, mother.”

“Oh, if she were but any one else! How can I encourage you in
disobedience to your father and to hers?”

“You know what I think about that. When my Esther ventures to judge for
herself, these prejudices will give way. She shall not be disobedient,
but you will all perceive the uselessness of withholding my darling.
Meanwhile, I only ask you to let me see her name from time to time. You
won’t deny me that?”

“No, my dear, I cannot refuse you that, but you must not assume more
than that I am sorry for you that your heart is set so hopelessly.
Indeed, I see no sign of her caring for you. Do you?”

“Her heart is not opened yet, but it will.”

“Suppose it should do so to any one else?”

“She is a mere child; she has few opportunities; and if she had--well, I
think it would recall to her what she only half understood. I am content
to be patient--and, mother, you little know the good it does me to think
of her and think of you. It is well for us men that all women are not
like Janet.”

“Yet if you took away our faith, what would there be to hinder us from
being like my poor Janet?”

“Heaven forbid that I should take away any one’s honest faith; above
all, yours or Essie’s.”

“Except by showing that you think it just good enough for us.”

“How can I help it, any more than I can help that Belforest was left to
Elvira? Wishes and belief are two different things.”

“Would you help it if you could?” she earnestly asked.

He hesitated. “I might wish to satisfy you, mother, and other good
folks, but not to put myself in bondage to what has led blindfold to
half the dastardly and cruel acts on this earth, beautiful dream though
it be.”

“Ah, my boy, it is my shame and grief that it is not a beautiful reality
to you.”

“You were too wise to bore us. You have only fancied that since you fell
in with the Evelyns.”

“Ah, if I had only bred you up in the same spirit as the Evelyns!”

“It would not have answered. We are of different stuff. And after all,
Janet and I are your only black sheep. Jock has his convictions in a
strong, practical working order, as real to him as ever his drill and
order-book were. Good old fellow, he strikes me a good deal more than
all Ogilvie’s discussions.”

“Mr. Ogilvie has talked to you?”

“He has done his part both as cleric and your devoted servant, mother,
and, I confess, made the best of his case, as an able man heartily
convinced can do. Good night, mother.”

“One moment, Bobus, my dear; I want one promise from you, to your
old Mother Carey. Call it a superstition and a charm if you will, but
promise. Take this Greek Testament, keep it with you, and read a few
verses every night. Promise me.”

“Dear mother, I am ready to promise. I have read those poems and letters
several times in the original.”

“But you will do this for me, beginning again when you have finished?
Promise.”

“I will, mother, since it comforts you,” said Bobus, in a tone that she
knew might be trusted.

The other little book, with the like request, in urgent and tender
entreaty, was made up into a parcel to be forwarded as soon as Mr.
Wakefield should learn Janet Hermann’s address. It was all that the
mother could do, except to pray that this living Sword of the Spirit
might yet pierce its way to those closed hearts.

Nor was she quite happy about Barbara. Hitherto the girl had seemed, as
it were, one with Armine, and had been led by his precocious piety
into similar habits and aspirations, which had been fostered by her
intercourse with Sydney and the sharing with her of many a blissful and
romantic dream.

All this, however, was altered. Petronella had drawn Armine aside one
way, and now that he was come back again, he did not find the same
perfectly sympathetic sister as before. Bobus had not been without
effect upon her, as the impersonation of common sense and antagonism to
Miss Parsons. It had not shown at the time, for his domineering tone and
his sneers always impelled her to stand up for her darling; but when
he was “poor Bobus” gone into exile and bereft of his love, certain
poisonous germs attached to his words began to grow. There was no
absolute doubt--far from it--but there was an impatience of the
weariness and solemnity of religion.

To enjoy Church privileges to the full, and do good works under Church
direction, had in their wandering life been a dream of modern chivalry
which she had shared with Sydney, much as they had talked of going on a
crusade. And now she found these privileges very tedious, the good works
onerous, and she viewed them somewhat as she might have regarded Coeur
de Lion’s camp had she been set down in it. Armine would have gone on
hearing nothing but “Remember the Holy Sepulchre,” but Barbara would
soon have seen every folly and failure that spoiled the glory of the
army--even though she might not question its destination--and would have
been unfeignedly weary of its discipline.

So she hung back from the frequent Church ordinances of St. Cradocke’s,
being allowed to do as she pleased about everything extra; she made
fun of the peculiarities of the varieties of the genus Petronella who
naturally hung about it, and adopted the popular tone about the curates,
till Jock told her “not to be so commonplace.” Indeed both he and Armine
had made friends with them, as he did with every one; and Armine’s
enjoyment of the society of a new, young, bright deacon, who came at
Christmas, perhaps accounted for a little of her soreness, and made
Armine himself less observant that the two were growing apart.

Her mother saw it though, and being seconded by Jock, found it easier
than of old to keep the tables free from sceptical and semi-sceptical
literature; but this involved the loss of much that was clever, and
there was no avoiding those envenomed shafts that people love to
strew about, and which, for their seeming wit and sense, Babie always
relished. She did not think--that was the chief charge; and she was
still a joyous creature, even though chafing at the dulness of St.
Cradocke’s.

“Gould and another versus Brownlow and another, to be heard on the
18th,” Mr. Wakefield writes. “So we must leave our peaceful harbour to
face the world again!”

“Oh, I’m so glad!” cried Barbara. “I am fairly tingling to be in the
thick of it again!”

“You ungrateful infant,” said Armine, “when this place has done every
one so much good!”

“So does bed; but I feel as if it were six in the morning and I couldn’t
get the shutters open!”

“I wonder if Mr. Ogilvie will think me fit to go in for matriculation
for the next term?” said Armine.

“And I ought to go up for lectures,” said Jock, who had been reading
hard all this time under directions from Dr. Medlicott. “I might go on
before, and see that the house is put in order before you come home,
mother.”

“Home! It sounds more like going home than ever going back to Belforest
did!”

“And we’ll make it the very moral of the old times. We’ve got all the
old things!”

“What do you know about the old times--baby that you are and were?” said
Jock.

“The Drakes move to-morrow,” said his mother. “I must write to your aunt
and Richards about sending the things from Belforest. We must have it at
its best before Ali comes home.”

“All right!” said Babie. “You know our own things have only to go back
into their places, and the Drake carpets go on. It will be such fun; as
nice as the getting into the Folly!”

“Nice you call that?” said her mother. “All I remember is the disgrace
we got into and the fright I was in! I wonder what the old home will
bring us?”

“Life and spirit and action,” cried Babie. “Oh, I’m wearying for the
sound of the wheels and the flow of people!”

“Oh, you little Cockney!”

“Of course. I was born one, and I am thankful for it! There’s nothing to
do here.”

“Babie!” cried Armine, indignantly.

“Well, you and Jock have read a great deal, and he has plunged into
night-schools.”

“And become a popular lecturer,” added Armine.

“And you and mother have cultivated Percy Stagg, and gone to Church a
great deal--pour passer le temps.”

“Ah, you discontented mortal!” said her mother, rising to write her
letters. “You have yet to learn that what is stagnation to some is rest
to others.”

“Oh yes, mother, I know it was very good for you, but I’m heartily glad
it is over. Sea and Ogre are all very well for once in a way, but they
pall, especially in an east wind English fog!”

“My Babie, I hope you are not spoilt by all the excitements of our last
few years,” said the mother. “You won’t find life in Collingwood Street
much like life in Hyde Corner.”

“No, but it will be _life_, and that’s what I care for!”

No, Barbara, used to constant change, and eager for her schemes of
helpfulness, could not be expected to enjoy the peacefulness of St.
Cradocke’s as the others had done. To Armine, indeed, it had been the
beginning of a new life of hope and vigour, and a casting off of the
slough of morbid self-contemplation, induced by his invalid life, and
fostered at Woodside. He had left off the romance of being early doomed,
since his health had stood the trial of the English winter, and
under Mr. Ogilvie’s bracing management, seconded by Jock’s energetic
companionship, he had learnt to look to active service, and be ready to
strive for it.

To Jock, the time had been a rest from the victory which had cost him
so dear, and though the wounds still smarted, there had been nothing
to call them into action; and he had fortified himself against the
inevitable reminders he should meet with in London. He had been studying
with all his might for the preliminary examination, and eagerness in so
congenial a pursuit was rapidly growing on him, while conversations with
Mr. Ogilvie had been equally pleasant to both, for the ex-schoolmaster
thoroughly enjoyed hearing of the scientific world, and the young
man was heartily glad of the higher light he was able to shed on his
studies, and for being shown how to prevent the spiritual world from
being obscured by the physical, and to deal with the difficulties that
his brother’s materialism had raised for him. He had never lost, and
trusted never to lose, hold of his anchor in the Rock; but he had not
always known how to answer when called on to prove its existence
and trace the cable. Thus the winter at St. Cradocke’s had been very
valuable to him personally, and he had been willing to make return for
the kindness for which he felt so grateful, by letting the Vicar employ
him in the night-schools, lectures, and parish diversions--all in short
for which a genial and sensible young layman is invaluable, when he can
be caught.

And for their mother herself, she had been sheltered from agitation,
and had gathered strength and calmness, though with her habitual want
of self-consciousness she hardly knew it, and what she thanked her old
friend for was what he had done for her sons, especially Armine. “He and
I shall be grateful to you all the rest of our lives,” she said, with
her bright eyes glistening.

David Ogilvie, in his deep, silent, life-long romance, felt that
precious guerdons sometimes are won at an age which the young suppose
to be past all feeling--guerdons the more precious and pure because
unconnected with personal hopes or schemes. He still knew Caroline to be
as entirely Joseph Brownlow’s own as when he had first perceived it,
ten years ago, but all that was regretful jealousy was gone. His
idealisation of her had raised and moulded his life, and now that
she had grown into the reality of that ideal, he was content with the
sunshine she had brought, and the joy of having done her a real service,
little as she guessed at the devoted homage that prompted it.



CHAPTER XXXIV. -- BLIGHTED BEINGS.



     Allen-a-Dale has no faggot for burning,
     Allen-a-Dale has no farrow for turning,
     Allen-a-Dale has no fleece for the spinning,
     Yet Allen-a-Dale has red gold for the winning.
                                                   Scott.


The little family raft put forth from the haven of shelter into the
stormy waves. The first experience was, as Jock said, that large rooms
and country clearness had been demoralising, or, as Babie averred, the
bad taste and griminess of the Drake remains were invincible, for when
the old furniture and pictures were all restored to the old places, the
tout ensemble was so terribly dingy and confined that the mother
could hardly believe that it was the same place that had risen in her
schoolgirl eyes as a vision of home brightness. Armine was magnanimously
silent, but what would be the effect on Allen, who had been heard of at
Gibraltar, and was sure to return before the case was heard in court?

“We must give up old associations, and try what a revolution will do,”
 Mother Carey said.

“Hurrah!” cried Babie; “I was feeling totally overpowered by that awful
round table, but I thought it was the very core of mother’s heart.”

“So did I,” said the mother herself, “when I remember how we used to
sit round with the lamp in the middle, and spin the whole table when we
wanted a drawer on the further side. But it won’t bring back those who
sat there! and now the light falls anywhere but where it is wanted, and
our goods get into each other’s way! Yes, Babie, you may dispose of it
in the back drawing-room and bring in your whole generation of little
tables.”

There was opportunity for choice, for the house was somewhat overfull of
furniture, since besides the original plenishing of the Pagoda, all that
was individual property had been sent from Belforest, and this included
a great many choice and curious articles, small and great, all indeed
that any one cared much about, except the more intrinsically valuable
gems of art. It had been all done between Messrs. Wakefield, Gould,
and Richards, who had sent up far more than Mrs. Brownlow had marked,
assuring her that she need not scruple to keep it.

So by the time twilight came on the second evening, when the whole
family were feeling exceedingly bruised, weary, and dusty, such a
transformation had been effected that each of the four, on returning
from the much needed toilet, stood at the door exclaiming--“This is
something like;” and when John arrived, a little later, he looked round
with--

“This is almost as nice as the Folly. How does Mother Carey manage to
make things like herself and nobody else?”

Allen’s comment a few days later was--“What’s the use of taking so much
trouble about a dingy hole which you can’t make tolerable even if you
were to stay here.”

“I mean it to be my home till my M.D. son takes a wife and turns me
out.”

“Why, mother, you don’t suppose that ridiculous will can hold water?”

“You know I don’t contest it.”

“I know, but they will not look at it for a moment in the Probate
Court.”

Some chance friend whom he had met abroad had suggested this to Allen,
and he had gradually let his wish become hope, and his hope expectation,
till he had come home almost secure of a triumph, which would reinstate
his mother, and bring Elvira back to him, having learnt the difference
between true friends and false.

It was a proportionate blow when no difficulty was made about proving
the will. As the trustees acted, Mrs. Brownlow had not to appear, but
Allen haunted the Law Courts with his uncle and saw the will accepted
as legal. Nothing remained but another amicable action to put Elvira de
Menella in possession.

He was in a state of nervous excitement at every postman’s knock, making
sure, poor fellow, that Elvira’s first use of her victory would be
to return to him. But all that was heard of was a grand reception
at Belforest, bands, banners, horsemen, triumphal arches, banquet,
speeches, toasts, and ball, all, no doubt, in “Gould taste.”
 The penny-a-liner of the Kenminster paper outdid himself in the
polysyllables of his description, while Colonel Brownlow briefly wrote
that “all was as insolent as might be expected, and he was happy to say
that most of the county people and some of the tenants showed their good
feeling by their absence.”

Over this Mrs. Brownlow would not rejoice. She did not like the poor
girl to be left to such society as her aunt would pick up, and she wrote
on her behalf to various county neighbours; but the heiress had already
come to the house in Hyde Corner, chaperoned by her aunt, who, fortified
by the trust that she was “as good as Mrs. Joseph Brownlow,” had come to
fight the battle of fashion, with Lady Flora Folliott for an ally.

The name of George Gould, Esquire, was used on occasion, but he was
usually left in peace at his farm with his daughter Mary, with whom
her step-mother had decided that nothing could be done. Kate was made
presentable by dress and lessons in deportment, and promoted to be white
slave, at least so Armine and Barbara inferred, from her constrained and
frightened manner when they met her in a shop, though she was evidently
trying to believe herself very happy.

Allen was convinced at last that he was designedly given up, and so far
from trying to meet his faithless lady, dejectedly refused all society
where he could fall in with her, and only wandered about the parks to
feed his melancholy with distant glimpses of her on horseback, while
Armine and Barbara, who held Elvira very cheap, were wicked enough to
laugh at him between themselves and term him the forsaken merman.

Jock had likewise given up his old connections with fashionable life.
Several times, if anything were going on, or if he met a former brother
officer in the street, he would be warmly invited to come and take his
share, or to dine with the mess; he might have played in cricket matches
and would have been welcome as a frequent guest; but he had made up his
mind that this would only lead to waste of time and money, and steadily
declined, till the invitations ceased. It would have cost him more had
any come from Cecil Evelyn, but all that had been seen of him was a
couple of visiting-cards. The rest of the family had not come to town
for the season, and though the two mothers corresponded as warmly as
ever, and Fordham and Armine exchanged letters, there was a sort of
check and chill upon the friendship between the two young girls, of
which each understood only her own half.

Jock said nothing, but he seemed to have grown mother-sick, spent all
his leisure moments in haunting his mother’s steps, helping her in
whatever she was about, and telling her everything about his studies and
companions, as if she were the great solace of the life that had become
so much less bright to him.

In general he showed himself as droll as ever, but there were days when,
as John said, “all the skip was gone out of the Jack.” The good Monk
was puzzled by the change, which he did not think quite worthy of his
cousin, having--though the son of a military man--a contempt for the
pomp and circumstance of war. He marvelled to see Jock affectionately
hook up his sword over the photograph of Engelberg above his
mantelshelf; and he hesitated to join the volunteers, as his aunt
wished, by way of compelling variety and exercise. Jock, however,
decided on so doing, that Sydney might own at least that he was ready
for a call to arms for his country. He did not like to think that she
was reading a report of Sir Philip Cameron’s campaign, in which the
aide-de-camp happened to receive honourable mention for a dashing and
hazardous ride.

“Why, old fellow, what makes you so down in the mouth?” said John, on
that very day as the two cousins were walking home from a lecture. They
had had to get into a door-way to avoid the rush of rabble escorting a
regiment of household troops on their way to the station, and Lucas had
afterwards walked the length of two streets without a word. “You don’t
mean that you are hankering after all this style of thing--row and all
the rest of it.”

“There’s a good deal more going to it than row,” said Jock, rather
heavily.

“What, that donkey, Evelyn, having cut you? I should not trouble myself
much on that score, though I did think better of him at Eton.”

“He hasn’t cut me,” Jock made sharp return.

“One pasteboard among all the family,” grunted the Friar. “I reserve to
myself the satisfaction of cutting him dead the next opportunity,” he
added magniloquently.

Jock laughed, as he was of course intended to do, but there was such a
painful ring in the laugh that John paused and said--

“That’s not all, old fellow! Come, make a clean breast of it, my fair
son. Thou dost weary of thy vocation.”

“No such thing,” exclaimed Jock, with an inaudible growl between his
teeth. “Trust Kencroft for boring on!” and aloud, with some impatience,
“It is just what I would have chosen for its own sake.”

“Then,” said John, still keeping up the grand philosophical air and
demeanour, though with real kindness and desire to show sympathy, “thou
art either entangled by worldly scruples, leading thee to disdain the
wholesome art of healing, or thou art, like thy brother, the victim of
the fickle sex.”

“Shut up!” said Jock, pushed beyond endurance; “can’t you understand
that some things can’t be talked of?”

“Whew!” John whistled, and surveyed him rather curiously from head to
foot. “It is another case of deluded souls not knowing what an escape
they’ve had. What! she thought you a catch in the old days.”

“That’s all you know about it!” said Jock. “She is not that sort. The
poverty is nothing, but there’s a fitness in things. Women, the best of
them, think much of what I suppose you call the row. It fits in with all
their chivalry and romance.”

“Then she’s a fool,” said John, shortly.

“I can’t stand any more of this, Monk, I tell you. You know just nothing
at all about it, and I’ve no right to complain, nor any one to bait me
with questions.”

The Monk took the hint, and when they reached their own street Jock
said--

“You meant it all kindly, Reverend Friar, but there are things that
won’t stand probing, as you’ll know some day.”

“Poor old chap,” said John, with his hand on his shoulder, “I’ll not
bother you any more. The veil shall be sacred. If this has been going on
all the time, I wonder you have carried it off so well!”

“Ali is a caution,” said Jock, who had shaken himself into his ordinary
manner. “What would become of Babie with two blighted beings on her
hands? Besides, he has some excuse, and I have not.”

After this at every carriage to which Lucas bowed, John frowned, and
scanned the inmates in search of the fair deceiver, never making a guess
in the right direction.

John had enough of the Kencroft character not to be original. Set him
to work, and he had plenty of intelligence and energy, perhaps more
absolute force and power than his cousin Lucas; but he would never
devise things for himself, and was not discursive, pausing at novelties,
because his nature was so thorough that he could not take up anything
without spending his very utmost force upon it.

His University training made him an excellent aid to Armine, who went up
for his examination at King’s College and acquitted himself so well as
to be admitted to begin his terms after the long vacation.

Indeed he and Barbara had drawn together again more. She had her home
tasks and her classes at King’s College, and did not fret as at St.
Cradocke’s for want of work; she enjoyed the full tide of life, and had
plenty of sympathy for whatever did not come before her in a “goody”
 aspect, and, though there might be little depth of serious reflection in
her, she was a very charming member of the household. Then her enjoyment
of society was gratified, for society of her own kind had by no means
forgotten one so agreeable as Mrs. Brownlow, and whereas, in her
prosperity, she had never dropped old friends, they welcomed her back as
one of themselves, resuming the homely inexpensive gatherings where
the brains were more consulted than the palate, aesthetics more than
fashion. She was glad of it for the young people’s sake as well as her
own, and returned to her old habit of keeping open house one evening
in the week between eight and ten, with cups of coffee and varieties of
cheap foreign drinks, and slight but dainty cakes made by herself and
Babie according to lessons taken together at the school of cookery.

As Allen declared these evenings a grievance, and often thought himself
unable to bear family chatter, she had made the old consulting room as
like his luxurious apartment at home as furniture and fittings could
do, and he was always free to retire thither. Indeed the toleration and
tenderness with which his mother treated him were a continual wonder
and annoyance to Barbara, the active little busy bee, who not unjustly
considered him the drone of the family, and longed to sting him, not to
death but to exertion.

It was provoking that when all the other youths had long finished
breakfast and gone forth, Mother Carey should wait lingering in the
dining-room to cherish some delicate hot morceau and cup of coffee,
till the tardy, soft-falling feet came down the stairs, and then sit
patiently as long as he chose to dally with his meal, telling how little
he had slept. Babie had tried her tongue on both, but Allen, when she
shouted at his door that breakfast was ready, came forth no sooner,
and when he did so, told his mother that he could not have children
screaming at his door at all hours of the morning. Mother Carey replied
to her impatient champion that while waiting for Allen was her time for
writing letters and reading amusing books, and that the day was only too
long for him already, poor fellow, without urging him to make it longer.

“More shame for him,” muttered pitiless sixteen.

After breakfast Allen generally strolled out to see the papers or to
bestow his time somewhere--in the picture galleries or in the British
Museum, where he had a reading order; but it was always uncertain
whether he would disappear for the whole day, shut himself up in his own
room, or hang about the drawing-room, very much injured if his mother
could not devote herself to him. Indeed she always did so, except
when she was bound to take Barbara to some of her classes (including
cookery), or when she had promised herself to Dr. and Mrs. Lucas, who
were now both very infirm, and knew not how to be thankful enough for
the return of one who became like a daughter to them; while Jock, their
godson, at once made himself like the best of grandsons, and never
failed to give them a brightening, cheering hour every Sunday.

The science of cookery was by no means a needless task, for the cook was
very plain, and Allen’s appetite was dainty, and comfort at dinner
could only be hoped for by much thought and contrivance. Allen was never
discourteous to his mother herself, but he would look at her in piteous
reproach, and affect to charge all failures on the cook, or on “children
being allowed to meddle,” the most cutting thing to Babie he could say.
Then the two Johns always took up the cudgels, and praised the food with
all their might. Indeed the Friar was often sensible of a strong desire
to flog the dawdling melancholy out of his cousin, and force him no
longer to hang a dead weight on his mother; and even Jock began to be
annoyed at her unfailing patience and pity, though he understood her
compassion better than did those who had never felt a wound.

She did in truth blame herself for having given him no profession,
and having acquiesced in the indolent dilettante habits which made all
harder to him now; and she was not certain how far it was only his
fancy that his health and nerves were perilously affected, though
Dr. Medlicott, whom she secretly consulted, assured her that the only
remedies needed were good sense and something to do.

At last, at Midsummer, the crisis came in a heavy discharge of
bills, the consequence of Allen’s incredulity as to their poverty and
incapability of economising. He said “the rascals could wait,” and “his
mother need not trouble herself.” She said they must be paid, and she
found it could be done at the cost of giving up spending August at
St. Cradocke’s, as well as of breaking into her small reserve for
emergencies.

But she told Allen that she insisted on his making some exertion for his
own maintenance.

“Yes,” said Allen in languid assent.

“I know it is harder at your age to find occupation.”

“That is not the point. I can easily find something to do. There’s
literature. Or I could take up art. And last year there was a Hungarian
Count who would have given anything to get me for a tutor.”

“Then why didn’t you go?”

“Mother, you ask me why!”

“I know you had not made up your mind to the worst, but it is a pity you
missed the opportunity.”

“There will be more,” said Allen loftily. “I never meant to be a burden,
but ladies are so impatient, I suppose you do not wish to turn me out
instantly to seek my fortune. No, mother, I do not mean to blame you.
You have been sadly harassed, and no woman can ever enter into what I
have suffered. Put aside those bills. Long before Christmas, I shall be
able to discharge them myself.”

So Allen wrote to Bobus’s friend at Oxford, but he of course did
not keep a pocketful of Hungarian Counts. He answered one or two
advertisements for a travelling tutor, and had one personal interview,
the result of which was that he could have nothing to do with such
insufferable snobs. He also concocted an advertisement beginning with
“M.A., Oxford, accustomed to the best society and familiar with European
languages,” but though the newspapers charged highly for it, he only
received one answer, except those from agents, and that, he said with
illimitable disgust, was from a Yankee.

Meantime he turned over his poems, and made Barbara copy out a ballad
he had written for the “Traveller’s Joy” on some local tradition in
the Tyrol. He offered this to a magazine, whose editor, a lady, was an
occasional frequenter of Mrs. Brownlow’s evenings. The next time she
came, she showed herself so much interested in the legend that Allen
said he should like to show her another story, which he had written for
the same domestic periodical.

“Would it serve for our Christmas number?”

“I will have it copied out and send it for you to look at,” said Allen.

“If it is at hand, I had better cast my eye over it, to judge whether it
be worth while to copy it. I shall set forth on my holiday journey the
day after to-morrow, and I should like to have my mind at rest about my
Christmas number.”

So she carried off with her the Algerine number of the “Joy,” and in a
couple of days returned it with a hasty note--

“A capital little story, just young and sentimental enough to make
it taking, and not overdone. Please let me have it, with a few verbal
corrections, ready for the press when I come home at the end of
September. It will bring you in about £15.”

Allen was modestly elated, and only wished he had gone to one of the
periodicals more widely circulated. It was plain that literature was his
vocation, and he was going to write a novel to be published in a serial,
the instalments paying his expenses for the trial. The only doubt was
what it should be about, whether a sporting tale of modern life, or a
historical story in which his familiarity with Italian art and scenery
would be available. Jock advised the former, Armine inclined to the
latter, for each had tried his hand in his own particular line in the
“Traveller’s Joy,” and wanted to see his germ developed.

To write in the heat and glare of London was, however, manifestly
impossible in Allen’s eyes, and he must recruit himself by a
yachting expedition to which an old acquaintance had invited him half
compassionately. Jock shrugged his shoulders on hearing of it, and
observed that a tuft always expected to be paid in service, if in no
other way, and he doubted Allen’s liking it, but that was his affair.
Jock himself with his usual facility of making friends, had picked up a
big north-country student, twice as large as himself, with whom he meant
to walk through the scenery of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, as far as the
modest sum they allowed themselves would permit, after which he was
to make a brief stay in his friend’s paternal Cumberland farm. He had
succeeded in gaining a scholarship at the Medical School of his
father’s former hospital, and this, with the remains of the price of
his commission, still made him the rich man of the family. John was of
course going home, and Mrs. Brownlow and the two younger ones had a warm
invitation from their friends at Fordham.

“I should like Armie to go,” said the mother in conference with Babie,
her cabinet councillor.

“O yes, Armie must go,” said Babie, “but--”

“Then it will not disappoint you to stay at home, my dear?”

“I had much rather not go, if Sydney will not mind very much.”

“Well, Babie, I had resolved to stay here this summer, and I thought you
would not wish to go without me.”

“O no, no, NO, NO, mother,” and her face and neck burnt with blushes.

“Then my Infanta and I will be thoroughly cosy together, and get some
surprises ready for the others.”

“Hurrah! We’ll do the painting of the doors. What fun it will be to see
London empty.”

The male population were horribly scandalised at the decision. Jock and
Armine wanted to give up their journey, and John implored his aunt to
come to Kencroft; but she only promised to send Babie there if she saw
signs of flagging, and the Infanta laughed at the notion, and said she
had had an overdose of country enough to last her for years. Allen said
ladies overdid everything, and that Mother Carey could not help being
one of the sex, and then he asked her for £10, and said Babie would have
plenty of time to copy out “The Single Eye.” She pouted “I thought you
were going to put the finishing touches.”

“I’ve marked them for you. Why, Barbara, I am surprised,” he added in
an elder brotherly tone; “you ought to be thankful to be able to be
useful.”

“Useful! I’ve lots of things to do! And you?”

“As if I could lug that great MS. of yours about with me on board
Apthorpe’s yacht.”

“Never mind, Allen,” said his mother, who had not been intended to hear
all this. “I will do it for you; but Miss Editor must not laugh at my
peaked governessy hand.”

“I did not mean that, mother, only Babie ought not to be disobliging.”

“Babie has a good deal to do. She has an essay to write for her
professor, you know, and her hands are pretty full.”

Babie too said, “Mother, I never meant you to undertake it. Please let
me have it now. Only Allen will never do anything for himself that he
can get any one else to do.”

“He could not well do it on board the yacht, my dear. And I don’t want
you to have so much writing on your hands.’

“And so you punish me,” sighed Barbara, more annoyed than penitent.

However, nothing could be more snug and merry than the mother and
daughter when left together, for they were like two sisters and suited
one another perfectly. Babie was disappointed that London would not look
emptier even in the fashionable squares, which she insisted on exploring
in search of solitude. They made little gay outings in a joyous spirit
of adventure, getting up early and going by train to some little
station, with an adjacent expanse of wood or heather, whence they came
home with their luncheon basket full of flowers, wherewith to gladden
Mrs. Lucas’s eyes, and those of Mother Carey’s district. They prepared
their surprises too. Several hopelessly dingy panels were painted black
and adorned with stately lilies and irises, with proud reed-maces, and
twining honeysuckle, and bryony, fluttered over by dragon-flies and
butterflies, from the brush of mother and daughter. The stores from
Belforest further supplied hangings for brackets, and coverings for
cushions, under the dainty fingers of the Infanta, who had far more of
the household fairy about her than had her mother, perhaps from having
grown up in a home instead of a school, and besides, from being bent on
having the old house a delightsome place.

Indeed her mother was really happier than for many years, for the sense
of failing in her husband’s charge had left her since she had seen Jock
by his own free will on the road to the quest, and likely also to fulfil
the moral, as well as the scientific, conditions attached to it. She did
feel as if her dream was being realised and the golden statues becoming
warmed into life, and though her heart ached for Janet, she still hoped
for her. So, with a mother’s unfailing faith, she believed in Allen’s
dawning future even while another sense within her marvelled, as she
copied, at the acceptance of “The Single Eye.” But then, was it not
well-known that loving eyes see the most faults, and was not an editor
the best judge of popularity?

She had her scheme too. She had taken lessons some years ago at Rome in
her old art of modelling, and knew her eye and taste had improved in
the galleries. She had once or twice amused the household by figures
executed by her dexterous fingers in pastry or in butter; and in the
empty house, in her old studio, amid remnants of Bobus’s museum, she set
to work on a design that had long been in her mind asking her to bring
it into being.

Thus the tete-a-tete was so successful that people’s pity was highly
diverting, and the vacation was almost too brief, though when the young
men began to return, it was a wonder how existence could have been so
agreeable without them.

Jock was first, having come home ten days sooner than his friends were
willing to part with him, determined if he found his ladies looking pale
to drag them out of town, if only to Ramsgate.

They met him in a glow of animation, and Babie hardly gave him time to
lay down his basket of ferns from the dale, and flowers from the garden,
before she threw open the folding doors to the back drawing-room.

“Why, mother, who sent you that group? Why do you laugh? Did Grinstead
lend it to Babie to copy? Young Astyanax, isn’t it? And, I say!
Andromache is just like Jessie. I say! Mother Carey didn’t do it. Well!
She is an astonishing little mother and no mistake. The moulding of it!
Our anatomical professor might lecture on Hector’s arm.”

“Ah! I, haven’t been a surgeon’s wife for nothing. Your father put me
through a course of arms and legs.”

“And we borrowed a baby,” said Babie. “Mrs. Jones, our old groom’s wife,
who lives in the Mews, was only too happy to bring it, and when it was
shy, it clung beautifully.”

“Then the helmet.”

“That was out of the British Museum.”

“Has Grinstead seen it?”

“No, I kept it for my own public first.”

“What will you do with it? Put it into the Royal Academy?”

“No, it is not big enough. I thought of offering it to the Works that
used to take my things in the old Folly days. They might do it in terra
cotta, or Parian.”

“Too good for a toy material like that,” said Jock. “Get some good
opinion before you part with it, mother. I wish we could keep it. I’m
proud of my Mother Carey.”

Allen, who came home next, only sighed at the cruel necessity of
selling such a work. He was in deplorable spirits, for Gilbert Gould was
superintending the refitting of a beautiful steam yacht, in which Miss
Menella meant to sail to the West Indies, with her uncle and aunt.

“I knew she would! I knew she would,” softly said Babie.

That did not console Allen, and his silence and cynicism about his hosts
gave the impression that he had outstayed his welcome, since he had
neither wealth, nor the social brilliance or subservience that might
have supplied its place. He had scarcely energy to thank his mother for
her faultless transcription of “The Single Eye,” and only just exerted
himself to direct the neat roll of MS. to the Editor.

The next day a note came for him.

“Mother what _have_ you done?” he exclaimed. “What _did_ you send to the
‘Weathercock’?”

“‘The Single Eye.’ What? Not rejected?”

“See there!”


“DEAR MR. BROWNLOW,--I am afraid there has been some mistake. The story
I wished for is not this one, but another in the same MS. Magazine;
a charming little history of a boy’s capture by, and escape from, the
Moorish corsairs. Can you let me have it by Tuesday? I am very sorry
to have given so much trouble, but ‘The Single Eye’ will not suit my
purpose at all.”


“What does she mean?” demanded Allen.

“I see! It is a story of the children’s! ‘Marco’s Felucca.’ I looked
at it while I was copying, and thought how pretty it was. And now I
remember there were some pencil-marks!”

“Well, it will please the children,” graciously said Allen. “I am not
sorry; I did not wish to make my debut in a second-rate serial like
that, and now I am quit of it. She is quite right. It is not her style
of thing.”

But Allen did not remember that he had spent the £15 beforehand, so as
to make it £25, and this made it fortunate that his mother’s group had
been purchased by the porcelain works, and another pair ordered.

Thus she could freely leave their gains to Armine and Babie, for the
latter declared the sum was alike due to both, since if she had the
readiest wit, her brother had the most discrimination, and the best
choice of language. The story was only signed A. B., and their mother
made a point of the authorship being kept a secret; but little notices
of the story in the papers highly gratified the young authors.

Armine, who had returned from a round of visits to St. Cradocke’s,
Fordham, Kenminster, and Woodside, confirmed the report of Elvira’s
intended voyage; but till the yacht was ready, the party had gone
abroad, leaving the management of the farm, and agency of the estate,
to a very worthy man named Whiteside, who had long been a suitor to Mary
Gould, and whom she was at last allowed to marry. He had at once made
the Kencroft party free of the park and gardens, and indeed John and
Armine came laden with gifts in poultry, fruit, and flowers from the
dependants on the estate to Mrs. Brownlow.

Armine really looked quite healthy, nothing remaining of his former
ethereal air, but a certain expansiveness of brow and dreaminess of eye.

He greatly scrupled at halving the £15 when it was paid, but Barbara
insisted that he must take his share, and he then said--

“After all it does not signify, for we can do things together with it,
as we have always done.”

“What things?”

“Well, I am afraid I do want a few books.”

“So do I, terribly.”

“And there are some Christmas gifts I want to send to Woodside.”

“Woodside! oh!”

“And wouldn’t it be pleasant to put the choir at the iron Church into
surplices and cassocks for Christmas?”

“Oh, Armie, I do think we might have a little fun out of our own money.”

“What fun do you mean?” said Armine.

“I want to subscribe to Rolandi’s, and to take in the ‘Contemporary,’
and to have one real good Christmas party with tableaux vivants, and
charades. Mother says we can’t make it a mere surprise party, for people
must have real food, and I think it would be more pleasure to all of us
than presents and knicknacks.”

“Of course you can do it,” said Armine, rather disappointed. “And if we
had in Percy Stagg, and the pupil teachers, and the mission people--”

“It would be awfully edifying and good-booky! Oh yes, to be sure, nearly
as good as hiding your little sooty shoe-blacks in surplices! But, my
dear Armie, I am so tired of edifying! Why should I never have any fun?
Come, don’t look so dismal. I’ll spare five shillings for a gown for old
Betty Grey, and if there’s anything left out after the party, you shall
have it for the surplices, and you’ll be Roland Graeme in my tableau?”

The next day Mother Carey found Armine with an elbow on each side of his
book and his hands in his hair, looking so dreamily mournful that
she apprehended a fresh attack of Petronella, but made her approaches
warily.

“What have you there?” she asked.

“Dean Church’s lectures,” he said.

“Ah! I want to make time to read them! But why have they sent you into
doleful dumps?”

“Not they,” said Armine; “but I wanted to read Babie a passage just now,
and she said she had no notion of making Sundays of week days, and ran
away. It is not only that, mother, but what is the matter with Babie?
She is quite different.”

“Have you only just seen it?”

“No, I have felt something indefinable between us, though I never could
bear to speak of it, ever since Bobus went. Do you think he did her any
harm?”

“A little, but not much. Shall I tell you the truth, Armine; can you
bear it?”

“What! did I disgust her when I was so selfish and discontented?”

“Not so much you, my boy, as the overdoing at Woodside! I can venture to
speak of it now, for I fancy you have got over the trance.”

“Well, mother,” said Armine, smiling back to her in spite of himself, “I
have not liked to say so, it seemed a shame; but staying at the Vicarage
made me wonder at my being such an egregious ass last year! Do you know,
I couldn’t help it; but that good lady would seem to me quite mawkish in
her flattery! And how she does domineer over that poor brother of hers!
Then the fuss she makes about details, never seeming to know which
are accessories and which are principles. I don’t wonder that I was an
absurdity in the eyes of all beholders. But it is very sad if it has
really alienated my dear Infanta from all deeper and higher things!”

“Not so bad as that, my dear; my Babie is a good little girl.”

“Oh yes, mother, I did not mean--”

“But it did break that unity between you, and prevent your leading her
insensibly. I fancy your two characters would have grown apart anyhow,
but this was the moving cause. Now I fancy, so far as I can see, that
she is more afraid of being wearied and restrained than of anything
else. It is just what I felt for many years of my life.”

“No, mother?”

“Yes, my boy; till the time of your illness, serious thought, religion
and all the rest, seemed to me a tedious tax; and though I always, I
believe, made it a rule to my conscience in practical matters, it has
only very, very lately been anything like the real joy I believe it
has always been to you. Believe that, and be patient with your little
sister, for indeed she is an unselfish, true, faithful little being, and
some day she will go deeper.”

Armine looked up to his mother, and his eyes were full of tears, as she
kissed him, and said--

“You will do her much more good if you sympathise with her in her
innocent pleasures than if you insist on dragging her into what she
feels like privations.”

“Very well, mother,” he said. “It is due to her.”

And so, though the choir did have at least half Armine’s share of the
price of “Marco’s Felucca,” he threw himself most heartily into the
Christmas party, was the poet of the versified charade, acted the
strong-minded woman who was the chief character in “Blue Bell;” and he
and Jock gained universal applause.

Allen hardly appeared at the party. He had a fresh attack of sleepless
headache and palpitation, brought on by the departure of Miss Menella
for the Continent, and perhaps by the failure of “A Single Eye” with
some of the magazines. He dabbled a little with his mother’s clay,
and produced a nymph, who, as he persuaded her and himself, was a much
nobler performance than Andromache, but unfortunately she did not prove
equally marketable. And he said it was quite plain that he could
not succeed in anything imaginative till his health and spirits had
recovered from the blow; but he was ready to do anything.

So Dr. Medlicott brought in one day a medical lecture that he wanted to
have translated from the German, and told Allen that it would be well
paid for. He began, but it made his head ache; it was not a subject that
he could well turn over to Babie; and when Jock brought a message to
say the translation must be ready the next day, only a quarter had been
attempted. Jock sat up till three o’clock in the morning and finished
it, but he could not pain his mother by letting her know that her son
had again failed, so Allen had the money, and really believed, as he
said, that all Jock had done was to put the extreme end to it, and
correct the medical lingo of which he could not be expected to know
anything. Allen was always so gentle, courteous, and melancholy, that
every one was getting out of the habit of expecting him to do anything
but bring home news, discover anything worth going to see, sit at the
foot of the table, and give his verdict on the cookery. Babie indeed was
sometimes provoked into snapping at him, but he bore it with the amiable
magnanimity of one who could forgive a petulant child, ignorant of what
he suffered.

Jock was borne up by a great pleasure that winter. One day at dinner,
his mother watched his eyes dancing, and heard the old boyish ring of
mirth in his laugh, and as she went up stairs at night, he came after
and said--

“Fancy, I met Evelyn on the ice to-day. He wants to know if he may
call.”

“What prevents him?”

“Well, I believe the poor old chap is heartily ashamed of his airs.
Indeed he as good as said so. He has been longing to make a fresh start,
only he didn’t know how.”

“I think he used you very ill, Jock; but if you wish to be on the old
terms, I will do as you like.”

“Well,” said Jock, in an odd apologetic voice, “you see the old beggar
had got into a pig-headed sort of pet last year. He said he would cut me
if I left the service, and so he felt bound to be as good as his word;
but he seems to have felt lost without us, and to have been looking out
for a chance of meeting. He was horribly humiliated by the Friar looking
over his head last week.”

“Very well. If he chooses to call, here we are.”

“Yes, and don’t put on your cold shell, mother mine. After all, Evelyn
is Evelyn. There are wiser fellows, but I shall never warm to any one
again like him. Why, he was the first fellow who came into my room at
Eton! I am to meet him to-morrow after the lecture. May I bring him
home?”

“If he likes. His mother’s son must have a welcome.”

She could not feel cordial, and she so much expected that the young
gentleman might be seized with a fresh fit of exclusive disdain, that
she would not mention the possibility, and it was an amazement to all
save herself when Jock appeared with the familiar figure in his wake.
Guardsman as he was, Cecil had the grace to look bashful, not to say
shamefaced, and more so at Mrs. Brownlow’s kindly reception, than at
Barbara’s freezing dignity. The young lady was hotly resentful on Jock’s
behalf, and showed it by a stiff courtesy, elevated eyebrows, and the
merest tips of her fingers.

Allen took it easily. He had been too much occupied with his own
troubles to have entered into all the complications with the Evelyn
family; and though he had never greatly cared for them, and had
viewed Cecil chiefly as an obnoxious boy, he was, in his mournful way,
gratified by any reminder of his former surroundings. So without malice
prepense he stung poor Cecil by observing that it was long since they
had met; but no one could be expected to find the way to the other end
of nowhere. Cecil blushed and stammered something about Hounslow, but
Allen, who prided himself on being the conversational man of the world,
carried off the talk into safe channels.

As Cecil was handing Mrs. Brownlow down to the dining-room, wicked
Barbara whispered to her cousin John--

“We’ve such a nice vulgar dinner. It couldn’t have been better if I’d
known it!”

John, whose wrath had evaporated in his “cut,” shook his head at her,
but partook of her diversion at her brother’s resignation at sight of a
large dish of boiled beef, with a suet pudding opposite to it, Allen
was too well bred to apologise, but he carved in the dainty and delicate
style befitting the single slice of meat interspersed between countless
entrees.

Barbara began to relent as soon as Cecil, after making four mouthfuls
of Allen’s help, sent his plate with a request for something more
substantial. And before the meal was over, his evident sense of
bien-etre and happiness had won back her kindness; she remembered
that he was Sydney’s brother, and took no more trouble to show her
indignation.

Thenceforth, Cecil was as much as ever Jock’s friend, and a frequenter
of the family, finding that the loss of their wealth and place in the
great world made wonderfully little difference to them, and rather
enhanced the pleasant freedom and life of their house. The rest of the
family were seen once or twice, when passing through London, but only
in calls, which, as Babie said, were as good as nothing, except, as
she forgot to add, that they broke through the constraint on her
correspondence with Sydney.



CHAPTER XXXV. THE PHANTOM BLACKCOCK OF KILNAUGHT.



     And we alike must shun regard
     From painter, player, sportsman, bard,
     Wasp, blue-bottle, or butterfly,
     Insects that swim in fashion’s sky.
                                          Scott.


“At home? Then take these. There’s a lot more. I’ll run up,” said Cecil
Evelyn one October evening nearly two years later, as he thrust into
the arms of the parlour-maid a whole bouquet of game, while his servant
extracted a hamper from his cab, and he himself dashed up stairs with a
great basket of hot-house flowers.

But in the drawing-room he stood aghast, glancing round in the firelit
dusk to ascertain that he had not mistaken the number, for though the
maid at the door had a well-known face, and though tables, chairs,
and pictures were familiar, the two occupants of the room were utter
strangers, and at least as much startled as himself.

A little pale child was hurriedly put down from the lap of a tall maiden
who rose from a low chair by the fire, and stood uncertain.

“I beg your pardon,” he said; “I came to see Mrs. Brownlow.”

“My aunt. She will be here in a moment. Will you run and call her,
Lina?”

“You may tell her Cecil Evelyn is here,” said he; “but there is no
hurry,” he added, seeing that the child clung to her protector, too shy
even to move. “You are John Brownlow’s little sister, eh?” he added,
bending towards her; but as she crept round in terror, still clinging,
he addressed the elder one: “I am so glad; I thought I had rushed into a
strange house, and should have to beat a retreat.”

The young lady gave a little shy laugh which made her sweet oval glowing
face and soft brown eyes light up charmingly, and there was a fresh
graceful roundness of outline about her tall slender figure, as she
stood holding the shy child, which made her a wondrously pleasant sight.
“Are you staying here?” he asked.

“Yes; we came for advice for my little sister, who is not strong.”

“I’m so glad. I mean I hope there is only enough amiss to make you stay
a long time. Were you ever in town before?”

“Only for a few hours on our way to school.”

Here a voice reached them--


          “Fee, fa, fum,
           I smell the breath of geranium.”


And through the back drawing-room door came Babie, in walking attire,
declaiming--


          “‘Tis Cecil, by the jingling steel,
           ‘Tis Cecil, by the pawing bay,
           ‘Tis Cecil, by the tall two-wheel,
           ‘Tis Cecil, by the fragrant spray.”


“O Cecil, how lovely! Oh, the maiden-hair. You’ve been making
acquaintance with Essie and Lina?”

“I did not know you were out, Babie,” said Essie. “Was my aunt with
you?”

“Yes. We just ran over to see Mrs. Lucas, and as we were coming home, a
poor woman besought us to buy two toasting-forks and a mousetrap, by
way of ornament to brandish in the streets. She looked so frightfully
wretched, that mother let her follow, and is having it out with her at
the door. So you are from Fordham, Cecil; I see and I smell. How are
they?”

“Duke is rather brisk. I actually got him out shooting yesterday, but he
didn’t half like it, and was thankful when I let him go home again. See,
Sydney said I was to tell you that passion-flower came from the plant
she brought from Algiers.”

“The beauty! It must go into Mrs. Evelyn’s Venice glass,” said Babie,
bustling about to collect her vases.

Lina, with a cry of delight, clutched at a spray of butterfly-like mauve
and white orchids, in spite of her sister’s gentle “No, no, Lina, you
must not touch.”

Babie offered some China asters in its stead, Cecil muttered “Let her
have it;” but Esther was firm in making her relinquish it, and when
she began to cry, led her away with pretty tender gestures of mingled
comfort and reproof.

“Poor little thing,” said Babie, “she is sadly fretful. Nobody but Essie
can manage her.”

“I should think not!” said Cecil, looking after the vision, as if he
did not know what he was saying. “You never told me you had any one like
_that_ in the family?”

“O yes; there are two of them, as much alike as two peas.”

“What! the Monk’s sisters?”

“To be sure. They are a comely family; all but poor little Lina.”

“Will they be long here?”

“That depends. That poor little mite is the youngest but one, and the
nurse likes boys best. So she peaked and pined, and was bullied by
Edmund above and Harry below, and was always in trouble. Nobody but
Johnny and Essie ever had a good word for her. This autumn it came to a
crisis. You know we had a great meeting of the two families at Walmer,
and there, the shock of bathing nearly took out of her all the little
life there was. I believe she would have gone into fits if mother
had not heard her screams, and dashed on the nurse like a vindictive
mermaid, and then made uncle Robert believe her. My aunt trusts the
nurse, you must know, and lets her ride rough-shod over every one in the
nursery. The poor little thing was always whining and fretting whenever
she was not in Essie’s arms or the Monk’s, till the Monk declared she
had a spine, and he and mother gave uncle and aunt no peace till they
brought her here for advice, and sure enough her poor little spine is
all wrong, and will never be good for anything without a regular course
of watching and treatment. So we have her here with Essie to look after
her for as long as Sir Edward Fane wants to keep her under him, and you
can’t think what a nice little mortal she turns out to be now she is
rescued from nurse and those little ruffians of brothers.”

“That’s first-rate,” remarked Cecil.

“The eucharis and maiden-hair, is it not? I must keep some sprays for
our hairs to-night.”

“Is any one coming to-night?”

“The promiscuous herd. Oh, didn’t you know? Our Johns told mother it
would be no end of kindness to let them bring in a sprinkling of their
fellow-students--poor lads that live poked up in lodgings, and never see
a lady or any civilisation all through the term. So she took to having
them on Thursday once a fortnight, and Dr. Medlicott was perfectly
delighted, and said she could not do a better work; and it is such fun!
We don’t have them unmitigated, we get other people to enliven them. The
Actons are coming, and I hope Mr. Esdale is coming to-night to show
us his photographs of the lost cities in Central America. You’ll stay,
won’t you?”

“If Mrs. Brownlow will let me. I hope your toasting-fork woman has not
spirited her away?”

“Under the eyes of your horse and man.”

“Are you all at home? And has Allen finished his novel?”

Babie laughed, and said--

“Poor Ali! You see there comes a fresh blight whenever it begins to
bud.”

“What has that wretched girl been doing now?”

“Oh, don’t you know? The yacht had to be overhauled, so they went to
Florence instead, and have been wandering about in all the resorts of
rather shady people, where Lisette can cut a figure. Mr. Wakefield is
terribly afraid that even poor Mr. Gould himself is taking to gambling
for want of something to do. There are always reports coming of Elfie
taking up with some count or baron. It was a Russian prince last
time, and then Ali goes down into the very lowest depths, and can’t do
anything but smoke. You know that’s good for blighted beings. I cure my
plants by putting them into his room surreptitiously.”

“You are a hard-hearted little mortal, Babie. Ah, there’s the bell!”

Mrs. Brownlow came in with the two Johns, who had joined her just as she
had finished talking to the poor woman; Jock carried off his friend to
dress, and Babie, after finishing her arrangements and making the
most of every fragment of flower or leaf, repaired with a selection of
delicate sprays, to the room where Esther, having put her little sister
to bed, was dressing for dinner. She was eager to tell of her alarm at
the invasion, and of Captain Evelyn’s good nature when she had expected
him to be proud and disagreeable.

“He wanted to be,” said Babie, “but honest nature was too strong for
him.”

“Johnny was so angry at the way he treated Jock.”

“O, we quite forget all that. Poor fellow! it was a mistaken reading of
noblesse oblige, and he is very much ashamed of it. There, let me put
this fern and fuchsia into your hair. I’ll try to do it as well as Ellie
would.”

She did so, and better, being more dainty-fingered, and having more
taste. It really was an artistic pleasure to deal with such beautiful
hair, and such a lovely lay figure as Esther’s. With all her queenly
beauty and grace, the girl had that simplicity and sedateness which
often goes with regularity of feature, and was hardly conscious of the
admiration she excited. Her good looks were those of the family, and
Kenminster was used to them. This was her first evening of company,
for on the only previous occasion her little sister had been unwell,
sleepless and miserable in the strange house, and she had begged
off. She was very shy now, and could not go down without Barbara’s
protection, so, at the last moment before dinner, the little brown fairy
led in the tall, stately maiden, all in white, with the bright fuchsias
and delicate fern in her dark hair, and a creamy rose, set off by a few
more in her bosom.

Babie exulted in her work, and as her mother beheld Cecil’s raptured
glance and the incarnadine glow it called up, she guessed all that would
follow in one rapid prevision, accompanied by a sharp pang for her son
in Japan. It was not in her maternal heart not to hope almost against
her will that some fibre had been touched by Bobus that would be
irresponsive to others, but duty and loyalty alike forbade the slightest
attempt to revive the thought of the poor absentee, and she must steel
herself to see things take their course, and own it for the best.

Esther was a silent damsel. The clash of keen wits and exchange of
family repartee were quite beyond her. She had often wondered whether
her cousins were quarrelling, and had been only reassured by seeing them
so merry and friendly, and her own brother bearing his part as
naturally as the rest. She was more scandalised than ever to-day, for
it absolutely seemed to her that they were all treating Captain Evelyn,
long moustache and all, like a mere family butt, certainly worse than
they would have treated one of her own brothers, for Rob would have
sulked, and Joe, or any of the younger ones, might have been dangerous,
whereas this distinguished-looking personage bore all as angelically
as befitted one called by such a charming appellation as the Honourable
Cecil Evelyn.

“How about the shooting, Cecil? Sydney said you had not very good
sport.”

“Why--no, not till I joined Rainsforth’s party.”

“Where was your moor?”

“In Lanarkshire,” rather unwillingly.

“Eh,” said Allen, in a peculiar soft languid tone, that meant diversion.
“Near L---?”

“Yes.”

Then Jock burst out into laughter inexplicable at first, but Allen made
his voice gentler and graver, as he said, “You don’t mean Kilnaught?”
 and then he too joined Jock in laughter, as the latter cried--

“Another victim to McNab of Kilnaught! He certainly is the canniest of
Scots.”

“He revenges the wrongs of Scotland on innocent young Guardsmen.”

“Well, I’m sure there could not be a more promising advertisement.”

“That’s just it!” said Jock. “Moor and moss. How many acres of heather?”

“How was I to expect a man of family to be a regular swindler?”

“Hush! hush, my dear fellow! Roderick Dhu was a man of family. It is the
modern form.”

“But I saw his keeper.”

“Oh!” cried Allen. “I know! Old Rory! Tells you a long story in broad
Scotch, of which you understand one word here and there about his Grace
the Deuke, and how many miles--miles Scots--he walked.”

“I can see Evelyn listening, and saying ‘yes,’ at polite intervals!”

“How many birds did you actually see?”

“Well, I killed two brace and a half the first day.”

“Hatched under a hen, and let out for a foretaste.”

“And there was one old blackcock.”

“That blackcock! There are serious doubts whether it is a phantom bird,
or whether Rory keeps it tame as a decoy. You didn’t kill it?”

“No.”

“If you had, you might have boasted of an achievement,” said Allen.

“The spell would have been destroyed,” added Jock. “But you did not let
him finish. Did you say you saw the blackcock?”

“I am not sure; I think I heard it rise once, but the keeper was always
seeing it.”

Everybody but Essie was in fits of laughing at Cecil’s frank air of
good-humoured, self-defensive simplicity, and Armine observed--

“There’s a fine subject for a ballad for the ‘Traveller’s Joy,’ Babie.
‘The Phantom Blackcock of Kilnaught!’”

Babie extemporised at once, amid great applause--


          “The hills are high, the laird’s purse dry,
             Come out in the morning early;
           McNabs are keen, the Guards are green,
             The blackcock’s tail is curly.

          “The Southron’s spoil ‘tis worthy toil,
             Come out in the morning early;
           Come take my house and kill my grouse,
             The blackcock’s tail is curly.

          “Come out, come out, quoth Rory stout,
             Come out in the morning early,
           Sir Captain mark, he rises! hark,
            The blackcock’s tail is curly.”


“Repetition, Babie,” said her mother; “too like the Montjoie S. Denis
poem.”

“It saves so much trouble, mother.”

“And a recall to the freshness and innocence of childhood is so
pleasing,” added Jock.

“How much did the man of family let his moor for?” asked Allen.

There Cecil saw the pitiful and indignant face opposite to him, would
have sulked, and began looking at her for sympathy, exclaiming at last--

“Haven’t you a word to say for me, Miss Brownlow?”

“I don’t like it at all. I don’t think it is fair,” broke from Essie, as
she coloured crimson at the laugh.

“He likes it, my dear,” said Babie.

“It is a gentle titillation,” said Allen.

“He can’t get on without it,” said the Friar.

“And comes for it like the cattle to the scrubbing-stones,” said the
Skipjack.

“Yes,” said Armine; “but he tries to get pitied, like Chico walking on
three legs when some one is looking at him.”

“You deal in most elegant comparisons,” said the mother.

“Only to get him a little more pitied,” said Jock. “He is as grateful as
possible for being made so interesting.”

“Hark, there’s a knock!” cried Allen. “Can’t you instruct your cubs not
to punish the door so severely, Jock? I believe they think that the more
row they make, the more they proclaim their nobility!”

“The obvious derivation of the word stunning,” said Mother Carey, as she
rose to meet her guests in the drawing-room, and Cecil to hold the door
for her.

“Stay, Evelyn,” said Allen. “This is the night when unlicked cubs do
disport themselves in our precincts. A mistaken sense of philanthropy
has led my mother to make this house the fortnightly salon bleu of St.
Thomas’s. But there’s a pipe at your service in my room.”

“Dr. Medlicott is coming,” said Babie, who had tarried behind the
Johns, “and perhaps Mr. Grinstead, and we are sure to have Mr. Esdale’s
photographs. It is never all students, medical or otherwise. Much better
than Allen’s smoke, Cecil.”

“I am coming of course,” he said. “I was only waiting for the Infanta.”

It may be doubted whether the photographs, Dr. Medlicott, or even Jock
were the attraction. He was much more fond of using his privilege of
dropping in when the family were alone, than of finding himself in the
midst of what an American guest had called Mrs. Brownlow’s surprise
parties. They were on regular evenings, but no one knew who was coming,
from scientific peers to daily governesses, from royal academicians to
medical students, from a philanthropic countess to a city missionary.
To listen to an exposition of the microphone, to share in a Shakespeare
reading, or worse still, in a paper game, was, in the Captain’s eyes,
such a bore that he generally had only haunted Collingwood Street on
home days and on Sundays, when, for his mother’s sake and his own, an
exception was made in his favour.

He followed Babie with unusual alacrity, and found Mrs. Brownlow shaking
hands with a youth whom Jock upheld as a genius, but who laboured under
the double misfortune of always coming too soon, and never knowing what
to do with his arms and legs. He at once perceived Captain Evelyn to
be an “awful swell,” and became trebly wretched--in contrast to Jock’s
open-hearted, genial young dalesman, who stood towering over every one
with his broad shoulders and hearty face, perfectly at his ease (as he
would have been in Buckingham Palace), and only wondering a little that
Brownlow could stand an empty-headed military fop like that; while Cecil
himself, after gazing about vaguely, muttered to Babie something about
her cousin.

“She is gone to see whether Lina is asleep, and will be too shy to come
down again if I don’t drag her.”

So away flew Babie, and more eyes than Cecil Evelyn’s were struck when
in ten minutes’ time she again led in her cousin.

Mr. Acton, who was talking to Mrs. Brownlow, said in an undertone--

“Your model? Another niece?”

“Yes; you remember Jessie?”

“This is a more ideal face.”

It was true. Esther had lived much less than her elder sister in
the Coffinkey atmosphere, and there was nothing to mar the peculiar
dignified innocence and perfect unconsciousness of her sweet maidenly
bloom. She never guessed that every man, and every woman too, was
admiring her, except the strong-minded one who saw in her the true inane
Raffaelesque Madonna on whom George Eliot is so severe.

Nor did the lady alter her opinion when, at the end of a very curious
speculation about primeval American civilisation, Captain Evelyn and
Miss Brownlow were discovered studying family photographs in a corner,
apparently much more interested whether a hideous half-faded brown
shadow had resembled John at fourteen, than to what century and what
nation those odd curly-whirleys on stone belonged, and what they were
meant to express.

Babie was scandalised.

“You didn’t listen! It was most wonderful! Why Armie went down and
fetched up Allen to hear about those wonderful walled towns!”

“I don’t go in for improving my mind,” said Cecil.

“Then you should not hinder Essie from improving hers! Think of letting
her go home having seen nothing but all the repeated photographs of her
brothers and sisters!”

“Well, what should she like to see?” cried Cecil. “I’m good for anything
you want to go to before the others are free.”

“The Ethiopian serenaders, or, may be, Punch,” said Jock. “Madame
Tussaud would be too intellectual.”

“When Lina is strong enough she is to see Madame Tussaud,” said Essie
gravely. “Georgie once went, and she has wished for it ever since.”

“Oh, we’ll get up Madame Tussaud for her at home, free gratis, for
nothing at all!” cried Armine, whose hard work inspirited him to fun and
frolic.

So in the twilight hour two days later there was a grand exhibition of
human waxworks, in which Babie explained tableaux represented by the
two Johns, Armine, and Cecil, supposed to be adapted to Lina’s capacity.
With the timid child it was not a success, the disguises frightened her,
and gave her an uncanny feeling that her friends were transformed; she
sat most of the time on her aunt’s lap, with her face hidden, and barely
hindered from crying by the false assurance that it was all for her
pleasure.

But there was no doubt that Esther was a pleased spectator of the show,
and her gratitude far more than sufficient to cover the little one’s
ingratitude.

Those two drifted together. In every gathering, when stranger