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Title: A Rose in June
Author: Oliphant, Mrs. (Margaret)
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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[Illustration: THE ROSE OF MY STORY WAS HALF-SITTING, HALF-RECLINING AT
                              HIS FEET.]

                            A ROSE IN JUNE.

                                  BY

                            MRS. OLIPHANT.

                        [FROM ADVANCE SHEETS.]

                  _ILLUSTRATED BY GEORGE DU MAURIER._

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                BOSTON:

                     JAMES R. OSGOOD AND COMPANY.

           LATE TICKNOR & FIELDS, AND FIELDS, OSGOOD, & CO.

                         181 FRANKLIN STREET.

                                 1874.

                            [Illustration]



                        LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

                    [_Drawn by George Du Maurier._]


                                                                    PAGE

THE ROSE OF MY STORY WAS HALF-SITTING, HALF-RECLINING AT
HIS FEET                                                   _Frontispiece_

THE GIRL STOOD MOTIONLESS, SUBDUED BY IT                              29

THEY WERE INTERRUPTED BY A THIRD PERSON, WHO HAD COME ALONG THE ROAD  49

BEFORE ROSE WAS AWAKE, MRS. DAMEREL CAME INTO HER ROOM                71

SHE TOOK HER BAG IN HER HAND AND NOISELESSLY STOLE OUT                81

[Illustration]



A ROSE IN JUNE.



CHAPTER I.


[Illustration: M]

“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. Let
the child alone--she will never be young again if she should live a
hundred years!”

These words were spoken in the garden of Dinglefield Rectory on a very
fine summer day a few years ago. The speaker was Mr. Damerel, the
rector, a middle-aged man with very fine, somewhat worn features, a soft
benignant smile, and, as everybody said who knew him, the most charming
manners in the world. He was a man of very elegant mind as well as
manners. He did not preach often, but when he did preach all the
educated persons in his congregation felt that they had very choice fare
indeed set before them. I am afraid the poor folk liked the curate best,
but then the curate liked them best, and it mattered very little to any
man or woman of refinement what sentiment existed between the cottagers
and the curate. Mr. Damerel was perfectly kind and courteous to
everybody, gentle and simple, who came in his way, but he was not fond
of poor people in the abstract. He disliked everything that was
unlovely, and alas! there are a great many unlovely things in poverty.
The rectory garden at Dinglefield is a delightful place. The house is on
the summit of a little hill, or rather table-land, for in the front,
towards the green, all is level and soft as becomes an English village;
but on the other side the descent begins towards the lower country, and
from the drawing-room windows and the lawn, where Mr. Damerel now sat,
the view extended over a great plain, lighted up with links of the
river, and fading into unspeakable hazes of distance, such as were the
despair of every artist, and the delight of the fortunate people who
lived there and were entertained day by day with the sight of all the
sunsets, the midday splendors, the flying shadows, and soft, prolonged
twilights. Mr. Damerel was fond of saying that no place he knew so lent
itself to idleness as this. “Idleness! I speak as the foolish ones
speak,” he would say, “for what occupation could be more ennobling than
to watch those gleams and shadows--all nature spread out before you, and
demanding attention, though so softly that only they who have ears hear?
I allow, my gentle nature here does not shout at you, and compel your
regard, like her who dwells among the Alps, for instance. My dear, you
are always practical--but so long as you leave me my landscape I want
little more.”

Thus the rector would discourse. It was very little he wanted--only to
have his garden and lawn in perfect order, swept and trimmed every
morning like a lady’s boudoir, and refreshed with every variety of
flower: to have his table not heavily loaded with vulgar English joints,
but daintily covered, and oh! so daintily served; the linen always
fresh, the crystal always fine, the ladies dressed as ladies should be:
to have his wine, of which he said he took very little, always fine, of
choice vintage, and with a bouquet which rejoiced the heart: to have
plenty of new books: to have quiet, undisturbed by the noise of the
children, or any other troublesome noise such as broke the harmony of
nature: and especially undisturbed by bills and cares, such as, he
declared, at once shorten the life and take all pleasure out of it. This
was all he required; and surely never man had tastes more moderate, more
innocent, more virtuous and refined.

The little scene to which I have thus abruptly introduced the reader
took place in the most delicious part of the garden. The deep stillness
of noon, was over the sunshiny world; part of the lawn was brilliant in
light; the very insects were subdued out of their buzz of activity by
the spell of the sunshine; but here, under the lime-tree, there was
grateful shade, where everything took breath. Mr. Damerel was seated in
a chair which had been made expressly for him, and which combined the
comfort of soft cushions with such a rustic appearance as became its
habitation out of doors; under his feet was a soft Persian rug in colors
blended with all the harmony which belongs to the Eastern loom; at his
side a pretty carved table, with a raised rim, with books upon it, and a
thin Venice glass containing a rose. Another Rose, the Rose of my story,
was half-sitting, half-reclining on the grass at his feet--a pretty,
light figure in a soft muslin dress, almost white, with bits of soft,
rose-colored ribbon here and there. She was the eldest child of the
house. Her features I do not think were at all remarkable, but she had a
bloom so soft, so delicate, so sweet, that her father’s fond title for
her, “a Rose in June,” was everywhere acknowledged as appropriate. A
rose of the very season of roses was this Rose. Her very smile, which
came and went like breath, never away for two minutes together, yet
never lasting beyond the time you took to look at her, was flowery too,
I can scarcely tell why. For my own part, she always reminded me not so
much of a garden-rose in its glory, as of a branch of wild roses all
blooming and smiling from the bough, here pink, here white, here with a
dozen ineffable tints. Her hair was light-brown with the least little
curl in the world just about her forehead, but shining like satin on her
pretty head; her eyes too were brown, with a dancing gleam of light in
each; the delicate eyebrows curved, the eyelashes curved, the lips
curved, all wavy and rounded. Life and light shone out of the girl, and
sweet, unconscious happiness. In all her life she had never had any
occasion to ask herself was she happy. Of course she was happy! did not
she live, and was not that enough? Rose Damerel was the last dainty
ornament of his house in which her father delighted most. He had spoiled
her lessons when she was younger because of his pleasure in her and her
pretty looks, and he interfered now almost altogether with that
usefulness in a house which is demanded by every principle of duty from
the eldest daughter of a large family; for alas! there was a large
family, a thing which was the cause of all trouble to the Damerels. Had
there been only Rose, and perhaps one brother, how much more pleasantly
would everything have gone! In that case there might have been fewer
lines in the brow of the third person whom Mr. Damerel spoke to, but
whom the reader has not yet seen.

What Mrs. Damerel was like in her June of life, when she married her
husband and was a Rose too, like her daughter, it is difficult to tell.
Life, which often makes so little real change, brings out much that is
latent both of good and evil. I have said she was a Rose, like her
daughter--and so, indeed, she was still, so far as formal documents
went; but, somehow or other, the name had gone from her. She had
acquired from her husband, at first in joke and loving banter of her
early cares of housekeeping, while they were still no more than married
lovers, the name of Martha, and by degrees that name had so fastened to
her that no one recognized her by any other. Nobody out of her own
family knew that it was not her name, and of course the children, some
of whom were indignant at the change, could not set it right. In her
letters she signed herself “R. M. Damerel”--never Rose; and her
correspondents took it for granted that the “M” stood for Martha. That
she was careful and troubled about many things was the rector’s favorite
joke. “My careful wife--my anxious wife,” he called her, and, poor soul,
not without a cause. For it stands to reason that when a man must not be
disturbed about bills, for example, his wife must be, and doubly; when a
man cannot bear the noise of children, his wife must, and doubly; and
even when a clergyman dislikes poverty, and unlovely cottages, and poor
rooms, which are less sweet than the lawn and the roses, why, his wife
must, and make up for his fastidiousness. She had eight children, and a
husband of the most refined tastes of any clergyman in England, and an
income--not so much as might have been desired. Alas! how few of us have
so much as might be desired! Good rich people, you who have more money
than you want, how good you ought to be to us, out of pure gratitude to
Heaven for the fact that you can pay your bills when you like, and never
need to draw lines on your forehead with thinking which is imperative
and which will wait! Mrs. Damerel was well dressed--she could not help
it--for that was one of the rector’s simple luxuries. Fortunately, in
summer it is not so difficult to be well dressed at a small cost. She
had on (if any one cares to know) a dress of that light brown linen
which everybody has taken to wearing of late, over an old black silk
petticoat, which, having been good once, looked good even when tottering
on the brink of the grave. She was no more than forty, and but for her
cares, would have looked younger; but June was long over for this Rose,
and the lines in her forehead contradicted the softness of the natural
curves in her features. Those lines were well ruled in, with rigid
straightening, by an artist who is very indifferent to curves and
prettiness, and had given a certain closeness, and almost sternness, to
the firm-shutting of her mouth. I am afraid, though she had great
command of herself, that Mr. Damerel’s delightful and unbroken serenity
had an irritating effect on his wife, in addition to the effects
produced by her burden of care; and irritation works with a finer and
more delicate pencil than even anxiety. She had come out this morning to
ask Rose’s help with the children, to whom, among her other fatigues,
she had lately begun to give lessons, finding the daily governess from
the village impracticable. She had been called away to other duties, and
the children were alone in the school-room. She had just asked her
daughter to go in and take charge of them, and I scarcely think--let
alone the answer she had just received from her husband--that the sight
of this cool, fresh, delightful leisure in direct contrast with the hot
house, and the school-room, where all the children were more tiresome
than usual by reason of the heat, had any agreeable effect upon Mrs.
Damerel’s nerves. Such a contrast to one’s own frets and annoyances
seldom is deeply consolatory.

“Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. Let
the child alone!”

The rector smiled, yet his tone was one of playful reproof. His was the
superior position. With the soft air fanning him, and the shade
refreshing him, and the beautiful landscape displaying itself for him,
and all the flowers blooming, the leaves waving, the butterflies
fluttering, the pretty daughter prattling, all for his pleasure, master
of the creation as he was, he was in a position to reprove any harsh and
hasty intruder who brought into this Paradise a discordant note.

“I do not want to burden her youth,” said Mrs. Damerel, with a resolute
quiet in her voice, which her children knew the sound of, and which they
all learned to recognize as the tone of suppressed irritation, “but I
think it would do Rose no harm, Herbert, to make herself useful a
little, and help me.”

“Useful!” he said, with a half-pitying smile; “the other roses are still
less useful. What would you have the child do? Let her get the good of
this beautiful morning. Besides, she is useful to me.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Damerel, faltering slightly, “if she is doing anything
for you, Herbert!”

“My dear,” said the rector, with a gentle elevation of his eyebrows,
“don’t confound things which are different. Doing something is your sole
idea of human use, I know. No, Rose is doing nothing--it helps me to
have her there. She is part of the landscape; suppose you sit down
yourself, instead of fretting, and enjoy it.”

“Enjoy it!” Mrs. Damerel echoed, with faint irony. She heard already the
noise of the school-room growing louder and louder, and Mary, the
housemaid, stood at the door, looking out anxiously, shading her eyes
from the sun, for the mistress. Some one was waiting, she knew, in the
hall, to see her; pray Heaven, not some one with a bill! “I am afraid I
must go back to my work,” she said, “and I hope you will come to me,
Rose, as soon as your papa can spare you. I have no more time now.”

Rose stirred uneasily, half-rising, and, with a prick of conscience,
made a feeble attempt to detain her. “But, mamma”--she began, as her
mother moved away, crossing the broad sunshine of the lawn with hasty
steps. Mrs. Damerel did not or would not hear, but went swiftly into the
house as they watched her, meeting Mary, who was coming with a message.
Her light dress shone out for a moment in the fierce blaze of the
sunshine, and then disappeared. When she was out of sight the rector
said softly, changing his position with the leisureliness of extreme
comfort, putting under-most the leg which had been upper-most, “What a
pity that your mother does not see the beauty of repose more than she
does! If I had not learnt long ago to take no notice, I don’t know what
I might not have been worried into by now.”

“Mamma never worries any one,” said Rose, flushing at once with
instantaneous opposition. The more she felt guilty towards her mother,
the less she would hear a word to her discredit. She blazed up quite hot
and fiery, with a loyalty which was a very good quality in its way,
though not so good as helping in the school-room. The father put forth
his fine ivory hand, and patted her pretty head.

“Quite right, dear, quite right,” he said; “always stand up for your
mother. And it is true, she never worries anybody; but I wish she had
more perception of the excellence of repose.”

“Perhaps if she had, we should not be able to enjoy it so much,” said
the girl, still giving expression to a slight compunction.

“Very well said, Rose; and it is quite possible you are right again. We
should not be so comfortable, and the house would not go on wheels as it
does, if she thought more of her own ease. One star differeth from
another star in glory,” said Mr. Damerel, who was fond of quoting
Scripture, almost the only point in him which savored slightly of the
church. “At the same time, my Rose in June, when you marry, yourself--as
I suppose you will one day--remember that there is nothing that worries
a man like being constantly reminded of the struggle and wear and tear
that life demands. He has enough of that outside in the world,” said the
rector, gazing out over the fair prospect before him, and again changing
the position of his legs, “without having it thrust upon him in what
ought to be the sanctity of his home.”

Rose looked at her father with a little dawning wonder mingled with the
admiration she felt for him. As a picture, Mr. Damerel was perfect. He
had a fine head, with beautiful and refined features, and that paleness
which has always been found to be so much more interesting than
brighter coloring. He lay half-reclined in his easy-chair, with his
eyes dreamily regarding the landscape, and the book he had been reading
closed over his hand. That hand was in itself a patent of gentility, and
his whole appearance confirmed the title. Somewhat fragile--a piece of
delicate porcelain among the rough delf of this world--not able to
endure much knocking about; fastidious, loving everything that was
beautiful, and supporting with difficulty that which was not, the rector
looked like a choice example of the very height of civilization and
refinement. And everything around him was in harmony: the velvet lawn on
which no fallen leaf was allowed to lie for an hour; the pretty house
behind, perfection of English comfort and daintiness; the loose morning
clothes, not more than half clerical, and perfectly unpretending, yet
somehow more fine, better cut, and better fitting than other people’s
clothes. Rose had for him that enthusiasm of admiration which a girl
often entertains for a handsome and gentle-minded father, who takes the
trouble to enter into her feelings, and make her his companion. I do not
know any more exquisite sentiment in humanity. She loved him entirely,
and he was to her a very model of everything that was most delightful,
kind, tender, and beautiful.

But as she looked at this model of man, his words somehow struck and
vibrated upon a new chord in the girl’s mind. “The struggle and wear and
tear that life demands.” Did Mr. Damerel have much of that “outside,” as
he said? He resumed his reading, but his daughter did not look again at
the book of poetry which lay open on her knee. Somehow a reflection of
the pucker on her mother’s brow had got into her heart--her mother, whom
Rose loved, but who was not an idol and model of excellence, like the
gentle and graceful being at her side. The contrast struck her for
perhaps the first time in her life. What was the meaning of it? Was it
because Mrs. Damerel did not understand the beauty of repose, or because
a woman’s business in this world is more detailed and engrossing than a
man’s? “Fancy mamma spending the whole morning out of doors reading
poetry!” Rose said to herself, with an involuntary silent laugh over the
absurdity of the notion. No doubt it was because of the difference
between man and woman; one of those disabilities which people talked
about; and perhaps (Rose went on philosophizing) women are wrong to
absorb themselves in this way in the management of their houses, and
ought to rule their domestic affairs with a lighter hand, not
interfering with all the little minutiæ, and making slaves of
themselves. She looked towards the house as she mused, and the vague
compunction which had been in her mind sharpened into something like a
prick of conscience. It was delightful being out here in the soft shade
of the lime-trees, watching when she liked the flitting shadows over the
plain below, and the gleam of the river here and there among the
trees--reading when she liked “Balaustion’s Adventure,” which was the
book on her knee. The significance of the old story embedded in that
book did not for the moment strike her. I think she was, on the whole,
rather annoyed with Mr. Browning for having brought down the story of a
woman’s sacrifice, all for love, into the region of even poetic reason.
To Rose, at that period of her development, it seemed the most ideal
climax of life to die for the man she loved. What could be more
beautiful, more satisfactory? Such an ending would reconcile one, she
thought, to any suffering; it gave her heart a thrill of high sensation
indescribable in words. How sweet the air was, how lovely all the
lights! Rose was just enough of an artist to be able to talk about “the
lights” with some faint understanding of what she meant. She was in a
kind of soft Elysium, penetrated by the thousand sensations of the
morning, the quiet, the flattering soft air that caressed her, the
poetry, the society, the beauty all around. But then there came that
sharp little prick of conscience. Perhaps she ought to go in and offer
the help her mother wanted. Rose did not jump up to do this, as she
would have done at once (she felt sure) had she been required to die,
like Iphigenia, for her country, or, like Alcestis, for her husband. The
smaller sacrifice somehow was less easy; but it disturbed her a little
in the perfection of her gentle enjoyment, and dictated a few restless
movements which caught her father’s eye. He turned and looked at her,
asking fretfully, with a look, what was the matter, for he did not like
to be disturbed.

“Perhaps,” said Rose, inquiringly, and appealing to him with another
look, “I ought to go in and see what is wanted. Perhaps I could be of
some use to mamma.”

Mr. Damerel smiled. “Use?” he said. “Has your mother bitten you with her
passion for use? You are not of the useful kind, take my word for it;
and make yourself happy, like your namesakes, who toil not, neither do
they spin.”

“But perhaps”--said Rose softly to herself--her father gave her a
friendly little nod and returned to his book--and she had to solve her
problem without his assistance. She tried to do it, sitting on the
grass, and it was a long and rather troublesome process. It would have
been much more easily and briefly settled, had she gone into the
school-room; but then I am afraid Rose did not wish it to be solved that
way.



CHAPTER II.


Mrs. Damerel went back into the house with a countenance much less
placid than that of her husband. I scarcely know why it is that the
contrast of perfect repose and enjoyment with anxiety, work, and care
should irritate the worker as it invariably does; but here indeed there
was reason enough; for Mrs. Damerel felt that the two people luxuriating
in total absence of care on this delightful morning ought to have taken
a considerable share with her in her labors and lightened the burden she
was now obliged to bear alone. This mingled a sharpness of feeling with
her toils. People who interpret human nature coarsely--and they are,
perhaps, the majority--would have said that Mrs. Damerel was jealous of
her husband’s preference for Rose’s society, and this would have been a
total and vulgar mistake; but she had in her mind a feeling which it is
difficult to explain, which for the moment made her irritation with Rose
more strong than her irritation with Rose’s father. He was, in the first
place, a man--grand distinction, half contemptuous, half respectful,
with which women of Mrs. Damerel’s age (I don’t say young women often do
it, at least consciously--except in the case of their fathers and
brothers) account for and make up their minds to so many things. I am
not attempting to account for this sentiment, which is so similar to
that with which men in their turn regard women; I only acknowledge its
existence. He was a man, brought up as all men are (I still quote Mrs.
Damerel’s thoughts, to which she seldom or never gave expression), to
think of themselves first, and expect everything to give in to them. But
Rose had none of these privileges. What her mother as a woman had to
take upon her, Rose had an equal right to take too. Mrs. Damerel herself
could not forget, though everybody else did, that she had been a Rose
too, in her proper person; the time even since that miraculous period
was not so far off to her as to the others; but before she was Rose’s
age she had been married, and had already become, to some extent, Mr.
Damerel’s shield and buckler against the world and its annoyances. And
here was Rose growing up as if she, instead of being a woman as nature
made her, was herself one of the privileged class, to whom women are the
ministers. This annoyed Mrs. Damerel more, perhaps, than the facts
justified; it gave her a sense of injured virtue as well as feeling. It
would be the ruin of the girl--it was wrong to let her get into such
ways. The mother was angry, which is always painful and aggravates
everything. She was too proud to struggle with her daughter, or to exact
help which was not freely given; for Rose was no longer a child to be
sent hither and thither and directed what to do. And Mrs. Damerel was no
more perfect than Rose was--she had her own difficulties of temper like
other people. This was one of them--that she drew back within herself
when she felt her appeal refused or even left without response. She went
in with a little scorn, a little pride, a good deal of anger and more of
mortification. “I must do everything myself, it appears,” she said, with
a swelling of the heart which was very natural, I think. After the sun
on the lawn, it was very warm in-doors and the school-room was very
noisy indeed by the time she had got rid of the applicants in the hall,
one of whom (most respectful and indeed obsequious, and perfectly
willing to accept her excuses, but yet a dun notwithstanding) had come
to say that he had many heavy payments to make up, etc.--and if Mrs.
Damerel could oblige him--Mrs. Damerel could not oblige him, but he was
very civil and full of apologies for troubling her.

I do not, by any means, intend to say that the rector’s wife was
tortured by perpetual struggling with her creditors. It was not so bad
as that. The difficulty was rather to keep going, to be not too much in
debt to any one, to pay soon enough to preserve her credit, and yet get
as long a day as possible. Mrs. Damerel had come by long practice to
have the finest intuition in such matters. She knew exactly how long a
tailor or a wine merchant would wait for his money without acerbation of
temper, and would seize that crowning moment to have him paid by hook or
by crook. But by thus making a fine art of her bills, she added
infinitely to her mental burdens--for a woman must never forget anything
or neglect anything when she holds her tradespeople so very delicately
in hand.

The school-room, as I have just said, was very noisy, not to say
uproarious, when she got back to it, and it was hard not to remember
that Rose ought to have been there. There were five children in it, of
various ages and sizes. The two big boys were both at Eton. The eldest,
Bertie, who was bright and clever, was “on the foundation,” and
therefore did not cost his parents much; the second had his expenses
paid by a relation--thus these two were off their mother’s hands. The
eldest in the school-room was Agatha, aged fourteen, who taught the two
little ones; but who, during her mother’s absence, ought to have been
playing “her scales,” and had conscientiously tried to do so for ten
minutes, at the end of which time she had been obliged to resign the
music in order to rescue these same two little ones, her special charge,
from the hands of Dick, aged ten, who was subjecting them to unknown
tortures, which caused the babes to howl unmercifully. Patty, the next
girl to Agatha, aided and abetted Dick; and what with the laughter of
these two pickles, and the screams of the small ones, and poor Agatha’s
remonstrances, the scene was Pandemonium itself, and almost as hot; for
the room was on the sunny side of the house, and blazing,
notwithstanding the drawn blinds. The children were all languid and
irritable with the heat, hating their confinement in-doors; and, indeed,
if Rose had come, she would have made a very poor exchange. Agatha’s
music had tumbled down from the piano, the old red cover was half drawn
off the table, and threatened at any moment a clean sweep of copybooks,
inkbottles and slates. Dick stood among his books, all tumbled on the
floor, his heels crushing the cover of one, while Patty sat upon the
open dictionary, doubling down half the leaves with her weight. Such a
scene for a bothered mother to come into! Mr. Damerel himself heard some
faint rumor of the noise, and his fine brow had begun to draw itself
into lines, and a resolution to “speak to their mother” formed itself
within his mind. Poor mother! She could have cried when she went in out
of all her other troubles; but that was a mere momentary weakness, and
the rebels were soon reduced to order, Agatha sent back to her scales,
and Dick and Patty to their copybooks. “You two little ones may go,”
Mrs. Damerel said, and with a shriek of delight the babies toddled out
and made their way to the hayfield behind the house, where they were
perfectly happy, and liable to no more danger than that of being carried
off in a load of fragrant hay. When Mr. Nolan, the curate, came in to
talk about parish business, Agatha’s “scales,” not badly played, were
trilling through the place, and Patty and Dick, very deep in ink, and
leaning all their weight upon their respective pens, were busy with
their writing; and calm--the calm of deep awe--prevailed.

“Shall I disturb you if I come in here?” asked the curate, with a mellow
sound in his voice which was not brogue--or at least he thought it was
not, and was ingenuously surprised when he was recognized as an
Irish-man. (“It will be my name, to be sure,” he would say on such
occasions, somewhat puzzled.) He was a bony man, loosely put together,
in a long coat, with rather a wisp of a white tie; for, indeed, it was
very hot and dusty on the roads, and where the rector is an elegant man
of very refined mind, the curate, like the wife, has generally a good
deal to do.

“Indeed, the lessons have been so much disturbed as it is, that it does
not much matter,” said Mrs. Damerel. “On Monday morning there are so
many things to call me away.”

“How selfish of me!” said the curate. “Monday morning is just the time
I’ve little or nothing to do, except when there’s sickness. What a brute
I was not to offer meself,--and indeed, that’s just what I’ve come to
speak about.”

“No, no, you are too kind, and do too much already,” said Mrs. Damerel,
looking at him with a grateful smile, but shaking her head. “And,
indeed,” she added, the cloud coming over her face again, “Rose ought to
come and relieve me; but her father has to be attended to, and that
takes up so much of her time.”

“To be sure,” said the curate cheerily, “and reason good. Besides, it
would be wearing work for one like her--whereas the like o’ me is made
for it. Look here, Dick, my boy, will you promise to learn your lessons
like a brick to-morrow if I ask the mother for a holiday to-day?”

“Oh, hurrah!” cried Dick, delighted.

“Oh, mamma, like twenty bricks,” cried Patty, “though how a brick can
learn lessons?--It’s so hot, and one keeps thinking of the hayfield.”

“Then be off wi’ you all,” cried the curate. “Don’t you see the mother
smile? and Agatha too. I’m going to talk business. Sure, you don’t mind
for one day?”

“Oh, mind!” said poor Mrs. Damerel, with a half-smile; then waiting till
they were all out of hearing, an exit speedily accomplished, “if it were
not for duty, how glad I should be to give it up altogether!--but they
could not go on with Miss Hunt,” she added, with a quick glance at the
curate to see whether by chance he understood her. Good curate, he could
be very stolid on occasion, though I hope he was not fool enough to be
taken in by Mrs. Damerel’s pretences: though it was true enough that
Miss Hunt was impracticable. She could not afford a better; this was
what she really meant.

“Out of the question,” said Mr. Nolan; “and I’m no scholar myself to
speak of, notwithstanding what I’m going to have the presumption to say
to you. It’s just this--I don’t do much visiting of mornings; they don’t
like it. It takes them all in a mess as it were, before they’ve had time
to get tidy, and these mornings hang heavy on my hands. I want you to
let me have the three big ones. I might get them on a bit; and time, as
I tell you, my dear lady, hangs heavy on my hands.”

“How can you tell me such a fib?” said Mrs. Damerel, half crying, half
laughing. “Oh, you are too good, too good; but, Mr. Nolan, I can’t take
anything more from you. Rose must help me, it is her duty; it is bad for
her to be left so much to herself; why, I was married and had all the
troubles of life on my head at her age.”

“And so she’ll have, before you know where you are,” said the good
curate, which will show the reader at once that he entertained no
absorbing passion for Miss Rose, though I am aware it is a curate’s duty
so to do. “So she’ll have; she’ll be marrying some great grandee or
other. She looks like a princess, and that’s what she’ll be.”

“She has no right to be a princess,” said the mother, overwrought and
irritable, “and duty is better than ease surely. You, I know, think so.”

“For the like of me, yes,” said the curate; “for her, I don’t know.”

“I was once very much like her, though you would not think it,” said the
mother, with the slightest tinge of bitterness, “but that is not the
question--no, no, we must not trouble you.”

“When I tell you the mornings hang on my hands! I don’t know what to do
with my mornings. There’s Tuesday I’m due at the schools, but the rest
of the week I do nothing but idle. And idling’s a great temptation. A
cigar comes natural when you’ve nothing to do. You don’t like a man
smoking in the morning; I’ve heard you say so. So you see the young ones
will save me from a--no, I won’t say cigar; worse than that; cigars are
too dear for a curate, me dear lady--from a pipe.”

“Mr. Nolan, you are too good for this world,” said poor Mrs. Damerel,
affected to tears; “but I must first try what can be done at home,” she
added after a pause; “no, no, you weigh me down under your kindness.
What would the parish be but for you?”

“It would be just the same if I were dead and buried,” said the curate,
shrugging his shoulders. “Ah, that’s the worst of it: try for a little
bit of a corner of work like a child’s lessons, and you may be of
service; but try to mend the world, even a bit of a parish, and you’re
nowhere. They don’t think half as much of me as they do of the rector?”
he added, with a curious smile, which the rector’s wife only half
understood. Was it satirical? or could it be possible that the curate
was surprised that the people thought more of the rector than of
himself? Mrs. Damerel was aware, no one better, of her husband’s faults.
Many a time she was ready to say in bitterness (to herself) that he was
wearing her to death; but nevertheless she looked at long,
loosely-built, snub-nosed Mr. Nolan, with mingled amusement and
surprise. Was it possible that he could entertain any hopes of rivalling
her husband? Of course a visit from the rector was an honor to any one,
for Mr. Damerel was a man who, notwithstanding a little human weakness,
was the very picture and model of a gentleman; and the idea of comparing
him with good Mr. Nolan was too absurd.

“Yes, no doubt they are pleased to see him,” she said: “poor people are
very quick to recognize high breeding; but I am sure, my dear Mr. Nolan,
that they are all very fond of you.”

The curate made no immediate answer. I am not sure that he had not in
his private heart something of the same feeling with which his present
companion had been thinking of her daughter, a feeling less intense in
so far as it was much more indifferent to him, yet in a way stronger
because untempered by affection. The rector was of his own kind, the
ornamental and useless specimen, while he was the worker whom nobody
thought of; but these secret feelings neither of the two confided to the
other. Mr. Nolan would have been horrified had he detected in Mrs.
Damerel that slight bitterness about Rose, which indeed would have
shocked herself as deeply had she paused to identity the sentiment, and
she would have been, and was, to some slight extent--suspecting the
existence of the feeling--contemptuous and indignant of Nolan’s
“jealousy,” as I fear she would have called it. They returned, however,
to the educational question, which did not involve anything painful, and
after considerable discussion it was settled that he should give the
elder children lessons in the morning “if their papa approved.” It is
impossible to say what a relief this decision was to the mother, who had
felt these lessons to be the last straw which proverbially breaks the
camel’s back. She was glad of the chat with a sympathizing friend, who
understood, without saying anything about, her troubles--and doubly glad
of the holiday exacted from her by his means--and gladder still to get
rid of him and return to her many other occupations; for it was Monday,
as has already been mentioned, and there was the laundress to look
after, and a thousand other things awaiting her. The curate went out by
the garden door when he left her, out upon the lawn, where he paused to
look at as charming a scene as could be found in England: a fair country
spreading out for miles its trees and fields and soft undulations under
a summer sky, which was pale with excess of light, and ran into faint
lines of misty distance almost colorless in heat and haze. Here and
there the sunshine caught in a bend of the river, and brought out a
startling gleam as from a piece of silver. The world was still with noon
and distance, no sound in the air but the rustle of the leaves, the hum
of insects; the landscape was all the sweeter that there was no
remarkable feature in it, nothing but breadth and space, and undulating
lines, and light, everywhere light; and to make up for its broad, soft
vagueness, how distinct, like a picture, was the little group in the
foreground--the lime-trees in their silken green, the soft rippling
shadows on the grass, the picturesque figure in the chair, and the
beautiful girl!

The beauty of the sight charmed good Mr. Nolan. Had it been put to him
at that moment, I believe he would have protested that his rector should
never do anything in his life except recline with languid limbs
out-stretched, and his poetical head bent over his book, under the
sweet shadow of the trees. And if this was true even in respect to Mr.
Damerel, how much more true was it with Rose?

“Well, Nolan,” said Mr. Damerel, suavely, as the bony curate and his
shadow came stalking across the sunshine; “well, worrying yourself to
death as usual in this hot weather? My wife and you are congenial
souls.”

“That is true, and it’s a great honor for me,” said Nolan. “_She_ is
worrying herself to death with the children, and one thing and another.
As for me, in the mornings, as I tell her, I’ve next to nothing to do.”

Rose looked up hastily as he spoke. How angry she felt! If her mother
chose to worry herself to death, who had anything to do with that? was
it not her own pleasure? A hot flush came over the girl’s face. Mr.
Nolan thought it was the quick, ingenuous shame which is so beautiful in
youth; but it was a totally different sentiment.

“Mamma does nothing she does not choose to do,” she cried; then blushed
more hotly, perceiving vaguely that there was something of self-defense
in the heat with which she spoke.

Mr. Nolan was not graceful in his manners, like Mr. Damerel, but he had
that good breeding which comes from the heart, and he changed the
subject instantly, and began to talk to the rector of parish business,
over which Mr. Damerel yawned with evident weariness. “Excuse me; the
heat makes one languid,” he said. “You have my full sanction, Nolan. You
know how entirely I trust to your discretion; indeed, I feel that you
understand the people in some respects better than I do. Don’t trouble
yourself to enter into details.”

Mr. Nolan withdrew from these refined precincts with an odd smile upon
his face, which was not half so handsome as Mr. Damerel’s. He had the
parish in his hands, and the rector did not care to be troubled with
details; but the rector had all the advantages of the position, all the
income, and even so much the moral superiority over his curate, that
even _they_ (by which pronoun Mr. Nolan indicated his poorer
parishioners) felt much more deeply honored by a chance word from the
rector than they did by his constant ministrations and kindness.

What an odd, unequal world this is! he was thinking of himself--not
ruled by justice, or even a pretence at justice, but by circumstances
alone and external appearances. This did not make him bitter, for he had
a kind of placid philosophy in him, and was of the kind of man who takes
things very easily, as people say; but the curious force of the contrast
made him smile.



CHAPTER III.


Rose Damerel’s life had, up to this time, been spent altogether in the
sunshine. She had been too young when she went to school to ponder much
over anything that went on at home, and had concluded during her
holidays that home, which was so dainty, so pleasant, so sweet, was a
kind of paradise on earth, infinitely more delightful than any of the
other homes of which she heard from her school-fellows. None of them had
a father so delightful, a mother so kind; and in these holiday times, as
everybody indulged and petted her, the private shadows--I will not say
skeletons--in the house were never divined by her. She had, as sometimes
happens to the eldest of a large family, much more care taken of her
education and training than her sisters were likely to meet with. The
burden had not begun to be so heavily felt when the eldest girl grew
into bright intelligence, to her parents’ pride. The others were still
too young to demand or even to suggest the expense that would be
involved in their education--and nothing was spared upon Rose. She had
returned from school not much more than a year before the time of which
I treat, and had gone on for some time in her delightful youthful
confidence that everything around her was exactly as it ought to be. But
shadows had begun to flit vaguely across the picture before that
memorable day in the garden, which henceforward became a turning point
in her thoughts. This was the first moment at which she fully identified
the occasional clouds upon her mother’s face, and learned that Mrs.
Damerel was not merely a little cross--that easy and rapid solution with
which a child settles all problems concerning its parents--but had a
distinct cause for the little irritabilities which she tried so
carefully to restrain. Perhaps it was in the very nature of things that
Rose should be more attracted by the gentle indulgence and indolent
perfection of her father than by her mother’s stronger character. Mr.
Damerel, had he been very rich, and free of all occasion to think of his
children’s future, would have been a model father to grown-up and
well-behaved sons and daughters. He could not bear any roughness,
coarseness, or disorderliness, therefore the school-boys were but little
congenial to him, and he was never sorry when the holidays were over.
And the little children were too troublesome and too noisy to please
him; but Rose was the perfection of a child to such a man, and to her he
was the perfection of a father. Everything in her pleased and gratified
him. She was pretty, gentle, full of intelligence, eager to read with
him if he would, still more eager to hear him talk, yet quick to
perceive when he was disinclined to talk, and regarding all his moods
with religious respect.

She would sit by him for hours together, like a charming piece of
still-life, when he pleased, and was ready to converse or to listen, to
walk, to sing, to follow his lead in everything, as only a woman-child,
full of the beautiful enthusiasm of youthful admiration, can do. Nothing
except perhaps the devotion of a young wife, when she really loves the
man much older than herself, whom she has married, can equal the
devotion of a girl to her father. She admired everything about him--his
beautiful refined head, his fine voice, his grace and high breeding, his
sermons, and what she called his genius. To find this faultless father
to be anything less than a demi-god was terrible to Rose. I do not mean
to say that she got within a hundred miles of this discovery all at
once; nay, the first result of the vague and dreamy doubts that stole
into her mind was rather an increase of enthusiasm for her father, an
instinctive making-up to her own ideal for the sense of failure in him,
of which she was vaguely conscious. Rose loved her mother after a
totally different fashion, in an ordinary and matter-of-fact way, but
she had no romance of feeling towards her; and when her whole little
world, began, as it were, to sway upon its axis, to yield beneath her
feet, as if it might swing round altogether in space, turning what she
had supposed the brighter side into shadow, and elevating that which she
had held lowly enough, she, poor girl, grew giddy with this strange and
sickening sensation. She was at the age, too, when everything is apt to
reel about the young experimentalist taking her first steps in life. She
was vaguely conscious of being now a free agent, consulted as to her own
movements, no longer told curtly to do this and that, but exercising
personal choice as to what she should do. This change is of itself
sufficiently bewildering. Nature makes, as it were, a pause at this
first crisis of personal life. The child, wondering, half-delighted and
half-troubled to have no longer its duties clearly and sharply
indicated, falls into a partial trance, and neglects many things for
sheer want of use and knowledge how to act for itself.

This was Rose’s position. Between the mother, who, a little mortified
and hurt at her child’s want of sympathy with her, did not give her
orders, but only suggested employment, and the father, who said, “Never
mind, let her alone,” she stood, not knowing how to settle the question,
but inclining naturally to the side on which she was most indulged and
smiled upon, though with a secret uneasiness which she could not shake
off, and moral sense of a false situation which grew upon her day by
day.

Rose had lovers, too, in this new, miraculous life upon which she had
entered: two lovers, not yet declared, but very evident to all knowing
eyes; and in the village there were many keen observers. One of these
suitors was the most wealthy proprietor, in the neighborhood--a man much
above her own age, yet not old, and perfectly qualified to please a
lady’s eye; and the other, a young naval lieutenant without a penny, the
son of Mrs. Wodehouse, who lived on the Green, and had nothing in the
world but her pension as an officer’s widow. Of course I do not need to
say that it was the poor man whom Rose preferred. She was not in love
with him--far from it; but she was so completely on the verge of
universal awakening, that a word or touch might be enough to arouse her
whole being at any moment--might open her eyes to her own position and
that of her parents, and show her the nature of her individual
sentiments, as by a sudden gleam of light. Rose, however, was not the
least in the world aware of this; and at the present moment she was no
further advanced than was consistent with saying frankly that she liked
Wodehouse very much--and feeling (but of this she said nothing) more
glad when she saw him coming than about any other event in her simple
days.

Dinglefield is a sociable place, and there is something in a soft summer
evening after a very hot, blazing summer day which fosters a disposition
to stroll about and interchange greetings with your neighbors. As it
began to darken upon the evening of this particular day, various people
in the houses about stepped out of their wide-open windows after dinner,
and, tempted by the beauty of twilight, strayed along the road or over
the Green to the rectory garden, which was by universal acknowledgment
“the most perfect spot” in the village. Much has been said about the
charms of twilight, but little, I think, of its peculiar English beauty,
which is not so magical as the momentary interval between light and dark
in the south, or the lingering, prolonged, silvery, and ineffable
dimness of those northern twilights which last half the night; but has a
dusky softness altogether peculiar to itself, like the shadowing of
downy wings. The air was delicious, fresh after the hot day, yet so warm
as to make wrappings quite unnecessary. The sky, still somewhat pale in
its blue after the languor of the heat, looked down faint yet friendly,
as if glad to see again a little movement and sense of life. A few
subdued stars peeped out here and there, and the wide stretch of country
lay dim underneath, revealing itself in long soft lines of gray, till it
struck into a higher tone of blue on the horizon where earth and heaven
met. All the Damerels who were out of bed were in the garden, and the
neighbors, who had made this pleasant terrace the end of their walk,
were scattered about in various groups. Mr. Incledon, who was Rose’s
wealthy lover, came late and stood talking with Mrs. Damerel, watching
with wistful eyes her appropriation by his rival, young Wodehouse--whose
mother, hooded in the white Shetland shawl, which she had thrown over
her cap to come out, sat on a garden-chair with her feet upon the
rector’s Persian rug, listening to him while he talked, with the devout
admiration which became a member of his flock. The rector was talking
politics with General Peronnet, and Mrs. Wodehouse thought it was
beautiful to see how thoroughly he understood a subject which was so
much out of his way as the abolition of purchase in the army. “If he had
been in parliament now!” she said to the general’s wife, who thought her
husband was the object of the eulogy. There were two or three other
members of this group listening to the rector’s brilliant talk, saying a
few words, wise or foolish, as occasion served. Others were walking
about upon the lawn, and one lady, with her dress lifted, was hastening
off the grass which she had just discovered to be wet with dew. Upon
none of them, however, did Mr. Incledon’s attention turn. He followed
with his eyes a pair whose young figures grew less and less in the
distance, half lost in the darkness. The persistence with which he
watched them seemed a reproach to the mother, with whom he talked by
fits and starts, and whose anxiety was not at all awakened by the fact
that Rose was almost out of sight. “I am afraid Rose is not so careful
as she ought to be about the dew on the grass,” she said, half
apologetically, half smiling, in reply to his look.

“Shall I go and tell her you think so?” said Mr. Incledon, hastily. He
was a man of about five-and-thirty, good looking, sensible, and well
dispositioned; a personage thoroughly _comme il faut_. He was the sort
of suitor whom proper parents love to see approaching a favorite child.
He could give his wife everything a woman could desire--provide for her
handsomely, surround her with luxury, fill her life with pleasures and
prettinesses, and give her an excellent position. And the man himself
was free of cranks and crotchets, full of good sense, well educated,
good tempered. Where are girls’ eyes, that they do not perceive such
advantages? Mrs. Damerel hesitated a moment between sympathy with her
child and sympathy with this admirable man. There was a struggle in her
mind which was to have the predominance. At length some gleam of
recollection or association struck her, and moved the balance in Rose’s
favor, who she felt sure did not want Mr. Incledon just at that moment.

“Never mind,” she said tranquilly, “it will not hurt her;” and resumed a
conversation about the music in the church, which was poor. Mr. Incledon
was very musical, but he had no more heart for anthems at that moment
than had he never sung a note.

Rose had strayed a little way down the slope with Edward Wodehouse. They
were not talking much, and what they did say was about nothing in
particular--the garden, the wild flowers among the grass on this less
polished and less cultured lawn which sloped down the little hill. At
the moment when the elder suitor’s glances had directed Mrs. Damerel’s
attention towards them they were standing under a gnarled old
hawthorn-tree, round which was a little platform of soft turf.

“We lose the view lower down,” said Rose; and there they stopped
accordingly, neither of them caring to turn back. The soft plain
stretched away in long lines before them into the haze and distance like
the sea. And as they stood there, the young moon, which had been hidden
behind a clump of high trees, suddenly glinted out upon them with that
soft, dewy glimmer which makes the growing crescent so doubly sweet.
They were both a little taken aback, as if they had been surprised by
some one suddenly meeting and looking at them--though indeed there was
not a syllable of their simple talk that all the world might not have
heard. Both made a step on as if to return again after this surprise,
and then they both laughed, with a little innocent embarrassment, and
turned back to the view.

“What a lovely night!” said Rose, with a faint little sigh. She had
already said these not remarkable words two or three times at least, and
she had nothing in the world to sigh about, but was in fact happier than
usual; though a little sad, she knew not why.

“Look at those lights down below there,” said young Wodehouse; “how they
shine out among the trees!”

“Yes, that is from Ankermead,”, said Rose; “you know it?--the prettiest
little house!”

“When we are away, we poor mariners,” he said, with a little laugh which
was more affected than real, “that is, I think, the thing that goes to
our hearts most.”

“What?”

“The lights in the windows--of course I don’t mean at sea,” said young
Wodehouse; “but when we are cruising about a strange coast, for
instance, just one of those twinkles shining out of the darkness--you
can see lights a long way off--gives a fellow a stab, and makes him
think of home.”

“But it is pleasant to think of home,” said Rose. “Oh, what am I saying?
I beg your pardon, Mr. Wodehouse. To be sure, I know what you mean. When
I was at school something used to come in my throat when I
remembered--many a time I have stood at the window, and pretended I was
looking out, and cried.”

“Ah!” said Wodehouse, half sympathetic, half smiling, “but then you know
it would not do if I looked over the ship’s side and cried--though I
have had a great mind to do it sometimes, in my midshipman days.”

“To cry is a comfort,” said Rose; “what do you men do, instead?”

“We smoke, Miss Damerel; and think. How often I shall think of this
night and the lights yonder, and mix up this sweet evening with an
interior, perhaps sweeter still!”

“I don’t think so,” said Rose, with a soft laugh, in which there was,
however, a shade of embarrassment which somewhat surprised herself. “The
room is rather stuffy, and the lamps not bright, if you were near
enough; and two old people half dozing over the tea-table, one with the
newspaper, one with her worsted-work. It is very humdrum, and not sweet
at all inside.”

“Well, perhaps they are all the fonder of each other for being humdrum;
and it must have been sweet when they were young.”

“They were never young,” said Rose, with a silvery peal of laughter,
turning to go back to the lawn. “See what tricks imagination plays! You
would not like to spend an evening there, though the lights are so
pretty outside.”

“Imagination will play many a trick with me before I forget it,” said
young Wodehouse in subdued tones. Rose’s heart fluttered a little--a
very little--with the softest preliminary sensations of mingled
happiness and alarm. She did not understand the flutter, but somehow
felt it right to fly from it, tripping back to the serenity of society
on the lawn. As for the young man, he had a great longing to say
something more, but a feeling which was mingled of reverence for her
youth and dread of frightening her by a premature declaration kept him
silent.

He followed her into the hum of friendly talk, and then across the lawn
to the house, where the neighbors streamed in for tea. The bright lights
in the rectory drawing-room dazzled them both--the windows were wide
open; crowds of moths were flickering in and out, dashing themselves,
poor suicides, against the circle of light; and all the charmed dimness
grew more magical as the sky deepened into night, and the moon rose
higher and began to throw long shadows across the lawn. “On such a
night” lovers once prattled in Shakespeare’s sweetest vein. All that
they said, and a great deal more, came into young Wodehouse’s charmed
heart and stole it away. He heard himself saying the words, and wondered
how it was that he himself was so entirely happy and sad, and thought
how he might perhaps soon say them to himself as his ship rustled
through the water, and the moonlight slept broad and level and
uninterrupted by any poetry of shadows upon the sea. To think of that
filled his heart with a soft, unspeakable pang; and yet the very pain
had a sweetness in it, and sense of exaltation. “There are the lights
still,” he said, standing over her where she had seated herself near the
window. “I shall always remember them, though you will not allow of any
romance”--

“Romance! oh no,” said Rose lightly; “only two old people. We have not
any romance here.”

Mr. Incledon, who had been watching his opportunity so long, now came
forward with a cup of tea. Poor Edward was too much abstracted in his
thoughts and in her, and with the confusion of a little crisis of
sentiment, to think of the usual attentions of society which he owed to
her. He started and blushed when he saw how negligent he had been, and
almost stumbled over her chair in his anxiety to retrieve his
carelessness. “My dear Wodehouse, Miss Damerel cannot drink more than
one cup of tea at a time,” said the elder suitor, with that air of
indulgent pity for his vagaries which so irritates a young man; and he
mounted guard over Rose for the rest of the evening. The good neighbors
began to go home when they had taken their tea, and the rector and his
daughter went with them to the gate, when there was a soft babble and
commotion of good nights, and every two people repeated to each other,
“What a lovely moon!” and “What a glorious night!” As for poor
Wodehouse, in his climax of youth and love, his very heart was melted
within him. Twice he turned back, murmuring to his mother some
inarticulate explanation that he had forgotten something--that he wanted
to speak to the rector--and twice went back to her solemnly saying it
did not matter. “No, no,” he said to himself, “he must not be
premature.”

Rose took another turn round the lawn with her father before they went
in. Mrs. Damerel was visible inside, sending the tray away, putting
stray books in their places, and stray bits of work in the work-basket,
before the bell should ring for prayers. Mr. Damerel looked in as he
passed with an indulgent smile.

“She calleth her maidens about her,” he said, “though it is not to spin,
Rose, but to pray. Somehow it enhances the luxury of our stroll to see
your mother there, putting everything in order with that careful and
troubled face--eh, child, don’t you think with me?”

“But does it enhance her luxury to have us walking and talking while she
has everything to lay by?” said Rose with an uncomfortable sense that
her own work and several books which she had left about were among those
which her mother was putting away.

“Ah, you have found out that there are two sides to a question,” said
her father, patting her on the cheek, with his gentle habitual smile;
but he gave no answer to her question; and then the maids became
visible, trooping in, in their white caps and aprons, and the rector
with a sigh and a last look at the midnight and the dim, dewy
landscape, went in to domesticity and duty, which he did not like so
well.

Rose went to her room that night with a thrill of all her gentle being
which she could not explain. She looked out from her window among the
honeysuckles, and was so disappointed as almost to cry when she found
the lights out, and the little cottage on Ankermead lost in the
darkness. She could have cried, and yet but for that fanciful trouble,
how happy the child was! Everything embraced her--the clinging tendrils
of the honeysuckle, so laden with dew and sweetness; the shadows of the
trees, which held out their arms to her; the soft, caressing moon which
touched her face and surrounded it with a pale glory. Nothing but good
and happiness was around, behind, before her, and a trembling of
happiness to come, even sweeter than anything she had ever known,
whispered over her in soft, indefinite murmurs, like the summer air in
the petals of a flower. She opened her bosom to it, with a delicious
half-consciousness fresh as any rose that lets its leaves be touched by
the sweet south. This Rose in June expanded, grew richer, and of a more
damask rosiness, but could not tell why.



CHAPTER IV.


Mrs. Damerel thought it her duty, a few nights after this, to speak to
her husband of Rose’s suitors. “Mr. Incledon has spoken so plainly to me
that I cannot mistake him,” she said; “and in case you should not have
noticed it yourself, Herbert”--

“I notice it!” he said, with a smile; “what chance is there that I
should notice it? So my Rose in June is woman enough to have lovers of
her own!”

“I was married before I was Rose’s age,” said Mrs. Damerel.

“So you were, Martha. I had forgotten the progress of time, and that
summer, once attained, is a long step towards autumn. Well, if it must
be, it must be. Incledon is not a bad fellow, as men go.”

“But, I think--there is another, Herbert.”

“Another!” said the rector, leaning back in his chair with gentle
laughter. “Why, this is too good; and who may he be--the No. 2?”

“It is young Wodehouse, the sailor”--

“The widow’s son on the Green! Come now, Martha, once for all this is
absurd,” said Mr. Damerel, suddenly rousing himself up. “This is out of
the question: I say nothing against Incledon; but if you have been so
foolishly romantic as to encourage a beggar like young Wodehouse”--

“I have not encouraged him. I disapprove of it as much as you can do,”
said Mrs. Damerel, with a flush on her cheek; “but whether Rose will
agree with us I dare not say.”

“Oh, Rose!” said her husband, dropping into his easy tone; “Rose is a
child; she will follow whatever lead is given to her. I am not afraid of
Rose. You must speak to her, and show her which way you intend her mind
to go; be very plain and unequivocal; an unawakened mind always should
be treated in the plainest and most distinct way.”

“But, Herbert--you have more influence than I have ever had over her.
Rose is more your companion than mine. I am not sure that it is the best
thing for her, so far as practical life is concerned”--

“My dear,” said Mr. Damerel, benignly, “Rose has nothing to do with
practical life. You women are always excessive, even in your virtues. I
do not mean to throw any doubt upon your qualities as the most excellent
of wives; but you have not the discrimination to perceive that duties
that suit you admirably would be quite out of place in her. It is a
matter of natural fitness. The practical is adapted to forty, but not to
nineteen. Let the child alone, my love, to enjoy her youth.”

“I think you argue like a Jesuit, Herbert,” said Mrs. Damerel; “but
whether you are right or wrong on this point does not affect what I
ask--which is, that you would speak to her. She is much more likely to
attend to you than to me.”

“Who--I?” said Mr. Damerel, with a fretful line in his fine forehead.
“It is totally out of the question, Martha. _I_ speak to Rose about her
lovers! It would be quite indelicate, in the first place; and in the
second, it would be most disagreeable to me.”

“But still we have a duty to our child, even if it is disagreeable,”
said his wife, not willing to give up her object without a struggle.

“My dear Martha, spare me! I knew you would say something about duty.
You are very didactic, my love, by nature; but this, you must remember,
is rather a reversal of positions between you and me. Let Rose see,” he
continued, once more relaxing in tone, “that her path is quite clear
before her. Incledon is a very good fellow; he will be of use to me in
many ways. Nothing could be more desirable. There is a new box of books
which I must look over, Martha; do not let me detain you. You will
manage the matter admirably, I am sure, in your own sensible way.”

And the rector lighted his wife’s candle, and opened the door for her
with a suavity and almost gallantry which would have brought tears to
the eyes of the parish, had they been there to see. “How perfect Mr.
Damerel’s behavior is to that rather common-place wife!” Such was the
kind of thing people said. He went to look over his box of books from
the London library after his talk, with much amusement in his mind as to
Rose’s lovers. He thought his child perfect as a child; but the idea
that a serious man like Incledon should think of her in the serious
position of a wife, tickled the rector’s fancy. He thought over the
matter as he glanced at the books which had been unpacked for him,
leaving nothing for his delicate ivory hands to do but turn the volumes
over. There was an agreeable and a disagreeable side to it. Incledon,
for one thing, would be a capable referee in all money matters, and
would help to arrange about the boys and get them on in the world, which
was a great relief to think of; for ere now Mr. Damerel had felt the
painful reflection thrust upon him, that some time or other he must do
something about the boys. The other side of the question was, that he
would lose the society of his Rose in June, his pretty companion, whose
ornamental presence lent a new charm to his pretty house. He shrugged
his shoulders a little over this, saying to himself that it must be
sooner or later, and that, after all, he had done without Rose for many
years, and had been much of a sufferer in consequence. It was the way of
the world; and then he smiled again at the thought of Rose in the
serious position of Mr. Incledon’s wife.

Mrs. Damerel had very different feelings on the subject as she went
up-stairs with the candle he had so politely lighted for her, in her
hand. I am afraid she was not so softened as she ought to have been by
his charming politeness, which made her slightly angry, and she was
deeply disturbed by the task he had thrown back upon her. Mrs. Damerel
knew that girls were not so easily moulded as their fathers sometimes
think. She felt by instinct that, according to all precedent, Wodehouse,
who was young and gay and penniless, must be the favorite. She knew,
too, that to endeavor to turn the current in favor of the other was
almost enough to decide matters against him; and, beyond all this, Mrs.
Damerel felt it hard that everything that was painful and disagreeable
should be left on her shoulders. Rose was separated from her; she was
her father’s companion; she was being trained to prefer refined but
useless leisure with him to the aid and sympathy which her mother had a
right to look for; yet, when it came to be needful to do any
disagreeable duty for Rose, it was the mother who had to put herself in
the breach. It was hard upon Mrs. Damerel. All the reproof, the
unpleasant suggestions of duty, the disagreeable advice, the apparent
exactions to come from her side; while nothing but indulgence, petting,
and fondness, and unlimited compliance with every desire she had, should
be apparent on the side of the father. I think Mrs. Damerel was right,
and that hers was a very hard case indeed.

The Wodehouses came hastily to the rectory the very next day to intimate
the sad news of Edward’s approaching departure. His mother fairly broke
down, and cried bitterly. “I hoped to have had him with me so much
longer,” she said; “and now he must go off about this slave-trade. Oh!
why should we take it upon us to look after everybody, when they don’t
want to be looked after? If those poor African wretches cared as much
for it as we suppose, wouldn’t they take better care of themselves? What
have we to do, always interfering? When I think of my boy, who is all I
have in the world, going out to that dreadful coast, to risk his life
for the sake of some one he never saw or heard of”--

“My dear lady, we cannot be altogether guided by private motives,” said
the rector; “we must take principle for something. Were we to permit the
slave-trade, we should depart from all our traditions. England has
always been the guardian of freedom.”

“Oh, Mr. Damerel!” said the poor lady, with tears in her eyes, “freedom
is all very well to talk about, and I suppose it’s a great thing, to
have; but what is freedom to these poor savages, that it should cost me
and other women our boys?”

“It will not cost you your boy,” said Mrs. Damerel; “he will come back.
Don’t take the gloomiest view of the question. He has been there before,
and it did not hurt him; why should it now?”

“Ah! who can tell that?” said poor Mrs. Wodehouse, drying her eyes. She
was a woman who liked the darker side of all human affairs, and she felt
it almost an insult to her when any one prognosticated happiness. Her
son was doing all he could to bear up under the depressing influence of
her predictions and his regret at leaving her, and disappointment in
having his holiday shortened--along with a deeper reason still which he
said nothing about. He tried to be as cheerful as he could; but when he
turned to Rose and met the one piteous look the girl gave him, and saw
her lip quiver--though he did not know whether it was out of sympathy
with his mother, or from any personal feeling of her own--he very nearly
broke down. He had still ten days to make his preparations for leaving,
and before that time he thought to himself he must surely find out
whether Rose cared anything for him more than she did for the others
whom she had known like him almost all her life. He looked anxiously
into her face when he shook hands with her; but Rose, feeling, she could
not tell why, more inclined to cry than she had ever been before,
without any reason, as she said, would not meet his looks. “This is not
my farewell visit,” he said, with an attempt at a laugh. “I don’t know
why I should feel so dismal about it; I shall see you all again.”

“Oh, many times, I hope!” said Mrs. Damerel, who could not help feeling
kindly towards the poor young fellow, notwithstanding her conspiracy
against his interests. The rector did not commit himself in this foolish
way, but took leave of the young sailor solemnly. “However that may be,”
he said, “God bless you, Edward; I am sure you will do your duty, and be
a credit to all that wish you well.”

This address chilled poor Wodehouse more and more. Was it his dismissal?
He tried to bear up against that too, talking of the garden party he was
coming to on Wednesday, and of the repeated visits he still hoped for;
but, somehow, from the moment he received the rector’s blessing he
believed in these farewell visits and the explanations they might give
rise to, no more. When he went away with his mother, Rose ran up-stairs
on some pretext, and her father and mother were left alone.

“Martha,” said the rector, “your usual careful solicitude failed you
just now. You as good as asked him to come back; and what could possibly
be so bad for Rose?”

“How could I help it?” she said. “Poor boy, he must come again, at least
to say good-by.”

“I don’t see the necessity. It will only make mischief. Rose is quite
cast down, whether from sympathy or from feeling. We should take care
not to be at home when he calls again.”

Mr. Damerel said this in so even a voice that it was delightful to hear
him speak, and he went out and took his seat under the lime-trees as a
man should who has discharged all his duties and is at peace and in
favor with both God and man. Rose did not venture to face her mother
with eyes which she felt were heavy, and therefore stole out of doors
direct and went to her father, who was always indulgent. How good and
tender he was, never finding fault! If perhaps, as Rose was beginning to
fear, it must be confessed that he was deficient in energy--a gentle
accusation which the fondest partisan might allow--yet, to balance this,
how good he was, how feeling, how tender! No one need be afraid to go to
him. He was always ready to hear one’s story, to forgive one’s mistakes.
Rose, who did not want to be catechised, stole across the lawn and sat
down on the grass without a word. She did not care to meet anybody’s
look just at that moment. She had not cried; but the tears were so very
near the surface, that any chance encounter of looks might have been
more than she could bear.

Mr. Damerel did not speak all at once. He took time, the more cunningly
to betray her; and then he entered upon one of his usual conversations,
to which poor Rose gave but little heed. After a while her monosyllabic
answers seemed to attract his curiosity all at once.

“You are not well,” he said; “or sorry, is it? Sorry for poor Mrs.
Wodehouse, who is going to lose her son?”

“Oh yes, papa! Poor old lady--she will be so lonely when he is away.”

“She is not so very old,” he said, amused; “not so old as I am, and I
don’t feel myself a Methuselah. It is very good of you to be so
sympathizing, my dear.”

“Oh, papa, who could help it?” said Rose, almost feeling as if her
father would approve the shedding of those tears which made her eyes so
hot and heavy. She plucked a handful of grass and played with it, her
head held down and the large drops gathering; and her heart, poor child,
for the moment, in the fulness of this first trouble, felt more heavy
than her eyes.

“Yes, it is a pity for Mrs. Wodehouse,” said Mr. Damerel, reflectively;
“but, on the other hand, it would be very selfish to regret it for
Edward. He has not a penny, poor fellow, and not much influence that I
know of. He can only get his promotion by service, and in this point of
view his friends ought to be glad he is going. Look across Ankermead,
Rose; how soft the shadows are! the most delicate gray with silvery
lights. If you were a little more ambitious as an artist, you might get
your sketch-book and try that effect.”

Rose smiled a wan little smile in answer to this invitation, and looking
down upon the landscape, as he told her to do, saw nothing but a
bluish-green and yellow mist through the prismatic medium of the big
tear, which next moment, to her terror and misery, came down, a huge,
unconcealable wet blot, upon her light summer dress. She was herself so
struck by consternation at the sight that, instead of making any attempt
to conceal it, she looked up at him, her lips falling apart, her eyes
growing larger and larger with fright and wonder, half appealing to him
to know what it could mean, half defying observation. Mr. Damerel saw
that it was necessary to abandon his usual rule of indulgence.

“You are too sympathetic, my dear,” he said. “If any one but me saw this
they might say such feeling was too strong to be lavished on Mrs.
Wodehouse. Don’t let us hear any more of it. Have you finished
‘Balaustion’? You have no book with you to-day.”

“No, papa--I came out--the other way”--

“What does that mean? Not through the drawing-room, where you left it,
and where your mother was? I think you were right, Rose,” said Mr.
Damerel, dropping back in his chair with his easy smile; “your mother
has little patience with Mrs. Wodehouse’s despairs and miseries. You had
better keep your sympathy to yourself in her presence. Look here; I want
this read aloud. My eyes ache; I was up late last night.”

Rose took the book obediently, and read. She saw the white page and
letters clear without any prismatic lights. Her tears were all driven
away, forced back upon her heart as if by a strong wind. She read, as
Milton’s daughters might have read his Latin, if they did not understand
it, as some people say--not missing a word nor seeing any meaning in
one; going on as in a dream, with a consciousness of herself, and the
scene, and her father’s look, and not a notion what she was reading
about. It was very good mental discipline, but so sharp that this poor
soft child, utterly unused to it, not knowing why she should suddenly be
subjected to such fierce repression, wretched and sick at heart, and
sorry and ashamed, never forgot it all her life. She read thus for about
an hour, till her father stopped her to make some notes upon the margin
of the book; for he was one of those elegantly studious persons who
weave themselves through the books they read, and leave volumes of notes
on every possible subject behind them. He had been entering into every
word, though Rose had not understood a syllable; and he smiled and
discoursed to her about it, while she kept silent, terrified lest he
should ask some question, which would betray her inattention. Rose had
been learning smilingly, with happy bewilderment, for some months back,
to consider herself an independent individual. She felt and realized it
without any difficulty to-day. She stood quite alone in all that bright
scene; apart from the real world and the ideal both--neither the lawn,
nor the book, nor the landscape, nor her father’s talk having power to
move her; frightened at herself--still more frightened for him, and for
the tone, half sarcastic, half reproving, which for the first time in
her life she had heard in his voice; and without even the satisfaction
of realizing the new sentiment which had come into her mind. She
realized nothing except that sudden dismay had come over her, that it
had been checked summarily; that her tears, driven back, were filling
her head and her heart with confusing pain; that there was something
wrong in the strange new emotion that was at work within her--and this
without even the melancholy sweetness of knowing what it was.

Poor Rose in June! It was the first storm that had ever disturbed her
perfect blossom. She began to get better after a while, as at her age it
is easy to do, and gradually came out of her mist and was restored to
partial consciousness. By the evening of that day she was nearly herself
again, though much subdued, remembering that she had been very unhappy,
as she might have remembered a very bad headache, with great content,
yet wonder that it should be gone or almost gone. The cessation of the
active pain gave her a kind of subdued happiness once more, as relief
always does--which the heart never feels to be negative, but positive.
What a thing ease is, after we are once conscious of having lost it even
for an hour! This brought Rose’s color back and her smile. All mental
pain, I suppose, is spasmodic; and the first fit, when not too well
defined nor hopeless in character, is often as brief as it is violent.

Rose got better; her mind accustomed itself to the shadow which for one
short interval had covered it with blackness. She began to perceive that
it did not fill all earth and heaven, as she had at first supposed.



CHAPTER V.


Rose grew very much better, almost quite well, next day. There was still
a little thrill about her of the pain past, but in the mean time nothing
had yet happened, no blank had been made in the circle of neighbors; and
though she was still as sorry as ever, she said to herself, for poor
Mrs. Wodehouse (which was the only reason she had ever given to herself
for that _serrement de cœur_), yet there were evident consolations in
that poor lady’s lot, if she could but see them. Edward would come back
again; she would get letters from him; she would have him still, though
he was away. She was his inalienably, whatever distance there might be
between them. This seemed a strong argument to Rose in favor of a
brighter view of the subject, though I do not think it would have
assisted Mrs. Wodehouse; and, besides, there were still ten days,
which--as a day is eternity to a child--was as good as a year at least
to Rose. So she took comfort, and preened herself like a bird, and came
again forth to the day in all her sweet bloom, her tears got rid of in
the natural way, her eyes no longer hot and heavy. She scarcely observed
even, or at least did not make any mental note of the fact, that she did
not see Edward Wodehouse for some days thereafter. “How sorry I am to
have missed them!” her mother said, on hearing that the young man and
his mother had called in her absence; and Rose was sorry too, but
honestly took the fact for an accident. During the ensuing days there
was little doubt that an unusual amount of occupation poured upon her.
She went with her father to town one morning to see the pictures in the
exhibitions. Another day she was taken by the same delightful companion
to the other side of the county to a garden party, which was the most
beautiful vision of fine dresses and fine people Rose had ever seen. I
cannot quite describe what the girl’s feelings were while she was going
through these unexpected pleasures. She liked them, and was pleased and
flattered; but at the same time a kind of giddy sense of something being
done to her which she could not make out,--some force being put upon
her, she could not tell what, or for why,--was in her mind. For the
first time in her life she was jealous and curious, suspecting some
unseen motive, though she could not tell what it might be.

On the fourth day her father and mother both together took her with them
to Mr. Incledon’s, to see, they said, a new picture which he had just
bought--a Perugino, or, it might be, an early Raphael. “He wants my
opinion--and I want yours, Rose,” said her father, flattering, as he
always did, his favorite child.

“And Mr. Incledon wants hers, too,” said Mrs. Damerel. “I don’t know
what has made him think you a judge, Rose.”

“Oh! how can I give an opinion--what do I know?” said Rose, bewildered;
but she was pleased, as what girl would not be pleased? To have her
opinion prized was pleasant, even though she felt that it was a subject
upon which she could pass no opinion. “I have never seen any but the
Raphaels in the National Gallery,” she said, with alarmed youthful
conscientiousness, as they went along, “and what can I know?”

“You can tell him if you like it; and that will please him as much as if
you were the first art critic in England,” said the rector. These words
gave Rose a little thrill of suspicion--for why should Mr. Incledon care
for her opinion?--and perplexed her thoughts much as she walked up the
leafy road to the gate of Whitton Park, which was Mr. Incledon’s grand
house. Her father expatiated upon the beauty of the place as they went
in; her mother looked preoccupied and anxious; and Rose herself grew
more and more suspicious, though she was surprised into some
exclamations of pleasure at the beauty and greenness of the park.

“I wonder I have never been here before,” she said; “how could it be? I
thought we had been everywhere when we were children, the boys and I.”

“Mr. Incledon did not care for children’s visits,” said her mother.

“And he was in the right, my dear. Children have no eye for beauty; what
they want is space to tumble about in, and trees to climb. This lovely
bit of woodland would be lost on boys and girls. Be thankful you did not
see it when you were incapable of appreciating it, Rose.”

“It is very odd, though,” she said. “Do you think it is nice of Mr.
Incledon to shut up so pretty a place from his neighbors--from his
friends?--for, as we have always lived so near, we are his friends, I
suppose.”

“Undoubtedly,” said the rector; but his wife said nothing. I do not
think her directer mind cared for this way of influencing her daughter.
She was anxious for the same object, but she would have attained it in a
different way.

Here, however, Mr. Incledon himself appeared with as much demonstration
of delight to see them as was compatible with the supposed accidental
character of the visit. Mr. Incledon was one of those men of whom you
feel infallibly certain that they must have been “good,” even in their
nurse’s arms. He was slim and tall, and looked younger than he really
was. He had a good expression, dark eyes, and his features, though not
at all remarkable, were good enough to give him the general aspect of a
handsome man. Whether he was strictly handsome or not was a frequent
subject of discussion on the Green, where unpleasant things had been
said about his chin and his eyebrows, but where the majority was
distinctly in his favor. His face was long, his complexion rather dark,
and his general appearance “interesting.” Nobody that I know of had ever
called him commonplace. He was interesting--a word which often stands
high in the rank of descriptive adjectives. He was the sort of man of
whom imaginative persons might suppose that he had been the hero of a
story. Indeed, there were many theories on the subject; and ingenious
observers, chiefly ladies, found a great many symptoms of this in his
appearance and demeanor, and concluded that a man so well off and so
well looking would not have remained unmarried so long had there not
been some reason for it. But this phase of his existence was over, so
far as his own will was concerned. If he had ever had any reason for
remaining unmarried, that obstacle must have been removed; for he was
now anxious to marry, and had fully made up his mind to do so at as
early a date as possible. I do not know whether it could be truly said
that he was what foolish young people call “very much in love” with
Rose Damerel; but he had decided that she was the wife for him, and
meant to spare neither pains nor patience in winning her. He had haunted
the rectory for some time, with a readiness to accept all invitations
which was entirely unlike his former habits; for up to the time when he
had seen and made up his mind about Rose, Mr. Incledon had been almost a
recluse, appearing little in the tranquil society of the Green, spending
much of his time abroad, and when at home holding only a reserved and
distant intercourse with his neighbors. He gave them a handsome heavy
dinner two or three times a year, and accepted the solemn return which
society requires; but no one at Dinglefield had seen more of his house
than the reception-rooms, or of himself than those grave festivities
exhibited. The change upon him now was marked enough to enlighten the
most careless looker-on; and the Perugino, which they were invited to
see, was in fact a pretence which the rector and his wife saw through
very easily, to make them acquainted with his handsome house and all its
advantages. He took them all over it, and showed the glory of it with
mingled complacency and submission to their opinion. Rose had never been
within its walls before. She had never sat down familiarly in rooms so
splendid. The master of the house had given himself up to furniture and
decorations as only a rich man can do; and the subdued grace of
everything about them, the wealth of artistic ornament, the size and
space which always impress people who are accustomed to small houses,
had no inconsiderable effect, at least upon the ladies of the party. Mr.
Damerel was not awed, but he enjoyed the largeness and the luxury with
the satisfaction of a man who felt himself in his right sphere; and Mr.
Incledon showed himself, as well as his house, at his best, and,
conscious that he was doing so, looked, Mrs. Damerel thought, younger,
handsomer, and more attractive than he had ever looked before. Rose felt
it, too, vaguely. She felt that she was herself somehow the centre of
all--the centre, perhaps, of a plot, the nature of which perplexed and
confused her; but the plot was not yet sufficiently advanced to give her
any strong sensation of discomfort or fear. All that it did up to the
present moment was to convey that sense of importance and pleasant
consciousness of being the first and most flatteringly considered, which
is always sweet to youth. Thus they were all pleased, and, being
pleased, became more and more pleasant to each other. Rose, I think,
forgot poor Mrs. Wodehouse altogether for the moment, and was as gay as
if she had never been sad.

The house was a handsome house, raised on a slightly higher elevation
than the rectory, surrounded by a pretty though not very extensive park,
and commanding the same landscape as that which it was the pride of the
Damerels to possess from their windows. It was the same, but with a
difference; or, rather, it was like a view of the same subject painted
by a different artist, dashed in in bolder lines, with heavier massing
of foliage, and one broad reach of the river giving a great centre of
light and shadow, instead of the dreamy revelations here and there of
the winding water as seen from the rectory. Rose gave an involuntary cry
of delight when she was taken out to the green terrace before the house,
and first saw the landscape from it, though she never would confess
afterwards that she liked it half so well as the shadowy distance and
softer, sweep of country visible from her old home. Mr. Incledon was as
grateful to her for her admiration as if the Thames and the trees had
been of his making and ventured to draw near confidentially and say how
much he hoped she would like his Perugino--or, perhaps, Raphael. “You
must give me your opinion frankly,” he said.

“But I never saw any Raphaels except those in the National Gallery,”
said Rose, blushing with pleasure, and shamefacedness, and conscientious
difficulty. It did not occur to the girl that her opinion could be thus
gravely asked for by a man fully aware of its complete worthlessness as
criticism. She thought he must have formed some mistaken idea of her
knowledge or power. “And I don’t--love them--very much,” she added, with
a little hesitation and a deeper blush, feeling that his momentary good
opinion of her must now perish forever.

“What does that mean?” said Mr. Incledon. He was walking on with her
through, as she thought, an interminable vista of rooms, one opening
into the other, towards the shrine in which he had placed his picture.
“There is something more in it than meets the ear. It does not mean that
you don’t like them”--

“It means--that I love the photograph of the San Sisto, that papa gave
me on my birthday,” said Rose.

“Ah! I perceive; you are a young critic to judge so closely. We have
nothing like that, have we? How I should like to show you the San Sisto
picture! Photographs and engravings give no idea of the original.”

“Oh, please don’t say so!” said Rose, “for so many people never can see
the original. I wish I might some time. The pictures in the National
Gallery do not give me at all the same feeling; and, of course, never
having seen but these, I cannot be a judge; indeed, I should not dare to
say anything at all. Ah, ah!”

Rose stopped and put her hands together, as she suddenly perceived
before her, hung upon a modest gray-green wall with no other ornament
near, one of those very youthful, heavenly faces, surrounded by tints as
softly bright as their own looks, which belong to that place and period
in which Perugino taught and Raphael learned--an ineffable sweet ideal
of holiness, tenderness, simplicity, and youth. The girl stood
motionless, subdued by it, conscious of nothing but the picture. It was
doubly framed by the doorway of the little room in which it kept court.
Before even she entered that sacred chamber, the young worshipper was
struck dumb with adoration. The doorway was hung with silken curtains of
the same gray-green as the wall, and there was not visible, either in
this soft surrounding framework, or in the picture itself, any
impertinent accessory to distract the attention. The face so tenderly
abstract, so heavenly human, looked at Rose as at the world, but with a
deeper, stronger appeal; for was not Mary such a one as she? The girl
could not explain the emotion which seized her. She felt disposed to
kneel dawn, and she felt disposed to weep, but did neither; only stood
there, with her lips apart, her eyes abstract yet wistful, like those in
the picture; and her soft hands clasped and held unconsciously, with
that dramatic instinct common to all emotion, somewhere near her heart.

“You _have_ said something,” said Mr. Incledon, softly, in her ear,
“more eloquent than I ever heard before. I am satisfied that it is a
Raphael now.”

“Why?” said Rose, awakening with great surprise out of her momentary
trance, and shrinking back, her face covered with blushes, to let the
others pass who were behind. He did not answer her except by a look,
which troubled the poor girl mightily, suddenly revealing to her the
meaning of it all. When the rest of the party went into the room, Rose
shrank behind her mother, cowed and ashamed, and instead of looking at
the picture, stole aside to the window and looked out mechanically to
conceal her troubled countenance. As it happened, the first spot on
which her eye fell was the little cottage at Ankermead, upon which just
the other evening she had looked with Edward Wodehouse. All he said came
back to her, and the evening scene in which he said it, and the soft,
indescribable happiness and sweetness that had dropped upon her like the
falling dew. Rose had not time to make any question with herself as to
what it meant; but her heart jumped up in her bosom and began to beat,
and a sudden, momentary perception of how it all was flashed over her.
Such gleams of consciousness come and go when the soul is making its
first experiences of life. For one second she seemed to see everything
clearly as a landscape is seen when the sun suddenly breaks out; and
then the light disappeared, and the clouds re-descended, and all was
blurred again. Nevertheless, this strange, momentary revelation agitated
Rose almost more than anything that had ever happened to her before; and
everything that was said after it came to her with a muffled sound, as
we hear voices in a dream. A longing to get home and to be able to think
took possession of her. This seemed for the moment the thing she most
wanted in the world.

“If ever I have a wife,” Mr. Incledon said, some time after, “this shall
be her boudoir. I have always intended so; unless, indeed, she is
perverse as my mother was, who disliked this side of the house
altogether, and chose rooms which looked out on nothing but the park and
the trees.”

[Illustration: THE GIRL STOOD MOTIONLESS, SUBDUED BY IT.]

“I hope, as everything is ready for her, the lady will soon appear,”
said Mrs. Damerel; while poor little Rose suddenly felt her heart stop
in its beating, and flutter and grow faint.

“Ah!” said Incledon, shaking his head, “it is easier to gild the cage
than to secure the bird.”

How glad she was when they were out again in the open air, walking home!
How delightful it was to be going home, to get off this dangerous
ground, to feel that there was a safe corner to fly to! Nobody said
anything to her, fortunately for Rose, but let her walk off her
excitement and the flutter of terror and dismay which had come over her.
“Easier to gild the cage than to secure the bird.” The poor little bird
felt already as if she had been caught in some snare; as if the fowler
had got his hand upon her, and all her flutterings would be of no avail.
How little she had thought that this was what was meant by their
flattering eagerness to have her opinion about the Perugino! She kept
close to her mother till they got safely out of the park, for Mr.
Incledon attended them as far as the gates, and Rose was so much
startled that she did not feel safe near him. It seemed to her that the
plot must be brought to perfection at once, and that there was no escape
except in keeping as far off as possible. She resolved to herself as she
went along that she would never approach him if she could help it, or
let him speak to her. Her sensations were something like those with
which a startled hare might, I suppose, contemplate from beneath her
couch of fern the huntsman gathering the hounds which were to run her
down. Rose had no sense of satisfaction such as an older woman might
have felt, in the love of so important a personage as Mr. Incledon. She
was neither flattered nor tempted by the thought of all the good things
she might have at her disposal as his wife--his beautiful house, his
wealth, his consequence, even his Perugino, though that had drawn the
very heart out of her breast--none of these things moved her. She was
neither proud of his choice, nor dazzled by his wealth. She was simply
frightened, neither more nor less--dead frightened, and eager to escape
forever out of his way.

It was now afternoon, the most languid hour of the day, and the village
roads were very hot, blazing, and dusty, after the soft shade of Whitton
Park. Mr. Damerel, who was not much of a pedestrian, and hated dust, and
abhorred all the irritations and weariness of excessive heat, came along
somewhat slowly, skirting the houses to get every scrap of shade which
was possible. They were thus quite close to a row of cottages when Mr.
Nolan came out from the door of one so suddenly as almost to stumble
over his rector.

“Just like a shot from a cannon is an Irishman’s exit from a visit,”
said Mr. Damerel, peevishly, though playfully. “Nolan, you salamander,
you who never feel the heat, you may at least have some pity upon me.”

“You are the very man I want,” said the curate, whose brow was clouded
with care. “The poor creature’s dying. You’ll go and say a word to her?
I was going to your house, wondering would I find ye? and lo! Providence
puts ye here.”

“I hope I shall feel as much obliged to Providence as you do,” said the
rector still more peevishly. “What is it? Who is it? What do you want?”

“Sure it’s only a poor creature dying--nothing to speak about in this
dreary world” said good Mr. Nolan; “but she has a fancy to see you. I
have done all I could to pacify her; but she says she knew you in her
better days.”

“It is old Susan Aikin,” said Mrs. Damerel, in answer to her husband’s
inquiring look. “She has always wanted to see you; but what good could
you do her? and she has had a bad fever, and it is a miserable place.”

“Not that you’ll think twice of that,” said Nolan hurriedly, “when it’s
to give a bit of comfort to a dying creature that longs to see you;”
though indeed it would puzzle the world to tell why, he added in his
heart.

“Certainly not,” said the rector--a quantity of fine wrinkles, unseen on
ordinary occasions, suddenly appearing like a net-work on his forehead.
His voice took a slightly querulous tone, in spite of the readiness with
which he replied. “You need not wait,” he said, turning to his wife and
daughter. “Go on gently, and perhaps I may overtake you if it is nothing
important. What is it, Nolan; a case of troubled conscience? Something
on her mind?”

“Nothing but a dyin’ fancy,” said Mr. Nolan. “She’s harped on it these
three days. No, she’s a good soul enough; there’s no story to tell; and
all her duties done, and life closing as it ought. It’s but a whim; but
they will all take it as a great favor,” said the curate, seeing that
his superior officer looked very much in the mind to turn and fly.

“A whim,” he said, querulously. “You know I am not careless of other
people’s feelings--far from it, I hope; but my own organization is
peculiar, and to undergo this misery for a whim--you said a whim”--

“But the creature’s dying!”

“Pah! what has dying to do with it? Death is a natural accident. It is
not meritorious to die, or a thing to which every other interest should
yield and bow. But, never mind,” the rector added, after this little
outbreak; “it is not your fault--come, I’ll go.”

Rose and her mother had lingered to hear the end of the discussion; and
just as the rector yielded thus, and, putting as good a grace as
possible on the unwillingly performed duty, entered, led by Mr. Nolan,
the poor little cottage, the ladies were joined by Mrs. Wodehouse and
her son, who had hurried up at sight of them. Mrs. Wodehouse had that
reserved and solemn air which is usual to ladies who are somewhat out of
temper with their friends. She was offended, and she meant to show it.
She said “Good morning” to Mrs. Damerel, instead of “How do you do?” and
spoke with melancholy grandeur of the weather, and the extreme heat, and
how a thunderstorm must be on its way. They stood talking on these
interesting topics, while Rose and Edward found themselves together. It
seemed to Rose as if she was seeing him for the first time after a long
absence or some great event. The color rushed to her face in an
overwhelming flood, and a tide of emotions as warm, as tumultuous, as
bewildering, rushed into her heart. She scarcely ventured to lift her
eyes when she spoke to him. It seemed to her that she understood now
every glance he gave her, every tone of his voice.

“I almost feared we were not to meet again,” he said hurriedly; “and
these last days run through one’s fingers so fast. Are you going out
to-night?”

“I do not think so,” said Rose, half afraid to pledge herself, and still
more afraid lest her mother should hear and interpose, saying, “Yes,
they were engaged.”

“Then let me come to-night. I have only four days more. You will not
refuse to bid a poor sailor good-by, Miss Damerel? You will not let them
shut me out to-night?”

“No one can wish to shut you out,” said Rose, raising her eyes to his
face for one brief second.

I do not think Edward Wodehouse was so handsome as Mr. Incledon. His
manners were not nearly so perfect; he could not have stood comparison
with him in any respect except youth, in which he had the better of his
rival; but oh, how different he seemed to Rose! She could not look full
at him; only cast a momentary glance at his honest, eager eyes; his
face, which glowed and shone with meaning. And now she knew what the
meaning was.

“So long as _you_ don’t!” he said, eagerly, yet below his breath; and
just at this moment Mrs. Damerel put forth her hand and took her
daughter by the arm.

“We have had a long walk, and I am tired,” she said. “We have been to
Whitton to see a new picture, and Mr. Incledon has so many beautiful
things. Come, Rose. Mr. Wodehouse, I hope we shall see you before you go
away.”

“Oh, yes, I hope so,” the young sailor faltered, feeling himself
suddenly cast down from heaven to earth. He said nothing to her about
that evening, but I suppose Mrs. Damerel’s ears were quick enough to
hear the important appointment that had been made.

“My dear Rose, girls do not give invitations to young men, nor make
appointments with them, generally, in that way.”

“I, mamma?”

“Don’t be frightened. I am not blaming you. It was merely an accident;
but, my dear, it was not the right kind of thing to do.”

“Must I not speak to Mr. Wodehouse?” she asked, half tremblingly, half
(as she meant it) satirically. But poor Rose’s little effusion of (what
she intended for) gall took no effect whatever. Mrs. Damerel did not
perceive that any satire was meant.

“Oh, you may speak to him! You may bid him good-by, certainly; but
I--your papa--in short, we have heard something of Mr. Wodehouse
which--we do not quite like. I do not wish for any more intimacy with
them, especially just now.”

“Do you mean you have heard some harm of him?” said Rose, opening her
eyes with a sudden start.

“Well, perhaps not any harm; I cannot quite tell what it was; but
something which made your papa decide--in short, I don’t want to take
too much notice of the Wodehouses as a family. They do not suit your
papa.”

Rose walked on with her mother to the rectory gate, silent, with her
heart swelling full. She did not believe that her father had anything to
do with it. It was not he who was to blame, whatever Mrs. Damerel might
say.



CHAPTER VI.


Nature took sides against Love on that evening, and made Mrs. Damerel’s
warning unnecessary, and all the anticipations of the young persons of
no avail. Instead of the evening stroll about the darkling garden which
Wodehouse at least had proposed to himself, the party were shut up in
the drawing-room by the sudden outbreak of that expected thunderstorm on
which Mrs. Wodehouse and Mrs. Damerel had discussed so earnestly. The
ladies had both felt that it must come, and the young sailor, I suppose,
ought to have been more clearly aware of what was impending; but there
are, no doubt, states of the mind which make a man totally indifferent
to, and unobservant of, the changes of the atmosphere. Anyhow, though he
arrived in the sweet beginning of the twilight, when all was still, poor
Edward had not only to stay in-doors, but to take a seat next to Mrs.
Damerel in the drawing-room; while Rose, who was somewhat nervous about
the thunder, retired into a dark corner to which he dared not follow her
boldly under the very eyes of her father and her mother. He did what he
could, poor fellow: he tried very hard to persuade her to come to the
other end of the room and watch the storm which was raging gloriously on
the plain below, lighting up the whole landscape in sudden, brilliant
gleams; for one of the windows had been left uncurtained and Mr. Damerel
himself placed his chair within reach of it to enjoy the wonderful
spectacle. Rose at one time longed so much to venture that her desire
overmastered her fears; but the rector, who was somewhat fretful that
evening, presumably on account of the storm, which affected his fine
sensibilities, sent her away hurriedly. “No, no, Rose--what have you to
do with storms?” he said; “go back to your mother.” When she obeyed,
there was silence in the room; and though the elders did not care very
much for it, I think the sharp disappointment of these two--a pang,
perhaps, more keen and delicate than anything we can feel when the first
freshness of youth is over--made itself spiritually felt somehow in the
atmosphere of the place.

“Roses have nothing to do out of the rose garden,” said Mr. Damerel,
with an attempt to overcome his own fretfulness, and perhaps a
compunction over the suffering he caused. He was not in a humor for
talking, and when this was the case he seldom gave himself the trouble
to talk; but some covert feeling or other made him willing to attempt a
diversion, for the moment at least. “I wish people had a more general
conception of the fitness of things. Your namesakes out-of-doors take no
pleasure in the storm. Poor roses, how it will batter and beat them
down, and strew their poor helpless petals about!”

“I do not find fault with Rose for being timid,” said her mother; “but
your craze about her name is fantastic, Herbert. She will have a good
many storms to brave which she cannot escape from if she is to do her
duty in life.”

“Then I hope she will not do her duty,” said the rector; “don’t, my Rose
in June. I had rather see you sweet and fresh, with your rose heart
unruffled, than draggled and battered with the rain. I’ll take the moral
risk upon my own head.”

Mrs. Damerel uttered an impatient little exclamation under her breath.
She turned to Wodehouse with an arbitrary and sudden change of the
subject. “Do you expect to be long away?” she said.

“Two years at the very least,” said the young man, piteously, looking at
her with such imploring eyes that she felt his look, though her own eyes
were fixed upon her work, and neither could nor would see. She felt it;
and as she was but a woman, though stern in purpose, she winced a little
and was sorry for him, though she would not help him. Her voice softened
as she replied,--

“I am very sorry for your poor mother. How she will miss you! We must
do our best to keep her cheerful while you are away.”

“The storm is going off,” said the rector; “did you ever remark,
Wodehouse, how seldom we have a complete thunderstorm to ourselves here?
There have been three going on to-night: one towards London, one
northwards, the other east. We never have more than the tail of a storm,
which is somewhat humbling when you come to think of it. I suppose it
has something to do with the _lie_ of the ground as you call it--eh?”

Edward answered something, he did not know what, while his opponent
regarded him with amused observation. Now that the matter was tolerably
safe in his own hands, Mr. Damerel was not without a certain enjoyment
in the study of character thus afforded him. It was to him like what I
suppose vivisection is to an enterprising physiologist. He had just
enough realization of the pain he was inflicting to give interest to the
throbbing nerves upon which he experimented. He was not old enough to
have quite forgotten some few pangs of a similar kind which he had
experienced in his day; but he was old enough to regard the recollection
with some degree of amusement and a sense of the absolute folly of the
whole which neutralized that sense of pain. He liked, rather, to hold
the young man in talk about scientific facts, while he knew that the
young man was longing to escape, and watching, with dismay and despair,
every hope disappearing of another kind of conversation which seemed
like the balance of life and death to the foolish youth. Mr. Damerel saw
all these symptoms of torture, and his sense of humor was tickled. He
was almost sorry when at length, the rain still continuing to fall in
torrents and the storm roaring and groaning in the distance, young
Wodehouse rose to go away. “I will not give you my blessing again,” he
said, smiling, “as I was rash enough to do before; for I dare say we
shall meet again, one way or another, before you go away.”

“Oh, I shall call when the last moment, the absolute good-by, comes!”
said poor Edward, trying to smile.

Rose put out a timid little hand to him, rising from her chair when he
came up to her. She had grown bewildered again, and disconcerted, and
had fallen far from the light and illumination which had flashed over
her in the afternoon. The storm had frightened her: something malign
seemed in the air; and she was disappointed and mortified, she scarcely
could have told why. Was this to be the end of the evening to which they
had both looked forward? Alas! such clouds will drop over even the
brightest skies. I think both of the young people could have wept with
sheer misery, disappointment, and despite, when they realized that it
was over, and could not now be mended, whatever might happen. He went
home, and she stole up to her room, enveloped by the mists of a
suppressed excitement which seemed to wrap them round and round, and
afforded no way of escape.

That, however, was the last bright day known in the rectory for a very
long time. The rector had not been quite himself that night. His very
pleasure in the torture of the poor young lovers was perhaps a sign that
the fine organization upon which he prided himself was somehow out of
gear. I do not believe, though many people were of that opinion, that
his hurried visit to the poor woman who was dying of fever was the
reason why Mr. Damerel took the fever, and of all that followed. He
could not have fallen ill so immediately if poor Susan Aikin’s
death-chamber had been the cause of his malady. Next day he was ill,
feverish, and wretched, and was reported to have a bad cold. The next
after that the village and all the houses on the Green were struck dumb
by the information that the rector had caught the same fever of which
Susan Aikin died. The news caused such a sensation as few warnings of
mortality produce. The whole neighborhood was hushed and held its
breath, and felt a shiver of dismay run through it. It was not because
Mr. Damerel was deeply beloved. Mr. Nolan, for example, was infinitely
more friendly and dear to the population generally; yet had he
encountered the same fate people would have grieved, but would not have
been surprised. But the rector! that he should fall under such a
disease--that the plague which is born of squalor, and dirt, and ill
nourishment, and bad air should seize upon him, the very impersonation
of everything that was opposite and antagonistic to those causes which
brought it forth!--this confused everybody, great and small. Comfortable
people shuddered, asking themselves who was safe? and began to think of
the drainage of their houses, and to ask whether any one knew if the
rectory was quite right in that respect. There was an anxious little
pause of fright in the place, every one wondering whether it was likely
to prove an epidemic, and neighbor inquiring of neighbor each time they
met whether “more cases” had occurred; but this phase passed over, and
the general security came back. The disease must “take its course,” the
doctor said, and nothing could be prognosticated at so early a stage.
The patient was still in middle age, of unbroken constitution, and had
everything in his favor--good air, good nursing, good means--so that
nothing need be spared. With such words as these the anxieties of the
neighborhood were relieved--something unwillingly it must be allowed,
for the world is very _exigeant_ in this as in many other respects, and,
when it is interested in an illness, likes it to run a rapid course, and
come to an issue one way or other without delay. It was therefore with
reluctance that the Green permitted itself to be convinced that no
“change” could be looked for in the rector’s illness for some time to
come. Weeks even might be consumed ere the climax, the crisis, the real
dramatic point at which the patient’s fate would be concluded, should
come. This chilling fact composed the mind of the neighborhood, and
stilled it back into the calm of indifference after a while. I am not
sure now that there was not a little adverse feeling towards the rector,
in that he left everybody in suspense, and having, as it were, invited
the world to behold the always interesting spectacle of a dangerous
illness, put off from week to week the _dénouement_. Such a barbarous
suggestion would have been repulsed with scorn and horror had it been
put into words, but that was the feeling in most people’s hearts.

In-doors, however, Mr. Damerel’s illness was a very terrible matter, and
affected every member of the household. Mrs. Damerel gave up everything
to nurse him. There was no hesitation with her as to whether she should
or should not postpone her family and cares to her husband. From the
moment that the dreadful word “fever” crossed the doctor’s lips she put
aside the house and the school-room and every other interest, and took
her place by the sick-bed. I do not know if any foreboding was in her
mind from the first, but she never paused to think. She went to the
children and spoke to them, appealing to their honor and affection. She
gave Dick and Patty permission to roam as they liked, and to enjoy
perfect immunity from lessons and routine, so long as they would be
quiet in-doors, and respect the stillness that was necessary in the
house; and to Agatha she gave the charge of the infants, exacting quiet
only, nothing but quiet. “The house must be kept quiet,” she said to
them all imperatively. “The child who makes a noise I shall think no
child of mine. Your papa’s life may depend upon it. It will be Rose’s
part to see that you all do what I tell you. No noise! that is the chief
thing. There must be no noise!”

The children all promised very solemnly, and even closed round her with
great eyes uplifted to ask in hushed tones of awe, as if he had been
dead, how papa was? The house altogether was strangely subdued all at
once, as if the illness had already lasted for weeks. The drawing-room
became a shut-up, uninhabited place, where Rose only entered now and
then to answer the inquiries of some anxious parishioners not too
frightened to come and ask how the rector was. The tide of life, of
interest, of occupation, all flowed towards the sick-room--everything
centred in it. After a few days it would have seemed as unnatural to
Rose to have gone out to the lawn as it was at first to sit in the
little anteroom, into which her father’s room opened, waiting to receive
her mother’s commissions, to do anything she might want of her. A few
days sufficed to make established habits of all these new circumstances
of life. Mr. Damerel was not a bad patient. He was a little angry and
annoyed when he found what his illness was, taking it for granted, as so
many people did, that he had taken it from Susan Aikin. “I wish
Providence had directed me anywhere else than to that cottage door at
that particular moment,” he said, half ruefully, half indignantly, “and
put me in the way of that fanatic Nolan, who can stand everything. I
knew my constitution was very different. Never mind, it was not _your_
fault, Martha; and he is a good fellow. I must try to push him on. I
will write to the bishop about him when I get well.”

These were heavenly dispositions, as the reader will perceive. He was a
very good patient, grateful to his nurses, cheerful in his demeanor,
making the best of the long struggle he had embarked upon--indeed, few
people could have rallied more bravely from the first shock and
discouragement, or composed themselves more courageously to fill the
first position which was forced upon him, and discharge all its duties,
such as they were. His illness came on not violently, but in the
leisurely, quiet way which so often distinguishes a disease which is
meant to last long. He was ill, but not very ill, on the fourth day,
descending into depths of it, but going very quietly, and retaining his
self-command and cheerfulness. This particular day, on which he was a
little worse than he had been before, was mild and rainy and warm, very
unlike the wonderful blaze of summer which had preceded it. Rose sat by
the open window of the little anteroom, which was now her general
position. The rain fell softly outside with a subdued, perpetual sound,
pattering upon the leaves. The whole atmosphere was full of this soft
patter. The door of the sick-room was ajar, and now and then Rose heard
her father move in the restlessness of his illness, or utter a low
little moan of suffering, or speak to Mrs. Damerel, who was with him.
Everything was hushed down-stairs; and the subdued stirring of the rain
outside, and the sounds of the sick-room within, were all that Rose
could hear. She had a book in her hand, and read now and then; but she
had come for the first time to that point in life when one’s own musings
are as interesting as any story, and often the book dropped on her lap,
and she did nothing but think. She thought it was thinking, but I fancy
that dreaming was more like it. Poor Rose! her dreaming was run through
by sombre threads, and there was one shadow of wondering doubt and
suspicion mingled in it. As she sat thus, one of the maids came softly
to the door to say that Mrs. Wodehouse and her son were in the
drawing-room, and would she tell Mrs. Damerel? Rose’s heart gave a
sudden leap; she hesitated a moment whether she should not run down
without saying anything to her mother, as it was she, up to this moment,
who had answered all inquiries; but the habit of dependence prevailed
over this one eager throb of nature. She stole into the sick-room under
shade of the curtains, and gave her message. The answer had invariably
been, “Go you, Rose, and tell them I am very sorry, but I cannot leave
your papa.” She expected to hear the same words again, and stood,
half-turned to the door, ready, when authorized, to rush down-stairs,
with her heart already throbbing, and nature preparing in her for a
crisis.

“What is it?” said the patient, drowsily.

“It is Edward Wodehouse come to say good-by,” answered his wife.
“Herbert, can you do without me for a moment? I ought to go.”

“Yes: go, go; Rose will stay with me instead,” said Mr. Damerel. He put
out his hot hand and drew the girl towards him, who almost resisted, so
stupefied was she. “Do not be long, Martha,” he said to his wife; and
before Rose could realize what had happened she found herself in her
mother’s chair, seated in the shaded stillness near the sick-bed, while
Mrs. Damerel’s step going softly along the passage outside testified to
the bewildering fact that it was she who was to receive the visitors. It
was so sudden, so totally different from her expectations, so cruel a
disappointment to her, that the girl sat motionless, struck dumb,
counting the soft fall of her mother’s steps, in the stupor that fell
upon her. Her father said something, but she had not the heart to
answer. It seemed incredible, impossible. After ten minutes or so, which
seemed to Rose so many hours, during which she continued to sit dumb,
listening to her father’s stirrings in his restless bed and the
pattering of the rain, the same maid came to the door again and handed
in a little scrap of paper folded like a note. She opened it
mechanically. It was from Mrs. Wodehouse. “Dear Rose, dearest Rose, come
and bid my boy good-by, if it is only for a moment,” it said. She put it
down on the table, and rose up and looked at her father. “If only for a
moment,”--he was not so ill that any harm could happen to him if he were
left for a moment. He did not look ill at all, as he lay there with his
eyes closed. Was he asleep?--and surely, surely for that moment she
might go!

While she looked at him, her heart beating wildly, and something singing
and throbbing in her ears, he opened his eyes. “What is it?” he said.

“It is--oh, papa I may I go for one moment--only for a moment--I should
come back directly; to bid--poor--Mr. Wodehouse good-by?”

“What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” said the rector, with
perhaps unintentional profaneness, smiling at her a smile which seemed
to make Rose wild. He put out his hand again and took hers. “Never mind
poor Mr. Wodehouse,” he said; “he will get on very well without you.
Stay with me, my Rose in June; to see you thus does me good.”

“I should only stay one moment.” Her heart beat so that it almost
stifled her voice.

“No, my darling,” he said, coaxingly; “stay with me.”

And he held her hand fast. Rose stood gazing at him with a kind of
desperation till he closed his eyes again, holding her tightly by the
wrist. I think even then she made a little movement to get free--a
movement balked by the closer clasping of his feverish fingers. Then she
sat down suddenly on her mother’s chair. The pulsations were in her ears
like great roars of sound coming and going. “Very well, papa,” she said,
with a stifled voice.

I do not know how long it was before she heard steps below, for her
senses were preternaturally quickened--and then the sound of the hall
door closed, and then the rain again, as if nothing had happened. What
had happened? Nothing, indeed, except that Mrs. Damerel herself had seen
the visitors, which was a great compliment to them, as she never left
her husband’s side. By and by her soft steps came back again,
approaching gradually up the stairs and the long corridor. The sound of
them fell upon Rose’s heart--was it all over then? ended forever? Then
her mother came in, calm and composed, and relieved her. She did not
even look at Rose, as if there were anything out of the ordinary in this
very simple proceeding. She told her husband quietly that she had said
good-by to young Wodehouse; that he was going early next morning; that
she was very sorry for his poor mother. “Yes, my dear; but if mothers
were always to be considered, sons would never do anything. Mayn’t I
have something to drink?” said the patient; and thus the subject was
dismissed at once and forever.

“Go and see if Mary has made some fresh lemonade,” said Mrs. Damerel.
Rose obeyed mechanically. The pulses were still beating so that her
blood seemed like the tide at sea beating upon a broad beach, echoing
hollow and wild in huge rolling waves. She went down-stairs like one in
a dream and got the lemonade and carried it back again, hearing her own
steps as she had heard her mother’s. When this piece of business was
over, and Rose found herself again in the little anteroom, all alone,
with nothing but the sound of the rain to fill up the silence, and the
great waves of sound in her ears beginning to die into moans and dreary
sobbing echoes, what can I say of her feelings? Was it possible that all
was over and ended--that she would never more see him again--that he was
gone without even a good-by? It was not only incredible to her, but it
was intolerable; must she bear it? She could not bear it; yet she must.
She stood at the window and looked out, and the bluish-gray world and
the falling rain looked in at Rose, and no other sound came to console
the aching in her heart. He was gone, and there was no hope that he
would come back; and she could not, dared not, go to him. The evening
went on while she sat in this train of excited feelings, wondering
whether the anguish in her heart would not call for an answer somehow,
and unable to believe that neither God nor man would interfere. When it
was dark she broke forth from all control, and left her post, as she
could not do when leaving it was of any use: but there is a point at
which the intolerable cannot be borne any longer. She put a blue
waterproof cloak on her, and went out into the rain and the dark; but
what was poor Rose to do, even when her pain became past bearing? She
strayed round the dark lawn, and looked, but in vain, for the lights of
the cottage at Ankermead; and then she ventured to the gate, and stood
there looking out, helpless and wistful. But no good angel whispered to
Edward Wodehouse, heart-sore and wounded, what poor little watcher there
was looking helplessly, piteously out upon the little gulf of distance
which separated them as much as continents and oceans could have done.
He was packing for his early journey, and she, poor maiden soul, could
not go to him, nor could the cry of her heart reach him. When she had
waited there a while, she went in again speechless and heart-broken,
feeling indeed that all was over, and that neither light nor happiness
would ever return to her more.

Poor child! I don’t think it occurred to her to blame those who had done
it, or even to ask herself whether they knew what they were doing.
Perhaps she did not believe that they had done it willingly. I do not
think she asked herself any question on the subject. She had to bear it,
and she could not bear it. Her mind was capable of little more.



CHAPTER VII.


“It does not seem possible,” said the rector, slowly; “and yet somehow I
cannot help thinking sometimes that I must be going to die.”

“Herbert!”

“It is very curious--very curious--my reason tells me so, not feeling. I
myself am just what I always was; but I think the symptoms are against
me, and I see it in Marsden’s looks. Doesn’t he say so to you?”

“Dear,” said Mrs. Damerel, with a trembling voice, “he does not conceal
from me that it is very serious; but oh, Herbert, how often have we seen
even the children at death’s door, and yet brought back!”

“At death’s door,” he said reflectively; “yes, that’s a good
expression--at the door of something unknown. Somehow it does not seem
possible. One can believe it for others, not for one’s self. The idea is
very strange.”

Mrs. Damerel was a good, religious woman; and her husband was a
clergyman. She did not feel that this was how he ought to speak at such
a moment, and the thought wrung her heart. “Dearest,” she said, growing
more tender in her grief and pity, “it is a thing we must all think of
one time or another; and to you, who have served God faithfully, it must
be something else than ‘strange.’”

“What else?” he said, looking up at her. “I might say confusing,
bewildering. To think that I am going I know not where, with no
certainty of feeling that I shall ever know anything about it; that I am
no longer a free agent, but helpless, like a leaf blown into a corner by
the wind--I who for very nearly fifty years have had a voice in all that
was done to me. My dear, I don’t know that I ever realized before how
strange it was.”

“But--you are--happy, Herbert?” she said, in a low, imploring voice.

“Happy, am I? I don’t know--why should I be happy? I know what I am
leaving, but I don’t know what I am going to. I don’t know anything
about it. Something is going to happen to me, of which I have not the
least conception what it is. I am not afraid, my dear, if that is what
you mean,” he said, after a momentary pause.

This conversation took place weeks after the departure of Edward
Wodehouse and the end of that first flowery chapter of Rose’s life. Her
parents had not thought very much of her feelings, being concerned with
much weightier matters. It had been a very long, lingering illness, not
so violent as some fevers, but less hopeful; the crisis was over, but
the patient did not mend. He was dying, and his wife knew it; and,
though no one as yet had made the solemn announcement to him, he had
found it out. He was very weak; but his mind was not at all impaired,
and he could talk, with only a pause now and then for breath, as calmly
as ever. It was a curious spectacle. He was gathering his cloak round
him like Cæsar, but with sensations less satisfied and consciously
heroic. Mr. Damerel was not a man to be indifferent to the necessity of
dying fitly, with dignity and grace, but he had confidence in himself
that nothing would disturb the folds of his robes at that supreme
moment; he knew that no spiritual dread or cowardice would impair his
fortitude; it was not necessary for him to make any effort to meet with
dignity the unknown which was approaching; and his mind was at leisure
to survey the strange, unexpected situation in which he found
himself--going to die, without knowing what dying was, or how it would
affect him, or where it would place him. I do not know, though he was a
clergyman, that there was anything religious in the organization of his
mind, and he had never come under any of those vivid influences which
make men religious--or, at least, which make them fervent
religionists--whatever may be the constitution of their mind. Mr.
Damerel was no sceptic. He believed what he had been taught, and what he
had taught in turn to others. His mind was not doctrinal or dogmatic,
any more than it was devout; but he believed in the broad truths of
Christianity, in some sort of a heaven, and some sort of a hell. These
beliefs, however, had no effect upon his present state of feeling. He
was not afraid of the hereafter; but his mind was bewildered and
confounded by the contemplation of something close at hand which he did
not know, and could not know so long as he retained consciousness of
this only world with which he was acquainted. He was absorbed by the
contemplation of this mystery. He was not thinking of his sins, nor of
reward, nor of punishment, nor of rest from his labors (which had not
been many). In short, he did not consider the great change that was
about to take place upon him from a religious point of view at all, but
rather from one which was at once natural and philosophical. I should
not like to blame him for this, as, perhaps, some people will do. When
we have lost much that made life sweet; when our friends, our children,
have gone before us into the unseen country; then, indeed, the heart
learns many longings for that world in which alone there can be reunion
and explanation of life’s sore and weary mysteries. But this was not Mr.
Damerel’s case. There was no one waiting for him at the golden gates;
except perhaps, those whom he had long forgotten, and who had gone out
of his life. He was departing alone, the first of his generation;
curious and solitary, not knowing where he was going. To God’s presence;
ah yes! but what did that mean?

“All the same, my dear,” he said, cheerfully, rousing himself, “we must
not make ourselves wretched about it. A thing that happens to every man
cannot be so very bad; and, in the mean time, we must make the best of
it. I ought to have thought of it, perhaps, more than I have done.”

“Oh, Herbert! God is very merciful,” said his wife, who was crying
softly by his side.

“Yes, yes, that is quite true; but that is not what I was thinking of. I
ought to have thought of what would follow in case of this happening
which is about to happen. I ought to have tried to save; out how could I
have saved out of the little pittance we had?”

“Dear, don’t think of such things now.”

“But I must think upon them. I have never had any extravagant tastes,
and we have always lived very quietly; but I fear you will find a
difference. What a blessed thing that you are the sort of woman you are!
The struggle will not fall so heavily upon you as upon most people.
Incledon, of course, will marry Rose”--

“Oh, Herbert! what does all this matter? Do not think of it. I would so
much rather hear you speak of yourself.”

“There is nothing to say about myself; and, perhaps, the less one
thinks, in the circumstances, the better; it is a curious position to be
in--that is all that one can say. Yes, Incledon will marry Rose; he will
make her a very good husband. Do not let it be put off from any regard
to me. He will be a great help to you; and you may trust him, I should
think, to settle about the boys. Lay as much upon him as you can; he is
quite able to bear it. If one had foreseen this, you know, there are
many things that one might have done; but--curious!” said the rector,
with a smile, “I can’t believe in it, even now.”

“Oh, Herbert, it is never too late for God! Perhaps your feeling is the
right one. If He would but give you back to us now!”

“No, no; don’t think there is anything prophetic in my feelings, my
dear. You may be sure every man is like me, more or less,” said Mr.
Damerel. “I know we must all die; only it is impossible in respect to
one’s self; I am myself, you perceive, just as much as ever; and yet
to-morrow, perhaps, or next day--there’s the wonder. It makes one feel
giddy now and then. About the boys: I have always felt that one time or
other we should have to decide something for the boys. Leave it to
Incledon; he is a practical man, and will know what to advise.”

“Dear Herbert, if you can talk of it--oh, how much better it would be to
tell me what _you_ wish, that I might be guided by your own feeling,
than to refer me to any one else!” said Mrs. Damerel, crying, kissing
his hand, and gazing with wet eyes into his calm face.

“Oh, talk; yes, I can talk, but for a little catching of the breath, the
same as ever, I think; but the boys are a troublesome subject. Leave it
to Incledon; he knows all about that sort of thing. I think now,
perhaps, that I might sleep.”

And then the curtains were dropped, the watcher retired a little out of
sight, and everything was subdued into absolute stillness. Mrs. Damerel
sat down noiselessly in the background, and covered her face with her
hands, and wept silent tears, few and bitter. She had felt him to be
hard upon her many a day; she had seen what was wanting in him; but he
was her husband, the first love of her youth, and her heart was rent
asunder by this separation. She had enough to think of besides, had she
been able; she had poverty to face, and to bring up her children as best
she could in a world which henceforward would not be kind and soft to
them as it had been hitherto. Her soul was heavy with a consciousness of
all that was before her; but, in the mean time, she had room for no
distinct feeling except one--that her husband, her love, was going to be
taken from her. This tremendous parting, rending asunder of two lives
that had been one, was more than enough to fill all her mind; she had
room for nothing more.

And he slept, or thought he slept, floating out of the vague pain and
wonder of his waking thoughts into strange, vague visions, dimmer still,
and then back again to the fancies which were waking and not sleeping.
There was a dim impression of painfulness in them, rather than pain
itself; wonder, curiosity, and that strange sense of an absolute blank
which makes the soul giddy and the brain swim. Sometimes his mind seemed
to himself to wander, and he got astray somehow, and felt himself
sinking in an unfathomable sea, or striving to make his way through some
blackness of night, some thorny wood in which there was no path. I
suppose he was asleep then; but even he himself scarcely knew.

When he woke it was evening, and the lamp, carefully shaded, had been
lit at the other end of the room. He liked the light; and, when he
stirred and spoke, the watchers made haste to draw back the curtains.
The serene evening sky, full of soft tints of reflection from the
sunset, with breaks of daffodil light melting into ineffable soft
greenness and blueness, shone in through the uncurtained window which he
liked to have left so, that he might see the sky. Rose and her mother
were close by the bright circle made by the lamp, one of them preparing
some drink for him, the other opening a new bottle of medicine which had
just been sent. Though it was all so familiar to him, the fact that he
was to go away so soon seemed to throw a strangeness over everything,
and gave a bewildering novelty even to the figures he knew so well.

“More of Marsden’s stuff,” he said, with a low laugh; and his own voice
sounded far off to him, as he lay looking at that strange little
picture--a distant view of the two women against the light, with the sky
and the window behind; somebody’s wife and daughter--his own--his very
Rose, and she who had been his companion since his youth. Strange that
he should look at them so quietly, almost with an amused sense of
novelty, without any tragic feeling or even pain to speak of, in the
thought that he was going away shortly and would see them no more. He
fell to thinking of a thousand things as he lay there watching them, yet
not watching them. Not the things, perhaps, that a dying man ought to
think of; little nothings, chance words that he had forgotten for years,
lines of poetry, somehow connected with his present condition, though he
did not remember the links of connection. “The casement slowly grows, a
glittering square,” he said to himself, and made an effort to think
whence the line came, and why it should have at this moment thrust
itself into his mind. Then he fell altogether into a poetic mood, and
one disconnected line followed another into his mind, giving him a vague
sense of melancholy pleasure. He said one or two of them aloud, calling
the attention of his nurses--but it was not to them he was speaking.
Finally, his mind centred on one which first of all seemed to strike him
for its melody alone:--

    For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
      This pleasing, anxious being e’er resigned,
    Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
      Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?

He said this aloud once or twice over. “‘To dumb forgetfulness a prey!’
that is not my feeling--not my feeling; the rest is very true. Gray does
not get half justice nowadays. How it satisfies the ear, flowing round
and soft! ‘To dumb forgetfulness!’ now I wonder what he meant by that?”

“You are better, papa,” said Rose, softly. Her mother stayed behind, not
able to speak; but the girl, in her simplicity, thought the poetry “a
good sign.”

“No, Rose. ‘Dumb forgetfulness,’--it is not that, child; that is not
what one fears; to be sure there is a coldness and blackness that might
chime in with the words. But the rest is true, ‘the warm precincts of
the cheerful day;’ warm is a living word altogether; it is not warm out
here.”

“I will put the quilt on the bed,” said wistful Rose, thinking he
complained of cold.

“No,” he said, roused, with a gentle laugh; “the quilt will do nothing
for me; I am not cold--not yet; I suppose I shall be presently. Is your
mother there? My dear, help me with your experience. I dislike cold so
much; does one feel it creeping up before one dies?”

“Oh, Herbert, dearest!” said his wife, heart-broken. What could she
answer to such a question?

“Nay, I don’t want to make an unnecessary fuss,” he said; “it is only a
curiosity I have. Cold creeping up--it is disagreeable to think of it.
What! I have I more medicine to take? What does Marsden mean by sending
me his detestable compounds still? It will only make your bill the
larger, and me the less comfortable. I will not have it; take it away.”

“It is something different,” said Mrs. Damerel. “The doctor thought
perhaps it might be worth trying.”

“Is it the elixir of life?” said the patient, smiling; “nothing short of
that would be worth trying; even that would be too much trouble for the
good. It would be folly to come back now, when one has got over all the
worst of the way.”

“You do not feel worse, Herbert?”

“Oh, no; when I tell you the worst is over, my anxious Martha! I am
curious--curious--nothing more. I wish I could but tell you, after, what
sort of a thing it was. Sit down by me, and give me your hand. Rose, you
will be good; you will do everything your mother says?”

“Oh, Herbert!” said his wife, “do not think of us--if it has come to
this--think of yourself, think where you are going--to God, Herbert,
dearest, to be happy beyond anything we can think.”

“Is it so?” he said, still smiling. “I don’t know where I am going, my
dear, and that is the only thing that gives me a little trouble. I
should like to know. I am not afraid of God, who has always been far
better to me than I deserved; and I hope I know the way of life.” This
he said with a momentary seriousness which was quite exceptional. Then
he added, in the musing tone which to his anxious watchers seemed almost
a gentle delirium, “But think, my dear! to be sent even into a new
place, a strange town, in the dark, without any direction--without
knowing where to go, right hand or left.” He gave a little, soft, broken
laugh. “It is the strangest way of dealing with curious, inquisitive
creatures like men. I never realized it before.”

Here some one appeared, beckoning behind the curtains, to say that Mr.
Nolan was in the next room. The curate came daily, and was always
admitted. Rose went softly out to meet him, and almost dropped into the
kind man’s arms in her exhaustion and excitement. “He is talking so very
strangely,” she said, the tears running down her pale cheeks. “Oh, Mr.
Nolan, I think he is wandering in his mind! Should I send for the
doctor? To hear him speak is enough to break one’s heart.”

The good curate put her in a chair and soothed her, smoothing her
pretty hair, with unconscious tenderness, as if she had been a child.

“Don’t cry, dear,” he said; “or rather, do cry, poor child, it will do
you good; and stay quiet till I come back.”

Rose did what she was told with the docility of helplessness. She lay
back in the chair, and cried softly. In this new strait she was as a
child, and all the child’s overwhelming sense of desolation, and
half-superstitious awe of the terrible event which was coming, weighed
down her heart. Pity, and terror, and grief mingled in her mind, till it
seemed unable to contain so much emotion. She sat and listened to the
low voices in the next room, and watched the side gleam of light which
came from the half-open door. The very world seemed hushed while this
drama came to its conclusion, and there was not a sound without or
within but the soft movements in the sick-room, and the low voices. How
many new experiences had come into her simple life in so short a time!
Darkness overshadowed the earth already, so that her pleasant pathway in
it seemed lost; and now here was Death, that visitor who is always so
doubly appalling the first time he enters a peaceful house.

“Well, Nolan, you have come in time, for I am just setting out,” said
the rector, in a voice stronger than it had been, his anxious wife
thought. “Why, man, don’t look so grave; and you, my dear, don’t cry, to
discourage me. Set me out on my journey a little more cheerily! I never
thought much about dying people before; and mind what I say, Nolan,
because it is your work. Of course, to those who have never thought
about such matters before, religion is all-important; but there’s more
in it than that. When a man’s dying he wants humoring. Such strange
fancies come into one’s head. I am not at all troubled or serious to
speak of; but it is a very odd thing, if you think of it, to set out on
such a journey without the least notion where you are to go!”

And he laughed again. It was not harsh nor profane, but a soft laugh, as
easy as a child’s. I do not know why it should have horrified the
attendants so, or what there is wrong in a laugh so gentle from a
death-bed; but the hearers both shivered with natural pain and almost
terror. They tried to lead him to more serious thoughts, but in vain.
His mind, which had been serious enough before, had got somehow
dissipated, intoxicated by the approach of the unknown. He could think
of nothing else. A certain levity even mingled in his excitement. He
asked questions almost with eagerness--questions no one could
answer--about the accessories of death. He was curious beyond
description about all that he would have to go through. “What a pity
that I shall never be able to tell you what it is, and how I liked it!”
he said, reflectively; “at least until you know all about it, too; we
can compare notes then.” He would not give up this kind of talk. After
the prayers for the sick, which Mr. Nolan read, he resumed the same
subject; and if it is possible to imagine anything that could have made
this terrible moment of her life more bitter to poor Mrs. Damerel, I
think this would have been the one thing.

“Are his affairs in order, do you know?” said the doctor, after paying
his late visit, as the curate accompanied him to the door. He had just
given it as his opinion that his patient could not see another morning;
and Mr. Nolan had made up his mind to remain at the rectory all night.

“I shouldn’t think it; he has never taken much trouble with his
affairs.”

“Then don’t you think you could speak to him even now? I never saw a man
so clear-headed, and in such possession of his faculties, so near--Speak
to him, Nolan. He knows exactly how things are, and no agitation can
harm him now. He must have some wishes about his family--some
arrangements to make.”

Mr. Nolan restrained with difficulty an exclamation that rose to his
lips, and which might have sounded unkind to a dying man; and then he
asked abruptly, “Do you find, in your experience, that people who are
dying are much concerned about those they leave behind?”

“Well, no,” said the doctor, doubtfully; “I don’t think they are. Self
gets the upper hand. It is all Nature can do at that moment to think how
she is to get through”--

“I suppose so,” said the curate, with that seriousness which naturally
accompanies such a speculation. He walked with the doctor to the gate,
and came back across the plot of shrubbery, musing, with a heavy heart,
on the living and on the dying. It was a lovely starlight night, soft
and shadowy, but with a brisk little questioning air which kept the
leaves a-rustle. Mr. Nolan shivered with something like cold, as he
looked up at the stars. “I wonder, after all, where he is going?” he
said to himself, with a sympathetic ache of human curiosity in his
heart.



CHAPTER VIII.


Mr. Damerel did not die for twenty-four hours after this. People do not
get out of the world so easy. He was not to escape the mortal
restlessness, “the fog in his throat,” any more than others; and the
hours were slow and long, and lingered like years. But at last the
rector came to an end of his wondering, and knew, like all the
_illuminati_ before him who have learned too, but are hushed and make no
sign. It is a strange thought for mortals to take in, that almost every
death is, for the moment at least, a relief to those who surround the
dying. The most intolerable moment is that which precedes the end, and
most of as are thankful when it is over. I need not enter into the
dismal hush that fell upon the pleasant rectory, nor say how the curious
sun besieged the closed windows to get into the house once so freely
open to the light; nor how, notwithstanding the long interval of illness
which had banished him from common view, the shady corner under the
lime-trees, where Mr. Damerel’s chair and round table still stood, wore
a look of piteous desolation, as if he had left them but yesterday. All
this is easily comprehensible. The servants cried a little, and were
consoled by their new mourning; the children wept bitterly, then began
to smile again; and two poor clergymen, with large families, grew sick
with anxiety as to who should have Dinglefield, before our rector had
been dead a day (neither of them had it, you may be sure, they wanted it
so much). When the news was known in the parish, and especially on the
Green, there was a moment of awe and emotion very real in its way. Most
people heard of it when they were first called, and thought of it with
varying degrees of impression till breakfast, to which they all came
down looking very serious, and told each other the details, and remarked
to each other what an inscrutable thing it was, and yet that it was
wonderful he had lasted so long. Breakfast broke in upon this universal
seriousness; for when it is not any connection, as Mrs. Perronet well
remarked, you cannot be expected to remain under the impression like
those who are relatives; and after breakfast the Green with one consent
turned from the dead to the living, and began to ask what Mrs. Damerel
would do, how she would be “left,” what change it would make to her
circumstances? Many shook their heads and feared that it would make a
very great change. They calculated what he had had, and what she had
had, when they were married, which was an event within the recollection
of many; and what the income of the rectory was, after deducting the
curate’s salary and other necessary expenses; and how much Bertie cost
at Eaton; and many other questions which only an intimate knowledge of
their neighbors’ affairs could have warranted them in discussing.
General Perronet knew for certain that Mr. Damerel’s life was insured in
at least two offices; and though they could not, everybody agreed, have
saved anything, yet there arose after a while a general hope that the
family would not be so very badly off. Some of the ladies had quite
decided before luncheon that the best thing Mrs. Damerel could do would
be to take the White House, which happened to be empty, and which
contained a number of little rooms just suitable for a large family. To
be sure, it was possible that she might prefer to go back to her own
county, where her brothers still lived, one of whom was a squire of
small property, and the other the parson of the hereditary parish; but
the Dinglefield people scarcely thought she would take this step,
considering how many friends she had on the Green, and how much better
it was to stay where you are known, than to go back to a place where
people have forgotten you.

“And then there is Mr. Incledon,” said Mrs. Wodehouse, who felt that her
son had been slighted, and may be excused perhaps for being a little
spiteful. “The mother has always had her eye upon him since he came
back to Whitton. You will see that will be a match, if she can manage
it; and of course it would be a great match for Miss Rose.”

I think if an angel from heaven came down into a country parish and a
good woman with daughters entertained him unawares, her neighbors would
decide at once which of the girls she meant to marry Gabriel to. But
Mrs. Wodehouse had more justification than most gossips have. She could
not forget the little pleading note which her Edward had made her write,
entreating Rose to come down if only for one moment, and that the girl
had taken no notice of it; though before that expedition to Whitton to
see the Perugino and Mr. Incledon’s great house, Rose had been very well
satisfied to have the young sailor at her feet. Mrs. Wodehouse had met
the mother and daughter but seldom since, for they had been absorbed in
attendance upon the rector; but when by chance she did encounter them,
she felt proud to think that she had never said anything but “Good
morning.” No inquiries after their health had come from her lips. She
had retired into polite indifference; though sometimes her heart had
been touched by poor Rose’s pale cheek, and her wistful look, which
seemed to ask pardon. “I do not mind what is done to me,” Mrs. Wodehouse
said to her dear friend and confidant, Mrs. Musgrove; “but those who
slight my son I will never forgive. I do not see that it is unchristian.
It is unchristian not to forgive what is done to yourself; and I am sure
no one is less ready to take personal offence than I am.” She was
resolved, therefore, that whatever happened, “Good morning” was all the
greeting she would give to the Damerels; though of course she was very
sorry indeed for them, and as anxious as other people as to how they
would be left, and where they would go.

Mrs. Damerel herself was overwhelmed by her grief in a way which could
scarcely have been expected from a woman who had so many other
considerations to rouse her out of its indulgence, and who had not been
for a long time a very happy wife. But when man and wife have been
partially separated as these two had been, and have ceased to feel the
sympathy for each other which such a close relationship requires, a long
illness has a wonderful effect often in bringing back to the survivor
the early image of the being he or she has loved. Perhaps I ought to say
she; I do not know if a sick wife is so touching to a husband’s
imagination as a sick man is to his wife’s. And then a little thing had
occurred before the end which had gone to Mrs. Damerel’s heart more than
matters of much greater moment. Her husband had called Rose, and on Rose
going to him had waved her away, saying, “No, no,” and holding out his
feeble hands to her mother. This insignificant little incident had
stolen away everything but tenderness from the woman’s mind, and she
wept for her husband as she might have wept for him had he died in the
earlier years of their marriage, with an absorbing grief that drove
everything else out of her thoughts. This, however, could not last. When
the blinds were drawn up from the rectory, and the brisk sunshine shone
in again, and the family looked with unveiled faces upon the lawn, where
every one still expected to see him, so full was it of his memory, the
common cares of life came back, and had to be thought of. Mrs. Damerel’s
brothers had both come to the funeral. One of them, the squire, was the
trustee under her marriage settlement, and one of the executors of Mr.
Damerel’s will; so he remained along with the lawyer and the doctor and
Mr. Nolan, and listened to all the provisions of that will, which were
extremely reasonable, but of a far back date, and which the lawyer read
with an occasional shake of his head, which at the moment no one could
understand. Unfortunately, however, it was but too easy to understand.
The rector, with the wisest care, had appropriated the money he had to
the various members of his family. The life interest of the greater part
was to be the mother’s; a small portion was to be given to the girls on
their marriage, and to the boys on their outset in life, and the capital
to be divided among them at Mrs. Damerel’s death. Nothing could be more
sensible or properly arranged. Mr. Hunsdon, Mrs. Damerel’s brother,
cleared his ruffled brow as he heard it. He had been possessed by an
alarmed sense of danger--a feeling that his sister and her family were
likely to come upon him--which weighed very heavily upon the good man’s
mind; but now his brow cleared. Further revelations, however, took away
this serenity. The money which Mr. Damerel had divided so judiciously
was almost all spent, either in unsuccessful speculations, of which he
had made several with a view to increase dividends; or by repeated
encroachments on the capital made to pay debts; or for one plausible
reason after another. Of the insurances on his life only one had been
kept up, and that chiefly because his bankers held it as security for
some advance, and had consequently seen that the premium was regularly
paid. These discoveries fell like so many thunderbolts upon the little
party. I don’t think Mrs. Damerel was surprised. She sat with her eyes
cast down and her hands clasped, with a flush of shame and trouble on
her face.

“Did you know of this, Rose?” her brother asked, sternly, anxious to
find some one to blame.

“I feared it,” she said, slowly, not lifting her eyes. The flush on her
cheek dried up all her tears.

Mr. Hunsdon, for one, believed that she was ashamed--not for the dead
man’s sake--but because she had shared in the doing of it, and was
confounded to find her ill doings brought into the light of day.

“But, good heavens!” he said in her ear, “did you know you were
defrauding your children when you wasted your substance like this? I
could not have believed it. Was my brother-in-law aware of the state of
the affairs? and what did he intend his family to do?”

“Mr. Damerel was not a business man,” said the lawyer. “He ought to have
left the management in our hands. That mining investment was a thing we
never would have recommended, and the neglect of the insurance is most
unfortunate. Mr. Damerel was never a man of business.”

In the presence of his wife it was difficult to say more.

“A man may not be a man of business, and yet not be a fool,” said Squire
Hunsdon, hastily. “I beg your pardon, Rose; I don’t want to be unkind.”

“Let me go, before you use such language,” she said, rising hastily. “I
cannot bear it. Whatever he has done that is amiss, he is not standing
here to answer before us now.”

“I mean no offence, Rose. Nay, sit down; don’t go away. You can’t
imagine--a man I had so much respect for--that I mean to cast any
reflections. We’ll enter into that afterwards,” said Mr. Hunsdon. “Let
us know at least what they will have to depend on, or if anything is
left.”

“There is very little left,” said Mrs. Damerel, facing the men, who
gazed at her wondering, with her pale face and widow’s cap. “We had not
very much at first, and it is gone; and you must blame me, if any one is
to blame. I was not, perhaps, a good manager. I was careless. I did not
calculate as I ought to have done. But if the blame is mine, the
punishment will also be mine. Do not say anything more about it, for no
one here will suffer but my children and me.”

“I don’t know about that. You must be patient, and you must not be
unreasonable,” said her brother. “Of course we cannot see you want;
though neither George nor I have much to spare; and it is our duty to
inquire.”

“Will inquiring bring back the money that is lost?” she said. “No, no;
you shall not suffer by me. However little it is, we will manage to live
on it; we will never be a burden upon any one. I don’t think I can bear
any more.”

And the judges before whom she stood (and not only she, but one who
could not answer for himself) were very compassionate to the widow,
though Mr. Hunsdon was still curious and much disturbed in his mind.
They slurred over the rest, and allowed Mrs. Damerel and her son and
daughter to go, and broke up the gloomy little assembly. Mr. Hunsdon
took Mr. Nolan by the arm and went out with him, leading him on to the
lawn, without any thought how the sound of his steps would echo upon the
hearts of the mourners. He would have seated himself in the chair which
still stood under the lime-trees had not Mr. Nolan managed to sway his
steps away from it, and lead him down the slope to the little platform
round the old thorn-tree which was invisible from the windows. The good
curate was deeply moved for both the living and the dead.

“I don’t mind speaking to you,” said the anxious brother; “I have heard
so much of you as an attached friend. You must have known them
thoroughly, and their way of living. I can’t think it was my sister’s
fault.”

“And I know,” said Mr. Nolan, with energy, “it was not her fault. It was
not any one’s fault. He had a generous, liberal way with him”--

“Had he?” said the squire, doubtfully. “He had a costly, expensive way
with him; is that what you mean? I am not saying anything against my
late brother-in-law. We got on very well, for we saw very little of each
other. He had a fine mind, and that sort of thing. I suppose they have
kept an extravagant house.”

“No, I assure you”--

“Entertained a good deal. Kept a good table, I am certain; good wine--I
never drank better claret than that we had last night--the sort of wine
_I_ should keep for company, and bring up only on grand occasions. If
there is much of it remaining I don’t mind buying a few dozen at their
own price,” Mr. Hunsdon said, parenthetically. “I see; fine cookery,
good wine, all the luxuries of the season, and the place kept up like a
duke’s--an expensive house.”

“No,” said the curate, reiterating an obstinate negative; and then he
said, hotly, “she did herself a great deal of injustice. She is the best
of managers--the most careful--making everything go twice as far and
look twice as well as anybody else.”

Mr. Hunsdon looked at him curiously, for he was one of those people who
think a man must be “in love with” any woman whose partisan he makes
himself. He made a private note of the curate’s enthusiasm, and
concluded it was best that his sister and her daughter should be warned
of his sentiments. “I have not seen very much of my poor brother-in-law
for some time,” he said, disguising his scrutiny, “so that I have no way
of judging for myself. I don’t know which is most to blame. In such
cases the wife can generally stop the extravagance if she likes. Two
boys at Eton, for example--_I_ can’t afford so much.”

“Bertie is on the foundation, and costs very little. He is a boy who
will do something in the world yet; and I ought to know, for I taught
him his first Greek. As for Reginald, his godfather pays his expenses,
as I suppose you know.”

“You have been here for a long time, I perceive,” said the squire, “if
you taught the boy his first Greek, as you say?”

“Eight years,” said Mr. Nolan, with a shrug of his shoulders.

“And now?”

“Now? I’ll go off again, I suppose, like a rollin’ stone, unless the new
rector will have me. God help us, what heartless brutes we are!” said
the curate, with fiery heat; “I’ve just laid my old rector in the grave,
and I think of the new one before the day’s gone. God forgive me; it’s
the way of the world.”

“And why shouldn’t you be rector yourself? No one would be so good for
the parish, I am sure.”

“Me!” said Mr. Nolan, his face lighting up with a broad gleam of humor,
which he quenched next moment in the half-conventional gravity which he
felt to be befitting to the occasion. “The days of miracles are over,
and I don’t expect to be made an exception. No; I’ll get a district
church maybe sometime, with plenty of hard work and little pay; but I am
not the kind that are made to be rectors. There is no chance for me.”

“The people would like it,” said Mr. Hunsdon, who was fishing for
information; “it would be a popular appointment, and my sister and I
would do anything that might lie in our power.”

Mr. Nolan shook his head. “Not they,” he said. “They have a kindness for
me in my humble condition. They know I’m a friend when they want one;
but they want something more to look at for their rector--and so do I
too.”

“You are not ambitious?” said Mr. Hunsdon, perplexed by his new
acquaintance, who shrugged his shoulders again, and rose hastily from
the seat under the thorn-tree where they had been sitting.

“That depends,” he said, with impatient vagueness; “but I have my work
waiting if I can be of no more use here. For whatever I can do, Mrs.
Damerel knows I am at her orders. And you won’t let her be worried just
yet a while?” he added, with a pleading tone, to which his mellow brogue
lent an insinuating force which few people could resist. “You’ll not go
till it’s fixed what they are to do?”

“You may be sure I shall do my duty by my sister,” said the squire, who,
though he had been willing to take the curate’s evidence about the most
intimate details of his sister’s life, instantly resented Mr. Nolan’s
“interference” when it came on his side. “He is in love with one or the
other, or perhaps with both,” said the man of the world to himself; “I
must put Rose on her guard;” which accordingly he tried to do, but quite
ineffectually, Mrs. Damerel’s mind being totally unable to take in the
insinuation which he scarcely ventured to put in plain words. But, with
the exception of this foolish mistake and of a great deal of implied
blame which it was not in the nature of the man to keep to himself, he
did try to do his duty as became a man with a certain amount of ordinary
affection for his sister, and a strong sense of what society required
from him as head of his family. However he might disapprove of her, and
the extravagance in which she had undeniably been act and part, yet he
could not abandon so near a relation. I should not like to decide
whether benefits conferred thus from a strong sense of duty have more or
less merit than those which flow from an affectionate heart and generous
nature, but certainly they have less reward of gratitude. The Green was
very much impressed by Mr. Hunsdon’s goodness to his sister, but I fear
that to her his goodness was a burden more painful than her poverty. And
yet he was very good. He undertook, in his brother’s name and his own,
to pay Bertie’s expenses at Eton, where the boy was doing so well; and
when it was decided, as the Green by infallible instinct had felt it
must be, that the White House was the natural refuge for Mrs. Damerel
when the time came to leave the rectory, Mr. Hunsdon made himself
responsible for the rent, and put it in order for her with true
liberality. The whole parish admired and praised him for this, and said
how fortunate Mrs. Damerel was to have so good a brother. And she tried
herself to feel it, and to be grateful as he deserved. But gratitude,
which springs spontaneous for the simplest of gifts, and exults over a
nothing, is often very slow to follow great benefits. Poor Mrs. Damerel
thought it was the deadness of her grief which made her so insensible to
her brother’s kindness. She thought she had grown incapable of feeling;
and she had so much to realize, so much to accustom herself to. A change
so great and fundamental confuses the mind. So far as she could see
before her, she had nothing now to look forward to in life but an
endless, humiliating struggle; and she forgot, in the softening of her
heart, that for years past she had been struggling scarcely less hardly.
When she looked back she seemed to see only happiness in comparison with
this dull deprivation of all light and hope in which she was left now.
But the reader knows that she had not been happy, and that this was but,
as it were, a prismatic reflection from her tears, a fiction of
imagination and sorrow; and by and by she began to see more clearly the
true state of affairs.

They stayed at the rectory till Christmas by grace of the new rector,
who unfortunately, however, could not keep on Mr. Nolan, of whose
preferment there never had been a glimmer of hope, beyond that period.
Christmas is a dreary time to go into a new home; though I don’t think
the rector of Dinglefield thought so, who brought home his bride to the
pretty rectory, and thought no life could begin more pleasantly than by
those cheerful Christmas services in the church, which was all embowered
in holly and laurel, in honor of the great English festival and in honor
of him; for the Green had of course taken special pains with the
decorations on account of the new-comer. The long and dreary autumn
which lay between their bereavement and their removal was, however, very
heavy and terrible for the Damerels. Its rains and fogs and dreary days
seemed to echo and increase their own heaviness of heart; and autumn as
it sinks into winter is all the more depressing in a leafy woodland
country, as it has been beautiful in its earlier stages. Even the little
children were subdued, they knew not why, and felt the change in die
house, though it procured them many privileges, and they might now even
play in the drawing-room unreproved, and were never sent away hurriedly
lest they should disturb papa, as had been the case of old when
sometimes they would snatch a fearful joy by a romp in the twilight
corners; even the babies felt that this new privilege was somehow a
symptom of some falling off and diminution in the family life. But no
one felt it as Rose did, who had been shaken out of all the habits of
her existence, without having as yet found anything to take their place.
She had not even entered upon the idea of duty when her secret romance
was brought to a sudden close, and that charmed region of imagination in
which youth so readily finds a refuge, and which gilds the homeliest
present with dreams of that which may be hereafter, had been arbitrarily
closed to the girl. Had her little romance been permitted to her, she
would have had a secret spring of hope and content to fall back upon,
and would have faced her new life bravely, with a sense of her own
individuality, such as seemed now to have faded altogether out of her
mind. Her very appearance changed, as was inevitable. Instead of the
blooming maiden we have known, it was the whitest of Roses that went
about the melancholy house in her black dress, with all the color and
life gone out of her, doing whatever she was told with a docility which
was sad to see. When she was left to herself she would sit idle or drop
absorbed into a book; but everything that was suggested to her she did,
without hesitation and without energy. The whole world had become
confined to her within these oppressive walls, within this sorrowful
house. The people on the Green looked at her with a kind of wondering
reverence, saying how she must have loved her father, and how she looked
as if she would never get over it. But grief was not all of the weight
which crushed her. She was for the moment bound as by some frost,
paralyzed in all the springs of her interrupted being. She had no
natural force of activity in her to neutralize the chill her soul had
taken. She did all that she was told to do, and took every suggestion
gratefully; but she had not yet learned to see for herself with her own
eyes what had to be done, nor did she realize all the changes that were
involved in the one great change which had come upon them. Misfortune
had fallen upon her while she was still in the dreamy vagueness of her
youth, when the within is more important than the without, and the real
and imaginary are so intermingled that it is hard to tell where one ends
and another begins. Necessity laid no wholesome, vigor-giving hand upon
her, because she was preoccupied with fancies which seemed more
important than the reality. Agatha, all alert and alive in her practical
matter-of-fact girlhood, was of more value in the house than poor Rose,
who was like a creature in a dream, not seeing anything till it was
pointed out to her; obeying always and humbly, but never doing or
originating anything from her own mind. Nobody understood her, not even
herself; and sometimes she would sit down and cry for her father,
thinking he would have known what it meant, without any recollection of
the share her father had in thus paralyzing her young life. This strange
condition of affairs was unknown, however, to any one out-of-doors
except Mr. Nolan, who, good fellow, took it upon him once to say a few
coaxing, admonishing words to her.

“You’ll ease the mother when you can, Miss Rose, dear,” he said, taking
her soft, passive hands between his own. “You don’t mind me saying
so--an old fellow and an old friend like me, that loves every one of
you, one better than another? I’ll hang on if I can, if the new man will
have me, and be of use--what’s the good of me else?--and you’ll put your
shoulder to the wheel with a good heart, like the darling girl that you
are?”

“My shoulder to the wheel,” said Rose, with a half-smile, “and with a
good heart! when I feel as if I had no heart at all?” and the girl began
to cry, as she did now for any reason, if she was startled, or any one
spoke to her suddenly. What could poor Mr. Nolan do but soothe and
comfort her? Poor child! they had taken away all the inner strength from
her before the time of trial came, and no better influence had yet
roused her from the shock, or made her feel that she had something in
her which was not to be crushed by any storm. Mr. Nolan knew as little
what to make of her as her mother did, who was slowly coming to her old
use and wont, and beginning to feel the sharpness of hardship, and to
realize once more how it was and why it was that this hardship came.



CHAPTER IX.


The White House did not stand on the Green, but on one of the roads
leading out of it, at a short distance from that centre of the world. It
looked large from outside--something between a mansion and a
cottage--and within was full of useless passages, confused little rooms,
and bits of staircases on which the unaccustomed passenger might break
his neck with ease, and a general waste of space and disorder of
arrangement which pleased the antiquary as quaint, but was much less
desirable practically than artistically. There were two sitting-rooms,
which were large and low, with raftered roofs, and small, deep-set
windows overgrown with creepers; and there was a garden, almost as
rambling as the house itself, and surrounded by old walls and hedges
which effectually shut out every view, except into its own grassy, mossy
depths. Some former enterprising inhabitant had introduced into the
drawing-room one long French window, by which there was a practicable
exit into the garden; and this was the only modern point in the house.
Some people said it spoilt the room, which otherwise would have been
perfect; but it was a great convenience and comfort to the Damerels in
summer, at least. The house was somewhat damp, somewhat weedy, rather
dark; but it was roomy, and more like a house in which gentlefolks could
melt away into penury than a pert little new brick house in a street. It
was very cheap; for it had various disadvantages, into which I am not
called upon to enter. Mrs. Damerel, whose house had always been the
perfection of houses, with every new sanitary invention, was glad to put
up with these drawbacks for the sake of the low rent--so vast and so
many are the changes which absence of money makes. Before Christmas Day
they had all the old furniture--save some special pieces of _virtu_,
graceful old cabinets, mirrors, and ornamental things, which were
sold--arranged and adapted, and settled down in tolerable comfort. The
boys, when they came from school, looked with doubtful faces at the
change, especially Reginald, who was humiliated by it, and found fault
with the room allotted to him, and with the deficiencies of service.
“Poor! why are we poor? It must be some one’s fault,” said this boy to
his sister Agatha, who cried, and declared passionately that she wished
he had not come back, but had gone to his fine godfather, whom he was
always talking of. When an invitation arrived for him from his
godfather, some days later, I think they were all glad; for Reginald was
very like his father, and could not bear anything mean or poor. The
number of servants had dwindled to one, who made believe to be of all
work, and did a little of everything. Except in the case of those lucky
families who abound in fiction, and now and then, _par exception_, are
to be found in ordinary life, who possess a faithful and devoted and
all-accomplished woman, who, for love of them, forsakes all hopes of
bettering herself, and applies at once genius and knowledge to the
multifarious duties of maid-of-all-work--this class of functionary is as
great a trouble to her employers as to herself; and to fall back upon
attendance so uninstructed and indifferent is one of the hardest
consequences of social downfall. The girls had to make up Mary Jane’s
deficiencies in the White House; and at first, as they were not used to
it, the results were but little consolatory. Even Bertie, perhaps,
though a good son and a good boy, was not sorry to get back to school,
and to the society of his friends, after these first holidays, which had
not been happy ones. Poor children! none of them had ever known before
what it was to do without what they wanted, and to be content with the
bare necessaries of life.

All the same, a shower of cards from all the best people about came
pouring down upon the new dwellers in the White House, and were taken in
by Mary Jane between a grimy finger and thumb to the drawing-room, where
the rumble of the departing carriages excited Agatha and Patty, at
least, if no one else. And all the people on the Green made haste to
call to express their sympathy and friendliness. Mrs. Wodehouse was the
only one who did not ask to see Mrs. Damerel; but even she did not lose
a day in calling; and, indeed, it was while on her way from the White
House that for the first time she met Rose, who had been out about some
business for her mother, and who, with her black veil over her face, was
straying slowly home. Mrs. Wodehouse said “Good morning,” with a
determination to hold by her formula and not be tempted into kindness;
but when the girl put back her veil and showed her pale face, the good
woman’s heart melted in spite of herself.

[Illustration: THEY WERE INTERRUPTED BY A THIRD PERSON WHO HAD COME
ALONG THE ROAD.]

“How pale you are!” she said. “Oh, Rose! and how is your mother?” she
added hastily, trying to save herself from the overflowing of
tenderness which came upon her unawares.

“Are you going to see her?” said Rose.

“I have been to call; I did not, of course, expect she would see me. And
how do you like the White House? I hope you have not been ill; you do
not look so fresh as when I saw you last.”

“It is very nice,” said Rose, answering the first question; “though it
feels damp just at first; we all think we shall soon get used to it. It
is a long time since I saw you last.”

This was said with a little piteous smile which made Mrs. Wodehouse’s
resolution “never to forgive” become more and more hard to keep.

“I could not think I was wanted,” she said with an effort to appear
short and stern, “or I should have gone to your mother before now.”

“Why?” asked Rose, with a wondering glance; and then, as there was a
dead pause, which was awkward, she said, softly: “I hope you have news
from--your son?”

“Oh, yes; I have news from him. He is always very good in writing. There
never was a kinder boy to his mother. He never forgets me; though there
are many people who would fain get his attention. Edward is always
finding friends wherever he goes.”

“I am glad,” said poor Rose.

“Plenty of friends! I have nothing but good news of him. He writes in
the best of spirits. Oh, Rose!” cried Mrs. Wodehouse, hurriedly running
one subject into another with breathless precipitancy, “how could you be
so heartless--so unkind--as not to come down-stairs when I asked you to
bid my poor boy good-by?”

A flush of color came upon Rose’s pale face; it made her look like
herself again. “I could not,” she said; “do not be angry. I have so
wanted to tell you. There was nobody there but me, and he held my hand,
and would not let me leave him. I could not. Oh! how glad I am that you
have asked me! It was not my fault.” Her father’s name brought the big
tears to her eyes. “Poor papa!” she added, softly, with an instinctive
sense that he needed defence.

Whether Mrs. Wodehouse would have taken her to her arms forthwith on the
open Green in the wintry afternoon light, if no one had disturbed them,
I cannot tell; but, just as she was putting out her hands to the girl,
they were interrupted by a third person, who had been coming along the
road unnoticed, and who now came forward, with his hat in his hand, and
with the usual inquiry about her mother to which Rose was accustomed.
The sound of his voice made Mrs. Wodehouse start with suppressed anger
and dismay; and Rose looked out from the heavy shadow of the crape veil,
which showed the paleness of her young face, as if under a penthouse or
heavy-shaded cavern. But she was not pale at that moment; a light of
emotion was in her face. The tears were hanging on her eyelashes; her
soft lip was quivering. Mr. Incledon thought that grief and downfall had
done all that the severest critic could have desired for her young
beauty. It had given tenderness, expression, feeling to the blooming
rose face, such as is almost incompatible with the first radiance of
youth.

“Would Mrs. Damerel see me, do you think?” he asked; “or is it too early
to intrude upon her? It is about business I want to speak.”

“I will ask,” said Rose. “But if it is about business she will be sure
to see you. She says she is always able for that.”

“Then I will say good-by,” said Mrs. Wodehouse, unreasonably excited and
angry, she could scarcely tell why. She made a step forward, and then
came back again with a little compunction, to add, in an undertone: “I
am glad we have had this little explanation. I will tell him when I
write, and it will please him, too.”

“You have not been quarrelling with Mrs. Wodehouse, that you should have
little explanations?” said Mr. Incledon, as he walked along to the White
House by Rose’s side.

“Oh, no! it was nothing;” but he saw the old rose flush sweep over the
cheeks which had half relapsed into paleness. What was it? and who did
Mrs. Wodehouse mean to write to? and what was she glad about? These
foolish questions got into the man’s head, though they were too
frivolous to be thought of. She took him into the drawing-room at the
White House, which was almost dark by this time, it was so low; and
where the cheery glimmer of the fire made the room look much more
cheerful than it ever was in the short daylight, through the many
branches that surrounded the house. Mrs. Damerel was sitting alone there
over the fire; and Rose left him with her mother, and went away, bidding
Agatha watch over the children that no one might disturb mamma. “She is
talking to Mr. Incledon about business,” said Rose, passing on to her
own room; and Agatha, who was sharp of wit, could not help wondering
what pleasant thing had happened to her sister to make her voice so soft
and thrilling. “I almost expected to hear her sing,” Agatha said
afterwards; though indeed a voice breaking forth in a song, as all their
voices used to do, six months ago, would have seemed something impious
at this moment, in the shadow that lay over the house.

Mr. Incledon was nearly an hour “talking business” with Mrs. Damerel,
during which time they sat in the firelight and had no candles, being
too much interested in their conversation to note how time passed. Mrs.
Damerel said nothing about the business when the children came in to
tea--the homely and inexpensive meal which had replaced dinner in the
White House. Her eyes showed signs of tears, and she was very quiet, and
let the younger ones do and say almost what they pleased. But if the
mother was quiescent, Rose, too, had changed in a different way. Instead
of sitting passive, as she usually did, it was she who directed Agatha
and Patty about their lessons, and helped Dick, and sent the little ones
off at their proper hour to bed. There was a little glimmer of light in
her eyes, a little dawn of color in her cheek. The reason was nothing
that could have been put into words--a something perfectly baseless,
visionary, and unreasonable. It was not the hope of being reconciled to
Edward Wodehouse, for she had never quarrelled with him; nor the hope of
seeing him again, for he was gone for years. It was merely that she had
recovered her future, her imagination, her land of promise. The
visionary barrier which had shut her out from that country of dreams had
been removed--it would be hard to say how; for good Mrs. Wodehouse
certainly was not the door-keeper of Rose’s imagination, nor had it in
her power to shut and open at her pleasure. But what does how and why
matter in that visionary region? It was so, which is all that need be
said. She was not less sorrowful, but she had recovered herself. She was
not less lonely, nor did she feel less the change in her position; but
she was once more Rose, an individual creature, feeling the blood run in
her veins, and the light lighten upon her, and the world spread open
before her.

    If I have freedom in my love,
    And in my soul am free--

I suppose this was how she felt. She had got back that consciousness
which is sometimes bitter and sometimes sad, but without which we cannot
live--the consciousness that she was no shadow in the world, but
herself; no reflection of another’s will and feelings, but possessor of
her own.

When her mother and she were left alone, Rose got up from where she was
sitting and drew a low chair, which belonged to one of the children, to
her mother’s knee. Mrs. Damerel, too, had watched Agatha’s lingering
exit with some signs of impatience, as if she, too, had something to
say; but Rose had not noticed this, any more than her mother had noticed
the new impulse which was visible in her child. The girl was so full of
it that she began to speak instantly, without waiting for any question.

“Mamma,” she said, softly, “I have not been a good daughter to you; I
have left you to take all the trouble, and I have not tried to be of
use. I want to tell you that I have found it out, and that I will try
with all my heart to be different from to-day.”

“Rose, my dear child!”--Mrs. Damerel was surprised and troubled. The
tears, which rose so easily now, came with a sudden rush to her eyes.
She put her arms around the girl, and drew her close, and kissed her. “I
have never found fault with you, my darling,” she said.

“No, mamma; and that makes me feel it more. But it shall be different; I
am sorry, more sorry than I can tell you; but it shall be different from
to-day.”

“But, Rose, what has put this into your head to-day?”

A wavering blush came and went upon Rose’s face. She had it almost in
her heart to tell her mother; but yet there was nothing to tell, and
what could she say?

“I--can’t tell, mamma. It is mild and like spring. I think it was being
out, and hearing people speak--kindly”--

Here Rose paused, and, in her turn, let fall a few soft tears. She had
gone out very little, scarcely stirring beyond the garden, since her
father’s death, and Mrs. Damerel thought it was the mere impulse of
reviving life; unless indeed--

“My dear, did Mr. Incledon say anything to you!” she asked, with a vague
hope.

“Mr. Incledon? Oh, no! except to ask me if you would see him--on
business. What was his business?” said innocent Rose, looking up into
her mother’s face.

“Rose,” said Mrs. Damerel, “I was just about to speak to you on a very
important matter when you began. My dear, I must tell you at once what
Mr. Incledon’s business was. It was about you.”

“About me?” All the color went out of Rose’s face in a moment; she
recollected the visit to Whitton, and the sudden light that had flashed
upon her as he and she looked at the picture together. She had forgotten
all about it months ago, and indeed had never again thought of Mr.
Incledon. But now in a moment her nerves began to thrill and her heart
to beat; yet she herself, in whom the nerves vibrated and the heart
throbbed, to turn to stone.

“Rose, you are not nervous or silly like many girls, and you know now
what life is--not all a happy dream, as it sometimes seems at the
beginning. My dear, I have in my hand a brighter future than you ever
could have hoped for, if you will have it. Mr. Incledon has asked my
leave to ask you to be his wife. Rose”--

“Me! his wife!” Rose clutched at her mother’s hand and repeated these
words with a pant of fright; though it seemed to her the moment they
were said as if she had all her life known they were coming, and had
heard them a hundred times before.

“That is what he wants, Rose. Don’t tremble so, nor look at me so
wildly. It is a wonderful thing to happen to so young a girl as you. He
is very good and very kind, and he would be, oh! of so much help to all
your family; and he could give you everything that heart can desire, and
restore you to far more than you have lost; and he is very fond of you,
and would make you an excellent husband. I promised to speak to you,
dear. You must think it over. He does not wish you to give him an answer
at once.”

“Mamma,” said Rose, hoarsely, with a sudden trembling which seemed to
reach into her very heart, “is it not better to give an answer at once?
Mamma, I am not fond of him. I think it would be best to say so now.”

“You are not fond of him? Is that all the consideration you give such a
question? You do not intend _that_ for an answer, Rose?”

“Oh, mamma, is it not enough? What more answer could I give? I am not
fond of him at all. I could not pretend to be. When it is an answer like
that, surely it is best to give it now.”

“And so,” said her mother, “you throw aside one of the best offers that
ever a girl received, with less thought on the subject than you would
give to a cat or a dog! You decide your whole future without one
thought. Rose, is this the helpfulness you have just promised me? Is
this the thoughtfulness for yourself and all of us that I have a right
to expect?”

Rose did not know what to reply. She looked at her mother with eyes
suddenly hollowed out by fear and anxiety and trouble, and watched every
movement of her lips and hands with a growing alarm which she could not
control.

“You do not speak? Rose, Rose, you must see how wrong you would be to
act so hastily. If it were a question of keeping or sending away a
servant, nay, even a dog, you would give more thought to it; and this is
a man who loves, who would make you happy. Oh, do not shake your head!
How can a child of your age know? A man who, I am sure, would make you
happy; a man who could give you everything and more than everything,
Rose. I cannot let you decide without thought.”

“Does one need to think?” said Rose, slowly, after a pause. “I do not
care for him, I cannot care for him. You would not have me tell a lie?”

“I would have you deny yourself,” cried her mother; “I would have you
think of some higher rule than your own pleasure. Is that the best
thing in the world, to please yourself? Oh, I could tell you stories of
that! Why are we in this poor little house with nothing? why is my poor
Bertie dependent upon my brother, and you girls forced to work like
maid-servants, and our life all changed? Through self-indulgence, Rose.
Oh! God forgive me for saying it, but I must tell the truth. Through
choosing the pleasure of the moment rather than the duties that we
cannot shake off; through deciding always to do what one liked rather
than to do what was right. Here are eight of you children with your
lives blighted, all that one might be pleasant and unburdened. I have
suffered under it all my life. Not anything wrong, not anything wicked,
but only, and always and before everything, what one liked one’s self.”

Mrs. Damerel spoke with a passion which was very unlike her usual calm.
The lines came into her brow which Rose remembered of old, but which the
tranquillity of grief had smoothed out. A hot color mounted to her
cheeks, making a line beneath her eyes. The girl was struck dumb by this
sudden vehemence. Her reason was confused by the mingled truth and
sophistry, which she felt without knowing how to disentangle them, and
she was shocked and wounded by the implied blame thus cast upon him who
had been of late the idol of her thoughts, and whom, if she had once
timidly begun to form a judgment on him, she had long ceased to think of
as anything but perfect.

“Oh! stop, stop! don’t say any more!” she cried, clasping her hands.

“I cannot stop,” said Mrs. Damerel; “not now, when I have begun. I never
thought to say as much to one of his children, and to no other could I
ever speak, Rose. I see the same thing in Reginald, and it makes my
heart sick; must I find it in you too? There are people who are so happy
as to like what they have to do, what it is their duty to do; and these
are the blessed ones. But it is not always, it is not often so in this
life. Dear, listen to what I say. Here is a way by which you may make up
for much of the harm that has been done; you may help all that belong to
you; you may put yourself in a position to be useful to many; you may
gain what men only gain by the labor of their lives; and all this by
marrying a good man whom you will make happy. Will you throw it away
because at the first glance it is not what your fancy chooses? Will you
set your own taste against everybody’s advantage? Oh, my darling, think,
think! Do not let your first motive, in the first great thing you are
called upon to do, be mere self!”

Mrs. Damerel stopped short, with a dry glitter in her eyes and a voice
which was choked and broken. She was moved to the extent of passion--she
who in general was so self-restrained. A combination of many emotions
worked within her. To her mind, every good thing for her child was
contained in this proposal; and in Rose’s opposition to it she saw the
rising of the poisonous monster which had embittered her whole life. She
did not pause to ask herself what there was in the nature of this
sacrifice she demanded, which made it less lawful, less noble, than the
other sacrifices which are the Christian’s highest ideal of duty. It was
enough that by this step, which did not seem to Mrs. Damerel so very
hard, Rose would do everything for herself and much for her family, and
that she hesitated, declined to take it, because it was not pleasant,
because she did not like it. Like it! The words raised a perfect storm
in the breast of the woman who had been made wretched all her life by
her ineffectual struggle against the habitual decision of her husband
for what he liked. She was too much excited to hear what Rose had to
say; if, indeed, poor Rose had anything to say after this sudden storm
which had broken upon her.

“We will speak of it to-morrow, when you have had time to think,” she
said, kissing her daughter, and dismissing her hastily. When Rose had
gone, she fell back into her chair by the waning firelight, and thought
over the many times in her own life when she had battled and had been
worsted on this eternal point of difference between the two classes of
humanity. She had struggled for self-denial against self-indulgence in a
hundred different ways on a hundred fields of battle, and here was the
end of it: a poor old house, tumbling to pieces about her ears, a poor
little pittance, just enough to give her children bread; and for those
children no prospect but toil for which they had not been trained, and
which changed their whole conception of life. Bertie, her bright boy,
for whom everything had been hoped, if her brother’s precarious bounty
should fail, what was there before him but a poor little clerkship in
some office from which he never could rise, and which, indeed, his uncle
had suggested at first as a way of making him helpful to his family. God
help her! This was what a virtuous and natural preference for the things
one liked had brought Mrs. Damerel to; and if her mind took a confused
and over-strained view of the subject, and of the lengths to which
self-denial ought to be carried, was it any wonder? I think there is a
great deal to be said on her side of the case.

Rose, for her part, lit her candle and went up the old stairs--which
creaked under her light foot--with her head bent down, and her heart
stifled under a weight that was too much for her. A cold, cold January
night, the chill air coming in at the old casements, the dark skies
without lending no cheering influence, and no warmth of cheery fires
within to neutralize Nature’s heaviness; an accusation thrown upon her
under which her whole being ached and revolted; a duty set before her
which was terrible to think of; and no one to advise, or comfort, or
help. What was she to do?



CHAPTER X.


Mr. Incledon was a man of whom people said that any girl might be glad
to marry him; and considering marriage from an abstract point of view,
as one naturally does when it does not concern one’s self, this was
entirely true. In position, in character, in appearance, and in
principles, he was everything that could be desired: a good man, just,
and never consciously unkind; nay, capable of generosity when it was
worth his while and he had sufficient inducement to be generous. A man
well educated, who had been much about the world, and had learned the
toleration which comes by experience; whose opinions were worth hearing
on almost every subject; who had read a great deal, and thought a
little, and was as much superior to the ordinary young man of society in
mind and judgment as he was in wealth. That this kind of man often fails
to captivate a foolish girl, when her partner in a valse, brainless,
beardless, and penniless, succeeds without any trouble in doing so, is
one of those mysteries of nature which nobody can penetrate, but which
happens too often to be doubted. Even in this particular, however, Mr.
Incledon had his advantages. He was not one of those who, either by
contempt for the occupations of youth or by the gravity natural to
maturer years, allow themselves to be pushed aside from the lighter part
of life--he still danced, though not with the absolute devotion of
twenty, and retained his place on the side of youth, not permitting
himself to be shelved. More than once, indeed, the young officers from
the garrison near, and the young scions of the county families, had
looked on with puzzled non-comprehension, when they found themselves
altogether distanced in effect and popularity by a mature personage whom
they would gladly have called an old fogy had they dared. These young
gentlemen of course consoled their vanity by railing against the
mercenary character of women who preferred wealth to everything. But it
was not only his wealth upon which Mr. Incledon stood. No girl who had
married him need have felt herself withdrawn to the grave circle in
which her elders had their place. He was able to hold his own in every
pursuit with men ten years his juniors, and did so. Then, too, he had
almost a romantic side to his character; for a man so well off does not
put off marrying for so long without a reason, and though nobody knew of
any previous story, any “entanglement,” which would have restrained him,
various picturesque suggestions were afloat; and even failing these, the
object of his choice might have laid the flattering unction to her soul
that his long waiting had been for the realization of some perfect
ideal, which he found only in her.

This model of a marriageable man took his way from the White House in a
state of mind less easily described than most of his mental processes.
He was not excited to speak of, for an interview between a lover of
thirty-five and the mother of the lady is not generally exciting; but he
was a little doubtful of his own perfect judiciousness in the step he
had just taken. I can no more tell you why he had set his heart on Rose
than I can say why she felt no answering inclination towards him--for
there were many other girls in the neighborhood who would in many ways
have been more suitable to a man of his tastes and position. But Rose
was the one woman in the world for him, by sheer caprice of nature; just
as reasonable, and no more so, as that other caprice which made him,
with all his advantages and recommendations, not the man for her. If
ever a man was in a position to make a deliberate choice, such as men
are commonly supposed to make in matrimony, Mr. Incledon was the man;
yet he chose just as much and as little as the rest of us do. He saw
Rose, and some power which he knew nothing of decided the question at
once for him. He had not been thinking of marriage, but then he made up
his mind to marry; and whereas he had on various occasions weighed the
qualities and the charms of this one and the other, he never asked
himself a question about her, nor compared her with any other woman, nor
considered whether she was suited for him, or anything else about her.
This was how he exercised that inestimable privilege of choice which
women sometimes envy. But, having once received this conviction into his
mind, he had never wavered in his determination to win her. The question
in his mind now was, not whether his selection was the best he could
have made, but whether it was wise of him to have entrusted his cause to
the mother rather than to have spoken to Rose herself. He had remained
in the background during those dreary months of sorrow. He had sent
flowers and game and messages of inquiry; but he had not thrust himself
upon the notice of the women, till their change of residence gave token
that they must have begun to rouse themselves for fresh encounter with
the world. When he was on his way to the White House he had fully
persuaded himself that to speak to the mother first was the most
delicate and the most wise thing he could do. For one thing, he could
say so much more to her than he could to Rose; he could assure her of
his good-will and of his desire to be of use to the family, should he
become a member of it. Mr. Incledon did not wish to bribe Mrs. Damerel
to be on his side. He had indeed a reasonable assurance that no such
bribe was necessary, and that a man like himself must always have a
reasonable mother on his side. This he was perfectly aware of, as indeed
any one in his senses would have been. But as soon as he had made his
declaration to Mrs. Damerel, and had left the White House behind, his
thoughts began to torment him with doubts of the wisdom of this
proceeding. He saw very well that there was no clinging of enthusiastic
love, no absolute devotedness of union, between this mother and
daughter, and he began to wonder whether he might not have done better
had he run all the risks and broached the subject to Rose herself, shy
and liable to be startled as she was. It was perhaps possible that his
own avowal, which must have had a certain degree of emotion in it, would
have found better acceptation with her than the passionless statement of
his attentions which Mrs. Damerel would probably make. For it never
dawned upon Mr. Incledon’s imagination that Mrs. Damerel would support
his suit not with calmness, but passionately--more passionately,
perhaps, than would have been possible to himself. He could not have
divined any reason why she should do so, and naturally he had not the
least idea of the tremendous weapons she was about to employ in his
favor. I don’t think, for very pride and shame, that he would have
sanctioned the use of them, had he known.

It happened, however, by chance, that as he walked home in the wintry
twilight he met Mrs. Wodehouse and her friend Mrs. Musgrove, who were
going the same way as he was, on their way to see the Northcotes, who
had lately come to the neighborhood. He could not but join them so far
in their walk, nor could he avoid the conversation which was inevitable.
Mrs. Wodehouse indeed was very eager for it, and began almost before he
could draw breath.

“Did you see Mrs. Damerel after all?” she asked. “You remember I met you
when you were on your way?”

“Yes; she was good enough to see me,” said Mr. Incledon.

“And how do you think she is looking? I hear such different accounts;
some people say very ill, some just as usual. I have not seen her,
myself,” said Mrs. Wodehouse, slightly drawing herself up, “except in
church.”

“How was that?” he said, half amused. “I thought you had always been
great friends.”

Upon this he saw Mrs. Musgrove give a little jerk to her friend’s cloak,
in warning, and perceived that Mrs. Wodehouse wavered between a desire
to tell a grievance and the more prudent habit of self-restraint.

“Oh!” she said, with a little hesitation; “yes, of course we were always
good friends. I had a great admiration for our late good rector, Mr.
Incledon. What a man he was! Not to say a word against the new one, who
is very nice, he will never be equal to Mr. Damerel. What a fine mind he
had, and a style, I am told, equal to the very finest preachers! We must
never hope to hear such sermons in our little parish again. Mrs. Damerel
is a very good woman, and I feel for her deeply; but the attraction in
that house, as I am sure you must have felt, was not her, but him.”

“I have always had a great regard for Mrs. Damerel,” said Mr. Incledon.

“Oh, yes, yes! I am sure--a good wife and an excellent mother and all
that; but not the fine mind, not the intellectual conversation, one used
to have with the dear rector,” said good Mrs. Wodehouse, who had about
as much intellect as would lie on a sixpence; and then she added,
“perhaps I am prejudiced; I never can get over a slight which I am sure
she showed to my son.”

“Ah! what was that?”

Mrs. Musgrove once more pulled her friend’s cloak, and there was a great
deal more eagerness and interest than the occasion deserved in Mr.
Incledon’s tone.

“Oh, nothing of any consequence! What do you say, dear?--a mistake?
Well, I don’t think it was a mistake. They thought Edward was going
to--yes, _that_ was a mistake, if you please. I am sure he had many
other things in his mind a great deal more important. But they
thought--and though common civility demanded something different, and I
took the trouble to write a note and ask it, I do think--but, however,
after the words I had with her to-day, I no longer blame Rose. Poor
child! I am always very sorry for poor Rose.”

“Why should you be sorry for Miss Damerel? Was she one of those who,
slighted your son? I hope Mr. Edward Wodehouse is quite well.”

“He is very well, I thank you, and getting on so satisfactorily; nothing
could be more pleasant. Oh, you must not think Edward cared! He has seen
a great deal of the world, and he did not come home to let himself be
put down by the family of a country clergyman. That is not at all what I
meant; I am sorry for Rose, however, because of a great many things. She
ought to go out as a governess or companion, or something of that sort,
poor child! Mrs. Damerel may try, but I am sure they never can get on as
they are doing. I hear that all they have to depend on is about a
hundred and fifty a year. A family can never live upon that, not with
their habits, Mr. Incledon; and therefore I think I may well say _poor_
Rose!”

“I don’t think Miss Damerel will ever require to make such a sacrifice,”
he said, hurriedly.

“Well, I only hope you are right,” said Mrs. Wodehouse. “Of course you
know a great deal more about business matters than I do, and perhaps
their money is at higher interest than we think for; but if I were Rose
I almost think I should see it to be my duty. Here we are at Mrs.
Northcote’s, dear. Mr. Incledon, I am afraid we must say good-by.”

Mr. Incledon went home very hot and fast after this conversation. It
warmed him in the misty, cold evening, and seemed to put so many weapons
into his hand. Rose, his Rose, go out as a governess or companion! He
looked at the shadow of his own great house standing out against the
frosty sky, and laughed to himself as he crossed the park. She a
dependent, who might to-morrow if she pleased be virtual mistress of
Whitton and all its wealth! He would have liked to say to these women,
“In three months Rose will be the great lady of the parish, and lay down
the law to you and the Green, and all your gossiping society.” He would
even in a rare fit of generosity have liked to tell them, on the spot,
that this blessedness was in Rose’s power, to give her honor in their
eyes, whether she accepted him or not; which was a very generous impulse
indeed, and one which few men would have been equal to--though indeed as
a matter of fact Mr. Incledon did not carry it out. But he went into the
lonely house where everything pleasant and luxurious, except the one
crowning luxury of some one to share it with, awaited him, in a glow of
energy and eagerness, resolved to go back again to-morrow and plead his
cause with Rose herself, and win her, not prudentially through her
mother, but by his own warmth of love and eloquence. Poor Rose in June!
In the wintry setting of the White House she was not much like the
rector’s flower-maiden, in all her delicate perfection of bloom, “queen
rose of the rosebud garden,” impersonation of all the warmth, and
sweetness, and fragrance, and exquisite simple profusion of summer and
nature. Mr. Incledon’s heart swelled full of love and pity as he thought
of the contrast--not with passion, but soft tenderness, and a delicious
sense of what it was in his power to do for her, and to restore her to.
He strayed over the rooms which he had once shown to her, with a natural
pride in their beauty, and in all the delicate treasures he had
accumulated there, until he came to the little inner room with its
gray-green hangings, in which hung the Perugino, which, since Rose had
seen it, he had always called his Raphael. He seemed to see her too,
standing there looking at it, a creature partaking something of that
soft divinity, an enthusiast with sweet soul and looks congenial to that
heavenly art. I do not know that his mind was of a poetical turn by
nature, but there are moments when life makes a poet of the dullest; and
on this evening the lonely, quiet house within the parks and woods of
Whitton, where there had been neither love, nor anything worth calling
life, for years, except in the cheery company of the servants’ hall,
suddenly got itself lighted up with ethereal lights of tender
imagination and feeling. The illumination did not show outwardly, or it
might have alarmed the Green, which was still unaware that the queen of
the house had passed by there, and the place lighted itself up in
prospect of her coming.

After dinner, however, Mr. Incledon descended from these regions of
fancy and took a step which seemed to himself a very clever as well as
prudent, and at the same time a very friendly, one. He had not
forgotten, any more than the others had, that summer evening on the lawn
at the rectory, when young Wodehouse had strayed down the hill with
Rose, out of sight of the seniors of the party, and though all his
active apprehensions on that score had been calmed down by Edward’s
departure, yet he was too wise not to perceive that there was something
in Mrs. Wodehouse’s disjointed talk more than met the eye at the first
glance.

Mr. Incledon had a friend who was one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and
upon whom he could rely to do him a service; a friend whom he had never
asked for anything--for what was official patronage to the master of
Whitton? He wrote him a long and charming letter, which, if I had only
room for it, or if it had anything to do except incidentally with this
simple history, would give the reader a much better idea of his
abilities and social charms than anything I can show of him here. In it
he discussed the politics of the moment, and that gossip on a dignified
scale about ministers and high officials of state which is half
history--and he touched upon social events in a light and amusing
strain, with that half cynicism which lends salt to correspondence; and
he told his friend half gayly, half seriously, that he was beginning to
feel somewhat solitary, and that dreams of marrying, and marrying soon,
were stealing into his mind. And he told him about his Perugino (“which
I fondly hope may turn out an early Raphael”), and which it would
delight him to show to a brother connoisseur. “And, by the bye,” he
added, after all this, “I have a favor to ask of you which I have kept
to the end like a lady’s postscript. I want you to extend the ægis of
your protection over a fine young fellow in whom I am considerably
interested. His name is Wodehouse, and his ship is at present on that
detestable slave trade service which costs us so much money and does so
little good. He has been a long time in the service, and I hear he is a
very promising young officer. I should consider it a personal favor if
you could do something for him; and (N. B.) it would be a still greater
service to combine promotion with as distant a post as possible. His
friends are anxious to keep him out of the way for private reasons--the
old ‘entanglement’ business, which, of course, you will understand; but
I think it hard that this sentence of banishment should be conjoined
with such a disagreeable service. Give him a gunboat, and send him to
look for the Northwest passage, or anywhere else where my lords have a
whim for exploring! I never thought to have paid such a tribute to your
official dignity as to come, hat in hand, for a place, like the rest of
the world. But no man, I suppose, can always resist the common impulse
of his kind; and I am happy in the persuasion that to you I will not
plead in vain.”

I am afraid that nothing could have been more disingenuous than this
letter. How it worked, the reader will see hereafter; but, in the mean
time, I cannot defend Mr. Incledon. He acted, I suppose, on the old and
time-honored sentiment that any stratagem is allowable in love and war,
and consoled himself for the possible wrong he might be doing (only a
possible wrong, for Wodehouse might be kept for years cruising after
slaves, for anything Mr. Incledon knew) by the unquestionable benefit
which would accompany it. “A young fellow living by his wits will find a
gunboat of infinitely more service to him than a foolish love affair
which never could come to anything,” his rival said to himself.

And after having sealed this letter, he returned into his fairy land. He
left the library where he had written it, and went to the drawing-room
which he rarely used, but which was warm with a cheerful fire and
lighted with soft wax-lights for his pleasure, should he care to enter.
He paused at the door a moment and looked at it. The wonders of
upholstery in this carefully decorated room, every scrap of furniture in
which had cost its master thought, would afford pages of description to
a fashionable American novelist, or to the refined chronicles of the
“Family Herald;” but I am not sufficiently learned to do them justice.
The master of the house, however, looked at the vacant room with its
softly burning lights, its luxurious vacant seats, its closely drawn
curtains, the books on the tables which no one ever opened, the pictures
on the walls which nobody looked at (except on great occasions), with a
curious sense at once of desolation and of happiness. How dismal its
silence was! not a sound but the dropping of the ashes from the fire, or
the movement of the burning fuel; and he himself a ghost looking into a
room which might be inhabited by ghosts for aught he knew. Here and
there, indeed, a group of chairs had been arranged by accident so as to
look as if they were occupied, as if one unseen being might be
whispering to another, noiselessly smiling, and pointing at the
solitary. But no, there was a pleasanter interpretation to be given to
that soft, luxurious, brightly-colored vacancy; it was all prepared and
waiting, ready for the gentle mistress who was to come.

How different from the low-roofed drawing-room at the White House, with
the fireplace at one end of the long room, with the damp of ages in the
old walls, with draughts from every door and window, and an indifferent
lamp giving all the light they could afford! Mr. Incledon, perhaps,
thought of that, too, with an increased sense of the advantages he had
to offer; but lightly, not knowing all the discomforts of it. He went
back to his library after this inspection, and the lights burned on, and
the ghosts, if there were any, had the full enjoyment of it till the
servants came to extinguish the candles and shut up everything for the
night.



CHAPTER XI.


When Rose went up the creaking stairs to bed on that memorable night her
feelings were like those of some one who has just been overtaken by one
of the great catastrophes of nature--a hurricane or an earthquake--and
who, though escaped for the moment, hears the tempest gathering in
another quarter, and knows that this is but the first flash of its
wrath, and that he has yet worse encounters to meet. I am of Mr.
Incledon’s opinion--or rather of the doubt fast ripening into an opinion
in his mind--that he had made a mistake, and that possibly if he had
taken Rose herself “with the tear in her eye,” and pressed his suit at
first hand, he might have succeeded better; but such might-be’s are
always doubtful to affirm and impossible to prove. She sat down for a
while in her cold room, where the draughts were playing freely about,
and where there was no fire--to think; but as for thinking, that was an
impossible operation in face of the continued gleams of fancy which kept
showing now one scene to her, now another; and of the ringing echo of
her mother’s words which kept sounding through and through the
stillness. Self-indulgence--choosing her own pleasure rather than her
duty--what she liked instead of what was right. Rose was far too much
confused to make out how it was that these reproaches seemed to her
instinct so inappropriate to the question; she only felt it vaguely, and
cried a little at the thought of the selfishness attributed to her; for
there is no opprobrious word that cuts so deeply into the breast of a
romantic, innocent girl. She sat there pensive till all her faculties
got absorbed in the dreary sense of cold and bodily discomfort, and then
she rose and said her prayers, and untwisted her pretty hair and brushed
it out, and went to bed, feeling as if she would have to watch through
the long, dark hours till morning, though the darkness and loneliness
frightened her, and she dreaded the night. But Rose was asleep in half
an hour, though the tears were not dry on her eyelashes, and I think
slept all the long night through which she had been afraid of, and woke
only when the first gray of daylight revealed the cold room and a cold
morning dimly to her sight--slept longer than usual, for emotion tires
the young. Poor child! she was a little ashamed of herself when she
found how soundly she had slept.

“Mamma would not let me call you,” said Agatha, coming into her room;
“she said you were very tired last night; but do please come down now,
and make haste. There is such a basket of flowers in the hall from
Whitton, the man says. Where’s Whitton? Isn’t it Mr. Incledon’s place?
But make haste, Rose, for breakfast, now that you are awake.”

So she had no time to think just then, but had to hurry down-stairs,
where her mother met her with something of a wistful look, and kissed
her with a kind of murmured half apology. “I am afraid I frightened you
last night, Rose.”

“Oh, no, not frightened,” the girl said, taking refuge among the
children, before whom certainly nothing could be said; and then Agatha
and Patty surged into the conversation, and all gravity or deeper
meaning was taken out of it. Indeed, her mother was so cheerful that
Rose would almost have hoped she was to hear no more of it, had it not
been for the cluster of flowers which stood on the table and the
heaped-up bunches of beautiful purple grapes which filled a pretty
Tuscan basket, and gave dignity to the bread and butter. This was a sign
of the times which was very alarming; and I do not know why it was,
unless it might be by reason of her youth, that those delicate and
lovely things--fit offerings for a lover--never moved her to any thought
of what it was she was rejecting, or tempted her to consider Mr.
Incledon’s proposal as one which involved many delightful things along
with himself, who was not delightful. This idea, oddly enough, did not
find any place in her mind, though she was as much subject to the
influence of all that was lovely and pleasant as any girl could be.

The morning passed, however, without any further words on the subject,
and her heart had begun to beat easier and her excitement to calm down,
when Mrs. Damerel suddenly came to her, after the children’s lessons,
which was now their mother’s chief occupation. She came upon her quite
unexpectedly, when Rose, moved by their noiseless presence in the room,
and unable to keep her hands off them any longer, had just commenced, in
the course of her other arrangements (for Rose had to be a kind of upper
housemaid, and make the drawing-room habitable after the rough and ready
operation which Mary Jane called “tidying”), to make a pretty group upon
a table in the window of Mr. Incledon’s flowers. Certainly they made the
place look prettier and pleasanter than it had ever done yet, especially
as one stray gleam of sunshine, somewhat pale, like the girl herself,
but cheery, had come glancing in to light up the long, low, quaint room
and caress the flowers.

“Ah, Rose, they have done you good already!” said her mother; “you look
more like yourself than I have seen you for many a day.”

Rose took her hands from the last flower-pot as if it had burned her,
and stood aside, so angry and vexed to have been found at this
occupation that she could have cried.

“My dear,” said her mother, going up to her, “I do not know that Mr.
Incledon will be here to-day; but if he comes I must give him an answer.
Have you reflected upon what I said to you? I need not tell you again
how important it is, or how much you have in your power.”

Rose clasped her hands together in self-support, one hand held fast by
the other, as if that slender grasp had been something worth clinging
to. “Oh! what can I say?” she cried; “I--told you; what more can I say?”

“You told me! Then, Rose, everything that I said to you last night goes
for nothing, though you must know the truth of it far, far better than
my words could say. Is it to be the same thing over again--always over
again? Self, first and last, the only consideration? Everything to
please yourself; nothing from higher motives? God forgive you, Rose!”

“Oh, hush, hush! it is unkind--it is cruel. I would die for you if that
would do any good!” cried Rose.

“These are easy words to say; for dying would do no good, neither would
it be asked of you,” said Mrs. Damerel impatiently. “Rose, I do not ask
this in ordinary obedience, as a mother may command a child. It is not a
child but a woman who must make such a decision; but it is my duty to
show you your duty, and what is best for yourself as well as for others.
No one--neither man nor woman, nor girl nor boy--can escape from duty to
others; and when it is neglected some one must pay the penalty. But
you--you are happier than most. You can, if you please, save your
family.”

“We are not starving, mamma,” said Rose, with trembling lips; “we have
enough to live upon--and I could work--I would do anything”--

“What would your work do, Rose? If you could teach--and I don’t think
you could teach--you might earn enough for your own dress; that would be
all. Oh, my dear! listen to me. The little work a girl can do is
nothing. She can make a sacrifice of her own inclination--of her fancy
but as for work, she has nothing in her power.”

“Then I wish there were no girls!” cried Rose, as many a poor girl has
done before her, “if we can do nothing but be a burden--if there is no
work for us, no use for us, but only to sell ourselves. Oh, mamma,
mamma! do you know what you are asking me to do?”

“I know a great deal better than you do, or you would not repeat to me
this vulgar nonsense about selling yourself. Am I likely to bid you sell
yourself? Listen to me, Rose. I want you to be happy, and so you would
be--nay, never shake your head at me--you would be happy with a man who
loves you, for you would learn to love him. Die for us! I have heard
such words from the lips of people who would not give up a morsel of
their own will--not a whim, not an hour’s comfort”--

“But I--I am not like that,” cried Rose, stung to the heart. “I would
give up anything--everything--for the children and you!”

“Except what you are asked to give up; except the only thing which you
can give up. Again I say, Rose, I have known such cases. They are not
rare in this world.”

“Oh, mamma, mamma!”

“You think I am cruel. If you knew my life, you would not think so; you
would understand my fear and horror of this amiable self-seeking which
looks so natural. Rose,” said her mother, dropping into a softer tone,
“I have something more to say to you--perhaps something that will weigh
more with you than anything I can say. Your father had set his heart on
this. He spoke to me of it on his death-bed. God knows! perhaps he saw
then what a dreary struggle I should have, and how little had been done
to help us through. One of the last things he said to me was, ‘Incledon
will look after the boys.’”

“Papa said that?” said Rose, putting out her hands to find a prop. Her
limbs seemed to refuse to support her. She was unprepared for this new,
unseen antagonist. “Papa? How did he know?”

The mother was trembling and pale, too, overwhelmed by the recollection
as well as by her anxiety to conquer. She made no direct answer to
Rose’s question, but took her hand within both of hers, and continued,
with her eyes full of tears: “You would like to please _him_, Rose--it
was almost the last thing he said--to please him, and to rescue me from
anxieties I can see no end to, and to secure Bertie’s future. Oh, Rose!
you should thank God that you can do so much for those you love. And you
would be happy, too. You are young, and love begets love. He would do
everything that man could do to please you. He is a good man, with a
kind heart; you would get to love him; and, my dear, you would be happy,
too.”

“Mamma,” said Rose, with her head bent down and some silent tears
dropping upon Mr. Incledon’s flowers--a flush of color came over her
downcast face, and then it grew pale again; her voice sounded so low
that her mother stooped towards her to hear what she said--“mamma, I
should like to tell you something.”

Mrs. Damerel made an involuntary movement--a slight instinctive
withdrawal from the confidence. Did she guess what it was? If she did
so, she made up her mind at the same time not to know it. “What is it,
dear?” she said tenderly but quickly. “Oh, Rose! do you think I don’t
understand your objections? But, my darling, surely you may trust your
mother, who loves you more than all the world. You will not reject it--I
know you will not reject it. There is no blessing that is not promised
to those that deny themselves. He will not hurry nor press you, dear.
Rose, say I may give him a kind answer when he comes?”

Rose’s head was swimming, her heart throbbing in her ears and her
throat. The girl was not equal to such a strain. To have the living and
the dead both uniting against her--both appealing to her in the several
names of love and duty against love--was more than she could bear. She
had sunk into the nearest chair, unable to stand, and she no longer felt
strong enough, even had her mother been willing to hear it, to make that
confession which had been on her lips. At what seemed to be the
extremity of human endurance, she suddenly saw one last resource in
which she might still find safety, and grasped at it, scarcely aware
what she did. “May I see Mr. Incledon myself if he comes?” she gasped,
almost under her breath.

“Surely, dear,” said her mother, surprised; “of course that would be the
best--if you are able for it, if you will think well before you decide,
if you will promise to do nothing hastily. Oh, Rose! do not break my
heart!”

“It is more likely to be my own that I will break,” said the girl, with
a shadow of a smile passing over her face. “Mamma, will you be very
kind, and say no more? I will think, think--everything that you say; but
let me speak to him myself, if he comes.”

Mrs. Damerel looked at her very earnestly, half suspicious, half
sympathetic. She went up to her softly and put her arms round her, and
pressed the girl’s drooping head against her breast. “God bless you, my
darling!” she said, with her eyes full of tears; and kissing her
hastily, went out of the room, leaving Rose alone with her thoughts.

If I were to tell you what these thoughts were, and all the confusion of
them, I should require a year to do it. Rose had no heart to stand up
and fight for herself all alone against the world. Her young frame ached
and trembled from head to foot with the unwonted strain. If there had
been indeed any one--any one--to struggle for; but how was she to stand
alone and battle for herself? Everything combined against her; every
motive, every influence. She sat in a vague trance of pain, and, instead
of thinking over what had been said, only saw visions gleaming before
her of the love which was a vision, nothing more, and which she was
called upon to resign. A vision--that was all; a dream, perhaps, without
any foundation. It seemed to disperse like a mist, as the world melted
and dissolved around her--the world which she had known--showing a new
world, a dreamy, undiscovered country, forming out of darker vapors
before her. She sat thus till the stir of the children in the house
warned her that they had come in from their daily walk to the early
dinner. She listened to their voices and noisy steps and laughter with
the strangest feeling that she was herself a dreamer, having nothing in
common with the fresh, real life where all the voices rang out so
clearly, where people said what they meant with spontaneous outcries and
laughter, and there was no concealed meaning and nothing beneath the
sunny surface; but when she heard her mother’s softer tones speaking to
the children, Rose got up hurriedly, and fled to the shelter of her
room. If anything more were said to her she thought she must die.
Happily Mrs. Damerel did not know that it was her voice, and not the
noise of the children, which was too much for poor Rose’s over-strained
nerves. She sent word by Agatha that Rose must lie down for an hour and
try to rest; and that quiet was the best thing for her headache, which,
of course, was the plea the girl put forth to excuse her flight and
seclusion. Agatha, for her part, was very sorry and distressed that Rose
should miss her dinner, and wanted much to bring something up-stairs for
her, which was at once the kindest and most practical suggestion of all.

The bustle of dinner was all over and the house still again in the
dreary afternoon quiet, when Agatha, once more, with many precautions,
stole into the room. “Are you awake?” she said; “I hope your head is
better. Mr. Incledon is in the drawing-room, and mamma says, please, if
you are better will you go down, for she is busy; and you are to thank
him for the grapes and for the flowers. What does Mr. Incledon want,
coming so often? He was here only yesterday, and sat for hours with
mamma. Oh! what a ghost you look, Rose! Shall I bring you some tea?”

“It is too early for tea. Never mind; my head is better.”

“But you have had no dinner,” said practical Agatha; “it is not much
wonder that you are pale.”

Rose did not know what she answered, or if she said anything. Her head
seemed to swim more than ever. Not only was it all true about Mr.
Incledon, but she was going to talk to him, to decide her own fate
finally one way or other. What a good thing that the drawing-room was so
dark in the afternoon that he could not remark how woe-begone she
looked, how miserable and pale!

He got up when she came in, and went up to her eagerly, putting out his
hands. I suppose he took her appearance as a proof that his suit was
progressing well; and, indeed, he had come to-day with the determination
to see Rose, whatever might happen. He took her hand into both of his,
and for one second pressed it fervently and close. “It is very kind of
you to see me. How can I thank you for giving me this opportunity?” he
said.

“Oh, no! not kind; I wished it,” said Rose, breathlessly, withdrawing
her hand as hastily as he had taken it; and then, fearing her strength,
she sat down in the nearest chair, and said, falteringly, “Mr. Incledon,
I wanted very much to speak to you myself.”

“And I, too,” he said--her simplicity and eagerness thus opened the way
for him and saved him all embarrassment--“I, too, was most anxious to
see you. I did not venture to speak of this yesterday, when I met you. I
was afraid to frighten and distress you; but I have wished ever since
that I had dared”--

“Oh, please do not speak so!” she cried. In his presence Rose felt so
young and childish, it seemed impossible to believe in the extraordinary
change of positions which his words implied.

“But I must speak so. Miss Damerel, I am very conscious of my
deficiencies by your side--of the disparity between us in point of age
and in many other ways; you, so fresh and untouched by the world, I
affected by it, as every man is more or less; but if you will commit
your happiness to my hands, don’t think, because I am not so young as
you, that I will watch over it less carefully--that it will be less
precious in my eyes.”

“Ah! I was not thinking of my happiness,” said Rose; “I suppose I have
no more right to be happy than other people--but oh! if you would let me
speak to you! Mr. Incledon, oh! why should you want me? There are so
many girls better, more like you, that would be glad. Oh! what is there
in me? I am silly; I am not well educated, though you may think so. I am
not clever enough to be a companion you would care for. I think it is
because you don’t know.”

Mr. Incledon was so much taken by surprise that he could do nothing but
laugh faintly at this strange address. “I was not thinking either of
education or of wisdom, but of you,--only you,” he said.

“But you know so little about me; you think I must be nice because of
papa; but, papa himself was never satisfied with me. I have not read
very much. I know very little. I am not good for anywhere but home. Mr.
Incledon, I am sure you are deceived in me. This is what I wanted to
say. Mamma does not see it in the same light; but I feel sure that you
are deceived, and take me for something very different from what I am,”
said Rose, totally unconscious that every word she said made Mr.
Incledon more and more sure that he had done the very thing he ought to
have done, and that he was not deceived.

“Indeed, you mistake me altogether,” he said. “It is not merely because
you are a piece of excellence--it is because I love you, Rose.”

“Love me! Do you love me?” she said, looking at him with wondering eyes;
then drooping with a deep blush under his gaze--“but I--do not love
you.”

“I did not expect it; it would have been too much to expect; but if you
will let me love you, and show you how I love you, dear!” said Mr.
Incledon, going up to her softly, with something of the tenderness of a
father to a child, subduing the eagerness of a lover. “I don’t want to
frighten you; I will not hurry nor tease; but some time you might learn
to love me.”

“That is what mamma says,” said Rose, with a heavy sigh.

Now this was scarcely flattering to a lover. Mr. Incledon felt for the
moment as if he had received a downright and tolerably heavy blow; but
he was in earnest, and prepared to meet with a rebuff or two. “She says
truly,” he answered, with much gravity. “Rose,--may I call you Rose?--do
not think I will persecute or pain you; only do not reject me hastily.
What I have to say for myself is very simple. I love you--that is all;
and I will put up with all a man may for the chance of winning you, when
you know me better, to love me in return.”

These were almost the same words as those Mrs. Damerel had employed; but
how differently they sounded; they had not touched Rose’s heart at all
before; but they did now with a curious mixture of agitation and terror,
and almost pleasure. She was sorry for him, more than she could have
thought possible, and somehow felt more confidence in him, and freedom
to tell him what was in her heart.

“Do not answer me now, unless you please,” said Mr. Incledon. “If you
will give me the right to think your family mine, I know I can be of use
to them. The boys would become my charge, and there is much that has
been lost which I could make up had I the right to speak to your mother
as a son. It is absurd, I know,” he said, with a half-smile; “I am about
as old as she is; but all these are secondary questions. The main thing
is--you. Dear Rose, dear child, you don’t know what love is”--

“Ah!” the girl looked up at him suddenly, her countenance changing. “Mr.
Incledon, I have not said all to you that I wanted to say. Oh, do not
ask me any more! Tell mamma that you have given it up! or I must tell
you something that will break my heart.”

“I will not give it up so long as there is any hope,” he said; “tell
me--what is it? I will do nothing to break your heart.”

She made a pause. It was hard to say it, and yet, perhaps, easier to him
than it would be to face her mother and make this tremendous confession.
She twisted her poor little fingers together in her bewilderment and
misery, and fixed her eyes upon them as if their interlacing were the
chief matter in hand. “Mr. Incledon,” she said, very low, “there was
some one else--oh, how can I say it!--some one--whom I cared for--whom I
can’t help thinking about.”

“Tell me,” said Mr. Incledon, bravely quenching in his own mind a not
very amiable sentiment; for it seemed to him that if he could but secure
her confidence all would be well. He took her hand with caressing
gentleness, and spoke low, almost as low as she did. “Tell me, my
darling; I am your friend, confide in me. Who was it? May I know?”

“I cannot tell you who it was,” said Rose, with her eyes still cast
down, “because he has never said anything to me; perhaps he does not
care for me; but this has happened: without his ever asking me, or
perhaps wishing it, I cared for him. I know a girl should not do so, and
that is why I cannot--cannot! But,” said Rose raising her head with
more confidence, though still reluctant to meet his eye, “now that you
know this you will not think of me any more, Mr. Incledon. I am so sorry
if it makes you at all unhappy; but I am of very little consequence; you
cannot be long unhappy about me.”

“Pardon me if I see it in quite a different light,” he said. “My mind is
not at all changed. This is but a fancy. Surely a man who loves you, and
says so, should be of more weight than one of whose feelings you know
nothing.”

“I know about my own,” said Rose, with a little sigh; “and oh, don’t
think, as mamma does, that I am selfish! It is not selfishness; it is
because I know, if you saw into my heart, you would not ask me. Oh, Mr.
Incledon, I would die for them all if I could! but how could I say one
thing to you, and mean another? How could I let you be deceived?”

“Then, Rose, answer me truly; is your consideration solely for me?”

She gave him an alarmed, appealing look, but did not reply.

“I am willing to run the risk,” he said, with a smile, “if all your fear
is for me; and I think you might run the risk too. The other is an
imagination; I am real, very real,” he added, “very constant, very
patient. So long as you do not refuse me absolutely, I will wait and
hope.”

Poor Rose, all her little art was exhausted. She dared not, with her
mother’s words ringing in her ears, and with all the consequences so
clearly before her, refuse him absolutely, as he said. She had appealed
to him to withdraw, and he would not withdraw. She looked at him as if
he were the embodiment of fate, against which no man can strive.

“Mr. Incledon,” she said, gravely and calmly, “you would not marry any
one who did not love you?”

“I will marry you, Rose, if you will have me, whether you love me or
not,” he said; “I will wait for the love, and hope.”

“Oh, be kind!” she said, driven to her wits’ end. “You are free, you can
do what you please, and there are so many girls in the world besides me.
And I cannot do what I please,” she added, low, with a piteous tone,
looking at him. Perhaps he did not hear these last words. He turned from
her with I know not what mingling of love, and impatience, and wounded
pride, and walked up and down the darkling room, making an effort to
command himself. She thought she had moved him at last, and sat with her
hands clasped together, expecting the words which would be deliverance
to her. It was almost dark, and the firelight glimmered through the low
room, and the dim green glimmer of the twilight crossed its ruddy rays,
not more unlike than the two who thus stood so strangely opposed to each
other. At last, Mr. Incledon returned to where Rose sat in the shadow,
touched by neither one illumination nor the other, and eagerly watching
him as he approached her through the uncertain gleams of the ruddy
light.

“There is but one girl in the world for me,” he said, somewhat hoarsely.
“I do not pretend to judge for any one but myself. So long as you do not
reject me, I will hope.”

And thus their interview closed. When he had got over the disagreeable
shock of encountering that indifference on the part of the woman he
loved, which is the greatest blow that can be given to a man’s vanity,
Mr. Incledon was not at all down-hearted about the result. He went away
with half a dozen words to Mrs. Damerel, begging her not to press his
suit, but to let the matter take its course. “All will go well if we are
patient,” he said, with a composure which, perhaps, surprised her; for
women are apt to prefer the hot-headed in such points, and Mrs. Damerel
did not reflect that, having waited so long, it was not so hard on the
middle-aged lover to wait a little longer. But his forbearance at least
was of immediate service to Rose, who was allowed time to recover
herself after her agitation, and had no more exciting appeals addressed
to her for some time. But Mr. Incledon went and came, and a soft,
continued pressure, which no one could take decided objection to, began
to make itself felt.



CHAPTER XII.


Mr. Incledon went and came; he did not accept his dismissal, nor,
indeed, had any dismissal been given to him. A young lover, like Edward
Wodehouse, would have been at once crushed and rendered furious by the
appeal Rose had made so ineffectually to the man of experience who knew
what he was about. If she was worth having at all, she was worth a
struggle; and Mr. Incledon, in the calm exercise of his judgment, knew
that at the last every good thing falls into the arms of the patient man
who can wait. He had not much difficulty in penetrating the thin veil
which she had cast over the “some one” for whom she cared, but who, so
far as she knew, did not care for her. It could be but one person, and
the elder lover was glad beyond description to know that his rival had
not spoken, and that he was absent and likely to be absent. Edward
Wodehouse being thus disposed of, there was no one else in Mr.
Incledon’s way, and with but a little patience he was sure to win.

As for Rose, though she felt that her appeal had been unsuccessful, she
too was less discouraged by it than she could have herself supposed. In
the first place she was let alone; nothing was pressed upon her; she had
time allowed her to calm down, and with time everything was possible.
Some miracle would happen to save her; or, if not a miracle, some
ordinary turn of affairs would take the shape of miracle, and answer the
same purpose. What is Providence, but a divine agency to get us out of
trouble, to restore happiness, to make things pleasant for us? so, at
least, one thinks when one is young; older, we begin to learn that
Providence has to watch over many whose interests are counter to ours as
well as our own; but at twenty, all that is good and necessary in life
seems always on our side, and there seems no choice for Heaven but to
clear the obstacles out of our way. Something would happen, and all
would be well again; and Rose’s benevolent fancy even exercised itself
in finding for “poor Mr. Incledon” some one who would suit him better
than herself. He was very wary, very judicious, in his treatment of her.
He ignored that one scene when he had refused to give up his proposal,
and conducted himself for some time as if he had sincerely given up his
proposal, and was no more than the family friend, the most kind and
sympathizing of neighbors. It was only by the slowest degrees that Rose
found out that he had given up nothing, that his constant visits and
constant attentions were so many meshes of the net in which her simple
feet were being caught. For the first few weeks, as I have said, she was
relieved altogether from everything that looked like persecution. She
heard of him, indeed, constantly, but only in the pleasantest way. Fresh
flowers came, filling the dim old rooms with brightness; and the
gardener from Whitton came to look after the flowers and to suggest to
Mrs. Damerel improvements in her garden, and how to turn the hall, which
was large in proportion to the house, into a kind of conservatory; and
baskets of fruit came, over which the children rejoiced; and Mr.
Incledon himself came, and talked to Mrs. Damerel and played with them,
and left books, new books, all fragrant from the printing, of which he
sometimes asked Rose’s opinion casually. None of all these good things
was for her, and yet she had the unexpressed consciousness, which was
pleasant enough so long as no one else remarked it and no recompense was
asked, that but for her those pleasant additions to the family life
would not have been. Then it was extraordinary how often he would meet
them by accident in their walks, and how much trouble he would take to
adapt his conversation to theirs, finding out (but this Rose did not
discover till long after) all her tastes and likings. I suppose that
having once made up his mind to take so much trouble, the pursuit of
this shy creature, who would only betray what was in her by intervals,
who shut herself up like the mimosa whenever she was too boldly touched,
but who opened secretly with an almost childlike confidence when her
fears were lulled to rest, became more interesting to Mr. Incledon than
a more ordinary wooing, with a straightforward “yes” to his proposal at
the end of it, would have been. His vanity got many wounds both by
Rose’s unconsciousness and by her shrinking; but he pursued his plan
undaunted by either, having made up his mind to win her and no other;
and the more difficult the fight was, the more triumphant would be the
success.

This state of affairs lasted for some time; indeed, everything went on
quietly, with no apparent break in the gentle monotony of existence at
the White House, until the spring was so far advanced as to have pranked
itself out in a flood of primroses. It was something quite insignificant
and incidental which for the first time reawakened Rose’s fears. He had
looked at her with something in his eyes which betrayed him, or some
word had dropped from his lips which startled her; but the first direct
attack upon her peace of mind did not come from Mr. Incledon. It came
from two ladies on the Green, one of whom at least was very innocent of
evil meaning. Rose was walking with her mother on an April afternoon,
when they met Mrs. Wodehouse and Mrs. Musgrove, likewise taking their
afternoon walk. Mrs. Musgrove was a very quiet person, who interfered
with nobody, yet who was mixed up with everything that went on on the
Green, by right of being the most sympathetic of souls, ready to hear
everybody’s grievance and to help in everybody’s trouble. Mrs. Wodehouse
struck straight across the Green to meet Mrs. Damerel and Rose, when she
saw them, so that it was by no ordinary chance meeting, but an encounter
sought eagerly on one side at least, that this revelation came. Mrs.
Wodehouse was full of her subject, vibrating, with it to the very
flowers on her bonnet, which thrilled and nodded against the blue
distance like a soldier’s plumes. She came forward with a forced
exuberance of cordiality, holding out both her hands.

“Now tell me!” she said; “may we congratulate you? Is the embargo
removed? Quantities of people have assured me that we need not hold our
tongues any longer, but that it is all settled at last.”

“What is all settled at last?” asked Mrs. Damerel, with sudden stiffness
and coldness. “I beg your pardon, but I really don’t in the least know
what you mean.”

“I said I was afraid you were too hasty,” said Mrs. Musgrove.

“Well, if one can’t believe the evidence of one’s senses, what is one to
believe?” cried Mrs. Wodehouse. “It is not kind, Rose, to keep all your
old friends so long in suspense. Of course, it is very easy to see on
which side the hesitation is; and I am sure I am very sorry if I have
been premature.”

“You are more than premature,” said Mrs. Damerel with a little laugh,
and an uneasy color on her cheek, “for you are speaking a language
neither Rose nor I understand. I hope, Mrs. Wodehouse, you have good
news from your son.”

“Oh, very good news indeed!” said the mother, whose indignation on her
son’s behalf made the rose on her bonnet quiver: and then there were a
few further interchanges, of volleys in the shape of questions and
answers of the most civil description, and the ladies shook hands and
parted. Rose had been struck dumb altogether by the dialogue, in which,
trembling and speechless, she had taken no part. When they had gone on
for a few yards in silence, she broke down in her effort at
self-restraint.

“Mamma, what does she mean?”

“Oh, Rose, do not drive me wild with your folly!” said Mrs. Damerel.
“What could she mean but one thing? If you think for one moment, you
will have no difficulty in understanding what she means.”

Rose woke up, as a sick man wakes after a narcotic, feverish and
trembling. “I thought,” she said, slowly, her heart beginning to throb,
and her head to ache in a moment--“I thought it was all given up.”

“How could you think anything so foolish? What symptom can you see of
its having been given up? Has he ceased coming? Has he ceased trying to
please you, ungrateful girl that you are? Indeed you go too far for
ordinary patience; for it cannot be stupidity--you are not stupid,” said
Mrs. Damerel, excitedly; “you have not even that excuse.”

“Oh, mamma, do not be angry!” said poor Rose; “I thought--it seemed so
natural that, as he saw more of me, he would give it up. Why should he
care for me? I am not like him, nor fit to be a great lady; he must see
that.”

“This is false humility, and it is very ill timed,” said Mrs. Damerel.
“Strange though it may seem, seeing more of you does not make him give
it up; and if you are too simple or too foolish to see how much he is
devoted to you, no one else is. Mrs. Wodehouse had a spiteful meaning,
but she is not the first who has spoken to me. All our friends on the
Green believe, like her, that everything is settled between you; that it
is only some hesitation about--about our recent sorrow which keeps it
from being announced.”

Rose turned upon her mother for the first time with reproach in her
eyes. “You should have told me!” she said, with momentary passion; “you
ought to have told me,--for how was I to know?”

“Rose, I will not allow such questions; you are not a fool nor a child.
Did you think Mr. Incledon came for me? or Agatha, perhaps? He told you
he would not give you up. You were warned what his object was--more than
warned. Was I to defeat my own wishes by keeping you constantly on your
guard? You knew what he wanted, and you have encouraged him and accepted
his attentions.”

“I--encouraged him?”

“Whenever a girl permits, she encourages,” said Mrs. Damerel, with
oracular solemnity. “In matters of this kind, Rose, if you do not refuse
at once, you commit yourself, and sooner or later you must accept.”

“You never told me so before. Oh, mamma! how was I to know? you never
said this to me before.”

“There are things that one knows by intuition,” said Mrs. Damerel; “and,
Rose, you know what my opinion has been all along. You have no right to
refuse. On the one side, there is everything that heart can desire; on
the other, nothing but a foolish, childish disinclination. I don’t know
if it goes so far as disinclination; you seem now to like him well
enough.”

“Do you not know the difference?” said Rose, turning wistful eyes upon
her mother. “Oh, mamma, you who ought to know so much better than I do!
I _like_ him very well--what does that matter?”

“It matters everything; liking is the first step to love. You can have
no reason, absolutely no reason, for refusing him if you like him. Rose,
oh, how foolish this is, and what a small, what a very small place there
seems to be in your mind for the thought of duty! You tell us you are
ready to die for us--which is absurd--and yet you cannot make up your
mind to this!”

“It is different,” said Rose; “oh, it is different! Mamma, listen a
moment; you are a great deal better than I am; you love us better than
we love each other; you are never tired of doing things for us; whether
you are well or whether you are ill it does not matter; you are always
ready when the children want you. I am not blind,” said the girl, with
tears. “I know all you do and all you put up with; but, mamma, you who
are good, you who know how to deny yourself, would _you_ do this?”

“Rose!”

“Would you do it?” cried Rose, excited and breathless, pursuing her
advantage.

Mrs. Damerel was not old, nor was life quenched in her either by her
years or her sorrows. Her face flushed, under her heavy widow’s veil,
all over, with a violent overwhelming blush like a girl’s.

“Rose,” she said, passionately, “how dare you--how dare you put such a
question to your mother? I do it!--either you are heartless altogether,
or you are mad, and don’t know what you say.”

“Forgive, me mamma; but, oh, let me speak! There is nothing else so
hard, nothing so disagreeable, but you would do it for us; but you would
not do this. There is a difference, then? you do not deny it now?”

“You use a cruel argument,” said Mrs. Damerel, the blush still warm upon
her matron cheek, “and it is not a true one. I am your father’s wife. I
am your mother and Bertie’s, who are almost man and woman. All my life
would be reversed, all my relations confused, if I were to make such a
sacrifice; besides, it is impossible,” she said, suddenly; “I did not
think that a child of mine would ever have so insulted me.”

“I do not mean it for insult, mamma. Oh, forgive me! I want you only to
see the difference. It is not like anything else. You would do anything
else, and so would I; but, oh, not this! You see it yourself--not this,
mamma.”

“It is foolish to attempt to argue with you,” said Mrs. Damerel; and she
hurried in, and up-stairs to her room, leaving Rose, not less excited,
to follow. Rose had scarcely calculated upon the prodigious force of her
own argument. She was half frightened by it, and half ashamed of having
used it, yet to some extent triumphant in her success. There was quite a
bank of flowers in the hall as she passed through--flowers which she
stopped to look at and caress, with little touches of fondness as
flower-lovers use, before she recollected that they were Mr. Incledon’s
flowers. She took up a book which was on the hall table, and hurried on
to avoid that contemplation, and then she remembered that it was Mr.
Incledon’s book. She was just entering the drawing-room as she did so,
and threw it down pettishly on a chair by the door; and, lo! Mr.
Incledon himself rose, a tall shadow against the window, where he had
been waiting for the ladies’ return.

“Mamma has gone up-stairs; I will call her,” said Rose, with confusion,
turning away.

“Nay, never mind; it is a pity to disturb Mrs. Damerel, and it is long,
very long, since you have allowed me a chance of talking to you.”

“Indeed, we see each other very often,” said Rose, falteringly.

“Yes, I see you in a crowd, protected by the children, or with your
mother, who is my friend, but who cannot help me--I wanted to ask about
the book you threw down so impatiently as you came in. Don’t you like
it?” said Mr. Incledon, with a smile.

What a relief it was! She was so grateful to him for not making love to
her, that I almost think she would have consented to marry him, had he
asked her, before he left that evening. But he was very cautious and
very wise, and, though he had come with no other intention, he was
warned by the excitement in her looks, and stopped the very words on her
lips, for which Rose, short-sighted, like all mortals, was very thankful
to him, not knowing how much the distinct refusal, which it was in her
heart to give, would have simplified all their affairs.

This, however, was at once the first and the last of Rose’s successes.
When she saw traces of tears about her mother’s eyes, and how pale she
was, her heart smote her, and she made abject submission of herself, and
poured out her very soul in excuses, go that Mrs. Damerel, though
vanquished for the moment, took higher ground after it. The mother,
indeed, was so much shaken by the practical application of her
doctrines, that she felt there was no longer time for the gradual
undermining which was Mr. Incledon’s policy. Mrs. Damerel did not know
what reply she could make if Rose repeated her novel and strenuous
argument, and felt that now safety lay in as rapid a conclusion of the
matter as possible; so that from this moment every day saw the closing
of the net over poor Rose. The lover became more close in his
attendance, the mother more urgent in her appeals; but so cleverly did
he manage the matter that his society was always a relief to the girl
when hard driven, and she gradually got to feel herself safer with him,
which was a great deal in his favor. Everything, however, went against
Rose. The ladies on the Green made gentle criticisms upon her, and
called her a sly little puss. Some hoped she would not forget her humble
friends when she came into her kingdom; some asked her what she meant by
dragging her captive so long at her chariot wheels; and the captive
himself, though a miracle of goodness, would cast pathetic looks at her,
and make little speeches full of meaning. Rose began to feel herself
like a creature at bay; wherever she turned she could see no way of
escape; even sharp-eyed Agatha, in the wisdom of fifteen, turned against
her.

“Why don’t you marry Mr. Incledon, and have done with it?” said Agatha.
“I would, if I were you. What a good thing it would be for you! and I
suppose he would be kind to the rest of us, too. Why, you would have
your carriage--two or three carriages, and a horse to ride, and you
might go abroad if you liked, or do anything you liked. How I should
like to have quantities of money, and a beautiful house, and everything
in the world I wanted! I should not shilly-shally like you.”

“No one has everything in the world they want,” said Rose, solemnly,
thinking also, if Mr. Incledon had been “some one else” how much easier
her decision would have been.

“You seem to think they do,” said Agatha, “or you would not make such a
fuss about Mr. Incledon. Why, what do you object to? I suppose it’s
because he is not young enough. I think he is a very nice man, and very
good-looking. I only wish he had asked me.”

“Agatha, you are too young to talk of such things,” said Rose, with the
dignity of her seniority.

“Then I wish my eldest sister was too young to put them into my head,”
said Agatha.

This conversation drove Rose from her last place of safety, the
school-room, where hitherto she had been left in quiet. A kind of
despair seized her. She dared not encounter her mother in the
drawing-room, where probably Mr. Incledon also would appear towards the
twilight. She put on her hat and wandered out, her heart full of a
subdued anguish, poignant yet not unsweet, for the sense of intense
suffering is in its way a kind of excitement and painful enjoyment to
the very young. It was a spring afternoon, soft and sweet, full of
promise of the summer, and Rose, quite unused to walking or indeed doing
anything else alone, found a certain pleasure in the loneliness and
silence. How tranquillizing it was to be alone; to have no one near who
would say anything to disturb her; nobody with reproachful eyes; nothing
around or about but the soft sky, the trees growing green, the grass
which waved its thin blades in the soft air! It seemed to Rose that she
was out for a long time, and that the silence refreshed her, and made
her strong for her fate whatever it might be. Before she returned home
she went in at the old familiar gate of the rectory, and skirted the
lawn by a by-path she knew well, and stole down the slope to the little
platform under the old May-tree. By this time it had begun to get dark;
and as Rose looked across the soft undulations of the half visible
country, every line of which was dear and well known to her, her eyes
fell suddenly upon a gleam of light from among the trees. What friendly
sprite had lighted the lights so early in the parlor of the cottage at
Ankermead, I cannot tell, but they glimmered out from the brown clump of
trees and took Rose so by surprise that her eyes filled with sudden
moisture, and her heart beat with a muffled throbbing in her ears. So
well she recollected the warm summer evening long ago (and yet it was
not a year ago), and every word that was said. “Imagination will play me
many a prank before I forget this night!” Did he mean that? had he
forgotten it? or was he perhaps leaning over the ship’s side somewhere
while the big vessel rustled through the soft broad sea, thinking of
home, as he had said, seeing the lights upon the coast, and dreaming of
his mother’s lighted windows, and of that dim, dreamy, hazy landscape,
so soft and far inland, with the cottage lamp shining out from that
brown clump of trees? The tears fell softly from Rose’s eyes through the
evening dimness which hid them almost from herself; she was very sad,
heart-broken--and yet not so miserable as she thought. She did not know
how long she sat there, looking at the cottage lights through her tears.
The new rector and his wife sat down to dinner all unaware of the
forlorn young visitor who had stolen into the domain which was now
theirs, and Rose’s mother began to get sadly uneasy about her absence,
with a chill dread lest she should have pressed her too far and driven
her to some scheme of desperation. Mr. Incledon came out to look for
her, and met her just outside the rectory gate, and was very kind to
her, making her take his arm and leading her gently home without asking
a question.

“She has been calling at the rectory, and I fear it was too much for
her,” he said; an explanation which made the quick tears start to Mrs.
Damerel’s own eyes, who kissed her daughter and sent her up-stairs
without further question. I almost think Mr. Incledon was clever enough
to guess the true state of affairs; but he told this fib with an
admirable air of believing it, and made Rose grateful to the very bottom
of her heart.

Gratitude is a fine sentiment to cultivate in such circumstances. It is
a better and safer beginning than that pity which is said to be akin to
love. Rose struggled no more after this. She surrendered quietly, made
no further resistance, and finally yielded a submissive assent to what
was asked of her. She became “engaged” to Mr. Incledon, and the
engagement was formally announced, and all the Green joined in with
congratulations, except, indeed, Mrs. Wodehouse, who called in a marked
manner just after the ladies had been seen to go out, and left a huge
card, which was all her contribution to the felicitations of the
neighborhood. There was scarcely a lady in the parish except this one
who did not take the trouble to walk or drive to the White House and
kiss Rose and congratulate her mother. “Such a very excellent
match--everything that a mother could desire!” they said. “But you must
get a little more color in your cheeks, my dear,” said old Lady Denvil.
“This is not like the dear rector’s Rose in June. It is more like a pale
China rose in November.” What could Rose do but cry at this allusion? It
was kind of the old lady (who was always kind), to give her this
excellent reason and excuse for the tears in her eyes.

And then there came, with a strange, hollow, far-off sound, proposals of
dates and days to be fixed, and talk about the wedding dresses and the
wedding tour. She listened to it all with an inward shiver; but,
fortunately for Rose, Mrs. Damerel would hear of no wedding until after
the anniversary of her husband’s death, which had taken place in July.
The Green discussed the subject largely, and most people blamed her for
standing on this punctilio; for society in general, with a wise sense of
the uncertainty of all human affairs, has a prejudice against the
postponement of marriages which it never believes in thoroughly till
they have taken place. They thought it ridiculous in a woman of Mrs.
Damerel’s sense, and one, too, who ought to know how many slips there
are between the cup and the lip; but Mr. Incledon did not seem to
object, and, of course, everybody said no one else had a right to
interfere.

All this took place in April, when the Damerels had been but three
months in their new house. Even that little time had proved bitterly to
them many of the evils of their impoverished condition, for already Mr.
Hunsdon had begun to write of the long time Bertie had been at school,
and the necessity there was that he should exert himself; and even
Reginald’s godfather, who had always been so good, showed signs of a
disposition to launch his charge, too, on the world, suggesting that
perhaps it might be better, as he had now no prospect of anything but
working for himself, that he should leave Eton. Mrs. Damerel kept these
humiliations to herself, but it was only natural that they should give
fire to her words in her arguments with Rose; and it could not be denied
that the family had spent more than their income permitted in the first
three months. There had been the mourning, and the removal, and so many
other expenses, to begin with. It is hard enough to struggle with bills
as Mrs. Damerel had done in her husband’s lifetime, when by means of the
wisest art and never-failing attention it was always possible to pay
them as they became urgent; but when there is no money at all, either
present or in prospect, what is a poor woman to do? They made her sick
many a time when she opened the drawer in her desk and looked at them.
Even with all she could accept from Mr. Incledon (and that was limited
by pride and delicacy in many ways), and with one less to provide for,
Mrs. Damerel would still have care sufficient to make her cup run over.
Rose’s good fortune did not take her burden away.

Thus things went on through the early summer. The thought of Rose’s
trousseau nearly broke her mother’s heart. It must be to some degree in
consonance with her future position, and it must not come from Mr.
Incledon; and where was it to come from? Mrs. Damerel had begun to write
a letter to her brother, appealing, which it was a bitter thing to do,
for his help, one evening early in May. She had written after all her
children had left her, when she was alone in the old-fashioned house,
where all the old walls and the old stairs uttered strange creaks and
jars in the midnight stillness, and the branches of the creepers tapped
ghostly taps against the window. Her nerves were over-strained, and her
heart was sore, notwithstanding her success in the one matter which she
had struggled for so earnestly; and after writing half her letter Mrs.
Damerel had given it up, with a strange feeling that something opposed
the writing of it, some influence which she could not define, which
seemed to stop her words, and made her incapable of framing a sentence.
She gave it up with almost a superstitious thrill of feeling, and a
nervous tremor which she tried in vain to master; and, leaving it
half-written in her blotting-book, stole up-stairs to bed in the
silence, as glad to get out of the echoing, creaking room as if it had

[Illustration: BEFORE ROSE WAS AWAKE MRS. DAMEREL CAME INTO HER ROOM.]

been haunted. Rose heard her come up-stairs, and thought with a little
bitterness as she lay awake, her pillow wet with the tears which she
never shed in the daylight, of her mother’s triumph over her, and how
all this revolution was her work. She heard something like a sigh as her
mother passed her door, and wondered almost contemptuously what she
could have to sigh about, for Rose felt all the other burdens in the
world to be as nothing in comparison with her burden; as, indeed we all
do.

Next morning, however, before Rose was awake, Mrs. Damerel came into her
room in her dressing-gown, with her hair, which was still so pretty,
curling about her shoulders, and her face lit up with a wonderful pale
illumination like a northern sky.

“What is it?” cried Rose, springing up from her bed.

“Rose,” said Mrs. Damerel, gasping for breath, “we are rich again! No!
it is impossible--but it is true; here it is in this letter--my uncle
Ernest is dead, and he has left us all his money. We are richer than
ever I was in all my life.”

Rose got up, and ran and kissed her mother, and cried, with a great cry
that rang all over the house, “Then I am free!”



CHAPTER XIII.


There is no such picturesque incident in life as the sudden changes of
fortune which make a complete revolution in the fate of families or
individuals without either action or merit of their own. That which we
are most familiar with is the change from comfort to poverty, which so
often takes place, as it had done with the Damerels, when the head of a
house, either incautious or unfortunate, goes out of this world, leaving
not only sorrow but misery behind him, and the bereavement is
intensified by social downfall and all the trials that accompany loss of
means. But for the prospect of Mr. Incledon’s backing up, this would
have implied a total change in the prospects and condition of the entire
household, for all hope of higher education must have been given up for
the boys; they must have dropped into any poor occupation which happened
to be within their reach, with gratitude that they were able to maintain
themselves; and as for the girls, what could they do, poor children,
unless by some lucky chance of marriage? This poor hope would have given
them one remaining chance not possible to their brothers; but, except
that, what had they all to look forward to? This was Mrs. Damerel’s
excuse for urging Rose’s unwilling consent to Mr. Incledon’s proposal.
But lo! all this was changed as by a magician’s wand. The clouds rolled
off the sky, the sunshine came out again, the family recovered its
prospects, its hopes, its position, its freedom, and all this in a
moment. Mrs. Damerel’s old uncle Edward had been an original who had
quarrelled with all his family. She had not seen him since she was a
child, and none of her children had seen him at all--and she never knew
exactly what it was that made him select her for his heir. Probably it
was pity; probably admiration for the brave stand she was making against
poverty--perhaps only caprice, or because she had never asked anything
from him; but, whatever the cause was, there was the happy result. In
the evening anxiety, care, discouragement, bitter humiliation, and pain;
in the morning sudden ease, comfort, happiness--for, in the absence of
anything better, it is a great happiness to have money enough for all
your needs, and to be able to give your children what they want, and pay
your bills and owe no man anything. In the thought of being rich enough
to do all this Mrs. Damerel’s heart leapt up in her breast, like the
heart of a child. Next moment she remembered, and with a pang of sudden
anguish asked herself, oh, why--why had not this come sooner, when _he_,
who would have enjoyed it so much, might have had the enjoyment? This
feeling, sprang up by instinct in her mind, notwithstanding her bitter
consciousness of all she had suffered from her husband’s carelessness
and self-regard--for love is the strangest of all sentiments, and can
indulge and condemn in a breath, without any sense of inconsistency.
This was the pervading thought in Mrs. Damerel’s mind as the news spread
through the awakened house, making even the children giddy with hopes of
they knew not what. How _he_ would have enjoyed it all--the added
luxury, the added consequence! far more than she would have enjoyed it,
notwithstanding that it came to her like life to the dying. She had
taken no notice of Rose’s exclamation, nor of the flush of joy which the
girl betrayed. I am not sure, indeed, that she observed them, being
absorbed in her own feelings, which come first even in the most
generous minds, at such a crisis and revolution of fate.

As for Rose, it was the very giddiness of delight that she felt,
unreasoning and even unfeeling. Her sacrifice had become
unnecessary--she was free! So she thought, poor child, with a total
indifference to honor and her word which I do not attempt to excuse. She
never once thought of her word, or of the engagement she had come under,
or of the man who had been so kind to her, and loved her so faithfully.
The children had holiday on that blessed morning, and Rose ran out with
them into the garden, and ran wild with pure excess of joy. This was the
first day that Mr. Nolan had visited them since he went to his new
duties, and as the curate came into the garden, somewhat tired after a
long walk, and expecting to find his friends something as he had left
them--if not mourning, yet subdued as true mourners continue after the
sharpness of their grief is ended--he was struck with absolute dismay to
meet Rose, flushed and joyous, with one of the children mounted on her
shoulders, and pursued by the rest, in the highest of high romps, the
spring air resounding with their shouts. Rose blushed a little when she
saw him. She put down her little brother from her shoulder, and came
forward beaming with happiness and kindness.

“Oh, how glad I am that you have come to-day,” she said, and explained
forthwith all the circumstances with the frank diffuse explanatoriness
of youth. “Now we are rich again; and oh, Mr. Nolan, I am so happy!” she
cried, her soft eyes glowing with an excess of light which dazzled the
curate.

People who have never been rich themselves, and never have any chance of
being rich, find it difficult sometimes to understand how others are
affected in these unwonted circumstances. He was confounded by her frank
rapture, the joy which seemed to him so much more than was necessary.

“I’m glad to see you so happy,” he said, bewildered; “no doubt money’s a
blessing, and ye’ve felt the pinch, my poor child, or ye wouldn’t be so
full of your joy.”

“Oh, Mr. Nolan, how I have felt it!” she said, her eyes filling with
tears. A cloud fell over her face for the space of a moment, and then
she laughed and cried out joyously, “but thank Heaven that is all over
now.”

Mrs. Damerel was writing in the drawing-room, writing to her boys to
tell them the wonderful news. Rose led the visitor in, pushing open the
window which opened on the garden. “I have told him all about it, and
how happy we are,” she said, going up to her mother with all the
confidence of happiness, and giving her, with unwonted demonstration, a
kiss upon her forehead, before she danced out again to the sunny garden.
Mrs. Damerel was a great deal more sober in her exultation, which
relieved the curate. She told him how it had all come about, and what a
deliverance it was; then cried a little, having full confidence in his
sympathy, over that unremovable regret that it had not come sooner. “How
happy it would have made him--and relieved all his anxiety about us,”
she said. Mr. Nolan made some inarticulate sound, which she took for
assent; or, at least, which it pleased her to mistake for assent. In her
present mood it was sweet to think that her husband had been anxious,
and the curate knew human nature too well to contradict her. And then
she gave him a little history of the past three months during which he
had been absent, and of Rose’s engagement and all Mr. Incledon’s good
qualities. “He would have done anything for us,” said Mrs. Damerel; “but
oh, how glad I am we shall not want anything--only Rose’s happiness,
which in his hands is secure.”

“Mr. Incledon!” said the curate, with a little wonder in his voice. “Ah,
and so that is it. I thought it couldn’t be nothing but money that made
the child so pleased.”

“You thought she looked very happy?” said the mother, with a sudden
fright.

“Happy! she looked like her name--nothing is so happy as that but the
innocent creatures of God; and sure I did her injustice thinking ’twas
the money,” the curate said, with mingled compunction and wonder; for
the story altogether sounded very strange to him, and he could not but
marvel at the thought that Mr. Incledon’s love, once so evidently
indifferent to her, should light such lamps of joy now in Rose’s eyes.

Mrs. Damerel changed the subject abruptly. A mist of something like care
came over her face. “I have had a great deal of trouble and much to
think about since I saw you,” she said; “but I must not enter upon that
now that it is over. Tell me about yourself.”

He shrugged his shoulders as he told her how little there was to tell. A
new parish, with other poor folk much like those he had left, and other
rich folk not far dissimilar--the one knowing as little about the other
as the two classes generally do. “That is about all my life is ever
likely to be,” he said, with a half smile, “between the two, with no
great hold on either. I miss Agatha, and Dick, and little Patty--and you
to come and talk to most of all,” he said, looking at her with an
affectionate wistfulness which went to her heart. Not that Mr. Nolan was
“in love” with Mrs. Damerel, as vulgar persons would say, laughing; but
the loss of her house and society was a great loss to the middle-aged
curate, never likely to have a house of his own.

“We must make it up as much as we can by talking all day long now you
are here,” she said, with kind smiles; but the curate, though he was
fond of her, was quick to see that she avoided the subject of Mr.
Incledon, and was ready to talk of anything rather than that; though,
indeed, the first love and first proposed marriage in a family has
generally an interest exceeding everything else to the young heroine’s
immediate friends.

They had the merriest dinner at two o’clock, according to the habit of
their humility, with roast mutton, which was the only joint Mary Jane
could not spoil; simple fare, which contented the curate as well as a
French chef could have done. He told them funny stories of his new
people, at which the children shouted with laughter, and described the
musical parties at the vicarage, and the solemn little dinners, and all
the dreary entertainments of a small town. The White House had not heard
so much innocent laughter, so many pleasant foolish jokes, for
years--and I don’t think that Rose had ever so distinguished herself in
the domestic circle. She had been generally considered too old for fun
among the children--too dignified, more on mamma’s side--giving herself
up to poetry and other such solemn occupations; but to-day the
suppressed fountain burst forth. Even Mrs. Damerel did not escape the
infection of that laughter which rang like silver bells. The deep
mourning they all wore, the poor little rusty black frocks trimmed still
with crape, perhaps reproached the laughter now and then; but fathers
and mothers cannot expect to be mourned for a whole year, and, indeed,
the rector, to these little ones at least, had not been much more than a
name.

“Rose,” said Mrs. Damerel, when the meal was over, and they had returned
into the drawing-room, “I think we had better arrange to go up to town
one of these days to see about your things. I have been putting off, and
putting off, on account of our poverty; but it is full time to think of
your trousseau now.”

Rose stood still as if she had been suddenly struck by some mortal blow.
She looked at her mother with eyes opening wide, lips falling apart, and
a sudden deadly paleness coming over her face. From the fresh sweetness
of that rose tint which had come back to her she became all at once
ashy-gray, like an old woman. “My--what, mamma?” she faltered, putting
her hands upon the table to support herself. “I--did not hear--what you
said.”

“You’ll find me in the garden, ladies, when you want me,” said the
curate, with a man’s usual cowardice, “bolting” as he himself expressed
it, through the open window.

Mrs. Damerel looked up from where she had seated herself at the table,
and looked her daughter in the face.

“Your trousseau,” she said, calmly, “what else should it be?”

Rose gave a great and sudden cry. “That’s all over, mamma, all over,
isn’t it?” she said, eagerly; then hastening round to her mother’s side,
fell on her knees by her chair, and caught her hand and arm, which she
embraced and held close to her breast. “Mamma! speak to me--it’s all
over--all over! You said the sacrifices we made would be required no
longer. It is not needed any more, and it’s all over. Oh, say so, with
your own lips, mamma!”

“Rose, are you mad?” said her mother, drawing away her hand; “rise up,
and do not let me think my child is a fool. Over! Is honor over, and the
word you have pledged, and the engagement you have made?”

“Honor!” said Rose, with white lips; “but it was for you I did it, and
you do not require it any more.”

“Rose,” cried Mrs. Damerel, “you will drive me distracted. I have often
heard that women have no sense of honor, but I did not expect to see it
proved in your person. Can you go and tell the man who loves you that
you will not marry him because we are no longer beggars? He would have
helped us when we were penniless--is that a reason for casting him off
now?”

Rose let her mother’s hand go, but she remained on her knees by the side
of the chair, as if unable to move, looking up in Mrs. Damerel’s face
with eyes twice their usual size.

“Then am I to be none the better--none the better?” she cried piteously;
“are they all to be saved, all rescued, except me?”

“Get up, Rose,” said Mrs. Damerel impatiently, “and do not let me hear
any more of this folly. Saved! from an excellent man who loves you a
great deal better than you deserve--from a lot that a queen might
envy--everything that is beautiful and pleasant and good! You are the
most ungrateful girl alive, or you would not venture to speak so to me.”

Rose did not make any answer. She did not rise, but kept still by her
mother’s side, as if paralyzed. After a moment Mrs. Damerel, in angry
impatience, turned from her and resumed her writing, and there the girl
continued to kneel, making no movement, heart-stricken, turned into
marble. At length, after an interval, she pulled timidly at her mother’s
dress, looking at her with eyes so full of entreaty, that they forced
Mrs. Damerel, against her will, to turn round and meet that pathetic
gaze.

“Mamma,” she said, under her breath, her voice having failed her, “just
one word--is there no hope for me, can you do nothing for me? Oh, have a
little pity! You could do something if you would but try.”

“Are you mad, child?” cried the mother again--“do something for you?
What can I do? You promised to marry him of your own will; you were not
forced to do it. You told me you liked him not so long ago. How does
this change the matter, except to make you more fit to be his wife? Are
you mad?”

“Perhaps,” said Rose softly; “if being very miserable is being mad, then
I am mad, as you say.”

“But you were not very miserable yesterday; you were cheerful enough.”

“Oh, mamma, then there was no hope,” cried Rose, “I had to do it--there
was no help; but now hope has come--and must every one share it, every
one get deliverance, but me?”

“Rose,” said Mrs. Damerel, “when you are Mr. Incledon’s wife every one
of these wild words will rise up in your mind and shame you. Why should
you make yourself unhappy by constant discussions? you will be sorry
enough after for all you have allowed yourself to say. You have promised
Mr. Incledon to marry him and you must marry him. If I had six times
Uncle Ernest’s money it would still be a great match for you.”

“Oh, what do I care for a great match!”

“But I do,” said Mrs. Damerel, “and whether you care or not has nothing
to do with it. You have pledged your word and your honor, and you cannot
withdraw from them. Rose, your marriage is fixed for the end of July. We
must have no more of this.”

“Three months,” she said, with a little convulsive shudder. She was
thinking that perhaps even yet something might happen to save her in so
long a time as three months. “Not quite three months,” said Mrs.
Damerel, whose thoughts were running on the many things that had to be
done in the interval. “Rose, shake off this foolish repining, which is
unworthy of you, and go out to good Mr. Nolan, who must be dull with
only the children. Talk to him and amuse him till I am ready. I am going
to take him up to Whitton to show him the house.”

Rose went out without a word; she went and sat down in the little shady
summer-home where Mr. Nolan had taken refuge from the sun and from the
mirth of the children. He had already seen there was something wrong,
and was prepared with his sympathy: whoever was the offender Mr. Nolan
was sorry for that one; it was a way he had; his sympathies did not go
so much with the immaculate and always virtuous; but he was sorry for
whosoever had erred or strayed, and was repenting of the same. Poor
Rose--he began to feel himself Rose’s champion, because he felt sure
that it was Rose, young, thoughtless, and inconsiderate, who must be in
the wrong. Rose sat down by his side with a heart-broken look in her
face, but did not say anything. She began to beat with her fingers on
the table as if she were beating time to a march. She was still such a
child to him, so young, so much like what he remembered her in
pinafores, that his heart ached for her. “You are in some little bit of
trouble?” he said at last.

“Oh, not a little bit,” cried Rose, “a great, very great trouble!” She
was so full of it that she could not talk of anything else. And the
feeling in her mind was that she must speak or die. She began to tell
her story in the woody arbor with the gay noise of the children close at
hand, but hearing a cry among them that Mr. Incledon was coming, started
up and tied on her hat, and seizing Mr. Nolan’s arm, dragged him out by
the garden door. “I cannot see him to-day!” she cried, and led the
curate away, dragging him after her to a quiet by-way over the fields in
which she thought they would be safe. Rose had no doubt whatever of the
full sympathy of this old friend. She was not afraid even of his
disapproval. It seemed certain to her that he must pity at least if not
help. And to Rose, in her youthful confidence in others, there was
nothing in this world which was unalterable of its nature: no trouble,
except death, which could not be got rid of by the intervention of
friends.

It chilled her a little, however, as she went on, to see the curate’s
face grow longer and longer, graver and graver. “You should not have
done it,” he said, shaking his head, when Rose told him how she had been
brought to give her consent.

“I know I ought not to have done it, but it was not my doing. How could
I help myself? And now, oh, now, dear Mr. Nolan, tell me what to do!
Will _you_ speak to mamma? Though she will not listen to me she might
hear you.”

“But I don’t see what your mamma has to do with it,” said the curate.
“It is not to her you are engaged--nor is it she who has given her word;
you must keep your word, we are all bound to do that.”

“But a great many people don’t do it,” said Rose, driven to the worst of
arguments by sheer despair of her cause.

“_You_ must,” said Mr. Nolan: “the people who don’t are not people to be
followed. You have bound yourself and you must stand by it. He is a good
man and you must make the best of it. To a great many it would not seem
hard at all. You have accepted him, and you must stand by him. I do not
see what else can be done now.”

“Oh, Mr. Nolan, you speak as if I were married, and there was no hope.”

“It is very much the same thing,” said the curate; “you have given your
word. Rose, you would not like to be a jilt; you must either keep your
word or be called a jilt--and called truly. It is not a pleasant
character to have.”

“But it would not be true!”

“I think it would be true. Mr. Incledon, poor man, would have good
reason to think so. Let us look at it seriously, Rose. What is there so
very bad in it that you should do a good man such an injury? He is not
old. He is very agreeable and very rich. He would make you a great lady,
Rose.”

“Mr. Nolan, do you think I care for that?”

“A great many people care for it, and so do all who belong to you. Your
poor father wished it. It had gone out of my mind, but I can recollect
very well now; and your mother wishes it--and for you it would be a
great thing, you don’t know how great. Rose, you must try to put all
this reluctance out of your mind, and think only of how many advantages
it has.”

“I care nothing, for the advantages,” said Rose, “the only one thing was
for the sake of the others. He promised to be good to the boys and to
help mamma; and now we don’t need his help any more.”

“A good reason, an admirable reason,” cried the curate with unwonted
sarcasm, “for casting him off now. Few people state it so frankly, but
it is the way of the world.”

Rose gave him a look so full of wondering that the good man’s heart was
touched. “Come,” he said, “you had made up your mind to it yesterday.
It cannot be so very bad after all. At your age nothing can be very bad,
for you can always adapt yourself to what is new. So long as there’s
nobody else in the way that’s more to your mind,” he said, turning upon
her with a penetrating glance.

Rose said nothing in reply. She put up her hands to her face, covering
it, and choking the cry which came to her lips. How could she to a man,
to one so far separated from love and youth as was Mr. Nolan, make this
last confession of all?

The curate went away that night with a painful impression on his mind.
He did not go to Whitton, as Mrs. Damerel had promised, to see Rose’s
future home, but he saw the master of it, who, disappointed by the
headache with which Rose had retreated to her room, on her return from
her walk with the curate, did not show in his best aspect. None of the
party indeed did; perhaps the excitement and commotion of the news had
produced a bad result--for nothing could be flatter or more
deadly-lively than the evening which followed. Even the children were
cross and peevish, and had to be sent to bed in disgrace; and Rose had
hidden herself in her room, and lines of care and irritation were on
Mrs. Damerel’s forehead. The great good fortune which had befallen them
did not, for the moment at least, bring happiness in its train.



CHAPTER XIV.


Rose did not go down-stairs that night. She had a headache, which is the
prescriptive right of a woman in trouble. She took the cup of tea which
Agatha brought her, at the door of her room, and begged that mamma would
not trouble to come to see her, as she was going to bed. She was afraid
of another discussion, and shrank even from seeing any one. She had
passed through a great many different moods of mind in respect to Mr.
Incledon, but this one was different from all the rest. All the
softening of feeling of which she had been conscious died out of her
mind; his very name became intolerable to her. That which she had
proposed to do, as the last sacrifice a girl could make for her family,
an absolute renunciation of self and voluntary martyrdom for them,
changed its character altogether when they no longer required it. Why
should she do what was worse than death, when the object for which she
was willing to die was no longer before her; when there was, indeed, no
need for doing it at all? Would Iphigenia have died for her word’s sake,
had there been no need for her sacrifice? and why should Rose do more
than she? In this there was, the reader will perceive, a certain change
of sentiment; for though Rose had made up her mind sadly and reluctantly
to marry Mr. Incledon, yet she had not thought the alternative worse
than death. She had felt while she did it the ennobling sense of having
given up her own will to make others happy, and had even recognized the
far-off and faint possibility that the happiness which she thus gave to
others might, some time or other, rebound upon herself. But the moment
her great inducement was removed, a flood of different sentiment came
in. She began to hate Mr. Incledon, to feel that he had taken advantage
of her circumstances, that her mother had taken advantage of her, that
every one had used her as a tool to promote their own purpose, with no
more consideration for her than had she been altogether without feeling.
This thought went through her mind like a hot breath from a furnace,
searing and scorching everything. And now that their purpose was served
without her, she must still make this sacrifice--for honor! For honor!
Perhaps it is true that women hold this motive more lightly than men,
though indeed the honor that is involved in a promise of marriage does
not seem to influence either sex very deeply in ordinary cases. I am
afraid poor Rose did not feel its weight at all. She might be forced to
keep her word, but her whole soul revolted against it. She had ceased to
be sad and resigned. She was rebellious and indignant, and a hundred
wild schemes and notions began to flit through her mind. To jump in such
a crisis as this from the tender resignation of a martyr for love into
the bitter and painful resistance of a domestic rebel who feels that no
one loves her, is easy to the young mind in the unreality which more or
less envelops everything to youth. From the one to the other was but a
step. Yesterday she had been the centre of all the family plans, the
foundation of comfort, the chief object of their thoughts. Now she was
in reality only Rose the eldest daughter, who was about to make a
brilliant marriage, and therefore was much in the foreground, but no
more loved or noticed than any one else. In reality this change had
actually come, but she imagined a still greater change; and fancy showed
her to herself as the rebellious daughter, the one who had never fully
done her duty, never been quite in sympathy with her mother, and whom
all would be glad to get rid of, in marriage or any other way, as
interfering with the harmony of the house. Such of us as have been young
may remember how easy these revolutions of feeling were, and with what
quick facility we could identify ourselves as almost adored or almost
hated, as the foremost object of everybody’s regard or an intruder in
everybody’s way. Rose passed a very miserable night, and the next day
was, I think, more miserable still. Mrs. Damerel did not say a word to
her on the subject which filled her thoughts, but told her that she had
decided to go to London in the beginning of the next week, to look after
the “things” which were necessary. As they were in mourning already,
there was no more trouble of that description necessary on Uncle
Ernest’s account, but only new congratulations to receive, which poured
in on every side.

“I need not go through the form of condoling, for I know you did not
have much intercourse with him, poor old gentleman,” one lady said; and
another caught Rose by both hands and exclaimed on the good luck of the
family in general.

“Blessings, like troubles, never come alone,” she said. “To think you
should have a fortune tumbling down upon you on one side, and on the
other this chit of a girl carrying off the best match in the country!”

“I hope we are sufficiently grateful for all the good things Providence
sends us,” said Mrs. Damerel, fixing her eyes severely upon Rose.

Oh, if she had but had the courage to take up the glove thus thrown down
to her! But she was not yet screwed up to that desperate pitch.

Mr. Incledon came later, and in his joy at seeing her was more
lover-like than he had yet permitted himself to be.

“Why, I have not seen you since this good news came!” he cried, fondly
kissing her in his delight and heartiness of congratulation, a thing he
had never done before. Rose broke from him and rushed out of the room,
white with fright and resentment.

“Oh, how dared he! how dared he!” she cried, rubbing the spot upon her
cheek which his lips had touched with wild exaggeration of dismay.

And how angry Mrs. Damerel was! She went up-stairs after the girl, and
spoke to her as Rose had never yet been spoken to in all her soft
life--upbraiding her with her heartlessness, her disregard of other
people’s feelings, her indifference to her own honor and pledged word.
Once more Rose remained up-stairs, refusing to come down, and the house
was aghast at the first quarrel which had ever disturbed its decorum.

Mr. Incledon went away bewildered and unhappy, not knowing whether to
believe that this was a mere ebullition of temper, such as Rose had
never shown before, which would have been a venial offence, rather
amusing than otherwise to his indulgent fondness; or whether it meant
something more, some surging upwards of the old reluctance to accept
him, which he had believed himself to have overcome. This doubt chilled
him to the heart, and gave him much to think of as he took his somewhat
dreary walk home--for failure, after there has been an appearance of
success, is more discouraging still than when there has been no opening
at all in the clouded skies. And Agatha knocked at Rose’s locked door,
and bade her good night through the keyhole with a mixture of horror and
respect--horror for the wickedness, yet veneration for the courage which
could venture thus to beard all constituted authorities. Mrs. Damerel
herself said no good night to the rebel. She passed Rose’s door steadily
without allowing herself to be led away by the impulse which tugged at
her heart to go in and give the kiss of grace, notwithstanding the
impenitent condition of the offender. Had the mother done this, I think
all that followed might have been averted, and that Mrs. Damerel would
have been able eventually to carry out her programme and arrange the
girl’s life as she wished. But she thought it right to show her
displeasure, though her heart almost failed her.

Rose had shut herself up in wild misery and passion. She had declared to
herself that she wanted to see no one; that she would not open her door,
nor subject herself over again to such reproaches as had been poured
upon her. But yet when she heard her mother pass without even a word,
all the springs of the girl’s being seemed to stand still. She could not
believe it. Never before in all her life had such a terrible occurrence
taken place. Last night, when she had gone to bed to escape remark, Mrs.
Damerel had come in ere she went to her own room and asked after the
pretended headache, and kissed her, and bade her keep quite still and be
better to-morrow. Rose got up from where she was sitting, expecting her
mother’s appeal and intending to resist, and went to the door and put
her ear against it and listened. All was quiet. Mrs. Damerel had gone
steadily along the corridor, had entered the rooms of the other
children, and now shut her own door--sure signal that the day was over.
When this inexorable sound met her ears, Rose crept back again to her
seat and wept bitterly, with an aching and vacancy in her heart which it
is beyond words to tell. It seemed to her that she was abandoned, cut
off from the family love, thrown aside like a waif and stray, and that
things would never be again as they had been. This terrible conclusion
always comes in to aggravate the miseries of girls and boys. Things
could never mend, never again be as they had been. She cried till she
exhausted herself, till her head ached in dire reality, and she was sick
and faint with misery and the sense of desolation; and then wild schemes
and fancies came into her mind. She could not bear it--scarcely for
those dark helpless hours of the night could she bear it--but must be
still till daylight; then, poor forlorn child, cast off by every one,
abandoned even by her mother, with no hope before her but this marriage,
which she hated, and no prospect but wretchedness--then she made up her
mind she would go away. She took out her little purse and found a few
shillings in it, sufficient to carry her to the refuge which she had
suddenly thought of. I think she would have liked to fly out of sight
and ken and hide herself forever, or at least until all who had been
unkind to her had broken their hearts about her, as she had read in
novels of unhappy heroines doing. But she was too timid to take such a
daring step, and she had no money, except the ten shillings in her poor
little pretty purse, which was not meant to hold much. When she had made
up her mind, as she thought, or to speak more truly, when she had been
quite taken possession of by this wild purpose, she put a few
necessaries into a bag to be ready for her flight, taking her little
prayer-book last of all, which she kissed and cried over with a heart
wrung with many pangs. Her father had given it her on the day she was
nineteen--not a year since. Ah, why was not she with him, who always
understood her, or why was not he here? He would never have driven her
to such a step as this. He was kind, whatever any one might say of him.
If he neglected some things, he was never hard upon any one--at least,
never hard upon Rose--and he would have understood her now. With an
anguish of sudden sorrow, mingled with all the previous misery in her
heart, she kissed the little book and put it into her bag. Poor child!
it was well for her that her imagination had that sad asylum at least to
take refuge in, and that the rector had not lived long enough to show
how hard in worldliness a soft and self-indulgent man can be.

Rose did not go to bed. She had a short, uneasy sleep, against her will,
in her chair--dropping into constrained and feverish slumber for an hour
or so in the dead of the night. When she woke, the dawn was blue in the
window, making the branches of the honeysuckle visible through the
narrow panes. There was no sound in heaven or earth except the birds
chirping, but the world seemed full of that; for all the domestic chat
has to be got over in all the nests before men awake and drown the
delicious babble in harsher commotions of their own. Rose got up and
bathed her pale face and red eyes, and put on her hat. She was cold, and
glad to draw a shawl round her and get some consolation and strength
from its warmth; and then she took her bag in her hand, and opening her
door, noiselessly stole out. There was a very early train which passed
the Dingle station, two miles from Dinglefield, at about five o’clock,
on its way to London; and Rose hoped, by being in time for that, to
escape all pursuit. How strange it was, going out, like a thief into the
house, all still and shut up, with its windows closely barred, the
shutters up, and a still, unnatural half-light gleaming in through the
crevices! As she stole down-stairs her very breathing, the sound of her
own steps, frightened Rose; and when she looked in at the open door of
the drawing-room and saw all the traces of last night’s peaceful
occupations, a strange feeling that all the rest were dead and she a
fugitive stealing guiltily away, came on her so strongly that she could
scarcely convince herself it was not true. It was like the half-light
that had been in all the rooms when her father lay dead in the house,
and made her shiver. Feeling more and more like a thief, she opened the
fastenings of the hall door, which were rusty and gave her some trouble.
It was difficult to open them, still more difficult to close it softly
without alarming the house; and this occupied her mind, so that she made
the last step almost without thinking what she was doing. When she had
succeeded in shutting the door, then it suddenly flashed upon her,
rushed upon her like a flood--the consciousness of what she had done.
She had left home, and all help and love and protection; and--Heaven
help her!--here she was out of doors in the open-eyed day, which looked
at her with a severe, pale calm--desolate and alone! She held by the
pillars of the porch to support her for one dizzy, bewildered moment;
but now was not the time to break down or let her terrors, her feelings
overcome her. She had taken the decisive step and must go on now.

Mrs. Damerel, disturbed perhaps by the sound of the closing door, though
she did not make out what it was, got up and looked out from the window
in the early morning, and, at the end of the road which led to the
Green, saw a solitary figure walking, which reminded her of Rose. She
had half forgotten Rose’s perverseness, in her sleep, and I think the
first thing that came into her mind had been rather the great
deliverance sent to her in the shape of uncle Ernest’s fortune, than the
naughtiness--though it was almost too serious to be called
naughtiness--of her child. And though it struck her for the moment with
some surprise to see the slim young figure on the road so early, and a
passing notion crossed her mind that something in the walk and outline
was like Rose, yet it never occurred to her to connect that unusual
appearance with her daughter. She lay down again when she had opened the
window, with a little half-wish, half-prayer, that Rose might “come to
her senses” speedily. It was too early to get up and though Mrs. Damerel
could not sleep, she had plenty to think about and this morning leisure
was the best time for it. Rose prevailed largely among her subjects of
thoughts, but did not fill her whole mind. She had so many other
children, and so much to consider about them all!

Meanwhile Rose went on to the station, like a creature in a dream,
feeling the very trees, the very birds watch her, and wondering that no
faces peeped at her from the curtained cottage windows. How strange to
think that all the people were asleep, while she walked along through
the dreamy world, her footsteps filling it with strange echoes! How fast
and soundly it slept, that world, though all the things out-of-doors
were in full movement, interchanging their opinions, and taking council
upon all their affairs! She had never been out, and had not very often
been awake, at such an early hour, and the stillness from all human
sounds and voices, combined with the wonderful fulness of the language
of Nature, gave her a strange bewildered feeling, like that a traveller
might have in some strange star or planet peopled with beings different
from man. It seemed as if all the human inhabitants had resigned, and
given up their places to another species. The fresh air which blew in
her face, and the cheerful stir of the birds, recovered her a little
from the fright with which she felt herself alone in that changed
universe--and the sight of the first wayfarer making his way, like
herself, towards the station, gave her a thrill of pain, reminding her
that she was neither walking in a dream nor in

[Illustration: SHE TOOK HER BAG IN HER HAND AND NOISELESSLY STOLE OUT.]

another planet, but on the old-fashioned earth, dominated by men, and
where she shrank from being seen or recognized. She put her veil down
over her face as she stole in, once more feeling like a thief, at the
wooden gate. Two or three people only, all of the working class, were
kicking their heels on the little platform. Rose took her ticket with
much trepidation, and stole into the quietest corner to await the
arrival of the train. It came up at last with a great commotion, the one
porter rushing to open the door of a carriage, out of which, Rose
perceived quickly, a gentleman jumped, giving directions about some
luggage. An arrival was a very rare event at so early an hour in the
morning. Rose went forward timidly with her veil over her face to creep
into the carriage which this traveller had vacated, and which seemed the
only empty one. She had not looked at him, nor had she any curiosity
about him. The porter, busy with the luggage, paid no attention to her,
for which she was thankful, and she thought she was getting away quite
unobserved, which gave her a little comfort. She had her foot on the
step, and her hand on the carriage door, to get in.

“Miss Damerel!” cried an astonished voice close by her ear.

Rose’s foot failed on the step. She almost fell with the start she gave.
Whose voice was it? a voice she knew--a voice somehow that went to her
heart; but in the first shock she did not ask herself any questions
about it, but felt only the distress and terror of being recognized.
Then she decided that it was her best policy to steal into the carriage
to escape questions. She did so, trembling with fright; but as she sat
down in the corner, turned her face unwittingly towards the person,
whoever it was, who had recognized her. He had left his luggage, and was
gazing at her with his hand on the door. His face, all flushed with
delight, gleamed upon her like sudden sunshine. “Miss Damerel!” he cried
again, “you here at this hour?”

“Oh, hush! hush!” she cried, putting up her hand with instinctive
warning. “I--don’t want to be seen.”

I am not sure that she knew him at the first glance. Poor child, her
heart was too deeply preoccupied to do more than flutter feebly at the
sight of him, and no secondary thought as to how he had come here, or
what unlooked-for circumstance had brought him back, was within the
range of her intelligence. Edward Wodehouse made no more than a
momentary pause ere he decided what to do. He slipped a coin into the
porter’s ready hand, and gave him directions about his luggage. “Keep it
safe till I return; don’t send it home. I am obliged to go to town for
an hour or two,” he said, and sprang again into the carriage he had just
left. His heart was beating with no feeble flutter. He had the
promptitude of a man who knows that no opportunity ought to be
neglected. The door closed upon them with that familiar bang which we
all know so well; the engine shrieked, the wheels jarred, and Rose
Damerel and Edward Wodehouse--two people whom even the Imperial
Government of England had been moved to separate--moved away into the
distance, as if they had eloped with each other, sitting face to face.

Her heart fluttered feebly enough--his heart as strong as the pulsations
of the steam-engine, and he thought almost as audible; but the first
moment was one of embarrassment. “I cannot get over the wonder of this
meeting,” he said. “Miss Damerel, what happy chance takes you to London
this morning of all others? Some fairy must have done it for me?”

“No happy chance at all,” said Rose, shivering with painful emotion, and
drawing her shawl closer round her. What could she say to him?--but she
began to realize that it was _him_, which was the strangest, bewildering
sensation. As for him, knowing of no mystery and no misery, the tender
sympathy in his face grew deeper and deeper. Could it be poverty? could
she be going to work like any other poor girl? A great throb of love and
pity went through the young man’s heart.

“Don’t be angry with me,” he said; “but I cannot see you here, alone and
looking sad--and take no interest. Can you tell me what it is? Can you
make any use of me? Miss Damerel, don’t you know there is nothing in the
world that would make me so happy as to be of service to you?”

“Have you just come home?” she asked.

“This morning; I was on my way from Portsmouth. And you--won’t you tell
me something about yourself?”

Rose made a tremendous effort to go back to the ordinary regions of
talk; and then she recollected all that had happened since he had been
away. “You know that papa died,” she said, the tears springing to her
eyes with an effort of nature which relieved her brain and heart.

“I heard that: I was very, very sorry.”

“And then for a time we were very poor; but now we are well off again by
the death of mamma’s uncle Ernest; that is all, I think,” she said, with
an attempt at a smile.

Then there was a pause. How was he to subject her to a
cross-examination? and yet Edward felt that, unless something had gone
very wrong, the girl would not have been here.

“You are going to town?” he said. “It is very early for you; and
alone”--

“I do not mind,” said Rose; and then she added quickly, “when you go
back, will you please not say you have seen me? I don’t want any one to
know.”

“Miss Damerel, something has happened to make you unhappy?”

“Yes,” she said, “but never mind. It does not matter much to any one but
me. Your mother is very well. Did she know that you were coming home?”

“No, it is quite sudden. I am promoted by the help of some kind unknown
friend or another, and they could not refuse me a few days’ leave.”

“Mrs. Wodehouse will be very glad,” said Rose. She seemed to rouse out
of her preoccupation to speak to him, and then fell back. The young
sailor was at his wits’ end. What a strange coming home it was to him!
He had dreamt of his first meeting with Rose in a hundred different
ways, and rehearsed it, and all that he would say to her; but such a
wonderful meeting as this had never occurred to him; and to have her
entirely to himself, yet not to know what to say!

“There must be changes since I left. It will soon be a year ago,” he
said, in sheer despair.

“I do not remember any changes,” said Rose, “except the rectory. We are
in the White House now. Nothing else has happened that I know--yet.”

This little word made his blood run cold--_yet_. Did it mean that
something was about to happen? He tried to overcome that impression by a
return to the ground he was sure of. “May I speak of last year?” he
said. “I went away very wretched--as wretched as any man could be.”

Rose was too far gone to think of the precautions with which such a
conversation ought to be conducted. She knew what he meant, and why
should she pretend she did not? Not that this reflection passed through
her mind, which acted totally upon impulse, without any reflection at
all.

“It was not my fault,” she said, simply. “I was alone with papa, and he
would not let me go.”

“Ah!” he said, his eyes lighting up; “you did not think me presumptuous,
then? you did not mean to crush me? Oh! if you knew how I have thought
of it, and questioned myself! It has never been out of my mind for a
day--for an hour”--

She put up her hand hastily. “I may be doing wrong,” she said, “but it
would be more wrong still to let you speak. They would think it was for
this I came away.”

“What is it? what is it?” he said; “something has happened. Why may not
I tell you, when I have at last this blessed opportunity? Why is it
wrong to let me speak?”

“They will think it was for this I came away,” said Rose. “Oh! Mr.
Wodehouse, you should not have come with me. They will say I knew you
were to be here. Even mamma, perhaps, will think so, for she does not
think well of me, as papa used to do. She thinks I am selfish, and care
only for my own pleasure,” said Rose with tears.

“You have come away without her knowledge?”

“Yes.”

“Then you are escaping from some one?” said Wodehouse, his face flushing
over.

“Yes! yes.”

“Miss Damerel, come back with me. Nobody, I am sure, will force you to
do anything. Your mother is too good to be unkind. Will you come back
with me? Ah, you must not--you must not throw yourself upon the world;
you do not know what it is,” said the young sailor, taking her hand, in
his earnestness. “Rose--dear Rose--let me take you back.”

She drew her hand away from him, and dried the hot tears which scorched
her eyes. “No, no,” she said. “You do not know, and I want nobody to
know. You will not tell your mother, nor any one. Let me go, and let no
one think of me any more.”

“As if that were possible!” he cried.

“Oh, yes, it is possible. I loved papa dearly; but I seldom think of him
now. If I could die you would all forget me in a year. To be sure I
cannot die; and even if I did, people might say that was selfish too.
Yes, you don’t know what things mamma says. I have heard her speak as if
it were selfish to die,--escaping from one’s duties; and I am escaping
from my duties; but it can never, never be a duty to marry when you
cannot--What am I saying?” said poor Rose. “My head is quite light, and
I think I must be going crazy. You must not mind what I say.”



CHAPTER XV.


Edward Wodehouse reached Dinglefield about eleven o’clock, coming back
from that strange visit to town. He felt it necessary to go to the White
House before even he went to his mother, but he was so cowardly as to go
round a long way so as to avoid crossing the Green, or exhibiting
himself to public gaze. He felt that his mother would never forgive him
did she know that he had gone anywhere else before going to her, and,
indeed, I think Mrs. Wodehouse’s feeling was very natural. He put his
hat well over his eyes, but he did not, as may be supposed, escape
recognition--and went on with a conviction that the news of his arrival
would reach his mother before he did, and that he would have something
far from delightful to meet with when he went home.

As for Mrs. Damerel, when she woke up in the morning to the fact that
Rose was gone, her first feelings, I think, were more those of anger
than of alarm. She was not afraid that her daughter had committed
suicide, or run away permanently; for she was very reasonable, and her
mind fixed upon the probabilities of a situation rather than on the
violent catastrophes which might be possible. It was Agatha who first
brought her the news, open-mouthed, and shouting the information, “Oh,
mamma, come here, come here, Rose has run away!” so that every one in
the house could hear.

“Nonsense, child! she has gone--to do something for me,” said the mother
on the spur of the moment, prompt to save exposure even at the instant
when she received the shock.

“But, mamma,” cried Agatha, “her bed has not been slept in, her things
are gone--her”--

Here Mrs. Damerel put her hand over the girl’s mouth, and with a look
she never forgot went with her into the empty nest, from which the bird
had flown. All Mrs. Damerel’s wits rallied to her on the moment to save
the scandal which was inevitable if this were known. “Shut the door,”
she said in a low quiet voice. “Rose is very foolish: because she thinks
she has quarrelled with me, to make such a show of her undutifulness!
She has gone up to town by the early train.”

“Then you knew!” cried Agatha, with eyes as wide open as just now her
mouth had been.

“Do you think it likely she would go without my knowing?” said her
mother; an unanswerable question, for which Agatha, though her reason
discovered the imposture, could find no ready response. She looked on
with wonder while her mother, with her own hands, tossed the coverings
off the little white bed, and gave it the air of having been slept in.
It was Agatha’s first lesson in the art of making things appear as they
are not.

“Rose has been foolish; but I don’t choose that Mary Jane should make a
talk about it, and tell everybody that she did not go to bed last night
like a Christian--and do you hold your tongue,” said Mrs. Damerel.

Agatha followed her mother’s directions with awe, and was subdued all
day by a sense of the mystery; for why, if mamma knew all about it, and
it was quite an ordinary proceeding, should Rose have gone to town by
the early train?

Mrs. Damerel, however, had no easy task to get calmly through the
breakfast, and arrange her household matters for the day, with this
question perpetually recurring to her, with sharp thrills and shoots of
pain--Where was Rose? She had been angry at first, deeply annoyed and
vexed, but now other feelings struck in. An anxiety, which did not
suggest any definite danger, but was dully and persistently present in
her mind, like something hanging over her, took possession of her whole
being. Where had she gone? What could she be doing at that moment? What
steps could her mother take to find out, without exposing her
foolishness to public gaze? How should she satisfy Mr. Incledon? how
conceal this strange disappearance from her neighbors? They all took
what people are pleased to call “a deep interest” in Rose, and, indeed,
in all the late rector’s family; and Mrs. Damerel knew the world well
enough to be aware that the things which one wishes to be kept secret,
are just those which everybody manages to hear. She forgot even to be
angry with Rose in the deep necessity of concealing the extraordinary
step she had taken; a step enough to lay a young girl under an enduring
stigma all her life; and what could she do to find her without betraying
her? She could not even make an inquiry without risking this betrayal.
She could not ask a passenger on the road, or a porter at the station,
if they had seen her, lest she should thereby make it known that Rose’s
departure had been clandestine. All through the early morning, while she
was busy with the children and the affairs of the house, this problem
was working in her mind. Of all things this was the most important, not
to compromise Rose, or to let any one know what a cruel and unkind step
she had taken. Mrs. Damerel knew well how such a stigma clings to a
girl, and how ready the world is to impute other motives than the real
one. Perhaps she had been hard upon the child, and pressed a hateful
sacrifice upon her unduly, but now Rose’s credit was the first thing she
thought of. She would not even attempt to get relief to her own anxiety
at the cost of any animadversion upon Rose; or suffer anybody to suspect
her daughter in order to ease herself. This necessity made her position
doubly difficult and painful, for, without compromising Rose, she did
not know how to inquire into her disappearance or what to do; and, as
the moments passed over with this perpetual undercurrent going on in her
mind, the sense of painful anxiety grew stronger and stronger. Where
could she have gone? She had left no note, no letter behind her, as
runaways are generally supposed to do. She had, her mother knew, only a
few shillings in her purse; she had no relations at hand with whom she
could find refuge. Where had she gone? Every minute this question
pressed more heavily upon her, and sounded louder and louder. Could she
go on shutting it up in her mind, taking counsel of no one? Mrs. Damerel
felt this to be impossible, and after breakfast sent a telegram to Mr.
Nolan, begging him to come to her “on urgent business.” She felt sure
that Rose had confided some of her troubles at least to him; and he was
a friend upon whose help and secrecy she could fully rely.

Her mind was in this state of intense inward perturbation and outward
calm, when, standing at her bedroom window, which commanded the road and
a corner of the Green, upon which the road opened, she saw Edward
Wodehouse coming towards the house. I suppose there was never any one
yet in great anxiety and suspense, who did not go to the window with
some sort of forlorn hope of seeing something to relieve them. She
recognized the young man at once, though she did not know of his
arrival, or even that he was looked for; and the moment she saw him
instantly gave him a place--though she could not tell what place--in the
maze of her thoughts. Her heart leaped up at sight of him, though he
might be but walking past, he might be but coming to pay an ordinary
call on his return, for anything she knew. Instinctively, her heart
associated him with her child. She watched him come in through the
little shrubbery, scarcely knowing where she stood, so intense was her
suspense; then went down to meet him, looking calm and cold, as if no
anxiety had ever clouded her firmament. “How do you do, Mr. Wodehouse? I
did not know you had come back,” she said, with perfect composure, as if
he had been the most every-day acquaintance, and she had parted from him
last night.

He looked at her with a countenance much paler and more agitated than
her own, and, with that uneasy air of deprecation natural to a man who
has a confession to make. “No one did; or, indeed, does,” he said, “not
even my mother. I got my promotion quite suddenly, and insisted upon a
few days’ leave to see my friends before I joined my ship.”

“I congratulate you,” said Mrs. Damerel, putting heroic force upon
herself. “I suppose, then, I should have said Captain Wodehouse? How
pleased your mother will be!”

“Yes,” he said, abstractedly. “I should not, as you may suppose, have
taken the liberty to come here so early merely to tell you a piece of
news concerning myself. I came up from Portsmouth during the night, and
when the train stopped at this station--by accident--Miss Damerel got
into the same carriage in which I was. She charged me with this note to
give to you.”

There was a sensation in Mrs. Damerel’s ears as if some sluice had given
way in the secrecy of her heart, and the blood was surging and swelling
upwards. But she managed to smile a ghastly smile at him, and to take
the note without further display of her feelings. It was a little
twisted note written in pencil, which Wodehouse, indeed, had with much
trouble persuaded Rose to write. Her mother opened it with fingers
trembling so much that the undoing of the scrap of paper was a positive
labor to her. She dropped softly into a chair, however, with a great and
instantaneous sense of relief, the moment she had read these few
pencilled words:--

“Mamma, I have gone to Miss Margetts’. I am very wretched, and don’t
know what to do. I could not stay at home any longer. Do not be angry. I
think my heart will break.”

Mrs. Damerel did not notice these pathetic words. She saw “Miss
Margetts,” and that was enough for her. Her blood resumed its usual
current, her heart began to beat less violently. She felt, as she leant
back in her chair, exhausted and weak with the agitation of the morning;
weak as one only feels when the immediate pressure is over. Miss
Margetts was the school-mistress with whom Rose had received her
education. No harm to Rose, nor her reputation, could come did all the
world know she was there. She was so much and instantaneously relieved,
that her watchfulness over herself intermitted, and she did not speak
for a minute or two. She roused herself up with a little start when she
caught Wodehouse’s eye gravely fixed upon her.

“Thanks,” she said; “I am glad to have this little note, telling me of
Rose’s safe arrival with her friends in London. It was very good of you
to bring it. I do not know what put it into the child’s head to go by
that early train.”

“Whatever it was, it was very fortunate for me,” said Edward. “As we had
met by such a strange chance I took the liberty of seeing her safe to
Miss Margetts’ house.”

“You are very good,” said Mrs. Damerel; “I am much obliged to you;” and
then the two were silent for a moment, eying each other like wrestlers
before they close.

“Mrs. Damerel,” said young Wodehouse, faltering, and brave sailor as he
was, feeling more frightened than he could have said, “there is
something more which I ought to tell you. Meeting her so suddenly, and
remembering how I had been balked in seeing her before I left
Dinglefield, I was overcome by my feelings, and ventured to tell Miss
Damerel”--

“Mr. Wodehouse, my daughter is engaged to be married!” cried Mrs.
Damerel, with sharp and sudden alarm.

“But not altogether--with her own will,” he said.

“You must be mistaken,” said the mother, with a gasp for breath. “Rose
is foolish, and changes with every wind that blows. She cannot have
intended to leave any such impression on your mind. It is the result, I
suppose of some lovers’ quarrel. As this is the case, I need not say
that though under any circumstances, I should deeply have felt the honor
you do her yet, in the present, the only thing I can do is to say good
morning and many thanks. Have you really not seen your mother yet?”

“Not yet. I am going”--

“Oh go, please, go!” said Mrs. Damerel. “It was extremely kind of you to
bring the note before going home, but your mother would never forgive me
if I detained you; good-by. If you are here for a few days I may hope to
see you before you go.”

With these words she accompanied him to the door, smiling cordially as
she dismissed him. He could neither protest against the dismissal nor
linger in spite of it, to repeat the love-tale which she had stopped on
his lips. Her apparent calm had almost deceived him, and but for a
little quiver of her shadow upon the wall, a little clasping together of
her hands, with Rose’s letter in them, which nothing but the keenest
observation could have detected, he could almost have believed in his
bewilderment that Rose had been dreaming, and that her mother was quite
cognizant of her flight, and knew where she was going and all about it.
But, however that might be, he had to go, in a very painful maze of
thought, not knowing what to think or to hope about Rose, and having a
whimsical certainty of what must be awaiting him at home, had his mother
heard, as was most likely, of his arrival, and that he had gone first to
the White House. Fortunately for him, Mrs. Wodehouse had not heard it;
but she poured into his reluctant ears the whole story of Mr. Incledon
and the engagement, and of all the wonders with which he was filling
Whitton in preparation for his bride.

“Though I think she treated you very badly, after encouraging you as she
did, and leading you on to the very edge of a proposal--yet one can’t
but feel that she is a very lucky girl,” said Mrs. Wodehouse. “I hope
you will take care not to throw yourself in their way, my dear; though,
perhaps, on the whole, it would be best to show that you have got over
it entirely and don’t mind who she marries. A little insignificant chit
of a girl not worth your notice. There are as good fish in the sea,
Edward--or better, for that matter.”

“Perhaps you are right, mother,” he said, glad to escape from the
subject; and then he told her the mystery of his sudden promotion, and
how he had struggled to get this fortnight’s leave before joining his
ship, which was in commission for China. Mrs. Wodehouse fatigued her
brain with efforts to discover who it could be who had thus mysteriously
befriended her boy; and as this subject drew her mind from the other,
Edward was thankful enough to listen to her suggestions of this man who
was dead, and that man who was at the end of the world. He had not an
idea himself who it could be, and, I think, cherished a furtive hope
that it was his good service which had attracted the notice of my lords;
for young men are easily subject to this kind of illusion. But his mind,
it maybe supposed, was sufficiently disturbed without any question of
the kind. He had to reconcile Rose’s evident misery in her flight, with
her mother’s calm acceptance of it as a thing she knew of; and to draw a
painful balance between Mrs. Damerel’s power to insist and command, and
Rose’s power of resistance; finally, he had the despairing consciousness
that his leave was only for a fortnight, a period too short for anything
to be decided on. No hurried settlement of the extraordinary imbroglio
of affairs which he perceived dimly--no license, however special, would
make it possible to secure Rose in a fortnight’s time; and he was bound
to China for three years! This reflection, you may well suppose, gave
the young man enough to think of, and made his first day at home
anything but the ecstatic holiday which a first day at home ought to be.

As for Mrs. Damerel, when she went into her own house, after seeing this
dangerous intruder to the door, the sense of relief which had been her
only conscious feeling up to this moment gave place to the irritation
and repressed wrath which, I think, was very natural. She said to
herself, bitterly, that as the father had been so the daughter was. They
consulted their own happiness, their own feelings, and left her to make
everything straight behind them. What did it matter what she felt? What
was the good of her but to bear the burden of their self-indulgence?--to
make up for the wrongs they did, and conceal the scandal? I am aware
that in such a case, as in almost all others, the general sympathy goes
with the young; but yet I think poor Mrs. Damerel had much justification
for the bitterness in her heart. She wept a few hot tears by herself
which nobody even knew of or suspected, and then she returned to the
children’s lessons and her daily business, her head swimming a little,
and with a weakness born of past agitation, but subdued into a composure
not feigned but real. For after all, everything can be remedied except
exposure, she thought to herself; and going to Miss Margetts’ showed at
least a glimmering of common-sense on the part of the runaway, and
saved all public discussion of the “difficulty” between Rose and her
mother. Mrs. Damerel was a clergyman’s wife--nay, one might say a
clergywoman in her own person, accustomed to all the special decorums
and exactitudes which those who take the duties of the caste to heart
consider incumbent upon that section of humanity; but she set about
inventing a series of fibs on the spot with an ease which I fear long
practice and custom had given. How many fibs had she been compelled to
tell on her husband’s behalf?--exquisite little romances about his
health and his close study, and the mental occupations which kept him
from little necessary duties; although she knew perfectly well that his
study was mere desultory reading, and his delicate health,
self-indulgence. She had shielded him so with that delicate network of
falsehood that the rector had gone out of the world with the highest
reputation. _She_ had all her life been subject to remark as rather a
commonplace wife for such a man, but no one had dreamt of criticising
him. Now she had the same thing to begin over again; and she carried her
system to such perfection that she began upon her own family, as indeed
in her husband’s case she had always done, imbuing the children with a
belief in his abstruse studies and sensitive organization, as well as
the outer world.

“Rose has gone to pay Miss Margetts a visit,” she said, at the early
dinner. “I think a little change will do her good. I shall run up to
town in a few days and see after her things.”

“Gone to Miss Margetts’! I wonder why no one ever said so,” cried
Agatha, who was always full of curiosity. “What a funny thing, to go off
on a visit without even saying a word!”

“It was settled quite suddenly,” said the mother, with perfect
composure. “I don’t think she has been looking well for some days; and I
always intended to go to town about her things.”

“What a very funny thing,” repeated Agatha, “to go off at five o’clock;
never to say a word to any one--not even to take a box with her clothes,
only that little black bag. I never heard of anything so funny; and to
be so excited about it that she never went to bed.”

“Do not talk nonsense,” said Mrs. Damerel, sharply; “it was not decided
till the evening before, after you were all asleep.”

“But, mamma”--

“I think you might take some of this pudding down to poor Mary Simpson,”
said Mrs. Damerel, calmly; “she has no appetite, poor girl; and, Agatha,
you can call at the postoffice, and ask Mrs. Brown if her niece has got
a place yet. I think she might suit me as housemaid, if she has not got
a place.”

“Then, thank Heaven,” said Agatha, diverted entirely into a new channel,
“we shall get rid of Mary Jane!”

Having thus, as it were, made her experiment upon the subject nearest
her heart, Mrs. Damerel had her little romance perfectly ready for Mr.
Incledon when he came. “You must not blame me for a little
disappointment to-day,” she said, “though indeed I ought to have sent
you word had I not been so busy. You must have seen that Rose was not
herself yesterday. She has her father’s fine organization, poor child,
and all our troubles have told upon her. I have sent her to her old
school, to Miss Margetts, whose care I can rely upon, for a little
change. It will be handy in many ways, for I must go to town for
shopping, and it will be less fatiguing to Rose to meet me there than to
go up and down on the same day.”

“Then she was not well yesterday?” said Mr. Incledon, over whose face
various changes had passed of disappointment, annoyance, and relief.

“Could you not see that?” said the mother, smiling with gentle reproof.
“When did Rose show temper before? She has her faults, but that is not
one of them; but she has her father’s fine organization. I don’t
hesitate to say now, when it is all over, that poverty brought us many
annoyances and some privations, as it does to everybody, I suppose. Rose
has borne up bravely, but of course she felt them; and it is a specialty
with such highly-strung natures,” said this elaborate deceiver, “that
they never break down till the pressure is removed.”

“Ah! I ought to have known it,” said Mr. Incledon; “and, indeed,” he
added, after a pause, “what you say is a great relief, for I had begun
to fear that so young a creature might have found out that she had been
too hasty--that she did not know her own mind.”

“It is not her mind, but her nerves and temperament,” said the mother.
“I shall leave her quite quiet for a few days.”

“And must I leave her quiet too?”

“I think so, if you don’t mind. I could not tell you at the time,” said
Mrs. Damerel, with absolute truth and candor such as gave the best
possible effect when used as accompaniments to the pious fib, “for I
knew you would have wished to help us, and I could not have allowed it;
but there have been a great many things to put up with. You don’t know
what it is to be left to the tender mercies of a maid-of-all-work, and
Rose has had to soil her poor little fingers, as I never thought to see
a child of mine do; it is no disgrace, especially when it is all over,”
she added, with a little laugh.

“Disgrace! it is nothing but honor,” said the lover, with some moisture
starting into his eyes. He would have liked to kiss the poor little
fingers of which her mother spoke with playful tenderness, and went away
comparatively happy, wondering whether there was not something more to
do than he had originally thought of by which he could show his pride
and delight and loving homage to his Rose.

Poor Mrs. Damerel! I am afraid it was very wicked of her, as a
clergywoman who ought to show a good example to the world in general;
and she could have whipped Rose all the same for thus leaving her in the
lurch; but still it was clever, and a gift which most women have to
exercise, more or less.

But oh! the terrors which overwhelmed her soul when, after having
dismissed Mr. Incledon, thus wrapped over again in a false security, she
bethought herself that Rose had travelled to town in company with young
Wodehouse; that they had been shut up for more than an hour together;
that he had told his love-tale, and she had confided enough to him to
leave him not hopeless, at least. Other things might be made to arrange
themselves; but what was to be done with the always rebellious girl when
the man she preferred--a young lover, impassioned and urgent--had come
into the field?



CHAPTER XVI.


When Rose found herself, after so strange and exciting a journey, within
the tranquil shades of Miss Margetts’ establishment for young ladies, it
would be difficult to tell the strange hush which fell upon her. Almost
before the door had closed upon Wodehouse, while still the rumble of the
hansom in which he had brought her to her destination, and in which he
now drove away, was in her ears, the hush, the chill, the tranquillity
had begun to influence her. Miss Margetts, of course, was not up at
half-past six on the summer morning, and it was an early housemaid,
curious but drowsy, who admitted Rose, and took her, having some
suspicion of so unusually early a visitor, with so little luggage, to
the bare and forbidding apartment in which Miss Margetts generally
received her “parents.” The window looked out upon the little garden in
front of the house, and the high wall which inclosed it; and there Rose
seated herself to wait, all the energy and passion which had sustained,
beginning to fail her, and dreary doubts of what her old school-mistress
would say, and how she would receive her, filling her very soul. How
strange is the stillness of the morning within such a populated house!
nothing stirring but the faint, far-off noises in the kitchen--and she
alone, with the big blank walls about her, feeling like a prisoner, as
if she had been shut in to undergo some sentence. To be sure, in other
circumstances this was just the moment which Rose would have chosen to
be alone, and in which the recollection of the scene just ended, the
words which she had heard, the looks that had been bent upon her, ought
to have been enough to light up the dreariest place, and make her
unconscious of external pallor and vacancy. But although the warmest
sense of personal happiness which she had ever known in her life had
come upon the girl all unawares ere she came here, yet the circumstances
were so strange, and the complication of feeling so great, that all the
light seemed to die out of the landscape when Edward left her. This very
joy which had come to her so unexpectedly gave a different aspect to all
the rest of her story. To fly from a marriage which was disagreeable to
her, with no warmer wish than that of simply escaping from it, was one
thing; but to fly with the aid of a lover, who made the flight an
occasion of declaring himself, was another and very different matter.
Her heart sank while she thought of the story she had to tell. Should
she dare tell Miss Margetts about Edward? About Mr. Incledon it seemed
now simple enough.

Miss Margetts was a kind woman, or one of her “young ladies” would not
have thought of flying back to her for shelter in trouble; but she was
always a little rigid and “particular,” and when she heard Rose’s story
(with the careful exclusion of Edward) her mind was very much disturbed.
She was sorry for the girl, but felt sure that her mother must be in the
right, and trembled a little in the midst of her decorum, to consider
what the world would think if she was found to receive girls who set
themselves in opposition to their lawful guardians. “Was the gentleman
not nice?” she asked, doubtfully; “was he very old? were his morals not
what they ought to be? or has he any personal peculiarity which made him
unpleasant? Except in the latter case, when indeed one must judge for
one’s self, I think you might have put full confidence in your excellent
mother’s judgment.”

“Oh, it was not that; he is very good and nice,” said Rose, confused and
troubled. “It is not that I object to him; it is because I do not love
him. How could I marry him when I don’t care for him? But he is not a
man to whom anybody could object.”

“And he is rich, and fond of you, and not too old? I fear--I fear, my
dear child, you have been very inconsiderate. You would soon have
learned to love so good a man.”

“Oh, Miss Anne,” said Rose (for there were two sisters, and this was the
youngest), “don’t say so, please! I never could if I should live a
hundred years.”

“You will not live a hundred years; but you might have tried. Girls are
pliable; or at least people think so; perhaps my particular position in
respect to them makes me less sure of this than most people are. But
still, that is the common idea. You would have learned to be fond of him
if he were fond of you; unless, indeed”--

“Unless what?” cried Rose, intent upon suggestion of excuse.

“Unless,” said Miss Margetts, solemnly, fixing her with the penetrating
glance of an eye accustomed to command--“unless there is another
gentleman in the case--unless you have allowed another image to enter
your heart?”

Rose was unprepared for such an appeal. She answered it only by a scared
look, and hid her face in her hands.

“Perhaps it will be best to have some breakfast,” said Miss Margetts.
“You must have been up very early to be here so soon; and I dare say you
did not take anything before you started, not even a cup of tea?”

Rose had to avow this lack of common prudence, and try to eat docilely
to please her protector; but the attempt was not very successful. A
single night’s watching is often enough to upset a youthful frame not
accustomed to anything of the kind, and Rose was glad beyond description
to be taken to one of the little white-curtained chambers which were so
familiar to her, and left there to rest. How inconceivable it was that
she should be there again! Her very familiarity with everything made the
wonder greater. Had she never left that still, well-ordered place at
all? or what strange current had drifted her back again? She lay down on
the little white dimity bed, much too deeply affected with her strange
position, she thought, to rest; but ere long had fallen fast asleep,
poor child, with her hands clasped across her breast, and tears
trembling upon her eyelashes. Miss Margetts, being a kind soul, was
deeply touched when she looked into the room and found her so, and
immediately went back to her private parlor and scored an adjective or
two out of the letter she had written--a letter to Rose’s mother,
telling how startled she had been to find herself made unawares the
confidant of the runaway, and begging Mrs. Damerel to believe that it
was no fault of hers, though she assured her in the same breath that
every attention should be paid to Rose’s health and comfort. Mrs.
Damerel would thus have been very soon relieved from her suspense, even
if she had not received the despairing little epistle sent to her by
Rose. Of Rose’s note, however, her mother took no immediate notice. She
wrote to Miss Margetts, thanking her, and assuring her that she was only
too glad to think that her child was in such good hands. But she did not
write to Rose. No one wrote to Rose; she was left for three whole days
without a word, for even Wodehouse did not venture to send the glowing
epistles which he wrote by the score, having an idea that an
establishment for young ladies is a kind of Castle Dangerous, in which
such letters as his would never be suffered to reach their proper owner,
and might prejudice her with her jailers. These dreary days were dreary
enough for all of them: for the mother, who was not so perfectly assured
of being right in her mode of treatment as to be quite at ease on the
subject; for the young lover, burning with impatience, and feeling every
day to be a year; and for Rose herself, thus dropped into the stillness
away from all that had excited and driven her desperate. To be delivered
all at once out of even trouble which is of an exciting and stimulating
character, and buried in absolute quiet, is a doubtful advantage in any
case, at least to youth. Mr. Incledon bore the interval, not knowing all
that was involved in it, with more calm than any of the others. He was
quite amenable to Mrs. Damerel’s advice not to disturb the girl with
letters. After all, what was a week to a man secure of Rose’s company
for the rest of his life? He smiled a little at the refuge which her
mother’s care (he thought) had chosen for her--her former school! and
wondered how his poor little Rose liked it; but otherwise was perfectly
tranquil on the subject. As for poor young Wodehouse, he was to be seen
about the railway station, every train that arrived from London, and
haunted the precincts of the White House for news, and was as miserable
as a young man in love and terrible uncertainty--with only ten days in
which to satisfy himself about his future life and happiness--could be.
What wild thoughts went through his mind as he answered “yes” and “no”
to his mother’s talk, and dutifully took walks with her, and called with
her upon her friends, hearing Rose’s approaching marriage everywhere
talked of, and the “good luck” of the rector’s family remarked upon! His
heart was tormented by all these conversations, yet it was better to
hear them, than to be out of the way of hearing altogether. Gretna
Green, if Gretna Green should be feasible, was the only way he could
think of, to get delivered from this terrible complication; and then it
haunted him that Gretna Green had been “done away with,” though he could
not quite remember how. Ten days! and then the China seas for three long
years; though Rose had not been able to conceal from him that he it was
whom she loved, and not Mr. Incledon. Poor fellow! in his despair he
thought of deserting, of throwing up his appointment and losing all his
chances in life; and all these wild thoughts swayed upwards to a climax
in the three days. He determined on the last of these that he would bear
it no longer. He put a passionate letter in the post, and resolved to
beard Mrs. Damerel in the morning and have it out.

More curious still, and scarcely less bewildering, was the strange
trance of suspended existence in which Rose spent these three days. It
was but two years since she had left Miss Margetts’, and some of her
friends were there still. She was glad to meet them, as much as she
could be glad of anything in her preoccupied state, but felt the
strangest difference--a difference which she was totally incapable of
putting into words--between them and herself. Rose, without knowing it,
had made a huge stride in life since she had left their bare
school-room. I dare say her education might with much advantage have
been carried on a great deal longer than it was, and that her power of
thinking might have increased, and her mind been much improved, had she
been sent to college afterwards, as boys are, and as some people think
girls ought to be; but though she had not been to college, education of
a totally different kind had been going on for Rose. She had made a step
in life which carried her altogether beyond the placid region in which
the other girls lived and worked. She was in the midst of problems
which Euclid cannot touch, nor logic solve. She had to exercise choice
in a matter concerning other lives as well as her own. She had to decide
unaided between a true and a false moral duty, and to make up her mind
which was true and which was false. She had to discriminate in what
point Inclination ought to be considered a rule of conduct, and in what
points it ought to be crushed as mere self-seeking; or whether it should
not always be crushed, which was her mother’s code; or if it ought to
have supreme weight, which was her father’s practice. This is not the
kind of training which youth can get from schools, whether in Miss
Margetts’ establishment for young ladies, or even in learned Balliol.
Rose, who had been subjected to it, felt, but could not tell why, as if
she were years and worlds removed from the school and its duties. She
could scarcely help smiling at the elder girls with their “deep” studies
and their books, which were far more advanced intellectually than Rose.
Oh, how easy the hardest grammar was, the difficulties of Goethe, or of
Dante (or even of Thucydides or Perseus, but these she did not know), in
comparison with this difficulty which tore her asunder! Even the moral
and religious truths in which she had been trained from her cradle
scarcely helped her. The question was one to be decided for herself and
by herself, and by her for her alone.

And here is the question, dear reader, as the girl had to decide it.
Self-denial is the rule of Christianity. It is the highest and noblest
of duties when exercised for a true end. “Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.” Thus it has the
highest sanction which any duty can have, and it is the very life and
breath and essence of Christianity. This being the rule, is there one
special case excepted in which you ought not to deny yourself? and is
this case the individual one of Marriage? Allowing that in all other
matters it is right to sacrifice your own wishes, where by doing so you
benefit others, is it right to sacrifice your love and happiness in
order to please your friends, and make a man happy who loves you, but
whom you do not love? According to Mrs. Damerel this was so, and the
sacrifice of a girl who made a loveless marriage for a good purpose was
as noble as any other martyrdom for the benefit of country or family or
race. Gentle reader, if you do not skip the statement of the question
altogether, you will probably decide it summarily and wonder at Rose’s
indecision. But hers was no such easy way of dealing with the problem,
which I agree with her in thinking is much harder than anything in
Euclid. She was not by any means sure that this amount of self-sacrifice
was not a duty. Her heart divined, her very intellect felt, without
penetrating, a fallacy somewhere in the argument; but still the argument
was very potent and not to be got over. She was not sure that to listen
to Edward Wodehouse, and to suffer even an unguarded reply to drop from
her lips, was not a sin. She was far from being sure that in any case it
is safe or right to do what you like; and to do what you like in
contradiction to your mother, to your engagement, to your plighted
word--what could that be but a sin? She employed all her simple logic on
the subject with little effect, for in strict logic she was bound over
to marry Mr. Incledon, and now more than ever her heart resolved against
marrying Mr. Incledon.

This question worked in her mind, presenting itself in every possible
phase--now one side, now the other. And she dared not consult any one
near, and none of those who were interested in its solution took any
notice of her. She was left alone in unbroken stillness to judge for
herself, to make her own conclusion. The first day she was still
occupied with the novelty of her position--the fatigue and excitement of
leaving home, and of all that had occurred since. The second day she was
still strangely moved by the difference between herself and her old
friends, and the sense of having passed beyond them into regions unknown
to their philosophy, and from which she never could come back to the
unbroken tranquillity of a girl’s life. But on the third day the weight
of her strange position weighed her down utterly. She watched the
distribution of the letters with eyes growing twice their natural size,
and a pang indescribable at her heart. Did they mean to leave her alone
then? to take no further trouble about her? to let her do as she liked,
that melancholy privilege which is prized only by those who do not
possess it? Had Edward forgotten her, though he had said so much two
days ago? had her mother cast her off, despising her, as a rebel? Even
Mr. Incledon, was he going to let her be lost to him without an effort?
Rose had fled hoping (she believed) for nothing so much as to lose
herself and be heard of no more; but oh! the heaviness which drooped
over her very soul when for three days she was let alone! Wonder,
consternation, indignation, arose one after another in her heart. They
had all abandoned her. The lover whom she loved, and the lover whom she
did not love, alike. What was love then? a mere fable, a thing which
perished when the object of it was out of sight? When she had time to
think, indeed, she found this theory untenable, for had not Edward been
faithful to her at the other end of the world? and yet what did he mean
now?

On the third night Rose threw herself on her bed in despair, and sobbed
till midnight. Then a mighty resolution arose in her mind. She would
relieve herself of the burden. She would go to the fountain-head, to Mr.
Incledon himself, and lay the whole long tale before him. He was good,
he was just, he had always been kind to her; she would abide by what he
said. If he insisted that she should marry him, she must do so; better
that than to be thrown off by everybody, to be left for days or perhaps
for years alone in Miss Margetts’. And if he were generous, and decided
otherwise! In that case neither Mrs. Damerel nor any one else could have
anything to say--she would put it into his hands.

She had her hat on when she came down to breakfast next morning, and her
face, though pale, had a little resolution in it, better than the
despondency of the first three days. “I am going home,” she said, as the
school-mistress looked at her, surprised.

“It is the very best thing you can do, my dear,” said Miss Margetts,
giving her a more cordial kiss than usual. “I did not like to advise it;
but it is the very best thing you can do.”

Rose took her breakfast meekly, not so much comforted as Miss Margetts
had intended by this approval. Somehow she felt as if it must be against
her own interest since Miss Margetts approved of it, and she was in
twenty minds then not to go. When the letters came in she said to
herself that there could be none for her, and went and stood at the
window, turning her back that she might not see; and it was while she
was standing thus, pretending to gaze out upon the high wall covered
with ivy, that, in the usual contradiction of human affairs, Edward
Wodehouse’s impassioned letter was put into her hands. There she read
how he too had made up his mind not to bear it longer; how he was going
to her mother to have an explanation with her. Should she wait for the
result of this explanation, or should she carry out her own
determination and go?

“Come, Rose, I will see you safely to the station: there is a cab at the
door,” said Miss Margetts.

Rose turned round, her eyes dewy and moist with those tears of love and
consolation which refresh and do not scorch as they come. She looked up
timidly to see whether she might ask leave to stay; but the cab was
waiting, and Miss Margetts was ready, and her own hat on and intention
declared; she was ashamed to turn back when she had gone so far. She
said good-by accordingly to the elder sister, and meekly followed Miss
Anne into the cab. Had it been worth while winding herself up to the
resolution of flight for so little? Was her first experiment of
resistance really over, and the rebel going home, with arms grounded and
banners trailing? It was ignominious beyond all expression--but what was
she to do?

“My dear,” said Miss Margetts, in the cab, which jolted very much, and
now and then took away her breath, “I hope you are going with your mind
in a better frame, and disposed to pay attention to what your good
mother says. _She_ must know best. Try and remember this, whatever
happens. You ought to say it to yourself all the way down as a penance,
‘My mother knows best.’”

“But how can she know best what I am feeling?” said Rose. “It must be
myself who must judge of that.”

“You may be sure she knows a great deal more, and has given more thought
to it than you suppose,” said the school-mistress; “dear child, make me
happy by promising that you will follow her advice.”

Rose made no promise, but her heart sank as she thus set out upon her
return journey. It was less terrible when she found herself alone in the
railway carriage, and yet it was more terrible as she realized what
desperation had driven her to. She was going back as she went away, with
no question decided, no resolution come to, with only new complications
to encounter, without the expedient of flight, which could not be
repeated. Ought she not to have been more patient, to have tried to put
up with silence? That could not have lasted forever. But now she was
going to put herself back in the very heart of the danger, with no
ground gained, but something lost. Well! she said to herself, at least
it would be over. She would know the worst, and there would be no
further appeal against it. If happiness was over too, she would have
nothing to do in all the life before her--nothing to do but to mourn
over the loss of it, and teach herself to do without it; and suspense
would be over. She got out of the carriage, pulling her veil over her
face, and took an unfrequented path which led away across the fields to
the road near Whitton, quite out of reach of the Green and all its
inhabitants. It was a long walk, but the air and the movement did her
good. She went on swiftly and quietly, her whole mind bent upon the
interview she was going to seek. All beyond was a blank to her. This one
thing, evident and definite, seemed to fix and to clear her dazzled
eyesight. She met one or two acquaintances, but they did not recognize
her through her veil, though she saw them, and recollected them ever
after, as having had something to do with that climax and agony of her
youth; and thus Rose reached Whitton, with its soft, abundant summer
woods, and, her heart beating louder and louder, hastened her steps as
she drew near her destination, almost running across the park to Mr.
Incledon’s door.



CHAPTER XVII.


“Rose! is it possible?” he cried. She was standing in the midst of that
great, luxurious, beautiful drawing-room, of which he hoped she was to
be the queen and mistress, her black dress breaking harshly upon all the
soft harmony of neutral tints around. Her face, which he saw in the
glass as he entered the room, was framed in the large veil which she had
thrown back over her hat, and which drooped down on her shoulders on
either side. She was quite pale--her cheeks blanched out of all trace of
color, with something of that chilled and spiritual light which
sometimes appears in the colorless clearness of the sky after a storm.
Her eyes were larger than usual, and had a dilated, exhausted look. Her
face was full of a speechless, silent eagerness--eagerness which could
wait, yet was almost beyond the common artifices of concealment. Her
hands were softly clasped together, with a certain eloquence in their
close pressure, supporting each other. All this Mr. Incledon saw in the
glass before he could see her; and, though he went in with lively and
joyful animation, the sight startled him a little. He came forward,
however, quite cheerfully, though his heart failed him, and took the
clasped hands into his own.

“I did not look for such a bright interruption to a dull morning,” he
said; “but what a double pleasure it is to see you here! How good of you
to come to bring me the happy news of your return!”

“Mr. Incledon,” she said hastily, “oh! do not be glad--don’t say I am
good. I have come to you first without seeing mamma. I have come to say
a great deal--a very great deal--to you; and to ask--your advice--and if
you will tell me--what to do.”

Her voice sank quite low before these final words were said.

“My darling,” he said, “you are very serious and solemn. What can you
want advice about? But whatever it is, you have a right to the very best
I can give you. Let me hear what the difficulty is. Here is a chair for
you--one of your own choice, the new ones. Tell me if you think it
comfortable; and then tell me what this terrible difficulty is.”

“Oh, don’t take it so lightly,” said Rose, “please don’t. I am very,
very unhappy, and I have determined to tell everything and to let you
judge me. You have the best right.”

“Thanks for saying so,” he said, with a smile, kissing her hand. He
thought she meant that as she was so surely his, it was naturally his
part to think for her and help her in everything. What so natural? And
then he awaited her disclosure, still smiling, expecting some innocent
dilemma, such as would be in keeping with her innocent looks. He could
not understand her, nor the gravity of the appeal to him which she had
come to make.

“Oh, Mr. Incledon!” cried Rose, “if you knew what I meant, you would not
smile--you would not take it so easily. I have come to tell you
everything--how I have lied to you and been a cheat and a deceiver. Oh!
don’t laugh! you don’t know--you don’t know how serious it is!”

“Nay, dear child,” he said, “do you want to frighten me? for if you do,
you must think of something more likely than that you are a cheat and
deceiver. Come now, I will be serious--as serious as a judge. Tell me
what it is, Rose.”

“It is about you and me,” she said suddenly, after a little pause.

“Ah!”--this startled him for the first time. His grasp tightened upon
her hand; but he used no more endearing words. “Go on,” he said, softly.

“May I begin at the beginning? I should like to tell you everything.
When you first spoke to me, Mr. Incledon, I told you there was some
one”--

“Ah!” cried Mr. Incledon again, still more sharply, “he is here now. You
have seen him since he came back?”

“It is not that,” said Rose. “Oh! let me tell you from the beginning. I
said then that he had never said anything to me. I could not tell you
his name because I did not know what his feelings were--only my own, of
which I was ashamed. Mr. Incledon, have patience with me a little. Just
before he went away he came to the rectory to say good-by. He sent up a
message to ask me to come down, but mamma went down instead. Then his
mother sent me a little note, begging me to go to bid him good-by. It
was while papa was ill; he held my hand, and would not let me. I begged
him, only for a minute; but he held my hand and would not let me go. I
had to sit there and listen, and hear the door open and shut, and then
steps in the hall and on the gravel, and then mamma coming slowly back
again, as if nothing had happened, up-stairs and along the corridor. Oh!
I thought she was walking on my heart!”

Rose’s eyes were so full that she did not see how her listener looked.
He held her hand still, but with his disengaged hand he partially
covered his face.

“Then after that,” she resumed, pausing for breath, “all our trouble
came. I did not seem to care for anything. It is dreadful to say it--and
I never did say it till now--but I don’t think I felt so unhappy as I
ought about poor papa; I was so unhappy before. It did not break my
heart as grief ought to do. I was only dull--dull--miserable, and did
not care for anything; but then everybody was unhappy; and there was
good reason for it, and no one thought of me. It went on like that till
you came.”

Here he stirred a little and grasped her hand more tightly. What she had
said hitherto had not been pleasant to him; but yet it was all before he
had made his appearance as her suitor--all innocent, visionary--the very
romance of youthful liking. Such an early dream of the dawning any man,
even the most rigid, might forgive to his bride.

“You came--oh! Mr. Incledon, do not be angry--I want to tell you
everything. If it vexes you and hurts you, will you mind? You came; and
mamma told me that same night. Oh, how frightened I was and miserable!
Everything seemed to turn round with me. She said you loved me, and that
you were very good and very kind,--but that I knew,--and would do so
much for the boys, and be a comfort and help to her in our great
poverty.” At these words he stirred again and loosened, but did not
quite let go, his grasp of her hand. Rose was, without knowing it,
acting like a skilful surgeon, cutting deep and sharp, that the pain
might be over the sooner. He leaned his head on his other hand, turning
it away from her, and from time to time stirred unconsciously when the
sting was too much for him, but did not speak. “And she said more than
this. Oh, Mr. Incledon! I must tell you everything, as if you were my
own heart. She told me that papa had not been--considerate for us, as
he should have been; that he liked his own way and his own pleasure
best; and that I was following him--that I was doing the same--ruining
the boys’ prospects and prolonging our great poverty, because I did not
want to marry you, though you had promised to help them and set
everything right.”

Mr. Incledon dropped Rose’s hand; he turned half away from her,
supporting his head upon both of his hands, so that she did not see his
face. She did not know how cruel she was, nor did she mean to be cruel,
but simply historical, telling him everything, as if she had been
speaking to her own heart.

“Then I saw you,” said Rose, “and told you--or else I thought I told
you--and you did not mind, but would not, though I begged you, give up.
And everything went on for a long, long time. Sometimes I was very
wretched; sometimes my heart felt quite dull, and I did not seem to mind
what happened. Sometimes I forgot for a little while--and oh! Mr.
Incledon, now and then, though I tried very hard, I could not help
thinking of--him. I never did when I could help it; but sometimes when I
saw the lights on Ankermead, or remembered something he had said--And
all this time mamma would talk to me of people who prefer their own will
to the happiness of others; of all the distress and misery it brought
when we indulged ourselves and our whims and fancies; of how much better
it was to do what was right than what we liked. My head got confused
sometimes, and I felt as if she was wrong, but I could not put it into
words; for how could it be right to deceive a good man like you--to let
you give your love for nothing, and marry you without caring for you?
But I am not clever enough to argue with mamma. Once, I think, for a
minute, I got the better of her; but when she told me that I was
preferring my own will to everybody’s happiness, it went to my heart,
and what could I say? Do you remember the day when it was all settled at
last and made up?”

This was more than the poor man could bear. He put up one hand with a
wild gesture to stop her, and uttered a hoarse exclamation; but Rose was
too much absorbed in her story to stop.

“The night before I had gone down into the rectory garden, where he and
I used to talk, and there I said good-by to him in my heart, and made a
kind of grave over him, and gave him up for ever and ever--oh! don’t you
know how?” said Rose, the tears dropping on her black dress. “Then I was
willing that it should be settled how you pleased; and I never, never
allowed myself to think of him any more. When he came into my head, I
went to the school-room, or I took a hard bit of music, or I talked to
mamma, or heard Patty her lessons. I would not, because I thought it
would be wicked to you, and you so good to me, Mr. Incledon. Oh! if you
had only been my brother, or my--cousin (she had almost said, father or
uncle, but by good luck forbore), how fond I should have been of
you!--and I am fond of you,” said Rose, softly, proffering the hand
which he had put away, and laying it gently upon his arm.

He shook his head, and made a little gesture as if to put it off, but
yet the touch and the words went to his heart.

“Now comes the worst of all,” said Rose. “I know it will hurt you, and
yet I must tell you. After that there came the news of uncle Ernest’s
death; and that he had left his money to us, and that we were well off
again--better than we had ever been. Oh, forgive me! forgive me!” she
said, clasping his arm with both her hands, “when I heard it, it seemed
to me all in a moment that I was free. Mamma said that all the
sacrifices we had been making would be unnecessary henceforward; what
she meant was the things we had been doing--dusting the rooms, putting
the table straight, helping in the house--oh! as if these could be
called sacrifices! But I thought she meant me. You are angry--you are
angry!” said Rose. “I could not expect anything else. But it was not
you, Mr. Incledon; it was that I hated to be married. I could not--could
not make up my mind to it. I turned into a different creature when I
thought that I was free.”

The simplicity of the story disarmed the man, sharp and bitter as was
the sting and mortification of listening to this too artless tale. “Poor
child! poor child!” he murmured, in a softer tone, unclasping the
delicate fingers from his arm; and then, with an effort, “I am not
angry. Go on; let me hear it to the end.”

“When mamma saw how glad I was, she stopped it all at once,” said Rose,
controlling herself. “She said I was just the same as ever--always
self-indulgent, thinking of myself, not of others--and that I was as
much bound as ever by honor. There was no longer any question of the
boys, or of help to the family; but she said honor was just as much to
be considered, and that I had pledged my word”--

“Rose,” quietly said Mr. Incledon, “spare me what you can of these
discussions--you had pledged your word?”

She drew away half frightened, not expecting the harsher tone in his
voice, though she had expected him to “be angry,” as she said. “Forgive
me,” she went on, subdued, “I was so disappointed that it made me wild.
I did not know what to do. I could not see any reason for it now--any
good in it; and, at last, when I was almost crazy with thinking, I--ran
away.”

“You ran away?”--Mr. Incledon raised his head, indignant. “Your mother
has lied all round,” he said, fiercely; then, bethinking himself, “I beg
your pardon. Mrs. Damerel no doubt had her reasons for what she said.”

“There was only one place I could go to,” said Rose, timidly, “Miss
Margetts’, where I was at school. I went up to the station for the early
train that nobody might see me. I was very much frightened. Some one was
standing there; I did not know who he was--he came by the train, I
think; but after I had got into the carriage he came in after me. Mr.
Incledon! it was not his fault, neither his nor mine. I had not been
thinking of him. It was not for him, but only not to be married--to be
free”--

“Of me,” he said, with a bitter smile; “but in short, you met, whether
by intention or not--and Mr. Wodehouse took advantage of his
opportunities?”

“He told me,” said Rose, not looking at Mr. Incledon, “what I had known
ever so long without being told; but I said nothing to him; what could I
say? I told him all that had happened. He took me to Miss Margetts’, and
there we parted,” said Rose, with a momentary pause and a deep sigh.

“Since then I have done nothing but think and think. No one has come
near me--no one has written to me. I have been left alone to go over and
over it all in my own mind. I have done so till I was nearly mad, or at
least, everything seemed going round with me and everything confused,
and I could not tell what was right and what was wrong. Oh!” cried Rose,
lifting her head in natural eloquence, with eyes which looked beyond
him, and a certain elevation and abstraction in her face, “I don’t think
it is a thing in which only right and wrong are to be considered. When
you love one and do not love another, it must mean something; and to
marry unwillingly, that is nothing to content a man. It is a wrong to
him; it is not doing right; it is treating him unkindly, cruelly! It is
as if he wanted you, anyhow, like a cat or a dog; not as if he wanted
you worthily, as his companion.” Rose’s courage failed her after this
little outburst; her high looks came down, her voice sank and faltered,
her head drooped. She rose up, and clasping her hands together, went on
in low tones: “Mr. Incledon, I am engaged to you; I belong to you. I
trust your justice and your kindness more than anything else. If you say
I am to marry you, I will do it. Take it now into your own hands. If I
think of it any more I will go mad; but I will do whatever you say.”

He was walking up and down the room, with his face averted, and with
pain and anger and humiliation in his heart. All this time he had
believed he was leading Rose towards the reasonable love for him which
was all he hoped for. He had supposed himself in almost a lofty
position, offering to this young, fresh, simple creature more in every
way than she could ever have had but for him--a higher position, a love
more noble than any foolish boy-and-girl attachment. To find out in a
moment how very different the real state of the case had been, and to
have conjured up before him the picture of a martyr-girl, weeping and
struggling, and a mother “with a host of petty maxims preaching down her
daughter’s heart,” was intolerable to him. He had never been so
mortified, so humbled in all his life. He walked up and down the room in
a ferment, with that sense of the unbearable which is so bitter.
Unbearable!--yet to be borne somehow; a something not to be ignored or
cast off. It said much for Rose’s concluding appeal that he heard it at
all, and took in the meaning of it in his agitation and hot, indignant
rage; but he did hear it, and it touched him. “If you say I am to marry
you, I will do it.” He stopped short in his impatient walk. Should he
say it--in mingled despite and love--and keep her to her word? He came
up to her and took her clasped hands within his, half in anger, half in
tenderness, and looked her in the face.

“If I say you are to marry me, you will do it? You pledge yourself to
that? You will marry me if I please?”

“Yes,” said Rose, very pale, looking up at him steadfastly. She neither
trembled nor hesitated. She had gone beyond any superficial emotion.

Then he stooped and kissed her with a passion which was rough--almost
brutal. Rose’s pale face flushed, and her slight figure wavered like a
reed; but she neither shrank nor complained. He had a right to dictate
to her--she had put it into his hands. The look of those large, innocent
eyes, from which all conflict had departed, which had grown abstract in
their wistfulness, holding fast at least by one clear duty, went to his
heart. He kept looking at her, but she did not quail. She had no thought
but her word, and to do what she had said.

“Rose,” he said, “you are a cheat, like all women. You come to me with
this face, and insult me and stab me, and say then you will do what I
tell you, and stand there, looking at me with innocent eyes like an
angel. How could you find it in your heart--if you have a heart--to tell
me all this? How dare you put that dainty little cruel foot of yours
upon my neck, and scorn and torture me--how dare you, how dare you!”
There came a glimmer into his eyes, as if it might have been some
moisture forced up by means beyond his control, and he held her hands
with such force that it seemed to Rose he shook her, whether willingly
or not. But she did not shrink. She looked up at him, her eyes growing
more and more wistful, and though he hurt her, did not complain.

“It was that you might know all the truth,” she said, almost under her
breath. “Now you know everything and can judge--and I will do as you
say.”

He held her so for a minute longer, which seemed eternity to Rose; then
he let her hands drop, and turned away.

“It is not you who are to blame,” he said, “not you, but your mother,
who would have sold you. Good God! do all women traffic in their own
flesh and blood?”

“Do not say so!” cried Rose, with sudden tears; “you shall not! I will
not hear it! She has been wrong; but that was not what she meant.”

Mr. Incledon laughed--his mood seemed to have changed all in a moment.
“Come Rose,” he said, “perhaps it is not quite decorous for you, a young
lady, to be here alone. Come! I will take you to your mother, and then
you shall hear what I have got to say.”

She walked out of the great house by his side as if she were in a dream.
What did he mean? The suspense became terrible to her; for she could not
guess what he would say. Her poor little feet twisted over each other
and she stumbled and staggered with weakness as she went along beside
him--stumbled so much that he made her take his arm, and led her
carefully along, with now and then a kind but meaningless word. Before
they entered the White House, Rose was leaning almost her whole weight
upon his supporting arm. The world was swimming and floating around, the
trees going in circles, now above, now below her, she thought. She was
but half conscious when she went in, stumbling across the threshold, to
the little hall, all bright with Mr. Incledon’s flowers. Was she to be
his, too, like one of them--a flower to carry about wherever he went,
passive and helpless as one of the plants--past resistance, almost past
suffering? “I am afraid she is ill; take care of her, Agatha,” said Mr.
Incledon to her sister, who came rushing open-mouthed and open-eyed;
and, leaving her there, he strode unannounced into the drawing-room to
meet the real author of his discomfiture, an antagonist more worthy of
his steel and against whom he could use his weapons with less
compunction than against the submissive Rose.

Mrs. Damerel had been occupied all the morning with Mr. Nolan, who had
obeyed her summons on the first day of Rose’s flight, but whom she had
dismissed when she ascertained where her daughter was, assuring him that
to do nothing was the best policy, as indeed it had proved to be. The
curate had gone home that evening obedient; but moved by the electrical
impulse which seemed to have set all minds interested in Rose in motion
on that special day, had come back this morning to urge her mother to go
to her or to allow him to go to her. Mr. Nolan’s presence had furnished
an excuse to Mrs. Damerel for declining to receive poor young Wodehouse,
who had asked to see her immediately after breakfast. She was discussing
even then with the curate how to get rid of him, what to say to him, and
what it was best to do to bring Rose back to her duty. “I can’t see so
clear as you that it’s her duty, in all the circumstances,” the curate
had said doubtfully. “What have circumstances to do with a matter of
right and wrong--of truth and honor?” cried Mrs. Damerel. “She must keep
her word.” It was at this precise moment of the conversation that Mr.
Incledon appeared; and I suppose she must have seen something in his
aspect and the expression of his face that showed some strange event had
happened. Mrs. Damerel gave a low cry, and the muscles of Mr. Incledon’s
mouth were moved by one of those strange contortions which in such cases
are supposed to do duty for a smile. He bowed low, with a mock
reverence, to Mr. Nolan, but did not put out his hand.

“I presume,” he said, “that this gentleman is in the secret of my
humiliation, as well as the rest of the family, and that I need not
hesitate to say what I have to say before him. It is pleasant to think
that so large a circle of friends interest themselves in my affairs.”

“What do you mean?” said Mrs. Damerel. “Your humiliation! Have you
sustained any humiliation? I do not know what you mean.”

“Oh! I can make it very clear,” he said, with the same smile. “Your
daughter has been with me; I have just brought her home.”

“What! Rose?” said Mrs. Damerel, starting to her feet; but he stopped
her before she could make a step.

“Do not go,” he said; “It is more important that you should stay here.
What have I done to you that you should have thus humbled me to the
dust? Did I ask you to sell her to me? Did I want a wife for hire?
Should I have authorized any one to persecute an innocent girl, and
drive her almost mad for me? Good heavens, for me! Think of it, if you
can. Am I the sort of man to be forced on a girl--to be married as a
matter of duty? How dared you--how dared any one insult me so!”

Mrs. Damerel, who had risen to her feet, sank into a chair, and covered
her face with her hands. I do not think she had ever once taken into
consideration this side of the question.

“Mr. Incledon,” she stammered, “you have been misinformed; you are
mistaken. Indeed, indeed, it is; not so.”

“Misinformed!” he cried; “mistaken! I have my information from the very
fountain-head--from the poor child who has been all but sacrificed to
this supposed commercial transaction between you and me, which I disown
altogether for my part. I never made such a bargain, nor thought of it.
I never asked to buy your Rose. I might have won her, perhaps,” he
added, calming himself with an effort, “if you had let us alone, or I
should have discovered at once that it was labor lost. Look here. We
have been friends, and I never thought of you till to-day but with
respect and kindness. How could you put such an affront on me?”

“Gently, gently,” said Mr. Nolan, growing red; “you go too far, sir. If
Mrs. Damerel has done wrong, it was a mistake of the judgment, not of
the heart.”

“The heart!” he cried, contemptuously; “how much heart was there in it?
On poor Rose’s side, a broken one; on mine, a heart deceived and
deluded. Pah! do not speak to me of hearts or mistakes; I am too deeply
mortified--too much wronged for that.”

“Mr. Incledon,” said Mrs. Damerel, rising, pale yet self-possessed, “I
may have done wrong, as you say; but what I have done, I did for my
child’s advantage and for yours. You were told she did not love you, but
you persevered; and I believed, and believe still, that when she knew
you better--when she was your wife--she would love you. I may have
pressed her too far; but it was no more a commercial transaction--no
more a sale of my daughter”--she said, with a burning flush coming over
her face--“no more than I tell you. You do me as much wrong as you say I
have done you--Rose! Rose!”

Rose came in followed by Agatha, with her hat off, which showed more
clearly the waste which emotion and fatigue, weary anxiety, waiting,
abstinence, and mental suffering had worked upon her face. She had her
hands clasped loosely yet firmly, in the attitude which had become
habitual to her, and a pale smile like the wannest of winter sunshine on
her face. She came up very quietly, and stood between the two like a
ghost. Agatha said, who stood trembling behind her.

“Mamma, do not be angry,” she said, softly; “I have told him everything,
and I am quite ready to do whatever he decides. In any case, he ought to
know everything, for it is he who is most concerned--he and I.”



CHAPTER XVIII.


Captain Wodehouse did not get admission to the White House that day
until the afternoon. He was not to be discouraged, though the messages
he got were of a depressing nature enough. “Mrs. Damerel was engaged,
and could not see him; would he come later?” “Mrs. Damerel was still
engaged--more engaged than ever.”

And while Mary Jane held the door ajar, Edward heard a voice raised
high, with an indignant tone, speaking continuously, which was the voice
of Mr. Incledon, though he did not identify it. Later still, Mrs.
Damerel was still engaged; but, as he turned despairing from the door,
Agatha rushed out, with excited looks, and with a message that if he
came back at three o’clock her mother would see him.

“Rose has come home, and oh! there has been such a business!” Agatha
whispered into his ear before she rushed back again. She knew a lover,
and especially a favored lover, by instinct, as some girls do; but
Agatha had the advantage of always knowing her own mind, and never would
be the centre of any imbroglio, like the unfortunate Rose.

“Are you going back to the White House again?” said Mrs. Wodehouse. “I
wonder how you can be so servile, Edward. I would not go, hat in hand,
to any girl, if I were you; and when you know that she is engaged to
another man, and he a great deal better off than you are! How can you
show so little spirit? There are more Roses in the garden than one, and
sweeter Roses, and richer, would be glad to have you. If I had thought
you had so little proper pride, I should never have wished you to come
here.”

“I don’t think I have any proper pride,” said Edward, trying to make a
feeble joke of it; “I have to come home now and then to know what it
means.”

“You were not always so poor-spirited,” said his mother; “it is that
silly girl who has turned your head. And she is not even there; she has
gone up to town to get her trousseau and choose her wedding silks, so
they say; and you may be sure, if she is engaged like that, she does not
want to be reminded of you.”

“I suppose not,” said Edward, drearily; “but as I promised to go back, I
think I must. I ought at least to bid them good-by.”

“Oh! if that is all,” said Mrs. Wodehouse, pacified, “go, my dear; and
mind you put the very best face upon it. Don’t look as if it were
anything to you; congratulate them, and say you are glad to hear that
any one so nice as Mr. Incledon is to be the gentleman. Oh! if I were in
your place, I should know what to say! I should give Miss Rose something
to remember. I should tell her I hoped she would be happy in her grand
house, and was glad to hear that the settlements were everything they
ought to be. She would feel that, you may be sure; for a girl that sets
up for romance and poetry and all that don’t like to be supposed
mercenary. She should not soon forget her parting with me.”

“Do you think I wish to hurt and wound her?” said Edward. “Surely not.
If she is happy, I will wish her more happiness. She has never harmed
me--no, mother. It cannot do a man any harm, even if it makes him
unhappy, to think of a woman as I think of Rose.”

“Oh! you have no spirit,” cried Mrs. Wodehouse; “I don’t know how a son
of mine can take it so easily. Rose, indeed! Her very name makes my
blood boil!”

But Edward’s blood was very far from boiling as he walked across the
Green for the third time that day. The current of life ran cold and low
in him. The fiery determination of the morning to “have it out” with
Mrs. Damerel, and know his fate and Rose’s fate, had fallen into a
despairing resolution at least to see her for the last time, to bid her
forget everything that had passed, and try himself to forget. If her
fate was sealed, and no longer in her own power to alter, that was all a
generous man could do; and he felt sure, from the voices he had heard,
and from the air of agitation about the house, and from Agatha’s hasty
communication, that this day had been a crisis to more than himself. He
met Mr. Incledon as he approached the house. His rival looked at him
gravely without a smile, and passed him with an abrupt “good morning.”
Mr. Incledon had not the air of a triumphant lover, and there was
something of impatience and partial offence in his look as his eyes
lingered for a moment upon the young sailor; so it appeared to Edward,
though I think it was rather regret, and a certain wistful envy that was
in Mr. Incledon’s eyes. This young fellow, not half so clever, or so
cultivated, or so important as himself, had won the prize which he had
tried for and failed. The baffled man was still disturbed by unusual
emotion, but he was not ungenerous in his sentiments; but then the other
believed that he himself was the failure, and that Mr. Incledon had
succeeded, and interpreted his looks, as we all do, according to the
commentary in our own minds. Edward went on more depressed than ever
after this meeting. Just outside the White House he encountered Mr.
Nolan, going out to walk with the children. “Now that the gale is over,
the little boats are going out for a row,” said the curate, looking at
him with a smile. It was not like Mr. Nolan’s usual good nature, poor
Edward thought. He was ushered in at once to the drawing-room, where
Mrs. Damerel sat in a great chair, leaning back, with a look of weakness
and exhaustion quite out of keeping with her usual energy. She held out
her hand to him without rising. Her eyes were red, as if she had been
shedding tears, and there was a flush upon her face. Altogether, her
appearance bewildered him; no one in the world had ever seen Mrs.
Damerel looking like this before.

“I am afraid you will think me importunate, coming back so often,” he
said, “but I felt that I must see you. Not that I come with much hope;
but still it is better to know the very worst, if there is no good to
hear.”

“It depends on what you think worst or best,” she said. “Mr. Wodehouse,
you told me you were promoted--are captain now, and you have a ship?”

“Commander: and alas! under orders for China, with ten days’ more
leave,” he said, with a faint smile; “though perhaps, on the whole, that
may be best. Mrs. Damerel, may I not ask--for Rose? Pardon me for
calling her so--I can’t think of her otherwise. If it is all settled and
made up, and my poor chance over, may I not see her, only for a few
minutes? If you think what a dismal little story mine has been--sent
away without seeing her a year ago, then raised into sudden hope by our
chance meeting the other morning, and now, I suppose, sentenced to
banishment forever”--

“Stay a little,” she said; “I have had a very exciting day, and I am
much worn out. Must you go in ten days?”

“Alas!” said Wodehouse, “and even my poor fortnight got with such
difficulty--though perhaps on the whole it is better, Mrs. Damerel.”

“Yes,” she said, “have patience a moment; things have turned out very
differently from what I wished. I cannot pretend to be pleased, scarcely
resigned to what you have all done between you. You have nothing to
offer my daughter, nothing! and she has nothing to contribute on her
side. It is all selfish inclination, what you liked, not what was best,
that has swayed you. You had not self-denial enough to keep silent; she
had not self-denial enough to consider that this is not a thing for a
day but for life; and the consequences, I suppose, as usual, will fall
upon me. All my life I have had nothing to do but toil to make up for
the misfortunes caused by self-indulgence. Others have had their will
and pleasure, and I have paid the penalty. I thought for once it might
have been different, but I have been mistaken, as you see.”

“You forget that I have no clue to your meaning--that you are speaking
riddles,” said Wodehouse, whose depressed heart had begun to rise and
flutter and thump against his young breast.

“Ah; that is true,” said Mrs. Damerel, rising with a sigh. “Well, I wash
my hands of it; and for the rest you will prefer to hear it from Rose
rather than from me.”

He stood in the middle of the room speechless when she closed the door
behind her, and heard her soft steps going in regular measure through
the still house, as Rose had heard them once. How still it was! the
leaves fluttering at the open window, the birds singing, Mrs. Damerel’s
footsteps sounding fainter, his heart beating louder. But he had not
very long to wait.

Mr. Nolan and the children went out on the river, and rowed up that
long, lovely reach past Alfredsbury, skirting the bank, which was pink
with branches of the wild rose and sweet with the feathery flowers of
the Queen of the Meadows. Dick flattered himself that he pulled an
excellent bow, and the curate, who loved the children’s chatter, and
themselves, humored the boy to the top of his bent. Agatha steered, and
felt it an important duty, and Patty, who had nothing else to do, leaned
her weight over the side of the boat, and did her best to capsize it,
clutching at the wild roses and the meadow-queen. They shipped their
oars and floated down with the stream when they had gone as far as they
cared to go, and went up the hill again to the White House in a perfect
bower of wild flowers, though the delicate rose blossoms began to droop
in the warm grasp of the children before they got home. When they rushed
in, flooding the house all through and through with their voices and
their joyous breath and their flowers, they found all the rooms empty,
the drawing-room silent, in a green repose, and not a creature visible.
But while Agatha rushed up-stairs, calling upon her mother and Rose, Mr.
Nolan saw a sight from the window which set his mind at rest. Two young
figures together, one leaning on the other--two heads bent close,
talking too low for any hearing but their own. The curate looked at them
with a smile and a sigh. They had attained the height of blessedness.
What better could the world give them? and yet the good curate’s sigh
was not all for the disappointed, nor his smile for their happiness
alone.

The lovers were happy; but there are drawbacks to every mortal felicity.
The fact that Edward had but nine days left, and that their fate must
after that be left in obscurity, was, as may be supposed, a very serious
drawback to their happiness. But their good fortune did not forsake
them; or rather, to speak more truly, the disappointed lover did not
forsake the girl who had appealed to him, who had mortified and tortured
him, and promised with all the unconscious cruelty of candor to marry
him if he told her to do so. Mr. Incledon went straight to town from the
White House, intent on finishing the work he had begun. He had imposed
on Mrs. Damerel as a duty to him, as a recompense for all that he had
suffered at her hands, the task of receiving Wodehouse, and sanctioning
the love which her daughter had given; and he went up to town to the
Admiralty, to his friend whose unfortunate leniency had permitted the
young sailor to return home. Mr. Incledon treated the matter lightly,
making a joke of it. “I told you he was not to come home, but to be sent
off as far as possible,” he said.

“Why, what harm could the poor young fellow do in a fortnight?” said my
lord. “I find I knew his father--a fine fellow and a good officer. The
son shall be kept in mind, both for his sake and yours.”

“He has done all the harm that was apprehended in his fortnight,” said
Mr. Incledon, “and now you must give him an extension of leave--enough
to be married in. There’s nothing else for it. You ought to do your best
for him, for it is your fault.”

Upon which my lord, who was of a genial nature, laughed and inquired
into the story, which Mr. Incledon related to him after a fashion, in a
way which, amused him hugely. The consequence was that Commander
Wodehouse got his leave extended to three months, and was transferred
from the China station to the Mediterranean. Mr. Incledon never told
them who was the author of this benefit, though I think they had little
difficulty in guessing. He sent Rose a _parure_ of pearls and
turquoises, simple enough for her youth and the position she had
preferred to his, and sent the diamonds which had been reset for her
back to his bankers; and then he went abroad. He did not go back to
Whitton, even for necessary arrangements, but sent for all he wanted;
and after that morning’s work in the White House, returned to
Dinglefield no more for years.

After this there was no possible reason for delay, and Rose was married
to her sailor in the parish church by good Mr. Nolan, and instead of any
other wedding tour went off to cruise with him in the Mediterranean. She
had regained her bloom, and merited her old name again before the day of
the simple wedding. Happiness brought back color and fragrance to the
Rose in June; but traces of the storm that had almost crushed her never
altogether disappeared, from her heart at least, if they did from her
face. She cried over Mr. Incledon’s letter the day before she became
Edward Wodehouse’s wife. She kissed the turquoises when she fastened
them about her pretty neck. Love is the best, no doubt; but it would be
hard if to other sentiments, less intense, even a bride might not spare
a tear.

As for the mothers on either side, they were both indifferently
satisfied. Mrs. Wodehouse would not unbend so much for months after as
to say anything but “Good morning” to Mrs. Damerel, who had done her
best to make her boy unhappy; and as for the marriage, now that it was
accomplished after so much fuss and bother, it was after all nothing of
a match for Edward. Mrs. Damerel, on her side, was a great deal too
proud to offer any explanations except such as were absolutely necessary
to those few influential friends who must be taken into every one’s
confidence who desires to keep a place in society. She told those
confidants frankly enough that Edward and Rose had met accidentally, and
that a youthful love, supposed to be over long ago, had burst forth
again so warmly that nothing could be done but to tell Mr. Incledon; and
that he had behaved like a hero. The Green for a little while was very
angry at Rose; the ladies shook their heads at her, and said how very,
very hard it was on poor Mr. Incledon. But Mr. Incledon was gone, and
Whitton shut up, while Rose still remained with all the excitement of a
pretty wedding in prospect, and “a perfect romance” in the shape of a
love-story. Gradually, therefore, the girl was forgiven; the richer
neighbors went up to town and bought their presents, the poorer ones
looked over their stores to see what they could give, and the girls made
pieces of lace for her, and pin-cushions, and antimacassars; and thus
her offence was condoned by all the world. Though Mrs. Damerel asked but
a few people to the breakfast, the church was crowded to see the
wedding, and all the gardens, in the parish cut their best roses for its
decoration; for this event occurred in July, the end of the rose season.
Dinglefield church overflowed with roses, and the bridesmaids’ dresses
were trimmed with them, and every man in the place had some sort of a
rosebud in his coat. And thus it was, half smothered in roses, that the
young people went away.

Mr. Incledon was not heard of for years after; but quite lately he came
back to Whitton married to a beautiful Italian lady, for whose sake it
was, originally, as Rumor whispered, that he had remained unmarried so
long. This lady had married and forsaken him nearly twenty years before,
and had become a widow about the time that he left England. I hope,
therefore, that though Rose’s sweet youth and freshness had attracted
him to her, and though he had regarded her with deep tenderness, hoping
perhaps for a new, subdued, yet happy life through her means, there had
been little passion in him to make his wound bitter after the
mortification of the moment. The contessa was a woman of his own age,
who had been beautiful, and was magnificent, a regal kind of creature,
at home amid all the luxuries which his wealth provided, and filling a
very different position from anything that could have been attainable by
Rose. They dazzle the people on the Green when they are at Whitton, and
the contessa is as gracious and more inaccessible than any queen. She
smiles at them all benignly, and thinks them an odd sort of gentle
savages, talking over their heads in a voice which is louder and rounder
than suits with English notions. And it is reported generally that Mr.
Incledon and his foreign wife are “not happy.” I cannot say anything
about this, one way or another, but I am sure that the happiness he
shares with the contessa must be something of a very different character
from that which he would have had with Rose; higher, perhaps, as mere
love (you all say) is the highest; but different--and in some things,
perhaps, scarcely so homely-sweet.

When Rose heard of this, which she did in the harbor of an Italian port,
she was moved by interest so true and lively that her husband was almost
jealous. She read her mother’s letter, over and over, and could not be
done talking of it. Captain Wodehouse after a while had to go on shore,
and his wife sat on the deck while the blue waves grew bluer and bluer
with evening under the great ship, and the Italian sky lost its bloom of
sunset, and the stars came out in the magical heavens. What a lovely
scene it was, the lights in the houses twinkling and rising tier on
tier, the little lamps quivering at the mastheads, the stars in the sky.
Rose shut her soft eyes, which were wet,--was it with dew?--and saw
before her not the superb Genoa and the charmed Italian night, but the
little Green with its sunburnt grass and the houses standing round, in
each one of which friendly eyes were shining. She saw the green old
drawing-room of the White House, and the look he cast upon her as he
turned and went away. That was the day when the great happiness of her
life came upon her; and yet she had lost something, she could not tell
what, when Mr. Incledon went away. And now he was married, and to his
old love, some one who had gone before herself in his heart, and came
after her, and was its true owner. Rose shed a few tears quite silently
in the soft night, which did not betray her. Her heart contracted for a
moment with a strange pang--was she jealous of this unknown woman? “God
bless him!” she said to herself, with a little outburst of emotion. Did
not she owe him all she had in the world? good right had Rose to bid
“God bless him!” nevertheless there was an undisclosed shade of feeling
which was not joy in his happiness, lingering in her heart.

“Do you think we could find out who this contessa is?” she said to her
husband, when he returned. “I hope she is a good woman, and will make
him happy.”

“Yes,” said Captain Wodehouse, “he is a good fellow, and deserves to be
happy; and now you can be comfortable, my dear, for you see he has
consoled himself,” he added, with a laugh.

       *       *       *       *       *

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sympathy, hope, cheer, moral might, moral consolation, glimpses of ideal
beauty, to every door which opens wide to receive him.”--_Boston Globe._


_LONGFELLOW’S GREAT TRILOGY._

Christus: A Mystery.

Comprising

  THE DIVINE TRAGEDY.
  THE GOLDEN LEGEND.
  THE NEW ENGLAND TRAGEDIES.

With Prelude, connecting Interludes, and Finale.

BY H. W. LONGFELLOW.

3 vols. 16mo. $4.50.

Each of the three parts of this work is complete in itself, but the
large design of the author is seen only by taking them together as they
are now presented in “CHRISTUS.”


Olrig Grange.

A STORY IN VERSE. 1 vol. 16mo. $1.50.

“The social insight and epigram of the little poem would have furnished
forth several ordinary novels, had they been turned to that
service.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

“A poetical tale of great merit, both as a tale and as a poem.”--_London
Examiner._


Pansies.

BY MRS. A. D. T. WHITNEY.

Author of “Leslie Goldthwaite,” “We Girls,” “Real Folks,” etc. 1 vol.
16mo. $1.50.

“To those who are acquainted with Mrs. Whitney’s prose writings, we need
scarcely say that she is, in her poetry as well, thoroughly genuine and
true to nature and herself. Her poems are indeed a sort of counterpart
of her stories. They exhibit the reflective side of a mind whose keen
powers of perception the stories make so amply manifest.”--_Buffalo
Courier._

⁂ _For sale by Booksellers. Sent, post-paid, on receipt of price by
the Publishers_,


JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO.,
BOSTON.

       *       *       *       *       *

ESSAYS.


Among My Books.

BY

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.

1 vol. 16mo. $2.00.

CONTENTS: Dryden, Witchcraft, Shakespeare, Lessing, New England Two
Centuries Ago, Rousseau and the Sentimentalists.

“This book has more good sense, good wit, and good learning than any
American or any Englishman, with perhaps a single exception, could bring
to the illustration of the subjects here treated. Still more, it shows
on almost every page that keen insight and sympathy with the mind of the
person criticised, which is necessary to give a high value to any
criticism.”--_Springfield Republican._


My Study Windows.

BY

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.

1 vol. 12mo. Uniform with “Among My Books.” $2.00.

CONTENTS: My Garden Acquaintance, A Good Word for Winter, On a Certain
Condescension in Foreigners, A Great Public Character (Hon. Josiah
Quincy), Carlyle, Abraham Lincoln, The Life and Letters of James Gates
Percival, Thoreau, Swinburne’s Tragedies, Chaucer, Library of Old
Authors, Emerson the Lecturer, Pope.

“This latest book of essays by Mr. Lowell opens with two which are
perhaps the best. That is hardly the right word, either, there are so
many kinds of goodness in the book,--as of criticism often unsurpassable
in acuteness; of criticism unsurpassable often in the delicacy of its
sensibility to imaginative beauty; of humor; of wit, sarcastic, or
playful, or almost poetically fanciful; of penetrative thought; of a
cheerful hopefulness for the future; of righteous indignation at certain
things, yet of unfailing kind-heartedness; of keen enjoyment of nature;
of poetry.”--_The Nation_ (New York).


Essays in Criticism.

BY

MATTHEW ARNOLD.

1 vol. 16mo. $2.00.

CONTENTS: The functions of Criticism at the Present Time, The Literary
Influence of Academies, Maurice de Guérin, Eugénie de Guérin, Heinrich
Heine, Pagan and Mediæval Religious Sentiment, Joubert, Spinoza, Marcus
Aurelius, On Translating Homer, A French Eton.

“The essays of this volume, in richness of matter, in ingenuousness of
tone, in a certain indescribable fineness and subtlety of literary
treatment, are incomparably superior to the ordinary run of periodical
criticism.... There is nothing sectarian, nothing narrow, nothing
exclusive in Mr. Arnold’s discussions. He gives a noble example of the
exercise of criticism, according to his own definition of the term, as a
disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and
thought in the world.”--_New York Tribune._


Atlantic Essays.

BY

THOMAS WENTWORTH HIGGINSON.

1 vol. 12mo. $2.00.

CONTENTS: A Plea for Culture, Literature as an Art, Americanism in
Literature, A Letter to a Young Contributor, Ought Women to learn the
Alphabet? A Charge with Prince Rupert, Mademoiselle’s Campaigns, The
Puritan Minister, Fayal and the Portuguese, The Greek Goddesses, Sappho,
On an Old Latin Text-book.

“All the writings of Mr. Higginson show the thorough culture of his
mind, and are distinguished by a remarkably correct, clear, and finished
style. Radical as he may be in the domain of speculative thought, he has
a conservative veneration for the English language wholly incompatible
with that looseness of expression to which the much-speaking and
much-printing of these modern days have given currency, if indeed they
have not cultivated a vicious taste for it. For this reason his essays
have a charm beyond that which attaches to a vigorous and honest
consideration of the subject in hand. He is one of the few but
increasing number of Americans who are pursuing literature as an art,
and one whose influence, shining through example, perhaps not less than
through achievement, is doing much to strengthen hope in the future of
letters in our land.”--_Boston Advertiser._


WRITINGS OF

Edwin P. Whipple.

A new uniform edition in six volumes, including:

  =Essays and Reviews= (2 vols.),
  =Literature of the Age of Elizabeth=,
  =Character and Characteristic Men=,
  =Success and Its Conditions=, and
  =Literature and Life=.

Price, $1.50 a volume, $9.00 a set in a neat box.

“Mr. Whipple is widely known as a literary critic of unquestionable
originality and power, lucid and exact in his perceptions, of rare
acuteness and subtlety of discrimination, humanely blending justice and
mercy in his decisions, with a certain catholic comprehensiveness of
taste, and a racy force of expression that cannot always be accepted, as
in the present case, as a sign of vigorous thought.”--_New York
Tribune._


Howells’s Works.

_NEW EDITION._

  Venetian Life             $2.00
  Italian Journeys           2.00
  Suburban Sketches          2.00
  Their Wedding Journey      2.00

“Will meet with a warm reception from every reader of taste and
intelligence, who justly appreciates the fine and delicate humor,
vivacity, and quaintness of description, and subtle power of suggestion,
that characterize these enticing volumes.”--_New York Tribune._

⁂ _For sale by Booksellers. Sent, post-paid, on receipt of price by
the Publishers_,


JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO., Boston.

       *       *       *       *       *

HINTS ON

Household Taste,

_In Furniture, Upholstery, and other Details_.

BY CHARLES L. EASTLAKE,

FELLOW OF THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS.

     Edited for American use, with Notes, by CHARLES C. PERKINS, author
     of “Tuscan Sculptors.” With thirty-four full-page plain and colored
     Plates, and numerous small illustrations. 1 vol. 8vo. Price $5.00.


_The Independent_ (_New York_).

“The volume is one that should interest everybody; for, while we are not
all concerned in house-building, it is to be hoped that all of us are
interested in the forms of our furniture. Respecting the appointments of
the house, from the entrance hall to the highest bedroom, Mr. Eastlake
gives the most excellent counsels. The paper, the carpets, the table
furniture, the picture-frames, the book-cases, the chairs, and
secretaries, all are discussed with an intelligent and cultured taste
that is simply invaluable to any one who may be seeking how to make his
home more beautiful. The book is one that should be familiar in every
refined household.”


_The Athenæum_ (_London_).

“We welcome such a book as that before us, which is written by a very
competent and accomplished student for the guidance of those who have
yet to learn the rudiments of art as well as others whose knowledge is
imperfect. Mr. Eastlake discourses clearly and soundly of those crafts
which supply furniture for entrance-halls, dining-rooms, libraries,
drawing-rooms, and bedrooms; also of wall decorations, crockery, glass,
plate, dress, and jewelry. His book is capitally illustrated by
examples.”


_Louisville Courier-Journal._

“There are yearly more and more persons who really wish to arrange their
rooms and buy their decorations in accordance with artistic laws. We
would refer such to the new American edition of ‘Eastlake’s Hints on
Household Taste,’ published by James R. Osgood & Co., where the hints of
Mr. Eastlake are well supplemented by the judicious comments of the
American editor, Mr. C. C. Perkins. The book is full of strong practical
sense, and its perusal will be pleasant to the artist and instructive as
well as delightful to the novice in art. We wish it could be put into
the hands of every person intending to furnish a house, even in the
humblest style.”


_Hartford Courant._

“We should say that no woman could read this book without getting some
new ideas that will be of great value to her. Especially will she learn
that the most costly furniture and decoration are not always in the best
taste, and that she cannot have an agreeable home merely by spending
money.”


_Boston Advertiser._

“Mr. Eastlake remembers that all builders and furnishers of houses are
not rich; indeed, he gives especial thought to the thousands who greatly
desire beautiful things, but _must have_ inexpensive ones; and this
increases the practical value of the book.”


SUPERB

New Juveniles.

THE “CAMPING OUT” SERIES.

BY C. A. STEPHENS.


CAMPING OUT.

Illustrated. $1.50.

“This book has our unqualified commendation. It is the story of a
summer’s experience of four healthy, hearty boys, in the wilds of Maine.
It is bright, breezy, wholesome, instructive; with no weakness or
nonsense about it. It stands above the ordinary boys’ books of the day
by a whole head and shoulders. We venture to predict for the series, of
which this is the first volume, a sure success.”--_The Christian
Register._


LEFT ON LABRADOR.

1 vol. 16mo. Illustrated. $1.50.

“It is a rare book for boys, who will revel in its descriptions of
Arctic scenery, of sports among the regions of cold, of the sights
presented, snowy owls, narwhals, bears, and sea-horses. Then, the perils
of the voyagers, their narrow escapes, their strange expedients, and the
fun and jollity when danger had passed, will cheat young eyes of sleep,
and make boys unconscious of hunger.”--_New Bedford Mercury._


OFF TO THE GEYSERS.

1 vol. 16mo. Illustrated. $1.50.

“Messrs. Osgood & Co. have one series which is worthy of especial
attention. There are three volumes of this--‘Camping Out,’ of which we
have already spoken, ‘Left on Labrador,’ and ‘Off to the Geysers.’ Boys
will like these stories, in spite of the amount of information they
contain; for the narrative is dramatic, and the illusions well kept up
from first to last. It is difficult to believe that Wade and Raed and
Kit and Wash were not live boys, sailing up Hudson’s Straits, and
reigning temporarily over an Esquimaux tribe; voyaging to Iceland, and
lodging in the village of Reykjalith with a farmer, who read to them in
the evenings out of the ‘Grettir Saga.’ The last half of the volume,
‘Off to the Geysers,’ is chiefly this beautiful and poetic Saga,
rendered so simply that no boy of ten could fail to understand it. If
Mr. Stephens continues to take his boys around the world in their
Gloucester schooner, he will make a series of stories rivalling Mayne
Reid’s in picturesqueness, and having far more verisimilitude in their
atmosphere.”--_The Independent._


TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST.

By RICHARD H. DANA, JR.

_NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION._

$1.50.

“It would be impertinence to praise so well known a book as Mr. Dana’s
original work, but we may say that his added chapter, ‘Twenty-four Years
After,’ is of very rare interest.”--_London Spectator._

⁂ For sale by Booksellers. Sent, post-paid, on receipt of price by the
Publishers,


JAMES R. OSGOOD & CO., Boston.





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