Part 4 out of 8
'ROTHERWOOD, Christmas Day.
'MY OWN DEAREST MAMMA---A very happy Christmas to you, and papa and
Claude and my sisters, and here are the cards, which Miss Elbury
helped me about so kindly that I think they are better than usual: I
mean that she advised me, for no one touched them but myself. You
will like your text, I hope, I chose it because it is so nice to
think we are all one, though we are in so many different places. I
did one with the same for poor Dolores in New Zealand. Uncle William
was here yesterday, and he said dear little Primrose is almost quite
well. Fly is much better to-day; her eyes look quite bright, and she
is to sit up a little while in the afternoon, but I may not talk to
her for fear of making her cough; but she slept all night without one
whoop, and will soon be well now. Cousin Rotherwood was so glad that
he was quite funny this morning, and he gave me the loveliest
writing-case you ever saw, with a good lock and gold key, and gold
tops to everything, and my three M's engraved on them all. I have so
many presents and cards that I will write out a list when I have
finished my letter. I shall have plenty of time, for everybody is
gone to church except Cousin Florence, who went early.
'I am to dine at the late dinner, which will be early, because of the
church singers, and Cousin Rotherwood says he and I will do
snapdragon, if I will promise not to whoop.
'4.30.---I had to stop again because of the doctor. He says he does
not want to have any more to do with me, and that I may go out the
first fine day, and that Fly is much better. And only think! He
says Rockquay is the very place for Fly, and as soon as we are not
catching, we are all to go there. Cousin Rotherwood told me so for a
great secret, but he said I might tell you, and that he would ask
Aunt Alethea to let Primrose come too. It does warm one up to think
of it, and it is much easier to feel thankful and glad about all the
rest of the right sort of Christmas happiness, now I am so near
having Gill and Val again.---Your very loving child,
M. M. MERRIFIELD.'
'VALE LESTON PRIORY,
'DEAREST MOTHER---Here are my Christmas wishes that we may all be
right again at home this year, and that you could see the brace of
pheasants I killed. However, Gill and I are in uncommonly nice
quarters. I shall let her tell the long story about who is who, for
there is such a swarm of cousins, and uncles, and aunts, and when you
think you have hold of the right one, it turns out to be the other
lot. There are three houses choke full of them, and more floating
about, and all running in and out, till it gets like the little pig
that could not be counted, it ran about so fast. They are all
Underwood or Harewood, more or less, except the Vanderkists, who are
all girls except a little fellow in knickerbockers. Poor little
chap, his father was a great man on the turf, and ruined him horse
and foot before he was born, and then died of D. T., and his mother
is a great invalid, and very badly off, with no end of daughters---the
most stunning girls you ever saw---real beauties, and no mistake,
especially Emily, who is great fun besides. She is to be Helena when
we act Midsummer Night's Dream on Twelfth Night for all the natives,
and I am Demetrius, dirty cad that he is! She lives with the
Grinsteads, and Anna with the Travis Underwoods, Phyllis's young
man's bosses. If he makes as good a thing of it as they have done,
she will be no end of a swell. Mr. Travis Underwood has brought down
his hunters and gives me a mount. Claude would go stark staring mad
to see his Campeador.
'They are awfully musical here, and are always at carols or
something, and that's the only thing against them. As to Gill, she
is in clover, in raptures with every one, especially Mrs. Grinstead,
and I think it is doing her good.---Your affectionate son,
J. R. M.'
'DEAREST MAMMA---All Christmas love, and a message to Phyllis that I
almost forgive her desertion for the sake of the set of connections
she has brought us, like the nearest and dearest relations or more,
but Geraldine---for so she told me to call her---is still the choicest
of all. It is so pretty to see her husband---the great sculptor---wait
on her, as if she was a queen and he her knight! Anna told me that
he had been in love with her ever so long, and she refused him once;
but after the eldest brother died, and she was living at St.
Wulstan's, he tried again, and she could not hold out. I told you of
her charming house, so full of lovely things, and about Gerald, all
cleverness and spirit, but too delicate for a public school. He is
such a contrast to Edward Harewood, a great sturdy, red-haired
fellow, who is always about with Jasper, except when he---Japs, I
mean---is with Emily Vanderkist. She is the prettiest of the
Vanderkists. There are eight of them besides little Sir Adrian.
Mary always stays to look after her mother, who is in very bad
health, and has weak eyes. They call Mary invaluable and so very
good, but she is like a homely little Dutchwoman, and nobody would
think she was only twenty. Sophy, the next to her, calls herself
pupil-teacher to Mrs. William Harewood, and together they manage the
schoolroom for all the younger sisters the two little girls at the
Vicarage, and Wilmet, the only girl here at the Priory; but, of
course, no lessons are going on now, only learning and rehearsing the
parts, and making the dresses, painting the scenes, and learning
songs. They all do care so much about music here that I find I
really know hardly anything about it, and Jasper says it is their
'They say Mr. Lancelot Underwood sings and plays better than any of
them; but he is at Stoneborough. However, he is coming over with all
the Mays for our play, old Dr. May and all. I was very much
surprised to find he was an organist and a bookseller, but Geraldine
told me about it, and how it was for the sake of the eldest brother---
"my brother," they all say; and somehow it seems as if the house was
still his, though it is so many years since he died. And yet they
are all such happy, merry people. I wish I could let you know how
delightful it all is. Sometimes I feel as if I did not deserve to
have such a pleasant time. I can't quite explain, but to be with
Geraldine Grinstead makes one feel one's self to be of a ruder, more
selfish mould, and I know I have not been all I ought to be at
Rockstone; but I don't mind telling you, now you are so soon to be at
home, Aunt Jane seems to worry me---I can't tell how, exactly---while
there is something about Geraldine that soothes and brightens, and
all the time makes one long to be better.
'I never heard such sermons as Mr. Harewood's either; it seems as if
I had never listened before, but these go right down into one. I
cannot leave off thinking about the one last Sunday, about "making
manifest the counsels of all hearts." I see now that I was not as
much justified in not consulting Aunt Jane about Kalliope and Alexis
as I thought I was, and that the concealment was wrong. It came over
me before the beautiful early Celebration this morning, and I could
not feel as if I ought to be there till I had made a resolution to
tell her all about it, though I should like it not to be till you are
come home, and can tell her that I am not really like Dolores, as she
will be sure to think me, for I really did it, not out of silliness
and opposition, but because I knew how good they were, and I did tell
you. Honestly, perhaps there was some opposition in the spirit of
it; but I mean to make a fresh start when I come back, and you will
be near at hand then, and that will help me.
'26th.---The afternoon service of song began and I was called off. I
never heard anything so lovely, and we had a delightful evening. I
can't tell you about it now, for I am snatching a moment when I am
not rehearsing, as this must go to-day. Dr. and Miss May, and the
Lances, as they call them, are just come. The Doctor is a beautiful
old man. All the children were round him directly, and he kissed me,
and said that he was proud to meet the daughter of such a
'This must go.---Your loving daughter, 'JULIANA MERRIFIELD.'
'COALHAM, Christmas Day.
'It is nearly St. Stephen's Day, for, dear mother, I have not had a
minute before to send you or my father my Christmas greeting. We
have had most joyous services, unusually well attended, David tells
me, and that makes up for the demonstration we had outside the door
last night. David is the right fellow for this place, though we are
disapproved of as south country folk. The boys are well and amused,
Wilfred much more comfortable for being treated more as a man, and
Fergus greatly come on, and never any trouble, being always dead-set
on some pursuit. It is geology, or rather mineralogy, at present,
and if he carries home all the stones he has accumulated in the back
yard, he will have a tolerable charge for extra luggage. David says
there is the making of a great man in him, I think it is of an Uncle
Maurice. Macrae writes to me in a state of despair about the drains
at Silverfold; scarlet fever and diphtheria abound at the town, so
that he says you cannot come back there till something has been done,
and he wants me to come and look at them; but I do not see how I can
leave David at present, as we are in the thick of classes for Baptism
and Confirmation in Lent, and I suspect Aunt Jane knows more about
the matter than I do.
'Gillian and Jasper seem to be in a state of great felicity at Vale
Leston---and Mysie getting better, but poor little Phyllis Devereux
has been seriously ill.---Your affectionate son, H. MERRIFIELD.'
(AUNT JANE AND AUNT ADELINE.)
'11.30, Christmas Eve.
'MY DEAREST LILY---This will be a joint letter, for Ada will finish it
to-morrow, and I must make the most of my time while waiting for the
Waits to dwell on unsavoury business. Macrae came over here with a
convoy of all sorts of "delicacies of the season," for which thank
you heartily in the name of Whites, Hablots, and others who partook
thereof, according, no doubt, to your kind intention. He was greatly
perturbed, poor man, for your cook has been very ill with diphtheria,
and the scarlet fever is severe all round; there have been some
deaths, and the gardener's child was in great danger. The doctor has
analysed the water, and finds it in a very bad state, so that your
absence this autumn is providential. If you are in haste, telegraph
to me, and I will meet your landlord there, and the sanitary
inspector, and see what can be done, without waiting for Jasper.
At any rate, you cannot go back there at once. Shall I secure a
furnished house for you here? The Rotherwoods are coming to the
hotel next door to us, as soon as Phyllis is fit to move and
infection over. Victoria will stay there with the children, and he
go back and forwards. If Harry and Phyllis May should come home, I
suppose their headquarters will be at Stoneborough; but still this
would be the best place for a family gathering. Moreover, Fergus
gets on very nicely at Mrs. Edgar's, and it would be a pity to
disturb him. On the other hand, I am not sure of the influences of
the place upon the---
'Christmas Day, 3 P.M.---There came the Waits I suppose, and Jane had
to stop and leave me to take up the thread. Poor dear Jenny, the
festival days are no days of rest to her, but I am not sure that she
would enjoy repose, or that it would not be the worse possible
penance to her. She is gone down now to the workhouse with Valetta
to take cards and tea and tobacco to the old people, not sending
them, because she says a few personal wishes and the sight of a
bright child will be worth something to the old bodies. Then comes
tea for the choir-boys, before Evensong and carols, and after that my
turn may come for what remains of the evening. I must say the church
is lovely, thanks to your arums and camellias, which Macrae brought
us just in time. It is very unfortunate that Silverfold should be in
such a state, but delightful for us if it sends you here; and this
brings me to Jenny's broken thread, which I must spin on, though I
tell her to take warning by you, when you so repented having brought
Maurice home by premature wails about Dolores. Perhaps impatience is
a danger to all of us, and I believe there is such a thing as over-
'What Jane was going to say was that she did not think the place had
been good for either of the girls; but all that would be obviated by
your presence. If poor Miss Vincent joins you, now that she is free,
you would have your own schoolroom again, and the locality would not
make much difference. Indeed, if the Rotherwood party come by the
end of the holidays, I have very little doubt that Victoria will
allow Valetta to join Phyllis and Mysie in the schoolroom, and that
would prevent any talk about her removal from the High School. The
poor little thing has behaved as well as possible ever since, and is
an excellent companion; Jane is sure that it has been a lesson that
will last her for life, and I am convinced that she was under an
influence that you can put an end to---I mean that White family. Jane
thinks well of the eldest daughter, in spite of her fringe and of her
refusal to enter the G.F.S.; but I have good reason for knowing that
she holds assignations in Mr. White's garden on Sunday afternoons
with young Stebbing, whose mother knows her to be a most artful and
dangerous girl, though she is so clever at the mosaic work that there
is no getting her discharged. Mrs. Stebbing called to warn us
against her, and, as I was the only person at home, told me how she
had learnt from Mr. White's housekeeper that this girl comes every
Sunday alone to walk in the gardens---she was sure it must be to meet
somebody, and they are quite accessible to an active young man on the
side towards the sea. He is going in a few days to join the other
partner at the Italian quarries, greatly in order that the connection
may be broken off. It is very odd that Jane, generally so acute,
should be so blind here. All she said was, "That's just the time
Gillian is so bent on mooning in the garden." It is a mere
absurdity; Gillian always goes to the children's service, and
besides, she was absent last Sunday, when Miss White was certainly
there. But Gillian lends the girl books, and altogether patronises
her in a manner which is somewhat perplexing to us; though, as it
cannot last long, Jane thinks it better not to interfere before your
return to judge for yourself. These young people are members of the
Kennel Church congregation, and I had an opportunity of talking to
Mr. Flight about them. He says he had a high opinion of the brother,
and hoped to help him to some higher education, with a view perhaps
to Holy Orders; but that it was so clearly the youth's duty to
support his mother, and it was so impossible for her to get on
without his earnings, that he (Mr. Flight, I mean) had decided to let
him alone that his stability might be proved, or till some opening
offered; and of late there had been reason for disappointment, tokens
of being unsettled, and reports of meetings with some young woman at
his sister's office. It is always the way when one tries to be
interested in those half-and-half people,---the essential vulgarity is
sure to break out, generally in the spirit of flirtation conducted in
an underhand manner. And oh! that mother! I write all this because
you had better be aware of the state of things before your return. I
am afraid, however, that between us we have not written you a very
cheering Christmas letter.
'There is a great question about a supply of water to the town. Much
excitement is caused by the expectation of Rotherwood's visit, and it
is even said that he is to be met here by the great White himself,
whom I have always regarded as a sort of mythical personage, not to
say a harpy, always snatching away every promising family of Jane's
to the Italian quarries.
'You will have parted with the dear girls by this time, and be
feeling very sad and solitary; but it is altogether a good
connection, and a great advantage. I have just addressed to Gillian,
at Vale Leston, a coroneted envelope, which must be an invitation
from Lady Liddesdale. I am very glad of it. Nothing is so likely as
such society to raise her above the tone of these Whites.---Your
loving A. M.'
'10.30 P.M.--These Whites! Really I don't think it as bad as Ada
supposes, so don't be uneasy, though it is a pity she has told you so
much of the gossip respecting them. I do not believe any harm of
that girl Kalliope; she has such an honest, modest pair of eyes. I
dare say she is persecuted by that young Stebbing, for she is very
handsome, and he is an odious puppy. But as to her assignations in
the garden, if they are with any one, it is with Gillian, and I see
no harm in them, except that we might have been told---only that would
have robbed the entire story of its flavour, I suppose. Besides, I
greatly disbelieve the entire story, so don't be worried about it!
There---as if we had not been doing our best to worry you! But come
home, dearest old Lily. Gather your chicks under your wing, and when
you cluck them together again, all will be well. I don't think you
will find Valetta disimproved by her crisis. It is curious to hear
how she and Gillian both declare that Mysie would have prevented it,
as if naughtiness or deceit shrank from that child's very face.
'It has been a very happy, successful Christmas Day, full of
rejoicing. May you be feeling the same; that joy has made us one in
many a time of separation.---Your faithful old Brownie,
'ROWTHORPE, 20th January.
'DEAREST MAMMA---This is a Sunday letter. I am writing it in a
beautiful place, more like a drawing-room than a bed-room, and it is
all very grand; such long galleries, such quantities of servants, so
many people staying in the house, that I should feel quite lost but
for Geraldine. We came so late last night that there was only just
time to dress for dinner at eight o'clock. I never dined with so
many people before, and they are all staying in the house. I have
not learnt half of them yet, though Lady Liddesdale, who is a nice,
merry old lady, with gray hair, called her eldest granddaughter,
Kitty Somerville, and told her to take care of me, and tell me who
they all were. One of them is that Lord Ormersfield, whom Mysie ran
against at Rotherwood, and, do you know, I very nearly did the same;
for there is early Celebration at the little church just across the
garden. Kitty talked of calling for me, but I did not make sure,
because I heard some one say she was not to go if she had a cold;
and, when I heard the bell, I grew anxious and started off, and I
lost my way, and thought I should never get to the stairs; but just
as I was turning back, out came Lord and Lady Ormersfield. He looks
quite young, though he is rather lame---I shall like all lame people,
for the sake of Geraldine---and Lady Ormersfield has such a motherly
face. He laughed, and said I was not the first person who had lost
my way in the labyrinths of passages, so I went on with them, and
after all Kitty was hunting for me! I sat next him at breakfast,
and, do you know, he asked me whether I was the sister of a little
downright damsel he met at Rotherwood two years ago, and said he had
used her truthfulness about the umbrella for a favourite example to
his small youngest!
'When I hear of truthfulness I feel a sort of shock. "Oh, if you
knew!" I am ready to say, and I grow quite hot. That is what I am
really writing about to-day. I never had time after that Christmas
Day at Vale Leston to do more than keep you up to all the doings; but
I did think: and there were Mr. Harewood's sermons, which had a real
sting in them, and a great sweetness besides. I have tried to set
some down for you, and that is one reason I did not say more. But
to-day, after luncheon, it is very quiet, for Kitty and Constance are
gone to their Sunday classes, and the gentlemen and boys are out
walking, except Lord Somerville, who has a men's class of his own,
and all the old ladies are either in their rooms, or talking in
pairs. So I can tell you that I see now that I did not go on in a
right spirit with Aunt Jane, and that I did poor Val harm by my
example, and went very near deception, for I did not choose to
believe that when you said "If Aunt J. approves," you meant about
Alexis White's lessons; so I never told her or Kalliope, and I
perceive now that it was not right towards either; for Kally was very
unhappy about her not knowing. I am very sorry; I see that I was
wrong all round, and that I should have understood it before, if I
had examined myself in the way Mr. Harewood dwelt upon in his last
Sunday in Advent sermon, and never gone on in such a way.
'I am not going to wait for you now, but shall confess it all to Aunt
Jane as soon as I go home, and try to take it as my punishment if she
asks a terrible number of questions. Perhaps I shall write it, but
it would take such a quantity of explanation, and I don't want Aunt
Ada to open the letter, as she does any that come while Aunt Jane is
'Please kiss my words and forgive me, as you read this, dear mamma; I
never guessed I was going to be so like Dolores.
'Kitty has come to my door to ask if I should like to come and read
something nice and Sundayish with them in her grandmamma's dressing-
room.---So no more from your loving GILL.'
CHAPTER XII. TRANSFORMATION
'Well, now for the second stage of our guardianship!' said Aunt Ada,
as the two sisters sat over the fire after Valetta had gone to bed.
'Fergus comes back to-morrow, and Gillian---when?'
'She does not seem quite certain, for there is to be a day or two at
Brompton with this delightful Geraldine, so that she may see her
grandmother---also Mr. Clement Underwood's church, and the Merchant of
Venice---an odd mixture of ecclesiastics and dissipations.'
'I wonder whether she will be set up by it.'
'So do I! They are all remarkably good people; but then good people
do sometimes spoil the most of all, for they are too unselfish to
snub. And on the other hand, seeing the world sometimes has the
wholesome effect of making one feel small---'
'My dear Jenny!'
'Oh! I did not mean you, who are never easily effaced; but I was
thinking of youthful bumptiousness, fostered by country life and
'Certainly, though Valetta is really much improved, Gillian has not
been as pleasant as I expected, especially during the latter part of
'Query, was it her fault or mine, or the worry of the examination, or
'Perhaps you did superintend a little too much at first. More than
modern independence was prepared for, though I should not have
expected recalcitration in a young Lily; but I think there was more
ruffling of temper and more reserve than I can quite understand.'
'It has not been a success. As dear old Lily would have said, "My
dream has vanished," of a friend in the younger generation, and now
it remains to do the best I can for her in the few weeks that are
left, before we have her dear mother again.'
'At any rate, you have no cause to be troubled about the other two.
Valetta is really the better for her experience, and you have always
got on well with the boy.'
Fergus was the first of the travellers to appear at Rockstone. Miss
Mohun, who went to meet him at the station, beheld a small figure
lustily pulling at a great canvas bag, which came bumping down the
step, assisted by a shove from the other passengers, and threatening
for a moment to drag him down between platform and carriages.
'Fergus, Fergus, what have you got there? Give it to me. How
'It's a few of my mineralogical specimens,' replied Fergus. 'Harry
wouldn't let me put any more into my portmanteau---but the peacock and
the dendrum are there.'
Already, without special regard to peacock or dendrum, whatever that
article might be, Miss Mohun was claiming the little old military
portmanteau, with a great M and 110th painted on it, that held
He would scarcely endure to deposit the precious bag in the omnibus,
and as he walked home his talk was all of tertiary formations, and
coal measures, and limestones, as he extracted a hammer from his
pocket, and looked perilously disposed to use it on the vein of
crystals in a great pink stone in a garden wall. His aunt was
obliged to begin by insisting that the walls should be safe from
'But it is such waste, Aunt Jane. Only think of building up such
beautiful specimens in a stupid old wall.'
Aunt Jane did not debate the question of waste, but assured him that
equally precious specimens could be honestly come by; while she felt
renewed amusement and pleasure at anything so like the brother
Maurice of thirty odd years ago being beside her.
It made her endure the contents of the bag being turned out like a
miniature rockery for her inspection on the floor of the glazed
verandah outside the drawing-room, and also try to pacify Mrs.
Mount's indignation at finding the more valuable specimens, or, as
she called them, 'nasty stones' and bits of dirty coal, within his
Much more information as to mines, coal, or copper, was to be gained
from him than as to Cousin David, or Harry, or Jasper, who had spent
the last ten days of his holidays at Coalham, which had procured for
Fergus the felicity of a second underground expedition. It was left
to his maturer judgment and the next move to decide how many of his
specimens were absolutely worthless; it was only stipulated that he
and Valetta should carry them, all and sundry, up to the lumber-room,
and there arrange them as he chose;---Aunt Jane routing out for him a
very dull little manual of mineralogy, and likewise a book of Maria
Hack's, long since out of print, but wherein 'Harry Beaufoy' is
instructed in the chief outlines of geology in a manner only perhaps
inferior to that of "Madame How and Lady Why," which she reserved for
a birthday present. Meantime Rockstone and its quarries were almost
as excellent a field of research as the mines of Coalham, and in a
'How much nicer it is to be a boy than a girl!' sighed Valetta, as
she beheld her junior marching off with all the dignity of hammer and
knapsack to look up Alexis White and obtain access to the heaps of
rubbish, which in his eyes held as infinite possibilities as the
diamond fields of Kimberley. And Alexis was only delighted to bestow
on him any space of daylight when both were free from school or from
work, and kept a look-out for the treasures he desired. Of course,
out of gratitude to his parents---or was it out of gratitude to his
sister? Perhaps Fergus could have told, if he had paid the slightest
attention to such a trifle, how anxiously Alexis inquired when Miss
Gillian was expected to return. Moreover, he might have told that
his other model, Stebbing, pronounced old Dick White a beast and a
screw, with whom his brother Frank was not going to stop.
Gillian came back a fortnight later, having been kept at Rowthorpe,
together with Mrs. Grinstead, for a family festival over the double
marriage in Ceylon, after which she spent a few days in London, so as
to see her grandmother, Mrs. Merrifield, who was too infirm for an
actual visit to be welcome, since her attendant grandchild, Bessie
Merrifield, was so entirely occupied with her as to have no time to
bestow upon a guest of more than an hour or two. Gillian was met at
the station by her aunt, and when all her belongings had been duly
extracted, proving a good deal larger in bulk than when she had left
Rockstone, and both were seated in the fly to drive home through a
dismal February Fill-dyke day, the first words that were spoken were,
'Aunt Jane, I ought to tell you something.'
Hastily revolving conjectures as to the subject of the coming
confession, Miss Mohun put herself at her niece's service.
'Aunt Jane, I know I ought to have told you how much I was seeing of
the Whites last autumn.'
'Indeed, I know you wished to do what you could for them.'
'Yes,' said Gillian, finding it easier than she expected. 'You know
Alexis wants very much to be prepared for Holy Orders, and he could
not get on by himself, so I have been running down to Kalliope's
office after reading to Lily Giles, to look over his Greek
'Only sometimes. But Kally did not like it. She said you ought to
know, and that was the reason she would not come into the G.F.S. She
is so good and honourable, Aunt Jane.'
'I am sure she is a very excellent girl,' said Aunt Jane warmly.
'But certainly it would have been better to have these lessons in our
house. Does your mother know?'
'Yes,' said Gillian, 'I wrote to her all I was doing, and how I have
been talking to Kally on Sunday afternoons through the rails of Mr.
White's garden. I thought she could telegraph if she did not
approve, but she does not seem to have noticed it in my letters, only
saying something I could not make out--about "if you approved."'
'And is that the reason you have told me?'
'Partly, but I got the letter before the holidays. I think it has
worked itself up, Aunt Jane, into a sense that it was not the thing.
There was Kally, and there was poor Valetta's mess, and her
justifying herself by saying I did more for the Whites than you knew,
and altogether, I grew sorry I had begun it, for I was sure it was
not acting honestly towards you, Aunt Jane, and I hope you will
Miss Mohun put her arm round the girl and kissed her heartily.
'My dear Gill, I am glad you have told me! I dare say I seemed to
worry you, and that you felt as if you were watched; I will do my
very best to help you, if you have got into a scrape. I only want to
ask you not to do anything more till I can see Kally, and settle with
her the most suitable way of helping the youth.'
But do you think there is a scrape, aunt? I never thought of that,
if you forgave me.'
'My dear, I see you did not; and that you told me because you are my
Lily's daughter, and have her honest heart. I do not know that there
is anything amiss, but I am afraid young ladies can't do---well,
impulsive things without a few vexations in consequence. Don't be so
dismayed, I don't know of anything, and I cannot tell you how glad I
am of your having spoken out in this way.'
'I feel as if a load were off my back!' said Gillian.
And a bar between her and her aunt seemed to have vanished, as they
drove up the now familiar slope, and under the leafless copper
beeches. Blood is thinker than water, and what five months ago had
seemed to be exile, had become the first step towards home, if not
home itself, for now, like Valetta, she welcomed the sound of her
mother's voice in her aunt's. And there were Valetta and Fergus
rushing out, almost under the wheels to fly at her, and Aunt Ada's
soft embraces in the hall.
The first voice that came out of the melee was Valetta's. 'Gill is
grown quite a lady!'
'How much improved!' exclaimed Aunt Ada.
'The Bachfisch has swum into the river,' was Aunt Jane's comment.
'She'll never be good for anything jolly---no scrambling!' grumbled
'Now Fergus! didn't Kitty Somerville and I scramble when we found the
gate locked, and thought we saw the spiteful stag, and that he was
going to run at us?'
'I'm afraid that was rather on compulsion, Gill.'
'It wasn't the spiteful stag after all, but we had such a long way to
come home, and got over the park wall at last by the help of the limb
of a tree. We had been taking a bit of wedding-cake to Frank
Somerville's old nurse, and Kitty told her I was her maiden aunt, and
we had such fun---her uncle's wife's sister, you know.'
'We sent a great piece of our wedding-cake to the Whites,' put in
Valetta. 'Fergus and I took it on Saturday afternoon, but nobody was
at home but Mrs. White, and she is fatter than ever.'
'I say, Gill, which is the best formation, Vale Leston or Rowthorpe?'
'Oh, nobody is equal to Geraldine; but Kitty is a dear thing.'
'I didn't mean that stuff, but which had the best strata and
'Geological, he means---not of society,' interposed Aunt Jane.
'Oh yes! Harry said he had gone geology mad, and I really did get
you a bit of something at Vale Leston, Fergus, that Mr. Harewood said
was worth having. Was it an encrinite? I know it was a stone-lily.'
'An encrinite! Oh, scrumptious!'
Then ensued such an unpacking as only falls to the lot of home-comers
from London, within the later precincts of Christmas, gifts of
marvellous contrivance and novelty, as well as cheapness, for all and
sundry, those reserved for others almost as charming to the beholders
as those which fell to their own lot. The box, divided into
compartments, transported Fergus as much as the encrinite; Valetta
had a photograph-book, and, more diffidently, Gillian presented Aunt
Ada with a graceful little statuette in Parian, and Aunt Jane with
the last novelty in baskets. There were appropriate keepsakes for
the maids, and likewise for Kalliope and Maura. Aunt Jane was glad
to see that discretion had prevailed so as to confine these gifts to
the female part of the White family. There were other precious
articles in reserve for the absent; and the display of Gillian's own
garments was not without interest, as she had been to her first ball,
under the chaperonage of Lady Somerville, and Mrs. Grinstead had made
her white tarletan available by painting it and its ribbons with
exquisite blue nemophilas, too lovely for anything so fleeting.
Mrs. Grinstead and her maid had taken charge of the damsel's toilette
at Rowthorpe, had perhaps touched up her dresses, and had certainly
taught her how to put them on, and how to manage her hair, so that
though it had not broken out into fringes or tousles, as if it were
desirable to imitate savages 'with foreheads marvellous low,' the
effect was greatly improved. The young brown-skinned, dark-eyed
face, and rather tall figure were the same, even the clothes the very
same chosen under her aunt Ada's superintendence, but there was an
indescribable change, not so much that of fashion as of distinction,
and something of the same inward growth might be gathered from her
All the evening there was a delightful outpouring. Gillian had been
extremely happy, and considerably reconciled to her sisters'
marriages; but she had been away from home and kin long enough to
make her feel her nearness to her aunts, and to appreciate the
pleasure of describing her enjoyment without restraint, and of being
with those whose personal family interests were her own, not only
sympathetic, like her dear Geraldine's. They were ready for any
amount of description, though, on the whole, Miss Mohun preferred to
hear of the Vale Leston charities and church details, and Miss
Adeline of the Rowthorpe grandees and gaieties, after the children
had supped full of the diversions of their own kind at both places,
and the deeply interesting political scraps and descriptions of great
men had been given.
It had been, said Aunt Jane, a bit of education. Gillian had indeed
spent her life with thoughtful, cultivated, and superior people; but
the circumstances of her family had confined her to a schoolroom sort
of existence ever since she had reached appreciative years,
retarding, though not perhaps injuring, her development; nor did
Rockquay society afford much that was elevating, beyond the Bureau de
Charite that Beechcroft Cottage had become. Details were so much in
hand that breadth of principle might be obscured.
At Vale Leston, however, there was a strong ecclesiastical
atmosphere; but while practical parish detail was thoroughly kept up,
there was a wider outlook, and constant conversation and discussion
among superior men, such as the Harewood brothers, Lancelot
Underwood, Mr. Grinstead, and Dr. May, on the great principles and
issues of Church and State matters, religion, and morals, together
with matters of art, music, and literature, opening new vistas to
her, and which she could afterwards go over with Mrs. Grinstead and
Emily and Anna Vanderkist with enthusiasm and comprehension. It was
something different from grumbling over the number of candles at St.
Kenelm's, or the defective washing of the St. Andrew's surplices.
At Rowthorpe she had seen and heard people with great historic names,
champions in the actual battle. There had been a constant coming and
going of guests during her three weeks' visit, political meetings,
entertainments to high and low, the opening of a public institute in
the next town, the exhibition of tableaux in which she had an
important share, parties in the evenings, and her first ball. The
length of her visit and her connection with the family had made her
share the part of hostess with Lady Constance and Lady Katharine
Somerville, and she had been closely associated with their intimates,
the daughters of these men of great names. Of course there had been
plenty of girlish chatter and merry trifling, perhaps some sharp
satirical criticism, and the revelations she had heard had been a
good deal of the domestic comedy of political and aristocratic life;
but throughout there had been a view of conscientious goodness, for
the young girls who gave a tone to the rest had been carefully
brought up, and were earnest and right-minded, accepting
representation, gaiety, and hospitality as part of the duty of their
position, often involving self-denial, though there was likewise
plenty of enjoyment.
Such glimpses of life had taught Gillian more than she yet realised.
As has been seen, the atmosphere of Vale Leston had deepened her
spiritual life, and the sermons had touched her heart to the quick,
and caused self-examination, which had revealed to her the secret of
her dissatisfaction with herself, and her perception was the clearer
through her intercourse on entirely equal terms with persons of a
high tone of refinement.
The immediate fret of sense of supervision and opposition being
removed, she had seen things more justly, and a distaste had grown on
her for stolen expeditions to the office, and for the corrections of
her pupil's exercises. She recoiled from the idea that this was the
consequence either of having swell friends, or of getting out of her
depth in her instructions; but reluctance recurred, while advance in
knowledge of the world made her aware that Alexis White, after hours,
in his sister's office, might justly be regarded by her mother and
aunts as an undesirable scholar for her, and that his sister's
remonstrances ought not to have been scouted. She had done the thing
in her simplicity, but it was through her own wilful secretiveness
that her ignorance had not been guarded.
Thus she had, as a matter of truth, conscience, and repentance, made
the confession which had been so kindly received as to warm her heart
with gratitude to her aunt, and she awoke the next morning to feel
freer, happier, and more at home than she had ever yet done at
When the morning letters were opened, they contained the startling
news that Mysie might be expected that very evening, with Fly, the
governess, and Lady Rotherwood,---at least that was the order of
precedence in which the party represented itself to the minds of the
young Merrifields. Primrose had caught a fresh cold, and her uncle
and aunt would not part with her till her mother's return, but the
infection was over with the other two, and sea air was recommended as
soon as possible for Lady Phyllis; so, as the wing of the hotel,
which was almost a mansion in itself, had been already engaged, the
journey was to be made at once, and the arrival would take place in
the afternoon. The tidings were most rapturously received; Valetta
jumped on and off all the chairs in the room unchidden, while Fergus
shouted, 'Hurrah for Mysie and Fly!' and Gillian's heart felt free to
This made it a very busy day, since Lady Rotherwood had begged to
have some commissions executed for her beforehand, small in
themselves, but, with a scrupulously thorough person, occupying all
the time left from other needful engagements; so that there was no
chance of the promised conversation with Kalliope, nor did Gillian
trouble herself much about it in her eagerness, and hardly heard
Fergus announce that Frank Stebbing had come home, and the old boss
was coming, 'bad luck to him.'
All the three young people were greatly disappointed that their aunts
would not consent to their being on the platform nor in front of the
hotel, nor even in what its mistress termed the reception-room, to
meet the travellers.
'There was nothing Lady Rotherwood would dislike more than a rush of
you all,' said Aunt Adeline, and they had to submit, though Valetta
nearly cried when she was dragged in from demonstratively watching at
the gate in a Scotch mist.
However, in about a quarter of an hour there was a ring at the door,
and in another moment Mysie and Gillian were hugging one smother,
Valetta hanging round Mysie's neck, Fergus pulling down her arm. The
four creatures seemed all wreathed into one like fabulous snakes for
some seconds, and when they unfolded enough for Mysie to recollect
and kiss her aunts, there certainly was a taller, better-equipped
figure, but just the same round, good-humoured countenance, and the
first thing, beyond happy ejaculations, that she was heard in a
dutiful voice to say was, 'Miss Elbury brought me to the door. I may
stay as long as my aunts like to have me this evening, if you will be
so kind as to send some one to see me back.'
Great was the jubilation, and many the inquiries after Primrose, who
had once been nearly well, but had fallen back again, and Fly, who,
Mysie said, was quite well and as comical as ever when she was well,
but quickly tired. She had set out in high spirits, but had been
dreadfully weary all the latter part of the journey, and was to go to
bed at once. She still coughed, but Mysie was bent on disproving
Nurse Halfpenny's assurance that the recovery would not be complete
till May, nor was there any doubt of her own air of perfect health.
It was an evening of felicitous chatter, of showing off Christmas
cards, of exchanging of news, of building of schemes, the most
prominent being that Valetta should be in the constant companionship
of Mysie and Fly until her own schoolroom should be re-established.
This had been proposed by Lord Rotherwood, and was what the aunts
would have found convenient; but apparently this had been settled by
Lord Rotherwood and the two little girls, but Lady Rotherwood had not
said anything about it, and quoth Mysie, 'Somehow things don't happen
till Lady Rotherwood settles them, and then they always do.'
'And shall I like Miss Elbury?' asked Valetta.
'Yes, if---if you take pains,' said Mysie; 'but you mustn't bother her
with questions in the middle of a lesson, or she tells you not to
chatter. She likes to have them all kept for the end; and then, if
they aren't foolish, she will take lots of trouble.'
'Oh, I hate that!' said Valetta. 'I shouldn't remember them, and I
like to have done with it. Then she is not like Miss Vincent?'
'Oh no! She couldn't be dear Miss Vincent; but, indeed, she is very
kind and nice.'
'How did you get on altogether, Mysie! Wasn't it horrid?' asked
'I was afraid it was going to be horrid,' said Mysie. 'You see, it
wasn't like going in holiday time as it was before. We had to be
almost always in the schoolroom; and there were lots of lessons---more
for me than Fly.'
'Just like a horrid old governess to slake her thirst on you,' put in
Fergus; and though his aunts shook their heads at him, they did not
'And one had to sit bolt upright all the time, and never twist one's
ankles,' continued Mysie; 'and not speak except French and German---
good, mind! It wouldn't do to say, "La jambe du table est sur mon
'Oh, oh! No wonder Fly got ill!'
'Fly didn't mind one bit. French and German come as naturally to her
as the days of the week, and they really begin to come to me in the
morning now when I see Miss Elbury.'
'But have you to go on all day?' asked Valetta disconsolately.
'Oh no! Not after one o'clock.'
'And you didn't say that mamma thinks it only leads to slovenly bad
grammar!' said Gillian.
'That would have been impertinent,' said Mysie; 'and no one would
have minded either.'
'Did you never play?'
'We might play after our walk---and after tea; but it had to be quiet
play, not real good games, even before Fly was ill---at least we did
have some real games when Primrose came over, or when Cousin
Rotherwood had us down in his study or in the hall; but Fly got
tired, and knocked up very soon even then. Miss Elbury wanted us
always to play battledore and shuttlecock, or Les Graces, if we
couldn't go out.'
'Horrid woman!' said Valetta.
'No, she isn't horrid,' said Mysie stoutly; 'I only fancied her so
when she used to say, "Vos coudes, mademoiselle," or "Redresses-
vous," and when she would not let us whisper; but really and truly
she was very, very kind, and I came to like her very much and see she
was not cross---only thought it right.'
'And redressez-vous has been useful, Mysie,' said Aunt Ada; 'you are
as much improved as Gillian.'
'I thought it would be dreadful,' continued Mysie, 'when the grown-
ups went out on a round of visits, and we had no drawing-room, and no
Cousin Rotherwood; but Cousin Florence came every day, and once she
had us to dinner, and that was nice; and once she took us to
Beechcroft to see Primrose, and if it was not fine enough for Fly to
go out, she came for me, and I went to her cottages with her. Oh, I
did like that! And when the whooping-cough came, you can't think how
very kind she was, and Miss Elbury too. They both seemed only to
think how to make me happy, though I didn't feel ill a bit, except
when I whooped, but they seemed so sorry for me, and so pleased that
I didn't make more fuss. I couldn't, you know, when poor Fly was so
ill. And when she grew better, we were all so glad that somehow it
made us all like a sort of a kind of a home together, though it could
not be that.'
Mysie's English had scarcely improved, whatever her French had done;
but Gillian gathered that she had had far more grievances to
overcome, and had met them in a very different spirit from herself.
As to the schoolroom arrangements, which would have been so
convenient to the aunts, it was evident that the matter had not yet
been decisively settled, though the children took it for granted.
It was pretty to see how Mysie was almost devoured by Fergus and
Valetta, hanging on either side of her as she sat, and Gillian, as
near as they would allow, while the four tongues went on unceasingly.
It was only horrid, Valetta said, that Mysie should sleep in a
different house; but almost as much of her company was vouchsafed on
the ensuing day, Sunday, for Miss Elbury had relations at Rockquay,
and was released for the entire day; and Fly was still so tired in
the morning that she was not allowed to get up early in the day.
Her mother, however, came in to go to church with Adeline Mohun, and
Gillian, who had heard so much of the great Marchioness, was
surprised to see a small slight woman, not handsome, and worn-looking
about the eyes. At the first glance, she was plainly dressed; but
the eye of a connoisseur like Aunt Ada could detect the exquisiteness
of the material and the taste, and the slow soft tone of her voice;
and every gesture and phrase showed that she had all her life been in
the habit of condescending---in fact, thought Gillian, revolving her
recent experience, though Lady Liddesdale and all her set are taller,
finer-looking people, they are not one bit so grand---no, not that---
but so unapproachable, as I am sure she is. She is gracious, while
they are just good-natured!
Aunt Ada was evidently pleased with the graciousness, and highly
delighted to have to take this distinguished personage to church.
Mysie was with her sisters, Valetta was extremely anxious to take her
to the Sunday drawing-room class---whether for the sake of showing her
to Mrs. Hablot, or Mrs. Hablot to her, did not appear.
Gillian was glad to be asked to sit with Fly in the meantime. It was
a sufficient reason for not repairing to the garden, and she hoped
that Kalliope was unaware of her return, little knowing of the
replies by which Fergus repaid Alexis for his assistance in mineral
hunting. She had no desire to transgress Miss Mohun's desire that no
further intercourse should take place till she herself had spoken
She found little Phyllis Devereux a great deal taller and thinner
than the droll childish being who had been so amusing two years
before at Silverfold, but eagerly throwing herself into her arms with
the same affectionate delight. All the table was spread with pretty
books and outlined illuminations waiting to be painted, and some
really beautiful illustrated Sunday books; but as Gillian touched the
first, Fly cried out, 'Oh, don't! I am so tired of all those things!
And this is such a stupid window. I thought at least I should see
the people going to church, and this looks at nothing but the old sea
and a tiresome garden.'
'That is thought a special advantage,' said Gillian, smiling.
'Then I wish some one had it who liked it!'
'You would not be so near us.'
'No, and that is nice, and very nice for Mysie. How are all the dear
beasts at Silverfold---Begum, and all?'
'I am afraid I do not know more about them than Mysie does. Aunt
Jane heard this morning that she must go down there to-morrow to meet
the health-man and see what he says; but she won't take any of us
because of the diphtheria and the scarlet fever being about.'
'Oh dear, how horrid those catching things are! I've not seen
Ivinghoe all this winter! Ah! but they are good sometimes! If it
had not been for the measles, I should never have had that most
delicious time at Silverfold, nor known Mysie. Now, please tell me
all about where you have been, and what you have been doing.'
Fly knew some of the younger party that Gillian had met at Rowthorpe;
but she was more interested in the revels at Vale Leston, and
required a precise description of the theatricals, or still better,
of the rehearsals. Never was there a more appreciative audience, of
how it all began from Kit Harewood, the young sailor, having sent
home a lion's skin from Africa, which had already served for tableaux
of Androcles and of Una---how the boy element had insisted on fun, and
the child element on fairies, and how Mrs. William Harewood had
suggested Midsummer Night's Dream as the only combination of the
three essentials, lion, fun, and fairy, and pronounced that education
had progressed far enough for the representation to be 'understanded
of the people,' at least by the 6th and 7th standards. On the whole,
however, comprehension seemed to have been bounded by intense
admiration of the little girl fairies, whom the old women appeared to
have taken for angels, for one had declared that to hear little Miss
Cherry and Miss Katie singing their hymns like the angels they was,
was just like Heaven. She must have had an odd notion of 'Spotted
snakes with double tongues.' Moreover, effect was added to the said
hymns by Uncle Lance behind the scenes.
Then there was the account of how it had been at first intended that
Oberon should be represented by little Sir Adrian, with his Bexley
cousin, Pearl Underwood, for his Titania; but though she was fairy
enough for anything, he turned out so stolid, and uttered 'Well met
by moonlight, proud Titania,' the only lines he ever learnt, exactly
like a lesson, besides crying whenever asked to study his part, that
the attempt had to be given up, and the fairy sovereigns had to be of
large size, Mr. Grinstead pronouncing that probably this was intended
by Shakespeare, as Titania was a name of Diana, and he combined
Grecian nymphs with English fairies. So Gerald Underwood had to
combine the part of Peter Quince (including Thisbe) with that of
Oberon, and the queen was offered to Gillian.
'But I had learnt Hermia,' she said, 'and I saw it was politeness, so
I wouldn't, and Anna Vanderkist is ever so much prettier, besides
being used to acting with Gerald. She did look perfectly lovely,
asleep on the moss in the scene Mrs. Grinstead painted and devised
for her! There was---'
'Oh! not only the prettiness, I don't care for that. One gets enough
of the artistic, but the fun---the dear fun.'
'There was fun enough, I am sure,' said Gillian. 'Puck was Felix---
Pearl's brother, you know---eleven years old, so clever, and an awful
imp---and he was Moon besides; but the worst of it was that his dog---
it was a funny rough terrier at the Vicarage---was so furious at the
lion, when Adrian was roaring under the skin, that nobody could hear,
and Adrian got frightened, as well he might, and crept out from under
it, screaming, and there fell the lion, collapsing flat in the middle
of the place. Even Theseus---Major Harewood, you know, who had tried
to be as grave as a judge, and so polite to the actors---could not
stand that interpolation, as he called it, of "the man in the moon---
not to say the dog," came down too soon---Why, Fly---'
For Fly was in such a paroxysm of laughter as to end in a violent fit
of coughing, and to bring Lady Rotherwood in, vexed and anxious.
'Oh, mother! it was only---it was only the lion's skin---' and off went
Fly, laughing and coughing again.
'I was telling her about the acting or Midsummer Night's Dream at
Vale Leston,' explained Gillian.
'I should not have thought that a suitable subject for the day,' said
the Marchioness gravely, and Fly's endeavour to say it was her fault
for asking about it was silenced by choking; and Gillian found
herself courteously dismissed in polite disgrace, and, as she felt,
not entirely without justice.
It was a great disappointment that Aunt Jane did not think it well to
take any of the young people to their home with her. As she said,
she did not believe that they would catch anything; but it was better
to be on the safe side, and she fully expected that they would spend
most of the day with Mysie and Fly.
'I wish I could go and talk to Kalliope, my dear,' she said to
Gillian; 'but I am afraid it must wait another day.'
'Oh, never mind,' said Gillian, as they bade each other good-night at
their doors; 'they don't know that I am come home, so they will not
CHAPTER XIII. ST. VALENTINE'S DAY
Miss Mohun came back in the dark after a long day, for once in her
life quite jaded, and explaining that the health-officer and the
landlord had been by no means agreed, and that nothing could be done
till Sir Jasper came home and decided whether to retain the house or
All that she was clear about, and which she had telegraphed to Aden,
was, that there must be no going back to Silverfold for the present,
and she was prepared to begin lodging-hunting as soon as she received
'And how have you got on?' she asked, thinking all looked rather
'We haven't been to see Fly,' broke out Valetta, 'though she went out
on the beach, and Mysie must not stay out after dark, for fear she
'Mysie says they are afraid of excitement,' said Gillian gloomily.
'Then you have seen nothing of the others?'
'Yes, I have seen Victoria, said Aunt Adeline, with a meaning smile.
Miss Mohun went up to take off her things, and Gillian followed her,
shutting the door with ominous carefulness, and colouring all over.
'Aunt Jane, I ought to tell you. A dreadful thing has happened!'
'Indeed, my dear! What?'
'I have had a valentine.'
'Oh!' repressing a certain inclination to laugh at the bathos from
the look of horror and shame in the girl's eyes.
'It is from that miserable Alexis! Oh, I know I brought it on
myself, and I have been so wretched and so ashamed all day.'
'Was it so very shocking! Let me see---'
'Oh! I sent it back at once by the post, in an envelope, saying,
"Sent by mistake."'
'But what was it like? Surely it was not one of the common shop
'Oh no; there was rather a pretty outline of a nymph or muse, or
something of that sort, at the top---drawn, I mean---and verses written
below, something about my showing a lodestar of hope, but I barely
glanced at it. I hated it too much.'
'I am sorry you were in such a hurry,' said Aunt Jane. 'No doubt it
was a shock; but I am afraid you have given more pain than it quite
'It was so impertinent!' cried Gillian, in astonished, shame-stricken
'So it seems to you,' said her aunt, 'and it was very bad taste; but
you should remember that this poor lad has grown up in a stratum of
society where he may have come to regard this as a suitable
opportunity of evincing his gratitude, and perhaps it may be very
hard upon him to have this work of his treated as an insult.'
'But you would not have had me keep it and tolerate it?' exclaimed
'I can hardly tell without having seen it; but you might have done
the thing more civilly, through his sister, or have let me give it
back to him. However, it is too late now; I will make a point of
seeing Kalliope to-morrow, but in the meantime you really need not be
so horribly disgusted and ashamed.'
'I thought he was quite a different sort!'
'Perhaps, after all, your thoughts were not wrong; and he only
fancied, poor boy, that he had found a pretty way of thanking you.'
This did not greatly comfort Gillian, who might prefer feeling that
she was insulted rather than that she had been cruelly unkind, and
might like to blame Alexis rather than herself. And, indeed, in any
case, she had sense enough to perceive that this very unacceptable
compliment was the consequence of her own act of independence of more
The next person Miss Mohun met was Fergus, lugging upstairs, step by
step, a monstrous lump of stone, into which he required her to look
and behold a fascinating crevice full of glittering spar.
'Where did you get that, Fergus?'
'Up off the cliff over the quarry.'
'Are you sure that you may have it?'
'Oh yes; White said I might. It's so jolly, auntie! Frank Stebbing
is gone away to the other shop in the Apennines, where the old boss
lives. What splendiferous specimens he must have the run of! Our
Stebbing says 'tis because Kally White makes eyes at him; but any
way, White has got to do his work while he's away, and go all the
rounds to see that things are right, so I go after him, and he lets
me have just what I like---such jolly crystals.'
'I am sure I hope it is all right.'
'Oh yes, I always ask him, as you told me; but he is awfully slow and
mopy and down in the mouth to-day. Stebbing says he is sweet upon
Gill; but I told him that couldn't be, White knew better. A
general's daughter, indeed! and Will remembers his father a
'It is very foolish, Fergus. Say no more about it, for it is not
nice talk about your sister.'
'I'll lick any one who does,' said Fergus, bumping his stone up
Poor Aunt Jane! There was more to fall on her as soon as the door
was finally shut on the two rooms communicating with one another,
which the sisters called their own. Mrs. Mount's manipulations of
Miss Adeline's rich brown hair were endured with some impatience,
while Miss Mohun leant back in her chair in her shawl-patterned
dressing-gown, watching, with a sort of curious wonder and
foreboding, the restlessness that proved that something was in store,
and meantime somewhat lazily brushing out her own thinner darker
'You are tired, Miss Jane,' said the old servant, using the pet name
in private moments. 'You had better let me do your hair.'
'No, thank you, Fanny; I have very nearly done,' she said, marking
the signs of eagerness on her sister's part. 'Oh, by the bye, did
that hot bottle go down to Lilian Giles?'
'Yes, ma'am; Mrs. Giles came up for it.'
'Did she say whether Lily was well enough to see Miss Gillian?'
Mrs. Mount coughed a peculiar cough that her mistresses well knew to
signify that she could tell them something they would not like to
hear, if they chose to ask her, and it was the younger who put the
'Fanny, did she say anything?'
'Well, Miss Ada, I told her she must be mistaken, but she stuck to
it, though she said she never would have breathed a word if Miss
Gillian had not come back again, but she thought you should know it.'
'Know what?' demanded Jane.
'Well, Miss Jane, she should say 'tis the talk that Miss Gillian,
when you have thought her reading to the poor girl, has been running
down to the works---and 'tis only the ignorance of them that will
talk, but they say it is to meet a young man. She says, Mrs. Giles
do, that she never would have noticed such talk, but that the young
lady did always seem in a hurry, only just reading a chapter, and
never stopping to talk to poor Lily after it; and she has seen her
herself going down towards the works, instead of towards home, ma'am.
And she said she could not bear that reading to her girl should be
made a colour for such doings.'
'Certainly not, if it were as she supposes,' said Miss Mohun, sitting
very upright, and beating her own head vigorously with a very prickly
brush; 'but you may tell her, Fanny, that I know all about it, and
that her friend is Miss White, who you remember spent an evening
Fanny's good-humoured face cleared up. 'Yes, ma'am, I told her that
I was quite sure that Miss Gillian would not go for to do anything
wrong, and that it could be easy explained; but people has tongues,
'You were quite right to tell us, Fanny. Good-night.'
'People has tongues!' repeated Adeline, when that excellent person
had disappeared. 'Yes, indeed, they have. But, Jenny, do you really
mean to say that you know all about this?'
'Yes, I believe so.'
'Oh, I wish you had been at home to-day when Victoria came in. It
really is a serious business.'
'Victoria! What has she to do with it? I should have thought her
Marchioness-ship quite out of the region of gossip, though, for that
matter, grandees like it quite as much as other people.'
'Don't, Jane , you know it does concern her through companionship for
Phyllis, and she was very kind.'
'Oh yes, I can see her sailing in, magnificently kind from her
elevation. But how in the world did she manage to pick up all this
in the time?' said poor Jane, tired and pestered into the sharpness
of her early youth.
'Dear Jenny, I wish I had said nothing to-night. Do wait till you
'I am not in the least tired, and if I were, do you think I could
sleep with this half told?'
'You said you knew.'
'Then it is only about Gillian being so silly as to go down to Miss
White's office at the works to look over the boy's Greek exercises.'
'You don't mean that you allowed it!'
'No, Gillian's impulsiveness, just like her mother's, began it, as a
little assertion of modern independence; but while she was away that
little step from brook to river brought her to the sense that she had
been a goose, and had used me rather unfairly, and so she came and
confessed it all to me on the way home from the station the first
morning after her return. She says she had written it all to her
mother from the first.'
'I wonder Lily did not telegraph to put a stop to it.'
'Do you suppose any mother, our poor old Lily especially, can marry a
couple of daughters without being slightly frantic! Ten to one she
never realised that this precious pupil was bigger than Fergus. But
do tell me what my Lady had heard, and how she heard it.'
'You remember that her governess, Miss Elbury, has connections in the
'"The most excellent creature in the world." Oh yes, and she spent
Sunday with them. So that was the conductor.'
'I can hardly say that Miss Elbury was to be blamed, considering that
she had heard the proposal about Valetta! It seems that that High
School class-mistress, Miss Mellon, who had the poor child under her,
is her cousin.'
'It is exactly what I was afraid of when we decided on keeping
Valetta at home. Miss Mellon told all the Caesar story in plainly
the worst light for poor Val, and naturally deduced from her removal
that she was the most to blame.'
'Whereas it was Miss Mellon herself! But nobody could expect
Victoria to see that, and no doubt she is quite justified in not
wishing for the child in her schoolroom! But, after all, Valetta is
only a child; it won't hurt her to have this natural recoil of
consequences, and her mother will be at home in three weeks' time.
It signifies much more about Gillian. Did I understand you that the
gossip about her had reached those august ears?'
'Oh yes, Jane, and it is ever so much worse. That horrid Miss Mellon
seems to have told Miss Elbury that Gillian has a passion for low
company, that she is always running after the Whites at the works,
and has secret meetings with the young man in the garden on Sunday,
while his sister carries on her underhand flirtation with another
youth, Frank Stebbing, I suppose. It really was too preposterous,
and Victoria said she had no doubt from the first that there was
exaggeration, and had told Miss Elbury so; but still she thought
Gillian must have been to blame. She was very nice about it, and
listened to all my explanation most kindly, as to Gillian's interest
in the Whites, and its having been only the sister that she met, but
plainly she is not half convinced. I heard something about a letter
being left for Gillian, and really, I don't know whether there may
not be more discoveries to come. I never felt before the force of
our dear father's saying, apropos of Rotherwood himself, that no one
knows what it is to lose a father except those who have the care of
'Whatever Gillian did was innocent and ladylike, and nothing to be
ashamed of,' said Aunt Jane stoutly; 'of that I am sure. But I
should like to be equally sure that she has not turned the head of
that poor foolish young man, without in the least knowing what she
was about. You should have seen her state of mind at his sending her
a valentine, which she returned to him, perfectly ferociously, at
once, and that was all the correspondence somebody seems to have
'A valentine! Gillian must have behaved very ill to have brought
that upon herself! Oh dear! I wish she had never come here; I wish
Lily could have stayed at home, instead of scattering her children
about the world. The Rotherwoods will never get over it.'
'That's the least part of the grievance, in my eyes,' said her
sister. 'It won't make a fraction of difference to the dear old
cousin Rotherwood; and as to my Lady, it is always a liking from the
'How can you say so! I am sure she has always been most cordial.'
'Most correct, if you please. Oh, did she say anything about Mysie?'
'She said nothing but good of Mysie; called her delightful, and
perfectly good and trustworthy, said they could never have got so
well through Phyllis's illness without her, and that they only wished
to keep her altogether.'
'I dare say, to be humble companion to my little lady, out of the way
of her wicked sisters.'
'My dear, I don't think I can stand any more defence of her just now!
No, she is an admirable woman, I know. That's enough. I really must
go to bed, and consider which is to be faced first, she or Kalliope.'
It was lucky that Miss Mohun could exist without much sleep, for she
was far too much worried for any length of slumber to visit her that
night, though she was afoot as early as usual. She thought it best
to tell Gillian that Lady Rotherwood had heard some foolish reports,
and that she was going to try to clear them up, and she extracted an
explicit account as to what the extent of her intercourse with the
Whites had been, which was given willingly, Gillian being in a very
humble frame, and convinced that she had acted foolishly. It
surprised her likewise that Aunt Adeline, whom she had liked the
best, and thought the most good-natured, was so much more angry with
her than Aunt Jane, who, as she felt, forgave her thoroughly, and was
only anxious to help her out of the scrape she had made for herself.
Miss Mohun thought her best time for seeing Kalliope would be in the
dinner-hour, and started accordingly in the direction of the marble
works. Not far from them she met that young person walking quickly
with one of her little brothers.
'I was coming to see you,' Miss Mohun said. 'I did not know that you
went home in the middle of the day.'
'My mother has been so unwell of late that I do not like to be
entirely out of reach all day,' returned Kalliope, who certainly
looked worn and sorrowful; 'so I manage to run home, though it is but
for a quarter of an hour.'
'I will not delay you, I will walk with you,' and when Petros had
been dismissed, 'I am afraid my niece has not been quite the friend
to you that she intended.'
'Oh, Miss Mohun, do you know all about it? It is such a relief! I
have felt so guilty towards you, and yet I did not know what to do.'
'I have never thought that the concealment was your fault,' said
'I did think at first that you knew,' said Kalliope, 'and when I
found that was not the case, I suppose I should have insisted on your
being told; but I could not bear to seem ungrateful, and my brother
took such extreme delight in his lessons and Miss Merrifield's
kindness, that---that I could not bear to do what might prevent them.
And now, poor fellow, it shows how wrong it was, since he has
ventured on that unfortunate act of presumption, which has so
offended her. Oh, Miss Mohun, he is quite broken-hearted.'
'I am afraid Gillian was very discourteous. I was out, or it should
not have been done so unkindly. Indeed, in the shock, Gillian did
not recollect that she might be giving pain.'
'Yes, yes! Poor Alexis! He has not had any opportunity of
understanding how different things are in your class of life, and he
thought it would show his gratitude and---and---Oh, he is so
miserable!' and she was forced to stop to wipe away her tears.
'Poor fellow! But it was one of those young men's mistakes that are
got over and outgrown, so you need not grieve over it so much, my
dear. My brother-in-law is on his way home, and I know he means to
see what can be done for Alexis, for your father's sake.'
'Oh, Miss Mohun, how good you are! I thought you could never forgive
us. And people do say such shocking things.'
'I know they do, and therefore I am going to ask you to tell me
exactly what intercourse there has been with Gillian.'
Kalliope did so, and Miss Mohun was struck with the complete
accordance of the two accounts, and likewise by the total absence of
all attempt at self-justification on Miss White's part. If she had
in any way been weak, it had been against her will, and her position
had been an exceedingly difficult one. She spoke in as guarded a
manner as possible; but to such acute and experienced ears as those
of her auditor, it was impossible not to perceive that, while Gillian
had been absolutely simple, and unconscious of all but a kind act of
patronage, the youth's imagination had taken fire, and he had become
her ardent worshipper; with calf-love, no doubt, but with a distant,
humble adoration, which had, whether fortunately or unfortunately,
for once found expression in the valentine so summarily rejected.
The drawing and the composition had been the work of many days, and
so much against his sister's protest that it had been sent without
her knowledge, after she had thought it given up. She had only
extracted the confession through his uncontrollable despair, which
made him almost unfit to attend to his increased work, perhaps by his
southern nature exaggerated.
'The stronger at first, the sooner over,' thought Miss Mohun; but she
knew that consolation betraying her comprehension would not be safe.
One further discovery she made, namely, that on Sunday, Alexis,
foolish lad, had been so wildly impatient at their having had no
notice from Gillian since her return, that he had gone to the garden
to explain, as he said, his sister's non-appearance there, since she
was detained by her mother's illness. It was the only time he had
ever been there, and he had met no one; but Miss Mohun felt a sinking
of heart at the foreboding that the mauvaises langues would get hold
The only thing to be decided on was that there must be a suspension
of intercourse, at any rate, till Lady Merrifield's arrival; not in
unkindness, but as best for all. And, indeed, Kalliope had no time
to spare from her mother, whose bloated appearance, poor woman, was
the effect of long-standing disease.
The daughter's heart was very full of her, and evidently it would
have been a comfort to discuss her condition with this kind friend;
but no more delay was possible; and Miss Mohun had to speed home, in
a quandary how much or how little about Alexis's hopeless passion
should be communicated to its object, and finally deciding that
Gillian had better only be informed that he had been greatly
mortified by the rude manner of rejection, but that the act itself
proved that she must abstain from all renewal of the intercourse till
her parents should return.
But that was not all the worry of the day. Miss Mohun had still to
confront Lady Rotherwood, and, going as soon as the early dinner was
over, found the Marchioness resting after an inspection of houses in
Rockquay. She did not like hotels, she said, and she thought the top
of the cliff too bleak for Phyllis, so that they must move nearer the
sea if the place agreed with her at all, which was doubtful. Miss
Mohun was pretty well convinced that the true objection was the
neighbourhood of Beechcroft Cottage. She said she had come to give
some explanation of what had been said to her sister yesterday.
'Oh, my dear Jane, Adeline told me all about it yesterday. I am very
sorry for you to have had such a charge, but what could you expect of
girls cast about as they have been, always with a marching regiment?'
'I do not think Mysie has given you any reason to think her ill
'A little uncouth at first, but that was all. Oh, no! Mysie is a
dear little girl. I should be very glad to have her with Phyllis
altogether, and so would Rotherwood. But she was very young when Sir
'And Valetta was younger. Poor little girl! She was naughty, but I
do not think she understood the harm of what she was doing.'
Lady Rotherwood smiled.
'Perhaps not; but she must have been deeply involved, since she was
the one amongst all the guilty to be expelled.'
'Oh, Victoria! Was that what you heard?'
'Miss Elbury heard it from the governess she was under. Surely she
was the only one not permitted to go up for the examination and
'True, but that was our doing---no decree of the High School. Her own
governess is free now, and her mother on her way, and we thought she
had better not begin another term. Yes, Victoria, I quite see that
you might doubt her fitness to be much with Phyllis. I am not asking
for that---I shall try to get her own governess to come at once; but
for the child's sake and her mother's I should like to get this
cleared up. May I see Miss Elbury?'
'Certainly; but I do not think you will find that she has
exaggerated, though of course her informant may have done so.
Miss Elbury was of the older generation of governesses, motherly,
kind, but rather prim and precise, the accomplished element being
supplied with diplomaed foreigners, who, since Lady Phyllis's failure
in health, had been dispensed with. She was a good and sensible
woman, as Jane could see, in spite of the annoyance her report had
occasioned, and it was impossible not to assent when she said she had
felt obliged, under the circumstances, to mention to Lady Rotherwood
what her cousin had told her.
'About both my nieces,' said Jane. 'Yes, I quite understand. But,
though of course the little one's affair is the least important, we
had better get to the bottom of that first, and I should like to tell
you what really happened.'
She told her story, and how Valetta had been tempted and then bullied
into going beyond the first peeps, and finding she did not produce
the impression she wished, she begged Miss Elbury to talk it over
with the head-mistress. It was all in the telling. Miss Elbury's
young cousin, Miss Mellon, had been brought under rebuke, and into
great danger of dismissal, through Valetta Merrifield's lapse; and it
was no wonder that she had warned her kinswoman against 'the horrid
little deceitful thing,' who had done so much harm to the whole
class. 'Miss Mohun was running about over the whole place, but not
knowing what went on in her own house!' And as to Miss White, Miss
Elbury mentioned at last, though with some reluctance, that it was
believed that she had been on the point of a private marriage, and of
going to Italy with young Stebbing, when her machinations were
detected, and he was forced to set off without her.
With this in her mind, the governess could not be expected to accept
as satisfactory what was not entire confutation or contradiction, and
Miss Mohun saw that, politely as she was listened to, it was all only
treated as excuse; since there could be no denial of Gillian's folly,
and it was only a question of degree.
And, provoking as it was, the disappointment might work well for
Valetta. The allegations against Gillian were a far more serious
affair, but much more of these could be absolutely disproved and
contradicted; in fact, all that Miss Mohun herself thought very
serious, i.e. the flirtation element, was shown to be absolutely
false, both as regarded Gillian and Kalliope; but it was quite
another thing to convince people who knew none of the parties, when
there was the residuum of truth undeniable, that there had been
secret meetings not only with the girl, but the youth. To acquit
Gillian of all but modern independence and imprudent philanthropy was
not easy to any one who did not understand her character, and though
Lady Rotherwood said nothing more in the form of censure, it was
evident that she was unconvinced that Gillian was not a fast and
flighty girl, and that she did not desire more contact than was
No doubt she wished herself farther off! Lord Rotherwood, she said,
was coming down in a day or two, when he could get away, and then
they should decide whether to take a house or to go abroad, which,
after all, might be the best thing for Phyllis.
'He will make all the difference,' said Miss Adeline, when the
unsatisfactory conversation was reported to her.
'I don't know! But even if he did, and I don't think he will, I
won't have Valetta waiting for his decision and admitted on
'Shall you send her back to school?'
'No. Poor Miss Vincent is free, and quite ready to come here.
Fergus shall go and sleep among his fossils in the lumber-room, and I
will write to her at once. She will be much better here than waiting
at Silverton, though the Hacketts are very kind to her.'
'Yes, it will be better to be independent. But all this is very
unfortunate. However, Victoria will see for herself what the
children are. She has asked me to take a drive with her to-morrow if
it is not too cold.'
'Oh yes, she is not going to make an estrangement. You need not fear
that, Ada. She does not think it your fault.'
Aunt Jane pondered a little as to what to say to the two girls, and
finally resolved that Valetta had better be told that she was not to
do lessons with Fly, as her behaviour had made Lady Rotherwood doubt
whether she was a good companion. Valetta stamped and cried, and
said it was very hard and cross when she had been so sorry and every
one had forgiven her; but Gillian joined heartily with Aunt Jane in
trying to make the child understand that consequences often come in
spite of pardon and repentance. To Gillian herself, Aunt Jane said
as little as possible, not liking even to give the veriest hint of
the foolish gossip, or of the extent of poor Alexis White's
admiration; for it was enough for the girl to know that concealment
had brought her under a cloud, and she was chiefly concerned as to
how her mother would look on it. She had something of Aunt Jane's
impatience of patronage, and perhaps thought it snobbish to seem
concerned at the great lady's displeasure.
Mysie was free to run in and out to her sisters, but was still to do
her lessons with Miss Elbury, and Fly took up more of her time than
the sisters liked. Neither she nor Fly were formally told why their
castles vanished into empty air, but there certainly was a continual
disappointment and fret on both sides, which Fly could not bear as
well as when she was in high health, and poor Mysie's loving heart
often found it hard to decide between her urgent claims and those of
But was not mamma coming? and papa? Would not all be well then?
Yes, hearts might bound at the thought. But where was Gillian's
Miss Vincent's coming was really like a beginning of home, in spite
of her mourning and depressed look. It was a great consolation to
the lonely woman to find how all her pupils flew at her, with
infinite delight. She had taken pains to bring a report of all the
animals for Valetta, and she duly admired all Fergus's geological
specimens, and even undertook to print labels for them.
Mysie would have liked to begin lessons again with her; but this
would have been hard on Fly, and besides, her mother had committed
her to the Rotherwoods, and it was better still to leave her with
The aunts were ready with any amount of kindness and sympathy for the
governess's bereavement, and her presence was a considerable relief
in the various perplexities.
Even Lady Rotherwood and Miss Elbury had been convinced, and by no
means unwillingly, that Gillian had been less indiscreet than had
been their first impression; but she had been a young lady of the
period in her independence, and was therefore to be dreaded. No more
garden trystes would have been possible under any circumstances, for
the house and garden were in full preparation for the master, who was
to meet Lord Rotherwood to consult about the proposed water-works and
other designs for the benefit of the town where they were the chief
CHAPTER XIV. THE PARTNER
The expected telegram arrived two days later, requesting Miss Mohun
to find a lodging at Rockstone sufficient to contain Sir Jasper and
Lady Merrifield, and a certain amount of sons and daughters, while
they considered what was to be done about Silverfold.
'So you and I will go out house-hunting, Gillian?' said Aunt Jane,
when she had opened it, and the exclamations were over.
'I am afraid there is no house large enough up here,' said her
'No, it is an unlucky time, in the thick of the season.'
'Victoria said she had been looking at some houses in Bellevue.'
'I am afraid she will have raised the prices of them.'
'But, oh, Aunt Jane, we couldn't go to Bellevue Church!' cried
'Your mother would like to be so near the daily services at the
Kennel,' said Miss Mohun. 'Yes, we must begin with those houses.
There's nothing up here but Sorrento, and I have heard enough of its
At that moment in came a basket of game, grapes, and flowers, with
Lady Rotherwood's compliments.
'Solid pudding,' muttered Miss Mohun. 'In this case, I should almost
prefer empty praise. Look here, Ada, what a hamper they must have
had from home! I think I shall, as I am going that way, take a
pheasant and some grapes to the poor Queen of the White Ants; I
believe she is really ill, and it will show that we do not want to
'Oh, thank you, Aunt Jane!' cried Gillian, the colour rising in her
face, and she was the willing bearer of the basket as she walked down
the steps with her aunt, and along the esplanade, only pausing to
review the notices of palatial, rural, and desirable villas in the
house-agent's window, and to consider in what proportion their claims
to perfection might be reduced.
As they turned down Ivinghoe Terrace, and were approaching the rusty
garden-gate, they overtook Mrs. Lee, the wife of the organist of St.
Kenelm's, who lodged at Mrs. White's. In former times, before her
marriage, Mrs. Lee had been a Sunday-school teacher at St. Andrew's,
and though party spirit considered her to have gone over to the
enemy, there were old habits of friendly confidence between her and
Miss Mohun, and there was an exchange of friendly greetings and
inquiries. When she understood their errand she rejoiced in it,
saying that poor Mrs. White was very poorly, and rather fractious,
and that this supply would be most welcome both to her and her
'Ah, I am afraid that poor girl goes through a great deal!'
'Indeed she does, Miss Mohun; and a better girl never lived. I
cannot think how she can bear up as she does; there she is at the
office all day with her work, except when she runs home in the middle
of the day---all that distance to dish up something her mother can
taste, for there's no dependence on the girl, nor on little Maura
neither. Then she is slaving early and late to keep the house in
order as well as she can, when her mother is fretting for her
attention; and I believe she loses more than half her night's rest
over the old lady. How she bears up, I cannot guess; and never a
cross word to her mother, who is such a trial, nor to the boys, but
looking after their clothes and their lessons, and keeping them as
good and nice as can be. I often say to my husband, I am sure it is
a lesson to live in the house with her.'
'I am sure she is an excellent girl,' said Miss Mohun. 'I wish we
could do anything to help her.'
'I know you are a real friend, Miss Mohun, and never was there any
young person who was in greater need of kindness; though it is none
of her fault. She can't help her face, poor dear; and she has never
given any occasion, I am sure, but has been as guarded and correct as
'Oh, I was in hopes that annoyance was suspended at least for a
'You are aware of it then, Miss Mohun? Yes, the young gentleman is
come back, not a bit daunted. Yesterday evening what does he do but
drive up in a cab with a great bouquet, and a basketful of grapes,
and what not! Poor Kally, she ran in to me, and begged me as a
favour to come downstairs with her, and I could do no less. And I
assure you, Miss Mohun, no queen could be more dignified, nor more
modest than she was in rejecting his gifts, and keeping him in check.
Poor dear, when he was gone she burst out crying---a thing I never
knew of her before; not that she cared for him, but she felt it a
cruel wrong to her poor mother to send away the grapes she longed
after; and so she will feel these just a providence.'
'Then is Mrs. White confined to her room?'
'For more than a fortnight. For that matter the thing was easier,
for she had encouraged the young man as far as in her lay, poor
thing, though my husband and young Alexis both told her what they
knew of him, and that it would not be for Kally's happiness, let
alone the offence to his father.'
'Then it really went as far as that?'
'Miss Mohun, I would be silent as the grave if I did not know that
the old lady went talking here and there, never thinking of the harm
she was doing. She was so carried away by the idea of making a lady
of Kally. She says she was a beauty herself, though you would not
think it now, and she is perfectly puffed up about Kally. So she
actually lent an ear when the young man came persuading Kally to get
married and go off to Italy with him, where he made sure he could
come over Mr. White with her beauty and relationship and all---among
the myrtle groves---that was his expression--where she would have an
association worthy of her. I don't quite know how he meant it to be
brought about, but he is one who would stick at nothing, and of
course Kally would not hear of it, and answered him so as one would
think he would never have had the face to address her again, but poor
Mrs. White has done nothing but fret over it, and blame her daughter
for undutifulness, and missing the chance of making all their
fortunes---breaking her heart and her health, and I don't know what
besides. She is half a foreigner, you see, and does not understand,
and she is worse than no one to that poor girl.'
'And you say he is come back as bad as ever.'
'Or worse, you may say, Miss Mohun; absence seems only to have set
him the more upon her, and I am afraid that Mrs. White's talk, though
it may not have been to many, has been enough to set it about the
place; and in cases like that, it is always the poor young woman as
gets the blame---especially with the gentleman's own people.'
'I am afraid so.'
'And you see she is in a manner at his mercy, being son to one of the
heads of the firm, and in a situation of authority.'
'What can she do all day at the office?'
'She keeps one or two of the other young ladies working with her,'
said Mrs. Lee; 'but if any change could be made, it would be very
happy for her; though, after all, I do not see how she could leave
this place, the house being family property, and Mr. White their
relation, besides that Mrs. White is in no state to move; but, on the
other hand, Mr. and Mrs. Stebbing know their son is after her, and
the lady would not stick at believing or saying anything against her,
though I will always bear witness, and so will Mr. Lee, that never
was there a more good, right-minded young woman, or more prudent and
'So would Mr. Flight and his mother, I have no doubt.'
'Mr. Flight would, Miss Mohun, but'---with an odd look---'I fancy my
lady thinks poor Kally too handsome for it to be good for a young
clergyman to have much to say to her. They have not been so cordial
to them of late, but that is partly owing to poor Mrs. White's
foolish talk, and in part to young Alexis having been desultory and
mopy of late---not taking the interest in his music he did. Mr. Lee
says he is sure some young woman is at the bottom of it.'
Miss Mohun saw her niece's ears crimson under her hat, and was afraid
Mrs. Lee would likewise see them. They had reached the front of the
house, and she made haste to take out a visiting-card and to beg Mrs.
Lee kindly to give it with the basket, saying that she would not give
trouble by coming to the door.
And then she turned back with Gillian, who was in a strange tumult of
shame and consternation, yet withal, feeling that first strange
thrill of young womanhood at finding itself capable of stirring
emotion, and too much overcome by these strange sensations---above all
by the shock of shame---to be able to utter a word.
I must make light of it, but not too light, thought Miss Mohun, and
she broke the ice by saying, 'Poor foolish boy----'
'Oh, Aunt Jane, what shall I do?'
'Let it alone, my dear.'
'But that I should have done so much harm and upset him so'---in a
voice betraying a certain sense of being flattered. 'Can't I do
anything to undo it?'
'Certainly not. To be perfectly quiet and do nothing is all you can
do. My dear, boys and young men have such foolish fits---more in that
station than in ours, because they have none of the public school and
college life which keeps people out of it. You were the first lady
this poor fellow was brought into contact with, and---well, you were
rather a goose, and he has been a greater one; but if he is let
alone, he will recover and come to his senses. I could tell you of
men who have had dozens of such fits. I am much more interested
about his sister. What a noble girl she is!'
'Oh, isn't she, Aunt Jane. Quite a real heroine! And now mamma is
coming, she will know what to do for her!'
'I hope she will, but it is a most perplexing case altogether.'
'And that horrid young Stebbing is come back too. I am glad she has
that nice Mrs. Lee to help her.'
'And to defend her,' added Miss Mohun. 'Her testimony is worth a
great deal, and I am glad to know where to lay my hand upon it. And
here is our first house, "Les Rochers." For Madame de Sevigne's
sake, I hope it will do!'
But it didn't! Miss Mohun got no farther than the hall before she
detected a scent of gas; and they had to betake themselves to the
next vacant abode. The investigating nature had full scope in the
various researches that she made into parlour, kitchen, and hall,
desperately wearisome to Gillian, whose powers were limited to
considering how the family could sit at ease in the downstairs rooms,
how they could be stowed away in the bedrooms, and where there were
the prettiest views of the bay. Aunt Jane, becoming afraid that
while she was literally 'ferreting' in the offices Gillian might be
meditating on her conquest, picked up the first cheap book that
looked innocently sensational, and left her to study it on various
sofas. And when daylight failed for inspections, Gillian still had
reason to rejoice in the pastime devised for her, since there was an
endless discussion at the agent's, over the only two abodes that
could be made available, as to prices, repairs, time, and terms.
They did not get away till it was quite dark and the gas lighted, and
Miss Mohun did not think the ascent of the steps desirable, so that
they went round by the street.
'I declare,' exclaimed Miss Mohun, 'there's Mr. White's house lighted
up. He must be come!'
'I wonder whether he will do anything for Kalliope,' sighed Gillian.
'Oh, Jenny,' exclaimed Miss Adeline, as the two entered the drawing-
room. 'You have had such a loss; Rotherwood has been here waiting to
see you for an hour, and such an agreeable man he brought with him!'
'Who could it have been?'
'I didn't catch his name---Rotherwood was mumbling in his quick way---
indeed, I am not sure he did not think I knew him. A distinguished-
looking man, like a picture, with a fine white beard, and he was
fresh from Italy; told me all about the Carnival and the curious
ceremonies in the country villages.'
'From Italy? It can't have been Mr. White.'
'Mr. White! My dear Jane! this was a gentleman---quite a grand-
looking man. He might have been an Italian nobleman, only he spoke
English too well for that, though I believe those diplomates can
speak all languages. However, you will see, for we are to go and
dine with them at eight o'clock---you, and I, and Gillian.'
'Oh! I have ordered the chair round; it won't hurt me with the
glasses up. Gillian, my dear, you must put on the white dress that
Mrs. Grinstead's maid did up for you---it is quite simple, and I
should like you to look nice! Well---oh, how tired you both look!
Ring for some fresh tea, Gillian. Have you found a house?'
So excited and occupied was Adeline that the house-hunting seemed to
have assumed quite a subordinate place in her mind. It really was an
extraordinary thing for her to dine out, though this was only a
family party next door; and she soon sailed away to hold counsel with
Mrs. Mount on dresses and wraps, and to get her very beautiful hair
dressed. She made by far the most imposing appearance of the three
when they shook themselves out in the ante-room at the hotel, in her
softly-tinted sheeny pale-gray dress, with pearls in her hair, and
two beautiful blush roses in her bosom; while her sister, in black
satin and coral, somehow seemed smaller than ever, probably from
being tired, and from the same cause Gillian had dark marks under her
brown eyes, and a much more limp and languid look than was her wont.
Fly was seated on her father's knee, looking many degrees better and
brighter, as if his presence were an elixir of life, and when he put
her down to greet the arrivals, both she and Mysie sprang to Gillian
to ask the result of the quest of houses. The distinguished friend
was there, and was talking to Lady Rotherwood about Italian progress,
and there was only time for an inquiry and reply as to the success of
the search for a house before dinner was announced---the little girls
disappeared, and the Marquess gave his arm to his eldest cousin.
'Grand specimen of marble, isn't he!' he muttered.
'Ada hasn't the least idea who he is. She thinks him a great
diplomate,' communicated Jane in return, and her arm received an
It was amusing to Jane Mohun to see how much like a dinner at
Rotherwood this contrived to be, with my lady's own footman, and my
lord's valet waiting in state. She agreed mentally with her sister
that the other guest was a very fine-looking man, with a picturesque
head, and he did not seem at all out of place or ill-at-ease in the
company in which he found himself. Lord Rotherwood, with a view,
perhaps, to prolonging Adeline's mystification, turned the
conversation to Italian politics, and the present condition and the
industries of the people, on all of which subjects much ready
information was given in fluent, good English, with perhaps rather
unnecessarily fine words. It was only towards the end of the dinner
that a personal experience was mentioned about the impossibility of
getting work done on great feast days, or of knowing which were the
greater---and the great dislike of the peasant mind to new methods.
When it came to 'At first, I had to superintend every blasting with
gelatine,' the initiated were amused at the expression of Adeline's
countenance, and the suppressed start of frightful conviction that
quivered on her eyelids and the corners of her mouth, though kept in
check by good breeding, and then smoothed out into a resolute
complacency, which convinced her sister that having inadvertently
exalted the individual into the category of the distinguished, she
meant to abide staunchly by her first impression.
Lady Rotherwood, like most great ladies in public life, was perfectly
well accustomed to have all sorts of people brought home to dinner,
and would have been far less astonished than her cousins at sitting
down with her grocer; but she gave the signal rather early, and on
reaching the sitting-room, where Miss Elworthy was awaiting them,
'We will leave them to discuss their water-works at their ease.
Certainly residence abroad is an excellent education.'
'A very superior man,' said Adeline.
'Those self-made men always are.'
'In the nature of things, added Miss Mohun, 'or they would not have
'It is the appendages that are distressing,' said Lady Rotherwood,
'and they seldom come in one's way. Has this man left any in Italy?'
'Oh no, none alive. He took his wife there for her health, and that
was the way he came to set up his Italian quarries; but she and his
child both died there long ago, and he has never come back to this
place since,' explained Ada.
'But he has relations here,' said Jane. 'His cousin was an officer
in Jasper Merrifield's regiment.'
She hoped to have been saying a word in the cause of the young
people, but she regretted her attempt, for Lady Rotherwood replied---
'I have heard of them. A very undeserving family, are they not?'
Gillian, whom Miss Elworthy was trying to entertain, heard, and could
not help colouring all over, face, neck, and ears, all the more for
so much hating the flush and feeling it observed.
Miss Mohun's was a very decided, 'I should have said quite the