Part 7 out of 8
her master's return; but Alexis then had been utterly miserable,
feeling guilty and ashamed, as one only endured on sufferance out of
compassion, because his brother cast him out, and fresh from the
sight of his mother's dying bed; a terrible experience altogether,
which had entirely burnt out and effaced his foolish fit of romantic
calf-love, and rendered him much more of a man. Now, though not a
month had passed, he seemed to be on a different footing. He was
doing his work steadily, and the hope of his sister's recovery had
brightened him. Mr. White had begun to talk to him, to ask him
questions about the doings of the day, and to tell him in return some
of his own experiences in Italy, and in the earlier days of the town.
Maura came up to see her sister every day, and tranquillised her mind
when the move was explained, and anxiety as to the transport of all
their worldly goods began to set in. Mrs. Lee had found a house
where she could place two bedrooms and a sitting-room at the disposal
of the Whites if things were to continue as before, and no hint had
been given of any change, or of what was to happen when the three
months' notice given to Kalliope and Alexis should have expired.
By the Easter holidays Mrs. Halfpenny began to get rather restless as
to the overlooking of the boys' wardrobes; and, indeed, she thought
so well of her patient's progress as to suggest to Mr. White that the
lassie would do very well if she had her sister to be with her in the
holidays, and she herself would come up every day to help at the
getting up, for Kalliope was now able to be dressed and to lie on a
couch in the dressing-room, where she could look out over the bay,
and she had even asked for some knitting.
'And really, Miss Gillian, you could not do her much harm if you came
up to see her,' said the despot. 'So you may come this very
afternoon, if ye'll be douce, and not fash her with any of your
Gillian did not feel at all in a mood for cantrips as she slowly
walked up the broad staircase, and was ushered into the dressing-
room, cheerful with bright fire and April sunshine, and with a large
comfortable sofa covered with a bright rug, where Kalliope could
enjoy both window and fire without glare. The beauty of her face so
much depended on form and expression that her illness had not
lessened it. Gillian had scarcely seen her since the autumn, and the
first feeling was what an air of rest and peace had succeeded the
worn, harassed look then almost perpetual. There was a calmness now
that far better suited the noble forehead, dark pencilled eyebrows,
and classical features in their clear paleness; and with a sort of
reverence Gillian bent over her, to kiss her and give her a bunch of
violets. Then, when the thanks had passed, Gillian relieved her own
shyness by exclaiming with admiration at a beautiful water-coloured
copy of an early Italian fresco, combining the Nativity and Adoration
of the Magi, that hung over the mantelpiece.
'Is it not exquisite?' returned Kalliope. 'I do so much enjoy making
out each head and dwelling on them! Look at that old shepherd's
simple wonder and reverence, and the little child with the lamb, and
the contrast with the Wise Man from the East, whose eyes look as if
he saw so much by faith.'
'Can you see it from there?' asked Gillian, who had got up to look at
these and further details dwelt on by Kalliope.
'Yes. Not at first; but they come out on me by degrees. It is such
a pleasure, and so kind of Mr. White to have put it there. He had it
hung there, Mrs. Halfpenny told me, instead of his own picture just
before I came in here.'
'Well, he is not a bad-looking man, but it is no harm to him or his
portrait to say that this is better to look at!'
'It quite does me good! And see,' pointing to a photograph of the
Arch of Titus hung on the screen that shielded her from the door, 'he
sends in a fresh one by Alexis every other day.
'How very nice! He really seems to be a dear old man. Don't you
'I am sure he is wonderfully kind, but I have only seen him that once
when he came with Sir Jasper, and then I knew nothing but that when
Sir Jasper was come things must go right.'
'Of course; but has he never been to see you now that you are up and
'No, he lavishes anything on me that I can possibly want, but I have
only seen him once---never here.'
'It is like Beauty and the Beast!'
'Oh no, no ; don't say that!'
'Well, George Stebbing really taught Fergus to call him a beast, and
you---Kally---I won't tease you with saying what you are.'
'I wish I wasn't, it would be all so much easier.'
'Never mind! I do believe the Stebbings are going away! Does Maura
never see him?'
'She has met him on the stairs and in the garden, but she has her
meals here. I trust by the time her Easter holidays are over I may
be fit to go back with her. But I do hope I may be able to copy a
bit of that picture first, though, any way, I can never forget it.'
'To go on as before?' exclaimed Gillian, with an interrogative sigh
'If that notice of dismissal can be revoked,' said Kalliope.
But would you like it---must you?'
'I _should_ like to go back to my girls,' said Kalliope; 'and things
come into my head, now I am doing nothing, that I want to work out,
if I might. So, you see, it is not at all a pity that I _must_.'
And why is it must?' said Gillian wistfully. 'You have to get well
Yes, I know that; but, you see, there are Maura and Petros. They
must not be thrown on Alexis, poor dear fellow! And if he could only
be set free, he might go on with what he once hoped for, though he
thinks it is his duty to give all that entirely up now and work
obediently on. But I know the longing will revive, and if I only
could improve myself, and be worth more, it might still be possible.'
'Only you must not begin too soon and work yourself to death.'
'Hardly after such a rest,' said Kalliope. 'It is not work I mind,
but worry'---and then a sadder look crossed her for a moment, and she
added, 'I am so thankful.'
'Thankful?' echoed Gillian.
'Yes, indeed! For Sir Jasper's coming and saving us at that dreadful
moment, and my being able to keep up as long as dear mamma wanted me,
and then Mrs. Halfpenny being spared by dear Lady Merrifield to give
me such wonderful care and kindness, and little Theodore being so
happily placed, and this rest---such a strange quiet rest as I never
knew before. Oh! it is all so thankworthy'---and the great tears came
to dim her eyes. 'It seems sent to help me to take strength and
courage for the future. "He hath helped me hitherto."'
'And you are better?'
'Yes, much better. Quite comfortable as long as I am quite still.'
'And content to be still?'
'Yes, I'm very lazy.'
It was a tired voice, and Gillian feared her half-hour was nearly
over, but she could not help saying---
'Do you know, I think it will be all nicer now. Mr. White is doing
so much, and Mr. Stebbing hates it so, that Mrs. Stebbing says he is
going to dissolve the partnership and go away.'
'Then it would all be easier. It seems too good to be true.'
'And that man Mr. White. He must do something for you! He ought.'
'Oh no! He has done a great deal already, and has not been well
used. Don't talk of that.'
'I believe he is awfully rich. You know he is building an Institute
for the workmen, and a whole row of model cottages.'
'Yes, Alexis told me. What a difference it will make! I hope he
will build a room where the girls can dine and rest and read, or have
a piano; it would be so good for them.'
'You had better talk to him about it.'
'I never see him, and I should not dare.'
'I'll tell my aunts. He always does what Aunt Ada tells him. Is
that really all you wish?'
'Oh! I don't wish for anything much---I don't seem able to care now
dear mamma is where they cease from troubling, and I have Alec
'Well, I can't help having great hopes. I can't see why that man
should not make a daughter of you! Then you would travel and see
mountains and pictures and everything. Oh, should you not like
'Like? Oh, one does not think about liking things impossible! And
for the rest, it is nonsense. I should not like to be dependent, and
I ought not.'
'You don't think what is to come next?'
'No, it would be taking thought for the morrow, would it not? I
don't want to, while I can't do anything, it would only make me fret,
and I am glad I am too stupid still to begin vexing myself over it.
I suppose energy and power of considering will come when my heart
does not flutter so. In the meantime, I only want to keep quiet, and
I hope that's not all laziness, but some trust in Him who has helped
me all this time.'
'Miss Gillian, you've clavered as long as is good for Miss White, and
here are the whole clanjamfrie waiting in the road for you. Now be
douce, my bairn, and mind you are not in the woods at home, and don't
let the laddies play their tricks with Miss Primrose.'
'I must go,' said Gillian, hastily kissing Kalliope. 'The others
were going to call for me. When Lady Phyllis was riding with her
father she spied a wonderful field of daffodils and a valley full of
moss at a place called Clipston, two miles off, and we are all going
to get some for the decorations. I'll send you some. Good-bye.'
The clanjamfrie, as Mrs. Halfpenny called it, mustered strong, and
Gillian's heart leapt at the resumption of the tumultuous family
life, as she beheld the collection of girls, boys, dogs, and donkeys
awaiting her in the approach; and, in spite of the two governesses'
presence, her mind misgave her as to the likelihood of regard to the
hint that her mother had given that she hoped the elder ones would
try to be sober in their ways, and not quite forget what week it was.
It was in their favour that Jasper, now in his last term at school,
was much more of a man and less of a boy than hitherto, and was
likely to be on the side of discretion, so that he might keep in
order that always difficult element, Wilfred, whose two years of
preparatory school as yet made him only more ingenious in the arts of
teasing, and more determined to show his superiority to petticoat
government. He had driven Fergus nearly distracted by threatening to
use all his mineralogical specimens to make ducks and drakes, and
actually confusing them together, so that Fergus repented of having
exhibited them, and rejoiced that Aunt Jane had let them continue in
her lumber-room till they could find a permanent home.
Wilfred had a shot for Mrs. Halfpenny, when she came down with
Gillian and looked for Primrose to secure that there were no
interstices between the silk handkerchief and fur collar.
'Ha, ha, old Small Change, don't you wish you may get it?'---as
Primrose proved to be outside the drive on one of the donkeys.
'You've got nothing to do but gnaw your fists at us like old Giant
'For shame, Wilfred!' said Jasper. 'My mother did Primrose's throat,
nurse, so she is all right.'
'Bad form,' observed Lord Ivinghoe, shaking his head.
'I'm not going to Eton,' replied Wilfred audaciously.
'I should hope not!'---in a tone of ineffable contempt, not for
Wilfred's person, but his manners, and therewith his Lordship
exclaimed, 'Who's that?' as Maura came flying down with Gillian's
'Oh, that's Maura White!' said Valetta.
'I say, isn't she going with us?'
'Oh no, she has to look after her sister!'
'Don't you think we might take her, Gill?' said Fly. 'She never gets
'I don't think she ought to leave Kalliope to-day, Fly, for nurse is
going down to Il Lido; and besides, Aunt Jane said we must not take
_all_ Rockquay with us.'
'No, they would not let us ask Kitty and Clement Varley, said Fergus
'I am sure she is five times as pretty as your Kitty!' returned
Ivinghoe. 'She is a regular stunner.' Whereby it may be perceived
that a year at Eton had considerably modified his Lordship's
correctness of speech, if not of demeanour. Be it further observed
that, in spite of the escort of the governesses, the young people
were as free as if those ladies had been absent, for, as Jasper
observed, the donkeys neutralised them. Miss Elbury, being a bad
walker, rode one, and Miss Vincent felt bound to keep close to
Primrose upon the other; and as neither animal could be prevailed on
to moderate its pace, they kept far ahead of all except Valetta, who
was mounted on the pony intended for Lady Phyllis, but disdained by
her until she should be tired. Lord Ivinghoe's admiration of Maura
was received contemptuously by Wilfred, who was half a year younger
than his cousin, and being already, in his own estimation, a
Wykehamist, had endless rivalries with him.
'She! She's nothing but a cad! Her sister is a shop-girl, and her
brother is a quarryman.'
'She does not look like it,' observed Ivinghoe, while Mysie and Fly,
with one voice, exclaimed that her father was an officer in the Royal
'A private first,' said Wilfred, with boyhood's reiteration. 'Cads
and quarrymen all of them---the whole boiling, old White and all,
though he has got such a stuck-up house!'
'Nonsense, Will,' said Fly. 'Why, Mr. White has dined with us.'
'A patent of nobility, said Jasper, smiling.
'I don't care,' said Wilfred; 'if other people choose to chum with
old stonemasons and convicts, I don't.'
'Wilfred, that is too bad,' said Gillian. 'It is very wrong to talk
in that way.'
'Oh!' said the audacious Wilfred, 'we all know who is Gill's Jack!'
'Shut up, Will!' cried Fergus, flying at him. 'I told you not to--'
But Wilfred bounded up a steep bank, and from that place of vantage
'Didn't she teach him Greek, and wasn't he spoony; and didn't she
send back his valentine, so that---'
Fergus was scrambling up the bank after him, enraged at the betrayal
of his confidence, and shouting inarticulately, while poor Gillian
moved on, overwhelmed with confusion, and Fly uttered the cutting
words, 'Perfectly disgusting!'
'Ay, so it was!' cried the unabashed Wilfred, keeping on at the top
of the bank, and shaking the bushes at every pause. 'So he broke
down the rocks, and ran away with the tin, and enlisted, and went to
prison. Such a sweet young man for Gill!'
Poor Gillian! was her punishment never to end? That scrape of hers,
hitherto so tenderly and delicately hinted at, and which she would
have given worlds to have kept from her brothers, now shouted all
over the country! Sympathy, however, she had, if that would do her
any good. Mysie and Fly came on each side of Ivinghoe, assuring him,
in low eager voices, of the utter nonsense of the charge, and
explaining ardently; and Jasper, with one bound, laid hold of the
tormentor, dragged him down, and, holding his stick over him, said---
'Now, Wilfred, if you don't hold your tongue, and not behave like a
brute, I shall send you straight home.'
'It's quite true,' growled Wilfred. 'Ask her.'
'What does that signify? I'm ashamed of you! I've a great mind to
thrash you this instant. If you speak another word of that sort, I
shall. Now then, there are the governesses trying to stop to see
what's the row. I shall give you up to Miss Vincent, if you choose
to behave so like a spiteful girl.'
A sixth-form youth was far too great a man to be withstood by one who
was not yet a public schoolboy at all; and Wilfred actually obeyed,
while Jasper added to Fergus---
'How could you be such a little ass as to go and tell him all that
'It was true,' grumbled Fergus.
'The more reason not to go cackling about it like an old hen, or a
girl! Your own sister! I'm ashamed of you both. Mind, I shall
thrash you if you mention it again.'
Poor Fergus felt the accusation of cackling unjust, since he had only
told Wilfred in confidence, and that had been betrayed, but he had
got his lesson on family honour, and he subsided into his wonted
look-out for curious stones, while Gillian was overtaken by Jasper---
whether willingly or not, she hardly knew---but his first word was,
'You didn't hurt him, I hope,' said Gill, accepting the invitation to
take his arm.
'Oh no! I only threatened to make him walk with the governesses and
'Asses and savants to the centre,' said Gillian; 'like the orders to
the French army in Egypt.'
'But what's all this about? You wanted me to look after you! Is it
'Oh, Japs! Mamma knows all about it and papa. It was only that he
was ridiculous because I was so silly as to think I could help him
with his Greek.'
'You! With his Greek! I pity him!'
'Yes. I found he soon knew too much for me,' said Gillian meekly;
'but, indeed, Japs, it wasn't very bad! He only sent me a valentine,
and Aunt Jane says I need not have been so angry.'
'A cat may look at a king,' said Jasper loftily. 'It is a horrid bad
thing for a girl to be left to herself without a brother worth
So Gillian got off pretty easily, and after all the walk was not
greatly spoilt. They coalesced again with the other three, who were
tolerably discreet, and found the debate on the White gentility had
been resumed. Ivinghoe was philosophically declaring 'that in these
days one must take up with everybody, so it did not matter if one was
a little more of a cad than another; he himself was fag at Eton to a
fellow whose father was an oilman, and who wasn't half a bad lot.'
'An oilman, Ivy,' said his sister; 'I thought he imported petroleum.'
'Well, it's all the same. I believe he began as an oilman.'
'We shall have Fergus reporting that he's a petroleuse,' put in
'No, a petroleuse is a woman.'
'I like Mr. White,' said Fly; 'but, Gillian, you don't think it is
true that he is going to marry your Aunt Jane?'
There was a great groan, and Japs observed---
'Some one told us Rockquay was a hotbed of gossip, and we seem to
have got it strong.'
'Where did this choice specimen come from, Fly!' demanded Ivinghoe,
in his manner most like his mother.
Fly nodded her head towards her governess in the advanced guard.
'She had a cousin to tea with her, and they thought I didn't know
whom they meant, and they said that he was always up at Rockstone.'
'Well, he is; and Aunt Jane always stands up for him,' said Gillian;
'but that was because he is so good to the workpeople, and Aunt Ada
took him for some grand political friend of Cousin Rotherwood's.'
'Aunt Jane!' said Jasper. 'Why, she is the very essence and epitome
of old maids.'
'Yes,' said Gillian. 'If it came to that, she would quite as soon
marry the postman.'
'That's lucky' said Ivinghoe. 'One can swallow a good deal, but not
quite one's own connections.'
'In fact,' said Jasper, 'you had rather be an oilman's fag than a
quarryman's---what is it?---first cousin once removed in law?'
'It is much more likely,' said Gillian, as they laughed over this,
'that Kalliope and Maura will be his adopted daughters, only he never
comes near them.'
Wherewith there was a halt. Miss Elbury insisted that Phyllis should
ride, the banks began to show promise of flowers, and, in the search
for violets, dangerous topics were forgotten, and Wilfred was
forgiven. They reached the spot marked by Fly, a field with a border
of sloping broken ground and brushwood, which certainly fulfilled all
their desires, steeply descending to a stream full of rocks, the
ground white with wood anemones, long evergreen trails of periwinkles
and blue flowers between, primroses clustering under the roots of the
trees, daffodils gilding the grass above, and the banks verdant with
exquisite feather-moss. Such a springtide wood was joy to all,
especially as the first cuckoo of the season came to add to their
delights and set them counting for the augury of happy years, which
proved so many that Mysie said they would not know what to do with
'I should,' said Ivinghoe. 'I should like to live to be a great old
statesman, as Lord Palmerston did, and have it all my own way.
Wouldn't I bring things round again!'
'Perhaps they would have gone too far,' suggested Jasper, 'and then
you would have to gnaw your hand like Giant Pope, as Wilfred says.'
'Catch me, while I could do something better.'
'If one only lived long enough,' speculated Fergus, 'one might find
out what everything was made of, and how to do everything.'
'I wonder if the people did before the Flood, when they lived eight
or nine hundred years,' said Fly.
'Perhaps that is the reason there is nothing new under the sun,'
suggested Valetta, as many a child has before suggested.
'But then,' said Mysie, they got wicked.'
'And then after the Flood it had all to be begun over again,' said
Ivinghoe. 'Let me see, Methuselah lived about as long as from
William the Conqueror till now. I think he might have got to steam
'And dynamite,' said Gillian. 'Oh, I don't wonder they had to be
swept away, if they were clever and wicked both!'
'And I suppose they were,' said Jasper. 'At least the giants, and
that they handed on some of their ability through Ham, to the
Egyptians, and all those queer primeval coons, whose works we are
'From the Conquest till now,' repeated Gillian. 'I'm glad we don't
live so long now. It tires one to think of it.'
'But we shall,' said Fly.
'Yes,' said Mysie, 'but then we shall be rid of this nasty old self
that is always getting wrong.'
'That little lady's nasty old self does so as little as any one's,'
Jasper could not help remarking to his sister; and Fly, pouncing on
the first purple orchis spike amid its black-spotted leaves, cried---
'At any rate, these dear things go on the same, without any tiresome
'Except God's just at first,' whispered Mysie.
'And the gardeners do invent new ones,' said Valetta.
'Invent! No; they only fuss them and spoil them, and make ridiculous
names for them,' said Fly. These darling creatures are ever so much
better. Look at Primrose there.'
'Yes,' said Gillian, as she saw her little sister in quiet ecstasy
over the sparkling bells of the daffodils; 'one would not like to
live eight hundred years away from that experience.'
'But mamma cares just as much still as Primrose does,' said Mysie.
'We must get some for her own self as well as for the church.'
'Mine are all for mamma,' proclaimed Primrose; and just then there
was a shout that a bird's nest had been found---a ring-ousel's nest on
the banks. Fly and her brother shared a collection of birds' eggs,
and were so excited about robbing the ousels of a single egg, that
Gillian hoped that Fergus would not catch the infection and abandon
minerals for eggs, which would be ever so much worse---only a degree
better than butterflies, towards which Wilfred showed a certain
'I shall be thirteen before next holidays,' he observed, after making
a vain dash with his hat at a sulphur butterfly, looking like a
primrose flying away.
'Mamma won't allow any "killing collection" before thirteen years
old,' explained Mysie.
'She says,' explained Gillian, 'by that time one ought to be old
enough to discriminate between the lawfulness of killing the
creatures for the sake of studying their beauty and learning them,
and the mere wanton amusement of hunting them down under the excuse
'I say,' exclaimed Valetta, who had been exploring above, 'here is
such a funny old house.'
There was a rush in that direction, and at the other end of the wide
home-field was perceived a picturesque gray stone house, with large
mullioned windows, a dilapidated low stone wall, with what had once
been a handsome gateway, overgrown with ivy, and within big double
daffodils and white narcissus growing wild.
'It's like the halls of Ivor,' said Mysie, awestruck by the
loneliness; 'no dog, nor horse, nor cow, not even a goose,'
'And what a place to sketch!' cried Miss Vincent. 'Oh, Gillian, we
must come here another day.'
'Oh, may we gather the flowers?' exclaimed the insatiable Primrose.
'Those poetic narcissuses would be delicious for the choir screen,'
'Poetic narcissus---poetic grandmother,' said Wilfred. 'It's old
butter and eggs.'
'I say!' cried Mysie. 'Look, Ivy---I know that pair of fighting
lions---ain't these some of your arms over the door?'
'By which you mean a quartering of our shield,' said Ivinghoe. 'Of
course it is the Clipp bearing. Or, two lions azure, regardant
combatant, their tails couped.'
'Two blue Kilkenny cats, who have begun with each other's tails,'
'Ivinghoe glared a little, but respected the sixth form, and Gillian
'They clipped them! Then did this place belong to our ancestors?'
'Poetic grandmother, really!' said Mysie.
'Great grandmother,' corrected Ivinghoe. 'To be sure. It was from
the Clipps that we got all this Rockstone estate!'
'And I suppose this was their house? What a shame to have deserted
'Oh, it has been a farmhouse,' said Fly. 'I heard something about
farms that wouldn't let.'
'Then is it yours?' cried Valetta, 'and may we gather the flowers?'
'And mayn't we explore?' asked Mysie. 'Oh, what fun!'
'Holloa!' exclaimed Wilfred, transfixed, as if he had seen the ghosts
of all the Clipps. For just as Valetta and Mysie threw themselves on
the big bunches of hepatica and the white narcissus, a roar, worthy
of the clip-tailed lions, proceeded from the window, and the demand,
'Who is picking my roses?'
Primrose in terror threw herself on Gillian with a little scream.
Wilfred crept behind the walls, but after the general start there was
an equally universal laugh, for between the stout mullions of the
oriel window Lord Rotherwood's face was seen, and Sir Jasper's behind
Great was the jubilation, and there was a rush to the tall door, up
the dilapidated steps, where curls of fern were peeping out; but the
gentlemen called out that only the back-door could be opened, and the
intention of a 'real grand exploration' was cut short by Miss
Elbury's declaring that she was bound not to let Phyllis stay out
till six o'clock.
Fly, in her usual good-humoured way, suppressed her sighs and begged
the others to explore without her, but the general vote declared this
to be out of the question. Fly had too short a time to remain with
her cousins to be forsaken even for the charms of 'the halls of
Ivor,' or the rival Beast's Castle, as Gillian called it, which,
after all, would not run away.
'But it might be let,' said Mysie.
'Yes, I've got a tenant in agitation,' said Lord Rotherwood
mischievously. 'Never mind, I dare say he won't inquire what you
have done with his butter and eggs.'
So with a parting salute to the ancestral halls, the cavalry was set
in order, big panniers full of moss and flowers disposed on the
donkeys, Fly placed on her pony, and every maiden taking her basket
of flowers, Jasper and Ivinghoe alone being amiable, or perhaps
trustworthy enough to assist in carrying. Fly's pony demurred to the
extra burthen, so Jasper took hers; and when Gillian declared herself
too fond of her flowers to part with them, Ivinghoe astonished Miss
Vincent, on whom some stones of Fergus's, as well as her own share of
flowers, had been bestowed, by taking one handle of her most cumbrous
Sir Jasper and Lord Rotherwood rode together through the happy young
troop on the homeward way. Perhaps Ivinghoe was conscious of a
special nod of approval from his father.
On passing Rock House, the youthful public was rather amused at his
pausing, and saying---
'Aren't you going to leave some flowers there?'
'Oh yes!' said Gillian. 'I have a basket on purpose.'
'And I have some for Maura,' said Valetta.
Valetta's was an untidy bunch; Gillian's a dainty basket, where white
violets reposed on moss within a circle of larger blossoms.
'That's something like!' quoth Ivinghoe.
He lingered with them as if he wanted to see that vision again, but
only the caretaker appeared, and promised to take the flowers
Maura afterwards told how they were enjoyed, and they knew of
Kalliope's calm restfulness in Holy Week thoughts and Paschal Joys.
It was on Easter Tuesday that Mr. White first sent a message asking
to see his guest, now of nearly three weeks.
He came in very quietly and gently---perhaps the sight of the room he
had prepared for his young wife was in itself a shock to him, and he
had lived so long without womankind that he had all a lonely man's
awe of an invalid. He took with a certain respect the hand that
Kalliope held out, as she said, with a faint flush in her cheeks---
'I am glad to thank you, sir. You have been very good to me.'
'I am glad to see you better,' he said, with a little embarrassment.
'I ought to be, in this beautiful air, and with these lovely things
to look at,' and she pointed to the reigning photograph on the stand-
--the facade of St. Mark's.
'You should see it as I did.' And he began to describe it to her,
she putting in a question or two here and there, which showed her
'You know something about it already,' he said.
'Yes; when I was quite a little girl one of the officers in the Royal
Wardours brought some photographs to Malta, and told me about them.'
'But,' he said, recalling himself, that is not my object now. Your
brother says he does not feel competent to decide without you.' And
he laid before her two or three prospectuses of grammar schools. 'It
is time to apply,' he added, 'if that little fellow---Peter, you call
him, don't you?---is to begin next term.'
'Petros! Oh, sir, this is kindness!'
'I desired that the children's education should be attended to,' said
Mr. White. 'I did not intend their being sent to an ordinary
'Indeed,' said Kalliope; 'I do not think much time has been lost, for
they have learnt a good deal there; but I am particularly glad that
Petros should go to a superior school just now that he has been left
alone, for he is more lively and sociable than Theodore, and it might
be less easy for him to keep from bad companions.'
The pros and cons of the several schools were discussed, and
Hurstpierpoint finally fixed on.
'Never mind about his outfit,' added Mr. White. 'I'll give that
fellow down in Bellevue an order to rig him out. He is a sharp
little sturdy fellow, who will make his way in the world.'
'Indeed, I trust so, now that his education is secured. It is
another load off my mind,' said Kalliope, with a smile of exceeding
sweetness and gratitude, her hands clasped, and her eyes raised for a
moment in higher thankfulness,---a look that so enhanced her beauty
that Mr. White gazed for a moment in wonder. The next moment,
however, the dark eyes turned on him with a little anxiety, and she
'One thing more, sir. Perhaps you will be so kind as to relieve my
mind again. That notice of dismissal at the quarter's end. Was it
not in some degree from a mistake?'
'An utter mistake, my dear,' he said hastily. 'Never trouble your
head about it.'
'Then it does not hold?'
'And I may go back to my office as soon as I am well enough?'
'Is that your wish?'
'Yes, sir. I love my work and my assistants, and I think I could do
better if a little more scope could be allowed me.'
'Very well, we will see about that---you have to get well first of
'I am so much better that I ought to go home. Mr. Lee is quite ready
Nonsense! You must be much stronger before Dagger would hear of your
After this Mr. White came to sit with Kalliope for a time in the
course of each day, bringing with him something that would interest
her, and seeming gratified by her responsiveness, quiet as it was,
for she was still very feeble, and exertion caused a failure of
breath and fluttering of heart that were so distressing that ten days
more passed before she was brought downstairs and drawn out in the
garden in a chair, where she could sit on the sheltered terrace
enjoying the delicious spring air and soft sea-breezes, sometimes
alone, sometimes with the company of one friend or another. Gillian
and Aunt Jane had, with the full connivance of Mr. White, arranged a
temporary entrance from one garden to the other for the convenience
of attending to Kalliope, and here one afternoon Miss Mohun was
coming in when she heard through the laurels two voices speaking to
the girl. As she moved forward she saw they were the elder and
younger Stebbings, and that Kalliope had risen to her feet, and was
leaning on the back of her chair. While she was considering whether
to advance Kalliope heard her, and called in a breathless voice,
'Miss Mohun! oh, Miss Mohun, come!'
'Miss Mohun! You will do us the justice---' began Mr. Stebbing,
speaking more to her indignant face and gesture than to any words.
'Miss White is not well,' she said. 'You had better leave her to
And as they withdrew through the house, Kalliope sank back in her
chair in one of those alarming attacks of deadly faintness that had
been averted for many days past. Happily an electric bell was always
at hand, and the housekeeper knew what remedies to bring. Kalliope
did not attempt a word for many long minutes, though the colour came
back gradually to her lips. Her first words were,
'Thank you! Oh, I did hope that persecution was over!'
'My poor child! Don't tell me unless you like! Only---it wasn't
about your work?'
'Oh no, the old story! But he brought his father---to say he
consented---and wished it---now.'
There was no letting her say any more at that time, but it was all
plain enough. This had been one more attempt of the Stebbing family
to recover their former power; Kalliope was assumed to be Mr. White's
favoured niece; Frank could make capital of having loved her when
poor and neglected, and his parents were ready to back his suit. The
father and son had used their familiarity with the house to obtain
admittance to the garden without announcement or preparation, and had
pressed the siege, with a confidence that could only be inspired by
their own self-opinion. Kalliope had been kept up by her native
dignity and resolution, and had at first gently, then firmly,
declined the arguments, persuasions, promises, and final reproaches
with which they beset her--even threatening to disclose what they
called encouragement, and assuring her that she need not reckon on
Mr. White, for the general voice declared him likely to marry again,
and then where would she be?'
'I don't know what would have become of me, if you had not come,' she
And when she had rested long enough, and crept into the house, and
Alexis had come home to carry her upstairs, it was plain that she had
been seriously thrown back, and she was not able to leave her room
for two or three days.
Mr. White was necessarily told what had been the cause of the
mischief. He smiled grimly. 'Ay! ay! Master Frank thought he would
come round the old man, did he? He will find himself out. Ha, ha! a
girl like that in the house is like a honey-pot near a wasps' nest,
and the little sister will be as bad. Didn't I see the young lord,
smart little prig as he looks, holding an umbrella over her with a
smile on his face, as much as to say, "I know who is a pretty girl!
No one to look after them either!" But maybe they will all find
themselves mistaken,' and his grim smile relaxed into a highly
Miss Mohun was not at all uneasy as to the young lord. An Eton boy's
admiration of a pretty face did not amount to much, even if Ivinghoe
had not understood 'Noblesse oblige' too well to leave a young girl
unsheltered. Besides, he and all the rest were going away the next
day. But what did that final hint mean?
CHAPTER XXII. THE MAIDEN ALL FORLORN
One secret was soon out, even before the cruel parting of Fly and
Mysie, which it greatly mitigated.
Clipston was to be repaired and put in order, to be rented by the
Merrifields. It was really a fine old substantial squire's house,
though neglected and consigned to farmers for four generations. It
had great capabilities---a hall up to the roof, wainscoted rooms---at
present happy hunting-grounds to boys and terriers---a choked
fountain, numerous windows, walled up in the days of the 'tax on
light,' and never reopened, and, moreover, a big stone barn, with a
cross on the gable, and evident traces of having once been a chapel.
The place was actually in Rockstone Parish, and had a hamlet of six
or seven houses, for which cottage services were held once a week,
but the restoration of the chapel would provide a place for these,
and it would become a province for Lady Merrifield's care, while Sir
Jasper was absolutely entreated, both by Lord Rotherwood and the
rector of Rockstone, to become the valuable layman of the parish, nor
was he at all unwilling thus to bestow his enforced leisure.
It was a beautiful place. The valley of daffodils already visited
narrowed into a ravine, where the rivulet rushed down from moorlands,
through a ravine charmingly wooded, and interspersed with rock. It
would give country delights to the children, and remove them from the
gossip of the watering-place society, and yet not be too far off for
those reading-room opportunities beloved of gentlemen.
The young people were in ecstasies, only mourning that they could not
live there during the repairs, and that those experienced in the
nature of workmen hesitated to promise that Clipston would be
habitable by the summer vacation. In the meantime, most of the
movables from Silverfold were transported thither, and there was a
great deal of walking and driving to and fro, planning for the
future, and revelling in the spring outburst of flowers.
Schoolroom work had begun again, and Lady Merrifield was hearing
Mysie read the Geruasalemme Liberata, while Miss Vincent
superintended Primrose's copies, and Gillian's chalks were striving
to portray a bust of Sophocles, when the distant sounds of the piano
in the drawing-room stopped, and Valetta came in with words always
'Aunt Jane wants to speak to you, mamma.'
Lady Merrifield gathered up her work and departed, while Valetta,
addressing the public, said, 'Something's up.'
'Oh!' cried Primrose, 'Sofi hasn't run away again?'
'I hope Kalliope isn't worse,' said Mysie anxiously.
'I guess,' said Valetta, 'somebody said something the other day!'
'Something proving us the hotbeds of gossip,' muttered Gillian.
'You had better get your German exercise, Valetta,' said Miss
Vincent. 'Mysie, you have not finished your sums.'
And a sigh went round; but Valetta added one after-clap.
'Aunt Jane looked---I don't know how!'
Whereat Gillian nodded her head, and looked up at Miss Vincent, who
was as curious as the rest, but restrained the manifestation
Meantime Lady Merrifield found her sister standing at the window,
and, without turning round, the words were uttered---
'Jasper was right, Lily.'
'You don't mean it?'
'Yes; he is after her!'---with a long breath.
'Yes'---then sitting down. 'I did not think much of it before. They
always are after Ada more or less---and she likes it; but it never has
come to anything.'
'Why should it now?'
'It has! At least, it has gone further than ever anything did
before, except Charlie Scott, that ridiculous boy at Beechcroft that
William was so angry with, and who married somebody else.'
'You don't say that he has proposed to her?'
'Yes, he has---the man! By a letter this morning, and I could see she
expected it---not that that's any wonder!'
'But, my dear, she can't possibly be thinking of it.'
'Well, I should have said it was impossible; but I see she has not
made up her mind. Poor dear Ada! It is too bad to laugh; but she
does like the having a real offer at last, and a great Italian castle
laid at her feet.'
'But he isn't a gentleman! I don't mean only his birth---and I know
he is a good man really---but Jasper said he could feel he was not a
gentleman by the way he fell on Richard White before his sister.'
'I know! I know! I wonder if it would be for her happiness?'
'Then she has not answered him?'
'No; or, rather, I left her going to write. She won't accept him
certainly now; but I believe she is telling him that she must have
time to consider and consult her family.'
'She must know pretty well what her family will say. Fancy William!
Fancy Emily! Fancy Reginald!'
'Yes, oh yes! But Ada---I must say it---she does like to prolong the
'It is not fair on the poor man.'
'Well, she will act as she chooses; but I think she really does want
to see what amount of opposition--- No, not that, but of estrangement
it would cause.'
'Did you see the letter?'
'Yes; no doubt you will too. I told her I should come to you, and
she did not object. I think she was glad to be saved broaching the
subject, for she is half ashamed.'
'I should have thought she would have been as deeply offended at the
presumption as poor Gillian was with the valentine.'
'Lily, my dear, forty-two is not all one with seventeen, especially
when there's an estate with an Italian countship attached to it!
Though I'm sure I'd rather marry Alexis than this man. _He_ is a
gentleman in grain!'
'Oh, Jenny, you are very severe!'
'I'm afraid it is bitterness, Lily; so I rushed down to have it all
out with you, and make up my mind what part to take.'
'It is very hard on you, my dear, after you have nursed and waited on
her all these years.'
'It is the little titillation of vanity---exactly like the Ada of
sixteen, nay, of six, that worries me, and makes me naughty,' said
Jane, dashing off a tear. 'Oh, Lily! how could I have borne it if
you had not come home!'
'But what do you mean about the part to take?'
'Well, you see, Lily, I really do not know what I ought to do. I
want to clear my mind by talking to you.'
'I am afraid it would make a great difference to you in the matter of
'I don't mean about that; but I am not sure whether I ought to stand
up for her. You see the man is really good at heart, and religious,
and he is taking out this chaplain. The climate, mountains, and sea
might really suit her health, and she could have all kinds of
comforts and luxuries; and if she can get over his birth, and the
want of fine edge of his manners, I don't know that we have any right
to set ourselves against it.'
'I should have thought those objections would have weighed most of
all with her.'
'And I do believe that if the whole family are unanimous in scouting
the very idea, she will give it up. She _is_ proud of Mohun blood,
and the Rotherwood connection and all, and if there were a desperate
opposition---well, she would be rather flattered, and give in; but I
am not sure that she would not always regret it, and pine after what
she might have had.'
'Rotherwood likes the man.'
'Like---but that's not liking him to marry his cousin.'
'Rotherwood will not be the person most shocked.'
'No. We shall have a terrible time, however it ends. Oh. I wish it
was all over!'
'Do you think she really cares for the man---loves him, in fact?'
'My dear Lily, if Ada ever was in love with anybody, it was with
Harry May, and that was all pure mistake. I never told anybody, but
I believe it was that which upset her health. But they are both too
old to concern themselves about such trifles. He does not expect
'I have seen good strong love in a woman over forty.'
'Yes; but this is quite another thing. A lady of the house wanted!
That's the motive. I should not wonder if he came home as much to
look for a lady-wife as to set the Stebbings to rights; or, if not,
he is driven to it by having the Whites on his hands.'
'I don't quite see that. I was going to ask you how it would affect
'Well, you see, though she is perfectly willing and anxious to begin
again, poor dear Kally really can't. She did try to arrange a design
that had been running in her head for a long time, and she was so bad
after it that Dr. Dagger said she must not attempt it. Then, though
she is discreet enough for anything, Mr. White is not really her
uncle, and could not take her about with him alone or even with
Maura; so I gather from some expressions in his letter that he would
like to take her out with them, spend the summer at Rocca Marina, and
let her have a winter's study at Florence. Then, I suppose she might
come back and superintend on quite a different footing.
'So he wants Ada as a chaperon for Kalliope?'
'That is an element in the affair, and not a bad one, and I don't
think Ada will object. She won't be left entirely to his
'My dear Jane! Then I'm sure she ought not to marry him!' cried Lady
Merrifield indignantly. 'Here comes Jasper. May I tell him?'
'You will, whether you may or not.'
And what Sir Jasper said was---
'"Who married the maiden all forlorn---"'
At which both sisters, though rather angry, could not help laughing,
and Lady Merrifield explained that they had always said the events
had gone on in a concatenation, like the house that Jack built, from
Gillian's peep through the rails. However, he was of opinion that it
was better not to make a strenuous opposition.
'Adeline is quite old enough to judge for herself whether the
incongruities will interfere with her happiness,' he said; 'and this
is really a worthy man who ought not to be contemned. Violent
contradiction might leave memories that would make it difficult to be
on affectionate terms afterwards.'
'Yes,' said Jane; 'that is what I feel. Thank you, Jasper. Now I
must go to my district. Happily those things run on all the same for
But when she was gone Sir Jasper told his wife that he thought it
ought to be seriously put before Adeline that Jane ought to be
considered. She had devoted herself to the care of her sister for
many years, and the division of their means would tell seriously upon
'If it were a matter of affection, there would be nothing to say,' he
observed; 'but nobody pretends that it is so, and surely Jane
'I should think her a much more comfortable companion than Mr.
White,' said Lady Merrifield. 'I can't believe it will come to
anything. Whatever the riches or the castle at Rocca Marina may be,
Ada would, in a worldly point of view, give up a position of some
consideration here, and I think that will weigh with her.'
As soon as possible, Lady Merrifield went up to see her sister, and
found her writing letters in a great flutter of importance. It was
quite plain that the affair was not to be quashed at once, and that,
whether the suit were granted or not, all the family were to be aware
that Adeline had had her choice. Warned by her husband, Lady
Merrifield guarded the form of her remonstrances.
'Oh yes, dear Lily, I know! It is a sacrifice in many points of
view, but think what a field is open to me! There are all those
English workmen and their wives and families living out there, and
Mr. White does so need a lady to influence them.'
'You have not done much work of that kind. Besides, I thought this
chaplain was married.'
'Yes, but the moral support of a lady at the head must be needful,'
said Ada. 'It is quite a work.'
'Perhaps so,' said her sister, who had scarcely been in the habit of
looking on Ada as a great moral influence. 'But have you thought
what this will be to Jane?'
'Really, Lily, it is a good deal for Jane's sake. She will be so
much more free without being bound to poor me!'---and Ada's head went
on one side. 'You know she would never have lived here but for me;
and now she will be able to do what she pleases.'
'Oh, it will be quite possible to see to all that! Besides, think of
the advantage to her schemes. Oh yes, dear Jenny, it will be a
wrench to her, of course, and she will miss me; but, when that is
once got over, she will feel that I have acted for the best. Nor
will it be such a separation; he means always to spend the summer
here, and the winter and spring at Florence or Rocca Marina.' It was
grand to hear the Italian syllables roll from Adeline's tongue. 'You
know he could take the title if he pleased.'
'I am sure I hope he will not do anything so ridiculous!'
'Oh no, of course not!' But it was plain that the secret
consciousness of being Countess of Rocca Marina was an offset against
being plain Mrs. White, and Adeline continued: 'There is another
thing---I do not quite see how it can be managed about Kalliope
otherwise, poor girl!'
It was quite true that the care of Kalliope would be greatly
facilitated by Mr. White's marriage; but what was absurd was to
suppose that Ada would have made any sacrifice for her sake, or any
one else's, and there was something comical as well as provoking in
this pose of devotion to the public good.
'You are decided, then?'
'Oh no! I am only showing you what inducements there are to give up
so much as I should do here---if I make up my mind to it.'
'There's only one inducement, I should think, valid for a moment.'
'Yes'---bridling a little. 'But, Lily, you always had your romance.
We don't all meet with a Jasper at the right moment, and---and'---the
Maid of Athens drooped her eyelids, and ingenuously curved her lips.
'I do think the poor man has it very much at heart.'
'Then you ought not to keep him in suspense.'
'And you---you really are not against it, Lily?' (rather in a
disappointed tone), as if she expected to have her own value
'I think you ought to do whatever is most right and just by him, and
everybody else. If you really care for the man enough to overlook
his origin, and his occasional betrayals of it, and think he will
make you better and happier, take him at once; but don't pretend to
call it a sacrifice, or for anybody's sake but for your own; and, any
way, don't trifle with him and his suspense.'
Lady Merrifield spoke with unwonted severity, for she was really
'But, Lily, I must see what the others say---William and Emily. I
told him that William was the head of our family.'
'If you mean to be guided by them, well and good; if not, I see no
sense in asking them.'
After all, the family commotion fell short of what was expected by
either of the sisters. The eldest brother, Mr. Mohun, of Beechcroft
Court, wrote to the lady herself that she was quite old enough to
know what was for her own happiness, and he had no desire to
interfere with her choice if she preferred wealth to station. To
Lady Merrifield his letter began: 'It is very well it is no worse,
and as Jasper vouches for this being a worthy man, and of substantial
means, there is no valid objection. I shall take care to overhaul
the settlements, and, if possible, I must make up poor Jane's
The sister, Lady Henry Grey, in her dowager seclusion at Brighton,
contented herself with a general moan on the decadence of society,
and the levelling up that made such an affair possible. She had been
meditating a visit to Rockquay, to see her dear Lilias (who, by the
bye, had run down to her at Brighton for a day out of the stay in
London), but now she would defer it till this matter was over. It
would be too trying to have to accept this stonemason as one of the
As to Colonel Mohun, being one of the younger division of the family,
there was no idea of consulting him, and he wrote a fairly civil
little note to Adeline, hoping that she had decided for the best, and
would be happy; while to the elder of the pair of sisters he said:
'So Ada has found her crooked stick at last. I always thought it
inevitable. Keep up heart, old Jenny, and hold on till Her Majesty
turns me off, and then we will see what is to be done.'
Perhaps this cool acquiescence was less pleasing to Adeline Mohun
than a contest that would have proved her value and importance, and
her brother William's observation that she was old enough to know her
own mind was the cruellest cut of all. On the other hand, there was
no doubt of her swain's devotion. If he had been influenced in his
decision by convenience or calculation, he was certainly by this time
heartily in love. Not only was Adeline a handsome, graceful woman,
whose airs and affectations seemed far more absurd to those who had
made merry over them from childhood than to a stranger of an inferior
grade; but there was a great charm to a man, able to appreciate
refinement, in his first familiar intercourse with thorough ladies.
Jane began to be touched by the sight of his devotion, and convinced
of his attachment, and sometimes wondered with Lady Merrifield
whether Adeline would rise to her opportunities and responsibilities,
or be satisfied to be a petted idol.
One difficulty in this time of suspense was, that the sisters had no
right to take into their confidence the young folks, who were quite
sharp-eyed enough to know that something was going on, and, not being
put on honour, were not withheld from communicating their discoveries
to one another in no measured words, though fortunately they had
sense enough, especially under the awe of their father, not to let
them go any further than Mysie, who was entertaining because she was
shocked at their audacious jokes and speculations, all at first on
the false scent of their elder aunt, who certainly was in a state of
excitement and uncertainty enough to throw her off the even tenor of
her way and excite some suspicion. When she actually brought down a
number of the Contemporary Review instead of Friendly Work for the
edification of her G.F.S., Gillian tried not to look too conscious
when some of the girls actually tittered in the rear; and she
absolutely blushed when Aunt Jane deliberately stated that Ascension
Day would fall on a Tuesday. So Gillian averred as she walked up the
hill with Jasper and Mysie. It seemed a climax to the diversion she
and Jasper had extracted from it in private, both wearing Punch's
spectacles for the nonce, and holding such aberrations as proof
positive. Mysie, on the other hand, was much exercised.
'Do you think she is in love, then?'
'Oh yes! People always do those things in love. Besides, the Sofi
hasn't got a single white hair in her, and you know what that always
'I can't make it out! I can't think how Aunt Jane can be in love
with a great man like that. His voice isn't nice, you know---'
'Not even as sweet as Bully Bottom's,' suggested Gillian.
'You're a chit,' said Jasper, 'or you'd be superior to the notion of
love being indispensable.'
'When people are so _very_ old,' said Mysie in a meditative voice,
'perhaps they can't; but Aunt Jane is very good---and I thought it was
only horrid worldly people that married without love.'
'Trust your good woman for looking to the main chance,' said Jasper,
who was better read in Trollope and Mrs. Oliphant than his sisters.
''Tis not main chance,' said Gillian. 'Think of the lots of good she
would do! What a recreation room for the girls, and what schools she
would set up at Rocca Marina! Depend upon it, it's for that!'
'I suppose it is right if Aunt Jane does it,' said Mysie.
'Well done, Mysie! So, Aunt Jane is your Pope!'
'No; she's the King that can do no wrong,' said Gillian, laughing.
'Wrong---I didn't say wrong---but things aren't always real wrong that
aren't somehow quite right, said Mysie, with the bewildered reasoning
of perceptions that outran her powers of expression.
'Mysie's speeches, for instance,' said Jasper.
'Oh, Japs, what did I say wrong?'
'Don't tease her, Japs. He didn't mean morally, but correctly.'
The three were on their way up the hill when they met Primrose, who
had accompanied Mrs. Halfpenny to see Kalliope, and who was evidently
in a state of such great discomposure that they all stood round to
ask what was the matter; but she hung down her head and would not
'Hoots! toots! I tell her she need not make such a work about it,'
said Mrs. Halfpenny. 'The honest man did but kiss her, and no harm
for her uncle that is to be.'
'He's a nasty man! And he snatched me up! And he is all scrubby and
tobacco-ey, and I won't have him for an uncle,' cried Primrose.
'I hope he is not going to proceed in that way,' said Gillian sotto
voce to Mysie.
'People always do snatch up primroses,' said Jasper.
'Don't, Japs! I don't like marble men. I wish they would stay
'You don't approve of the transformation?'
'Oh, Japs, is it true? Mysie, you know the statue at Rotherwood,
where Pig-my-lion made a stone figure and it turned into a woman.'
'Yes; but it was a woman and this is a man.'
Mysie began an exposition of classic fable to her little sister,
while Mrs. Halfpenny explained that this came of Christian folk
setting up heathen idols in their houses as 'twas a shame for decent
folk to look at, let alone puir bairnies; while Jasper and Gillian
gasped in convulsions of laughter, and bandied queries whether their
aunt were the statue 'Pig-my-lion' had animated, as nothing could be
less statuesque than she, whether the reverse had taken place, as
Primrose observed, and she had been the Pygmalion to awaken the soul
in the man of marble. Here, however, Mrs. Halfpenny became
scandalised at such laughter in the open street; and, perceiving some
one in the distance, she carried off Primrose, and enjoined the
others to walk on doucely and wiselike.
Gillian was on her way to visit Kalliope and make an appointment for
her mother to take her out for a drive; but as they passed the gate
at Beechcroft out burst Valetta and Fergus, quite breathless.
'Oh, Gill, Gill! Mr. White is in the drawing-room, and he has
brought Aunt Ada the most beautiful box you ever saw, with all the
stoppers made of gold !'
'And he says I may get all the specimens I like at Rocca Marina,'
'Ivory brushes, and such a ring---sparkling up to the ceiling!' added
'But, Val, Ferg, whom did you say?' demanded the elders, coming
within the shadow of the copper beeches.
'Aunt Ada,' said Valetta; 'there's a great A engraved on all those
dear, lovely bottles, and---oh, they smell!'
'Aunt Ada! Oh, I thought----'
'What did you think, Gill?' said Aunt Jane, coming from the grass-
plat suddenly on them.
'Oh, Aunt Jane, I am so glad!' cried Gillian. 'I thought'---and she
'They made asses of themselves,' said Jasper.
'They said it was you,' added Mysie. 'Miss Mellon told Miss Elbury,'
she added in excuse.
'Me? No, I thank you! So you are glad, Gillian?'
'Oh yes, aunt! I couldn't have borne for you to do anything---queer'-
--and there was a look in Gillian's face that went to Jane's heart,
and under other circumstances would have produced a kiss, but she
rallied to her line of defence.
'My dear, you must not call this queer. Mr. White is very much
attached to your aunt Ada, and I think he will make her very happy,
and give her great opportunities of doing good.'
'That's just what Gillian said when she was afraid it was you,' said
Mysie. 'I suppose that's it? And that makes it real right.'
'And the golden stoppers!' said Valetta innocently, but almost
choking Jasper with laughter, which must be suppressed before his
'May one know it now?' asked Gillian, sensible of the perilous
'Yes, my dears; you must have been on tenter-hooks all this time,
for, of course, you saw there was a crisis, and you behaved much
better than I should have done at your age; but it was only a fait
accompli this very day, and we couldn't tell you before.'
'When he brought down the golden stoppers,' Jasper could not help
'No, no, you naughty boy! He would not have dared to bring it in
before; he came before luncheon---all that came after. Oh, my dear,
that dressing-case is perfectly awful! I wouldn't have such a
burthen on my mind---for---for all the orphans in London! I hope there
are no banditti at Rocca Marina.'
'Only accepted to-day! How did he get all his great A's engraved?'
said Jasper practically.
'He could not have had many doubts,' said Gillian. 'Does Kalliope
'I cannot tell; I think he has probably told her.'
'He must have met Primrose there,' said Jasper. 'Poor Prim!' And
the offence and the Pig-my-lion story were duly related, much to Aunt
'But,' she said, 'I think that the soul in the marble man is very
real, and very warm; and, dear children, don't get into the habit of
contemning him. Laugh, I suppose you must; I am afraid it must look
ridiculous at our age; but please don't despise. I am going down to
'May I come with you! said Gillian. 'I don't think I can go to Kally
till I have digested this a little; and, if you are going to mamma,
she won't drive her out.'
Jane was much gratified by this volunteer, though Jasper did suggest
that Gill was afraid of Primrose's treatment. He went on with the
other three to Clipston, while Gillian exclaimed---
'Oh, Aunt Jane, shall not you be very lonely?'
'Not nearly so much so as if you were not all here,' said her aunt
cheerfully. 'When you bemoaned your sisters last year we did not
think the same thing was coming on me.'
'Phyllis and Alethea! It was a very different thing,' said Gillian.
'Besides, though I hated it so much, I had got used to being without
'And to tell you the truth, Gill, nothing in that way ever was so bad
to me as your own mother going and marrying; and now, you see, I have
got her back again---and more too.'
Aunt Jane's smile and softened eyes told that the young niece was
included in the 'more too'; and Gillian felt a thrill of pleasure and
affection in this proof that after all she was something to the aunt,
towards whom her feelings had so entirely changed. She proceeded,
however, to ask with considerable anxiety what would be done about
the Whites, Kalliope especially; and in return she was told about the
present plan of Kalliope's being taken to Italy to recover first, and
then to pursue her studies at Florence, so as to return to her work
more capable, and in a higher position.
'Oh, how exquisite!' cried Gillian. 'But how about all the others?'
'The very thing I want to see about, and talk over with your mother.
I am sure she ought to go; and it will not even be wasting time, for
she cannot earn anything.'
Talking over things with Lady Merrifield was, however, impeded, for,
behold, there was a visitor in the drawing-room. Aunt and niece
exchanged glances of consternation as they detected a stranger's
voice through the open window, and Gillian uttered a vituperative
'I do believe it is that dreadful Fangs;' then, hoping her aunt had
not heard---'Captain Henderson, I mean. He threatened to come down
after us, and now he will always be in and out; and we shall have no
peace. He has got nothing on earth to do '
Gillian's guess was right. The neat, trim, soldierly figure, with a
long fair moustache and pleasant gray eyes, was introduced to Miss
Mohun as 'Captain Henderson, one of my brother officers,' by Sir
Jasper, who stood on the rug talking to him. Looks and signs among
the ladies were token enough that the crisis had come; and Lady
Merrifield soon secured freedom of speech by proposing to drive her
sister to Clipston, while Sir Jasper asked his visitor to walk with
'You will be in haste to sketch the place,' he said, 'before the
workmen have done their best to demolish its beauty.'
As for Gillian, she saw her aunt hesitating on account of a parochial
engagement for that afternoon; and, as it was happily not beyond her
powers, she offered herself as a substitute, and was thankfully
accepted. She felt quite glad to do anything obliging towards her
aunt Jane, and in a mood very unlike last year's grudging service; it
was only reading to the 'mothers' meeting,' since among the good
ladies there prevailed such a strange incapacity of reading aloud,
that this part of the business was left to so few that for one to
fail, either in presence or in voice, was very inconvenient. All
were settled down to their needlework, with their babies disposed of
as best they might be. Mr. Hablot had finished his little lecture,
and the one lady with a voice had nearly exhausted it, and there was
a slight sensation at the absence of the unfailing Miss Mohun, when
Gillian came in with the apologies about going to drive with her
'And,' as she described it afterwards 'didn't those wretched beings
all grin and titter, even the ladies, who ought to have had more
manners, and that old Miss Mellon, who is a real growth of the hotbed
of gossip, simpered and supposed we must look for such things now;
and, though I pretended not to hear, my cheeks would go and flame up
as red as---that tasconia, just with longing to tell them Aunt Jane
was not so ridiculous; and so I took hold of For Half a Crown, and
began to read it as if I could bite them all!'
She read herself into a state of pacification, but did not attempt to
see Kalliope that day, being rather shy of all that might be
encountered in that house, especially after working hours. The next
day, however, Lady Merrifield's services were required to chaperon
the coy betrothed in an inspection of Cliff House and furniture,
which was to be renovated according to her taste, and Gillian was to
take that time for a visit to Kalliope, whom she expected to find in
the garden. The usual corner was, however, vacant; and Mr. White was
heard making a growl of 'Foolish girl! Doesn't know which way her
bread is buttered.'
Maura, however, came running up, and said to Gillian, 'Please come
this way. She is here.'
'What has she hidden herself for?' demanded Mr. White. 'I thought
she might have been here to welcome this---Miss Adeline.'
'She is not very well to-day,' faltered Maura.
'Oh! ay, fretting. Well, I thought she had more sense.'
Gillian followed Maura, who was no sooner out of hearing than she
began: 'It is too bad of him to be so cross. Kally really is so
upset! She did not sleep all night, and I thought she would have
fainted quite away this morning!'
'Oh dear! has he been worrying her?'
'She is very glad and happy, of course, about Miss Ada! and he won't
believe it, because he wants her to go out to Italy with them for all
'And won't she? Oh, what a pity!'
'She said she really could not because of us; she could not leave us,
Petros and all, without a home. She thought it her duty to stay and
look after us. And then he got cross, and said that she was
presuming on the hope of living in idleness here, and making him keep
us all, but she would find herself mistaken, and went off very
'Oh, horrid! how could he?'
'I believe, if Kally could have walked so far, she would have gone
down straight to Mr. Lee's. She wanted to, but she was all in a
tremble, and I persuaded her not, though she did send me down to ask
Mrs. Lee when she can be ready. Then when Alexis came home, Mr.
White told him that he didn't in the least mean all that, and would
not hear of her going away, though he was angry at her being so
foolish, but he would give her another chance of not throwing away
such advantages. And Alexis says she ought not. He wants her to go,
and declares that he and I can very well manage with Mrs. Lee, and
look after Petros, and that she must not think of rushing off in a
huff for a few words said in a passion. So, between the two, she was
quite upset and couldn't sleep, and, oh, if she were to be ill
By this time they were in sight of Kalliope lying back in a basket-
chair, shaded by the fence of the kitchen-garden, and her weary face
and trembling hand showed how much this had shaken her in her
weakness. She sent Maura away, and spoke out her troubles freely to
Gillian. 'I thought at first my duty was quite clear, and that I
ought not to go away and enjoy myself and leave the others to get on
without me. Alec would find it so dreary; and though Mr. and Mrs.
Lee are very good and kind, they are not quite companions to him.
Then Maura has come to think so much about people being ladies that I
don't feel sure that she would attend to Mrs. Lee; and the same with
Petros in the holidays. If I can't work at first, still I can make a
home and look after them.'
'But it is only one winter, and Alexis thinks you ought; and, oh,
what it would be, and how you would get on!'
'That is what puzzles me. Alexis thinks Mr. White has a right to
expect me to improve myself, and not go on for ever making white
jessamines with malachite leaves, and that he can look after Maura
and Petros. I see, too, that I ought to try to recover, or I might
be a burthen on Alexis for ever, and hinder all his better hopes.
Then, there's the not liking to accept a favour after Mr. White said
such things, though I ought not to think about it since he made that
apology; but it is a horrid feeling that I ought not to affront him
for the sake of the others. Altogether I do feel so tossed. I can't
get back the feeling I had when I was ill that I need not worry, for
that God will decide.'
And there were tears in her eyes.
'Can't you ask some one's advice?' said Gillian.
'If I were sure they quite understood! My head is quite tired with
thinking about it.'
Not many moments had passed before there were steps that made
Kalliope start painfully, and Maura appeared, piloting another
visitor. It was Miss Mohun, who had escaped from the survey of the
rooms,---so far uneasy at what she had gathered from Mr. White, that
she was the more anxious to make the offer previously agreed to.
'My dear,' she said, 'I am afraid you look tired.'
'They have worried her and knocked her up,' said Gillian indignantly.
'I see! Kally, my dear, we are connections now, you know, and I have
heard of Mr. White's plan. It made me think whether you would find
the matter easier if you let me have Maura while you are away to
cheer my solitude. Then I could see that she did her lessons, and,
between all Gillian's brothers, we could see that Petros was happy in
'Oh, Miss Mohun! how can I be grateful enough? There is an end of
And when the inspecting party came round, and Adeline bent to kiss
the white, weary, but no longer distressed face, and kindly said, 'We
shall see a great deal of each other, I hope,' she replied, with an
earnest 'thank you,' and added to Mr. White, 'Miss Mohun has made it
all easy to me, sir, and I am very grateful!'
'Ay, ay! You're a good girl at the bottom, and have some sense!'
CHAPTER XXIII. FANGS
Events came on rapidly that spring. Mr. White was anxious that his
marriage should take place quickly---afraid, perhaps, that his prize
would escape him, and be daunted by the passive disapproval of her
family, though this was only manifested to him in a want of
cordiality. This, being sincere people, they could not help; and
that outbreak to Kalliope had made the sisters so uneasy, that they
would have willingly endured the ridicule of a broken engagement to
secure Adeline from the risks of a rough temper where gentlemanly
instincts were not inbred.
Adeline, however, knew she had gone too far to recede, though she
would willingly have delayed, in enjoyment of the present homage and
shrinking from the future plunge away from all her protectors.
Though the strong, manly will overpowered hers, and made her submit
to the necessities of the case and fix a day early in July, she clung
the more closely to her sisters, and insisted on being accompanied by
Jane on going to London to purchase the outfit that she had often
seen in visions before. So Miss Mohun's affairs were put in
commission, Gillian taking care of them, and the two sisters were to
go to Mrs. Craydon, once, as Marianne Weston, their first friend out
of their own family, and now a widow with a house in London, well
pleased at any recall of old times, though inclined, like all the
rest, to speak of 'poor Ada.'
Lord Rotherwood was, as his cousins had predicted, less disgusted
than the rest, as in matters of business he had been able to test the
true worth that lay beneath the blemishes of tone and of temper; and
his wife thought the Italian residence and foreign tincture made the
affair much more endurable than could have been expected. She chose
an exquisite tea-service for their joint wedding present; but she
would not consent to let Lady Phyllis be a bridesmaid; though the
Marquis, discovering that her eldest brother hated the idea of giving
her away to the stonemason, offered 'not to put too fine a point on
it, but to act the part of Cousin Phoenix.'
Bridesmaids would have been rather a difficulty; but then the deep
mourning of Kalliope and Maura made a decided reason for excluding
them; and Miss Adeline, who knew that a quiet wedding would be in
much the best taste, resolved to content herself with two tiny
maidens, Primrose and the contemporary Hablot, her own goddaughter,
who, being commonly known as Belle, made a reason for equipping each
in the colour and with the flowers of her name, and the idea was
carried out with great taste.
Valetta thought it hard that an outsider should be chosen. The young
Merrifields had the failing of large families in clannish
exclusiveness up to the point of hating and despising more or less
all who interfered with their enjoyment of one another, and of their
own ways. The absence of society at Silverfold had intensified this
farouche tone, and the dispersion, instead of curing it, had rendered
them more bent on being alone together. Worst of all was Wilfred,
who had been kept at home very inconveniently by some recurring
delicacy of brain and eyes, and who, at twelve years old, was enough
of an imp to be no small torment to his sisters. Valetta was
unmercifully teased about her affection for Kitty Varley and Maura
White, and, whenever he durst, there were attempts at stings about
Alexis, until new game offered itself on whom no one had any mercy.
Captain Henderson was as much in the way as a man could be who knew
but one family in the place, and had no resource but sketching. His
yellow moustache was to be seen at all manner of unexpected and
unwelcome times. If that great honour, a walk with papa, was
granted, out he popped from Marine Hotel, or a seat in the public
gardens, evidently lying in ambush to spoil their walk. Or he was
found tete-a-tete with mamma before the five-o'clock tea, talking, no
doubt, 'Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,' as in the Royal Wardour
days. Even at Clipston, or in the coves on the beach, he was only
too apt to start up from some convenient post for sketching. He
really did draw beautifully, and Mysie would have been thankful for
his counsels if public opinion had not been so strong.
Moreover, Kitty Varley conveyed to Valetta the speculations of
Rockstone whether Gillian was the attraction.
'Now, Val,' said Mysie, 'how can you listen to such nonsense!'
'You said so before, and it wasn't nonsense.'
'It wasn't Aunt Jane.'
'No, but it was somebody.'
'Everybody does marry somebody; but it is no use for us to think
about it, for it always turns out just the contrary to all the books
one ever read; so there's no going by anything, and I don't believe
it right to talk about it.'
'Why not? Every one does.'
'All the good teachings say one should not talk of what one does not
want one's grown-ups to hear.'
'Oh, but then one would never talk of anything!'
'Oh, Val! I won't be sure, but I don't believe I should mind mamma's
hearing all I say.'
'Yes; but you've never been to school, and I heard Bee Varley say she
never saw anybody so childishly simple for her age.'
This brought the colour into Mysie's face, but she said---
'I'd rather be simple than talk as mamma does not like; and, Val, do
on no account tell Gillian.'
'And don't; don't tell Wilfred, or you know how horrid he would be.'
There was a tell-tale colour in Valetta's cheeks, by which Mysie
might have discerned that Valetta had not resisted the charm of
declaring 'that she knew something,' even though this was sure to
lead to tortures of various kinds from Wilfred until it was
extracted. Still the youth as yet was afraid to do much worse than
look preternaturally knowing at his sister and give hints about
Fangs' holding fast and the like, but quite enough to startle her
into something between being flattered and indignant. She was
scarcely civil to the Captain, and felt bound to express her dislike
on every possible occasion, though only to provoke a grin from
Wilfred and a giggle from Valetta.
Lady Merrifield's basket-carriage and little rough pony had been
brought from Silverfold, and she took Kalliope out for quiet drives
whenever it was possible; but a day of showers having prevented this,
she was concerned to find herself hindered on a second afternoon.
Gillian offered to be her substitute.
'You know I always drive you, mamma.'
'These are worse hills than at Silverfold, and I don't want you to
come down by the sea-wall.'
'I am sure I would not go there for something, among all the stupid
'If you keep to the turnpike you can't come to much harm with Bruno.'
'That is awfully---I mean horribly dusty! There's the cliff road
'That is safe enough. I don't think you could come to much real
damage; but remember that for Kally a start or an alarm would be
really as hurtful as an accident to a person in health.'
'Poor old Bruno could hardly frighten a mouse,' said Gillian.
'Only take care, and don't be enterprising.'
Gillian drove up to the door of Cliff House, and Kalliope took her
seat. It was an enjoyable afternoon, with the fresh clearness of
June sunshine after showers, great purple shadows of clouds flitting
over the sea, dimpled by white crests of wave that broke the golden
path of sunshine into sparkling ripples, while on the other side of
the cliff road lay the open moorland, full of furze, stunted in
growth, but brilliant in colour, and relieved by the purple browns of
blossoming grasses and the white stars of stitchwort.
'This is delicious!' murmured Kalliope, with a gesture of enjoyment.
'Much nicer than down below!'
'Oh yes; it seems to stretch one's very soul!'
'And the place is so big and wide that no one can worry with
'Yes, it defies that!' said Kalliope, laughing.
'So, Fa---Captain Henderson won't crop up as he does at every
sketchable place. Didn't you know he was here?'
'Yes, Alexis told me he had seen him.'
'Everybody has seen him, I should think; he is always about with
nothing to do but that everlasting sketching.'
'He must have been very sorry to be obliged to retire.'
'Horrid! It was weak, and he might have been in Egypt, well out of
the way. No, I didn't mean that'---as Kalliope looked shocked---'but
he might have been getting distinction and promotion.'
'He used to be very kind,' said Kalliope, in a tone of regretful
remonstrance. 'It was he who taught me first to draw.'
'He! What, Fa---Captain Henderson?'
'Yes; when I was quite a little girl, and he had only just joined.
He found me out before our quarters at Gibraltar trying to draw an
old Spaniard selling oranges, and he helped me, and showed me how to
hold my pencil. I have got it still---the sketch. Then he used to
lend me things to copy, and give me hints till---oh, till my father
said I was too old for that sort of thing! Then, you know, my father
got his commission, and I went to school at Belfast.'
'And you have never seen him since?'
'Scarcely. Sometimes he was on leave in my holidays, and you know we
were at the depot afterwards, but I shall always feel that all that I
have been able to do since has been owing to him.'
'And how you will enjoy studying at Florence!'
'Oh, think what it would be if I could ever do a reredos for a
church! I keep on dreaming and fancying them, and now there really
seems a hope. Is that Arnscombe Church?'
'Yes, you know it has been nicely restored.'
'We had the columns to do. The reredos is alabaster, I believe, and
we had nobody fit to undertake that. I so longed for the power! I
almost saw it.'
'Have you seen what it is?'
'No; I never had time.'
'I suppose it would be too tiring for you now; but we could see the
Gillian forgot that Arnscombe, whose blunt gray spire protruded
through the young green elms, lay in a little valley through which a
stream rushed to the sea. The lane was not very steep, but there
were loose stones. Bruno stumbled, he was down; the carriage stood
still, and the two girls were out on opposite sides in a moment,
Gillian crying out---
'Don't be frightened---no harm done!'---as she ran to the pony's head.
He lay quite still with heaving sides, and she felt utterly alone and
helpless in the solitary road with an invalid companion whom she did
not like to leave.
'I am afraid I cannot run for help,' said Kalliope quietly, though
breathlessly; 'but I could sit by the horse and hold his head while
you go for help.'
'I don't like. Oh, here's some one coming!'
'Can I be of any use?'
Most welcome sound!---though it was actually Captain Henderson the
ubiquitous wheeling his bicycle up the hill, knapsack of sketching
materials on his back.
'Miss Merrifield! Miss White! I trust no one is hurt!'
'Oh no, thank you, unless it is the poor pony! Kally, sit down on
the bank, I insist! Oh, I am so glad you are come!'
'Can you sit on his head while I cut the traces?'
Gillian did that comfortable thing till released, when the pony
scrambled up again, but with bleeding knees, hip, and side, though
the Captain did not think any serious harm was done; but it was even
more awkward at the moment that both the shafts were broken!
'What is to be done?' sighed Gillian. 'Miss White can't walk. Can I
run down to the village to get something to take her home?'
'The place did not look likely to supply any conveyance better than a
rough cart,' said their friend.
'It is quite impossible to put the poor pony in anyhow! I don't mind
walking in the least; but you know how ill she has been.'
'I see. Only one thing to be done,' said the Captain, who had
already turned the carriage round by the stumps of the shafts; 'you
must accept me in lieu of your pony.'
'Oh yes, thank you!' cried Gillian eagerly. 'I can lead poor Bruno,
and take care of your bicycle. Jump in, Kally!'
Kalliope, who had wisely abstained from adding a useless voice to the
discussion, here demurred. She could not think of such a thing; they
could very well wait in the carriage while Captain Henderson went on
to the town on his bicycle and sent out a midge.
But there were showers about, and a damp feeling in the lane. Both
the others thought this perilous; besides that, there might be rude
passengers to laugh at their predicament; and Captain Henderson
protested that the weight was nothing. He prevailed at last; and she
allowed him to hand her into the basket, when she could hardly stand,
and wrap the dust-cloth about her. Thus the procession set forth,
Gillian with poor drooping Bruno's rein in one hand and the other on
the bicycle, and the Captain gallantly drawing the carriage with
Kalliope seated in the midst. He tramped on so vigorously as quite
to justify his declaration that it was no burthen to him. It was not
a frequented road, and they met no one in the least available to do
more than stare or ask a question or two, until, as they approached
the town and Rockstone Church was full in view, who should appear
before their eyes but Sir Jasper, Wilfred carrying on his back a huge
kite that had been for many evenings in course of construction, and
Fergus acting as trainbearer.
Thus came on the first moment of Gillian's explanation, as Sir Jasper
took the poor pony from her and held counsel over the damage, with
many hearty thanks to Captain Henderson.
'I am sure, sir, no one could have shown greater presence of mind
than the young ladies,' said that gentleman; and her father's 'I am
glad to hear it!' would have gratified Gillian the more, but for the
impish grimace with which Wilfred favoured her behind Kalliope's
The kite-fliers turned, not without an entreaty from the boys that
they might go on alone and fly their kite.
'No, no, boys,' said their father---'not here; we shall have the kite
pulling you into the sea over the cliffs. I must take the pony home;
but I will come if possible to-morrow.'
Much disappointed, they went dolefully in the rear, grumbling sotto
voce their conviction that there would be no wind to-morrow, and that
it was all 'Fangs's' fault in some incomprehensible manner.
At Cliff House Kalliope was carefully handed out by Sir Jasper,
trying, but with failing voice, to thank Captain Henderson, and
declaring herself not the worse, though her hand shook so much that
the General was not content without giving her his arm up the stairs,
and telling Maura that he should send Mrs. Halfpenny up to see after
her. The maimed carriage was left in the yard, and Captain Henderson
then took charge of his iron horse, and the whole male party
proceeded to the livery stables; so that Gillian was able to be
alone, when she humbly repeated to her mother the tale parents have
so often to hear of semi-disobedience leading to disaster, but with
the self-reproach and sorrow that drew the sting of displeasure.
Pity for Bruno, grief for her mother's deprivation, and anxiety for
Kalliope might be penance and rebuke sufficient for a bit of
thoughtlessness. Lady Merrifield made no remark; but there was an
odd expression in her face when she heard who had come so opportunely
to the rescue.
Sir Jasper brought a reassuring account of the poor little steed,
which would be usable again after a short rest, and the blemish was
the less important as there was no intention of selling him. Mrs.
Halfpenny, too, reported that her patient was as quiet as a lamb.
'She wasn't one to fash herself for nothing and go into screaming
cries, but kenned better what was fitting for one born under Her
So there was nothing to hinder amusement when at dinner Sir Jasper
comically described the procession as he met it. Kalliope White,
looking only too like Minerva, or some of those Greek goddess statues
they used to draw about, sitting straight and upright in her
triumphal car, drawn by her votary; while poor Gillian came behind
with the pony on one side and the bicycle on the other, very much as
if she were conducting the wheel on which she was to be broken, as an
offering to the idol.
'I think,' said Mysie, 'Captain Henderson was like the two happy sons
in Solon's story, who dragged their mother to the temple.'
'Only they died of it,' said Gillian.
'And nobody asked how the poor mother felt afterwards,' added Lady
'I thought they all had an apotheosis together,' said Sir Jasper.
'Let us hope that devotion may have its reward.'
There was a little lawn outside the drawing-room windows at Il Lido.
Lady Merrifield was sitting just within, and her husband had just
brought her a letter to read, when they heard Wilfred's impish voice.
'Jack---no, not Jack---Fangs!'
'But Fangs's name is Jack, so it will do as well,' said Valetta's