Part 8 out of 8
'Hurrah---so it is! Jack---'
'Hush, Wilfred---this is too foolish!' came Gillian's tones in
'Jack and Jill went up the hill
'To draw! Oh, that's lovely!' interrupted Valetta.
'He is always drawing,' said Gillian, with an odd laugh.
'He was brought up to it. First teeth, and then "picturs," and then--
-oh, my---ladies home from the wash!' went on Wilfred.
'But go on, Will!' entreated Valetta.
'Jack and Jill went up the hill
To draw a piece of water---'
'No, no,' put in Wilfred---'that's wrong!
'To draw the sergeant's daughter;
Fangs dragged down unto the town,
And Jill came moaning after!'
'I didn't moan---'
'Oh, you don't know how disconsolate you looked! Moaning, you know,
because her Fangs had to draw the other young woman---eh, Gill? Fangs
always leave an aching void, you know.'
'You ridiculous boy! I'm sure I wish Fangs would leave a void. It
The two parents had been exchanging glances of something very like
consternation, and of the mute inquiry on one side, 'Were you aware
of this sort of thing? and an emphatic shake of the head on the
other. Then Sir Jasper's voice exclaimed aloud---
'Children, we hear every word you say, and are shocked at your
impertinence and bad taste!'
There was a scatter. Wilfred and Valetta, who had been pinioning
Gillian on either side by her dress, released her, and fled into the
laurels that veiled the guinea-pigs; but their father's long strides
pursued them, and he gravely said---
'I am very sorry to find this is your style of so-called wit!'
'It was only chaff,' said Valetta, the boldest in right of her
'Very improper chaff! I am the last person to object to harmless
merriment; but you are both old enough to know that on these subjects
such merriment is not harmless.'
'Everybody does it,' whined Valetta, beginning one of her crying
'I am sorry you have been among people who have led you to think so.
No nicely-minded girl will do so, nor any brother who wishes to see
his sisters refined, right-feeling women. Go in, Valetta---I can't
suffer this howling! Go, I say! Your mother will talk to you. Now,
Wilfred, do you wish to see your sisters like your mother?'
'They'll never be that, if they live to a hundred!'
'Do not you hinder it, then; and never let that insulting nickname
pass your lips again.'
Wilfred's defence as to universal use in the family was inaudible,
and he was allowed to slouch away.
Gillian had fled to her mother, entreating her to explain to her
father that such jests were abhorrent to her.
'But you know, mamma, if I was cross and dignified, Wilfred would
enjoy it all the more, and be ten times worse.'
'Quite true, my dear. Papa will understand; but we are sorry to hear
'It was an old Royal Wardour name, mamma. Harry and Claude both used
it, and---oh, lots of the young officers!'
'That does not make it more becoming in you.'
'N---no. But oh, mamma, he was very kind to-day! But I do wish it
had been anybody else!'
And her colour rose so as to startle her mother.
'Why, my dear, I thought you would have been glad that a stranger did
not find you in that plight!'
'But it makes it all the worse. He does beset us, mamma; and it is
hard on me, after all the other nonsense!'
Lady Merrifield burst out laughing.
'My dear child, he thinks as much of you as of old Halfpenny!'
'Oh, mamma, are you sure?' said Gillian, still hiding her face. 'It
was not silliness of my own; but Kitty Varley told Val that everybody
said it---her sister, and Miss Mohun, and all. Why can't he go away,
and not be always bothering about this horrid place with nothing to
'How thankful I shall be to have you all safe at Clipston!'
'But, mamma, can't you keep him off us?'
Valetta's sobbing entrance here prevented more; but while explaining
to her the causes of her father's displeasure, her mother extracted a
good deal more of the gossip, to which she finally returned answer---
'There is no telling the harm that is done by chattering gossip in
this way. You might have learnt by what happened before what
mistakes are made. What am I to do, Valetta? I don't want to hinder
you from having friends and companions; but if you bring home such
mischievous stories, I shall have to keep you entirely among
ourselves till you are older and wiser.'
'I never---never will believe---anybody who says anybody is going to
marry anybody!' sobbed Valetta desperately and incoherently.
'Certainly no one who knows nothing about the matter. There is
nothing papa and I dislike much more than such foolish talk; and to
tease your sister about it is even worse; but I will say no more
about that, as I believe it was chiefly Wilfred's doing.'
'I---told---Will,' murmured Valetta. 'Mysie begged me not, but I had
'How much you would have saved yourself and everybody else if you had
let the foolish word die with you! Now, good-night, my dear. Bathe
your eyes well, or they will be very uncomfortable to-morrow; and do
try to cure yourself of roaring when you cry. It vexes papa so much
Another small scene had to follow with the boy, who was quite willing
to go off to bed, having no desire to face his father again, though
his mother had her fears that he was not particularly penitent for
'what fellows always did when people were spooning.' He could only
be assured that he would experience unpleasant consequences if he
recurred to the practice; but Wilfred had always been the problem in
The summer twilight was just darkening completely, and Lady
Merrifield had returned to the drawing-room, and was about to ring
for lights, when Sir Jasper came in through the window, saying---
'No question now about renewal. Angelic features, more than angelic
calmness and dignity. Ha! you there, young ladies!' he added in some
dismay as two white dresses struck his eye.
'There's no harm done,' said Lady Merrifield, laughing. 'I was
thinking whether to relieve Gillian's mind by telling her the state
of the case, and Mysie is to be trusted.'
'Oh, mamma, then it is Kalliope!' exclaimed Gillian, already
relieved, for even love could not have perceived calmness and dignity
in her sitting upon Bruno's head.
'Has she ever talked about him?' asked Lady Merrifield.
'No; except to-day, when I said I hoped she was safe from him on that
road. She said he had always been very kind to her, and taught her
to draw when she was quite a little girl.'
'Just so,' said Lady Merrifield. 'Well, when she was a little older,
poor Mr. White, who was one of the most honourable and scrupulous of
men, took alarm, and saw that it would never do to have the young
officers running after her.'
'It was an uncommonly awkward position,' added Sir Jasper, 'with such
a remarkable-looking girl, and a foolish unmanageable mother. It
made poor White's retirement the more reasonable when the girl was
growing too old to be kept at school any longer.'
'And has he been constant to her all these years? How nice!' cried
'After a fashion,' said Lady Merrifield. 'He made me the receptacle
of a good deal of youthful despair.'
'All the lads did,' said her husband.
'But he got over it, and it seemed to have passed out of his life.
However, he asked after the Whites as soon as we met him in London;
and now he tells me that he never forgot Kalliope---her face always
came between him and any one whom his mother threw in his way; and he
came down here, knowing her history, and with the object of seeing
'And he has not, till now?'
'No. Besides the absolute need of keeping her quiet, it would not
exactly do for him to visit her while she is alone with Maura at
Cliff House, and I wished him first to see her casually amongst us,
for I dreaded her not fulfilling his ideal.'
'When I think of her at fourteen or fifteen, with that exquisite
bloom and the floating wavy hair, I see a very different creature
from what she is now.'
'Peach or ivory carving,' said Sir Jasper.
'Yes; she is nobler, finer altogether, and has gained in countenance
greatly; but he may not think so, and I should like her to be looking
a little less ill.'
'Well, I can't help hoping he will be disappointed, and be too stupid
to care for her!' exclaimed Gillian.
'Indeed?' said her father in a tone of displeased surprise.
'He is so insignificant; he does not seem to suit with her,' said
Gillian in a tone of defence;' and there does not seem to be anything
'That only shows the effect of nursing prejudice by using foolish
opprobrious nicknames. Henderson was a good officer, he has shown
himself an excellent son, always sacrificing his own predilections
for the sake of duty. He is a right-minded, religious, sensible man,
his own master, and with no connections to take umbrage at Miss
White's position. It is no commonplace man who knows how to honour
her for it. Nothing could be a happier fate for her; and you will be
no friend to her if you use any foolish terms of disparagement of him
because he does not happen to please your fancy.'
'I am sure Gillian will do no such thing, now that she understands
the case' said her mother.
'Oh no, indeed! said Gillian. 'It was only a first feeling.'
'And you will allow for a little annoyance, papa,' added Lady
Merrifield. 'We really have had a great deal of him, and he does
spoil the children's walks with you.'
Sir Jasper laughed.
'I agree that the sooner this is over the better. You need have no
doubts as to the first view, now that Gillian has effected the
introduction. No words can do justice to her beauty, though, by the
bye, he must have contemplated her through the back of his head!'
'Well, won't that do! Can't he be sent off for the present, for as
to love-making now, with all the doubts and scruples in the way, it
would be the way to kill her outright.'
'You must take that in hand, my lady---it is past me! Come, girls,
give us some music!'
The two girls went up at bed-time to their room, Mysie capering and
declaring that here was real, true, nice love, like people in
stories, and Gillian still bemoaning a little that, whatever papa
might say, Fa---Captain Henderson would always be too poor a creature
'If I was quite sure it was not only her beauty,' added Gillian
Lady Merrifield went up to Cliff House as early as she could the next
day. She found her patient there very white and shaken, but not so
much by the adventure of yesterday as by a beautiful bouquet of the
choicest roses which lay on the table before her sofa, left by
Captain Henderson when he had called to inquire after her.
'What ought I to do, dear Lady Merrifield?' she asked. 'They came
while I was dressing, and I did not know.'
'You mean about a message of thanks?'
'Yes; my dear father was so terribly displeased when I wore a rose
that he gave me before the great review at Belfast that I feel as if
I ought not to touch these; and yet it is so kind, and after all his
wonderful kindness yesterday.'
The hand on the side and the trembling lip showed the painful
fluttering of heart, and the voice died away.
'My dear, things are very different now. Take my word for it, your
father could not be displeased for a moment at any kindness between
you and Captain Henderson. Ten years ago he was a very young man,
and his parents were living, and your father was bound in honour, and
for your sake too, to prevent attentions from the young officers.'
'Oh yes, I know it would have been shocking to have got into that
sort of thing!'
'But now he is entirely at his own disposal, and a man of four or
five-and-thirty, who has gone through a great deal, and I do not
think that to send him a friendly message of thanks for a bunch of
flowers to his old fellow-soldier's daughter would be anything but
what Captain White would think his due.'
'Oh,'---a sigh of relief,---'please tell him, dear Lady Merrifield!'
And she stretched out her hand for the flowers, and lovingly cooled
her cheek with their petals, and tenderly admired them singly,
venturing now to enjoy them and even caress them.
Lady Merrifield ventured on no more; but she carried off ultimately
hopeful auguries for the gentleman who had been watching for her,
very anxious to hear her report. She was, however, determined on
persuading him to patience, reinforcing her assurances with Dr.
Dagger's opinion, that though Kalliope's constitution needed only
quiet and rest entirely to shake off the effects of the overstrain of
that terrible half-year, yet that renewed agitation would probably
entail chronic heart-complaint; and she insisted that without making
any sign the lover should go out of reach for several months, making,
for instance, the expedition to Norway of which he had been talking.
He could not understand at first that what he meant to propose would
not be the best means of setting that anxious heart at rest; and Lady
Merrifield had to dwell on the swarm of conscientious scruples and
questions that would arise about saddling him with such a family, and
should not be put to rest as easily as he imagined. At last, by the
further representation that she would regard her mother's death as
far too recent for such matters to occupy her, and by the assertion
of the now fixed conviction that attentions from him at present could
only agitate and distress her harmfully, and bring on her malicious
remarks, the Captain was induced to believe that Rocca Marina or
Florence would be a far better scene for his courtship, and to defer
it till he could find her there in better health.
He was brought at last to promise to leave Rockquay at once, and
dispose of himself in Norway, if only Lady Merrifield would procure
him one meeting with Kalliope, in which he solemnly promised to do
nothing that could startle her or betray his intentions.
Lady Merrifield managed it cunningly. It had been already fixed that
Kalliope should come down to a brief twelve-o'clock service held at
St. Kenelm's for invalids, there to return thanks for her recovery,
in what she felt as her own church; and she was to come to Il Lido
and rest there afterwards. Resolving to have no spectators, Lady
Merrifield sent off the entire family for a picnic at Clipston,
promising them with some confidence that they would not be haunted by
Captain Henderson, and that she would come in the waggonette,
bringing Fergus as soon as he was out of school, drink tea, and fetch
home the tired.
Sir Jasper went too, telling her, with a smile, that he was far too
shy to assist her in acting chaperon.
'Dragon, you had better say---I mean to put on all my teeth and
These were not, however, very visible at the church door when she met
Kalliope, who had come down in a bath-chair, but was able afterwards
to walk slowly to Il Lido. Perhaps Captain Henderson was, however,
aware of them; for Kalliope had no knowledge of his presence in the
church or in the street, somewhat in the rear, nor did he venture to
present himself till there had been time for luncheon and for rest,
and till Kalliope had been settled in the cool eastern window under
the verandah, with an Indian cushion behind her that threw out her
profile like a cameo.
Then, as if to call on Lady Merrifield, Captain Henderson appeared
armed, according to a wise suggestion, with his portfolio; and there
was a very quiet and natural overlooking of his drawings, which
evidently gave Kalliope immense pleasure, quite unsuspiciously.
Precautions had been taken against other visitors, and all went off
so well and happily that Lady Merrifield felt quite triumphant when
the waggonette came round, and, after picking up Fergus, she set
Kalliope down at her own door, with something like a colour in her
cheeks and lips, and thanks for a happy afternoon, and the great
pleasure in seeing one of the dear old Royal Wardours again.
But, oh mamma,' said Gillian, feeling as if the thorn in her thoughts
must be extracted, 'are you sure it is not all her beauty?'
'Her beauty, no doubt, began it, and gratifies the artist eye; but I
am sure his perseverance is due to appreciation of her noble
character,' said Lady Merrifield.
'Oh, mamma, would he if she had been ever so good, and no prettier
than other people?'
'Don't pick motives so, my child; her beauty helps to make up the sum
and substance of his adoration, and she would not have the
countenance she has without the goodness. Let that satisfy you.'
CHAPTER XXIV. CONCLUSION
The wedding was imminent by this time. The sisters returned from
London, the younger looking brilliant and in unusual health, and the
elder fagged and weary. Shopping, or rather looking on at shopping,
had been a far more wearying occupation than all the schools and
districts in Rockquay afforded.
And besides the being left alone, there was the need of considering
her future. The family had certainly expected that a rich and open-
handed man like Mr. White would bethink him that half what was
sufficient for two was not enough for one to live in the same style,
and would have resigned his bride's fortune to her sister, but, as a
rule, he never did what was expected of him, and he had, perhaps,
been somewhat annoyed by Mr. Mohun's pertinacity about settlements,
showing a certain distrust of commercial wealth. At any rate, all he
did was to insist on paying handsomely for Maura's board; but still
Miss Mohun believed she should have to give up the pretty house built
by themselves, and go into smaller quarters, more especially as it
was universally agreed that Adeline must have Mrs. Mount with her,
and Mrs. Mount would certainly be miserable in 'foreign parts' unless
her daughter went with her. It was demonstrated that the remaining
means would just suffice to keep up Beechcroft; but Jane knew that it
could be only done at the cost of her subscriptions and charities,
and she merely undertook to take no measures till winter---the
Sir Jasper, who thought she behaved exceedingly well about it,
authorised an earnest invitation to make her home at Clipston; but
though she was much gratified, she knew she should be in his way,
and, perhaps, in that of the boys, and it was too far from the work
to which she meant to devote herself even more completely, when it
would be no longer needful to be companionable to a semi-invalid fond
However, just then her brother, the Colonel, came at last for his
long leave. He knew that his retirement was only a matter of months,
and declared his intention of joining forces with her, if she would
have him, and, in the meantime, he was desirous of contributing his
full share in keeping up the home. Nor did Jane feel it selfish to
accept his offer, for she knew that Clipston would give him congenial
society and shooting, and that there was plenty of useful layman work
for him in the town; and that 'old Reggie' should wish to set up his
staff with her raised her spirits, so that cheerfulness was no longer
The wedding was to be very quiet. Only just after the day was
finally fixed, Mrs. Merrifield's long decay ended unexpectedly, and
Sir Jasper had to hasten to London, and thence to the funeral at
Stokesley. She was a second wife, and he her only son, so that he
inherited from her means that set him much more at his ease with
regard to his large family than he had ever been before. The
intention that Lady Merrifield should act mistress of the house at
the wedding breakfast had, of course, to be given up, and only
Primrose's extreme youth made it possible to let her still be a
So the whole party, together with the Whites, were only spectators in
the background, and the procession into church consisted of just the
absolutely needful persons---the bride in a delicate nondescript
coloured dress, such as none but a French dressmaker could describe,
and covered with transparent lace, like, as Mysie averred, a
hedgeback full of pig-nut flowers, the justice of the comparison
being lost in the ugliness of the name; and as all Rockquay tried to
squeeze into the church to see and admire, the beauty was not thrown
No tears were shed there; but afterwards, in her own familiar room,
between her two sisters, Adeline White shed floods of tears, and,
clinging to Jane's neck, asked how she could ever have consented to
leave her, extracting a promise of coming to her in case of illness.
Nothing but a knock at the door by Valetta, with a peremptory message
that Mr. White said they should be late for the train, induced her to
dry her tears and tear herself away.
Kalliope and Maura remained with Miss Mohun during the bridal journey
to Scotland, and by the time it was ended the former had shaken off
the invalid habits, and could hardly accept the doctor's assurance
that she ought not to resume her work, though she was grateful for
the delights before her, and the opportunities of improvement that
she was promised at Florence. Her health had certainly been improved
by Frank Stebbing's departure for America. Something oozed out that
made Miss Mohun suspect that he had been tampering with the accounts,
and then it proved that there had been a crisis and discovery, which
Mr. White had consented to hush up for his partner's sake. Alexis
had necessarily known of the investigation and disclosure, but had
kept absolute silence until it had been brought to light in other
ways, and the culprit was beyond seas. Mr. Stebbing was about to
retire from the business, but for many reasons the dissolution of the
partnership was deferred.
Alexis was now in a post of trust, with a larger salary. He lodged
at Mrs. Lee's, and was, in a manner, free of Miss Mohun's house; but
he spent much of his leisure time in study, being now able to pay
regularly for instruction from the tutor who taught at Mrs. Edgar's
Maura asked him rather pertly what was the use of troubling himself
about Latin and Greek, if he held himself bound to the marble works.
'It is not trouble---it is rest,' he said; and at her gasp, 'Besides,
marble works or no, one ought to make the best of one's self.'
By the time Mr. and Mrs. White came back from Scotland, the repairs
at Clipston had been accomplished, and the Merrifields had taken
possession. It all was most pleasant in that summer weather going
backwards and forwards between the houses; the Sunday coming into
church and lunching at Aunt Jane's, where Valetta and Primrose stayed
for Mrs. Hablot's class, and were escorted home by Macrae in time for
evening service at Clipston, where their mother, Gillian, and Mysie
reigned over their little school. There was a kind of homely ease
and family life, such that Adeline once betrayed that she sometimes
felt as if she was going into banishment. However, there was no
doubt that she enjoyed her husband's pride in and devotion to her, as
well as all the command of money and choice of pretty things that she
had obtained, and she looked well, handsome, and dignified.
Still it was evident that she was very glad of Kalliope's
companionship, and that the pair were not on those exclusively
intimate terms that would make a third person de trop.
By Sir Jasper's advice, Lady Merrifield did not mention the
possibility of a visit from Captain Henderson, who would come upon
Mr. White far better on his own merits, and had better not be
expected either by Adeline or Kalliope.
Enthusiastic letters from both ladies described the delights of the
journey, which was taken in a leisurely sight-seeing manner; and as
to Rocca Marina, it seemed to be an absolute paradise. Mr. White had
taken care to send out an English upholsterer, so that insular ideas
of comfort might be fulfilled within. Without, the combination of
mountain and sea, the vine-clad terraces, the chestnut slopes, the
magical colours of the barer rocks, the coast-line trending far away,
the azure Mediterranean, with the white-sailed feluccas skimming
across it, filled Kalliope with the more transport because it
satisfied the eyes that had unconsciously missed such colouring
scenes ever since her early childhood.
The English workmen and their families hailed with delight an English
lady. The chaplain and his wife were already at work among them, and
their little church only waiting for the bride to lay the first
The accounts of Kalliope's walks as Mrs. White's deputy among these
people, of her scrambles and her sketching made her recovery evident.
Adeline had just been writing that the girl was too valuable to both
herself and Mr. White ever to be parted with, when Captain Henderson
came back from Norway, and had free permission from Lady Merrifield
to put his fate to the touch.
English tourists who know how to behave themselves were always
welcome to enliven the seclusion of Rocca Marina, and admire all, of
which Adeline was as proud as Mr. White himself. Recommendations to
its hospitality did not fail, and the first of Adeline's long letters
showed warm appreciation of this pleasant guest, who seemed enchanted
with the spot.
Next, Mrs. White's sagacity began to suspect his object, and there
ensued Kalliope's letter, full of doubts and scruples, unable to help
being happy, but deferring her reply till she should hear from Lady
Merrifield, whether it could be right to burthen any man with such a
family as hers.
The old allegiance to her father's commanding officer, as well as the
kindness she had received, seemed to make her turn to ask their
approval as if they were her parents; and of course it was heartily
given, Sir Jasper himself writing to set before her that John
Henderson was no suddenly captivated youth unable to calculate
consequences, but a man of long-tried affection and constancy, free
from personal ties, and knowing all her concerns. The younger ones
all gave promise of making their own way, and a wise elder brother
was the best thing she could give them. Even Richard might be the
better for the connection, and Sir Jasper had taken care that there
should be some knowledge of what he was.
There was reason to think that all hesitation had been overcome even
before the letters arrived. For it appeared that Captain Henderson
had fraternised greatly with Mr. White, and that having much wished
for an occupation, he had decided to become a partner in the marble
works, bringing the art-knowledge and taste that had been desirable,
and Kalliope hoped still to superintend the mosaic workers. It was
agreed that the marriage had far better take place away from
Rockquay, and it was resolved that it should be at Florence, and that
the couple should remain there for the winter, studying art, and
especially Florentine mosaic, and return in the spring, when the
Stebbings would have concluded their arrangements and vacated their
Mr. White, in great delight, franked out Alexis and Maura to be
present at the wedding, and a longing wish of Kalliope's that Mr.
Flight would officiate was so far expressed that Lady Merrifield
mentioned it to him. He was very much moved, for he had been feeling
that his relations with the Whites had been chiefly harmful, though,
as Alexis now assured him, his notice had been their first ray of
comfort in their changed life at Rockquay. The experience had
certainly made him older and wiser. Mrs. White---or, as her nieces
could not help calling her among themselves, the Contessa di Rocca
Marina---urged that her sister Jane should join the company, and bring
Gillian to act as the other bridesmaid. This, after a little
deliberation, was accepted, and the journey was the greatest treat to
all concerned. Mr. Flight, the only one of the party who had
travelled before in the sense of being a tourist, was amused by the
keen and intense delight of Miss Mohun as well as the younger ones in
all they beheld, and he steered them with full experience of hotels
and of what ought to be visited, so as to be an excellent courier.
As to Rocca Marina, where they spent a few days, no words would
describe their admiration, though they brought home a whole book of
sketches to back their descriptions. They did not, however, bring
back Maura. Mrs. White had declared that she must remain to supply
the place of her sister. She was nearly fifteen years old, and
already pretty well advanced in her studies, she would pick up
foreign languages, the chaplain would teach her when at Rocca Marina,
and music and drawing would be attainable in the spring at Florence.
Moreover, Mr. White promised to regard her as a daughter.
Another point was settled. Alexis had worked in earnest for eight
months, and had convinced himself that the marble works were not his
vocation, though he had acquitted himself well enough to induce Mr.
White to offer him a share in the business, and he would have
accepted it if needful. He had, however, made up his mind to
endeavour to obtain a scholarship at Oxford, and Captain Henderson
promised that whether successful in this or not, he should be enabled
to keep his terms there. Mr. White could not understand how a man
could prefer being a poor curate to being a rich quarrymaster, but
his wife and the two sisters had influence enough to prevent him from
being offended, and this was the easier, because Theodore had tastes
and abilities that made it likely that he would be thoroughly
available at the works.
What shall be said of the return to Rockstone? Mr. Flight came home
first, then, after many happy days of appreciative sightseeing, Aunt
Jane and Gillian. They had not been ashamed of being British
spinsters with guide-books in their hands; nor, on the other hand,
had they been obliged to see what they did not care about, and Mr.
White had put them in the way of the best mode of seeing what they
cared about; and above all, the vicissitudes of travel, even in easy-
going modern fashion, had made them one with each other according to
Jane's best hopes. It was declared that the aunt looked five years
younger for such recreation as she had never known before, and she
set to work with double energy.
When, in May, Captain and Mrs. Henderson took possession of the
pretty house that had been fitted up for them, though Miss Mellon
might whisper to a few that she had only been one of the mosaic
hands, there was not much inclination to attend to the story among
the society to which Lady Merrifield introduced her. These
acquaintances would gladly have seen more of her than she had time to
give them, between family claims and home cares, her attention to the
artistic side of the business, for which she had not studied in vain,
and her personal and individual care for the young women concerned
therein. For years to come, even, it was likely that visitors to
Rockstone would ask one another if they had seen that remarkably
beautiful Mrs. Henderson.
Mrs. White, reigning there in the summer, in her fine house and
gardens, though handsome as ever, had the good sense to resign the
palm of beauty, and be gratified with the admiration for one whom she
accepted as a protegee and appendage, whose praise reflected upon
herself. And Cliff House under the new regime was a power in
Rockstone, with its garden-parties, drawing-room meetings on behalf
of everything good and desirable, its general superintendence and
promotion of all that could aid in the welfare of the place. There
was general rejoicing when it was occupied.
Adeline, in better health than she had enjoyed since her early
girlhood, and feeling her consequence both in Italy and at Rockstone,
was often radiant, always kind and friendly and ready with patronage
and assistance. Her sisters wondered at times how absolute her
happiness was; they sometimes thought she said too much about it, and
about her dear husband's indulgence, in her letters, to be quite
satisfactory; and when she came to Rockstone there was an
effusiveness of affection towards her family, an unwillingness to
spare her sisters or nieces from her side, an earnest desire to take
one back to Italy with her, that betrayed something lacking in
companionship. Jane detected likewise such as the idolising husband
felt this attachment a little over much.
It was not quite possible to feel him one with her family, or make
him feel himself one. He would always be 'company' with them. He
had indeed been invited to Beechcroft Court, but it was plain that
the visit had been stiff and wearisome to both parties, even more so
than that to Rotherwood, where there was no reason to look for much
In the same way, to Reginald Mohun, who had been obliged to retire as
full Colonel, Mr. White was so absolutely distasteful that it was his
sister's continual fear that he would encourage the young people's
surreptitious jokes about their marble uncle. Sir Jasper, always
feeling accountable for having given the first sanction, did his best
for the brother-in-law; but in spite of regard, there was no getting
over the uncongeniality that would always be the drop in Adeline's
cup. The perfect ease and confidence of family intercourse would
alter on his entrance!
Nobody got on with him so well as Captain Harry May. For I do not
speak to that dull elf who cannot figure to himself the great family
meeting that came to pass when the colonists came home---how sweet and
matronly 'Aunt Phyllis' looked, how fresh and bright her daughters
were, and how surprised Valetta was to find them as well instructed
and civilised as herself, though she did not like Primrose, expect to
see them tattooed. One of the party was no other than Dolores Mohun.
She had been very happy with her father for three years. They had
been at Kotorua at the time of the earthquake, and Dolores had
acquired much credit for her reasonableness and self-possession, but
there had been also a young lady, not much above her own age, who had
needed protection and comfort, and the acquaintance there begun had
ended in her father deciding on a marriage with a pretty gentle
creature as unlike the wife of his youth as could be imagined.
Dolores had behaved very well, as her Aunt Phyllis warmly testified,
but it was a relief to all parties when the proposal was made that,
immediately after the wedding, she should go home under her aunt's
escort to finish her education. She had learnt to love and trust
Aunt Phyllis; but to be once more with Aunt Lily and Mysie was the
greatest peace and bliss she could conceive. And she was a very
different being from the angular defiant girl of those days which
seemed so long ago.
There is no need to say more at present of these old friends. There
is no material for narrative in describing how the 'calm decay' of
Dr. May in old age was cheered by the presence of his sailor son, nor
in the scenes where the brothers, sisters, and friends exchanged
happy recollections, brightened each other's lives with affection and
stimulated one another in serving God in their generation.