Part 4 out of 4
To-morrow morning--that was a respite!
There was a sound of wheels. Lady Jane started.
"They are giving a party next door," said Lady Barbara.
But the bell rang.
"Only a parcel coming home," said Lady Barbara. "Pray do not be
But the red colour was higher in Barbara's own cheeks, as there were
steps on the stairs; and in quite a triumphant voice the butler
announced, as he opened the door, "Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville!"
Kate stood up, and backed. It was Aunt Barbara's straight, handsome,
terrible face, and with a great black moustache to make it worse.
She saw that, and it was all she feared! She was glad the sofa was
There was a lady besides all black bonnet and cloak; and there was a
confusion of sounds, a little half sobbing of Aunt Jane's; but the
other sister and the brother were quite steady and grave. It was his
keen dark eye, sparkling like some wild animal's in the firelight, as
Kate thought, which spied her out; and his deep grave voice said, "My
little niece," as he held out his hand.
"Come and speak to your uncle, Katharine," said Lady Barbara; and not
only had she to put her hand into that great firm one, but her
forehead was scrubbed by his moustache. She had never been kissed by
a moustache before, and she shuddered as if it had been on a
But then he said, "There, Emily;" and she found herself folded up in
such arms as had never been round her before, with the very sweetest
of kisses on her cheeks, the very kindest of eyes, full of moisture,
gazing at her as if they had been hungry for her. Even when the
embrace was over, the hand still held hers; and as she stood by the
new aunt, a thought crossed her that had never come before, "I wonder
if my mamma was like this!"
There was some explanation of how the travellers had come on, &c.,
and it was settled that they were to stay to dinner; after which Mrs.
Umfraville went away with Lady Barbara to take off her bonnet.
Colonel Umfraville came and sat down by his sister on the sofa, and
said, "Well Jane, how have you been?"
"Oh! much as usual:" and then there was a silence, till she moved a
little nearer to him, put her hand on his arm, looked up in his face
with swimming eyes, and said, "O Giles! Giles!"
He took her hand, and bent over her, saying, in the same grave steady
voice, "Do not grieve for us, Jane. We have a great deal to be
thankful for, and we shall do very well."
It made that loving tender-hearted Aunt Jane break quite down, cling
to him and sob, "O Giles--those dear noble boys--how little we
thought--and dear Caergwent too--and you away from home!"
She was crying quite violently, so as to be shaken by the sobs; and
her brother stood over her, saying a kind word or two now and then,
to try to soothe her; while Kate remained a little way off, with her
black eyes wide open, thinking her uncle's face was almost
displeased--at any rate, very rigid. He looked up at Kate, and
signed towards a scent-bottle on the table. Kate gave it; and then,
as if the movement had filled her with a panic, she darted out of the
room, and flew up to the bedrooms, crying out, "Aunt Barbara, Aunt
Jane is crying so terribly!"
"She will have one of her attacks! Oh!" began Lady Barbara, catching
up a bottle of salvolatile.
"Had we not better leave her and Giles to one another?" said the
tones that Kate liked so much.
"Oh! my dear, you don't know what these attacks are!" and away
hurried Lady Barbara.
The bonnet was off now, leaving only a little plain net cap under it,
round the calm gentle face. There was a great look of sadness, and
the eyelids were heavy and drooping; but there was something that put
Kate in mind of a mother dove in the softness of the large tender
embrace, and the full sweet caressing tone. What a pity that such an
aunt must know that she was an ill-behaved child, a misfortune to her
lineage! She stood leaning against the door, very awkward and
conscious. Mrs. Umfraville turned round, after smoothing her hair at
the glass, smiled, and said, "I thought I should find you here, my
little niece. You are Kate, I think."
"I used to be, but my aunts here call me Katharine."
"Is this your little room?" said Mrs. Umfraville, as they came out.
The fact was, that she thought the sisters might be happier with
their brother if she delayed a little; so she came into Kate's room,
and was beginning to look at her books, when Lady Barbara came
hurrying up again.
"She is composed now, Emily. Oh! it is all right; I did not know
where Katharine might be."
Kate's colour glowed. She could not bear that this sweet Aunt Emily
should guess that she was a state prisoner, kept in constant view.
Lady Jane was quiet again, and nothing more that could overthrow her
spirits passed all the evening; there was only a little murmur of
talk, generally going on chiefly between Lady Barbara and Mrs.
Umfraville, though occasionally the others put in a word. The
Colonel sat most of the time with his set, serious face, and his eye
fixed as if he was not attending, though sometimes Kate found the
quick keen brilliance of his look bent full upon her, so as to
terrify her by its suddenness, and make her hardly know what she was
saying or doing.
The worst moments were at dinner. She was, in the first place, sure
that those dark questioning eyes had decided that there must be some
sad cause for her not being trusted to drink her tea elsewhere; and
then, in the pause after the first course, the eyes came again, and
he said, and to her, "I hope your good relations the Wardours are
"Quite well--thank you," faltered Kate.
"When did you see them last?"
"A--a fortnight ago--" began Kate.
"Mr. Wardour came up to London for a few hours," said Lady Barbara,
looking at Kate as if she meant to plunge her below the floor; at
least, so the child imagined.
The sense that this was not the whole truth made her especially
miserable; and all the rest of the evening was one misery of
embarrassment, when her limbs did not seem to be her own, but as if
somebody else was sitting at her little table, walking upstairs, and
doing her work. Even Mrs. Umfraville's kind ways could not restore
her; she only hung her head and mumbled when she was asked to show
her work, and did not so much as know what was to become of her piece
of cross-stitch when it was finished.
There was some inquiry after the De la Poers; and Mrs. Umfraville
asked if she had found some playfellows among their daughters.
"Yes," faintly said Kate; and with another flush of colour, thought
of having been told, that if Lady de la Poer knew what she had done,
she would never be allowed to play with them again, and therefore
that she never durst attempt it.
"They were very nice children," said Mrs. Umfraville.
"Remarkably nice children," returned Lady Barbara, in a tone that
again cut Kate to the heart.
Bed-time came; and she would have been glad of it, but that all the
time she was going to sleep there was the Lord Chancellor to think
of, and the uncle and aunt with the statue faces dragging her before
Sunday was the next day, and the uncle and aunt were not seen till
after the afternoon service, when they came to dinner, and much such
an evening as the former one passed; but towards the end of it Mrs.
Umfraville said, "Now, Barbara, I have a favour to ask. Will you let
this child spend the day with me to-morrow? Giles will be out, and I
shall be very glad to have her for my companion."
Kate's eyes glistened, and she thought of stern Proserpine.
"My dear Emily, you do not know what you ask. She will be far too
much for you."
"I'll take care of that," said Mrs. Umfraville, smiling.
"And I don't know about trusting her. I cannot go out, and Jane
cannot spare Bartley so early."
"I will come and fetch her," said the Colonel.
"And bring her back too. I will send the carriage in the evening,
but do not let her come without you," said Lady Barbara earnestly.
Had they told, or would they tell after she was gone to bed? Kate
thought Aunt Barbara was a woman of her word, but did not quite trust
her. Consent was given; but would not that stern soldier destroy all
the pleasure? And people in sorrow too! Kate thought of Mrs. Lacy,
and had no very bright anticipations of her day; yet a holiday was
something, and to be out of Aunt Barbara's way a great deal more.
She had not been long dressed when there was a ring at the bell, and,
before she had begun to expect him, the tall man with the dark lip
and grey hair stood in her schoolroom. She gave such a start, that
he asked, "Did you not expect me so soon?"
"I did not think you would come till after breakfast: but--"
And with an impulse of running away from his dread presence, she
darted off to put on her hat, but was arrested on the way by Lady
Barbara, at her bedroom door.
"Uncle Giles is come for me," she said, and would have rushed on, but
her aunt detained her to say, "Recollect, Katharine, that wildness
and impetuosity, at all times unbecoming, are particularly so where
there is affliction. If consideration for others will not influence
you, bear in mind that on the impression you make on your uncle and
aunt, it depends whether I shall be obliged to tell all that I would
Kate's heart swelled, and without speaking she entered her own room,
thinking how hard it was to have even the pleasure of hoping for ease
and enjoyment taken away.
When she came down, she found her aunt--as she believed--warning her
uncle against her being left to herself; and then came, "If she
should be too much for Emily, only send a note, and Bartley or I will
come to fetch her home."
"She wants him to think me a little wild beast!" thought Kate; but
her uncle answered, "Emily always knows how to deal with children.
"To deal with children! What did that mean?" thought the Countess,
as she stepped along by the side of her uncle, not venturing to
speak, and feeling almost as shy and bewildered as when she was on
the world alone.
He did not speak, but when they came to a crossing of a main street,
he took her by the hand; and there was something protecting and
comfortable in the feel, so that she did not let go; and presently,
as she walked on, she felt the fingers close on hers with such a
quick tight squeeze, that she looked up in a fright and met the dark
eye turned on her quite soft and glistening. She did not guess how
he was thinking of little clasping hands that had held there before;
and he only said something rather hurriedly about avoiding some coals
that were being taken in through a round hole in the pavement.
Soon they were at the hotel; and Mrs. Umfraville came out of her room
with that greeting which Kate liked so much, helped her to take off
her cloak and smooth her hair, and then set her down to breakfast.
It was a silent meal to Kate. Her uncle and aunt had letters to
read, and things to consult about that she did not understand; but
all the time there was a kind watch kept up that she had what she
liked; and Aunt Emily's voice was so much like the deep notes of the
wood-pigeons round Oldburgh, that she did not care how long she
listened to it, even if it had been talking Hindostanee!
As soon as breakfast was over, the Colonel took up his hat and went
out; and Mrs. Umfraville said, turning to Kate, "Now, my dear, I have
something for you to help me in; I want to unpack some things that I
have brought home."
"Oh, I shall like that!" said Kate, feeling as if a weight was gone
with the grave uncle.
Mrs. Umfraville rang, and asked to have a certain box brought in.
Such a box, all smelling of choice Indian wood; the very shavings
that stuffed it were delightful! And what an unpacking! It was like
nothing but the Indian stall at the Baker Street Bazaar! There were
two beautiful large ivory work-boxes, inlaid with stripes and circles
of tiny mosaic; and there were even more delicious little boxes of
soft fragrant sandal wood, and a set of chessmen in ivory. The kings
were riding on elephants, with canopies over their heads, and ladders
to climb up by; and each elephant had a tiger in his trunk. Then the
queens were not queens, but grand viziers, because the queen is
nobody in the East: and each had a lesser elephant; the bishops were
men riding on still smaller elephants; the castles had camels, the
knights horses; and the pawns were little foot-soldiers, the white
ones with guns, as being European troops, the red ones with bows and
arrows. Kate was perfectly delighted with these men, and looked at
and admired them one by one, longing to play a game with them. Then
there was one of those wonderful clusters of Chinese ivory balls, all
loose, one within the other, carved in different patterns of network,
and there were shells spotted and pink-mouthed, card-cases, red
shining boxes, queer Indian dolls; figures in all manner of costumes,
in gorgeous colours, painted upon shining transparent talc or on soft
rice-paper. There was no describing how charming the sight was, nor
how Kate dwelt upon each article; and how pleasantly her aunt
explained what it was intended for, and where it came from, answering
all questions in the nicest, kindest way. When all the wool and
shavings had been pinched, and the curled-up toes of the slippers
explored, so as to make sure that no tiny shell nor ivory carving
lurked unseen, the room looked like a museum; and Mrs. Umfraville
said, "Most of these things were meant for our home friends: there
is an Indian scarf and a Cashmere shawl for your two aunts, and I
believe the chessmen are for Lord de la Poer."
"O Aunt Emily, I should so like to play one game with them before
"I will have one with you, if you can be very careful of their tender
points," said Mrs. Umfraville, without one of the objections that
Kate had expected; "but first I want you to help me about some of the
other things. Your uncle meant one of the work-boxes for you!"
"O Aunt Emily, how delightful! I really will work, with such a dear
beautiful box!" cried Kate, opening it, and again peeping into all
its little holes and contrivances. "Here is the very place for a
dormouse to sleep in! And who is the other for?"
"For Fanny de la Poer, who is his godchild."
"Oh, I am so glad! Fanny always has such nice pretty work about!"
"And now I want you to help me to choose the other presents. There;
these," pointing to a scarf and a muslin dress adorned with the wings
of diamond beetles, "are for some young cousins of my own; but you
will be able best to choose what the other De la Poers and your
cousins at Oldburgh would like best."
"My cousins at Oldburgh!" cried Kate. "May they have some of these
pretty things?" And as her aunt answered "We hope they will," Kate
flew at her, and hugged her quite tight round the throat; then, when
Mrs. Umfraville undid the clasp, and returned the kiss, she went like
an India-rubber ball with a backward bound, put her hands together
over her head, and gasped out, "Oh, thank you, thank you!"
"My dear, don't go quite mad. You will jump into that calabash, and
then it won't be fit for anybody. Are you so very glad?"
"Oh! so glad! Pretty things do come so seldom to Oldburgh!"
"Well, we thought you might like to send Miss Wardour this shawl."
It was a beautiful heavy shawl of the soft wool of the Cashmere
goats; really of every kind of brilliant hue, but so dexterously
blended together, that the whole looked dark and sober. But Kate did
not look with favour on the shawl.
"A shawl is so stupid," she said. "If you please, I had rather Mary
had the work-box."
"But the work-box is for Lady Fanny."
"Oh! but I meant my own," said Kate earnestly. "If you only knew
what a pity it is to give nice things to me; they always get into
such a mess. Now, Mary always has her things so nice; and she works
so beautifully; she has never let Lily wear a stitch but of her
setting; and she always wished for a box like this. One of her
friends at school had a little one; and she used to say, when we
played at roe's egg, that she wanted nothing but an ivory work-box;
and she has nothing but an old blue one, with the steel turned
"We must hear what your uncle says, for you must know that he meant
the box for you."
"It isn't that I don't care for it," said Kate, with a sudden
glistening in her eyes; "it is because I do care for it so very much
that I want Mary to have it."
"I know it is, my dear;" and her aunt kissed her; "but we must think
about it a little. Perhaps Mary would not think an Indian shawl
quite so stupid as you do."
"Mary isn't a nasty vain conceited girl!" cried Kate indignantly.
"She always looks nice; but I heard Papa say her dress did not cost
much more than Sylvia's and mine, because she never tore anything,
and took such care!"
"Well, we will see," said Mrs. Umfraville, perhaps not entirely
convinced that the shawl would not be a greater prize to the thrifty
girl than Kate perceived.
Kate meanwhile had sprung unmolested on a beautiful sandalwood case
for Sylvia, and a set of rice-paper pictures for Lily; and the
appropriating other treasures to the De la Poers, packing them up,
and directing them, accompanied with explanations of their habits and
tastes, lasted till so late, that after the litter was cleared away
there was only time for one game at chess with the grand pieces; and
in truth the honour of using them was greater than the pleasure.
They covered up the board, so that there was no seeing the squares,
and it was necessary to be most inconveniently cautious in lifting
them. They were made to be looked at, not played with; and yet,
wonderful to relate, Kate did not do one of the delicate things a
Was it that she was really grown more handy, or was it that with this
gentle aunt she was quite at her ease, yet too much subdued to be
careless and rough?
The luncheon came; and after it, she drove with her aunt first to a
few shops, and then to take up the Colonel, who had been with his
lawyer. Kate quaked a little inwardly, lest it should be about the
Lord Chancellor, and tried to frame a question on the subject to her
aunt; but even the most chattering little girls know what it is to
have their lips sealed by an odd sort of reserve upon the very
matters that make them most uneasy; and just because her wild
imagination had been thinking that perhaps this was all a plot to
waylay her into the Lord Chancellor's clutches, she could not utter a
word on the matter, while they drove through the quiet squares where
Mrs. Umfraville, however, soon put that out of her head by talking to
her about the Wardours, and setting open the flood gates of her
eloquence about Sylvia. So delightful was it to have a listener,
that Kate did not grow impatient, long as they waited at the lawyer's
door in the dull square, and indeed was sorry when the Colonel made
his appearance. He just said to her that he hoped she was not tired
of waiting; and as she replied with a frightened little "No, thank
you," began telling his wife something that Kate soon perceived
belonged to his own concerns, not to hers; so she left off trying to
gather the meaning in the rumble of the wheels, and looked out of
window, for she could never be quite at ease when she felt that those
eyes might be upon her.
On coming back to the hotel, Mrs. Umfraville found a note on the
table for her: she read it, gave it to her husband, and said, "I had
better go directly."
"Will it not be too much? Can you?" he said very low; and there was
the same repressed twitching of the muscles of his face, as Kate had
seen when he was left with his sister Jane.
"Oh yes!" she said fervently; "I shall like it. And it is her only
chance; you see she goes to-morrow."
The carriage was ordered again, and Mrs. Umfraville explained to Kate
that the note was from a poor invalid lady whose son was in their own
regiment in India, that she was longing to hear about him, and was
going out of town the next day.
"And what shall I give you to amuse yourself with, my dear?" asked
Mrs. Umfraville. "I am afraid we have hardly a book that will suit
Kate had a great mind to ask to go and sit in the carriage, rather
than remain alone with the terrible black moustache; but she was
afraid of the Colonel's mentioning Aunt Barbara's orders that she was
not to be let out of sight. "If you please," she said, "if I might
write to Sylvia."
Her aunt kindly established her at a little table, with a leathern
writing-case, and her uncle mended a pen for her. Then her aunt went
away, and he sat down to his own letters.
Kate durst not speak to him, but she watched him under her eyelashes,
and noticed how he presently laid down his pen, and gave a long,
heavy, sad sigh, such as she had never heard when his wife was
present; then sat musing, looking fixedly at the grey window; till,
rousing himself with another such sigh, he seemed to force himself to
go on writing, but paused again, as if he were so wearied and
oppressed that he could hardly bear it.
It gave Kate a great awe of him, partly because a little girl in a
book would have gone up, slid her hand into his, and kissed him; but
she could nearly as soon have slid her hand into a lion's; and she
was right, it would have been very obtrusive.
Some little time had passed before there was an opening of the door,
and the announcement, "Lord de la Poer."
Up started Kate, but she was quite lost in the greeting of the two
friends; Lord de la Poer, with his eyes full of tears, wringing his
friend's hand, hardly able to speak, but just saying, "Dear Giles, I
am glad to have you at home. How is she?"
"Wonderfully well," said the Colonel, with the calm voice but the
twitching face. "She is gone to see Mrs. Ducie, the mother of a lad
in my regiment, who was wounded at the same time as Giles, and whom
she nursed with him."
"Is not it very trying?"
"Nothing that is a kindness ever is trying to Emily," he said, and
his voice did tremble this time.
Kate had quietly re-seated herself in her chair. She felt that it
was no moment to thrust herself in; nor did she feel herself
aggrieved, even though unnoticed by such a favourite friend.
Something in the whole spirit of the day had made her only sensible
that she was a little girl, and quite forgot that she was a Countess.
The friends were much too intent on one another to think of her, as
she sat in the recess of the window, their backs to her. They drew
their chairs close to the fire, and began to talk, bending down
together; and Kate felt sure, that as her uncle at least knew she was
there, she need not interrupt. Besides, what they spoke of was what
she had longed to hear, and would never have dared to ask. Lord de
la Poer had been like a father to his friend's two sons when they
were left in England; and now the Colonel was telling him--as,
perhaps, he could have told no one else--about their brave spirit,
and especially of Giles's patience and resolution through his
lingering illness; how he had been entirely unselfish in entreating
that anything might happen rather than that his father should resign
his post; but though longing to be with his parents, and desponding
as to his chance of recovery, had resigned himself in patience to
whatever might be thought right; and how through the last sudden
accession of illness brought on by the journey, his sole thought had
been for his parents.
"And she has borne up!" said Lord de la Poer.
"As HE truly said, 'As long as she has anyone to care for, she will
never break down.' Luckily, I was entirely knocked up for a few days
just at first; and coming home we had a poor young woman on board
very ill, and Emily nursed her day and night."
"And now you will bring her to Fanny and me to take care of."
"Thank you--another time. But, old fellow, I don't know whether we
either of us could stand your house full of children yet. Emily
would be always among them, and think she liked it; but I knew how it
would be. It was just so when I took her to a kind friend of ours
after the little girls were taken; she had the children constantly
with her, but I never saw her so ill as she was afterwards."
"Reaction! Well, whenever you please; you shall have your rooms to
yourselves, and only see us when you like. But I don't mean to press
you; only, what are you going to do next?"
"I can hardly tell. There are business matters of our own, and about
poor James's little girl, to keep us here a little while." ("Who is
that?" thought Kate.)
"Then you must go into our house. I was in hopes it might be so, and
told the housekeeper to make ready."
"Thank you; if Emily--We will see, when she comes in I want to make
up my mind about that child. Have you seen much of her?"
Kate began to think honour required her to come forward, but her
heart throbbed with fright.
"Not so much as I could wish. It is an intelligent little monkey,
and our girls were delighted with her; but I believe Barbara thinks
me a corrupter of youth, for she discountenances us."
"Ah! one of the last times I was alone with Giles, he said, smiling,
'That little girl in Bruton Street will be just what Mamma wants;'
and I know Emily has never ceased to want to get hold of the
motherless thing ever since Mrs. Wardour's death. I know it would be
the greatest comfort to Emily, but I only doubted taking the child
away from my sisters. I thought it would be such a happy thing to
have Jane's kind heart drawn out; and if Barbara had forgiven the old
sore, and used her real admirable good sense affectionately, it would
have been like new life to them. Besides, it must make a great
difference to their income. But is it possible that it can be the
old prejudice, De la Poer? Barbara evidently dislikes the poor
child, and treats her like a state prisoner!"
Honour prevailed entirely above fear and curiosity. Out flew Kate,
to the exceeding amaze and discomfiture of the two gentlemen. "No,
no, Uncle Giles; it is--it is because I ran away! Aunt Barbara said
she would not tell, for if you knew it, you would--you would despise
me;--and you," looking at Lord de la Poer, "would never let me play
with Grace and Addy again!"
She covered her face with her hands--it was all burning red; and she
was nearly rushing off, but she felt herself lifted tenderly upon a
knee, and an arm round her. She thought it her old friend; but
behold, it was her uncle's voice that said, in the softest gentlest
way, "My dear, I never despise where I meet with truth. Tell me how
it was; or had you rather tell your Aunt Emily?"
"I'll tell you," said Kate, all her fears softened by his touch. "Oh
no! please don't go, Lord de la Poer; I do want you to know, for I
couldn't have played with Grace and Adelaide on false pretences!"
And encouraged by her uncle's tender pressure, she murmured out, "I
ran away--I did--I went home!"
"Yes--yes! It was very wrong; Papa--Uncle Wardour, I mean--made me
see it was."
"And what made you do it?" said her uncle kindly. "Do not be afraid
to tell me."
"It was because I was angry. Aunt Barbara would not let me go to the
other Wardours, and wanted me to write a--what I thought--a
fashionable falsehood; and when I said it was a lie," (if possible,
Kate here became deeper crimson than she was before,) "she sent me to
my room till I would beg her pardon, and write the note. So--so I
got out of the house, and took a cab, and went home by the train. I
didn't know it was so very dreadful a thing, or indeed I would not."
And Kate hid her burning face on her uncle's breast, and was
considerably startled by what she heard next, from the Marquis.
"Hm! All I have to say is, that if Barbara had the keeping of me, I
should run away at the end of a week."
"Probably!" and Lord de la Poer saw, what Kate did not, the first
shadow of a smile on the face of his friend, as he pressed his arm
round the still trembling girl; "but, you see, Barbara justly thinks
you corrupt youth.--My little girl, you must not let HIM make you
think lightly of this--"
"Oh, no, I never could! Papa was so shocked!" and she was again
covered with confusion at the thought.
"But," added her uncle, "it is not as if you had not gone to older
and better friends than any you have ever had, my poor child. I am
afraid you have been much tried, and have not had a happy life since
you left Oldburgh."
"I have always been naughty," said Kate.
"Then we must try if your Aunt Emily can help you to be good. Will
you try to be as like her own child to her as you can, Katharine?"
"And to you," actually whispered Kate; for somehow at that moment she
cared much more for the stern uncle than the gentle aunt.
He lifted her up and kissed her, but set her down again with the sigh
that told how little she could make up to him for the son he had left
in Egypt. Yet, perhaps that sigh made Kate long with more fervent
love for some way of being so very good and affectionate as quite to
make him happy, than if he had received her demonstration as if
satisfied by it.
Nothing of note passed during the rest of the evening. Mrs.
Umfraville came home; but Kate had fallen back into the shy fit that
rendered her unwilling to begin on what was personal, and the Colonel
waited to talk it over with his wife alone before saying any more.
Besides, there were things far more near to them than their little
great-niece, and Mrs. Umfraville could not see Lord de la Poer
without having her heart very full of the sons to whom he had been so
kind. Again they sat round the fire, and this time in the dark,
while once more Giles and Frank and all their ways were talked over
and over, and Kate was forgotten; but she was not sitting alone in
the dark window--no, she had a footstool close to her uncle, and sat
resting her head upon his knee, her eyes seeking red caverns in the
coals, her heart in a strange peaceful rest, her ears listening to
the mother's subdued tender tones in speaking of her boys, and the
friend's voice of sympathy and affection. Her uncle leant back and
did not speak at all; but the other two went on and on, and Mrs.
Umfraville seemed to be drinking in every little trait of her boys'
English life, not weeping over it, but absolutely smiling when it was
something droll or characteristic.
Kate felt subdued and reverent, and loved her new relations more and
more for their sorrows; and she began to dream out castles of the
wonderful goodness by which she would comfort them; then she looked
for her uncle's hand to see if she could dare to stroke it, but one
was over his brow, the other out of reach, and she was shy of doing
The dinner interrupted them; and Kate had the pleasure of dining
late, and sitting opposite to Lord de la Poer, who talked now and
then to her, and told her what Adelaide and Grace were doing; but he
was grave and sad, out of sympathy with his friends, and Kate was by
no means tempted to be foolish.
Indeed, she began to feel that she might hope to be always good with
her uncle and aunt, and that they would never make her naughty. Only
too soon came the announcement of the carriage for Lady Caergwent;
and when Aunt Emily took her into the bedroom to dress, she clung to
that kind hand and fondled it.
"My dear little girl!" and Aunt Emily held her in her arms, "I am so
glad! Kate, I do think your dear uncle is a little cheered to-night!
If having you about him does him any good, how I shall love you,
Katie!" and she hugged her closer. "And it is so kind in Lord de la
Poer to have come! Oh, now he will be better! I am so thankful he
is in England again! You must be with us whenever Barbara can spare
you, Katie dear, for I am sure he likes it."
"Each wants me, to do the other good," thought Kate; and she was so
much touched and pleased that she did not know what to do, and looked
Uncle Giles took her down stairs; and when they were in the carriage,
in the dark, he seemed to be less shy: he lifted her on his knee and
said, "I will talk to your aunt, and we will see how soon you can
come to us, my dear."
"Oh, do let it be soon," said Kate.
"That must depend upon your Aunt Barbara," he answered, "and upon law
matters, perhaps. And you must not be troublesome to her; she has
suffered very much, and will not think of herself, so you must think
"I don't know how, Uncle Giles," said poor sincere Kate. "At home,
they always said I had no consideration."
"You must learn," he said gravely. "She is not to be harassed."
Kate was rather frightened; but he spoke in a kinder voice. "At
home, you say. Do you mean with my sisters, or at Oldburgh?"
"Oh, at Oldburgh, Uncle Giles!"
"You are older now," he answered, "and need not be so childish."
"And please one thing--"
There came a great choking in her throat, but she did get it out.
"Please, please, don't think all I do wrong is the Wardours' fault!
I know I am naughty and horrid and unladylike, but it is my own own
fault, indeed it is, and nobody ELSE'S! Mary and Uncle Wardour would
have made me good--and it was all my fault."
"My dear," and he put the other hand so that he completely encircled
the little slim waist, "I do quite believe that Mr. Wardour taught
you all the good you have. There is nothing I am so glad of as that
you love and reverence him as he deserves--as far as such a child can
do. I hope you always will, and that your gratitude will increase
with your knowledge of the sacrifices that he made for you."
It was too much of a speech for Kate to answer; but she nestled up to
him, and felt as if she loved him more than ever. He added, "I
should like to see Mr. Wardour, but I can hardly leave your aunt yet.
Would he come to London?"
Kate gave a gasp. "Oh dear! Sylvia said he would have no money for
journeys now! It cost so much his coming in a first-class carriage
"You see how necessary it is to learn consideration," said the
Colonel; "I must run down to see him, and come back at night."
By this time they were at the aunts' door, and both entered the
Lady Barbara anxiously hoped that Katharine had behaved well.
"Perfectly well," he answered; and his face was really brighter and
It was Kate's bed-time, and she was dismissed at once. She felt that
the kiss and momentary touch of the hand, with the "Bless you," were
far more earnest than the mere greeting kiss. She did not know that
it had been his wonted good-night to his own children.
When she was gone, he took a chair, and explained that he could
remain for a little while, as Lord de la Poer would bear his wife
company. Lady Jane made room for him on the sofa, and Lady Barbara
"I wished to talk to you about that child," he said.
"I have been wishing it for some time," said Lady Barbara; "waiting,
in fact, to make arrangements till your return."
"For forming an establishment for her."
"The child's natural home is with you or with me."
There was a little silence; then Lady Jane nervously caught her
brother's hand, saying, "O Giles, Giles, you must not be severe with
her, poor little thing!"
"Why should I be severe, Jane?" he said. "What has the child done to
"I do not wish to enter into particulars," said Lady Barbara. "But
she is a child who has been so unfortunately brought up as to require
constant watching; and to have her in the house does so much harm to
Jane's health, that I strongly advise you not to attempt it in
Emily's state of spirits."
"It would little benefit Emily's spirits to transfer a duty to a
stranger," said the Colonel. "But I wish to know why you evidently
think so ill of this girl, Barbara!"
"Her entire behaviour since she has been with us--" began Lady
"Generalities only do mischief, Barbara. If I have any control over
this child, I must know facts."
"The truth is, Giles," said his sister, distressed and confused,
"that I promised the child not to tell you of her chief piece of
misconduct, unless I was compelled by some fresh fault."
"An injudicious promise, Barbara. You do the child more harm by
implying such an opinion of her than you could do by letting me hear
what she has actually done. But you are absolved from the promise,
for she has herself told me."
"Told you! That girl has no sense of shame! After all the pains I
took to conceal it!"
"No, Barbara; it was with the utmost shame that she told me. It was
unguarded of me, I own; but De la Poer and I had entirely forgotten
that she was present, and I asked him if he could account for your
evident dislike and distrust of her. The child's honourable feelings
would not allow her to listen, and she came forward, and accused
herself, not you!"
"Before Lord de la Poer! Giles, how could you allow it?" cried Lady
Barbara, confounded. "That whole family will tell the story, and she
will be marked for ever!"
"De la Poer has some knowledge of child nature," said the Colonel,
"A gentleman often encourages that sort of child, but condemns her
the more. She will be a by-word in that family! I always knew she
would be our disgrace!"
"O Giles, do tell Barbara it cannot be so very bad!" entreated Lady
Jane. "She is such a child--poor little dear!--and so little used to
"I have only as yet heard her own confused account."
Lady Barbara gave her own.
"I see," said the Colonel, "the child was both accurate and candid.
You should be thankful that your system has not destroyed her
"But, indeed, dear Giles," pleaded Lady Jane, "you know Barbara did
not want her to say what was false."
"No," said the Colonel: "that was a mere misunderstanding. It is
the spirit of distrust that--assuming that a child will act
dishonourably--is likely to drive her to do so."
"I never distrusted Katharine till she drove me to do so," said Lady
Barbara, with cold, stern composure.
"I would never bring an accusation of breach of trust where I had not
made it evident that I reposed confidence," said the Colonel.
"I see how it is," said Lady Barbara; "you have heard one side. I do
not contradict. I know the girl would not wilfully deceive by word;
and I am willing to confess that I am not capable of dealing with
her. Only from a sense of duty did I ever undertake it."
"Of duty, Barbara?" he asked.
"Yes--of duty to the family."
"We do not see those things in the same light," he said quietly. "I
thought, as you know, that the duty was more incumbent when the child
was left an orphan--a burthen on relatives who could ill afford to be
charged with her. Perhaps, Barbara, if you had noticed her THEN,
instead of waiting till circumstances made her the head of our
family, you might have been able to give her that which has been
wanting in your otherwise conscientious training--affection."
Lady Barbara held up her head, stiffly, but she was very near tears,
of pain and wounded pride; but she would not defend herself; and she
saw that even her faithful Jane did not feel with her.
"I came home, Barbara," continued the Colonel, "resolving that--much
as I wished for Emily's sake that this little girl should need a home
with us--if you had found in her a new interest and delight, and were
in her--let me say it, Barbara--healing old sores, and giving her
your own good sense and high principle, I would not say one word to
disturb so happy a state of things. I come and find the child a
state prisoner, whom you are endeavouring by all means to alienate
from the friends to whom she owes a daughter's gratitude; I find her
not complaining of you, but answering me with the saddest account a
child can give of herself--she is always naughty. After this,
Barbara, I can be doing you no injury in asking you to concur with me
in arrangements for putting the child under my wife's care as soon as
"To-morrow, if you like," said Lady Barbara. "I took her only from a
sense of duty; and it has half killed Jane. I would not keep her
upon any consideration!"
"O Barbara, it has not hurt me.--O Giles, she will always be so
anxious about me; it is all my fault for being nervous and foolish!"
cried Lady Jane, with quivering voice, and tears in her eyes. "If it
had not been for that, we could have made her so happy, dear little
spirited thing. But dear Barbara spoils me, and I know I give way
"This will keep you awake all night!" said Barbara, as the Colonel's
tender gesture agitated Jane more. "Indeed, Giles, you should have
chosen a better moment for this conversation--on almost your first
arrival too! But the very existence of this child is a misfortune!"
"Let us trust that in a few years she may give you reason to think
otherwise," said the Colonel. "Did you mean what you said--that you
wished us to take her to-morrow?"
"Not to incommode Emily. She can go on as she has done till your
plans are made. You do not know what a child she is."
"Emily shall come and settle with you to-morrow," said Colonel
Umfraville. "I have not yet spoken to her, but I think she will wish
to have the child with her."
"And you will be patient with her. You will make her happy," said
Lady Jane, holding his hand.
"Everything is made happy by Emily," he answered.
"But has she spirits for the charge?"
"She has always spirits enough to give happiness to others," he
answered; and the dew was on his dark lashes.
"And you, Giles--you will not be severe even if the poor child is a
"I know what you are thinking of, Jane," he said kindly. "But
indeed, my dear, such a wife as mine, and such sorrows as she has
helped me to bear, would have been wasted indeed, if by God's grace
they had not made me less exacting and impatient than I used to be.--
Barbara," he added after a pause, "I beg your pardon if I have spoken
hastily, or done you injustice. All you have done has been
conscientious; and if I spoke in displeasure--you know how one's
spirit is moved by seeing a child unhappy--and my training in
gentleness is not as complete as it ought to be, I am sorry for the
pain I gave you."
Lady Barbara was struggling with tears she could not repress; and at
last she broke quite down, and wept so that Lady Jane moved about in
alarm and distress, and her brother waited in some anxiety. But when
she spoke it was humbly.
"You were right, Giles. It was not in me to love that child. It was
wrong in me. Perhaps if I had overcome the feeling when you first
told me of it, when her mother died, it would have been better for us
all. Now it is too late. Our habits have formed themselves, and I
can neither manage the child nor make her happy. It is better that
she should go to you and Emily. And, Giles, if you still bring her
to us sometimes, I will try--" The last words were lost.
"You will," he said affectionately, "when there are no more daily
collisions. Dear Barbara, if I am particularly anxious to train this
poor girl up at once in affection and in self-restraint, it is
because my whole life--ever since I grew up--has taught me what a
grievous task is left us, after we are our own masters. If our
childish faults--such as impetuosity and sullenness--are not
corrected on principle, not for convenience, while we are children."
After this conversation, everyone will be sure that Mrs. Umfraville
came next day, and after many arrangements with Lady Barbara, carried
off the little Countess with her to the house that Lord de la Poer
had lent them.
Kate was subdued and quiet. She felt that she had made a very
unhappy business of her life with her aunts, and that she should
never see Bruton Street without a sense of shame. Lady Barbara, too,
was more soft and kind than she had ever seen her; and Aunt Jane was
very fond of her, and grieved over her not having been happier.
"Oh, never mind, Aunt Jane; it was all my naughtiness. I know Aunt
Emily will make me good; and nobody could behave ill in the house
with Uncle Giles, could they now? So I shall be sure to be happy.
And I'll tell you what, Aunt Jane; some day you shall come to stay
with us, and then I'll drive you out in a dear delicious open
carriage, with two prancing ponies!"
And when she wished her other aunt good-bye, she eased her mind by
saying, "Aunt Barbara, I am very sorry I was such a horrid plague."
"There were faults on both sides, Katharine," her aunt answered with
dignity. "Perhaps in time we may understand one another better."
The first thing Katharine heard when she had left the house with Mrs.
Umfraville was, that her uncle had gone down to Oldburgh by an early
train, and that both box and shawl had gone with him.
But when he came back late to Lord de la Poer's house, whom had he
brought with him?
Mary! Mary Wardour herself! He had, as a great favour, begged to
have her for a fortnight in London, to take care of her little
cousin, till further arrangements could be made; and to talk over
with Mrs. Umfraville the child's character, and what would be good
If there was one shy person in the house that night, there was
another happier than words could tell!
Moreover, before very long, the Countess of Caergwent had really seen
the Lord Chancellor, and found him not so very unlike other people
after all; indeed, unless Uncle Giles had told her, she never would
have found out who he was! And when he asked her whether she would
wish to live with Colonel Umfraville or with Lady Barbara and Lady
Jane, it may be very easily guessed what answer she made!
So it was fixed that she should live at Caergwent Castle with her
uncle and aunt, and be brought up to the care of her own village and
poor people, and to learn the duties of her station under their care.
And before they left London, Mrs. Umfraville had chosen a very bright
pleasant young governess, to be a friend and companion, as well as an
instructress. Further, it was settled that as soon as Christmas was
over, Sylvia should come for a long visit, and learn of the governess
Those who have learned to know Countess Kate can perhaps guess
whether she found herself right in thinking it impossible to be
naughty near Uncle Giles or Aunt Emily. But of one thing they may be
sure--that Uncle Giles never failed to make her truly sorry for her
naughtiness, and increasingly earnest in the struggle to leave it
And as time went on, and occupations and interests grew up round
Colonel and Mrs. Umfraville, and their niece lost her childish
wildness, and loved them more and more, they felt their grievous loss
less and less, and did not so miss the vanished earthly hope. Their
own children had so lived that they could feel them safe; and they
attached themselves to the child in their charge till she was really
like their own.
Yet, all the time, Kate still calls Mr. Wardour "Papa;" and Sylvia
spends half her time with her. Some people still say that in
manners, looks, and ways, Sylvia would make a better Countess than
Lady Caergwent; but there are things that both are learning together,
which alone can make them fit for any lot upon earth, or for the
better inheritance in Heaven.