Part 4 out of 8
A HALTING PROPOSAL.
Shallow. Will you upon good dowry, marry her?
Slender. I will do a greater thing than that, upon your request.
Merry Wives of Windsor.
The first thing that Louis did appear to care for was a letter that
arrived about three days previous to their departure, addressed to
'Lord Fitsgosling, Hawmsfield Park, Northwold.' Rather too personal,
as he observed, he must tell his correspondent that it hurt his
feelings. The correspondent was Tom Madison, whose orthography
lagged behind his other attainments, if his account might be trusted
of 'they lectures on Kemistry.' His penmanship was much improved,
and he was prospering, with hopes of promotion and higher wages, when
he should have learnt to keep accounts. He liked Mr. Dobbs and the
chaplain, and wished to know how to send a crown per post to 'old
granfer up at Marksedge; because he is too ignorant to get a border
sinned. Please, my lord, give my duty to him and all enquiring
friends, and to Schirlt, up at the Teras.'
Highly amused, Louis lay on the uppermost step from the library
window, in the cool summer evening, laughing over the letter.
'There, Aunt Kitty, he said, 'I commit that tender greeting to your
charge,' and as she looked doubtful, 'Yes, do, there's a good aunt
'I am afraid I should not be a good mistress; I ought not to sanction
'Better sanction it above board than let it go on by stealth,' said
Louis. 'You are her natural protector.'
'So much the more reason against it! I ought to wish her to forget
this poor boy of yours.'
'Ay, and light Hymen's torch with some thriving tallow chandler, who
would marry a domestic slave as a good speculation, without one spark
of the respectful chivalrous love that--'
'Hush! you absurd boy.'
'Well, then, if you won't, I shall go to Jane. The young ladies are
all too cold and too prudent, but Jane has a soft spot in her heart,
and will not think true love is confined within the rank that keeps a
gig. I did think Aunt Kitty had been above vulgar prejudices.'
'Not above being coaxed by you, you gosling, you,' said Aunt Kitty;
'only you must come out of the dew, the sun is quite gone.'
'Presently,' said Louis, as she retreated by the window.
'I would not have been too cold or too prudent!' said Clara.
'I well believe it!'
'You will be one if you are not the other,' said Mary, gathering her
work up, with the dread of one used to tropical dews. 'Are not you
'When I can persuade myself to write a letter of good advice, a thing
'Which,' asked Mary; 'giving or receiving it?'
'Receiving, of course.'--'Giving, of course,' said Clara and Louis at
the same instant.
'Take mine, then,' said Mary, 'and come out of the damp.'
'Mary is so tiresome about these things!' cried Clara, as their
cousin retreated. 'Such fidgetting nonsense.'
'I once argued it with her,' said Louis, without stirring; 'and she
had the right side, that it is often more self-denying to take care
of one's health, than to risk it for mere pleasure or heedlessness.'
'There's no dew!' said Clara; 'and if there was, it would not hurt,
and if it did, I should be too glad to catch a cold, or something to
keep me at home. Oh, if I could only get into a nice precarious
state of health!'
'You would soon wish yourself at school, or anywhere else, so that
you could feel some life in your limbs,' half sighed Louis.
'I've more than enough! Oh! how my feet ache to run! and my throat
feels stifled for want of making a noise, and the hatefulness of
always sitting upright, with my shoulders even! Come, you might pity
me a little this one night, Louis: I know you do, for Jem is always
telling me not to let you set me against it.'
'No, I don't pity you. Pity is next akin to contempt.'
'Nonsense, Louis. Do be in earnest.'
'I have seldom seen the human being whom I could presume to pity:
certainly not you, bravely resisting folly and temptation, and with
so dear and noble a cause for working.'
'You mean, the hope of helping to maintain grandmamma.'
'Which you will never be able to do, unless you pass through this
ordeal, and qualify yourself for skilled labour.'
'I know that,' said Clara; 'but the atmosphere there seems to poison,
and take the vigour out of all they teach. Oh, so different from
granny teaching me my notes, or Jem teaching me French--'
'Growling at you--'
'He never growled half as much as, I deserved. I cared to learn of
him; but I don't care for anything now,--no, not for drawing, which
you taught me! There's no heart in it! The whole purpose is to get
amazing numbers of marks and pass each other. All dates and words,
and gabble gabble!'
'Ay! there's an epitome of the whole world: all ambition, and vanity,
and gabble gabble,' said Louis, sadly. 'And what is a gosling, that
he should complain?'
'You don't mean that in reality. You are always merry.
'Some mirth is because one does not always think, Clara; and when one
does think deeply enough, there is better cheerfulness.'
'Deeply enough,' said Clara. 'Ah! I see. Knowing that the world of
gabble is not what we belong to, only a preparation? Is that it!'
'It is what I meant.'
'Ah I but how to make that knowledge help us.'
'There's the point. Now and then, I think I see; but then I go off
on a wrong tack: I get a silly fit, and a hopeless one, and lose my
clue. And yet, after all, there is a highway; and wayfaring men,
though fools, shall not err therein,' murmured Louis, as he gazed on
the first star of evening.
'Oh! tell me how to see my highway at school!'
'If I only kept my own at home, I might. But you have the advantage-
-you have a fixed duty, and you always have kept hold of your
purposes much better than I.'
'My purpose!' said Clara. 'I suppose that is to learn as fast as I
can, that I may get away from that place, and not be a burthen to
granny and Jem. Perhaps Jem will marry and be poor, and then I shall
send his sons to school and college.'
'And pray what are your social duties till that time comes?'
'That's plain enough,' said Clara: 'to keep my tone from being
deteriorated by these girls. Why, Louis, what's that for?' as, with
a bow and air of alarm, he hastily moved aside from her.
'If you are so much afraid of being deteriorated--'
'Nonsense! If you only once saw their trumpery cabals, and vanities,
and mean equivocations, you would understand that the only thing to
be done is to keep clear of them; take the learning I am sent for,
but avoid them!'
'And where is the golden rule all this time?' said Louis, very low.
'But ought not one to keep out of what is wrong?'
'Yes, but not to stand aloof from what is not wrong. Look out, not
for what is inferior to yourself, but what is superior. Ah! you
despair; but, my Giraffe, will you promise me this? Tell me, next
Christmas, a good quality for every bad one you have found in them.
You shake your head. Nay, you must, for the credit of your sex. I
never found the man in whom there was not something to admire, and I
had rather not suppose that women are not better than men. Will you
'I'll try, but--'
'But, mind, it takes kind offices to bring the blossoms out. There-
that's pretty well, considering our mutual sentiments as to good
'Have you been giving me good advice?'
'Not bad, I hope.'
'I thought only people like--like Mary--could give advice.'
'Ah! your blindness about Mary invalidates your opinion of your
schoolfellows. It shows that you do not deserve a good friend.'
'I've got you; I want no other.'
'Quite wrong. Not only is she full of clear, kind, solid sense, like
a pillar to lean on, but she could go into detail with you in your
troubles. You have thrown away a great opportunity, and I am afraid
I helped you. I shall hold you in some esteem when you are--to
conclude sententiously--worthy of her friendship.'
Clara's laugh was loud enough to bring out the Earl, to summon them
authoritatively out of the dew. Louis sat apart, writing his letter;
Clara, now and then, hovering near, curious to hear how he had
corrected Tom's spelling. He had not finished, when the ladies bade
him good-night; and, as he proceeded with it, his father said, 'What
is that engrossing correspondence, Louis?'
'Such a sensible letter, that I am quite ashamed of it,' said Louis.
'I wonder at the time you chose for writing, when you are so soon to
part with our guests.'
'I have no excuse, if you think it uncivil. I never have spirit to
set about anything till the sun is down.'
His father began at once to speak softly: 'No, I intended no blame; I
only cannot but wonder to see you so much engrossed with Clara
'Poor child! she wants some compensation.'
'I have no doubt of your kind intentions; but it would be safer to
consider what construction may be placed on attentions so exclusive.'
Louis looked up in blank, incredulous amazement, and then almost
laughingly exclaimed, 'Is that what you mean? Why, she is an infant,
'Not in appearance--'
'You don't know her, father,' said Louis. 'I love her with all my
heart, and could not do more. Why, she is, and always has been, my
'I am aware,' said the Earl, without acknowledging this peculiar
relationship, 'that this may appear very ridiculous, but experience
has shown the need of caution. I should be concerned that your
heedless good-nature should be misconstrued, so as to cause pain and
disappointment to her, or to lead you to neglect one who has every
claim to your esteem and gratitude.'
Louis was bewildered. 'I have been a wretch lately,' he said, 'but I
did not know I had been a bear.'
'I did not mean that you could be deficient in ordinary courtesy; but
I had hoped for more than mere indifferent civility towards one
eminently calculated--' Lord Ormersfield for once failed in his
'Are we talking at cross purposes?' exclaimed Fitzjocelyn. 'What
have I been doing, or not doing?'
'If my meaning require explanation, it is needless to attempt any.-
Is your ankle painful to-night?'
Not a word more, except about his health, could Louis extract, and he
went to his room in extreme perplexity. Again and again did he
revolve those words. Quick as were his perceptions on most points,
they were slow where self-consciousness or personal vanity might have
sharpened them; and it was new light to him that he had come to a
time of life that could attach meaning to his attentions.
Whom had he been neglecting? What had his father been hoping? Who
was eminently calculated, and for what?
It flashed upon him all at once. 'I see! I see!' he cried, and burst
into a laugh.
Then came consternation, or something very like it. He did not want
to feel embarked in manhood. And then his far-away dream of a lady-
love had been so transcendently fair, so unequalled in grace, so
perfect in accomplishments, so enthusiastic in self-devoted charity,
all undefined, floating on his imagination in misty tints of glory!
That all this should be suddenly brought down from cloudland, to sink
into Mary Ponsonby, with the honest face and downright manner for
whom romance and rapture would be positively ridiculous!
Yet the notion would not be at once dismissed. His declaration that
he would do anything to gratify his father had been too sincere for
him lightly to turn from his suggestion, especially at a moment when
he was full of shame at his own folly, and eagerness to retain the
ground he had lost in his father's opinion, and, above all, to make
him happy. His heart thrilled and glowed as he thought of giving
his father real joy, and permanently brightening and enlivening that
lonely, solitary life. Besides, who could so well keep the peace
between him and his father, and save him by hints and by helpfulness
from giving annoyance? He had already learnt to depend on her; she
entered into all his interests, and was a most pleasant companion--so
wise and good, that the most satisfactory days of his life had been
passed under her management, and he had only broken from it to 'play
the fool.' He was sick of his own volatile Quixotism, and could
believe it a relief to be kept in order without trusting to his own
judgment. She had every right to his esteem and affection, and the
warm feeling he had for her could only be strengthened by closer
ties. The unworldliness of the project likewise weighed with him.
Had she been a millionaire or a Duke's daughter, he would not have
spent one thought on the matter; but he was touched by seeing how his
father's better feelings had conquered all desire for fortune or
And then Mary could always find everything he wanted!
'I will do it!' he determined. 'Never was son more bound to consider
his father. Of course, she will make a much better wife than I
deserve. Most likely, my fancies would never have been fulfilled.
She will save me from my own foolishness. What ought a man to wish
for more than a person sure to make him good? And--well, after all,
it cannot be for a long time. They must write to Lima. Perhaps they
will wait till her father's return, or at least till I have taken my
This last encouraging reflection always wound up the series that
perpetually recurred throughout that night of broken sleep; and when
he rose in the morning, he felt as if each waking had added a year to
his life, and looked at the glass to see whether he had not grown
'No, indeed! I am ridiculously youthful, especially since I shaved
off my moustache in my rage at the Yeomanry mania! I must
systematically burn my cheeks, to look anything near her age!' And
he laughed at himself, but ended with a long-drawn sigh.
He was in no state of mind to pause: he was tired of self-debate, and
was in haste to render the step irrevocable, and then fit himself to
it; and he betook himself at once to the study, where he astonished
his father by his commencement, with crimson cheeks--'I wished to
speak to you. Last night I did not catch your meaning at once.'
'We will say no more about it,' was the kind answer. 'If you cannot
turn your thoughts in that direction, there is an end of the matter.'
'I think,' said Louis, 'that I could.'
'My dear boy,' said the Earl, with more eagerness than he could quite
control, 'you must not imagine that I wish to influence your
inclinations unduly; but I must confess that what I have seen for the
last few months, has convinced me that nothing could better secure
'I believe so,' said Louis, gazing from the window.
'Right,' cried the Earl, with more gladness and warmth than his son
had ever seen in him; 'I am delighted that you appreciate such
sterling excellence! Yes, Louis,' and his voice grew thick, 'there
is nothing else to trust to.'
'I know it,' said Louis. 'She is very good. She made me very happy
when I was ill.'
'You have seen her under the most favourable circumstances. It is
the only sort of acquaintance to be relied on. You have consulted
your own happiness far more than if you had allowed yourself to be
attracted by mere showy gifts.'
'I am sure she will do me a great deal of good,' said Louis, still
keeping his eyes fixed on the evergreens.
'You could have done nothing to give me more pleasure!' said the
Earl, with heartfelt earnestness. 'I know what she is, and what her
mother has been to me. That aunt of hers is a stiff, wrongheaded
person, but she has brought her up well--very well, and her mother
has done the rest. As to her father, that is a disadvantage; but,
from what I hear, he is never likely to come home; and that is not to
be weighed against what she is herself. Poor Mary! how rejoiced she
will be, that her daughter at least should no longer be under that
man's power! It is well you have not been extravagant, like some
young men, Louis. If you had been running into debt, I should not
have been able to gratify your wishes now; but the property is so
nearly disencumbered, that you can perfectly afford to marry her,
with the very fair fortune she must have, unless her father should
gamble it away in Peru.'
This was for Lord Ormersfield the incoherency of joy, and Louis was
quite carried along by his delight. The breakfast-bell rang, and the
Earl rising and drawing his son's arm within his own, pressed it,
saying, 'Bless you, Louis!' It was extreme surprise and pleasure to
Fitzjocelyn, and yet the next moment he recollected that he stood
How silent he was--how unusually gentle and gracious his father to
the whole party! quite affectionate to Mary, and not awful even to
Clara. There was far too much meaning in it, and Louis feared Mrs.
Ponsonby was seeing through all.
'A morning of Greek would be insupportable,' thought he; and yet he
felt as if the fetters of fate were being fast bound around him, when
he heard his father inviting James to ride with him.
He wandered and he watched, he spoke absently to Clara, but felt as
if robbed of a protector, when she was summoned up-stairs to attend
to her packing, and Mary remained alone, writing one of her long
letters to Lima.
'Now or never,' thought he, 'before my courage cools. I never saw my
father in such spirits!'
He sat down on an ottoman opposite to her, and turned over some
newspapers with a restless rustling.
'Can I fetch anything for you?' asked Mary, looking up.
'No, thank you. You are a great deal too good to me, Mary.'
'I am glad,' said Mary, absently, anxious to go on with her letter;
but, looking up again at him--'I am sure you want something.'
'No--nothing--but that you should be still more good to me.'
'What is the matter?' said Mary, suspecting that he was beginning to
repent of his lazy fit, and wanted her to hear his confession.
'I mean, Mary,' said he, rising, and speaking faster, 'if you--if you
would take charge of me altogether. If you would have me, I would do
all I could to make you happy, and it would be such joy to my father,
and--'(rather like an after-thought)'to me.'
Her clear, sensible eyes were raised, and her colour deepened, but
the confusion was on the gentleman's side--she was too much amazed to
feel embarrassment, and there was a pause, till he added, 'I know
better than to think myself worthy of you; but you will take me in
hand--and, indeed, Mary, there is no one whom I like half so well.'
Poor Louis! was this his romantic and poetical wooing!
'Stop, if you please, Louis!' exclaimed Mary. 'This is so very
strange!' And she seemed ready to laugh.
'And--what do you say, Mary?'
'I do not know. I cannot tell what I ought to say,' she returned,
rising. 'Will you let me go to mamma?'
She went; and Louis roamed about restlessly, till, on the stairs, he
encountered Mrs. Frost, who instantly exclaimed, 'Why, my dear, what
is the matter with you?'
'I have been proposing to Mary,' said he, in a very low murmur, his
eyes downcast, but raised the next moment, to see the effect, as if
it had been a piece of mischief.
'Myself;' most innocently whispered.
'You!--you!--Mary!--And--' Aunt Catharine was scarcely able to speak,
in the extremity of her astonishment. 'You are not in earnest!'
'She is gone to her mother,' said Louis, hanging over the baluster,
so as to look straight down into the hall; and both were silent, till
Mrs. Frost exclaimed, 'My dear, dear child, it is an excellent
choice! You must be very happy with her!'
'Yes, I found my father was bent on it.'
'That was clear enough,' said his aunt, laughing, but resuming a tone
of some perplexity. 'Yet it takes me by surprise: I had not guessed
that you were so much attracted.'
'I do like her better than any one. No one is so thoroughly good, no
one is likely to make me so good, nor my father so happy.'
There was some misgiving in Mrs. Frost's tone, as she said, 'Dear
Louis, you are acting on the best of motives, but--'
'Don't, pray don't, Aunt Kitty,' cried Louis, rearing himself for an
instant to look her in the face, but again throwing half his body
over the rail, and speaking low. 'I could not meet any one half so
good, or whom I know as well. I look up to her, and--yes--I do love
her heartily--I would not have done it otherwise. I don't care for
beauty and trash, and my father has set his heart on it.'
'Yes, but--' she hesitated. 'My dear, I don't think it safe to
marry, because one's father has set his heart on it.'
'Indeed,' said Louis, straightening himself, 'I do think I am giving
myself the best chance of being made rational and consistent. I
never did so well as when I was under her.'
'And think how my father will unbend in a homelike home, where all
should be made up to him,' he continued, deep emotion swelling his
'My dear boy! And you are sure of your own feeling?'
'Quite sure. Why, I never saw any one,' said he, smiling--'I never
cared for any one half so much, except you, Aunt Kitty, no, I didn't.
Won't that do?'
'I know I should not have liked your grandpapa--your uncle, I mean-
to make such comparisons.'
'Perhaps he had not got an Aunt Kitty,' said Louis.
'No, no! I can't have you so like a novel. No, don't be anxious.
It can't be for ever so long, and, of course, the more I am with her,
the better I must like her. It will be all right.'
'I don't think you know anything about it,' said Mrs. Frost, 'but
there, that's the last I shall say. You'll forgive your old aunt.'
He smiled, and playfully pressed her hand, adding, 'But we don't know
whether she will have me.'
Mary had meantime entered her mother's room, with a look that
revealed the whole to Mrs. Ponsonby, who had already been somewhat
startled by the demeanour of the father and son at breakfast.
'Oh, mamma, what is to be done?'
'What do you wish, my child?' asked her mother, putting her arm round
'I don't know yet,' said Mary. 'It is so odd!' And the disposition
to laugh returned for a moment.
'You were not at all prepared.'
'Oh no! He seems so young. And,' she added, blushing, 'I cannot
tell, but I should not have thought his ways were like the kind of
'Nor I, and the less since Clara has been here.'
'Oh,' said Mary, without a shade on her calm, sincere brow, 'he has
Clara so much with him because he is her only friend.'
The total absence of jealousy convinced Mrs. Ponsonby that the heart
could hardly have been deeply touched, but Mary continued, in a
slightly trembling voice, 'I do not see why he should have done this,
'Unless that his father wished it.'
'Oh,' said Mary, somewhat disappointed, 'but how could Lord
'He has an exceeding dread of Louis's making as great a mistake as he
did,' said Mrs. Ponsonby; 'and perhaps he thinks you the best
'And you think Louis only meant to please him?'
'My dear, I am afraid it may be so. Louis is very fond of him, and
easily led by a strong character.'
She pressed her daughter closer, and felt rather than heard a little
sigh; but all that Mary said was, 'Then I had better not think about
'Nay, my dear, tell me first what you think of his manner.'
'It was strange, and a little debonnaire, I think,' said Mary,
smiling, but tears gathering in her eyes. 'He said I was too good
for him. He said he would make me happy, and that he and his father
would be very happy.' A great tear fell. 'Something about not being
worthy.' Mary shed a few more tears, while her mother silently
caressed her; and, recovering her composure, she firmly said, 'Yes,
mamma, I see it is not the real thing. It will be kinder to him to
tell him to put it out of his head.'
'And you, my dear?'
'Oh, mamma, you know you could not spare me.'
'If this were the real thing, dearest--'
'No,' whispered Mary, 'I could not leave you alone with papa.'
Mrs. Ponsonby went on as if she had not heard: 'As it is, I own I am
relieved that you should not wish to accept him. I cannot be sure it
would be for your happiness.'
'I do not think it would be right,' said Mary, as if that were her
'He is a dear, noble fellow, and has the highest, purest principles
and feelings. I can't but love him almost as if he were my own
child: I never saw so much sweetness and prettiness about any one,
except his mother; and, oh! how far superior he is to her! But
then, he is boyish, he is weak--I am afraid he is changeable.'
'Not in his affections,' said Mary, reproachfully.
'No, but in purposes. An impulse leads him he does not know where,
and now, I think, he is acting on excellent motives, without knowing
what he is doing. There's no security that he might not meet the
'He would strive against temptation, but we have no right to expose
him to it. To accept him now, it seems to me, would be taking too
much advantage of his having been left so long to our mercy, and it
might be, that he would become restless and discontented, find out
that he had not chosen for himself--regret--and have his tone of mind
'Oh, stop, mamma, I would not let it be, on any account.'
'No, my dear, I could not part with you where we were not sure the
'real thing' was felt for you. If he had been strongly bent on it,
he would have conducted matters differently; but he knows no better.'
'You and I don't part,' said Mary.
Neither spoke till she renewed her first question,
'What is to be done?'
'Shall I go and speak to him, my dear?'
'Perhaps I had better, if you will come with me.'
Then, hesitating--'I will go to my room for a moment, and then I
shall be able to do it more steadily.'
Mrs. Ponsonby's thoughts were anxious during the five minutes of
Mary's absence; but she returned composed, according to her promise,
whatever might be the throbbings beneath. As Mrs. Ponsonby opened
the door, she saw Louis and his aunt together, and was almost amused
at their conscious start, the youthful speed with which the one
darted into the further end of the corridor, and the undignified
haste with which the other hopped down stairs.
By the time they reached the drawing-room, he had recovered himself
so as to come forward in a very suitable, simple manner, and Mary
said, at once, 'Louis, thank you; but we think it would be better
'Not!' exclaimed Fitzjocelyn.
'Not,' repeated Mary; 'I do not think there is that between us which
would make it right.'
'There would be!' cried Louis, gaining ardour by the difficulty, 'if
you would only try. Mrs. Ponsonby, tell her we would make her
'You would try,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, kindly; 'but I think she is
right. Indeed, Louis, you must forgive me for saying that you are
hardly old enough to make up your mind--'
'Madison is younger,' said Louis, boyishly enough to make her smile,
but earnestly proceeding, 'Won't you try me? Will you not say that
if I can be steady and persevering--'
'No,' said Mrs. Ponsonby; 'it would not be fair towards either of you
to make any conditions.'
'But if without them, I should do better--Mary, will you say
'We had better not think of it,' said Mary, her eyes on the ground.
'Why? is it that I am too foolish, too unworthy?'
She made a great effort. 'Not that, Louis. Do not ask any more; it
is better not; you have done as your father wished--now let us be as
we were before.'
'My father will be very much disappointed,' said Louis, with chagrin.
'I will take care of your father,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, and as Mary
took the moment for escaping, she proceeded to say some affectionate
words of her own tender feeling towards Louis; to which he only
replied by saying, sadly, and with some mortification, 'Never mind; I
know it is quite right. I am not worthy of her.'
'That is not the point; but I do not think you understand your own
feelings, or how far you were actuated by the wish to gratify your
'I assure you,' cried Louis, 'you do not guess how I look up to Mary;
her unfailing kindness, her entering into all my nonsense--her firm,
sound judgment, that would keep me right--and all she did for me when
I was laid up. Oh! why cannot you believe how dear she is to me?'
'_How dear_ is just what I do believe; but still this is not enough.'
'Just what Aunt Kitty says,' said Louis, perplexed, yet amused at his
'You will know better by-and-by,' she answered, smiling: 'in the
meantime, believe that you are our very dear cousin, as ever.' And
she shook hands with him, detecting in his answering smile a little
relief, although a great deal of disappointment.
Mary had taken refuge in her room, where a great shower of tears
would have their course, though she scolded herself all the time.
'Have done! have done! It is best as it is. He does not really wish
it, and I could not leave mamma. We will never think of it again,
and we will be as happy as we were before.'
Her mother, meanwhile, was waiting below-stairs, thinking that she
should spare Louis something, by taking the initiative in speaking to
his father; and she was sorry to see the alacrity with which the Earl
came up to her, with a congratulatory 'Well, Mary!' She could hardly
make him comprehend the real state of the case; and then his
resignation was far more trying than that of the party chiefly
concerned. Her praise of Fitzjocelyn had little power to comfort.
'I see how it is,' he said, calmly: 'do not try to explain it away;
I acquiesce--I have no doubt you acted wisely for your daughter.'
'Nothing would have delighted me more, if he were but a few years
'You need not tell me the poor boy's failings,' said his father,
'It is on account of no failing; but would it not be a great mistake
to risk their happiness to fulfil our own scheme?'
'I hoped to secure their happiness.'
'Ay, but is there not something too capricious to find happiness
without its own free will and choice? Did you never hear of the
'Oh! if she be attached elsewhere'--and he seemed so much relieved,
that Mrs. Ponsonby was sorry to be obliged to contradict him in
haste, and explain that she did not believe Fitzjocelyn's heart to be
yet developed; whereupon he was again greatly vexed. 'So he has
offered himself without attachment. I beg your pardon, Mary; I am
sorry your daughter should have been so treated.'
'Do not misunderstand me. He is strangely youthful and simple, bent
on pleasing you, and fancying his warm, brotherly feeling to be what
'It would be the safest foundation.'
'Yes, if he were ten years older, and had seen the world; but in
these things he is like a child, and it would be dangerous to
influence him. Do not take it to heart; you ought to be contented,
for I saw nothing so plainly as that he loves nobody half so well as
you. Only be patient with him.'
'You are the same Mary as ever,' he said, softened; and she left him,
hoping that she had secured a favourable audience for his son, who
soon appeared at the window, somewhat like a culprit.
'I could not help it!' he said.
'No; but you may set a noble aim before you--you may render yourself
worthy of her esteem and confidence, and in so doing you will fulfil
my fondest hopes.'
'I asked her to try me, but they would make no conditions. I am
sorry this could not be, since you wished it.'
'If you are not sorry on your own account, there are no regrets to be
wasted on mine.'
'Candidly, father,' said Louis, 'much as I like her, I cannot be
sorry to keep my youth and liberty a little longer.'
'Then you should never have entered on the subject at all,' said
Lord Ormersfield, beginning to write a letter; and poor Louis, in his
praiseworthy effort not to be reserved with him, found he had been
confessing that he had not only been again making a fool of himself,
but, what was less frequent and less pardonable, of his father
likewise. He limped out at the window, and was presently found by
his great-aunt, reading what he called a raving novel, to see how he
ought to have done it. She shook her head at him, and told him that
he was not even decently concerned.
'Indeed I am,' he replied. 'I wished my father to have had some
peace of mind about me, and it does not flatter one's vanity.'
Dear, soft-hearted Aunt Kitty, with all her stores of comfort ready
prepared, and unable to forgive, or even credit, the rejection of her
Louis, without a prior attachment, gave a hint that this might be his
consolation. He caught eagerly at the idea. 'I had never once
thought of that! It can't be any Spaniard out in Peru--she has too
much sense. What are you looking so funny about? What! is it nearer
home? That's it, then! Famous! It would be a capital arrangement,
if that terrible old father is conformable. What an escape I have
had of him! I am sure it is a most natural and proper preference--'
'Stop! stop, Louis, you are going too fast. I know nothing. Don't
say a word to Jem, on any account: indeed, you must not. It is all
going on very well now; but the least notion that he was observed, or
that it was his Uncle Oliver's particular wish, and there would be an
end of it.'
She was just wise enough to keep back the wishes of the other vizier,
but she had said enough to set Louis quite at his ease, and put him
in the highest spirits. He seemed to have taken out a new lease of
boyishness, and, though constrained before Mary, laughed, talked, and
played pranks, so as unconsciously to fret his father exceedingly.
Clara's alert wits perceived that so many private interviews had some
signification; and Mrs. Frost found her talking it over with her
brother, and conjecturing so much, that granny thought it best to
supply the key, thinking, perhaps, that a little jealousy would do
Jem no harm. But the effect on him was to produce a fit of hearty
laughter, as he remembered poor Lord Ormersfield's unaccountable
urbanity and suppressed exultation in the morning's ride. 'I honour
the Ponsonbys,' he said, 'for not choosing to second his lordship's
endeavours to tyrannize over that poor fellow, body and soul. Poor
Louis! he is fabulously dutiful.'
But Clara, recovering from her first stupor of wonder, began scolding
him for presuming to laugh at anything so cruel to Louis. It was not
the part of a friend! And with tears of indignation and sympathy
starting from her eyes, she was pathetically certain that, though
granny and Jem were so unfeeling as to laugh, his high spirits were
only assumed to hide his suffering. 'Poor Louis! what had he not
said to her about Mary last night! Now she knew what he meant! And
as to Mary, she was glad she had never liked her, she had no patience
with her: of course, she was far too prosy and stupid to care for
anything like Louis, it was a great escape for him. It would serve
her right to marry a horrid little crooked clerk in her father's
office; and poor dear, dear Louis must get over it, and have the most
beautiful wife in the world. Don't you remember, Jem, the lady with
the splendid dark eyes on the platform at Euston Square, when you so
nearly made us miss the train, with the brow that you said--'
'Hush, Clara, don't talk nonsense.'
A house there is, and that's enough,
From whence one fatal morning issues
A brace of warriors, not in buff,
But rustling in their silks and tissues.
The heroines undertook the task;
Thro' lanes unknown, o'er stiles they ventured,-
Rapped at the door, nor stayed to ask,
But bounce into the parlour entered.
Gray's Long Story.
'No carmine? Nor scarlet lake in powder?'
'Could procure some, my Lord.'
'Thank you, the actinia would not live. I must take what I can find.
A lump of gamboge--'
'If you stay much longer, he will not retain his senses,' muttered
James Frost, who was leaning backwards against the counter, where the
bewildered bookseller of the little coast-town of Bickleypool was
bustling, in the vain endeavour to understand and fulfil the demands
of that perplexing customer, Lord Fitzjocelyn.
'Some drawing-paper. This is hardly absorbent enough. If you have
any block sketch-books?--'
'Could procure some, my Lord.'
James looked at his watch, while the man dived into his innermost
recesses. 'The tide!' he said.
'Never mind, we shall only stick in the mud.'
'How could you expect to find anything here? A half-crown paint-box
is their wildest dream.'
'Keep quiet, Jem, go and look out some of those library books, like a
'A wise man would be at a loss here,' said James, casting his eye
along the battered purple backs of the circulating-library books.
'Wisdom won't condescend! Ah! thank you, this will do nicely.
Those colours--yes; and the Seaside Book. I'll choose one or two.
What is most popular here?'
James began to whistle; but Louis, taking up a volume, became
engrossed beyond the power of hints, and hardly stepped aside to make
way for some ladies who entered the shop. A peremptory touch of the
arm at length roused him, and holding up the book to the shopman, he
put it into his pocket, seized his ash-stick, put his arm into his
cousin's, and hastened into the street.
'Did you ever see--' began Jem.
'Most striking. I did not know you had met with her. What an idea--
the false self conjuring up phantoms--'
'What are you talking of? Did you not see her?'
'Elizabeth Barrett. Was she there?'
'Is that her name? Do you know her?'
'I had heard of her, but never--'
'How?--where? Who is she?'
'I only saw her name in the title-page.'
'What's all this? You did not see her?'
'Who? Did not some ladies come into the shop?'
'Some ladies! Is it possible? Why, I touched you to make you look.'
'I thought it was your frenzy about the tide. What now?--'
James made a gesture of despair. 'The loveliest creature I ever saw.
You may see her yet, as she comes out. Come back!'
'Don't be so absurd,' said Fitzjocelyn, laughing, and, with
instinctive dislike of staring, resisting his cousin's effort to
wheel him round. 'What, you will?' withdrawing his arm. 'I shall
put off without you, if you don't take care.'
And, laughing, he watched Jem hurry up the sloping street and turn
the corner, then turned to pursue his own way, his steps much less
lame and his looks far more healthful than they had been a month
before. He reached the quay--narrow, slippery, and fishy, but not
without beauty, as the green water lapped against the hewn stones,
and rocked the little boats moored in the wide bay, sheltered by a
richly-wooded promontory. 'Jem in a fit of romance! Well, whose
fault will it be if we miss the tide? I'll sit in the boat, and read
that poem again.-- Oh! here he comes, out of breath. Well, Jem, did
the heroine drop glove or handkerchief? Or, on a second view, was
she minus an eye?'
'You were,' said James, hurrying breathlessly to unmoor the boat.
'Let me row,' said Louis; 'your breath and senses are both lost in
the fair vision.'
'It is of no use to talk to you--'
'I shall ask no questions till we are out of the harbour, or you will
be running foul of one of those colliers--a tribute with which the
Fair Unknown may dispense.'
The numerous black colliers and lighters showed that precautions were
needful till they had pushed out far enough to make the little fishy
town look graceful and romantic; and the tide was ebbing so fast,
that Louis deemed it prudent to spend his strength on rowing rather
than on talking.
James first broke silence by exclaiming--'Do you know where
'On the other side of the promontory. Don't you remember the spire
rising among the trees, as we see it from the water?'
'That church must be worth seeing. I declare I'll go there next
Another silence, and Louis said--'I am curious to know whether you
'She was getting into the carriage as I turned the corner; so I went
back and asked Bull who they were.'
'I hope she was the greengrocer's third cousin.'
'Pshaw! I tell you it was Mrs. Mansell and her visitors.'
'Oho! No wonder Beauchastel architecture is so grand. What an
impudent fellow you are, Jem!'
'The odd thing is,' said James, a little ashamed of Louis having put
Mansell and Beauchastel together, as he had not intended, 'that it
seems they asked Bull who we were. I thought one old lady was
staring hard at you, as if she meant to claim acquaintance, but you
shot out of the shop like a sky-rocket.'
'Luckily there's no danger of that. No one will come to molest us
'Depend on it, they are meditating a descent on his lordship.'
'You shall appear in my name, then.'
'Too like a bad novel: besides, you don't look respectable enough for
my tutor. And, now I think of it, no doubt she was asking Bull how
he came to let such a disreputable old shooting-jacket into his
The young men worked up an absurd romance between them, as merrily
they crossed the estuary, and rowed up a narrow creek, with a
whitewashed village on one side, and on the other a solitary house,
the garden sloping to the water, and very nautical--the vane, a
union-jack waved by a brilliant little sailor on the top of a mast,
and the arbour, half a boat set on end; whence, as James steered up
to the stone steps that were one by one appearing, there emerged an
old, grizzly, weather-beaten sailor, who took his pipe from his
mouth, and caught hold of the boat.
'Thank you, Captain!' cried Fitzjocelyn. 'I've brought home the boat
safe, you see, by my own superhuman exertions--no thanks to Mr.
'That's his way, Captain,' retorted Jem, leaping out, and helping his
cousin: 'you may thank me for getting him home at all! But for me,
he would have his back against the counter, and his head in a book,
this very moment.'
'Ask him what he was after,' returned Louis.
'Which of us d'ye think most likely to lag, Captain Hannaford?' cried
Jem, preventing the question.
'Which would you choose to have on board?'
'Ye'd both of ye make more mischief than work,' said the old seaman,
who had been looking from one to the other of the young men, as if
they were performing a comedy for his special diversion.
'So you would not enter us on board the Eliza Priscilla?' cried
'No, no,' said the old man, shrewdly, and with an air of holding
something back; whereupon they both pressed him, and obtained for
answer, 'No, no, I wouldn't sail with you'--signing towards
Fitzjocelyn--'in my crew: ye'd be more trouble than ye're worth. And
as to you, sir, if I wouldn't sail with ye, I'd like still less to
sail under you.'
He finished with a droll, deprecating glance, and Louis laughed
heartily; but James was silent, and as soon as they had entered the
little parlour, declared that it would not do to encourage that old
skipper--he was waylaying them like the Ancient Mariner, and was
actually growing impudent.
'An old man's opinion of two youngsters is not what I call
impudence,' began Louis, with an emphasis that made Jem divert his
Those two cousins had never spent a happier month than in these small
lodgings, built by the old retired merchant-seaman evidently on the
model of that pride of his heart, the Eliza Priscilla, his little
coasting trader, now the charge of his only surviving son; for this
was a family where drowning was like a natural death, and old Captain
Hannaford looked on the probability of sleeping in Ebbscreek
churchyard, much as Bayard did at the prospect of dying in his bed.
His old deaf wife kept the little cabin-like rooms most exquisitely
neat; and the twelve-years-old Priscilla, the orphan of one of the
lost sons, waited on the gentlemen with an old-fashioned, womanly
deportment and staid countenance that, in the absence of all other
grounds of distress, Louis declared was quite a pain to him.
The novelty of the place, the absence of restraint, the easy life,
and, above all, the freshness of returning health, rendered his
spirits exceedingly high, and he had never been more light-hearted
and full of mirth. James, elated at his rapid improvement, was
scarcely less full of liveliness and frolic, enjoying to the utmost
the holiday, which perhaps both secretly felt might be the farewell
to the perfect carelessness of boyish relaxation. Bathing, boating,
fishing, dabbling, were the order of the day, and withal just enough
quarrelling and teasing to add a little spice to their pleasures.
Louis was over head and ears in maritime natural history; but Jem,
backed by Mrs. Hannaford, prohibited his 'messes' from making a
permanent settlement in the parlour; though festoons of seaweed
trellised the porch, ammonites heaped the grass-plat, tubs of sea-
water flanked the approach to the front door; and more than one bowl,
with inmates of a suspicious nature, was often deposited even on the
On the afternoon following the expedition to Bickleypool, Louis was
seated, with an earthenware pan before him, coaxing an actinia with
raw beef to expand her blossom, to be copied for Miss Faithfull.
Another bowl stood near, containing some feathery serpulas; and the
weeds were heaped on the locker of the window behind him, and on the
back of the chair which supported his lame foot. The third and only
remaining chair accommodated James, with a book placed on the table;
and a semicircle swept round it, within which nothing marine might
Louis was by turns drawing, enticing his refractory sitter, exhorting
her to bloom, and complimenting her delicate beauty, until James,
with a groan, exclaimed, 'Is silence impossible to you, Fitzjocelyn?
I would go into the garden, but that I should be beset by the
intolerable old skipper!'
'I beg your pardon--I thought you never heard nor heeded me.'
'I don't in general, but this requires attention; and it is past all
bearing to hear how you go on to that Jelly!'
'Read aloud, then: it will answer two purposes.
'This is Divinity--Hooker,' said James, sighing wearily.
'So much the better. I read some once; I wish I had been obliged to
'You are the oddest fellow!--After all, I believe you have a craving
after my profession.'
'Is that a discovery?' said Louis, washing the colour out of his
brush. 'The only person I envy is a country curate--except a town
'Don't talk like affectation!' growled James.
'Do you know, Jem,' said Louis, leaning back, and drawing the brush
between his lips, 'I am persuaded that something will turn up to
prevent it from being your profession.'
'Your persuasions are wrong, then!'
'That fabulous uncle in the Indies--'
'You know I am determined to accept nothing from my uncle, were he to
lay it at my feet--which he never will.'
'Literally or metaphorically?' asked Louis, softly.
'You Dynevors don't resemble my sea-pink. See how she stretches her
elegant fringes for this very unpleasant bit of meat! There! I
won't torment you any more; read, and stop my mouth!'
'You are in earnest?'
'You seem to think that if a man cannot be a clergyman, he is not to
be a Christian.'
'Then don't break in with your actinias and stuff!'
'Certainly not,' said Louis, gravely.
The first interruption came from James himself. Leaping to his feet
with a sudden bound, he exclaimed, 'There they are!' and stood
transfixed in a gaze of ecstasy.
'You have made me smudge my lake,' said Louis, in the mild tone of
'I tell you, there they are!' cried James, rushing into wild
'One would think it the Fair Unknown,' said Louis, not troubling
himself to look round, nor desisting from washing out his smudge.
'It is! it is!--it is all of them! Here they come, I tell you, and
the place is a very merman's cave!'
'Take care--the serpula--don't!' as James hurriedly opened the door
leading to the stairs--disposed of the raw meat on one step and the
serpulas on another, and hurled after them the heap of seaweed, all
but one trailing festoon of 'Luckie Minnie's lines,' which, while his
back was turned, Louis by one dexterous motion wreathed round the
crown of his straw hat; otherwise never stirring, but washing quietly
on, until he rose as little Priscilla opened the door, and stood
aside, mutely overawed at the stream of flounced ladies that flowed
past, and seemed to fill up the entire room. It was almost a
surprise to find that, after all, there were only three of them!
'I knew I was not mistaken,' said a very engaging, affectionate
voice. 'It is quite shocking to have to introduce myself to you--
'My aunt!' cried Louis, with eager delight--'and my cousin!' he
added, turning with a slight blush towards the maiden, whom he felt,
rather than saw, to be the worthy object of yesterday's rapture.
'Not quite,' she answered, not avoiding the grasp of his hand, but
returning it with calm, distant politeness.
'Not quite,' repeated Lady Conway. 'Your real cousins are no farther
off than Beauchastel--'
'Where you must come and see them,' added the third lady--a portly,
cordial, goodnatured dame, whom Lady Conway introduced as Mrs.
Mansell, who had known his mother well; and Louis making a kind of
presentation of his cousin James, the two elder ladies were located
on two of the chairs: the younger one, as if trying to be out of the
way, placed herself on the locker. Jem stood leaning on the back of
the other chair; and Louis stood over his aunt, in an ecstasy at the
meeting--at the kind, warm manner and pleasant face of his aunt--and
above all, at the indescribable pleasure imparted by the mere
presence of the beautiful girl, though he hardly dared even to look
at her; and she was the only person whose voice was silent in the
chorus of congratulation, on the wonderful chance that had brought
the aunt and nephew together. The one had been a fortnight at
Beauchastel, the other a month at Ebbscreek, without guessing at each
other's neighbourhood, until Lady Conway's attention had been
attracted at the library by Louis's remarkable resemblance to her
sister, and making inquiries, she had learnt that he was no other
than Lord Fitzjocelyn. She was enchanted with the likeness,
declaring that all she wished was to see him look less delicate, and
adding her entreaties to those of Mrs. Mansell, that the two young
men would come at once to Beauchastel.
Louis looked with wistful doubt at James, who, he knew, could not
brook going to fine places in the character of tutor; but, to his
surprise and pleasure, James was willing and eager, and made no
demur, except that Fitzjocelyn could not walk so far, and the boat
was gone out. Mrs. Mansell then proposed the ensuing Monday, when,
she said, she and Mr. Mansell should be delighted to have them to
meet a party of shooting gentlemen--of course they were sportsmen.
Louis answered at once for James; but for himself, he could not walk,
nor even ride the offered shooting-pony; and thereupon ensued more
minute questions whether his ankle were still painful.
'Not more than so as to be a useful barometer. I have been testing
it by the sea-weeds. If I am good for nothing else, I shall be a
walking weather-glass, as well as a standing warning against man-
'You don't mean that you fell into a man-trap!' exclaimed Mrs.
Mansell, in horror. 'That will be a warning for Mr. Mansell! I have
such a dread of the frightful things!'
'A trap ingeniously set by myself,' said Louis. 'I was only too glad
no poor poacher fell into it.'
'Your father told me that it was a fall down a steep bank,' exclaimed
'Exactly so; but I suppose he thought it for my credit to conceal
that my trap consisted of a flight of stone stops, very solid and
permanent, with the trifling exception of cement.'
'If the truth were known,' said James, 'I believe that a certain
scamp of a boy was at the bottom of those steps.'
'I'm the last person to deny it,' said Louis, quietly, though not
without rising colour, 'there was a scamp of a boy at the bottom of
the steps, and very unpleasant he found it--though not without the
best consequences, and among them the present--' And he turned to
Lady Conway with a pretty mixture of gracefulness and affection,
enough to win the heart of any aunt.
Mrs. Mansell presently fell into raptures at the sight of the drawing
materials, which must, she was sure, delight Isabel, but she was
rather discomfited by the sight of the 'subject,'--called it an
odious creature, then good-humouredly laughed at herself, but would
not sit down again, evidently wishing to escape from close quarters
with such monsters. Lady Conway likewise rose, and looked into the
basin, exclaiming, in her turn, 'Ah! I see you understand these
things! Yes, they are very interesting! Virginia will be delighted;
she has been begging me for an aquarium wherever we go. You must
tell her how to manage it. Look, Isabel, would not she be in
Miss Conway looked, but did not seem to partake in the admiration.
'I am perverse enough never to like what is the fashion,' she said.
'I tried to disgust Fitzjocelyn with his pets on that very ground,'
said James; 'but their charms were too strong for him.'
'Fashion is the very testimony to them,' said Louis. 'I think I
could convince you.'
He would perhaps have produced his lovely serpula blossoms, but he
was forced to pass on to his aunt and Mrs. Mansell, who had found
something safer for their admiration, in the shape of a great Cornu
ammonis in the garden.
'He can throw himself into any pursuit,' said James, as he paused at
the door with Miss Conway; but suddenly becoming aware of the slimy
entanglement round his hat, he exclaimed, 'Absurd fellow!' and pulled
it off rather petulantly, adding, with a little constraint, 'Recovery
does put people into mad spirits! I fancy the honest folks here look
on in amaze.'
Miss Conway gave a very pretty smile of sympathy and consolation,
that shone like a sunbeam on her beautiful pensive features and dark,
soft eyes. Then she began to admire the view, as they stood on the
turf, beside Captain Hannaford's two small cannon, overlooking the
water towards Bickleypool, with a purple hill rising behind it. A
yacht was sailing into the harbour, and James ran indoors to fetch a
spy-glass, while Lady Conway seized the occasion of asking her nephew
his tutor's name.
Louis, who had fancied she must necessarily understand all his
kindred, was glad to guard against shocks to Jem's sensitive pride,
and eagerly explained the disproportion between his birth and
fortune, and his gallant efforts to relieve his grandmother from her
burthens. He was pleased to find that he had touched all his
auditors, and to hear kind-hearted Mrs. Mansell repeat her special
invitation to Mr. Frost Dynevor with double cordiality.
'If you must play practical jokes,' said James, as they watched the
carriage drive off, 'I wish you would choose better moments for
'I thought you would be more in character as a merman brave,' said
'I wonder what character you thought you appeared in?'
'I never meant you to discover it while they were here, nor would
you, if you were not so careful of your complexion. Come, throw it
at my head now, as you would have done naturally, and we shall have
fair weather again!'
'I am only concerned at the impression you have made.'
'Too late now, is it? You don't mean to be bad company for the rest
of the day. It is too bad, after such a presence as has been here.
She is a poem in herself. It is like a vision to see her move in
that calm, gliding way. Such eyes, so deep, so tranquil, revealing
the sphere apart where she dwells! An ideal! How can you be savage
after sitting in the same room, and hearing that sweet, low voice?'
Meantime the young lady sat back in the carriage, dreamily hearing,
and sometimes answering, the conversation of her two elders, as they
returned through pretty forest-drives into the park of Beauchastel,
and up to the handsome, well-kept house; where, after a few words
from Mrs. Mansell, she ascended the stairs.
'Isabel!' cried a bright voice, and a girl of fourteen came skating
along the polished oak corridor. 'Come and have some tea in the
school-room, and tell us your adventures!' And so saying, she
dragged the dignified Isabel into an old-fashioned sitting-room,
where a little pale child, two years younger, sprang up, and, with a
cry of joy, clung round the elder sister.
'My white bind-weed,' said Isabel, fondly caressing her, 'have you
been out on the pony?'
'Oh I yes, we wanted only you. Sit down there.'
And as Isabel obeyed, the little Louisa placed herself on her lap,
with one arm round her neck, and looked with proud glee at the kind,
sensible-faced governess who was pouring out the tea.
'The reconnoitring party!' eagerly cried Virginia.
'Did you find the cousin?'
'Yes, we did.'
'Oh! Then what is he like?'
'You will see when he comes on Monday.'
'Coming--oh! And is he so very handsome?'
'I can see how pretty a woman your Aunt Louisa must have been.'
'News!' laughed Virginia; 'when mamma is always preaching to me to be
'Is he goodnatured?' asked Louisa.
'I had not full means of judging,' said Isabel, more thoughtfully
than seemed justified by the childish question. 'His cousin is
coming too,' she added; 'Mr. Frost Dynevor.'
'Another cousin!' exclaimed Virginia.
'No; a relation of Lord Ormersfield--a person to be much respected.
He is heir to a lost estate, and of a very grand old family. Lord
Fitzjocelyn says that he is exerting himself to the very utmost for
his grandmother and orphan sister; denying himself everything. He is
to be a clergyman. There was a book of divinity open on the table.'
'He must be very good!' said Louisa, in a low, impressed voice, and
fondling her sister's hand. 'Will he be as good as Sir Roland?'
'Oh! I am glad he is coming!' cried Virginia. 'We have so wished to
see somebody very good!'
A bell rang--a signal that Lady Conway would be in her room, where
she liked her two girls to come to her while she was dressing.
Louisa reluctantly detached herself from her sister, and Virginia
lingered to say, 'Dress quickly, please, please, Isabel. I know
there is a new bit of Sir Roland done! Oh! I hope Mr. Dynevor is
'Not quite,' said Isabel, smiling as they ran away. 'Poor children,
I am afraid they will be disappointed; but long may their craving be
to see 'somebody very good!'
'I am very glad they should meet any one answering the description,'
said the governess. 'I don't gather that you are much delighted with
the object of the expedition.'
'A pretty boy--very pretty. It quite explains all I have ever heard
of his mother.'
'As you told the children.'
'More than I told the children. Their aunt never by description
seemed to me my ideal, as you know. I would rather have seen a
likeness to Lord Ormersfield, who--though I don't like him--has
something striking in the curt, dry, melancholy dignity of his
'And how has Lord Fitzjocelyn displeased you?'
'Perhaps there is no harm in him--he may not have character enough
for that; but talk, attitudes, everything betrays that he is used to
be worshipped--takes it as a matter of course, and believes nothing
so interesting as himself.'
'Don't you think you may have gone with your mind made up?'
'If you mean that I thought myself uncalled for, and heartily
detested the expedition, you are right; but I saw what I did not
'Was it very bad?'
'A very idle practical joke, such as I dislike particularly. A
quantity of wet sea-weed wound round Mr. Dynevor's hat.'
Miss King laughed. 'Really, my dear, I don't think you know what
young men like from each other.'
'Mr. Dynevor did not like it,' said Isabel, 'though he tried to pass
it off lightly as the spirits of recovery. Those spirits--I am
afraid he has too much to suffer from them. There is something so
ungenerous in practical wit, especially from a prosperous man to one
'Well, Isabel, I won't contradict, but I should imagine that such
things often showed people to be on the best of terms.'
Isabel shook her head, and left the room, to have her dark hair
braided, with little heed from herself, as she sat dreamily over a
book. Before the last bracelet was clasped, she was claimed by her
two little sisters, who gave her no peace till her desk was opened,
and a manuscript drawn forth, that they might hear the two new pages
of her morning's work. It was a Fouque-like tale, relieving and
giving expression to the yearnings for holiness and loftiness that
had grown up within Isabel Conway in the cramped round of her
existence. The story went back to the troubadour days of Provence,
where a knight, the heir of a line of shattered fortunes, was
betrothed to the heiress of the oppressors, that thus all wrongs
might be redressed. They had learnt to love, when Sir Roland
discovered that the lands in dispute had been won by sacrilege. He
met Adeline at a chapel in a little valley, to tell the whole. They
agreed to sacrifice themselves, that restitution should be made; the
knight to go as a crusader to the Holy Land; the lady, after waiting
awhile to tend her aged father, to enter a convent, and restore her
dower to the church. Twice had Isabel written that parting, pouring
out her heart in the high-souled tender devotion of Roland and his
Adeline; and both feeling and description were beautiful and
poetical, though unequal. Louisa used to cry whenever she heard it,
yet only wished to hear it again and again, and when Virginia
insisted on reading it to Miss King, tears had actually been
surprised in the governess's eyes. Yet she liked still better
Adeline's meek and patient temper, where breathed the feeling Isabel
herself would fain cherish--the deep, earnest, spiritual life and
high consecrated purpose that were with the Provencal maiden through
all her enforced round of gay festivals, light minstrelsy, tourneys,
and Courts of Love. Thus far had the story gone. Isabel had been
writing a wild, mysterious ballad, reverting to that higher love and
the true spirit of self-sacrifice, which was to thrill strangely on
the ears of the thoughtless at a contention for the Golden Violet,
and which she had adapted to a favourite air, to the extreme delight
of the two girls. To them the Chapel in the valley, Roland and his
Adeline, were very nearly real, and were the hidden joy of their
hearts,--all the more because their existence was a precious secret
between the three sisters and Miss King, who viewed it as such an
influence on the young ones, that, with more meaning than she could
have explained, she called it their Telemaque. The following-up of
the teaching of Isabel and Miss King might lead to results as little
suspected by Lady Conway as Fenelon's philosophy was by Louis XIV.
Lady Conway was several years older than her beautiful sister, and
had married much later. Perhaps she had aimed too high, and had met
with disappointments unavowed; for she had finally contented herself
with becoming the second wife of Sir Walter Conway, and was now his
serene, goodnatured, prosperous widow. Disliking his estate and
neighbourhood, and thinking the daughters wanted London society and
London masters, she shut up the house until her son should be of age,
and spent the season in Lowndes-square, the autumn either abroad, in
visits, or at watering-places.
Beauchastel was an annual resort of the family. Isabel was more
slenderly portioned than her half-sisters; and she was one of the
nearest surviving relations of her mother's cousin, Mr. Mansell,
whose large comfortable house was always hospitable; and whose wife,
a great dealer in goodnatured confidential gossip, used to throw out
hints to her great friend Lady Conway, that much depended on Isabel's
marriage--that Mr. Mansell had been annoyed at connexions formed by
others of his relations--but though he had decided on nothing, the
dear girl's choice might make a great difference.
Nothing could be more passive than Miss Conway. She could not
remember her mother, but her childhood had been passed under an
admirable governess; and though her own Miss Longman had left her,
Miss King, the successor, was a person worthy of her chief
confidence. At two-and-twenty, the school-room was still the home of
her affections, and her ardent love was lavished on her little
sisters and her brother Walter.
Going out with Lady Conway was mere matter of duty and submission.
She had not such high animal spirits as to find enjoyment in her
gaieties, and her grave, pensive character only attained to walking
through her part; she had seen little but the more frivolous samples
of society, scorned and disliked all that was worldly and
manoeuvring, and hung back from levity and coquetry with utter
distaste. Removed from her natural home, where she would have found
duties and seen various aspects of life, she had little to interest
or occupy her in her unsettled wanderings; and to her the sap of life
was in books, in dreams, in the love of her brother and sisters, and
in discussions with Miss King; her favourite vision for the future,
the going to live with Walter at Thornton Conway when he should be of
age. But Walter was younger than Louisa, and it was a very distant
Her characteristic was a calm, serene indifference, in which her
stepmother acquiesced, as lovers of peace do in what they cannot
help; and the more willingly, that her tranquil dignity and pensive
grace exactly suited the style of her tall queenly figure, delicate
features, dark soft languid eyes, and clear olive complexion, just
tinged with rosebud pink.
What Louis said of her to his tutor on the Monday night of their
arrival was beyond the bounds of all reason; and it was even more
memorable that Jem was neither satirical nor disputatious, assented
to all, and if he sighed, it was after his door was shut.
A felicitous day ensued, spent by James in shooting, by Fitzjocelyn,
in the drawing-room; whither Mrs. Mansell had requested Isabel's
presence, as a favour to herself. The young lady sat at work, seldom
raising her eyes, but this was enough for him; his intense admiration
and pleasure in her presence so exhilarated him, that he rattled away
to the utmost. Louisa was at first the excuse. In no further doubt
of his good-nature, she spent an hour in the morning in giving him
anagrams to guess; and after she had repaired to the schoolroom, he
went on inventing fresh ones, and transposing the ivory letters,
rambling on in his usual style of pensive drollery. Happiness never
set him off to advantage, and either there was more froth than
ordinary, or it appeared unusually ridiculous to an audience who did
not detect the under-current of reflection. His father would have
been in despair, Mrs. Ponsonby or Mary would have interposed; but the
ladies of Beauchastel laughed and encouraged him,--all but Isabel,
who sat in the window, and thought of Adeline, 'spighted and angered
both,' by a Navarrese coxcomb, with sleeves down to his heels, and
shoes turned up to his knees. She gave herself great credit for
having already created him a Viscount.
In the afternoon, Louis drove out lionizing with his aunt; but though
the ponies stopped of themselves at all the notable views; sea, hill,
and river were lost on him. Lady Conway could have drawn out a far
less accessible person, and her outpouring of his own sentiments made
him regard her as perfect.
She consulted him about her winter's resort. Louisa required
peculiar care, and she had thought of trying mineral baths--what was
thought of Northwold? what kind of houses were there? The Northwold
faculty themselves might have taken a lesson from Fitzjocelyn's
eloquent analysis of the chemical properties of the waters, and all
old Mr. Frost's spirit would seem to have descended on him when he
dilated on the House Beautiful. Lodgers for Miss Faithfull! what
jubilee they would cause! And such lodgers! No wonder he was in
ecstasy. All the evening the sound of his low, deliberate voice was
unceasing, and his calm announcements to his two little cousins were
each one more startling than the last; while James, to whom it was
likewise all sunshine, was full of vivacity, and a shrewd piquancy of
manner that gave zest to all he said, and wonderfully enlivened the
often rather dull circle at Beauchastel.
Morning came; and when the ladies descended to breakfast, it was
found that Lord Fitzjocelyn had gone out with the sportsmen. The
children lamented, and their elders pronounced a young gentleman's
passion for shooting to be quite incalculable. When, late in the
day, the party returned, it was reported that he did not appear to
care much for the sport; but had walked beside Mr. Mansell's
shooting-pony, and had finally gone with him to see his model farm.
This was a sure road to the old squire's heart, and no one was more
delighted with the guest. For Aunt Catharine's sake, Louis was
always attracted by old age, and his attentive manners had won Mr.
Mansell's heart, even before his inquiries about his hobby had
completed the charm. To expound and to listen to histories of
agricultural experiments that really answered, was highly
satisfactory to both, and all the evening they were eager over the
great account-book which was the pride of the squire's heart; while
Virginia and Louisa grumbled or looked imploring, and Isabel
marvelled at there being any interest for any one in old Mr.
'What is the meaning of this?' asked James, as they went up stairs.
Louis shrugged like a Frenchman, looked debonnaire, and said 'Good-
Again he came down; prepared for shooting, though both pale and lame;
but he quietly put aside all expostulations, walking on until, about
fifty yards from the house, a pebble, turning under the injured foot,
caused such severe pain that he could but just stagger to a tree and
There was much battling before Mr. Mansell would consent to leave
him, or he to allow James to help him back to the house, before going
on to overtake the party.
Very irate was Jem, at folly that seemed to have undone the benefits
of the last month, and at changeableness that was a desertion of the
queen to whom all homage was due. He was astonished that Louis
turned into the study, a room little inhabited in general, and said,
'Make haste--you will catch the others; don't fall in with the
'I mean to send your aunt to you.'
'Pray don't. Can't you suppose that peace is grateful after having
counted every mortal hour last night?'
'Was that the reason you were going to walk ten miles without a leg
to stand upon? Fitzjocelyn! is this systematic?'
'What is?' said Louis, wearily.
'Your treatment of--your aunt.'
'On what system should aunts be treated?'
'Of all moments to choose for caprice! Exactly when I thought even
you were fixed!'
'Pur troppo,' sighed Louis.
'Ha!' cried Jem, 'you have not gone and precipitated matters! I
thought you could never amaze me again; but even you might have felt
she was a being to merit rather more time and respect!'
'Even I am not devoid of the organ of veneration.'
His meek tone was a further provocation; and with uplifted chin, hair
ruffled like the crest of a Shetland pony, flashing eyes, and
distinct enunciation, James exclaimed, 'You will excuse me for not
understanding you. You come here; you devote yourself to your aunt
and cousins--you seem strongly attracted; then, all on a sudden, you
rush out shooting--an exercise for which you don't care, and when you
can't walk: you show the most pointed neglect. And after being done-
up yesterday, you repeat the experiment to-day, as if for the mere
object of laming yourself for life. I could understand pique or
temper, but you have not the--'
'The sense,' said Louis; 'no, nor anything to be piqued at.'
'If there be a motive,' said James, 'I have a right to demand not to
be trifled with any longer.'
'I wish you could be content to shoot your birds, and leave me in
peace: you will only have your fun spoilt, like mine, and go into a
fury. The fact is, that my father writes in a state of perturbation.
He says, I might have understood, from the tenor of his conduct, that
he did not wish me to be intimate with my aunt's family! He cannot
know anything about them, for it is all one warning against fashion
and frivolity. He does not blame us--especially not you.'
'I wish he did.'
'But he desires that our intercourse should be no more than propriety
demands, and plunges into a discourse against first impressions,
beauty, and the like.'
'So that's the counterblast!'
'You ought to help me, Jem,' said Louis, dejectedly.
'I'll help you with all my heart to combat your father's prejudices.'
'An hour's unrestrained intercourse with these people would best
destroy them,' said Louis; 'but, in the mean time--I wonder what he
'He means that he is in terror for his darling scheme.'
'Mrs. Ponsonby was very right,' sighed Louis.
'Ay! A pretty condition you would be in, if she had not had too much
principle to let you be a victim to submission. That's what you'll
come to, though! You will never know the meaning of passion; you
will escape something by it, though you will be twisted round his
lordship's finger, and marry his choice. I hope she will have red
'Negative and positive obedience stand on different grounds,' said
Louis, with such calmness as often fretted James, but saved their
friendship. 'Besides, till I had this letter, I had no notion of any
James's indignation resulted in fierce stammering; while Louis
deliberately continued a viva voce self-examination, with his own
quaint naivete, betraying emotion only by the burning colour of cheek
'No; I had no such notion. I only felt that her presence had the
gladdening, inspiriting, calming effect of moonlight or starlight.
I reverenced her as a dream of poetry walking the earth. Ha! now one
hears the sound of it--that is like it! I did not think it was such
a confirmed case. I should have gone on in peace but for this
letter, and never thought about it at all.'
'So much the better for you!'
'My father is too just and candid not to own his error, and be
'And you expect her to bear with your alternations in the mean time?'
'Towards her I have not alternated. When I have made giggle with
Clara under the influence of the starry sky, did you suppose me
giggling with Lyra or the Pleiades! I should dread to see the statue
descend; it seemed irreverence even to gaze. The lofty serenity
keeps me aloof. I like to believe in a creature too bright and good
for human nature's daily food. Our profane squinting through
telescopes at the Lady Moon reveals nothing but worn-out volcanoes
and dry oceans, black gulfs and scorched desolation; but verily that
may not be Lady Moon's fault--only that of our base inventions. So I
would be content to mark her--Isabel, I mean--queenly, moonlike
name!--walk in beauty and tranquillity unruffled, without distorting
my vision by personal aims at bringing her down to my level. There-
don't laugh at me, Jem.'
'No, I am too sorry for you.'
'Why!' be exclaimed, impatient of compassion; 'do you think it
'I see your affection given to a most worthy object, and I know what
your notions of submission will end in.'
'Once for all, Jem,' said Fitzjocelyn, 'do you know how you are using
my father? No; Isabel Conway may be the happiness or the
disappointment of my life--I cannot tell. I am sure my father is
mistaken, and I believe he may be convinced; but I am bound not to
fly in the face of his direct commands, and, till we can come to an
understanding, I must do the best I can, and trust to--'
The last word was lost, as he turned to nurse his ankle, and
presently to entreat James to join the sportsmen; but Jem was in a
mood to do nothing pleasing to himself nor to any one else. A
sacrifice is usually irritating to the spectators, who remonstrate
rather than listen to self-reproach; and Louis had been guilty of
three great offences--being in the right, making himself ridiculous,
and submitting tamely--besides the high-treason to Isabel's beauty.
It was well that the Earl was safe out of the way of the son of the
Fitzjocelyn was in pain and discomfort enough to make James unwilling
to leave him; though his good-will did not prevent him from keeping
up such a stream of earplugs and sinister auguries, that it was
almost the climax of good-temper that enabled Louis to lie still,
trying to read a great quarto Park's Travels, and abstaining from any
reply that could aggravate matters. As the one would not go to
luncheon, the other would not; and after watching the sound of the
ladies' setting out for their drive, Louis said that he would go and
lie on the turf; but at that moment the door was thrown open, and in
ran Virginia. Explanations were quickly exchanged--how she had come
to find Vertot's Malta for Isabel, and how he had been sent in by
hurting his foot.
'Were you going to stay in all day?' said Virginia. 'Oh, come with
us! We have the pony-carriage; and we are going to a dear old ruin,
walking and driving by turns. Do, pray, come; there's plenty of
There could be no objection to the school-room party, and it was no
small relief to escape from James and hope he was amused; so
Fitzjocelyn allowed himself to be dragged off in triumph, and James
was acceding to his entreaty that he would go in search of the
shooting-party, when, as they reached the hall-door, they beheld Miss
Conway waiting on the steps.
There was no receding for her any more than for Louis, so she could
only make a private resolution against the pony-carriage, and
dedicate herself to the unexceptionable company of little sister,
governess and tutor; for James had resigned the shooting, and
attached himself to the expedition. It was an excellent opportunity
of smoothing his cousin's way, and showing that all was not caprice
that might so appear: so he began to tell of his most advantageous
traits of character, and to explain away his whimsical conduct, with
great ardour and ingenuity. He thought he should be perfectly
satisfied if he could win but one smile of approbation from that
gravely beautiful mouth; and it came at last, when he told of
Fitzjocelyn's devoted affection to Mrs. Frost and his unceasing
kindness to the old ladies of Dynevor Terrace. Thus gratified, he
let himself be led into abstract questions of principle,--a style of
discussion frequent between Miss King and Isabel, but on which the
latter had never seen the light of a man's mind thrown except through
books. The gentlemen whom she had met were seldom either deep or
earnest, except those too much beyond her reach; and she had avoided
anything like confidence or intimacy: but Mr. Dynevor could enlighten
and vivify her perplexed reflections, answer her inquiries, confirm
her opinion of books, and enter into all that she ventured with
diffidence to express. He was enchanted to find that no closer
approach could dim the lustre of Louis's moon, and honoured her
doubly for what she had made herself in frivolous society. He felt
sure that his testimony would gain credit where Fitzjocelyn's would
be regarded as love-blinded, and already beheld himself forcing full
proof of her merits on the reluctant Earl, beholding Louis happy, and
Isabel emancipated from constraint.
A five miles' walk gave full time for such blissful discoveries; for
Miss Conway was resolute against entering the pony-carriage, and
walked on, protesting against ever being fatigued; while Louis was
obliged to occupy his seat in the carriage, with a constant change of
'I think, my dear,' said Miss King, when the younger girls had gone
to their mother's toilette, 'that you will have to forgive me.'
'Meaning,' said Isabel, 'that you are bitten too! Ah! Miss King, you
could not withstand the smile with which he handed you in!'
'Could you withstand such an affectionate account of your cruel,
tyrannical practical joker?'
'Facts are stubborn things. Do you know what Mr. Dynevor is doing at
this moment? I met him in the gallery, hurrying off to Ebbscreek for
some lotion for Lord Fitzjocelyn's ankle. I begged him to let Mrs.
Mansell send; but no-no one but himself could find it, and his cousin
could not bear strangers to disarrange his room. If anything were
wanting, it would be enough to see how simply and earnestly such a
man has been brought to pamper--nay, to justify, almost to adore, the
whims and follies of this youth.'
'If anything were wanting to what? To your dislike.'
'It would not be so active as dislike, unless--' Isabel spoke with
drooping head, and Miss King did not ask her to finish, but said, 'He
has not given you much cause for alarm.'
'So; he is at least a thorough gentleman. It may be conceit, or
wrong self-consciousness, but from the moment the poor boy was spied
in the shop, I had a perception that mamma and Mrs. Mansell marked
him down. Personally he would be innocent, but, through all his
chatter, I cannot shake off the fancy that I am watched, or that
decided indifference is not needed to keep him at a distance.'
'I wish you could have seen him without knowing him!'
'In vain, dear Miss King! I can't bear handsome men. I see his
frivolity and shallowness; and for amiability, what do you think of
keeping his cousin all the morning from shooting for such a mere
nothing, and then sending him off for a ten miles' walk?
'For my part, I confess that I was struck with the good sense and
kindness he showed in our tete-a-tete--I thought it justified Mr.
'Yes, I have no doubt that there is some good in him. He might have
done very well, if he had not always been an idol.'
Isabel was the more provoked with Lord Fitzjocelyn, when, by-and-by,
he appeared in the drawing-room, and related the result of his
cousin's mission. Jem, who would know better than himself where to
find his property, had not chosen to believe his description of the
spot where he had left the lotion, and, in the twilight, Louis had
found his foot coiled about by the feelers and claws of a formidable
monster--no other than a bottled scorpion, a recent present from
Captain Hannaford. He did not say how emblematic the scorpion lotion
was of that which Jem had been administering to his wounded spirit
all the morning, but he put the story in so ludicrous a light that
Isabel decided that Mr. Dynevor was ungenerously and ungratefully
treated as a butt; and she turned away in displeasure from the group
whom the recital was amusing, to offer her sympathy to the tutor, and
renew the morning's conversation.
FROSTY, BUT KINDLY.
Go not eastward, go not westward,
For a stranger whom we know not.
Like a fire upon the hearthstone,
Is a neighbour's homely daughter;
Like the moonlight or the starlight,
Is the handsomest of strangers.
Legend of Hiawatha.
'What a laboured production had the letter been! How many copies had
the statesman written! how late had he sat over it at night! how much
more consideration had he spent on it than on papers involving the
success of his life! A word too much or too little might precipitate
the catastrophe, and the bare notion of his son's marriage with a
pupil of Lady Conway renewed and gave fresh poignancy to the past.
At first his anxieties were past mention; but he grew restless under
them, and the instinct of going to Mrs. Ponsonby prevailed. At
least, she would know what had transpired from James, or from
Fitzjocelyn to Mrs. Frost.
She had heard of ecstatic letters from both the cousins, and Mary had
been delighted to identify Miss Conway with the Isabel of whom one of
her school friends spoke rapturously, but the last letter had
beenfrom James to his grandmother, declaring that Lord Ormersfield
was destroying the happiness of the most dutiful of sons, who was
obedient even to tameness, and so absurd that there was no bearing
him. His lordship must hear reason, and learn that he was rejecting
the most admirable creature in existence, her superiority of mind
exceeding even her loveliness of person. He had better beware of
tyranny; it was possible to abuse submission, and who could answer
for the consequences of thwarting strong affections? All the ground
Fitzjocelyn had gained in the last six weeks had been lost; and for
the future, James would not predict.
'An uncomfortable matter,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, chiefly for the sake
of reading her daughter's feelings. 'If it were not in poor Louis's
mind already, his father and James would plant it there by their
'Oh! I hope it will come right,' said Mary. 'Louis is too good, and
his father too kind, for it not to end well. And then, mamma, he
will be able to prove, what nobody will believe--that he is
'You think so, do you?' said her mother, smiling.
Mary blushed, but answered, 'where he really cared, he would be
constant. His fancy might be taken, and he might rave, but he would
never really like what was not good.--If he does think about Miss
Conway, we may trust she is worthy of him. Oh! I should like to see
Mary's eyes lighted up with an enthusiasm that used to be a stranger
to them. It was not the over-acted indifference nor the tender
generosity of disappointment: it seemed more to partake of the fond,
unselfish, elder-sisterly affection that she had always shown towards
Louis, and it set her mother quite at ease.
Seeing Lord Ormersfield riding into the terrace, Mary set out for a
walk, that he might have his tete-a-tete freely with her mother. On
coming home, she met him on the stairs; and he spoke with a sad
softness and tone of pardon that alarmed her so much, that she
hastened to ask her mother whether Louis had really avowed an
'Oh no,' said Mrs. Ponsonby; 'he has written a very right-minded
letter, on the whole, poor boy! though he is sure the Conways have
only to be known to be appreciated. Rather too true! It is in his
Miss Fanny hand, stiff and dispirited; and his father has worked
himself into such a state of uneasiness, that I think it will end in
his going to Ebbscreek at once.'
'O mamma, you won't let him go and torment Louis?'
'Why, Mary, have you been learning of James? Perhaps he would
torment him more from a distance; and besides, I doubt what sort of
counsellor James is likely to make in his present mood.'
'I never could see that James made any difference to Louis,' said
Mary. 'I know people think he does, because Louis gives up wishes
and plans to him; but he is not led in opinions or principles, as far
as I can see.'
'Not unless his own wishes went the same way.'
'At least, Lord Ormersfield will see Miss Conway!'
'I am afraid that will do no good. It will not be for the first
time. Lady Conway has been his dread from the time of his own
marriage; and if she should come to Northwold, he will be in despair.
I do think he must be right; she must be making a dead set at Louis.'
'Not Miss Conway,' said Mary. 'I know she must be good, or he would
not endure her for a moment.'
'Mary, you do not know the power of beauty.'
'I have heard of it,' said Mary; 'I have seen how Dona Guadalupe was
followed. But those people were not like Louis. No, mamma; I think
James might be taken in, I don't think Louis could be--unless he had
a very grand dream of his own before his eyes; and then it would be
his own dream, not the lady that he saw; and by-and-by he would find
it out, and be so vexed!'
'And, I trust, before he had committed himself!'
'Mamma, I won't have you think Miss Conway anything but up to his
dreams! I know she is. Only think what Jane Drummond says of her!'
When the idea of going to see how matters stood had once occurred to
the Earl, he could not stay at home: the ankle and the affections
preyed on him by turns, and he wrote to Sir Miles Oakstead to fix an
earlier day for the promised visit, as well as to his son, to
announce his speedy arrival. Then he forgot the tardiness of cross-
country posts, and outran his letter, so that he found no one to meet
him at Bickleypool; and on driving up to the gate at Ebbscreek, found
all looking deserted. After much knocking, Priscilla appeared,
round-eyed and gasping, and verified his worst fears with 'Gone to
Bochattle.' However, she explained that only one gentleman was gone
to dine there; the other was rowing him round the point, with
grandfather;--they would soon be back--indeed they ought, for the
tide was so low, they would have to land down by the shingle bar.
She pointed out where the boat must come in; and thither the Earl
directed his steps, feeling as if he were going to place himself