Part 5 out of 8
under a nutmeg-grater, as he thought how James Frost would receive
the implied distrust of his guardianship.
The sunset gleam was fading on the sleepy waves that made but a feint
of breaking, along the shining expanse of moist uncovered sand, when
two figures were seen progressing from the projecting rocks, casting
long shadows before them. Lord Ormersfield began to prepare a
mollifying address--but, behold! Was it the effect of light so much
to lengthen Jem's form? nay, was it making him walk with a stick? A
sudden, unlooked-for hope seized the Earl. The next minute he had
been recognised; and in the grasping hands and meeting eyes, all was
forgotten, save the true, fond affection of father and son.
'I did not expect this pleasure. They told me you were dining out.'
'Only rowing Jem to the landing-place. I told him to make my
excuses. It is a dinner to half the neighbourhood, and my foot is
always troublesome if I do not lay it up in the evening.'
'I am glad you are prudent,' said his father, dismissing his fears in
his gratification, and proceeding to lay his coming to the score of
Fitzjocelyn did not wish to see through the plea--he was much too
happy in his father's unusual warmth and tenderness, and in the
delights of hospitality. Mrs. Hannaford was gone out, and eatables
were scarce; but a tea-dinner was prepared merrily between Priscilla,
the Captain, and Louis, who gloried in displaying his school-fagging
accomplishments with toast, eggs, and rashers--hobbled between
parlour and kitchen, helping Priscilla, joking with the Captain, and
waiting on his father so eagerly and joyously as to awaken a sense of
adventure and enjoyment in the Earl himself. No meal, with Frampton
behind his chair, had ever equalled Fitzjocelyn's cookery or
attendance; and Louis's reminiscences of the penalties he had
suffered from his seniors for burnt toast, awoke like recollections
of schoolboy days, hitherto in utter oblivion, and instead of the
intended delicate conversation, father and son found themselves
laughing over a 'tirocinium or review of schools.'
Still, the subject must be entered on; and when Lord Ormersfield had
mentioned the engagement to go to Oakstead, he added, 'All is well,
since I have found you here. Let me tell you that I never felt more
grateful nor more relieved than by this instance of regard for my
Though knowing the fitful nature of Louis's colour, he would have
been better satisfied not to have called up such an intensity of red,
and to have had some other answer than, 'I wish you saw more of
'I see them every year in London.'
'London gives so little scope for real acquaintance,' ventured Louis
again, with downcast eyes.
'You forget that Lady Conway is my sister-in-law.' Louis would have
spoken, but his father added, 'Before you were born, I had full
experience of her. You must take it on trust that her soft,
prepossessing manners belong to her as a woman of the world who
cannot see you without designs on you.'
'Of course,' said Louis, 'I yield to your expressed wishes; but my
aunt has been very kind to me: and,' he added, after trying to mould
the words to their gentlest form, 'you could not see my cousins
without being convinced that it is the utmost injustice--'
'I do not censure them,' said his father, as he hesitated between
indignation and respect, 'I only tell you, Louis, that nothing could
grieve me more than to see your happiness in the keeping of a pupil
of Lady Conway.'
He met a look full of consternation, and of struggles between filial
deference and the sense of injustice. All Louis allowed himself to
say was, however, 'Surely, when I am her own nephew! when our poverty
is a flagrant fact--she may be acquitted of anything but caring for
me for--for my mother's sake.'
There was a silence that alarmed Louis, who had never before named
his mother to the Earl. At last, Lord Ormersfield spoke clearly and
sternly, in characteristic succinct sentences, but taking breath
between each. 'You shall have no reason to think me prejudiced. I
will tell you facts. There was a match which she desired for such
causes as lead her to seek you. The poverty was greater, and she
knew it. On one side there was strong affection; on that which she
influenced there was--none whatever. If there were scruples, she
smothered them. She worked on a young innocent mind to act out her
deceit, and without a misgiving on--on his part that his feelings
wore not returned, the marriage took place.'
'It could not have been all her own fault,' cried Louis. 'It must
have been a willing instrument--much to blame--'
His father cut him short with sudden severity, such as startled him.
'Never say so, Louis. She was a mere child, educated for that sole
purpose, her most sweet and docile nature wasted and perverted.'
'And you know this of your own knowledge?' said Fitzjocelyn, still
striving to find some loophole to escape from such testimony.
The Earl paused, as if to collect himself, then repeated the words,
slowly and decidedly, 'Of my own knowledge. I could not have spoken
'May I ask how it ended?'
'As those who marry for beauty alone have a right to expect. There
was neither confidence nor sympathy. She died early. I--we--those
who loved her as their own life--were thankful.'
Louis perceived the strong effort and great distress with which these
words were uttered, and ventured no answer, glancing hastily through
all his connexions to guess whose history could thus deeply affect
his father; but he was entirely at a loss; and Lord Ormersfield,
recovering himself, added, 'Say no more of this; but, believe me, it
was to spare you from her manoeuvres that I kept you apart from that
'The Northwold baths have been recommended for Louisa,' said
Fitzjocelyn. 'Before we knew of your objections, we mentioned Miss
What the Earl was about to utter, he suppressed.
'You cannot look at those girls and name manoeuvring!' cried Louis.
After a silence, Lord Ormersfield added, with more anxiety than
prudence, 'Set my mind at rest, Louis. There can have been no harm
done yet, in so short a time.'
'I--don't--know--' said Louis, slowly. 'I have seldom spoken to her,
to be sure. She actually makes me shy! I never saw anything half so
lovely. I cannot help her reigning over my thoughts. I shall never
believe a word against her, though I cannot dispute what you say of
my aunt. She is of another mould, I wish you could let me hope
A gesture of despair from his father cut him short.
'I will do whatever you please,' he concluded.
'You will find that time conquers the fancy,' said the Earl, quickly.
'I am relieved to find that you have at least not committed yourself:
it would be no compliment to Mary Ponsonby.'
Louis's lip curled somewhat; but he said no more, and made no
objections to the arrangements which his father proceeded to detail.
Doubtful of the accommodations of Ebbscreek, Lord Ormersfield had
prudently retained his fly, and though Louis, intending to sleep on
the floor, protested that there was plenty of room, he chose to
return to the inn at Bickleypool. He would call for Louis to-morrow,
to take him for a formal call at Beauchastel; and the day after they
would go together to Oakstead, leaving James to return home, about
ten days sooner than had been previously concerted.
Lord Ormersfield had not been gone ten minutes, before James's quick
bounding tread was heard far along the dry woodland paths. He vaulted
over the gate, and entered by the open window, exclaiming, as he did
so, 'Hurrah! The deed is done; the letter is off to engage the House
'Doom is doom!' were the first words that occurred to Louis. 'The
lion and the prince.'
'There was once a king,' began Louis, as if the tale were the newest
in the world, 'whose son was predestined to be killed by a lion.
After much consideration, his majesty enclosed his royal highness in
a tower, warranted wild-beast proof, and forbade the chase to be
mentioned in his hearing. The result was, that the locked-up prince
died of look-jaw in consequence of tearing his hand with a nail in
the picture of the lion.'
'I shall send that apologue straight to Ormersfield.'
'You may spare that trouble. My father has been with me all the
'Oh! his double-ganger visits you. That accounts for your freaks.'
'Double-gangers seldom come in yellow-bodied flys.'
'His lordship in propria persona. You don't mean it.'
'He is sleeping at the 'George' at Bickleypool. There is a letter
coming to-morrow by the post, to say he is coming to-day, with every
imaginable civility to you; but I am to go to the rose-coloured
pastor's with him on Wednesday.'
'So there's an end of our peace and comfort!'
'I am afraid we have sadly discomposed his peace.'
'Did you discover whether his warnings have the slightest
'He told me a history that somewhat accounts for his distrust of my
aunt. I think there must be another side to it, and nothing can be
more unjust than to condemn all the family, but it affected him so
exceedingly that I do not wonder at his doing so. He gave no names,
but I am sure it touched him very nearly. Can you tell who it could
have been?' And he narrated enough to make James exclaim, 'It ought
to touch him nearly. He was talking of himself.'
'Impossible!--my mother!' cried Louis, leaping up.
'Yes--his own version of his married life.'
'How do you know? You cannot remember it,' said Louis, though too
well convinced, as he recollected the suppressed anguish, and the
horror with which all blame of the young wife had been silenced.
'I have heard of it again and again. It was an unhappy, ill-assorted
marriage: she was gay, he was cold.'
'My Aunt Catharine says so?'
'As far as she can blame anything. Your mother was a sweet blossom
in a cold wind. She loved and pitied her with all her heart. Your
aunt was talking, this very evening, of your father having carried
her sister to Ormersfield, away from all her family, and one reason
of her desire to go to Northwold is to see those who were with her at
Louis was confounded. 'Yes! I see,' he said. 'How obtuse not to
read it in his own manner! How much it explains!' and he silently
rested his brow on his hands.
'Depend upon it, there are two sides to the story. I would not be a
pretty, petted, admired girl in his keeping.'
'Do you think it mends matters with me to fasten blame on either?'
said Louis, sadly. 'No; I was realizing the perception of such a
thread of misery woven into his life, and thinking how little I have
felt for him.'
'Endowing him with your own feelings, and then feeling for him!'
'No. I cannot estimate his feeling. He is of harder, firmer stuff
than I; and for that very reason, I suspect, suffering is a more
terrific thing. I heard the doctors saying, when I bore pain badly,
that it would probably do the less future harm: a bad moral, but I
believe it is true of the mental as of the physical constitution.'
Answering something between a look and a shrug of James, he mused on,
aloud--'I understand better what the wreck of affection must have
'For my part,' said James, 'I do not believe in the affection that
can tyrannize over and blight a woman.'
'Nay, James! I cannot doubt. My very name--my having been called by
it, are the more striking in one so fond of usage and precedent.
Things that passed between him and Mrs. Ponsonby while I was ill--
much that I little regarded and ill requited--show what force of love
and grief there must have been. The cold, grave manner, is the
broken, inaccessible edge of the cliff rent asunder.'
'If romance softens the rough edge, you are welcome to it! I may as
well go to bed!'
'Not romance--the sad reality of my poor father's history. I trust I
shall never treat his wishes so lightly--'
Impatient of one-sided sympathy, James exclaimed, 'As if you did not
give way to him like a slave!'
'Yes, like a slave,' said Louis, gravely. 'I wish to give way like a
son who would try to comfort him for what he has undergone.'
'Now, I should have thought your feeling would have been for your
'If my mother could speak to me,' said Louis, with trembling lips,
'she would surely bid me to try my utmost, as far as in me lies, to
bring peace and happiness to my father. I cannot tell where the
errors may have been, and I will never ask. If she was as like to me
as they say, I could understand some of them! At least, I know that
I am doubly bound to give as little vexation to him as possible, and
I trust that you will not make it harder to me. You lost your father
so early, that you can hardly estimate--'
'The trial?' said James, willing to give what had passed the air of a
'Exactly so--Good night.'
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad--
Sometimes a curly shepherd lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes, through the mirror blue,
The knights come riding two and two.
She hath no loyal knight and true--
The Lady of Shalott.
'Oakstead, Oct. 14th, 1847.
'My Dear Aunt,--I find that Fitzjocelyn is writing to you, but I
think you will wish for a fuller account of him than can be obtained
from his own letters. Indeed, I should be much obliged if you would
kindly exercise your influence to persuade him that he is not in a
condition to be imprudent with impunity. Sir Miles Oakstead was
absolutely shocked to see the alteration in his appearance, as well
as in his spirits; and although both our kind host and hostess are
most solicitous on his account, it happens unfortunately that they
are at this juncture quite alone, so that he is without companions of
his own age. I must not, however, alarm you. The fact is, that
circumstances have occurred which, though he has acted in the most
exemplary manner, have harassed and distressed him a good deal, and
his health suffers from the difficulty of taking sufficient exercise.
James will triumph when he hears that I regret having shortened his
stay by the sea-side; for neither the place nor the weather seems to
agree with him: he has had a recurrence of wakeful nights, and is
very languid. Poor boy! yesterday he wandered out alone in the rain,
lost his way, and came home so fatigued that he slept for three hours
on the sofa, but to-day he seems better--has more colour, and has
been less silent. We go to Leffingham Castle from Monday till
Thursday, when I shall take him to London for Hastings to decide
whether it be fit for him to return to Christchurch after the
vacation, according to his own most anxious wish. With my love to
Mary Ponsonby and her daughter, and best remembrances to James,
'Your affectionate nephew,
The same envelope contained another letter of many sheets, beginning
in a scrawl:--
'Scene--Rose-coloured Pastor's Nest. Tables, chairs, books, papers,
despatch-boxes. The two ex-ministers writing and consulting.
Viscount F. looking on like a colt running beside its parent at
plough, thinking that harness leaves deep marks, and that he does not
like the furrow.
'October 13th, 1847.--That correct date must be a sign that he is
getting into harness.
'Well, dear Aunt Kitty, to make a transition from the third to the
first person, like Mrs. Norris, you have in this short scene an
epitome of the last fortnight. Lady Oakstead is an honourable
matron, whom I pity for having me in her way; a man unable to be got
rid of by the lawful exercises of shooting and riding, and with a
father always consulting her about him, and watching every look and
movement, till the blood comes throbbing to my temples by the mere
attraction of his eyes. To be watched into a sense of impatience and
ingratitude, is a trial of life for which one is not prepared. My
father and Sir Miles are very busy; I hang here an anomaly, sitting
with them as being less in their way than in Lady Oakstead's, and
wondering what I shall be twenty years hence. I am sick of the only
course of life that will content my father, and I can see no sunshine
likely to brighten it. But, at least, no one's happiness is at stake
but my own. Here is a kind, cordial letter from Lady Conway,
pressing me to join her at Scarborough, make expeditions, &c. My
father is in such a state about me, that I believe I could get his
consent to anything, but I suppose it would not be fair, and I have
said nothing to him as yet. On Monday we go to Leffingham, which, I
hear, is formality itself. After that, more state visits, unless I
can escape to Oxford. My father fancies me not well enough; but pray
unite all the forces of the Terrace to impress that nothing else will
do me any good. Dragging about in this dreary, heartless way is all
that ails me, and reading for my degree would be the best cure. I
mean to work hard for honours, and, if possible, delude myself with
hopes of success. Work is the need. Here, there is this one
comfort. There is no one to talk to, no birds in last year's nest,
sons absent, daughters disposed of, but, unluckily, the Pastoress,
under a mistaken sense of kindness, has asked the Vicar's son to walk
with me, and he is always lying in wait,--an Ensign in a transition
state between the sheepish schoolboy and the fast man, with an
experience of three months of depot. Having roused him from the
pristine form, I regret the alternative.
'Did I ever write so savage a letter? Don't let it vex you, or I
won't send it. What a bull! There is such a delectable Scotch mist,
that no one will suspect me of going out; and I shall actually cheat
the Ensign, and get a walk in solitude to hearten me for the dismal
state dinner party of the evening.
'October 14th.--Is it in the book of fate that I should always treat
this rose-coloured pastor like a carrion crow? I have done it again!
And it has but brought out more of my father's marvellous kindness
'I plunged into the Scotch mist unsuspected and unpursued. The
visible ebullition of discontent had so much disgusted me that I must
needs see whether anything could be done with it, and fairly face the
matter, as I can only do in a walk. Pillow counsel is feverish and
tumultuous; one is hardly master of oneself. The soft, cool, mist-
laden air, heavy but incense-breathing, was a far more friendly
adjunct in the quiet decay of nature--mournful, but not foul nor
corrupt, because man had not spoilt it. It suited me better than a
sunny, glaring day, such as I used to revel in, and the brightness of
which, last spring, made me pine to be in the free air. Such days
are past with me; I had better know that they are, and not strive
after them. Personal happiness is the lure, not the object, in this
world. I have my Northwold home, and I am beginning to see that my
father's comfort depends on me as I little imagined, and sufficiently
to sweeten any sacrifice. So I have written to refuse Scarborough,
for there is no use in trying to combine two things, pleasing my
father and myself. I wish the determination may last; but mine have
never been good for much, and you must help me.
'Neither thinking nor fog conduced to seeing where I was going; and
when my ankle began to give out, and I was going to turn, I ran into
a hedge, which, looming through the mist, I had been taking for a
fine range of distant mountains--rather my way of dealing with other
objects. Being without a horse on whose neck to lay the reins, I
could only coast the hedge, hoping it might lead me back to Oakstead
Park, which I had abandoned in my craving for space and dread of
being dogged by the Ensign. But the treacherous hedge led me nowhere
but to a horsepond; and when I had struggled out of the adjacent
mire, and attained a rising ground, I could only see about four yards
square of bare down, all the rest being grey fog. Altogether, the
scene was worth something. I heard what I thought the tinkling of a
sheep bell through the cloud, which dulled the sound like cotton
wool; I pursued the call, when anon, the veil began to grow thin, and
revealed, looking just like a transparency, a glimpse of a little
village in a valley almost under my feet, trees, river, church-spire
and all, and the bell became clearer, and showed me what kind of
flock it was meant for. I turned that way, and had just found a path
leading down the steep, when down closed the cloud--a natural
dissolving view--leaving me wondering whether it had been mirage or
imagination, till presently, the curtain drew up in earnest. Out
came, not merely form, but colour, as I have seen a camera clear
itself--blue sky, purple hills, russet and orange woods, a great elm
green picked out with yellow, a mass of brown oaks, a scarlet maple,
a beech grove, skirting a brilliant water meadow, with a most
reflective stream running through it, and giving occasion for a
single arched bridge, and a water mill, with a wheel draperied with
white foam; two swans disporting on the water (I would not declare
they were not geese), a few cottony flakes of mist hanging over damp
corners, the hill rising green, with the bright whitewashed cottages
of this district, on the side a rich, red, sandstone-coloured church,
late architecture, tower rather mouldering--all the more picturesque;
churchyard, all white headstones and ochreous sheep, surmounted by a
mushroom-shaped dark yew tree, railed in with intensely white rails,
the whole glowing in the parting coup-de-soleil of a wet day, every
tear of every leaf glistening, and everything indescribably lustrous.
It is a picture that one's mental photograph ought to stamp for life,
and the cheering and interest it gave, no one but you can understand.
I wished for you, I know. It looks so poor in words.
'After the service, I laid hold of the urchin whose hearty stare had
most reminded me of Tom Madison, and gave him a shilling to guide me
back to Oakstead, a wise measure, for down came the cloud, blotting
all out like the Castle of St. John, and by the time I came home, it
was pitch dark and raining hard, and my poor father was imagining me
at the foot of another precipice. I was hoping to creep up in
secret, but they all came out, fell upon me, Lady Oakstead sent me
tea, and ordered me to rest; and so handsomely did I obey, that when
next I opened my eyes, and saw my father waiting, as I thought, for
me to go down to dinner with him, I found he had just come up after
the ladies had quitted the dining-room. So kind and so little
annoyed did he seem, that I shook myself, to be certified that I had
broken no more bones, but it was all sheer forbearance and
consideration--enough to go to one's heart--when it was the very
thing to vex him most. With great penitence, I went down, and the
first person I encountered was the very curate I had seen in my
_mist_erious village, much as if he had walked out of a story book.
On fraternizing, I found him to be a friend of Holdsworth. Lady
Oakstead is going to take me, this afternoon, to see his church, &c.,
thoroughly; and behold, I learn from him that she is a notable woman
for doing good in her parish, never so happy as in trotting to
cottages, though her good deeds are always in the background.
Thereupon, I ventured to attack her this morning on cottage
garniture, and obtained the very counsel I wanted about ovens and
piggeries, we began to get on together, and she is to put me up to
all manner of information that I want particularly. I must go now,
not to keep her waiting, never mind the first half of my letter--I
have no time to cancel it now. I find my father wants to put in a
note: don't believe a word that he says, for I am much better to-day,
body and mind.
Goosey, goosey gander,
Where shall we wander,
Anywhere, everywhere, to remain still
'Your most affectionate,
Dear Aunt Kitty! One of her failings was never to be able to keep a
letter to herself. She fairly cried over her boy's troubles; and
Mrs. Ponsonby would not have known whether to laugh or cry but for
James's doleful predictions, which were so sentimental as to turn
even his grandmother to the laughing party, and left him no
sympathizer but Mary, who thought it very hard and cruel to deride
Louis when he was trying so earnestly to be good and suffering so
much. Why should they all--Aunt Catharine herself--be merry over his
thinking the spring-days of his life past away, and trying so nobly
and patiently to resign himself?
'It is the way of the world, Mary,' said James. 'People think they
are laughing at the mistaking a flock of sheep for the army of
Pentapolin of the naked arm, when they are really sneering at the
lofty spirit taking the weaker side. They involve the sublime temper
in the ridiculous accident, and laugh both alike to scorn.'
'Not mamma and Aunt Catharine,' said Mary. 'Besides, is not half the
harm in the world done by not seeing where the sublime is invaded by
'I see nothing ridiculous in the matter,' said James. 'His father
has demanded an unjustifiable sacrifice. Fitzjocelyn yields and
'I do believe Lord Ormersfield must relent; you see how pleased he
is, saying that Louis's conduct is exemplary.'
'He would sacrifice a dozen sons to one prejudice!'
'Perhaps Miss Conway will overcome the prejudice. I am sure, if he
thinks Louis's conduct exemplary, Louis must have the sort of
happiness he used to wish for most, and his father would do his very
best to gratify him.'
That sentence was Mary's cheval de bataille in her discussions with
James, who could never be alone with her without broaching the
subject. The two cousins often walked together during James's month
at Northwold. The town church was not very efficiently served, and
was only opened in the morning and late evening on Sundays, without
any afternoon prayers, and James was often in the habit of walking to
Ormersfield church for the three o'clock service, and asking Mary to
join him. Their return was almost always occupied in descriptions of
Miss Conway's perfections, and Mary learnt to believe that two
beings, evidently compounded of every creature's best, must be
destined for each other.
'How well it is,' she thought, 'that I did not stand in the way. Oh!
how unhappy and puzzled I should be now. How thankful I am that dear
mamma understood all for us so well! How glad I am that Louis is
waiting patiently, not doing anything self-willed. As long as his
father says he is exemplary, it must make one happy, and mamma will
convince Lord Ormersfield. It will all turn out well; and how
delightful it will be to see him quite happy and settled!'
Mary and her mother had by this time taken root at Dynevor Terrace,
and formed an integral part of the inhabitants. Their newspaper went
the round of the houses, their name was sent to the Northwold book-
club and enrolled among the subscribers to local charities, and Miss
Mercy Faithfull found that their purse and kitchen would bear deeper
hauls than she could in general venture upon. Mary was very happy,
working under her, and was a welcome and cheerful visitor to the many
sick, aged, and sorrowful to whom she introduced her.
If Mary could only have induced Aunt Melicent to come and see with
her own eyes, to know Mrs. Frost and the Faithfull sisters, and,
above all, to see mamma in her own house, she thought one of her most
eager wishes would have been fulfilled. But invite as she and her
mother might, they could not move Miss Ponsonby from Bryanstone
Square. Railroads and country were both her dread; and she was not
inclined, to overcome her fears on behalf of a sister-in-law whom she
forgave, but could not love.
'You must give it up, my dear,' said Mrs. Ponsonby. 'I let the time
for our amalgamation pass. Melicent and I were not tolerant of each
other. Since she has given you back to me, I can love and respect
her as I never did before; but a little breach in youth becomes too
wide in age for either repentance or your affection, my dear, to be
able to span it.'
Mary saw what a relief it was that the invitations were not accepted,
and though she was disappointed, she blamed herself for having wished
otherwise. Tranquillity was such a boon to that wearied spirit, each
day was so much gain that went by without the painful, fluttered look
of distress, and never had Mrs. Ponsonby had so much quiet enjoyment
with her daughter and her aunt. Mary was perfectly contented in
seeing her better, and had no aims beyond the present trivial,
commonplace life, with so many to help by little ordinary services,
and her mother serene and comfortable. Placid, and yet active, she
went busily through the day, and did not forget the new pleasures to
which Louis had opened her mind. She took up his books without a
pang, and would say, briskly and unblushingly, to her mother, how
strange it was that before she had been with him, she had never liked
at all, what she now cared for so much.
The winter portended no lack of excitement. Miss Faithfull's rooms
were engaged. When Miss Mercy ran in breathless to Mrs. Frost with
the tidings, she little knew what feelings were excited; the hope and
fear, the doubt and curiosity; the sense of guilt towards the elder
nephew, in not preventing what she could not prevent, the rejoicing
on behalf of the younger nephew; the ladylike scorn of the motives
that brought the lodgers; yet the warm feeling towards what was dear
to Louis and admired by Jem.
What a flapping and battering of carpets on the much-enduring stump!
What furious activity of Martha! What eager help of little
Charlotte, who was in a perfect trepidation of delight at the rumour
that a real beauty, fit for a heroine, was coming! What trotting
hither and thither of Miss Mercy! What netting of blinds and
stitching of chintz by Miss Salome! What envy and contempt on the
part of other landladies on hearing that Miss Faithfull's apartments
were engaged for the whole winter! What an anxious progress was Miss
Mercy's, when she conducted Mrs. Frost and Mary to a final
inspection! and what was her triumph when Mary, sitting down on the
well-stuffed arm-chair, pronounced that people who would not come
there did not understand what comfort was.
Every living creature gazed--Mrs. Frost through her blind, Mary
behind her hydrangea in the balcony, Charlotte from her attic
window,--when the lodgers disembarked in full force--two ladies, two
children, one governess, three maids, two men, two horses, one King
Charles's spaniel! Let it be what it might, it was a grand windfall
for the Miss Faithfulls.
Mary's heart throbbed as the first carriage thundered upon the
gravel, and a sudden swelling checked her voice as she was about to
exclaim 'There she is!' when the second lady emerged, and moved up
the garden path. She was veiled and mantled; but accustomed as was
Mary's eye to the Spanish figure and walk, the wonderful grace of
movement and deportment struck her as the very thing her eye had
missed ever since she left Peru. What the rest of the strangers were
like, she knew not; she had only eyes for the creature who had won
Louis's affection, and doubtless deserved it, as all else that was
'So they are come, Charlotte,' said Mrs. Frost, as the maiden
demurely brought in the kettle.
'Yes, ma'am;' and stooping to put the kettle on, and growing
carnation-coloured over the fire. 'Oh, ma'am, I never saw such a
young lady. She is all one as the king's sister in The Lord of the
While the object of all this enthusiasm was arriving at the Terrace,
she was chiefly conscious that Sir Roland was sinking down on the
ramparts of Acre, desperately wounded in the last terrible siege; and
she was considering whether palmer or minstrel should carry the
tidings of his death to Adeline. It was her refuge from the
unpleasant feelings, with which she viewed the experiment of the
Northwold baths upon Louisa's health. As the carriage stopped, she
cast one glance at the row of houses, they struck her as dreary and
dilapidated; she drew her mantle closer, shivered, and walked into
the house. 'Small rooms, dingy furniture-that is mamma's affair,'
passed through her mind, as she made a courteous acknowledgment of
Miss Mercy's greeting, and stood by the drawing-room fire. 'Roland
slowly awoke from his swoon; a white-robed old man, with a red eight-
pointed cross on his breast, was bending over him. He knew himself
to be in--I can't remember which tower the Hospitallers defended. I
wonder whether Marianne can find the volume of Vertot.'
'Isabel, Isabel!' shrieked Virginia, who, with Louisa, had been
roaming everywhere, 'here is a discovery in the school-room! Come!'
It was an old framed print of a large house, as much of a sham castle
as the nature of things would permit; and beneath were the words
'Cheveleigh, the seat of Roland Dynevor, Esquire.'
'There!' cried Virginia; 'you see it is a castle, a dear old feudal
castle! Think of that, Isabel! Why, it is as good as seeing Sir
Roland himself, to have seen Mr. Dynevor Frost disinherited. Oh! if
his name were only Roland, instead of that horrid James!'
'His initials are J. R.,' said Isabel. 'It is a curious
'It only wants an Adeline to have the castle now,' said Louisa. 'Oh!
there shall be an heiress, and she shall be beautiful, and he shan't
go crusading--he shall marry her.'
The sisters had not been aware that the school-room maid, who had
been sent on to prepare, was busy unpacking in a corner of the room.
'They say, Miss Louisa,' she interposed, 'that Mr. Frost is going to
be married to a great heiress--his cousin, Miss Ponsonby, at No. 7.'
Isabel requited the forwardness by silently leaving the room with the
sisters, and Virginia apologized for not having been more cautious
than to lead to such subjects. 'It is all gossip,' she said,
angrily; 'Mr. Dynevor would never marry for money.'
'Nay, let us find in her an Adeline,' said Isabel.
The next day, Miss Mercy had hurried into No. 7, to declare that the
ladies were all that was charming, but that their servants gave
themselves airs beyond credence, especially the butler, who played
the guitar, and insisted on a second table; when there was a peal of
the bell, and Mary from her post of observation 'really believed it
was Lady Conway herself;' whereupon Miss Mercy, without listening to
persuasions, popped into the back drawing room to effect her retreat.
Lady Conway was all eagerness and cordiality, enchanted to renew her
acquaintance, venturing so early a call in hopes of prevailing on
Mrs. Ponsonby to come out with her to take a drive. She conjured up
recollections of Mary's childhood, declared that she looked to her
for drawing Isabel out, and was extremely kind and agreeable. Mary
thought her delightful, with something of Louis's charm of manner;
and Mrs. Ponsonby believed it no acting, for Lady Conway was
sincerely affable and affectionate, with great warmth and kindness,
and might have been all that was excellent, had she started into life
with a different code of duty.
So there was to be an intimacy. For Fitzjocelyn's sake, as well as
for the real good-nature of the advances, Mrs. Ponsonby would not
shrink back more than befitted her self-respect. Of that quality she
had less than Mrs. Frost, who, with her innate punctilious spirit,
avoided all favours or patronage. It was curious to see the gentle
old lady fire up with all the dignity of the Pendragons, at the least
peril of incurring an obligation, and, though perfectly courteous,
easy, and obliging, she contrived to keep at a greater distance than
if she had been mistress of Cheveleigh. There, she would have
remembered that both she and Lady Conway were aunts to Louis; at
Northwold, her care was to become beholden for nothing that she could
Lady Conway did her best, when driving out with Mrs. Ponsonby, to
draw her into confidence. There were tender reminiscences from her
heart of poor sweet Louisa, tearful inquiries respecting her last
weeks, certainties that Mrs. Ponsonby had been of great use to her;
for, poor darling, she had been thoughtless--so much to turn her
head. There was cause for regret in their own education--there was
then so much less attention to essentials. Lady Conway could not
have borne to bring up her own girls as she herself and her sisters
had grown up; she had chosen a governess who made religion the first
object, and she was delighted to see them all so attached to her; she
had never had any fears of their being too serious--people had learnt
to be reasonable now, did not insist on the impracticable, did not
denounce moderate gaieties, as had once been done to the alarm of
Sweetest Louisa's son! She could not speak too warmly of him, and
she declared herself highly gratified by Mr. Mansell's opinion of his
modesty, attention, and good sense. Mr. Mansell was an excellent
judge, he had such as opinion of Lord Ormersfield's public character.
And, at a safe interval, she mentioned the probability that
Beauchastel might be settled on Isabel, if she should marry so as to
please Mr. Mansell: he cared for connexion more than for wealth; if
he had a weakness, it was for rank.
Mrs. Ponsonby thought it fair that the Earl should be aware of these
facts. He smiled ironically.
He left his card with his sister-in-law, and, to have it over while
Louis was safe at Oxford, invited the party to spend a day at
Ormersfield, with Mrs. Frost to entertain them. He was far too
considerate of the feelings that he attributed to the Ponsonbys to
ask them to come; and as three out of the six in company were more or
less in a state of haughtiness and coolness, Lady Conway's graces
failed entirely; and poor innocent Virginia and Louisa protested that
they had never spent so dull a day, and that they could not believe
their cousin Fitzjocelyn could belong to such a tiresome place.
Isabel, who had undergone more dull days than they had, contrived to
get through it by torturing Adeline with utter silence of all tidings
from the East, and by a swarm of suitors, with the fantastic Viscount
foremost. She never was awake from her dream until Mr. Holdsworth
came to dinner, and was so straightforward and easy that he thawed
Afterwards, he never failed to return an enthusiastic reply to the
question that all the neighbourhood were asking each other--namely,
whether they had seen Miss Conway.
No one was a more devoted admirer than the Lady of Eschalott, whose
webs had a bad chance when there was one glimpse of Miss Conway to be
obtained from the window, and the vision of whose heart was that Mrs.
Martha might some day let her stand in the housemaid's closet, to
behold her idol issue forth in the full glory of an evening dress--a
thing Charlotte had read of, but never seen anything nearer to it
than Miss Walby coming to tea, and her own Miss Clara in the
scantiest of all white muslins.
But Mrs. Martha was in an unexampled state of vixenish crossness, and
snapped venomously at mild Mrs. Beckett for the kindest offers of
sparing Charlotte to assist her in her multiplied labours. She
seemed to be running after time all day long, with five dinners and
teas upon her hands, poor woman, and allowing herself not the
slightest relaxation, except to rush in for a few seconds to No. 7,
to indulge herself by inveighing against the whole of the fine
servants; and yet she was so proud of having lodgers at all, that she
hated them for nothing so much as for threatening to go away.
The object of her bitterest invectives was the fastidious butler, Mr.
Delaford, who by her account could do nothing for himself, grudged
her mistresses their very sitting-room, drank wine with the ladies'
maids like a gentleman, and ordered fish for the second table; talked
of having quitted a duke, and submitting to live with Lady Conway
because he compassionated unprotected females, and my Lady was
dependent on him for the care of Sir Walter in the holidays. To
crown his offences, he never cleaned his own plate, but drew sketches
and played the guitar! Moreover, Mrs. Martha had her notions that he
was making that sickly Frenchified maid of Miss Conway's much too
fond of him; and as to his calling himself Mr. Delaford--why, Mrs.
Martha had a shrewd suspicion that he was some kin to her first
cousin's brother-in-law's shopman's wife in Tottenham-court-road,
whose name she knew was Ford, and who had been picked out of a
gutter! The establishment of such a fact appeared as if it would be
the triumph of Mrs. Martha's life. In the meantime, she more than
hinted that she would wear herself to the bone rather than let
Charlotte Arnold into the house; and Jane, generally assenting,
though seldom going all lengths, used to divert the conversation by
comparisons with Mr. Frampton's politeness and consideration. He
never came to No. 5 to give trouble, only to help.
The invectives produced on Charlotte's mind an effect the reverse of
what was intended. Mr. Delaford, a finer gentleman than Mr. Frampton
and Mr. Poynings, must be a wonder of nature. The guitar--redolent
of serenades and Spanish cloaks--oh! but once to see and hear it!
The very rudeness of Mrs. Martha's words, so often repeated, gave her
a feeling in favour of their object. She had known Mrs. Martha
unjust before. Poor Tom! if he had only been a Spaniard, he would
have sung about the white dove--his pretty thought--in a serenade,
but then he might have poignarded Mr. James in his passion, which
would have been less agreeable--she supposed he had forgotten her
long ago--and so much the better!
It was a Sunday evening. Every one was gone to church except
Charlotte, who was left to keep house. Though November, it was not
cold, the day had been warm and showery, and the full moon had risen
in the most glorious brightness, riding in a sky the blue of which
looked almost black by contrast with her brilliancy. Charlotte stood
at the back door, gazing at the moon walking in brightness, and
wandered into the garden, to enjoy what to her was beyond all other
delights, reading Gessner's Death of Abel by moonlight. There was
quite sufficient light, even if she had not known the idyll almost by
heart; and in a trance of dreamy, undefined delight, she stood beside
the dark ivy-covered wall, each leaf glistening in the moonbeams,
which shed a subdued pearliness over her white apron and collar,
paled but gave a shadowy refinement to her features, and imparted a
peculiar soft golden gloss to the fair braids of hair on her modest
A sound of opening the back gate made her give one of her violent
starts; but before she could spring into the shelter of the house,
she was checked by the civil words, 'I beg your pardon, I was
mistaken--I took this for No. 8.'
'Three doors off--' began Charlotte, discovering, with a shy thrill
of surprise and pleasure, that she had been actually accosted by the
great Mr. Delaford; and the moonlight, quite as becoming to him as to
her, made him an absolute Italian count, tall, dark, pale, and
whiskered. He did not go away at once, he lingered, and said softly,
'I perceive that you partake my own predilection for the moonlight
Charlotte would have been delighted, had it not been a great deal
harder to find an answer than if the old Lord had asked her a
question; but she simpered and blushed, which probably did just as
well. Mr. Delaford supposed she knew the poet's lines--
'How sweet the moonlight sleeps on yonder bank--'
'Oh yes, sir--so sweet!' exclaimed the Lady of Eschalott, under her
breath, though yonder bank was only represented by the chequer-work
of Mrs. Ponsonby's latticed trellis; and Mr. Delaford proceeded to
quote the whole passage, in a deep mellow voice, but with a great
deal of affectation; and Charlotte gasped, 'So beautiful!'
'I perceive that you have a fine taste for poetry,' said Mr.
Delaford, so graciously, that Charlotte presumed to say, 'Oh, sir! is
it true that you can play the guitar?'
He smiled upon her tone of veneration, and replied, 'a trifle--a
little instrumental melody was a great resource. If his poor
performance would afford her any gratification, he would fetch his
'Oh, sir--thank you--a psalm-tune, perhaps. It is Sunday--if you
would be so kind.'
He smiled superciliously as he regretted that his music was not of
that description, and Charlotte felt ready to sink into the earth at
the indignity she had done the guitar in forgetting that it could
accompany anything but such songs as Valancourt sang to Emily. She
begged his pardon humbly; and he declared that he had a great respect
for a lady's scruples, and should be happy to meet her another
evening. 'If Mrs. Beckett would allow her,' said Charlotte,
overpowered with gratitude: 'there would be the moon full to-morrow--
how delightful!' He could spare a short interval between the dinner
and the tea; and with this promise he took leave.
Honest little Charlotte told Mrs. Beckett the whole story, and all
her eager wishes for to-morrow evening; and Jane sighed and puzzled
herself, and knew it would make Martha very angry, but could not help
being goodnatured. Jane had a great deference for Martha's strong,
rough character; but then Martha had never lived in a great house,
and did not know 'what was what,' nor the difference between 'low
people' and upper servants. So Jane acted chaperon as far as her
easy discretion went, and had it to say to her own conscience, and to
the angry Martha, that he never said one word that need offend any
There was a terrible storm below-stairs in the House Beautiful at the
idea of Delaford taking up with Mrs. Frost's little kitchen-maid-
Delaford, the lady's-maid killer par excellence, wherever Lady Conway
went, and whose coquetries whitened the cheeks of Miss Conway's poor
Marianne, the object of his attentions whenever he had no one else in
view. He had not known Charlotte to be a kitchen-maid when he first
beheld her, and her fair beauty and retiring grace had had full
scope, assisted by her veneration for himself; and now the scorn of
the grand Mrs. Fanshawe, and the amusement of teasing Marianne, only
made him the more bent on patronizing 'the little rustic,' as he
called her. He was deferential to Mrs. Beckett, who felt herself in
her element in discussing plate, china, and large establishments with
him; and he lent books, talked poetry, and played the guitar to
Charlotte, and even began to take her portrait, with her mouth all on
Delaford was an admirable servant, said the whole Conway family; he
was trusted as entirely as he represented, and Lady Conway often gave
him charge over her son in sports and expeditions beyond ladies'
management: he was, in effect, nearly the ruler of the household, and
never allowed his lady to go anywhere if he did not approve. If it
had not been for the 'little rustic's' attractions, perhaps he might
have made strong demonstrations against the House Beautiful. Little
did Miss Faithfull know the real cause of her receiving or retaining
MOTLEY THE ONLY WEAR.
For better far than passion's glow,
Or aught of worldly choice,
To listen His own will to know,
And, listening, hear his voice.
The Angel of Marriage--REV. I. WILLIAMS.
The friendships that grew up out of sight were far more effective
than anything that Lady Conway could accomplish on the stage. Miss
King and the Miss Faithfulls found each other out at once, and the
governess was entreated to knock at the door at the bottom of the
stairs whenever her pupils could spare her.
Then came eager wishes from her pupils to be admitted to the
snuggery, and they were invited to see the curiosities. Isabel
believed the 'very good' was found, and came with her sisters. She
begged to be allowed to help in their parish work, under Miss Mercy
Faithfull's guidance; and Sir Roland stood still, while she fancied
she was learning to make little frocks, but really listening to their
revelations of so new a world. She went out with Miss Mercy--she
undertook a class and a district, and began to be happier than ever
before; though how much of the absolute harder toil devolved on Miss
King, neither she nor the governess understood.
This led to intercourse with Mary Ponsonby; and Isabel was a very
different person in that homely, friendly parlour, from the lofty,
frigid Miss Conway of the drawing-room. Cold hauteur melted before
Mary's frank simplicity, and they became friends as fast as two
ladies could beyond the age of romantic plunges, where on one side
there was good-will without enthusiasm, on the other enthusiasm and
reserve. They called each other 'Miss Conway' and 'Miss Ponsonby,'
and exchanged no family secrets; but they were, for all that, faster
friends than young ladies under twenty might imagine.
One winter's day, the crisp, exhilarating frost had lured them far
along the high road beyond Mr. Calcott's park palings, talking over
Isabel's favourite theme, what to wish for her little brother, when
the sound of a large clock striking three made Isabel ask where she
'It was the stable clock at Ormersfield,' said Mary, 'did you not
know we were on that road?'
'No, I did not.' And Isabel would have turned, but Mary begged her
to take a few steps up the lane, that they might see how Lord
Fitzjocelyn's new cottages looked. Isabel complied, and added, after
a pause, 'Are you one of Lord Fitzjocelyn's worshippers?'
'I should not like to worship any one,' said Mary, looking
straightforward. 'I am very fond of him, because I have known him
all my life. And he is so good!'
'Then I think I may consider you exempt! It is the only fault I have
to find with Northwold. You are the only person who does not rave
about him--the only person who has not mentioned his name.'
'Have I not? I think that was very unkind of me--'
'Very kind to me,' said Isabel.
'I meant, to him,' said Mary, blushing; 'if you thought that I did
not think most highly of him--'
'Don't go on! I was just going to trust to you for a calm,
dispassionate statement of his merits, and I shall soon lose all my
faith in you.'
'My mother--' began Mary; but just then Lord Ormersfield came forth
from one of the cottages, and encountered the young ladies. He
explained that Fitzjocelyn was coming home next week, and he had come
to see how his last orders had been executed, since Frampton and the
carpenter had sometimes chosen to think for themselves. He was very
anxious that all should be right, and, after a few words, revealed a
perplexity about ovens and boilers, in which Mary's counsel would be
invaluable. So, with apologies and ceremonies to Miss Conway, they
entered, and Isabel stood waiting in the dull kitchen, smelling of
raw plaster, wondering at the extreme eagerness of the discussion
with the mason over the yawning boiler, the Earl referring to his
son's letter, holding it half-a-yard off, and at last giving it to
Mary to decipher by the waning light.
So far had it waned, that when the fixtures had all been inspected,
Lord Ormersfield declared that the young ladies must not return
alone, and insisted on escorting them home. Every five minutes some
one thought of something to say: there was an answer, and by good
luck a rejoinder; then all died away, and Mary pondered how her
mother would in her place have done something to draw the two
together, but she could not. She feared the walk had made Isabel
more adverse to all connected with Ormersfield than even previously;
for the Ormersfield road was avoided, and the question as to
Fitzjocelyn's merits was never renewed.
Mary thought his cause would be safest in the hands of his great
champion, who was coming home from Oxford with him, and was to occupy
his vacation in acting tutor to little Sir Walter Conway. Louis
came, the day after his return, with his father, to make visits in
the Terrace, and was as well-behaved and uninteresting as morning
calling could make him. He was looking very well--his general
health quite restored, and his ankle much better; though he was still
forbidden to ride, and could not walk far.
'You must come and see me, Aunt Kitty,' he said; 'I am not available
for coming in to see you. I'm reading, and I've made a resignation
of myself,' he added, with a slight blush, and debonnaire shrug,
glancing to see that his father was occupied with James.
They were to dine with Lady Conway on the following Tuesday. In the
interim, no one beheld them except Jem, who walked to Ormersfield
once or twice for some skating for his little pupil Walter, and came
back reporting that Louis had sold himself, body and soul, to his
Clara came home, a degree more civilized, and burning to confide to
Louis that she had thought of his advice, had been the less miserable
for it, and had much more on which to consult him. She could not
conceive why even grandmamma would not consent to her accompanying
the skaters; though she was giving herself credit for protesting that
she was not going on the ice, only to keep poor Louis company, while
the others were skating.
She was obliged to defer her hopes of seeing him until Tuesday, when
she had been asked to drink tea in the school-room, and appear in the
evening. Mrs. Frost had consented, as a means of exempting herself
from the party. And Clara's incipient feminine nature began to
flutter at her first gaiety. The event was magnified by a present
from Jem, of a broad rose-coloured sash and white muslin dress, with
a caution that she was not to consider the tucks up to the waist as a
provision for future growth.
She flew to exhibit the finery to the Miss Faithfulls, and to consult
on the making-up, and, to her consternation, was caught by Miss
Conway kneeling on the floor, being measured by Miss Salome. To
Isabel, there was a sort of touching novelty in the simplicity that
could glory in pink ribbon when embellished by being a brother's
gift; she looked on with calm pleasure at such homely excitement, and
even fetched some bows of her own, for examples, and offered to send
Marianne down with patterns.
Clara was enchanted to recognise in Miss Conway the vision of the
Euston-square platform. The grand, quiet style of beauty was exactly
fitted to impress a mind like hers, so strongly imbued with
sentiments like those of Louis, and regarding Isabel as necessarily
Louis's destiny, she began to adore her accordingly, with a girl-
reverence, quite as profound, far more unselfish, and little less
ardent than that of man for woman. That a female vision of
perfection should engross Clara's imagination, was a step towards
softening her; but, poor child! the dawn of womanhood was to come in
a painful burst.
Surprised at her own aspect, with her light hair dressed by Jane and
wreathed with ivy leaves by grandmamma, and her skirts so full that
she could not refrain from making a gigantic cheese, she was
inspected and admired by granny and Jane, almost approved by Jem
himself; and, exalted by the consciousness of being well-dressed, she
repaired to the school-room tea at the House Beautiful.
Virginia and Louisa were, she thought, very poor imitations of
Louis's countenance--the one too round, the other too thin and
sallow; but both they, their brother, and Miss King were so utterly
unlike anything at school, that she was at once at ease, and began
talking with Walter over schoolboy fun, in which he could not be a
greater proficient than herself. Walter struck up a violent
friendship for her on the spot, and took to calling her 'a fellow,'
in oblivion of her sex; and Virginia and Louisa fell into ecstasies
of laughter, which encouraged Clara and Walter to compote with each
other which should most astonish their weak minds.
In the drawing-room, Lady Conway spoke so graciously, that Clara, was
quite distressed at looking over her head. Mary looked somewhat
oppressed, saying her mother had not been so well that day; and she
was disposed to keep in the background, and occupy herself with
Clara; but it was quite contrary to the Giraffe's notions to be
engrossed by any one when Louis was coming. As if she had divined
Mary's intentions of keeping her from importuning him, she was
continually gazing at the door, ready at once to claim his attention.
At first, the gentlemen only appeared in a black herd at the door,
where Mr. Calcott had stopped Lord Ormersfield short, in his
eagerness to impress on him the views of the county on a police-bill
in course of preparation for the next session. The other magistrates
congregated round; but James Frost and Sydney Calcott had slipped
past, to the piano where Lady Conway had sent Miss Calcott and
Isabel. 'Why did not Fitzjocelyn, come too?' was murmured by the
young group in the recess opposite the door; and when at last he
became visible, leaning against the wall, listening to the Squire,
Virginia declared he was going to serve them just as he used at
'Oh, no! he shan't--I'll rescue him!' exclaimed Clara; and leaping up
to her cameleopard attitude, she sprang forward, and, with a voice
audible in an unlucky lull of the music, she exclaimed, 'Louis!
Louis! don't you see that I am here?'
As he turned, with a look of surprise and almost rebuke, her own
words came back to her ears as they must have sounded to others; her
face became poppy-coloured, nothing light but her flaxen eyebrows;
and she scarcely gave her hand to be shaken. 'No, I did not know you
were coming,' he said; and almost partaking her confusion, as he felt
all eyes upon her, he looked in vain for a refuge for her.
How welcome was Mary's kind face and quiet gesture, covering poor
Clara's retreat as she sank into a dark nook, sheltered by the old
black cabinet! Louis thanked Mary by a look, as much as to say,
'Just like you,' and was glad to perceive that James had not been
present. He had gone to ask Miss Faithfull to supply the missing
stanzas of a Jacobite song, and just then returned, saying that she
knew them, but could not remember them.
Fitzjocelyn, however, capped the fragment, and illustrated it with
some anecdotes that interested Miss Conway. James had great hopes
that she was going to see him to the best advantage, but still there
was a great drawback in the presence of Sydney Calcott. Idolized at
home, successful abroad, young Calcott had enough of the prig to be a
perpetual irritation to Jem Frost, all the more because he could
never make Louis resent, nor accept, as other than natural, the
goodnatured supercilious patronage of the steady distinguished senior
towards the idle junior.
Jacobite legends and Stuart relics would have made Miss Conway
oblivious of everything else; but Sydney Calcott must needs divert
the conversation from that channel by saying, 'Ah! there Fitzjocelyn
is in his element. He is a perfect handbook to the byways of
'For the diffusion of useless knowledge?' said Louis.
'Illustrated by the examination, when the only fact you could adduce
about the Argonauts was that Charles V. founded the order of the
'I beg your pardon; it was his great-grandfather. I had read my
Quentin Durward too well for that.'
'I suspect,' said Isabel, 'that we had all rather be examined in our
Quentin Durward than our Charles V.
'Ah!' said young Calcott, 'I had all my dates at my fingers' ends
when I went up for the modern history prize. Now my sister could
'A proof of what I always say,' observed Louis, 'that it is lost
labour to read for an examination.'
'From personal experience?' asked Sydney.
'A Strasburg goose nailed down and crammed before a fire, becomes a
Strasburg pie,' said Louis.
Never did Isabel look more bewildered, and Sydney did not seem at
once to catch the meaning. James added, 'A goose destined to fulfil
the term of existence is not crammed, but the pie stimulus is not
required to prevent it from starving.'
'Is your curious and complimentary culinary fable aimed against
reading or against examinations?' asked Sydney.
'Against neither; only against the connecting preposition.'
'Then you mean to find a superhuman set of students?'
'No; I'm past that. Men and examinations will go on as they are; the
goose will run wild, the requirements will be increased, he will nail
himself down in his despair; and he who crams hardest, and has the
hottest place will gain.'
'Then how is the labour lost?' asked Isabel.
'You are new to Fitzjocelyn's paradoxes,' said Sydney; as if glorying
in having made Louis contradict himself.
'The question is, what is lost labour?' said Louis.
Both Sydney Calcott and Miss Conway looked as if they thought he was
arguing on after a defeat. 'Calcott is teaching her his own
obtuseness!' thought James, in a pet; and he exclaimed, 'Is the aim
to make men or winners of prizes?'
'The aim of prizes is commonly supposed to be to make men,' loftily
'Exactly so; and, therefore, I would not make them too analogous to
the Strasburg system,' said Louis. 'I would have them close,
searching, but not admitting of immediate cramming.'
'Pray how would you bring that about?'
'By having no subject on which superficial knowledge could make a
'Oh! I see whither you are working round! That won't do now, my
dear fellow; we must enlarge our field, or we shall lay ourselves
open to the charge of being narrow-minded.'
'You have not strength of mind to be narrow-minded!' said Louis,
shaking his head. 'Ah! well, I have no more to say; my trust is in
the narrow mind, the only expansive one--'
He was at that moment called away; Lord Ormersfield's carriage had
been announced, and his son was not in a quarter of the room where he
wished to detain him. James could willingly have bitten Sydney
Calcott for the observation, 'Poor Fitzjocelyn! he came out strong
'Very clever,' said Isabel, wishing to gratify James.
'Oh yes, very; if he had ever taken pains,' said Sydney. 'There is
often something in his paradoxes. After all, I believe he is reading
hard for his degree, is he not, Jem? His feelings would not be hurt
by the question, for he never piqued himself upon his consistency.'
Luckily for the general peace, the Calcott household was on the move,
and Jem solaced himself on their departure by exclaiming, 'Well done,
Strasburg system! A high-power Greek-imbibing machine, he may be,
but as to comprehending Fitzjocelyn--'
'Nay,' said Isabel, 'I think Lord Fitzjocelyn ought to carry about a
pocket expositor, if he will be so very startling. He did not stay
to tell us what to understand by narrow minds.'
'Did you ever hear of any one good for anything, that was not accused
of a narrow mind?' exclaimed James.
'If that were what he meant,' said Isabel,--'but he said his trust
was in the narrow mind--'
'In what is popularly so called,' said James.
'I think,' said Mary, leaning forward, and speaking low, 'that he did
not mean it to be explained away. I think he was going to say that
the heart may be wide, but the mind must be so far narrow, that it
will accept only the one right, not the many wrong.'
'I thought narrowness of mind consisted in thinking your own way the
only right one,' said Isabel.
'Every one says so,' said Mary, 'and that is why he says it takes
strength of mind to be narrow-minded. Is not the real evil, the
judging people harshly, because their ways are not the same; not the
being sure that the one way is the only right! Others may be better
than ourselves, and may be led right in spite of their error, but
surely we are not to think all paths alike--
'And is that Lord Fitzjocelyn's definition of a narrow mind?' said
Isabel. 'It sounds like faith and love. Are you sure you did not
make it yourself, Miss Ponsonby?'
'I could not,' said Mary, blushing, as she remembered one Sunday
evening when he had said something to that effect, which had
insensibly overthrown the theory in which she had been bred up,
namely, that all the sincere were right, and yet that, practically
every one was to be censured, who did not act exactly like Aunt
She rose to take leave, and Clara clung to her, emerging from the
shade of her cabinet with colour little mitigated since her
disappearance. James would have come with them, but was detained by
Lady Conway for a few moments longer than it took them to put on
their shawls; and Clara would not wait. She dragged Mary down the
steps into the darkness, and groaned out, 'O Mary, he can never speak
to me again!'
'My dear! he will not recollect it. It was very awkward, but new
places and new people often do make us forget ourselves.'
'Everybody saw, everybody heard! O, I shall never bear to meet one
of them again!'
'I think very few saw or heard--' began Mary.
'He did! I did! That's enough! The rest is nothing! I have been
as bad as any one at school! I shall never hold up my head there
again as I have done, and Louis! Oh!'
'Dear child, it will not be remembered. You only forgot how tall you
were, and that you were not at home. He knows you too well to care.'
James shouted from behind to know why they had not been let into the
house; and as Clara rushed in at the door and he walked on with Mary
to leave her at home and fetch his grandmother, who had been spending
the evening with Mrs. Ponsonby, he muttered, 'I don't know which is
most intolerable! He neglects her, talks what, if it be not
nonsense, might as well be; and as if she were not ready enough to
misunderstand, Sydney Calcott must needs thrust in his wits to
embroil her understanding. Mary! can't you get her to see the stuff
he is made of?'
'If she cannot do that for herself, no persuasion of mine will make
her,' said Mary.
'No! you do not half appreciate him either! No one does! And yet
you could, if you tried, do something with her! I see she does not
think you prejudiced. You made an impression to-night.'
Mary felt some consternation. Could it depend on her? She could
speak naturally, and from her heart in defence of Louis when occasion
served; but something within her forbade the thought of doing so on a
system. Was that something wrong! She could not answer; but
contented herself with the womanly intuition that showed her that
anything of persuasion in the present state of affairs would be
ineffectual and unbecoming.
Meantime, Clara had fled to her little room, to bid her childhood
farewell in a flood of bitter tears.
Exaggerated shame, past disdain of the foibles of others, the fancy
that she was publicly disgraced and had forfeited Louis's good
opinion, each thought renewed her sobs; but the true pang was the
perception that old times were passed for ever. He might forgive, he
would still be friend and cousin; but womanhood had broken on her,
and shown that perfect freedom was at an end. Happy for her that she
wept but for the parting from a playfellow! Happy that her feelings
were young and undeveloped, free from all the cruel permanence that
earlier vanity or self-consciousness might have given; happy that it
could be so freely washed away! When she had spent her sobs, she
could resolve to be wise and steady, so as to be a fit governess to
his children; and the tears flowed at the notion of being so distant
and respectful to his lordship. But what stories she could tell them
of his boyhood! And in the midst of--'Now, my dears, I will tell you
about your papa when he was a little boy,' she fell asleep.
That party was a thing to be remembered with tingling cheeks for
life, and Clara dreaded her next meeting with Louis; but the days
passed on without his coming to the Terrace, and the terror began to
wear off, especially as she did not find that any one else remembered
her outbreak. Mary guarded against any unfavourable impression by a
few simple words to Isabel and Miss King as to the brotherly terms
that had hitherto prevailed, and poor Clara's subsequent distress.
Clara came in for some of the bright tints in which her brother was
viewed at the House Beautiful; Walter was very fond of her, and she
had been drawn into a friendship for Virginia, cemented in the course
of long walks, when the schoolroom party always begged for Mr. and
Miss Dynevor, because no one else could keep Walter from disturbing
Louisa's nerves by teasing her pony or sliding on dubious ice.
As Mrs. Ponsonby often joined in Lady Conway's drive, Mary and Isabel
were generally among the walkers; and Mary was considered by Louisa
as an inestimable pony-leader, and an inexhaustible magazine of
stories about sharks, earthquakes, llamas, and icebergs.
James and Miss Conway generally had either book or principle to
discuss, and were usually to be found somewhat in the rear, either
with or without Miss King. One day, however, James gave notice that
he should not be at their service that afternoon; and as soon as
Walter's lessons had been despatched, he set out with rapid steps for
Ormersfield Park, clenching his teeth together every now and then
with his determinate resolution that he would make Louis know his own
mind, and would 'stand no nonsense.'
'Ah! James, good morning,' said the Earl, as he presented himself in
the study. 'You will find Louis in his room. I wish you would make
him come out with you. He is working harder than is good for him.'
He spoke of his son far differently from former times; but Jem only
returned a judiciously intoned 'Poor fellow.'
Lord Ormersfield looked at him anxiously, and, hesitating, said, 'You
do not think him out of spirits?'
'Oh, he carries it off very well. I know no one with so strong a
sense of duty,' replied Jem, never compassionate to the father.
Again the Earl paused, then said, 'He may probably speak more
unreservedly to you than to me.'
'He shuns the topic. He says there is no use in aggravating the
feelings by discussion. He would fain submit in heart as well as in
Lord Ormersfield sighed, but did not appear disposed to say more;
and, charitably hoping that a dagger had been implanted in him, Jem
ran up-stairs, and found Louis sitting writing at a table, which
looked as if Mary had never been near it.
'Jem! That's right! I've not seen you this age.'
'What are you about?'
'I wanted particularly some one to listen. It is an essay on the
'Is this earnest?'
'Sober earnest. Sir Miles and all that set are anxious to bring the
matter forward, and my father has been getting it up, as he does
whatever he may have to speak upon. His eyes are rather failing for
candle-light work, so I have been helping him in the evening, till it
struck me that it was a curious subject to trace in history,--the
Censors, the attempts in Germany and Spain, to supply the defective
law, the Spanish and Italian dread of justice. I became enamoured of
the notion, and when I have thrown all the hints together, I shall
try to take in my father by reading them to him as an article in the
'Oh, very well. If your soul is there, that is an end of the matter.'
'Of what matter?'
'Things cannot run on in this way. It is not a thing to lay upon me
to go on working in your cause with her when you will not stir a step
in your own behalf.'
'I am very much obliged to you, but I never asked you to work in my
cause. I beg your pardon, Jem, don't fly into a Welsh explosion. No
one ever meant more kindly and generously--' He checked himself in
amaze at the demonstration he had elicited; but, as it was not
accompanied with words, he continued, 'No one can be more grateful to
you than I; but, as far as I can see, there is nothing for it but to
be thankful that no more harm has been done, and to let the matter
drop;' and he dropped his hand with just so much despondency as to
make Jem think him worth storming at, instead of giving him up; and
he went over the old ground of Louis being incapable of true passion
and unworthy of such a being if he could yield her without an effort,
merely for the sake of peace.
'I say, Jem,' said Louis, quietly, 'all this was bad enough on
neutral ground; it is mere treason under my father's own roof, and I
will have no more of it.'
'Then,' cried James, with a strange light in his eyes, 'you
henceforth renounce all hopes--all pretensions?'
'I never had either hope or pretension. I do not cease to think her,
as I always did, the loveliest creature I ever beheld. I cannot help
that; and the state I fell into after being with her on Tuesday,
convinced me that it is safest to stay here and fill up time and
thought as best I may.'
'For once, Fitzjocelyn,' said James, with a gravity not natural to
him, 'I think better of your father than you do. I would neither
treat him as so tyrannical nor so prejudiced as your conduct supposes
'How? He is as kind as possible. We never had so much in common.'
'Yes. Your submission so far, and the united testimony of the
Terrace, will soften him. Show your true sentiments. A little
steadiness and perseverance, and you will prevail.'
'Don't make me feverish, Jem.'
A summons to Lord Fitzjocelyn to come down to a visitor in the
library cut short the discussion, and James took leave at once,
neither cousin wishing to resume the conversation.
The darts had not been injudiciously aimed. The father and son were
both rendered uneasy. They had hitherto been unusually comfortable
together, and though the life was unexciting, Louis's desire to be
useful to his father, and the pressing need of working for his
degree, kept his mind fairly occupied. Though wistful looks might
sometimes be turned along the Northwold road, when he sallied forth
in the twilight for his constitutional walk, he did not analyse which
number of the Terrace was the magnet, and he avoided testing to the
utmost the powers of his foot. The affection and solicitude shown
for him at home claimed a full return; nor had James been greatly
mistaken in ascribing something to the facility of nature that
yielded to force of character. But Jem had stirred up much that
Louis would have been contented to leave dormant; and the hope that
he had striven to excite came almost teazingly to interfere with the
passive acquiescence of an indolent will. Perturbed and doubtful, he
was going to seek counsel as usual of the open air, as soon as the
visitor was gone, but his father followed him into the hall, asking
whither he was going.
'I do not know. I had been thinking of trying whether I can get as
far as Marksedge.'
Marksedge would be fatal to the ankle, solitude to the spirits,
thought the Earl; and he at once declared his intention of walking
with his son as far as he should let him go.
Louis was half vexed, half flattered, and they proceeded in silence,
till conscious of being ruffled, and afraid of being ungracious, he
made a remark on the farm that they were approaching, and learnt in
return that the lease was nearly out, the tenant did not want a
renewal, and that Richardson intended to advertise.
He breathed a wish that it were in their own hands, and this led to a
statement of the condition of affairs, the same to which a year
before he had been wilfully deaf, and to which he now attended
chiefly for the sake of gratifying his father, though he better
understood what depended on it. At least, it was making the Earl
insensible to the space they were traversing, and the black outlines
of Marksedge were rising on him before he was aware. Then he would
have turned, but Louis pleaded that having come so far, he should be
glad to speak to Madison's grandfather, and one or two other old
people, and he prevailed.
Lord Ormersfield was not prepared for the real aspect of the hamlet.
'Richardson always declared that the cottages were kept in repair,'
'Richardson never sees them. He trusts to Reeves.'
'The people might do something themselves to keep the place decent.'
'They might; but they lose heart out of sight of respectability. I
will just knock at this door--I will not detain you a moment.'
The dark smoky room, damp, ill-paved floor, and cracked walls
produced their effect; and the name and voice of the inmate did more.
Lord Ormersfield recognised a man who had once worked in the garden,
and came forward and spoke, astonished and shocked to find him
prematurely old. The story was soon told; there had been a seasoning
fever as a welcome to the half-reclaimed moorland; ague and typhus
were frequent visitors, and disabling rheumatism a more permanent
companion to labourers exhausted by long wet walks in addition to the
daily toil. At an age less than that of the Earl himself, he beheld
a bowed and broken cripple.
Fitzjocelyn perceived his victory, and forebore to press it too
hastily, lest he should hurt his father's feelings; and walked on
silently, thinking how glad Mary would be to hear of this expedition,
and what a pity it was that the unlucky passage of last August should
have interfered with their comfortable friendship. At last the Earl
broke silence by saying, 'It is very unfortunate;' and Louis echoed,
'My poor Uncle Dynevor! He was, without exception, the most wrong-
headed person I ever came in contact with, yet so excessively
plausible and eager that he carried my poor father entirely along
with him. Louis! nothing is so ruinous as to surrender the
Fully assenting, Louis wondered whether Marksedge would serve no
purpose save the elucidation of this truism, and presently another
'Mischief is sooner done than repaired. As I have been allowing you,
there has never been ready money at command.'
'I thought there were no more mortgages to be paid off. The rents of
the Fitzjocelyn estate and the houses in the lower town must come to
He was then told how these, with his mother's fortune, had been set
apart to form a fund for his establishment, and for the first time he
was shown the object of arrangements against which he had often in
heart rebelled. His first impulse was to exclaim that it was a great
pity, and that he could not bear that his father should have denied
himself on his account.
'Do you think these things are sacrifices to me?' said the Earl. 'My
habits were formed long ago.'
'Mine have been formed on yours,' said Louis. 'I should be
encumbered by such an income as you propose unless you would let me
lay it out in making work for the men and improving the estate, and
that I had rather you undertook, for I should be certain to do
something preposterous, and then be sorry.'
'Mrs. Ponsonby judged rightly. It was her very advice.'
'Then!' cried Louis, as if the deed were done.
'You would not find the income too large in the event of your
'A most unlikely event!'
His father glanced towards him. If there had been a symptom of
unhappiness, relenting was near, but it so chanced that Marksedge was
reigning supreme, and he was chiefly concerned to set aside the
supposition as an obstacle to his views. The same notion as James
Frost's occurred to the Earl, that it could not be a tenacious
character which could so easily set aside an attachment apparently so
fervent, but the resignation was too much in accordance with his
desires to render him otherwise than gratified, and he listened with
complacency to Louis's plans. Nothing was fixed, but there was an
understanding that all should have due consideration.
This settled, Louis's mind recurred to the hint which his father had
thrown out, and he wondered whether it meant that the present
compliance might be further stretched, but he thought it more likely
to be merely a reference to ordinary contingencies. Things were far
too comfortable between him and his father to be disturbed by
discussion, and he might ultimately succeed better by submitting, and
leaving facts and candour to remove prejudice.
To forget perplexity in the amusement of a mystification, he brought
down his essay, concealing it ingeniously within a review flanked by
blue-books, and, when Lord Ormersfield was taking out a pair of
spectacles with the reluctance of a man not yet accustomed to them,
he asked him if he would like to hear an article on the Police
At first the Earl showed signs of nodding, and said there was nothing
to the purpose in all the historical curiosities at the outset, so
that Louis, alarmed lest he should absolutely drop asleep, skipped
all his favourite passages, and came at once to the results of the
recent inquiries. The Earl was roused. Who could have learnt those
facts? That was telling--well put, but how did he get hold of it.
The very thing he had said himself--What Quarterly was it? Surely
the Christmas number was not out. Hitherto Louis had kept his
countenance and voice, but in an hiatus, where he was trying to
extemporize, his father came to look over his shoulder to see what
ailed the book, and, glancing upwards with a merry debonnaire face,
he made a gesture as if convicted.
'Do you mean that this is your own composition?'
'I beg your pardon for the pious fraud!'
'It is very good! Excellently done!' said Lord Ormersfield. 'There
are redundancies--much to betray an unpractised hand--but--stay, let
me hear the rest--' Very differently did he listen now, broad awake,
attacking the logic of every third sentence, or else double shotting
it with some ponderous word, and shaking his head at Utopian views of
crime to be dried up at the fountain head. Next, he must hear the
beginning, and ruthlessly picked it to pieces, demolishing all the
Vehme Gericht and Santissima Hermandad as irrelevant, and, when he
had made Louis ashamed and vexed with the whole production,
astonishing him by declaring that it would tell, and advising him to
copy it out fair with these _little_ alterations.
These _little_ alterations would, as he was well aware, evaporate all
the spirit, and though glad to have pleased his father, his
perseverance quailed before the task; but he said no more than thank
you. The next day, before he had settled to anything, Lord
Ormersfield came to his room, saying, 'You will be engaged with your
more important studies for the next few hours. Can you spare the
paper you read to me last night?'
'I can spare it better than you can read it, I fear,' said Louis,
producing a mass of blotted MS in all his varieties of penmanship,
and feeling a sort of despair at the prospect of being brought to
book on all his details.
His father carried it off, and they did not meet again till late in
the day, when the first thing Louis heard was, 'I thought it worth
while to have another opinion on your manuscript before re-writing
it. I tried to read it to Mrs. Ponsonby, but we were interrupted,
and I left it with her.'
Presently after. 'I have made an engagement for you. Lady Conway
wishes that you should go to luncheon with her to-morrow. I believe
she wants to consult you about some birth-day celebration.'
Louis was much surprised, and somewhat entertained.
'When will you have the carriage?' pursued the Earl.
'Will not you come?'
'No, I am not wanted. In fact, I do not see how you can be required,
but anything will serve as an excuse. In justice, however, I should
add that our friends at the Terrace are disposed to think well of the
younger part of the family.'
Except for the cold constraint of the tone, Louis could have thought
much ground gained, but he was sure that his holiday would be damped
by knowing that it was conceded at the cost of much distress and
Going to Northwold early enough for a call at No. 5, he was greeted
by Mrs. Frost with, 'My dear! what have you been about? I never saw
your father so much pleased in his life! He came in on purpose to
tell me, and I thought it exceedingly kind. So you took him in
completely. What an impudent rogue you always were!'
'I never meant it to go beyond the study. I was obliged to write it
down in self-defence, that I might know what he was talking of.'
'I believe he expects you to be even with Sydney Calcott after all.
It is really very clever. Where did you get all those funny
'What! you have gone and read it!'
'Ah, ha! Mrs. Ponsonby gave us a pretty little literary soiree.
Don't be too proud, it was only ourselves, except that Mary brought
in Miss Conway. Jem tried to read it, but after he had made that
Spanish Society into 'Hammer men dead,' Mary got it away from him,
and read through as if it had been in print.'
'What an infliction!'
'It is very disrespectful to think us so frivolous. We only wished
all reviews were as entertaining.'
'It is too bad, when I only wanted to mystify my father.'
'It serves you right for playing tricks. What have you been doing to
him, Louis? You will turn him into a doting father before long.'
'What have you done with Clara?'
'She goes every day to read Italian with Miss Conway, and the
governess is so kind as to give her drawing lessons. She is learning
far more than at school, and they are so kind! I should hardly know
how to accept it, but Jem does not object, and he is really very
useful there, spends a great deal of time on the boy, and is teaching
the young ladies Latin.'
'They are leaving you lonely in the holidays! You ought to come to
Ormersfield, your nephews would take better care of you.'
'Ah! I have my Marys. If I were only better satisfied about the dear
old one. She is far less well than when she came.'
'Indeed! Is Mary uneasy?'
'She says nothing, but you know how her eye is always on her, and she
never seems to have her out of her thoughts. I am afraid they are
worried about Lima. From what Oliver says, I fear Mr. Ponsonby goes
on worse than ever without either his family or his appointment to be
'I hope they do not know all! Mary would not believe it, that is one
'Ah, Louis! there are things that the heart will not believe, but
which cut it deeply! However, if that could be any comfort to them,
he wishes them to spare nothing here. He tells them they may live at
the rate of five thousand pounds a-year, poor dears. Indeed, he and
Oliver are in such glory over their Equatorial steam navigation, that
I expect next to hear of a crash.'
'You don't look as if it would be a very dreadful sound.'
'If it would only bring my poor Oliver back to me!'
'Yes--nothing would make Jem so civil to him as his coming floated in
on a plank, wet through, with a little bundle in one hand and a
parrot in the other.'
Mrs. Frost gave one of her tender laughs, and filled up the picture.
'Jane would open the door, Jane would know Master Oliver's black eyes
in a moment--'No, no. _I_ must see him first! If he once looked up
I could not miss him, whatever colour he may have turned. I wonder
whether he would know me!'
'Don't you know that you grow handsomer every year, Aunt Kitty?'
'Don't flatter, sir.'
'Well, I most go to my aunt.'
He tarried to hear the welcome recital of all the kind deeds of the
house of Conway. He presently found Lady Conway awaiting him in the
drawing-room, and was greeted with great joy. 'That is well! I
hoped to work on your father by telling him I did not approve of
young men carrying industry too far--'
'That is not my habit.'
'Then it is your excuse for avoiding troublesome relations! No, not
a word! I know nothing about the secret that occupied Isabel at Mrs.
Ponsonby's select party. But I really wanted you. You are more au
fait as to the society here than the Ponsonbys and Dynevors. Ah!
when does that come off?'
'What is to come off?'
'Miss Ponsonby and Mr. Dynevor. What a good creature he is!'
'I cannot see much likelihood of it, but you are more on the scene of
'She could do much better, with such expectations, but on his account
I could not be sorry. It is shocking to think of that nice young
sister being a governess. I think it a duty to give her every
advantage that may tend to form her. With her connexions and
education, I can have no objection to her as a companion to your
cousins, and with a few advantages, though she will never be
handsome, she might marry well. They are a most interesting family.
Isabel and I are most anxious to do all in our power for them.'
'Clara is obliged,' said Louis, with undetected irony, but secret
wonder at the dexterity with which the patronage must have been
administered so as not to have made the interesting family fly off at
Isabel made her appearance in her almost constant morning dress of
soft dove-coloured merino entirely unadorned, and looking more like a
maiden in a romance than ever. She had just left Adeline standing on
the steps of a stone cross, exhorting the Provencals to arm against a
descent of Moorish corsairs, and she held out her hand to Fitzjocelyn
much as Adeline did, when the fantastic Viscount professed his
intention of flying instead of fighting, and wanted her to sit behind
him on his courser.
Lady Conway pronounced her council complete, and propounded the fete
which she wished to give on the 12th of January in honour of Louisa's
birthday. Isabel took up a pencil, and was lost in sketching wayside
crosses, and vessels with lateen sails, only throwing in a word or
two here and there when necessary. Dancing was still, Lady Conway
feared, out of the question with Fitzjocelyn.
'And always will be, I suspect. So much for my bargain with Clara to
dance with her at her first ball!'
'You like dancing?' exclaimed Isabel, rejoiced to find another
resemblance to the fantastic Viscount.
'Last year's Yeomanry ball was the best fun in the world!'
'There, Isabel,' said Lady Conway, 'you ought to be gratified to find
a young man candid enough to allow that he likes it! But since that
cannot be, I must find some other plan--'
'What cannot be?' exclaimed Louis. 'You don't mean to omit the
'It could not be enjoyed without you. Your cousins and friends could
not bear to see you sitting down--'
Isabel's lips were compressed, and the foam of her waves laughed
scornfully under her pencil.
'They must get accustomed to the melancholy spectacle,' said Louis.
'I do not mean to intermit the Yeomanry ball, if it take place while
I am at home. The chaperons are the best company, after all.
Reconsider it, my dear aunt, or you will keep me from coming at all.'
Lady Conway was only considering of tableaux, and Louis took fire at
the notion: he already beheld Waverley in his beloved Yeomanry suit,
Isabel as Flora, Clara as Davie Gellatley--the character she would
most appreciate. Isabel roused herself to say that tableaux were
very dull work to all save the actors, and soon were mere weariness
to them. Her stepmother told her she had once been of a different
mind, when she had been Isabel Bruce, kneeling in her cell, the ring
before her. 'I was young enough then to think myself Isabel,' was
her answer, and she drew the more diligently because Fitzjocelyn
could not restrain an interjection, and a look which meant, 'What an
Isabel she must have been!'
She sat passive while Lady Conway and Louis decked up a scene for
Flora MacIvor; but presently it appeared that the Waverley of the
piece was to be, according to Louis, not the proper owner of the
Yeomanry uniform, but James Frost. His aunt exclaimed, and the
rehearsals were strong temptation; but he made answer, 'No--you must
not reckon on me: my father would not like it.'
The manful childishness, the childish manfulness of such a reply,
were impenetrable. If his two-and-twenty years did not make him
ashamed of saying so, nothing else could, and it covered a good deal.
He knew that his father's fastidious pride would dislike his making a
spectacle of himself, and thought that it would be presuming unkindly
on to-day's liberty to involve himself in what would necessitate
terms more intimate than were desired.
The luncheon silenced the consultation, which was to be a great
secret from the children; but afterwards, when it was resumed, with
the addition of James Frost, Fitzjocelyn was vexed to find the
tableaux discarded; not avowedly because he excluded himself from a
share, but because the style of people might not understand them.
The entertainment was to be a Christmas-tree--not so hackneyed a
spectacle in the year 1848 as in 1857--and Louis launched into a
world of couplets for mottoes. Next came the question of guests,
when Lady Conway read out names from the card-basket, and Fitzjocelyn
was in favour of everybody, till Jem, after many counter-statements,
assured Lady Conway that he was trying to fill her rooms with the
most intolerable people in the world.
'My aunt said she wanted to give pleasure.'
'Ah! there's nothing so inconvenient to one's friends as good nature.
Who cares for what is shared indiscriminately?'
'I don't think I can trust Fitzjocelyn with my visiting-list just
yet,' said Lady Conway. 'You are too far above to be sensible of the
grades beneath, with your place made for you.'
'Not at all,' said Louis. 'Northwold tea-parties were my earliest,
most natural dissipation; and I spoke for these good people for my
own personal gratification.'
'Nay, I can't consent to your deluding Lady Conway into Mrs. Walby.'
'If there be any one you wish me to ask, my dear Fitzjocelyn--' began
'Oh no, thank you; Jem is quite right. I might have been playing on
your unguarded innocence; but I am the worst person in the world to
consult; for all the county and all the town are so kind to me, that
I don't know whom I could leave out. Now, the Pendragon there will
help you to the degree of gentility that may safely be set to consort
'What an unkind fling!' thought Isabel.
Louis took leave, exclaiming to himself on the stairs, 'There! if
comporting oneself like a donkey before the object be a token, I've
done it efiectually. Didn't I know the exclusiveness of the woman?
Yet, how could I help saying a word for the poor little Walbys? and,
after all, if they were there, no one would speak to them but Aunt
Kitty and I. And Isabel, I am sure she scorned the fastidious
nonsense; I saw it in her eye and lip.'
After a quarter of an hour spent in hearing her praises from Miss
Faithfull, he betook himself to Mrs. Ponsonby's, not quite without
embarrassment, for he had not been alone with the mother and daughter
'I am glad you did not come before,' said Mary, heartily; 'I have
just done:' and she returned to her writing-table, while her mother
'We like it very much.'
'You have not been copying that wretched concern!' exclaimed Louis.
'Why, Mary, you must have been at it all night. It is a week's
'Copying is not composing,' said Mary.
'But you have mended it, made it consecutive! If I had guessed that
my father meant to trouble any one with it!'
'If you take pains with it, it may be very valuable,' said Mrs.
Ponsonby. 'We have marked a few things that you had better revise
before it goes to Oakstead.'
'Goes to Oakstead!' said Louis, faintly.
'Your father talks of sending it, to see if Sir Miles does not think
it might tell well in one of the Reviews.'
'I hope not. I should lose all my faith in anonymous criticism, if
they admitted such a crude undergraduate's omnium gatherum! Besides,
what an immense task to make it presentable!'
'Is that the root of your humility?'
'Possibly. But for very shame I must doctor it, if Mary has wasted
so much time over it. It does not look so bad in your hand!'
'It struck me whether you had rendered this Spanish story right.'
'Of course not. I never stuck to my dictionary.'
A sound dose of criticism ensued, tempered by repetitions of his
father's pleasure, and next came some sympathy and discussion about
the farm and Marksedge, in which the ladies took their usual earnest
part, and Mary was as happy as ever in hearing of his progress. He
said no word of their neighbours; but he could not help colouring
when Mary said, as he wished her good-bye, 'We like the party in the
House Beautiful so much! Miss Conway is such an acquisition to me!
and they are doing all you could ever have wished for Clara.'
Mary was glad that she had said it. Louis was not so glad. He
thought it must have been an effort, then derided his vanity for the
THE FRUIT OF THE CHRISTMAS-TREE
Age, twine thy brows with fresh spring flowers,
And call a train of laughing hours;
And bid them dance, and bid them sing:
And thou, too, mingle in the ring.