Part 6 out of 8
The 12th of January was the last day before James and Louis meant to
return to Oxford, Jem taking Clara on from thence to school. It was
to be the farewell to Christmas--one much enjoyed in Dynevor Terrace.
Fitzjocelyn's absence was almost a relief to Clara; she could not
make up her mind to see him till she could hope their last encounter
had been forgotten; and in the mean time, her anticipations were
fixed on the great 12th. She was aware of what the entertainment
would consist, but was in honour bound to conceal her knowledge from
Virginia and Louisa, who on their side affected great excitement and
curiosity, and made every ostentation of guessing and peeping. Gifts
were smuggled into the house from every quarter--some to take their
chance, some directed with mottoes droll or affectionate. Clara
prepared a few trifles, in which she showed that school had done
something for her fingers, and committed her little parcels to her
brother's care; and Miss Mercy was the happiest of all, continually
knocking at the locked door of the back drawing-room with gilded fir
cones, painted banners, or moss birds'-nests, from Miss Salome.
Miss King and Isabel had undertaken the main business. When roused
from her pensive stillness, Isabel could be very eager, active, and
animated; and she worked with the exhilaration that she could freely
enjoy when unrestrained by perceiving that she was wanted to produce
an effect. What woman's height and hand could not perform fell to
the share of James, who, with his step-ladder and dexterous hands,
was invaluable. Merrily, merrily did the three work, laughing over
their suspended bonbons, their droll contrivances, or predicting the
adaptations of their gifts; and more and more gay was the laugh, the
tutor more piquant, the governess more keen and clever, the young
lady more vivacious, as the twilight darkened, and the tree became
more laden, and the streamers and glass balls produced a more
Proudly, when the task was accomplished, did they contemplate their
work, and predict the aspect of their tinsel and frippery when duly
lighted up. Then, as they dispersed to dress, James ran home, and
hastily tapped at his sister's door.
'What is the matter?' she cried. 'Have the tassels come off my
'Nothing of the kind, but--' he came quite in, and looked round
restlessly, then hastily said, 'You gave me nothing for Miss Conway.'
'I wished it very much,' said Clara, 'but I could not bear to do
anything trumpery for her. Oh, if one could give her anything worth
'Clara, I had thought--but I did not know if you would like to part
'I had thought of it too,' said Clara; 'but I thought you would not
like it to be given away.'
Pulling out a drawer, she opened an odd little box of queer
curiosities, whence she took a case containing an exquisite ivory
carving, a copy of the 'Madonna della Sedia,' so fine that a
magnifier alone could fully reveal the delicacy and accuracy of the
features and expression. It was mounted as a bracelet clasp, and was
a remnant of poor Mr. Dynevor's treasures. It had been given to Mrs.
Henry Frost, and had descended to her daughter.
'Should you be willing?' wistfully asked James.
'That I should! I have longed to give her what she would really care
for. She has been so very kind--and her kindness is so very sweet in
its graciousness! I shall always be the happier for the very
thinking of it.'
'I am glad--' began Jem, warmly; but, breaking off, he added--'This
would make us all more comfortable. It would lessen the weight of
obligation, and that would be satisfactory to you.'
'I don't know. I like people to be so kind, that I can't feel as if
I would pay them off, but as if I could do nothing but love them.'
'You did not imagine that I rate this as repayment!'
'Oh! no, no!'
'No! it is rather that nothing can be too precious--' then pausing-
'You are sure you are willing, Clary?'
'Only too glad. I like it to be something valuable to us as well as
in itself. If I only had a bit of black velvet, I could set it up.'
In ten minutes, Jem had speeded to a shop and back again, and stood
by as Clara stitched the clasp to the ribbon velvet; while there was
an amicable dispute, he insisting that the envelope should bear only
the initials of the true donor, and she maintaining that 'he gave the
black velvet.' She had her way, and wrote, 'From her grateful C. F.
D. and J. R. F. D.;' and as James took the little packet, he thanked
her with an affectionate kiss--a thing so unprecedented at an
irregular hour, that Clara's heart leapt up, and she felt rewarded
for any semblance of sacrifice.
He told his grandmother that he had agreed with his sister that they
could do no otherwise than present the ivory clasp; and Mrs. Frost,
who had no specially tender associations with it, was satisfied to
find that they had anything worth offering on equal terms.
She was to be of the party, and setting forth, they, found the House
Beautiful upside down--even the Faithfull parlour devoted to shawls
and bonnets, and the two good old sisters in the drawing-room; Miss
Salome, under the protection of little Louisa, in an easy chair,
opposite the folding doors. Small children were clustered in shy
groups round their respective keepers. Lady Conway was receiving her
guests with the smile so engaging at first sight, Isabel moving from
one to the other with stately grace and courtesy, Virginia watching
for Clara, and both becoming merged in a mass of white skirts and
glossy heads, occupying a wide area. Mrs. Frost was rapturously
surrounded by half-a-dozen young men, Sydney Calcott foremost, former
pupils enchanted to see her, and keeping possession of her all the
rest of the evening. She was a dangerous person to invite, for the
Northwold youth had no eyes but for her.
The children were presently taken down to tea in the dining-room by
Miss King and Miss Mercy; and presently a chorus of little voices and
peals of laughter broke out, confirming the fact, whispered by
Delaford to his lady, that Lord Fitzjocelyn had arrived, and had
joined the downstairs party.
While coffee went round in the drawing-room, Isabel glided out to
perform the lighting process.
'Oh, Mr. Dynevor!' she exclaimed, finding him at her side, 'I did not
mean to call you away.'
'Mere unreason to think of the performance alone,' said James,
setting up his trusty ladder. 'What would become of that black
'Thank you, it may be safer and quicker.'
'So far the evening is most successful,' said Jem, lighting above as
she lighted below.
'That it is! I like Northwold better than any place I have been in
since I left Thornton Conway. There is so much more heartiness and
friendliness here than in ordinary society.
'I think Fitzjocelyn's open sympathies have conduced--'
Isabel laughed, and he checked himself, disconcerted.
'I beg your pardon,' she said; 'I was amused at the force of habit.
If I were to say the Terrace chimneys did not smoke, you would say it
was Lord Fitzjocelyn's doing.'
'Do not bid me do otherwise than keep him in mind.'
Down fell the highest candle: the hot wax dropping on Isabel's arm
caused her to exclaim, bringing Jem down in horror, crying, 'I have
hurt you! you are burnt!'
'Oh no, only startled. There is no harm done, you see,' as she
cracked away the cooled wax--'not even a mark to remind me of this
'And it has been a happy Christmas to you,' he said, remounting.
'Most happy. Nothing has been so peaceful or satisfactory in my
'Shall I find you here at Easter?'
'I fear not. Mamma likes to be in London early; but perhaps she may
leave the school-room party here, as Louisa is gaining so much
ground, and that would be a pledge of our return.'
'Too much joy,' said James, almost inaudibly.
'I hope Walter may spend his holidays here,' she pursued. 'It is a
great thing for him to be with any one who can put a few right
notions into his head.'
Jem abstained from, as usual, proposing Fitzjocelyn for his example,
but only said that Walter was very susceptible of good impressions.
'And most heartily we thank you for all you have done for him,' said
Isabel, doubting whether Walter's mother appreciated the full extent
of it; 'indeed, we have all a great deal to thank you for. I hope my
sisters and I may be the better all our lives for the helps and
explanations you have given to us. Is that the last candle? How
beautiful! We must open.'
'Yes'--she paused with her hand on the key.
'No, no--do not wait,' taking the key himself. 'Yet--yes, I must--I
must thank you for such words--'
'My words?' said Isabel, smiling. 'For thanking you, or being happy
'Both! both! Those words will be my never-failing charm. You little
guess how I shall live on the remembrance. Oh, if I could only
convey to you what feelings you have excited--'
The words broke from him as if beyond his control, and under the
pressing need of not wasting the tapers, he instinctively unlocked
the door as he spoke, and cut himself short by turning the handle,
perhaps without knowing what he was about.
Instantly Lady Conway and Miss King each pushed a folding leaf,
Isabel and James drew back on either side, and the spectators beheld
the tall glistening evergreen, illuminated with countless little
spires of light, glancing out among the dark leaves, and reflected
from the gilt fir-cones, glass balls, and brilliant toys.
'Sister! sister!' cried Miss Mercy, standing by Miss Faithfull's
chair, in the rear of the throng, and seizing her hand in ecstasy;
'it is like a dream! like what we have read of! Oh, the dear little
children! So very kind of Lady Conway! Could you have imagined--?'
She quite gasped.
'It is very pretty, but it was a nicer Christmas-tree last year at
Lady Runnymede's,' said Louisa, with the air of a critic. 'There we
had coloured lamps.'
'Little fastidious puss!' said Louis, 'I thought you keeping in the
background out of politeness; but I see you are only blasee with
Christmas-trees. I pity you! I could no more be critical at such a
moment than I could analyse the jewels in Aladdin's cave.'
'Oh, if you and Miss Faithfull talk, Cousin Fitzjocelyn, you will
make it seem quite new.'
'You will deride the freshness of our simplicity,' said Louis, but
presently added, 'Miss Salome, have we not awakened to the enchanted
land? Did ever mortal tree bear stars of living flame? Here are
realized the fabled apples of gold--nay, the fir-cones of Nineveh,
the jewel-fruits of Eastern story, depend from the same bough.
Yonder lamps shine by fairy spell.'
'Now, Cousin Fitzjocelyn, do you think I suppose you so silly--'
'Soft! The Dryad of the Enchanted Bower advances. Her floating
robes, her holly crown, beseem her queenly charms.'
'As if you did not know that it is only Isabel!'
'Only! May the word be forgiven to a sister! Isabel! The name is
'She is looking even more lovely than usual,' said Miss Faithfull.
'I never saw such a countenance.'
'She has a colour to-night,' added Miss Mercy, 'which does, as you
say, make her handsomer than ever. Dear! dear! I hope she is not
tired. I am so sorry I did not help her to light the tree!'
'I do not think it is fatigue,' said her sister. 'I hope it is
animation and enjoyment--all I have ever thought wanting to that
'You are as bad as my prosaic cousin,' said Louis, 'disenchanting the
magic bower and the wood-nymph into fir, wax, and modern young
'There, cousin, it is you who have called her a modern young lady.'
Before Louisa had expressed her indignation, there was a call for
'The Sovereign of the Bower beckons,' said Louis. 'Favoured damsel,
know how to deserve her smiles. Fairy gifts remain not with the
As he put her forward, some one made way for her. It was Mary, and
he blushed at perceiving that she must have heard all his
rhodomontade. As if to make amends, he paused, and asked for Mrs.
'Much more comfortable to-night, thank you;' and the pleasant, honest
look of her friendly eyes relieved him by not reproaching him.
'I wish she were here. It is a prettier, more visionary sight than I
could have conceived.'
'I wish she could see it; but she feared the crowd. Many people in a
room seem to stifle her. Is Lord Ormersfield here?'
'No, it would not be his element. But imagine his having taken to
walking with me! I really think he will miss me.'
'Really?' said Mary, amused.
'It is presumptuous; but he does not see well at night, and is not
quite broken in to his spectacles. Mary, I hope you will walk over
to see after him. Nothing would be so good for him as walking you
back, and staying to dinner with you. Go right into the library; he
would be greatly pleased. Can't you make some book excuse? And you
have the cottages to see. The people inaugurated the boilers with
'Mr. Holdsworth told us how pleased they were. And the Norrises?'
'Mrs. Norris is delighted; she has found a woman to wash, and says it
will save her a maid. The people can get milk now: I assure you they
look more wholesome already! And Beecher has actually asked for two
more houses in emulation. And Richardson found himself turned over
'Oh, that's right.'
'I've been at the plans all the afternoon. I see how to contrive the
fireplace in the back room, that we could not have in the first set,
and make them cheaper, too. My father has really made a point of
that old decrepit Hailes being moved from Marksedge; and Mary, he,
and Richardson mean Inglewood to be made over to me for good. I am
to put in a bailiff, and do as I can with it--have the profits or
bear the losses. I think I have an idea--'
In spite of her willingness to hear the idea, Mary could not help
asking, 'Have you sent off the Police article?'
'Hush, Mary; it is my prime object to have it well forgotten.'
'Oh! did not Sir Miles like it?'
'He said it wanted liveliness and anecdote. So the Santissima
Hermandad, and all the extraneous history, were sent to him; and then
he was well content, and only wanted me to leave out all the
Christian chivalry--all I cared to say--'
'You don't mean not to finish? Your father was so pleased, Isabel so
much struck! It is a pity--'
'No, no; you may forgive me, Mary--it is not pure laziness. It was
mere rubbish, without the point, which was too strong for the two
politicians; rubbish, any way. Don't tell me to go on with it; it
was a mere trial, much better let it die away. I really have no
time; if I don't mind my own business, I shall be a plucked gosling;
and that would go to his, lordship's heart. Besides, I must get
these plans done. Do you remember where we got the fire-bricks for
Mary was answering, when Walter came bursting through the crowd.
'Where is he? Fitzjocelyn, it is your turn.'
'Here is a curious specimen for our great naturalist,' said Mrs.
Frost, a glow in her cheeks, and her voice all stifled mirth and
It was a large nest of moss and horsehair, partly concealed under the
lower branches, and containing two huge eggs streaked and spotted
with azure and vermilion, and a purple and yellow feather, labelled,
'Dropped by the parent animal in her flight, on the discovery of the
nest by the crew of H.M.S. Flying Dutchman. North Greenland, April
1st, 1847. Qu.? Female of Equus Pegasus. Respectfully dedicated to
the Right Honourable Viscount Fitzjocelyn.'
'A fine specimen,' said the Viscount at once, with the air of a
connoisseur, by no means taken by surprise. 'They are not very
uncommon; I found one myself about the same date in the justice-room.
I dare say Mr. Calcott recollects the circumstance.'
'Oh, my dear fellow,' exclaimed Sydney, instead of his father; 'you
need not particularize. You always were a discoverer in that line.'
'True,' said Louis, 'but this is unique. North Greenland--ah! I
thought it was from a Frosty country. Ha, Clara?'
'Not I; I know nothing of it,' cried Clara, in hurry and confusion,
not yet able to be suspected of taking liberties with him.
'No?' said Louis, turning about his acquisition; 'I thought I knew
the female that laid these eggs. The proper name is, I fancy,
Glacies Dynevorensis--var. Catharina--perhaps--'
Walter and Louisa had brought their mother to see the nest, the point
of which she comprehended as little as they; and not understanding
how much amusement was betokened by her nephew's gravity, she
protested that none of her party had devised it, nor even been privy
to it, and that Mr. Dynevor must bear the blame, but he was very busy
detaching the prizes from the tree, and hastily denied any concern
with it. Aunt Catharine was obliged to console Lady Conway, and
enchant Louis by owning herself the sole culprit, with no aid but
Miss Mercy's. Together they had disposed the nest in its right
locality, as soon as the Earl's absence was secure.
'I had not courage for it before him,' she laughed. 'As for this
fellow, I knew he would esteem it a compliment.'
'As a tribute to his imagination?' said Isabel, who, in her mood of
benevolence, could be struck with the happy understanding between
aunt and nephew revealed by such a joke, so received.
'It would be a curious research,' said Louis, 'whether more of these
nidifications result from over-imagination or the want of it.'
'Often from want of imagination, and no want of cowardice,' said
'That sort of nest has not illuminated eggs like these,' said Louis.
'They are generally extremely full of gunpowder, and might be painted
with a skull and crossbones. I say, Clara, has Aunt Kitty considered
the consequences? She has sacrificed her ostrich eggs! I can never
part with these original productions of her genius.'
He exhibited his mare's nest with his own gay bonhommie to all who
were curious, and presently, when every one's attention had been
again recalled to the wonders which Isabel was distributing, and he
had turned aside to dispose of his treasure, he heard a sound of
soliloquy half aloud, 'I wonder whether she has it!' from Clara, who
stood a little apart.
'What?' asked Louia.
'My ivory clasp with the Madonna,' said Clara. 'Jem and I thought it
the only thing worthy of Miss Conway.'
'Hem!' said Louis; 'it is not your fault, Clara; but it would be
graceful to learn to receive a favour.'
'A favour, but not a grand thing like this,' said Clara, showing a
beautiful little case of working implements.
'Hardly worth, even intrinsically, your mother's bracelet,' said
Louis. 'But I am not going to talk treason to the family doctrine,
though it is very inconvenient to your friends.'
'Then you think we ought not to have done it?'
'That depends on what I can't decide.'
'Whether you give it out of love or out of pride.'
'I think we gave it out of one, and excused it by the other.'
'Very satisfactory. To reward you, here is something for you to do.
I shall never get at Aunt Kitty to-night. I see the midshipman,
young Brewster, will not relinquish her; so will you or will she
administer this letter to the Lady of Eachalott?'
'You don't mean that is Tom Madison!' exclaimed Clara. 'Why, it is
like copper-plate. No more Fitsgoslings!'
'No, indeed! Is he not a clever fellow? He has just reached the
stage of civilization that breaks out in dictionary words. I have
been, in return, telling him the story of the Irish schoolmaster who
puzzled the magistrate's bench by a petition about a small cornuted
animal, meaning a kid. But I should think it would be very edifying
to Charlotte to see herself commemorated as the individual at the
Terrace, and his grandfather as his aged relative. He sends the old
man ten shillings this time, for he is promoted. Don't you think I
may be proud of him? Is Mary gone home? She must hear about him.'
As he turned away in search of Mary, Clara felt a soft hand on her
shoulder, and Isabel beckoned her to follow into the back drawing-
room, where the tree was burnt out and deserted.
'I may thank _you_,' said Isabel, in a low, sweet voice, pressing her
'And Jem,' said Clara; 'he thought of it first.'
'It is the most beautiful Christmas gift; but I do not like for you
to part with it, my dear.'
'We both wished it, and grandmamma gave leave. We longed for you to
have something we prized like this, for it belonged to my mamma. It
is Jem's present too, for he went out and bought the black velvet.'
'Clasp it on for me, dear Clara. There!' and Isabel kissed the
fingers which obeyed. 'It shall never leave my arm.'
Clara's face burnt with surprise and pleasure amounting to
embarrassment, as Isabel expressed hopes of meeting again, and
engaged her to write from school. She looked for her brother to take
his share of thanks; but he was determinately doing his duty in
cutting chicken and cake for those who desired supper, and he did not
come in their way again till all the guests were gone, and good-night
and good-bye were to be said at once.
Lady Conway was warm in expressing her hopes that Walter would enjoy
the same advantages another holidays, and told Mr. Dynevor she should
write to him. But Jem made little answer, nothing like a promise.
Clara thought he had become stiff from some unknown affront, perhaps
some oppressive present, for he seemed to intend to include all the
young ladies in one farewell bow. But Isabel advanced with
outstretched hand and flushing cheek, and her murmured 'Thank you'
and confiding pressure drew from him such a grasp as could not easily
Clara's heart was all the lighter because she was sure that
Fitzjocelyn had forgiven, and, what was more, forgotten. She had
spoken naturally to him once more, and was ready for anything now--
even though they had missed all confidential discussions upon school.
She gave Charlotte Tom Madison's letter. The little maiden took it,
and twirled it about rather superciliously. 'What business had my
young Lord,' she thought, 'to fancy she cared for that poor fellow?
Very likely he was improved, and she was glad of it, but she knew
what was genteel now. Yes, she would read it at once; there was no
fear that it would make her soft and foolish--she had got above
'Which king, Bezonian?'--Henry IV.
Sir Roland of Provence remained in suspense whether to be a novice or
an irrevocably pledged Hospitalier. The latter was most probable;
and when Adeline's feelings had been minutely analysed, Miss Conway
discovered that she had better not show her morning's work to her
Clara and Louis pronounced Jem to be as savage as a bear all through
the journey. Clara declared it was revenge for having been civil and
amiable all through the vacation; and Louis uttered a theatrical
aside, that even _that_ could not have been maintained if he had not
occasionally come to Ormersfield to relieve himself a little upon
their two lordships.
Laugh as he might, Fitzjocelyn was much concerned and perplexed by
his cousin's ill-humour, when it appeared more permanent than could
be puffed off in a few ebullitions. Attempts to penetrate the gloom
made it heavier, and Louis resolved to give it time to subside. He
waited some days before going near James, and when he next walked to
his college found him engaged with pupils. He was himself very busy,
and had missed his cousin several times before he at length found him
'Why, Jem, old fellow, what are you about? You've not been near my
rooms this term. Are you renouncing me in anticipation of my
'You won't be plucked unless you go out of your senses for the
'No thanks to your advice and assistance if I am not. But it would
conduce to my equanimity, Jem, to know whether we are quarrelling, as
in that case I should know how to demean myself.'
'I've no quarrel with you. You have far more reason--But,' added
Jem, catching himself up, 'don't you know I have no leisure for
trifling? The Ordination is the second week in March.'
'Ay--you know it! My fellowship depends on it.'
'I never liked to contemplate it.' He sat down and mused, while
James continued his occupation. Presently he said, 'Look here. Sir
Miles Oakstead asked me if I had any clever Oxford friend to
recommend. If he comes into office, he--'
'I'll be no great man's hanger-on.'
'This matter is not imminent. You are barely four-and-twenty. Wait
a year or two; even a few months would--'
'You have tried my forbearance often enough,' broke in James; 'my
object is--as you very well know--to maintain myself and mine without
being liable to obnoxious patronage. If you think I should disgrace
the office, speak out!'
Louis, without raising his eyes, only answered with a smile.
'Then, what do you mean? As to your notions of a vocation, ninety-
nine out of a hundred are in my case. I have been bred up to this-
nothing else is open--I mean to do my duty; and surely that is
vocation--no one has a right to object--'
'No one; I beg your pardon,' meekly said Louis, taking up his stick
to go; but both knew it was only a feint, and James, whose vehemence
was exhausting itself, resumed, in an injured tone, 'What disturbs
you? what is this scruple of yours!--you, who sometimes fancy you
would have been a curate yourself!'
'I have just inclination enough to be able to perceive that you have
'And is every one to follow his bent?'
'This is not a step to be taken against the grain, even for the best
earthly motives. Jem! I only beg you to ask advice. For the very
reason that you are irreproachable, you will never have it offered.'
'The present time, for instance?' said James, laughing as best he
'That is nothing. I have no faith in my own judgment, but, thinking
as I do of the profession and of you, I cannot help believing that my
distaste for seeing you in it must be an instinct.'
'Give me your true opinion and its grounds candidly, knowing that I
would not ask another man living.'
'Nor me, if I did not thrust it on you.'
'Now for it! Let us hear your objection.'
'Simply this. I do not see that anything impels you to take Holy
Orders immediately, except your wish to be independent, and
irrevocably fixed before your uncle can come home. This seems to me
to have a savour of something inconsistent with what you profess. It
might be fine anywhere else, but will it not bear being brought into
the light of the sanctuary? No, I cannot like it. I have no doubt
many go up for ordination far less fit than you, but--Jem, I wish you
would not. If you would but wait a year!'
'No, Fitzjocelyn, my mind is made up. I own that I might have
preferred another course, and Heaven knows it is not that I think
myself worthy of this; but I have been brought up to this, and I will
not waver. It is marked out for me as plainly as your earldom for
you, and I will do my duty in it as my appointed calling. There lies
my course of honest independence: you call it pride--see what those
are who are devoid of it: there lie my means of educating my sister,
providing for my grandmother. I can see no scruple that should deter
Fitzjocelyn having said his say, it was his turn and his nature to be
'In short,' concluded James, walking about the room, 'there is no
alternative. Waiting for a College living is bad enough, but nothing
else can make happiness even possible.'
'One would think you meant one sort of happiness,' said Louis, with a
calm considering tone, and look of inquiry which James could not
'What else?' he cried. 'Fool and madman that I am to dwell on the
'Why should it be hopeless?--' began Louis.
'Hush! you are the last person with whom I could discuss this
subject,' he said, trying to be fierce, but with more sorrow than
anger. 'I must bear my burthen alone. Believe me, I struggled hard.
If you and I be destined to clash, one comfort is, that even I could
never quarrel with you.'
'I have not the remotest idea of your meaning.'
'So much the better. No, so much the worse. You are not capable of
feeling what I do for her, or you would have hated me long ago. Do
not stay here! I do not know that I can quite bear the sight of you
-But don't let me lose you, Louis.'
James wrung the hand of his cousin; and no sooner was he alone, than
he began to pace the room distractedly.
'Poor Jem!' soliloquized Fitzjocelyn. 'At least, I am glad the
trouble is love, not the Ordination. But as to his meaning! He
gives me to understand that we are rivals--It is the most absurd
thing I ever knew--I declare I don't know whether he means Mary or
Isabel. I suppose be would consider Mary's fortune a barrier--No,
she is too serene for his storms--worthy, most worthy--but she would
hate to be worshipped in that wild way. Besides, I am done for in
that quarter. No clashing there--! Nay, the other it can never be--
after all his efforts to lash me up at Christmas. Yet, he was much
with her, he made Clara sacrifice the clasp to her. Hm! She is an
embodied romance, deserving to be raved about; while for poor dear
Mary, it would be simply ridiculous. I wish I could guess--it is too
absurd to doubt, and worse to ask; and, what's more, he would not
stand it. If I did but know! I'm not so far gone yet, but that I
could leave the field to him, if that would do him any good. Heigh
ho! it would be en regle to begin to hate him, and be as jealous as
Bluebeard; but there! I don't know which it is to be about, and one
can't be jealous for two ladies at once, luckily, for it would be
immensely troublesome, unless a good, hearty quarrel would be
wholesome to revive his spirits. It is a bad time for it, though!
Well, I hope he does not mean Mary--I could not bear for her to be
tormented by him. That other creature might reign over him like the
full moon dispersing clouds. Well! this is the queerest predicament
I ever heard of!' And on he wandered, almost as much diverted by the
humour of the doubt, as annoyed by the dilemma.
He had no opportunity for farther investigation: James removed
himself so entirely from his society, that he was obliged to conclude
that the prevailing mood was that of not being quite able to bear the
sight of him. His consolation was the hope of an opening for some
generous proceeding, though how this should be accomplished was not
visible, since it was quite as hard to be generous with other
people's hearts as to confer a benefit on a Pendragon. At any rate,
he was so confident of Jem's superiority, as to have no fear of
carrying off the affection of any one whom his cousin wished to win.
James was ordained, and shortly after went to some pupils for the
Easter vacation, which was spent by Louis at Christchurch, in
studying hard. The preparation for going up for his degree ended by
absorbing him entirely, as did every other pursuit to which he once
fairly devoted himself, and for the first time he gave his abilities
full scope in the field that ought long ago to have occupied them.
When, finally, a third class was awarded to him, he was conscious
that it might have been a first, but for his past waste of time.
He was sorry to leave Oxford: he had been happy there in his own
desultory fashion; and the additional time that his illness had kept
him an undergraduate, had been welcome as deferring the dreaded
moment of considering what was to come next. He had reached man's
estate almost against his will.
He was to go to join his father in London; and he carried thither
humiliation for having, by his own fault, missed the honours that too
late he had begun to value as a means of gratifying his father.
The Earl, however, could hardly have taken anything amiss from Louis.
After having for so many years withheld all the lassez-aller of
paternal affection, when the right chord had once been touched, his
fondness for his grown-up son had the fresh exulting pride, and
almost blindness that would ordinarily have been lavished on his
infancy. Lord Ormersfield's sentiments were few and slowly adopted,
but they had all the permanence and force of his strong character,
and his affection for Fitzjocelyn partook both of parental glory in a
promising only son, and of that tenderness, at once protecting and
dependent, that fathers feel for daughters. This was owing partly to
Louis's gentle and assiduous attentions during the last vacation, and
also to his long illness, and remarkable resemblance to his mother,
which rendered fondness of him a sort of tribute to her, and restored
to the Earl some of the transient happiness of his life.
It was a second youth of the affections, but it was purchased by a
step towards age. The anxiety, fatigue, and various emotions of the
past year had told on the Earl, and though still strong, vigorous,
and healthy, the first touch of autumn had fallen on him--he did not
find his solitary life so self-sufficing as formerly, and craved the
home feeling of the past Christmas. So the welcome was twice as warm
as Louis had expected; and as he saw the melancholy chased away, the
stern grey eyes lighted up, and the thin, compressed lips relaxed
into a smile, he forgot his aversion to the well-appointed rooms in
Jermyn Street, and sincerely apologized that he had not brought home
more credit to satisfy his father.
'Oakstead was talking it over with me,' was the answer; 'and we
reckoned up many more third-class men than first who have
'Many thanks to Sir Miles,' said Louis, laughing. 'My weak mind
would never have devised such consolation.'
'Perhaps the exclusive devotion to study which attains higher honours
may not be the beat introduction to practical life.'
'It is doing the immediate work with the whole might.'
'You do work with all your might.'
'Ay! but too many irons in the fire, and none of them red-hot
through, have been my bane.'
'You do not set out in life without experience; I am glad your
education is finished, Louis!' said his father, turning to
contemplate him, as if the sight filled up some void.
'Are you?' said Louis, wearily. 'I don't think I am. It becomes my
duty--or yours, which is a relief--to find out the next stage.'
'Have you no wishes?'
'Not at the present speaking, thank you. If I went out and talked to
any one, I might have too many.'
'No views for your future life?'
'Thus far: to do as little harm as may be--to be of some use at home-
-and to make turnips grow in the upland at Inglewood, I have some
vague fancy to see foreign parts, especially now they are all in such
a row--it would be such fun--but I suppose you would not trust me
there now. Here I am for you to do as you please with me--a gracious
permission, considering that you did not want it. Only the first
practical question is how to get this money from Jem to Clara. I
should like to call on her, but I suppose that would hardly be
according to the proprieties.'
'I would walk to the school with you, if you wish to see her. My
aunt will be glad to hear of her, if we go home to-morrow.'
'Are you thinking of going home?' exclaimed Louis, joyfully coming to
'Yes; but for a cause that will grieve you. Mrs. Ponsonby is worse,
and has written to ask me to come down.'
'I fear so. I showed my aunt's letter to Hastings, who said it was
the natural course of the disease, but that he thought it would have
been less speedy. I fear it has been hastened by reports from Peru.
She had decided on going out again; but the agitation overthrew her,
and she has been sinking ever since,' said Lord Ormersfield,
'For her sake I must be on the spot, if for no other cause. If I had
but a home to offer her!'
Louis gave a deep sigh, and presently asked for more details of Mrs.
'I believe she is still able to sit up and employ herself at times,
but she often suffers dreadfully. They are both wonderfully
cheerful. She has little to regret.'
'What a loss she will be! Oh, father! what will you do without her?'
'I am glad that you have known her. She has been more than a sister
to me. Things might have been very different, if that miserable
marriage had not separated us for so many years.'
'How could it have happened? How was it that she--so good and wise-
did not see through the man?'
'She would, if she had been left to herself; but she was not. My
mother discovered, when too late, that there had been foolish,
impertinent jokes of that unfortunate trifler, poor Henry Frost, that
made her imagine herself suspected of designs on me.'
'Mary would never have attended to such folly!' cried Louis.
'Mary is older. Besides, she loved the man, or thought she did.
I believe she thinks herself attached to him still. But for Mary's
birth, there would have been a separation long ago. There ought to
have been; but, after my father's death, there was no one to
interfere! What would I not have given to have been her brother!
Well! I never could see why one like her was so visited--!' Then
rousing himself, as though tender reminiscences were waste of time,
he added, 'There you see the cause of the caution I gave you with
regard to Clara Dynevor. It is not fair to expose a young woman to
misconstructions and idle comments, which may goad her to vindicate
her dignity by acting in a manner fatal to her happiness. Now,' he
added, having drawn his moral, 'if we are to call on Clara, this
would be the fittest time. I have engaged for us both to dine at
Lady Conway's this evening: I thought you would not object.'
'Thank you; but I am sure you cannot wish to go out after such news.'
'There is not sufficient excuse for refusing. There is to be no
party, and it would be a marked thing to avoid it.'
Louis hazarded a suggestion that the meeting with Clara would be to
little purpose if they were all to sit in state in the drawing-room;
and she was asked for on the plea of going to see the new Houses of
Parliament. The Earl of Ormersfield's card and compliments went
upstairs, and Miss Frost Dynevor appeared, with a demure and
astonished countenance, which changed instantly to ecstasy when she
saw that the Earl was not alone. Not at all afraid of love, but only
of misconstructions, he goodnaturedly kept aloof, while Clara,
clinging to Louis's arm, was guided through the streets, and in and
out among the blocks of carved stone on the banks of the Thames,
interspersing her notes of admiration and his notes on heraldry with
more comfortable confidences than had fallen to their lot through the
His first hope was that Clara might reveal some fact to throw light
on the object of her brother's affections, but her remarks only added
to his perplexity. Once, when they had been talking of poor Mary,
and lamenting her fate in having to return to her father, Louis
hazarded the conjecture that she might find an English home.
'There is her aunt in Bryanston Square,' said Clara. 'Or if she
would only live with us! You see I am growing wise, as you call it:
I like her now.'
'That may be fortunate,' said Louis. 'You know her destination
according to Northwold gossip.'
'Nonsense! Jem would scorn an heiress if she were ten times
prettier. He will never have an escutcheon of pretence like the one
on the old soup tureen that the Lady of Eschalott broke, and Jane was
so sorry for because it was the last of the old Cheveleigh china.'
Louis made another experiment. 'Have you repented yet of giving away
'No, indeed! Miss Conway always wears it. She should be richly
welcome to anything I have in the world.'
'You and Jem saw much more of them than I did.'
'Whose fault was that? Jem was always raving about your stupidity in
staying at home.'
He began to question whether his interview with James had been a
dream. As they were walking back towards the school, Clara went on
to tell him that Lady Conway had called and taken her to a rehearsal
of a concert of ancient music, and that Isabel had taken her for one
or two drives into the country.
'This must conduce to make school endurable,' said Louis.
'I think I hate it more because I hate it less.'
'Translate, if you please.'
'The first half-year, I scorned them all, and they scorned me; and
that was comfortable--'
'And consistent. Well?'
'The next, you had disturbed me; I could not go on being savage with
the same satisfaction, and their tuft-hunting temper began to
discharge itself in such civility to me, that I could not give myself
airs with any peace.'
'Have you made no friends?'
One and a half. The whole one is a good, rough, stupid girl, who
comes to school because she can't learn, and is worth all the rest
put together. The half is Caroline Salter, who is openly and
honestly purse-proud, has no toad-eating in her nature, and straight-
forwardly contemns high-blood and no money. We fought ourselves into
respect for one another; and now, I verily believe, we are fighting
ourselves into friendship. She is the only one that is proud, not
vain; so we understand each other. As to the rest, they adore
Caroline Halter's enamelled watch one day; and the next, I should be
their 'dearest' if I would but tell them what we have for dinner at
Ormersfield, and what colour your eyes are!'
'The encounters have made you so epigrammatic and satirical, that
there is no coming near you.'
'Oh, Louis! if you knew all, you would despise me as I do myself!
I do sometimes get drawn into talking grandly about Ormersfield; and
though I always say what I am to be, I know that I am as vain and
proud as any of them: I am proud of being poor, and of the
Pendragons, and of not being silly! I don't know which is self-
respect, and which is pride!'
'I have always had my doubts about that quality of self-respect.
I never could make out what one was to respect.'
'Oh, dear! les voila!' cried Clara, as, entering Hanover Square, they
beheld about twenty damsels coming out of the garden in couples. 'I
would not have had it happen for the whole world!' she added,
abruptly withdrawing the arm that had clung to him so trustfully
across many a perilous crossing.
She seemed to intend to slip into the ranks without any farewells,
but the Earl, with politeness that almost confounded the little
elderly governess, returned thanks for having been permitted the
pleasure of her company, and Louis, between mischief and good-nature,
would not submit to anything but a hearty, cousinly squeeze of the
hand, nor relinquish it till he had forced her to utter articulately
the message to grandmamma that she had been muttering with her head
averted. At last it was spoken sharply, and her hand drawn
petulantly away, and, without looking back at him, her high, stiff
head vanished into the house, towering above the bright rainbow of
ribbons, veils, and parasols.
The evening would have been very happy, had not Lord Ormersfield
looked imperturbably grave and inaccessible to his sister-in-law's
blandishments. She did not use the most likely means of disarming
him when she spoke of making a tour in the summer. It had been a
long promise that Isabel and Virginia should go to see their old
governess at Paris; but if France still were in too disturbed a
state, they might enjoy themselves in Belgium, and perhaps her dear
Fitzjocelyn would accompany them as their escort.
His eyes had glittered at the proposal before he recollected the
sorrow that threatened his father, and began to decline, protesting
that he should be the worst escort in the world, since he always
attracted accidents and adventures. But his aunt, discovering that
he had never been abroad, became doubly urgent, and even appealed to
'As far as I am concerned, Fitzjocelyn may freely consult his own
inclinations,' said the Earl, so gravely, that Lady Conway could only
turn aside the subject by a laugh, and assurance that she did not
mean to give him up. She began to talk of James Frost, and her
wishes to secure him a second time as Walter's tutor in the holidays.
'You had better take him with you,' said Louis; 'he would really be
of use to you, and how he would enjoy the sight of foreign parts!'
Isabel raised her head with a look of approbation, such as encouraged
him to come a little nearer, and apeak of the pleasure that her
kindness had given to Clara.
'There is a high spirit and originality about Clara, which make her a
most amusing companion.'
Isabel replied, 'I am very glad of an hour with her, especially now
that I am without my sisters.'
'She must be such a riddle to her respectable school-fellows, that
intercourse beyond them must be doubly valuable.'
'Poor child! Is there no hope for her but going out as a governess?'
'Unluckily, we have no Church patronage for her brother; the only
likely escape--unless, indeed, the uncle in Peru, whom I begin to
regard as rather mythical, should send an unavoidable shower of gold
'I hope not,' said Isabel, 'I could almost call their noble poverty a
sacred thing. I never saw anything so beautiful as the reverent
affection shown to Mrs. Dynevor on Walter's birthday, when she was
the Queen of the Night, and looked it, and her old pupils vied with
each other in doing her honour. I have remembered the scene so often
in looking at our faded dowagers here.'
'I would defy Midas to make my Aunt Catharine a faded dowager,' said
'No; but he could have robbed their homage of half--nay, all its
They talked of Northwold, and Isabel mentioned various details of
Mrs. Ponsonby, which she had learnt from Miss King, and talked of
Mary with great feeling and affection. Never had Louis had anything
so like a conversation with Isabel, and he was more bewitched than
ever by the enthusiasm and depth of sensibilities which she no longer
concealed by coldness and reserve. In fact, she had come to regard
him as an accessory of Northwold, and was delighted to enjoy some
exchange of sympathy upon Terrace subjects--above all, when separated
from the school-room party. Time had brought her to perceive that
the fantastic Viscount did not always wear motley, and it was almost
as refreshing as meeting with Clara, to have some change from the two
worlds in which she lived. In her imaginary world, Adeline had just
been rescued from the Corsairs by a knight hospitalier, with his
vizor down, and was being conducted home by him, with equal
probabilities of his dying at her feet of a concealed mortal wound,
or conducting her to her convent gate, and going off to be killed by
the Moors. The world of gaiety was more hollow and wearisome than
ever; and the summons was as unwelcome to her as to Fitzjocelyn, when
Lord Ormersfield reminded him that the ladies were going to an
evening party, and that it was time to take leave.
'Come with us, Fitzjocelyn,' said his aunt. 'They would be charmed
to have you;' and she mentioned some lions, whose names made Louis
look at his father.
'I will send the carriage for you,' said the Earl; but Louis had
learnt to detect the tone of melancholy reluctance in that apparently
unalterable voice, and at once refused. Perhaps it was for that
reason that Isabel let him put on her opera-cloak and hand her down
stairs. 'I don't wonder at you,' she said; 'I wish I could do the
'I wished it at first,' he answered; 'but I could not have gone
without a heavy heart.'
'Are you young enough to expect to go to any gaieties without a heavy
'I am sorry for you,' said he, in his peculiar tone: 'I suppose I am
'I am almost twenty-_four_,' she said, with emphasis.
'Indeed! That must be the age for care, to judge by the change it
has worked in Jem Frost.'
The words were prompted by a keen, sudden desire to mark their
effect; but he failed to perceive any, for they were in a dark part
of the entry, and her face was turned away.
'Fitzjocelyn,' said the Earl, on the way home, 'do not think it
necessary to look at me whenever you receive an invitation. It makes
us both appear ridiculous, and you are in every respect your own
'I had rather not, thank you,' said Louis, in an almost provokingly
'It is full time you should assume your own guidance.'
'How little he knows how little that would suit him!' thought Louis,
sighing despondingly. 'Am I called on to sacrifice myself in
everything, and never even satisfy him?'
REST FOR THE WEARY.
Therefore, arm thee for the strife
All throughout this mortal life,
Soldier now and servant true,
Earth behind, and heaven in view.
REV. I. WILLIAMS.
The first impression on arriving at Northwold was, that the danger
had been magnified. Mrs. Frost's buoyant spirits had risen at the
first respite; and though there was a weight on Mary's brow, she
spoke cheerfully, and as if able to attend to other interests,
telling Louis of her father's wihh for some good workmen to
superintend the mines, aud asking him to consult his friends at
Illershall on the subject.
Lord Ormersfield came down encouraged by his visit to the invalid,
whom he had found dressed and able to converse nearly as usual. She
begged him to come to dinner the next day, and spend the evening with
her, promising with a smile that if he would bring Louis, their aunt
should chaperon Mary.
When the Earl went upstairs after dinner, the other three closed
round the fire, and talked in a tranquil, subdued strain, on various
topics, sometimes grave, sometimes enlivened by the playfulness
inherent in two of the party. Aunt Kitty spoke of her earlier days,
and Louis and Mary ventured questions that they would have ordinarily
deemed intrusive. Yet it was less the matter than the manner of
their dialogue--the deep, unavowed fellow-feeling and mutual
reliance--which rendered it so refreshing and full of a kind of
repose. Louis felt it like the strange bright stillness, when birds
sing their clearest, fullest notes, and the horizon reach of sky
beams with the softest, brightest radiance, just ere it be closed out
by the thunder-cloud, whose first drops are pausing to descend; and
to Mary it was peace--peace which she was willing gratefully to taste
to the utmost, from the instinctive perception that the call had come
for her to brace all her powers of self-control and fortitude; while
to the dear old aunt, besides her enjoyment of her darling's
presence, each hour was a boon that she could believe the patient or
the daughter, relieved and happy.
Louis was admitted for a few minutes' visit to the sick-chamber, and
went up believing that he ought to be playful and cheerful; but he
was nearly overcome by Mrs. Ponsonby's own brightness, as she hoped
that her daughter and aunt had made themselves agreeable.
'Thank you, I never was so comfortable, not even when my foot was
'I believe you consider that a great compliment.'
'Yes, I never was so much off my own mind, nor on other people's:'
and the recollection of all he owed to Mrs. Ponsonby's kindness
rushing over him, he looked so much affected, that Mary was afraid of
his giving way, and spoke of other matters; her mother responded, and
he came away quite reassured, and believing Mrs. Frost's augury that
at the next call, the invalid would be in the drawing-room.
On the way home, however, his father overthrew such hopes, and made
him aware of the true state of the case,--namely, that this was but
the lull before another attack, which, whether it came within weeks
or days, would probably be the last.
'Does Mary know?'
'She does. She bears up nobly.'
'And what is to become of her?'
The Earl sighed deeply. 'Lima is her destiny. Her mother is bent on
it, and says that she wishes it herself; but on one thing I am
resolved: she shall not go alone! I have told her mother that I will
go with her, and not leave her without seeing what kind of home that
man has for her. Mary--the mother, I mean--persists in declaring
that he has real affection for his child, and that her presence will
'If anything could--' broke out Louis.
'It should! it ought; but I do not trust him. I know Robert Ponsonby
as his wife has never chosen to know him. This was not a time for
disguise, and I told her plainly what I thought of risking her
daughter out there. But she called it Mary's duty--said that he was
fully to be trusted where his child was concerned, and that Mary was
no stranger at Lima, but could take care of herself, and had many
friends besides Oliver Dynevor there. But I told her that go with
her I would!'
'You to take the voyage! Was not she glad?'
'I think she was relieved; but she was over-grateful and distressed,
and entreating me to be patient with him. She need not fear. I
never was a hasty man; and I shall only remember that she bears his
name, and that he is Mary's father--provided always that it is fit
Mary should remain with him. Miserable! I can understand that death
may well come as a friend--But her daughter!' he exclaimed, giving
way more than he might have done anywhere but in the dark; 'how can
she endure to leave her to such a father--to such prospects!'
'She knows it is not only to such a father that she leaves her,'
'Her words--almost her words,' said the Earl, between earnestness and
impatience; 'but when these things come to pressing realities, it is
past me how such sayings are a consolation.'
'Not if they were no more than sayings.'
There was silence. Louis heard an occasional groaning sigh from his
father, and sat still, with feelings strongly moved, and impelled to
one of his sudden and impetuous resolutions.
The next morning, he ordered his horse, saying he would bring the
last report from the Terrace.
That afternoon, Mrs. Ponsonby observed a tremulousneas in Mary's
hand, and a willingness to keep her face turned away; and, on more
minute glances, a swelling of the eyelids was detected.
'My dear,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, 'you should take a walk to-day. Pray
go out with the Conways.'
'Oh no, thank you, mamma.'
'If the cousins come in from Ormersfield, I shall tell Louis to take
you to look at his farm. It would be very good for you--My dear,
what is it?' for Mary's ears and neck, all that she could see, were
'Oh, mamma! he has been doing it again. I did not mean to have told
you--' said Mary, the strong will to be calm forcing back the tears
and even the flush.
'Nay, dear child, nothing can hurt me now. You must let me share all
with you to the last. What did you say to him?'
'I told him that I could not think of such things now,' said Mary,
'He begged my pardon, and said he only did it because he thought it
might be a relief to you.'
'Only; did he say 'only?'
'I am not sure. At least,' she added, with a deep sigh, 'I thought
he meant only--'
'And you, my dearest, if you had not thought he meant _only_?'
'Don't ask me, mamma; I cannot think about it!'
'Mary, dearest, I do wish to understand you.'
'Is it of any use for me to ask myself?' said Mary.
'I think it is. I do not say that there might not be insuperable
obstacles; but I believe we ought to know whether you are still
indifferent to Louis.'
'Oh, that I never was! Nobody could be!'
'You know what I mean,' said her mother, slightly smiling.
'Mamma, I don't know what to say,' replied Mary, after a pause. 'I
had thought it wrong to let my thoughts take that course; but when he
spoke in his own soft, gentle voice, I felt, and I can't help it,
Not hesitating, but slowly, almost inaudibly, she brought out the
words; and, as the tears gushed out irrepressibly with the last, she
hastened from the room, and was seen no more till she had recovered
composure, and seemed to have dismissed the subject.
Louis kept this second attempt a secret; he was not quite sure how he
felt, and did not wish to discuss his rejection. At breakfast, he
received a note from Mrs. Ponsonby, begging him to come to the
Terrace at three o'clock; and the hope thus revived made him more
conversational than he had been all the former day.
He found that Mary was out walking, and he was at once conducted to
Mrs. Ponsonby's room, where he looked exceedingly rosy and confused,
till she began by holding out her hand, and saying, 'I wish to thank
'I am afraid I vexed Mary,' said Louis, with more than his usual
simplicity; 'but do you think there is no hope? I knew it was a bad
time, but I thought it might make you more at ease on her account.'
'You meant all that was most kind.'
'I thought I might just try,' pursued he, disconsolately, 'whether
she did think me any steadier. I hope she did not think me very
troublesome. I tried not to harass her much.'
'My dear Louis, it is not a question of what you call steadiness. It
is the old story of last summer, when you thought us old ones so much
more romantic than yourself.'
'You are thinking of Miss Conway,' said Louis, blushing, but with
curious naivete. 'Well, I have been thinking of that, and I really
do not believe there was anything in it. I did make myself rather a
fool at Beauchastel, and Jem would have made me a greater one; but
you know my father put a stop to it. Thinking her handsomer than
other people can't be love, can it?'
'Not alone, certainly.'
'And actually,' he pursued, 'I don't believe I ever think of her when
I am out of the way of her! No, indeed! if I had not believed that
was all over, do you think I could have said what I did yesterday?'
'Not unless you believed so.'
'Well, but really you don't consider how little I have seen of her.
I was in awe of her at first, and since, I have kept away on purpose.
I never got on with her at all till the other evening. I don't
believe I care for her one bit. Then,' suddenly pausing, and
changing his tone, 'you don't trust me after all.'
'I do. I trust your principle and kindness implicitly, but I think
the very innocence of your heart prevents you from knowing what you
'It is very hard,' said Louis; 'every one will have it that I must be
in love, till I shall have to believe so myself, and when I know it
cannot come to good.'
'You are making yourself more simple than you really are,' said Mra.
Ponsonby, half provoked.
Louis shut his eyes, and seemed to be rousing his faculties; then,
taking a new turn, he earnestly said, 'You know that the promises
must settle the question, and keep my affections fast.'
'Ah, Louis! there is the point. Others, true and sincere as
yourself, have broken their own hearts, and those of others, from
having made vows in wilful ignorance of latent feelings. It would be
a sin in me to allow you to bind yourself to Mary, with so little
comprehension as you have of your own sentiments.'
'Then I have done wrong in proposing it.'
'What would have been wrong in some cases, was more of blindness--ay,
and kindness--in you. Louis, I cannot tell you my gratitude for your
wish to take care of my dear girl,' she said, with tears in her eyes.
'I hope you fully understand me.'
'I see I have made a fool of myself again, and that you have a right
to be very angry with me.'
'Not quite,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, smiling, 'but I am going to give you
some advice. Settle your mind as to Miss Conway. Your father is
beginning to perceive that his distrust was undeserved; he has
promised me not to object in case it should be for your true
happiness; and I do believe, for my own part, that, in some respects,
she is better fitted for his daughter-in-law than my poor Mary.'
'No one ever was half as good as Mary!' cried Louis. 'And this is
what you tell me!'
'Mind, I don't tell you to propose to her, nor to commit yourself in
any way: I only tell you to put yourself in a position to form a
reasonable judgment of your own feelings. That is due to her, to
yourself, and to your wife, be she who she may.'
Louis sighed, and presently added, smiling, 'I am not going to rave
about preferences for another; but I do want to know whether anything
can be done for poor Jem Frost.'
'Ha! has he anything of this kind on his mind?'
'He does it in grand style--disconsolate, frantic, and frosty; but he
puzzles me completely by disclosing nothing but that he has no hope,
and thinks me his rival. Can nothing be done?'
'No, Louis,' said Mrs. Ponsonby, decidedly; 'I have no idea that
there is anything in that quarter. What may be on his mind, I cannot
tell: I am sure that he is not on Mary's.'
Louis rose. 'I have tired you,' he said, 'and you are very patient
with my fooleries.'
'You have been very patient with many a lecture of mine, Louis.'
'There are very few who would have thought me worth lecturing.'
'Ah, Louis! if I did not like you so well for what you are, I should
still feel the right to lecture you, when I remember the night I
carried you to your father, and tried to make him believe that you
would be his comfort and blessing. I think you have taught him the
lesson at last!'
'You have done it all,' said Louis, with deep feeling.
'And now, may I say what more I want to see in you? If you could
acquire more resolution, more manliness--will you pardon my saying
'Ah! I have always found myself the identical weak man that all
books give up as a hopeless case,' said Louis, accepting the
imputation more easily than she could have supposed possible.
'No,' she said, vigorously, 'you have not come to your time of life
without openings to evil that you could not have resisted if you had
been really weak.'
'Distaste--and rather a taste for being quizzed,' said Louis.
'Those are not weakness. Your will is indolent, and you take refuge
in fancying that you want strength. Rouse yourself, not to be
drifted about--make a line for yourself.'
'My father will have me walk in no line but his own.'
'You have sense not to make duty to him an excuse for indolence and
dislike of responsibility. You have often disappointed yourself by
acting precipitately; and now you are throwing yourself prone upon
him, in a way that is unwise for you both.'
'I don't know what to do!' said Louis. 'When I thought the aim of my
life was to be to devote myself to his wishes, you--ay, and he too-
tell me to stand alone.'
'It will be a disappointment to him, if you do not act and decide for
yourself--yes, and worse than disappointment. He knows what your
devotional habits are; and if he sees you wanting in firmness or
energy, he will set down all the rest as belonging to the softer
parts of your nature.'
'On the contrary,' exclaimed Louia, indignantly, 'all the resolution
I ever showed came from nothing else!'
'I know it. Let him see that these things make a man of you; and,
Louis--you feel what a difference it might make!'
Louis bowed his head thoughtfully.
'You, who are both son and daughter to him, may give up schemes and
pleasures for his sake, and may undertake work for which you have no
natural turn; but, however you may cross your inclinations, never be
led contrary to your judgment. Then, and with perseverance, I think
you will be safe.'
'Perseverance--your old lesson.'
'Yes; you must learn to work over the moment when novelty is gone and
failure begins, even though your father should treat the matter as a
crotchet of your own. If you know it is worth doing, go on, and he
will esteem you and it.'
'My poor private judgment! you work it hard! when it has generally
only run me full-drive into some egregious blunder!'
'Not your true deliberate judgment, exercised with a sense of
responsibility. Humility must not cover your laziness. You have
such qualities and such talents as must be intended to do good to
others, not to be trifled away in fitful exertions. Make it your
great effort to see clearly, and then to proceed steadfastly, without
slackening either from weariness or the persuasions of others.'
'And you won't let me have the one person who can see clearly, and
keep me steady?'
'To be your husband, instead of your wife! No, Louis; you must learn
to take yourself on your own hands, and lean neither on your father,
nor on any one else on earth, before you can be fit for Mary, or--'
'And if I did?' began Louis.
'You would make a man of yourself,' she said, interrupting him.
'That is the first thing--not a reed shaken with the wind. You can
do it; there is nothing that Grace cannot do.'
'I know there is not,' said Louis, reverently.
'And, oh! the blessing that you would so bring on yourself and on
your dear father! You have already learnt to make him happier than I
ever looked to see him; and you must be energetic and consistent,
that so he may respect, not you, but the Power which can give you the
Louis's heart was too full to make any answer. Mrs. Ponsonby lay
back in her chair, as though exhausted by the energy with which she
had spoken the last words; and there was a long silence. He thought
he ought to go, and yet could not resolve to move. At last she
spoke--'Good-bye, Louis. Come what may, I know Mary will find in you
the--all that I have found your father.'
'Thank you, at least, for saying that,' said Louis. 'If you would
only hold out a hope--I wish it more than ever now! I do not believe
that I should ever do as well with any one else! Will you not give
me any prospect?'
'Be certain of your own heart, Louis! Nay,' as she saw his face
brighten, 'do not take that as a promise. Let me give you a few
parting words, as the motto I should like to leave with you--'Quit
yourselves like men; be strong.' And so, Louis, whatever be your
fixed and resolute purpose, so it be accordant with the Will of
Heaven, you would surely, I believe, attain it, and well do you know
how I should rejoice to see'--She broke off, and said, more feebly,
'I must not go on any longer. Let me wish you good-bye, Louis: I
have loved you only less than my own child!'
Louis knelt on one knee beside her, held her hand, and bowed down his
face to hide the shower of tears that fell, while a mother's kiss and
a mother's blessing were on his brow.
He went down stairs, and out of the house, and took his horse from
the inn stables, without one word to any one. The ostlers said to
each other that the young Lord was in great trouble about the lady at
Mary came home; and if she knew why that long walk had been urged on
her, she gave no sign. She saw her mother worn and tired, and she
restrained all perception that she was conscious that there had been
agitation. She spoke quietly of the spring flowers that she had
seen, and of the people whom she had met; she gave her mother her
tea, and moved about with almost an increase of the studied quietness
of the sick-room. Only, when Mrs. Frost came in for an hour, Mary
drew back into a corner with her knitting, and did not speak.
'Mary,' said her mother, when she came back from lighting her aunt
down stairs, 'come to me, my child.'
Mary came, and her mother took both her hands. They were chilly; and
there was a little pulse on Mary's temple that visibly throbbed, and
almost seemed to leap, with fearful rapidity.
'Dear child, I had no power to talk before, or I would not have kept
you in suspense. I am afraid it will not do.'
'I was sure of it,' said Mary, almost in a whisper. 'Dear mamma, you
should not have vexed and tired yourself.'
'I comforted myself,' said Mrs. Ponsonby; 'I said things to him that
I had longed to say, and how beautifully he took them! But I could
not feel that he knew what he was about much better than he did the
'It would not be right,' said Mary, in her old tone.
'I think your father might have been persuaded. I would have
written, and done my utmost--'
'Oh, mamma, anything rather than you should have that worry!'
'And I think things will be different--he is softened, and will be
more so. But it is foolish to talk in this way, and it may be well
that the trial should not be made; though that was not the reason I
answered Louis as I did.'
'I suppose it will be Miss Conway,' said Mary, trying to smile.
'At least, it ought to be no one else till he has seen enough of her
to form a judgment without the charm of prohibition; and this he may
do without committing himself, as they are so nearly connected. I
must ask his father to give him distinct permission, and then I shall
have done with these things.'
Mary would not break the silence, nor recall her to earthly
interests; but she returned to the subject, saying, wistfully, 'Can
you tell me that you are content, dear child?'
'Quite content, thank you, mamma--I am certain it is right,' said
Mary. 'It would be taking a wrong advantage of his compassion. I
fall too far short of what would be wanted to make him happy.'
She spoke firmly, but her eyes were full of tears. Her mother felt
as if no one could fail of happiness with Mary, but, controlling the
impulse, said, 'It is best, dearest; for you could not bear to feel
yourself unable to make him happy, or to fancy he might have more
peace without you. My dear, your prospect is not all I could have
wished or planned, but this would be too cruel.'
'It is my duty to go to papa,' said Mary. 'What would be selfish
could not turn out well.'
'If you could be sure of his feelings--if he were only less strangely
youthful--No,' she added, breaking off, as if rebuking herself, 'it
is not to be thought of, but I do not wonder at you, my poor Mary--I
never saw any one so engaging, nor in whom I could place such
'I am so glad!' said Mary, gratefully. 'You used not to have that
'I feared his being led. Now I feel as sure as any one can dare of
his goodness. But I have been talking to him about self-reliance and
consistency. He is so devoid of ambition, and so inert and diffident
when not in an impetuous fit, that I dread his doing no good as well
as no evil.'
Mary shook her head. Did she repress the expression of the sense
that her arm had sometimes given him steadiness and fixed his aim?'
'The resemblance to his mother struck me more than ever,' continued
Mrs. Ponsonby. 'There is far more mind and soul, but almost the same
nature--all bright, indolent sweetness, craving for something to lean
on, but he shows what she might have been with the same principles.
Dear boy! may he do well!'
'He will be very happy with Miss Conway,' said Mary. 'She will learn
to appreciate all he says and does--her enthusiasm will spur him on.
I shall hear of them.'
The unbreathed sigh seemed to be added to the weight of oppression on
Mary's patient breast; but she kept her eye steady, her brow
All the joys did indeed appear to be passing from her with her
mother, and she felt as if she should never know another hour of
gladness, nor of rest in full free open-hearted confidence, but she
could not dwell either on herself or on the future, and each hour
that her mother was spared to her was too precious to be wasted or
profaned by aught that was personal.
Mrs. Ponsonby herself realized the weary soon to be at rest, the
harassed well nigh beyond the reach of troubling. She treated each
earthly care and interest as though there were peace in laying it
down for the last time. At intervals, as she was able, she wrote a
long letter to her husband, to accompany the tidings of her death;
and she held several conversations with Mary on her conduct for the
future. She hoped much from Mary's influence, for Mr. Ponsonby was
fond of his daughter, and would not willingly display himself in his
worst colours before her; and Mary's steadiness of spirits and nerves
might succeed, where her own liability to tears and trembling had
always been a provocation. Her want of judgment in openly preferring
her own relations to his uncongenial sister had sown seeds of
estrangement and discord which had given Mrs. Ponsonby some cause for
self-reproach, and she felt great hope that her daughter would
prevail where she had failed. There was little danger that he would
not show Mary affection enough to make her home-duties labours of
love; and at her age, and with her disposition, she could both take
care of herself, and be an unconscious restraint on her father. The
trust and hope that she would be the means of weaning her father from
evil, and bringing him home a changed man, was Mrs. Ponsonby's last
As to scruples on Lord Ormersfield becoming Mary's escort on the
voyage, Mrs. Ponsonby perceived his determination to be fixed beyond
remonstrance. Perhaps she could neither regret that her daughter
should have such a protector, nor bear to reject his last kindness;
and she might have lingering hopes of the consequences of his meeting
her husband, at a time when the hearts of both would be softened.
These matters arranged, she closed out the world. Louis saw her but
once again, when other words than their own were spoken, and when the
scene brought back to him a like one which had seemed his own
farewell to this earth. His thread of life was lengthened--here was
the moment to pray that it might be strengthened. Firm purpose was
wakening within him, and the battle-cry rang again in his ears--'Quit
yourselves like men; be strong!'
His eye sought Mary. She looked, indeed, like one who could 'suffer
and be strong.' Her brow was calm, though as if a load sat on her,
borne too patiently to mar her peace. The end shone upon her, though
the path might be hid in gloom: one step at a time was enough, and
she was blest above all in her mother's good hope.
A hush was on them all, as though they were watching while a tired,
overtasked child sank to rest.
There was a space of suffering, when Mary and Miss Mercy did all that
love could do, and kept Mrs. Frost from the sight of what she could
neither cheer nor alleviate, and when all she could do was to talk
over the past with Lord Ormersfield.
Then came a brief interval of relief and consciousness, precious for
ever to Mary's recollection. The last words of aught beneath were-
'My dearest love to your father. Tell him I know now how much he has
The tender, impulsive, overhasty spirit had wrought for itself some
of the trials that had chastened and perfected it, even while
breaking down the earthly tabernacle, so as to set free the weary
soul, to enter into Rest!
He talked of daggers and of darts,
Of passions and of pains,
Of weeping eyes and wounded hearts,
Of kisses and of chains:
But still the lady shook her head,
And swore by yea and nay,
My whole was all that he had said,
And all that he could say.
W. MACKWORTH PRAED.
Mary's strength gave way. She was calm and self-possessed as ever,
she saw Lord Ormersfield, wrote to her aunt, made all necessary
arrangements, and, after the funeral, moved to Mrs. Frost's house.
But, though not actually ill, she was incapable of exertion, could
not walk up stairs without fatigue; and after writing a letter, or
looking over papers, Aunt Catharine would find her leaning back, so
wan and exhausted, that she could not resist being laid down to rest
on the sofa.
She shrank from seeing any fresh face, and the effort of talking to
the Earl resulted in such weariness and quiet depression, that Mrs.
Frost dared not press her to admit any one else, except Louis, who
rode to the Terrace almost every day; but when the kind aunt,
believing there must be solace in the sight of her boy, begged to
bring him in, Mary answered, with unusual vehemence, 'Pray don't:
tell him I cannot see any one.' And when Mrs. Frost returned from a
sorrowful talk with Louis, she believed that Mary had been weeping.
Louis was sad enough. Out of the few friends of his childhood he
could ill afford to lose one, and he grieved much for his father, to
whom the loss was very great. The Earl strove, in his old fashion,
to stifle sorrow in letters of business, but could not succeed: the
result was, that he would discuss the one, Mary's past, and the
other, Mary's future, till time waxed so short that he gladly
accepted his son's assistance. Conversations with Richardson and
orders to Frampton devolved on Louis, and the desire to do no
mischief caused him to employ his intellect in acquiring a new habit
of attention and accuracy.
His reverence for Mary was doubled, and he was much concerned at his
exclusion, attributing it to his mistimed proposals, and becoming
sensible that he had acted boyishly and without due respect. With a
longing desire to do anything for her, he dared not even send her a
greeting, a flower, or a book, lest it should appear an intrusion;
and but for his mournful looks, his aunt would have been almost vexed
at his so often preventing her from going to make another attempt to
induce his cousin to see him.
Mary first roused herself on finding that Lord Ormersfield was taking
it for granted that she would wait to hear from her father before
sailing for Peru. The correspondence which had passed since her
mother had begun to decline, had convinced her that he expected and
wished for her without loss of time, and the vessel whose captain he
chiefly trusted was to sail at the end of May. She entreated to be
allowed to go alone, declaring that she had no fears, and would not
endure that the Earl should double Cape Horn on her account; but he
stood fast--he would not be deprived of the last service that he
could render to her mother, and he had not reliance enough on her
father to let her go out without any guardian or friend.
Recent letters from Mr. Ponsonby and from Oliver Dynevor reiterated
requests for an intelligent man conversant with mining operations,
and Oliver had indicated a person whom he remembered at Chevleigh;
but, as his mother said, he forgot that people grew old in the
Eastern hemisphere, and the application was a failure. Finding that
Mary regarded it as her charge, Fitzjocelyn volunteered to go to
Illershall to consult his friend Mr. Dobbs; and his first meeting
with Mary was spent in receiving business-like instructions as to the
person for whom he should inquire.
There were some who felt dubious when he was seen walking back from
the station with a young man who, in spite of broadcloth and growth,
was evidently Tom Madison.
'I could not help it, Mary,' said Louis, 'it was not my fault that
Dobbs would recommend him.'
Mr. Dobbs had looked this way and that, and concluded with, 'Well,
Lord Fitzjocelyn, I do not know who would answer your purpose better
than the young fellow you sent here a year ago.'
It appeared that Tom had striven assiduously both to learn his
business and to improve himself; and, having considerable abilities,
already brightened and sharpened by Louis, his progress had been
surprising. He had no low tastes, and was perfectly to be relied on
for all essential points; but Mr. Dobbs owned that he should be
relieved by parting with him, as he was not liked by his fellows, and
was thought by the foremen to give himself airs. Quarrels and
misunderstandings had arisen so often, that he himself had been
obliged to exert an influence on his behalf, which he feared might
make him obnoxious to the accusation of partiality. He considered
that the lad had worth, substance, and promise far beyond his
fellows; but his blunt, haughty manners, impatience of rough jokes,
and rude avoidance of the unrefined, made him the object of their
dislike, so that it was probable that he would thrive much better
abroad and in authority; and at his age, he was more likely to adapt
himself to circumstances, and learn a new language, than an older
man, more used to routine.
The vision of the land for digging gold and silver seemed about to be
realized, just as Tom had been growing learned enough to despise it.
Enterprise and hopes of fortune made him wild to go; and Mary after
reading Dobbs's letter, and laying before Louis the various
temptations of Lima, found that he thought England to the full as
dangerous for his protege. She, therefore, sent for the young man,
and decided as dispassionately as she could, upon taking him.
The Ormersfield world was extremely indignant; Frampton and Gervas
prophesied that no good would come of such a choice, and marvelled at
the Vicar, who gave the lad lodging in his house, and spent the
evenings in giving him such mathematical instruction and teaching of
other kinds, as he thought most likely to be useful to him.
To his surprise, however, Tom was much more grave and sober-minded
under his promotion than could have been expected. Louis, who had
undertaken his outfit, was almost disappointed to find him so much
out of heart, and so little responsive to cheerful auguries; and at
last a little hint at bantering about the individual at the Terrace
explained his despondence.
It was all over. Charlotte had hardly spoken to him while he was
waiting at No. 5, and Miss Faithfull's Martha had told him there had
been nothing but walking and talking with Lady Conway's fine butler,
and that Charlotte would never have nothing more to say to him! Now!
Just as he might have spoken! Was it not enough to knock the heart
out of it all! He never wished to go near No. 5 again.
Louis strongly advised him at least to know his fate, and declared
that for his part, he would never take any Mrs. Martha's word, rather
than that of the lady herself. Speak out, and, of course, Montrose's
famous motto came in, and was highly appreciated by Tom, though he
still shook his head ruefully, as he recollected what a lout he had
been at his last meeting with Charlotte, and how little he could
compare with such a fine gentleman as had been described, 'And she
always had a taste for gentility.'
'Well, Tom, I would not wish to see a better gentleman any day, than
you have stuff enough in you to make; and, if Charlotte be a girl
worth having, she'll value that more than French polish. You're
getting polished, too, Tom, and will more as you get better and
sounder, and that polish will be true and not French.'
Meantime Charlotte had been in twenty states of mind. Had Tom
striven at once to return to the former terms, the Lady of Eschalott
might have treated it as mere natural homage, compared him with
Delaford's delicate flatteries, and disclaimed him. She had been
chilling and shy at the first meeting, expecting him to presume on
his promotion, but when he was gone, came no more, except for
necessary interviews with Miss Ponsonby, and then merely spoke
civilly, and went away directly, her heart began to fail her.
Neglect mortified her; she was first affronted, sure she did not
care, and resolved to show that she did not; but then the vexation
became stronger, she wondered if he had heard of Delaford, was angry
at her intercourse with the butler being deemed an offence, and
finally arrived at a hearty longing for a return to old times.
Vanity or affection, one or the other, demanded Tom's allegiance.
And Tom came at last. He did not come by moonlight--he did not come
at all romantically; but as she was washing vegetables, he stood by
the scullery door, and made no elegant circumlocutions. Would she be
his wife, some time or other? and he would try to be worthy of her.
Fitzjocelyn had judged her rightly! Sound true love had force enough
to dispel every illusion of sentimental flattery. Charlotte burst
into a flood of tears, and, sobbing behind her apron, confessed that
she never liked nobody like Tom, but she was afraid he would think
she had been false to him, for she did like Mr. Delaford's talk, all
about poetry and serenades; but she never would heed him no more, not
if he went down on his knees to her.
Tom was a great deal more likely to perform that feat.
He stood his ground when Mrs. Beckett came in, and told her all about
it, and the good old soul mingled her tears with Charlotte's, wished
them joy, and finished washing the greens. Nevertheless Mrs. Frost
thought the kitchen-clock was very slow.
Their 'walking together' was recognised. Martha was very angry with
Jane, and predicted that the young vagabone would never be heard of
more; and that the only benefit would be, that it would settle the
girl's mind, and hinder her from encouraging any more followers. And
even Mrs. Frost had her doubts. Her prudent counsel interfered with
Tom's wish to carry out poor little Charlotte as his wife; and they
had to content themselves with a betrothal until they should have
'saved something,' exchanging brooches, each with a memorial lock of
hair. During the remaining week, the Lady of Eschalott neither ate
nor slept, and though she did her work, her tears never seemed to
cease. She defended herself by averring that Miss Ponsonby's pillow
was soaked every morning; but if Mary's heavy eyelids corroborated
her, her demeanour did not. Mary was busy in dismantling the house
and in packing up; speaking little, but always considerate and self-
possessed, and resolute in avoiding all excitement of feeling. She
would not go to Ormersfield, as the Earl proposed, even for one day,
and a few books connected with the happy lessons of last summer, were
given into Mrs. Frost's keeping, with the steady, calm word, 'I had
better not take them.' She made no outpouring even to that
universal, loving confidante, Aunt Catharine; and the final parting
did not break down her self-restraint, though, as the last bend of
her head was given, the last chimney of Northwold disappeared, her
sensation of heartache almost amounted to sickening.
She was going to Bryanston Square. Her aunt had been as kind as
possible, and had even offered to come to Northwold to fetch her
home; but Mary had been too considerate to allow her to think of so
dreadful a journey, and had in fact, been glad to be left only to her
own Aunt Catharine. The last letters which had passed between Mrs.
Ponsonby and Annt Melicent had been such as two sincere Christian
women could not fail to write in such circumstances as must soften
down all asperities, alleviate prejudice and variance, and be a
prelude to that perfect unity when all misunderstandings shall end
for ever; and thus Mary had the comfort of knowing that the two whom
she loved so fondly, had parted with all mutual affection and cordial
She really loved the little prim stiff figure who stood on the stairs
to welcome her. The house had been her home for ten of the most
home-forming years of her life, and felt familiar and kindly; it was
very quiet, and it was an unspeakable comfort to be with one who
talked freely of her father with blind partiality and love, and did
not oppress her with implied compassion for her return to him.
Yet Mary could not help now and then being sensible that good Aunt
Melicent was not the fountain of wisdom which she used to esteem her.
Now and then a dictum would sound narrow and questionable, objections
to books seemed mistaken, judgments of people hard, and without
sufficient foundation; and when Mary tried to argue, she found
herself decidedly set down, with as much confident superiority as if
she had been still sixteen years old. Six years spent in going to
the other side of the world, and in seeing so many varieties of
people, did not seem to Aunt Melicent to have conferred half so much
experience as sleeping every night in Bryanston Square, daily reading
the Morning Post, and holding intercourse with a London world of a
dozen old ladies, three curates, and a doctor.
The worst of it was, that a hurt and angry tenderness was always
excited in Mary's mind by the manner of any reference to Northwold or
Ormersfield. It seemed to be fixed, beyond a doubt, that everything
there must have been wrong and fashionable; and even poor dear Aunt
Kitty was only spoken of with a charitable hope that affliction had
taught her to see the error of her days of worldly display.
It was allowed that there was nothing objectionable in Clara Frost,
who was subdued by the sight of Mary's deep mourning, and in silent
formal company could be grave and formal too. But there was a severe
shock in a call from Lady Conway and Isabel; and on their departure
Mary was cross-examined, in the hope that they had been outrageously
gay at Northwold, and for want of any such depositions, was regaled
with histories of poor Lady Fitzjocelyn's vanities, which had not
lost by their transmission through twenty-two years and twice as many
Still more unpleasant was the result of a visit from the Earl and his
son to appoint the day of starting for Liverpool. Louis was in no
mood to startle any one; he was very sad at heart, and only anxious
to be inoffensive; but his air was quite enough to give umbrage, and
cause the instant remark, 'I never saw such a puppy!'
Nothing but such angry incoherency occurred to Mary, that she
forcibly held her peace, but could not prevent a burning crimson from
spreading over her face. She went and stood at the window, glad that
Miss Ponsonby had just taken up the newspaper, which she daily read
from end to end, and then posted for Lima.
By and by came a little dry cough, as she went through the
presentations at the levee, and read out 'Viscount Fitzjocelyn, by
the Earl of Ormersfield.'
Mary's mind made an excursion to the dear Yeomanry suit, till her
aunt, having further hunted them out among the Earls and Viscounts
summed up at the end, severely demanded whether she had known of
'I knew he was to be presented.'
'Quite the young man of fashion. No doubt beginning that course, as
if the estate were not sufficiently impoverished already. I am not
surprised at the report that Lord Ormersfield was very anxious to
secure your fortune for his son.'
This was too much, and Mary exclaimed, 'He never believes in any
fortune that depends on speculation.'
'Oh, so there was nothing in it!' said Miss Ponsonby, who would have
liked the satisfaction of knowing that her niece had refused to be a
Countess, and, while Mary was debating whether her silence were
untruthful, her bent head and glowing cheek betrayed her. 'Ah! my
dear, I will ask no questions; I see you have been annoyed. It
always happens when a girl with expectations goes among needy
'You would not say that, if you knew the circumstances,' said Mary,
'I won't distress you, my dear; I know you are too wise a girl to be
dazzled with worldly splendours, and that is enough for me.'
The poor old furniture at Ormersfield!
Mary held her tongue, though reproaching herself for cruel injustice
to all that was dearest to her, but how deny her refusal, or explain
Not that her aunt wanted any explanation, except her own excellent
training, which had saved her niece from partaking her mother's
infatuation for great people. She had a grand secret to pour into
the bosom of her intimates in some tete-a-tete tea-party by-and-by,
and poor Mary little guessed at the glorification of her prudence
which was flowing from her aunt's well-mended pen, in a long letter
to Mr. Ponsonby. She thought it right that he should be informed,
she said, that their dear Mary had conducted herself according to
their fondest wishes; that the relations, among whom she had
unfortunately been thrown, had formed designs on her fortune, such as
they had every reason to expect; that every solicitation had been
employed, but that Mary had withstood all that would have been most
alluring to girls brought up to esteem mere worldly advantages. It
was extremely gratifying, the more so as the young gentleman in
question might be considered as strikingly handsome to the mere
outward eye, which did not detect the stamp of frivolity, and the
effect of an early introduction to the world of fashion and