Part 4 out of 9
"You mean that we can tell my gardener's son that my cousin (whom he no
longer cares for) is in love with him, and, by our assistance and
persuasion, we can, if we choose, bring on as foolish a marriage as ever
was contemplated, and one as disadvantageous to ourselves. Now for the
alternative. What can it be?"
"Mrs. Melcombe can take Laura on the Continent again, and she proposed
to do it forthwith."
"And leave her boy at school? A very good thing for him."
"No, she means to take him also, and not come back till Joseph is at the
other end of the world."
"Two months will see him there."
"Well, John, now you have stated the case, it does seem a strange fancy
of mine to wish to interfere, and if to interfere could possibly be to
"You would not have thought of it! No, I am sure of that. Now my advice
is, that we let them alone all round. I don't believe, in the first
place, that Joe Swan, now he has change, freedom, and a rise in life
before him, would willingly marry Laura if he might. I am not at all
sure that, if it came to the point, she would willingly marry him at
such short notice, and leave every friend she has in the world. I think
she would shrink back, for she can know nothing worth mentioning of him.
As to the boy, how do you know that a tour may not be a very fine thing
for him? It must be better than moping at Melcombe under petticoat
government; and even if Joe married Laura to-morrow, we could not
prevent Mrs. Melcombe from taking him on the Continent whenever she
Emily was silent.
"And what made you talk of a runaway match?" continued John.
"Because she told Giles that the last time she saw Joseph he proposed to
her to sneak away, get married before a magistrate, and go off without
saying a word to anybody."
"Fools," exclaimed John, "both of them! No, we cannot afford to have any
runaway matches--and of such a sort too! I should certainly interfere if
I thought there was any danger of that."
"I hope you would. He wanted her to propose some scheme. I think scorn
of all scheming. If she had really meant to marry him, his part should
have been to see that she did it in a way that would not make it worse
for her afterwards. He should have told Mrs. Melcombe fairly that she
could not prevent it, and he should have taken her to church and married
her like a man before plenty of witnesses in the place where she is
known. If he had not shown such a craven spirit, I almost think I would
have taken his part. Now, John, I know what you think; but I should have
felt just the same if Valentine had not made himself ridiculous, and if
I was quite sure that this would not end in a runaway match after all,
and the _True Blue_ be full of it."
"I believe you," said John; "and I always had a great respect for you,
"What are you laughing at, then?"
"Perhaps at the matronly dignity with which you have been laying down
"Is that all? Oh, I always do that now I am married, John."
"You don't say so! Well, Joe Swan has worked hard at improving himself;
but though good has come out of it in the end for him, it is certainly a
very queer affair. Why, in the name of common sense, couldn't Laura be
contented with somebody in her own sphere?"
"I should like to know why Laura was so anxious the matter should be
concealed from you," said Emily.
"Most likely she remembers that Swan is in my employment, or she may
also be 'troubled with intuitions,' and know by intuition what I think
"And how is Aunt Christie?" asked Emily, after little more talk
concerning Joseph's affairs.
"Well and happy; I do not believe it falls to the lot of any old woman
to be happier in this _oblate spheroid_. The manner in which she acts
dragon over Miss C. is a joy to me, the only observer. She always
manages that we shall never meet excepting in her presence; when I go
into the schoolroom to read prayers, I invariably find her there before
me. She insists, also, on presiding at all the schoolroom meals. How she
found out the state of things here I cannot tell, but I thankfully let
her alone. I never go out to smoke a cigar in the evening, and notice a
stately female form stepping forth also, but Aunt Christie is sure to
come briskly stumping in her wake, ready to join either her or me."
"You don't mean to imply anything?"
"Of course not! but you yourself, before you married, were often known
to take my arm at flower-shows, &c., in order to escape from certain
poor fellows who sighed in vain."
"Yes, you were good about that; and you remind me of it, no doubt, in
order to claim the like friendliness from me now the tables are turned.
John, the next time I take your arm in public it will be to extend my
matronly countenance to those modest efforts of yours at escaping
attention, for you know yourself to be quite unworthy of notice!"
"Just so; you express my precise feeling."
"It is a pity you and Grand are so rich!"
"Why? You do not insinuate, I hope, that I and my seven are merely
eligible on that account. Now, what are you looking at me for, with that
little twist in your lips that always means mischief?"
"Because I like you, and I am afraid you are being spoilt, John. I do so
wish you had a nice wife. I should? at least, if you wished it
"A saving clause! Have you and Fred discussed me, madam?"
"No, I declare that we have not."
"I hope you have nobody to recommend, because I won't have her! I always
particularly disliked red hair."
"Now what makes you suppose I was thinking of any one who has red hair?"
"You best know yourself whether you were _not_."
"Well," said Emily, after a pause for reflection, "now you mention it (I
never did), I do not see that you could do better."
"I often think so myself, and that is partly why I am so set against it!
No, Emily, it would be a shame to joke about an excellent and pleasant
woman. The fact is, I have not the remotest intention of ever marrying
again at all."
"Very well," said Emily, "it is not my affair; it was your own notion
entirely that I wanted to help you to a wife."
And she sat a moment cogitating, and thinking that the lady of the
golden head had probably lost her chance by showing too openly that she
"What are you looking at?" said John. "At the paths worn in my carpets?
That's because all the rooms are thoroughfares. Only fancy any woman
marrying a poor fellow whose carpets get into that state every three or
"Oh," said Emily, "if that was likely to stand in your light, I could
soon show you how to provide a remedy."
"But my father hates the thoughts of bricks and mortar," said John,
amused at her seriousness, "and I inherit that feeling."
"John, the north front of your house is very ugly. You have five French
windows on a line--one in each of these rooms, one in the hall; you
would only have to run a narrow passage-like conservatory in front of
them, enter it by the hall window, and each room by its own window, put
a few plants in the conservatory, and the thing is done in a fortnight.
Every room has its back window; you would get into the back garden as
you do now; you need not touch the back of the house, that is all
smothered in vines and creepers, as you are smothered in children!"
"The matter shall have my gravest consideration," said John, "provided
you never mention matrimony to me again as long as you live."
"Very well," said Emily, "I promise; but there is St. George coming. I
must not forget to tell you that I saw Joseph this morning at a
distance; he was standing in the lea of the pigstye, and cogitating in
the real moony style."
"It was about his outfit," exclaimed John; "depend upon it it was not
And so the colloquy ended, and John walked down his own garden, opened
the wicket that led to his gardener's cottage, and saw Joseph idly
picking out a weed here and there, while he watched the bees, some of
whom, deluded by the sunshine, had come forth, and were feebly hanging
about the opening of the hive.
"Joe," said John, with perfect decision and directness, "I have a
favour to ask of you."
Joseph was startled at first; but as no more was said, he presently
answered, "Well, sir, you and yours have done me so many, that I didn't
ought to hesitate about saying I'll grant it, whatever it is."
"If you should think of marrying before you go----"
"Which I don't, sir," interrupted the young man rather hastily.
"Very good; then if you change your mind, I want your promise that you
will immediately let me know."
"Yes, sir," said Joseph, as if the promise cost him nothing, and
suggested nothing to his mind, "I will."
"There," thought John, as he turned away, "he does not know what he is
about; but if she brings the thing on again, I believe he will keep
faith with me, and a clandestine marriage I am determined shall not be."
He then went into the town and found, to his surprise, that Brandon had
already seen his father, and had told him that Dorothea Graham had
engaged herself to him. John was very much pleased, but his father
treated the matter with a degree of apathy which rather startled and
Old Augustus was in general deeply interested in a marriage; he had
helped several people to marry, and whether he approved or disapproved
of any one in particular, he was almost sure, when he had been lately
told of it, to make some remarks on the sacredness of the institution,
and on the advantages of an early marriage for young men.
He, however, said nothing, though Brandon was one of his chief
favourites; but having just related the fact, took up the _Times_, and
John opened his letters, one of them being from his son Johnny, written
in a fully-formed and beautiful hand, which made its abrupt style and
boyish vehemence the more observable.
"My Dearest Father,--It's all right. Mr. ---- took me to Harrow, and Dr.
B. examined me, and he said--oh, he said a good deal about my Latin
verses, and the books I'm _in_, but I can't tell you it, because it
seems so muffish. And, papa, I wish I might bring Crayshaw home for the
Easter holidays; you very nearly promised I should; but I wanted to tell
you what fun I and the other fellows had at the boat-race. You can
hardly think how jolly it was. I suppose when I get into the great
school I shall never see it. We ran down shouting and yelling after the
boats. I thought I should never be happy again if Cambridge didn't win.
It was such a disgustingly sleety, blowy, snowy, windy, raspy, muddy
day, as you never saw. And such crowds of fellows cheering and
screeching out to the crews. Such a rout!
"'The Lord Mayor lent the City P'lice,
The cads ran down by scores and scores
With shouting roughs, and scented muffs,
While blue were flounces, frills, and gores.
On swampy meads, in sleeted hush,
The swarms of London made a rush,
And all the world was in the slush.'
"Etcetera. That's part of Crayshaw's last; it's a parody of one of those
American fogies. Dear father, you will let me come home, won't you;
because I do assure you I shall get in with the greatest ease, even if
I'm not coached for a day more. A great many fellows here haven't a
tutor at all.--I remain, your affectionate son,
"P.S.--Will you tell Gladys that my three puppies, which she says are
growing nicely, are not, on any account, to be given away; and will you
say that Swan is not to drown them, or do anything with them, till I've
chosen one, and then he may sell the others. And I hope my nails and
screws and my tools have not been meddled with. The children are not to
take my things. It often makes me miserable to think that they get my
nails and my paddle when I'm gone."
John Mortimer smiled, and felt rather inclined to let the boy come home,
when, looking up, he observed that his father was dozing over the
newspaper, and that he shivered.
Master Augustus John did not get an answer so soon as he had hoped for
it, and when it came it was dated from a little, quiet place at the
seaside, and let him know that his grandfather was very poorly, very
much out of sorts, and that his father had felt uneasy about him. Johnny
was informed that he must try to be happy, spending the Easter holidays
at his tutor's. His grandfather sent him a very handsome "tip," and a
letter written in such a shaky hand, that the boy was a good deal
impressed, and locked it up in his desk, lest he should never have
THE AMERICAN GUEST.
"Shall we rouse the night-owl with a catch that will draw three
souls out of one weaver?"
In less than a week from the receipt of his son's letter, John Mortimer
wrote again, and gave the boy leave to come home, but on no account to
bring young Crayshaw with him, if a journey was likely to do him harm.
Johnny accordingly set off instantly (the holidays having just begun),
and, travelling all night, reached the paternal homestead by eight
o'clock in the morning.
His father was away, but he was received with rapture by his brothers
and sisters. His little brothers admired him with the humble reverence
of small boys for big ones, and the girls delighted in his school-boy
slang, and thought themselves honoured by his companionship.
Crayshaw was an American by birth, but his elder brother (under whose
guardianship he was) had left him in England as his best chance of
living to manhood, for he had very bad health, and the climate of his
native place did not suit him.
Young Gifford Crayshaw had a general invitation to spend the holidays at
Brandon's house, for his brother and Brandon were intimate friends; but
boys being dull alone, Johnny Mortimer and he contrived at these times
to meet rather often, sometimes to play, sometimes to fight--even the
latter is far better than being without companionship, more natural, and
on the whole more cheerful.
"And I'm sure," said Aunt Christie, when she heard he was coming, "I
should never care about the mischief he leads the little ones into when
he's well, if he could breathe like other people when he's ill; you may
hear him half over the house when he has his asthma."
Crayshaw came by the express train in the afternoon, and was met by the
young Mortimers in the close carriage. He was nearly fifteen, and a
strange contrast to Johnny, whose perfect health, ardent joyousness, and
lumbering proportions never were so observable as beside the clear-cut
face of the other, the slow gait, an expression of countenance at once
audacious, keen, and sweet, together with that peculiar shadow under the
eyelids which some people consider to betoken an early death.
Crayshaw was happily quite well that afternoon, and accordingly very
noisy doings went on; Miss Crampton was away for her short Easter
holiday, and Aunt Christie did not interfere if she could help it when
Johnny was at home.
That night Master Augustus John Mortimer, his friend, and all the family
were early asleep; not so the next. It was some time past one o'clock
A.M. when John Mortimer and Brandon, who had been dining together at a
neighbour's house, one having left his father rather better, and the
other having come home from the Isle of Wight, walked up towards the
house deep in conversation, till John, lifting up his eyes, saw lights
in the schoolroom windows. This deluded father calmly remarked that the
children had forgotten to put the lamp out when they went to bed.
Brandon thought he heard a sound uncommonly like infant revelry, but he
said nothing, and the two proceeded into the closed house, and went
"Roast pork," said Brandon, "if ever I smelt that article in my life!"
They opened the schoolroom door, and John beheld, to his extreme
surprise, a table spread, his eldest son at the head of it, his twin
daughters, those paragons of good behaviour, peeling potatoes, and the
other children, all more or less dishevelled, sitting round, blushing
"My dears!" exclaimed John Mortimer, "this I never could have believed
of you! One o'clock in the morning!"
Perfect silence. Brandon thought John would find it beneath his dignity
to make a joke of this breach of discipline. He was rather vexed that he
should have helped to discover it, and feeling a little _de trop_, he
advanced to the top of the table. "John," he said with a resigned air
and with a melancholy cadence in his voice that greatly impressed the
"Come," thought John as he paused, "they deserve a 'wigging,' but I
don't want to make a 'Star-chamber matter' of this. I wish he would not
be so supernaturally serious."
"John," repeated Brandon, "on occasion of this unexpected hospitality, I
feel called upon to make a speech."
John sat down, wondering what would come next.
"John, ladies and gentlemen," said Brandon, "when I look around me on
these varied attractions, when I behold those raspberry turnovers of a
flakiness and a puffiness so ethereal, that one might think the very
eyes of the observer should drop lightly on them, lest that too
appreciative glance should flatten them down--I say, ladies and
gentlemen, when I smell that crackling, when I cast my eyes on those
cinders in the gravy, I am irresistibly reminded of occasions when I
myself, arrayed in a holland pinafore, have presided over like
entertainments; and of one in particular when, being of tender age--of
one occasion, I say, that is never to be forgotten, when, during the
small hours of the night, I was hauled out of bed to assist in mixing
hardbake, by one very dear to us all--who shall be nameless."
What more he would have added will never be known, for with ringing
laughter that spoke for the excellence of their lungs, the whole
tableful of young Mortimers, with the exception of Johnnie, rose, and,
as if by one impulse, fell upon their father.
"Hold hard," he was heard to shout, "don't smother me." But he received
a kissing and hugging of great severity; the elder ones who had
understood Brandon's speech, closing him in; the little ones, who only
perceived to their delight that the occasion had become festive again,
hovering round, and getting at him where they could. So that when they
parted, and he was visible again, sitting radiant in the midst of them,
his agreeable face was very red, and he was breathing fast and audibly.
"I'll pay you for this!" he exclaimed, when he observed, to his
amusement, that Brandon's serious look was now really genuine, as if he
was afraid the experiment might be repeated on himself. "Johnnie, my
boy, shake hands, I forgive you this once. And you may pass the bottle."
Johnnie, who knew himself to be the real offender, made haste to obey.
"It's not blacking, of course," continued John, looking at the thick
liquor with distrust.
"The betht black currant," exclaimed his heir, "at thirteen-penth a
"And where's Cray?" exclaimed John, suddenly observing the absence of
his young guest.
"He's down in the kitchen, dishing up the pudding," said Barbara
blushing, and she darted out of the room, and presently returned, other
footsteps following hers.
"Cray," exclaimed John, as the boy seemed inclined to linger outside,
"don't stand there in the draught. And so it is not by your virtuous
inclinations that you have hitherto been excluded from this festive
"No, sir," said Crayshaw with farcical meekness of voice and air, "quite
the contrary. It was that I've met with a serious accident. I've been
John looked aghast. "You surely have not been into the loose-box," he
"Oh no, father, nothing of the sort," said Barbara. "It was only that he
was down in the kitchen on his knees, and two blackbeetles ran over his
legs. You should never believe a word he says, father."
"But that was the reason the pudding came to grief," continued Crayshaw;
"they were very large and fierce, and in my terror I let it fall, and it
was squashed. When I saw their friends coming on to fall upon it, I was
just about to cry, 'Take it all, but spare my life!' when Barbara came
and rescued me. I hope," he went on, yet more meekly, "I hope it was not
an unholy self-love that prompted me to prefer my life to the pudding!"
The children laughed, as they generally did when Crayshaw spoke, but it
was more at his manner than at his words. And now, peace being restored,
everybody helped everybody else to the delicacies, John discreetly
refraining from any inquiry as to whether this was the first midnight
feast over which his son had presided, but he could not forbear to say,
"I suppose your grandfather's 'tip' is to blame for this?"
"If everybody was like the Grand," remarked Crayshaw, "Tennyson never
need have said--
"'Vex not thou the schoolboy's soul
With thy shabby _tip_.'"
"Now, Cray," said Brandon, "don't you emulate Valentine's abominable
trick of quoting."
"And I have often begged you two not to parody the Immortals," said
John. "The small fry you may make fun of, if you please, but let the
"But he ithn't dead," reasoned Master Augustus John; "I don't call any
of thoth fellowth immortal till they're dead."
"It's a very bad habit," continued his father.
"And he's made me almost as bad as himself," observed Crayshaw in the
softest and mildest of tones. "Miss Christie said this very morning that
there was no bearing me, and I never did it till I knew him. I used to
be so good, everybody loved me."
John laughed, but was determined to say his say.
"You never can take real pleasure again in any poetry that you have
mauled in that manner. Miss Crampton was seriously annoyed when she
found that you had altered the girl's songs, and made them ridiculous."
The last time, in fact, that Johnnie and Crayshaw had been together,
they had deprived themselves of their natural rest in order to carry out
these changes; and the first time Miss Crampton gave a music lesson
after their departure, she opened the book at one of their improved
versions, which ran as follows:--
"Wink to me only with thy nose,
And I will sing through mine."
Miss Crampton hated boyish vulgarity; she turned the page, but matters
were no better. The two youths had next been at work on a song in which
a muff of a man, who offers nothing particular in return, requests
'Nancy' to gang wi' him, leaving her home, her dinner, her brooches, her
best gowns, &c., behind, to walk through snow-drifts, blasts, and other
perils by his side, and afterwards strew flowers on his clay. Desirous
as it seemed to show that the young person was not so misguided as her
silence has hitherto left the world to think, they had added a verse,
which ran as follows:--
"'Ah, wilt thou thus, for his loved sake,
All manner of hardships dare to know?'
The fair one smiled whenas he spake,
And promptly answered, 'No, sir; no,'"
"Cray," said John Mortimer, observing the boy's wan appearance, "how
could you think of sitting up so late?"
"Why, the thupper wath on purpoth for him," exclaimed Johnnie. "We gave
it in hith honour, ath a mark of thympathy."
"Because he was burnt out," said Gladys. "Papa, did you know? his
tutor's house was burnt down, and the boys had to escape in the night."
"But it wath a great lark," observed Johnnie, "and he knowth he thought
"Yes," said Crayshaw, folding his hands with farcical mock meekness,
"but I saved hardly anything--nothing whatever, in fact, but my Yankee
accent, and that only by taking it between my teeth."
"There was not enough of it to be worth saving, my dear boy," said
Crayshaw's face for once assumed a genuine expression, one of alarm. He
was distinguished at school for the splendid Yankee dialect he could put
on, as Johnnie was for his mastery of a powerful Devonshire lingo; but
if scarcely a hint of his birthplace remained in his daily speech, and
he had not noticed any change, there was surely danger lest this
interesting accomplishment should be declining also.
"I am always imitating the talk I hear in the cottages," he remarked; "I
may have lost it so."
"Perhaps, as Cray goes to so many places, it may get scattered about,"
said little Bertram; but he was speedily checked by Johnnie, who
observed with severity that they didn't want any "thrimp thauth."
"He mutht thimmer," said Johnnie, "thath what he mutht do. He mutht be
thrown into an iron pot, with a gallon of therry cobbler, and a pumpkin
pie, and thome baked beanth, and a copy of the Biglow Paperth, and a
handful of thalt, and they mutht all thimmer together till he geth
properly flavoured again."
"Wouldn't it be safer if he was only dipped in?" asked the same "shrimp"
who had spoken before.
As this was the second time he had taken this awful liberty, he would
probably have been dismissed the assembly but for the presence of his
father. As it was, Johnnie and Crayshaw both looked at him, not fiercely
but steadily, whereupon the little fellow with deep blushes slid gently
from his chair under the table.
A few days after this midnight repast, Emily, knowing that John Mortimer
was away a good deal, and having a perfectly gratuitous notion that his
children must be dull in consequence, got Valentine to drive her over
one morning to invite them to spend a day at Brandon's house.
A great noise of shouting, drumming on battledores, and blowing through
discordant horns, let them know, as they came up the lane, that the
community was in a state of high activity; and when they reached the
garden gate they were just in time to see the whole family vanish round
a corner, running at full speed after a donkey on which Johnnie was
The visitors drove inside the gate, and waited five minutes, when the
donkey, having made the circuit of the premises, came galloping up, the
whole tribe of young Mortimers after him. They received Emily with
loving cordiality, and accounted for the violent exercise they had been
taking by the declaration that this donkey never would go at all, unless
he heard a great noise and clatter at his heels.
"So that if Johnnie wanted to go far, as far as to London," observed one
of the panting family, "it would be awkward, wouldn't it?"
"And he's only a second-hand donkey, either," exclaimed little Janie in
deep disparagement of the beast; "father bought him of the blacksmith."
"But isn't it good fun to see him go so fast?" cried another. "Would you
like to see our donkey do it again?"
"And see him 'witch the world with noble assmanship," said Valentine.
Whereupon a voice above said rather faintly. "Hear, hear!" and Crayshaw
appeared leaning out of a first-floor window, the pathetic shadow more
than commonly evident in his eyes, in spite of a mischievous smile. He
had but lately recovered from a rheumatic fever, and was further held
down by frequent attacks of asthma. Yet the moment one of these went
off, the elastic spirits of boyhood enabled him to fling it into the
background of his thoughts, and having rested awhile, as he was then
doing, he became, according to the account Gladys gave of him at that
moment, "just like other boys, only ten times more so!"
Emily now alighted, and as they closed about her and hemmed her in,
donkey and all, she felt inclined to move her elbows gently, as she had
sometimes seen John do, in order to clear a little space about him. "Why
does not Cray come down, too?" she asked.
"I think he has had enough of the beast," said Barbara, "for yesterday
he was trying to make him jump; but the donkey and Cray could not agree
about it. He would not jump, and at last he pitched Cray over his head."
"Odd," said Valentine; "that seems a double contradiction to the proverb
that 'great wits jump.'" Valentine loved to move off the scene, leaving
a joke with his company. He now drove away, and Johnnie informed Emily
that he had already been hard at work that morning.
"I've a right to enjoy mythelf after it," he added, looking round in a
patronising manner, "and I have. I've not had a better lark, in fact,
since Grand was a little boy."
By these kind, though preposterous words, the assembly was stimulated
to action. The frightful clatter, drumming, and blowing of horns began
again, and the donkey set off with all his might, the Mortimers after
him. When he returned, little Bertram was seated on his back. "Johnnie
and Cray have something very particular to do," she was informed with
"For their holiday task?"
"Oh no, for that lovely electrifying machine of cousin Val's. Cray is
always writing verses; he is going to be a poet. Johnnie was saying last
week that it was not at all hard to turn poetry into Latin, and Val said
he should have the machine if he could translate some that Cray wrote
the other day. Do you think the Romans had any buttons and buttonholes?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Because there are buttons in one of the poems. Cray says it is a
tribute--a tribute to this donkey that father has, just given us. He was
inspired to write it when he saw him hanging his head over the yard
Thereupon the verses, copied in a large childish hand, were produced and
The jackass brayed;
And all his passionate dream was in that sound
Which, to the stables round
And other tenements, told of packs that weighed
On his brown haunches; also that, alas!
His true heart sighed for Jenny, that fair ass
Who backward still and forward paced
With panniers and the curate's children graced.
Then, when she took no heed, but turned aside
Her head, he shook his ears
As much as to say "Great are--as these--my fears."
And while I wept to think how love that preyed
On the deep heart not worth a button seemed
To her for whom he dreamed;
And while the red sun stained the welkin wide,
And summer lightnings on the horizon played,
Again the jackass brayed.
"And here's the other," said Gladys. "Johnnie says, it would be much
the easier to do, only he is doubtful about the 'choker.'"
THE SCHOOLBOY TO HIS DRESS SUIT.
Nice is broiled salmon, whitebait's also nice
With bread and butter served, no shaving thinner.
_Entrees_ are good; but what is even ice--
Cream ice--to him that's made to dress for dinner?
Oh my dress boots, my studs, and my white tie
Termed choker (emblem of this heart's pure aim),
Why are good things to eat your meed? Oh why
Must swallow-tails be donned for tasting game?
The deep heart questions vainly,--not for ease
Or joy were such invented;--but this know,
I'd rather dine off hunks of bread and cheese
Than feast in state rigged out in my dress clo'.
Emily, after duly admiring these verses, gave her invitation, and it was
accepted with delight. Nothing, they said, could be more convenient.
Father had told them how Mr. Brandon was having the long wing of the
house pulled down, the part where cousin Val's room used to be; so he
had been obliged to turn out his nests, and his magic lantern, and many
other things that he had when he was a little boy.
"And he says we shall inherit them."
"And when father saw him sitting on a heap of bricks among his things,
he says it put him in mind of Marius on the ruins of Carthage."
"So now we can fetch them all away."
Emily then departed, after stipulating that the two little ones, her
favourites, should come also. "Darlings!" she exclaimed, when she saw
their stout little legs so actively running to ask Miss Christie's
leave. "Will my boy ever look at me with such clear earnest eyes? Shall
I ever see such a lovely flush on his face, or hear such joyous laughter
Time was to answer this question for her, and a very momentous month for
the whole family began its course. Laura, writing from Paris to Liz,
made it evident to those who knew anything of the matter, that Mrs.
Melcombe, as she thought, had carried her out of harm's way; and it is a
good thing Laura did not know with what perfect composure and ambitious
hope Joseph made his preparations for the voyage. The sudden change of
circumstances and occupation, and the new language he had to learn, woke
him thoroughly from his dream, and though it had been for some long time
both deep and strong, yet it was to him now as other dreams "when one
awaketh;" and Laura herself, now that she had been brought face to face,
not with her lover, but with facts, was much more reasonable than
before. Brandon had said to her pointedly, in the presence of her
sister-in-law, "If you and this young man had decided to marry, no law,
human or divine, could have forbidden it." But at the same time Amelia
had said, "Laura, you know very well that though you love to make
romances about him, you would not give up one of the comforts of life
for his sake."
Laura, in fact, had scarcely believed in the young man's love till she
had been informed that it was over. She longed to be sought more than
she cared to be won; it soothed and comforted what had been a painful
sense of disadvantage to know that one man at least had sighed for her
in vain. He would not have been a desirable husband, but as a former
lover she could feign him what she pleased, and while, under new and
advantageous circumstances, he became more and more like what she
feigned, it was not surprising that in the end she forgot her feigning,
and found her feet entangled for good and all in the toils she herself
had spread for them.
In the meantime Johnnie and Crayshaw, together with the younger
Mortimers, did much as they liked, till Harrow school reopened, when the
two boys returned, departing a few hours earlier than was necessary that
they might avoid Miss Crampton, a functionary whom Johnny held in great
At the same period Grand suddenly rallied, and, becoming as well as
ever, his son, who had made many journeys backwards and forwards to see
him, brought him home, buying at the railway station, as he stepped
into his father's carriage, the _Times_ and the _Wigfield Advertiser_,
and _True Blue_, in each of which he saw a piece of news that concerned
himself, though it was told with a difference.
In the _Times_ was the marriage of Giles Brandon, Esq., &c., to
Dorothea, elder daughter of Edward Graham, Esq.; and in the local paper,
with an introduction in the true fustian style of mock concealment, came
the same announcement, followed by a sufficiently droll and malicious
account of the terrible inconvenience another member of this family had
suffered a short time since by being snowed up, in which state he still
continued, as snow in that part of the world had forgotten how to melt.
A good deal that was likely to mortify Valentine followed this, but it
was no more than he deserved.
John laughed. "Well, Giles is a dear fellow," he said, throwing down the
paper. "I am pleased at his marriage, and they must submit to be laughed
at like other people."
WEARING THE WILLOW.
"My Lord Sebastian,
The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness
And time to speak it in; you rub the sore
When you should bring the plaster."
When John Mortimer reached the banking-house next morning, he found
Valentine waiting for him in his private sitting-room.
"I thought my uncle would hardly be coming so early, John," he said,
"and that perhaps you would spare me a few minutes to talk things over."
"To be sure," said John, and looking more directly at Valentine, he
noticed an air of depression and gloom which seemed rather too deep to
be laid to the account of the _True Blue_.
He was stooping as he sat, and slightly swinging his hat by the brim
between his knees. He had reddened at first, with a sullen and
half-defiant expression, but this soon faded, and, biting his lips, he
brought himself with evident effort to say--
"Well, John, I've done for myself, you see; Giles has married her.
Serves me right, quite right. I've nothing to say against it."
"No, I devoutly hope you have not," exclaimed John, to whom the unlucky
situation became evident in an instant.
"Grand always has done me the justice to take my part as regards my
conduct about this hateful second engagement. He always knew that I
would have married poor Lucy if they would have let me--married her and
made the best of my frightful, shameful mistake. But as you know, Mrs.
Nelson, Lucy's mother, made me return her letters a month ago, and said
it must be broken off, unless I would let it go dragging on and on for
two years at least, and that was impossible, you know, John,
because--because, I so soon found out what I'd done."
"Wait a minute, my dear fellow," John interrupted hastily, "you have
said nothing yet but what expresses very natural feelings. I remark, in
reply, that your regret at what you have long seen to be unworthy
conduct need no longer disturb you on the lady's account, she having now
married somebody else."
"Yes," said Valentine, sighing restlessly.
"And," John went on, looking intently at him, "on your own account I
think you need not at all regret that you had no chance of going and
humbly offering yourself to her again, for I feel certain that she would
have considered it insulting her to suppose she could possibly overlook
such a slight. Let me speak plainly, and say that she could have
regarded such a thing in no other light."
Then, giving him time to think over these words, which evidently
impressed him, John presently went on, "It would be ridiculous, however,
now, for Dorothea to resent your former conduct, or St. George either.
Of course they will be quite friendly towards you, and you may depend
upon it that all this will very soon appear as natural as possible;
you'll soon forget your former relation towards your brother's wife; in
fact you must."
Valentine was silent awhile, but when he did speak he said, "You feel
sure, then, that she would have thought such a thing an insult?" He
meant, you feel sure, then, that I should have had no chance even if my
brother had not come forward.
"Perfectly sure," answered John with confidence. "That was a step which,
from the hour you made it, you never could have retraced."
Here there was another silence; then--
"Well, John, if you think so," said the poor fellow--"this was rather a
sudden blow to me, though."
John pitied him; he had made a great fool of himself, and he was
smarting for it keenly. His handsome young face was very pale, but John
was helping him to recollect his better self, and he knew it. "I shall
not allude to this any more," he continued.
"I'm very glad to hear you say so," said John.
"I came partly to say--to tell you that now I am better, quite well, in
fact, I cannot live at home any longer. At home! Well, I meant in St.
George's house, any longer."
The additional knowledge John had that minute acquired of the state of
Valentine's feeling, or what he supposed himself to feel, gave more than
usual confidence and cordiality to his answer.
"Of course not. You will be considering now what you mean to do, and my
father and I must help you. In the first place there is that two
thousand pounds; you have never had a shilling of it yet. My father was
speaking of that yesterday."
"Oh," answered Valentine, with evident relief, and with rather a bitter
smile, "I thought he proposed to give me that as a wedding present, and
if so, goodness knows I never expect to touch a farthing of it."
"That's as hereafter may be," said John, leading him away from the
dangerous subject. Valentine began every sentence with a restless sigh.
"I never chose to mention it," he remarked. "I had no right to consider
it as anything else, nor did I."
"He does not regard it in any such light," said John. "He had left it to
you in his will, but decided afterwards to give it now. You know he
talks of his death, dear old man, as composedly as of to-morrow
morning. He was reminding me of this money the other day when he was
unwell, and saying that, married or unmarried, you should have it made
over to you."
"I'm very deeply, deeply obliged to him," said Valentine, with a fervour
that was almost emotion. "It seems, John, as if that would help
me,--might get me out of the scrape, for I really did not know where to
turn. I've got nothing to do, and had nothing to live on, and I'm two
"I do feel as if I was altogether in such an ignominious position."
As John quite agreed with him in this view of his position, he remained
Valentine went on, "First, my going to Cambridge came to nothing on
account of my health. Then a month ago, as I didn't want to go and live
out in New Zealand by myself, couldn't in fact, the New Zealand place
was transferred to Liz, and she and Dick are to go to it, Giles saying
that he would give me a thousand pounds instead of it. I shall not take
that, of course."
"Because he will want his income for himself," John interrupted.
Valentine proceeding, "And now since I left off learning to farm,--for
that's no use here,--I've got nothing on earth to do."
"Have you thought of anything yet?"
"Well, out with it."
"John," remarked Valentine, as the shadow of a smile flitted across
John's face, "you always seem to me to know what a fellow is thinking
of! Perhaps you would not like such a thing,--wouldn't have it?"
John observed that he was getting a little less gloomy as he proceeded.
"But whether or not, that two thousand pounds will help me to some
career, certainly, and entirely save me from what I could not bear to
think of, _her_ knowing that I was dependent on Giles, and despising me
"Pooh," exclaimed John, a little chafed at his talking in this way,
"what is St. George's wife likely to know, or to care, as to how her
brother-in-law derives his income? But I quite agree with you that you
have no business to be dependent on Giles; he has done a great deal for
his sisters he should now have his income for himself."
"Yes," said Valentine.
"You have always been a wonderfully united family," observed John
pointedly; "there is every reason why that state of things should
"Yes," repeated Valentine, receiving the covert lecture resignedly.
"And there is no earthly end, good or bad, to be served," continued
John, "by the showing of irritation or gloom on your part, because your
brother has chosen to take for himself what you had previously and with
all deliberation thrown away."
"I suppose not, John," said Valentine quite humbly.
"Then what can you be thinking of?"
"I don't know."
"You have not talked to any one as you have done to me this morning?"
"No, certainly not."
"Well, then, decide while the game is in your own hand that you never
So far from being irritated or sulky at the wigging that John was
bestowing on him, Valentine was decidedly the better for it. The colour
returned to his face, he sat upright in his chair, and then he got up
and stood on the rug, as if John's energy had roused him, and opened his
eyes also, to his true position.
"You don't want to cover yourself with ridicule, do you?" continued
John, seeing his advantage.
"Why, even if you cared to take neither reason, nor duty, nor honour
into the question, surely the only way to save your own dignity from
utter extinction is to be, or at least seem to be, quite indifferent as
to what the lady may have chosen to do, but very glad that your brother
should have taken a step which makes it only fair to you that he and his
wife should forget your former conduct."
"John," said Valentine, "I acknowledge that you are right."
John had spoken quite as much, indeed more, in Brandon's interest than
in Valentine's. The manner in which the elder had suffered the younger
to make himself agreeable and engage himself to Dorothea Graham, and
how, when he believed she loved him, he had made it possible for them to
marry, were partly known to him and partly surmised. And now it seemed
in mockery of everything that was decent, becoming, and fair that the
one who had forsaken her should represent himself as having waked, after
a short delusion, and discovered that he loved her still, letting his
brother know this, and perhaps all the world. Such would be a painful
and humiliating position also for the bride. It might even affect the
happiness of the newly-married pair; but John did not wish to hint at
these graver views of the subject; he was afraid to give them too much
importance, and he confidently reckoned on Valentine's volatile
disposition to stand his friend, and soon enable him to get over his
attachment. All that seemed wanting was some degree of present
"John, I acknowledge that you are right," repeated Valentine, after an
interval of thought.
"You acknowledge--now we have probed this subject and got to the bottom
of it--that it demands of you absolute silence, and at first some
"Yes; that is settled."
"You mean to take my view?"
"Yes, I do."
As he stood some time lost in thought, John let him alone and began to
write, till, thinking he had pondered enough, he looked up and alluded
to the business Valentine had come about.
"You may as well tell it me, unless you want to take my father into your
council also: he will be here soon."
"No; I thought it would be more right if I spoke to you first, John,
before my uncle heard of it," said Valentine.
"Because it is likely to concern me longer?" asked John.
"Yes; you see what I mean; I should like, if uncle and you would let me,
to go into the bank; I mean as a clerk--nothing more, of course."
"I should want some time to consider that matter," said John. "I was
half afraid you would propose this, Val. It's so like you to take the
easiest thing that offers."
"Is it on my account or on your own that you shall take time?"
"On both. So far as you are concerned, it is no career to be a banker's
"No; but, John, though I hardly ever think of it, I cannot always forget
that there is only one life between me and Melcombe."
"Very true," said John coolly; "but if it is ill waiting for a dead
man's shoes, what must it be waiting for a dead child's shoes?"
"I do not even wish or care to be ever more than a clerk," said
Valentine; "but that, I think, would fill up my time pleasantly."
"Between this and what?"
"Between this and the time when I shall have finally decided what I will
do. I think eventually I shall go abroad."
John knew by this time that he would very gladly not have Valentine with
him, or rather under him; but an almost unfailing instinct, where his
father was concerned, assured him that the old man _would_ like it.
"Shall I speak to my father about it for you?" he said.
"No, John, by no means, if you do not like it. I would not be so unfair
as let him have a hint of it till you have taken the time you said you
"All right," said John; "but where, in case you became a clerk here, do
you propose to live?"
"Dick A'Court lived in lodgings for years," said Valentine, "so does
John A'Court now, over the pastrycook's in the High Street."
"And you think you could live over the shoemaker's?"
"I have often met Dick meekly carrying home small parcels of grocery for
himself. I should like to catch you doing anything of the sort!"
"I believe I can do anything now I have learned to leave off quoting. I
used to be always doing it, and to please Dorothea I have quite given it
"Well," said John, "let that pass."
He knew as well as possible what would be his father's wish, and he
meant to let him gratify it. He was a good son, and, as he had
everything completely in his own power, he may be said to have been very
indulgent to his father, but the old man did not know it any more than
Mr. Augustus Mortimer had a fine house, handsomely appointed and
furnished. From time to time, as his son's family had increased, he had
added accommodation. There was an obvious nursery; there was an evident
school-room, perfectly ready for the son, and only waiting, he often
thought, till it should be said to his father, "Come up higher."
It was one of John's theories that there should be a certain homely
simplicity in the dress, food, and general surroundings of youthful
humanity; that it should not have to walk habitually on carpets so rich
that little dusty feet must needs do damage, and appear intruders; nor
be made to feel all day that somebody was disturbed if somebody else was
making himself happy according to his lights, and in his own fashion.
But of late Mr. Augustus Mortimer had begun to show a degree of
infirmity which sometimes made his son uncomfortable that he should have
to live alone. To bring those joyous urchins and little, laughing,
dancing, playful girls into his house was not to be thought of. What was
wanted was some young relative to live with him, who would drive him
into the town and home again, dine with him, live in his presence, and
make his house cheerful. In short, as John thought the matter over, he
perceived that it would be a very good thing for his father to have
Valentine as an inmate, and that it would be everything to Valentine to
be with his father.
People always seemed to manage comfortable homes for Valentine, and make
good arrangements for him, as fast as he brought previous ones to
Very few sons like to bring other people into their fathers' houses,
specially in the old age of the latter; but John Mortimer was not only
confident of his own supreme influence, but he was more than commonly
attached to his father, and had long been made to feel that on his own
insight and forethought depended almost all that gave the old man
His father seldom disturbed any existing arrangements, though he often
found comfort from their being altered for him; so John decided to
propose to him to have his brother's son to live with him. In a few
days, therefore, he wrote to Valentine that he had made up his mind, and
would speak to his father for him, which he did, and saw that the
nephew's wish gave decided pleasure; but when he made his other proposal
he was quite surprised (well as he knew his father) at the gladness it
excited, at those thanks to himself for having thought of such a thing,
and at certain little half-expressed hints which seemed intended to meet
and answer any future thoughts his son might entertain as to Valentine's
obtaining more influence than he would approve. But John was seldom
surprised by an after-thought; he was almost always happy enough to have
done his thinking beforehand.
He was in the act of writing a letter to Valentine the next morning at
his own house, and was there laying the whole plan before him, when he
saw him driving rapidly up to the door in the little pony chaise, now
the only carriage kept at Brandon's house. He sprang out as if in urgent
haste, and burst into the room in a great hurry.
"John," he exclaimed, "can you lend me your phaeton, or give me a mount
as far as the junction? Fred Walker has had one of his attacks, and
Emily is in a terrible fright. She wants another opinion: she wishes Dr.
Limpsey to be fetched, and she wants Grand to come to her."
This last desire, mentioned as the two hurried together to the stable,
showed John that Emily apprehended danger.
Emily's joyous and impassioned nature, though she lived safely, as it
were, in the middle of her own sweet world--saw the best of it, made the
best of it, and coloured it all, earth and sky, with her tender
hopefulness--was often conscious of something yet to come, ready and
expectant of _the rest of it_. The rest of life, she meant; the rest of
sorrow, love, and feeling.
She had a soul full of unused treasures of emotion, and pure, clear
depths of passion that as yet slumbered unstirred. If her heart was a
lute, its highest and lowest chords had never been sounded hitherto.
This also she was aware of, and she knew what their music would be like
when it came.
She had been in her girlhood the chief idol of many hearts; but joyous,
straightforward, and full of childlike sweetness, she had looked on all
her adorers in such an impartially careless fashion, that not one of
them could complain. Then, having confided to John Mortimer's wife that
she could get up no enthusiasm for any of them, and thought there could
be none of that commodity in her nature, she had at last consented, on
great persuasion, to take the man who had loved her all her life,
"because he wouldn't go away, and she didn't know what else to do with
him; he was such a devoted little fellow, too, and she liked him so much
better than either of his brothers!"
So they were married; Captain Walker was excessively proud and happy in
his wife, and Mrs. Walker was as joyous and sweet as ever. She had
satisfied the kindly pity which for a long while had made her very
uncomfortable on his account; and, O happy circumstance! she became in
course of time the mother of the most attractive, wonderful, and
interesting child ever born. In the eyes, however, of the invidious
world, he was uncommonly like his plain sickly father, and not, with
that exception, at all distinguished from other children.
John made haste to send Valentine off to the junction, undertook himself
to drive his father over to see Emily, and gathered from the short
account Valentine gave whilst the horse was put too, that Fred Walker
had been taken ill during the night with a fainting fit. He had come
from India for his year's leave in a very poor state of health, and with
apprehended heart disease. Only ten days previously Emily had persuaded
him that it would be well to go to London for advice. But a fainting fit
had taken place, and the medical man called in had forbidden this
journey for the present. He had appeared to recover, so that there
seemed to be no more ground for uneasiness than usual; but this second
faintness had lasted long enough to terrify all those about him.
Grand was very fond of his late brother's stepdaughter; she had always
been his favourite, partly on account of her confiding ease and liking
for him, partly because of the fervent religiousness that she had shown
from a child.
The most joyous and gladsome natures are often most keenly alive to
impressions of reverence, and wonder, and awe. Emily's mind longed and
craved to annex itself to all things fervent, deep, and real. As she
walked on the common grass, she thought the better of it because the
feet of Christ had trodden it also. There were things which she--as the
angels--"desired to look into;" but she wanted also to do the right
thing, and to love the doing of it.
With all this half Methodistic fervour, and longing to lie close at the
very heart of Christianity, she had by nature a strange fearlessness;
her religion, which was full of impassioned loyalty, and her faith,
which seemed to fold her in, had elements in them of curiosity and awed
expectation, which made death itself appear something grand and happy,
quite irrespective of a simply religious reason. It would show her "the
rest of it." She could not do long without it; and often in her most
joyous hours she felt that the crown of life was death's most grand
AN EASY DISMISSAL.
Indeed the top of admiration! worth
What's dearest to the world."
"Well, father, it's too true!"
"You don't say so?"
"Yes; he died, Dr. Mainby's housekeeper says, at five o'clock this
morning. The doctor was there all night, and he's now come home, and
gone to bed."
"One of the most unfortunate occurrences I ever heard of. Well, that
that is, is--and can't be helped. I'd have given something (over and
above the ten-and-sixpence) to have had it otherwise; but I 'spose,
Jemmy, I 'spose we understand the claims of decency and humanity." It
was the editor of the _True Blue_ who said this.
"I 'spose we do," answered the son sturdily, though sulkily; "but that's
the very best skit that Blank Blank ever did for us."
"Blank Blank" was the signature under which various satirical verses
appeared in the _True Blue_.
"Paid for, too--ten-and-six. Well, here goes, Jemmy." He took a paper
from his desk, read it over with a half smile. "One or two of the jokes
in it will keep," he observed; then, when his son nodded assent, he
folded it up and threw it in the fire. This was a righteous action. He
never got any thanks for doing it; also a certain severity that he was
inclined to feel against the deceased for dying just then, he quickly
turned (from a sense of justice) towards the living members of his
family, and from them to their party, the "pinks" in general. Then he
began to moralise. "Captain Walker--and so he's dead--died at five
o'clock this morning. It's very sudden. Why Mrs. Walker was driving him
through the town three days ago."
"Yes," answered the son; "but when a man has heart complaint, you never
know where you are with him."
A good many people in Wigfield and round it discussed that death during
the day; but few, on the whole, in a kindlier spirit than had been
displayed by the editor of the opposition paper. Mrs. A'Court, wife of
the vicar, and mother of Dick A'Court, remarked that she was the last
person to say anything unkind, but she did value consistency.
"Everybody knows that my Dick is a high churchman; they sent for him to
administer the holy communion, and he found old Mr. Mortimer there, a
layman, who is almost, I consider, a Methodist, he's so low church; and
poor Captain Walker was getting him to pray extempore by his bed. Even
afterward he wouldn't let him out of his sight. And Dick never
remonstrated. Now, that is not what I could have hoped of my son; but
when I told him so, he was very much hurt, said the old man was a saint,
and he wouldn't interfere. 'Well, my dear,' I said, 'you must do as you
please; but remember that your mother values consistency.'"
When Mrs. Melcombe, who, with her son and Laura, was still at Paris,
heard of it, she also made a characteristic remark. "Dear me, how sad!"
she exclaimed; "and there will be that pretty bride, Mrs. Brandon, in
mourning for months, till all her wedding dresses, in fact, are out of
Mrs. Melcombe had left Melcombe while it was at its loveliest, all the
hawthorns in flower, the peonies and lilies of the valley. She chose
first to go to Paris, and then when Peter did not seem to grow, was thin
and pale, she decided--since he never seemed so well as when he had no
lessons to do--that she would let him accompany them on their tour.
Melcombe was therefore shut up again; and the pictures of Daniel
Mortimer and the young lieutenant, his uncle, remained all the summer in
the dark. But Wigfield House was no sooner opened after Captain Walker's
funeral than back came the painters, cleaners, and upholsterers, to
every part of it; and the whole place, including the garden, was set in
order for the bride.
Emily was not able to have any of the rest and seclusion she so much
needed; but almost immediately took her one child and went to stay with
her late husband's father till she could decide where to live.
Love that has been received affects the heart which has lost it quite
differently from a loss where the love has been bestowed. The
remembrance of it warms the heart towards the dear lost donor; but if
the recollection of life spent together is without remorse, if, as in
Emily's case, the dead man has been wedded as a tribute to his
acknowledged love, and if he has not only been allowed to bestow his
love in peace without seeing any fault or failing that could give him
one twinge of jealousy--if he has been considered, and liked thoroughly,
and, in easy affectionate companionship, his wife has walked beside him,
delighting him, and pleased to do so--then, when he is gone, comes, as
the troubled heart calms itself after the alarms of death and parting,
that one, only kind of sorrow which can ever be called with truth "the
luxury of grief."
In her mourning weeds, when she reached Fred's father's house, Emily
loved to sit with her boy on her lap, and indulge in passionate tears,
thinking over how fond poor Fred had been, and how proud of her. There
was no sting in her grief, no compunction, for she knew perfectly well
how happy she had made him; and there was not the anguish, of personal
loss, and want, and bereavement.
She looked pale when she reached Mr. Walker's house, but not worn. She
liked to tell him the details of his son's short illness; and the
affectionate, irascible old man not only liked to hear them, but derived
pleasure from seeing this fine young woman, this interesting widow,
sitting mourning for his son. So he made much of her, and pushed her
sister Louisa at once into the background for her sake.
The sisters having married twin brothers, Mr. Walker's elder sons,
neither had looked on himself as heir to the exclusion of the other; but
Emily's pale morsel of a child was at once made more important than his
father had ever been. Louisa, staying also with her husband in the
house, was only the expectant mother of a grandson for him; and the rich
old man now began almost immediately to talk of how he should bring up
Emily's boy, and what he should do for him--taking for granted, from the
first, that his favourite daughter-in-law was to live with him and keep
Louisa took this change in Mr. Walker very wisely and sweetly--did not
even resent it, when, in the presence of his living son, he would
aggravate himself into lamentations over the dead one, as if in him he
had lost his all.
Sometimes he wondered a little himself at this quiescence--at the slight
impression he seemed to make on his son, whom he had fully intended to
rouse to remonstrance about it--at the tender way in which the young
wife ministered to her sister, and at the great change for the worse
that he soon began to observe in Emily's appearance.
Nobody liked to tell him the cause, and he would not see it; even when
it became an acknowledged fact, which every one else talked of, that
the little one was ill, he resolutely refused to see it; said the
weather was against a child born in India--blamed the east wind. Even
when the family doctor tried to let him know that the child was not
likely to be long for this world, he was angry, with all the
unreasonable volubility of a man who thinks others are deceiving him,
rather than grieved for the peril of the little life and the anguish of
the mother's heart.
Now came indeed "the rest of it." What a rending away of heart and life
it seemed to let go the object of this absorbing, satisfying love! Now
she was to lose, where the love had been bestowed; and she felt as if
death itself was in the bitter cup.
It was not till the child was actually passing away, after little more
than a fortnight's illness, that his grandfather could be brought to
believe in his danger. He had been heaping promises of what he would do
for him on the mother, as if to raise her courage. With kindly
wrong-headed obstinacy he had collected and detailed to her accounts of
how ill other children had been and had recovered, had been getting
fresh medical opinions, and proposing to try new remedies; but no sooner
was all over, and the afflicted mother was led from her dead child by
his son, than he tormented himself and the doctors by demanding why he
had been kept in the dark so long, why he had not been allowed to try
change of air, why, if the symptoms showed mortal disease from the
first, he had been allowed to set his heart on the child as he had done.
No one now had anything to say to Emily. She had only been a widow a
month, and the first loss had had no bitterness in it, though she had
sorrowed with the tender affection of a loyal heart. The death of her
child was almost the loss of all.
Valentine in the meantime had taken his sister Liz to a little quiet
place; there, as her marriage could not be put off, and the ship was
decided on in which they were to sail for New Zealand, he acted the
part of father, and gave her away at the quietest wedding possible,
seeing her off afterwards, and returning to take up his abode in his
uncle's house, about three weeks after the death of Emily's little
child. Not one of the late inhabitants had been left in his old home
excepting Mrs. Henfrey, who remained to receive the bride, and was still
there, though the newly-married pair had been home a week. Valentine had
found ample time to consider how he should behave to Dorothea, Mrs.
Brandon. He had also become accustomed to the thought of her being out
of his reach, and the little excitement of wonder as to how they should
meet was not altogether displeasing to him. "Giles will be inclined, no
doubt, to be rather jealous of me," was his thought; "I shall be a bad
fellow if I don't take care to show him that there is no need for it. D.
must do the same. Of course she will. Sweet D.! Well, it can't be helped
It was natural enough that he should cogitate over the best way of
managing his first meeting with them; but he had not been an hour in his
uncle's house before he found that Grand was shortly going to give a
great dinner party for the bride mainly consisting of relatives and very
old friends. This, it was evident, would be the most natural time for
him to present himself.
Valentine loved comfort and luxury, and finding himself established
quite as if he had been a younger son in the house--a horse kept for him
to ride, and a small sitting-room set aside in which he could see his
friends--he experienced a glow of pleasure at first, and he soon
perceived that his presence was a real pleasure to his old uncle; so,
settling himself with characteristic ease in his place, he felt hourly
more and more content with his new home.
It was not till he came down into the drawing-room before dinner on the
day of the party that he began to feel excited and agitated. A good
many of the guests were already present, he went up to one and to
another, and then advanced to speak to Miss Christie, who was arrayed in
a wonderful green gown, bought new for the occasion.
"Mr. and Mrs. Brandon," sounded clearly all down the long room, and he
turned slowly and saw them. For one instant they appeared to be standing
quite still, and so he often saw them side by side in his thoughts ever
after. The bride looked serenely sweet, a delicate blush tinging her
face, which was almost of infantine fairness and innocence; then old
Grand's white head came in the way as he advanced to meet her and take
her hand, bowing low with old-fashioned formality and courtesy. Several
other people followed and claimed her acquaintance, so that they were
closed in for the moment. Then he felt that now was the time for him to
come forward, which he did, and as the others parted again to let Grand
take her to a seat, they met face to face.
"Ah, Valentine," she said, so quietly, with such an unexcited air; she
gave him her hand for a moment, and it was over. Then he shook hands
with his brother, their eyes met, and though both tried hard to be
grave, neither could forbear to smile furtively; but Giles was much the
more embarrassed of the two.
During dinner, though Valentine talked and laughed, he could not help
stealing a minute now and then to gaze at the bride, till John, darting
a sudden look at him, brought him to his senses; but he cogitated about
her, though he did not repeat the offence. "Is it lilac, or grey, or
what, that she has on? That pale stuff must be satin, for it shines. Oh,
meant for mourning perhaps. How wonderfully silent Giles is! How quiet
they both are!"
This observation he made to himself several times during the evening,
catching the words of one and the other whatever part of the room he was
in, almost as distinctly as they did themselves; but he only looked
once at Dorothea, when something made him feel or think that she had
drawn her glove off. His eyes wandered then to her hand. Yes, it was
so--there was the wedding ring.
With what difficulty, with what disgrace he had contrived to escape from
marrying this young woman! His eyes 'wandered round the room. Just so
she would have looked, and every one else would have looked, if this
wedding dinner had been made for _his_ bride, but he would not have been
sitting up in the corner with three girls about him, laughing and making
laugh. No, and he would not have stood rather remote from her, as Giles
did. He thought he would have been proudly at her side. Oh, how could he
have been such a fool? how could he? how could he?
"She would have loved me just as well, just so she would have lifted up
her face, as she does now, and turned towards me."--No! The bride and
her husband looked at one another for an instant, and in one beat of the
heart he knew not only that no such look had ever been in her eyes for
him, but he felt before he had time to reason his conviction down, that
in all likelihood there never would have been. Then, when he found that
Dorothea seemed scarcely aware of his presence, he determined to return
the compliment, got excited, and was the life and soul of the younger
part of the company. So that when the guests dispersed, many were the
remarks they made about it.
"Well, young Mortimer need not have been quite so determined to show his
brother how delighted he was not to be standing in his shoes." "Do you
think Brandon married her out of pity?" "She is a sweet young creature.
I never saw newly-married people take so little notice of one another.
It must have been a trial to her to meet young Mortimer again, for no
doubt she was attached to him."
A quarter of an hour after the bride had taken her leave, and when all
the other guests were gone, Valentine went into the hall, feeling very
angry with himself for having forgotten that, as he was now a member of
her host's family, he might with propriety have seen Dorothea into the
carriage. "This," he thought, "shall not occur again."
The hall doors were open, servants stood about as if waiting still. He
saw a man's figure. Some one, beyond the stream of lamplight which came
from the house, stood on the gravel, where through a window he could
command a view of the staircase.
It was little past eleven, the moon was up, and as the longest day was
at hand, twilight was hardly over, and only one star here and there hung
out of the heavens.
"Why, that is Giles," thought Valentine. "Strange! he cannot have sent
Dorothea home alone, surely."
Giles approached the steps, and Valentine, following the direction of
his eyes, saw a slender figure descending the stairs.
Dorothea! She was divested now of the shimmering satin and all her
bridal splendour. How sweet and girlish she looked in this more simple
array! Evidently they were going to walk home through the woods and
lanes, see glow-worms and smell the hedge roses. For an instant
Valentine was on the point of proposing to accompany them part of the
way, but recollected himself just in time to withdraw into the shadow
made by a stand of greenhouse plants, and from thence see Giles come up
the steps, take the delicate ungloved hand and lay it on his arm, while
the hall doors were closed behind them.
Adam and Eve were returning to Paradise on foot. The world was quite a
new world. They wanted to see what it was like by moonlight, now they
Valentine walked disconsolately up the stairs, and there at the head of
them, through a wide-open door, he saw a maid. The pale splendours of
Dorothea's gown were lying over her arm, and she was putting gold and
pearls into a case. He darted past as quickly as he could, so glad to
get out of sight, lest she should recognise him, for he shrewdly
suspected that this was the same person who had been sent with Dorothea
to Wigfield, when she first went there--one Mrs. Brand. So, in fact, it
was; her husband was dead, she no longer sailed in old Captain Rollings
yacht, and Brandon had invited her to come and stay in the house a
while, and see her young lady again.
How glad he was to get away and shelter himself in his own room!--an
uncomfortable sensation this for a fine young man. "What should I have
done but for Grand and John?" was his thought. Grand and John were very
considerate the next day. In the first place, Grand scarcely mentioned
the bride during breakfast; in fact, so far as appeared, he had
forgotten the party altogether. John was also considerate, gave
Valentine plenty to do, and in a way that made him feel the yoke, took
him in hand and saw that he did it.
It is often a great comfort to be well governed. John had a talent for
government, and under his dominion Valentine had the pleasure of
feeling, for the first time in his life, that he had certain things to
do which must and should be done, after which he had a full right to
occupy himself as he pleased.
A MORNING CALL.
"Learn now for all
That I, which know my heart, do here pronounce
By the very truth of it, I care not for you."--_Cymbeline._
"John," said Valentine, ten days after this dinner party, "you have not
called on D. yet, nor have I."
"No," John answered, observing his wish, "and it might not be a bad plan
for us to go together."
"Thank you, and if you would add the twins to--to make the thing easier
and less formal."
"Nonsense," said John; "but yes, I'll take some of the children, for of
course you feel awkward." He did not add, "You should not have made such
a fool of yourself," lest Valentine should answer, "I devoutly wish I
had not;" but he went on, "And why don't you say Dorothea, instead of
using a nickname?"
"I always used to call her D.," said Valentine.
"All the more reason why you should not now," answered John.
And Valentine murmured to himself--
"'These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself in dotage'
(_Antony and Cleopatra_)" This he added from old habit. "I'll quote
everything I can think of to D., just to make her think I have forgotten
her wish that I should leave off quoting; and if that is not doing my
duty by St. George, I should like to know what is. Only that might put
it into his head to quote too, and perhaps he might have the best of it.
I fancy I hear him saying, 'Art thou learned?' I, as William, answer,
'No, sir.' 'Then learn this of me,' he makes reply, 'to have is to have;
for all your writers do consent that _ipse_ is he. Now you are not
_ipse_, for I am he. He, sir, that hath married this woman. Therefore,
you clown, abandon, which is--,' &c., &c. What a fool I am!"
John, adding the twins and little Bertram to the party, drove over on a
Saturday afternoon, finding no one at home but Mrs. Henfrey.
"St. George," she said, "has taken to regular work, and sits at his desk
all the morning, and for an hour or two in the afternoon, excepting on
Saturday, when he gives himself a half-holiday, as if he was a
"And where was he now?" John asked.
"Somewhere about the place with Dorothea; he had been grubbing up the
roots of the trees in a corner of the little wood at all leisure times;
he thought of turning it into a vegetable garden."
"Why, we always had more vegetables than we could use," exclaimed
Valentine, "and we were three times as large a family."
"Very true, my dear, but they are full of schemes--going to grow some
vegetables, I think, and flowers, for one of the county hospitals. It
would not be like him, you know, to go on as other people do."
"No," Valentine answered. "And he always loved a little hard work out of
doors; he is wise to take it now, or he would soon get tired of stopping
peaceably at home, playing Benedict in this dull place."
The children were then sent out to find where the young wife was, and
come and report to their father, telling her that he would pay his call
out of doors.
"And so you are still here, sister," observed Valentine, willing to
change the subject, for he had been rather disconcerted by a quiet
smile with which she had heard his last speech.
"Yes, my dear, the fact is, they won't let me go."
"Of course I never thought they would want me. And the morning after
they came home I mentioned that I had been looking out for a house--that
small house that I consulted John about, and, in fact, took."
Mrs. Henfrey was hardly ever known to launch into narration. She almost
always broke up her remarks by appeals to one and another of her
listeners, and she now did not go on till John had made the admission
that she had consulted him. She then proceeded with all deliberation--
"But you should have seen how vexed St. George looked. He had no idea,
he said, that I should ever think of leaving him; and, indeed, I may
mention to you in confidence, both of you, that he always drew for me
what money I said was wanted for the bills, and he no more thought of
looking at my housekeeping books than my father did."
"Really," said Valentine.
He was quite aware of this, to him, insignificant fact, but to have said
more would only have put her out, and he wanted her to talk just then.
"And so," she continued slowly, "I said to him, I said, 'My dear Giles,
I have had a pleasant home in this house, many, many years, indeed, ever
since you were a child; but it is my opinion (and you will find it is
the general opinion) that every young wife should have her house to
herself.' I did not doubt at all that this was her opinion too, only I
considered that as he had spoken so plainly, she might not like to say
"No, very likely not," said John, when she stopped, as if stranded, till
somebody helped her on with a remark.
"You are quite right, John, any one might have thought so; but in a
minute or two. 'Well,' said St. George, 'this is rather a blow;' and
what does that pretty creature do but come and sit by me, and begin to
coax me. 'She wanted me so much, and it would be so kind if I would but
stop and do as I always had done, and she would be so careful to please
me, and she had always thought the house was so beautifully managed, and
everything in such order, and so regular.'"
"So it is," Valentine put in. "She is quite right there."
"'And she didn't know how to order the dinner,' she said; and so she
went on, till I said, 'Well, my dears, I don't wish that there should be
any mistake about this for want of a little plain speaking.'"
"Well?" said John, when she came to a dead stop.
"And she said, 'You love St. George, don't you, just as much as if he
was related to you?' 'How can any one help loving him?' 'And I know if
you leave us he won't be half so comfortable. And nobody should ever
interfere with you,' So I said I would keep their house for them, and
you may suppose how glad I was to say it, for I'm like a cat, exactly
like a cat--I don't like to leave a place that I am used to, and it
would have been difficult for her to manage."
"I had often been thinking, when I supposed I had to go, that she would
never remember to see that the table-linen was all used in its proper
turn, and to have the winter curtains changed for white ones before the
sun faded them."
"You're such a comfortable, dear thing to live with," observed
Valentine, now the narrative was over. "Everybody likes you, you know."
Mrs. Henfrey smiled complacently, accepting the compliment. She was, to
all strangers, an absolutely uninteresting woman; but her family knew
her merits, and Giles and Valentine were both particularly alive to
"And so here I am," continued 'sister,' "but it is a pity for poor
Emily, for she wanted me to live in that house, you know, John, with
"But I thought old Walker was devoted to her," said John.
"So he was, my dear, so long as her boy was with her; but now she is
nobody, and I am told he shows a willingness to let her go, which is
almost like dismissing her."
"I hope she will not get my old woman away to live with her," thought
John, with a sudden start. "I don't know what I may be driven to, if she
does. I shall have to turn out of my own house, or take the Golden Head
into it by way of protection. No, not that! I'll play the man. But," he
thought, continuing his cogitations, "Emily is too young and attractive
to live alone, and what so natural as that she should ask her old aunt
to come to her?"
John was still deeply cogitating on this knotty point when the children
came back, and conducted him and Valentine to the place where Brandon
was at work, and Dorothea sitting near him on a tree-stump knitting.
None of the party ever forgot that afternoon, but each remembered it as
an appeal to his own particular circumstances. Brandon was deep in the
contentment of a great wish fulfilled. The newly-perfected life was
fresh and sweet, and something of reserve in the character and manners
of his wife seemed to restrain him from using up the charm of it too
fast. His restless and passionate nature was at once satisfied and kept
in check by the freshness and moderation of hers. She received his
devotion very quietly, made no demonstrations, but grew to him, laid up
his confidences in her heart, and let him discover--though she never
said it--that all the rest of the world was becoming as nothing for his
sake. Accordingly it did not occur to him, excepting on Valentine's own
account, to consider how he might feel during this interview. He
noticed that he was a little sulky and perhaps rather out of
countenance; he did not wonder at these things; but being absolutely
secure of his wife's love, he never even said to himself how impossible
it was that her affection should revert to Valentine; but this was for
the simple reason that he had never thought about that matter at all. He
talked to Valentine on indifferent subjects, and felt that he should be
glad when he had got over the awkwardness he was then evidently
enduring, for they had been accustomed, far more than most brothers, to
live together on terms of familiar intimacy, and only one of them at
present was aware that this could never be again.
Valentine also never forgot, but often saw that picture again with the
fresh fulness of the leaves for a background to the girlish figure; and
the fair face so innocent and candid and so obviously content. She was
seated opposite to him, with Brandon on the grass close to her. In
general they addressed each other merely by the Christian name, but just
before John rose to take leave, Dorothea dropped her ball. It rolled a
little way, and pointing it out to Brandon with her long wooden
knitting-pin, she said, in a soft quiet tone, "Love, will you pick it
up?" and Valentine, who had overheard the little speech, was
inexpressibly hurt, almost indignant. He could not possibly have told
why, but he hoped she did not say that often, and when Brandon gave it
into her hand again, and said something to her that Valentine could not
hear, he felt almost as if he had been unkindly used, as if his feelings
had been insulted, and he vowed that it should be a long time before he
came to see them again.
"It won't do," he thought to himself. "I see this means a great deal
more than I ever thought it did. I thought Giles would be jealous, and I
should have to set things in a light that would satisfy him; but it is
I who am jealous, and he does not care what I feel at all. She is all I
could wish; but I don't know whether looking at her is most bitter or
As for John, he had walked down to the wood as usual, in full possession
of his present self, and as he supposed of his future intentions, and
yet, sitting opposite to these married lovers for a quarter of an hour,
wrought a certain change in him that nothing ever effaced. It was an
alien feeling to him to be overcome by a yearning discontent. Something
never yet fed and satisfied made its presence known to him. It was not
that sense which comes to all, sooner or later, that human life cannot
give us what we expected of it, but rather a passionate waking to the
certainty that he never even for one day had possessed what it might
have given. He had never been endowed for one day with any deep love,
with its keen perceptions and high companionship.
"Well, I suppose I didn't deserve it," he thought, half angrily, while
he tried to trample the feeling down and stifle it. But his keener
instincts soon rose up in him and let him know that he did deserve it.
It was very extraordinary that he had not won it--there were few men,
indeed, who deserved it half so well.
"But it's too late now," he chose to say to himself, as he drove home.
"It's not in my line either to go philandering after any woman. Besides,
I hate red hair. The next _Dissolution_ I'll stand for the borough of
Wigfield. Seven children to bring up, and one of them almost as big as
myself--what a fool I am! What can I have been thinking of?"
"What are you laughing at, papa?" said Barbara, who was sitting beside
"Not at you, my darling," he replied; "for you are something real."
For the next few weeks neither he nor Valentine saw much of Dorothea:
excepting at three or four dinners, they scarcely met at all. After this
came the Harrow holidays. Johnny came home, and with him the inevitable
Crayshaw. The latter was only to stay a week, and that week should have
been spent with Brandon, but the boys had begged hard to be together,
having developed a peculiar friendship for one another which seemed to
have been founded on many fights, in consequence of which they had been
strictly forbidden to meet.
This had taken place more than a year before, when Crayshaw, having been
invited by John to spend the holidays with his boy, the two had
quarrelled, and even fought, to such a degree that John at last in
despair had taken Johnnie over to his grandfather's house, with the
declaration that if he so much as spoke to Crayshaw again, or crossed
the wide brook that ran between the two houses, he would fine him
half-a-crown every time he did it.
"Ith all that hateful map," said young hopeful sulkily, when he was
borne off to his banishment.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," quoth his father. "I don't care
what it's about. You have no notion of hospitality. I won't have you
fight with your guest."
Crayshaw was in very weak health, but full of mischief and fun. For a
few days he seemed happy enough, then he flagged, and on the fifth
morning he laid half-a-crown beside John's plate at breakfast.
"What's this for?" asked John.
"Because it is not fair that he should be fined, and not I."
"Put it in the missionary box," said John, who knew very well that the
boys had been constructing a dam together all the previous day.
"It was about their possessions that they quarrelled," said Gladys in
giving an account of the matter afterwards. "They made a plan that they
would go into partnership, and conquer all the rest of the world; but
when they looked at the great map up in Parliament, and Johnnie found
how much the most he had got, he said Cray must annex Japan, or he
would not join. Cray said it was against his principles. So they
quarrelled, and fought once or twice; but perhaps it was just as well,
for you know the rest of the world would rather not be conquered. Then,
when they were fined for playing together, they did every day. They made
a splendid dam over the brook, which was very low; but one night came a
storm, father's meadows were flooded, they could not get the dam undone,
and some sheep were drowned. So they went to Grand, and begged him to
tell father, and get them off. They said it was a strange thing they
were never to be together, and neither of them had got a penny left. So
Grand got them forgiven, and we went all over the meadows for two or
three days in canoes and punts."
And now these two desirable inmates were to be together for a week. A
great deal can be done in a week, particularly by those who give their
minds to it because they know their time is short. That process called
turning the house out of windows took place when John was away. Aunt
Christie, who did not like boys, kept her distance, but Miss Crampton
being very much scandalized by the unusual noise, declared, on the
second morning of these holidays, that she should go up into Parliament,
and see what they were all about. Miss Crampton was not supposed ever to
go up into Parliament; it was a privileged place.
"Will the old girl really come, do you think?" exclaimed Crayshaw.
"She says she shall, as soon as she has done giving Janie her music
lesson," replied Barbara, who had rushed up the steep stairs to give
"Mon peruke!" exclaimed Johnnie looking round, "you'd better look out,
then, or vous l'attrapperais."
The walls were hung with pictures, maps, and caricatures; these last
were what had attracted Johnnie's eyes, and the girls began hastily to
"It's very unkind of her," exclaimed Barbara. "Father never exactly
said that we were to have our own playroom to ourselves, but we know,
and she knows, that he meant it."
Then, after a good deal of whispering, giggling, and consulting among
the elder ones, the little boys were dismissed; and in the meantime Mr.
Nicholas Swan, who, standing on a ladder outside, was nailing the vines
(quite aware that the governess was going to have a reception which
might be called a warning never to come there any more), may or may not
have intended to make his work last as long as possible. At any rate, he
could with difficulty forbear from an occasional grin, while, with his
nails neatly arranged between his lips, he leisurely trained and pruned;
and when he was asked by the young people to bring them up some shavings
and a piece of wood, he went down to help in the mischief, whatever it
might be, with an alacrity ill suited to his years and gravity.
"Now, I'll tell you what, young gentlemen," he remarked, when,
ascending, he showed his honest face again, thrust in a log of wood, and
exhibited an armful of shavings, "I'm agreeable to anything but
gunpowder, or that there spark as comes cantering out o' your engine
with a crack. No, Miss Gladys, ex-cuse me, I don't give up these here
shavings till I know it's all right."
"Well, well, it _ith_ all right," exclaimed Johnnie, "we're not going to
do any harm! O Cray, he'th brought up a log ath big ath a fiddle. Quelle
"How lucky it is that she has never seen Cray!" exclaimed Barbara.
"Johnnie, do be calm; how are we to do it, if you laugh so? Now then,
you are to be attending to the electrifying machine."
"Swanny," asked Crayshaw, "have you got a pipe in your pocket? I want
one to lie on my desk."
"Well, now, to think o' your asking me such a question, just as if I was
ever _known_ to take so much as a whiff in working hours--no, not in
the tool-house, nor nowhere."
"But just feel. Come, you might."
"Well, now, this here is remarkable," exclaimed Swan, with a start as if
of great surprise, when, after feeling in several pockets, a pipe
appeared from the last one.
"Don't knock the ashes out."
"She's coming," said Swan, furtively glancing down, and then pretending
to nail with great diligence. "And, my word, if here isn't Miss Christie
A great scuffle now ensued to get things ready. Barbara darted down
stairs, and what she may have said to Aunt Christie while Swan received
some final instructions above, is of less consequence than what Miss
Crampton may have felt when she found herself at the top of the stairs
in the long room, with its brown high-pitched roof--a room full of the
strangest furniture, warm with the sun of August, and sweet with the
scent of the creepers.
Gladys and Johnnie were busy at the electrifying machine, and with a
rustling and crackling noise the "spunky little flashes," as Swan called
them, kept leaping from one leaden knob to another.
Miss Crampton saw a youth sitting on a low chair, with his legs on
rather a higher one; the floor under him was strewed with shavings,
which looked, Swan thought, "as natural as life," meaning that they
looked just as if he had made them by his own proper whittling.
The youth in question was using a large pruning knife on a log that he
held rather awkwardly on his knee. He had a soft hat, which had been
disposed over one eye. Miss Crampton gave the sparks as wide a berth as
she could, and as she advanced, "Well, sir," Swan was saying in
obedience to his instructions, "if you've been brought up a republican,
I spose you can't help it. But whatever _your_ notions may be, Old
Master is staunch. He's all for Church and Queen and he hates
republican institootions like poison. Which is likewise my own feelings
to a T."
No one had taken any notice of Miss Crampton, and she stopped amazed.
"Wall," answered the youth, diligently whittling, "I think small
potatoes of ye-our lo-cation myself--but ye-our monarchical government,
I guess, hez not yet corrupted the he-eart of the Grand. He handed onto
me and onto his hair a tip which"--here he put his hand in his waistcoat
pocket, and fondly regarded two or three coins; then feigning to become
aware of Miss Crampton's presence, "Augustus John, my yound friend," he
continued, "ef yeow feel like it, I guess yeou'd better set a chair for
the school marm--for it is the school marm, I calculate?"
Here Miss Christie, radiant with joy and malice, could not conceal her
delight, but patted him on the shoulder, and then hastily retreated into
the background, lest she should spoil the sport; while as Johnnie,
having small command of countenance, did not dare to turn from the
window out of which he was pretending to look, Crayshaw rose himself,
shook hands with Miss Crampton, and setting a chair for her, began to
"Wall," he then said, "and heow do yeou git along with ye-our teaching,
marm? Squire thinks a heap of ye-our teaching, as I he-ear, specially
ye-our teaching of the eye-talian tongue."
"Did I understand you to be arguing with the gardener when I came in,
respecting the principles and opinions of this family?" inquired Miss
Crampton, who had now somewhat recovered from her surprise, and was
equal to the resenting of indignities.
"Wall, mebby I was, but it's a matter of science that we're mainly
concerned with, I guess, this morning--science, electricity. We're
gitting on first-rate--those rods on the stairs----"
"Yes?" exclaimed Miss Crampton.
"We air of a scientific turn, we air--Augustus John and I--fixing wires
to every one of them. They air steep, those steps," he continued
Here Miss Crampton's colour increased visibly.
"And when the machine is che-arged, we shall electrify them. So that
when yeou dew but touch one rod, it'll make yeou jump as high as the
next step, without any voluntary effort. Yeou'll find that an
Here Swan ducked down, and laughed below at his ease.
"We air very scientific in my country."
"Ever been to Amurica?"
"Certainly not," answered Miss Crampton with vigour, "nor have I the
slightest intention of ever doing so. Pray, are you allowed, in
consideration of your nationality, to whittle in Harrow School?"
This was said by way of a reproof for the state of the floor.
"Wall," began Crayshaw, to cover the almost audible titters of the
girls; but, distracted by this from the matter in hand, he coughed, went
on whittling, and held his peace.
"I have often told Johnnie," said Miss Crampton with great dignity, at
the same time darting a severe glance at Johnnie's back, "that the
delight he takes in talking the Devonshire dialect is likely to be very
injurious to his English, and he will have it that this country accent
is not permanently catching. It may be hoped," she continued, looking
round, "that other accents are not catching either."
Crayshaw, choosing to take this hint as a compliment, smiled sweetly. "I
guess I'm speaking better than usual," he observed, "for my brother and
his folks air newly come from the Ste-ates, and I've been with them.
But," he continued, a sudden gleam of joy lighting up his eyes as
something occurred to him that he thought suitable to "top up" with,
"all the Mortimers talk with such a peowerful English ac-_cent_, that
when I come de-own to this _lo_-cation, my own seems to melt off my
tongue. Neow, yeou'll skasely believe it," he continued, "but it's
tre-u, that ef yeou were tew hea-ar me talk at the end of a week, yeou'd
he-ardly realise that I was an Amurican at all."
"Cray, how can ye?" exclaimed Aunt Christie, "and so wan as ye look this
"Seen my brother?" inquired Crayshaw meekly.
"No, I have not," said Miss Crampton bridling.
"He's merried. We settle airly in my country; it's one of our
institootions." Another gleam of joy and impudence shot across the
pallid face. "I'm thinking of settling shortly myself."