Part 6 out of 9
"You know it," said Valentine.
"Yes," John answered gravely, "of course."
"Oh! what next, what next?" thought Valentine, and he spent two or three
minutes in such a tumult of keen expectation and eager excitement, that
he could hear every beat of his heart quite plainly, and then--
"It is a very great upset of all my plans," John said, still with more
gravity than usual. "I had fully intended--indeed, I had hoped, old
fellow, that you and I would be partners some day."
"Oh, John," exclaimed Valentine, a sudden revulsion of feeling almost
overcoming him now he found that his fears as to what John might be
thinking of were groundless. "Oh, John, I wish we could! It might be a
great deal better for me. And so you really did mean it? You are more
like a brother than anything else. I hate the thought of that
ill-starred house; I think I'll stop here with you."
"Nonsense," said John, just as composedly and as gravely as ever; "what
do you mean, you foolish lad?" But he appreciated the affection
Valentine had expressed for him, and kindly put his hand on his young
Valentine had never found it so hard to understand himself as at that
moment. His course was free, Giles could not speak, and John knew
nothing; yet either the firm clasp of a man's hand on his shoulder
roused him to the fact that he cared for this man so much that he could
be happier under his orders than free and his own master, or else his
father's words gathered force by mere withdrawal of opposition.
For a moment he almost wished John did know; he wanted to be fortified
in his desire to remain with him; and yet--No! he could not tell him;
that would be taking his fate out of his own hands for ever.
"You think then I must--take it up; in short, go and live in it?" he
said at length.
"Think!" exclaimed John, with energy and vehemence; "why, who could
possibly think otherwise?"
"I've always been accustomed to go in and out amongst a posse of my own
"Your own relations must come to you then," answered John pleasantly,
"I, for one. Why, Melcombe's only fifty or sixty miles off, man!"
"It seems to me now that I'm very sorry for that poor little fellow's
death," Valentine went on.
"Nobody could have behaved better during his lifetime than you have
done," John said. "Why, Val," he exclaimed, looking down, "you astonish
Valentine was vainly struggling with tears. John went and bolted the
door; then got some wine, and brought him a glass.
"As calm as possible during my father's death and funeral," he thought,
"and now half choking himself, forsooth, because his fortune's made, and
he must leave his relations. I trust and hope, with all my heart, that
Dorothea is not at the bottom of this! I supposed his nerves to be
strong enough for anything."
Valentine was deadly pale. He put up a shaking hand for the glass, and
as he drank the wine, and felt the blood creeping warmly about his limbs
again, he thought "John knows nothing whatever. No wonder he is
astonished, he little thinks what a leap in the dark it is."
And so the die was cast.
A few days after this Gladys and Barbara received letters; the first ran
"My dear young Friends,--Owe you three-and-sixpence for Blob's biscuits,
do I? Don't you know that it is not polite to remind people of their
debts? When you would have been paid that money I cannot think, if it
were not for a circumstance detailed below. I have just been reading
that the finest minds always possess a keen sense of humour, so if you
find nothing to laugh at in this, it will prove that there is nothing
particular in you. Did I ever think there was? Well, why _will_ you ask
such awkward questions?--Off!
THE NOBLE TUCK-MAN.
Americus as he did wend
With A.J. Mortimer, his chum,
The two were greeted by a friend,
"And how are you, boys, Hi, Ho, Hum?"
He spread a note so crisp, so neat
(Ho and Hi, and tender Hum),
"If you of this a fifth can eat
I'll give you the remainder. Come!"
To the tuck-shop three repair
(Ho and Hum, and pensive Hi),
One looks on to see all's fair
Two call out for hot mince pie.
Thirteen tarts, a few Bath buns
(Hi and Hum, and gorgeous Ho),
Lobster cakes (the butter'd ones),
All at once they cry "No go."
Than doth tuck-man smile. "Them there
(Ho and Hi, and futile Hum)
Jellies three and sixpence air,
Use of spoons an equal sum."
Three are rich. Sweet task 'tis o'er,
"Tuckman, you're a brick," they cry,
Wildly then shake hands all four
(Hum and Ho, the end is Hi).
"N.B.--He spoke as good English as we did, and we did not shake hands
with him. Such is poetic license. I may have exaggerated a little, as to
the number of things we ate. I repeat, I _may_ have done. You will never
be able to appreciate me till you have learned to make allowance for
such little eccentricities of genius.
"Yours, with sentiments that would do anybody credit,
The second letter, which was also addressed to both sisters, was from
Johnnie, and ran as follows:--
"Now look here, you two fellows are not to expect me to spend all my
spare time in writing to you. Where do you think I am now? Why, at
"Val's a brick. Yesterday was our _Exeat_, and he came down to Harrow,
called for me and Cray, and brought us here to the Old Ship Hotel. We
two chose the dinner, and in twenty minutes that dinner was gone like a
dream. Val and Cray made the unlucky waiter laugh till he dropped the
butter-boat. The waiter was a proud man--I never saw a prouder. He had
made up his mind that nothing should make him laugh, but at last we had
him. Beware of pride, my friends.
"Then we went to the Aquarium. My wig! I never saw anything so
extraordinary. It ought to be called the Aquaria, for there are dozens
of them. They are like large rooms full of water, and you go and look in
at the fish through the windows. No, they're more like caves than rooms,
they have rocks for walls. Talk of the ancient Greeks! I'll never wish
to be one of those fogies again! I've seen turtles now under water,
sitting opposite to one another, bowing and looking each in his fellow's
face, just like two cats on a rug. Why the world's full of things that
_they_ knew nothing about.
"But I had no notion that fish were such fools, some of them, at least.
There were some conger eels seven feet long, and when we stared at them
they went and stuck their little heads into crevices in the rocks. I
should like to have reasoned with them, for they evidently thought they
were hidden, while, in fact, they were wriggling upside down, full in
view. Well, so then we went to see the octopus. One was just like a pink
satin bag, covered with large ivory buttons, but that was only because
it was inside out. While I was watching it I rather started, for I saw
in a corner of the den close to me an enormous sort of bloated sea
toadstool (as I thought), but it had eyes, it was covered with warts, it
seemed very faint, and it heaved and panted. By that time a
conglomeration like a mass of writhing serpents was letting itself down
the side of the den, and when it got to the bottom it shot out a head,
made itself into the exact shape of an owl without wings, and began to
fly about the place. That made three.
"An old woman who was looking at them too, called out then, 'Oh, you
brute, I hate you,' and Val said to her, 'My good lady, allow me to
suggest that it is not hatred you feel, but envy. Envy is a very bad
passion, and it is our duty to try and restrain it.' 'Sir,' said the
old lady, rather fiercely. 'No, we must not give way to envy,' Val
persisted, 'though, indeed, what are we in comparison with creatures who
can turn themselves inside out as soon as look at you, fly without
wings, and walk up a precipice by means of one pearl button?' 'If the
police were after you, it might be handy to turn yourself inside out,
I'll allow,' she answered, in a very loud, angry voice, 'so as they
should not know you; but I wouldn't, if I could, I'll assure you, young
man, no, that I wouldn't, not for all the pearl buttons in the world.'
"Well, I never wrote such a long letter in my life, it must count for
three, mind. We had a great deal more fun after that, but Val and I got
away, because a little crowd collected. Cray stayed behind, pretending
he did not belong to us, and he heard a man say, 'Perhaps the
gentleman's a parson; that sort always think they ought to be
_moralising_ about something or other.' And he found out by their talk
that the old lady was a clearstarcher, so when she was alone again we
went back. Val said he should be some time at Brighton, and he gave her
his address and offered her his washing. She asked for his name, too,
and he replied--you know how grave Val is--'Well, ma'am, I'm sorry to
say I cannot oblige you with my name, because I don't know it. All I am
sure about is, that it begins with an M; but I've written up to London,
and I shall know for a certainty the week after next.' So she winked at
me, and tapped herself on the forehead. Val is very much vexed because
he came up to London about the will, and the lawyers say he cannot--or
somebody else, I don't know which--cannot administer it unless he takes
the name of Melcombe. So what he said was quite true, and afterwards we
heard the old lady telling her friends that he was demented, but he
seemed very harmless and good.
"It's an extraordinary thing, isn't it, that Val has turned out to be
rich. Please thank father for writing and telling me about it all. Val
doesn't seem to care, and he hates changing his name. He was quite
crusty when we congratulated him.
"Give my love to the kids, and tell them if they don't weed my garden
they will catch it when I come home.
"I remain, your deservedly revered brother,
A postscript followed, from Crayshaw:--
"What this fellow says is quite right, our letters are worth three of
yours. You never once mentioned my guinea-pigs in your last, and we
don't care whether there is a baby at Wigfield or not. Pretty, is he? I
know better, they are all ugly. Fanny Crayshaw has just got another. I
detest babies; but George thinks (indeed many parents do) that the
youngest infant is just as much a human being as he is himself, even
when it is squalling, in fact more so."
DANTE AND OTHERS.
"He climbed the wall of heaven, and saw his love
Safe at her singing; and he left his foes
In vales of shadow weltering, unassoiled,
Immortal sufferers henceforth, in both worlds."
It was the middle of April. Valentine was gone, and the Mortimer
children were running wild, for their nurse had suddenly departed on
account of the airs of the new lady-housekeeper, who, moreover, had
quarrelled with the new governess.
John was now without doubt Mr. Mortimer, the head of his family and all
alone of his name, for Valentine had been obliged to take the name of
Melcombe, and, rather to the surprise of his family, had no sooner got
things a little settled than he had started across the Continent to meet
Mrs. Peter Melcombe, and bring her home to England.
Mr. Mortimer still felt his father's death, and he regretted Valentine's
absence more than he cared to confess. He lost his temper rather often,
at that particular season, for he did not know where to turn. The
housekeeper and the governess insisted frequently on appealing to him
against each other, about all sorts of matters that he knew nothing of,
and the children took advantage of their feuds to do precisely as they
pleased. John's house, though it showed evidently enough that it was a
rich man's abode, had a comfortable homeliness about it, but it had
always been a costly house to keep, and now that it was less than ever
needful to him to save money, he did not want to hear recriminations
concerning such petty matters as the too frequent tuning of the
schoolroom piano, and the unprofitable fabrics which had been bought for
the children's dresses.
In less than two years Parliament would dissolve. It was now frequently
said that Mr. Mortimer was to stand for the borough of Wigfield; but how
this was compatible with the present state of his household he did not
"I suppose," he said to himself one morning, with a mighty sigh, "I
suppose there is only one way out of it all. I really must take a liking
to red hair. Well! not just yet."
It was about ten o'clock in the morning when he said this, and he was
setting out to walk across the fields, and call for the first time on
Mrs. Frederic Walker. He was taking his three younger children with him
to make an apology to her.
Now that Mrs. Walker was a widow, she and Mr. Mortimer had half
unconsciously changed their manner slightly towards each other; they
were just as friendly as before, but not so familiar; the children,
however, were very intimate with her.
"She didn't want that bit of garden," argued little Hugh, as one who
felt aggrieved; "and when she saw that we had taken it she only
The fact was, that finding a small piece of waste ground at the back of
Mrs. Walker's shrubbery, the children had dug it over, divided it with
oyster-shells into four portions, planted it with bulbs and roots, and
in their own opinion it was now theirs. They came rather frequently to
dig in it. Sometimes on these occasions they went in-doors to see "Mrs.
Nemily," and perhaps partake of bread and jam. Once they came in to
complain of her gardener, who had been weeding in _their_ gardens. They
wished her to forbid this. Emily laughed, and said she would.
Their course of honest industry was, however, discovered at last by the
twins; and now they were to give up the gardens, which seemed a sad
pity, just when they had been intending to put in spring crops.
Some people never really _have_ anything. It is not only that they can
get no good out of things (that is common even among those who are able
both to have and to hold), but that they don't know how to reign over
their possessions and appropriate them.
Their chattels appear to know this, and despise them; their dogs run
after other men; the best branches of their rose-trees climb over the
garden-wall, and people who smell at the flowers there appear to supply
a reason for any roses being planted inside. Such people always know
their weak point, and spend their own money as if they had stolen it.
The little Mortimers were not related to them. Here was a piece of
ground which nobody cultivated; it manifestly wanted owners; they took
it, weeded it, and flung out all the weeds into Mrs. Walker's garden.
The morning was warm; a south wind was fluttering the half-unfolded
leaf-buds, and spreading abroad the soft odour of violets and primroses
which covered the sunny slopes.
John's children, when they came in at Mrs. Walker's drawing-room window,
brought some of this delicate fragrance of the spring upon their hair
and clothes. Grown-up people are not in the habit of rolling about, or
tumbling down over beds of flowers. They must take the consequences, and
leave the ambrosial scents of the wood behind them.
John himself, who had not been prepared to see them run off from him at
the last moment, beheld their active little legs disappearing as they
got over the low ledge of the open window. He, however, did not follow
their example, but walked round to the front of the house, and was shown
into the drawing-room, after ringing the bell, Emily lifting up her
head at his entrance with evident surprise. He was surprised too, even
startled, for on a sofa opposite to her sat a lady whom he had been
thinking of a good deal during the previous month--her of the golden
head, Miss Justina Fairbairn. It was evident that the children had not
announced his intended call.
Miss Justina Fairbairn was the daughter of an old K.C.B. deceased. She
and her mother were poor, but they were much respected as sensible,
dignified women; and they had that kind of good opinion of themselves
which those who hold in sincerity (having no doubt or misgiving) can
generally spread among their friends.
Miss Fairbairn was a fine, tall woman, with something composed and even
motherly in her appearance; her fair and rather wide face had a
satisfied, calm expression, excepting when she chanced to meet John, and
then a flash would come from those cold blue eyes, a certain hope,
doubt, or feeling of suspense would assert itself in spite of her. It
never rose to actual expectation, for she was most reasonable; and John
had never shown her any attention; but she had a sincere conviction that
a marriage with her would be the best and most suitable that was
possible for him. It was almost inconceivable, she thought, that he
could escape the knowledge of this fact long. She was so every way
suitable. She was about thirty-two years of age, and she felt sure he
ought not to marry a younger woman.
Many people thought as she did, that Mr. Mortimer could not do better
than marry Miss Fairbairn; and it is highly probable that this opinion
had originated with herself, though it must be well understood that she
had not expressed it. Thoughts are certainly able to spread themselves
without the aid of looks or language. Invisible seed that floats from
the parent plant can root itself wherever it settles and thoughts must
have some medium through which they sail till they reach minds that can
take them in, and there they strike root, and whole crops of the same
sort come up, just as if they were indigenous, and naturally belonging
to their entertainers. This is even more true in great matters than in
Miss Fairbairn, as usual when she saw John, became gracious. John was
thought to be a very intellectual man; she was intellectual, and meant
to be more so. John was specially fond of his children; her talk
concerning children should be both wise and kind.
Real love of children and childhood is, however, a quality that no one
can successfully feign. John had occasionally been seen, by observant
matrons and maids, to attempt with a certain uncouth tenderness to do
his children womanly service. He could tie their bonnet-strings and
sashes when these came undone. They had been known to apply to him
during a walk to take stones out of their boots, and also to lace these
Why should we write of children as if they were just like grown-up
people? They are not in the least like, any more than they are like one
another; but here they are, and if we can neither love nor understand
them, woe betide us!
"No more crying, my dear," John had said that morning to his youngest
He had just administered a reproof to her as he sat at breakfast, for
some infantile delinquency; and she, sniffing and sobbing piteously,
testified a desire to kiss him in token of penitence.
"I'm good now," she remarked.
"Where's your pocket-handkerchief?" said her father, with magisterial
The infant replied that she had lost it, and straightway asked to borrow
John lent the article, and having made use of it, she pushed it back
with all good faith into his breast-pocket, and repeating, "I'm good
now," received the coveted kiss, and presently after a donation of
buttered toast, upon which she became as happy as ever.
In ordinary life it devolves on the mother to lend a handkerchief; but
if children have none, there are fathers who can rise to such occasions,
and not feel afterwards as if heroic sacrifices had been demanded of
John Mortimer felt that Miss Fairbairn had never before greeted him with
so much _empressement_. They sat down, and she immediately began to talk
to him. A flattering hope that he had known of her presence, and had
come at once to see her, gave her just the degree of excitement that she
wanted to enable her to produce her thoughts at their best; while he,
accustomed by experience to caution, and not ready yet to commit
himself, longed to remark that he had been surprised as well as pleased
to see her. But he found no opportunity at first to do it; and in the
meantime Emily sat and looked on, and listened to their conversation
with an air of easy _insouciance_ very natural and becoming to her.
Emily was seven-and-twenty, and had always been accustomed to defer to
Miss Fairbairn as much older as well as wiser than herself; and this
deference did not seem out of place, for the large, fair spinster made
the young matron look slender and girlish.
John Mortimer remembered how Emily had said a year ago that he could not
do better than marry Justina. He thought she had invited her there to
that end; and as he talked he took care to express to her by looks his
good-humoured defiance; whereupon she defended herself with her eyes,
and punished him by saying--
"I thought you would come to-day perhaps and see my little house. Do you
like it, John? I have been in it less than three months, and I am
already quite attached to it. Miss Fairbairn only came last night, and
she is delighted with it."
"Yes," said Justina, "I only came last night;" and an air of
irrepressible satisfaction spread itself over her face--that Mr. Mortimer
should have walked over to see her this very first morning was beyond
her utmost hopes. She had caused Emily to invite her at that particular
time that she might often see John; and here he was.
"Emily thinks it a pointed thing, my coming at once," he cogitated. "She
reminds me, too, that friendship for her did not bring me. Well, I was
too much out of spirits to come a month ago."
Emily's eyes flashed and softened when she saw him out of countenance,
and a little twist came in her lips where a smile would like to have
broken through. She was still in crape, and wore the delicate gossamer
of her widow's cap, with long, wing-like streamers falling away at her
back; and while she sat at work on a cumbersome knitted shawl she
listened with an air of docility to Justina's conversation, without
noticing that a touch of dismay was beginning to show itself in John's
face; for Miss Fairbairn had begun to speak of Italian literature, a
subject she had been getting up lately for certain good reasons of her
own. She dared to talk about Dante, and John was almost at once keenly
aware that all this learning was sham--it was the outcome of no real
taste; and he felt like a fool while one of the ladies did the wooing
and the other, as he thought, amused herself with watching it. He was
accustomed to be wooed, and to be watched, but he had been trying for
some time to bring his mind to like the present wooer. While away from
her he fancied that he had begun to succeed, and now he knew well that
this sort of talk would drive him wild in a week. It represented nothing
real. No; the thing would not do. She was a good woman; she would have
ruled his house well; she would have been just to his children; and if
he had established her in all comfort and elegance over his family, he
might have left her, and attended to those prospective Parliamentary
duties as long as he liked, without annoying her. She was a lady too,
and her mother, old Lady Fairbairn, was a pleasant and unexceptionable
woman. But she was making herself ridiculous now. No; it would not do.
Giving her up then and there, he suddenly started from his seat as if he
felt relieved, and drawing himself to his full height, looked down on
the two ladies, one of whom, lifting her golden head, continued the
wooing with her eyes, while the other said carelessly and with a
"Well, I cannot think how you or John or any one can like that
bitter-hearted, odious, cruel Dante."
"Emily," exclaimed Miss Fairbairn, "how can you be so absurd, dear?"
"I wonder they did not tear him into little bits," continued Emily
audaciously, "instead of merely banishing him, which was all they
did--wasn't it, John?"
"I cannot imagine what you mean," exclaimed Miss Fairbairn, while John
laughed, and felt that at least here was something real and natural.
"You cannot? That's because you don't consider, then, what we should
feel if somebody now were to write a grand poem about our fathers,
mothers, aunts, uncles, and dear friends deceased, setting forth how he
had seen them all in the nether regions; how he had received their
confidences, and how penitent most of them were. Persecuted, indeed! and
misunderstood! I consider that his was the deadliest revenge any man
ever took upon his enemies."
Miss Fairbairn's brow, on hearing this, contracted with pain; for John
laughed again, and turning slightly towards Emily as he stood leaning
against the window-frame, took the opportunity to get away from the
subject of Italian literature, and ask her some question about her
"It must be something to give away, I am sure. You are always giving."
"But you know, John," she answered, as if excusing herself, "we are not
at all sure that we shall have any possessions, anything of our own, in
the future life--anything, consequently, to give away. Perhaps it will
all belong to all. So let us have enough of giving while we can, and
enjoy the best part of possession."
"Dear Emily," said Miss Fairbairn kindly, "you should not indulge in
these unauthorised fancies."
"But it so chances that this is not for a poor person," observed Emily,
"but for dear Aunt Christie."
"Ah, she was always very well while she lived with me," said John; "but
I hear a very different account of her now."
"Yes; she has rheumatism in her foot; so that she is obliged to sit
up-stairs. John, you should go and see her."
"I will take Mr. Mortimer to her," said Justina, rising serenely. This
she thought would break off the conversation, in which she had no part.
So John went up to Miss Christie's little sitting-room, and there she
was, bolt upright, with her lame foot on a cushion. By this visit he
gave unmixed pleasure to the old lady, and afforded opportunity to the
younger one for some pleasant, reasonable speeches, and for a little
effective waiting on the invalid, as well as for some covert
"Ay, John Mortimer," quoth Miss Christie, with an audacious twinkle in
her eyes, "I'm no that clear that I don't deserve all the pain I've got
for my sins against ye."
"Against me!" exclaimed John, amazed.
"Some very bad advice I gave ye, John," she continued, while Miss
Fairbairn, a little surprised, looked on.
"Make your mind easy," John answered with mock gravity, for he knew
well enough what she meant. "I never follow bad advice. I promise not to
"What was your advice, dear?" asked Miss Fairbairn sweetly, her golden
head within a yard of John's as she stooped forward. "I wonder you
should have ventured to give advice to such a man as Mr. Mortimer.
People always seem to think that in any matter of consequence they are
lucky if they can get advice from him."
John drew a long breath, and experienced a strong sense of compunction;
but Miss Christie was merely relieved, and she began to talk with deep
interest about the new governess and the new housekeeper.
Miss Fairbairn brought John down again as soon as she could, and took
the opportunity to engage his attention on the stairs, by asking him a
question on some political subject that really interested him; and he,
like a straightforward man, falling into the trap, began to give her his
views respecting it.
But as he opened the drawing-room door for her, his three children, who
all this time had been in the garden, came running in at the window, and
before he and Miss Fairbairn were seated, his two little boys, treading
on Mrs. Walker's crape, were thrusting some large handfuls of flowers
almost into her face, while Anastasia emptied a lapful on to her knees.
Emily accepted them graciously.
"And so," little Hugh exclaimed, "as father said we were not to have the
gardens, we thought we had better gather all the flowers, because _they_
are our own, you know," he proceeded; "for we bought most of the bulbs
with our own money; and they're all for you."
Hyacinths, narcissus, wallflowers, polyanthus, they continued to be held
up for her inspection.
"And you'll let us put them in water ourselves, won't you?" said
"Yes, she will, Bertie," cried Hugh.
"Don't tread on Mrs. Walker's dress," John began, and the sprites, as
if in ready obedience, were off in an instant; but in reality they were
gone to find vases for the flowers, Emily looking up with all composure,
though a good deal of scrambling and arguing were heard through the open
"We found these in the pantry," exclaimed the two little boys,
returning, each with a dish in his hand. "Nancy wanted to get some
water, but we wouldn't let her."
"Come here," exclaimed John with gravity; "come here, and shut the door.
Emily, I brought these imps on purpose to apologize for their high
Thereupon the two little boys blushed and hung their heads. It was
nothing to have taken the garden, but it daunted them to have to
acknowledge the fault. Before they had said a word, however, a shrill
little voice cried out behind them--
"But I can't do my _apologize_ yet, father, because I've got a pin in my
cape, and it pricks, and somebody must take it out."
"I cannot get the least pretence of penitence out of any one of them,"
exclaimed John, unable to forbear laughing. "I must make the apology
myself, Emily. I am very much afraid that these gardens were taken
without leave; they were not given at all."
"I have heard you say more than once," answered Emily, with an easy
smile, "that it is the privilege of the giver to forget. I never had a
very good memory."
"But they confessed themselves that they _took_ them."
"Well, John, then if you said they were to apologize," answered Emily,
giving them just the shadow of a smile, "of course they must;" and so
they did, the little boys with hot blushes and flashing eyes, the little
girl with innocent unconsciousness of shame. Then "Mrs. Nemily" rather
spoilt the dignity of the occasion by taking her up and kissing her;
upon which the child inquired in a loud whisper--
"But now we've done our _apologize_, we may keep our gardens, mayn't
At this neither she nor John could help laughing.
"You may, if papa has no objection," said Emily, suddenly aware of a
certain set look about Miss Fairbairn's lips, and a glance of reproof,
almost of anguish, from her stern blue eye.
Miss Fairbairn had that morning tasted the sweetness of hope, and she
now experienced a sharp pang of jealousy when she saw the children
hanging about Emily with familiar friendliness, treading on her tucks,
whispering confidences in her ears, and putting their flowers on the
clean chintz of her ottomans. These things Justina would have found
intolerable if done to herself, unless in their father's presence. Even
then she would have only welcomed them for the sake of diverting them
She felt sure that at first all had been as she hoped, and as it ought
to be; and she could not refrain from darting a glance of reproof at
Emily. She even felt as if it was wrong of John to be thus beguiled into
turning away when he ought to have been cultivating his acquaintance
with her mind and character. It was still more wrong of Emily to be
attracting his notice and drawing him away from his true place, his
interest, and now almost his duty.
Emily, with instant docility, put the little Anastasia down and took up
her knitting, while Miss Fairbairn, suddenly feigning a great interest
in horticulture, asked after John's old gardener, who she heard had just
taken another prize.
"The old man is very well," said John, "and if you and Mrs. Walker would
come over some morning, I am sure he would be proud to show you the
Miss Fairbairn instantly accepted the proposal.
"I always took an interest in that old man," she observed; "he is so
"Yes, he is," said John.
"But at what time of day are you generally at home," she continued, not
observing, or perhaps not intending to observe that the flowers could
have been shown during their owner's absence. "At luncheon time, or at
John, thus appealed to, paused an instant; he had never thought of
coming home to entertain the ladies, but he could not be inhospitable,
and he concluded that the mistake was real. "At luncheon time," he
presently said, and named a day when he would be at home, being very
careful to address the invitation to Mrs. Walker.
He then retired with his children, who were now in very good spirits;
they gave their hands to Justina, who would have liked to kiss them, but
the sprites skipped away in their father's wake, and while he walked
home, lost in thought on grave and serious things, they broke in every
now and then with their childish speculations on life and manners.
"Swanny must put on his Sunday coat when they come, and his orange
handkerchief that Janie hemmed for him because Mrs. Swan's fingers are
all crumpled up," said the little girl.
"Father, what's a Methodist?" asked Hugh.
Before John could answer little Bertram informed his brother, "It is a
thing about not going to church. It has nothing to do with her fingers
being crumpled up, that's rheumatism."
SELF-WONDER AND SELF-SCORN.
"Something there is moves me to love, and I
Do know I love, but know not how, nor why."
As John and his children withdrew together through the garden, Justina
Fairbairn sat with her work on her knees, watching them.
"Mr. Mortimer is six-and-thirty, is he not?" she asked.
"Yes," answered Emily.
"How much he improves in appearance!" she observed; "he used not to be
thought handsome when he was very young--he is both handsome and stately
"It is the way with the Mortimers, I think," said Emily. "I should not
wonder if in ten years' time Val is just as majestic as the old men used
to be, though he has no dignity at all about him now."
"Yes, majesty is the right word," said Justina serenely. "Mr. Mortimer
has a finer presence, a finer carriage than formerly; it may be partly
because he is not so very thin as he used to be."
"Perhaps so," said Emily.
"And this was his first call," continued Justina, obliged to make
openings for herself through which to push what she had to say. "I
suppose, dear, you could hardly fail to notice how matters were going.
This calling at once, and his bringing the children too; and his wish
to find out my opinions, and tell me his own on various subjects."
Silence on the part of the hostess.
"I could almost have wished, dear Emily, that you had not----"
She paused. "Had not what?" asked Emily.
Miss Fairbairn remembered that she was Mrs. Walker's guest, and that it
behoved her not to offend her hostess, because she wanted to stay in
that house as long as possible. She would like to have finished her
speech thus: "that you had not engrossed the children so completely;"
but she said instead, with a little smile meant to look conscious, "I
believe I meant, dear, that I should have been very glad to talk to the
She felt that this reply fell rather flat, but she knew that Emily must
immediately be made aware of what she now hoped was really the state of
the case, and must also be made to help her.
No surprise was expressed, but Mrs. Walker did not make any reply
whatever, so she continued,--
"You look surprised, dear, but surely what I have hinted at cannot be a
new thought to you," and as it did not suit her to drop the subject yet,
she proceeded. "No, I see by your smile that it is not. I confess I
should have liked to talk to them, for," she added, with a sigh of
contentment, "the task, I see very plainly before me, is always a
difficult one to undertake."
Still Emily was silent; she seemed lost in thought; indeed, she was
considering among other things that it was little more than a year since
she and John had discussed Justina together; was there, could there
really be, anything between them now?
Justina watched her, and wished she could know what effect these hints
had taken. Emily had always behaved in such a high-minded, noble way to
her lovers, and been so generous to other women, that Justina depended
on her now. The lower nature paid homage to the higher, even to the
point of believing in a sense of honour quite alien to its own
experience. There was not the least reason to suppose that Emily cared
about John Mortimer, but she wanted her to stand aside lest he should
take it into his head to begin to care for her. So many men had been
infatuated about Emily, but Emily had never wished to rob another woman
for the mere vanity of spoliation, and Justina's opinion of her actually
was that if she could be made to believe that she, Justina, had any
rights in John Mortimer, she would not stand in her light, even though
she might have begun to think highly of his house, and his position, as
advantageous for herself. Love she did not take into her consideration,
she neither felt that nor imputed it to others.
She was thoroughly mean herself, but if Emily had done anything mean, it
would positively have shaken her faith and trust in Goodness itself. It
would actually have been bad for her, and there is no saying how much
lower she might have declined, if one of the few persons she believed in
had made a descent.
Though she thought thus of Emily, she had notwithstanding felt towards
her a kind of serene superiority, as might be felt towards one who could
only look straight before her, by one who could see round a corner; but
that morning, for the first time, she had begun to fear her, to
acknowledge a certain charm in her careless, but by no means ungracious
indifference; in her sweet, natural ways with John's children, and in
those dark lashes which clouded her soft grey eyes.
The contradictions in her face were dangerous; there was a wistful
yearning in her smile; joyous as her laugh sounded, she often put a stop
to its sudden sweetness with a sigh.
Justina felt Emily's silence very oppressive, and while it lasted she
fully expected that it would be broken at last by some important words.
Emily might tell her that she must be deceiving herself, and might be
able to give such decisive proof of the fact as would oblige her to give
up this new hope. That was what Justina feared. On the other hand, she
might show her ignorance and lighten Justina's heart by merely asking
her whether she thought she could love and bear with another woman's
children. She might even ask whether John Mortimer had made his
But no, when Emily did speak, she appeared completely to ignore these
hints, though her face retained its air of wonder and cogitation.
"By-the-bye, Justina," she said, "you put me a little out of countenance
just now. John Mortimer never meant to ask us to luncheon; I know he
seldom or ever comes home in the middle of the day."
"Are you sure of that?" said Justina.
"Quite sure; you invited yourself."
"Did I make a mistake? Well, if he did not at first intend it, he
certainly caught at the notion afterwards."
"Do you think so? I thought, on the contrary, that he spent some moments
in considering what day he could spare to come and receive us."
"Perhaps it is just as well," answered Justina; "I should have felt very
awkward going about his house and garden in his absence."
"Justina," said Emily, driven at last to front the question, "how much
do you wish me to understand?"
"Nothing at all, dear, but what you see," she replied, without lifting
her head from her work; then she added, "Do those children come here
"Two or three times a week, I think," answered Emily, with a degree of
carelessness that attracted Miss Fairbairn's attention. She had appeared
more than commonly indifferent that morning, she had hardly responded to
the loving caresses of John's children, but this had seemed to signify
nothing, they came and hung about her just the same.
"They had taken those gardens some time before I found it out," she
continued. "They run through the copses and through those three or four
fields that belong to John, and get into my garden over the
stepping-stones in the brook."
"They must feel very sure of their welcome," said Justina, rather
"Yes," answered Emily, also rather pointedly; "but I have never invited
them to come, never once; there is, as you see, no occasion."
Holding her graceful head a little higher than usual, she folded up her
now finished shawl, ran up-stairs with it to Miss Christie's room, and
was conscious almost at once (or she fancied so) that her old aunt
looked at her with a certain air of scrutiny, not unmixed with
amusement. She was relieved when she had put on her gift to hear Miss
Christie say, "Well, ye'll be glad to know that I feel more at my ease
now than I've done for some time."
There had been such an air of triumph in Miss Christie's glance that
Emily was pleased to find she was only exultant on account of her
health. She expressed her gladness, and assured the old lady she would
soon be as active as ever.
"It's no my foot I'm thinking of," answered Miss Christie, "but some bad
advice that weighed on my mind--bad advice that I've given to John
Mortimer." Thereupon she related the conversation in which she had
recommended Miss Fairbairn to him.
Emily sat very still--so still, that she hardly seemed to breathe, then,
looking up, she said, perhaps rather more calmly and quietly than was
"Several people have thought it would be a good thing for John to marry
"And I was one of them," quoth Miss Christie, her eyes sparkling with
joy and malice, "but I've thought lately that I was just mistaken," and
she presently related what had passed between her and John that
Emily's fair cheek took a slight blush-rose tint. If she felt relieved,
this did not appear; perhaps she thought, "Under like circumstances John
would speak just so of me." The old lady had been silent some moments
before Emily answered, and when she did speak she said--
"What! you and John actually joked about poor Justina in her presence,
"Did I see him in her absence?" inquired Miss Christie, excusing
herself. "I tell ye, child, I've changed my mind. John Mortimer's a
world too good for her. Aye, but he looked grand this morning."
"Yes," answered Emily, "but it is a pity he thinks all the women are in
love with him!" Then, feeling that she had been unjust, she corrected
herself, "No, I mean that he is so keenly aware how many women there are
in the neighbourhood who would gladly marry him."
"Aware!" quoth Miss Christie, instantly taking his part. "Aware, indeed!
Can he ever go out, or stop at home, that somebody doesn't try to make
him aware! Small blame to them," she added with a laugh, "few men can
hold their heads higher, either moreally or pheesically, and he has his
pockets full of money besides."
Emily got away from Miss Christie as soon as she could, put on her
bonnet, and went into the garden.
The air was soft, and almost oppressively mild, for the bracing east
wind was gone, and a tender wooing zephyr was fluttering among the
crumbled leaves, and helping them to their expansion. Before she knew
what instinct had taken her there, she found herself standing by the
four little gardens, listening to the cheerful dance of the water among
the stepping-stones, and looking at the small footsteps of the children,
which were printed all over their property.
Yes, there was no mistake about that, her empty heart had taken them in
with no thought and no fear of anything that might follow.
Only the other day and her thoughts had been as free as air, there was a
sorrowful shadow lying behind her; when she chose, she looked back into
it, recalled the confiding trust, and marital pride, and instinctive
courage of her late husband, and was sufficiently mistress of her past
to muse no more on his unopened mind, and petty ambitions, and small
range, of thought. He was gone to heaven, he could see farther now, and
as for these matters, she had hidden them; they were shut down into
night and oblivion, with the dust of what had once been a faithful
Fred Walker had been as one short-sighted, who only sees things close at
hand, but sees them clearly.
Emily was very long-sighted, but in a vast range of vision are
comprehended many things that the keenest eyes cannot wholly define, and
some that are confused with their own shadows.
Things near she saw as plainly as he had done, but the wondrous wide
distance drew her now and again away from these. The life of to-day
would sometimes spend itself in gazing over the life in her whole day.
Her life, as she felt it, yearning and passioning, would appear to
overflow the little cup of its separation, or take reflections from
other lives, till it was hardly all itself, so much as a small part of
the great whole, God's immortal child, the wonderful race of mankind,
held in the hand of its fashioner, and conscious of some yearning, the
ancient yearning towards its source.
Emily moved slowly home again, and felt rather sensitive about the
proposed luncheon at John Mortimer's house. She wished she had managed
to spare him from being obliged to give the invitation. She even
considered whether Justina could be induced to go alone. But there was
no engagement that could be pleaded as a reason for absenting herself.
What must be done was before they went, to try, without giving needless
pain, to place the matter in a truer light. This would only be fair to
Emily scarcely confessed to her own heart that she was glad of what Miss
Christie had said. She was not, from any thought that it could make the
least difference to herself, but, upon reflection, she felt ashamed of
how John Mortimer had been wooed, and of how he had betrayed by his
smile that he knew it.
That day was a Tuesday, the luncheon was to take place on Saturday, but
on Friday afternoon Emily had not found courage or occasion to speak to
her friend. The more she thought about it, the more difficult and
ungracious the matter seemed.
Such was the state of things. Miss Christie was still up-stairs, Justina
was seated at work in the drawing-room, and Emily, arrayed in a lilac
print apron, was planting some fresh ferns in her _jardiniere_ when the
door was opened, and the servant announced Mr. Mortimer. Emily was
finishing her horticulture, and was not at all the kind of person to be
put out of countenance on being discovered at any occupation that it
suited her fancy to be engaged in. She, however, blushed beautifully,
just as any other woman might have done, on being discovered in her
drawing-room so arrayed, and her hands acquainted with peat.
She presently left the room. John knew she was gone to wash her hands,
and hoped she would not stay away long. "For it won't do, my lady," he
thought, "however long you leave me. I will not make an offer to the
present candidate, that I am determined!"
In the meantime Justina, wishing to say something of Emily that would
sound amiable, and yet help her own cause, remarked pleasantly--
"Emily is a dear, careless creature--just like what she was as a girl"
(careless creatures, by the bye, are not at all suited to be
"Yes," answered John, in an abstracted tone, and as if he was not
considering Mrs. Walker's mental characteristics, which was the case,
for he was merely occupied in wishing she would return.
"But she wishes to look well, notwithstanding," continued Justina, as if
excusing her, "so no wonder she goes to divest herself of her
"Ah," said John, who was no great observer of apparel, "I thought she
was not dressed as usual;" but he added, "she is so graceful, that in
any array she cannot fail to look well."
Justina looked up feeling hurt, and also a little surprised. Here she
was, alone with John Mortimer for the first time in her life, and he was
entertaining her with the praise of another woman; but she had a great
deal of self-command, and she began almost at once to ask him some
questions about his children. She had a most excellent governess to
recommend, and was it not true that they wanted a nurse also? Yes, Mr.
Mortimer did want both, and, as Justina had been writing to every friend
she had about these functionaries, and had heard of several, she
mentioned in each case the one she thought most suitable, and John, much
pleased at the happy chance which brought such treasures before him, was
deep in conversation about them when Emily reappeared, and then, to
Justina's great annoyance, he took down two addresses, and broke off the
conversation with her instantly to say--
"Emily, I am come to make the humblest apologies possible. I find that I
am absolutely obliged to go to London to-morrow on a matter that cannot
Justina was greatly mortified, but she answered instantly, and not
"Ah, then of course you are come to put us off, Mr. Mortimer?"
There was no undue stress on the words "put us off," but they suggested
an idea to John that was new to him, and he would have felt called upon
to act upon them, and renew the invitation, if Emily had not answered
just as if she had heard not a syllable.
"We shall be sorry to miss you, John, when we come, but no doubt the
children will be at home, and the girls."
"Yes," said John, slipping into this arrangement so easily, that how
little he cared about her visit ought to have been at once made plain to
Justina. "Oh yes, and they will be so proud to entertain you. I hope you
will honour them, as was intended, by coming to lunch."
"Yes, to be sure," Emily answered with readiness. "I hope the auriculas
will not have begun to fade, they are Miss Fairbairn's favourite
Then, to the intense mortification of Justina, John changed the subject,
as if it had been one of no moment to him. "I have been over to
Wigfield-house this afternoon to pay my respects to Mrs. Brandon and her
"You found them well, I know, for we were there this morning."
"Perfectly well," said John, and he laughed. "Giles was marching about
in the garden with that astonishing infant lying flat on his arm, and
with its long robes dangling down. Dorothea (come out, I was told, for
the first time) was walking beside him, and looking like a girl of
sixteen. I believe when I approached they were discussing to what
calling in life they would bring up the youngster. I was desired to
remark his uncommon likeness to his father; told that he was considered
a very fine child, and I should have had the privilege of looking at his
little downy black head, but his mother decided not to accord it, lest
he should take cold."
"And so you laugh at her maternal folly," said Justina smiling, but not
displeased at what sounded like disparagement of an attractive young
"I laugh at it?--yes! but as a man who feels that it is the one lovely
folly of the world. Who could bear to think of all that childhood
demands of womanhood, if he did not bear in mind the sweet delusive
glamour that washes every woman's eyes ere she catches sight of the
small mortal sent to be her charge."
Then Justina, who had found a few moments for recovering herself and
deciding how to act, took the conversation again into her own hands, and
very soon, in spite of Emily, who did not dare to interfere again, John
Mortimer was brought quite naturally and inevitably to add to the desire
that they would the next day visit his children, an invitation to
luncheon after he should have returned.
"But it must not be this day week," she observed with quiet complacency,
"for that is to be the baby's christening day, and I am asked to be his
Emily could not forbear to look up; John's face was quite a study. He
had just been asked to stand for the child, had consented, and whom he
might have for companions he had not thought of asking.
"It will be the first anniversary of their wedding," said Emily by way
of saying something, for John's silence began to be awkward.
Mrs. Brandon, having been charmed with the sensible serenity of Miss
Fairbairn's conversation, and with the candour and straightforwardness
that distinguished her, had cultivated her acquaintance with assiduity,
and was at that moment thinking how fortunate she was in her baby's
When Justina found that John Mortimer was to be present at this
christening, and in such a capacity too, she accomplished the best blush
her cheek had worn for years. It was almost like an utterance, so
completely did it make her feelings known. As for John, he had very
seldom in his life looked as foolish as he did then.
Why had he been asked together with Miss Fairbairn? Whatever he might
have thought concerning her, his thought was his own; he had never made
it manifest by paying her the least attention. He did not like her now
so well as he might have done, if he had not tried and failed to make
himself like her more. She was almost the only woman now concerning whom
he felt strongly that she would not do for him. Surely people did not
think he had any intentions towards her. He sat silent and discomfited
till Emily, again quite aware of his feelings, and sure he wanted to go,
made the opportunity for him, helped him to take advantage of it, and
received a somewhat significant smile of thanks as he departed.
"Emily," exclaimed Justina, as soon as the door was shut, "what can you
be thinking of? You almost dismissed Mr. Mortimer! Surely, surely you
cannot wish to prevent his coming here to see me."
Justina spoke with a displeasure that she hardly cared to moderate.
Emily stood listening till she was sure John Mortimer had left her
house, then she said something that was meant to serve for an answer,
got away as soon as she could, ran up-stairs, hurried to her own room,
and locked the door.
"Not alone!" was her first startled thought, but it was so
instantaneously corrected that it had scarcely time to shape itself into
words. The large cheval glass had been moved by her own orders, and as
she stood just within the door, it sent back her image to her, reflected
from head to foot.
She advanced gazing at herself, at the rich folds of her black silk gown
made heavy with crape, and at the frail gossamer she carried on her
head, and which, as she came on, let its long appendages float out like
pennons in her wake. Emily had such a high, almost fantastic notion of
feminine dignity (fantastic because it left too much out of view that
woman also is a human creature), that till this day it might almost have
been said she had not taken even her own self into her confidence. She
hardly believed it, and it seems a pity to tell.
Her eyes flashed with anger, while she advanced, as if they would defy
the fair widow coming on in those seemly weeds.
"How dare you blush?" she cried out almost aloud. "Only a year and a
fortnight ago kneeling by his coffin--how dare you blush? I scorn you!"
She put her hands to her throat, conscious of that nervous rising which
some people call a ball in it; then she sat down full in view of
herself, and felt as if she should choke. She was so new to the powerful
fetters that had hold of her, were dragging her on, frightening her,
Was she never to do or to be any more what she chose--never to know the
rest and sweetness of forgetting even for a little while? Why must she
be mastered by a voice that did not care at all whether its cadence and
its fall were marked by her or not? Why must she tremble and falter even
in her prayer, if a foot came up the aisle that she could not bear to
miss, and yet that was treading down, and doomed, if this went on, to
tread down all reviving joy, and every springtide flower that was
budding in her heart?
"No more to be kept back than the rising of the tide"--these were her
words--"but, oh, not foreseen as that is, and not to go down any more."
She almost raged against herself. How could she have come there--how
could she, why had she never considered what might occur? Then she shed
a few passionate tears. "Is it really true, Justina Fairbairn's would-be
rival? And neither of us has the slightest chance in the world. Oh, oh,
if anything--anything that ever was or could be, was able to work a
cure, it would be what I have seen twice this week. It would be to watch
another woman making a fool of herself to win his favour, and to see him
smile and know it. Oh, this is too miserable, far too humiliating. The
other day, when he came, I cared so little; to-day I could hardly look
him in the face."
Then she considered a little longer, and turned impatiently from her
image in the glass.
"Why, I have known him all my life, and never dreamed of such a thing!
But for that rainy Sunday three weeks ago, I never might have done. Oh,
this must be a mere fancy. While I talked to him I felt that it ought to
be--that it was. Yes, it is."
Her eyes wandered over the lawn. She could see the edges of those little
gardens. She had looked at them of late more often than was prudent.
"Darlings!" she whispered with such a heartsick sigh, "how keenly I
loved them for the sake of my little lost treasure, before ever I
noticed their beautiful likeness to their father--no, that's a mistake.
I say it is--I mean to break away from it. And even if it was none,
after the lesson I have had to-day, it must and shall be a mistake for
THAT RAINY SUNDAY.
"He hath put the world in their hearts."
This is how that had come about which was such a trouble and oppression
Emily was walking to church on a Sunday morning, just three weeks before
John Mortimer's first call upon her.
Her little nephew, Dorothea's child, was four days old. He had spent
many of his new-found hours sleeping in her arms, while she cherished
him with a keen and painful love, full of sweet anguish and unsatisfied
The tending of this small life, which in some sort was to be a
plenishing for her empty heart, had, however, made her more fully alive
than usual to the loneliness of her lot, and as she walked on through a
fir-wood, in the mild weather, everything seemed also to be more alive,
waking, and going to change. The lights that slanted down were more
significant. The little shaded hollows were more pathetic, but on the
whole it seemed as if the best part of the year was coming on for the
world. It made her heart ache to feel or fancy how glad the world was,
and how the open sky laughed down upon it in helpful sympathy. The old
question presents itself over and over again to be answered,--What is it
that gives us so much joy in looking at earth and air and water?
We love a landscape, but not merely because remoteness makes blue the
distant hills, as if the sky itself having come down, we could look
through a portion of it, as through a veil. It is not the vague
possibility of what may be shrouded in the blue that stirs our hearts.
We know that if we saw it close it would be set full of villages, and
farmhouses, lanes and orchards, and furrowed fields; no other, and not
fairer than we have near.
Is it what we impart, or impute to nature from ourselves, that we
chiefly lean upon? or does she truly impart of what is really in her to
What delight we find in her action, what sentiment in her rest! What
passion we impute to her changes, what apathy of a satisfying calming
sort to her decline!
If one of us could go to another world, and be all alone in it, perhaps
that world would appear to be washed perfectly clean of all this kind of
beauty, though it might in itself and for itself be far more beautiful
Who has not felt delight in the grand movements of a thunder-storm, when
the heavens and earth come together, and have it out, and seem to feel
the better for it afterwards, as if they had cleared off old scores? The
sight of noble wrath, and vehement action, cannot only nerve the
energetic; they can comfort those obliged to be still. There is so
little these may do, but the elements are up and doing; and they are in
some sort theirs.
And who does not like to watch the stately white cloud lying becalmed
over the woods, and waiting in a rapture of rest for a wind to come and
float it on? Yet we might not have cared to see the cloud take her rest,
but for the sweetness of rest to ourselves. The plough turned over on
one side under a hedge, while the ploughman rests at noon, might hint to
us what is the key-note of that chord which makes us think the rest of
the cloud so fair.
If the splendour of some intense passion had never suddenly glorified
the spread-out ether of time in which our spirits float, should we feel
such a strange yearning on looking at a sunset, with its tender
preliminary flush, and then the rapid suffusions of scarlet and growth
of gold? If it is not ourselves that we look at then, it is at one of
the tokens and emblems which claim a likeness with us, a link to hold us
up to the clear space that washes itself so suddenly in an elixir costly
as the golden chances of youth, and the crimson rose of love. With what
a sigh, even youth itself will mark that outpouring of coloured glory!
It whelms the world and overcomes the sky, and then, while none
withstand it, and all is its own, it will change as if wearied, and on a
sudden be over; or with pathetic withdrawal faint slowly away.
Her apathy, too--her surrender, when she has had everything, and felt
the toil in it, and found the hurry of living. The young seldom perceive
the apathy of nature; eyes that are enlightened by age can often see her
quiet in the autumn, folding up her best things, as they have done, and
getting ready to put them away under the snow. They both expect the
Emily was thinking some such thoughts as these while she walked on to
the small country church alone. She went in. This was the first Sunday
after the funeral of old Augustus Mortimer. A glance showed her that
John was at church, sitting among his children.
The Mortimers were much beloved thereabout. This was not the place where
the old man had worshipped, but a kindly feeling towards his son had
induced the bringing out of such black drapery as the little church
possessed. It was hung round the pulpit, and about the wall at the back
of his pew; and as he sat upright, perfectly still, and with his face
set into a grave, immobile expression, the dark background appeared to
add purity to the fair clear tints of his hair and complexion, and make
every line of his features more distinct.
And while she looked from time to time at this face, the same thing
occurred to her, as does to us in looking at nature; either she
perceived something she had never known of or looked for before, or she
imparted to his manhood something from the tenderness of her womanhood,
and mourned with him and for him.
For this was what she saw, that in spite of the children about him (all
in deep mourning), his two tall young daughters and his sweet little
girls and boys, there was a certain air of isolation about him, a sort
of unconsciousness of them all as he towered above them, which gave him
a somewhat desolate effect of being alone. The light striking down upon
his head and the mourning drapery behind him, made every shadow of a
change more evident. She knew how the withdrawal of this old father
weighed on his heart, and his attitude was so unchanging, and his
expression so guarded, that she saw he was keeping watch over his
self-possession, and holding it well in hand.
All this appeared so evident to her that she was relieved, as the
service went on, to find him still calm and able to command himself, and
keep down any expression of trouble and pain. He began to breathe more
freely too; but Emily felt that he would not meet any eyes that day, and
she looked at him and his children many times.
In the middle of the sermon a dark cloud came over, and before the
service was finished it poured with rain. Emily was not going back to
her brother's house; she had only the short distance to traverse that
led to her own, and she did not intend to speak to the Mortimers; so she
withdrew into the porch, to wait there till they should have passed out
by the little door they generally used. They scarcely ever had out a
carriage on Sunday, for John preserved many of his father's habits,
without, in all cases, holding the opinions which had led to them.
That day, however, the servants brought a carriage, and as the little
girls were carried to it under umbrellas they caught sight of Emily, and
to her annoyance, she presently saw John advancing to her. She had
already begun to walk when he met her, and, sheltering her with his
umbrella, proposed to take her home in the carriage; but she declined;
she felt the oppression and sadness of his manner, and knew he did not
want her company. "I would much rather walk," she declared.
"Would you?" he said, and waved to the men to take the carriage on.
"Well, it is not far;" and he proceeded to conduct her. Indeed there was
nothing else for him to do, for she could not hold up her umbrella. He
gave her his arm, and for two or three minutes the wind and the rain
together made her plenty of occupation; but when they got under the
shelter of the cliff-like rock near her house she felt the silence
oppressive, and thinking that nothing to the purpose, nothing touching
on either his thoughts or her own, would be acceptable, she said, by way
of saying something,--
"And so Valentine is gone! Has he written from Melcombe to you, John?"
"No," John answered, and added, after another short silence, "I feel the
loss of his company; it leaves me the more alone."
Then, to her surprise, he began at once to speak of this much-loved old
man, and related two or three little evidences of his kindness and
charity that she liked to hear, and that it evidently was a relief to
him to tell. She was just the kind of woman unconsciously to draw forth
confidences, and to reward them. Something poignant in his feeling was
rather set forth than concealed by his sober, self-restrained ways and
quiet words; it suited Emily, and she allowed herself to speak with that
tender reverence of the dead which came very well from her, since she
had loved him living so well. She was rather eloquent when her feelings
were touched, and then she had a sweet and penetrative voice. John liked
to hear her; he recalled her words when he had parted with her at her
own door, and felt that no one else had said anything of his father that
was half so much to his mind. It was nearly four weeks after this that
Emily fully confessed to herself what had occurred.
The dinner, after John Mortimer withdrew that day and Emily made to
herself this confession, was happily relieved by the company of three or
four neighbours, otherwise the hostess might have been made to feel very
plainly that she had displeased her guest. But the next morning Justina,
having had time to consider that Emily must on no account be annoyed,
came down all serenity and kindliness. She was so attentive to the lame
old aunt, and though the poor lady, being rather in pain, was decidedly
snappish, she did not betray any feeling of disapproval.
"Ay," said Miss Christie to herself when the two ladies had set off on
their short walk, "yon's not so straightforward and simple as I once
thought her. Only give her a chance, and as sure as death she'll get
hold of John, after all."
Emily and Justina went across the fields and came to John's garden, over
the wooden bridge that spanned the brook.
The sunny sloping garden was full of spring flowers. Vines, not yet in
leaf, were trained all over the back of the house, clematis and jasmine,
climbing up them and over them, were pouring themselves down again in
great twisted strands; windows peeped out of ivy, and the old red-tiled
roof, warm and mossy, looked homely and comfortable. A certain air of
old-fashioned, easy comfort pervaded the whole place; large bay windows,
with little roofs of their own, came boldly forth, and commanded a good
view of other windows--ivied windows that retired unaccountably. There
were no right lines. Casements at one end of the house showed in three
tiers, at the other there were but two. The only thing that was
perfectly at ease about itself, and quite clear that it ought to be
seen, was the roof. You could not possibly make a "stuck-up" house, or a
smart villa, or a modern family house of one that had a roof like that.
The late Mrs. Mortimer had wished it could be taken away. She would have
liked the house to be higher and the roof lower. John, on the other
hand, delighted in his roof, and also in his stables, the other
remarkable feature of the place.
As the visitors advanced, children's voices greeted them; the little
ones were running in and out; they presently met and seized Mrs. Walker,
dancing round her, and leading her in triumph into the hall. Then
Justina observed a good-sized doll, comfortably put to bed on one of the
hall chairs, and tightly tucked up in some manifest pinafores; near it
stood a child's wheel-barrow, half full of picture-books. "I shall not
allow that sort of litter here when I come, as I hope and trust I soon
shall do," thought Justina. "Children's toys are all very well in their
Then Justina, who had never been inside the house before, easily induced
the children to take her from room to room, of those four which were
thoroughfares to one another. Her attentive eyes left nothing unnoticed,
the fine modern water-colour landscapes on the walls of one, the
delicate inlaid cabinets in another. Then a library, with a capital
billiard-table, and lastly John's den. There was something about all
these rooms which seemed to show the absence of a woman. They were not
untidy, but in the drawing-room was John's great microscope, with the
green-shaded apparatus for lighting it; the books also from the library
had been allowed to overflow into it, and encroach upon all the tables.
The dining-room alone was as other people's dining-rooms, but John's
own den was so very far gone in originality and strangeness of litter,
that Justina felt decidedly uneasy when she saw it; it made manifest to
her that her hoped-for spouse was not the manner of man whom she could
expect to understand; books also here had accumulated, and stood in rows
on chairs and tables and shelves; pipes were lying on the stone
chimneypiece, sharing it with certain old and new, beautiful and ugly
bronzes; long papers of genealogies and calculations in John's
handwriting were pinned against the walls; various broken bits of
Etruscan pottery stood on brackets here and there. It seemed to be the
owner's habit to pin his lucubrations about the place, for here was a
vocabulary of strange old Italian words, with their derivations, there a
list of peculiarities and supposed discoveries in an old Norse dialect.
Emily in the meantime had noticed the absence of the twins; it was not
till lunch was announced, and she went back into the dining-room that
she saw them, and instantly was aware that something was amiss.
Justina advanced to them first, and the two girls, with a shyness very
unusual with them, gave her their hands, and managed, but not without
difficulty, to escape a kinder salutation.
And then they both came and kissed Emily, and began to do the honours of
their father's table. There was something very touching to her in that
instinct of good breeding which kept them attentive to Miss Fairbairn,
while a sort of wistful sullenness made the rosy lips pout, and their
soft grey eyes twinkle now and then with half-formed tears.
Justina exerted herself to please, and Emily sat nearly silent. She saw
very plainly that from some cause or other the girls were looking with
dread and dislike on Justina as a possible step-mother. The little ones
were very joyous, very hospitable and friendly, but nothing could warm
the cold shyness of Gladys and Barbara. They could scarcely eat
anything; they had nothing to say.
It seemed as if, whatever occurred, Justina was capable of construing it
into a good omen. Somebody must have suggested to these girls that their
father meant to make her his second wife. What if he had done it
himself? Of course, under the circumstances, her intelligence could not
fail to interpret aright those downcast eyes, those reluctant answers,
and the timid, uncertain manner that showed plainly they were afraid of
her. They did not like the notion, of course, of what she hoped was
before them. That was nothing; so, as they would not talk, she began to
devote herself to the younger children, and with them she got on
Emily's heart yearned with a painful pity that returned upon herself
over the two girls. She saw in what light they regarded the thought of a
stepmother. Her heart ached to think that she had not the remotest
chance of ever standing in such a relation towards them. Yet, in despite
of that, she was full of tender distress when she considered that if
such a blissful possibility could ever draw near, the love of all these
children would melt away. The elder ones would resent her presence, and
teach the younger to read all the writing of her story the wrong way.
They would feel her presence their division from the father whom they
loved. They would brood with just that same sullen love and pouting
tenderness--they would pity, their father just the same, whoever wore
his ring, and reigned over them in his stead.
Emily, as she hearkened to Justina's wise and kindly talk, so well
considered and suitable for the part she hoped to play--Emily began to
pity John herself. She wanted something so much better for him. She
reflected that she would gladly be the governess there, as she could not
be the wife, if that would save John from throwing himself into
matrimony for his children's sake; and yet had she not thought a year
ago that Justina was quite good enough for him? Ah, well! but she had
not troubled herself then to learn the meaning of his voice, and look so
much as once into the depths of his eyes.
Lunch was no sooner over than the children were eager to show the
flowers, and all went out. Barbara and Gladys followed, and spoke when
appealed to; but they were not able to control their shoulders so well
as they did their tongues. Young girls, when reluctant to do any
particular thing, often find their shoulders in the way. These useful,
and generally graceful, portions of the human frame appear on such
occasions to feel a wish to put themselves forward, as if to bear the
brunt of it, and their manner is to do this edgeways.
Emily heard Justina invited to see the rabbits and all the other pets,
and knew she would do so, and also manage to make the children take her
over the whole place, house included. She, however, felt a shrinking
from this inspection, an unwonted diffidence and shyness made her almost
fancy it would be taking a liberty. Not that John would think so. Oh,
no; he would never think about it.
They soon went to look at the flowers; and there was old Swan ready to
exhibit and set off their good points.
"And so you had another prize, Nicholas. I congratulate you," remarked
"Well, yes, ma'am, I had another. I almost felt, if I failed, it would
serve me right for trying too often. I said it was not my turn. 'Turn,'
said the umpire; 'it's merit we go by, not turn, Mr. Swan,' said he."
"And poor Raby took a prize again, I hear," said Emily. "That man seems
to be getting on, Swan."
"He does, ma'am; he's more weak than wicked, that man is. You can't make
him hold up his head; and he's allers contradicting himself. He promised
his vote last election to both sides. 'Why,' said I, 'what's the good
of that, William? Folks'll no more pay you for your words when you've
eaten them than they will for your bacon.' But that man really couldn't
make up his mind which side should bribe him. Still, William Raby is
getting on, I'm pleased to say."
Justina had soon seen the flowers enough, and Emily could not make up
her mind to inspect anything else. She therefore returned towards the
library, and Barbara walked silently beside her.
As she stepped in at the open window, a sound of sobbing startled her.
An oil painting, a portrait of John in his boyhood, hung against the
wall. Gladys stood with her face leaning against one of the hands that
hung down. Emily heard her words distinctly: "Oh, papa! Oh, papa! Oh, my
father beloved!" but the instant she caught the sound of footsteps, she
darted off like a frightened bird, and fled away without even looking
Then the twin sister turned slowly, and looked at Emily with entreating
eyes, saying--"Is it true, Mrs. Walker? Dear Mrs. Walker, is it really
Emily felt cold at heart. How could she tell? John's words went for
nothing; Miss Christie might have mistaken them. She did not pretend to
misunderstand, but said she did not know; she had no reason to think it
"But everybody says so," sighed Barbara.
"If your father has said nothing--" Emily began.
"No," she answered; her father had said nothing at all; but the mere
mention of his name seemed to overcome her.
Emily sat down, talked to her, and tried to soothe her; but she had no
distinct denial to give, and in five minutes Barbara, kneeling before
her, was sobbing on her bosom, and bemoaning herself as if she would
break her heart.
Truly the case of a step-mother is hard.
Emily leaned her cheek upon the young upturned forehead. She faltered a
little as she spoke. If her father chose to marry again, had he not a
right? If she loved him, surely she wanted him to be--happy.
"But she is a nasty, nasty thing," sobbed Barbara, with vehement
heavings of the chest and broken words, "and--and--I am sure I hate her,
and so does Gladys, and so does Johnnie too." Then her voice softened
again--"Oh, father, father! I would take such care of the little ones if
you wouldn't do it! and we would never, never quarrel with the
governesses, or make game of them any more."
Emily drew her yet nearer to herself, and said in the stillest, most
"Of course you know that you are a very naughty girl, my sweet."
"Yes," said Barbara ruefully.
"And very silly too," she continued; but there was something so tender
and caressing in her manner, that the words sounded like anything but a
"I don't think I am silly," said Barbara.
"Yes, you are, if you are really making yourself miserable about an idle
rumour, and nothing more."
"But everybody says it is true. Why, one of Johnnie's schoolfellows, who
has some friends near here, told him every one was talking of it."
"Well, my darling," said Emily with a sigh, "but even if it is true, the
better you take it, the better it will be for you; and you don't want to
make your father miserable?"
"No," said the poor child naively; "and we've been so good--so very
good--since we heard it. But it is so horrid to have a step-mother! I
told you papa had never said anything; but he did say once to Gladys
that he felt very lonely now Grand was gone. He said that he felt the
loss of mamma."
She dried her eyes and looked up as she said these words, and Emily felt
a sharp pang of pity for John. He must be hard set indeed for help and
love and satisfying companionship if he was choosing to suppose that he
had buried such blessings as these with the wife of his youth.
"Oh!" said Barbara, with a weary sigh, "Johnnie does so hate the thought
of it! He wrote us such a furious letter. What was my mother like, dear
Mrs. Walker? It's so hard that we cannot remember her."
Emily looked down at Barbara's dark hair and lucid blue-grey eyes, at
the narrow face and pleasant rosy mouth.
"Your mother was like you--to look at," she answered.
She felt obliged to put in those qualifying words, for Janie Mortimer
had given her face to her young daughter; but the girl's passionate
feelings and yearning love, and even, as it seemed, pity for her father
and herself, had all come from the other side of the house.
Barbara rose when she heard this, and stood up, as if to be better seen
by her who had spoken what she took for such appreciative words, and
Emily felt constrained to take the dead mother's part, and say what it
was best for her child to hear.
"Barbara, no one would have been less pleased than your mother at your
all setting yourselves against this. Write and tell Johnnie so, will
you, my dear?"
Barbara looked surprised.
"She was very judicious, very reasonable; it is not on her account at
all that you need resent your father's intention--if, indeed, he has
such an intention."
"But Johnnie remembers her very well," said Barbara, not at all pleased,
"and she was very sweet and very delightful, and that's why he does
resent it so much."
"If I am to speak of her as she was, I must say that is a state of
feeling she would not have approved of, or even cared about."
"Not cared that father should love some one else!"
The astonishment expressed in the young, childlike face daunted Emily
for the moment.
"She would have cared for your welfare. You had better think of her as
wishing that her children should always be very dear to their father, as
desirous that they should not set themselves against his wishes, and vex
and displease him."
"Then I suppose I'd better give you Johnnie's letter," said Barbara,
"because he is so angry--quite furious, really." She took out a letter,
and put it into Emily's hand. "Will you burn it when you go home? but,
Mrs. Walker, will you read it first, because then you'll see that
Johnnie does love father--and dear mamma too."
Voices were heard now and steps on the gravel. Barbara took up her
eyeglass, and moved forward; then, when she saw Justina, she retreated
to Emily's side with a gesture of discomfiture and almost of disgust.
"Any step-mother at all," she continued, "Johnnie says, he hates the
thought of; but that one--Oh!"
"What a lesson for me!" thought Emily; and she put the letter in her
"It's very rude," whispered Barbara; "but you mustn't mind that;" and
with a better grace than could have been expected she allowed Justina to
kiss her, and the two ladies walked back through the fields, the younger
children accompanying them nearly all the way home.
MRS. BRANDON ASKS A QUESTION.
"Your baby-days flowed in a much-troubled channel;
I see you as then in your impotent strife,
A tight little bundle of wailing and flannel,
Perplexed with that newly-found fardel call'd life."
John Mortimer was the last guest to make his appearance on the morning
of the christening. He found the baby, who had been brought down to be
admired, behaving scandalously, crying till he was crimson in the face,
and declining all his aunt's loving persuasions to him to go to sleep.
Emily was moving up and down the drawing-room, soothing and cherishing
him in her arms, assuring him that this was his sleepy time, and shaking
and patting him as is the way of those who are cunning with babies. But
all was in vain. He was carried from his father's house in a storm of
indignation, and from time to time he repeated his protest against
things in general till the service was over.
Some of the party walked home to the house. Justina lingered, hastened,
and accosted John Mortimer. But all in vain; he kept as far as possible
from her, while Emily, who had gone forward, very soon found him close
at her side.
"Madam," he said, "I shall have the honour of taking you in to luncheon.
Did you know it?"
"No, John," she answered, laughing because he did, and feeling as if the
occasion had suddenly become more festive, though she knew some
explanation must be coming.
"I shall easily find an opportunity," he said, "of telling St. George
what I have done. I went through the dining-room and saw the names on
the plates, and I took the liberty to change one or two. You can sit by
the curate at any time. In fact, I should think old friendship and a
kind heart might make you prefer to sit by me. Say that they do, Mrs.
"They do," answered Emily. "But your reason, John?"
"That little creature is a match-maker. Why must she needs give me the
"Oh, she did? Perhaps it was because she thought you would expect it."
"Expect it! _I_ expect it? No; I am in the blessed case of him who
expects nothing, and who therefore cannot be disappointed. I always
thought you were my friends, all of you."
"So we are, John; you know we are."
"Then how can you wish such a thing for me? Emily, you cannot think how
utterly tired I am of being teased about that woman--that lady. And now
St. George has begun to do it. I declare, if I cannot put a stop to it
in any other way, I'll do it by marrying somebody else."
"That is indeed a fearful threat, John," said Emily, "and meant, no
doubt, to show that you have reached the last extremity of earnestness."
"Which is a condition you will never reach," said John, laughing, and
lapsing into the old intimate fashion with her. "It is always your way
to slip into things easily."
John and Emily had walked on, and believed themselves to be well in
front, and out of hearing of the others; but when the right time has
come for anything to be found out, what is the use of trying to keep it
hidden? Justina, seeing her opportunity, went forward just as Brandon
drew the rest of the party aside to look at some rather rare ferns,
whose curled-up fronds, like little crosiers, were showing on the sandy
bank. She drew on, and one more step would have brought her even with
them, when John Mortimer uttered the words--
"If I cannot put a stop to it in any other way, I'll do it by marrying
Justina stopped and stooped instantly, as if to gather some delicate
leaves of silver-weed that grew in the sand; and Emily, who had caught
her step, turned for one instant, and saw her without being perceived.
Justina knew what these words meant, and stood still arranging her
leaves, to let them pass on and the others come up. Soon after which
they all merged into one group. John gave his arm to Mrs. Henfrey, and
Emily, falling behind, began to consider how much Justina had heard, and
what she would do.
Now Dorothea had said in the easiest way possible to Justina, "I shall
ask our new clergyman to take Emily in to luncheon, and Mr. Mortimer to
take you." Justina knew now that the game was up; she was not quick of
perception, but neither was she vacillating. When once she had decided
on any course, she never had the discomfort of wishing afterwards that
she had done otherwise. There was undoubtedly a rumour going about to
the effect that John Mortimer liked her, and was "coming forward." No
one knew better than herself and her mother how this rumour had been
wafted on, and how little there was in it. "Yet," she reflected, "it was
my best chance. It was necessary to put it into his head somehow to
think about me in such a light; but that others have thought too much
and said too much, it might have succeeded. What I should like best
now," she further considered, pondering slowly over the words in her
mind, "would be to have people say that I have refused him."
She had reached this point when Emily joined her walking silently
beside her, that she might not appear companionless. Emily was full of
pity for her, in spite of the lightening of her own heart. People who
have nothing to hope best know what a lifting of the cloud it is to have
also nothing to fear.
The poetical temperament of Emily's mind made her frequently change
places with others, and, indeed, become in thought those others--fears,
feelings, and all.
"What are you crying for, Emily?" her mother had once said to her, when
she was a little child.
"I'm not Emily now," she answered; "I'm the poor little owl, and I can't
help crying because that cruel Smokey barked at me and frightened me,
and pulled several of my best feathers out."
And now, just the same, Emily was Justina, and such thoughts as Justina
might be supposed to be thinking passed through Emily's mind somewhat in
"No; it is not at all fair! I have been like a ninepin set up in the
game of other people's lives, only to be knocked down again; and yet
without me the game could not have been played. Yes; I have been made
useful, for through me other people have unconsciously set him against
matrimony. If they would but have let him alone"--(Oh, Justina! how can
you help thinking now?)--"I could have managed it, if I might have had
all the game to myself."
Next to the power of standing outside one's self, and looking at _me_ as
other folks see me, the most remarkable is this of (by the insight of
genius and imagination) becoming _you_. The first makes one sometimes
only too reasonable, too humble; the second warms the heart and enriches
the soul, for it gives the charms of selfhood to beings not ourselves.
"Yet it is a happy thing for some of us," thought Emily, finishing her
cogitations in her own person, "that the others are not allowed to play
all the game themselves."
When Brandon got home John saw his wife quietly look at him. "Now what
does that mean?" he thought; "it was something more than mere observance
of his entering. Those two have means of transport for their thoughts
past the significance of words. Yes, I'm right; she goes into the
dining-room, and he will follow her. Have they found it out?"
All the guests were standing in a small morning-room, taking coffee; and
Brandon presently walking out of the French window into the garden, came
up to the dining-room outside. There was Dorothea.
"Love," she said, looking out, "what do you think? Some of these names
have been changed."
"Perhaps a waft of wind floated them off the plates," said Brandon,
climbing in over the window-ledge, "and the servants restored them
amiss. But, Mrs. Brandon, don't you think if that baby of yours squalls
again after lunch, he had better drink his own health himself somewhere
else? I say, how nice you look, love!--I like that gown."
"He must come in, St. George; but do attend to business--look!"
"Whew!" exclaimed Brandon, having inspected the plates; "it must have
been a very intelligent waft of wind that did this."
Two minutes after Brandon sauntered in again by the window, and John
Mortimer observed the door. When Mrs. Brandon entered, she saw him
standing on the rug keeping Emily in conversation. Mrs. Brandon admired
Mr. Mortimer; he was tall, fair, stately, and had just such a likeness
to Valentine as could not fail to be to his advantage in the opinion of
any one who, remembering Valentine's smiling face, small forehead, and
calm eyes, sees the same contour of countenance, with an expression at
once grave and sweet; features less regular, but with a grand
intellectual brow, and keen blue eyes--not so handsome as Valentine's,
but with twice as direct an outlook and twice as much tenderness of
feeling in them; and has enough insight to perceive the difference of
character announced by these varieties in the type.
John Mortimer, who was persistently talking to Emily, felt that
Brandon's eyes were upon him, and that he looked amused. He never
doubted that his work had been observed, and that his wish would be
"Luncheon's on the table."
"John," said Brandon instantly, "will you take in my wife?"
John obeyed. He knew she did not sit at the head of the table, so he
took it and placed her on his right, while Emily and her curate were on
his left. It was a very large party, but during the two minutes they had
been alone together Brandon and Dorothea had altered the whole
arrangement of it.
John saw that Brandon had given to him his own usual place, and had
taken the bottom of the table. He thought his own way of managing that
matter would have been simpler, but he was very well content, and made
himself highly agreeable till there chanced to be a little cessation of
the clatter of plates, and a noticeable pause in the conversation. Then
Justina began to play her part.
"Mr. Mortimer," she said, leaning a little before Emily's curate, "this
is not at all too late for the north of Italy, is it? I want to visit
"I should not set out so late in the year," John answered. "I should not
stay even at Florence a day later than the end of May."
"Oh, don't say that!" she answered. "I have been so longing, you know,
for years to go to the north of Italy, and now it seems as if there was
a chance--as if my mother would consent."
"You know!" thought John. "I know nothing of the kind, how should I?"
"It really does seem now as if we might leave England for a few
months," she continued. "There is nothing at all to keep her here, if
she could but think so. You saw my brother the other day?"
"And you thought he looked tolerably well again, did you not?"
"Yes; I think I did."
"Then," she continued persuasively, and with all serenity, several
people being now very attentive to the conversation--"then, if my mother
should chance to see you, Mr. Mortimer, and should consult you about
this, you will not be so unfriendly to me as to tell her that it is too
late. You must not, you know, Mr. Mortimer, because she thinks so much
of your opinion."
This was said in some slight degree more distinctly than usual, and with
the repetition of his name, that no one might doubt whom she was
It made a decided impression, but on no one so much as on himself. "What
a fool I have been!" he thought; "in spite of appearances this has been
very far from her thoughts, and perhaps annoyance at the ridiculous
rumour is what makes her so much want to be off."
He then entered with real interest into the matter, and before luncheon
was over a splendid tour had been sketched out in the Austrian Tyrol,
which he proved to demonstration was far better in the summer than
Italy. Justina was quite animated, and only hoped her mother would not
object. It was just as well she expressed doubts and fears on that head,
for Lady Fairbairn had never in her life had a hint even that her
daughter was dying to go on the Continent; and Justina herself had only
decided that it was well to intend such a thing, not that it would be
wise or necessary to carry the intention out.
She exerted herself, keeping most careful watch and guard over her voice
and smile. It was not easy for her to appear pleased when she felt
piqued, and to feign a deep interest in the Austrian Tyrol, when she
had not known, till that occasion, whereabouts on the map it might be
found. She was becoming tired and quite flushed when the opportune
entrance of the baby--that morsel of humanity with a large
name--diverted every one's attention from her, and relieved her from
There is nothing so difficult as to make a good speech at a wedding or a
christening without affecting somebody's feelings. Some people stand so
much in fear of this, that they can hardly say anything. Others enjoy
doing it, and are dreaded accordingly; for, beside the pain of having
one's feelings touched, and being obliged to weep, there is the red nose
John, when he stood up to propose the health of his godson, St. George
Mortimer Brandon (who luckily was sound asleep), had the unusual
good-fortune to please and interest everybody (even the parents) without
making any one cry.
It is the commonplaces of tenderness, and the every-day things about
time and change, that are affecting; but if a speaker can add to all he
touches concerning man's life, and love, and destiny, something reached
down from the dominion of thought, beautiful and fresh enough to make
his hearers wonder at him, and experience that elation of heart which is
the universal tribute paid to all beautiful things, then they will feel
deeply perhaps; but the joy of beauty will elevate them, and the mind
will save the eyes from annoying tears.
Before her guests retired, Emily having lingered up-stairs with the
baby, Dorothea found herself for a few minutes alone with Justina, who
was very tired, but felt that her task was not quite finished. So, as
she took up her bonnet and advanced to the looking-glass to put it on,
she said, carelessly, "I wonder whether this colour will stand Italian
Dorothea's fair young face was at once full of interest. Justina saw
curiosity, too, but none was expressed; she only said, with the least
little touch of pique, "And you never told _me_ that you were wishing so
much to go away."
Justina turned, and from her superior height stooped to kiss Dorothea,
as if by way of apology, whereupon she added, "I had hoped, indeed, I
felt sure, that you liked this place and this neighbourhood."
"What are you alluding to, dear," said Justina, though Dorothea had
alluded to nothing.
But Dorothea remaining silent, Justina had to go on.
"I think (if _that_ is what you mean) that no one who cares for me could
wish me to undertake a very difficult task--such a very difficult task
as that, and one which perhaps I am not at all fit for."
On this Dorothea betrayed a certain embarrassment, rather a painful
blush tinged her soft cheek. "I would not have taken the liberty to hint
at such a thing," she answered.
"She would not have liked it," thought Justina, with not unnatural
surprise; for Dorothea had shown a fondness for her.
"But of course I know there has been an idea in the neighbourhood that
"That I what?" asked Justina.
"Why that you might--you might undertake it."
"Oh, nonsense, dear! nonsense, all talk," said Justina; "don't believe a
word of it." Her tone seemed to mean just the contrary, and Dorothea
"There have been some attentions, certainly," continued Justina, turning
before the glass as if to observe whether her scarf was folded to her
mind. "Of course every one must have observed that! But really, dear,
such a thing"--she put up her large steady hand, and fastened her veil
with due care--"such a thing as that would never do. Who _could_ have
put it into your head to think of it?"
"She does not care for him in the least, then," thought Dorothea; "and
it seems that he has cared for her. I don't think he does now, for he
seemed rather pleased to sketch out that tour which will take her away
from him. I like her, but even if it was base to her, I should still be