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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 10 out of 15

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her sparrows in my absence. The consequence was her untimely end. I
was met by my landlady with many a melancholy "Ah, sir!" and actually
the good creature had had her stuffed.

'Violet.--Poor Pallas! then the poor boy has lost his employment?

'Unknown.--Happily, his honesty and his grief so worked upon my
landlady, that she has taken him as an errand boy. So that, in fact,
Minerva may be considered to have been the making of his fortune.

'I leave this for a riddle for the sisters. I am longing to ask
Violet who this gentleman is who seems to know all the negroes so
well.' (Scratched out.) 'What nonsense I have written! I was
listening to some letters they were reading from the Mr. Martindale
in the West Indies. Violet tells me to finish with her dearest love.

'Your most affectionate,

'A. Moss.

'P.S.--He will come to-morrow to take us to a private view of the
Royal Academy, before the pictures are removed.'

The same post carried a letter from Violet to her husband,
communicating the arrival of her guests, and telling him she knew
that he could not wish her not to have Annette with her for these few
days, and that it did make her very happy.

Having done this, she dismissed doubts, and, with a clear conscience,
gave herself up to the enjoyment of her sister's visit, each minute
of which seemed of diamond worth. Perhaps the delights were the more
intense from compression; but it was a precious reprieve when
Arthur's answer came, rejoicing at Violet's having a companion, and
hoping that she would keep her till his return, which he should not
scruple to defer, since she was so well provided for. He had just
been deliberating whether he could accept an invitation to the
Highlands.

If the wife was less charmed than her sister, she knew that, under
any circumstances, she would have had to consent, after the
compliment had been paid of asking whether she could spare him; and
it was compensation enough that he should have voluntarily extended
her sister's visit.

Annette, formerly the leader of her younger sister, was often
pleasantly surprised to find her little Violet become like her elder,
and that not only from situation, but in mind. With face and figure
resembling Violet's, but of a less uncommon order, without the
beauteous complexion and the natural grace, now enhanced by living in
the best society, Annette was a very nice-looking, lady-like girl, of
the same refined tone of mind and manners; and having had a longer
space of young ladyhood, she had more cultivation in accomplishments
and book knowledge, her good taste saving her from being spoilt, even
by her acquiescence in Matilda's superiority. She saw, however, that
Violet had more practical reflection, and though in many points
simple and youthful, was more of a woman than herself; and it was
with that sweet, innocent feeling, which ought not to bear the same
name as pride, that she exulted in the superiority of her beloved
sister. Selfish jealousies or petty vanities were far from her; it
was like a romance to hear Violet describe the splendours of
Martindale, or the gaieties of London; and laugh over the confession
of the little perplexities as to proprieties, and the mistakes and
surprises, which she trusted she had not betrayed.

Still Violet missed the power of fully reciprocating her sister's
confidence. Annette laid open every home interest and thought, but
Violet had no right to disclose the subjects that had of late
engrossed her, and at every turn found a separation, something on
which she must not be communicative.

The view of the Exhibition was happily performed under Mr.
Fotheringham's escort. Annette, thanks to Lord St. Erme's gallery,
had good taste in pictures; she drew well, and understood art better
than her sister, who rejoiced in bringing out her knowledge, and
hearing her converse with Percy. They had the rooms to themselves,
and Annette was anxious to carry away the outline of one or two noted
pictures. While she was sketching, Percy wandered to another part of
the room, and stood fixedly before a picture. Violet came to see
what he was looking at. It was a fine one by Landseer of a tiger
submitting to the hand of the keeper, with cat-like complacency, but
the glare of the eye and curl of the tail manifesting that its
gentleness was temporary.

'It may be the grander animal,' muttered he; 'but less satisfactory
for domestic purposes.'

'What did you say?' asked Violet, thinking it addressed to her.

'That is a presumptuous man,' he said, pointing to the keeper. 'If
he trusts in the creature's affection, some day he will find his
mistake.'

He flung himself round, as if he had done with the subject, and his
tone startled Violet, and showed her that more was meant than met the
ear. She longed to tell him that the creature was taming itself, but
she did not dare, and he went back to talk to Annette, till it ended
in his promising to come to-morrow, to take them to the Ellesmere
gallery.

'That's the right style of woman,' soliloquized Percy, as he saw the
carriage drive off. 'Gentleness, meekness, and a dash of good sense,
is the recipe for a rational female--otherwise she is a blunder of
nature. The same stamp as her sister, I see; nothing wanting, but
air and the beauty, which, luckily for Arthur, served for his bait.'

When he came, according to appointment, Annette was in the drawing-
room, unable to desist from touching and retouching her copy of her
nephew's likeness, though Violet had long ago warned her to put it
away, and to follow her up to dress.

He carried the portrait to the light. 'M. Piper,' he read. That
little woman! That mouth is in better drawing than I could have
thought her guilty of.'

'Oh! those are Lord St. Erme's touches,' said unconscious Annette.
'He met Miss Martindale taking it to be framed, and he improved it
wonderfully. He certainly understood the little face, for he even
wrote verses on it.'

Here Violet entered, and Annette had to hurry away for her bonnet.
Percy stood looking at the drawing.

'So, Johnnie has a new admirer,' he said. Violet was sorry that he
should hear of this; but she laughed, and tried to make light of it.

'I hear he is in Germany.'

'Yes; with his sister and their aunt.'

'Well,' said Percy, 'it may do. There will be no collision of will,
and while there is one to submit, there is peace. A tigress can be
generous to a puppy dog.'

'But, indeed, I do not think it likely.'

'If she is torturing him, that is worse.'

Violet raised her eyes pleadingly, and said, in a low, mournful tone:
'I do not like to hear you speak so bitterly.'

'No,' he said, 'it is not bitterness. That is over. I am thankful
to have broken loose, and to be able to look back on it calmly, as a
past delusion. Great qualities ill regulated are fearful things; and
though I believe trials will in time teach her to bring her religious
principle to bear on her faults, I see that it was an egregious error
to think that she could be led.'

He spoke quietly, but Violet could not divest herself of the
impression that there was more acute personal feeling than he was
aware of. In the Ellesmere gallery, he led them to that little
picture of Paul Potter's, where the pollard willows stand up against
the sunset sky, the evening sunshine gleaming on their trunks, upon
the grass, and gilding the backs of the cows, while the placid old
couple look on at the milking, the hooded lady shading her face with
her fan.

'There's my notion of felicity,' said he.

'Rather a Dutch notion,' said Violet.

'Don't despise the Dutch,' said Percy. 'Depend upon it, that
respectable retired burgomaster and his vrow never had words, as we
Brogden folk say.'

'I think you would find that very stupid,' said Violet.

'Not I,' said Percy. 'When I want to pick a quarrel, I can get it
abroad.'

'When?' said Annette, smiling.

'Yes, I like to keep my teeth and claws sharpened,' said Percy; but
one wants repose at home. That burgomaster is my model.'

He continued to find sights for them, showing Violet more lions of
London than had ever come in her way. One day, when a thunder-storm
hindered their going to the Zoological Gardens, he stayed the whole
afternoon reading to them. In the midst, Violet thought of last
September's storm; she looked up--an idea flashed upon her!

'How delightful! How well they suit! I shall have my Annette close
to me! They can marry at once! My father will be satisfied. How
happy they will be! It will be the repose he wants. Dear Annette,
what will she not be under his training!' The joyous impulse was to
keep him to dinner; but she had scruples about inviting him in
Arthur's absence, and therefore only threw double warmth into her
farewells. Her spirits were up to nonsense pitch, and she talked and
laughed all the evening with such merriment as Annette had hardly
ever known in her.

But when she was alone, and looked her joy in the face, she was
amazed to find how she had been forgetting Theodora, whose affairs
had lately been uppermost. Annette might be worth a hundred
Theodoras: but that did not alter right and justice.

If Theodora was accepting the Earl! Violet knew he was at Baden; he
could not yet have been dismissed: and the sister-in-law had proved a
disappointing correspondent, her nature being almost as averse to
letter-writing as was Arthur's. Let her marry him, and all would be
well. The question, however, really lay between Percy and Annette
themselves; and Violet thought he had made a wise discovery in
preferring her gentle, yielding sister to the former lady of his
choice. Matters might take their course; Arthur would be gratified
by this testimony to her family's perfections; John would rejoice in
whatever was for his friend's real happiness; to herself, in every
way, it would be complete felicity.

Still she hesitated. She had heard of pique driving persons to make a
fresh choice, when a former attachment appeared obliterated by
indignation, only to revive too late, and to be the misery of all
parties. Percy's late words, harsh when he fancied them indifferent,
made her doubtful whether it might not be so in his case. In his
sound principle she had entire confidence, but he might be in error
as to the actual state of his sentiments; and she knew that she
should dread, for the peace of mind of all parties, his first
meeting, as her sister's husband, with either Miss Martindale, or the
Countess of St. Erme.

She decided that Annette ought to hear the whole, so as to act with
her eyes open. If she had been engaged, she should never have heard
what was past, but she should not encourage him while ignorant of the
circumstances, and, these known, Violet had more reliance on her
judgment than on her own. The breach of confidence being thus
justified, Violet resolved, and as they sat together late in the
evening, found an opportunity of beginning the subject. 'We used to
expect a closer connection with him, or I should never have learnt to
call him Percy--'

'You told me about poor Mr. Martindale.'

'Yes, but this was to have been a live connection. He was engaged to
Theodora.'

Violet was satisfied that the responding interjection was more
surprised and curious than disappointed. She related the main
features of the story, much to Annette's indignation.

'Why, Violet, you speak as if you were fond of her!'

'That I am. If you knew how noble and how tender she can be! So
generous when most offended! Oh! no one can know her without a sort
of admiring love and pity.'

'I do not understand. To me she seems inexcusable.'

'No, no, indeed, Annette! She has had more excuse than almost any
one. It makes one grieve for her to see how the worse nature seems
to have been allowed to grow beyond her power, and how it is like
something rending her, when right and wrong struggle together for the
mastery.'

So many questions ensued, that Violet found her partial disclosure
had rendered the curtain over Martindale affairs far less
impenetrable; but she had spoken no sooner than was needful, for the
very next morning's post brought an envelope, containing a letter for
Miss Moss, and a few lines addressed to herself:--

'My Dear Mrs. Martindale,--Trust me. I have discovered my error, and
have profited by my lesson. Will you give the enclosed to your
sister? I know you will act as kindly as ever by

'Yours, &c.,

'A. P. F.'

So soon! Violet had not been prepared for this. She gasped with
wonder and suspense, as she laid the letter before the place where
Annette had been sitting, and returned to her seat as a spectator,
though far from a calm one: that warmhearted note had made her wishes
his earnest partisans, and all her pulses throbbed with the desire
that Annette might decide in favour of him; but she thought it wrong
to try to influence her, and held her peace, though her heart leapt
into her mouth at her sister's exclamation on seeing the letter, and
her cheeks glowed when the flush darted into Annette's.

She glanced in a sort of fright over the letter, then looked for help
to Violet, and held it to her. 'Oh, Violet! do you know?'

'Yes, I have a note myself. My darling Annette!'

Annette threw herself down by her side, and sat on the floor,
studying her face while she read the note, which thus commenced:--

'My Dear Miss Moss,--You will say that our acquaintance is too short
to warrant my thus addressing you; but your sister knows me as well
as most people; and in knowing your sister, and seeing your
resemblance to her, I know you. If AM=VM, and VM=Wordsworth's
"spirit yet a woman too," then AM=the same.'

From this curious opening he proceeded to a more ordinary and very
earnest entreaty for her consent to his applying to her father.

'Well, Violet!'

'How exactly like him!'

'How highly he does esteem you!' said Annette; 'but if he thinks me
like you he would find his mistake. After what you told me--so soon!
Oh, I wish it had not happened! Violet, do tell me what to do.'

'I don't think any one can advise in a matter like this.'

'Oh! don't say so, Violet; you know the people, and I don't. Pray
say something.'

'He is a most excellent, admirable person,' said Violet, in an
unmeaning tone.

'Yes, I know that, but--'

'Really, I think nothing but your own feeling should decide.'

'Ah! you did not hesitate when you were asked!' said Annette,
sighing; and Violet at once blushed, smiled, and sighed, as she spoke
her quick conscious 'No, no!'

'Such a romance cannot always be expected,' said Annette, a little
mournfully. 'He is everything estimable, in spite of his oddness.
But then, this affair--so recent! Violet' (impatiently), 'what DO
you think? what do you wish?'

'What I wish? To have my own Annette near me. For two such people
to belong to each other! Don't you know what I like? But the
question is what you wish.'

'Yes!' sighed Annette.

'I don't think you wish it much,' said Violet, trying to get a view
of her face.

'I don't know whether I ought to make up my mind. I am not much
inclined to anything. But I dare say it would turn out well. I do
like him very much. But Miss Martindale! Now, Violet, will you not
tell me what you think? Take pity on me.'

'Annette,' said Violet, not without effort, 'I see you have not the
feeling that would make you unhappy in giving him up, so I may speak
freely. I am afraid of it. I cannot be certain that he is so
completely cured of his old attachment as he supposes himself to be
while the anger is fresh. He is as good as possible--quite sincere,
and would never willingly pain you, whatever he may feel. But his
affection for Theodora was of long standing; and without any one's
fault there might be worries and vexations--'

'Yes, yes,' said Annette, in a voice that reassured her.

'I think it wiser not, and perhaps more honourable to Theodora.
Hitherto I have been wishing that it might yet be made up again.
If you had been disposed that way, I should have been anxious,--as
you seem doubtful, I fancy it would be safer--'

'O, Violet, I am so glad! It is a great relief to me.'

'But, you know, it is only I that say so.'

'Better you than a hundred! My doubt was this. You know there are a
great many of us, and papa wants to see us well married. He has
talked more about it since you went. Now this is not romantic; but I
was considering whether, for the sake of the rest, I ought not to try
whether I could like him. But what you have said sets me quite at
ease in refusing him.'

'Poor Percy!' said Violet. 'I am afraid he will be vexed.'

'And it is a great compliment, though that is to you. He takes me on
trust from you.'

'And he took me on trust from John,' said Violet. 'I wish he had
known you before Theodora.'

'I only hope papa will never hear of it,' said Annette, shrinking.
'How fortunate that he was not here. I shall tell no one at home.'

'If it had not been for Theodora,' sighed Violet, 'I know nothing
that would have been more delightful. It was too charming to come
true!'

'Violet,' said Annette, with her face averted, 'don't be sorry, for
I could not have been glad of it now; though for their sakes I might
have tried to work myself into the feeling. I cannot help telling
you, though you will think it more wrong in me, for I shall never see
HIM again, and he never said anything.'

'I know whom you mean,' whispered Violet, rightly divining it was Mr.
Fanshawe.

'Don't call it anything,' said Annette, with her head drooping. 'I
would not have told even you, but to console you about this. Nothing
ever passed, and I was silly to dwell on the little things they
laughed at me about, but I cannot help thinking that if he had seen
any prospect--'

'I wonder if John could--' Violet checked herself.

'O, don't say anything about it!' cried Annette, frightened. 'It may
be only my foolish fancy--but I cannot get it out of my mind. You
see I have no one to talk over things with now you are gone. I have
lost my pair in you, so I am solitary among them, and perhaps that
has made me think of it the more.'

'Dearest! But still I think you ought to try to draw away your mind
from it.'

'You do not think I ought to try to like Mr. Fotheringham?'

'Indeed, under present circumstances, I could not wish that.'

'But do you think me very wrong for considering whether I could?
I hope not, dear Violet,' said Annette, who shared her sister's
scrupulous, self-distrustful character, and had not, like her, been
taught, by stern necessity, to judge for herself.

'No, indeed,' said Violet; 'but, since that is settled, he ought to
know it at once, and not to be kept in suspense.'

It was not until after much affectionate exhortation that Violet
could rouse her sister from talking rather piteously over the
perplexity it would have been if his case or hers had been otherwise,
arguing to excuse herself in her own eyes for the notion of the
marriage for expediency, and describing the displeasure that the
knowledge of the rejection would produce at home. It was the first
time she had had to act for herself, and either she could not resolve
to begin, or liked to feel its importance. Perhaps she was right in
saying that Mr. Fotheringham would be disappointed if he supposed her
Violet's equal, for though alike in lowliness, amiability, and good
sense, she had not the same energy and decision.

At last the letter was begun, in the style of Matilda and the "Polite
Letter Writer" combined, though the meek-spirited Annette peeped
through in the connecting links of the set phrases. Violet, who was
appealed to at every stage, would fain have substituted the simple
words in which Annette spoke her meaning; but her sister was shocked.
Such ordinary language did not befit the dignity of the occasion nor
Matilda's pupil; and Violet, as much overruled as ever by respect for
her elder sisters, thought it an admirable composition.

'May I see yours?' asked Annette, resting before making her fair
copy.

'And welcome, but it is not worthy of yours.'

'My Dear Mr. Fotheringham,--I wish with all my heart it could be--I
am very sorry it must not. Pray say nothing to my father: it would
only put her to needless pain. I beg your pardon for not being able
to do anything for you. You know how glad I should have been if I
had not been obliged to perceive that it would not be really right or
kind to either. Only do let me thank you for liking my dear sister,
and forgive us if you are grieved. I am very, very sorry.

'Yours, very sincerely,

'V. H. MARTINDALE.'

Annette raised her eyes in surprise. 'Ah!' said Violet, 'it is of no
use for me to try to write like Matilda. I did once, but I am not
clever enough; it looked so silly and affected, that I have been
ashamed to remember it ever since. I must write in the only way I
can.'

Her sister wanted to tear up her letter as a piece of affectation,
but this she would not allow. It made her feel despairing to think
of spending two hours more over it, and she hoped that she would be
satisfied with the argument that the familiar style employed by Mrs.
Martindale towards an old friend might not be suited to Annette Moss
when rejecting his suit.

Each sentence underwent a revision, till Violet, growing as impatient
as was in her nature, told her at last that he would think more of
the substance than of the form.

Next, she had to contend against Annette's longing to flee home at
once, by Theodora's own saying, 'London was wide enough for both;'
and more effectually by suggesting that a sudden departure would be
the best means of proclaiming the adventure. It was true enough that
Mr. Fotheringham was not likely to molest her. No more was heard of
him till, two days after, the owl's provider brought a parcel with a
message, that Mr. Fotheringham had given up his lodging and was going
to Paris. It contained some books and papers of John's, poor little
Pallas Athene herself, stuffed, and directed to Master J. Martindale,
and a book in which, under his sister's name, he had written that of
little Helen. Violet knew he had intended making some residence at
Paris, to be near the public libraries, and she understood this as a
kind, forgiving farewell. She could understand his mortification,
that he, after casting off the magnificent Miss Martindale, should be
rejected by this little humble country girl; and she could not help
thinking herself ungrateful, so that the owl, which she kept in the
drawing-room, as the object of Johnnie's tender strokings, always
seemed to have a reproachful expression in its round glass eyes.

The hope of seeing the expediency of her decision waxed fainter, when
she received the unexpected honour of a letter from Lord Martindale,
who, writing to intrust her with some commission for John, added some
news. 'I have had the great pleasure of meeting with my cousin, Hugh
Martindale,' he said; 'who, since the death of his wife, has so
overworked himself in his large town parish, as to injure his
eyesight, and has been ordered abroad for his health. It does not
appear that he will ever be fit to return to his work at Fieldingsby,
and I am in hopes of effecting an exchange which may fix him at
Brogden in the stead of Mr. Wingfield. When you are of my age, you
will understand the pleasure I have in returning to old times.
Theodora has likewise been much with him, and I trust may be
benefited by his advice. At present she has not made up her mind to
give any definite answer to Lord St. Erme, and since I believe she
hesitates from conscientious motives, I am the less inclined to press
her, as I think the result will be in his favour. I find him improve
on acquaintance. I am fully satisfied with his principles and
temper, he has extensive information, and might easily become a
valuable member of society. His sister, Lady Lucy, spends much of
her time with us, and appears to be an amiable pleasing girl.'

Lord Martindale evidently wished it to be forgotten that he had
called Lord St. Erme absurd-looking.

Violet sighed, and tried to counterbalance her regrets by hopes that
John would have it in his power to patronize his chaplain. However,
these second-hand cares did not hinder her from thriving and
prospering so that she triumphed in the hopes of confuting the threat
that she would not recover in London, and she gloried in the looks
with which she should meet Arthur. A dozen times a day she told her
little ones that papa was coming home, till Johnnie learnt to repeat
it; and then she listened in ecstasy as the news took a fresh charm
from his lips.

She went to meet Arthur at the station; but instead of complimenting
her on the renewed carnation of her cheeks, as perhaps, in her pretty
conjugal vanity, she had expected, when she had taken such pains with
her pink ribbons, he gazed straight before him, and presently said,
abruptly, 'Is your sister here?'

Had she been displeasing him the whole time? She only breathed a
faint 'Yes.'

'Is Fotheringham in town?'

'No; he is gone to Paris.'

'Then it is humbug, as I thought. I met that precious Miss Gardner
in the train going to Worthbourne, and she would have me believe you
were getting up a match between those two! A fine story,--not a year
since he proposed to Theodora! There was she congratulating me on
the satisfaction it must be to Mrs. Martindale!'

'So she wanted to make mischief between us,' said Violet, much hurt.

'Mischief is meat and drink to her. But not a jot did I believe, I
tell you, silly child. You are not wasting tears on that crocodile
tongue! I had a mind to tell her to her face that Percy is made of
different stuff; and for my own Violet blossom--'

The tears dropped bright and happy. 'Though, dear Arthur, it was
true, as far as Percy was concerned. Annette has had to refuse him.'

'A wise girl!' exclaimed Arthur, in indignant surprise. 'But Percy!
I could not have believed it. Why would she not have him?'

'Chiefly from thinking it not right to accept him. I hope I did not
do wrong in telling her all about it. I thought it only fair, and
she did not care enough for him to make the refusal an effort.'

'I should think not! The fickle dog. To go and take up with --No
disrespect to Annette,--but after Theodora! So soon, too!'

'I fancied it more pique than inconstancy. There is so much anger
about him that I suspect there is more affection than he knows.'

'And you think that mends matters,' said Arthur, laughing. 'Well, I
hope Theodora will marry St. Erme at once, so as to serve him right.
I am sure she will if she hears of this.'

'And I am afraid Miss Gardner will write to her.'

'That she will, with nice histories of you and me and Annette. And
she will tell them at Worthbourne till old Sir Antony disinherits
Percy. No more than he deserves!'

She might well be glad of the part she had taken, now that she found
her husband so much more alive to the affront to his sister than she
had expected. He was in high good-humour, and talked merrily of his
expedition, proceeding even to such a stretch of solicitude as to say
he supposed 'the brats were all right, as he had heard nothing of
them.'

His greeting to Annette was warm and cordial, he complimented her on
her sister's recovered looks, and tried to extort a declaration that
she looked just like what she had been when he took her from
Wrangerton. Annette peeped out under her eyelashes, smiled, and
shook her head timidly.

'Ha! What's your treason, Miss Annette? Does not she look as well
as ever?'

'Better, in some ways,' said Annette, looking at Violet, glowing and
smiling, with her husband's hand on her shoulder

'And what in others!'

'I like to look at her better than ever, but I cannot say she is not
paler and thinner.'

'Yes, and sober and matronly. That I am!' said Violet, drawing
herself up. 'I must stand on my dignity now I have two children.
Don't I look old and wise, Annette?'

'Not a bit now,' said Annette.

There was an end of Annette's doubt and dread of her grand brother-
in-law. He talked and laughed, took her on pleasant expeditions, and
made much of her with all his ready good-nature, till her heart was
quite won. She did not leave them till just as they were departing
for Windsor, and as she looked back from her railway carriage, at
Violet and her husband, arm-in-arm, she sighed a sigh on her own
account, repented of as soon as heaved, as she contrasted her own
unsatisfactory home with their happiness.

But the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and Annette little guessed
at the grief that lurked in the secret springs of her sister's joy,
increasing with her onward growth in the spirit that brought her sure
trust and peace. It was the want of fellowship with her husband, in
her true and hidden life. She could not seek counsel or comfort from
above, she could not offer prayer or thanksgiving, she could not join
in the highest Feast, without finding herself left alone, in a region
whither he would not follow. It was a weariness to him. In the
spring she had had hopes. At Easter, an imploring face, and timid,
'Won't you come?' had made him smile, and say he was not so good as
she, then sigh, and half promise, 'Next time, when he had
considered.' But next time he had had no leisure for thinking; she
should do as she liked with him when they got into the country. And
since that, some influence that she could not trace seemed, as she
knew by the intuition of her heart, rather than the acknowledgment of
her mind, to have turned him away; the distaste and indifference were
more evident, and he never gave her an opening for leading to any
serious subject. It was this that gave pain even to her prayers, and
added an acuter pang to every secret anxiety.

'When his children are older, and he feels that they look up to him'
thought Violet, hopefully, and in the meantime she prayed.

CHAPTER 23

Not so, bold knight, no deed of thine
Can ever win my hand;
That hope, poor youth, thou must resign,
For barriers 'twixt us stand.
Yet what doth part us I will now reveal,
Nor, noblest one, from thee the truth conceal.--FOUQUE

Arthur guessed rightly. Miss Gardner's first leisure was spent in
writing her tidings to Theodora.

It was on a strange state of mind that they fell. Theodora had gone
abroad, softened and conscious of her faults, but her indomitable
will boiling up at each attempt to conquer them; knowing that her
fate hung in the balance, but helpless in the power of her own pride
and temper. Miserable, and expecting to be more wretched, her
outward demeanour, no longer checked by Violet, was more than ever
harsh, capricious, and undutiful, especially under her present
deprivation of the occupations that had hitherto been channels of
kindly feeling.

She was less patient than formerly with her aunt, who was in truth
more trying. Quickly gathering the state of affairs with regard to
Lord St. Erme, she was very angry with Lord Martindale for not having
consulted her, and at the same time caressed her great-niece beyond
endurance. Besides, it was unbearable to hear sweet Violet scoffed
at. Theodora spoke hastily in her defence; was laughed at for having
been gained over; replied vehemently, and then repented of losing
temper with one so aged and infirm. Her attention to Mrs. Nesbit had
been one of her grounds of self-complacency; but this had now failed
her--distance was the only means of keeping the peace and Theodora
left her chiefly to her companion, Mrs. Garth, a hard-looking,
military dame, who seemed so well able to take care of herself, that
there was none of the compassion that had caused Theodora to relieve
poor little Miss Piper.

It was not long before Lord St. Erme persuaded his aunt that her tour
in Germany would not be complete without a visit to Baden-Baden.
Mrs. Delaval and Lady Martindale immediately began to be as intimate
as was possible with the latter. Theodora intended to stand aloof,
and to be guarded and scornful; but Lady Lucy was such an engaging,
affectionate, honest-hearted little thing, regarding Miss Martindale
with all her brother's enthusiastic devotion, and so grateful for the
slightest notice, that it really was impossible to treat her with the
requisite cold dignity.

And to admit Lady Lucy to her friendship was much the same thing as
admitting the brother. 'St. Erme' was the one engrossing subject of
the young girl's thoughts and discourse, and it was soon plain that
not a conversation passed but was reported to him. If Theodora
expressed an opinion, 'St. Erme's' remarks on it were certain to be
brought to her the next day; if a liking or a wish, he was instantly
taking measures for its gratification. She might try to keep him at
a distance, but where was the use of it when, if his moustached self
was safely poetizing in the Black Forest, his double in blue muslin
was ever at her elbow?

By and by it was no longer a moustached self. The ornaments were
shaved off, and she heartily wished them on again. What could be
said when Lucy timidly begged to know how she liked the change in St.
Erme's face, and whether she shared her regrets for his dear little
moustache? Alas! such a sacrifice gave him a claim, and she felt as
if each departed hair was a mesh in the net to ensnare her liberty.

And what could she say when Lucy WOULD talk over his poems, and try
to obtain her sympathy in the matter of that cruel review which had
cut the poor little sister to the heart? It had been so sore a
subject in London, that she could not then bear to speak of it, and
now, treating it like a personal attack on his character, she told
how 'beautifully St. Erme bore it,' and wanted Miss Martindale to say
how unjust and shocking it was. Yet Miss Martindale actually, with a
look incomprehensible to poor Lucy, declared that there was a great
deal of truth in it.

However, in process of time, Lucy came back reporting that her
brother thought so too, and that he had gathered many useful hints
from it; but that he did not mean to attend to poetry so much, he
thought it time to begin practical life; and she eagerly related his
schemes for being useful and distinguishing himself.

It was not easy to help replying and commenting on, or laughing at,
plans which showed complete ignorance of English life, and then
Theodora found herself drawn into discussions with Lord St. Erme
himself, who took her suggestions, and built his projects with a
reference to her, as his understood directress and assistant; till
she grew quite frightened at what she had let him take for granted,
and treated him with a fresh fit of coldness and indifference, soon
thawed by his sister. She could not make up her mind to the
humiliating confession by which alone she could have dismissed him,
and the dominion she should enjoy with him appeared more and more
tempting as she learnt to know him better, and viewed him as a means
of escape from her present life. If it had not been for
recollections of Violet, she would have precipitated the step, in
order to end her suspense, but that perfect trust that she would not
accept him unless she could do so with a clear conscience always held
her back.

It was at this juncture that, one day when walking with her father,
there was a sudden stop at the sight of another elderly gentleman.
'Ha! Hugh!' 'What, you here, Martindale!' were mutually exclaimed,
there was an ardent shaking of hands, and she found herself
introduced to a cousin, whom she had not seen since she was a child.

He and her father had been like brothers in their boyhood, but the
lines they had since taken had diverged far and wide. The hard-
working clergyman had found himself out of his element in visits to
Martindale, had discontinued them, and almost even his
correspondence, so that Lord Martindale had heard nothing of his
cousin since his wife's death, two years ago, till now, when he met
him on the promenade at Baden, sent abroad to recruit his worn-out
health and eyesight.

All have either felt or beheld, how two such relations, on the verge
of old age, meet and refresh themselves with looking back, beyond the
tract of middle life, to the days shared together in youth! Lord
Martindale had not looked so bright, nor talked and laughed so much
for years, as over his boyish reminiscences, and his wanderings up
and down the promenade with his cousin seemed as if nothing could
terminate them.

Clergymen and school-loving young ladies have a natural affinity, and
Theodora found a refuge from the Delavals and an opportunity for
usefulness. She offered to read to Cousin Hugh, she talked over
parish matters, and after relieving her mind with a conversation on
the question of how much the march of intellect ought to penetrate
into country schools, it was wonderful how much more equable and
comfortable she became. The return to the true bent of her nature
softened her on every side; and without the least attempt to show
off, she was so free from the morose dignity with which she had
treated her own family since going abroad, that Mr. Hugh Martindale
could hardly believe the account of her strange ungovernable
character, as it was laid before him by her father, in his wish for
counsel.

He watched her anxiously, but made no attempt to force her
confidence, and let her talk to him of books, school discipline,
parish stories, and abstruse questions as much as she pleased, always
replying in a practical, sobering tone, that told upon her, and
soothed her almost like Violet's mild influence, and to her great
delight, she made him quite believe in Violet's goodness, and wish to
be acquainted with her.

But all the time, Lord St. Erme was treated as her acknowledged
suitor. Perhaps Mr. Martindale thought it might be better if she
were safely married; or, at any rate, only knowing her personally as
a high-minded person of much serious thought, he believed her to be
conscientiously waiting to overcome all doubts, and honoured her
scruples: while it might be, that the desire for his good opinion
bound Theodora the more to Lord St. Erme, for with all her sincerity,
she could not bear the idea of his discovering the part she was
playing, at the very time she was holding such conversations on
serious subjects. The true history of her present conduct was that
she could not endure to be known as the rejected and forsaken of Mr.
Fotheringham, and thus, though outwardly tamer, she was more
melancholy at heart, fast falling into a state of dull resignation;
if such a name can be applied to mere endurance of the consequences
of her own pride and self-will.

Now came Jane Gardner's letter. Theodora read it through, then, with
calm contempt, she tore it up, lighted a taper, and burnt it to
ashes.

'There, Jane!' said she, as it shrivelled, black and crackling,
'there is all the heed I take. Violet would no more allow me to be
supplanted than Percy could be inconstant.'

Inconstant! Where was her right so to term him? Was he not
released, not merely by the cold 'Very well,' which seemed to blister
her lips in the remembrance, but by her whole subsequent course?
That thought came like the stroke of a knife, and she stood
motionless and stunned. Love of Percival Fotheringham was a part of
herself! Certain from her confidence in Violet that Jane's news was
untrue, the only effect of hearing it was to reveal to her like a
flash that her whole heart was his. He had loved her in spite of her
faults. Suppose he should do so still! Her spirits leapt up at this
glimpse of forfeited unattainable joy; but she beheld a forlorn hope.
At least she would restore herself to a condition in which she might
meet him without despairing shame. The impulse was given, and eager
to obey it, while it still buoyed her above the dislike to self-
abasement, she looked round for the speediest measure, caring little
what it might be.

Her father was reading his letters in the next room, when, with
flushed cheek, and voice striving for firmness, she stood before him,
saying, 'It is time to put an end to this. Will you let Lord St.
Erme know that it cannot be!'

'Now, Theodora!' exclaimed the much-astonished Lord Martindale, 'what
is the meaning of this?'

'It cannot be,' repeated Theodora. 'It must be put a stop to.'

'What has happened! Have you heard anything to change your mind?'

'My mind is not changed, but I cannot have this going on.'

'How is this? You have been encouraging him all this time, letting
him come here--'

'I never asked him to come here,' said Theodora, temper coming in,
as usual.

'Theodora! Theodora! did I not entreat you to tell me what you
wished, when I first heard of this in London? Could I get a
reasonable answer from you?'

Theodora was silent.

'Do you know what the world thinks of young ladies who go on in this
manner?'

'Let it think as it may, I cannot accept him, and you must tell him
so, papa--'

'No, indeed. I will not be responsible for such usage! It must be
your own doing,' said Lord Martindale, thoroughly displeased. 'I
should be ashamed to look him in the face!'

Theodora turned to leave the room.

'What are you going to do?' asked her father.

'I am going to write to Lord St. Erme.'

'Come back, Theodora. I must know that you are not going to carry
further this ill-usage of a most excellent man, more sincerely
attached to you than you deserve. I insist on knowing what you
intend to say to him.'

To insist was not the way to succeed with Theodora.

'I do not exactly know,' said she.

'I wish I knew what to do with you!' sighed Lord Martindale, in
anger, grief, and perplexity. 'You seem to think that people's
affections are made to serve for your vanity and sport, and when you
have tormented them long enough, you cast them off!'

Theodora drew her head up higher, and swelled at the injustice. It
was at that moment that Lord St. Erme entered the room. She went
forward to meet him, and spoke at once. 'I am glad you are here,'
said she, proudly pleased that her father should see her vindication
from the charge of trifling. 'You are come to hear what I had been
desiring my father to tell you. I have used you very ill, and it is
time to put a stop to it.'

Lord St. Erme looked from her to her father in wonder and dismay.

'First understand,' said Lord Martindale, 'that this is no doing of
mine; I am heartily grieved, but I will leave you. Perhaps you may
prevail on this wilful girl--'

Theodora began a protest, and desired him to remain; but he would
not, and she found herself alone with her bewildered lover.

'What is this? what have I done?' he began.

'You have done nothing,' said she. 'It is all my own fault. The
truth will be a cure for your regrets, and I owe you an explanation.
I was engaged to one whom I had known from childhood, but we
disputed--my temper was headstrong. He rejected me, and I thought I
scorned him, and we parted. You came in my way while I was angry,
before I knew that I can never lose my feelings towards him. I know
I have seemed to trifle with you; but false shame hindered me from
confessing how matters really stood. You ought to rejoice in being
freed from such as I am.'

'But with time!' exclaimed Lord St. Erme, in broken words. 'May I
not hope that time and earnest endeavours--?'

'Hope nothing,' said Theodora. 'Every one would tell you you have
had a happy escape.'

'And is this all? My inspiration!--you who were awakening me to a
sense of the greatness of real life--you who would have led me and
aided me to a nobler course--'

'That is open to you, without the evils I should have entailed on
you. I could never have returned your feelings, and it would have
been misery for both. You will see it, when you come to your senses,
and rejoice.'

'Rejoice! If you knew how the thought of you is entwined in every
aspiration, and for life!'

'Do not talk so,' said Theodora. 'It only grieves me to see the pain
I have given; but it would be worse not to break off at once.'

'Must it be so?' said he, lingering before his fleeting vision.

'It must. The kindest thing by both of us is to cut this as short as
possible.'

'In that, as in all else, I obey. I know that a vain loiterer, like
myself, had little right to hope for notice from one whose mind was
bent on the noblest tasks of mankind. You have opened new views to
me, and I had dared to hope you would guide me in them; but with you
or without you, my life shall be spent in them.'

'That will be some consolation for the way I have treated you,' said
Theodora.

His face lighted up. 'My better angel!' he said, 'I will be content
to toil as the knights of old, hopelessly, save that if you hear of
me no longer as the idle amateur, but as exerting myself for
something serviceable, you will know it is for your sake.'

'It had better be for something else,' said Theodora, impatiently.
'Do not think of me, nor delude yourself with imagining you can win
me by any probation.'

'I may earn your approval--'

'You will earn every one's,' she interrupted. 'Put mine out of your
head. Think of life and duty, and their reward, as they really are,
and they will inspirit you better than any empty dream of me.'

'It is vain to tell me so!' said the Earl, looking at her glancing
eye and earnest countenance. 'You will ever seem to beckon me
forwards.'

'Something better will beckon you by and by, if you will only begin.
Life is horrid work--only endurable by looking after other people,
and so you will find it. Now, let us have done with this. Wish your
sister good-bye for me, and tell her that I beg her to forgive me for
the pain I have given you. I am glad you have her. She will make
you happy--I have only tormented those I loved best; so you are
better off with her. Good-bye. Shake hands, to show that you
forgive me.'

'I will not harass you by pertinacity,' said poor Lord St. Erme,
submissively. 'It has been a happy dream while I was bold enough to
indulge in it. Farewell to it, though not, I trust, to its effects.'

Lingering as he held her hand, he let it go; then, returning to the
grasp, bent and kissed it, turned away, as if alarmed at his own
presumption, and hastened from the room.

She flung herself into her father's chair to consider of seeing Lady
Lucy, of writing to Violet, of breaking the tidings to her aunt, of
speaking to her Cousin Hugh; but no connected reflection could be
summoned up--nothing but visions of an Athenian owl, and green cotton
umbrella. At length the sound of the opening door made her start up.

'Have I interrupted you?' asked her cousin. 'I thought I should find
your father here.'

'I do not know where he is,' said Theodora. 'Can I do anything for
you? Oh! I beg your pardon; I had forgotten it was time to read to
you.'

'You know I always hoped that yon would not make it a burden.'

'If you knew the relief it is to be of any sort of use,' returned
she, hastily setting his chair, and fetching the books.

Perhaps her attention wandered while she read, for they had hardly
finished before she looked up and said, 'That always puts me in mind
of Arthur's wife. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is so
entirely her adorning--her beauty only an accessory.'

'Yes; I wish I knew her,' said Mr. Martindale.

'Oh! how I wish she was here!' sighed Theodora.

'For any special reason?'

'Yes; I want her to soften and help me. She seems to draw and smooth
away the evil, and to keep me from myself. Nothing is so dreary
where she is.'

'I should not have expected to hear you, at your age, and with your
prospects, talk of dreariness.'

'That is all over,' said Theodora. 'I have told him that it cannot
be. I am glad, for one reason, that I shall not seem to deceive you
any more. Has papa told you what he thinks my history!'

'He has told me of your previous affair.'

'I wonder what is his view?'

'His view is one of deep regret; he thinks your tempers were
incompatible.'

Theodora laughed. 'He has a sort of termagant notion of me.'

'I am afraid you do no justice to your father's affection and
anxiety.'

'It is he who does me no justice,' said Theodora.

'Indeed, I do not think that can be your sister's teaching,' said Mr.
Martindale.

'I wish she was here!' said Theodora, again. 'But now you have heard
my father's story, you shall hear mine;' and with tolerable fairness,
she related the history of the last few months. The clergyman was
much interested in the narrative of this high-toned mind,--'like
sweet bells jangled,' and listened with earnest and sorrowful
attention. There was comfort in the outpouring; and as she spoke,
the better spirit so far prevailed, that she increasingly took more
blame to herself, and threw less on others. She closed her
confession by saying, 'You see, I may well speak of dreariness.'

'Of dreariness for the present,' was the answer; 'but of hope. You
put me in mind of some vision which I have read of, where safety and
peace were to be attained by bowing to the dust, to creep beneath a
gateway, the entrance to the glorious place. You seem to me in the
way of learning that lesson.'

'I have bent to make the avowal I thought I never could have spoken,'
said Theodora.

'And there is my hope of you. Now for the next step.'

'The next! what is it?'

'Thankfully and meekly to accept the consequences of these sad
errors.'

'You mean this lonely, unsatisfactory life?'

'And this displeasure of your father.'

'But, indeed, he misjudges me.'

'Have you ever given him the means of forming a different judgment?'

'He has seen all. If I am distrusted, I cannot descend to justify
myself.'

'I am disappointed in you, Theodora. Where is your humility?'

With these words Mr. Martindale quitted her. He had divined that her
feelings would work more when left to themselves, than when pressed,
and so it proved.

The witness within her spoke more clearly, and dislike and loathing
of her proceedings during the last year grew more strongly upon her.
The sense of her faults had been latent in her mind for months past,
but the struggle of her external life had kept it down, until now it
came forth with an overpowering force of grief and self-condemnation.
It was not merely her sins against Mr. Fotheringham and Lord St. Erme
that oppressed her, it was the perception of the wilful and
rebellious life she had led, while making so high a profession.

Silently and sadly she wore through the rest of the day, unmolested
by any remark from the rest of the family, but absorbed in her own
thoughts, and the night passed in acute mental distress; with
longings after Violet to soothe her, and to open to her hopes of the
good and right way of peace.

With morning light came the recollection that, after all, Violet
would rejoice in what she had just done. Violet would call it a step
in the right direction; and she had promised her further help from
above and within, when once she should have had patience to take the
right move, even in darkness. 'She told me, if I put my trust
aright, and tried to act in obedience, I should find a guide!'

And, worn out and wearied with the tossings of her mind, Theodora
resolved to have recourse to the kind clergyman who had listened to
her confidence. Perhaps he was the guide who would aid her to
conquer the serpents that had worked her so much misery; and, after
so much self-will, she felt that there would be rest in submitting to
direction.

She sought him out, and joined his early walk.

'Help me,' she said; 'I repent, indeed I do. Teach me to begin
afresh, and to be what I ought. I would do anything.'

'Anything that is not required of you, Theodora, or anything that
is?'

'Whatever you or Violet required of me,' said she, 'that I would do
readily and gladly, cost me what it might.'

'It is not for me to require anything,' said Mr. Martindale. 'What I
advise you is to test the sincerity of your repentance by humbling
yourself to ask your father's forgiveness.'

He watched her face anxiously, for his hopes of her almost might be
said to depend upon this. It was one of those efforts which she made
with apparent calmness. 'You and Violet ask the same thing,' she
said; 'I will.'

'I am glad to hear you say this. I could not think you going on
right while you denied him the full explanation of your conduct.'

'Did you mean that I should tell him all?' exclaimed Theodora.

'It would be a great relief to his mind. Few fathers would have left
you such complete liberty of action, consented to your engagement,
and then acted so kindly and cautiously in not forcing on you this,
for which he had begun to wish ardently. You have grieved him
extremely, and you owe it to him to show that this has not all been
caprice.'

I have promised,' repeated Theodora.

'Your second effort,' said Mr. Martindale, encouragingly. They were
nearly opposite an hotel, where a carriage was being packed.
Theodora turned, he understood her, and they walked back; but before
they could quit the main road, the travellers rolled past them. Lord
St. Erme bowed. Theodora did not look up; but when past asked if any
one was with him.

'Yes; his sister.'

'I am glad of it,' said Theodora. 'She is an excellent little thing,
the very reverse of me.'

Without failure of resolution, Theodora returned to breakfast, her
mind made up to the effort, which was more considerable than can be
appreciated, without remembering her distaste to all that bore the
semblance of authority, and the species of proud reserve that had
prevented her from avowing to her father her sentiments respecting
Mr. Fotheringham, even in the first days of their engagement; and she
was honest enough to feel that the manner, as well as the subject of
conversation, must show the sincerity of her change. She would not
let herself be affronted into perverseness or sullenness, but would
try to imagine Violet looking on; and with this determination she
lingered in the breakfast-room after her mother and cousin had left
it.

'Papa,' said she, as he was leaving the room, 'will you listen to
me?'

'What now, Theodora?' said poor Lord Martindale, expecting some of
those fresh perplexities that made him feel the whole family to
blame.

It was not encouraging, but she had made up her mind. 'I have
behaved very ill about all this, papa; I want you to forgive me.'

He came nearer to her, and studied her face, in dread lest there
should be something behind. 'I am always ready to forgive and listen
to you,' he said sadly.

She perceived that she had, indeed, given him much pain, and was
softened, and anxious for him to be comforted by seeing that her
fault, at least, was not the vanity and heartlessness that he
supposed.

'It was very wrong of me to answer you as I did yesterday,' she said.
'I know it was my own fault that Lord St. Erme was allowed to follow
us.'

'And why did you consent!'

'I don't know. Yes, I do, though; but that makes it worse. It was
because my perverse temper was vexed at your warning me,' said
Theodora, looking down, much ashamed.

'Then you never meant to accept him!' exclaimed her father.

'No, not exactly that; I thought I might,' said she, slowly, and with
difficulty.

'Then what has produced this alteration?'

'I will tell you,' said she, recalling her resolution. 'I did not
know how much I cared for Percy Fotheringham. Yesterday there came a
foolish report about his forming another attachment. I know it was
not true; but the misery it gave me showed me that it would be sin
and madness to engage myself to another.'

Lord Martindale breathed more freely. 'Forgive me for putting the
question, it is a strange one to ask now: were you really attached to
Percy Fotheringham?'

'With my whole heart,' answered Theodora, deliberately.

'Then why, or how--'

'Because my pride and stubbornness were beyond what any man could
bear,' she answered. 'He did quite right: it would not have been
manly to submit to my conduct. I did not know how bad it was till
afterwards, nor how impossible it is that my feelings towards him
should cease.'

'And this is the true history of your treatment of Lord St. Erme!'

'Yes. He came at an unlucky moment of anger, when Violet was ill,
and could not breathe her saving influence over me, and I fancied--
It was very wrong, and I was ashamed to confess what I have told you
now.'

'Have you given him this explanation?'

'I have.'

'Well, I am better satisfied. He is a most generous person, and told
me he had no reason to complain of you.'

'Yes, he has a noble character. I am very sorry for the manner in
which I have treated him, but there was nothing to be done but to put
an end to it. I wish I had never begun it.'

'I wish so too!' said Lord Martindale. 'He is grievously
disappointed, and bears it with such generous admiration of you and
such humility on his own part, that it went to my heart to talk to
him, especially while feeling myself a party to using him so ill.'

'He is much too good for me,' said Theodora, 'but I could not accept
him while I contrasted him with what I have thrown away. I can only
repent of having behaved so badly.'

'Well! after all, I am glad to hear you speak in this manner,' said
her father.

'I know I have been much to blame,' said Theodora, still with her
head bent down and half turned away. 'Ever since I was a child, I
have been undutiful and rebellious. Being with Violet has gradually
brought me to a sense of it. I do wish to make a fresh beginning,
and to ask you to forgive and bear with me.'

'My dear child!' And Lord Martindale stepped to her side, took her
hand, and kissed her.

No more was needed to bring the drops that had long been swelling in
her eyes; she laid her head on his shoulder, and felt how much she
had hitherto lost by the perverseness that had made her choose to
believe her father cold and unjust.

There was another trial for the day. The departure of Lord St. Erme
and his sister revealed the state of affairs to the rest of the
world; Mrs. Delaval came to make Lady Martindale a parting visit, and
to lament over their disappointment, telling how well Lord St. Erme
bore it, and how she had unwillingly consented to his taking his
sister with him to comfort him at that dull old place, Wrangerton.

Lady Martindale, as usual, took it very quietly. She never put
herself into collision with her daughter, and did not seem to care
about her freaks otherwise than as they affected her aunt. Mrs.
Nesbit, who had thought herself on the point of the accomplishment of
her favourite designs, was beyond measure vexed and incensed. She
would not be satisfied without seeing Theodora, reproaching her, and
insisting on hearing the grounds of her unreasonable conduct.

Theodora was silent.

Was it as her mother reported, but as Mrs. Nesbit would not believe,
that she had so little spirit as to be still pining after that
domineering, presuming man, who had thrown her off after she had
condescended to accept him?

'I glory in saying it is for his sake,' replied Theodora.

Mrs. Nesbit wearied herself with invectives against the Fotheringhams
as the bane of the family, and assured Theodora that it was time to
lay aside folly; her rank and beauty would not avail, and she would
never be married.

'I do not mean to marry,' said Theodora.

'Then remember this. You may think it very well to be Miss
Martindale, with everything you can desire; but how shall you like it
when your father dies, and you have to turn out and live on your own
paltry five thousand pounds! for not a farthing of mine shall come to
you unless I see you married as I desire.'

'I can do without it, thank you,' said Theodora.

Mrs. Nesbit burst into a passion of tears at the ingratitude of her
nephews and nieces. Weeping was so unusual with her that Lady
Martindale was much terrified, sent Theodora away and did her utmost
to soothe and caress her; but her strength and spirits were broken,
and that night she had another stroke. She was not in actual danger,
but was a long time in recovering even sufficiently to be moved to
England; and during this period Theodora had little occupation,
except companionship to her father, and the attempt to reduce her
temper and tame her self-will. Mr. Hugh Martindale went to take
possession of the living of Brogden, and she remained a prisoner at
Baden, striving to view the weariness and enforced uselessness of her
life, as he had taught her, in the light of salutary chastisement and
discipline.

PART III

Heartsease In thy heart shall spring
If content abiding,
Where, beneath that leafless tree,
Life's still stream is gliding.
But, transplanted thence, it fades,
For it bloometh only
Neath the shadow of the Cross,
In a valley lonely. J. E. L.

CHAPTER 1

Love, hope, and patience, these must be thy graces,
And in thine own heart let them first keep school.--COLERIDGE

The avenue of Martindale budded with tender green, and in it walked
Theodora, watching for the arrival of the sister-in-law, scarcely
seen for nearly four years.

Theodora's dress was of the same rigid simplicity as of old, her
figure as upright, her countenance as noble, but a change had passed
over her; her bearing was less haughty; her step, still vigorous and
firm, had lost its wilfulness, the proud expression of lip had
altered to one of thought and sadness, and her eyes had become softer
and more melancholy. She leaned against the tree where the curate
had brought her the first tidings of Arthur's marriage, and she
sighed, but not as erst with jealousy and repining.

There was, indeed, an alteration--its beginning may not be traced,
for the seed had been sown almost at her birth, and though little
fostered, had never ceased to spring. The first visible shoot had
been drawn forth by Helen Fotheringham; but the growth, though rapid,
had been one-sided; the branches, like those of a tree in a sea-wind,
all one way, blown aside by gusts of passion and self-will. In its
next stage, the attempt to lop and force them back had rendered them
more crooked and knotty, till the enterprise had been abandoned as
vain. But there was a soft hand that had caressed the rugged boughs,
softened them with the dews of gratitude and affection, fanned them
with gales from heaven, and gently turned them to seek training and
culture, till the most gnarled and hardened had learnt patiently to
endure the straightening hand and pruning knife.

Under such tranquil uneventful discipline, Theodora had spent the
last four years, working with all her might at her labours in the
parish, under Mr. Hugh Martindale, and what was a far more real
effort, patiently submitting when family duties thwarted her best
intentions. Parish work was her solace, in a somewhat weary life,
isolated from intimate companionship.

She had, indeed, Mr. Hugh Martindale for a guide and adviser, and to
her father she was a valuable assistant and companion; but her mother
was more than ever engrossed by the care of Mrs. Nesbit; her eldest
brother was still in the West Indies and Arthur only seen in fleeting
visits, so short that it had never been convenient for his family to
accompany him, nor had Theodora even been spared to attend Violet,
when a little girl, now nearly two years old, had been added to her
nursery.

Letters ill supplied the lack of personal intercourse: Theodora did
not write with ease, and Violet could not pour herself out without
reciprocity; so that though there was a correspondence, it
languished, and their intimacy seemed to be standing still. Another
great and heavy care to Theodora was a mistrust of Arthur's
proceedings. She heard of him on the turf, she knew that he kept
racers; neither his looks nor talk were satisfactory; there were
various tokens of extravagance; and Lord Martindale never went to
London without bringing back some uncomfortable report.

Very anxious and sad at heart, she hoped to be better satisfied by
judging for herself; and after long wearying for a meeting, her
wishes were at length in the way of fulfilment--Arthur's long leave
was to be spent at home.

The carriage turned in at the lodge gates. She looked up--how
differently from the would-be careless air with which she had once
watched! But there was disappointment--she saw no brother! In a
moment Violet had descended from the carriage, and warmly returned
her embrace; and she was kissing the little shy faces that looked up
to her, as all got out to walk up the avenue.

'But where is Arthur?'

'He is soon coming,' said the soft sweet voice. 'He would not let us
wait for him.'

'What! Has he not got his leave?'

'Yes; but he is going to stay with some of his friends. Mr. Herries
came yesterday and insisted.'

Theodora thought there was a mournful intonation, and looked
anxiously at her face. The form and expression were lovely as ever;
but the bright colouring had entirely faded, the cheeks were thin,
and the pensive gentleness almost mournful. A careworn look was
round the eyes and mouth, even while she smiled, as Theodora gave a
second and more particular greeting to the children.

Johnnie was so little changed that she exclaimed at finding the same
baby face. His little delicate features and pure fair skin were as
white as ever; for not a spring had gone by without his falling under
the grasp of his old enemy the croup; and his small slight frame was
the more slender from his recent encounter with it. But he was now a
very pretty boy, his curls of silken flax fringing his face under his
broad-leafed black hat, and contrasting with his soft dark eyes,
their gentle and intelligent expression showing, indeed, what a
friend and companion he was to his mother; and it was with a shy
smile, exactly like hers, that he received his aunt's notice.

'And Helen, my godchild, I have not looked at her! Where are you?'

But the tread of country turf seemed to have put wildness into little
Helen. She had darted off, and hidden behind a tree, peeping out
with saucy laughter flashing in her glorious black eyes, and dimpling
in the plump roseate cheeks round which floated thick glossy curls of
rich dark chestnut. Theodora flew to catch her; but she scampered
round another tree, shouting with fun, till she was seized and
pressed fast in her aunt's arms and called a mischievous puss, while
Theodora exulted in the splendour of her childish beauty, exuberant
with health and spirits. The moment she was released, with another
outcry of glee, she dashed off to renew the frolic, with the ecstasy
of a young fawn, while the round fat-faced Annie tumbled after her
like a little ball, and their aunt entered into the spirit of the
romp, and pursued them with blitheness for the moment like their own.
Johnnie, recovering his mamma's hand, walked soberly beside her, and
when invited to join in the sport, looked as if he implored to be
excused. Violet, rather anxiously, called them to order as they came
near the house, consigned Annie to Sarah, and herself took Helen's
hand, observing, gravely, that they must be very good.

'One thing,' she half-whispered; 'I once had a hint from Miss Piper
that Mrs. Nesbit did not like Lady Martindale to be called
grandmamma. What do you think?'

'What nonsense! Mamma ought to be proud of her grandchildren, and my
aunt will probably never see them or hear them at all. She never
comes out of the room.'

'Indeed! Is she so much more infirm?'

'Yes, very much aged. Her mind has never been quite itself since the
last stroke, though I can hardly tell the difference, but I think it
has softened her.'

'I suppose Lady Martindale is very much with her!'

'Almost always. She seems to cling to our presence, and I am never
quite secure that Mrs. Garth does not domineer over her in our
absence, but with all my watching I cannot discover. My aunt says
nothing against her, but I sometimes fancy she is afraid of her.'

'Poor Mrs. Nesbit. She must be altered indeed!'

'She is altered, but I never am clear how far it is any real change,
or only weakness. One comfort is, that she seems rather to like
Cousin Hugh's coming to read to her twice a week. How he will
delight in these creatures of yours.'

'Ah! we know him,' said Violet. 'You know he comes to us if he is in
London. How pleasant it must be for you.'

'Ah, very unlike the days when poor Mr. Wingfield used to come to ask
me how to manage the parish,' said Theodora, between a laugh and a
sigh. 'When did you hear from John?'

'His godson had a letter from him on his birthday.'

'O, Johnnie! that was an honour! Could you write and answer him?'

'Mamma helped me,' whispered the boy, while eyes and mouth lengthened
into a bright blushing smile.

'Steady, Helen, my child! Quiet!' exclaimed Violet, as the little
girl's delight grew beyond bounds at the sight of the peacock sunning
himself on the sphinx's head, and Johnnie was charmed with the
flowers in the parterre; and with 'look but not touch' cautions, the
two were trusted to walk together hand-in-hand through the gravelled
paths.

'The spirits will break out in little skips!' said Theodora, watching
Helen. 'She preserves her right to be called a splendid specimen!
What a pair they are!'

'Poor Helen! I shall be in dread of an outbreak all the time we are
here,' said Violet; 'but she means to be good, and every one cannot
be like Johnnie.'

'Ah! Johnnie one speaks of with respect.'

'I don't know what I should do but for him,' said Violet, with her
sad smile; 'he is so entirely my companion, and I suppose he seems
more forward in mind from being so much in the drawing-room.'

'Well! he is come to a time of life to merit his papa's notice.'

'More than the rest,' said Violet; 'but unluckily he is a little bit
of a coward, and is afraid when papa plays with him. We make
resolutions, but I really believe it is a matter of nerves, and that
poor Johnnie cannot help it.'

'What! Arthur is rough and teasing?'

'He does not understand this sort of timidity; he is afraid of
Johnnie's not being manly; but I believe that would come if his
health would but be stronger. It is very unlucky,' said Violet, 'for
it vexes papa, and I think it hurts Johnnie, though I am always
forced to blame him for being so silly. One comfort is, that it does
not in the least interfere with Johnnie's affection--he admires him
almost as he used when he was a baby.'

They were at the foot of the steps, where Charles Layton, now a brisk
page, was helping to unpack the carriage, more intelligently than
many a youth with the full aid of his senses.

Lord Martindale met them with his grave kind welcome, which awed even
Helen into quiet and decorum, though perhaps, from the corners of her
eyes, she was spying the Scagliola columns as places for hide-and-
seek. She opened them to their roundest extent as her grandmamma
came down-stairs, and she tried to take shelter behind her brother
from the ceremonious kiss, while Johnnie tightly squeezed his aunt's
hand, and Lady Martindale was quite as much afraid of them as they
could be of her.

So began the visit--a very different one from any Violet had hitherto
paid at Martindale. Theodora's room was now her chief resort in the
morning, and there Johnnie went through his lessons with almost too
precocious ease and delight, and Helen was daily conquered over Mrs.
Barbauld. There they were sure to be welcome, though they were
seldom seen downstairs. Johnnie used to appear in the space before
dinner, very demure and well-behaved, and there seemed to be a
fellow-feeling arising between him and his grandfather, who would
take possession of him if he met him out-of-doors, and conduct him to
any sight suited to his capacity; but who was so much distressed at
his forwardness in intellect and his backwardness in strength, that
Violet hardly dared to hold a conversation about him for fear of a
remonstrance on letting him touch a book.

One day Mrs. Nesbit suddenly said to Theodora, 'Arthur's wife and
children are here, are not they?'

'Yes; Violet would have come to see you, but we doubted if you were
equal to it.'

'I have nothing to say to Mr. Moss's daughter, but bring that eldest
boy here, I want to see him.'

Theodora stepped out into the gallery, where Johnnie was often to be
found curled up in the end window, poring over and singing to himself
the "White Doe of Rylstone", which he had found among his uncle's
books.

She led him in, exhorting him not to be shy, and to speak out boldly
in answer to Aunt Nesbit; but perhaps this only frightened him more.
Very quiet and silent, he stood under his aunt's wing with eyes cast
down, answering with a trembling effort the questions asked in that
sharp searching tone.

'His mother all over!' she said, motioning him away; but, the next
day, she sent for him again. Poor Johnnie did not like it at all; he
could hardly help shuddering at her touch, and at night begged his
mamma not to send him to Aunt Nesbit; for he could not bear it
without her. She had to represent that Aunt Nesbit was old and ill,
and that it would be unkind not to go to her: but then came the
difficult question, 'Why don't you go, mamma?' However, when his
compassionate feelings were aroused, he bore it better; and though he
never got beyond standing silently by her chair for ten minutes,
replying when spoken to, and once or twice reading a few sentences,
or repeating some verses, when Theodora thought it would please her,
it was evident that his visit had become the chief event of her day.
One day she gave him a sovereign, and asked what he would do with it.
He blushed and hesitated, and she suggested, 'Keep it, that will be
the wisest.'

'No,' came with an effort, and an imploring glance at Aunt Theodora.

'Well, then, what? Speak out like a man!' Still reluctant, but it
was brought out at last: 'Cousin Hugh told us about the poor sick
Irish children that have no potatoes. May I give it to him to send
them?'

'Never mind the Irish children. This is for yourself.'

'Myself?' Johnnie looked up, bewildered, but with a sudden thought,
'Oh! I know, Aunt Theodora, won't it buy that pretty work-basket to
give mamma on her birthday? She said she could not afford it. And
Helen wanted the great donkey in the shop-window. Oh! I can get
Helen the great donkey; thank you, Aunt Nesbit!'

The next day Aunt Nesbit received Johnnie by giving him five
sovereigns to take to Cousin Hugh for the Irish, desiring him to say
it was his own gift; and while Johnnie scrupulously explained that he
should say that she gave it to him to give, she began to instruct him
that he would be a rich man by and by, and must make a handsome and
yet careful use of his money. 'Shall I?' said Johnnie, looking up,
puzzled, at his younger aunt.

'Yes, that you will,' replied Mrs. Nesbit. 'What shall you do then?'

'Oh! then I shall buy mamma and my sisters everything they want, and
mamma shall go out in the carriage every day.

'She can do that now,' said Theodora, who had expected less
commonplace visions from her nephew.

'No,' said Johnnie, 'we have not got the carriage now. I mean, we
have no horses that will draw it.'

It was another of those revelations that made Theodora uneasy; one of
those indications that Arthur allowed his wife to pinch herself,
while he pursued a course of self-indulgence. She never went out in
the evening, it appeared, and he was hardly ever at home; her dress,
though graceful and suitable, had lost that air of research and
choiceness that it had when everything was his gift, or worn to
please his eye; and as day after day passed on without bringing him,
Theodora perceived that the delay was no such extraordinary event as
to alarm her; she was evidently grieved, but it was nothing new. It
was too plain that Arthur gave her little of his company, and his
children none of his attention, and that her calmness was the
serenity of patience, not of happiness.

This was all by chance betrayed; she spoke not of herself, and the
nightly talks between the two sisters were chiefly of the children.
Not till more than a week had passed to renew their intimacy, did
Theodora advert to any subject connected with the events of her
memorable stay in London, and then she began by asking, 'What did I
overhear you telling papa about Lord St. Erme?'

'I was speaking of his doings at Wrangerton.'

'Tell me.'

'Oh! they are admirable. You know he went there with that good
little Lady Lucy, and they set to work at once, doing everything for
the parish--'

'Do your sisters know Lady Lucy?'

'Very little; it is only formal visiting now and then. She leads a
very retired life, and they know her best from meeting her at the
schools and cottages.'

'Good little girl! I knew there was something in her!'

'She is always with her brother, walking and riding and writing for
him, carrying out all his views.'

'I saw how he came forward about those poor colliery children. Such
a speech, as that, was turning his talents to good account, and I am
glad to hear it is not all speechifying.'

'No, indeed, it is real self-denial. The first thing he did was to
take his affairs into his own hands, so that my father has
comparatively nothing to do with them. He found them in a bad state,
which papa could not help, with him living abroad, and attending to
nothing, only sending for money, whatever papa could say. So there
was a great outlay wanted for church and schools for the collieries
at Coalworth, and nothing to meet it, and that was the way he came to
sell off all the statues and pictures.'

'Did he? Well done, Lord St. Erme!' cried Theodora. 'That was
something like a sacrifice.'

'O yes! My sisters say they could have cried to see the cases go by
the windows, and I cannot help grieving to think of those rooms being
dismantled. I am glad they have kept the little Ghirlandajo, that is
the only one remaining.'

'I honour them,' said Theodora.

'And it was for the sake of such a set,' proceeded Violet; 'there is
a bad Chartist spirit among those colliers, and they oppose him in
every way; but he says it is his own fault for having neglected them
so long, and goes on doing everything for them, though they are as
surly and sullen as possible.

Theodora looked thoughtful. 'Poor Lord St. Erme! Yes, he has found
a crusade! I wish--! Well, I ought to be thankful that good has been
brought out of evil. I deserved no such thing. Violet, I wish he
would marry one of your sisters!'

'O no, don't wish that. I am glad there is no chance of it. Ranks
had better not be confounded,' said Violet, with a sad seriousness of
manner.

'You have just had a wedding in the family. A satisfactory one, I
hope?'

'Yes, I think so. Mamma and Annette like Mr. Hunt very much. They
say there is such a straightforward goodness about him, that they are
sure dear Olivia will be happy.'

'Was there any difficulty about it!'

'Why--Matilda and Albert seemed to think we should not think it grand
enough,' said Violet, half-smiling. 'He is a sort of great farmer on
his own estate, a most beautiful place. He is quite a gentleman in
manners, and very well off, so that my father made no difficulty, and
I am very glad of it. Olivia is the very person to enjoy that free
country life.' Violet sighed as if town life was oppressive.

'To be sure! If one could be a farmer's daughter without the
pretension and vulgarity, what a life it would be! That was my
favourite notion when I used to make schemes with poor Georgina
Gardner. Do you ever hear what she is doing, Violet? They have
quite left off writing to me.'

'Last time I heard of them they were in Italy.'

'Going on in the old way, I fear. Poor Georgina! she was sadly
thrown away. But, at least, that Mark is not with them.'

'O no,' said Violet, sighing more deeply this time; 'he is always
about in London.'

'Ah! you see more of him than you wish, I fear?'

'I see very little of him. Arthur would not ask him to our house at
Chichester for the Goodwood races, and it was such an escape!'

'I am glad at least Arthur does not trouble you with him.'

Violet sat with her forehead resting on her hand, and there was a
short space of thoughtful silence. It resulted in Theodora's saying,
in a sad, low, humble tone, her eyes looking straight into the red
fire, 'Do you ever hear of Mr. Fotheringham?'

'I believe he is still at Paris,' said Violet. 'I only hear of him
through John, who said he had been thinking of going to Italy. When
he came through London, after Lady Fotheringham's death, he left his
card, but we were at Chichester. Have you seen that last article of
his?'

'What, that on modern novels? I was almost sure it was his, and yet
I doubted. It was like and yet not like him.'

'It was his,' said Violet. 'He always has his things sent to me. I
am glad you observed the difference. I thought it so much kinder and
less satirical than his writings used to be.'

'It was so,' exclaimed Theodora. 'There were places where I said to
myself, "This cannot be his; I know what he would have said," and yet
it was too forcible and sensible to have been written by any one
else.'

'The strength is there, but not the sort of triumph in sarcasm that
sometimes made one sorry,' said Violet; 'and were you not struck by
his choice of extracts! I have fancied a different strain in his
writings of late.'

Theodora squeezed Violet's hand. 'I feared I had hardened him,' she
said. 'Thank you, good night.'

CHAPTER 2

St. Osyth's well is turned aside.--CRABBE

On the first convenient day, Lord Martindale sent Violet to call at
Rickworth Priory, a visit which she was the more desirous of making,
as Emma's correspondence, after languishing for awhile, had ceased,
excepting that she sent a fresh allegory of Miss Marstone's to
Johnnie on each birthday; and the Brandons having given up coming to
London for the season, she scarcely knew anything about them,
excepting through Theodora, who reported that they retired more and
more from society, and that Miss Marstone was much with them.

Theodora would have accompanied Violet, but she was sure that her
absence would be a boon to Emma, whom she had of late tried in vain
to draw out; and, besides, one of the housemaids was ill, and
Theodora, whom her Cousin Hugh called the mother of the maids, wished
not to be away at the doctor's visit. So little Johnnie was his
mother's only companion; but she was disappointed in her hopes of
introducing him to his godmother. To her surprise Lady Elizabeth was
alone, Emma was at Gothlands with her friend Miss Marstone.

'They were very kind in asking me,' said Lady Elizabeth, 'and so was
Emma about leaving me; but I do not wish to be a drag upon her.'

'Oh! how can you say so?' exclaimed Violet.

'It did not suit,' said Lady Elizabeth. 'The uncle, old Mr. Randal,
is an old-fashioned, sporting squire, and the other Miss Marstones
are gay ladies. I felt myself out of my element when I was there
before; but now I almost wish I was with her.'

'You must miss her very much, indeed.'

'It is what we must all come to, my dear,' said Lady Elizabeth,
looking at the young mother, with her boy leaning against her knee,
deep in a book of illustrations. 'You have a good many years to look
forward to with your little flock; but, one way or other, they will
go forth from us.'

Lady Elizabeth thought Johnnie too much absorbed to hear; but Violet
found his hand lightly squeezing hers.

'I thought you at least had kept your daughter,' she said.

'Emma will be five-and-twenty in the autumn.'

'But, oh! Lady Elizabeth, I thought--'

'I cannot tell, my dear. I hope Emma's arrangements may be such that
we may go on together as before.'

'How do you mean?' exclaimed Violet, confounded.

'Her judgment is sound,' continued Lady Elizabeth, 'if she will only
use it; and when it comes to the point, Miss Marstone's may be the
same.'

'Is she gone to Gothlands to settle her plans?'

'Yes; I could not well have gone with her, for we have four little
orphan girls in the house, whom I could not well leave to the
servants. That is quite as I wish, if the rest could be added
without Theresa Marstone making this her home, and introducing all
the plans they talk of.'

'She could not introduce anything to make you uncomfortable!'

'It is not so much comfort that I mean, my dear. I do not think that
I should object to giving up some of the servants, though in my time
it was thought right to keep up an establishment. Perhaps a family
of women are not called upon to do things in the same style, and
there is no doubt that our means may be better employed. We have too
many luxuries, and I would not wish to keep them. No, if it was
entirely Emma's doing. I should be satisfied; but there is more
influence from Miss Marstone than I quite like. I cannot fully rely
on her judgment, and I think she likes to manage.'

'She could never presume to manage in your house!'

'Emma's house, my dear.'

'But that is the same.'

Lady Elizabeth sighed, and made a movement with her head, then said,
'All that they think right and conscientious they will do, I am sure,
but the worst of it is that Theresa has friends who are not of our
Communion, and she does speak strongly of things that do not accord
with her notions. I cannot go along with her, and I must confess she
sometimes alarms me.

'And does Emma think with her entirely?'

'I fear--I mean I think she does; and, by the bye, my dear, do you
know anything of a Mr. Gardner?'

'I do know a Mr. Mark Gardner.'

'That is his name. He is staying in the neighbourhood of Gothlands,
and seems very deep in their counsels. I am afraid he is leading
them farther than Theresa Marstone herself would have gone.'

'Oh, then, he cannot be the same person. I meant a very different
style of man, a cousin to those Miss Gardners who used to be friends
of Theodora.'

'Ah! I meant to ask you about Miss Gardner and Percival
Fotheringham. What! you have not heard?'

'No, nothing. What do you mean?'

'Married.'

'Married! No, never!'

'I thought you would have known, all about it, and I was anxious to
hear what kind of connection it was for Percival.'

'Do tell me, how did you hear of it? When was it?'

'Not long ago, in Italy. I heard of it the other day from my nephew,
Edward Howard, who is just returned, and he told me that Mrs. Finch
was leading a dashing life at Florence, and that her sister had just
married Mr. Fotheringham, "the author."'

'O, I do not know how to think it possible! Yet it is such an
uncommon name.'

'Do you know whether his name is Antony?'

'Yes, it is his first name. I remember Arthur's laughing at him for
being ashamed of it, as he said.'

'That confirms it. I asked Edward if the Christian name was
Percival, and he said it was Antony, and some such name, but he could
not be sure.'

'Ah! there would be a confusion owing to his being always called
Percy.'

'He said, too, that it was a good match for Miss Gardner, as he was
heir to an estate in Yorkshire.'

'Worthbourne! Then I am afraid it must be too true. The author,
too!'

'So Edward was told.'

'I must write and ask John Martindale. He will be sure to know the
whole history.'

The rest of the visit and the homeward drive were like a dream.
Violet was lost in amazement, compassion, and disappointment, and in
the debate how Theodora should be informed. Should she wait till
there were further particulars to confirm it! But when she thought
it over, there seemed no more wanting. She knew that Percy had been
thinking of visiting Italy a year ago, and the name, the authorship,
and connection with Worthbourne swept away all doubt. As to making
inquiries, she did not know Arthur's present address; and even if she
had had it, she would have shrunk from saying anything that should
lead to one additional conversation with Mark Gardner; besides which,
Arthur had a fashion of never answering any question asked by letter.

Nor could Violet venture to delay. It was better that such tidings
should come from sympathizing lips than through the gossip of the
neighbourhood; and Theodora ought to be aware of them as soon as
possible, that she might no longer cherish the shade of her
affection. Alas! that he should have done this at the very moment
when she had truly become worthy of him, or, at least, of what he had
once been!

At night, when Theodora came to linger over her fire, the
intelligence was reluctantly and hesitatingly spoken; Violet's eyes
were bent down, for she knew how little that spirit could brook that
its suffering should be marked.

Theodora stood up before her, at her full height, with flashing eye
and indignant voice: 'Do you think I believe it? No, indeed! I may
have lost him for ever, but he would never lose himself. I scorn
this as I did Jane Gardner's own story that you were going to marry
him to your sister. I knew you both too well.'

Violet put her arm round Theodora. 'Dearest, I am the more afraid
that we must believe this, because he was not always constant. He
did think of Annette.'

'Think of her! What do you mean! Did he make her an offer!'

'Yes. I would never have told you if I did not think it might help
you in this.'

'I don't want help,' said Theodora, raising her head and turning from
Violet. 'Let him do as he likes.'

But, ere she had made two steps towards the door, her breast heaved
with a convulsive sob. She threw herself on the ground, and rested
her face on Violet's lap. The sobs came at long intervals, with a

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