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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 12 out of 15

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himself.

He went, as he told Emma, to seek for some continental convent, where
perhaps be might be received as a boarder, and glean hints for the
Priory. Ordinary minds believed that his creditors being suspicious
of the delay of his marriage with the heiress, had contributed to
this resolution.

He spent a few days in London on his way, came to call on Colonel
Martindale, and was much with him, as Violet afterwards found, though
she did not know of it at the time.

She perceived the renewal of his influence in a project of which
Arthur began to talk, of leaving the army and establishing himself at
Boulogne. Though by rigid economy and self-denial she had continued
to make the original sum apportioned to her cover all household
expenses, and his promotion had brought an increase of income, Arthur
declared that, with such a family, his means were inadequate to the
requirements of his profession, and that unless his father could
assist them further, they must reside abroad. Lord Martindale
treated the threat with great displeasure, and to Violet it was like
annihilation. When thankful for Mark Gardner's absence, she was to
be made to pursue him, probably in order that he might continue to
prey on Arthur in secret, and then, at the year's end, bring them as
witnesses that he had abstained from open transgression; she was to
see her husband become the idling Englishman abroad, in the society
most likely to be his ruin; to have her children exposed to the
disadvantages of a foreign education--what more was wanting to her
distress? She ventured to expostulate on their account; but Arthur
laughed, and told her they would learn French for nothing; and when
she spoke of the evils of bringing up a boy in France, it was with
the look which pained her so acutely, that she was answered, 'No fear
but that he will be looked after: he is of consequence in the
family.'

Never had the future looked so desolate; but sufficient unto the day
was the evil thereof. She had the root of peace and strength, and
had long been trained in patient trust and endurance. To pray, to
strive, to dwell on words of comfort, to bear in mind the blessings
of the cross, to turn resolutely from gloomy contemplations, and to
receive thankfully each present solace,--these were the tasks she set
herself, and they bore the fruit of consolation and hidden support.
Her boy's affection and goodness, the beauty and high health of her
little girls, and the kindlier moments when Arthur's better nature
shone out, were balm and refreshment, because she accepted them as
gifts from the Fatherly Hand that laid the trial upon her.

Her submissive distress so far worked on Arthur, that she heard no
more of the Boulogne scheme for the present, and she drove it out of
her mind, grateful for his silence, whether it was only from
consideration for her, or whether he had really relinquished the
design, now that Mr. Gardner was no longer near to maintain his
ascendancy.

The summer was dreary at Brogden, as well as in Cadogan-place.
Theodora soon was able to call herself well, and to resume her usual
avocations, but she had not the same sense of energy and strength of
body, and her days were combats with inertness and fatigue. She did
not slacken her exertions, but they had no zest, and she suffered for
them. Moreover, she was uneasy about Arthur and his wife; and to
partake her father's confidence was to share his many anxieties, and
to be perplexed by his cares as well as her own. With her mother
there were other difficulties. Lady Martindale had been kept so far
apart from her daughter, that now it seemed as if they could not
amalgamate, and when Theodora no longer was ill, the old habit of
reserve returned. Assiduously did Theodora wait on her, read to her,
and go out with her in the carriage; but still without becoming
familiar, or being able to cheer her spirits. In truth, after having
been for years an obedient attendant on her aunt, Lady Martindale
felt the blank of the want of occupation, and thus the sense of her
loss was ever renewed. Science, literature, and accomplishments had
been her pursuits, chiefly because her aunt led her to them, and they
had been gradually dropped with Mrs. Nesbit's interest in them. In
themselves they had no charm for her, and she turned from them now as
painfully recalling what she had lost. Dispirited, and without
employment, the natural consequence was that her health suffered, and
she became a prey to the varied torments of neuralgia, while Theodora
proved herself a better nurse than could have been expected for an
illness in which she only half believed.

Many hopes were fixed on John's return; but this was deferred,--he
was in the midst of church building, and establishing schemes to
which absence would be fatal, and he could only promise to come home
next year, when things should be put in train. To his sister he
wrote a letter so full of warm affectionate gratitude for her
exertions in his behalf, that she was positively soothed and
refreshed, and reckoned the more on beginning with him the fraternal
union so long delayed, but to which she looked as the solace of her
future life.

As to Percival Fotheringham, there was no further explanation of his
marriage. John wrote to Violet that he had not heard from him for
many months, for it was difficult to keep up a correspondence between
Barbuda and the continental towns whither he was journeying. His
last letter had spoken of a tour in Italy in contemplation, and that
in which he had communicated Lady Fotheringham's death, mentioned
some of her last cares being for Jane and Georgina, and how she had
tried to leave some provision which might rescue the former from the
necessity of following her sister into the undesirable society she
found abroad. This only served to confirm Theodora's conjecture.

From other sources no intelligence was gained. London was empty, and
Violet saw no one likely to know anything of his movements; and when
she heard that Mark Gardner had been in town, and eagerly inquired
whether he had been asked, she found that Arthur had forgotten the
whole matter. Lady Elizabeth finished the letter, rejoicing in his
departure, by saying--'He confirms what I told you of the marriage of
his cousin and Mr. Fotheringham, and calls it a lucky thing for her.
I had no opportunity of hearing the particulars.' And, finally, Mrs.
Bryanstone had heard of Miss Gardner's marriage with one of the
Fotheringhams of Worthbourne, and only wanted Mrs. Martindale to
strengthen her in the belief that it was the dear, eccentric
Crusader.

CHAPTER 7

'Mid sombre shades of evening dim
Upon the rock so lone, so drear,
Scorning weak frame and sinking limb,
My heart grows bright and bold of cheer;
Out of the depths of stormy night
My hope looks up with cloudless eyes,
And to the one true deathless light,
Its joyful pinions swiftly rise:
Thanks to the seraph shape that beamed
Benign upon my darkened breast,
So for her service worthy deemed,
My grateful heart abounds in rest.

FOUQUE'S Minstrel Love

'Wrangerton, August 20th.

'You must not be frightened, dearest Violet--Albert is safe; thanks
to that most noble-hearted, admirable Lord St. Erme, and above all,
thanks to Him who directed this dreadful stroke away from us. I hope
you will receive this before you see the newspaper. Mamma has gone
up with them, to help them to break it to poor Lady Lucy. May she be
supported!

'The history, as far as I can toll you, is this:--The men at the
collieries have been as troublesome and insubordinate as ever,
seeming to think opposition to Lord St. Erme an assertion of their
rights as free-born Englishmen; and at last, finding it impossible to
do anything with them as long as they did not depend immediately upon
himself, he took the pits into his own hands when Mr. Shoreham went
away, a fortnight ago. It seems that Mr. Shoreham, knowing that he
was going, had let everything fall into a most neglected state, and
the overlookers brought reports to Albert that there were hardly any
safety-lamps used in the great pit, and that the galleries were so
insufficiently supported that there was great danger in continuing to
work there. However, the reports were contradictory, and after
trying in vain to settle what was to be done, Lord St. Erme rode this
morning to the collieries, to make a personal inspection, and insist
on the men using the Davy-lamp. After trying to dissuade him, Albert
proposed to go down with him; but he would not consent--he only
smiled, and said there was no need for it. It did not strike Albert
till afterwards that he was conscious of the risk, and would not
allow another to share it! He was waiting for him, not far from the
shaft, when the earth seemed to give way under his feet; there was a
thundering sound, a great cry, and he fell. When he recovered his
footing, the mouth of the shaft was gone, the scaffolding prostrate,
the people around in horror and consternation. The pit had fallen
in, and there were at least twenty men there, besides Lord St. Erme.
Oh! how you will share that shuddering thankfulness and sorrow, that
we felt, when Albert galloped up to the door and threw himself into
the arm-chair, so unnerved by the shock that he could not at first
speak. Happily his wife was here, so she heard all at once. He is
gone with mamma and papa to tell the poor sister. Alas! though we
think most of her, there are many other sufferers.

'Three, o'clock.--Albert is come back. He says Lady Lucy met them in
the hall, pale and trembling, as if she had already worked herself
into an agony of fright. She begged them to tell her at once, and
stood quite still, only now and then moaning to herself, "Oh, St.
Erme! St. Erme! Mamma took her by the hand, and tried to speak
soothingly; but she did not seem to attend, and presently looked up,
flushed and quivering, though she had been so still before, and
declared that the whole might not have fallen; she had heard of
people being dug out alive; they must begin at once, and she would go
to the spot. There is no hope, Albert says; even if not crushed,
they must have perished from the foul air, but the poor girl has
caught fast hold of the idea, and insists on going to Coalworth at
once to urge it on. They cannot prevent her, and mamma cannot bear
that she should be alone, and means to go with her. The carriage was
ordered when Albert came here! Poor thing, there was never fonder
love between a brother and sister; she hardly had a thought that did
not centre in him. It breaks my heart to think how often we have
seen them walking arm-in-arm together, and said they might be taken
for a pair of lovers.

'Five o'clock.--Annette begs me to conclude her letter. My father
has returned home, and fetched her to Coalworth, to be with my
mother, and the poor young lady (already, I fear, Countess of St.
Erme), who, he tells us, continues buoyed up by the delusion that her
brother may yet be found alive, and is calling on all around to use
the utmost exertions for his recovery. I regret that I cannot go in
Annette's stead; but I cannot leave home in mamma's absence, as poor
Louisa is much affected by Albert's peril, and in so nervous a state
that she will not hear of my quitting her for a moment. We have
indeed received a lesson, that no rank, however exalted, can protect
from the strokes of Providence, or the uncertainties of human life.
But the postman calls. Adieu.

'Your affectionate sister,

'Matilda Moss.'

(The last moral sentiment, be it observed, readied Miss Martindale,
rendered illegible by scrawls of ink from Violet's hand.)

'Coalworth, August 21st.

'Dearest Violet,--Matilda told you how I was sent for to come here.
They are working on,--relays relieving each other day and night; but
no one but poor Lady Lucy thinks there is any hope. Mr. Alder, the
engineer, says Lord St. Erme must have been in the farthest gallery,
and they cannot reach it in less than a week, so that if the other
perils should be escaped, there would be starvation. The real number
lost is fourteen, besides Lord St. Erme. It was a strange scene when
I arrived at about seven o'clock yesterday evening. The moor looking
so quiet, and like itself, with the heath and furze glowing in the
setting sun, as if they had no sympathy for us, till, when we came
near the black heaps of coal, we saw the crowd standing round,--then
getting into the midst, there was the great broken down piece of
blackened soil and the black strong-armed men working away with that
life-and-death earnestness. By the ruins of a shed that had been
thrown down, there was a little group, Lady Lucy, looking so fair and
delicate, so unlike everything around, standing by an old woman in a
red cloak, whom she had placed in the chair that had been brought for
herself, the mother of one of the other sufferers. Mamma and papa
were with her; but nothing seems to comfort her so much as going from
one to the other of the women and children in the same trouble with
herself. She talks to them, and tries to get them to be hopeful, and
nurses the babies, and especially makes much of the old woman. The
younger ones look cheered when she tells them that history which she
dwells on so much, and seem as if they must believe her, but the poor
old dame has no hope, and tells her so. "'Tis the will of God, my
lady, don't ye take on so now. It will be all one when we come to
heaven, though I would have liked to have seen Willy again; but 'tis
the cross the Lord sends, so don't ye take on," and then Lady Lucy
sits down on the ground, and looks up in her face, as if her plain
words did her more good than anything we can say, or even the
clergyman, who is constantly going from one to the other. Whenever
the men come to work, or go away, tired out, Lady Lucy thanks them
from the bottom of her heart; and a look at her serves to inspirit
and force them on to wonderful exertions. But alas! what it must end
in! We are at the house that was Mr. Shoreham's, the nearest to the
spot. It was hard work to get poor Lady Lucy to come in last night.
She stood there till long after dark, when the stars were all out,
and mamma could only get her away by telling her, that her brother
would be vexed, and that, if she made herself ill, she would not be
able to nurse him. She did not sleep all night, and this morning she
was out again with daylight, and we were obliged to bring her out
some breakfast, which she shared with the fellow-sufferers round her,
and would have taken nothing herself if the old dame had not coaxed
her, and petted her, calling her "My pretty lady," and going back to
her lecture on its being a sin to fret at His will. Mamma and I take
turns to be with her. When I came in, she was sitting by the old
woman, reading to her the Psalms, and the good old creature saying at
the end of each, "Yes, yes, He knows what is good for them. Glory be
to Him."

'Aug. 22nd.--As before. They have tried if they can open a way from
the old shaft, but cannot do it with safety. Lady Lucy still the
same, but paler and more worn, I think, less hopeful; I hope, more
resigned.

'Aug. 23rd.--Poor Lucy was really tired out, and slept for two whole
hours in the heat of the noon, sitting on the ground by old Betty,
fairly overpowered. It was a touching sight; the old woman watching
her so sedulously, and all the rough people keeping such strict
silence, and driving off all that could disturb her. The pitmen look
at her with such compassionate reverence! The look and word she
gives them are ten thousand times more to them, I am sure, than the
high pay they get for every hour they work! Next Wednesday is the
first day they can hope to come to anything. This waiting is
dreadful. Would that I could call it suspense!

'Aug. 24th, Sunday.--She has been to church this morning. I did not
think she could, but at the sound of the bell, she looked up, and the
old woman too, they seemed to understand each other without a word,
and went together. The service was almost more than one could bear,
but she was composed, except at the references in the sermon to our
state of intense anxiety, and the need of submission. At the special
mention in the Litany of those in danger, I heard from beneath her
hands clasped over her face, that low moan of "O, brother, brother!"
Still I think when the worst comes, she will bear it better and be
supported.

'Five o'clock.--THESE IS HOPE!--O Violet! We went to church again
this afternoon. The way leads past the old shaft. As we came by it
in returning, Lady Lucy stood still, and said she heard a sound. We
could hear nothing, but one of the wives said, "Yes, some one was
working, and calling down there." I flew to the main shaft, and
called Mr. Alder. He was incredulous, but Lady Lucy insisted. A man
went down, and the sound was certain. No words can be made out.
They are working to meet them. Lucy burst into tears, and threw her
arms round my neck as soon as she heard this man's report; but oh!
thankful as we are, it is more cruel than ever not to know who is
saved, and this letter must go to-night without waiting for more.

'25th.--He is alive, they say, but whether he can rally is most
uncertain. All night they worked on, not till six o'clock this
morning was any possibility of communication opened. Then questions
were asked, "How many were there?" "Fifteen, all living, but one
much crushed." Oh! the suspense, the heart-beating as those answers
were sent up from the depths of the tomb--a living tomb indeed; and
how Lady Lucy pressed the women's hard hands, and shed her tears of
joy with them. But there was a damp to her gladness. Next message
was that Lord St. Erme bad fainted--they could not tell whether he
lived--he could not hold out any longer! Then it was that she gave
way, and indeed it was too agonizing, but the old woman seemed better
able to calm her than we could. Terrible moments indeed! and in the
midst there was sent up a folded paper that had been handed out at
the small aperture on the point of a tool, when the poor things had
first been able to see the lights of their rescuers. It was to Lady
Lucy; her brother had written it on the leaf of a pocket-book, before
their single lamp went out, and had given it in charge to one of the
men when he found his strength failing. She was too dizzy and
trembling to make out the pencil, and gave it to me to read to her.
I hope I am not doing wrong, for I must tell you how beautiful and
resigned a farewell it was. He said, in case this note ever came to
her, she must not grieve at the manner of his death--it was a comfort
to him to be taken, while trying to repair the negligence of earlier
years; they were a brave determined set of men who were with him, and
she must provide for their widows and children. There was much fond
thought for her, and things to console her, and one sentence you must
have--"If ever you meet with the "hoch-beseeltes Madchen", let her
know that her knight thanks and blesses her in his last hour for
having roused him and sent him forth to the battlefield. I would
rather be here now than what I was when she awoke me. Perhaps she
will now be a friend and comforter to you."

'I think those were the words. I could not help writing them. Poor
Lucy cried over the note, and we lowered down baskets of nourishment
to be handed in, but we heard only of Lord St. Erme's continued
swoon, and it was a weary while before the opening could be widened
enough to help the sufferers out. They were exhausted, and could
work no more on their side. But for him, it seems they would have
done nothing; he was the only one who kept his presence of mind when
the crash came. One lamp was not extinguished, and he made them at
once consider, while the light lasted, whether they could help
themselves. One of the hewers knew that they were not far from this
old shaft, and happily Lord St. Erme had a little compass hung to his
watch, which he used to carry in his wanderings abroad; this decided
the direction, and he set them to work, and encouraged them to
persevere most manfully. He did not work himself--indeed, the close
air oppressed him much more than it did the pitmen, and he had little
hope for his own life, however it might end, but he sat the whole
time, supporting the head of the man who was hurt, and keeping up the
resolution of the others, putting them in mind of the only hope in
their dire distress, and guiding them to prayer and repentance, such
as might fit them for life or death. "He was more than ten
preachers, and did more good than forty discourses," said one man.
But he had much less bodily strength than they, though more energy
and fortitude, and he was scarcely sensible when the first hope of
rescue came. It seemed as if he had just kept up to sustain them
till then, and when they no longer depended on him for encouragement,
he sank. The moment came at last. He was drawn up perfectly
insensible, together with a great brawny-armed hewer, a vehement
Chartist, and hitherto his great enemy, but who now held him in his
arms like a baby, so tenderly and anxiously. As soon as he saw Lady
Lucy, he called out, "Here he is, Miss, I hope ye'll be able to bring
him to. If all lords were like he now!" and then his wife had hold
of him, quite beside herself with joy; but he shook her off with a
sort of kind rudeness, and, exhausted as he was, would not hear of
being helped to his home, till he had heard the doctors (who were all
in waiting) say that Lord St. Erme was alive. Lady Lucy was hanging
over him in a sort of agony of ecstasy, and yet of grief; but still
she looked up, and put her little white hand into the collier's big
black one, and said, "Thank you," and then he fairly burst out
crying, and so his wife led him away. I saw Lord St. Erme for one
moment, and never was anything more death-like, such ghastly white,
except where grimed with coal-dust. They are in his room now, trying
to restore animation. He has shown some degree of consciousness, and
pressed his sister's hand, but all power of swallowing seems to be
gone, and the doctors are in great alarm. The others are doing well-
-the people come in swarms to the door to ask for him.

'26th.--Comfort at last. He has been getting better all night, and
this morning the doctors say all danger is over. Mamma says she can
hardly keep from tears as she watches the happy placid looks of the
brother and sister, as he lies there so pale and shadowy, and she
hangs over him, as if she could never gaze at him enough. Several of
the men, who were with him, came to inquire for him early this
morning; none of them suffered half so much as he did. I went down
to speak to them, and I am glad I did; it is beautiful to see how he
has won all their hearts, and to hear their appreciation of his
conduct. They say he tended the man who was hurt as if he had been
his mother, and never uttered one word of complaint. "He told us,"
said one man, "God could hear us out of the depth, as well as when we
said our prayers in church; and whenever our hearts were failing us,
there was his voice speaking somewhat good to cheer us up, or help us
to mind that there was One who knew where we were, and would have a
care for us and our wives and children." "Bless him," said another,
"he has been the saving of our lives;" "Bless him;" and they touched
their hats and said Amen. I wish his sister could have seen them!

'Five o'clock.--Mrs. Delaval is come, and there is no room nor need
for us, so we are going home. It is best, for mamma was nursing him
all night, and is tired out. He has improved much in the course of
the day, and they hope that he may soon be moved home. The pitmen
want to carry him back on his mattress on their shoulders. He has
made himself king of their hearts! He has been able to inquire after
them, and Lady Lucy, who forgets no one, has been down-stairs to see
the old Betty. 'Ah! my pretty lady," she said, "you are not sorry
now that you tried to take the Lord's Cross patiently, and now, you
see, your sorrow is turned into joy." And then Lady Lucy would not
have it called patience, and said she had had no submission in her,
and Betty answered her, "Ah! well, you are young yet, and He fits the
burden to the shoulder." How an adventure like this brings out the
truth of every character, as one never would have known it otherwise.
Who would have dreamt of that pattern of saintly resignation in the
Coalworth heath, or that Lady Lucy Delaval would have found a poor
old woman her truest and best comforter? and this without the least
forwardness on the old woman's part.

'Just going! Lady Lucy so warm-hearted and grateful--and Lord St.
Erme himself wished mamma good-bye in such a kind cordial manner,
thanking her for all she had done for his sister. I am sorry to go,
so as not to be in the way of seeing anything more of them, but it is
time, for mamma is quite overcome. So I must close up this last
letter from Coalworth, a far happier one than I thought to end with.

'Your most affectionate,

A. M.

'P. S.--Is he not a hero, equal to his "hoch-beseeltes Madchen"?
I am ashamed of having written to you what was never meant for other
eyes, but it will be safe with you. If you had seen how he used to
waylay us, and ask for our tidings from you after the fire, you would
see I cannot doubt who the "madchen" is. Is there no hope for him?
The other affair was so long ago, and who could help longing to have
such minstrel-love rewarded?'

That postscript did not go on to Brogden, though Annette's betrayal
of confidence had been suffered to meet the eye of the high-souled
maiden.

The accounts of Lord St. Erme continued to improve, though his
recovery was but slow. To talk the adventure over was a never-
failing interest to Lady Martindale, who, though Theodora suppressed
Annette's quotation, was much of the opinion expressed in the
postscript, and made some quiet lamentations that Theodora had
rejected him.

'No, we were not fit for each other,' she answered.

'You would not say so now,' said Lady Martindale. 'He has done
things as great as yourself, my dear.'

'I am fit for no one now,' said Theodora, bluntly.

'Ah, my dear!--But I don't know why I should wish you to marry; I
could never do without you.'

'That's the most sensible thing you have said yet, mamma.'

But Theodora wished herself less necessary at home, when, in a few
weeks more, she had to gather that matters were going on well from
the large round-hand note, with nursery spelling and folding, in
which Johnnie announced that he had a little brother.

An interval of peace to Violet ensued. Arthur did not nurse her as
in old times; but he was gentle and kind, and was the more with her
as the cough, which had never been entirely removed, was renewed by
a chill in the first cold of September. All went well till the babe
was a week old, when Arthur suddenly announced his intention of
asking for a fortnight's leave, as he was obliged to go to Boulogne
on business.

Here was a fresh thunderbolt. Violet guessed that Mr. Gardner was
there, and was convinced that, whatever might be Arthur's present
designs, he would come back having taken a house at Boulogne. He
answered her imploring look by telling her not to worry herself; he
hoped to get 'quit of the concern,' and, at any rate, could not help
going. She suggested that his cough would bear no liberties; he
said, change of air would take it off, and scouted her entreaty that
he would consult Mr. Harding. Another morning, a kind careless
farewell, he was gone!

Poor Violet drew the coverlet over her head; her heart failed her,
and she craved that her throbbing sinking weakness and feverish
anxiety might bring her to her final rest. When she glanced over the
future, her husband deteriorating, and his love closed up from her;
her children led astray by evil influences of a foreign soil;
Johnnie, perhaps, only saved by separation--Johnnie, her precious
comforter; herself far from every friend, every support, without
security of church ordinances--all looked so utterly wretched that,
as her pulses beat, and every sensation of illness was aggravated,
she almost rejoiced in the danger she felt approaching.

Nothing but her infant's voice could have recalled her to a calmer
mind, and brought back the sense that she was bound to earth by her
children. She repented as of impatience and selfishness, called back
her resolution, and sought for soothing. It came. She had taught
herself the dominion over her mind in which she had once been so
deficient. Vexing cares and restless imaginings were driven back by
echoes of hymns and psalms and faithful promises, as she lay calm and
resigned, in her weakness and solitude, and her babe slept tranquilly
in her bosom, and Johnnie brought his books and histories of his
sisters; and she could smile in thankfulness at their loveliness of
to-day, only in prayer concerning herself for the morrow. She was
content patiently to abide the Lord.

CHAPTER 8

But one, I wis, was not at home,
Another had paid his gold away,
Another called him thriftless loone,
And bade him sharply wend his way.--Heir of Lynne

'He is done for. That wife of his may feel the consequence of
meddling in other folk's concerns. Not that I care for that now,
there's metal more attractive; but she has crossed me, and shall
suffer for it.' These short sentences met the ear of a broad-
shouldered man in a rough coat, as, in elbowing his way through the
crowd on the quay at Boulogne, he was detained for a moment behind
two persons, whose very backs had all the aspect of the dissipated
Englishman abroad. Struggling past, he gained a side view of the
face of the speaker. It was one which he knew; but the vindictive
glare in the sarcastic eyes positively made him start, as he heard
the laugh of triumph and derision, in reply to some remark from the
other.

'Ay! and got enough to get off to Paris, where the old Finch has
dropped off his perch at last. That was all I wanted of him, and it
was time to wring him dry and have done with him. He will go off in
consumption before the year is out--'

As he spoke, the stranger turned on him an honest English face, the
lips compressed into an expression of the utmost contempt, while
indignation flashed in the penetrating gray eyes, that looked on him
steadily. His bold defiant gaze fell, quailing and scowling, he
seemed to become small, shrink away, and disappeared.

'When scamp number two looks round for scamp number one, he is lost
in the crowd,' muttered the traveller, half smiling; then, with a
deep breath, 'The hard-hearted rascal! If one could only wring his
neck! Heaven help the victim! though, no doubt, pity is wasted on
him.'

He ceased his reflections, to enter the steamer just starting for
Folkestone, and was soon standing on deck, keeping guard over his
luggage. The sound of a frequent cough attracted his attention, and,
looking round, he saw a tall figure wrapped in great-coats leaning on
the leeward side of the funnel.

'Hollo! you here, Arthur! Where have you been?'

'What, Percy? How d'ye do?' replied a hoarse, languid voice.

'Is Mrs. Martindale here?'

'No.' He was cut short by such violent cough that he was obliged to
rest his forehead on his arm; then shivering, and complaining of the
cold, he said he should go below, and moved away, rejecting Percy's
offered arm with some impatience.

The weather was beautiful, and Percy stood for some time watching the
receding shore, and scanning, with his wonted keen gaze, the various
countenances of the passengers. He took a book from his pocket, but
did not read long; he looked out on the sea, and muttered to himself,
'What folly now? Why won't that name let one rest? Besides, he
looked desperately ill; I must go and see if they have made him
comfortable in that dog-hole below.'

Percy shook himself as if he was out of humour; and, with his hands
in his pockets, and a sauntering step, entered the cabin. He found
Arthur there alone, his head resting on his arms, and his frame
shaken by the suppressed cough.

'You seem to have a terrible cold. This is a bad time to be
crossing. How long have you been abroad?'

'Ten days.--How came you here?'

'I am going to Worthbourne. How are all your folks!'

'All well;' and coughing again, he filled up a tumbler with spirits
and water, and drank it off, while Percy exclaimed:

'Are you running crazy, to be feeding such a cough in this way?'

'The only thing to warm one,' said he, shuddering from head to foot.

'Yes, warm you properly into a nice little fever and inflammation.
Why, what a hand you have! And your pulse! Here, lie down at once,'
as he formed a couch with the help of a wrapper and bag. Arthur
passively accepted his care; but as the chill again crept through his
veins, he stretched out his hand for the cordial.

'I won't have it done!' thundered Percy. 'I will not look on and see
you killing yourself!'

'I wish I could,' murmured Arthur, letting his hand drop, as if
unequal to contest the point.

The conviction suddenly flashed on Percy that he was the victim!
'You have got yourself into a scrape' he said.

'Scrape! I tell you I am ruined! undone!' exclaimed Arthur, rearing
himself up, as he burst out into passionate imprecations on Mark
Gardner, cut short by coughing.

'You! with your wife and little children entirely depending on you!
You have allowed that scoundrel, whose baseness you knew, to dupe you
to your own destruction!' said Percy, with slowness and severity.

Too ill and wretched to resent the reproach, Arthur sank his head
with a heavy groan, that almost disarmed Percy; then looking up, with
sparkling eyes, he exclaimed, 'No! I did not know his baseness; I
thought him a careless scape-grace, but not much worse than he has
made me. I would as soon have believed myself capable of the
treachery, the unfeeling revenge--' Again he was unable to say more,
and struggling for utterance, he stamped his foot against the floor,
and groaned aloud with rage and pain.

Percy persuaded him to lie down again, and could not refrain from
forcible expressions of indignation, as he recollected the sneering
exultation of Gardner's tone of triumph over one so open-hearted and
confiding.

It was a moment when sympathy unlocked the heart, and shame was lost
in the sense of injury. Nothing more was needed to call from Arthur
the history of his wrongs, as well as he was able to tell it, eking
out with his papers the incoherent sentences which he was unable to
finish, so that Percy succeeded in collecting, from his broken
narration, an idea of the state of affairs.

The horses, kept jointly at his expense and that of Gardner, had been
the occasion of serious debts; and on Gardner's leaving England,
there had been a pressure on Colonel Martindale that rendered him
anxious to free himself, even at the cost of his commission.
Gardner, on the other hand, had, it appeared, been desirous to have
him at Boulogne, perhaps, at first, merely as a means of subsistence
during the year of probation, and on the failure of the first attempt
at bringing him thither, had written to invite him, holding out as an
inducement, that he was himself desirous of being disembarrassed, in
order that Miss Brandon might find him clear of this entanglement,
and representing that he had still property enough to clear off his
portion of the liability.

With this view Arthur had gone out to Boulogne to meet him, but had
found him dilatory in entering on business, and was drawn into taking
part in the amusements of the place; living in a state of fevered
excitement, which aggravated his indisposition and confused his
perceptions, so that he fell more completely than ever into the power
of his false friend, and was argued into relinquishing his project of
selling the horses, and into taking up larger sums for keeping them
on. In fact, the sensation that a severe cold was impending, and
disgust at the notion of being laid up in such company rendered him
doubly facile; and, in restless impatience to get away and avoid
discussion, he acceded to everything, and signed whatever Gardner
pleased. Not till he was on the point of embarking, after having
gambled away most of his ready money, did he discover that the
property of which he had heard so much was only a shadow, which had
served to delude many another creditor; and that they had made
themselves responsible for a monstrous amount, for which he was left
alone to answer, while the first demand would be the signal for a
multitude of other claims. As they parted, Gardner had finally
thrown off the mask, and let him know that this was the recompense of
his wife's stories to the Brandons. She might say what she pleased
now, it mattered not; Mark was on his way to the rich widow of Mr.
Finch, and had wanted nothing of Arthur but to obtain the means of
going to her, and to be revenged on him.

So Arthur half-expressed, and his friend understood. Save for this
bodily condition, Percy could hardly have borne with him. His
reckless self-indulgence and blind folly deserved to be left to reap
their own fruit; yet, when he beheld their victim, miserable,
prostrated by illness and despair, and cast aside with scornful
cruelty, he could not, without being as cold-hearted as Gardner
himself, refrain from kind words and suggestions of consolation.
'Might not his father assist him?'

'He cannot if he would. Everything is entailed, and you know how my
aunt served us. There is no ready money to be had, not even the five
thousand pounds that is the whole dependence for the poor things at
home in case of my death, which may come soon enough for aught I
care. I wish it was! I wish we were all going to the bottom
together, and I was to see none of their faces again. It would be
better for Violet than this.'

Percy could say little; but, though blunt of speech, he was tender
of heart. He did all in his power for Arthur's comfort, and when he
helped him on shore at Folkestone, recommended him to go to bed at
once, and offered to fetch Mrs. Martindale.

'She cannot come,' sighed Arthur; 'she has only been confined three
weeks.'

More shame for you, had Percy almost said; but he no longer opposed
Arthur's homeward instinct, and, finding a train ready to start, left
their luggage to its fate, and resolved not to lose sight of him till
he was safely deposited at his own house. Such care was in truth
needed; the journey was a dreadful one, the suffering increased every
hour, and when at length, in the dusk of the evening, they arrived in
Cadogan-place, he could hardly mount the stairs, even with Percy's
assistance.

It was the first time that Violet had left her chamber, and, as the
drawing-room door opened, she was seen sitting, pale and delicate, in
her low chair by the fire, her babe on her lap, and the other three
at her feet, Johnnie presiding over his sisters, as they looked at a
book of prints.

She started up in alarm as Arthur entered, leaning on Mr.
Fotheringham, and at once seized by a paroxysm of severe cough.
Percy tried to assume a reassuring tone. 'Here, you see, I have
brought him home with one of his bad colds. He will speak for
himself presently.'

In a second she had placed the infant on the sofa, signed to Johnnie
to watch him, and drawn the arm-chair to the fire. Arthur sank into
it, throwing his arm round her for support, and resting his weary
head against her, as if he had found his refuge. Percy relieved her
from the two little girls, unclasping their frightened grasp on her
dress so gently and firmly, that, stranger though he was, Anna did
not cry on being taken in his arms, nor Helen resist his leading her
out of the room, and desiring her to take her sister up-stairs and to
call their nurse.

Returning, he found that necessity had brought strength and presence
of mind to their mother. She did not even tremble, though Arthur's
only words were, 'We are undone. If I die, forgive me.' Indeed, she
hardly took in the sense of what he said; she only caressed, and
tried to relieve him, assisted by Percy, who did not leave them till
he had seen Arthur safely in charge of Mr. Harding.

He then walked away to his old lodgings in Piccadilly, where he was
recognized with ecstasy by the quondam ragged-school boy, and was
gladly welcomed by his landlady, who could not rejoice enough at the
sight of his good-humoured face.

He divided his time between friendly gossip on her family affairs as
she bustled in and out, in civility to the cat, and in railing at
himself for thinking twice of such a selfish, ne'er-do-well as
Arthur Martindale. The image of that pale young mother and her
little ones pursued him, and with it the thought of the complicated
distresses awaiting her; the knowledge of the debts that would almost
beggar her, coming in the midst of her husband's dangerous illness.

Percy muttered to himself lines of 'Who comes here--a Grenadier,'
made a face, stretched himself, and called on himself to look on
reasonableness and justice. Arthur deserved no favour, because he
had encumbered himself with a helpless family, and then cruelly
disregarded them.

'What does a man deserve who leaves his wife with a child of a week
old, to run after a swindler in foreign parts--eh, puss?' said he
aloud, viciously tweaking the old cat's whiskers; then, as she shook
her ears and drew back, too dignified to be offended, 'Ay, ay, while
wheat and tares grow together, the innocent must suffer for the
guilty. The better for both. One is refined, the other softened.
I am the innocent sufferer now,' added he; 'condole with me, pussy!
That essay would have been worth eighty pounds if it was worth a
sixpence; and there's a loss for a striving young man! I cannot go
on to Worthbourne without recovering it; and who knows how Jane will
interpret my delay? While I live I'll never carry another manuscript
anywhere but in my pocket, and then we should all go to the bottom
together, according to poor Arthur's friendly wish. Ha! that's not
it sticking out of my great-coat pocket? No such good luck-only
those absurd papers of poor Arthur's. I remember I loaded my coat
on him when we were going to land. What a business it is! Let us
overhaul them a bit.'

He became absorbed in the contemplation, only now and then giving
vent to some vituperative epithet, till he suddenly dashed his hand
on the table with a force that startled the cat from her doze.

'Never mind, puss; you know of old

'I care for nobody, and nobody cares for me.'

So now, good night, and there's an end of the matter.'

The first thing he did, next morning, was to walk to Cadogan-place,
to return the papers. He had long to wait before the door was
opened; and when James at length came, it was almost crying that he
said that Colonel Martindale was very ill; he had ruptured a blood-
vessel that morning, and was in the most imminent danger.

Mr. Fotheringham could see no one--could not be of any service.
He walked across the street, looked up at the windows, mused, then
exclaimed, 'That being the case, I had better go at once to
Folkestone, and rescue my bag from the jaws of the Custom-house.'

CHAPTER 9

She left the gleam-lit fire-place,
She came to the bedside,
Her look was like a sad embrace,
The gaze of one who can divine
A grief, and sympathize.
Sweet flower, thy children's eyes
Are not more innocent than thine.

Tristram and Yseulte.--M. ARNOLD

At last there was a respite. The choking, stifling flow of blood,
that, with brief intervals, had for the last two hours threatened
momentary death, had been at length checked; the eyes were closed
that had roamed in helpless affright and agony from Violet to the
doctors; and the sufferer was lying, in what his wife would fain have
deemed a slumber, but the gasping respiration and looks of distress
made it but too evident that it was the stillness of exhaustion,
enhanced by dread of renewing the bleeding by word or motion.

There could be no concealment of the exceeding danger. His lungs had
never been strong; and the slight cough, which, contrary to his usual
habits, he had neglected all the summer, had been the token of
mischief, which his recent expedition had aggravated to a fearful
extent. Even the violent bleeding had not relieved the inflammation
on the chest, and Violet had collected from the physician's looks and
words that it could be hardly expected that he should survive the
day.

Yet, through that dreadful morning, she had not failed in resolution
or composure: never once had her husband seen in her look, or heard
in her tone, aught but what might cheer and sustain him--never had
her fortitude or steadiness given way. She had not time to think of
consolation and support; but her habit of prayer and trust came to
her aid, and brought strength and support around her "in these great
waterfloods" of trouble. She was not forsaken in her hour of need.
Hitherto there had been no space for reflection; now his quiescent
state, though for the present so great a relief, brought the
opportunity of realizing his situation; but therewith arose
thankfulness for the space thus granted, and the power of praying
that it might be blessed to him whether for life or death.

In watchfulness and supplication, she sat beside him, with her babe,
much afraid that it should disturb him, and be unwelcome. However,
when some little sound made him aware of its presence, he opened his
eyes, moved his hand, as if to put back the covering that hid its
face from him, and presently signed to have it placed on the bed by
his side. It was a fine large dark boy, already so like him as to
make the contrast the more striking and painful, between the
unconscious serenity of the babe and the restless misery of the face
of the father, laid low in the strength of manhood, and with a look
of wretched uneasiness, as if the load on the mind was a worse
torment than the weight on the labouring breath. He, who usually
hardly deigned a glance at his infants, now lay gazing with
inexpressible softness and sadness at the little sleeping face; and
Violet, while gratified by that look of affection, could not help
having it the more borne in on her mind, that death must be very
near. Were the well-springs of love, so long closed up, only opening
when he was about to leave his children for ever? If she could only
have heard him speak!

Presently, as if there was some sting of reproach in the impassive
features, he turned his head away abruptly, with a deep groan, and
hid his face. She took away the child, and there was another
silence, which she ventured to break now and then, by a few sentences
of faith and prayer, but without being able to perceive whether he
attended. Suddenly he started, as if thrilled in every vein, and
glanced around with terrified anxiety, of which she could not at
first perceive the cause, till she found it was the postman's knock.
He held out his hand for the letters, and cast a hurried look at
their directions. None were for him, but there was one in his
sister's hand-writing. Violet did not feel herself able to read it,
and was laying it aside, when she saw his looks following it. Her
present world was so entirely in that room that she had forgotten all
beyond; and it only now occurred to her to say, 'Your father? Do you
wish for him? I will write.'

'Telegraph.' Even this whisper brought back the cough that was
anguish and terror.

It was already so late in the day, that though thus summoned, there
was no chance of Lord Martindale's arriving till the following
evening; and Violet's heart sank at reckoning up the space that must
elapse, more especially when she saw the perturbed eye, the startings
at each sound, the determination to know the business of every one
who came to speak to her--evident indications that there was some
anxiety on his mind which she could not comprehend.

Thus passed the day--between visits from desponding doctors and vain
measures for reducing the inflammation. At night Mr. Harding would
have prevailed on her to go to rest, promising to keep watch in her
stead; but she only shook her head, and said she could not. She had
not seen, and had scarcely thought of, the elder children all day;
but at about eleven o'clock at night she was startled by a sound of
lamentable crying,--Johnnie's voice in the nursery. The poor little
boy's nerves had been so much shaken by the fire at Martindale, that
he had become subject to night alarms, which sometimes showed their
effect for the whole subsequent day; and his mother stole away on
hearing his cry, leaving Arthur in Mr. Harding's charge, and hoping
not to be missed.

Sarah was standing over Johnnie, half-coaxing, half-scolding while he
sat up in his little crib, shivering and sobbing, with chattering
teeth, and terrified exclamations about papa all over blood, lying
dead under the burning windows.

'There now, you have brought your poor mamma up!' said Sarah,
indignantly.

'Mamma, mamma!' and the cold trembling little creature clasped itself
upon her neck and bosom, still repeating the dreadful words. She
carried him to the fire, warmed him on her lap, caressed and soothed
him, as his understanding awoke, telling him that papa was safe in
his own room,--he was ill, very ill, and Johnnie must pray for him;
but oh! he was alive, safe in his own bed. But as Johnnie nestled to
her, repeating, 'Say it again, mamma, I was so frightened! I can't
get it out of my head. Oh! is papa safe?' there would come the
thought that, with morning, the child might have to hear that he was
fatherless.

This dread, and the desire to efface the impression of the terrible
dream, induced her, when he had obediently struggled for composure,
to tell him that, on condition of perfect stillness, he might come
down with her, and have a little glimpse of papa. Wrapping him up,
she took him in by the open dressing-room door, to which Arthur's
back was turned, trusting to escape observation. but nothing eluded
those fever-lighted eyes, and they instantly fell upon the little
trembling figure, the quivering face and earnest gaze.

'I hope we have not disturbed you, apologized Violet; 'we hoped you
would not hear us. Poor Johnnie woke up crying so much at your being
ill, that I ventured to bring him to have one look at you, for fear
he should not go to sleep again.'

She need not have feared. Even while she spoke Arthur held out his
hands, with a countenance that caused Johnnie, with a stifled
exclamation of 'Papa! papa!' to spring on the bed, and there he lay,
folded closely to his father's breast.

It was but for a moment. Violet had to lift the child hastily away,
to be carried off by Sarah, that he might not witness the terrible
suffering caused by the exertion and emotion; and yet, when this was
passed, she could not repent of what she had done, for one great
grief had thus been spared to herself and her boy.

She knew that to discover his son's ardent affection must be a
poignant reproach for his neglect and jealousy, and she grieved at
once for him and with him; but she could not understand half the
feelings of bitter anguish that she perceived in his countenance and
gestures. She did not know of his expectation that each ring of the
bell might bring the creditors' claims to heap disgrace upon him, nor
how painful were the thoughts of her and of the children, totally
unprovided for, without claim during his father's lifetime, even on
his own scanty portion as a younger son. He could only cast them on
the mercy of his father and brother; and what right had he to expect
anything from them, after his abuse of their kindness and
forbearance? He thought of his neglect of his patient devoted wife,
whom he was leaving, with her little ones, to struggle with poverty
and dependence; he thought of his children growing up to know him
only as the improvident selfish father, who had doomed them to
difficulties, and without one tender word or kind look to grace his
memory. No wonder he turned, unable to brook the sight of his
unconscious babe; and that, when with morning little steps and voices
sounded above, such a look of misery came over his face, that Violet
hastened to order the children down to the dining-room, out of
hearing.

Ere long, however, from the other room, appropriated to the baby, a
face peeped in, and Johnnie sprang to her side with earnest whispers:
'Mamma, may I not say my prayers with you! I will not wake papa, but
I can't bear it without!' and the tears were in his eyes.

Violet's glance convinced her that this would be anything but
disturbing, and she consented. Johnnie thought his father asleep,
but she saw him watching the boy, as he stood with clasped hands, and
eyes in fixed steadfast gaze, repeating the Creed, so gravely and
distinctly, that not one of the whispering accents was lost. Looking
upwards, as if pursuing some thought far away, Johnnie said, 'Amen';
and then knelt, breathing forth his innocent petitions, with their
mention of father, mother, sisters, and little brother; and therewith
a large teardrop gathered in the eyes fixed on him--but she would not
seem to notice, and bent her head over the boy, who, when his daily
form was finished, knelt on, and pressed her arm. 'Mamma,' he
whispered, very low indeed, 'may I say something for papa?' and on
her assent, 'O God! make dear, dear papa better, if it be Thy
heavenly will, and let it be Thy heavenly will.'

Arthur's face was hidden; she only saw his fingers holding up the
covering with a quivering grasp. Johnnie rose up quite simply, and
letting him continue in the belief that his father slept, she allowed
him to go noiselessly away, after she had held him fast in her arms,
able to feel, even now, the comfort and blessing of her child.

Some little time had passed before Arthur looked up; then gazing
round, as if seeking something, he said, 'Where is he?'

'Johnnie? He is gone, he did not know you were awake. Shall I send
for him?'

'For all.'

They came; but he was made to feel that he had disregarded them too
long. They had never been familiarized with him; seldom saw him, and
were kept under restraint in his presence; and there was no intimacy
to counteract the fright inspired by his present appearance. Ghastly
pale, with a hectic spot on each cheek, with eyes unnaturally bright
and dilated, and a quantity of black hair and whiskers, he was indeed
a formidable object to the little girls; and Violet was more grieved
than surprised when Annie screamed with affright, and had to be
carried away instantly; and Helen backed, with her hands behind her,
resisting all entreaties and remonstrance, and unheeding his
outstretched hand. The child was of so determined and wilful a
nature, that Violet dreaded an outbreak if she were too much pressed,
and was forced to let her go--though much grieved, both for the
distress that it gave Arthur, and for the thought of how his daughter
might remember it by and by.

They supposed that Johnnie had gone with his sisters, but at the end
of half an hour became aware that he had ever since been standing,
almost hidden by the curtain, satisfied with merely being in the
room. The fair face, so delicately tinted, the dark shady eyes,
lovingly and pensively fixed on his father, and the expression, half
mournful, half awe-struck, were a touching sight in so young a child,
and Arthur seemed so to feel it. He signed to him to come near; and
with a flush, between joy and fear, the little boy was instantly at
his side. One hot hand enfolded the small soft cool one, the other
pressed fondly on the light silken waves of hair. After thus holding
him for some moments, he tried to speak, in whispering breathless
gasps of a word at a time.

'You'll comfort her!' and he looked towards his mother, 'You'll take
care of the others--will you?'

'If I can. God takes care of us,' said Johnnie, wistfully, as if
striving to understand, as he felt the pressure redoubled on hand and
head, as if to burn in what was uttered with such difficulty and
danger.

'Tell your grandfather I trust you all to him. He must forgive. Say
so to him. You'll be a better son to him than I. When you know all,
don't remember it against me.'

He could say no more, it had brought on a fit of coughing and
breathlessness, through which he scarcely struggled. Silence was
more than ever enforced; but throughout the day the oppression was on
the increase, especially towards the evening, when he became excited
by the expectation of his father's arrival. He sat, pillowed high
up, each respiration an effort that spread a burning crimson over his
face, while eye and ear were nervously alert.

'Arthur is very ill, and begs to see you,' was the telegraphic
message that filled the cottage at Brogden with consternation. Lady
Martindale was too unwell to leave home, but Theodora was thankful to
her father for deciding that her presence was necessary for Violet's
sake; indeed, as they travelled in doubt and suspense, and she was
continually reminded of that hurried journey when her unchastened
temper had been the torment of herself and of her brother, she felt
it an undeserved privilege to be allowed to go to him at all.
Instead of schemes of being important, there was a crashing sense of
an impending blow; she hardly had the power to think or speculate in
what form, or how heavily it might fall. She had only room for
anxiety to get forward.

They arrived; she hurried up the stairs, only catching James's words,
declaring his master no better.

She saw in the twilight a slight bending form, coming down, holding
by the balusters. Violet was in her arms, clasping her with a
trembling, almost convulsive tightness, without speaking.

'O, Violet, what is it? Is he so very ill?'

Lord Martindale hastened up at the same moment, and Violet
recovering, in a few words, spoken very low, but clearly, told of his
condition, adding, 'He has been watching for you all this time, he
heard you come, and wants you directly, but don't let him speak.'

She hung on Theodora's arm, and guided them up, as if hardly able to
stand. She opened the outer room door, and there (while the nurse
had taken her place) sat Johnnie on the rug, with the baby lying
across his lap, and his arms clasped tenderly round it. It was
restless, and he looked up to his mother, who bent down and took it
in her arms, while Lord Martindale passed on. Theodora stood
appalled and overawed. This was beyond even her fears.

'Thank you for coming,' said Violet, who had sunk into a chair.

'O, Violet, when?--how!--'

But a look of horror came over Violet; she started up, almost threw
the infant into Theodora's arms, and vanished into the other room.
'Oh! what is it! What is the matter?' exclaimed Theodora.

'The cough, the blood,' said Johnnie, in a low voice; and turning
away with a suppressed sob he threw himself down, and hid his face on
a chair. She was in an agony to pass that closed door, but the baby
was fretting and kept her prisoner.

After some minutes had thus passed, her father appeared, and would
have gone on without seeing her, but she detained him by an imploring
cry and gasp, and entreated to hear what had happened.

'The blood-vessel again--I must send for Harding.'

'Shall I tell James to go?' inquired a little quiet voice, as Johnnie
lifted up his flushed face.

'Do so, my dear;' and as the little boy left the room, his
grandfather added, with the calmness of hopelessness, 'Poor child! it
is of no use, it must soon be over now;' and he was returning, when
Theodora again held him fast--'Papa! papa! I must see him, let me
come!'

'Not yet,' said her father; 'the sight of a fresh person might hasten
it. If there is any chance, we must do nothing hazardous. I will
call you when they give up hope.'

Theodora was forced to relinquish her hold, for the baby screamed
outright, and required all her efforts to hush its cries that they
might not add fresh distress to the sick room. It seemed to make her
own misery of suspense beyond measure unendurable, to be obliged to
control herself so as to quiet the little creature by gentle
movements, and to have its ever-renewed wailings filling her ears,
when her whole soul hung on the sounds she could catch from the inner
room. No one came to relieve her; only Johnnie returned, listened
for a moment at the door, and dropped into his former position, and
presently Mr. Harding passed rapidly through the room.

Long, long she waited ere the door once more opened. Her father came
forth. Was it the summons? But he stopped her move towards the
room. 'Not yet; the bleeding is checked.'

Then as Mr. Harding followed, they went out of the room in
consultation, and almost the next moment Violet herself glided in,
touched Johnnie's head, and said, 'Papa is better, darling;' then
took the baby from Theodora, saying, 'Thank you, you shall see him
soon; she was again gone, Johnnie creeping after, whither Theodora
would have given worlds to follow.

After another interval, he returned with a message that mamma begged
Aunt Theodora to be so kind as to go and make tea for grandpapa; she
thought dear papa was breathing a little more easily, but he must be
quite quiet now.

Obeying the sentence of banishment, she found her father sending off
a hasty express to give more positive information at home. 'We must
leave them to themselves a little while,' he said. 'There must be no
excitement till he has had time to rally. I thought he had better
not see me at first.'

'Is he worse than John has been?'

'Far worse. I never saw John in this immediate danger.'

'Did this attack begin directly after you came?'

'It was the effort of speaking. He WOULD try to say something about
racing debts--Gardner, papers in his coat-pocket, and there broke
down, coughed, and the bleeding came on. There is something on his
mind, poor--'

Theodora made a sign to remind him of Johnnie's presence; but the
child came forward. 'Grandpapa, he told me to tell you something,'
and, with eyes bent on the ground, the little fellow repeated the
words like a lesson by rote.

Lord Martindale was much overcome; he took his grandson on his knee,
and pressed him to his breast without being able to speak, then, as
if to recover composure by proceeding to business, he sent him to ask
James for the coat last worn by his papa, and bring the papers in the
pocket. Then with more agitation he continued, 'Yes, yes, that was
what poor Arthur's eyes were saying all the time. I could only
promise to settle everything and take care of her; and there was she,
poor thing, with a face like a martyr, supporting his head, never
giving way, speaking now and then so calmly and soothingly, when I
could not have said a word. I do believe she is almost an angel!'
said Lord Martindale, with a burst of strong emotion. 'Take care of
her! She will not want that long! at this rate. Harding tells me he
is very anxious about her: she is not by any means recovered, yet he
was forced to let her sit up all last night, and she has been on her
feet this whole day! What is to become of her and these poor
children? It is enough to break one's heart!'

Here Johnnie came back. 'Grandpapa, we cannot find any papers.
James has looked in all the clothes papa wore when he came home, and
he did not bring home his portmanteau.'

'Come home! Where had he been?'

'I don't know. He was away a long time.'

Lord Martindale started, and repeated the words in amaze. Theodora
better judged of a child's 'long time,' and asked whether it meant a
day or a week. 'Was it since the baby was born that he went?'

'Baby was a week old. He was gone one--two Sundays, and he came back
all on a sudden the day before yesterday, coughing so much that he
could not speak, and the gentleman told mamma all about it.'

'What gentleman, Johnnie? Was it Mr. Gardner?'

'O no; this was a good-natured gentleman.'

'Mr. Herries, or Captain Fitzhugh?'

'No, it was a long name, and some one I never saw before; but I think
it was the man that belongs to the owl.'

'What can the child mean?' asked Lord Martindale.

Johnnie mounted a chair, and embraced his little stuffed owl.

'The man that gave me this.'

'Percy's Athenian owl!' cried Theodora.

'Was Fotheringham the name?' said Lord Martindale.

'Yes, it was the name like Aunt Helen's,' said Johnnie.

'Has he been here since?'

'He called to inquire yesterday morning. I am not sure,' said the
exact little boy, 'but I think he said he met papa in the steamer.'

It seemed mystery on mystery, and James could only confirm his young
master's statement. After the little boy had answered all the
questions in his power he slid down from his grandfather's knee,
saying that it was bed-time, and wished them good night in a grave,
sorrowful, yet childlike manner, that went to their hearts. He
returned, in a short time, with a message that mamma thought papa a
little better and ready to see them. Theodora went up first; Johnnie
led her to the door, and then went away, while Violet said, almost
inaudibly,

'Here is Theodora come to see you.'

Prepared as Theodora was, she was startled by the bloodlessness of
the face, and the hand that lay without movement on the coverlet,
while the gaze of the great black eyes met her with an almost
spectral effect; and the stillness was only broken by the painful
heaving of the chest, which seemed to shake even the bed-curtains.
But for Violet's looks and gesture, Theodora would not have dared to
go up to him, take his hand, and, on finding it feebly return her
pressure, bend over and kiss his forehead.

'His breath is certainly relieved, and there is less fever,' repeated
Violet; but to Theodora this seemed to make it only more shocking.
If this was better, what must it not have been? Her tongue
positively refused to speak, and she only stood looking from her
brother to his wife, who reclined, sunk back in her chair beside him,
looking utterly spent and worn out, her cheeks perfectly white, her
eyes half-closed, her whole frame as if all strength and energy were
gone. That terrible hour had completely exhausted her powers; and
when Theodora had recollected herself, and summoned Lord Martindale,
who undertook the night watch, Violet had not voice to speak; she
only hoarsely whispered a few directions, and gave a sickly
submissive smile as her thanks.

For one moment she revived, as she smoothed Arthur's bed, moistened
his lips, and pressed her face to his; then she allowed Theodora
almost to lift her away, and support her into the next room, where
Sarah was waiting. Even thought and anxiety seemed to be gone; she
sat where they placed her, and when they began to undress her, put
her hand mechanically to her dress, missed the fastening, and let it
drop with a vacant smile that almost overcame Theodora. They laid
her in bed, and she dropped asleep, like an infant, the instant her
head was on the pillow. Theodora thought it cruel to arouse her to
take nourishment; but Sarah was peremptory, and vigorously
administered the spoonfuls, which she swallowed in the same
unconscious manner. She was only roused a little by a sound from the
baby: 'Give him to me, he will be quieter so;' and Sarah held him to
her, she took him in her arms, and was instantly sunk in the same
dead slumber.

'My pretty lamb!' mourned the cold stern servant, as she arranged her
coverings; 'this is the sorest brash we have had together yet, and I
doubt whether ye'll win through with it. May He temper the blast
that sends it.'

Gazing at her for a few seconds, she raised her hand to dry some
large tears; and as if only now conscious of Miss Martindale's
presence, curtsied, saying, in her usual manner, 'I beg your pardon,
ma'am. There is the room next the nursery made ready for you.'

'I could not go, Sarah, thank you. Go to your children; I will take
care of her. Pray go.'

'I will, thank you, ma'am. We will have need of all our strength
before we have done.'

'How has she been before this?'

'About as well as usual at first, ma'am, till he threw her back with
going off into they foreign parts, where he has been and as good as
catched his death, and would have died if Mr. Fotheringham had not
brought him home.'

'What! has he been abroad, Sarah?'

'Yes, ma'am. I was holding the baby when he says to Missus he was
going to Bully, or Boulong--'

'Boulogne--'

'Yes, Bullying, or some such place; and bullied him they have;
stripped him even of his very portmanteau, with his eight new shirts
in it, that they have! Well, Missus, she says his cold would be
worse, and he said it only wanted a change, and she need never fret,
for he meant to get quit of the whole concern. But for that, I would
have up and told him he didn't ought to go, and that he must stay at
home and mind her, but then I thought, if he did get rid of them
nasty horses, and that there Mr. Gardner, with his great nasturtions
on his face, it would be a blessed day. But I ought to have known
how it would be: he is too innocent for them; and they have never
been content till they have been and got his very clothes, and given
him his death, and broke the heart of the bestest and most loving-
heartedest lady as ever lived. That they have!'

Having eased her mind by this tirade, Sarah mended the fire, put
every comfort in Miss Martindale's reach, advised her to lie down by
her mistress, and walked off.

Theodora felt giddy and confounded with the shocks of that day. It
was not till she had stretched herself beside Violet that she could
collect her perceptions of the state of affairs; and oh! what
wretchedness! Her darling brother, round whom the old passionate
ardour of affection now clung again, lying at death's door; his wife
sinking under her exertions;--these were the least of the sorrows,
though each cough seemed to rend her heart, and that sleeping mother
was like a part of her life. The misery was in that mystery--nay, in
the certainty, that up to the last moment of health Arthur had been
engaged in his reckless, selfish courses! If he were repentant,
there was neither space nor power to express it, far less for
reparation. He was snatched at once from thoughtless pleasure and
disregard of religion--nay, even of the common charities of home!
And to fasten the guilt to herself were those few half-uttered words-
-races, debts, Gardner!

'If you once loosen the tie of home, he will go back to courses and
companions that have done him harm enough already.' 'Beware of Mark
Gardner!' 'Whatever comes of these races, it is your doing, not
mine.' Those warnings flashed before her eyes like letters of fire,
and she turned her face to the pillow as it were to hide from them,
as well as to stifle the groans that could not have been wrung from
her by bodily pain. 'Oh, my sin has found me out! I thought I had
been punished, but these are the very dregs! His blood is on my
head! My brother! my brother! whom I loved above all! He was
learning to love his home and children; she was weaning him from
those pursuits! What might he not have been? I led him away! When
he shrank from the temptation, I dragged him to it! I gave him back
to the tempter! I, who thought I loved him--I did the devil's work!
Oh! this is the heavier weight! Why should it crush others with the
only guilty one? Oh! have mercy, have mercy on him! Let me bear
all! Take me instead! Let me not have slain his soul!'

It was anguish beyond the power of words. She could not lie still;
she knelt on the floor, and there the flood of despair fell on her
more overwhelmingly; and crouching, almost cast on the ground, she
poured out incoherent entreaties for mercy, for space for his
repentance, for his forgiveness. That agony of distracted prayer
must have lasted a long time. Some sound in her brother's room
alarmed her, and in starting she shook the table. Her father came to
ask if anything was the matter; told her that Arthur was quiet, and
begged her to lie down. It was a relief to have something to obey,
and she moved back. The light gleamed on something bright. It was
the setting of Helen's cross! 'Ah! I was not worthy to save it; that
was for Johnnie's innocent hand! I may not call this my cross, but
my rod!' Then came one thought: 'I came not for the righteous, but
to call sinners to repentance.' Therewith hot tears rose up. 'With
Him there is infinite mercy and redemption.' Some power of hope
revived, that Mercy might give time to repent, accept the heartfelt
grief that might exist, though not manifested to man! The hope, the
motive, and comfort in praying, had gleamed across her again; and not
with utter despair could she beseech that the sins she had almost
caused might be so repented of as to receive the pardon sufficient
for all iniquity.

CHAPTER 10

Thus have I seen a temper wild
In yokes of strong affection bound
Unto a spirit meek and mild,
Till chains of good were on him found.
He, struggling in his deep distress,
As in some dream of loneliness,
Hath found it was an angel guest.--Thoughts in Past Years

Five days had passed, and no material change had taken place. There
was no serious recurrence of bleeding, but the inflammation did not
abate, and the suffering was grievous, though Arthur was so much
enfeebled that he could not struggle under it. His extreme debility
made his body passive, but it was painfully evident that his mind was
as anxious and ill at ease as ever. There was the same distrustful
watch to see every letter, and know all that passed; the constant
strain of every faculty, all in absolute silence, so that his nurses,
especially Theodora, felt as if it would be a positive personal
relief to them if those eyes would be closed for one minute.

What would they have given to know what passed in that sleepless
mind? But anything that could lead to speaking or agitation was
forbidden; even, to the great grief of Theodora, the admission of the
clergyman of the parish. Lord Martindale agreed with the doctors
that it was too great a risk, and Violet allowed them to decide,
whispering to Theodora that she thought he heeded Johnnie's prayers
more than anything read with a direct view to himself. The cause of
his anxiety remained in doubt. Lord Martindale had consulted Violet,
but she knew nothing of any papers. She was aware that his accounts
were mixed up with Mr. Gardner's, and believed he had gone to
Boulogne to settle them; and she conjectured that he had found
himself more deeply involved than he had expected. She remembered
his having said something of being undone, and his words to Johnnie
seemed to bear the same interpretation.

Mr. Fotheringham's apparition was also a mystery; so strange was it
that, after bringing Arthur home in such a state, he should offer no
further assistance. James was desired to ask him to come in, if he
should call to inquire; but he did not appear, and the father and
sister began to have vague apprehensions, which they would not for
the world have avowed to each other, that there must be worse than
folly, for what save disgrace would have kept Percy from aiding
John's brother in his distress? Each morning rose on them with dread
of what the day might bring forth, not merely from the disease
within, but from the world without; each postman's knock was listened
to with alarm, caught from poor Arthur.

His wife was of course spared much of this. That worst fear could
not occur to her; she had no room for any thought but for him as he
was in the sight of Heaven, and each hour that his life was prolonged
was to her a boon and a blessing. She trusted that there was true
sorrow for the past--not merely dread of the consequences, as she
traced the shades upon his face, while he listened to the hymns that
she encouraged Johnnie to repeat. In that clear, sweet enunciation,
and simple, reverent manner, they evidently had a great effect. He
listened for the first time with his heart, and the caresses, at
which Johnnie glowed with pleasure as a high favour, were, she knew,
given with a species of wondering veneration. It was Johnnie's
presence that most soothed him; his distressing, careworn expression
passed away at the first sight of the innocent, pensive face, and
returned not while the child was before him, bending over a book, or
watching the baby, or delighted at having some small service to
perform. Johnnie, on his side, was never so well satisfied as in the
room, and nothing but Violet's fears for his health prevented the
chief part of his time from being spent there.

Her own strength was just sufficient for the day. She could sit by
Arthur's side, comprehend his wishes by his face, and do more to
relieve and sustain him than all the rest; and, though she looked
wretchedly weak and worn, her power of doing all that was needed, and
looking upon him with comforting refreshing smiles, did not desert
her. The night watch she was forced to leave to be divided between
his father and sister, with the assistance alternately of Sarah and
the regular nurse, and she was too much exhausted when she went to
bed, for Theodora to venture on disturbing her by an unnecessary
word.

Theodora's longing was to be continually with her brother, but this
could only be for a few hours at night; and then the sight of his
suffering, and the difficulty of understanding his restlessness of
mind, made her so wretched, that it took all the force of her strong
resolution to conceal her unhappiness; and she marvelled the more at
the calmness with which the feeble frame of Violet endured the same
scene. The day was still more trying to her, for her task was the
care of the children, and little Helen was so entirely a copy of her
own untamed self, as to be a burdensome charge for a desponding heart
and sinking spirits.

On the fifth morning the doctors perceived a shade of improvement;
but to his attendants Arthur appeared worse, from being less passive
and returning more to the struggle and manifestation of oppression
and suffering. He made attempts at questions, insisting on being
assured that no letter nor call had been kept from him; he even sent
for the cards that had been left, and examined them, and he wanted to
renew the conversation with his father; but Lord Martindale silenced
him at once, and left the room. He looked so much disappointed that
Violet was grieved, and thought, in spite of the doctors, that it
might have been better to have run the risk of letting him speak, for
the sake of setting his mind at rest.

Lord Martindale, however, saw so much peril in permitting a word to
be uttered, that he deemed it safer to absent himself, and went out
to try to trace out Mr. Fotheringham, and ask whether he could throw
any light on Arthur's trouble.

The children were out of doors, and Theodora was profiting by the
interval of quiet to write to her mother, when she heard James
announce, 'Mr. Fotheringham.'

She looked up, then down. Her first thought was of her brother; the
next brought the whole flood of remembrances, and she could not meet
his eye.

He advanced, but there was no friendly greeting. As to a stranger,
he said, 'I hope Colonel Martindale is better?'

Could it be himself? She gave a hasty glance. It was; he chose to
disown her; to meet her without even a hand held out! Rallying her
fortitude, she made answer, 'Thank you; we hope--'

She got no further--her hand was grasped. 'Theodora! I did not know
you.'

She had forgotten her altered looks! Relieved, she smiled, and said,
'Yes, I am a strange figure. They think Arthur a little better to-
day, thank you.'

'How has it been?'

He listened to the details with eagerness, that dismissed from her
mind the sickening apprehension of his knowing of any hidden evil;
then, saying he was pressed for time, begged her to ask Mrs.
Martindale to let him speak to her on a matter of such importance
that he must venture on disturbing her.

Theodora beckoned to Violet at the door, hoping to elude Arthur's
notice; but any attempt at secrecy made him more distrustful, and the
name had hardly been whispered before she was startled by hearing--
'Bring him here.'

Much frightened, the wife and sister expostulated, thus making him
more determined; he almost rose on his elbow to enforce his wishes,
and at last said, 'You do me more harm by preventing it.'

Violet felt the same; and in fear and trembling begged Theodora to
call Percy. She knew herself to be responsible for the danger, but
saw the impossibility of preventing the interview without still
greater risk. Indeed, while Theodora delayed Percy with cautions,
impatience, and the fear of being disappointed, were colouring each
sunken cheek with a spot of burning red, the hands were shaking
uncontrollably, and the breath was shorter than ever, so that she was
on the point of going to hasten the visitor, when he knocked at the
door.

She signed to him at once to turn to Arthur, who held out his hand,
and met his greeting with an anxious, imploring gaze, as if to ask
whether, after all, he brought him hope.

'Well,' said Percy, cheerfully, 'I think it is settled.'

Arthur relaxed that painful tension of feature, and lay back on his
pillows, with a relieved though inquiring look.

'Begging your pardon for being meddlesome,' continued Percy, 'I
thought I saw a way of being even with that scoundrel. Your papers
had got into my pocket, and, as I had nothing else to do, I looked
them over after parting with you, and saw a way out of the
difficulty. I was coming in the morning to return them and propound
my plan, but finding that you could not be seen, I ventured to take
it on myself at once, for fear he should get out of reach.'

He paused, but Arthur's eyes asked on.

'I had reason to think him gone to Paris. I followed him thither,
and found he was making up to Mrs. Finch. I let him know that I was
aware of this villainy, and of a good deal more of the same kind, and
threatened that, unless he came in to my terms, I would expose the
whole to his cousin, and let her know that he is at this moment
engaged to Miss Brandon. She is ready to swallow a good deal, but
that would have been too much, and he knew it. He yielded, and gave
me his authority to break up the affair.'

As Arthur was still attentive and anxious, Percy went on to explain
that he had next gone to the man who kept the horses, and by offers
of ready money and careful inspection of his bills, had reduced his
charge to a less immoderate amount. The money had been advanced for
a portion of Arthur's share of the debts, and a purchaser was ready
for the horses, whose price would clear off the rest; so that nothing
more was wanted but Arthur's authority for the completion of the
sale, which would free him from all present danger of pressure upon
that score.

'Supposing you do not disavow me, said Percy, 'I must ask pardon for
going such lengths without permission.'

A clutch of the hand was the answer, and Percy then showed him the
accounts only waiting for his signature.

The money advanced was nearer five thousand pounds than four; and
Arthur, pointing to the amount, inquired, by look and gesture, 'Where
does it come from?'

'Never mind; it was honestly come by. It is a lot that has
accumulated out of publishing money, and was always bothering me with
railway shares. It will do as well in your keeping.'

'It is throwing it into a gulf.'

'In your father's, then. I will take care of myself, and speak when
I want it. Don't trouble your father about it till he sees his way.'

'I must give you my bond.'

'As you please, but there is no hurry.'

Arthur, however, was bent on giving his signature at once, and, as he
looked towards his wife and child, said, 'For their sakes, thank
you.'

'I did it for their sakes,' said Percy, gruffly, perhaps to check
Arthur's agitation; but as if repenting of what sounded harsh, he
took the infant in his arms, saying to Violet, 'You have a fine
fellow here! Eyes and forehead--his father all over!'

Arthur held out his hand eagerly. 'Let him be your godson--make him
like any one but me.'

Percy took two turns in the room before he could answer. 'My godson,
by all means, and thank you; but you will have the making of him
yourself. You are much better than I expected.'

Arthur shook his head; but Violet, with a look, sufficient reward for
anything, said, 'It is you that are making him better.'

He replied by inquiries about the christening. The baby was a day
less than four weeks old, and Violet was anxious to have him
baptized; so that it was arranged that it should take place
immediately on Percy's return from Worthbourne, whither he was to
proceed that same afternoon, having hitherto been delayed by Arthur's
affairs. This settled, he took leave. Arthur fervently pressed his
hand, and, as Violet adjusted the pillows, sank his head among them
as if courting rest, raising his eyes once more to his 'friend in
need,' and saying, 'I shall sleep now.'

Violet only hoped that Mr. Fotheringham understood what inexpressible
gratitude was conveyed in those words, only to be appreciated after
watching those six wakeful, straining days and nights.

Meantime, Theodora waited in fear, too great at first to leave space
for other thoughts; but as time past, other memories returned. On
coming to summon Percy she had found him standing before the little
stuffed owl, and she could not but wonder what thoughts it might have
excited, until suddenly the recollection of Jane dissipated her
visions with so violent a revulsion that she was shocked at herself,
and perceived that there was a victory to be achieved.

'It shall be at once,' said she. 'I WILL mention her. To be silent
would show consciousness. Once done, it is over. It is easier with
my altered looks. I am another woman now.'

She heard him coming down, and almost hoped to be spared the meeting,
but, after a moment's pause, he entered.

'Well,' he said, 'I hope I have done him no harm. I think better of
him now than when I came home. He looks to me as if the worst was
over.'

They were the first words of hope, and spoken in that hearty, cheery
voice, they almost overset her weakened spirits, and the struggle
with tears would not let her answer.

'You have had a most trying time,' said he, in the kind way that
stirred up every old association; but that other thought made her
guarded, and she coldly hurried out the words--

'Yes; this is the first time my father has been out. He went in
search of you, to ask how you met poor Arthur, who has been able to
give no account of himself.'

'We met on board the steamer. He had been obliged to leave Boulogne
without finishing his business there, and I went back to settle it
for him.'

'And the papers he had lost?'

'I had them: it is all right.'

'And his mind relieved?'

'I hope it is.'

'Oh! then, we may dare to hope!' cried she, breathing freely.

'I trust so; but I must go. Perhaps I may meet Lord Martindale.'

With a great effort, and a 'now-or-never' feeling, she abruptly said,
'I hope Jane is well.'

He did not seem to understand; and confused, as if she had committed
an over familiarity of title, she added, 'Mrs. Fotheringham.'

She was startled and hurt at his unconstrained manner.

'Very well, I believe. I shall see her this evening at Worthbourne.'

'Has she been staying there long?' said Theodora, going on valiantly
after the first plunge.

'Ever since the summer. They went home very soon after the
marriage.'

A new light broke in on Theodora. She was tingling in every limb,
but she kept her own counsel, and he proceeded. 'I saw them at
Paris, and thought it did very well. She is very kind to him, keeps
him in capital order, and has cured him of some of his ungainly
tricks.'

'How did it happen? I have heard no particulars.'

'After his mother's death poor Pelham was less easily controlled: he
grew restless and discontented, and both he and my uncle fell under
the influence of an underbred idle youth in the neighbourhood, who
contrived at last to get Sir Antony's consent to his taking Pelham
abroad with him as his pupil. At Florence they met with these
ladies, who made much of their cousin, and cajoled the tutor, till
this marriage was effected.'

'She must be nearly double his age.'

'She will manage him the better for it. There was great excuse for
her. The life she was obliged to lead was almost an apology for any
way of escape. If only it had been done openly, and with my uncle's
consent, no one could have had any right to object, and I honestly
believe it is a very good thing for all parties.'

'Would Sir Antony have consented?'

'I have little doubt of it. He was hurt at first, but he was always
fond of Jane. She is very attentive to him, and I hope makes him
quite comfortable. He wrote to ask me to come and see them at
Worthbourne, and I am on my way. I see it is getting late. Good-
bye.'

Theodora's heart had been bounding all this time. Her first impulse
was to rush up to tell Violet; but as this could not be, she snatched
up a bulky red volume, and throwing over the leaves till she came to
F.--Fotheringham, Sir Antony, of Worthbourne, looked down the list of
his children's names, and beheld that the only one not followed by
the fatal word "died" was Antony Pelham.

What had they all been doing not to have thought of this before?
However, she recollected that it would have seemed as impossible that
the half-witted youth should marry as that he should be on the
Continent. The escape from the certainty that had so long weighed on
her, taught her what the pain had been; and yet, when she came to
analyze her gladness, it seemed to melt away.

She dwelt on her period of madness--her wilful, repeated rejection of
warning; she thought of the unhappy Derby day--of her own cold 'Very
well'--her flirtation with Lord St. Erme. She recollected the
passage with Annette Moss: and then, for her present person, it was
changed beyond recognition, as had just been proved; nor could she
wonder, as, turning to the mirror, she surveyed the figure in black
silk and plain cap, beyond which the hair scarcely yet peeped out--
the clearness and delicacy of skin destroyed, the face haggard with
care and sorrow, the eyelids swollen by watchful nights. She almost
smiled at the contrast to the brilliant, flashing-eyed, nut-brown
maid in the scarlet-wreathed coronal of raven hair, whom she had seen
the last time she cared to cast a look in that glass.

'I am glad I am altered,' said she, sternly. 'It is well that I
should not remind him of her on whom he wasted his hope and
affection. It is plain that I shall never marry, and this is a mask
under which I can meet him with indifference like his own. Yes, it
was absolute indifference--nothing but his ordinary kindliness and
humanity; neither embarrassment nor confusion--just as he would have
met any old woman at Brogden.

If he remembers that time at all, it is as a past delusion, and there
is nothing in me to recall what he once liked. He did not know me!
Nonsense! I thought I was content only to know him safe from Jane--
still his real self. I am. That is joy! All the rest is folly and
selfishness. That marriage! How disgusting--and what crooked ways!
But what is that to me? Jane may marry the whole world, so that
Percy is Percy!'

The children were heard on the stairs, and Helen rushed in, shouting,
in spite of the silencing finger, 'Aunt, it is the owl man!' and
Johnnie himself, eager and joyous, 'It is the man who came with
papa.'

'He met us,' said Helen. 'He knew my name, and he asked Annie's, and
carried her to our door.'

'He said he had been into papa's room,' said Johnnie, 'and had seen
baby. He is a very good-natured gentleman. Don't you like him, Aunt
Theodora?'

'And oh! aunt, he asked me whether we ever went to Brogden; and when
he heard that we had been at the parsonage, he said he lived there
when he was a little boy, and our nursery was his;' chattered on
Helen. 'He asked if we were in the fire; and you know Johnnie can't
bear to hear of that; so I told him how funny it was when you came
and pulled me out of bed, and we went down the garden with no shoes.
And he asked whether that was the way you had grown so ugly, Aunt
Theodora.'

'No, Helen, he did not say that; for he was a gentleman,' interposed
Johnnie; 'he only said he was afraid our aunt had been a sufferer,
and Sarah told--'

'And I told,' again broke in Helen, 'how Cousin Hugh said it was an
honour and a glory to be burnt like you; and I told him how I got the
water and should have put out the fire, if that horrid Simmonds had
not carried me away, and I wish he had not. So long as I had not my
curls burnt off,' said Miss Helen, pulling one of the glossy chestnut
rings into her sight, like a conscious beauty as she was.

'He asked Sarah all about it,' said Johnnie; 'and he said we had a
very good aunt; and, indeed, we have!' climbing carelessly into her
lap. 'Then he met grandpapa, and they are walking in the square
together.'

So Mr. Fotheringham could be in no real haste to be gone, and had
only hurried away to avoid Theodora. However, there was no more
musing time, the children's dinner was ready, and she was going down
with the little girls, when her father entered. 'How is Arthur?'

It was answered by Johnnie, who was flying down-stairs with joyous
though noiseless bounds, his whole person radiant with good tidings.
'Papa is asleep! grandpapa. Papa is fast asleep!'

'Have you been in the room?'

'No; mamma came to the door and told me. Baby is gone up to our
nursery, and nobody is to make the least noise, for papa is gone to
sleep so comfortably!'

The boy had caught so much gladness from his mother's look, that he
almost seemed to understand the importance of that first rest. His
grandfather stroked his hair, and in the same breath with Theodora,
exclaimed, 'It is owing to Percy!'

'Has he told you about it?' said Theodora.

'So much as that there is a final break with that fellow Gardner--a
comfort at least. Percy said they had got their affairs into a
mess; Arthur had been trying to free himself, but Gardner had taken
advantage of him, and used him shamefully, and his illness had forced
him to come away, leaving things more complicated than ever. There
was a feeling of revenge, it seems, at Arthur not having consented to
some disgraceful scheme of his; but Percy did not give me the
particulars. Meeting him in the steamer, ill and desperate--poor
fellow--Percy heard the story, took care of him, and saw him home;
then, finding next morning what a state he was in, and thinking there
might be immediate demands--'

'Oh! that was the terrible dread and anxiety!'

'He did what not one man in a million would have done. He went off,
and on his own responsibility adjusted the matter, and brought
Gardner to consent. He said it had been a great liberty, and that he
was glad to find he had not gone too far, and that Arthur approved.'

'Do you know what it was?'

'No; he assured me all was right, and that there was no occasion to
trouble me with the detail. I asked if any advance was needed, and
he said no, which is lucky, for I cannot tell how I could have raised
it. For the rest, I could ask him no questions. No doubt it is the
old story, and, as Arthur's friend, he could not be willing to
explain it to me. I am only glad it is in such safe hands. As to
its being a liberty, I told him it was one which only a brave
thorough-going friend would have taken. I feel as if it might be the
saving of his life.'

Theodora bent down to help little Anna, and said, 'You know it is Sir
Antony Fotheringham's son that Miss Gardner married?'

'Ay!' said Lord Martindale, so much absorbed in his son as to forget
his daughter's interest in Percival Fotheringham. 'He says Arthur's
cough did not seem so painful as when he saw him before, and that he
even spoke several times. I am frightened to think what the risk has
been of letting him in.'

'Arthur insisted,' said Theodora, between disappointment at the want
of sympathy, and shame for having expected it, and she explained how
the interview had been unavoidable.

'Well, it is well over, and no harm done,' said Lord Martindale, not
able to absolve the sister from imprudence. After a space, he added,
'What did you say? The deficient young Fotheringham married?'

'Yes, to Jane Gardner.'

'Why, surely some one said it was Percy himself!'

'So Violet was told at Rickworth.'

Lord Martindale here suddenly recollected all, as his daughter
perceived by his beginning to reprove Helen for stirring about the
salt. Presently he said, 'Have you heard that the other sister, the
widow--what is her name?'

'Mrs. Finch--'

'Is going to be foolish enough to marry that Gardner. She was your
friend, was not she?'

'Yes, poor thing. Did you hear much about her?'

'Percy says that she was kind and attentive to the old man, as long
as he lived, though she went out a great deal while they lived
abroad, and got into a very disreputable style of society there. Old
Finch has left everything in her power; and from some words overheard
on the quay at Boulogne, Percy understood that Gardner was on his way
to pay his court to her at Paris. There was a former attachment it
seems, and she is actually engaged to him. One can hardly pity her.
She must do it with her eyes open.'

Theodora felt much pity. She had grieved at the entire cessation of
intercourse, even by letter, which had ensued when the Finches went
to the Continent; and she thought Georgina deserved credit for not
having again seen Mark, when, as it now appeared, there had lurked in
her heart affection sufficient to induce her to bestow herself, and
all her wealth, upon him, spendthrift and profligate as she must know
him to be. Miserable must be her future life; and Theodora's heart
ached as she thought of wretchedness unaided by that which can alone
give support through the trials of life, and bring light out of
darkness. She could only pray that the once gay companion of her
girlhood, whose thoughtlessness she had encouraged, might yet, even
by affliction, be led into the thorny path which Theodora was
learning to feel was the way of peace.

Arthur was wakened by the recurring cough, and the look of distress
and anxiety returned; but the first word, by which Violet reminded
him of Percy's call, brought back the air of relief and tranquillity.
Mr. Harding, at his evening visit, was amazed at the amendment; and
Johnnie amused his grandfather by asking if the owl man was really a
doctor, or whether Sarah was right when she said he had rescued papa
and his portmanteau out of a den of thieves.

When Violet left the room at night, the patient resignation of her
face was brightening into thankfulness; and while preparing for rest,
she could ask questions about the little girls. Theodora knew that
she might tell her tale; and sitting in her favourite place on
Violet's footstool, with her head bent down, she explained the error
between the two cousins.

'How glad I am!' said the soft voice, ever ready to rejoice with her.
'Somehow, I had never recollected it, he is so like what he used to
be. I am very glad.'

'Don't treat it as if it was to concern me,' said Theodora. 'I care
only as he remains the noblest of men.'

'That he is.'

'Don't wish any more, nor think I do,' said Theodora. 'I never liked
stories of young ladies who reform on having the small-pox. It is
time nonsense should be out of my head when a man does not know me
again.'

'Oh! surely--did he not?'

'Not till I spoke. No wonder, and it is better it should be so.
I am unworthy any way. O, Violet, now will you not let me ask your
forgiveness?'

'What do you mean, dearest?'

'Those races.'

Violet did not shrink from the mention; she kissed Theodora's brow,
while the tears, reserved for the time of respite, dropped fast and
bright.

'Poor dear,' she said; 'how much you have suffered!'

There was silence for some moments. Theodora striving to keep her
tears as quiet as her sister's.

'I think,' said Violet, low and simply, 'that we shall be happy now.'

Then, after another silence, 'Come, if we go on in this way, we shall
not be fit for to-morrow, and you have only half a night. Dearest, I
wish I could save you the sitting up! If he is better to-morrow,
Johnnie shall take you for a walk.'

He was better, though the doctors, dismayed at yesterday's
imprudence, preached strenuously on his highly precarious state, and
enforced silence and absence of excitement. Indeed, his condition
was still such that the improvement could only be seen in occasional
gleams; and as the relief from mental anxiety left him more attention
to bestow on the suffering from the disorder, he was extremely
depressed and desponding, never believing himself at all better.

The experiment of a visit from the little girls was renewed, but
without better success; for the last week had increased the horrors

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