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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 13 out of 15

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of his appearance; and Theodora reported that Johnnie had confided to
her, as a shocking secret, that the reason why Helen could not bear
to go near papa was, that he looked exactly like Red Ridinghood's
wolf.

Violet was grateful for the saying, for it was the first thing that
drew a smile from Arthur, and to court the child became a sort of
interest and occupation that distracted his thoughts from himself.
It was touching to see him watching her, as she ran in and out,
trying to catch her eye, stretching out his hand invitingly, holding
up fruit to allure her, and looking with fond, proud, yet mournful
eyes, on her fresh healthful beauty. She used to try not to see him,
and would race past at full speed, and speak to her mamma with her
back to him; but gradually some mysterious attraction in that silent
figure won sidelong glances from her, and she began to pause, each
time with a longer and fuller tip-toe gaze, both hands pressed down
on the top of her head, and a look like a wild fawn, till all at
once, the wehr-wolf feeling would seize her, and she would turn and
dash off as if for her life, while his eager, pleased face relaxed
into disappointment, and her mother still said that time would bring
her round.

At last, she took them completely by surprise, suddenly launching
herself on the bed, and plunging her face into the midst of the black
bristles; then, leaping down, and rushing to the door as if expecting
to be caught. So violent a proceeding was almost more than Arthur
could bear, and Violet, rising to smooth the coverings, began to
preach gentleness; but shaken as he was, he was too much gratified to
permit the reproof, smiled, and held up a bunch of grapes to invite
the little maid back. But this was an offence; she put her hands
behind her, and, with a dignified gesture, announced, 'I do not give
kisses for grapes. I did it because Johnnie will not let me alone,
and said I was unkind.'

'Theodora all over!' said her father, much entertained. It was a
great step that he had discovered that the children could afford him
diversion, especially now, when nothing else could have served to
wile away the tedious hours. He could bear no reading aloud from any
one but Johnnie, whom he would not refuse; and to whom he listened
with pride in a performance he fancied wonderful, while the little
books cost no effort of attention, and yet their simple lessons
floated on his thoughts, and perchance sank into his heart. Or when
he lay panting and wearied out with oppression, the babe's movements
would attract his eye, and the prattlings of the little girls at
their mamma's side would excite a languid curiosity that drew him out
of himself. Sometimes that childish talk left food for thought. One
day when the children had been sent into the next room to share some
fruit from the plate by his bed-side, Helen's voice was overheard
saying, 'I wish papa would never get well!'

'Helen! Helen, how can you?' pleaded her brother's shocked voice.

'He is so much more good-natured when he is ill,' was Helen's
defence. 'I like him now; I don't like him at all when he is well,
because then he is always cross. Don't you think so, Johnnie?'

'That is not kind of you when he lies there, and it hurts him so
sadly to breathe. You should wish him to be well, Helen.'

'If he would be kind to me.'

'O, you don't know what it feels like to be ill,' said Johnnie. 'I
do want to see him strong and able to ride, and go out to his
soldiers again. I hope he will be kind still, and not go away and
make mamma unhappy--'

'If he would ever lead me by the hand, like the little girl's papa at
the house with the parrot, I should like that sort of papa, if he was
not a little thin short ugly man. Should not you, Johnnie?'

'No! I never shall like anything so well as my own papa. I do love
him with my whole, whole heart! I am so glad he will let us love him
now! It seems to come over me in the morning, and make me so glad
when I remember it.'

Violet had been on the point of stopping this conversation, but
Arthur would not permit her, and listened with his eyes filling with
tears.

'What have you done to that boy?' he murmured.

'It is his own loving self,' said Violet.

Arthur pressed her hand to his lips. 'My poor children! If papa
ever were to get well--'

And Violet regretted that he had heard, for his emotion threw him
back for the rest of the evening.

CHAPTER 11

Then weep not o'er the hour of pain,
As those who lose their all;
Gather the fragments that remain,
They'll prove nor few nor small.--M. L. DUNCAN

In the meantime Theodora and her father had been brought into contact
with visitors from the external world. One morning James brought in
a card and message of inquiry from Lord St. Erme, and Lord Martindale
desired that he should be admitted. Theodora had just time to think
how ridiculous it was of her to consider how she should appear to
another old lover, before he came in, colouring deeply, and bending
his head low, not prepared to shake hands; but when hers was held
out, taking it with an eager yet bashful promptitude.

After a cordial greeting between him and her father, it was explained
that he had not entirely recovered what he called his accident, and
had come to London for advice; he had brought a parcel from
Wrangerton for Mrs. Martindale, and had promised to carry the Moss
family the latest news of the Colonel. While this was passing, and
Lord Martindale was talking about Arthur, Theodora had time to
observe him. The foreign dress and arrangement of hair were entirely
done away with, and he looked like an Englishman, or rather an
English boy, for the youthfulness of feature and figure was the same;
the only difference was that there was a greater briskness of eye,
and firmness of mouth, and that now that the blush on entering had
faded, his complexion showed the traces of recent illness, and his
cheeks and hands were very thin. When Theodora thought of the
heroism he had shown, of her own usage of him, and of his remembrance
of her in the midst of his worst danger, she could not see him
without more emotion than she desired. He was like a witness against
her, and his consciousness WOULD infect her! She longed for some of
the cool manner that had come so readily with Percy, and with some
difficulty brought out a composed inquiry for Lady Lucy; but he
disconcerted her again by the rapid eager way in which he turned
round at her voice.

'Lucy is very well, thank you; I left her staying with my cousins,
the Delavals. It is very hard to get her away from home, and she
threatens not to stay a day after my return.' He spoke in a hasty
confused way, as if trying to spin everything out of the answer, so
as to remain conversing with Theodora as long as possible.

'How long shall you be in town?' she asked, trying to find something
she could say without awkwardness.

'I can hardly tell. I have a good deal to do. Pray'--turning to
Lord Martindale--'can you tell me which is the best shop to go to for
agricultural implements?'

Speed the plough! Farming is a happy sedative for English noblemen
of the nineteenth century, thought Theodora, as she heard them
discussing subsoil and rocks, and thought of the poet turned high
farmer, and forgetting even love and embarrassment! However, she had
the satisfaction of hearing, 'No, we cannot carry it out thoroughly
there without blowing up the rocks, and I cannot have the
responsibility of defacing nature.'

'Then you cannot be a thorough-going farmer.'

'I cannot afford it, and would not if I could. It is only for the
sake of showing the tenants that I am not devoid of the spirit of the
age.'

Country gentlemen being happier in agricultural implement shops than
anywhere else, Lord Martindale offered to accompany his friend and
give his counsel. He would go up-stairs to see how Arthur was, and
carry the parcel to Violet.

'Pray tell Mrs. Martindale that her mother and sisters sent all
manner of kind messages. Very pleasing people they are,' said Lord
St. Erme; 'and Mrs. Moss was so very kind to my poor little sister
that we hardly know how to be sufficiently grateful.'

'I never saw any of the family but the brother,' said Theodora.

'And he is not the best specimen,' said Lord St. Erme. 'Some of the
young ladies are remarkably nice people, very sensible, and Lucy is
continually discovering some kindness of theirs among the poor
people. Ah! that reminds me, perhaps you could tell me whether you
know anything of a school in your neighbourhood, from which a master
has been recommended to me--St. Mary's, Whiteford.'

'I don't know much of it; I believe the clergyman takes pains about
it.'

'Do you think they would have a superior man there! Our funds are
low, and we must not look for great attainments at present. It is
easy to cram a man if he is intelligent; I only want a person who can
keep up what is taught, and manage the reading-room on nights when we
are not there.'

'Have you a reading-room?'

'Only at Wrangerton as yet; I want to set up another at Coalworth.'

'Then you find it answer? How do you arrange?'

'Two nights in the week we read to them, teach singing, or get up a
sort of lecture. The other days there are books, prints, newspapers;
and you will be surprised to see how much they appreciate them.
There's a lad now learning to draw, whose taste is quite wonderful!
And if you could have seen their faces when I read them King Henry
IV! I want to have the same thing at Coalworth for the winter--not
in summer. I could not ask them to spend a minute, they can help,
out of the free air and light; but in winter I cannot see those fine
young men and boys dozing themselves into stolidity.'

Was this the man who contemned the whole English peasantry, colliers
especially? Theodora rejoiced that his hobby had saved her a world
of embarrassment, and still more that their tete-a-tete was
interrupted. Lady Elizabeth Brandon begged to know whether Miss
Martindale could see her.

She was on her way through London; and having just heard of Colonel
Martindale's illness, had come to inquire, and offer to be useful.
Emma remained at the hotel. After Lord Martindale's cheerful answer
and warm thanks, the gentlemen set off together, and Theodora sat
down with her good old friend to give the particulars, with all the
fulness belonging to the first relief after imminent peril.

After the first, however, Lady Elizabeth's attention wandered; and
before the retrograding story had gone quite back to the original
Brogden cough, she suddenly asked if Percival Fotheringham was in
England.

'Yes, at Worthbourne. You know it was his cousin--'

'I know--it was a mistake,' said Lady Elizabeth, hurrying over the
subject, as by no means suited its importance in Theodora's eyes.
'Can you tell me whether he has seen or heard anything of Mr. Mark
Gardner?'

'Yes,' said Theodora, surprised.

'I suppose you have not heard him say how he is conducting himself?'

'Have you heard that he is going to be married to Mrs. Finch?'

Theodora was astonished at the effect of this communication on her
sober staid old friend. She started, made an incredulous outcry,
caused it to be repeated, with its authority, then rose up,
exclaiming, 'The wretch! My poor Emma! I never was more rejoiced.
But Emma!'

The sight of Theodora's surprise recalled her to herself. 'Ah! you
do not know?' she said; and having gone so far, was obliged to
explain, with expressions of gratitude to Arthur and Violet for
having so well guarded a secret that now might continue hidden for
ever.

Theodora was slow in comprehending, so monstrous was the idea of Emma
Brandon engaged to Mark Gardner! She put her hands before her eyes,
and said she must be dreaming--she could not credit it. When
convinced, there was something in her manner that pleased and
comforted Lady Elizabeth by the kind feeling and high esteem it
showed.

'Let me ask you one question, my dear ' she said, 'just to set my
mind at rest. I was told that your brother's affairs were involved
with those of that unhappy man. I trust it is no longer so.'

Theodora explained, as far as she understood, how Percy had
extricated him.

'Ah!' said Lady Elizabeth, 'I fear we are in some degree the cause.
My poor Emma was imprudent enough to quote Colonel Martindale; and
she has told me that she was frightened by a pale look of anger that
crossed his face, and something which he muttered between his teeth.
But he made her believe Arthur his seducer!'

'Poor Arthur! If you knew all!' said Theodora; 'and who--' then
breaking off, 'Percy did tell papa that it was all Mr. Gardner's
revenge for Arthur's not consenting to some nefarious transaction.
Depend upon it, that was it! You asked Violet, you say. Percy said
that, among the sentences he overheard on the quay, there was
something about a wife who had crossed him, and who should suffer for
it. He said it was spoken with a hard-hearted wickedness that, even
when he did not know who it was, made him long to crush him like a
reptile; and when he had seen Violet and the children, though it
might be interference, he said he could as soon have left them in the
folds of a serpent!'

'Ah! my poor girl!'

'But this frees her. Oh! she cannot grieve for such a wretch!'

'I fear her attachment is so strong that she will not see it in this
light.'

'When he gives her up without a word, she ought to be too angry to
grieve.'

'I do not think that is in her nature.'

'So much the better. Anger and comfort cannot go together. Oh, one
so good and gentle must be helped! How I wish I could do anything
for her; but she will be better at home. It is lucky there are no
associations with him there.'

'I wish she was at home. Theresa Marstone is staying with her
brother in London, and I left her with Emma at the hotel.'

'Fortunately there cannot be two ways of thinking on this matter,'
said Theodora.

Lady Elizabeth was too anxious to break the tidings to her daughter
to wait at that time to see Violet; and went, promising to come to-
morrow to report how the blow should have been borne.

Theodora was glad when she had a little space in which to think over
the events of the day.

Ever since she had embraced the lesson of humility, the once despised
Emma Brandon had been rising in her estimation. The lowliness of her
manners, and the heart-whole consistency of her self-devotion, had
far outweighed her little follies, and, together with remorse for
having depreciated and neglected her, had established her claim to
respect and admiration.

And now to find the old prediction verified, and Emma led away by so
absurd a delusion, might have seemed a triumph, had not Theodora been
thoroughly humbled. She only saw a humiliating contrast between the
true pure heart that blindly gave its full affections, and that which
could pretend to have given itself away, and then, out of mere
impatience of restraint, play with and torture the love it had
excited, and, still worse, foster an attachment it never meant to
requite!

She was the more sensible of this latter delinquency now that Lord
St. Erme had just been brought before her, deserving all that man
could deserve; having more than achieved all to which she had incited
him, and showing a constancy unchecked by the loss of her personal
attractions. His blushing homage came almost as a compensating
contrast after her severe mortification at Percy's surprise and
subsequent cool composure.

While reproaching herself for this feeling, her father came home, and
with him the Earl. They had been occupied all the afternoon, and had
fallen into conversation on county business. Lord Martindale,
finding his young friend was alone at his hotel, thought he had
better dine with them, since Violet need not be troubled about it.
Theodora wondered whether it had occurred to her father that some one
else might be troubled, and that it might seem like a renewal of
encouragement; but the fact was, that after ten days of the sick-
room, his society was a positive treat to Lord Martindale, and in
advising him on magistrate's business, he forgot everything else.

The dinner went off without embarrassment. Lord St. Erme did indeed
blush when he offered his arm to her; but with consideration that
seemed to understand her, he kept up the conversation chiefly with
Lord Martindale on rates, police, and committees.

She thought of the horror he had been wont to express of the English
squirearchy, 'whose arena is the quarter sessions;' and she
remembered standing up for them, and declaring there was far more
honest, sturdy, chivalrous maintenance of right and freedom in their
history than in all his beloved Lombardic republics. And now, what
was he but a thorough-going country gentleman, full of plans of
usefulness, sparing neither thought, time, nor means; and though some
of his views were treated by Lord Martindale as wild and theoretical,
yet, at any rate, they proved that he had found living men a more
interesting study than the Apollo Belvedere.

Theodora was resolved that Violet should see him, and now that the
dinner was eaten and beyond anxiety, went up to disclose his
presence, and persuade her to go down to tea and leave her with the
patient. She found it was well she had kept her counsel; Violet took
it quietly enough; but Arthur chose to concern himself as to what
wine had been produced, and would have sent a message to James if his
sister had not assured him that it was too late.

He insisted on Violet's going down to the drawing-room, and would not
hear of Theodora's remaining with him. The nurse was in the outer
room, and Johnnie was made supremely happy by being allowed to sit up
an hour longer to be his companion; and thus with Lord Martindale and
Theodora making frequent expeditions to visit him, Violet was
sufficiently tranquil to remain as long in the drawing-room as was
worth the fatigue of the transit.

She could enjoy her talk with the Earl; and, indeed, since Annette's
visit, she had heard no tidings so full and satisfactory. He knew
the name of every one at Wrangerton; he seemed to have learnt to love
Helvellyn; he spoke very highly of Olivia's husband, Mr. Hunt,
declaring that he liked nothing better than a visit to his most
beautiful place, Lassonthwayte, a farm fit for the poets, and had
learnt a great deal from him; and of Mrs. Moss he talked with
affectionate gratitude that brought the tears into Violet's eyes,
especially when he promised to go and call on her immediately on his
return, to tell her how Colonel Martindale was going on, and describe
to her her grandchildren. He repeated to Violet how kind her mother
had been to his sister, and how beautifully she had nursed him. Lord
Martindale began to ask questions, which brought out a narration of
his adventures in the coal-pit, given very simply, as if his being
there had been a mere chance.

He allowed that he knew it to be dangerous, but added, that it was
impossible to get things done by deputy, and that he had no choice
but to see about it himself, and he dwelt much on the behaviour of
the men.

'Did you give up hope?' asked Lord Martindale.

'For myself I did. The confined air oppressed me so much, even
before the sense of hunger came on, that it seemed to take away all
power of thought and action.'

'Yet you did think?' said Violet.

'I was obliged, for the men were more confounded and helpless at
first, though, when once directed, nothing could be more resolute and
persevering! Brave fellows! I would not but have had it happen!
One seldom has such a chance of seeing the Englishman's gallant heart
of obedient endurance. It was curious to observe the instinctive
submission. Some were men who would not for worlds have touched
their hats to me above ground; yet, as soon as I tried to take the
lead, and make them think what could yet be done, they obeyed
instantly, though I knew almost nothing compared to them, and while
they worked like giants, I could hardly move.'

'Was it very acute suffering?'

'For the last two days it was, but it was worse for those who had to
work. I was generally faint and drowsy, and could hardly rouse
myself to speak a word of encouragement, which was what they wanted.
They fancied it was vain to work towards the old shaft, but I was
sure none of them could live to be dug out from above, and that it
would be wrong to let them cease. I think, as well as I recollect,
that speaking was the worst pain of all. But it is no harm to know
what the poor undergo.'

'Hardly to such extremity,' said Violet.

'Well, I know I shall never turn indifferently away again when I
hear, "We are starving." A man feels little for what he has not
experienced.'

'I suppose,' said Lord Martindale, 'that it has put an extinguisher
on Chartism?'

'There are some determined village Hampdens still, but I think the
fellow-feeling it has excited has done good. I have not been able to
go among them since, but they have indefatigably come to inquire for
me. The first Sunday I was able to come down-stairs, I found the
hall door beset with them in their best, looking like a synod of
Methodist preachers. Poor Lucy shocked my aunt by running about
crying, and shaking hands with their great horny fists. I fancy
"our young lady," as they call her, is the strongest anti-chartist
argument.'

Though talking in this animated manner he was far from strong, and
went away early, looking thoroughly tired. Theodora had stitched
away throughout the conversation in silence; but Violet knew, by the
very fixity of her eye, that she was feeling it deeply and there was
consciousness in the absence of word or look, with which she let the
Earl bid her good night. It was a strange thing to have been in part
the means of forming so noble a character, and yet to regard her
share in it with nothing but shame.

Self-reproachful and unhappy, Theodora went to take her turn of
watching her brother for the first part of the night. She could not
have borne to be told, what was in fact the case, that he was
generally more uncomfortable under her care than that of any one
else, chiefly because there was not the restraint either of
consideration for his wife, or of the authority of his father.
Besides, she was too visibly anxious, too grave and sad, to find
anything cheerful with which to divert his attention; and he was sure
to become restless and exacting, or else depressed, either as to his
illness or his affairs.

To-night he had discovered Lady Elizabeth's visit, and was anxious to
know whether Gardner had broken with Miss Brandon. Theodora would
not encourage his talking; and this teased him, only making him say
more till she had told all, adding, 'O Arthur! what a comfort it must
be that this is brought upon you by your having tried to save Emma!'

'Not much of that. It was Violet. I would have stopped her writing
if I could.'

Perhaps this downfall of the heroism with which she had been endowing
his resistance, was one of the most cruel blows of all.

'If he marries Mrs. Finch, he must at least pay off what he owes me;'
and he began perplexing himself with reckonings. Theodora saw his
brow drawn together, and his lips moving, and begged him to desist
and try to sleep.

'You have interrupted me--I have lost it!' and he tried again. 'No,
I can't get it right. There is a lot of papers in my writing-case.
You'll see to it. It will be something for Violet and the children.
Mind the claim is sent in;' and again he strove to explain, while she
entreated him to put such things out of his mind; and it ended in
such violent coughing, that Lord Martindale heard, came in, and with
a look that told her how ill she managed, sent her to bed, where she
vexed herself for hours at Arthur's seeming to dwell only on his
gaming debts, instead of on what she longed to see occupying his
mind. Her elasticity seemed to have been destroyed by her illness,
and she had lost the vigour which once would have made her rise
against depression. The reappearance of Percy and of Lord St. Erme
seemed only to have wearied and perplexed her; and she lay awake,
feeling worn, confused, and harassed, and only wishing to hide her
head and be at rest.

Arthur had a bad night, and was not so well in the morning, and while
Lord Martindale was wondering why Theodora could not have been more
cautious, the letters came in--one from Brogden--making it evident
that Lady Martindale was so unwell and dispirited, that she ought not
to be left alone any longer. Lord Martindale, therefore, decreed
that Theodora should return, taking with her the three eldest
children. And she could make no objection; she ought to submit to be
passively disposed of; and, grievous as it was to leave her brother
and Violet, there was compensation in avoiding her former suitors.

Lady Elizabeth came in almost at the same time as Lord Martindale
went out, after breakfast. She was in great distress. Poor Emma
treated the whole as a calumny; and when shown the absolute certainty
that Mark was at Paris, daily calling on Mrs. Finch, remained
persuaded that his cousin had perverted him from the first, and was
now trying to revive her pernicious influence when he might have been
saved; or that perhaps he was driven to an immediate wealthy marriage
by his honourable feeling and his necessities. It was all her own
fault for not having taken him at once. Lady Elizabeth had hardly
been able to prevent her from writing to revoke the year's probation,
and offer him all that was needed to satisfy his creditors.

Theodora could not help exclaiming, that she thought Emma would have
had more dignity.

'So I told her, my dear; but it seemed to be no consolation. I do
not feel secure that, though she has promised me not to write,
Theresa Marstone may not.'

'Is Miss Marstone still in his favour?'

'I can still less understand her view,' said Lady Elizabeth, with a
grave, sad simplicity, almost like satire; 'she says it only
convinces her that the Church of England does not know how to treat
penitents.'

Theodora could not help laughing, and Lady Elizabeth nearly joined
her, though sighing and saying that such talk gave her other fears
for Emma. She dreaded that Miss Marstone was unsettled in her
allegiance to her Church, and that her power over Emma was infusing
into her her own doubts.

'It is very sad--very strange! I cannot understand it,' said
Theodora. 'I had always believed that such innocence and lowliness
as Emma and Violet have was a guard against all snares; yet here is
Emma led astray by these very excellences!'

'My dear,' said Lady Elizabeth, 'I think it is the want of that
lowliness that is at the root with my poor child. It is a dangerous
thing for a girl to throw herself into an exclusive friendship,
especially when the disapproval of her own family is felt. I tried,
but I never could like Theresa Marstone; and now I see that she liked
to govern Emma, and depreciated my judgment--very justly, perhaps;
but still I was her mother, and it was not kind to teach her to think
doing as I wished a condescension.'

'So Emma sold all her senses to her friend?'

'Yes, and Miss Marstone keeps them still. Theresa taught her to
think herself wiser than all, and their own way of talking the proof
of goodness.'

'Ay! their passwords.'

'Just so, and I do believe it was that kind of vanity that took from
her her power of discerning and the instinctive shrinking from evil.'

'It is very easy to make simplicity silliness,' said Theodora. 'I
beg your pardon, Lady Elizabeth, I did not mean to blame her, but I
was thinking how truly you spoke.'

'And now, may I ask to see Mrs. Martindale; or will it be too much
for her?'

'She will be glad, but she was tired with coming down to Lord St.
Erme. And now, Arthur's bad night! Oh! Lady Elizabeth, you come
from your griefs to ours. It is a shame to make you share them!'

'I do not think so,' said Lady Elizabeth. 'There is a tract of
Hannah More's showing that to bear another's burden lightens our own;
and all old people will tell you that many troubles together weigh
less heavily than a single one.'

Theodora could not think so; each of her cares seemed to make the
others worse, till the mere toil and vexation of Helen's lessons
became serious; and yet, when the children were dismissed for their
walk, she felt unable to profit by her leisure, otherwise than by
sighing at the prospect of missing the power of looking in at Arthur
from hour to hour. She had not roused herself to occupation, when,
to her dismay, Lord St. Erme was admitted. She began to say her
father was not at home.

'Yes,' he said, 'I met him.'

He means mischief! thought Theodora.

'He tells me that you are going away!'

'I believe so,' said Theodora. 'My mother is not well, and we cannot
both be spared from home.'

'Will you forgive me?' said the Earl, still standing, and with
downcast eyes, and heightened complexion. 'I know this is no fit
time, but I could not part without one allusion. I would not harass
you for worlds. A word from you, and I drop the subject.'

'Oh! pray, then, say no more!' was her breathless entreaty.

He turned in silence, with a mournful gesture of farewell, and laid
his hand on the door. She perceived her unkindness to one who had
every claim to honour and consideration--one who had remembered her
in well-nigh the hour of death.

'Stay,' she said; 'I did not speak as I ought.'

'I know I presumed too far,' said Lord St. Erme, pausing; 'I ask your
pardon for disturbing you. It was selfish; but I could not let you
go without once adverting to the subject--'

There was a tremor of voice, an eager look, that made her fear that
the crushed hope was reviving, and she hastened to say, 'The best
thing would be that you should think no more about me.'

'Impossible!' he vehemently cried; then, catching himself up, and
speaking in the same deferential tone as at first, 'I owe you far too
much to cease to think of you.'

'It is a great pity,' said Theodora; 'I never deserved such feelings,
and they make me wish more and more that all could be undone.'

'No! no!' exclaimed Lord St. Erme, his eyes lighting and his cheek
glowing, while his fair young features wore a look that was all poet
and knight. 'Would I see what is past undone? It was the turning-
point of my life--the call to arms. Hitherto, life had been to me a
dream in an enchanted garden, with the same secret weariness and
dissatisfaction! I dread the thought of the time and means I
lavished away, fancying because it was not vice it was not
dissipation. It was then that I became unworthy of you. It was you
who taught me where lies modern chivalry, and made my folly and
conceit cease to despise the practical; showed me--may I quote German
to you once more?--that "Das Leben ist keine Lustfahrt sondern theils
eine kampfes, theils eine Pilger-weise." I took up my staff, at
first, I own, in hopes of winning you--'

'You did not persevere merely for that reason?'

'No; when my eyes were once opened to the festering sin and misery
around, when I saw the evil nourished at my own door by my neglect,
and perceived that those dependent on me were doomed to degradation
and oppression that I might gratify my craving for art,--then,
indeed, I was appalled! Those paintings and statues seemed to cry
out to me that human souls had been sacrificed to them! The toil and
devotion of a life would be too little to atone! Oh! that it were
more able and effective. Means and judgment go but a little way!'

'Your heart and happiness are in the work,' said Theodora, seeing how
he was carried away by his feelings.

'Yes. There is a sense like the labourer's at his daily task, and
though there is the mountain of things undone, there is the hope that
all are not wilfully neglected. It is for this that I longed to
thank you. When I was in danger, I knew what it would have been to
wait for death before I thought of--of the way of peace. I blessed
you in my heart then--I thank you now.'

'Thank Him who has brought good out of evil, was all Theodora could
say.

He bowed his head gravely, and continued: 'Now, thank you again for
having listened. It has been a great satisfaction to me to
acknowledge my obligations. Do not suppose I came to London
intending to distress you with my pertinacity, or with any idea of
having earned your favour. I was obliged to come; and when once near
you, I could not bear to separate without, at least, entreating to
know whether the former obstacle exists.'

'It does,' said Theodora, looking down; 'I believe it always will.
I lament more than I can express, my conduct towards you; and what
you have told me grieves me more in one way, though in another it is
most consoling. You have the true secret of peace, and I know all
must be well with you. If you had done otherwise, it would have been
far worse for me. Tell Lucy I have not forgotten her. I am sure she
has the true light-hearted sort of happiness.'

'She has, indeed,' said Lord St. Erme; and he entered into a
description of his sister's doings; her perfect content with their
seclusion, and her influence over the dependants. So eager did he
grow in his favourite subject, the welfare of his people, that he
seemed to have forgotten what had brought him to Cadogan-place, and
Theodora was convinced that though the being brought into contact
with her had for the time renewed the former attachment, it was in
reality by no means the prominent thought of his life. His duties
and the benefit of his colliers were what engrossed his mind; and
with his sister to render his home happy, everything else was
secondary. When it did occur to him to think of love, it was for
Theodora; but he had no more time for such thoughts than most other
busy practical men.

He discoursed upon his schools and reading-rooms till the children
came in, and then bade her good-bye, quite as if he had talked
himself back into an every-day state of feeling.

Was Theodora mortified? She went to her own room to analyze her
sensations, but was almost immediately followed by Johnnie, coming to
tell her that the owl-man was in the drawing-room.

'Another who is consoled!' thought she. 'Humiliating, indeed, it is
to see such complete cures. There is no need to be absurd and
conscious at this meeting! But here I do, indeed, need forgiveness--
how my heart aches to ask it--his mere pardon for my offences! If I
could only have it out with him without compromising womanly
proprieties! That can't be; I must bear it!'

On the stairs she heard Helen's voice. 'He came yesterday, to the
evening dinner, but I don't like him.'

'Why not?' asked Percy.

'Because he says I am just like Aunt Theodora, and I am not.'

Theodora knew whom she meant. Lord St. Erme had been much struck by
her little niece's resemblance, and Helen resented the comparison as
an indignity to her beauty. She felt extremely annoyed at Percy's
hearing this; then recollected it did not signify to him, and entered
just as he was telling little Miss Vanity that she was the silliest
child he had ever the honour of meeting.

There was some constraint, on her part, in the short conversation on
Arthur's health that ensued, before he went up; and he only returned
to the drawing-room for a moment, to assure her that he thought
Arthur much better than when he had last seen him.

'He avoids me! he cannot endure me!' she thought, and yet she felt
doubly averse to the idea of returning to Brogden.

Lord Martindale came in with a look of expectation on his face which
grieved Theodora, for she knew her refusal would be a disappointment
to him. He sent the children away, paused for her to begin, and at
last asked: 'Well, my dear, has Lord St. Erme been here?'

'Yes papa;' and it was plain enough how it had been. Lord Martindale
sighed. The rest being equal, it was not in human nature not to
prefer an Earl to an almost penniless author. 'I would not urge you
on any account,' he said; 'but I wish it could have been otherwise.'

'So do I, most heartily,' said Theodora.

'It is very different now,' said Lord Martindale. Four years ago I
could hardly have wished it. Now, I think most highly of him, and I
should have been rejoiced to have seen his constancy rewarded.'

'I am ashamed and grieved,' said Theodora. 'He did, indeed, deserve
better things. He is a noble character; and I cannot honour or
esteem him enough, nor sufficiently regret the way I treated him.
But, indeed, papa, it would not be right. I cannot help it.'

'Well, there is no more to be said,' sighed Lord Martindale. 'I know
you will do right.'

Something was won since her former dismissal of the Earl! Her father
gave her a look full of confidence and affection; and made happy by
it, she rallied her spirits and said, 'Besides, what a pair it would
be! We should be taken for a pretty little under-graduate and his
mother!'

'That will not last, my dear,' said Lord Martindale, vexed though
smiling at her droll manner. 'You are younger than he.'

'In years, but not in mind,' said Theodora. 'No, no, papa; you have
me for life, and it is hard you should be so anxious to get rid of
me!'

'I only wish to consult your happiness, my dear child.'

'And that always was in fancying myself necessary,' said Theodora,
gaily, though there was a trembling in her voice; and when she went
up to her own room, she hid her face in her hands, and felt as if
life was very dreary and uninteresting, and as if it was a miserable
exile to be sent into the country just now, to have to force cheerful
conversation for her mother, and to be wearied with Helen's wild
spirits. 'But have I not deserved everything? And after my brother
has been spared so far, how can I repine at any selfish trouble?'

CHAPTER 12

Herself, almost heartbroken now,
Was bent to take the vestal vow,
And shroud, within St. Hilda's gloom,
Her wasted hopes and withered bloom.--SCOTT

Violet, when called to consult with her father-in-law in the outer
room, felt a sort of blank apprehension and consternation at the idea
of being separated from her children; and a moment's reflection
satisfied her that in one case at least she might rightly follow the
dictates of her own heart. She said that she thought Johnnie could
not be spared by his papa.

Lord Martindale's eye followed hers, and through the half-closed door
saw Johnnie, sitting on the bed, reading to his father, who listened
with amused, though languid attention.

'I believe you are right,' he said; 'though I wish I had the boy in
the country doing no lessons. He puts me more in mind of his uncle
every day.'

'One of the highest compliments Johnnie has ever had,' said Violet,
colouring with pleasure; 'but I am afraid to trust him away from me
and Mr. Harding in the winter because of his croup.'

'Ah! then it cannot be,' he answered; 'and I do not think I would
take him from his father now, but his sisters must come; they would
be too much for you without Theodora.'

Violet could only be mournfully thankful, and the project was in time
laid before Arthur.

'Send my little girls away!' said he, looking discomfited. 'Oh! if
you wish to keep them'--joyfully exclaimed Violet.

'I thought that if Theodora went home, Violet would hardly be able to
manage them,' said Lord Martindale.

'If they are in her way,' said Arthur, and his eyes smiled at her,
knowing what her decision would be.

'Oh! no, no! It was their grandpapa's kindness.' Johnnie and Helen
here peeped into the room; Arthur beckoned to them, and said, 'How
should you like to go into the country with Aunt Theodora?'

'To see grandmamma and the peacock?' said Lord Martindale. Johnnie
clung to his mother's hand, piteously whispering, 'Oh! don't send me
away, mamma--I would try to bear it if I ought.'

Helen climbed the bed, and sturdily seated herself close to her papa.
'I shall not desert my father and mother,' said she, with great
dignity, drawing up her head.

'No more you shall, my little heroine!' said Arthur, throwing his arm
round her, while she glanced with saucy triumph at her grandfather.

In the silence of night, when Arthur was alone with his father, he
said, 'If those little girls go away now, they will never remember
me.'

To this plea there could be no reply; for though the danger was no
longer imminent, it was still extremely doubtful whether he would
ever leave his room again.

His wish to keep the children made Lord Martindale reconsider of
sending Theodora home, and he desired Violet to choose between her
and himself. She thought Theodora the most effective, and Arthur
seemed to prefer her remaining, so that she found herself disposed of
according to her wishes, her father only stipulating that she should
not neglect rest, air, or exercise, of which she stood in evident
need.

Every one observed her haggard looks on the day when they met for the
baptism of 'Arthur Fotheringham.' It was a melancholy christening,
without the presence of either parent; and so all the little party
felt it, and yet, if they could have seen into the recesses of the
mother's heart, they would have found there were causes which made
this baptism day better to her than any of the former ones.

The godfather came afterwards to see Arthur, who believed him more
than all the doctors when he assured him he was making progress.
Arthur began to speak of the debt; he wished before his father went
to have a settlement of accounts, take steps for selling his
commission, and repaying Percy.

'No,' said Percy, 'wait till you are better and can look about you.
Sell your commission indeed, and take the bread out of your
children's mouths! No, if you did choose to do that, it must in
honour and justice be divided among all your creditors.'

Arthur was forced to give up.

Emma Brandon had not joined the christening party. Miss Marstone had
actually written to Mark Gardner, and had in reply received an
acknowledgment of her 'good offices, which had gone far to enable him
to justify the bets that before Christmas he would have a wife with
ten thousand pounds a year!' He did not quite venture to insult Miss
Brandon, but sent her a cool message of farewell. The rest of the
letter, the friends declared, was evidently by Mrs. Finch's
dictation. They shut themselves up together; Lady Elizabeth was not
allowed to help her daughter, and came to Cadogan-place chiefly that
she might talk over her troubles with Theodora, who put her into
communication with Percy, and from him she heard a brief sketch of
Mr. Gardner's life and adventures, still less disposing her to desire
him as a son-in-law.

She was certainly safe from this danger, but her cares were not thus
ended. If Emma would have shared her griefs with her, and admitted
her attempts at consolation, she would have been more at ease, but as
it was, Emma was reserved with her, and attached herself solely to
Theresa Marstone, whom she even made a sort of interpreter between
her and her mother, so that Lady Elizabeth only knew as much of her
mind as her confidante chose to communicate.

Not only was this most painful to her feelings as a mother, but she
had serious doubts of the safety of such a companion. The extreme
silliness of Theresa's vanity and exclusiveness had long been
visible, and as it was the young lady's fashion to imagine the defect
anywhere but in her own judgment, there were symptoms of the mischief
having been by her attributed to the Church of England. As if to
console herself for the shock she had sustained, she was turning to a
new fancy, for when a woman once begins to live upon excitement, she
will seek for the intoxication anywhere.

This perception made Lady Elizabeth resolve that as long as she was
mistress of Rickworth, she would not again invite Miss Marstone
thither; while Emma was equally determined not to go home without her
only friend. Thus the mother and daughter lingered on in London,
Theresa often coming to spend the day with Emma, and Lady Elizabeth
having recourse to the Martindale family, and trying to make herself
of use by amusing the children, sitting in Arthur's room, or taking
Theodora for a walk or drive.

One morning she came in to say that Emma was going to drive to
Islington to call upon Miss Marstone, who had gone two days
previously to stay with some friends there, and to beg that Theodora
would accompany her. Aware that it would be as great a penance to
Emma as to herself, Theodora would fain have been excused, but let
herself be overruled on Lady Elizabeth's promise to supply her place
at home, and assurance that it would be a positive relief that she
should be of the party, even if she did not get out of the carriage,
as a check upon the length of time Emma would spend with her friend.

The two unwilling companions set forth, each in her own comer of the
carriage, Emma leaning back, her thick blue veil hiding her face;
Theodora, who always repudiated veils, sitting upright, her face
turned, so as to catch the breeze on her hot temples, wishing she
could turn herself into Violet, and possess her power of sweet
persuasion and consolation. She could think of nothing to say, and
began at last to fear that her silence might appear unkind. She
tried to interest Emma by speaking of Johnnie, but she only obtained
brief replies, and the conversation had dropped before they left the
streets and entered on suburban scenery. Theodora exclaimed at a
gorgeous Virginian creeper--

'Almost as fine as the one at the Priory,' said she.

Emma looked and sighed.

'Rickworth must be in high glory. I know nothing prettier than the
many-coloured woods sloping into the meadow, with the soft mist
rising. You will find home beautiful.'

'I cannot bear the thought of it,' said Emma, in an under-tone.

'How glad your little orphans will be! How many have you?'

'There are five.'

Theodora saw she hated the subject, but thought it good for her, and
went on to tell her of a case at Whitford, cramming the subject into
her ear at first against the stomach of her sense, but it could not
but exact attention, a widow sinking in a decline after sorrows
which, by comparison, made all young lady troubles shrink into atoms.
Emma became interested, and began to ask questions.

'You will go to see the mother? Poor thing, I hope she may be alive
to hear of the prospect for her child. I am sorry to be unable to go
and see her, and should be so glad to know you near and able to
attend to her.'

'We will write to the housekeeper,' said Emma.

'Are you not going back yourself?'

'I don't know; I have no heart to think of it.'

'Emma,' said Theodora, 'we need not go on as if we did not understand
each other. Violet can attend to you now; I wish you would talk to
her. No one can comfort as she can.'

'I do not wish to tease her with my--'

'She knows, she longs to help you. Don't you know how fond of you
she always was? You two appreciated each other from the first.'

'It is of no use. She never entered into my views. She does not
understand. It is her situation I blame, not herself. She is a dear
creature, and I once had a strong girlish enthusiasm for her.'

'Once!' cried Theodora; 'what has she ever done to lessen enthusiasm
for all that is good and lovely?'

Emma hung her head, alarmed; and Theodora more gently insisted, till,
by the power which in childhood she had exerted over Emma, she forced
out an answer. 'Forgive me, if I must tell you. I have thought her
too fond of going out. It was no wonder, so very young as she was.
I do not find fault, but it seemed to dispel an illusion that she was
superior to other people. Don't you remember one party she would go
to against warning, that one where she fainted? I could never feel
the same for her afterwards.'

Theodora was silent for a few seconds, then exclaimed, 'O Violet, is
there no end to the injuries I have done you? Emma, never judge
without seeing behind the curtain. It was my fault. It was when I
was crazed with wilfulness. Your mother offered to chaperon me, I
was set on going with Mrs. Finch, and as the only means of preventing
that, Violet sacrificed herself. I did not know she likewise
sacrificed the friendship of the only person, except John, who had
been kind to her.'

'I wish Theresa had known this,' said Emma.

'Now YOU know it, will you not turn to Violet for advice and comfort?
I know what she can be. If you could guess what she saved me from,
you would fly at once to her.'

'I cannot begin now, I cannot look anywhere that recalls past
happiness!' said Emma, murmuring low, as though the words, in spite
of herself, broke from her oppressed heart. 'Would that I could hide
my head! Oh! that I had wings like a dove!'

'Emma, you have them. They may carry you into what seems to be a
wilderness, but go bravely on, and you will be at rest at last.'

'What do you mean?'

'The wings of duty.'

'If I only knew where it was.'

'Your mother, your dependants, your orphans, your beautiful old plan.

Emma only groaned, and held up her hand in deprecation.

'I have felt it,' continued Theodora. 'I know how vain, and vapid,
and weary everything seems, as if the sap of life was gone, but if we
are content to remain in the wilderness, it begins to blossom at
last, indeed it does.'

'I thought you had had no troubles,' said Emma, with more interest.
'They could not have been such as mine.'

'In one respect they were worse, for they were entirely my own
fault.'

'May I ask, is there no hope for you?'

'No, said Theodora, 'I believe there is none. But a certain peaceful
feeling, independent of that, came after the desolateness, and has
never gone utterly away, though I have had to reap the harvest of the
evil that I sowed. Oh! depend upon it, there is nothing like
resolutely facing the day's work.'

Emma made no answer; they had come to the gate of a villa, and
Theodora thought she might as well have held her peace, since Theresa
would undo the whole.

Miss Marstone was not within, but she had left a note for Miss
Brandon. Emma, after reading it, timidly said that Theresa had gone
to spend the day with a friend, who was boarding in a convent not far
off, and that she wished her to come and make her visit to her there.
Then timidly glancing towards her companion, she desired to be driven
thither, but Theodora, leaning forward, said, in an authoritative
manner, 'Drive on two miles on the road. We will say where next when
we come back.'

'I beg your pardon,' she said to Emma, 'but this is not a step to be
taken inconsiderately.'

Emma did not reply; Theodora perceived that her decided manner had
terrified her. 'I am sorry if I was rude,' she said; 'I did not mean
it, but I thought you were acting precipitately, and that you would
be glad to have time to reflect before going to this place without
your mother's knowledge.'

'It is not precipitately,' said Emma, faintly.

'You don't mean that this was a pre-concerted scheme. If so, pray
let me out, and I will go home alone.'

'No, no, I did not mean exactly--don't use such words, Theodora.
Only sister Mary Angela--Theresa's great friend--had joined the Roman
communion. Theresa wished me to see her and the convent, and said
that perhaps I might find her there. If I had told mamma, she would
have fancied I should be kidnapped like young ladies in books. I
believe you expect it yourself,' said Emma, giggling hysterically.

'I think, and she thinks nothing but what is rational,' said
Theodora, coldly, 'that it is a sad thing to see you taught to resort
to subterfuges, and that they can lead into no safe course.'

'You do not know Theresa, or you would not accuse her of what she
would detest.'

'I speak from what I see. She has arranged in secret that, without
your mother's knowledge, you should by stealth go to a place where
you both know Lady Elizabeth would be shocked to hear of you.'

'I thought you understood the true Catholic spirit,' said Emma, 'and
were interested in these things.'

'The Catholic spirit is anything but such treatment of a mother,'
said Theodora. 'Once for all, do you mean to go to this place, or do
you not? I see a cab, and if you go I return home in that.'

'Of course then I must give it up.'

'Now, and for ever, unless with your mother's consent, I hope,' said
Theodora.

Emma did not answer, and they proceeded for some distance, Theodora
wondering what could be her companion's frame of mind, and what she
ought to do next. So far, it was the sort of compulsion she had been
wont to employ in the unscrupulous hours of childhood; but this was
no gain--Emma's reason ought to be convinced, and of this she had
little hope. Miss Brandon was the first to break silence. That word
subterfuge rankled, as it must in any honourable mind, and she began-
-'I wish you would do Theresa justice. No one can have a greater
contempt than she for anything underhand.'

Theodora tried not to laugh, and could not help pitying the fond
affections that were blind to every fault in the beloved object.

'Ah!' said Emma, in answer to her silence, 'you think this bears the
appearance of it; but you may be certain that Theresa is absolutely
sure to act conscientiously.'

'Some people follow their conscience--some drive it.'

'Now, do let me explain it,' entreated Emma, and talking eagerly and
rather mistily, she told in many more words than were needful how
Theresa had serious doubts as to what she termed Anglicanism,
reckoning against it every laxity in doctrine or in discipline that
came to her knowledge, and admiring everything in other branches of
the Church. Emma, taking all for granted that Theresa said, was
strongly of the same mind, and while both made high professions of
attachment to their own communion, they were in a course of dwelling
on all the allurements held out in other quarters. By some
astonishing train of reasoning, frequent in persons in a state of
excitement and self-deception, they had persuaded themselves that
Mark Gardner's return to his evil courses had been for want of a
monastery to receive him; and their tendency to romance about
conventual institutions had been exaggerated by the present state of
Emma's spirits, which gave her a desire to retire from the world, as
well as a distaste to the projects in which she had lately given her
false lover but too large a share. 'Peace dwells in the cloister,'
she sighed.

'You have the essentials of such a life in your power,' said
Theodora.

'Not the fixed rule--the obedience.'

'Oh! Emma! your mother!'

'I want discipline--Church discipline as in primitive times,' said
Emma, impatiently.

'The most primitive discipline of all is, "honour thy father and
mother,"' returned Theodora.

There was a silence. Theodora resumed--'I know how one would rather
do anything than what is required. Violet taught me then that we
must not choose our cross.'

Another space, then Emma said, 'And you call it a subterfuge?'

'Can you honestly call it otherwise? Don't bewilder us with
explanations, but simply say what you would have thought of it six
years ago.'

For Emma not to send forth a vapour of words was impossible, but they
did not satisfy even herself. Those short terse sentences of
Theodora's told upon her, and at last she did not deny that she
should not have thought it right if Theresa had not prompted it.

'Is she more likely to be right, or is the Catechism?'

'The Catechism?'

'To be TRUE and just in all my dealings.'

'She did not think it wrong.'

'No, of course not, but if it is wrong, and she does not think it so,
does that make her a safe guide?'

'You want to set me against her!'

'I want you to cease to give her a power over you, which is unsafe
for any human being.'

'You have been talking to mamma.'

'I have been seeing how unhappy she is about you; but since I have
talked to yourself I have seen far more danger.'

'Poor mamma!'

'May I tell you how your history appears to a looker-on? I know it
will be painful, but I think it will be good for you.'

'Well!'

'You began beautifully. It was delightful to see how you and your
mother went on in perfect confidence, ready to work at everything
good together, and she sympathizing in all your projects, only
bringing wise caution to restrain your ardour.'

'Yes, we were very happy then,' sighed Emma; 'but mamma wished me to
go into society.'

'And wisely. Remember, in the conventual system, a girl cannot be a
novice till she has had six months in which to see the world. It was
right that you should count the cost. Besides, society in moderation
is the best way to keep one's mind from growing narrow. Well, then,
you met Miss Marstone, and she excited your imagination. She is
really clever and good, and I don't wonder at your liking her; but I
cannot think that she has done right in cultivating your exclusive
preference till she has detached you from your mother.'

'She did not always think with her.'

'No, but a sound friend would always place the duty to your mother
foremost. You made a Pope of her, believed all she said, did as she
pleased, and she was flattered, and absorbed you more and more, till
really you both came to treating Lady Elizabeth's opinion as a
nonentity. Can you deny it?'

'No.'

More would have been said, but Theodora would not hear, and went on.
'See the consequence. She made a fearful mistake, and but for your
mother and your remaining regard to her authority, where should you
have been now? All this misery could not have been if you had been
safe under Lady Elizabeth's wing.'

'No!' faintly said Emma.

'And now, when your mother has saved you, and her heart is aching to
comfort you, and take you back to the safe old nest where all your
duties and schemes lie, Miss Marstone tries to keep you from her; and
fancies she is doing the best and most conscientious thing by
teaching yon to elude her, and go where, to one in your state of
mind, is temptation indeed. Oh! Emma, she may think it right; but
are you acting kindly by the mother who has only you?'

Theodora was very glad to see tears. 'I cannot bear to go home!'
presently said Emma.

'Have you thought how badly all the poor people must be getting on
without you? All your children--it is half a year since you saw
them!'

Emma groaned.

'Yes, it is bad enough at first. You have had a heavy trial indeed,
poor Emma; but what is a trial but something to try us? Would it not
be more manful to face the pain of going home, and to take up your
allotted work? Then you would be submitting, not to a self-made
rule, but to Heaven's own appointment.'

Was Emma's mind disengaged enough for curiosity, or did she want to
quit the subject! She said--'You have had a trial of this kind
yourself?'

Theodora had a struggle. To tell the whole seemed to her as uncalled
for as painful; and yet there must be reciprocity if there is to be
confidence, and she could not bear to advise like one who had never
erred. She therefore confessed how her happiness had been wrecked by
her own fault, and related the subsequent misery; how Violet had
repelled the disposition to exalt her rather than her parents, and
had well-nigh forced her abroad, and how there in the dreary waste a
well of peace had sprung up, and had been with her ever since.

Short as Theodora tried to make the story she so much disliked, it
lasted till they were almost at home. It had its effect. To be
thrown over upon Lady Martindale and Mrs. Nesbit at Baden could not
but appear to Emma a worse lot than to be left to her own mother and
Rickworth, which, after all, she loved so well; and the promise of
peace to be won by following appointed paths was a refreshing sound.

She had, this whole time, never thought of her mother's feelings, and
the real affection she entertained was once more awake. Besides, to
see how Theodora represented their scheme, not only shook her faith
in Theresa, but alarmed her sense of right on her own account. In
short, though she said no word, there was a warmth in her meeting
with Lady Elizabeth, on their return, that gave Theodora hopes.

Next morning came a note.

'My Dear Theodora,--I have decided to go home at once. I could not
rest without Theresa's explanation, so I have written to her, and I
had rather have it by letter than in person. I talked till two
o'clock last night with mamma, and we go home at twelve to-day. Tell
Violet we will come in for a few moments to take leave.

'Your affectionate,

'E. E. B.'

'There is one thing to be thankful for!' said Theodora. The visit
was very short; Emma hardly spoke or raised her eyes, and Theodora
hoped that some of her timidity arose from repentance for her false
judgment of Violet. To Theodora, she said--'You shall see Theresa's
explanation,' and Theodora deserved credit for not saying it would be
a curiosity.

Lady Elizabeth did as she had not done since Theodora was a little
child; she put her arm round her neck and kissed her affectionately,
murmuring, 'Thank you, my dear.'

This little scene seemed to brace Theodora for the trial of the
evening. Percy had offered to sit up that night with Arthur, and she
had to receive him, and wait with him in the drawing-room till he
should be summoned. It was a hard thing to see him so distant and
reserved, and the mere awkwardness was unpleasant enough. She could
devise nothing to say that did not touch on old times, and he sat
engrossed with a book the reviewal of which was to be his night's
employment.

CHAPTER 13

Should this new-blossomed hope be coldly nipped,
Then were I desolate indeed.--Philip van Artevelde--H. TAYLOR

The night was apt to be the worst time with Arthur; and Violet
generally found him in the morning in a state of feverish discomfort
and despondency that was not easily soothed. Anxious to know how he
had fared with his new attendant, she came in as early as possible,
and was rejoiced to find that he had passed an unusually comfortable
night, had been interested and cheered by Percy's conversation, and
had slept some hours.

Percy's occupation, in the meantime, was shown by some sheets of
manuscript on the table near the fire.

'I see you have not been losing time,' said Violet.

'I fear--I fear I have,' he answered, as rather nervously he began to
gather up some abortive commencements and throw them into the fire.

'Take care, that is mine,' exclaimed she, seeing the words 'Mrs.
Martindale,' and thinking he had seized upon a letter which he had
written to her from Worthbourne on Arthur's business. She held out
her hand for it, and he yielded it, but the next moment she saw it
was freshly written; before she could speak she heard the door
closed, and Arthur sleepily muttered, 'Gone already.' Dreading some
new branch of the Boulogne affair, she sat down, and with a beating
heart read by the firelight:--

'I can bear it no longer! Long ago I committed one great folly, and
should have been guilty of a greater, if you had not judged more
wisely for me than I for myself. You did, indeed, act "kindly as
ever"; and I have thanked you for it a thousand times, since I came
to my senses in the dismal altitude of my "sixieme etage" at Paris.

'No disrespect to your sister, to whom I did greater injustice than I
knew, in asking her to seal my mistake. I threw away a rough diamond
because its sharp edges scratched my fingers, and, in my fit of
passion, tried to fill up its place with another jewel. Happily you
and she knew better! Now I see the diamond sparkling, refined,
transcendent, with such chastened lustre as even I scarce dared to
expect!

'These solitary years of disappointment have brought me to a sense of
the harshness and arrogance of my dealings with the high nature that
had so generously intrusted itself to me. There was presumption from
the first in undertaking to mould her, rudeness in my attempts to
control her, and precipitate passion and jealousy in resenting the
displeasure I had provoked; and all was crowned by the absurd notion
that pique with her was love of your sister!

'I see it all now, or rather I have seen it ever since it was too
late; I have brooded over it till I have been half distracted, night
after night! And now I can hardly speak, or raise my head in her
presence. I must have her pardon, whether I dare or not to ask one
thing more. I never was sure that her heart was mine; my conduct did
not deserve it, whatever my feelings did. If she accepted me from
romance, I did enough to open her eyes! I am told she accepts Lord
St. Erme--fit retribution on me, who used to look down on him in my
arrogant folly, and have to own that he has merited her, while I--

'But, at least, I trust to your goodness to obtain some word of
forgiveness for me without disturbing her peace of mind. I would not
expose her to one distressing scene! She has gone through a great
deal, and the traces of grief and care on that noble countenance
almost break my heart. I would not give her the useless pain of
having to reject me, and of perceiving the pain I should not be able
to conceal.

'I commit myself to your kindness, then, and entreat of you, if the
feeling for me was a delusion, or if it is extinct, to let me know in
the manner least painful to you; and, when she can endure the
subject, to tell her how bitterly I have repented of having tried to
force humility on her, when I stood in still greater need of the
lesson, and of having flown off in anger when she revolted at my
dictation. One word of forgiveness would be solace in a life of
deserved loneliness and disappointment.'

Trembling with gladness, Violet could hardly refrain from rousing
Arthur to hear the good news! She hastily wrote the word 'Try!'
twisted it into a note, and sent it down in case Mr. Fotheringham
should still be in the house. The missive returned not, and she sat
down to enjoy her gladness as a Sunday morning's gift.

For Violet, though weak, anxious, and overworked, was capable of
receiving and being cheered by each sunbeam that shone on herself or
on her loved ones. Perhaps it was the reward of her resignation and
trust, that even the participation (as it might almost be called) of
her husband's suffering, and the constantly hearing his despondence,
could not deprive her of her hopefulness. Ever since the first two
days she had been buoyed up by a persuasion of his recovery, which
found food in each token of improvement; and, above all, there was
something in Arthur that relieved the secret burden that had so long
oppressed her.

She was free to receive solace and rejoice in the joy of others; and
when Theodora met her in the morning, eye and lip were beaming with a
suppressed smile of congratulation, that hardly suited with the thin,
white face.

'Arthur's comfortable night has done you both good,' said Theodora.
'Percy is a better nurse than I.'

'Oh, yes! it is all Percy's doing!' said Violet, there checking
herself; but laughing and blushing, so that for a moment she looked
quite girlishly pretty.

No more was heard of Mr. Fotheringham till Johnnie came home from the
afternoon's service, and reported that the owl-man was in the
drawing-room with Aunt Theodora.

At church Johnnie had seen his papa's good-natured friend in the
aisle, and with his hand on the door of the seat and his engaging
face lifted up, had invited him in.

Innocent Johnnie! he little knew what tumultuous thoughts were set
whirling through his aunt's mind. The last time Percy had joined her
at church, the whole time of the service had been spent in the
conflict between pride and affection. Now there was shame for this
fresh swarm of long-forgotten sins, and as the recollection saddened
her voice in the confession, foremost was the sense of sacrilege in
having there cherished them, and turned her prayer into sin. No
wonder she had been for a time yielded up to her pride and self-will!

As silently as usual they walked home from church, and she would at
once have gone up-stairs, but he said, in a low, hoarse voice, as her
foot was on the step, 'May I speak to you?'

She turned. It was so strangely like that former occasion that she
had a curious bewildered feeling of having passed through the same
before; and perhaps she had, in her dreams. Scarcely conscious, she
walked towards the fire.

'Can you forgive me?' said the same husky voice.

She raised her eyes to his face. 'Oh, Percy!'--but she could say no
more, cut short by rising sobs; and she could only hide her face, and
burst into tears.

He was perfectly overwhelmed. 'Theodora, dearest! do not! I have
been too hasty,' he exclaimed, almost beside himself with distress,
and calling her by every affectionate name.

'Never mind! It is only because I have become such a poor creature!'
said she, looking up with a smile, lost the next moment in the
uncontrollable weeping.

'It is my fault!--my want of consideration! I will go--I will call
Mrs. Martindale.'

'No, no, don't, don't go!' said Theodora, eagerly--her tears driven
back. 'It was only that I am so foolish now.'

'It was very wrong to be so abrupt--'

'No! Oh! it was the relief!' said Theodora, throwing off her shawl,
as if to free herself from oppression. Percy took it from her,
placed her in the arm-chair, and rendered her all the little
attentions in his power with a sort of trembling eagerness, still
silent; for she was very much exhausted,--not so much from present
agitation as from the previous strain on mind and body.

It seemed to give a softness and tenderness to their reunion, such as
there never had been between them before, as she leant back on the
cushions he placed for her, and gazed up in his face as he stood by
her, while she rested, as if unwilling to disturb the peace and
tranquillity.

At last she said, 'Did I hear you say you had forgiven me?'

'I asked if you could forgive me?'

'I!' she exclaimed, rousing herself and sitting up,--'I have nothing
to forgive! What are you thinking of?'

'And is it thus you overlook the presumption and harshness that--'

'Hush!' said Theodora; 'I was unbearable. No man of sense or spirit
could be expected to endure such treatment. But, Percy, I have been
very unhappy about it, and I do hope I am tamer at last, if you will
try me again.'

'Theodora!' cried Percy, hardly knowing what he said. 'Can you mean
it? After all that is past, may I believe what I dared not feel
assured of even in former days?'

'Did you not?' said Theodora, sorrowfully. 'Then my pride must have
been even worse than I supposed.'

'Only let me hear the word from you. You do not know what it would
be to me!'

'And did you really think I did not care for you? I, whose affection
for you has been a part of my very self! I am more grieved than
ever. I would never have tormented you if I had not thought you knew
my heart was right all the time.'

'It was my fault; my anger and impatience! And you let me hope that
this--this undeserved feeling has survived even my usage!'

'Nay, it was that which taught me its power. Your rejection was the
making of me; thanks to Violet, who would not let me harden myself,
and ruin all.'

'Violet! I could almost call her our presiding spirit, sent to save
us from ourselves!'

'Dear Violet! how glad she will be.'

'Then,' said Percy, as if he had only room for one thought, 'are we
indeed to begin anew?'

'I will try to be less unbearable,' was the stifled answer.

'We have both had lessons enough to teach us to be more humble and
forbearing,' said Percy, now first venturing to take her hand. 'Let
us hope that since this blessing has been granted us, that we shall
be aided in our endeavours to help each other.'

There was a grave and chastened tone about the meeting of these two
lovers: Theodora almost terrified at realizing that the bliss she had
once forfeited was restored to her, and Percy peculiarly respectful--
almost diffident in manner, feeling even more guilty towards her than
she did towards him. Neither could be content without a full
confession of their wrongs towards each other, and the unjust
impressions that had actuated them; and in the retrospect time passed
so quickly away, that they were taken by surprise when the candles
came in.

'I need not go?' entreated Percy.

'No, indeed; but you have had no dinner.'

'Never mind--I want nothing.'

Theodora ran up-stairs. Violet understood the suppressed call in the
dressing-room, and met her with outstretched arms.

The children never forgot that evening, so delightful did the owl-man
make himself. Helen even offered him a kiss, and wished him good
night, saucily calling him Percy; and Johnnie set his aunt's cheeks
in a glow by saying, 'It ought to be Uncle Percy, if he belonged to
Aunt Helen.'

'What do you know of Aunt Helen?' said Percy, lifting him on his
knee, with a sudden change of manner.

Johnnie's face was deeply tinged; he bent down his head and did not
answer, till, when the inquiry was repeated, he whispered, 'Mamma
said Aunt Helen was so very good. Mamma read to me about the dew-
drops, in her written book. She told me about her when I had the
blister on, because, she said, her thoughts helped one to be patient
and good.'

Percy put his arm round him, and his sigh or movement surprised
Johnnie, who uneasily looked at his aunt. 'Ought I not to have said
it?'

'Yes, indeed, Johnnie, boy. There is nothing so pleasant to me to
hear,' said Percy. 'Good night; I shall like you all the better for
caring for my dear sister Helen.'

'Being dead, she yet speaketh,' murmured he, as the children went.
'Strange how one such tranquil, hidden life, which seemed lost and
wasted, has told and is telling on so many!'

Even the peace and happiness of that evening could not remove the
effects of over-fatigue, and Percy insisted on Theodora's going early
to rest, undertaking again to watch by Arthur. She objected, that he
had been up all last night.

'I cannot go home to bed. If you sent me away, I should wander in
the Square, apostrophizing the gas-lamps, and be found to-morrow in
the station, as a disorderly character. You had better make my
superfluous energies available in Arthur's service. Ask if I may
come in.'

Theodora thought the sick-room had acquired quite a new aspect.
A Sunday air pervaded the whole, seeming to radiate from Violet, as
she sat by the fire; the baby asleep, in his little pink-lined
cradle, by her side. The patient himself partook of the freshened
appearance, as the bright glow of firelight played over his white
pillows, his hair smooth and shining, and his face where repose and
cheerfulness had taken the place of the worn, harassed expression of
suffering. Of the welcome there could be no doubt. Arthur's hands
were both held out, and did not let her go, after they had drawn her
down to kiss him and sit beside him on the bed.

'Well done! Theodora,' he said; 'I am glad it is made up. He is the
best fellow living, and well you deserve--'

'O, don't say so!'

'Not that he is the best?' said Arthur, squeezing hard both her
hands, as he used to do in fond, teasing schoolboy days. 'I shall
not say one without the other. Such a pair is not to be found in a
hurry. You only wanted breaking-in to be first-rate, and now you
have done it.'

'No, it was your own dear little wife!' was whispered in his ear.
He pinched her again, and, still holding her fast, said, 'Is Percy
there? Come in,' and, as he entered, 'Percy, I once warned you to
kill the cat on the wedding-day. I testify that she is dead. This
sister of mine is a good girl now. Ask Violet.'

'Violet--or, rather, our Heartsease'--said Percy, as his grasp nearly
crushed Violet's soft fingers: 'thank you; yours was the most
admirable note ever composed! Never was more perfect "eloquence du
billet!"'

'Eh! what was it?'

Percy held up the little note before Arthur's eyes: he laughed. 'Ay!
Violet is the only woman I ever knew who never said more than was to
the purpose. But now, Mrs. Heartsease, if that is your name, go and
put Theodora to bed; Percy will stay with me.'

'The baby,' objected Violet.

'Never mind, I want you very much,' said Theodora; 'and as Percy says
he has so much superfluous energy, he can take care of two Arthurs at
once. I am only afraid of his making the great one talk.'

'The great one' was at first as silent as the little one; his
countenance became very grave and thoughtful; and at last he said,
'Now, Percy, you must consent to my selling out and paying you.'

'If you do, it must be share and share alike with the rest of the
creditors.'

'And that would be no good,' said Arthur, 'with all the harpies to
share. I wish you would consent, Percy. Think what it is to me to
lie here, feeling that I have ruined not only myself, but all my
sister's hopes of happiness!'

'Nay, you have been the means of bringing us together again. And as
to your wife--'

'I must not have her good deeds reckoned to me,' said Arthur, sadly.
'But what can you do? My father cannot pay down Theodora's fortune.'

'We must wait,' interrupted Percy, cheerfully.

Arthur proceeded. 'Wait! what for? Now you are cut out of
Worthbourne, and my aunt's money might as well be at the bottom of
the sea, and--'

'I can hear no croaking on such a day as this,' broke in Percy. 'As
to Worthbourne, it is ill waiting for dead men's shoon. I always
thought Pelham's as good a life as my own, and I never fancied Mrs.
Nesbit's hoards. If I made three thousand pounds in five years, why
may I not do so again? I'll turn rapacious--give away no more
articles to benighted editors on their last legs. I can finish off
my Byzantine history, and coin it into bezants.'

'And these were your hard-earned savings, that should have forwarded
your marriage!'

'They have,' said Percy, smiling. 'They will come back some way or
other. I shall work with a will now! I am twice the man I was
yesterday. It was heartless work before. Now, "some achieve
greatness," you know.'

Arthur would have said more, but Percy stopped him. 'If you gave it
me to-morrow, we could not marry on it. Let things alone till you
are about again, and John comes home. Meantime, trust her and me for
being happy. A fico for the world and worldlings base.'

He attained his object in making Arthur smile; and Violet presently
returning, they sat on opposite sides of the fire, and held one of
the happiest conversations of their lives. Violet told the whole
story of the fire, which seemed as new to Arthur as to Percy.

'Why did I never hear this before?' he asked.

'You heard it at the time,' said Violet.

Recollections came across Arthur, and he turned away his head, self-
convicted of having thought the women made a tedious history, and
that he could not be bored by attending. Percy's way of listening,
meanwhile, was with his foot on the fender, his elbow on his knee,
his chin resting on his hand, his bright gray eyes fixed full on
Violet, with a beaming look of gladness, and now and then a nod of
assent, as if no heroism on Theodora's part could surpass his
expectations, for he could have told it all beforehand. However, his
turn came, when Violet described her last expedition after the chess-
board, and the injury it had entailed.

'Now, now, you don't say so!' said he, stammering with eagerness, and
starting up.

'Poor dear, she hardly knew what she did,' said Violet.

'I remember,' said Arthur. 'That was the time of the delusion that
Percy had taken up with his present cousin-in-law.'

Violet blushed. She was too much ashamed of ever having had the idea
to bear to recall it; and when Arthur explained, Percy shuddered, and
exclaimed, 'No, I thank you, Violet! you knew enough against me; but
you need not have thought me quite come to that!'

On the morrow, Percy came in as the children's lessons were
concluded. He studied Theodora's face tenderly, and hoped that she
had rested. She laughed, and called herself perfectly well; and,
indeed, her eyes were as large and as bright as they ought to me, and
she had discovered, that morning, that her black locks would make a
much more respectable show if properly managed. He would not have
mistaken her if she had looked as she did now three weeks ago.

After they had talked for some time, Theodora said, 'We must not talk
away the whole morning; I must write to papa.'

'Yes,' said Percy, 'I came to speak of that. Theodora, perhaps it
was wrong to say what I did last night.'

'How?' said she, frightened.

'You ought to have been told how much worse my position is than
before.'

'Oh! is that all?'

'It is a very serious all,' he answered. 'When I spoke before, and
was cool enough to treat it as if I was conferring a favour on you,
it was wonderful that your father consented. Now, you see,
Worthbourne is gone--'

'How can you care for that?'

'I did not, till I began to look at it from your father's point of
view. Besides, I ought to tell you, that there is no chance even of
a legacy. I find that Mrs. Fotheringham rules the house, and has
tried to prejudice my uncle against me. On the marriage, there were
fresh arrangements; my uncle was to alter his will, and it was on
that occasion that Sir Antony sent for me to keep up the balance, and
save him from her influence. Mrs. Martindale was right about her.
What a mischief-maker she is! My delay gave great offence.'

'Your delay on Arthur's account?'

'Yes, she managed to turn it against me. Imagine her having
persuaded them that I reckoned on Pelham's being set aside to make
room for me. She says it was named in this house!'

'Yes, by Jane herself.'

'She represented me as so disgusted at the marriage that I would pay
no attention to Sir Antony. I saw how it was when she received me,
purring and coaxing, and seeming to be making my peace with my uncle.
By and by, Pelham, when we grew intimate again, blundered out the
whole,--that his father wished to have settled something on me; but
that Jane had persuaded him that the whole might be wanted as a
provision for their family. I cared not one rush then, but it makes
a difference now. As for my former line, I am forgotten or worse.
I have said blunt things that there was no call for me to say. No
one chooses to have me for an underling, and there is no more chance
of my getting an appointment than of being made Khan of Tartary.
Authorship is all that is left to me.'

'You have done great things in that way,' said Theodora.

'I had made something, but I was obliged to advance it the other day
to get Arthur out of this scrape, and there is no chance of his being
able to pay it, poor fellow!'

'Oh, Percy! thank you more for this than for all. If the pressure
had come, I believe it would have killed him. If you had seen the
misery of those days!'

'And now,' continued Percy, 'poor Arthur is most anxious it should be
paid; but I ought not to consent. If he were to sell out now, he
would be almost destitute. I have persuaded him to let all rest in
silence till John comes.'

'I am glad you have,' said Theodora. 'I am afraid papa is a good
deal pressed for money. The rents have had to be reduced; and John
wants all the Barbuda income to spend on the estate there. Even
before the fire, papa talked of bringing John home to cut off the
entail, and sell some land; and the house was insured far short of
its value. He wants to get rid of Armstrong and all the finery of
the garden; but he is afraid of vexing mamma, and in the meantime he
is very glad that we are living more cheaply in the cottage. I
really do not think he could conveniently pay such a sum; and just at
present, too, I had rather poor Arthur's faults were not brought
before him.'

'It comes to this, then;--Is it for your happiness to enter upon an
indefinite engagement, and wait for the chance of my working myself
up into such a competency as may make our marriage not too imprudent?
It cannot, as far as I can see, be for years; it may be never.'

'When I thought you would not have me, I meant to be an old maid,'
said Theodora; 'and, Percy, this time you shall not think I do not
care for you. If we have to wait for our whole lives, let it be with
the knowledge that we belong to each other. I could not give up that
now, and'--as he pressed her hand--'mind, I am old enough to be
trusted to choose poverty. I know I can live on a little: I trust to
you to tell me whenever there is enough.'

'And your father?'

'He will not object--he will rejoice. The way I regarded that dear
father was one of the worst sins of that time! It is better it
should be as it is. Mamma could not well do without me now; I should
be in doubt about leaving her, even if the rest were plain. So that
is trouble saved,' she added with a smile.

'If they will see it in the same light! If they will forgive as
readily as you do one of the greatest injuries to a young lady.'

'Hush--nonsense. Papa always considered that it served me right.
And really this is such perfect content, that I do not know how to
understand it. You had always the power of reconciliation in your
hands; but, you know, I had not; and, apart from all other feelings,
the mere craving for pardon was so painful! It was only yesterday
morning that I was thinking it might, at least, come in the other
world.'

'The pardon I was begging Violet to seek for me!--I trusted to obtain
that, though I little hoped--'

'But indeed, Percy, we must write our letters, or the children will
be upon us again.'

Her letter was more easily written than Percy's. He wrote, and tore
up, and considered, and talked to her, and wished John was at home,
and said that Lord Martindale would be perfectly justified in
withdrawing his consent, and declaring him a presumptuous wretch.

'What! when you have rescued his son? No, indeed, papa knows you too
well! I have no fears: for though he is not aware of the cost of
what you did for Arthur, he is most grateful for what he does know
of; he thinks you saved his life, and even without that, he is too
kind to me to do what--I could not bear.'

'I will try to believe you.'

'I was thinking that this is just retribution on me, that whereas I
led Arthur into temptation, this debt should be the obstacle.'

Perhaps nothing gratified him more than to hear her speak of the loan
as if she participated in the loss, not as if she viewed it from the
Martindale side of the question, and felt it too much of an
obligation.

His letter was not written till just in time for the post, and it
travelled in the same cover with hers. Till the answer arrived he
was very anxious, came little to the house, and only put on his
cheerful air before Arthur, whose spirits could not afford to be
lowered. Theodora was secure. She knew that she deserved that there
should be difficulties; but at the same time she had the sense that
the tide had turned. Pardon had come, and with it hope; and though
she tried to school herself to submit to disappointment, she could
not expect it. She knew she might trust to her father's kind
unworldly temper and sense of justice, now that he was left to
himself. And when the letter came, Percy brought it in triumph under
the shade of the old green umbrella, which hitherto he had not dared
to produce.

Lord Martindale said everything affectionate and cordial. If he
grieved at the unpromising prospect, he was wise enough to know it
was too late to try to thwart an attachment which had survived such
shocks; and he only dwelt on his rejoicing that, after all her
trials, his daughter should have merited the restoration of the
affection of one whom he esteemed so highly.

He fully forgave the former rejection, and declared that it was with
far more hope and confidence of their happiness that he now accorded
his sanction than when last it had been asked; and the terms in which
he spoke of his daughter seemed to deepen her humility by the
strength of their commendation.

Happy days succeeded; the lodgings in Piccadilly were nearly
deserted, Percy was always either nursing Arthur, playing with the
children, or bringing sheets of Byzantine history for revision; and
he was much slower in looking over Theodora's copies of them than in
writing them himself. There was much grave quiet talk between the
lovers when alone together. They were much altered since the time
when their chief satisfaction seemed to lie in teasing and triumphing
over one another; past troubles and vague prospects had a sobering
influence; and they felt that while they enjoyed their present union
as an unlooked-for blessing, it might be only a resting point before
a long period of trial, separation, and disappointment. It gave a
resigned tone to their happiness, even while its uncertainty rendered
it more precious.

All mirthfulness, except what the children called forth, was reserved
for Arthur's room; but he thought Percy as gay and light-hearted as
ever, and his sister not much less so. Percy would not bring their
anxieties to depress the fluctuating spirits, which, wearied with the
sameness of a sick-room, varied with every change of weather, every
sensation of the hour.

Theodora almost wondered at Percy's talking away every desponding fit
of Arthur's, whether about his health, his money matters, or their
hopes. She said, though it was most trying to hear him talk of never
coming down again, of not living to see the children grow up, and
never allowing that he felt better, that she thought, considering how
much depended on the impression now made, it might be false kindness
to talk away his low spirits. Were they not repentance? Perhaps
Percy was right, but she should not have dared to do so.

'Theodora, you do not know the difference between reflection and
dejection. Arthur's repentance is too deep a thing for surface talk.
It does not depend on my making him laugh or not.'

'If anxiety about himself keeps it up--'

'If I let him believe that I do not think he will recover, for the
sake of encouraging his repentance, I should be leaving him in a
delusion, and that I have no right to do. Better let him feel
himself repenting as having to redeem what is past, than merely out
of terror, thinking the temptations have given him up, not that he
gives them up. Why, when he told me to sell his saddle-horses the
other day, and that he should never ride again, it was nothing, and I
only roused him up to hope to be out in the spring. Then he began to
lament over his beautiful mare,--but when it came to his saying he
had sacrificed Violet's drives for her, and that he had been a
selfish wretch, who never deserved to mount a horse again, and ending
with a deep sigh, and "Let her go, I ought to give her up," there was
reality and sincerity, and I acted on it. No, if Arthur comes out of
his room a changed character, it must be by strengthening his
resolution, not by weakening his mind, by letting him give way to the
mere depression of illness.'

'You believe the change real? Oh, you don't know what the doubt is
to me! after my share in the evil, the anxiety is doubly intense! and
I cannot see much demonstration except in his sadness, which you call
bodily weakness.'

'We cannot pry into hidden things,' Percy answered. 'Watch his wife,
and you will see that she is satisfied. You may trust him to her,
and to Him in whose hands he is. Of this I am sure, that there is a
patient consideration for others, and readiness to make sacrifices
that are not like what he used to be. You are not satisfied? It is
not as you would repent; but you must remember that Arthur's is after
all a boy's character; he has felt his errors as acutely as I think
he can feel them, and if he is turning from them, that is all we can
justly expect. They were more weakness than wilfulness.'

'Not like mine!' said Theodora; 'but one thing more, Percy--can it be
right for him to see no clergyman?'

'Wait,' said Percy again. 'Violet can judge and influence him better
than you or I. Depend upon it, she will do the right thing at the
right time. Letting him alone to learn from his children seems to me
the safest course.'

Theodora acquiesced, somewhat comforted by the conversation, though
it was one of those matters in which the most loving heart must
submit to uncertainty, in patient hope and prayer.

Just before Christmas, Theodora was summoned home; for her mother was
too unwell and dispirited to do without her any longer. Her father
offered to come and take her place, but Arthur and Violet decided
that it would be a pity to unsettle him from home again. Arthur was
now able to sit up for some hours each day, and Percy undertook to be
always at hand. He was invited to Brogden for Christmas; but it was
agreed between him and Theodora that they must deny themselves the
pleasure of spending it together; they thought it unfit to leave
Violet even for a few days entirely unassisted.

Mr. Hugh Martindale came to fetch Theodora home. He brought a more
satisfactory account of poor Emma, who had never forwarded the
promised explanation to Theodora. Lady Elizabeth had applied to him
to clear Emma's mind from some of the doubts and difficulties
inspired by her friend, and at present, though her spirits were very
low, they considered that one great step had been gained, for she had
ceased every day to write to Miss Marstone.

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