Part 14 out of 15
Theodora had fixed many hopes on her cousin's interview with Arthur,
but they only talked of Brogden news; however, she heard afterwards
that Hugh was well satisfied with what he had seen of him, and that
he thought Percy's view the safest. It was better to force nothing
upon him. It was a sad struggle to resolve to depart, but it was
made in thankfulness, when Theodora remembered the feelings with
which she had entered that house. She went up in the early morning
to wish Arthur good-bye. He raised himself and embraced her fondly.
'Thank you, Theodora,' he said; 'you have been a good sister to me.'
'Oh, Arthur, Arthur!' as the dark remembrance came, but he did not
'I have been an ungrateful wretch, but I never understood it till
lately,' said he again. 'The fire,--those children--'
'Hush, hush! you are hurting yourself,' for he was choked with excess
'I can't say more;--but, oh! if I could help keeping you from
happiness!' and he was here overpowered by cough and emotion so much
as to alarm her, and she was forced to keep silence, and only kiss
him again. He returned it with a squeeze of the hand and a look of
affection. He had never given her such an one in the days when she
deemed his love a thing exclusively her own, she had now gained
something far better than his heart had then to offer. The best spot
in it then had nothing half so deep, fond, and unselfish as what he
gave her now.
She had ceased her wilful struggle, and besides all the rest, even
this was added unto her.
A calm stream flowing with a muddy one,
Till, in its onward current, it absorbs
With swifter movement and in purer light
The vexed eddies of its wayward brother,
A leaning and upbearing parasite,
Clothing the stem, which else had fallen quite.
Shadow forth thee; the world hath not another
Of such refined and chastened purity.--TENNYSON
Patience and prayer brought their fruit in due season.
'Violet, you will not be able to go to church on Christmas-day.'
'No, I am not strong enough, even if you could spare me.'
'Do you think Mr. Rivers could come to us?'
'O, thank you!'
Those were the words, but the flush that gave colour to Arthur's face
showed the effort which they cost, and his wife's brief answer was
cut short by the sweetest tears she had ever shed.
She wrote a note to the clergyman, which was answered by a call the
same afternoon. It took Arthur by surprise; but his mind was made
up, and colouring deeply, he desired that Mr. Rivers should be shown
up. Violet left them alone together, her heart throbbing with
grateful hope and supplication.
Arthur's honest though faltering avowal, 'I have never thought enough
of these things,' was his whole history.
It had been grace missed and neglected, rather than wilfully abused.
There had of course been opportunities, but there had been little
culture or guidance in his early days; his confirmation had taken
place as a matter of form, and he had never been a communicant,
withheld at once by ignorance and dread of strictness, as well as by
a species of awe. Even his better and more conscientious feelings
had been aroused merely by his affections instead of by the higher
sense of duty; and now it was through these that the true voice had
at length reached him.
He had learnt more from his little boy's devotions than all the years
of his life had taught him. The ever-present influence under which
his wife and that child lived and acted, impressed itself on him as a
truth and reality, and the consciousness of his full responsibility
dawned upon him. In the early part of his illness, his despair had
been at the thought of his failures as husband, father, and son. Now
there came on him the perception that not merely in his human
relations had he transgressed, but that far more had he slighted the
Almighty and Long-suffering Father. He looked back on his life of
disregard, his dire offences--
Thus awakened, he watched each word from his little unconscious
teacher, to gather from them clearer hopes of mercy and pardon.
Happily, Johnnie, in his daily lessons, was going through the ground-
work, and those words of mighty signification conveyed meanings to
the father, which the innocent child had as yet no need to unfold.
The long silent hours gave time for thought, and often when the
watchers deemed that the stifled groan or restless movement arose
from pain or oppression, it was in fact drawn forth by the weight on
So it had gone on; while mingled feelings of shame, reserve, and
reluctance to show himself in a new light, kept his lips closed, and
days and weeks passed before he brought himself to speak the word
even to his wife. When it was spoken, her silent intense gladness
was at once a reward and a rebuke. Though she scarcely spoke, he
knew her well enough to perceive more perfect joy than even at the
moment when she first made him smile on their first-born son.
He raised his eyes to meet that look again, when, after his interview
with the clergyman, she came back to join in fixing the hour.
Contrition, dread, shame, penitence, all seemed to be soothed, and
yet rendered deeper, by meeting those eyes of serene and perfect
content and thankfulness.
That evening Johnnie was turning over prints by his side.
'There is the Good Shepherd, papa. Do you see the poor sheep, who
wandered out of the fold, away into the wilderness among the rocks
and deserts--that is doing wrong, you know, papa. And it lost its
way, and the wolf was watching to tear it to pieces, that is Satan;
but the Good Shepherd,' and the child bent his head reverently, 'He
went after it. Mamma said that means that He touches our hearts and
makes us sorry, and it looked up and was ready--as we pray to be made
good again. So then He laid it on His shoulders, and carried it safe
home to be happy in the fold again. Is He not very good, papa? And
only think! There is joy among the Holy Angels in Heaven when one
sinner grieves and comes back.'
Johnnie was wont to go on in this dreamy way without expecting an
answer; but he was startled to see his father's face hidden by the
shadowy fingers that propped his forehead.
'Has it made your head ache, papa? Must I go away?'
'Say that again, Johnnie.'
'I cannot say it quite right,' answered the boy; 'I only know it says
that the Angels in Heaven rejoice and are glad over one sinner that
repenteth. I thought about it that night after I had been naughty.'
'You, Johnnie?' Arthur could hardly believe that child capable of a
'Yes,' said Johnnie, with a trembling lip; 'I was cross at doing my
lessons with Aunt Theodora instead of mamma, and I was so sorry. But
at night, something seemed to bring that verse, and I thought the
Angels must have faces like mamma.'
Certainly his father thought so too.
Theodora's Christmas morning was cheered by a letter from Percy, to
tell her that he was to be with Arthur and Violet on this occasion.
It was greater happiness to her than it would even have been to have
had him at Brogden.
It was a very quiet day in Cadogan-place. The full freshness of awe
and reverence was upon Arthur, and though he hardly spoke, and made
almost no demonstration, the strength of his feeling was attested by
the fatigue that ensued, partly, perhaps, from the unwonted effort of
fixing his attention. All the rest of the day he lay on the sofa,
silent and dozing, till in the evening, when left alone with Johnnie,
he only roused himself to ask to have a Bible placed within his
reach, and there losing his way in searching for the parable of the
strayed sheep, he wandered about in the sayings of St. John's Gospel.
Johnnie's delight had been the dressing the cathedral cup with a
spray of holly sent to him from Brogden by his aunt, and now he sat
conning the hymns he had heard in church, and musing over his prints
in silence, till his brow caught an expression that strangely blended
with those dreamy impressions of his father.
'Poor children! they have had a dull Christmas-day!' said Arthur, as
they came to bid him good night.
'No, no, papa; the owl-man has had such a game at play with us in the
dining-room!' cried Helen.
'Yes,' said Johnnie; 'and you know, papa, I never said my hymn to you
on a Christmas-day before. I like to-day the best of all I
The next day he was glad to find that Johnnie would, after all, have
his share of the festivities of the season. Colonel Harrington came
to see Arthur, and begged to have his little godson at a New Year's
party at his house.
Violet was perplexed. She could not send her little, shy boy alone,
yet she did not like to let his father know that it had been a
mistake to accept the invitation. Percy came to her aid. 'There is
no such fun as a children's party. I wish you would smuggle me in as
Johnnie's nursery governess.'
'You know, Mrs. Harrington, don't you?’ said Arthur; 'as a general
rule, you know every one, and every one knows you.'
'Yes, I know her. Come, Violet, can't you get me in, in Johnnie's
train? If you will let me take charge or him, I will keep an eye
over the cake, and you shall see how I will muffle him up to come
It was too good an offer to be refused, though Violet had doubts
whether it would be perfect happiness, for Johnnie was apt to shrink
from strange children, and was unusually shy and timid. However, his
spirits had risen of late. Ever since he had found his place in his
father's heart, the drooping unchild-like sadness had passed away,
and though still grave and thoughtful, there was a life and animation
about him at times that cheered and delighted her.
There was a great friendship between him and 'Uncle Percy'; they took
walks together, fed the ducks in St. James's Park, had many
interesting conversations on Brogden affairs, and Johnnie had been
several times at the rooms over the toy-shop, and was on intimate
terms with old Puss. Violet knew that he would be safe, and was
willing to think it right he should be made more of a man.
She felt her Johnnie's value more than ever that evening, when she
saw how his father missed him. After the pleasure of seeing him
ready to set off, looking so fair and bright and delicate, Arthur
flagged very much.
It had been a trying day. The experiment of a more strengthening
diet had resulted in heightened pulse and increased cough, and the
medical men had been obliged to own that though the acute
inflammation had been subdued, the original evil still remained, and
that he was farther from complete recovery than they had lately been
hoping. Besides, he had sent in his claim on Mr. Gardner, on hearing
of his marriage, and the answer, now due, did not come.
Nothing but the company of the children seemed likely to divert his
thoughts, and Helen was too much for him. She was exalted at her own
magnanimity in rejoicing that Johnnie should have the treat without
her, and was in a boisterous state that led to an edict of
banishment, vehemently resisted. It was the first time that anything
had gone wrong in Arthur's presence, and Violet was much concerned,
and fearful of the effect, when, after the conquest had been
achieved, she left Helen sobbing in the nursery, and came down to his
There was not the annoyance she had dreaded; but the dejection had
been deepened, and he did not respond to the somewhat forced
cheerfulness with which she tried to speak of the generosity united
in Helen with a hasty temper. It seemed to hurt and pain him so much
to have the little girl punished, that there was nothing to be done
but to try to turn away his attention.
Those weary times were perhaps harder to bear than periods of more
evident trial and excitement. Violet, as she strove to rally her
spirits and sustain his, could not help so feeling it--and then she
thought of Helen Fotheringham, and recollected that she had been
intending to read to Arthur an affectionate letter she had received
from his brother on hearing of his illness. Arthur was greatly
touched by the tone in which he was mentioned in it, and began
eagerly to talk over John's many proofs of affection, among which he
now ranked his disregarded warnings.
'I have not forgotten his saying I must make you happy. I little
understood him then!'
There was happiness enough in the caress that would fain have
'Well! I have been thinking! Our marriage was the best and worst
thing I ever did. It was unjust to you, and as bad as possible
towards them; but that is what I can't be as sorry for as it
deserves,' and he looked up with a sweet smile, fading at once--
'except when I look at you and the children, and think what is to
become of you.'
'Oh, don't, dear Arthur! Why look forward! There has been great
mercy so far. Let us rest in it.'
'You may; it was not your fault,' said Arthur; 'but how can I? I
took you in your ignorance; I let your father deceive himself about
my expectations, then, when my own people were far kinder to me than
I deserved, and I ought to have done everything myself to make up for
my imprudence, I go and let you pinch yourself, while I squander
everything on my own abominable follies! And now, here am I leaving
you with all these poor children, and nothing on earth--nothing but a
huge debt? What are you to do, I say?'
He was almost angry that she did not partake his apprehension for her
'This is only a casual drawback. Dr. L-- said so!'
'That's nothing to the purpose. My health is done for. There is
nothing before me but decline. I have felt that all along, whatever
doctors may say. And how can you expect me not to feel what I have
brought on you?'
'I am sure you need not be afraid for us. Is it not unkind to doubt
your father and John?'
'Suppose they should die before Johnnie comes of age--suppose John
Oh, Arthur, I cannot suppose anything! I am only quite sure that
there is a Father who will take care of our children. I do not know
how, but I am certain we shall not be forsaken. Do not grieve for
us. I am not afraid.'
'Not of poverty, even for the children?'
'No!' said Violet. 'I know it will not come, unless it is the best
thing for them.'
He did not entirely comprehend her, but he liked to watch her face,
it looked so beautiful in its perfect trust. He could not share that
peaceful confidence for the future, the harvest of his past
recklessness was present poignant dread and anxiety for the innocent
ones on whom the penalty must fall. He relapsed into silence, and
perhaps his meditations were as much perplexed by the nine Arabic
figures as those of Violet's convalescence had once been, only where
hers were units, his were hundreds.
She interrupted him with more of John's letters, and the amusing
detail of the West Indian life stood her in good stead till the
sounds of return brightened his face; and Johnnie sprang into the
room loaded with treasures from a Christmas tree. Never had she seen
the little fellow's face so merry, or heard his tongue go so fast, as
he threw everything into her lap, and then sprang about from her to
his papa, showing his prizes and presenting them. Here were some
lemon-drops for papa, and here a beautiful box for mamma, and a
gutta-percha frog for Helen, and a flag for Annie, and bon-bons for
both, and for Sarah too, and a delightful story about a little
Arthur, that nobody could have but the baby--Johnnie would keep it
for him till he could read it.
'And what have you got for yourself, Johnnie!' said his father.
'I have the giving it!' said Johnnie.
'You are your mother's own boy, Johnnie,' said Arthur, with a sort of
fond deep sadness, as the child mounted his footstool to put one of
the lemon-drops into his mouth, watching to be told that it was good.
He went off to the nursery to feed Sarah on sugar-plums, and dispose
the frog and banner on his sisters' beds to delight them in the
morning; while Percy, coming in, declared that this had been the
little boy's happiest time. He had been far too shy for enjoyment,
perfectly well behaved, but not stirring a step from his protector,
only holding his hand, and looking piteously at him if invited away;
and Percy declared, he was as much courted as a young lady in her
teens. Sitting down with him at a table surrounded by small elves,
Percy had of course kept them in a roar of laughter, throughout which
Johnnie had preserved his gravity, only once volunteering a whisper,
that he wished Helen was there; but Percy thought that when
unmolested by attention, he had seemed quietly amused. When admitted
to the Christmas tree in its glory, he had been slightly afraid of it
at first, as of an unexpected phenomenon, and had squeezed his
friend's hand very tight; but as he perceived how things were going,
his alarm had given place to silent joyous whispers, appropriating
his gifts to those at home. He had no idea of keeping anything for
himself; and Percy had distressed him by a doubt whether the book, as
a godfather's gift, ought to be transferred. On this Johnnie was
scrupulous, and Percy had been obliged to relieve his mind by
repeating the question for him to Colonel Harrington, whether he
might give the book to his little brother. This settled, Johnnie's
happiness had been complete, and his ecstasy during their return, at
having a present for everybody, was, said Percy, the prettiest
comment he had ever known on the blessedness of giving.
It evidently struck Arthur. At night, Violet, from her sofa, heard
him murmur to himself, 'My boy! my unselfish boy, what will you think
of your father?' and then stifle a groan.
The next afternoon, Johnnie, having as a preliminary inscribed his
brother's unwieldy name all over the fly-leaf, was proceeding most
happily to read the book aloud, lying on the hearth-rug, with his
heels in the air. He read his mamma into a slumber, his papa into
a deep reverie, which resulted in his dragging himself up from his
chair, by the help of the chimney-piece, and reaching pen and
writing-case from Violet's table.
'Oh! papa!' whispered Johnnie, in an injured tone, at not having been
asked to do the little service.
'I thought it would disturb mamma less,' returned Arthur, sinking
back; 'but you may give me the ink. And now, my dear, go on to
'Are you going to write, papa? That is being much better.'
'I am going to try to write to your uncle. Johnnie, supposing you
lose me, I look to your uncle and you for care of the little ones.'
Johnnie gave a great sigh, and looked at his father, but made no
answer. Papa's writing was a matter of curiosity, and he stood
watching in silence.
'You must not watch me, Johnnie,' said Arthur, presently, for whether
his son could read his writing or not, he could not bear his eyes
upon it. The boy had dropped into his place on the carpet in a
It was a full confession and outpouring of his troubles. It cost him
much, for there was shame at his own folly and selfishness, and he
had to disclose extravagance that he well knew to be, in John's eyes,
especially inexcusable. So painful was the effort, that even his
fears for his family would not alone have determined him on making
it, if it had not been for his new resolution to face the worst, and
to have no more shufflings or concealments. He could bear to tell
John better than his father, and Percy had bound him to silence
towards Lord Martindale. The whole was explained to the best of his
powers, which were not at present great. His debts, including that
to Percy, he believed to exceed ten thousand, his resources were
limited to the sale of his commission, and the improbable recovery of
the debt from Gardner--his wife and children were entirely unprovided
for. 'I can only trust to your kindness,' he wrote. 'If I could see
you, I could die in peace. I know that while you live, you will
never see Violet distressed. I have no right to ask anything, but
this much I will and must beg may be looked on as my last wish.
Never let the children be taken from their mother's charge. If they
are to be better than I, it must be her doing. And though this is
more than I should dare to ask, if you can help me, do not, when I am
gone, let my boys grow up to find their father's memory loaded with
these hateful debts, hanging round their necks like a burden. I know
Johnnie's sense of honour would never let him rest till they were
cleared; but I cannot look at his face and think of his hearing how I
have served his mother. He does love me now, Heaven knows,
undeservedly enough. I cannot bear to think of a cloud on his
remembrance of me.'
Either grief will not come, or if it must,
Do not forecast.
And while it cometh, it is almost past.
My God hath promised, He is just.--G. HERBERT
'Arthur, the landlady has been to ask how much longer we shall want
'How long have we been here?'
'We came on the 20th of April, and this is the 3rd of June. What a
difference it has made in you!'
'And in you; Ventnor is a grand doctor.'
'And Johnnie is really beginning to have a colour. How pleased his
grandpapa will be to see him so much stronger and more spirited. I
do not think Lord Martindale could have done anything kinder by us
than sending us here.'
'How does the purse hold out?'
'I have been reckoning that we could stay on three weeks more before
going to Brogden; and, if you like it, I should wish to spend our
wedding-day here,' said Violet, in the shy diffident way in which she
was wont to proffer any request for her own gratification.
'I had another scheme for our wedding-day. What do you say to
spending it at Wrangerton?'
She looked up in his face as if to see if he really meant it, then
the glad flush darted into her cheeks, and with a cry of joy like a
child, she almost sobbed out, 'Oh, Arthur, Arthur! thank you.'
He looked at her, amused, and enjoying her ecstasy. 'So you approve,
'O, to go to mamma! to show mamma the children! Annette! home!--
Johnnie to see Helvellyn!--my sisters!--Olivia's baby! ' cried
Violet, in incoherent exclamations, almost choked with joy.
'My poor Violet,' said Arthur, surprised and almost remorseful; 'I
did not know you wished it so very much.'
'I believe I had left off thinking about it,' said Violet; 'but I am
so very much obliged to you, dear Arthur--how very kind it is.'
It never occurred to her, as it did to him, that the kindness might
have come sooner. 'I only hope you like it,' she added, after a
'Don't I like what makes you look as you do now?' said he, smiling.
'I shall enjoy looking up our old quarters. Besides,' he added, more
gravely, 'it is your turn now; and liking apart, I know I have not
used Mrs. Moss well, in keeping you so long from her. You must let
her know it was not your fault.'
'May I write, then? Oh, Arthur, dearest! if I could but find words
to tell you how happy you have made me!'
It was no sudden determination, for he brought a 'Bradshaw' out of
his pocket, with all the various railways and trains underscored in
pencil in a most knowing way, and a calculation of expenses on the
cover, all wrong--for Arthur had never done an addition sum right in
Violet was to write as soon as she pleased, and fix the day and hour.
Perhaps Violet had never been so happy in her life as when, in the
afternoon, she wandered a little apart on the beach, to realize and
feed on her new treasure of delight. Arthur and the children were
felicitously dabbling in sand and sea-water, reducing the frocks to a
condition that would have been Sarah's daily distraction, if she had
not reconciled herself to it by observing, 'it did her heart good to
see the Colonel take to the children, though he was no more to be
trusted with them than a sea-mew; and if it was not for Master John,
she believed they would all come home some day drownded.'
As soon as the spring was sufficiently advanced, Lord Martindale had
sent the whole party to recruit by the sea-side, at their own dear
Ventnor, and there the last six weeks had been spent in the daily joy
of watching Arthur's progress in recovery;--until now a slight degree
of weakness and languor, an occasional cough, and his greatly altered
appearance, were the only evident remains of his illness; and though
she could not feel that his health was absolutely re-established,
there was such abundant cause for hope and thankfulness, as filled
her heart to overflowing, especially when she was rejoiced by tokens
of that more blessed change within.
His spirits had returned with his health. Perhaps it was part of his
boyish nature, that his sorrow for his errors, though sincere and
earnest, did not permanently depress him, when not brought before his
mind; but rather the sense of behaving well added to his brightness.
There was nothing to conceal; the guilty consciousness was gone, and
the fear for the future was distant. His manners had a sweetness
more engaging than ever. To his wife, who had, as he recovered,
suffered from the effects of her exertions, he was most
affectionately attentive, and his children were his delight, while
little Johnnie throve and expanded into spirit and mirth, like a
plant reviving in sunshine.
He had gone over Violet's old haunts with her, and she had enjoyed
making him enter into the feelings associated with the scenes she had
visited with his brother. John was expected to return in the summer,
but even this anticipation paled in comparison with the present
felicity. That longing for her own home had been forced into such a
remote cell, that she had had no idea of its strength till now, when
it was allowed to spring up and colour everything.
She walked along the shore within sight of the cottage, where she had
been with John, too small and expensive for their present numbers and
means, and looking up at its bowery wicket, gathered up the
remembrances associated with it.
She had come thither a mere child, a wife and mother, before
strength, spirits, or judgment were equal to her tasks,--terrified at
her responsibility, perceiving her failures, sinking under the load
too early laid on her. There had she been guided to comfort,--there
had her hand been taught to clasp the rod and staff, that had led her
safe through the shadow, well-nigh of death. How would her heart
have fainted if she could have guessed what had awaited her! But
these things were past, and their memory was sweetened by
thankfulness. And now, where once stood the self-torturing, pining
girl, was now the calm trustful woman,--serene beneath the
overshadowing Wings, resting on the everlasting Arms,--relying, least
of all, upon herself. Further trouble might be in store; the clouds
might return after the rain; but her peace was not mere freedom from
storms, it was the security that there was One who would be with her
and her loved ones through all, and thus could she freely rejoice in
present sunshine, without scanning each distant cloud, or marring
present bliss by future dread.
It was complete gladness. There was not a misgiving whether home
might be exactly as it stood in her memory, or in Johnnie's
imagination; and she filled the children's heads so much with what
they were to see, that their papa declared he had found Annie under
the belief that Helvellyn was her grandfather.
Arthur was so much charmed with seeing his wife so happy, that,
forgetting all his fears of tediousness, he partook the enjoyment of
her anticipations. He was the first, when they came in sight of a
mountain, to lift Johnnie on his knee and tell him it was Helvellyn;
and mamma's resentment at the grievous error was one of the prettiest
and merriest things imaginable.
However, when Helvellyn actually appeared, and she felt herself
really coming home, she was silent, in anxiety and doubt. She must
be very different from the Violet who had gone away. Would her
mother and Matilda think she had improved according to her
She could hardly reply when Arthur recognized the High-street, so
much wider in her imagination, and her heart beat as the garden wall
and the lawn were before her. At the door--yes!--it was, it was the
mother for whose embrace, she had so often longed! Timidly
affectionate and hastily nervous, she could hardly afford one moment
to her daughter in her frightened haste to greet her son-in-law,
before he was ready, as he was lifting the children out. Here, too,
were Annette and Mr. Moss, the young ladies were in the drawing-room,
detained by etiquettes of Matilda's; but Violet hardly knew who spoke
to her, the joy was to see a baby of hers at last in her mothers
She could hardly see any one but the slight worn-looking mother,
whose low, sad-toned voice awoke such endless recollections, and made
her realize that she was once more beside mamma. To look at her
sisters almost disturbed her; and it well-nigh struck her as
unnatural to find the children hanging on her.
Still more unnatural was it to be conducted up-stairs, like company,
to the best room, and to find her mother in distress and solicitude
lest things should not be comfortable, and such as they were used to.
And oh! the strangeness of seeing her little ones in her own old
nursery, waited upon by the sisters she had left as children--and by
Sarah, settled in there as if she had never been away. One part of
her life or the other must be a dream.
Dear as all the faces were, it was a relief to be silent for a little
while, as Arthur, half-asleep, rested in the large old armchair, and
she unpacked, too happy for weariness; and the clear pure mountain
air breathing in at the open window, infusing life into every vein,
as she paused to look at the purple head above the St. Erme woods,
and to gaze on the fragrant garden beneath; then turned away to call
to mind the childish faces which she had not yet learnt to trace in
those fine-looking young women.
'Ha!' said Arthur, rousing himself; 'are all the pretty plaits and
braids come out again? A welcome sight.'
'Mamma thought me altered,' said Violet; 'and I thought I would not
look more old than I could help; so I would not put on my cap for
fear it should distress her.'
'Old! altered!' said Arthur. 'How dare you talk of such things!'
'I can't help it,' said Violet, meekly.
'Well! I believe I see what you mean,' he said, studying her with a
gravity that was amusing. 'There's your youngest sister, Octavia, is
'Oh, is not she pretty?'
'Whish! don't praise yourself; she is the image of you at sixteen.
Now that I have seen her, I see you are changed; but somehow--the
word that always suited you best was lovely; and you have more of
that style of thing than even when your cheeks were pink. Not your
oval face and white skin, you know, but that--that look that is my
Violet--my heart's-ease, that used to keep my heart up last winter.
Ay! you are more to my mind!'
That little episode was the special charm of Violet's evening--a
happy one, though there were some anxieties, and a few fond little
It might be the dread of Arthur's being annoyed, as she watched him
looking very pale and spiritless from fatigue, which made her
perceive that all dinner-time Matilda was overwhelming him with a
torrent of affected nonsense--or at least what Violet would have
thought so in any one but her highly-respected eldest sister; and she
feared, too, that he could not admire the girlish airs and graces
which did not become that sharpened figure and features. She had not
known how much more Matilda talked than any one else; even her father
only put in a caustic remark here and there, when Matilda WOULD know
all Lord St. Erme's and Lady Lucy's views and habits. Mrs. Moss was
silenced whenever her low voice tried to utter a sentence. Annette,
quiet and gentle as ever, looked drooping and subdued, and scarcely
spoke, while the two fine blooming girls, who seemed like new
acquaintance, were still as mice in awe and shyness. Caroline, the
second sister, was married and settled in Canada; and the three
blanks that weddings had made only now impressed themselves on her
mind as a novelty.
After dinner, Violet felt as if she must rescue Arthur from Matilda
at any cost, and succeeded in setting her down to the piano; and to
secure his quiet, though feeling it a very presumptuous venture, she
drew her chair near her father, and set herself to talk to him. Mr.
Moss was quite amazed to find a woman--a daughter--capable of
rational conversation. She went on with the more spirit, from her
pleasure in seeing Arthur, instead of dozing under cover of the
music, going to sit by Mrs. Moss and talk to her, and though nothing
was heard, their countenances were proof enough of their interest--
Mrs. Moss's thin mild face quite colouring up at the unwonted
attention, and her eyes glistening. In fact they were talking about
Violet, and in such a strain that Mrs. Moss that night confided to
Annette, that she should never again believe a word against Colonel
But if the fortnight was to be like this, how was Arthur to bear it?
Violet dreaded it for him the more because he was so very good and
forbearing, not making one remark on what she knew must have struck
him. She could almost have reproached herself with selfishness in
never having thought of his want of companionship and amusement.
The night's rest, however, made a great difference in his capacity
for entertainment, beginning from his laugh at Helen's inquiry, 'What
was the use of so many aunts?' He lay on the grass in the sunshine,
playing with the children, and fast making friends with the younger
aunts, who heartily relished his fun, though they were a good deal
afraid of him; while Violet sat under the verandah, feasting her eyes
upon Helvellyn, and enjoying the talk with her sisters as much as she
could, while uneasy at the lengthened housekeeping labours that her
mother was undergoing. They were to retrace one of their memorable
walks by the river-side in the afternoon, but were prevented by the
visit expected all the morning, but deferred to that fashionable
hour, of Mrs. Albert Moss, who sailed in, resolved that the
Honourable Mrs. Martindale should find one real companion in the
Those fluttering silks and fringes seemed somewhat to stand on end at
finding themselves presented to a slight, simply dressed figure in a
plain straw bonnet; and the bare-legged, broad-sashed splendours of
Miss Albertine Louisa stood aghast at the brown holland gardening
suits of the London cousins.
'In training for the Highlanders?' was Arthur's mischievous aside to
Octavia, setting her off into the silent frightened laugh that was
his special diversion; and he continued, as they stood half in and
half out of the window, 'There's Helen patronizing her! I hope she
will take her down to the sand-heap, where the children have been
luxuriating all the morning.'
'Oh! how can you--'
'It is my father's great principle of education,' said Arthur,
solemnly, 'to let them grope in the dirt. I never rested till I had
seen my boy up to the ears in mud.--But ha! what a magnificent horse!
Why,' as he started forward to look at it, 'I declare it is stopping
'Olivia and Mr. Hunt in the gig!' cried Octavia. Oh, she has the
baby in her lap!'
Matilda and Mrs. Albert Moss looked at each other, shocked.
'What will Mr. Hunt make her do next?'
'Poor Olivia!' said Mrs. Albert. 'We regret the connection; but Mr.
Hunt will have his own way. You must excuse--'
It was lost. Seeing the new-comers in difficulties between baby,
horse, and gate, Arthur had sped out to open the last for them; and
Violet had sprung after him, and received the child in her arms while
her sister alighted. Here was the mesalliance of the family, too
wealthy to have been rejected, but openly disdained by Matilda, while
the gentle Mrs. Moss and Annette hardly ventured to say a good word
for him. Violet's apprehensions had chiefly centred on him, lest his
want of refinement should make him very disagreeable to Arthur; and
she almost feared to look up as she held out her hand to him.
In a moment her mind was relieved; voice, look, and manner, all
showed that the knightly soul was in him, and that he had every
quality of the gentleman, especially the hatred of pretension, which
made him retain the title of English yeoman as an honourable
It was a pretty group of contrasts; the soldierly, high-bred, easy
grace of the pallid black-haired Colonel, with the native nobleness
of bearing of the stalwart farmer, equally tall, and his handsome
ruddy face glowing with health; and the two sisters, the one fresh,
plump, and rosy, the picture of a happy young mother, and the other
slender and dignified, with the slightly worn countenance, which,
even in her most gladsome moods, retained that pensive calmness of
The baby occupied the ladies, the horse their husbands; and on
hearing what guests were in the drawing-room, Mr. Hunt, with a tell-
tale 'then,' said he would drive on to his business at Coalworth,
inviting the Colonel to take the vacant seat.
With Arthur off her mind, Violet was free to enjoy, and soon found
that the only flaw in Olivia's felicity was the Wrangerton fashion of
sneering at her husband, and trying to keep her up to Matilda's
measure of gentility. Proud as she was of her 'George,' he had not
made her bold enough to set those censures at nought; but when she
found Violet of his way of thinking, she joyfully declared that she
would never allow herself to be again tormented by Matilda's
proprieties. How glad she was that George had insisted; for, as she
confided to Violet and Annette, she knew that bringing the baby
without a maid would be thought so vulgar that she would have stayed
at home, in spite of her desire to see Violet; but her husband had
laughed at her scruples, declaring that if her sister could be
offended by her coming in this manner, she must be a fine lady not
Perhaps Mr. Hunt so expected to find her. He was a breeder of horses
on an extensive scale, and had knowledge enough of the transactions
of Mark Gardner and his set, not to be very solicitous of the
acquaintance of Colonel Martindale, while he dreaded that the London
beauty would irretrievably fill his little wife's head with nonsense.
One look swept away his distrust of Mrs. Martindale; and the charm of
the Colonel's manner had gained his heart before the drive was over.
The next day he was to send a horse for Arthur to ride to
Lassonthwayte to see his whole establishment; and Violet found she
might dismiss her fears of want of amusement for her husband.
He had sold off all his own horses, and had not ridden since his
illness, and the thought seemed to excite him like a boy. His eyes
sparkled at the sight of the noble hunter sent for him; and Violet
had seldom felt happier than as she stood with the children on the
grass-plat, hearing her sisters say how well he looked on horseback,
as he turned back to wave her an adieu, with so lover-like a gesture,
and so youthful an air, that it seemed to bring back the earliest
days of their marriage.
This quiet day, only diversified by a call from Lord St. Erme and
Lady Lucy, and by accompanying Mrs. Moss to make some visits to old
friends in the town, brought Violet to a fuller comprehension of her
Her mother was what she herself might have become but for John. She
was an excellent person, very sensible, and completely a lady; but
her spirit had been broken by a caustic, sharp-tempered, neglectful
husband, and she had dragged through the world bending under her
trials, not rising above them. Her eldest daughter had been sent to
a fashionable school, and had ever since domineered over the whole
family, while the mother sank into a sort of bonne to the little
ones, and a slave to her husband. There was much love for her among
her fine handsome girls, but little honour for the patient devotion
and the unfailing good sense that judged aright, but could not act.
Annette, her chief comfort, tried to bring up her pupil Octavia to
the same esteem for her; but family example was stronger than
precept, and Annette had no weight; while even Mr. Hunt's
determination that Olivia should show due regard to her mother, was
looked on as one of his rusticities. Poor Mrs. Moss was so unused to
be treated as a person of importance, that she could hardly
understand the attention paid her, not only by Violet, but by the
Colonel; while the two young sisters, who regarded Violet and her
husband as the first of human beings, began to discover that 'O, it
is only mamma!' was not the most appropriate way of speaking of her;
and that when they let her go on errands, and wait on every one,
Violet usually took the office on herself.
So busy was Mrs. Moss, that Violet had very few minutes of
conversation with her, but she saw more of Annette, in whom the same
meek character was repeated, with the tendency to plaintiveness that
prevented its real superiority from taking effect. She drooped under
the general disregard, saw things amiss, but was hopeless of mending
them; and for want of the spirit of cheerfulness, had become faded,
worn, and weary. Violet tried to talk encouragingly, but she only
gave melancholy smiles, and returned to speak of the influences that
were hurting Octavia.
'Do not let us dwell on what we cannot help,' said Violet; 'let us do
our best, and then leave it in the best Hands, and He will bring out
good. You cannot think how much happier I have been since I knew it
was wrong to be faint-hearted.'
Before the end of the day she had seen her mother and Annette look so
much more cheerful, that the wish crossed her that she could often be
By and by Arthur came home in the highest spirits, tossing Annie in
the air, as he met her in the passage, and declaring himself so far
from tired that he had not felt so well for a year, and that the
mountain breezes had taken the weight off his chest for good and all.
He was in perfect raptures with Lassonthwayte and with its master,
had made an engagement to bring Violet, her mother, and the children,
to stay there a week, and--'What more do you think?' said he.
'Everything delightful, I see by your face,' said Violet.
'Why, Hunt has as pretty a little house as ever I saw in the village
of Lassonthwayte, to be let for a mere nothing, just big enough to
hold us, and the garden all over roses, and that style of thing.
Now, I reckon our allowance would go three times as far here as in
London; and if I were to sell out, the money invested in these
concerns of Hunt's would be doubled in a year or two--at any rate,
before the boys will want schooling. If I do know anything it is of
horses, you see, and we should pay off Percy and all the rest of
them, and be free again.'
'Live near mamma and Olivia!'
'Ah! I knew you would like it. The mountain air will bring back your
colour, and make a Hercules of Johnnie yet. I longed to have him
there to-day! We may live cheaply, you know, not get into all this
town lot; only have the girls staying with us, and give your mother a
holiday now and then. Don't you fancy it, Mrs. Martindale?'
'It is too delightful! I suppose we must not settle it without your
'He can't object to our living at half the cost, and getting out of
debt; I'll talk him over when we go home. Hunt is as fine a fellow
as I ever saw, and as steady as old time.'
And oft when in my heart I heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferred
The task, in smoother paths to stray,
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.
Ode to Duty--WORDSWORTH
Lassonthwaite lost none of its charms on closer acquaintance. Mr.
Hunt's farm stood on the slope of a hill, commanding a view of the
mountains, rising like purple clouds above the moorland, richly
carpeted with the varied colours of heath, fern, and furze, and
scattered with flocks of the white bleached mountain sheep, and herds
of sturdy little black cattle; while the valley, nearer at hand, was
fringed with woods, sheltering verdant pasture land, watered by the
same clear frolicsome stream that danced through the garden--Olivia's
garden--brilliant with roses and other beauties, such as the great
Harrison himself would hardly have disdained.
Lord St. Erme might well call it a farm of the poets, so well did
everything accord with the hearty yeoman, and his pretty,
shepherdess-looking wife. The house was of the fine old order, large
and lofty, full of wonders in the way of gables, porches, and oriels,
carved doors and panels, in preservation that did them honour due,
and the furniture betokening that best of taste which perceives the
fitness of things. All had the free homely air of plenty and
hospitality--the open doors, the numerous well-fed men and maids, the
hosts of live creatures--horses, cows, dogs, pigs, poultry, each
looking like a prize animal boasting of its own size and beauty--and
a dreadful terror to Johnnie. He, poor little boy, was the only
person to whom Lassonthwayte was not a paradise. Helen and Annie had
no fears, and were wild with glee, embracing the dogs, climbing into
dangerous places, and watching the meals of every creature in the
yard; but poor Johnnie imagined each cow that looked at him to be a
mad bull, trembled at each prancing dog, and was miserable at the
neighbourhood of the turkey-cock; while Mr. Hunt's attempts to force
manliness on him only increased his distress to such a degree as to
make it haunt him at night. However, even this became a source of
pleasant feeling; Arthur, once so rough with him, now understood the
secret of his delicacy of nerves, and reverenced him too much to
allow him to be tormented. Even in the worst of Johnnie's panics at
night would come smiles, as he told how papa would not let him be
forced to pat the dreadful dog, and had carried him in his arms
through the herd of cattle, though it did tire him, for, after
putting him down, he had to lean on the gate and pant. So next time
the little boy would not ask to be carried, and by the help of
holding his hand, so bravely passed the savage beasts, that his uncle
pronounced that they should make a man of him yet.
Arthur, always happier when the little fingers were in his, was
constantly talking of the good that Johnnie was to gain in the life
in the open air; and this project continually occupied them. The
cottage was a very pretty one, and most joyously did Olivia show it
off to Violet and Mrs. Moss, planning the improvements that Mr. Hunt
was to make in it, and helping Violet fix on the rooms. It seemed
like the beginning of rural felicity; and Arthur talked confidently
to his wife of so rapidly doubling his capital, that he should pay
off his debts without troubling his father, who need never be aware
of their extent.
Violet did not quite like this, but Arthur argued, 'They are my own
concerns, not his, and if I can extricate myself without help, why
should he be further plagued about me?'
She did not contest the point; it would be time enough when they were
at Brogden, but it made her rather uneasy; the concealment was a
little too like a return to former habits, and she could not but fear
the very name of horses and races. Still, in the way of business,
and with George Hunt, a man so thoroughly to be relied on, it was a
different thing; and Arthur's mind was so changed in other matters,
that she could not dream of distrust. The scheme was present
pleasure enough in itself, and they all fed on it, though Mr. Hunt
always declared that the Colonel must not consider himself pledged
till he had consulted his own family, and that he should do nothing
to the house till he had heard from him again.
Violet could not satisfy herself that Lord and Lady Martindale would
give ready consent, and when talking it over alone with her mother,
expressed her fears.
'Well, my dear,' said Mrs. Moss, 'perhaps it will be all for the
best. We cannot tell whether it might turn out well for you to be
settled near us. Colonel Martindale is used to something different,
and your children are born to another rank of life.'
'O mamma, that could make no difference.'
'Not, perhaps, while they were young, but by and by you would not
wish to have them feeling that we are not like their other relations.
My dear child, you need not blush to that degree!'
'They will never feel that you are not equal to--to the grandest--the
dearest!' said Violet, tearfully.
'You would try not to let them, dearest, but the truth would be too
strong,' said Mrs. Moss, smiling. 'You know we had been content to
think poor Louisa our model of manners till you came among us again.'
'O, mamma! at least there was Lady Lucy.'
'And now we see you fit company for Lady Lucy, and that we are not.
No, my dear, don't deny it; I see it in your ease with her, and it is
'I don't like to think so!'
'I understand better now,' said Mrs. Moss. 'Perhaps it would have
been more advisable if there had been no intermingling of ranks, yet
I can hardly regret, when I see you, my Violet. It has raised your
whole tone of mind, but it has cut you off from us, and we cannot
conceal it from ourselves. If you do come here, you must make up
your mind beforehand not to be too intimate even with Olivia and
'I am very glad I am not to settle it,' said Violet, with a sigh.
'I should be much disappointed to give it up, and yet sometimes--it
will be some consolation at least to find that you have not set your
heart on it, mamma?'
'I have left off setting my heart on anything, my dear child, said
Mrs. Moss, with a sigh, telling of many and many a disappointment.
Sincerely religious as she was, it was out of sight, and scarcely a
word was ever breathed to her daughter of her true spring of action.
There was a feeling that she was not mistaken in thinking that too
much intercourse was not desirable. Arthur was apt to call the
distance from Wrangerton to Lassonthwayte seven miles, instead of
five, and soon it grew to nine, with a bad road and a shocking hill.
This was after he had discovered from Mr. Hunt that Lord St. Erme's
affairs had fallen into a most unsatisfactory state, while the
Messrs. Moss had been amassing a comfortable fortune; and that every
one knew that the colliery accident was chiefly owing to Albert's
negligence, cowardice, and contempt of orders; so that it was the
general marvel that the Earl did not expose them, and remove his
affairs from their hands.
Arthur could suppose that the cause of this forbearance might be the
connection between Theodora and the Moss family; and the idea made
him feel almost guilty when in company with the Earl. Matilda, and
indeed the others, were surprised at his declining the invitations to
stay at the park; but Violet, as well as he, thought it better to lay
themselves under no further obligations; though they could not avoid
receiving many attentions. Lady Lucy feted the children, and Violet
accomplished her wish of showing Johnnie the little Madonna of
The first sight of the rooms made Violet somewhat melancholy, as she
missed the beautiful works of art that had been a kind of education
to her eye and taste, and over which she had so often dreamt and
speculated with Annette. However, there was something nobler in the
very emptiness of their niches, and there was more appropriateness in
the little picture of the Holy Child embracing His Cross, now that it
hung as the solo ornament of the library, than when it was vis-a-vis
to Venus blindfolding Cupid, and surrounded by a bewildering variety
of subjects, profane and sacred, profanely treated. She could not
help feeling that there was a following in those steps when she saw
how many luxuries had been laid aside, and how the brother and
sister, once living in an atmosphere of morbid refinement, were now
toiling away, solely thoughtful of what might best serve their
people, mind or body, and thinking no service beneath them.
Lord St. Erme's talent and accomplishment were no longer conducive
only to amusement or vanity, though they still were exercised; and it
was curious to see his masterly drawings hung round the schools and
reading-room, and his ready pencil illustrating his instructions, and
to hear him reading great authors to the rude audience whom he
awakened into interest. There might be more done than sober
judgments appreciated, and there were crotchets that it was easy to
ridicule, but all was on a sound footing, the work was thoroughly
carried out, and the effects were manifest. The beautiful little
church rising at Coalworth would find a glad congregation prepared to
value it, both by the Earl and by the zealous curate.
Violet wished Theodora could but see, and wondered whether she would
ever venture to make a visit at Lassonthwayte; hardly, she supposed,
before her marriage.
Lady Lucy one day asked when Miss Martindale was to be married, and
on hearing that no period could be fixed, said she was grieved to
find it so; it would be better for her brother that it should be
over. Violet ventured to express her hopes that he had at last found
peace and happiness.
'Yes,' said Lucy, 'he is very busy and happy. I do not think it
dwells on his spirits, but it is the disappointment of his life, and
he will never get over it.'
'I hope he will find some one to make him forget it.'
'I do not think he will. No one can ever be like Miss Martindale,
and I believe he had rather cling to the former vision, though not
repining. He is quite content, and says it is a good thing to meet
with a great disappointment early in life.'
Violet doubted not of his contentment when she had looked into his
adult school, and seen how happily he was teaching a class of great
boys to write; nor when she heard him discussing prices, rents, and
wages with Mr. Hunt.
Lord St. Erme and Lady Lucy had come to an early dinner at
Lassonthwayte, thus causing great jealousy on the part of Mrs. Albert
Moss, and despair on Matilda's, lest Olivia should do something
extremely amiss without her supervision. Little did she guess that
Lucy had been reckoning on the pleasure of meeting her dear Mrs. Moss
for once without those daughters.
After dinner, all the party were on the lawn, watching the tints on
the mountains, when Lord St. Erme, coming to walk with Mrs.
Martindale, asked her, with a smile, if she remembered that she had
been the first person who ever hinted that the Westmoreland hills
might be more to him than the Alps.
'I have not forgotten that evening,' he said. 'It was then that I
first saw Mr. Fotheringham;' and he proceeded to ask many questions
about Percy's former appointment at Constantinople, his length of
service, and reason for giving it up, which she much enjoyed telling.
He spoke too of his books, praising them highly, and guessing which
were his articles in reviews, coming at last to that in which, as he
said, he had had the honour of being dissected.
'Poor Lucy has hardly yet forgiven it,' he said; 'but it was one of
the best things that ever befell me.'
'I wonder it did not make you too angry to heed it.'
'Perhaps I was at first, but it was too candid to be offensive. The
arrow had no venom, and was the first independent criticism I had met
with. Nobody had cared for me enough to take me to task for my
absurdities. I am obliged to Mr. Fotheringham.'
Violet treasured this up for Percy's benefit.
This festivity was their last in the north. Their visit at
Lassonthwayte had been lengthened from a week to a fortnight, and
Lady Martindale wrote piteous letters, entreating them to come to
Brogden, where she had made every arrangement for their comfort, even
relinquishing her own dressing-room. They bade farewell to
Wrangerton, Arthur assuring Mrs. Moss that he would soon bring Violet
back again; and Mrs. Moss and Violet agreeing that they were grateful
for their happy meeting, and would not be too sorry were the
delightful vision not to be fulfilled.
At the beginning of their journey, Arthur's talk was all of the
horses at Lassonthwayte and the friendship that would soon be struck
up between Percy and Mr. Hunt. The railway passed by the village of
Worthbourne, and he called Violet to look out at what might yet be
'For the sake of John and Helen too,' said Violet; while the
children, eager for anything approaching to a sight, peeped out at
the window, and exclaimed that there was a flag flying on the top of
the church steeple.
'The village wake, I suppose,' said Arthur. 'Ha! Helen, we will
surprise Uncle Percy by knowing all about it!'
At the halt at the Worthbourne station, he accordingly put out his
head to ask the meaning of the flag.
'It is for the son and heir, sir. Old Sir Antony's grandson.'
Arthur drew in his head faster than he had put it out, making
mutterings to himself that a good deal surprised the children. After
their long pleasuring, Cadogan-place looked dingy, and Violet as she
went up to the drawing-room in the gray twilight, could not help
being glad that only three months of Arthur's sick leave had expired,
and that they were to be there for no more than one night. In spite
of many precious associations, she could not love a London house, and
the Lassonthwayte cottage seemed the prettier in remembrance.
Arthur had fetched his papers, and had been sitting thoughtful for
some time after Johnnie had gone to bed, when he suddenly looked up
and said, 'Violet, would it be a great vexation to you if we gave up
'Don't think of me. I always thought you might view it differently
from a distance.'
'It is not that,' said Arthur; 'I never liked any one better than
Hunt, and it is nine if not ten miles from the town. But, Violet, I
find we are in worse plight than I thought. Here are bills that must
be renewed, and one or two things I had forgotten, and while I owe
the money and more too, I could hardly in honesty speculate with the
price of my commission.'
'No!--oh! You could never be comfortable in doing so.'
'If it was only Percy that was concerned, I might get him to risk it,
and then double it, and set him and Theodora going handsomely; but--
No, it is of no use to think about it. I wish it could be--'
'You are quite right, I am sure.'
'The thing that settles it with me is this,' continued Arthur. 'It
is a way of business that would throw me with the old set, and there
is no safety but in keeping clear of them. I might have been saved
all this if I had not been ass enough to put my neck into Gardner's
noose that unlucky Derby-day. I had promised never to bet again
after I married, and this is the end of it! So I think I have no
right to run into temptation again, even for the chance of getting
clear. Do you?'
'You are quite right,' she repeated. 'If the money is not our own,
it would only be another sort--'
'Of gambling. Ay! And though in those days I did not see things as
I do now, and Hunt is another sort of fellow, I fancy you had rather
not trust me, mamma?' said he, looking with a rather sad though arch
smile into her face.
'Dear Arthur, you know--'
'I know I won’t trust myself,' he answered, trying to laugh it off.
'And you'll be a good child, and not cry for the cottage?'
'Oh, no! Mamma and I both thought there might possibly be
considerations against it, especially as the girls grow up.'
'That's right. I could not bear giving up what you seemed to fancy.
but we will visit them when we want a mouthful of air, and Annette
and Octavia shall come and stay with us. I should like to show
Octavia a little of the world.'
'Then, we shall go on as we are?'
'Yes; spend as little as may be, and pay off so much a year. If we
keep no horses, that is so much clear gain.'
'That seems the best way; but I almost fear your being well without
'No fear of that! I don't want to go out, and you never do. We will
take our long walks, and, as Percy says, I will read and be rational.
I mean to begin Johnnie's Latin as soon as we are settled in. Why, I
quite look forward to it.'
'How delighted Johnnie will be!'
'We shall do famously!' repeated Arthur. 'Nothing like home, after
Violet did not think he quite knew what he undertook, and her heart
sank at the idea of a London winter, with his health and spirits
failing for want of his usual resources. He imagined himself
perfectly recovered; but when he went the next day to show himself to
the doctor, the stethoscope revealed that the damage was not so
entirely removed but that the greatest care would be necessary for
some time to come. It sat lightly on him; his spirits depended on
his sensations, and he had no fears but that a few months would
remove all danger; and Violet would say no word of misgiving. She
would have felt that to remonstrate would have been to draw him back,
after his first step in the path of resolute self-denial.
On Sunday, Heaven's gate stands ope,
Blessings are plentiful and rife,
More plentiful than hope.
'Five years! How little can letters convey the true state of
affairs! They can but record events--not their effects nor the
insensible changes that may have taken place. My aunt's death I
know, but not what my mother is without her. I have heard of my
father's cares, but I have yet to see whether he is aged or broken.
And Theodora, she has had many trials, but what can she be--tamed and
refined as they tell me she is? I wish I could have gone through
London to see Arthur and Violet. There again is the anxious
question, whether his repentance is really such as his touching
letter led me to hope. One at least I trust to see unchanged--my
sweet sister, my best correspondent! Foolish it is to cling to the
hope of meeting her again, as that vision of loveliness--that
creature of affection and simplicity, that first awoke me to a return
of cheerfulness! The boy, too--my godson, my child! he has been the
dream of my solitude. At last, here is the village. How bright its
welcome, this summer evening! Old faces!--may those at home be as
unchanged. Alteration enough here! Even at this distance I see the
ruin; but how richly green the park! How fresh the trees, and the
shade of the avenue! This is home, thanks to Him who has led me
safely back. Whom do I see yonder in the avenue? A gentleman
leading a pony, and a little boy on it! Can it be?--impossible!
Yet the step and manner are just as he used to lead Violet's horse,
Surely, it must be he! I must meet him and hear all before going up
to the house, it will prepare them. Stop here.
He was out of the carriage in a moment, and walking down the avenue,
feeling as if he only now was in the right way home; but a misgiving
crossing him as he came nearer the two figures that had attracted
him--there was less resemblance on a nearer view than in the general
air when further off.
A shout--'Hollo, John!' settled all doubts.
'Arthur! is it you?' and the brothers' hands were locked together.
'Here is a gentleman you know something of, and who has thought very
much of you,' continued Arthur, proudly. 'There, is not he like
her?' as he tried to give a cock-up to the limp, flapping straw hat,
under shade of which Johnnie was glowing up to his curls.
'Her very look!' said John. 'How is she, Arthur, and all of them?'
'All well. Have you not been at home yet!'
'No; I saw you here, and I could not help coming to meet you, that I
might know if all was right.'
'You would have found no one at home, unless my mother and Violet are
come in. They are always creeping about together.'
'Where is my father?'
'Looking after the workmen at the farm. We left him there because it
was Johnnie's supper-time. Why, John, what a hale, middle-aged
looking subject you are grown! Was it not wonderful sagacity in me
to know you?'
'Greater than mine,' said John. 'My instinct was failing as I came
near. Are you really well?'
'Never better. Johnnie and his mamma nursed me well again, and
Helvellyn breezes blew away the remainder. When did you land?'
'This morning. We put in at Liverpool, and I came on at once.
How is my mother? She had not been well.'
'She was ailing all the winter, but a house full of grandchildren
seems to have cured her completely. You will stare to see her a
perfect slave to--our eldest girl,' said Arthur, checking himself as
he was about to speak the name, and John turned to the child.
'Well, Johnnie, and are you fond of riding?'
'With papa holding the rein,' and Johnnie edged closer to his father.
'Ay! I hope your uncle did not expect a godson like your dear Coeur
de Lion, whom you have been romancing about all the way home. What
is the country your uncle has seen, and you want to see, Johnnie?'
'Please, don't now, papa,' whispered Johnnie, colouring deeply.
'Yes, yes, you shall have it out when you are better acquainted,'
said Arthur, patting both boy and pony. 'Well, John, is this the
fellow you expected?'
John smiled, but before he could answer, a voice from behind,
shouting to them to wait, caused him to turn, exclaiming, 'Percy!
I did not know he was here! And Theodora!'
'He came a day or two ago--'
Theodora blushed crimson, and all the glad words of welcome were
spoken by Percy; but he then fell into the background, taking charge
of Johnnie, while the other three walked on together, Theodora's arm
within that of her eldest brother.
'Thank you for your letter,' said Arthur. 'It did me great good.'
'My impulse was to have set out at once on receiving yours, but I was
obliged to wait to get things into train for going on without me; and
since that there have been delays of steamers.'
'You could not have come at a better time. We only wanted you to
make us complete--'
Arthur was interrupted by a joyous outcry of 'Papa! papa!' from a
little group on the other side of the road into which they were
'Ay! and who else! Look at this fellow!' cried he, catching from
Sarah's arm, and holding aloft an elf, whose round mouth and eyes
were all laughter, and sturdy limbs all movement, the moment he
appeared. 'There! have we not improved in babies since your time!
And here is a round dumpling that calls itself Anna. And that piece
of mischief is grandmamma's girl, Aunt Theodora's double.'
Those flashing black eyes were not the ideal John had attached to the
name which Arthur had paused to speak; but it would have been hard to
be disappointed by the bright creature, who stood on the raised foot-
path, pretending to hide her face with a bunch of tall foxgloves, and
peeping out behind them to see whether she was noticed.
'The introduction is all on one side,' said Percy. 'Do you know who
it is, Helen?'
Helen stuck her chin into her neck. She would tell her surmise to no
one but Johnnie, who had persuaded Mr. Fotheringham to lift him from
horseback, where he was never at ease with any one but papa. He
looked up smiling: 'Helen thinks it must be Uncle Martindale, because
papa is so glad.'
Helen ran away, but returned for a ride; and when the party, that had
gathered like a snow-ball, came in front of the cottage, Percy was
holding both little sisters on the pony at once, Theodora still
leaning on her eldest brother's arm, Johnnie gravely walking on the
foot-path, studying his uncle, and Arthur, with the young Arthur
pulling his whiskers all the time, was walking forwards and
backwards, round and about his brother, somewhat in the ecstatic
aimless fashion of a dog who meets his master.
He was the first to exclaim, 'There she is! Run on, Johnnie, tell
mamma and grandmamma whom we have here.'
The first greeting was left exclusively to Lady Martindale. When
John's attention was again at liberty, Violet was standing by her
husband, saying, with a sweet smile of playful complaint, 'And you
have shown him all the children and I was not there!'
'Never mind. They will show off much better with you, you jealous
woman. What does John think to hear you scolding?'
'Has he seen all the children?' said Lady Martindale, taking up the
note. 'Oh! what is Mr. Fotheringham doing with Helen and Annie?
It is very dangerous!'
And Lady Martindale hastened to watch over the little girls, who, of
course, were anything but grateful for her care, while Violet was
asking John about his voyage, and inquiring after the interests he
had left in Barbuda.
The first sight of her was a shock. The fragile roses that had dwelt
on his imagination had faded away, and she was now, indeed, a
beautiful woman,--but not the creature of smiles and tears whom he
remembered. The pensive expression, the stamp of anxiety, and the
traces of long-continued over-exertion, were visible enough to prove
to him that his fears had been fulfilled, and that she had suffered
too deeply ever to return to what she had once been.
Yet never had John so enjoyed an arrival, nor felt so thoroughly at
home, as when his father had joined them, full of quiet and heartfelt
gladness. Stiffness and formality seemed to have vanished with the
state rooms; and there was no longer the circle on company terms, for
Lady Martindale herself was almost easy, and Theodora's words, though
few, were devoid of the sullen dignity of old times. Violet's
timidity, too, was gone, and the agitated wistful glances she used to
steal towards her husband, had now become looks of perfect,
confiding, yet fostering affection. John saw her appealed to,
consulted, and put forward as important to each and all of the family
party, as if every one of them depended on her as he had been wont to
do, while she still looked as retiring as ever, and taken up by
watching that the children behaved well.
The occupation of the evening was the looking over plans for the new
house. Lord Martindale had them all ready, and John soon perceived
that his father's wishes were that he should prefer those which most
nearly reproduced the original building, pulled down to please Mrs.
Nesbit. Lady Martindale had surprised them by making from memory a
beautiful sketch of the former house; and her husband, to whom each
line produced a fresh hoard of reminiscences, was almost disappointed
that John's recollection did not go back far enough to recognize the
likeness, though he was obliged to confess that not a wall of it was
standing when he was two years old.
The general vote was, of course, that Old Martindale should be
renewed,--and it was to be begun--when?
'When ways and means are found,' said Lord Martindale. 'We must talk
over that another time, John.'
John, as he bade Theodora good night, murmured thanks for the safety
of all the properties which he had been surprised to find in the room
prepared for him. Her eyes were liquid as she faltered her answer.
'O, John, it was such a pleasure! How much you have to forgive! How
right you were, and how wrong I was!'
'Hush! not now,' said John, kindly.
'Yes, now, I cannot look at you till I have said it. I have felt the
truth of every word you said, and I beg your pardon for all that has
He pressed her hand in answer, saying, 'It was my fault. But all is
well now, and you know how I rejoice.'
'Everything is everybody's fault,' said Percy, joining him; 'but we
must not stop to battle the point, or Mr. Hugh Martindale's
housekeeper will be irate. Good night, Theodora.'
Percy and John were quartered at the Vicarage, and walked thither, at
first in silence, till the former said, 'Well, what do you think of
'The best coming home I ever had, and the most surprising. I have
seen so much that is unexpected, that I don't know how to realize
'Heartsease,' was Percy's brief reply.
'Violet? You don't mean it!'
'The history of these years is this,' said Percy, making an emphatic
mark on the gravel with his stick. 'Every one else has acted, more
or less, idiotically. She has gone about softening, healing,
guarding, stirring up the saving part of each one's disposition. If,
as she avers, you and Helen formed her, you gave a blessing to all of
'How can this be? No one has spoken of her power.'
'It is too feminine to be recognized. When you talk to the others
you will see I am right. I will speak for myself. I verily believe
that but for her I should have been by this time an unbearable
'A likely subject,' said John, laughing.
'You cannot estimate the shock our rupture gave me, nor tell how I
tried to say "don't care," and never saw my savage spite till her
gentle rebuke showed it to me. Her rectitude and unselfishness kept
up my faith in woman, and saved me from souring and hardening. On
the other hand, her firmness won Theodora's respect, her softness,
her affection. She led where I drove, acted the sun where I acted
Boreas; and it is she who has restored us to each other.'
'Highly as I esteemed Violet, I little thought to hear this! My
father wrote that he regretted Theodora's having been left to one so
little capable of controlling her.'
'Lord Martindale is a very good man, but he has no more
discrimination of character than my old cat!' cried Percy. 'I beg
your pardon, John, but the fact was patent. Mrs. Martindale is the
only person who has ever been a match for Theodora. She conquered
her, made her proud to submit, and then handed her over to the lawful
authorities. If Lord Martindale has an unrivalled daughter, he ought
to know whom to thank for it.'
'I hope he appreciates Violet.'
'In a sort he does. He fully appreciates her in her primary
vocation, as who would not, who had watched her last winter, and who
sees what she has made her husband.'
'Then you are satisfied about Arthur?'
'Better than I ever thought to be.'
'And, Percy, what is this that he tells me of your having rescued him
at your own expense?'
'Has he told you all that?' exclaimed Percy.
'He wished me to know it in case of his death.'
'I could not help it, John,' said Percy, in apology. 'If you had
seen her and her babies, and had to leave him in that condition on
her hands, you would have seen there was nothing for it but to throw
a sop to the hounds, so that at least they might leave him to die in
'It saved him! But why did you object to my father's hearing of it?'
'Because I knew he would dislike any sense of obligation, and that he
could not conveniently pay it off. Besides, we had to keep Arthur's
mouth shut out of consideration for the blood-vessel, so I told him
to let it rest till you should come. I fancy we have all been
watching for you as a sort of "Deus ex Machina" to clear up the last
act of the drama, though how you are to do so, I cannot conceive.'
The next day was Sunday, almost the first truly homelike Sunday of
John's life. Not only was there the churchgoing among friends and
kindred after long separation, but the whole family walked thither
together, as John had never known them do before; and with his mother
on his arm, his little godson holding Lord Martindale's hand, Helen
skipping between her father and mother, Theodora gentle and subdued,
it seemed as if now, for the first time, they had become a household
of the same mind.
It was one of the most brilliant days of summer--a cloudless sky of
deep blue sunshine, in which the trees seemed to bask, and the air,
though too fresh to be sultry, disposing to inaction. After the
second service, there was a lingering on the lawn, and desultory talk
about the contrast to the West Indian Sundays, and the black woolly-
headed congregation responding and singing so heartily, and so
uncontrollably gay and merry.
At length, when Johnnie and Helen, who had an insatiable appetite for
picaninny stories, had been summoned to supper, John and Violet found
that the rest of their companions had dispersed, and that they were
'I told you that Fanshawe came home with me,' said John. 'The new
arrangements have increased his income;' then, as Violet looked up
eagerly and hopefully,--'he made me a confidence, at which I see you
'I only hope mamma will not be anxious about the climate. I must
tell her how well it has agreed with you.'
'I am glad that you think there are hopes for him. It has been a
long attachment, but he thought it wrong to engage her affections
while he had no prospect of being able to marry.'
'It is what we guessed!' said Violet. 'Dear Annette! If he is what
I remember him, she must be happy.'
'I can hardly speak highly enough of him. I have found him a most
valuable friend, and am sincerely glad to be connected with him; but,
tell me, is not this the sister about whom Percy made a slight
'Oh! do you know that story? Yes, it was dear Annette! Otherwise I
should never have known about Mr. Fanshawe. It was only a vague
preference, but it was very fortunate that it prevented any
attachment to Percy, or it would have been hard to decide what would
'Percy was much obliged to you.'
'He was very kind not to be angry. I could have wished it
exceedingly, but I am so glad that I did not persuade Annette, and
particularly glad of this, for she has been out of spirits, and
rather wasting her bloom at home, without much definite employment.'
'I understand. And did you never wish that you had influenced her
'If Percy and Theodora had not been reconciled, I thought I might
have done so. It did seem a long time to go on in doubt whether I
had acted for her happiness.'
'But you acted in faith that the straightforward path was the
'And now I am so thankful.' She paused, they were passing the
drawing-room, and saw Arthur lying asleep on the sofa. She stepped
in at the French window, threw a light shawl over him, and closed the
door. 'He did not sleep till daylight this morning,' she said,
returning to John. 'Any excitement gives him restless nights.'
'So I feared when I saw those two red spots on his cheeks in the
evening. I know them well! But how white and thin he looks! I want
to hear what you think of him. My father considers him fully
recovered. Do you?'
Violet shook her head. 'He is as well as could be hoped after such
an illness,' she said; 'and Dr. L. tells him there is no confirmed
disease, but that his chest is in a very tender state, and he must
take the utmost care. That delightful mountain air at Lassonthwayte
entirely took away his cough, and it has not returned, though he is
more languid and tired than he was in the north, but he will not
allow it, his spirits are so high.'
'I should like you to spend the winter abroad.'
'That cannot be. If he is able in October, he must join, and the
regiment is likely to be in London all the winter,' said Violet, with
'Then he does not mean to sell out?'
'No, we cannot afford it. We must live as little expensively as we
can, to get clear of the difficulties. Indeed, now the horses are
gone, it is such a saving that we have paid off some bills already.'
'Has Arthur really parted with his horses?'
'With all of them, even that beautiful mare. I am afraid he will
miss her very much, but I cannot say a word against it, for I am sure
it is right.'
'ALL the horses?' repeated John. 'What are you to do without a
'Oh! that is nothing new. We have not had one fit for me to use,
since the old bay fell lame three years ago. That does not signify
at all, for walking with the children suits me much better.'
John was confounded. He had little notion of existence without
carriages and horses.
'I shall have Arthur to walk with now. He promises Johnnie and me
delightful walks in the park,' said Violet, cheerfully, 'if he is but
'Ah! I see you dread that winter.'
'I do!' came from the bottom of Violet's heart, spoken under her
breath; then, as if regretting her admission, she smiled and said,
'Perhaps there is no need! He has no fears, and it will be only too
pleasant to have him at home. I don't think about it,' added she,
replying to the anxious eyes that sought to read her fears. 'This
summer is too happy to be spoilt with what may be only fancies, and
after the great mercies we have received, it would be too bad to
distrust and grieve over the future. I have so often thanked you for
teaching me the lesson of the lilies.'
'I fear you have had too much occasion to practise it.'
'It could not be too much!' said Violet. 'But often I do not know
what would have become of me, if I had not been obliged, as a duty,
to put aside fretting thoughts, and been allowed to cast the shadow
of the cross on my vexations.'
His eye fell on a few bright links of gold peeping out round her
neck--'You have THAT still. May I see it?'
She took off the chain and placed it in his hand. 'Thanks for it,
more than ever!' she said. 'My friend and preacher in time of need
it has often been, and Johnnie's too.'
'Yes, you know the poor little man has had a great deal of illness.
This is the first spring he has been free from croup; and you would
hardly believe what a comfort that cross has been to him. He always
feels for the chain, that he may squeeze Aunt Helen's cross. At one
time I was almost afraid that it was a superstition, he was such a
very little fellow; but when I talked to him, he said, "I like it
because of our Blessed Saviour. It makes me not mind the pain so
much, because you said that was like Him, and would help to make me
good if I was patient." Then I remembered what I little understood,
when you told me that the cross was his baptismal gift to sweeten his
heritage of pain.'
John was much affected. 'Helen's cross has indeed borne abundant
fruit!' said he.
'I told you how even I forgot it at first in the fire, and how it was
saved by Johnnie's habit of grasping it in his troubles.'
'I am glad it was he!'
'Theodora said that he alone was worthy. But I am afraid to hear
such things said of him; I am too ready without them to think too
much of my boy.'
'It would be difficult,' began John; then smiling, 'perhaps I ought
to take to myself the same caution; the thought of Johnnie has been
so much to me, and now I see him he is so unlike my expectations, and
yet so far beyond them. I feel as if I wanted a larger share of him
than you and his father can afford me.'
'I don't think we shall be jealous,' was the happy answer. 'Arthur
is very proud of your admiration of Master Johnnie. You know we have
always felt as if you had a right in him.'
Percy and Theodora here returned from the park, rejoicing to find
others as tardy in going in as themselves; Arthur, awakened by the
voices, came out, and as the others hurried in, asked John what they
had been talking about.
'Of many things,' said John; 'much of my godson.'
'Ay!' said Arthur; 'did you not wonder how anything so good can
belong to me?'
John smiled, and said, 'His goodness belongs to nothing here.'
'Nay, it is no time to say that after talking to his mother,' said
Arthur; 'though I know what you mean, and she would not let me say
so. Well, I am glad you are come, for talks with you are the
greatest treat to her. She seemed to be gathering them up again at
Ventnor, and was always telling me of them. She declares they taught
her everything good; though that, of course, I don't believe, you
know,' he added, smiling.
'No; there was much in which she needed no teaching, and a few hints
here and there do not deserve what she ascribes to them.'
'John,' said Arthur, coming nearer to him, and speaking low, 'she and
her boy are more perfect creatures than you can guess, without
knowing the worst of me. You warned me that I must make her happy,
and you saw how it was the first year. It has been worse since that.
I have neglected them, let them deny themselves, ruined them, been
positively harsh to that angel of a boy; and how they could love me,
and be patient with me throughout, is what I cannot understand,
though--though I can feel it.'
'Truly,' thought John, as Arthur hastily quitted him, ashamed of his
emotion, 'if Violet be my scholar, she has far surpassed her teacher!
Strange that so much should have arisen apparently from my attempt to
help and cheer the poor dispirited girl, in that one visit to
Ventnor, which I deemed so rash a venture of my own comfort--useless,
self-indulgent wretch that I was. She has done the very deeds that I
had neglected. My brother and sister, even my mother and Helen's
brother, all have come under her power of firm meekness--all, with
one voice, are ready to "rise up and call her blessed!" Nay, are not
these what Helen would have most wished to effect, and is it not her
memorials that have been the instruments of infusing that spirit into
Violet? These are among the works that follow her, or, as they sung
"For seeds are sown of glorious light,
A future harvest for the just,
And gladness for the heart that's right
To recompense its pious trust."'
And in gladness did he stand before the house that had been destined
as the scene of his married life, and look forth on the churchyard
where Helen slept. He was no longer solitary, since he had begun to
bear the burdens of others; for no sooner did he begin to work, than
he felt that he worked with her.
That we, whose work commenced in tears,
May see our labours thrive,
Till finished with success, to make
Our drooping hearts revive.
Though he despond that sows his grain,
Yet, doubtless, he shall come
To bind his full-ear'd sheaves, and bring
The joyful harvest home.--Psalm 126. New Version
Business cares soon began. Arthur consented to allow his brother to
lay his embarrassments before his father. 'Do as you please,' he
said; 'but make him understand that I am not asking him to help me
out of the scrape. He does all he can for me, and cannot afford
more; or, if he could, Theodora ought to be thought of first. All I
wish is, that something should be secured to Violet and the children,
and that, if I don't get clear in my lifetime, these debts may not be
left for Johnnie.
'That you may rely on,' said John. 'I wish I could help you; but
there were many things at Barbuda that seemed so like fancies of my
own, that I could not ask my father to pay for them, and I have not
much at my disposal just now.'
'It is a good one to hear you apologizing to me!' said Arthur,
laughing, but rather sadly, as John carried off the ominous pocket-
book to the study, hoping to effect great things for his brother;
and, as the best introduction, he began by producing the letter
written at Christmas. Lord Martindale was touched by the
commencement, but was presently lost in surprise on discovering
'Why could he not have written to me? Did he think I was not ready
to help my own son?'
'It was necessary to act without loss of time.'
'If it were necessary to pay down the sum, why not tell me of it,
instead of letting poor Arthur give him a bond that is worth
'I fancy, if he had any notion of regaining Theodora, he was
unwilling you or she should know the extent of the obligation.'
'It is well I do know it. I thought it unsatisfactory to hear of no
profit, after all the talk there has been about his books. I feared
it was an empty trade: but this is something like. Five thousand!
He is a clever fellow after all!'
'I hope he may soon double it,' said John, amused at this way of
estimating Percy's powers.
'Well, it was a friendly act,' continued Lord Martindale. 'A little
misjudged in the manner, perhaps; but if you had seen the state
Arthur was in--'
'I should have forgiven Percy?' said John, with a slightly ironical
smile, that made his father laugh.
'Not that I am blaming him,' he said; 'but it shall be paid him at
once if it comes to selling Wyelands. You know one cannot be under
an obligation of this sort to a lad whom one has seen grow up in the
'Perhaps he wishes it to be considered as all in the family.'
'So it is. That is the worst of it. It is so much out of what he
would have had with Theodora, and little enough there is for her.
A dead loss! Could not Arthur have had more sense, at his age, and
with all those children! What's all this?' reading on in dismay.
'Seven thousand more at least! I'll have nothing to do with it!'
An hour after, John came out into the verandah, where Percy was
reading, and asked if he knew where Arthur was.
'He got into a ferment of anxiety, and Violet persuaded him to walk
it off. He is gone out with Johnnie and Helen. Well, how has he
'Not as well as I could wish. My father will not do more towards the
debts than paying you.'
'Ho! I hope he does not think I acted very impertinently towards
him?' John laughed, and Percy continued,
'Seriously, I believe it is the impertinence hardest to forgive, and
I shall be glad when the subject is done with. That will be so much
off Arthur's mind.'
'I wish more was; but I had no idea that there was so little
available money amongst us. All I can gain in his favour is, that
the estate is to be charged with five hundred pounds a year for
Violet in case of his death; and there's his five thousand pounds for
the children; but, for the present debts, my father will only say
that, perhaps he may help, if he sees that Arthur is exerting himself
to economize and pay them off.'
'Quite as much as could reasonably be expected. The discipline will
be very good for him.'
'If it does not kill him,' said John, sighing. 'My father does not
realize the shock to his health. He is in the state now that I was
in when we went abroad, and--'
'And I firmly believe that if you had had anything to do but nurse
your cough, you would have been in much better health.'
'But it is not only for Arthur that I am troubled. What can be worse
than economizing in London, in their position? What is to become of
Violet, without carriage, without--'
Percy laughed. 'Without court-dresses and powdered footmen? No, no,
John. Depend upon it, as long as Violet has her husband safe at
home, she wants much fewer necessaries of life than you do.'
'Well, I will try to believe it right. I see it cannot be
Arthur was not of this mind. He was grateful for his father's
forgiveness and assistance, and doubly so for the provision for his
wife, hailing it as an unexpected and undeserved kindness. Lord
Martindale was more pleased by his manner in their interview than
ever he had been before. Still there were many difficulties: money
was to be raised; and the choice between selling, mortgaging, or
cutting down timber, seemed to go to Lord Martindale's heart. He had
taken such pride in the well-doing of his estate! He wished to make
further retrenchments in the stable and garden arrangements; but, as
he told John, he knew not how to reduce the enormous expense of the
latter without giving more pain to Lady Martindale than he could bear
John offered to sound her, and discover whether the notion of
dismissing Armstrong and his crew would be really so dreadful. He
found that she winced at the mention of her orchids and ferns, they
recalled the thought of her aunt's love for them, and she had not
been in the conservatories for months. John said a word or two on
the cost of keeping them up, and the need of prudence, with a view to
providing for Arthur's children. It was the right chord. She looked
up, puzzled: her mathematical knowledge had never descended to £.s.d.
'Is there a difficulty? I thought my dear aunt had settled all her
property on dear little Johnnie.'
'Yes, but only when he comes to the title; and for the others there
is absolutely nothing but Arthur's five thousand pounds to be divided
among them all.'
'You don't say so, John? Poor little dears! there is scarcely more
than a thousand a-piece. Surely, there is my own property--'
'I am sorry to say it was settled so as to go with the title. The
only chance for them is what can be saved--'
'Save everything, then,' exclaimed Lady Martindale. 'I am sure I
would give up anything, if I did but know what. We have not had
leaders for a long time past, and Theodora's dumb boy does as well as
the second footman; Standaloft left me because she could not bear to
live in a cottage; Grimes suits me very well; and I do not think I
could do quite without a maid.'
'No, indeed, my dear mother,' said John, smiling; 'that is the last
thing to be thought of. All my father wished to know was, whether it
would grieve you if we gave the care of the gardens to somewhat less
of a first-rate genius?'
'Not in the least,' said Lady Martindale, emphatically. 'I shall
never bear to return to those botanical pursuits. It was for her
sake. Dear little Helen and the rest must be the first
consideration. Look here! she really has a very good notion of
John perceived that his mother was happier than she had ever been, in
waiting upon the children, and enjoying the company of Violet, whose
softness exactly suited her; while her decision was a comfortable
support to one who had all her life been trained round a stake. They
drove and walked together; and Lady Martindale, for the first time,
was on foot in the pretty lanes of her own village; she had even
stopped at cottage doors, when Violet had undertaken a message while
Theodora was out with Percy, and one evening she appeared busy with a
small lilac frock that Helen imagined herself to be making. Lady
Martindale was much too busy with the four black-eyed living blossoms
to set her heart on any griffin-headed or monkey-faced orchids; and
her lord found that she was one of those who would least be sensible
of his reductions. Theodora was continually surprised to see how
much more successful than herself Violet was in interesting her, and
keeping her cheerful. Perhaps it was owing to her own vehemence; but
with the best intentions she had failed in producing anything like
the present contentment. And, somehow, Lord and Lady Martindale
seemed so much more at ease together, and to have so much more to say
to each other, that their Cousin Hugh one day observed, it was their
'I say, John,' said Percy, one night, as they were walking to the
vicarage, 'I wish you could find me something to do in the West