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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 3 out of 15

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It was not till Violet was on the point of departure that she knew the
secret of Emma's heart. The last Sunday evening before Arthur was to
fetch her away, she begged to walk once more to the Priory, and have
another look at it. 'I think,' said she, 'it will stay in my mind like
Helvellyn in the distance.'

Emma smiled, and soon they stood in the mellow light of the setting
sun, beside the ruin. 'How strange,' said Violet, 'to think that it is
three hundred years since Sunday came to this chapel.'

'I wonder' said Emma, breaking off, then beginning, 'O Violet, it is
the wish of my heart to bring Sundays back to it.'

'Emma! but could it be built up again?'

'Mamma says nothing must be done till I am twenty-five--almost six
years hence. Not then, unless I am tame and sober, and have weighed it
well.'

'Restore it?--build a church?'

'I could have a sort of alms-house, with old people and children, and
we could look after them ourselves.'

'That would be delightful. Oh, I hope you will do it.'

'Don't think of it more than as a dream to myself and mamma. I could
not help saying it to you just then; but it is down too deep generally
even for mamma. It must come back somehow to God's service. Don't
talk of it any more, Violet, dearest, only pray that I may not be
unworthy.'

Violet could hardly believe a maiden with such hopes and purposes could
be her friend, any more than Prioress Osyth herself; and when, half-an-
hour afterwards, she heard Emma talking over the parish and Sunday-
school news in an ordinary matter-of-fact way, she did not seem like
the same person.

There were many vows of correspondence, and auguries of meeting next
spring. Lady Elizabeth thought it right that her daughter should see
something of London life, and the hope of meeting Violet was the one
thing that consoled Emma, and Violet talked of the delight of making
her friend and Annette known to each other.

To this, as Lady Elizabeth observed, Arthur said not a word. She could
not help lecturing him a little on the care of his wife, and he
listened with a very good grace, much pleased at their being so fond of
her.

She wished them good-bye very joyously, extremely happy at having her
husband again, and full of pleasant anticipations of her new home.

PART II

There's pansies for you, that's for thoughts.

Hamlet

CHAPTER 1

How far less am I blest than they,
Daily to pine, and waste with care,
Like the poor plant, that from its stem
Divided, feels the chilling air.--MICKLE'S Cumnor Hall

Arthur and Violet arrived at their new home in the twilight, when the
drawing-room fire burnt brightly, giving a look of comfort. The
furniture was good; and by the fire stood a delightful little low
chair with a high back, and a pretty little rosewood work-table, on
which was a coloured glass inkstand, and a table-stand of books in
choice bindings.

'Arthur, Arthur, how charming! I am sure this is your doing.'

'No, it is John's; I can't devise knick-knackeries, but he is a
thorough old bachelor, and has been doing all sorts of things to the
house, which have made it more tolerable.'

'How very kind he is! The books--how beautiful! Just what I wanted.
That one he lent me--he talked to me of that. This Emma has--I saw
your sister reading that, and wished to see more of it. But I can't
look at them all now; I must see Sarah, she was to bring something
from home.'

A Wrangerton face had great charms, though it was starched and
severe, without one smile in answer to the joyous greeting, 'Well,
Sarah, I am glad you could come. How are they all?'

'Thank you, ma'am, Mr. and Mrs. Moss, and the young ladies, and Mr.
Albert, are all very well, and desires their love,' replied a voice
solemn enough for the announcement that they were all at the point of
death. Violet's spirits would have been damped but for the sight of
the table spread with parcels directed in dear familiar writing, and
she was pouncing on them when Sarah began her grave requests for
orders, and Violet felt her own ignorance and incapacity growing more
patent every moment as questions about arrangements beset and
tormented her on every side. At last she was left to enjoy the out-
spreading of the precious gifts, the devices characteristic of the
kind hands that had prepared them, and all her own private
possessions--a welcome sight.

It was a happy evening, and the days that followed were full of
pleasure and occupation--in settling her treasures and making
purchases. When she seated herself in her own carriage, she thought
now indeed it would be delightful to show herself to her mother and
sisters. She had no relation in London but an uncle, a solicitor,
fond and proud of her, but too sensible to wish to frequent her
house. He gave her a silver tea-pot; and being asked to dinner now
and then on Sunday was all the attention he required. Her brother
Albert did, indeed, sometimes come to town on business; and Violet,
after many hopes, was, one evening, charmed at seeing him make his
appearance. Arthur asked him to stay to dinner, after which they
were going to a party.

Albert, a spruce, good-looking youth, had been too grand to make
friends with so young a sister; but, now that she was a person of
consequence, his tone was different. He talked his best, and she had
a perfect feast of Wrangerton news--showed him all her presents, and
enjoyed the thought of Annette's smile at hearing of her little
Violet stepping into her carriage for a party at a countess's.

Arthur said London was empty, but Violet thought her visitors
innumerable, and, as the autumn advanced towards winter, had many
invitations. She enjoyed going out; her shyness had nearly worn off;
and she was everywhere received so as to make Arthur, proud and
pleased. Indeed she had doubts whether she was not growing too gay,
and if it was right to pay so much attention to her appearance. She
asked Arthur, and was laughed at for her pains.

However, Violet was not without her troubles from the first. She was
very much afraid of Sarah, and never spoke to her without shrinking
back into Miss Violet, and being conscious that it was mere
presumption in her to try to order one so much wiser than herself.
The cook, a relation of Miss Standaloft, was much more smooth and
deferential, full of resources, which seemed to come from Mrs.
Martindale herself; and though the weekly bills always exceeded her
reckonings, so many things were wanting, as Mrs. Cook observed, just
getting into a house. The first time of having any guests at dinner,
Violet was in much anxiety, but all went off to general satisfaction
until the bills came in on Monday morning. The cost was beyond her
calculations, exceeded her week's portion, and devoured the savings
of the days when they had not dined at home. Invitations had been
sent out for another party, and Violet tried to bring it within
bounds; but the cook was civilly superior--'It was always so in the
first families, such as she was accustomed to, but if Mrs. Martindale
liked to have things in a different style--'

She knew Arthur would consent to no external change, and all she
could do was to look at the price of all she ordered, reject sundry
expensive delicacies, and trust to living on the relics of the feast
for the rest of the week; but, behold! they scarcely served for one
luncheon, and on Monday the bills had mounted up in an inexplicable
manner. There were no savings left, and she made up the deficiency
from her own resources. A third party was impending, and she strove
more resolutely for frugality. 'Well, ma'am, if you choose, it must
be so; but it was not what I was used to in the families such as I
have lived in.'

But Violet was firm, whereupon the cook harassed her with
contrarieties; and late hours and London air had so far told upon her
that she could not shake off her cares cheerfully. She knew all
would turn out ill--tormented herself--brought on a headache, and
looked unwell when the evening came. The cook sent up the dinner
with just enough want of care to keep her in such continual
apprehension that she could hardly attend to the conversation.

'You did not make such a good hand of it to-day,' said Arthur, when
the guests were gone; 'that soup was ditch-water, and--'

Violet was so worn out that she burst into tears. 'Hey? What's the
matter now? I said nothing to cry for.'

She tried to speak, but the tears would not let her.

'Well, if you can't bear to be told everything is not perfection, I
don't know what is to be done.' And Arthur, in displeasure, took up
a candle and walked off to smoke a cigar in his sitting-room down-
stairs.

Her tears were checked by consternation, and, earnest to be forgiven,
she followed; then, as he turned impatiently, said, in a trembling
pleading voice, 'Dear Arthur, I've done crying. I did not mean to be
cross.'

'Well, that's enough, never mind,' said he, not unkindly, but as if
in haste to dismiss the subject, and be left to the peaceful
enjoyment of his cigar.

'And you forgive me?'

'Forgive? nonsense--only don't begin crying about nothing again.
There's nothing more intolerable than for a woman to be always
crying, whenever one speaks to her.'

''Twas not so much that,' said Violet, meekly, 'as that I was vexed
at the dinner not looking well, and it won't, without spending such
quantities of money!'

'Quantities--what do you call quantities?'

She named the cost of the last dinner, and he laughed at her horror;
then, when she was going to prove that it was disproportionate to
their means, he silenced her:

'Well, well, never mind; we are not going to give any more dinners
just yet; but when we do, have done with pinching and squeezing.
Why, you don't look fit to be seen after it.'

'I'm only tired.'

'Ay, with worrying. Go to bed and to sleep, and forget it all!'

She was consoled for that time; but the perplexity continued. She
strove to reduce the ordinary expenditure, but Arthur had a fashion
of bringing home a friend to dinner without notice; and she underwent
indescribable miseries, while reflecting on her one chicken, or five
mutton chops; and though something was sure to be extemporized by the
cook, the result was that these casual guests were as expensive as a
banquet. She ventured to beg Arthur to tell her when he was going to
ask any one, but he was vexed, and said he liked to bring home a man
by chance; there need be nothing out of the common way, and a dinner
for two was a dinner for three. Poor Violet thought, 'Ah! this is
not like the time at Winchester. It is my own fault, I am not
companion, enough.'

She began to grow tired of going out in the evening; late hours tried
her; she felt listless and unwell; and her finances could not support
the dress expenses, but when she tried to excuse herself, she found
Arthur determined on taking her out, though he had previously
grumbled, and declared he only went for her sake. When she looked
pale and languid he seemed annoyed, in a way that gave her the
impression that he valued nothing but her beauty. She believed he
found home dull, and her not what he expected.

The truth was, perhaps, that Violet's spirits were naturally not
strong, and she was scarcely equal to the cares that had come on her.
She missed the companionship of the large family at home; and a
slight degree of indisposition or of anxiety was sufficient to set
her tormenting herself with every imaginable fear and grief; above
all, the dread that he was not pleased with her.

She believed herself to have strictly adhered to the rule of paying
for everything at once; but she was dismayed by a shower of bills at
Christmas, for things ordered by the cook without her knowledge,
several of which she disowned altogether; and several that her memory
and 'great book' both declared she had paid; though the tradesmen and
the cook, through whom the money had been sent, stoutly denied it.
She was frightened, paid the sums, and so went the last remains of
Lord Martindales present.

Sure that the woman was dishonest, yet not knowing how to prove it;
afraid to consult Arthur on the household concerns, that he detested;
and with a nervous dread of a disturbance, Violet made arrangements
for conveying no more payments through Mrs. Cook; and, for the rest,
thought she must go on as she could, till the time should come, when,
near the end of May, she reckoned on having her mother with her. She
would repair her mistakes, make her feel herself mistress in her own
house, and help her to all she wanted to know, without fear of
Wrangerton gossip. That hope strengthened and cheered her in all her
troubles; and oh! suppose Annette came too!

Poor Violet! the first time she referred to her mother's coming,
Arthur looked annoyed, gave a sort of whistle, and said, as if
searching for an excuse, 'Why, they never could spare her from
Wrangerton.'

'O, that they would,' said Violet, eagerly; 'or if not mamma herself,
at least, I am sure, Matilda would come to me, or Annette.'

'Whew!' again whistled Arthur; 'I don't know whether that will do.'

'Arthur!'

'There will be my mother close by, and Lady Elizabeth. No, no, you
won't want to have any one up from there.'

'May I not have my own mamma?' pleaded poor Violet, urged into
something like pertinacity.

But Arthur cut her short; his great dislike to what he had to say
making him speak the more ungraciously: 'I don't want to vex you,
Violet, but once for all we must come to an understanding. You must
not expect to have your family here. They are good sort of people,
and all that style of thing,'--he faltered at her looks of imploring
consternation, and tried to work himself into anger in order to be
able to finish. 'It is of no use looking wretched, I tell you, you
must put it out of your head. They belong to a different set
altogether, and it won't do any way. There now, don't go and be
nervous about yourself; Theodora shall see to you, and you'll do very
well, I have no doubt.'

With these words he hastily quitted her, that he might not witness
the distress he had occasioned, though he had not the least idea what
his refusal was to her.

The sense of her own helplessness and inexperience, and the prospect
of illness, without mother or sister, were lost in the more
overpowering sorrow at his unkindness. How could he love her if he
denied her this at such a time, and in such a manner?' He is ashamed
of my family! ashamed of me! He is disappointed in me! I can't make
it pleasant to him at home. I am not even good-tempered when I am
not well, and I am not half as pretty as I used to be! Oh! if he had
but married me for anything but my prettiness! But I was not worth
vexing every one for! I am only a plague and trouble! Well, I dare
say I shall die, now there is no one to take care of me, and then,
perhaps, he will be sorry for me. Just at last, I'll tell him how I
did mean to be a good wife, and tried all I could.'

But then poor Violet fell into a maze of terror. She roused herself
and dried her tears on hearing some one approaching. It was James,
bringing in a parcel. It contained a beautiful and costly silk
dress. After the first glance she pushed it from her, and her grief
burst forth again. 'Does he think that can make up to me for my
mother? How silly he must think me! Yet he is kind and tries to
please me still, though I am so troublesome! Dear, dear Arthur!'

She took it back upon her lap, and tried to admire, but her heart
failed her; and she could not look at it till the sound of his
entrance revived her; she felt as if she had been injuring him, and
recalling her smiles, met him with what he thought delighted
gratitude.

He was relieved to find the late subject blown over, and only wishing
to keep it out of her mind, he invited her to take a walk.

Violet had begun to dread his walks, for he was a loiterer, apt to go
further and stay out longer than he intended, and she could not bear
to tease him by hints of fatigue; but to-day she could not demur at
anything he asked, and she only observed that they had better not go
far, as they had an engagement for the evening.

At first the air and his attention did her good; but when she saw
Captain Fitzhugh approaching, she knew that Arthur's arm was the only
further use she should have of him, and there would be an endless
sauntering and talk about horses or fishing, while he would all the
time fancy himself going home.

The consequence was, that she was obliged to go at once to bed on
coming in, and was declared by Arthur to have been very silly never
to have mentioned her fatigue; while Sarah, bestowing grim and sour
looks upon them both, attended on her with the most assiduous and
minute care. Arthur was greatly concerned, and very unwilling to go
to the party alone, but Violet persuaded him, and he promised to
return early; then found the evening pleasant, and never knew how
time went, while she was lying awake, imagining that something
dreadful had happened to him, and mourning over her grievances.

The effects of that over-fatigue did not pass away, and she was
forced to give up all evening engagements. He meant to be kind, but
was too ignorant and inconsiderate not to do her as much harm as
good. One day he almost overwhelmed her with attentions, the next
left her to herself. He offered to refuse all invitations for her
sake, but it ended in her spending more than half her evenings alone;
and when the horse was wanted for him in the evening, she lost her
drive. Very soon she fell out of the habit of going out, for now
that she was no companion for his long rambles, he found other ways
of disposing of his afternoons; and she was still so countrified as
to dislike and dread walking alone, even in the quiet Belgravian
regions, so that she was always relieved to decide that the gray mist
was such as could do no one any good, or that she really was not well
enough for a walk.

She did not know the use of change of scene, and the bracing effect
of resolution,--she had no experience of self-management, and had not
learnt that it was a duty not to let herself pine. Though most
conscientious, she had not yet grown up to understand religion as a
present comfort. To her it was a guide and an obligation, and as
such she obeyed its dictates, to the best of her power, but only as
an obedient child, without understanding the immediate reward in this
life, namely, confidence, support, and peace. It is a feeling
generally belonging to an age beyond hers, though only to be won by
faithful discipline. She was walking in darkness, and, by and by,
light might come. But there was one omission, for which she long
after grieved; and which, though she knew it not, added to her
present troubles.

All heart and hope had been taken from her since she had been
forbidden to see her mother and sister. The present was dreary, the
future nothing but gloom and apprehension, and she had little to
distract her attention. She strove hard to fulfil what she knew were
duties, her household concerns and the readings she had fixed as
tasks; but these over, she did not try to rouse her mind from her
cares; nor had she perhaps the power, for her difficulties with the
cook were too much for her, and it was very trying to spend so many
hours of the dingy London day and long evening in solitude.

Her amusing books were exhausted, and she used to lie forlorn on the
sofa, with her needlework, hearing the roar of carriage-wheels, and,
her mind roaming from the perplexities of her accounts to her sad
forebodings and her belief in Arthur's coldness, till her heart
seemed ready to break,--and her tears gathered, first in solitary
drops, then in floods. She had no one to cheer her spirits, to share
her hopes and fears. Her plans and employments were tedious to her
husband, and he must not be troubled with them,--and so, locked up
within herself, they oppressed her with care and apprehension. In
letter-writing there was only pain; she could not bear to be supposed
unwell or unhappy, and, above all, dreaded saying what might lead to
an offer from her mother to come to her. Her letters became mere
comments on home news; she wrote less frequently, feared they would
think her grown too fine to care for them, and then wept and sobbed
with home sickness. There was a little more comfort in writing to
Rickworth, for she expected the Brandons early in May, and her only
hope was in Lady Elizabeth for care and counsel: for as to Arthur's
dependence, his mother and sister, she felt as if the fear and
restraint of their presence would be unbearable.

Her husband never guessed how she languished. In his presence she
was a different creature, forgetting her griefs in the one wish of
pleasing him. No matter what she had been undergoing in his absence,
his knock raised her spirits, in a moment life darted into her limbs
and colour into her cheeks. She had no notion of complaining. Her
mother had always been silent, though often with greater cause for
remonstrance; and poor Violet, imagining herself a burden, would not
for the world have made herself more troublesome than she could help.
Her whole desire was to win a smile, a fond word, a caress, and she
sat watching as if those were life to her; her cheeks burning with
eagerness so much that Arthur little guessed how wan they were in his
absence.

The colour was heightened by warm rooms, for Arthur was of a chilly
race, and could not understand how oppressive the close atmosphere of
London was to one used to mountain breezes. He would come in
shivering, and be provoked to find her sitting by the smallest of
fires; till she learnt that their estimate of heat was so different,
that the only safety was in keeping the room like an oven. The
folding doors into the back drawing-room had a trick of opening of
their own accord; and the trouble given her by this draught-trap, as
Arthur called it, can hardly be estimated, especially one windy week
in March, when he had a cold.

She had never been wont to think seriously of colds but when it came
to coughing and feverishness all night, and Arthur, with his hand on
his chest, persisted that it was all in his throat and told her to
send for a blister, she grew alarmed, but this only displeased him.
He disdained her entreaty that he would remain in bed; and said women
always made a fuss about nothing, when she timidly suggested sending
for 'some one.'

For three deplorable days he sat over the fire, with a distaste for
everything, while she did her utmost to make him comfortable, and
when she failed, thought it her own fault, reproached herself for her
inefficiency, and imagined that he was going to be as ill as his
brother, and that she should be of no use to him. How hard on him to
have such a bad wife! She could not even entertain him while he was
kept indoors--for she could not find anything to talk about, so long
was it since she had been out, or read anything amusing.

However, on the third afternoon, he brightened up, found the soup
good, talked and laughed, and declared that if to-morrow was fine, he
should be out again. And the next day she was so delighted to find
his cough was gone--more quickly than he had ever known so severe a
cold depart--that it was not till he was out of the house that she
remembered that she was condemned to solitude for many hours.

Here was quarter-day, bringing fresh confusion, in those inexplicable
household expenses, and a miserable sense of wastefulness, and
unfaithfulness to her charge. She thought of John's advice, to make
her husband attend, if she found her means insufficient; and set
herself to draw up a statement of the case, to lay before him; but
she grew more and more puzzled; the cook's dishonesty weighed on her,
and her fears of taking any measures increased. Her calculations
always ended in despairing tears.

She was lying on her bed, recovering from one of these almost
hysterical fits, when she was roused from a doze by a knock at her
door; and started up, trying to hide that anything had been the
matter, as Sarah came in, and said, with a tone of authority,

'Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner, ma'am! but I will say you are not well
enough to see them.'

'O no, Sarah, I am quite well, I was only asleep.'

'You had better not go down,' sternly repeated Sarah. 'You had much
best lie down, and have your sleep out, after being kept awake till
two o'clock last night, with Captain Martindale not coming home. And
you with the pillow all awry, and that bit of a shawl over you! Lie
you down, and I'll set it straight.'

But Violet was on her feet--the imputation on Captain Martindale had
put her on her mettle. 'Thank you, I don't want anything; I am going
down directly.'

Sarah shook her head, and looked significantly at the glass; and
there, indeed, Violet perceived that her eyes bore traces of recent
weeping; but, still, she would do anything rather than own her tears.
'My head aches a little--that makes my eyes heavy,' said she. 'It
will do me good to see Miss Gardner. I knew her at Martindale.'

But when Violet found herself in the presence of Miss Gardner, and of
a tall fashionable lady, she did not like the recollection that she
had been talked of as a beauty.

She was glad to meet Miss Gardner, but Mrs. Finch's style was dashing
and almost boisterous, and her voice quick and loud, as she seized on
her hand, exclaiming, 'I want no introduction, I have heard so much
of you! I know we shall be excellent friends. I must hear of
Theodora. You know she is the greatest ally I have on earth. When
did you hear of her last? When are they coming to town! I would not
miss Theodora's first appearance for all the world.'

Violet felt overpowered by the torrent; but thought it was giving no
right impression of her husband to look disconsolate, and exerted
herself to be cheerful, and answer.

But they would speak of Martindale, and oblige her to expose her
ignorance. She did not know when the family were coming to town, nor
had she heard when Mr. Martindale's return might be expected.

If Miss Gardner had been alone, she thought she might have got on
better; but the quieter elder sister hardly put in a word, so
unceasing was the talk of the younger; whose patronage became
oppressive, when she began on Mrs. Martindale herself; told her she
was lazy, taking too much care, and growing nervous: and even
declared she should come some day, take her by storm, and carry her
out for a drive in the park.

Poor Violet felt as if to be shut up in the carriage with this
talking lady would kill her outright; begged she would not take the
trouble; but only met with smiles, and declarations that Theodora
would scold her well when she came.

The next afternoon Violet listened with dread to the sounds of
wheels, and was not at all inclined to blame a headache, which was
sufficient excuse for sending down thanks and refusal. On the
following, she had just made up her mind that the danger was over for
that day, when her alarm was excited by a thundering knock, and in
walked her brother.

'Well, Violet, I have caught you at home. I'm come to town about
Lord St. Erme's business--go back by the mail train. Are you dining
at home? Can you give me a dinner?'

'Oh, yes!' said Violet; but fears came over her of Arthur's not being
pleased, especially supposing he should bring back any one with him.
And therewith came dismay at finding herself giving no better welcome
to her own brother, and she eagerly asked for all at home.

'In a high state of preservation. And how are you? You don't look
quite the thing.'

'Oh, yes, I am, thank you.'

'And how is Martindale?'

'He would not call him so to his face!' thought the wife. 'Oh! I
wish he would sit anywhere but in Arthur's chair, and not fidget me
with playing with that horrid little piece of watch-chain!' 'He is
very well, thank you. He had a bad cold last week, but it is quite
gone now. I hope he will soon come in.'

'I am not sorry to have found you alone. I want to hear something of
these relations of yours.'

'Oh! I shall be sure to say something wrong!' thought she, and as the
best thing to put forward, announced that they would soon be in
London.

'And they are not high with you? I hear fine accounts of their
grandeur,--they say the lady and her daughter are eaten up with
pride, and think no one fit to speak to.'

'Miss Martindale has the plainest ways in the world. She will do
anything for the poor people.'

'Ay, ay, that's the way with fine ladies,--they like to be
condescending and affable. And so you say they receive you well?
make you one of the family--eh?'

Violet hoped it was not wrong to utter a faint 'yes.'

'Does Martindale's sister write to you?'

'No; she does not write letters much. But I told you how very kind
they are--Mr. Martindale, his brother, especially.'

'Ay!' said Albert, 'he disconcerted our calculations. He seems to
have taken out a new lease.'

'He is a great deal better.'

'But he has no lungs left. His life can't be worth a year's
purchase, by what the governor heard. He would never have let
Martindale have you on such easy terms if he had not looked on you as
good as her ladyship.'

Such shame and disgust came over Violet that she felt unworthy to sit
on John Martindale's chair, and moved to the sofa, trying to change
the subject; but Albert persisted in inquiries about Mr. Martindale's
age, health, and the likelihood of his marrying, till she could no
longer be without the perception that not only had her husband been
to blame for their marriage--her fathers part had been far worse.

Albert hoped the old lord was coming down handsomely and tried to
make her tell their income. She was glad not to know and he began
calculating it from their style of living, with such disregard to her
feelings, as made her contrast his manners with those of the true
gentlemen to whom she was now accustomed, and feel sadly that there
was reason in her husband's wish to keep her family at a distance.
There was no checking or silencing this elder brother; she could only
feel humiliated by each proof of his vulgarity of mind, and blame
herself, by turns, for churlishness to him, and for permitting
conversation Arthur would so much dislike.

Why would not Arthur come and put a stop to it! It was not the first
time she had waited dinner for him in vain, and though she tried to
make Albert think she liked it, she knew she was a very bad
dissembler.

When she at length ordered in dinner, the conversation changed to
Wrangerton doings, the Christmas gaieties, jokes about her sisters
and their imputed admirers, and a Miss Louisa Davies--a new-comer,
about whom Albert seemed to wish to be laughed at himself. But poor
Violet had no spirits even to perceive this,--she only thought of
home and the familiar scenes recalled by each name. What a gulf
between her and them! In what free, careless happiness they lived!
What had her father done in thrusting her into a position for which
she was unfit,--into a family who did not want her, and upon one to
whom she was only a burthen! At home they thought her happy and
fortunate! They should never guess at her wretchedness.

But when the time for Albert's departure came, Violet forgot his
inconvenient questions, and would have given the world to keep him.
He was her own brother--a part of home; he loved her--she had felt
inhospitable to him, and perhaps she should never see him again.

When he recurred to her pale looks and languid manner, and expressed
concern, it was all she could do to keep from bursting into tears,
and telling all her griefs; and she could not control the rapid
agitated tones that belied her repeated assurances that nothing was
amiss, and that he must not give a bad account of her and alarm her
mother.

She could hardly let him go; and when he bade her goodbye, there was
a moment's intense desire to be going with him, from this lonely
room, home to her mother and Annette, instantly followed by a horror
at such a wish having occurred, and then came the sobs and tears.
She dreaded that Arthur might be displeased at the visit; but he came
home full of good humour, and on hearing of it, only hoped she had
good news from Wrangerton, and said he was glad he had been out of
the way, so that she had been able to have her brother all to
herself.

Her fears of the effect of Albert's account of her were better
founded; for two mornings after, on coming down to breakfast, she
found a letter from her mother to exhort her to be careful, assuring
her that she need have no scruple in sending for her, and betraying
so much uneasiness as to add to all her terrors. She saw this in one
glance; for she knew that to dwell on the tender affectionate letter
would bring on a fit of weeping, and left it and the dreadful
consideration of her reply till Arthur should be gone, as he was to
spend the day in fishing with a friend in the country. He had come
home late last night, and was not yet dressed, and she waited long,
gazing at the gleams of sunshine on the square gardens, thinking how
bright this second day of April must be anywhere but here, where it
was close and oppressive, and wondering whether Helvellyn was
beginning to lose his snow; then, as Helvellyn brought the sensation
that led to tears, she took the newspaper, and had read more than she
cared for before Arthur appeared, in the state of impatience which
voluntary lateness is sure to produce.

She gave him his tea as quickly as she could, but all went wrong: it
was a horrid cold day, ALL east wind--there was a cold wind coming in
somewhere.

'The back drawing-room window! I'm sorry I did not see it was open.'

'What makes you go to shut it?' said he, hastily marching across the
room, and closing it and the doors. 'I shall be gone in a moment,
and you may let in a hurricane if you like. Have you seen my cigar-
case!'

'It was on the ledge of your wardrobe.'

'Some of your maids have been and hid it.'

'I told Sarah never to put your things away. I think I could find
it.'

'No, don't go, I have looked everywhere.'

As he never found things, even when before his eyes, this was not
conclusive; and she undertook the search in spite of another careless
'No, no, don't,' knowing it meant the contrary.

She could not find it in his dressing-room, and he looked annoyed,
again accusing the maids. This made her feel injured, and though
growing exhausted, as well she might, as she had not even begun
breakfast, she said she would look in the sitting-room. He half
remonstrated, without looking up from the paper, but she hoped to be
gladdened by thanks, hunted in all his hiding-places in vain, and
found she must give it up, after a consultation with Sarah, who
resentfully denied all knowledge of it, and told her she looked ready
to drop.

Dolefully coming into the hall, she saw Arthur's black travelling-
bag. Was it for more than the day? The evenings were bad enough--but
a desolate night! And he had never told her!'

'I suppose you have not found it?'

'No; I wish I could!'

'Never mind; it will turn up. You have tired yourself.'

'But, Arthur, are you not coming home to-night?'

'Didn't I tell you? If I can't get away by the seven o'clock train,
I thought of sleeping there. Ten o'clock, I declare! I shall miss
the train!'

She came to the head of the stairs with him, asking plaintively,
'When DO you come home? To-morrow, at latest?'

Perhaps it was her querulous tone, perhaps a mere boyish dislike to
being tied down, or even it might be mere hurry, that made him answer
impatiently, 'I can't tell--as it may happen. D'ye think I want to
run away! Only take care of yourself.'

This was in his coaxing voice; but it was not a moment when she could
bear to be turned aside, like an importunate child, and she was going
to speak; but he saw the wrong fishing-rod carried out, called
hastily to James, ran down-stairs, and was gone, without even looking
back at her.

The sound of the closing door conveyed a sense of utter desolation to
her over-wrought mind--the house was a solitary prison; she sank on
the sofa, sobbing, 'Oh, I am very, very miserable! Why did he take
me from home, if he could not love me! Oh, what will become of me?
Oh, mamma! mamma!'

CHAPTER 2

What is so shrill as silent tears?--GEORGE HERBERT

Arthur came home late in the afternoon of the following day. The
door was opened to him by his brother, who abruptly said, 'She is
dying. You must not lose a moment if you would see her alive.'

Arthur turned pale, and gave an inarticulate exclamation of horror-
stricken inquiry--'Confined?'

'Half-an-hour ago. She was taken ill yesterday morning immediately
after you left her. She is insensible, but you may find her still
living.'

Nothing but strong indignation could have made John Martindale thus
communicate such tidings. He had arrived that day at noon to find
that the creature he had left in the height of her bright loveliness
was in the extremity of suffering and peril--her husband gone no one
knew whither; and the servants, too angry not to speak plainly,
reporting that he had left her in hysterics. John tried not to
believe the half, but as time went on, bringing despair of the poor
young mother's life, and no tidings of Arthur; while he became more
and more certain that there had been cruel neglect, the very
gentleness and compassion of his nature fired and glowed against him
who had taken her from her home, vowed to cherish her, and forsaken
her at such a time. However, he was softened by seeing him stagger
against the wall, perfectly stunned, then gathering breath, rush up-
stairs without a word.

As Arthur pushed open the door, there was a whisper that it was he,
too late, and room was made for him. All he knew was, that those
around watched as if it was not yet death, but what else did he see
on those ashy senseless features?

With a cry of despair he threw himself almost over her, and implored
her but once to speak, or look at him. No one thought her capable
even of hearing, but at his voice the eyelids and lips slightly
moved, and a look of relief came over the face. A hand pressed his
shoulder, and a spoon containing a drop of liquid was placed in his
fingers, while some one said, 'Try to get her to take this.'

Scarcely conscious he obeyed, and calling her by every endearing
name, beyond hope succeeded in putting it between her lips. Her eyes
opened and were turned on him, her hand closed on his, and her
features assumed a look of peace. The spark of life was for a moment
detained by the power of affection, but in a short space the breath
must cease, the clasp of the hand relax.

Once more he was interrupted by a touch, and this time it was Sarah's
whisper--'The minister is come, sir. What name shall it be!'

'Anything--John,' said he, without turning his head or taking in what
she said.

The clergyman and John Martindale were waiting in the dressing-room,
with poor Violet's cathedral cup filled with water.

'She does not know him?' asked John, anxiously, as Sarah entered.

'Yes, sir, she does,' said Sarah, contorting her face to keep back
the tears. 'She looked at him, and has hold of his hand. I think
she will die easier for it, poor dear.'

'And at least the poor child is alive to be baptized?'

'O, yes, sir, it seems a bit livelier now,' said Sarah, opening a
fold of the flannel in her arms. 'It is just like its poor mamma.'

'Is it a girl?' he inquired, by no means perceiving the resemblance.

'A boy, sir. His papa never asked, though he did say his name should
be John.'

'It matters little,' said John, mournfully, for to his eye there was
nothing like life in that tiny form. 'And yet how marvellous,'
thought he, 'to think of its infinite gain by these few moments of
unconscious existence!'

At the touch of the water it gave a little cry, which Sarah heard
with a start and glance of infinite satisfaction.

She returned to the chamber, where the same deathly stillness
prevailed; the husband, the medical men, the nurse, all in their
several positions, as if they had neither moved nor looked from the
insensible, scarcely breathing figure.

The infant again gave a feeble sound, and once more the white
features moved, the eyes opened, and a voice said, so faintly, that
Arthur, as he hung over her, alone could hear it, 'My baby! O, let
me see it!'

'Bring the child,' and at the sound of those words the gleam of life
spread over her face more completely.

He could not move from her side, and Sarah placed the little creature
upon his broad hand. He held it close to her. 'Our baby!' again she
murmured, and tried to kiss it, but it made another slight noise, and
this overcame her completely, the deathly look returned, and he
hastily gave back the infant.

She strove hard for utterance, and he could hardly catch her gasping
words, 'You'll be fond of it, and think of me.'

'Don't, don't talk so, dearest. You will soon be better. You are
better. Let me give you this.'

'Please, I had rather lie still. Do let me.' Then again looking up,
as if she had been losing the consciousness of his presence, 'Oh! it
is you. Are you come? Kiss me and wish me good-bye.'

'You are better--only take this. Won't you? You need not move;
Violet, Violet, only try. To please me! There, well done, my
precious one. Now you will be more comfortable.'

'Thank you, oh no! But I am glad you are come. I did wish to be a
good wife. I had so much to say to you--if I could--but I can't
remember. And my baby; but oh, this is dying,' as the sinking
returned. 'O, Arthur, keep me, don't let me die!' and she clung to
him in terror.

He flung his arm closer round her, looking for help to the doctors.
'You shall not, you will not, my own, my darling.'

'You can't help it,' sighed she. 'And I don't know how--if some one
would say a prayer?'

He could only repeat protests that she must live, but she grew more
earnest. 'A prayer! I can't recollect--Oh! is it wicked? Will God
have mercy? Oh! would you but say a prayer?'

'Yes, yes, but what? Give me a book.'

Sarah put one into his hand, and pointed to a place, but his eyes
were misty, his voice faltered, broke down, and he was obliged to
press his face down on the pillows to stifle his sobs.

Violet was roused to such a degree of bewildered distress and alarm
at the sight of his grief, that the doctors insisted on removing him,
and almost forced him away.

There had been prayers offered for her, of which she knew nothing.

The clergyman was gone, and John had despatched his melancholy letter
to Lord Martindale, when he heard the steps on the stairs. Was it
over! No, it was only one of the doctors with Arthur, and they did
not come to him, but talked in the back drawing-room for some
moments, after which the doctor took leave, repeating the words in
John's hearing, that Arthur must compose himself before returning to
her--agitation would be at once fatal. Arthur had thrown himself on
the sofa, with his face hidden in his hands, in such overpowering
distress, that his brother's displeasure could not continue for a
moment, and he began to speak soothingly of the present improvement.

'It cannot last,' said Arthur. 'They say it is but a question of
minutes or hours,' and again he gave way to a burst of grief, but
presently it changed to an angry tone. 'Why was I never sent for?'

John explained that no one knew whither to send. He could hardly
credit this, and his wrath increased at the stupidity of the
servants; it seemed to relieve him to declaim against them.

'Then you left her well?'

'Of course I did. She had been searching over the house for that
abominable cigar-case of mine, which was in my pocket all the time!
I shall never bear to see it again,' and he launched it into the fire
with vehemence. 'I suppose that upset her! Why did I not prevent
her? Fool that I was not to know it was not fit for her, though she
chose to do it. But I never took care of her.'

'She is so very unselfish,' said John.

'That was it. I thought women always looked out for themselves.
I should have known I had one not like the rest! She had never one
thought for herself, and it is killing her, the sweetest, loveliest,
best--my precious Violet! John, John! is there nothing that can be
done for her?' cried he, starting up in a tumultuous agony of grief,
and striking his foot on the floor.

'Could we not send for her mother? Brown might set off at once to
fetch her.'

'Thank you, but no, it is of no use. No railroad within forty miles
of the place. She could not be here till--till--and then I could not
see her.' He was pacing the room, and entangled his foot in Violet's
little work-table, and it fell. Her work-box flew open, and as they
stooped to pick up the articles, Arthur again wept without control as
he took up a little frock, half made, with the needle hanging to it.
The table-drawer had fallen out, and with it the large account-book,
the weekly bills, and a sheet of paper covered with figures, and
blotted and blistered with tears. The sight seemed to overwhelm him
more than all. 'Crying over these! My Violet crying! Oh! what have
I been doing?'

'And why? What distressed her?'

'It was too much for her. She would plague herself with these
wretched household accounts! She knew I hated the sound of them. I
never let her bring them to me; but little did I think that she cried
over them alone!'

'She was cheerful with you?'

'Was not she?' I never saw that dear face without its sweet smile,
come when I would. I have never heard a complaint. I have left her
to herself, madman as I was, when she was unwell and anxious! But--
oh! if she could only recover, she should see--Ha! Sarah, can I
come?'

'Yes, sir, she is asking for you; but, if you please, sir, Mr.
Harding says you must come very quiet . She seems wandering, and
thinking you are not come home, sir,' said Sarah, with a grisly
satisfaction in dealing her blow home.

John tried to rectify the confusion in the work-box with a sort of
reverential care; not able to bear to leave it in disorder, whether
its mistress were ever to open it again or not, yet feeling it an
intrusion to meddle with her little feminine hoards of precious
trifles.

'Poor Arthur!' said he to himself, 'he may fairly be acquitted of all
but his usual inconsiderateness towards one too tender for such
treatment. He deserves more pity than blame. And for her--thank
Heaven for the blessing on them that mourn. Innocent creature, much
will be spared her; if I could but dwell on that rather than on the
phantom of delight she was, and my anticipations of again seeing the
look that recalls Helen. If Helen was here, how she would be nursing
her!'

John saw his brother no more that evening--only heard of Violet 'as
barely kept alive, as it seemed, by his care.' Each report was such
that the next must surely be the last; and John sat waiting on till
his servant insisted on his going to bed, promising to call him if
his brother needed him.

The night passed without the summons, and in the morning there was
still life. John had been down-stairs for some little time, when he
heard the medical man, who had spent the night there, speaking to
Arthur on the stairs. 'A shade of improvement' was the report.
'Asleep now; and if we can only drag her through the next few days
there may be hope, as long as fever does not supervene.'

'Thank Heaven!' said John, fervently. 'I did not venture to hope for
this.'

But Arthur was utterly downcast, and could not take heart. It was
his first real trouble, and there was little of the substance of
endurance in his composition. That one night of watching, grief, and
self-reproach, had made his countenance so pale and haggard, and his
voice so dejected and subdued, that John was positively startled, as
he heard his answer--

'I never saw any one so ill.'

'Come and have some breakfast, you look quite worn out'

'I cannot stay,' said he, sitting down, however. 'She must not miss
me, or all chance would be over. You don't mind the door being
open?'

'No, indeed. Is she sensible now?'

'Clear for a minute, if she has my hand; but then she dozes off, and
talks about those miserable accounts--the numbers over and over
again. It cuts me to the heart to hear her. They talk of an over-
strain on the mind! Heigh-ho! Next she wakes with a dreadful
frightened start, and stares about wildly, fancying I am gone.'

'But she knows you,' said John, trying to speak consolingly.

'Yes, no one else can do anything with her. She does not so much as
hear them. I must be back before she wakes; but I am parched with
thirst. How is this? Where is the tea?'

I suppose you put in none. Is this the chest?'

Arthur let his head drop on his hand, helpless and overcome, as this
little matter brought home the sense of missing his wife, and the
remembrance of the attentions he had allowed her to lavish upon him.
His brother tried the tea-chest, and, finding it locked, poured out
some coffee, which he drank almost unconsciously, then gave his cup
for more, sighed, pushed his hair back, and looked up somewhat
revived. John tended him affectionately, persuading him to take
food; and when he had passively allowed his plate to be filled, his
appetite discovered that he had tasted nothing since yesterday
morning, and therewith his spirits were refreshed; he looked up
cheerfully, and there was less despondency in his tone as he spoke of
her sleep towards morning having been less disturbed.

'The child woke her with a squall, and I thought we were undone, but
no such thing. I declare nothing has done her so much good; she had
him brought, and was so happy over him, then went off to sleep
again.'

'This is a great relief,' said John. 'From your manner, I dreaded to
ask for him, but I hope he may be doing well.'

'I am sure I hope so, or it would be all over with her. I believe
both their lives hang on one thread. To see her with him this
morning--I did not know such fondness was in women. I declare I
never saw anything like it; and she so weak! And such a creature as
it is; the smallest thing that ever was born, they say, and looking--
like nothing on earth but young mice.'

John could not help smiling: 'That is better than yesterday, when I
could scarcely believe he was alive.'

'What! did you see him?'

'When he was baptized.'

'Was he? What did you call him?'

'You sent word to name him John.'

'Did I? I had not the least recollection of it. I forgot all about
him till he made himself heard this morning, and she wanted to know
whether he was boy or girl.'

'A son and heir,' said John, glad to see the young father able to
look gratified.

'Well, it is the best name; I hope she will like it. But, hollo,
John, where did you drop from?' as it suddenly occurred to him to be
surprised.

'I came home on some business of Fotheringham's. I landed early
yesterday, and came up from Southampton.'

'A fine state of things to come to,' sighed Arthur. 'But you will
not go away?'

'Certainly not till she is better.'

'Ah! you were always fond of her; you appreciated her from the first.
There is no one whom I should have liked so well to have here.'
Then, with a pause, he added, in a tone of deep feeling: 'John, you
might well give me that warning about making her happy; but, indeed,
I meant to do so!' and his eyes filled with tears.

'As far as affection could go, you have done so,' said John, 'or you
could not have recalled her to life now.'

'You little know,' said Arthur sadly; 'Heaven knows it was not want
of affection; but I never guessed what she underwent. Sarah tells me
she spent hours in tears, though she would never allow them to be
noticed.'

'Poor Violet! But what could be her trouble?'

'Her household affairs seem to have overpowered her, and I never
would attend to them; little thinking how she let them prey upon her.
I never thought of her being lonely; and her sweet, bright face, and
uncomplaining ways, never reminded me. There never was any one like
her; she was too good for me, too good to live, that is the truth;
and now I must lose her!'

'Do not think so, Arthur; do not give way. The getting through this
night is more than could have been hoped. Happiness is often the
best cure; and if she is able to take so much pleasure in you, and in
the child, it is surely a hopeful sign.'

'So they said; that her noticing the child made them think better of
her. If she can but get over it, she shall see. But you will stay
with me, John,' said he, as if he clung to the support.

'That I will, thank you. I could not bear to go. I can sleep in
Belgrave Square, if you want my room for her mother.'

'We shall see how it is by post-time. I tried whether it would rouse
her to tell her I would write to Mrs. Moss, but she took no heed, and
the old nurse looked daggers at me.'

He was interrupted; Violet had awakened in an alarming fit of
trembling, imploring to be told why he was angry, and whether he
would ever come back.

So glimmered the feeble ray of life throughout the day; and when the
post went out, the end was apparently so near, that it was thought in
vain to send for Mrs. Moss; whom Arthur shrank from seeing, when it
should be too late. He was so completely overwhelmed with distress,
that in the short intervals he spent out of the sick-room, it was his
brother's whole work to cheer and sustain him sufficiently to perform
those offices, which Violet was incapable of receiving from any one
else.

It was no wonder he broke down; for it was a piteous sight to see
that fair young mother, still a child in years, and in her exhausted
state of wavering consciousness, alive only through her fond
affections; gleams of perception, and momentary flashes of life,
called forth only by her husband, or by the moanings of the little
frail babe, which seemed to have as feeble and precarious a hold of
life as herself. The doctors told John that they were haunted
through the day by the remembrance of her face, so sweet, even in
insensibility, and so very lovely, when the sound of her babe's
voice, for a moment, lighted up the features. Their anxiety for her
was intense; and if this was the case with strangers, what must it
not have been for her husband, to whom every delirious murmur was an
unconscious reproach, and who had no root of strength within himself!
The acuteness of his grief, and his effectiveness as a nurse, were
such as to surprise his brother, who only now perceived how much
warmth of heart had been formerly stifled in a cold, ungenial home.

Sustained from hour to hour by his unremitting care, she did,
however, struggle through the next three days; and at last came a
sounder sleep, and a wakening so tranquil, that Arthur did not
perceive it, till he saw, in the dim lamp-light, those dark eyes
calmly fixed upon him. The cry of the infant was heard, and she
begged for it, fondling it, and murmuring over it with a soft
inarticulate sound of happiness.

'You purr like an old cat over her kitten,' said Arthur, longing to
see her smile once more; and he was not disappointed; it was a
bright, contented, even joyous smile, that played on the colourless
features, and the eyes beamed softly on him as she said, 'Kiss him,
papa.'

He would have done anything for her at that moment, and another
bright look rewarded him.

'Does mamma know about this dear little baby?' she said, presently.

'Yes, dearest, I have written every day. She sends you her love;'
and as Violet murmured something of 'Dear mamma--'

'Do you wish to have her here?'

'No, indeed, I don't wish it now,' said Violet; 'you do make me so
very happy.'

She was returning to her full self, with all her submission to his
will, and in fact she did not wish for any change; her content in his
attention was so complete, so peaceful, that in her state of weakness
there was an instinctive dread of breaking the charm. To lie still,
her babe beside her, and Arthur watching her, was the perfect repose
of felicity, and imperceptibly her faculties were, one by one,
awakening. Her thoughtfulness for others had revived; Arthur had
been giving her some nourishment, and, for the first time, she had
taken it with a relish, when it so chanced that the light fell for a
moment on his face, and she was startled by perceiving the effects of
anxiety and want of sleep. In vain he assured her there was nothing
the matter. She accused herself of having been exacting and selfish,
and would not be comforted, till he had promised to take a good
night's rest. He left her, at length, nearly asleep, to carry the
tidings to his brother, and enjoy his look of heart-felt rejoicing.
Never had the two very dissimilar brothers felt so much drawn
together; and as John began, as usual, to wait on him, and to pour
out his coffee, he said, as he sat down wearied, 'Thank you, John,
I can't think what would have become of me without you!'

'My father would have come to you if I had not been here.'

'Where's his letter?--I forgot all about it. Is there none from
Theodora?"

'No; I suppose she waited for further accounts.'

Arthur began reading his father's letter. 'Very kind! a very kind
letter indeed,' said he, warmly. '"Earned so high a place in our
regard--her sweetness and engaging qualities,"--I must keep that to
show her. This is very kind too about what it must be to me. I did
not think he had appreciated her so well!'

'Yes, indeed, he did,' said John. 'This is what he says to me.
"Never have I seen one more gentle and engaging, and I feel sure she
would have gained more on our affections every day, and proved
herself a treasure to the family."'

'That is right,' said Arthur. 'He will get to know her well when
they come to London! I'll write to him to-morrow, and thank him, and
say, no need for him to come now! "Hopes his grandson will live to
be a comfort to me!"' and Arthur could not help laughing.

'Well, I am not come to that yet!'

'He is much pleased at its being a son,' said John.

'Poor little mortal!' said Arthur, 'if he means to be a comfort I
wish he would stop that dismal little wail--have one good squall and
have done with it. He will worry his mother and ruin all now she
takes more notice. So here's Mrs. Moss's letter. I could not open
it this morning, and I have been inventing messages to Violet from
her--poor woman! I have some good news for her now. It is all about
coming, but Violet says she does not want her. I can't read it all,
my eyes are so weak! Violet said they were bloodshot,' and he began
to examine them in the glass.

'Yes, you are not equal to much more nursing; you are quite done
for.'

'I am!' said Arthur, stretching. 'I'm off to bed, as she begged me;
but the worst is over now! We shall do very well when Theodora
comes; and if she has a taste for the boy, she and Violet will make
friends over him,--good night.'

With a long yawn, Arthur very stiffly walked up-stairs, where Sarah
stood at the top waiting for him. 'Mrs. Martindale is asleep, sir;
you had best not go in,' said she. 'I have made up a bed in your
dressing-room, and you'd best not be lying down in your clothes, but
take a good sleep right out, or you'll be fit for nothing next. I'll
see and call if she wants you.'

'Thank you, Sarah; I wonder how long you have been up; you will be
fit for nothing next.'

'It don't hurt me,' said Sarah, in disdain; and as Arthur shut his
door, she murmured to herself, 'I'm not that sort to be knocked up
with nothing; but he is an easy kind-spoken gentleman after all.
I'll never forget what he has done for missus. There is not so much
harm in him neither; he is nothing but a great big boy as ought to be
ashamed of hisself.'

The night passed off well; Violet, with a great exertion of self-
command, actually composed herself on awaking in one of her nervous
fits of terror; prevented his being called; and fairly deserved all
the fond praise he lavished on her in the morning for having been so
good a child.

'You must not call me child now,' said she, with a happy little
pride. 'I must be wiser now.'

'Shall I call you the prettiest and youngest mamma in England?'

'Ah! I am too young and foolish. I wish I was quite seventeen!'

'Have you been awake long?'

'Yes; but so comfortable. I have been thinking about baby's name.'

'Too late, Violet; they named him John: they say I desired it.'

'What! was he obliged to be baptized? Is he so delicate? Oh,
Arthur! tell me; I know he is tiny, but I did not think he was ill.'

Arthur tried to soothe her with assurances of his well-doing, and the
nurse corroborated them; but though she tried to believe, she was not
pacified, and would not let her treasure be taken from within her
arms till Mr. Harding arrived--his morning visit having been hastened
by a despatch from Arthur, who feared that she would suffer for her
anxiety. She asked so many questions that he, who last night had
seen her too weak to look up or speak, was quite taken by surprise.
By a little exceeding the truth, he did at length satisfy her mind;
but after this there was an alteration in her manner with her baby;
it was not only the mere caressing, there was a sort of reverence,
and look of reflection as she contemplated him, such as made Arthur
once ask, what she could be studying in that queer little red visage?

'I was thinking how very good he is!' was her simple answer, and
Arthur's smile by no means comprehended her meaning.

Her anxious mind retarded her recovery, and Arthur's unguarded voice
on the stairs having revealed to her that a guest was in the house,
led to inquiries, and an endless train of fears, lest Mr. Martindale
should be uncomfortable and uncared for. Her elasticity of mind had
been injured by her long course of care, and she could not shake off
the household anxieties that revived as she became able to think.

Indeed there were things passing that would have greatly astonished
her. Sarah had taken the management of everything, including her
master; and with iron composure and rigidity of demeanour, delighted
in teasing him by giving him a taste of some of the cares he had left
her mistress to endure. First came an outcry for keys. They were
supposed to be in a box, and when that was found its key was missing.
Again Arthur turned out the unfortunate drawer, and only spared the
work-box on John's testifying that it was not there, and suggesting
Violet's watch-chain, where he missed it, and Sarah found it and
then, with imperturbable precision, in spite of his attempts to
escape, stood over him, and made him unlock and give out everything
himself. 'If things was wrong,' she said, 'it was her business that
he should see it was not owing to her.'

Arthur was generally indifferent to what he ate or drank,--the
reaction, perhaps, of the luxury of his home; but having had a
present of some peculiar trout from Captain Fitzhugh, and being, as
an angler, a connoisseur in fish, many were his exclamations at
detecting that those which were served up at breakfast were not the
individuals sent.

Presently, in the silence of the house, John heard tones gradually
rising on the stairs, till Arthur's voice waxed loud and wrathful
'You might as well say they were red herrings!'

Something shrill ensued, cut short by, 'Mrs. Martindale does as she
pleases. Send up Captain Fitzhugh's trout.'

A loud reply, in a higher key.

'Don't tell me of the families where you have lived--the trout!'

Here John's hand was laid upon his arm, with a sign towards his
wife's room; whereupon he ran down-stairs, driving the cook before
him.

Soon he came hastily up, storming about the woman's impertinence, and
congratulating himself on having paid her wages and got rid of her.

John asked what was to be done next? and was diverted with his
crestfallen looks, when asked what was to become of Violet.

However, when Sarah was consulted, she gravely replied, 'She thought
as how she could contrive till Mrs. Martindale was about again;' and
the corners of her mouth relaxed into a ghastly smile, as she
replied, 'Yes, sir,' in answer to her master's adjurations to keep
the dismissal a secret from Mrs. Martindale.

'Ay!' said John, 'I wish you joy of having to tell her what
revolutions you have made.'

'I'll take care of that, if the women will only hold their tongues.'

They were as guarded as he could wish, seeing as plainly as he did,
how fretting over her household matters prolonged her state of
weakness. It was a tedious recovery, and she was not able even to
receive a visit from John till the morning when the cough, always
brought on by London air, obliged him reluctantly to depart.

He found her on the sofa, wrapped in shawls, her hair smoothed back
under a cap; her shady, dark eyes still softer from languor, and the
exquisite outline of her fair, pallid features looking as if it was
cut out in ivory against the white pillows. She welcomed him with a
pleased smile; but he started back, and flushed as if from pain, and
his hand trembled as he pressed hers, then turned away and coughed.

'Oh, I am sorry your cough is so bad,' said she.

'Nothing to signify,' he replied, recovering. 'Thank you for letting
me come to see you. I hope you are not tired?'

'Oh, no, thank you. Arthur carried me so nicely, and baby is so good
this morning.'

'Where is he? I was going to ask for him.'

'In the next room. I want to show him to you, but he is asleep.'

'A happy circumstance,' said Arthur, who was leaning over the back of
her sofa.

'No one else can get in a word when that gentleman is awake.'

'Now, Arthur, I wanted his uncle to see him, and say if he is not
grown.'

'Never mind, Violet,' said Arthur. 'Nurse vouches for it, that the
child who was put through his mother's wedding-ring grew up to be six
feet high!'

'Now, Arthur! you know it was only her bracelet.'

'Well, then, our boy ought to be twelve feet high; for if you had not
stuffed him out with long clothes, you might put two of him through
your bracelet.'

'If nurse would but have measured him; but she said it was unlucky.'

'She would have no limits to her myths; however, he may make a show
in the world by the time John comes to the christening.'

'Ah!' said Violet, with a sweet, timid expression, and a shade of red
just tinting her cheek as she turned to John. 'Arthur said I should
ask you to be his godfather.'

'My first godchild!' said John. 'Thank you, indeed; you could hardly
have given me a greater pleasure.'

'Thank you,' again said Violet. 'I like so much for you to have
him,--you who,' she hesitated, unable to say the right words, 'who
DID IT before his papa or I saw the little fellow;' then pausing--'
Oh, Mr. Martindale, Sarah told me all about it, and I have been
longing to thank you, only I can't!' and her eyes filling with tears,
she put her hand into his, glancing at the cathedral cup, which was
placed on the mantel-shelf. 'It was so kind of you to take that.'

'I thought you would like it,' said John; 'and it was the most
ecclesiastical thing I could find.'

'I little thought it would be my Johnnie's font,' said Violet,
softly. 'I shall always feel that I have a share in him beyond my
fellow-sponsors.'

'O, yes, he belongs to you,' said Violet; 'besides his other
godfather will only be Colonel Harrington, and his godmother--you
have written to ask your sister, have you not, Arthur?'

'I'd as soon ask Aunt Nesbit,' exclaimed Arthur, 'I do believe one
cares as much as the other.'

'You must send for me when you are well enough to take him to
church,' said John.

'That I will. I wish you could stay for it. He will be a month old
to-morrow week, but it may wait, I hope, till I can go with him.
I must soon get down-stairs again!'

'Ah! you will find the draught trap mended,' said Arthur. 'Brown set
to work on it, and the doors shut as tight as a new boot.'

'I am often amused to see Brown scent out and pursue a draught,' said
John.

'I have been avoiding Brown ever since Friday,' said Arthur; 'when he
met me with a serious "Captain Martindale, sir," and threatened me
with your being laid up for the year if I kept you here. I told him
it was his fault for letting you come home so early, and condoled
with him on your insubordination.'

'Ah! Violet does not know what order Sarah keeps you in?' retorted
John.

'I am afraid you have both been very uncomfortable!'

'No, not in the least, Sarah is a paragon, I assure you.'

'She has been very kind to me, but so has every one. No one was ever
so well nursed! You must know what a perfect nurse Arthur is!'

Arthur laughed. 'John! Why he would as soon be nursed by a monkey
as by me. There he lies on a perfect bank of pillows, coughs
whenever you speak to him, and only wants to get rid of every one but
Brown. Nothing but consideration for Brown induces him to allow my
father or Percy Fotheringham now and then to sit up.'

'A comfortable misanthropical picture,' said John, 'but rather too
true. You see, Violet, what talents you have brought out.'

Violet was stroking her husband's hand, and looking very proud and
happy. 'Only I was so selfish! Does not he look very pale still?'

'That is not your fault so much as that of some one else,' said John.
'Some one who declares smoking cigars in his den down-stairs
refreshes him more than a sensible walk.'

'Of course,' said Arthur, 'it is only ladies, and men who have nursed
themselves as long as you have, who ever go out for a
constitutional.'

'He will be on duty to-morrow,' said Violet, 'and so he will be
obliged to go out.'

'And you will write to me, Violet,' said John, 'when you are ready?
I wish I could expect to hear how you get on, but it is vain to hope
for letters from Arthur.'

'I know,' said Violet; 'but only think how good he has been to write
to mamma for me. I was so proud when he brought me the letter to
sign.'

'Have you any message for me to take?' said John, rising.

'No, thank you--only to thank Lord and Lady Martindale for their kind
messages. And oh'--but checking herself--'No, you won't see them.'

'Whom?'

'Lady Elizabeth and Emma. I had such a kind letter from them. So
anxious about me, and begging me to let some one write; and I am
afraid they'll think it neglectful; but I turn giddy if I sit up, and
when I can write, the first letter must be for mamma. So if there is
any communication with Rickworth, could you let them know that I am
getting better, and thank them very much!'

'Certainly. I will not fail to let them know. Good-bye, Violet,
I am glad to have seen you.'

'Good-bye. I hope your cough will be better,' said Violet.

He retained her hand a moment, looked at her fixedly, the sorrowful
expression returned, and he hastened away in silence.

Arthur followed, and presently coming back said, 'Poor John! You put
him so much in mind of Helen.'

'Poor Mr. Martindale!' exclaimed Violet. 'Am I like her?'

'Not a bit,' said Arthur. 'Helen had light hair and eyes, a fat sort
of face, and no pretence to be pretty--a downright sort of person,
not what you would fancy John's taste. If any one else had compared
you it would have been no compliment; but he told me you had reminded
him of her from the first, and now your white cheeks and sick dress
recalled her illness so much, that he could hardly bear it. But
don't go and cry about it.'

'No, I won't,' said Violet, submissively, 'but I am afraid it did not
suit him for us to be talking nonsense. It is so very sad.'

'Poor John! so it is,' said Arthur, looking at her, as if beginning
to realize what his brother had lost. 'However, she was not his
wife, though, after all, they were almost as much attached. He has
not got over it in the least. This is the first time I have known
him speak of it, and he could not get out her name.'

'It is nearly two years ago.'

'Nearly. She died in June. It was that cold late summer, and her
funeral was in the middle of a hail-storm, horridly chilly.'

'Where was she buried?'

'At Brogden. Old Mr. Fotheringham was buried there, and she was
brought there. I came home for it. What a day it was--the
hailstones standing on the grass, and I shall never forget poor
John's look--all shivering and shrunk up together.' He shivered at
the bare remembrance. 'It put the finishing touch to the damage he
had got by staying in England with her all the winter. By night he
was frightfully ill--inflammation worse than ever. Poor John! That
old curmudgeon of a grandfather has much to answer for, though you
ought to be grateful to him, Violet; for I suppose it will end in
that boy of yours being his lordship some time or other.'

The next morning was a brisk one with Violet. She wished Arthur not
to be anxious about leaving her, and having by no means ceased to
think it a treat to see him in uniform, she gloried in being carried
to her sofa by so grand and soldierly a figure, and uttered her
choicest sentence of satisfaction--'It is like a story!' while his
epaulette was scratching her cheek.

'I don't know how to trust you to your own silly devices,' said he,
laying her down, and lingering to settle her pillows and shawls.

'Wise ones,' said she. 'I have so much to do. There's baby--and
there's Mr. Harding to come, and I want to see the cook--and I should
not wonder if I wrote to mamma. So you see 'tis woman's work, and
you had better not bring your red coat home too soon, or you'll have
to finish the letter!' she added, with saucy sweetness.

On his return, he found her spread all over with papers, her little
table by her side, with the drawer pulled out.

'Ha! what mischief are you up to? You have not got at those
abominable accounts again!'

'I beg your pardon,' said she, humbly. 'Nurse would not let me speak
to the cook, but said instead I might write to mamma; so I sent for
my little table, but I found the drawer in such disorder, that I was
setting it to rights. Who can have meddled with it!'

'I can tell you that,' said Arthur. 'I ran against it, and it came
to grief, and there was a spread of all your goods and chattels on
the floor.'

'Oh! I am so glad! I was afraid some of the servants had been at
it.'

'What! aren't you in a desperate fright? All your secrets displayed
like a story, as you are so fond of saying--what's the name of it--
where the husband, no, it was the wife, fainted away, and broke open
the desk with her head.'

'My dear Arthur!' and Violet laughed so much that nurse in the next
room foreboded that he would tire her.

'I vow it was so! Out came a whole lot of letters from the old love,
a colonel in the Peninsula, that her husband had never heard of,--an
old lawyer he was.'

'The husband? What made her marry him?'

'They were all ruined horse and foot, and the old love was wounded,
"kilt", or disposed of, till he turned up, married to her best
friend.'

'What became of her?'

'I forget--there was a poisoning and a paralytic stroke in it.'

'Was there! How delightful! How I should like to read it. What was
its name?'

'I don't remember. It was a green railway book. Theodora made me
read it, and I should know it again if I saw it. I'll look out for
it, and you'll find I was right about her head. But how now.
Haven't you fainted away all this time?'

'No; why should I?'

'How do you know what I may have discovered in your papers? Are you
prepared? It is no laughing matter,' added he, in a Blue Beard tone,
and drawing out the paper of calculations, he pointed to the tear
marks. 'Look here. What's this, I say, what's this, you naughty
child?'

'I am sorry! it was very silly,' whispered Violet, in a contrite
ashamed way, shrinking back a little.

'What business had you to break your heart over these trumpery
butchers and bakers and candlestick makers?'

'Only candles, dear Arthur,' said Violet, meekly, as if in
extenuation.

'But what on earth could you find to cry about?'

'It was very foolish! but I was in such a dreadful puzzle. I could
not make the cook's accounts and mine agree, and I wanted to be sure
whether she really--'

'Cheated!' exclaimed Arthur. 'Well, that's a blessing!'

'What is?' asked the astonished Violet.

'That I have cleared the house of that intolerable woman!'

'The cook gone!' cried Violet, starting, so that her papers slid
away, and Arthur shuffled them up in his hand in renewed confusion.
'The cook really gone? Oh! I am so glad!'

'Capital!' cried Arthur. 'There was John declaring you would be in
despair to find your precious treasure gone.'

'Oh! I never was more glad! Do tell me! Why did she go?'

'I had a skrimmage with her about some trout Fitzhugh sent, which I
verily believe she ate herself.'

'Changed with the fishmonger!'

'I dare say. She sent us in some good-for-nothing wretches, all mud,
and vowed these were stale--then grew impertinent.'

'And talked about the first families?'

'Exactly so, and when it came to telling me Mrs. Martindale was her
mistress, I could stand no more. I paid her her wages, and
recommended her to make herself scarce.'

'When did it happen?'

'Rather more than a fortnight ago.'

Violet laughed heartily. 'O-ho! there's the reason nurse scolds if
I dare to ask to speak to the cook. And oh! how gravely Sarah said
"yes, ma'am," to all my messages! How very funny! But how have we
been living? When I am having nice things all day long, and giving
so much trouble! Oh dear! How uncomfortable you must have been, and
your brother too!'

'Am I not always telling you to the contrary? Sarah made everything
look as usual, and I suspect Brown lent a helping hand. John said
the coffee was made in some peculiar way Brown learnt in the East,
and never practises unless John is very ill, or they are in some
uncivilized place; but he told me to take no notice, lest Brown
should think it infra dig.'

'I'm afraid he thought this an uncivilized place. But what a woman
Sarah is! She has all the work of the house, and yet she seems to me
to be here as much as nurse!'

'She has got the work of ten horses in her, with the face of a
death's head, and the voice of a walking sepulchre!'

'But isn't she a thorough good creature! I can't think what will
become of me without her! It will be like parting with a friend.'

'What would you part with her for? I thought she was the sheet-
anchor.'

'That she is; but she won't stay where there are children. She told
me so long ago, and only stayed because I begged her for the present.
She will go when I am well.'

'Better give double wages to keep her,' said Arthur.

'I'd do anything I could, but I'm afraid. I was quite dreading the
getting about again, because I should have to lose Sarah, and to do
something or other with that woman.'

'What possessed you to keep her?'

'I wasn't sure about her. Your aunt recommended her, and I thought
you might not like--and at first I did not know what things ought to
cost, nor how long they ought to last, and that was what I did sums
for. Then when I did prove it, I saw only dishonesty in the kitchen,
and extravagance and mismanagement of my own.'

'So the little goose sat and cried!'

'I could not help it. I felt I was doing wrong; that was the
terrible part; and I am glad you know the worst. I have been very
weak and silly, and wasted your money sadly, and I did not know how
to help it; and that was what made me so miserable. And now, dear
Arthur, only say you overlook my blunders, and indeed I'll try to do
better.'

'Overlook! The only thing I don't know how to forgive is your having
made yourself so ill with this nonsense.'

'I can't be sorry for that,' said Violet, smiling, though the tears
came. 'That has been almost all happiness. I shall have the heart
to try more than ever--and I have some experience; and now that cook
is gone, I really shall get on.'

'Promise me you'll never go bothering yourself for nothing another
time. Take it easy! That's the only way to get through the world.'

'Ah! I will never be so foolish again. I shall never be afraid to
make you attend to my difficulties.'

'Afraid! That was the silliest part of all! But here--will you have
another hundred a year at once? and then there'll be no trouble.'

'Thank you, thank you! How kind of you! But do you know, I should
like to try with what I have. I see it might be made to do, and I
want to conquer the difficulty; if I can't, I will ask you for more.'

'Well, that may be best. I could hardly spare a hundred pounds
without giving up one of the horses; and I want to see you riding
again.'

'Besides, this illness must have cost you a terrible quantity of
money. But I dare say I shall find the outgoings nothing to what the
cook made them.' And she was taking up the accounts, when he seized
them, crumpling them in his hand. 'Nonsense! Let them alone, or I
shall put them in the fire at once.'

'Oh, don't do that, pray!' cried she, starting, 'or I shall be
ruined. Oh, pray!'

'Very well;' and rising, and making a long arm, he deposited them on
the top of a high wardrobe. 'There's the way to treat obstinate
women. You may get them down when you can go after them--I shan't.'

'Ah! there's baby awake!'

'So, I shall go after that book at the library; and then I've plenty
to tell you of inquiries for Mrs. Martindale. Good-bye, again.'

Violet received her babe into her arms with a languid long-drawn
sigh, as of one wearied out with happiness. 'That he should have
heard my confession, and only pet me the more! Foolish, wasteful
thing that I am. Oh, babe! if I could only make you grow and thrive,
no one would ever be so happy as your mamma.'

Perhaps she thought so still more some hours later, when she awoke
from a long sleep, and saw Arthur reading "Emilia Wyndham", and quite
ready to defend his assertion that the wife broke open the desk with
her head.

CHAPTER 3

But there was one fairy who was offended because she was not invited
to the Christening.--MOTHER BUNCH

Theodora had spent the winter in trying not to think of her brother.

She read, she tried experiments, she taught at the school, she
instructed the dumb boy, talked to the curate, and took her share of
such county gaieties as were not beneath the house of Martindale; but
at every tranquil moment came the thought, 'What are Arthur and his
wife doing!'

There were rumours of the general admiration of Mrs. Martindale,
whence she deduced vanity and extravagance; but she heard nothing
more till Jane Gardner, a correspondent, who persevered in spite of
scanty and infrequent answers, mentioned her call on poor Mrs.
Martindale, who, she said, looked sadly altered, unwell, and out of
spirits. Georgina had tried to persuade her to come out, but without
success; she ought to have some one with her, for she seemed to be a
good deal alone, and no doubt it was trying; but, of course, she
would soon have her mother with her.

He leaves her alone--he finds home dull! Poor Arthur! A moment of
triumph was followed by another of compunction, since this was not a
doll that he was neglecting, but a living creature, who could feel
pain. But the anticipation of meeting Mrs. Moss, after all those
vows against her, and the idea of seeing his house filled with vulgar
relations, hardened Theodora against the wife, who had thus gained
her point.

Thus came the morning, when her father interrupted breakfast with an
exclamation of dismay, and John's tidings were communicated.

I wish I had been kind to her! shot across Theodora's mind with acute
pain, and the image of Arthur in grief swallowed up everything else.
'I will go with you, papa--you will go at once!'

'Poor young thing!' said Lord Martindale; 'she was as pretty a
creature as I ever beheld, and I do believe, as good. Poor Arthur,
I am glad he has John with him.'

Lady Martindale wondered how John came there,--and remarks ensued on
his imprudence in risking a spring in England. To Theodora this
seemed indifference to Arthurs distress, and she impatiently urged
her father to take her to him at once.

He would not have delayed had Arthur been alone; but since John was
there, he thought their sudden arrival might be more encumbering than
consoling, and decided to wait for a further account, and finish
affairs that he could not easily leave.

Theodora believed no one but herself could comfort Arthur, and was
exceedingly vexed. She chafed against her father for attending to
his business--against her mother for thinking of John; and was in
charity with no one except Miss Piper, who came out of Mrs. Nesbit's
room red with swallowing down tears, and with the under lady's-maid,
who could not help begging to hear if Mrs. Martindale was so ill, for
Miss Standaloft said, 'My lady had been so nervous and hysterical in
her own room, that she had been forced to give her camphor and sal
volatile.'

Never had Theodora been more surprised than to hear this of the
mother whom she only knew as calm, majestic, and impassible. With a
sudden impulse, she hastened to her room. She was with Mrs. Nesbit,
and Theodora following, found her reading aloud, without a trace of
emotion. No doubt it was a figment of Miss Standaloft, and there was
a sidelong glance of satisfaction in her aunt's eyes, which made
Theodora so indignant, that she was obliged to retreat without a
word.

Her own regret and compassion for so young a creature thus cut off
were warm and keen, especially when the next post brought a new and
delightful hope, the infant, of whose life John had yesterday
despaired, was said to be improving. Arthur's child! Here was a
possession for Theodora, an object for the affections so long
yearning for something to love. She would bring it home, watch over
it, educate it, be all the world to Arthur, doubly so for his son's
sake. She dreamt of putting his child into his arms, and bidding him
live for it, and awoke clasping the pillow!

What were her feelings when she heard Violet was out of danger? For
humanity's sake and for Arthur's, she rejoiced; but it was the
downfall of a noble edifice. 'How that silly young mother would
spoil the poor child!'

'My brothers' had always been mentioned in Theodora's prayer, from
infancy. It was the plural number, but the strength and fervency of
petition were reserved for one; and with him she now joined the name
of his child. But how pray for the son without the mother? It was
positively a struggle; for Theodora had a horror of mockery and
formality; but the duty was too clear, the evil which made it
distasteful, too evident, not to be battled with; she remembered that
she ought to pray for all mankind, even those who had injured her,
and, on these terms, she added her brother's wife. It was not much
from her heart; a small beginning, but still it was a beginning, that
might be blessed in time.

Lord Martindale wished the family to have gone to London immediately,
but Mrs. Nesbit set herself against any alteration in their plans
being made for the sake of Arthur's wife. They were to have gone
only in time for the first drawing-room, and she treated as a
personal injury the proposal to leave her sooner than had been
originally intended; making her niece so unhappy that Lord Martindale
had to yield. John's stay in London was a subject of much anxiety;
and while Mrs. Nesbit treated it as an absurd trifling with his own
health, and his father reproached himself for being obliged to leave
Arthur to him, Theodora suffered from complicated jealousy. Arthur
seemed to want John more than her, John risked himself in London, in
order to be with Arthur and his wife.

She was very eager for his coming; and when she expected the return
of the carriage which was sent to meet him at the Whitford station,
she betook herself to the lodge, intending him to pick her up there,
that she might skim the cream of his information.

The carriage appeared, but it seemed empty. That dignified,
gentlemanly personage, Mr. Brown, alighted from the box, and advanced
with affability, replying to her astonished query, 'Mr. Martindale
desired me to say he should be at home by dinner-time, ma'am. He
left the train at the Enderby station, and is gone round by Rickworth
Priory, with a message from Mrs. Martindale to Lady Elizabeth
Brandon.'

Theodora stood transfixed; and Brown, a confidential and cultivated
person, thought she waited for more information.

'Mr. Martindale has not much cough, ma'am, and I hope coming out of
London will remove it entirely. I think it was chiefly excitement
and anxiety that brought on a recurrence of it, for his health is
decidedly improved. He desired me to mention that Mrs. Martindale is
much better. She is on the sofa to-day for the first time; and he
saw her before leaving.'

'Do you know how the little boy is?' Theodora could not help asking.

'He is a little stronger, thank you, ma'am,' said Brown, with much
interest; 'he has cried less these last few days. He is said to be
extremely like Mrs. Martindale.'

Brown remounted to his place, the carriage drove on, and Theodora
impetuously walked along the avenue.

'That man is insufferable! Extremely like Mrs. Martindale!
Servants' gossip! How could I go and ask him? John has perfectly
spoilt a good servant in him! But John spoils everybody. The notion
of that girl sending him on her messages! John, who is treated like
something sacred by my father and mother themselves! Those damp
Rickworth meadows! How could Arthur allow it? It would serve him
right if he was to marry Emma Brandon after all!'

She would not go near her mother, lest she should give her aunt the
pleasure of hearing where he was gone; but as she was coming down,
dressed for dinner, she met her father in the hall, uneasily asking
a servant whether Mr. Martindale was come.

'Arthur's wife has sent him with a message to Rickworth,' she said.

'John? You don't mean it. You have not seen him?'

'No; he went round that way, and sent Brown home. He said he should
be here by dinner-time, but it is very late. Is it not a strange
proceeding of hers, to be sending him about the country!'

'I don't understand it. Where's Brown?'

'Here's a fly coming up the avenue. He is come at last.'

Lord Martindale hastened down the steps; Theodora came no further
than the door, in so irritated a state that she did not like John's
cheerful alacrity of step and greeting. 'She is up to-day, she is
getting better,' were the first words she heard. 'Well, Theodora,
how are you?' and he kissed her with more warmth than she returned.

'Did I hear you had been to Rickworth?' said his father.

'Yes; I sent word by Brown. Poor Violet is still so weak that she
cannot write, and the Brandons have been anxious about her; so she
asked me to let them know how she was, if I had the opportunity, and
I came round that way. I wanted to know when they go to London; for
though Arthur is as attentive as possible, I don't think Violet is in
a condition to be left entirely to him. When do you go?'

'Not till the end of May--just before the drawing-room,' said Lord
Martindale.

'I go back when they can take the boy to church. Is my mother in the
drawing-room? I'll just speak to her, and dress--it is late I see.'

'How well he seems,' said Lord Martindale, as John walked quickly on
before.

'There was a cough,' said Theodora.

'Yes; but so cheerful. I have not seen him so animated for years.
He must be better!'

His mother was full of delight. 'My dear John, you look so much
better! Where have you been?'

'At Rickworth. I went to give Lady Elizabeth an account of Violet.
She is much better.'

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