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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 5 out of 15

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not anxious about him. He has L300 a year of his own, and plenty of
resources,--besides, the baronetcy must come to him. He can afford
to do as he pleases.'

'What a noble character he must be!' said Violet; 'it is like a
story. How old is he?'

'About nine-and-twenty. I am glad you should see him. He is a very
amusing fellow.'

'How clever he must be!'

'The cleverest man I know. I hope he will come soon. I should like
to have a little time with him before my winter migration. We have
not met since he was obliged to return, a fortnight after her death,
when I little expected ever to see him again.'

This prospect seemed to set John's mind more than ever on Helen, as
if he wanted to talk over her brother's conduct with her, and was
imagining her sentiments on it.

He spoke much of her in the day, and in the evening brought down a
manuscript-book.

'I should like to read some of this to you,' he said. 'She had so
few events in her life at Elsdale that her letters, written to occupy
me when I was laid up, became almost a journal of her thoughts. I
copied out some parts to carry about with me; and perhaps you would
like to hear some of them.'

'Indeed, I should, thank you, if you ought to read aloud.'

He turned over the pages, and seemed to be trying whether he could
bear to read different passages; but he gave up one after another,
and nearly half-an-hour had passed before he began.

'February 20. It was the winter after her coming to Martindale.'

'This morning was a pattern one for February, and I went out before
the brightness was passed, and had several turns in the walled
garden. I am afraid you will never be able to understand the
pleasantness of such a morning. Perhaps you will say the very
description makes you shiver, but I must tell you how beautiful it
was. The frost last night was not sharp, but just sufficient to
detain the dew till the sun could turn it into diamonds. There were
some so brilliant, glancing green or red in different lights, they
were quite a study. It is pleasant to think that this pretty frost
is not adorning the plants with unwholesome beauty, though the poor
little green buds of currant and gooseberry don't like it, and the
pairs of woodbine leaves turn in their edges. It is doing them good
against their will, keeping them from spreading too soon. I fancied
it like early troubles, keeping baptismal dew fresh and bright; and
those jewels of living light went on to connect themselves with the
radiant coronets of some whom the world might call blighted in--'

It had brought on one of his severe fits of coughing. Violet was
going to ring for Brown, but he stopped her by a sign, which he tried
to make reassuring. It was worse, and lasted longer than the former
one, and exhausted him so much, that he had to rest on the sofa
cushions before he could recover breath. At last, in a very low
voice, he said,

'There, it is of no use to try.'

'I hope you are better; pray don't speak; only will you have
anything?'

'No, thank you; lying still will set me to rights. It is only that
these coughs leave a pain--nothing to mind.'

He settled himself on the sofa, not without threatenings of a return
of cough, and Violet arranged the cushions, concerned at his trying
to thank her. After a silence, he began to breathe more easily, and
said,

'Will you read me the rest of that?'

She gave him the book to find the place, and then read--

'The world might call them blighted in their early bloom, and
deprived of all that life was bestowed for; but how different is the
inner view, and how glorious the thought of the numbers of quiet,
commonplace sufferers in homely life, like my currant and gooseberry
bushes, who have found their frost has preserved their dewdrops to be
diamonds for ever. If this is too fanciful, don't read it, but I go
rambling on as the notions come into my head, and if you only get a
laugh at my dreamings, they will have been of some use to you.'

'How beautiful!' said Violet; 'how you must have liked receiving such
letters!'

'Yes; the greatest blank in the day is post time.'

He held out his hand for the book, and found another passage for her.

'I have been thinking how kindly that sentence is framed: "Casting
all your care on Him." All, as if we might have been afraid to lay
before Him our petty perplexities. It is the knowing we are cared
for in detail, that is the comfort; and that when we have honestly
done our best in little things, our Father will bless them, and fill
up our shortcomings.

'That dressmaker must have been a happy woman, who never took home
her work without praying that it might fit. I always liked that
story particularly, as it shows how the practical life in the most
trivial round can be united with thus casting all our care upon Him--
the being busy in our own station with choosing the good part. I
suppose it is as a child may do its own work in a manufactory, not
concerning itself for the rest; or a coral-worm make its own cell,
not knowing what branches it is helping to form, or what an island it
is raising. What a mercy that we have only to try to do right from
moment to moment, and not meddle with the future!'

'Like herself,' said John.

'I never thought of such things,' said Violet. 'I never thought
little matters seemed worth treating in this way.'

'Everything that is a duty or a grief must be worth it,' said John.
'Consider the worthlessness of what we think most important in That
Presence. A kingdom less than an ant's nest in comparison. But,
here, I must show you a more everyday bit. It was towards the end,
when she hardly ever left her grandfather, and I had been writing to
urge her to spare herself.'

Violet read--

'You need not be afraid, dear John; I am quite equal to all I have to
do. Fatigue never knocks me up, which is a great blessing; and I can
sleep anywhere at the shortest notice. Indeed, I don't know what
should tire me, for there is not even any running up and down stairs;
and as to spirits, you would not think them in danger if you heard
how I talk parish matters to the curate, and gossip with the doctor,
till grandpapa brightens, and I have to shout an abstract of the news
into his ear. It is such a treat to bring that flash of intelligence
on his face--and it has not been so rare lately; he seems now and
then to follow one of the Psalms, as I read them to him at intervals
through the day. Then for pastime, there is no want of that, with
the two windows looking out different ways. I can't think how you
could forget my two beautiful windows--one with a view of the back
door for my dissipation, and the other with the garden, and the
varieties of trees and the ever-changing clouds. I never look out
without finding some entertainment; my last sight was a long-tailed
titmouse, popping into the yew tree, and setting me to think of the
ragged fir tree at Brogden, with you and Percy spying up, questioning
whether golden-crest or long-tailed pye lived in the dome above. No,
no; don't waste anxiety upon me. I am very happy, and have
everything to be thankful for.'

'"My mind to me a kingdom is," she might have said,' observed John.

'She might indeed. How beautiful! How ashamed it does make one of
oneself!'

So they continued, he choosing passages, which she read aloud, till
the evening was over, when he asked her whether she would like to
look through the book?'

'That I should, but you had rather I did not.'

'Yes, I do wish you to read it, and to know Helen. There is nothing
there is any objection to your seeing. I wrote them out partly for
Percy's sake. Your reading these to me has been very pleasant.'

'It has been so to me, I am sure. I do not know how to thank you;
only I am grieved that you have hurt yourself. I hope you are better
now.'

'Yes, thank you; I shall be quite right in the morning.'

His voice was, however, so weak, and he seemed so uncomfortable, that
Violet was uneasy; and as Brown lighted her candle in the hall, she
paused to consult him, and found that, though concerned, he did not
apprehend any bad consequences, saying that these attacks were often
brought on by a chill, or by any strong excitement; he had no doubt
this was occasioned by hearing of Mr. Fotheringham's intended return;
indeed, he had thought Mr. Martindale looking flushed and excited all
day.

Never did charge appear more precious than those extracts. She had
an enthusiastic veneration for Helen, and there was a youthful,
personal feeling for her, which made her apply the words and admire
them far more than if they had been in print. As she dwelt upon
them, the perception grew on her, that not only was it a duty to
strive for contentment, but that to look on all trials as crosses to
be borne daily, was the only way to obtain it.

Helen's many homely trials and petty difficulties were what came to
her chiefly as examples and encouragements, and she began to make
resolutions on her own account.

Yet, one day, when Arthur was expected and did not come, she conjured
up so many alarms, that it was well that consideration for her
companion obliged her to let him divert her mind.

The next day John led her to the beach, and set her to find rare sea-
weeds for his mother. The charm of the pursuit, the curling tide,
the occasional peeps at Johnnie as he was paraded, serene and sleepy,
in Sarah's arms, made time speed so fast that she was taken by
surprise when voices hailed them, and she beheld Arthur and his
father.

No wedding-day being in the case, Arthur had gladly put off his
coming on a proposal from his father to accompany him, see John's
menage, and be introduced to his grandson.

Much more warmly than in former times did Lord Martindale greet his
daughter-in-law, and quickly he asked for the baby. In spite of the
doctor's prognostications, the little fellow had begun to mend, and
he looked his best, nearly hidden in hood and mantle, and embellished
by his mother's happy face, as she held him in her arms, rejoicing in
the welcome bestowed on the first grandson.

Violet had never been so comfortable with Lord Martindale. There was
the advantage of being the only lady, and he unbent more than he ever
did at home. He had come partly to see what was to be the next
arrangement. Five weeks of London had been almost too much for Lady
Martindale, with whom it never agreed, and who had found a season
with her unmanageable daughter very different from what it had
formerly been, when her aunt arranged everything for her; and the
family were about to return home. Arthur was to bring his wife to
Martindale as soon as his leave began--but this would not be for a
month; and his father, concerned to see her still so delicate,
advised him not to think of her return to London in the hottest part
of the year, and proposed to take her and the baby home with him.
John, however, declared that he should prefer staying on at Ventnor
with her; the place agreed with him, and he liked the quiet for
finishing Percy Fotheringham's work besides, it suited Arthur better
to be able to come backwards and forwards. The only doubt was
whether she was tired of his dull company.

Arthur answered for her, and she was well satisfied, thinking it a
great escape not to have to go to Martindale without him, but afraid
John was giving up a great deal to her, when she must be a very
tiresome companion; at which Arthur laughed, telling her of John's
counter fears, and adding, that he had never seen his brother in such
good spirits in all his life--he was now actually like other people.

Lord Martindale also feared that John found his undertaking
wearisome, and talked it over with him, saying it was very kind of
him, very good for Arthur's wife; but was she society enough? 'Would
he not like to have Theodora to relieve him of the charge, and be
more of a companion?'

'Thank you,' said John, 'we shall be very glad to have Theodora, if
she likes to come. It is a very good opportunity for them to grow
intimate.'

'I'll send her next time Arthur comes.'

'But you must not think it an act of compassion, as if Violet was on
my hands. She is a particularly agreeable person, and we do very
well together. In fact, I have enjoyed this time very much; and
Theodora must not think herself obliged to come for my sake, as if
I wanted help.'

'I understand,' said his father; 'and of course it will depend on
what engagements they have made; but I should be very glad she should
be more with you, and if she saw more of Arthur's wife, it might
detach her from those friends of hers. I cannot think how it is
Theodora is not disgusted with Mrs. Finch! It is a comfort, after
all, that Arthur did not marry Miss Gardner!'

'A great one!'

'This girl has simplicity and gentleness at least, poor thing,'
continued Lord Martindale; 'and I am quite of your opinion, John,
that marriage has improved him greatly. I never saw him so free from
nonsense. Strangely as it has come about, this may be the making of
him. I only wish I could see her and the poor child looking
stronger. I will send your sister, by all means.'

So Lord Martindale returned, and proposed the plan to his daughter.
At first, she was flattered at being wanted, and graciously replied,
'Poor John, he must want some variety.'

'Not exactly that,' said her father. 'They are so comfortable
together, it is a pleasure to see them. I should like to stay there
myself, and it is a very agreeable scheme for you.'

'I was considering my engagements,' said Theodora. 'Of course, if I
am really wanted, everything must be put aside.'

'John desired you would not think it an act of charity,' said her
father. 'He says he finds her a most agreeable companion, and you
need only look upon it as a pleasant scheme for all parties.'

'Oh,' said Theodora, in a different tone.

'He said you were not to put yourself out of the way. He would be
very glad of your company, and it will be very good for you all to be
together.'

'Oh! then I don't think it is worth while for me to go,' said
Theodora. 'I am much obliged to John, but I should only interfere
with his course of education.'

'Not go?' said her father.

No, there is no occasion; and I wish to be at home as soon as I
can.'

'Well, my dear, you must decide your own way, but I thought you would
be glad of the opportunity of being with John, and I should be glad,
too, that you should see more of your sister. She is a very engaging
person, and I am sure you would find her a more satisfactory
companion than Mrs. Finch.'

After this speech, Theodora would have suffered considerably rather
than have gone.

'They will soon be at Martindale,' she said, 'and I cannot stay
longer away from the village.'

'I wish at least that you would go down as I did for a day with
Arthur. You would enjoy it, and it would give them all pleasure.
Indeed, I think it would only be a proper piece of attention on your
part.'

She made no answer, but the next time Arthur was going, she instantly
stopped all her father's arrangements for her accompanying him, by
saying she was going to a lecture on electricity; then, when Lord
Martindale began asking if Arthur could not change his day, she
majestically said, 'No, Arthur would not disappoint Mrs. Martindale
on my account.'

'If you would go, Theodora,' said Arthur, eagerly, 'Violet would not
mind waiting. She would be specially pleased to show you the boy.
It is very jolly there.'

The first time he had spoken to her of his three months' old son.
If she had not been in a dire fit of sullen jealousy, it would have
softened as much as it thrilled her, but she had the notion that she
was not wanted, except to do homage to the universally-petted Violet.

'I cannot spare a day.'

So Arthur was vexed, and the frost was harder. John had not much
expected Theodora, and was more sorry for her sake than his own.
The last month was still better than the first, the brother and
sister understood each other more fully, and their confidence had
become thoroughly confirmed. The baby had taken a start, as Sarah
called it, left off unreasonable crying, sat up, laughed and stared
about with a sharp look of inquiry in his dark eyes and tiny thin
face, so ridiculously like his grandfather, Mr. Moss, that his mother
could not help being diverted with the resemblance, except when she
tormented herself with the fear that the likeness was unpleasing to
Arthur, if perchance he remarked it; but he looked so little at the
child, that she often feared he did not care for him personally,
though he had a certain pride in him as son and heir.

Violet herself, though still delicate and requiring care, had
recovered her looks and spirits, and much of her strength, and John
walked and conversed more than he had done for years, did not shrink
from the society of the few families they were acquainted with, and
seemed to have derived as much benefit from his kind scheme as the
objects of it. In fact his hopes and affections were taking a fresh
spring--the effects of his kindness to Arthur and Violet had shown
him that he could be useful to others, and he thus discovered what he
had missed in his indulged life, crossed in but one respect--he saw
that he had set himself aside from family duties, as well as from the
more active ones that his health prohibited, and with a feeling at
once of regret and invigoration, he thought over the course that lay
open to him, and soon began to form plans and discuss them with his
ever ready listener. His foreign winters need no longer be useless,
he proposed to go to Barbuda to look after his mother's estates--
indeed, it seemed so obvious that when he once thought of it he could
not imagine why it had never occurred to him before; it would save
his father the voyage, and when he and Violet began to figure to
themselves the good that could be done there, they grew animated and
eager in their castles.

That month sped fast away, and their drives were now last visits to
the places that had charmed them at first. Their work was prepared
for Mr. Fotheringham's inspection, and Violet having copied out her
favourite passages of Helen's book, returned it on the last evening.
'I don't think I half understand all she says, though I do admire it
so much, and wish I was like it.'

'You will be, you are in the way.'

'You don't know how foolish I am,' said Violet, almost as if he was
disrespectful to Helen.

'Helen was once seventeen,' said John, smiling.

'Oh, but I have no patience. I fret and tease myself, and fancy all
sorts of things, instead of trusting as she did. I don't know how to
do so.'

'I know how weakness brings swarming harassing thoughts,' said John;
'it is well for us that there are so many external helps to patience
and confidence.'

'Ah! that is what shows how bad I am,' said Violet, despondingly.
'I never keep my mind in order at church, yet I am sure I was more
unreasonably discontented when I was not able to go.'

'Which shows it is of use to you. Think of it not only as a duty
that must be fulfilled, but watch for refreshment from it, and you
will find it come.'

'Ah! I have missed all the great festivals this year. I have not
stayed to the full service since I was at Rickworth, and what is
worse, I do not dislike being prevented,' said Violet, falteringly;
as if she must say the words, 'I don't like staying alone.'

'You must conquer that,' said John, earnestly. 'That feeling must
never keep you away. Your continuance is the best hope of bringing
him; your leaving off would be fatal to you both. I should almost
like you to promise never to keep away because he did.'

'I think I can promise,' said Violet, faintly. 'It is only what
mamma has always had to do; and, last Christmas, it did keep me away.
I did think then he would have come; and when I found he did not--
then I was really tired--but I know I could have stayed--but I made
it an excuse, and went away.' The tears began to flow. 'I thought
of it again when I was ill; and afterwards when I found out how
nearly I had been dying, it was frightful. I said to myself, I would
not miss again; but I have never had the opportunity since I have
been well.'

'It is monthly at home,' said John. 'Only try to look to it as a
favour and a comfort, as I said about church-going, but in a still
higher degree--not merely as a service required from you. Believe it
is a refreshment, and in time you will find it the greatest.'

'I'll try,' she said, in a low, melancholy voice; 'but I never feel
as good people do.'

'You have had more than usual against you,' said John; cares for
which you were not prepared, and weakness to exaggerate them; but you
will have had a long rest, and I hope may be more equal to the tasks
of daily life.'

They were interrupted by tea being brought; and the conversation
continued in a less serious style.

'Our last tea-drinking,' said John. 'Certainly, it has been very
pleasant here.'

'This island, that I thought so far away, and almost in foreign
parts,' said Violet, smiling; 'I hope it has cured me of foolish
terrors.'

'You will bravely make up your mind to Martindale.'

'I shall like to show Johnnie the peacock,' said Violet, in a tone as
if seeking for some pleasant anticipation.

John laughed, and said, 'Poor Johnnie! I shall like to see him there
in his inheritance.'

'Dear little man! I hope his grandfather will think him grown. I am
glad they did not see him while he was so tiny and miserable. I am
sure they must like him now, he takes so much notice.'

'You must not be disappointed if my mother does not make much of
him,' said John; 'it was not her way with her own.'

Then, as Violet looked aghast, 'You do not know my mother. It
requires a good deal to show what she can be, beneath her distant
manner. I never knew her till two years ago.'

'When you were past thirty!' broke from Violet's lips, in a sort of
horror.

'When I was most in need of comfort,' he answered. 'There has been a
formality and constraint in our life, that has not allowed the
affections their natural play, but indeed they exist. There have
been times when even I distrusted my mother's attachment; but she
could not help it, and it was all the stronger afterwards. Madeira
taught me what she is, away from my aunt.'

'I do hope it is not wrong to feel about Mrs. Nesbit as I do! I am
ready to run away from her. I know she is spying for my faults. Oh!
I cannot like her.'

'That is a very mild version of what I have felt,' said John; 'I
believe she has done us all infinite harm. But I am hardly qualified
to speak; for, from the time she gave up the hope of my being a
credit to the family, she has disliked me, said cutting things, well-
nigh persecuted me. She did harass Helen to give me up; but, after
all, poor woman, I believe I have been a great vexation to her, and I
cannot help being sorry for her. It is a pitiable old age, straining
to keep hold of what used to occupy her, and irritated at her own
failing faculties.'

'I will try to think of that,' said Violet.

'I wonder what powers she will give me over her West Indian property;
I must try,' said John; 'it will make a great difference to my
opportunities of usefulness. I must talk to my father about it.'

'How very kind Theodora is to poor little Miss Piper,' said Violet.

'Yes; that is one of Theodora's best points.'

'Oh! she is so very good; I wish she could endure me.'

'So do I,' said John. 'I have neglected her, and now I reap the
fruits. In that great house at home people live so much apart, that
if they wish to meet, they must seek each other. And I never saw her
as a child but when she came down in the evening, with her great
black eyes looking so large and fierce. As a wild high-spirited girl
I never made acquaintance with her, and now I cannot.'

'But when you were ill this last time, did she not read to you, and
nurse you?'

'That was not permitted; there might have been risk, and besides, as
Arthur says, I only wish to be let alone. I had not then realized
that sympathy accepted for the sake of the giver will turn to the
good of the receiver. No; I have thrown her away as far as I am
concerned; and when I see what noble character and religious feeling
there is with that indomitable pride and temper, I am the more
grieved. Helen walked with her twice or three times when she was at
Martindale, and she told me how much there was in her, but I never
tried to develop it. I thought when Helen was her sister--but that
chance is gone. That intractable spirit will never be tamed but by
affection; but, unluckily, I don't know,' said John, smiling, 'who
would marry Theodora.'

'Oh! how can you say so? She is so like Arthur.'

John laughed. 'No, I give up the hope of a Petruchio.'

'But Mr. Wingfield, I thought--'

'Wingfield!' said John, starting. 'No, no, that's not likely.'

'Nor Lord St. Erme!'

'I hope not. He is fancy-bit, I suppose, but he is not her superior.
Life with him would harden rather than tame her. No. After all,
strangely as she has behaved about him, when she has him in sight, I
suspect there is one person among us more likely to soften her than
any other.'

'Arthur?'

'Arthur's son.'

'Oh! of course, and if she will but love my Johnnie I don't much care
about his mamma.'

CHAPTER 8

In glowing health, with boundless wealth,
But sickening of a vague disease,
You know so ill to deal with time,
You needs must play such pranks as these.--TENNYSON.

In spite of herself, Theodora's heart bounded at the prospect of
having Arthur's child in the house. She visited the babies in the
village, and multiplying their charms by the superior beauty of
Arthur and his wife, proportionably raised her expectations, but, of
course, she betrayed none of her eagerness, and would not give up one
iota of her course of village occupations for the sake of being at
home for the arrival.

Nevertheless, she returned across the park, through burning sunshine,
at double-quick pace, only slackened on seeing a carriage, but it
proved to be her aunt, who was being assisted out of it, and
tottering up the steps with the help of Lady Martindale's arm, while
Miss Piper, coming down to give her assistance, informed them that
the party had arrived about an hour before. The two gentlemen had
gone out, and Mrs. Arthur Martindale was in her own room.

Trembling with eagerness, Theodora followed the tardy steps of her
mother and aunt as they mounted the stairs. As they entered the
gallery, a slender figure advanced to meet them, her apple-blossom
face all smiles, and carrying a thing like a middle-sized doll, if
doll had ever been as bald, or as pinched, or as skinny, or
flourished such spare arms, or clenched such claw-like fingers. Was
this the best she could give Arthur by way of son and heir? Yet she
looked as proud and exulting as if he had been the loveliest of
children, and the little wretch himself had a pert, lively air of
speculation, as if he partook her complacency.

Lady Martindale gave her stately greeting, and Mrs. Nesbit coldly
touched her hand; then Theodora, with some difficulty, pronounced the
words, 'How are you?' and brought herself to kiss Violet's cheek, but
took no apparent notice of the child, and stood apart while her
mother made all hospitable speeches, moving on, so as not to keep
Mrs. Nesbit standing.

Theodora followed her aunt and mother, and as soon as the baize door
was shut on them, Violet hugged her baby closely, whispering, 'No
welcome for the poor little boy! nobody cares for him but his own
mamma! Never mind, my Johnnie, we are not too grand to love each
other.'

Theodora in the meantime could not help exclaiming, 'Poor child!
It is just like a changeling!'

'Don't talk of it, my dear,' said Lady Martindale, with a shudder and
look of suffering. 'Poor little dear! He looks exactly as your poor
little brother did!' and she left the room with a movement far unlike
her usually slow dignified steps.

'Ah!' said her aunt, in a tone between grief and displeasure; 'here's
a pretty business! we must keep him out of her way! Don't you ever
bring him forward, Theodora, to revive all that.'

'What is the meaning of it?' said Theodora. 'I did not know I ever
had another brother.'

'It was long before your time, my dear, but your mamma has never
entirely got over it, though he only lived nine weeks. I would not
have had the recollection recalled on any account. And now John has
brought this child here! If he was to die here I don't know what the
effect on your mamma would be.'

'He is not going to die!' said Theodora, hastily; 'but let me hear of
my other brother, aunt.'

'There is nothing to hear, my dear,' said Mrs. Nesbit. 'How could
the girl think of bringing him on us without preparation? An effect
of John's spoiling her, of course. She expects him to be made much
of; but she must be taught to perceive this is no house of which she
can make all parts a nursery.'

'Let me hear about my brother,' repeated Theodora. 'How old would he
be? What was his name?'

'His name was Theodore. He never could have lived,' said Mrs.
Nesbit: 'it was much as it was with this child of Arthur's. He was
born unexpectedly at Vienna. Your mamma had a dreadful illness,
brought on by your father's blundering sudden way of telling her of
the death of poor little Dora and Anna. He has not a notion of
self-command or concealment; so, instead of letting me prepare her,
he allowed her to come home from the drive, and find him completely
overcome.'

Theodora better understood her mother's stifled sympathy for Violet,
and her father's more openly shown feeling for Arthur.

'We were in great alarm for her,' continued Mrs. Nesbit, 'and the
poor child was a miserable little thing, and pined away till we
thought it best to send him home to be under English treatment; and
your father chose to go with him to see John, who was in a very
unsatisfactory state.'

'And mamma did not go?'

'She was unfit for the journey, and I remained with her. It was a
fortunate arrangement of mine, for I knew he could not survive, and
anxiety for him retarded her recovery, though we had hardly ever let
her see him.'

'Then he died?--how soon?'

'At Frankfort, a fortnight after we parted with him. It was a
dreadful shock to her; and if it had happened in the house, I do not
think she would ever have recovered it. Was it a fortnight? Yes, I
know it was; for it was on the 3rd of September that I had your
papa's letter. We were going to a party at Prince K--'s, where there
was to be a celebrated Italian improvisatrice, and I would not give
her the letter till the next morning.'

Theodora stared at her in incredulous horror.

'It threw her back sadly; but I did my utmost to rally her spirits,
and her health did not suffer so materially as I feared; but she has
strong feelings, and the impression has never been entirely removed.
She scarcely ventured to look at Arthur or at you. How could your
papa have let this child come here?'

'Is he like poor little Theodore?' said the sister.

'Only as one wretched-looking baby is like another. This one is not
a bit like the Martindales; it is exactly his mother's face.'

'Is he buried here?'

'Who--Theodore? Yes; your papa came home, and managed matters his
own way, sent off all the governesses, put John under that ignorant
old nurse, and began the precious intimacy with the Fotheringhams,
that led to such results. I could have told him how it would be; but
I believe he did repent of that!'

'Did John know about Theodore?'

'No; his sisters' death had such an effect on him that they kept the
knowledge from him. You had better never mention it, my dear; and
especially,' she added, somewhat pleadingly, 'I would not have the
party at the Prince's transpire to your papa.'

Theodora felt her indignation would not endure concealment much
longer. She called Miss Piper, and hastened away, the next moment
finding herself vis-a-vis with John.

'Are you just come in?' said he, greeting her.

'No, I have been with my aunt. How are you now?'

'Quite well, thank you. I wish you could have come to Ventnor.
You would have enjoyed it very much.'

'Thank you.'

'Have you seen Violet?'

'Yes, I have.'

'And the little boy?'

'Yes.'

'I can't say he is a beauty, but you who are such a baby fancier will
find him a very animated, intelligent child. I hope all fear is over
about him now; he has thriven wonderfully of late.'

Perverseness prompted Theodora to say, 'The baby at the lodge is
twice the size.'

John saw there was no use in talking, and shut himself into his room.
The next instant Sarah appeared, with the baby on one arm, and a pile
of clothes on the other.

No one was in sight, so Theodora could gratify her passionate
yearnings for her brother's babe; justifying herself to her own
pride, by considering it charity to an overloaded servant.

'Let me have him. Let me carry him up.'

'Thank you, ma'am, I'll not fash you,' said Sarah, stiffly.

'Let me! Oh! let me. I have often held a baby. Come to me, my
precious. Don't you know your aunt, your papa's own sister? There,
he smiled at me! He will come! You know me, you pretty one?'

She held him near the window, and gazed with almost devouring eyes.

'He will be handsome--he will be beautiful!' she said. 'Oh! it is a
shame to say you are not! You are like your papa--you are a thorough
Martindale! That is your papa's bright eye, and the real Martindale
brow, you sweet, little, fair, feeble, helpless thing! Oh, nurse,
I can't spare him yet, and you have to unpack. Let me hold him.
I know he likes me. Don't you love Aunt Theodora, babe?'

Sarah let her keep him, mollified by her devotion to him, and
relieved at having him off her hands in taking possession of the
great, bare, scantily-furnished nursery. Theodora lamented over his
delicate looks, and was told he would not be here now but for his
mamma, and the Isle of Wight doctor, who had done him a power of
good. She begged to hear of all his wants; rang the bell, and walked
up and down the room, caressing him, until he grew fretful, and no
one answering the bell she rang again in displeasure, Sarah thanking
her, and saying she wished to have him ready for bed before his mamma
came up.

After her public reception, Theodora would not be caught nursing him
in secret, so hastily saying she would send some one, she kissed the
little blue-veined forehead, and rushing at full speed down the back
stairs, she flew into the housekeeper's room; 'Jenkins, there's no
one attending to the nursery bell. I wish you would see to it. Send
up some one with some hot water to Master Martindale directly.'

As fast she ran back to her own room, ordered off Pauline to help
Master Martindale's nurse, and flung herself into her chair, in a
wild fit of passion.

'Improvisatrice! Prince's parties! this is what it is to be great,
rich, horrid people, and live a heartless, artificial life! Even
this silly, affected girl has the natural instincts of a mother, she
nurses her sick child, it lies on her bosom, she guards it jealously!
And we! we might as well have been hatched in an Egyptian oven! No
wonder we are hard, isolated, like civil strangers. I have a heart!
Yes, I have, but it is there by mistake, while no one cares for it--
all throw it from them. Oh! if I was but a village child, a weeding
woman, that very baby, so that I might only have the affection that
comes like the air to the weakest, the meanest. That precious baby!
he smiled at me; he looked as if he would know me. Oh! he is far
more lovable, with those sweet, little, delicate features, and large
considering eyes, than if he was a great, plump, common-looking
child. Dearest little Johnnie! And my own brother was like him--my
brother, whom my aunt as good as killed! If he had lived, perhaps I
might still have a brother to myself. He would be twenty-eight. But
I mind nothing now that dear child is here! Why, Pauline, I sent you
to Master Martindale.'

'Yes, ma'am; but Mrs. Martindale is there, and they are much obliged
to you, but want nothing more.'

Indeed Violet, who had been positively alarmed and depressed at
first, at the waste and desolate aspect of the nursery, which seemed
so far away and neglected, as almost, she thought, to account for the
death of the two little sisters, had now found Sarah beset on all
sides by offers of service from maids constantly knocking at the
door, and Theodora's own Pauline, saying she was sent by Miss
Martindale.

Violet could hardly believe her ears.

'Yes,' said Sarah, 'Miss Martindale has been here herself ever so
long. A fine, well-grown lassie she is, and very like the Captain.'

'Has she been here?' said Violet. 'It is very kind of her. Did she
look at the baby?'

'She made more work with him than you do yourself. Nothing was not
good enough for him. Why, she called him the most beautifullest baby
she ever seen!'

'And that we never told you, my Johnnie,' said Violet, smiling. 'Are
you sure she was not laughing at you, baby?'

'No, no, ma'am,' said Sarah, affronted; 'it was earnest enough. She
was nigh ready to eat him up, and talked to him, and he look up quite
'cute, as if he knew what it all meant, and was quite good with her.
She was ready to turn the house upside down when they did not answer
the bell. And how she did kiss him, to be sure! I'd half a mind to
tell her of old nurse telling you it warn't good for the child to be
always kissing of him.'

'No, no, she won't hurt him,' said Violet, in a half mournful voice.
'Let her do as she likes with him, Sarah.'

Violet could recover from the depression of that cold reception now
that she found Johnnie did not share in the dislike. 'She loves
Arthur's child,' thought she, 'though she cannot like me. I am glad
Johnnie has been in his aunt's arms!'

Violet, as she sat at the dinner-table, understood Lord Martindale's
satisfaction in hearing John talking with animation; but she wondered
at the chill of manner between her husband and his sister, and began
to perceive that it was not, as she had supposed, merely in an
occasional impatient word, that Arthur resented Theodora's neglect of
her.

'How unhappy it must make her! how much it must add to her dislike!
they must be brought together again!' were gentle Violet's thoughts.
And knowing her ground better, she could venture many more steps
towards conciliation than last year: but Theodora disappeared after
dinner, and Violet brought down some plants from the Isle of Wight
which John had pronounced to be valuable, to his mother; but Mrs.
Nesbit, at the first glance, called them common flowers, and shoved
them away contemptuously, while Lady Martindale tried to repair the
discourtesy by condescending thanks and admiration of the neat drying
of the specimens; but her stateliness caused Violet to feel herself
sinking into the hesitating tremulous girl she used to be, and she
betook herself to her work, hoping to be left to silence; but she was
molested by a very sharp, unpleasant examination from Mrs. Nesbit on
the style of John's housekeeping at Ventnor, and the society they had
met there. It was plain she thought he had put himself to a foolish
expense, and something was said of 'absurd' when cross-examination
had elicited the fact of the pony-carriage. Then came a set of
questions about Mr. Fotheringham's return, and strong condemnation of
him for coming home to idle in England.

It was a great relief when John came in, and instantly took up the
defence of the ophrys, making out its species so indisputably, that
Mrs. Nesbit had no refuge but in saying, specimens were worthless
that had not been gathered by the collector, and Lady Martindale made
all becoming acknowledgments. No wonder Mrs. Nesbit was mortified;
she was an excellent botanist, and only failing eyesight could have
made even prejudice betray her into such a mistake. Violet
understood the compassion that caused John to sit down by her and
diligently strive to interest her in conversation.

Theodora had returned as tea was brought in, and Violet felt as if
she must make some demonstration out of gratitude for the fondness
for her child; but she did not venture on that subject, and moving to
her side, asked, with somewhat timid accents, after Charlie Layton,
the dumb boy.

'He is very well, thank you. I hope to get him into an asylum next
year,' said Theodora, but half-pleased.

'I looked for him at the gate, and fancied it was him I saw with a
broad black ribbon on his hat. Is he in mourning?'

'Did you not hear of his mother's death?'

'No, poor little fellow.'

Therewith Theodora had the whole history to tell, and thawed as she
spoke; while Violet's deepening colour, and eyes ready to overflow,
proved the interest she took; and she had just begged to go to-morrow
to see the little orphan, when Arthur laid his hand on her shoulder,
and told her he had just come from the stables, where her horse was
in readiness for her, and would she like to ride to-morrow?

'What will suit you for us to do?' said Violet, turning to Theodora.

'Oh, it makes no difference to me.'

'Tuesday. It is not one of your schooldays, is it?' said Violet,
appearing unconscious of the chill of the answer; then, looking up to
Arthur, 'I am going, at any rate, to walk to the lodge with Theodora
to see the poor baby there. It is just the age of Johnnie.'

'You aren't going after poor children all day long,' said Arthur: and
somehow Violet made a space between them on the ottoman, and pulled
him down into it; and whereas he saw his wife and sister apparently
sharing the same pursuits, and on friendly terms, he resumed his
usual tone with Theodora, and began coaxing her to ride with them,
and inquiring after home interests, till she lighted up and answered
in her natural manner. Then Violet ventured to ask if she was to
thank her for the delicious geranium and heliotrope she had found in
her room.

'Oh no! that is an attention of Harrison or Miss Piper, I suppose.'

'Or? probably and?' suggested Arthur. 'How does that go on?'

'Take care,' said Theodora, peeping out beyond the shadow of his
broad shoulder. 'Tis under the strictest seal of confidence; she
asked my advice as soon as she had done it.'

'What! has she accepted him!' said Violet. 'Has it come to that?'

'Ay; and now she wants to know whether people will think it odd and
improper. Let them think, I say.'

'A piece of luck for her,' said Arthur; 'better marry a coal-heaver
than lead her present life.'

'Yes; and Harrison is an educated man though a coxcomb, and knows she
condescends.'

'But why are they waiting!' asked Violet.

'Because she dares not tell my aunt. She trembles and consults, and
walks behind my aunt's chair in the garden, exchanging glances with
Harrison over her head, while he listens to discourses on things with
hard names. The flutter and mystery seem to be felicity, and, if
they like it, 'tis their own concern.'

'Now I know why Miss Piper told me Miss Martindale was so
considerate,' said Violet.

What had become of the estrangement! Arthur had forgotten it, Violet
had been but half-conscious of it, even while uniting them; Theodora
thought all was owing to his being at home, and she knew not who had
restored him.

Indeed, the jealous feeling was constantly excited, for Arthur's
devotion to his wife was greater than ever, in his delight at being
with her again, and his solicitude to the weakness which Theodora
could neither understand nor tolerate. She took all unclassified
ailments as fine lady nonsense; and was angry with Violet for being
unable to teach at school, contemptuous if Arthur observed on her
looking pale, and irate if he made her rest on the sofa.

John added to the jealousy. Little as Theodora apparently regarded
him, she could not bear to be set aside while Violet held the place
of the favourite sister, and while her father openly spoke of the
benefit he had derived from having that young bright gentle creature
so much with him.

The alteration was indeed beyond what could have been hoped for.
The first day, when his horse was led round with the others, it was
supposed to be by mistake, till he came down with his whip in his
hand; and not till they were past the lodge did Theodora believe he
was going to make one of the riding party. She had never seen him
take part in their excursions, or appear to consider himself as
belonging to the younger portion of the family, and when they fell in
with any acquaintance Arthur was amused, and she was provoked, at the
surprised congratulations on seeing Mr. Martindale with them.

Lord Martindale was delighted to find him taking interest in matters
to which he had hitherto scarcely paid even languid attention; and
the offer to go to Barbuda was so suitable and gratifying that it was
eagerly discussed in many a consultation.

He liked to report progress to Violet, and as she sat in the drawing-
room, the two brothers coming to her with all their concerns,
Theodora could have pined and raged in the lonely dignity of her
citadel up-stairs. She did not know the forbearance that was
exercised towards her by one whom she had last year taught what it
was to find others better instructed than herself in the family
councils.

Violet never obtruded on her, her intimacy with John's designs,
thinking it almost unfair on his sister that any other should be more
in his confidence.

So, too, Violet would not spoil her pleasure in her stolen caresses
of little Johnnie by seeming to be informed of them. She was
grateful for her love to him, and would not thrust in her unwelcome
self. In public the boy was never seen and rarely mentioned, and
Theodora appeared to acquiesce in the general indifference, but
whenever she was secure of not being detected, she lavished every
endearment on him, rejoiced in the belief that he knew and preferred
her enough to offend his doting mamma, had she known it; never
guessing that Violet sometimes delayed her visits to the nursery, in
order not to interfere with her enjoyment of him.

Violet had not yet seen the Brandons, as they had been making visits
before returning home; but she had many ardent letters from Emma,
describing the progress of her acquaintance with Miss Marstone, the
lady who had so excited her imagination, and to whom she had been
introduced at a school festival. She seemed to have realized all
Emma's expectations, and had now come home with her to make some stay
at Rickworth. Violet was highly delighted when, a few days after
their return, her friends were invited to dinner, on the same evening
that Mr. Fotheringham was expected. The afternoon of that day was
one of glowing August sunshine, almost too much for Violet, who,
after they had ridden some distance, was rather frightened to hear
Theodora propose to extend their ride by a canter over the downs; but
John relieved her by asking her to return with him, as he wanted to
be at home in time to receive Mr. Fotheringham.

Accordingly, they rode home quietly together, but about an hour
after, on coming up-stairs, he was surprised to find Violet in her
evening dress, pacing the gallery with such a countenance that he
exclaimed, 'I hope there is nothing amiss with the boy.'

Oh, nothing, thank you, he is quite well,' but her voice was on the
verge of tears. 'Is Mr. Fotheringham come?'

No, I have given him up now, till the mail train; but it is not very
late; Arthur and Theodora can't be back till past seven if they go to
Whitford down,' said John, fancying she was in alarm on their
account.

'I do not suppose they can.'

'I am afraid we took you too far. Why are you not resting?'

'It is cooler here,' said Violet. 'It does me more good than staying
in my room.'

'Oh, you get the western sun there.'

'It comes in hot and dazzling all the afternoon till it is baked
through, and I can't find a cool corner. Even baby is fretful in
such a hot place, and I have sent him out into the shade.'

'Is it always so?'

'Oh, no, only on such days as this; and I should not care about it
to-day, but for one thing'--she hesitated, and lowered her voice,
partly piteous, partly ashamed. 'Don't you know since I have been so
weak and stupid, how my face burns when I am tired? and, of all
things, Arthur dislikes a flushed race. There, now I have told you;
but I could not help it. It is vain and foolish and absurd to care,
almost wicked, and I have told myself so fifty times; but I have got
into a fret, and I cannot leave off. I tried coming here to be cool,
but I feel it growing worse, and there's the dinner-party, and Arthur
will be vexed'--and she was almost crying. 'I am doing what I
thought I never would again, and about such nonsense.'

'Come in here,' said John, leading her into a pleasant apartment
fitted up as a library, the fresh air coming through the open window.
'I was wishing to show you my room.'

'How cool! Arthur told me it was the nicest room in the house,' said
Violet, her attention instantly diverted.

'Yes, am I not a luxurious man? There, try my great armchair. I am
glad to have a visit from you. You must come again.'

'Oh! thank you. What quantities of books! No wonder every book one
wants comes out of your room.'

'I shall leave you the use of them.'

'Do you mean that I may take any of your books home with me?'

'It will be very good for them.'

'How delightful,' and she was up in a moment reading their titles,
but he made her return to the great chair.

'Rest now, there will be plenty of time, now you know your way. You
must make this your retreat from the sun. Ah, by the bye, I have
just recollected that I brought something for you from Madeira.
I chose it because it reminded me of the flowers you wore at the
Whitford ball.'

It was a wreath of pink and white brier roses, in the feather flowers
of Madeira, and she was delighted, declaring Arthur would think it
beautiful, admiring every bud and leaf, and full of radiant girlish
smiles. It would exactly suit her dress, Arthur's present, now worn
for the first time.

'You are not going yet?'

'I thought I might be in your way.'

'Not at all; if I had anything to do, I would leave you to the books;
but I have several things to show you.'

'I was wishing to look at those drawings. Who is that queen with the
cross on her arm?'

'St. Helena; it is a copy from a fresco by one of the old masters.'

'What a calm grave face! what strange stiff drawing!--and yet it
suits it: it is so solemn, with that matronly dignity. That other,
too--those apostles, with their bowed heads and clasped hands, how
reverent they look!'

'They are from Cimabue,' said John: 'are they not majestically humble
in adoration?'

Between, these two hung that awful dark engraving from Albert Durer.

'These have been my companions,' said John.

'Through all the long months that you have been shut up here?'

'My happiest times.'

'Ah! that does, indeed, make me ashamed of my discontent and
ingratitude,' sighed Violet.

'Nay,' said John, 'a little fit of fatigue deserves no such harsh
names.'

'When it is my besetting sin--all here speaks of patience and
unrepining.'

'No, no, said John--'if you cannot sit still; I have sat still too
much. We have both a great deal to learn.'

As he spoke he unlocked a desk, took out a miniature, looked at it
earnestly, and then in silence put it into her hand. She was
disappointed; she knew she was not to expect beauty; but she had
figured to herself a saintly, spiritual, pale countenance, and she
saw that of a round-faced, rosy-cheeked, light-haired girl, looking
only as if she was sitting for her picture.

After much doubt what to say, she ventured only, 'I suppose this was
done a long time ago?'

'When she was quite a girl. Mrs. Percival gave it to me; it was
taken for her long before. I used not to like it.'

'I did not think she would have had so much colour.'

'It was a thorough English face: she did not lose those rosy cheeks
till want of air faded them. Then I should hardly have known her,
but the countenance had become so much more--calm it had always been,
reminding me of the description of Jeanie Deans' countenance--I
cannot tell you what it was then! I see a little dawning of that
serenity on the mouth, even as it is here; but I wish anything could
give you an idea of that look!'

Thank you for showing it to me,' said Violet, earnestly.

After studying it a little while, he restored it to its place. He
then took out a small box, and, after a moment's hesitation, put into
Violet's hands a pink coral cross, shaped by the animals themselves,
and fastened by a ring to a slender gold chain.

'The cross!' said Violet, holding it reverently: 'it is very kind of
you to let me see it.'

'Would you like to keep it, Violet?'

'Oh!' she exclaimed, and stopped short, with tearful eyes.

'You know she wished some one to have it who would find comfort in
it, as she did.'

'No one will prize it more, but can you bear to part with it?'

'If you will take it, as her gift.'

'But just now, when I have been so naughty--so unlike her!'

'More like her than ever, in struggling with besetting failings; you
are learning to see in little trials the daily cross; and if you go
on, the serenity which was a gift in her will be a grace in you.'

They were interrupted: Brown, with beaming face, announced 'Mr.
Fotheringham'; and there stood a gentleman, strong and broad-
shouldered, his face burnt to a deep red, his dark brown hair faded
at the tips to a light rusty hue, and his irregular features, wide,
smiling mouth, and merry blue eyes, bright with good humour.

'Ha, Percy! here you are!' cried John, springing towards him with
joyful alacrity, and giving a hand that was eagerly seized.

'Well, John, how are you?' exclaimed a hearty voice.

'Arthur's wife:' and this unceremonious introduction caused her to be
favoured with a warm shake of the hand; but, much discomfited at
being in their way, she hastily gathered up her treasures, and glided
away as John was saying, 'I had almost given you up.'

'I walked round by Fowler's lodge, to bestow my little Athenian owl.
I brought it all the way in my pocket, or on my hand, and I put him
in Tom Fowler's charge while I am here. I could not think what
fashionable young lady you had here. How has that turned out?'

'Excellently!' said John, warmly.

'She is a beauty!' said Percival.

'She can't help that, poor thing,' said John: 'she is an admirable
creature; indeed, she sometimes reminds me of your sister.'

Then, as Percy looked at him, as if to be certain he was in his
senses, 'I don't expect others to see it; it is only one expression.'

'How are you? You look in better case.'

'I am wonderfully well, thank you. Has your romance come to a
satisfactory denouement?'

'The happy pair were at Malta when I started.'

'And where have you been?'

'Oh! in all manner of queer places. I have been talking Latin with
the folks in Dacia. Droll state of things there; one could fancy it
Britain, or Gaul half settled by the Teutons, with the Roman sticking
about them. But thats too much to tell, I have heard nothing from
home this age. How is Theodora? I am afraid she has outgrown her
antics.'

'She is not too much like other people.'

'Are you all at home, and in "statu quo"?'

'Yes, except that my aunt is more aged and feeble.'

'And Master Arthur has set up for a domestic character. It must be
after a fashion of his own.'

'Rather so,' said John, smiling; 'but it has done him a great deal of
good. He has more heart in him than you and I used to think; and
home is drawing it out, and making a man of him in spite of himself.'

'How came she to marry him?'

'Because she knew no better, poor thing; her family promoted it, and
took advantage of her innocence.'

'Is she a sensible woman?'

' Why, poor child, she has plenty of sense, but it is not doing her
justice to call her a woman. She is too fine a creature to come
early to her full growth--she is a woman in judgment and a child in
spirits.'

'So, Arthur has the best of the bargain.'

'He does not half understand her; but they are very much attached,
and some day she will feel her influence and use it.'

'Form herself first, and then him. I hope Mark Gardner will keep out
of the way during the process.'

'He is safe in Paris.'

'And how have you been spending the summer?'

'I have been at Ventnor, getting through the Crusaders, and keeping
house with Violet and her child, who both wanted sea air.'

'What's her name?'

'Violet.'

'Well, that beats all! Violet! Why, Vi'let was what they called the
old black cart-horse! I hope the child is Cowslip or Daisy!'

'No, he is John, my godson.'

'John! You might as well be called Man! It is no name at all. That
Arthur should have gone and married a wife called Violet!!'

Meanwhile Violet was wondering over the honour she had received,
caressing the gift, and thinking of the hopes that had faded over it
till patience had done her perfect work. She did not remember her
other present till she heard sounds betokening the return of the
riders. She placed it on her head, and behold! the cheeks had no
more than their own roseate tinting, and she was beginning to hope
Arthur would be pleased, when she became aware of certain dark eyes
and a handsome face set in jet-black hair, presenting itself over her
shoulder in the long glass.

'You little piece of vanity! studying yourself in the glass, so that
you never heard me come in? Well, you have done it to some purpose.
Where did you get that thing?'

'John brought it from Madeira.'

'I did not think he had so much taste. Where have you bottled it up
all this time!'

'He forgot it till there was an opportunity for wearing it. Is it
not pretty? And this is your silk, do you see?'

'Very pretty, that's the real thing. I am glad to find you in good
trim. I was afraid Theodora had taken you too far, and the heat
would knock you up, and the boy would roar till you were all manner
of colours.'

'I was hot and tired, but John invited me into his nice cool room,
and only think! he showed me Helen's picture.'

'He has one, has he? She was nothing to look at; just like Percy--
you know he is come?'

'Yes, he came while I was in John's room. He is not at all like what
I expected.'

'No, ladies always expect a man to look like a hero or a brigand.
She had just that round face, till the last when I saw her in London,
and then she looked a dozen years older than John--enough to scare
one.'

'See what he gave me.'

'Ha! was that hers? I remember, it was that my aunt kicked up such
a dust about. So he has given you that.'

'Helen said she should like some one to have it who would find as
much comfort in it as she did.'

'Comfort! What comfort do you want?'

'Only when I am foolish.'

'I should think so; and pray what is to be the comfort of a bit of
coral like that?'

'Not the coral, but the thoughts, dear Arthur,' said Violet,
colouring, and restoring the cross to its place within her dress.

'Well! you and John understand your own fancies, but I am glad you
can enter into them with him, poor fellow! It cheers him up to have
some one to mope with.'

CHAPTER 9

P. Henry.--But do you use me thus, Ned; must I marry your sister?
Poins.--May the wench have no worse fortune, but I never said so.

--K. Henry IV

Arthur met the new-comer, exclaiming, 'Ha! Fotheringham, you have not
brought me the amber mouth-piece I desired John to tell you of.'

'Not I. I don't bring Turks' fashion into Christian countries. You
ought to learn better manners now you are head of a family.'

Theodora entered, holding her head somewhat high, but there was a
decided heightening of the glow on her cheek as Mr. Fotheringham
shook hands with her. Lord Martindale gave him an affectionate
welcome, and Lady Martindale, though frigid at first, grew interested
as she asked about his journey.

The arriving guests met him with exclamations of gladness, as if he
was an honour to the neighbourhood; and John had seldom looked more
cheerful and more gratified than in watching his reception.

At length came the names for which Violet was watching; and the
presence of Lady Elizabeth gave her a sense of motherly protection,
as she was greeted with as much warmth as was possible for shy people
in the midst of a large party. Emma eagerly presented her two
friends to each other, and certainly they were a great contrast.
Miss Marstone was sallow, with thin sharply-cut features, her eyes
peered out from spectacles, her hair was disposed in the plainest
manner, as well as her dress, which was anything but suited to a
large dinner-party. Violet's first impulse was to be afraid of her,
but to admire Emma for being attracted by worth through so much
formidable singularity.

'And the dear little godson is grown to be a fine fellow,' began
Emma.

'Not exactly that,' said Violet, 'but he is much improved, and so
bright and clever.'

'You will let us see him after dinner?'

'I have been looking forward to it very much, but he will be asleep,
and you won't see his pretty ways and his earnest dark eyes.'

'I long to see the sweet child,' said Miss Marstone. 'I dote on such
darlings. I always see so much in their countenances. There is the
germ of so much to be drawn out hereafter in those deep looks of
thought.'

'My baby often looks very intent.'

'Intent on thoughts beyond our power to trace!' said Miss Marstone.

'Ah! I have often thought that we cannot fathom what may be passing
in a baby's mind,' said Emma.

'With its fixed eyes unravelling its whole future destiny!' said Miss
Marstone.

'Poor little creature!' murmured Violet.

'I am convinced that the whole course of life takes its colouring
from some circumstance at the time unmarked.'

'It would frighten me to think so,' said Violet.

'For instance, I am convinced that a peculiar bias was given to my
own disposition in consequence of not being understood by the nurse
and aunt who petted my brother, while they neglected me. Perhaps I
was not a prepossessing child, but I had deeper qualities which might
have been drawn out, though, on the whole, I do not regret what threw
me early on my own resources. It has made me what I am.'

Violet was rather surprised, but took it for granted that this was
something admirable.

'Your dear little boy, no doubt, occupies much of your attention.
Training and instruction are so important.'

'He is not five months old,' said Violet.

'You cannot begin too early to lead forward his mind. Well chosen
engravings, properly selected toys, the habit of at once obeying, the
choice of nursery songs, all are of much importance in forming these
dear little lambs to the stern discipline of life.'

'You must have had a great deal to do with little children,' said
Violet, impressed.

'Why, not much personally; but I believe Emma has sent you my little
allegory of the Folded Lambs, where you will find my theories
illustrated.'

'Yes, Emma gave it to me--it is very pretty,' said Violet, looking
down. 'I am too stupid to understand it all, and I have been hoping
for Emma to explain it to me.'

'Many people find it obscure, but I shall be delighted to assist you.
I am sure you will find some of the ideas useful to you. What were
your difficulties?'

It made Violet so very shy to be spoken to by an authoress in public
about her own books, that she was confused out of all remembrance of
the whole story of the "Folded Lambs", and could only feel thankful
that the announcement of dinner came to rescue her from her
difficulties. She was not to escape authors; for Mr. Fotheringham
took her in to dinner, Lady Martindale assigned Miss Brandon to John;
but Arthur, with a droll look, stepped between and made prize of her,
leaving John to Miss Marstone.

Violet trusted she was not likely to be examined in the "Track of the
Crusaders", of which, however, she comprehended far more than of the
"Folded Lambs". Presently her neighbour turned to her, asking
abruptly, 'Who is that next to Theodora?'

'Mr. Wingfield, the clergyman here.'

'I know. Is he attentive to the parish!'

'O yes, very much so.'

'Does Theodora take to parish work?'

'Indeed she does.'

'What, thoroughly?'

'She goes to school twice a week, besides Sundays, and has the farm
children to teach every morning.'

'That's right.'

'And she is so kind to the children at the Lodge.'

'Let me see, they were afraid the boy was deaf and dumb.'

'Yes, he is, poor little fellow, and Theodora teaches him most
successfully.'

'Well done! I knew the good would work out. How tall she is! and
she looks as full of spirit as ever. She has had a season in London,
I suppose!'

'Yes, she went out a great deal this spring.'

'And it has not spoilt her?'

'O no!' cried Violet, warmly, feeling as if she had known him all her
life, 'she is more eager than ever in her parish work. She spares no
trouble. She got up at four one morning to sit with old Betty Blain,
that her daughter might get a little rest.'

'That head and brow are a fine study. She has grown up more striking
than even I thought she would. Curious to see the difference between
natural pride and assumed,' and he glanced from Theodora to her
mother. 'How well Lady Martindale preserves! She always looks
exactly the same. Who is that chattering in John's ear?

'Miss Marstone, a friend of Miss Brandon's.'

'What makes her go about such a figure?'

'She is very good.'

'I trust, by your own practice, that is not your test of goodness?'

'I should not think it was, said Violet, blushing and hesitating.

'What crypt did they dig her out of? Is she one of the Marstones of
Gothlands?'

'I believe she is. She has two sisters, gay people, whose home is
with an uncle. She lives with a lawyer brother.'

'Sam Marstone! I know him! I pity him. So Emma Brandon is come
out? Which is she?'

'She is next to Arthur, on this side the table where you cannot see
her.'

'What sort of girl is she!'

'Oh!' said Violet, and paused, 'she is the greatest friend I have in
the world!'

He looked surprised, laughed, and said, 'So I must ask no more
questions.'

Violet felt as if she had spoken presumptuously, and said, 'Lady
Elizabeth has been so very kind to me. Emma is my baby's godmother.'

'And John its godfather.'

'Yes. Did he tell you so?'

'Ay! he spoke as if it was very near his heart.'

'He has been--O, so very--I believe he is very fond of baby,' hastily
concluded Violet, as her first sentence stuck in her throat.

'I am heartily glad he has something to take interest in. He looks
better and less frail. Is he so, do you think?'

'O yes, much better. He hardly ever coughs--'

'Does he get those bad fits of cough and breathlessness?'

'Very seldom; he has not had one since the day we heard you were
coming home, and that, Brown thought, was from the excitement.'

'Ay! ay! he seems stronger every way.'

'Yes, he can bear much more exertion.'

'Then I hope he will be stirred up to do something. That's what he
wants.'

'I am sure he is always very busy,' said Violet, displeased.

'Ay? Cutting open a book was rather arduous. If he was not at his
best he left it to Brown.'

'No! no! I meant going over parchments; writing for Lord
Martindale;' she did not know if she might mention the West Indian
scheme.

'Ho! there's something in that. Well, if he comes to life after all,
there's no one so capable. Not that I am blaming him. Illness and
disappointment broke him down, and--such a fellow seldom breathed.
If I had not had him at Cambridge it might have been a different
story with me. So you need not look like his indignant champion.'

'I don't know what Arthur and I should have done without him,' said
Violet.

'Where's the aunt? I don't see her.'

'She never comes down to dinner, she is only seen in the evening.'

There was a sound in reply so expressive of relief that Violet caught
herself nearly laughing, but he said, gravely, 'Poor woman, then she
is growing aged.'

'We thought her much altered this year.'

'Well!' and there was a whole sentence of pardon conveyed in the
word. Then, after an interval, 'Look at John and his neighbour.'

'I have been trying to catch what they are saying.'

'They! It is all on one side.'

'Perhaps,' said Violet, smiling, 'it was something about chants.'

'Yes. Is it not rare to see his polite face while she bores him with
that kind of cant which is the most intolerable of all, and he
quietly turning it aside?'

'Is it cant when people are in earnest?' asked Violet.

'Women always think they are.'

'How are they to know?'

'If they hold their tongues'--a silence--Well!'

'Well,' said Violet.

'Where's the outcry?'

'Did you mean me to make one!'

'What could you do but vindicate your sex?'

'Then you would not have thought me in earnest.'

He made a funny pleased face and a little bow.

'The truth was,' said Violet, 'I was thinking whether I understood
you.'

'May I ask your conclusion?'

'I don't exactly know. I don't think you meant we should never talk
of what interests us.'

'When they know when to hold their tongues, perhaps I should have
said.'

'O, yes, that I quite think.'

Another silence, while Violet pondered, and her neighbour continued
his malicious listening to Miss Marstone, who spoke in a key too
audible for such a party. Presently, 'He has got her to the Royal
Academy. She has gone forthwith to the Prae-Raffaelites. Oh! she is
walking Prae-Raffaelitism herself. Symbols and emblems! Unfortunate
John! Symbolic suggestive teaching, speaking to the eye! She is at
it ding-dong! Oh! he has begun on the old monk we found refreshing
the pictures at Mount Athos! Ay, talk yourself, 'tis the only way to
stop her mouth; only mind what you say, she will bestow it freshly
hashed up on the next victim on the authority of Mr. Martindale.'

Violet was excessively entertained; and, when she raised her eyes,
after conquering the laugh, was amazed to find how far advanced was
the state dinner, usually so interminable. Her inquiries after the
Athenian owl led to a diverting history of its capture at the
Parthenon, and the adventures in bringing it home. She was sorry
when she found Lady Martindale rising, while Mr. Fotheringham, as he
drew back his chair, said, 'How shall you get on with Prae-
Raffaelitism? I should like to set her and Aunt Nesbit together by
the ears!'

Certainly it was not convenient to be asked by Emma what made her
look so much amused.

She felt as if it would be much pleasanter to show off her babe
without the stranger, and was glad to find that Miss Marstone had
fallen into a discussion with Theodora, and both looked much too
eager to be interrupted.

So Violet fairly skipped up-stairs before her friends, turning round
to speak to them with such smiling glee, that Lady Elizabeth
dismissed all fears of her present well-doing. Emma fell into
raptures over her godson's little cot, and quoted the "Folded Lambs",
and "Pearls of the Deep", another as yet unpublished tale of her
friend's, to teach his mother how to educate him, and stood by
impatiently contemning the nursery hints which Violet was only too
anxious to gather up from Lady Elizabeth.

'And are you not charmed with her!' said Emma, as they went down-
stairs.

'I have seen so little of her,' replied Violet, embarrassed. 'Why
does she dress in that way?'

'That is just what I say,' observed Lady Elizabeth. 'I was sorry to
see her in that dress this evening.'

'Mamma does not like it,' said Emma; 'but Theresa feels it such a
privilege not to be forced to conform to the trammels of fashions and
nonsense.'

'She does everything on high principle,' said Lady Elizabeth, as if
she was trying to bring her mind as usual into unison with her
daughter's. 'She is a very superior person, and one does not like to
find fault with what is done on right motives; but I should be sorry
to see Emma follow the same line. I have always been taught that
women should avoid being conspicuous.'

'That I could never bear to be, mamma,' said Emma; 'but Theresa is of
a firmer, less shrinking mould.'

Lady Elizabeth repeated that she was a very superior person, but was
evidently not happy in her guest.

Miss Marstone was holding earnest tete-a-tetes all the evening, but
Violet having sheltered herself under Lady Elizabeth's wing, escaped
the expected lecture on the allegories.

When the Rickworth party had taken leave, Mr. Wingfield, the last
guest, was heard to observe that Miss Marstone was an admirable
person, a treasure to any parish.

'Do you wish for such a treasure in your own?' said Mr. Fotheringham,
bluntly.

The curate shook his head, and murmuring something about Brogden
being already as fortunate as possible, departed in his turn: while
Arthur ejaculated, 'There's a step, Wingfield. Why, Theodora, he was
setting up a rival.'

'Who is she?' said Theodora. 'Where did Emma pick her up?'

'Emma was struck with her appearance--'

The gentlemen all exclaimed so vehemently, that Violet had to repeat
it again, whereupon Mr. Fotheringham muttered, 'Every one to his
taste;' and Arthur said there ought to be a law against women making
themselves greater frights than nature designed.

'So, it is a fit of blind enthusiasm,' said John.

'Pray do you partake it?' asked Percy. 'How do you feel after it?'

'Why, certainly, I never met with a person of more conversation,'
said John.

'Delicately put!' said Arthur, laughing heartily. 'Why, she had even
begun lecturing my father on the niggers!'

'I would not be Lady Elizabeth!' said Mr. Fotheringham.

'Those romantic exaggerations of friendship are not satisfactory,'
said John. 'Emma is too timid to be eccentric herself at present;
but a governing spirit might soon lead her on.'

'That it might,' said Theodora, 'as easily as I used to drag her, in
spite of her terrors, through all the cows in the park. I could be
worse to her than any cow; and this Ursula--or what is her outlandish
name, Violet?'

'Theresa; Sarah Theresa.'

'Well, really,' said John, 'it is not for the present company to
criticize outlandish names.'

'No,' said Arthur, 'it was a happy instinct that made us give my boy
a good rational working-day name, fit to go to school in, and no
choice either to give him the opportunity of gainsaying it, like
Emma's friend, and some others--Sir Percival that is to be! A hero
of the Minerva press!'

'No, indeed--if I was to be Sir Anything, which probably I never
shall be, I would hold, like my forefathers, to my good old Antony,
which it was not my doing to disregard.'

'Which earned him the title of Lumpkin, by which only he was known to
his schoolfellow!' said Arthur. 'If you ask after Fotheringham, they
invariably say, "Oh, you mean old Lumpkin!" So much for romantic
names!'

'Or imperial ones,' said Percy. 'Did not you tell me Theodora came
straight from the Palaeologos who died in the West Indies? I always
considered that to account for certain idiosyncrasies.'

Theodora was called away to assist Mrs. Nesbit up-stairs; and as
Violet followed, she heard the aunt observing that Percival
Fotheringham was more bearish than ever; and that it was intolerable
to see him encouraged in his free-and-easy manner when he had thrown
away all his prospects.

'For poor John's sake,' began Lady Martindale.

'For his own,' interrupted Theodora. 'He has every right to be at
home here, and it is an honour to the place that he should be so.'

'Oh, yes, I know; and he will be expecting your father to exert
himself again in his behalf.'

'No, he will be beholden to no one,' said Theodora.

'I do wish his manners were less rough and eccentric,' said Lady
Martindale.

'Presuming,' said Mrs. Nesbit; 'in extremely bad taste. I never was
more sensible of our good fortune in having missed that connection.
There was nothing but their being of a good old family that made it
by any means endurable.'

At this hit at her brother's wife, Theodora was going to speak, but
she forbore, and only wished her aunt good night. It would not be
repressed, however; she stood in the gallery, after parting with the
elder ladies, and said, loud enough for them to hear,

'I hate good old family, and all such humbug! She was a noble, self-
devoted creature; as much above the comprehension of the rest of the
world as her brother!'

'Did you know her well?' said Violet.

Theodora's tone instantly changed. She was not going to gratify
childish curiosity. 'I never had the opportunity,' she said, coolly.
'Good night.'

Violet was disappointed; for the tone of enthusiasm had given her a
moment's hope that they had at last found a subject on which they
could grow warm together, but it was evident that Theodora would
never so have spoken had she been conscious of her presence.

The next morning as Arthur and his wife were going down to breakfast,
he said, 'We shall see some rare fun now Theodora and Fotheringham
have got together.'

Theodora, with her bonnet on, was, according to her usual Sunday
fashion, breakfasting before the rest of the party, so as to be in
time for school. John and his friend made their appearance together,
and the greetings had scarcely passed, before John, looking out of
window, exclaimed, 'Ah! there's the boy! Pray come and see my
godson. Come, Violet, we want you to exhibit him.'

Arthur looked up with a smile intended to be disdainful, but which
was gratified, and moved across, with the newspaper in his hand, to
lean against the window-shutter.

'There's John without his hat--he is growing quite adventurous. Very
pretty Violet always is with the boy in her arms--she is the show one
of the two. Hollo, if Percy has not taken the monkey himself; that's
a pass beyond me. How she colours and smiles--just look, Theodora,
is it not a picture?'

If he had called her to look at Johnnie, she must have come; but she
was annoyed at his perpetual admiration, and would not abet his
making himself ridiculous.

'I must not wait,' she said, 'I am late.'

Arthur shrugged his shoulders, and turned to his paper.

She put on her gloves, and took up her books. Percy meeting her, as
she came down the steps, said, 'I have been introduced to your
nephew.'

'I hope you are gratified.'

'He has almost too much countenance,' said Percy. 'There is
something melancholy in such wistful looks from a creature that
cannot speak, just as one feels with a dog.'

'I am afraid he is very weakly,' said Theodora.

'I am sorry to hear it; it seems like a new life to John, and that
pretty young mother looks so anxious. Do you see much of her?'

'Not much; I have not time to join in the general Violet worship.'

'They are not spoiling her, I hope. It does one good to see such a
choice specimen of womankind.'

'There, don't come any further; I must make haste.'

'Like all the rest,' she thought; 'not a man but is more attracted by
feminine airs and graces than by sterling qualities.'

On coming out of church, in the afternoon, John, looking at the
beautiful green shady bank of the river, proposed a walk along it;
all the party gladly acceded, except Theodora, who, not without a
certain pleasure in separating herself from them, declared that there
was a child who must be made to say her hymn before going home.

'Can't you excuse her for once?' said Lord Martindale.

'No, papa.'

'Not if I beg her off publicly?'

'No, thank you. There is a temper that must be overcome.'

'Then flog her well, and have done with it,' said Arthur. Deigning
no reply, she pounced upon her victim as the procession of scholars
came out of church, 'Come, I am waiting to hear you say it. "How
doth the little--"'

The child stood like a post.

'That is a Benson, I am sure,' said Mr. Fotheringham. Theodora told
him he was right, and went on exhorting the child; 'Come, I know you
can say it. Try to be good.

'"How doth--"'

'You know I always keep my word, and I have said I will hear you
before either of us goes home.'

'"How doth--"'

'If you please, papa, would you go on? I shall never make her do it
with you all looking on.'

She sat down on a tombstone, and placed the child before her. After
an hour's walk, there was a general exclamation of amusement and
compassion, on seeing Theodora and the child still in the same
positions.

'She will never say it at all now, poor child,' said Violet; 'she
can't--she must be stupefied.'

'Then we had better send down the tent to cover Theodora for the
night,' said Arthur.

'As if Theodora looking at her in that manner was not enough to drive
off all recollection!' said John.

'It is too much!' said Lord Martindale. 'Arthur, go, and tell her it
is high time to go home, and she must let the poor child off.'

Arthur shrugged his shoulders, saying, 'You go, John.'

'Don't you think it might do harm to interfere?' said John to his
father.

'Interfere by no means,' said Arthur. 'It is capital sport.
Theodora against dirty child! Which will you back, Percy? Hollo!
where is he? He is in the thick of it. Come on, Violet, let us be
in for the fun.'

'Patience in seven flounces on a monument!' observed Mr.
Fotheringham, in an undertone to Theodora, who started, and would
have been angry, but for his merry smile. He then turned to the
child, whose face was indeed stupefied with sullenness, as if in the
resistance she had forgotten the original cause. 'What! you have not
said it all this time? What's your name? I know you are a Benson,
but how do they call you?' said he, speaking with a touch of the
dialect of the village, just enough to show he was a native.

'Ellen,' said the girl.

'Ellen! that was your aunt's name. You are so like her. I don't
think you can be such a very stupid child, after all. Are you?
Suppose you try again. What is it Miss Martindale wants you to say?'

The child made no answer, and Theodora said, 'The Little Busy Bee.'

'Oh! that's it. Not able to say the Busy Bee? That's a sad story.
D'ye think now I could say it, Ellen?'

'No!' with an astonished look, and a stolid countrified tone.

'So you don't think I'm clever enough! Well, suppose I try, and you
set me right if I make mistakes. How doth the great idle wasp--'

'Busy bee!' cried the child, scandalized.

By wonderful blunders, and ingenious halts, he drew her into
prompting him throughout, then exclaimed, 'There! you know it much
better. I thought you were a clever little girl! Come, won't you
say it once, and let me hear how well it sounds?'

She was actually flattered into repeating it perfectly.

'Very well. That's right. Now, don't you think you had better tell
Miss Martindale you are sorry to have kept her all this time?'

She hung her head, and Theodora tried to give him a hint that the
apology was by no means desired; but without regarding this, he
continued, 'Do you know I am come from Turkey, and there are plenty
of ladies there, who go out to walk with a sack over their heads, but
I never saw one of them sit on a tombstone to hear a little girl say
the Busy Bee. Should you like to live there?'

'No.'

'Do you suppose Miss Martindale liked to sit among the nettles on old
Farmer Middleton's tombstone?'

'No.'

'Why did she do it then? Was it to plague you?'

'Cause I wouldn't say my hymn.'

'I wonder if it is not you that have been plaguing Miss Martindale
all the time. Eh? Come, aren't you sorry you kept her sitting all
this time among the nettles when she might have been walking to
Colman's Weir, and gathering such fine codlings and cream as Mrs.
Martindale has there, and all because you would not say a hymn that
you knew quite well? Wasn't that a pity?'

'Yes,' and the eyes looked up ingenuously.

'Come and tell her you are sorry. Won't you? There, that's right,'
and he dictated as she repeated after him, as if under a spell, 'I'm
sorry, ma'am, that I was sulky and naughty; I'll say it next Sunday,
and make no fuss.'

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