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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 7 out of 15

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early service, and as she left her room prepared for it, she met
Violet coming out of the nursery. Theodora for once did not attempt
to disguise her warmth of heart, and eagerly asked for the little
boy.

'Quite comfortable--almost merry,' answered Violet, and taking the
hand stretched out in a very different way from the formal touch with
which it usually paid its morning greeting, and raising her eyes with
her gentle earnest look, she said, 'Dear Theodora, I am afraid you
don't like it, but you must let me this once thank you.'

Theodora's face was such that Violet ventured to kiss her, then found
an arm round her neck, and a warm kiss in return. Theodora ran down-
stairs, thinking it a discovery that there was more beauty in those
eyes than merely soft brown colour and long black lashes.
It was a long time since her heart had been so light. It was as if a
cold hard weight was removed. That one softening had been an
inexpressible relief, and when she had thrown aside the black veil
that had shrouded her view, everything looked so bright and sweet
that she could hardly understand it.

The whole scene was new. She had been seldom from home, and only as
a visitor in great houses, whither Lady Martindale carried formality;
and she had never known the charm of ease in a small family. Here it
would have been far more hard to support her cold solitary dignity
than in the 'high baronial pride' of Martindale. She was pleased to
see how well Arthur looked as master of the house, and both he and
his wife were so much delighted to make her welcome now that she
would allow them, that it seemed extraordinary that a year and three
quarters had passed without her ever having entered their house.
Violet was, she owned, a caressing, amiable, lovable creature,
needing to be guarded and petted, and she laid herself open to the
pleasure of having something to make much of and patronize.

After breakfast, Violet installed her in the back drawing-room,
promising that she should there be entirely free from interruption,
but she had no desire to shut herself up; she was eager to see little
Johnnie, and did not scruple to confess it. He was their chief bond
of union, and if she was charmed with him now, when feeble and
ailing, how much more as he recovered. Even at his best, he was
extremely delicate, very small, thin, and fair, so that face and
arms, as well as flaxen hair, were all as white as his frock, and
were only enlivened by his dark eyes. He was backward in strength,
but almost too forward in intelligence; grave and serious, seldom
laughing, and often inclined to be fretful, altogether requiring the
most anxious care, but exceedingly engaging and affectionate, and
already showing patience and obedience to his mother that was almost
affecting. Their mutual fondness was beautiful, and Theodora
honoured it when she saw that the tenderness was judicious, obviating
whines, but enforcing obedience even when it was pain and grief to
cross the weakly child.

Moreover, Theodora was satisfied by finding that she had diligently
kept up the Sunday-school teaching of the little Brogden maid; and as
to her household management, Theodora set herself to learn it; and
soon began to theorize and devise grand plans of economy, which she
wanted Violet to put in practice at once, and when told they would
not suit Arthur, complacently answered, 'That would not be her
hindrance.'

Violet wrote to John that if he could see Theodora and Percy now, he
would be completely satisfied as to their attachment and chances of
happiness.

CHAPTER 12

I saw her hold Earl Percy at the point
With lustier maintenance than I did look for
Of such an ungrown warrior.--King Henry IV

As soon as Violet could leave her little boy without anxiety, the two
sisters deposited Charles Layton at the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, with
hopes that a few years' training there would enable him to become
Miss Martindale's little page, the grand object of his desires.

Their next and merriest excursion was to Percy's lodgings, where he
had various Greek curiosities which he wished to show them; and
Theodora consented to come with her brother and sister in a simple
straightforward way that Violet admired.

His rooms were over a toy-shop in Piccadilly, in such a roar of
sounds that the ladies exclaimed, and Arthur asked him how much he
paid for noise.

'It is worth having,' said Percy; 'it is cheerful.'

'Do you think so?' exclaimed Violet. 'I think carriages, especially
late at night, make a most dismal dreary sound.'

'They remind me of an essay of Miss Talbot's where she speaks of her
companions hastening home from the feast of empty shells,' said
Theodora.

'Ay! those are your West-end carriages,' said Percy; 'I will allow
them a dreary dissatisfied sound. Now mine are honest, business-like
market-waggons, or hearty tradesfolk coming home in cabs from
treating their children to the play. There is sense in those! I go
to sleep thinking what drops of various natures make up the roar of
that great human cataract, and wake up dreaming of the Rhine falls.

"Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows down the vale of Cheapside."

Eh, Mrs. Martindale?'

Violet, who always received a quotation of Wordsworth as a compliment
to the north, smiled and answered, 'I am afraid with me it would end
in

"The stream will not flow, the hill will not rise."'

'Pish, Violet,' said her husband, 'how can you expect to feel like
poets and lovers? And halloo! he is coming it strong! "Poems by
A."; "The White Hind and other Poems"; "Gwyneth: a tale in verse";
"Farewell to Pausilippo", by the Earl of St. Erme. Well done, Percy!
Are you collecting original serenades for Theodora? I'll never
betray where they came from.'

'It is all in the way of trade,' said Percy.

'Reviewing?' said Theodora.

'Yes; there has been such an absurd amount of flattery bestowed on
them that it must provoke any reasonable being. It really is time to
put forth a little common sense, since the magazines will have it
that earls write better than other people.'

'Some of the verses in Lord St. Erme's last volume seem to me very
pretty,' said Violet.

'There, she is taking up the cudgels for her countryman,' said
Arthur, always pleased when she put herself forward.

'Which do you mean?' said Percy, turning on her incredulously.

'I like those about the Bay of Naples,' she answered.

'You do not mean these?' and he read them in so good-humoured a tone
that no one could be vexed, but marking every inconsistent simile and
word tortured out of its meaning, and throwing in notes and comments
on the unfaithfulness of the description.

'There! it would do as well for the Bay of Naples as for the farm-
yard at Martindale--all water and smoke.'

Arthur and Theodora laughed, but Violet stood her ground, blushingly
but resolutely.

'Anything so read would sound ill,' she said. 'I dare say it is all
right about the faults, but some parts seem to me very pretty. This
stanza, about the fishermen's boats at night, like sparks upon the
water, is one I like, because it is what John once described to me.'

'You are right, Mrs. Martindale,' said Percy, reading a second time
the lines to which she alluded. 'They do recall the evening scene;
Mount Vesuvius and its brooding cloud, and the trails of phosphoric
light upon the sea. I mark these for approval. But have you
anything to say for this Address to the Mediterranean?'

He did not this time mar the poem in the reading, and it was not
needed, the compound words and twisted epithets were so extravagant
that no one gainsaid Arthur's sentence, 'Stilts and bladders!'

'And all that abuse of the savage north is unpardonable,' said
Theodora. 'Sluggish torpid minds, indeed, frozen by skies bound in
mist belts! If he would stay at home and mind his own business, he
would not have time to talk such nonsense.'

'Now,' said the still undaunted Violet, when the torrent of unsparing
jest had expended itself, 'now it is my turn. Let me show you one
short piece. This--"To L."'

It was an address evidently to his orphan sister, very beautiful and
simple; and speaking so touchingly of their loneliness together and
dependence on each other, that Mr. Fotheringham was overcome, and
fairly broke down in the reading--to the dismay of Violet, who had
little thought his feelings so easily excited.

'Think of the man going and publishing it,' said Theodora. 'If I was
Lady Lucy, I should not care a rush for it now.'

'That is what you get by belonging to a poet,' said Arthur. 'He
wears his heart outside.'

'This came straight from the heart, at least,' said Percy. 'It is
good, very good. I am glad you showed it to me. It would never do
not to be candid. I will turn him over again.'

'Well done, councillor,' cried Arthur. 'She has gained a verdict for
him.'

'Modified the sentence, and given me some re-writing to do,' said
Percy. 'I cannot let him off; the more good there is in him, the
more it is incumbent on some one to slash him. Authors are like
spaniels, et cetera.'

'Hear, hear, Theodora!' cried Arthur. 'See there, he has the stick
ready, I declare.'

For in truth Arthur would hardly have been so patient of hearing so
much poetry, if it had not been for the delight he always took in
seeing his wife's opinion sought by a clever man, and he was glad to
turn for amusement to Percy's curiosities. Over the mantel-piece
there was a sort of trophy in imitation of the title-page to Robinson
Crusoe, a thick hooked stick set up saltire-wise with the green
umbrella, and between them a yataghan, supporting a scarlet blue-
tasselled Greek cap. Percy took down the stick, and gave it into
Theodora's hand, saying, 'It has been my companion over half Europe
and Asia; I cut it at--'

'By the well of St. Keyne?' suggested the malicious brother.

'No, at the source of the Scamander,' said Percy. It served us in
good stead when we got into the desert of Engaddi.'

'Oh! was that when the robbers broke into John's tent?' exclaimed
Violet. 'Surely you had some better weapon?'

'Not I; the poor rogues were not worth wasting good powder on, and a
good English drubbing was a much newer and more effective experiment.
I was thenceforth known by the name of Grandfather of Clubs, and
Brown always manoeuvred me into sleeping across the entrance of the
tent. I do believe we should have left him entombed in the desert
sands, if John's dressing-case had been lost!'

'What a capital likeness of John,' said Theodora. 'Mamma would be
quite jealous of it.'

'It belonged to my sister,' said Percy. 'He got it done by an
Italian, who has made him rather theatrically melancholy; but it is a
good picture, and like John when he looked more young-mannish and
sentimental than he does now.'

A hiss and cluck made Violet start. In a dark corner, shrouded by
the curtain, sat Pallas Athene, the owl of the Parthenon, winking at
the light, and testifying great disapproval of Arthur, though when
her master took her on his finger, she drew herself up and elevated
her pretty little feathery horns with satisfaction, and did not even
object to his holding her to a great tabby cat belonging to the
landlady, but which was most at home on the hearth-rug of the good-
natured lodger.

'I always read my compositions to them,' said Percy. 'Pallas acts
sapient judge to admiration, and Puss never commits herself,
applauding only her own music--like other critics. We reserve our
hisses for others.'

'How do you feed the owl, Percy?'

'A small boy provides her with sparrows and mice for sixpence a
dozen. I doubted whether it was cruelty to animals, but decided that
it was diverting the spirit of the chase to objects more legitimate
than pocket-handkerchiefs.'

'Ho! so there you seek your proteges!'

'He sought me. I seized him fishing in my pocket. I found he had no
belongings, and that his most commodious lodging-house was one of the
huge worn-out boilers near Nine-Elms--an illustration for Watts's
Hymns, Theodora.'

'Poor little creature!' said Violet, horrified. 'What will become of
him?'

'He is doing justice to the patronage of the goddess of wisdom,' said
Percy. 'He is as sharp as a needle, and gets on in the world--has
discarded "conveying," and promoted himself to selling lucifers.'

'A happy family theirs will be,' said Arthur. 'Cat, owl, and two
rival pages!'

So, having duly admired all, curious books, potteries, red and black,
tiles and lachrymatories, coins, scraps of ancient armour, a stuffed
bee-eater, and the bottled remains of a green lizard that had been a
pet at Constantinople--and having been instructed in the difference
between various Eastern modes of writing--the merry visit closed; and
as the two sisters went home they planned a suit of clothes for the
owl's provider, Theodora stipulating for all the hard and unusual
needlework.

CHAPTER 13

I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war when they should kneel for peace,
Or seek the rule, supremacy, and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.--Taming of the Shrew

It was an early season, and Theodora had not been a fortnight at her
brother's before numerous arrivals necessitated a round of visits, to
which she submitted without more than moderate grumbling. The first
call was on the Rickworth ladies; but it was not a propitious moment,
for other visitors were in the drawing-room, and among them Miss
Marstone. Emma came to sit by Violet, and was very anxious to hear
whether she had not become intimate with Theresa. Violet could not
give a good account of herself in this respect; their hours did not
suit, and they had only twice met.

'And is she not delightful?'

'She is a very superior person' said Violet, looking down. 'Do you
know her sisters? I liked one of them.'

'We shall have to call on them, but they are mere ordinary girls--no
companions to Theresa. She laments it very much, and has had to make
a line for herself. I must come and tell you about it some morning.
It is nonsense to meet in this way and think of conversation.

Theodora had, in the meantime, had the exclusive attention of Miss
Marstone. 'So Emma is constant to the Prae-Raffaelite,' said
Theodora, as they drove from the door. 'What is all this about the
Priory?'

'Did Miss Marstone talk about that?' said Violet, aghast.

'She said something about a restoration. What! is it a secret?'

'I suppose she thought you must know it, since I did. I was much
surprised by her beginning about it to me, for when Emma first
mentioned it to me, Lady Elizabeth seemed vexed, and begged me never
to hint at it.'

'So Emma wants to make restitution. Well done, little Emma! I did
not think it was in her.'

'It has been her darling scheme for years; but Lady Elizabeth has
made her promise to wait till she is five-and-twenty, and not to
consider herself pledged.'

'How like Lady Elizabeth! One respects her like an institution!
I hope Emma may hold out, but she has a firebrand in her counsels.
I am glad you are not infatuated.'

'I am sure I don't know what I think of Miss Marstone. I cannot like
her; yet I want to admire her--she is so good.'

'Let her be as good as she pleases; why should she be silly?'

'Oh! she is very clever.'

'When good and clever people are silly, they are the biggest
simpletons of all.'

'Then I don't think I quite know what you mean by silliness.'

'Not turning one's sense to the best advantage, I suppose,' said
Theodora. 'That Miss Marstone provokes me. If her principles were
not right I should not care; but when she has sound views, to see her
go on talking, with no reserve, only caring for what is out of the
way, it makes one feel oneself turned to ridicule. How can Lady
Elizabeth endure it?'

'I don't think she likes it, but Emma is so fond of her!'

'Oh! as to Emma, her poor little imagination is dazzled. It is
providential that she has four years to wait! Unless, indeed, there
is a reaction, and she marries either a broken-down fox-hunter or a
popular preacher.'

Violet's horrified protests were cut short by the carriage stopping.
In returning, they called at Mrs. Finch's house, to inquire when the
family were expected to return from Paris. They had arrived that
morning, and Violet said she would make a short visit, and then go
home and send the carriage back, but Theodora preferred walking home.

As they were announced, Mrs. Finch started up from a gilded sofa on
which she had been reclining, reading a French brochure. Her dress
was in the excess of the newest Parisian fashion, such as even to
London eyes looked outre, and, as well as her hair, had the
disordered look of being just off a journey. Her face had a worn
aspect, and the colour looked fixed. Theodora, always either rigidly
simple or appropriately splendid, did not like Violet to see her
friend in such a condition, and could almost have shrunk from the
eager greeting. 'Theodora Martindale! This is delightful! It is a
real charity to look in on us to-day! Mrs. Martindale, how are you?
You look better than last time I saw you. Let me introduce you to
Mr. Finch.'

Mr. Finch was a little dried-up man, whose ceremonious bow put Violet
in mind of the Mayor of Wrangerton. Bending low, he politely gave
her a chair, and then subsided into oblivion; while Miss Gardner came
forward, as usual, the same trim, quiet, easy-mannered person, and
began to talk to Violet, while Mrs. Finch was loudly conversing with
Theodora.

The apartment was much in the same style as the lady's dress, full of
gilding and bright colour, expensive, but not producing a good
effect; especially as the sofa had been dragged forward to the fire,
and travelling gear and newspapers lay about untidily. Altogether
there was something unsatisfactory to the feelings of both Theodora
and Violet, though Mrs. Finch was very affectionate in her impetuous
way, and Miss Gardner gently kind to Violet, asking many questions
about her little boy.

Violet soon took leave, and Mr. Finch went down with her to the
carriage.

'That is a fresh complexion that does one good to see!' cried Mrs.
Finch, when she was gone. 'I am glad to see her in better looks and
spirits.'

'She understands the art of dress,' said Miss Gardner. Theodora was
on the point of making a sharp answer. It was the consequence of
having once allowed her brother's wife to be freely canvassed, and
she was glad that an opening door checked the conversation.

There entered a tall fashionable-looking man, with a glossy brown
moustache, and a very hairy chin, but of prepossessing and
gentlemanlike appearance. He leant over the sofa, and said a few
words in a low voice to Mrs. Finch, who answered with nods, and a
display of her white teeth in smiles. Raising himself, as if to go,
he said, 'Ah! by the bye, who is that pretty friend of yours that I
met Finch escorting down-stairs? A most uncommon style of beauty--'

'That was Mrs. Martindale,' said Miss Gardner, rather in haste.

'Arthur Martindale's village maid? Ha! Jane, there's jealousy; I
thought you told me--'

'Georgina!' exclaimed Jane, 'you should have introduced Mark to Miss
Martindale.'

As Theodora moved her stately neck she felt as if a thunder-bolt had
fallen; but the gentleman's manner was particularly pleasing.

'It is Jane's concern,' said Mrs. Finch, laughing. 'I leave you to
infer why she checks his communications.'

'There is nothing more awkward than "You told me so,"' said Mr.
Gardner, 'since the days of "Who is your next neighbour, sir?" I may
be allowed some interest in the matter, for your brother is an old
school-fellow of mine.'

'Come!' exclaimed Georgina, 'if you stay dawdling here, my letter
won't be written, and my vases won't come. Fancy, Theodora, such
delicious Sevres vases, big enough to hold the Forty Thieves, sky
blue, with medallions of Mars and Venus, and Cupids playing tricks--
the loveliest things imaginable--came from Versailles--absolutely
historical.'

'Lauzun is supposed to have been hidden in one,' said Mr. Gardner.

'I vowed I would have them, and I never fail. Mark has been through
fire and water for them.'

'And I suppose they cost--' said Theodora.

'The keep of half-a-dozen starving orphans,' said Mrs. Finch,
triumphantly. 'Ay, you may look, Theodora; but they are my
trophies.'

'I wish you joy of them,' said Theodora.

'So you shall, when you see them; and that she may, off with you,
Mark, or the post will go.'

'My cousin is a despot,' said Mark, moving off, with a bow to
Theodora; Mrs. Finch, following, spoke a few words, and then shut him
into the other room.

'Poor Mark'' said Jane, in the interval. 'We have brought him home.
He has had a little property left him, and means to clear off his
debts and make a fresh beginning. His poor mother is so delighted!'

'The coast is clear,' said Mrs. Finch, returning. 'Now, Theodora, is
it true that you are going to be married?'

Point blank questions did not excite Theodora's blushes; and she
composedly answered,

'Some time or other.'

'There! I knew it could not be true,' cried Jane.

'What is not true?' said Theodora.

'Not that you are going to have the curate!' said Mrs. Finch. 'Jane,
Jane, that has brought the rouge! Oh! I hope and trust it is not
the curate.'

'Certainly not,' said Theodora, in a grave deliberate voice.

'That's a mercy!' said Mrs. Finch. 'I had not the slightest
confidence in you. I always reckoned on your making some wild
choice. Oh! by the bye, do tell me where Percy Fotheringham is to be
found. I must have him at our first party. What a charming book
that is!'

'Even at Paris every one is full of it, already,' said Jane. 'I feel
quite jealous of you, Theodora, for knowing him so well, when we, his
cousins, never saw him at all.'

'Cousins in royal fashion,' said Theodora, glad that the blush had
begun for Mr. Wingfield. 'What is the exact connection?'

'You explain, Jane; it is past me. I am content to count kindred
with the royal beast.'

'Lady Fotheringham, his uncle's wife, is sister to Mark's mother, my
uncle's wife,' said Jane. 'There! I trust that is lucidly done.'

'That is all, is it?' said Theodora.

'Enough for the sending of a card. Tell me where, if you know.'

Theodora named the place.

'Does he show off well? Mark says he has claws--'

'I have known him too long to tell how he appears to strangers,' said
Theodora, as the colour mounted again.

'Do you see much of him?'

'He comes to Arthur's house.'

'You have ventured there?' said Jane. 'It was hard not to be able to
come for the season otherwise.'

'I came up to bring the dumb boy to the Asylum. I am staying on
because I like it.'

'Do you mean to go out with her?'

'When she goes, I do so too, but I am not come for the season. My
brother's regiment is ordered to Windsor, and perhaps I may stay to
be with her.'

'She has more manner than last year,' said Jane: 'she is greatly
improved in looks. You will believe me, Theodora, all I said to Mark
only referred to her paleness.'

'It won't do, Jane,' said her sister; 'you only make it worse. I see
how it is; Theodora has found out that her sister-in-law is a pretty
little pet of a thing that does her no harm, and you have got into
the wrong box by flattering her first dislike. Yes, yes, Theodora,
we know Jane of old; and never could get her to see the only safe way
is to tell one's mind straight out.'

'I don't see it established that I did not tell Theodora my real
mind,' said Jane, quietly; 'I always thought Mrs. Martindale pretty
and elegant--'

'Self-evident,' said Georgina; 'but if I had been among you, would
not I have told Theodora the poor child was cowed by her dignities,
and Mrs. Nesbit and all the rest? Oh, I would have made much of her,
and brought her forward. She should have been my queen of Violets: I
would have done it last year if that unlucky baby had not come in the
way.'

'And now she does not need patronage,' said Jane.

'No; and now Theodora has found her out for herself--a better thing,'
said Mrs. Finch. 'You look all the better for it! I never saw you
look so bright or so handsome, Theodora! You are a happy girl!'--and
there was a sigh. Some interruption here occurring, Theodora took
her leave, and walked home. She felt ruffled by her visit, and as
she came indoors, ran up-stairs and knocked at her sister's door.
The room looked cool and pleasant, and Violet was lying down in her
white, frilled dressing-gown, so freshly, purely, delicately neat,
and with so calm and sweet a smile, that the contrast marked itself
strongly, and Theodora thought no one ever looked more innocent and
engaging. 'I hope you are not tired?'

'Oh, no; I only thought it wiser to rest, thank you.'

'I came to tell you that Georgina Finch wants us to go to a party
next Tuesday week. There's nothing to prevent it, is there?'

'I know of nothing; but Arthur will say--'

'We are to bring Percy. I meant to have told them of our affair; but
I did not think they deserved it just then. I am glad he is no real
relation to that Mr. Gardner.'

'Was it Mr. Gardner who met me going down-stairs?' said Violet, with
an unpleasant recollection of having been stared at. 'Is he their
brother?'

'No; their cousin. I wonder what you think of them?' said Theodora,
hastily throwing aside her bonnet and gloves, and seating herself.

'Miss Gardner is very good-natured and pleasing.'

'Those words are made for her. But what of Georgina?'

'I hardly know her,' said Violet, hesitating. 'This is only the
second time I have seen her; and last year I was so unwell that her
liveliness was too much for me.'

'Overpowering,' said Theodora. 'So people say. It is time she
should steady; but she will not think. I'm provoked with her. I did
not like her looks to-day, and yet she has a good warm heart. She is
worth a dozen Janes! Don't prefer Jane to her, whatever you do,
Violet!' Then breaking off, she began earnestly: 'You see, Violet,
those are my oldest friends; I never could care for any girl but
Georgina, and we have done such things together as I never can
forget. They had great disadvantages; a set of wretched governesses-
-one worse than the other, and were left entirely to their mercy. My
education was no pattern; but it was a beauty to theirs, thanks to my
father. I do believe I was the only person with any serious notions
that Georgina ever came in contact with, in all her growing up.
Their father died just as she was coming out, leaving very little
provision for them; and they were shifted about among fine relations,
who only wanted to get rid of them, and gave them to understand they
must marry for a home.'

'Poor girls! What a miserable life!'

'Jane knew she was no beauty, and took to the obliging line. She
fawns, and is intimate and popular. I never liked her silkiness,
though it creeps into one at the time. Georgina had more in her.
I wish you could have seen her at eighteen. She was such a fine,
glowing, joyous-looking girl, with those bright cheeks, and her eyes
dancing and light hair waving, and exuberant spirits that no neglect
or unkindness could daunt--all wild gaiety, setting humbug at
defiance, and so good-natured! Oh! dear, it makes one melancholy!'

'And what made the change?'

'She had a long, low, nervous fever, as they called it; but I have
never known much about it, for it was when we were all taken up with
John's illness. She was very long in recovering, and I suppose her
spirit was broken, and that the homelessness grew unbearable; for,
whereas she had always declared for honest independence and poverty,
the next thing I heard of her was, that she had accepted this
miserable money-making old wretch!'

'Perhaps she liked him.'

'No, indeed! She despises him, and does not hide it! She is true!
that is the best of her. I cannot help caring for Georgina. Poor
thing, I hate to see it! Her spirits as high as ever, and with as
little ballast; and yet she looks so fagged. She was brought up to
dissipation--and does not know where else to turn. She has not a
creature to say a word the right way!'

'Not her sister?' said Violet. 'She seemed serious and good.'

'No one can tell what is the truth in Jane,' said Theodora; 'and her
sister, who knows her best, is the last person to be influenced by
her. Some one to whom she could look up is the only chance. Oh, how
I wish she had a child! Anything to love would make her think. But
there was something in the appearance of that room I cannot get
over.'

'The confusion of arriving--'

'No, nothing ever could have made it so with you! I don't know what
it was, but-- Well, I do think nothing else prevented me from telling
them about Percy. I meant it when I said I would stay after you; and
they talked about his book, and asked if I saw much of him, and I
faced it out, so that they never suspected it, and now I think it was
cowardly. I know! I will go at once, and write Georgina a note, and
tell her the truth.'

She went, and after a little interval, Violet began to dress for a
party at the house of a literary friend of Lady Martindale's, where
they were to meet an Eastern grandee then visiting London. As she
finished, she bethought herself that Theodora had never before had to
perform a grand toilette without a lady's maid; and going to her
room, found her, indeed, with her magnificent black tresses still
spread over her shoulders, flushed, humiliated, almost angry at her
own failures in disposing of them.

'Don't I look like an insane gipsy?' said she, looking up, and
tossing back the locks that hung over her face.

'Can I do anything to help you?'

'Thank you; sit down, and I'll put all this black stuff out of the
way,' said Theodora, grasping her hair with the action of the Tragic
Muse. 'I'll put it up in every-day fashion. I wish you would tell
me what you do to yours to get it into those pretty plaits.'

'I could show you in a minute; but as it is rather late, perhaps you
would not dislike my trying to put it up for you.'

'Thank you--no, pray don't; you will tire yourself.' But it was
spoken with none of the old disdain, and left an opening for coaxing.

'I used to be thought a good hand with my sisters' hair. It will be
such a treat if you will only let me try,' said she, emboldened to
stroke the raven tresses, and then take the comb, while Theodora
yielded, well pleased. 'On condition you give me a lesson to-morrow.
I am not to be maid-ridden all my life,' and it ended with 'Thank
you! That is comfortable. You came in my utmost need. I am only
ashamed of having troubled you.'

'Don't say so. I am so much obliged to you for letting me try. It
is more like being at home with you,' murmured Violet, turning away;
but her voice as well as the glass betrayed her tearful eyes, and
Theodora's sensation was a reward for her pride having slumbered and
allowed her to accept a service.

Mr. Fotheringham came to dinner that he might go with them to the
party. As they were drinking coffee before setting out, Mrs. Finch's
invitation was mentioned.

'You had better leave your card for her, Percy,' said Theodora. He
made no answer.

'Will you dine with us first and go?' said Violet.

Thank you; I do not mean to visit them.'

'No!' exclaimed Theodora. 'They are connections!'

'The more cause for avoiding them.'

'I have promised to introduce you.'

'I am afraid you reckoned without your host.'

'Ha!' cried Arthur, 'the lion is grown coquettish with fine feeding.
He is not easy of leading.'

'She is my greatest friend,' said Theodora, as if it was conclusive;
but Percy only answered, I should be very sorry to believe so,' set
down his cup, and began to read the paper. She was the more
irritated. 'Percy,' she said, 'do you really not intend to go to the
party!'

'Certainly not.'

'Not to visit a relation of your own, and my most intimate friend,
when it is my especial desire?'

'You do not know what you are talking of,' he answered, without
raising his eyes.

'Percy!' exclaimed Theodora, her pride and affection so mortified
that she forgot that Arthur was looking on with mischievous glee,
'have you any reason for this neglect?'

'Of course I have,' said he, reading on.

'Then let me hear it.'

'You force it from me, Theodora,' said Percy, laying down the paper:
'it is because I will not enter into any intercourse I can avoid with
persons whose conduct I disapprove.'

Violet coloured and shrank closer to her husband. Theodora's face
and neck turned almost crimson, and her eyes sparkled, but her voice
only showed unmoved disdain. 'Remember, she is my FRIEND.'

'You do not know her history, or you would not call her so.'

'I do. What is there to be ashamed of?'

'I see, you know nothing of the prior attachment,' said Percy, not
without anger at her pertinacity.

'A boy and girl liking that had been long past.'

'O it had, had it?' said Percy, ironically. 'So you approve her
marrying an old rogue and miser, who had heaped up his hoards by
extortion of wretched Indians and Spaniards, the very scum of Mammon,
coming to the top like everything detestable?'

'I never heard his money was ill-gotten.'

'Those who spend don't ask whence gold comes. And you justify her
keeping the old love, this cousin, dangling about her house all the
winter till she is the talk of Paris!'

'I don't believe gossip.'

'Can you deny that he is in London in her train?'

He has come into some property, and means to turn over a new leaf.'

'Ay, and a worse leaf than before.'

'How can you judge of his resolutions?'

Arthur laughed, saying, 'I'd not bet much on Mark Gardner's.'

Much to Violet's relief, the carriage was announced; the gentlemen
walked, and Theodora talked of indifferent matters fast and gaily.
Percy handed Mrs. Martindale out, and gave her his arm, leaving
Theodora to her brother.

It was a small select party, almost every one known to Theodora; and
she was soon in eager conversation at some distance from Violet, who
was sorry for Percy, as he stood in silence beside her own chair,
vexation apparent on his honest face.

'Who is that talking to Theodora?' he presently asked. It was a
small light-complexioned gentleman, whose head and face, and the
whole style of his dress and person, might have made him appear a boy
of seventeen, but for a pale moustache and tuft on the chin.
Theodora looked very animated, and his face was glowing with the
pleasure of her notice.

'I cannot tell,' said Violet; 'there is Arthur, ask him.'

Percy was moving towards Arthur, when he was caught by the master of
the house, and set to talk to the Oriental in his own language.
Violet had never been so impressed by his talents as while listening
to his fluent conversation in the foreign tongue, making the stranger
look delighted and amused, and giving the English audience lively
interpretations, which put them into ready communication with the
wonder at whom they had hitherto looked in awkwardness. Theodora did
not come near the group, nor seem to perceive Violet's entreating
glances; and when the Eastern prince departed, Percy had also
disappeared. Violet was gratified by the ladies around her
descanting on his book and his Syriac, and wished Theodora could hear
them.

At that moment she found Theodora close to her, presenting Lord St.
Erme to Mrs. Arthur Martindale! After so much dislike to that little
insignificant light man for being the means of vexing Percy, to find
him the poet hero, the feudal vision of nobility, the Lord of
Wrangerton! What an adventure for her mother to hear of!

It was a pleasant and rather pretty face when seen near, with very
good blue eyes, and an air of great taste and refinement, and the
voice was very agreeable, as he asked some question about the Eastern
prince. Violet hardly knew what she answered.

'I met him yesterday, but it was flat,' he said. 'They had a man
there whose Syriac was only learnt from books, and who could not
understand him. The interpreter to-night was far more au-fait--very
clever he seemed. Who was he?'

'Mr. Fotheringham,' said Theodora.

'The Crusader? Was it, indeed?' said Lord St. Erme, eagerly. 'Is he
here? I wish particularly to make his acquaintance.'

'I believe he is gone,' said Violet, pitying the unconscious victim,
and at once amused, provoked, and embarrassed.

'You know him?'

Violet marvelled at the composure of Theodora's reply. 'Yes, my
eldest brother was his travelling companion.'

'Is it possible? Your brother the "M" of the book?' exclaimed the
young Earl, with enthusiastic delight and interest. 'I never guessed
it! I must read it again for the sake of meeting him.'

'You often do meet him there,' said Theodora, 'as my sister can
testify. She was helping him to revise it last summer at Ventnor.'

'I envy you!' cried Lord St. Erme; 'to go through such a book with
such a companion was honour indeed!'

'It was delightful,' said Violet.

'Those are such delicious descriptions,' proceeded he. 'Do you
remember the scene where he describes the crusading camp at
Constantinople? It is the perfection of language--places the whole
before you--carries you into the spirit of the time. It is a Tasso
unconscious of his powers, borne along by his innate poetry;' then
pausing, 'surely yon admire it, Miss Martindale?'

'O, yes,' said Theodora, annoyed at feeling a blush arising. The
Earl seemed sensible of a check, and changed his tone to a sober and
rather timid one, as he inquired after Mr. Martindale. The reply was
left to Violet.

'He has never been so well in his life. He is extremely busy, and
much enjoys the beauty of the place.'

'I suppose it is very pretty,' said Lord St. Erme.

'Nothing can be more lovely than the colour of the sea, and the
wonderful foliage, and the clearness. He says all lovers of fine
scenery ought to come there.'

'Scenery can hardly charm unless it has a past,' he replied.

'I can controvert that,' said Theodora.

With much diffidence he replied: 'I speak only of my own feeling. To
me, a fine landscape without associations has no soul. It is like an
unintellectual beauty.'

'There are associations in the West Indies,' said Theodora.

'Not the most agreeable,' said Lord St. Erme.

'There is the thought of Columbus,' said Violet, 'his whole
character, and his delight as each island surpassed the last.'

'Now, I have a fellow-feeling for the buccaneers,' said Theodora.
'Bertram Risingham was always a hero of mine. I believe it is an
ancestral respect, probably we are their descendants.'

Violet wondered if she said so to frighten him.

'"Rokeby" has given a glory to buccaneering,' he replied. 'It is the
office of poetry to gild nature by breathing a soul into her. It is
what the Americans are trying to do for their new world, still
turning to England as their Greece.'

'I meant no past associations,' said Theodora, bluntly. 'John
carries his own with him.'

'Yes; all may bear the colour of the imagination within.'

'And of the purpose,' said Theodora. 'It is work in earnest, no
matter where, that gives outward things their interest. Dreaming
will never do it. Working will.'

Their conversation here closed; but Theodora said as they went home:
'What did you think of him, Violet?'

'He looks younger than I expected.'

'He would be good for something if he could be made to work. I long
to give him a pickaxe, and set him on upon the roads. Then he would
see the beauty of them! I hate to hear him maunder on about
imagination, while he leaves his tenantry to take their chance.
HE knows what eyes Percy and John see things with!'

'I am glad to have seen him,' said Violet, reassured.

'He desired to be introduced to you.'

'I wonder--do you think--do you suppose he remembers--?'

'I don't suppose he thinks anything about it,' said Theodora,
shortly.

CHAPTER 14

I am not yet of Earl Percy's mind.--King Henry IV

'Violet,' said Theodora, the next morning, 'I want to know if Percy
said more to Arthur than to us?'

She spoke with deepening colour, and Violet's glowed still more, as
she answered: 'Arthur asked him, and he said he would not BEGIN an
acquaintance, but that there was no occasion to break off the
ordinary civilities of society. He accused her of no more than
levity. Yes, those were Arthur's words.'

'I am going to get to the bottom of it,' said Theodora; 'and give
Georgina a thorough lecture.'

She departed; and Violet sat down to her letters, with little Johnnie
crawling at her feet; but in a few minutes she was interrupted by the
entrance of Mr. Fotheringham, asking for Theodora.

'She is gone out. She could not rest without an explanation from
Mrs. Finch.'

'A proper farrago she will hear,' said Percy. 'I found I could
settle to nothing, so I thought it best to come and have it out.'

'I hope she will soon come in.'

'Don't let me interrupt you. Go on with your letters.--Ha! little
master!'

In his present temper, play with the baby was the most congenial
occupation, and he made the little fellow very happy till he was
carried off for his midday sleep. Then he tried to read, but seemed
so uneasy, that Violet wondered if it would be intermeddling to hint
at Theodora's real views. At last, as if he could bear it no longer,
he abruptly said, 'Mrs. Martindale, do you know anything of these
people?'

'Very little,' she answered. 'Theodora was telling me about them
yesterday, before you came. I believe she only likes them for old
acquaintance' sake.'

'Is it true that she used to go out with them last year?'

'I believe that she did sometimes.'

'At least, I hope that will not happen again.'

'No, I should not think it would. I am sure Theodora does not
entirely approve of Mrs. Finch.'

'She defended her through thick and thin.'

'You shocked her with the suddenness of what you said. She cannot
forget the having been happy together as children; but she thinks as
you do, and disliked the marriage very much. Before you came, she
had been lamenting over Mrs. Finch.'

'Then, it was pure perverseness!'

'If I said so, I wonder what you would answer,' said Violet, with a
bright, arch look.

'I should hear reason,' said Percy, roughly, as if to repel the
sweetness; yet it had a mollifying effect, and he presently spoke
with less irritation and more regret.

'She suspects no evil, and cannot understand any imputation on her
friend. She fancies I speak from report, but I have known this
fellow, Mark, all my life. His mother is a sister of my Aunt
Fotheringham. They wanted me to hunt up an appointment to get him
out of the young lady's way.'

'Before her marriage?'

'Ay. When I was last in England, there was a great to-do at the
discovery of an engagement between this youth and Miss Georgina.
I suppose, considering her bringing-up, she was not much to be
blamed. I remember my aunt thought the poor girl harshly dealt
with.'

'O, that must have been the cause of the nervous fever Theodora
mentioned. She said she knew no particulars.'

'She has not been openly dealt with,' said Percy. 'They do not dare
to let her see their doings.'

'So the poor thing was tormented into this marriage?'

'No torment needed. The elder sister did try to warn her that it
could not turn out well. I should think the old rogue had found his
punishment for his extortions. Fine stories I could tell you of him
in South America. Now, am I not justified in keeping clear of them?
Let Theodora say what she will, it does not make it right for me to
put myself in the way of those great extravagant dinners and parties
of theirs, where they want me for nothing but a show-off.'

'I am sure Theodora will think with you, when she is cooler, and not
taken by surprise.'

The clock struck.

'There, I have an appointment!'

'I wish you could wait for luncheon. She must come then.'

'What are you going to do this evening?'

'I am sorry to say that we dine out; but to-morrow is Sunday, and you
will be sure to find us at home.'

He went, and one o'clock came, but no Theodora. Violet had waited
ten minutes for luncheon before she returned.

'I did not know how late it was,' said she. 'I wish you had begun
without me.'

Then, throwing her bonnet into a chair, and cutting some cake, she
proceeded: 'Such hours as they keep! No one but Jane was up when I
came, so I went to her room, and told her I would hear the rights of
it.'

'Were you satisfied?'

'Georgina has been foolish and unguarded, and the world is very ill-
natured. I hate it altogether, from beginning to end,' said
Theodora, with an impatient gesture. 'Most decidedly,' she added,
'Georgina never ought to have married. I forced it from Jane that
she had never cared for any one but this Mark. The discovery of his
extravagance and misconduct was the real overthrow of my poor
Georgina. It was that which brought on her illness; the family were
very unkind; and at last weakness and persecution broke down her
spirit, and she was ready to do anything to escape.'

'Poor thing! poor thing!'

'She had nothing to fall back upon. Oh, if I had but been there!
If I had but known it at the time!'

'Well, and now?' said Violet, anxiously.

'The having Mr. Gardner there now? Really, I don't think she
deserves all this abuse. The other matter is entirely passed away.
Mr. Finch likes him, and they understand each other fully. Coming to
them detaches him from his former habits, and gives him the best
chance. His mother is so relieved to know he is with them. If Jane
saw anything in the least amiss, she says she would be the first to
take alarm, and I do trust her for that, for the sake of
appearances.'

'I suppose it is a question of appearances,' said Violet, with the
diffident blushes of her eighteen years.

'Is she to throw away the hope of rescuing her cousin, to save
herself from spiteful tongues?' cried Theodora. 'Not that I suppose
Lady Fotheringham means to be spiteful, but Percy hears it all from
her, and we know very well that good ladies in the country have a
tendency to think every one good-for-nothing that lives in London or
Paris, especially their relations. That is all nonsense. If Percy
goes by gossip, I don't. I go by my own observation, and I see there
is nothing at which to take exception. I watched her and Mr. Gardner
together, and I do declare there was nothing but ease and frankness.
I am sure he was more inclined to pay that sort of attention to me.
He really is very entertaining. I must tell you some of his
stories.'

'Percy has been here,' said Violet.

'Has he?'

'He waited till twelve, and then was obliged to go.'

Theodora kept silence for some minutes, then said: 'If he thinks to
make me give my friends up, he is much mistaken! You know I had
written to Georgina last night. Well, she thought I had come to be
congratulated; and if you had but seen the greeting--the whole
manner--when she met me! Oh! you would know how impossible it is not
to feel for her, with all one's heart!'

'Yes, yes. I suppose you could not say anything about this to her.
No, of course not.'

'Not of course at all, if I could have had her alone, but Jane was
there all the time. It was a pleasure to see the contrast between
her manner and Jane's. There was soul in her, real hopes I should be
happy, while Jane seemed only to think it tolerable, because I might
end in being an ambassadress. I will see her again before the party,
and draw my own conclusions.'

'Does she know that Percy will not go?'

'I know no such thing.'

She was too proud to ask what had passed in Violet's interview with
him, and indeed was ready to take fire at the idea of their affairs
having been discussed with her.

She strove to believe herself the offended party, but her conscience
was not easily appeased, though she tried to set it at rest by
affectionate care of Violet, and was much gratified by Arthur's
stopping her after Violet had gone up-stairs at night, to beg her to
stay, while he was at Windsor with his regiment.

'Thank you, for making me of use,' she said.

'I shall come backwards and forwards continually,' said Arthur, 'but
she must not be alone; I shall be very glad if you can stay, or I
shall be driven to have one of the Mosses here.'

'Oh, no, no! I shall be most happy to stay. I will take every care
of her.'

'Thank you, Theodora; good night. You have got to know her better
now,' he continued, lingering as on that first night to gain some
word of commendation of her.

'Much better,' said Theodora cordially. 'One cannot help growing
fond of her--so gentle and engaging.'

She was pleased with his satisfaction; and while she owned Violet's
sincerity and sweetness, considered her one of those soft dependent
beings formed to call forth tenderness from strong and superior
spirits, and gloried in being necessary to her: it almost restored
her balance of complacency.

On Sunday afternoon Violet stayed at home with little Johnnie, and
the vacant place in the seat at church was filled by Mr.
Fotheringham. Many thoughts floated through Theodora's mind; but
whether the better or the worse would gain the advantage seemed
rather to depend on chance than on herself. Perhaps she was not yet
conscious what were her besetting sins, and thus the conflict was
merely a struggle between her feelings for her friend and for her
lover.

Arthur walked home with an acquaintance; but Theodora turned from
Percy, and threw herself into eager conversation with Lady Elizabeth.

On entering the house, as Violet was not in the drawing-room,
Theodora was going up-stairs, when Percy said, in a tone of
authority, 'How long do you intend to go on in this way!'

'In what way?'

'Do you wish to keep all our disputes as a spectacle for Arthur's
edification?'

Colouring with shame and displeasure, she sat down with a sort of
'I am ready' air, and took off her walking things, laying them down
deliberately, and waiting in complete silence. Did she wish to
embarrass him, or did she await his first word to decide what line
she should take?

'Theodora,' he said at length, 'when I spoke last night, I did not
know how early your acquaintance with this lady had begun, or I
should have shown more regard to the feeling that arises between old
companions. I am afraid I gave you some unnecessary pain.'

This was unexpected; and she could not at once harden herself in
displeasure, so that though she spoke not, her countenance was
relenting.

'Did Mrs. Martindale mention what I told her yesterday!'

'No; she only said you had been here while I was gone to satisfy my
mind.'

'And did you?'

'I should never have defended Georgina's marriage if I had known the
whole; but the rest of what you have heard is slander.'

'That is what I came to explain;' and Percy repeated the history he
had before given to Violet, adding a warning of the same kind as
John's against placing Arthur in Mr. Gardner's way.

'The point is,' said Theodora, 'what construction is to be placed on
the present state of things? You and Lady Fotheringham, who have not
seen them, take one view; I, who do see them, and who know Georgina
intimately, take another, in which I agree with her husband and with
the elder sister, who lives with her.'

'Intimately! When you had no idea of this first affair!'

'Such follies are not to be published.'

'You WILL defend them!' cried Percy, impatiently.

'Am I to sit quiet when I hear injustice done to my oldest friend?'

'I wish that unhappy friendship had never begun!'

A silence broken by her coolly saying, 'Well, what is to come of all
this?'

Percy walked about the room and said, 'What do you mean?'

With a provoking air of meekness she said, 'I only want to know what
you expect of me.'

Excessively annoyed, he sharply answered, 'To be a reasonable woman.'

'Well?' said Theodora, with the same submissive voice. He had
recovered himself, and with no further show of temper, he sat down by
her, saying, 'This is folly. We had better say what we mean. You
feel strongly with regard to your old playfellow; I cannot think well
of her; but while this is matter of opinion, it is childish to
dispute. Time will show which is the correct view--I shall be glad
if it is yours. The elder sister is a steady amiable person, whom my
aunt likes, and that is in their favour. I do not wish you to break
with an old friend while we know of no positive charge against her,
though I should think there could be little to attract you. For me
it is another matter, and I will not.'

'You will not adopt my friends?'

I will not be talked into it.'

'I do not understand your principle,' said Theodora, but without
asperity. 'Why do you decline an acquaintance to which you do not
object for me?'

'The beginning has been made in your case, and I know it is old
affection, not present approval. You can't be hurt by one like her.
But for my part, knowing what I do of them, I will enter on no
acquaintance; it is a line of which I have resolved to keep clear.
She would think herself patronizing a literary man.'

'Oh! you could not submit to that!' cried Theodora--'never. Stay
away, I beg of you.'

'It is for no such nonsense,' said Percy. 'But thinking of them as
I do, I cannot receive from them the favours which rich folks
consider invitations to poor ones. My connection with them makes it
all the more undesirable. I totally disapprove their style of
conduct, and will not seem to sanction it by beginning an
acquaintance, or appearing at their grand dinners and parties. If I
had known them before, the case might be different.'

'I will say no more. You are quite right,' said Theodora, well able
to appreciate the manliness of his independence.

She thought over several times the way of communicating to Mrs.
Finch, Percy's rejection of her invitation, and made some attempts at
seeing her, but without success, until the night of the party.
Violet had an undefined dread of it, and was especially glad that her
husband was able to go with them. It was one of the occasions when
he was most solicitous about her appearance; and he was well pleased,
for she was in very good looks, and prettily dressed with some Irish
lace, that to Theodora's amusement she had taken off Miss Marstone's
hands; and with his beautiful wife and distinguished-looking sister,
he had his wish of displaying woman as she should be.

The room was full, but Violet saw few acquaintance; as Mrs. Finch,
with much display of streamer, flounce, jewellery, and shoulders,
came to meet them with vehement welcome, and quite oppressed Violet
with her attention in finding a seat for her on the sofa.

With a nod and look of gay displeasure at Theodora, she said, 'So,
you have brought me no Crusader, you naughty girl! Where's your Red
Cross Knight?'

'He would not come,' said Theodora, gravely.

'You dare own it! Where's your power? Ah! you will say it was
idleness.'

'I will tell you another time,' said Theodora, blushing
inconveniently, and Violet, as she felt her cheeks responding,
fancied Mrs. Finch must know why.

'You won't confess! No, you never tried. If you had once set your
mind on it, you would have accomplished it. I always cite Theodora
Martindale as the person who cannot be resisted.'

'You see your mistake,' returned Theodora. A gentleman here greeted
her, then claimed Mrs. Finch's attention, and evidently by his
desire, she turned to Violet, and presented him as her cousin, Mr.
Gardner, an old friend of Captain Martindale.

Violet acknowledged the courtesy, but it was in confusion and
distress.

'I am delighted to make your acquaintance,' was his address. 'Is
Captain Martindale here? I have not seen him for years.'

'He is in the room,' said Violet, looking round for him, hoping
either that he would come, or that Mr. Gardner would go in search of
him, but the conversation continued, though she answered without
knowing what she said, till at last he moved away to communicate to
Mrs. Finch that Arthur Martindale's pretty wife had nothing but fine
eyes and complexion.

Theodora was satisfied to see a very slight recognition pass between
Mr. Gardner and her brother, who was intent on conducting to Violet
an officer newly returned from the West Indies, where he had met
John. After a pleasant conversation, the two gentlemen moved away,
and presently the place next to her was taken by Miss Gardner, with
civil inquiries for her little boy.

'We are so vexed at not seeing Mr. Fotheringham! Georgina is
furious. We reckoned on him as the lion of the night.'

Violet had no answer to make, and Jane continued. 'I have taken
Theodora to task. Fame makes men capricious, and he is very odd; but
I tell her she ought to have more influence, and I seriously think
so. Do you not?'

'I believe he convinced her,' said Violet, wishing the next moment to
recall her words.

'Indeed! I am curious.'

'I believe he thinks it better--fashionable life--' faltered Violet.

'He might have made an exception in favour of such near connections!
Why, we shall be related ourselves, Mrs. Martindale. How charmed I
shall be.'

Violet turned a bracelet on her arm, and could make no response.

'It is strange enough that we have never met Percival Fotheringham,'
said Miss Gardner. 'He is an eccentric being, I hear, but our dear
Theodora has a spice of eccentricity herself. I hope it will be for
the best.'

'He is an admirable person,' said Violet.

'I rejoice to hear it. I had some doubts. The dear girl is so
generous, of such peculiar decision, so likely to be dazzled by
talent, and so warmly attached to her eldest brother, that I almost
feared it might not have been well weighed. But you are satisfied?'

'O, yes, entirely so.'

'I am relieved to hear it. In confidence I may tell YOU, it is said
in our OWN family, that there is a rough overbearing temper about
him. I could not bear to think of dear Theodora's high spirit being
subjected to anything of that kind.'

'He is abrupt,' said Violet, eagerly; 'but I assure yon the better he
is known, the more he is liked. My little boy is so fond of him.'

'I am glad. No doubt you have every means of judging, but I own I
was surprised at such ready consent. You were behind the scenes, no
doubt, and can tell how that determined spirit carried the day.'

'Lord Martindale gave his consent most readily and gladly,' said
Violet; but Jane was only the more convinced that Mrs. Martindale was
as ignorant as ever of family secrets.

'It was best to do so with a good grace; but I did think our dear
Theodora might have looked higher! Poor Lord St. Erme! He would
have been a more eligible choice. The family must have been much
disappointed, for she might have had him at her feet any day last
summer.'

'I do not think he would have suited her.'

'Well! perhaps not, but an easy gentle temper might. However, it
cannot be helped! Only the long engagement is unfortunate--very
trying to both parties. I have seen so few turn out well! Poor
Pelham Fotheringham! It is a pity he should stand between them and
the baronetcy.'

'Is he Sir Antony's son?'

'Yes; it is a sad affair. A fine tall youth, quite imbecile. He is
his poor mother's darling, but no more fit to take care of himself
than a child of five years old. A most melancholy thing! Old Sir
Antony ought to set him aside, and let Percival enjoy the estate.
Indeed, I should think it very probable he would do so--it would be
greatly for the happiness of all parties.'

'I think it would,' said Violet.

'Percival can do anything with the old people, and they will be so
delighted with the Martindale connection! Perhaps it is an
understood thing. Do you know whether it is?'

'I should not think so. I never heard anything of it.'

'Has Theodora ever been introduced to the uncle and aunt?'

'Never.'

'Good old folks, exceedingly primitive. Very kind too, and a fine
old-fashioned place; but, oh, so dull! All their ideas are of the
seventeenth century. It will be a severe ordeal for poor Theodora,
but if Lady Fotheringham, good old soul, is pleased with her, I shall
expect grand consequences.'

Violet was glad that Miss Gardner was asked to dance. Presently
Arthur returned to her side. 'Tired, Violet?' he asked. 'Slow work,
is not it? They have a queer lot here. Scarcely a soul one ever saw
before.'

'I was thinking so. Are there not a great many foreigners? I saw
some immense moustaches.'

'Ay. Percy would think himself back in Blue Beard's country. There
is the King of the Clothes Brushes himself polking with Mrs. Finch.
Can't you see?'

'No! I wish I could.'

'An economical fellow! Every man his own clothes brush--two expenses
saved at once, to say nothing of soap, an article that mayhap he does
not deal in.'

'Oh! hush! you will make me laugh too much. Where 's Theodora?'

'Dancing with Gardner. He seems inclined to make up to her, unless
it is a blind.'

'He said he used to know you at school.'

'Yes, scamp that he is. I had rather he had never turned up again.
He is not worth Theodora's quarrelling about. I hear she is
chattering away like fun. Have you had any one to speak to?'

'Miss Gardner came to me. She seemed to think Sir Antony might
settle his property on Percy instead of on his son. Do you think
there is any chance of it?'

'I wish he would. He could not do a wiser thing. But of course it
is entailed--there's always a provision of nature for starving the
younger branches. What does she say to Percy's absence!'

'I fancy she guesses the reason, but I don't know.'

'He is a lucky fellow, I know!' said Arthur, 'to be safe in his bed
at home! This evening is a bore, and I wish the whole set were
further off, instead of deluding Theodora! I'll get her away when
this dance is over.'

'Ha!' cried Mrs. Finch, suddenly stopping in front of them, and
disengaging herself from her partner, as she breathlessly threw
herself down beside Violet. 'So there's Captain Martindale, after
all! How exemplary! And my poor Mrs. Martindale, that I told Jane
and Mark to take such care of, left deserted to her husband's mercy!'

'Suppose she wished for nothing better,' said Arthur, good-
humouredly.

'I can't allow such things. Such a monopoly of our Guardsmen after
two years' marriage is beyond bearing! What would they say to you in
France?'

'We don't follow French fashions,' said Arthur, his gay tone making
his earnest like jest. 'I am going to take my ladies home. I shall
see for the carriage, Violet.'

'Mrs. Martindale will learn my maxim--Never bring a husband to an
evening party. There is nothing so much in the way.'

'Or that would be so glad to be let off,' said Arthur, going.

'You don't mean to take them away? That is the climax of all your
crimes. Quite unallowable.'

'Many things unallowable are done,' said Arthur; 'and I don't allow
her to be over-tired.'

'"Barbare",' began Mrs. Finch, but with a bow, as if it was a
compliment, he was gone in search of the carriage. She sat for a
moment silent, then said, 'Well, I must forgive him. I never thought
to see him so careful of anything. How happy Theodora seems in your
"menage". Quite a different creature; but perhaps that is from
another cause?'

Violet made a little attempt at a laugh.

'I am glad of it,' said Mrs. Finch, heartily. 'It is a horrid stiff
place for her at home, is it not? And I am delighted she should
escape from it. How she got consent, I can't imagine; and Theodora
has notions of her own, and would do nothing without.'

'Lord Martindale has a very high opinion of Mr. Fotheringham.'

'I am not surprised. I read that book--a wonder for me, and was
perfectly "eprise". But I did not think a genius with empty pockets
would have gone down at Martindale; and he is a bit of a bear, too,
they say, though perhaps Theodora likes him the better for that.'

'Perhaps she does.'

'I hope he is worthy of her. He is the great pride of the old folks
at Worthbourne. One heard of Percy's perfections there morning,
noon, and night, till I could have hated the sound of his name. Very
generous of me to ask him here to-night, is it not? but I wish he
would have come. I want to judge of him myself. I could not bear
all not to be perfect with Theodora.'

There was little occasion for Violet to speak, Mrs. Finch always kept
the whole conversation to herself; but she could not but perceive
that though the exaggeration and recklessness of style were
unpleasing, yet it really was frank and genuine, and Theodora's
declaration that Georgina was far preferable to Jane was less
incomprehensible.

The evening was over, much to her relief; but there remained
Theodora's bold undertaking to tell Mrs. Finch of Percy's refusal to
visit her. Any one else would have let the subject drop, but
Theodora thought this would be shabby and cowardly, and was resolved
not to shrink from warning her friend.

She found Georgina looking over some cards of invitation, with an air
of great dissatisfaction, and almost the first words that greeted her
were, 'Have you a card for Lady Albury's party?'

'Yes; I heard Violet ask Arthur if he should be at home for it.'

'Very strange! We left our cards, I know, yet they never asked us to
their party this week, and now seem to have missed us again. I
wished particularly to go, for one is sure to meet all that is worth
seeing, your knight among the rest. They are prim, strait-laced,
exclusive people themselves; but it is a house worth going to.'

'I did not remember that you knew them.'

'Oh! yes, we did; we used to be there pretty often when we lived with
my Uncle Edward; and it is not that they do not think my poor old man
good enough for them, for we went to their parties last year. So,
Mrs. Martindale has a card, you say!'

Theodora's colour rose as she said, 'Georgina, I am going to say what
no one else will tell you. It is not your marriage, but you must
take care--'

The crimson of Mrs. Finch's cheeks, and the precipitation with which
she started to her feet, would have disconcerted most persons; but
Theodora, though she cast down her eyes, spoke the more steadily.
'You must be more guarded and reserved in manner if you wish to avoid
unkind remarks.'

'What--what--what?' cried Georgina, passionately; 'what can the most
ill-natured, the most censorious, accuse me of?'

'It is not merely the ill-natured,' said Theodora. 'I know very well
that you mean no harm; but you certainly have an air of trying to
attract attention.'

'Well, and who does not? Some do so more demurely and hypocritically
than others; but what else does any one go into company for? Do you
expect us all to act the happy couple, like Captain and Mrs.
Martindale the other night? You should have brought your own Percy
to set us the example!' said she, ending with a most unpleasant
laugh.

'Georgina, you must not expect to see Percy. He has rigid notions;
he always avoids people who seek much after fashion and amusement,
and (I must say it) he will not begin an acquaintance while you go on
in this wild way.'

'So!' exclaimed Georgina. 'It is a new thing for the gentlemen to be
particular and fastidious! I wonder what harm he thinks I should do
him! But I see how it is: he means to take you away, turn you
against me, the only creature in this world that ever cared for me.
Are not you come to tell me he forbids you ever to come near me!'

'No, no; he does not, and if he did, would I listen?'

'No, don't, don't displease him on my account,' cried Mrs. Finch.
'Go and be happy with him; I am not worth caring for, or vexing
yourself about!'

The tears stood on her burning cheeks, and Theodora eagerly replied,
'Have no fancies about me. Nothing shall ever make me give up my
oldest friend. You ought to know me better than to think I would.'

'You are so unlike those I live with,' said Georgina sadly, as an
excuse for the distrust. 'Oh, you don't know what I have gone
through, or you would pity me. You are the only thing that has not
failed me. There is Jane, with her smooth tongue and universal
obligingness, she is the most selfish creature in existence--her
heart would go into a nutshell! One grain of sympathy, and I would
never have married. It was all her doing--she wanted luxuries!
O Theodora, if I had but been near you!'

'Hush, Georgina, this is no talk for a wife,' said Theodora,
severely.

'I thought you pitied me!'

'I do, indeed I do; but I cannot let you talk in that way.'

'I never do so: no one else would care to hear me.'

'Now listen to me, Georgina. You say you rely on me as you do on no
one else; will you hear me tell you the only way to be happy
yourself--'

'That is past,' she murmured.

'Or to stand well in the opinion of others! I am putting it on low
grounds.'

'I know what you are going to say--Go and live in the country, and
set up a charity-school.'

'I say no such thing. I only ask you to be cautious in your manners,
to make Mr. Finch of more importance, and not to let yourself be
followed by your cousin--'

Again Georgina burst into her 'thorn crackling' laugh. 'Poor Mark!
I thought that was coming. People will treat him as if he was a
dragon!'

'I know you mean no harm,' repeated Theodora; 'but it cannot be right
to allow any occasion for observations.'

'Now, Theodora, hear me. I dare say Jane has been telling you some
of her plausible stories, which do more harm than good, because no
one knows which part to believe. There was some nonsense between
Mark and me when we were young and happy--I confess that. Perhaps I
thought he meant more than he did, and dwelt upon it as silly girls
do, especially when they have nothing else to care for. Then came
the discovery of all his debts and scrapes, poor fellow, and--I won't
deny it--it half killed me, more especially when I found he had been
attached to some low girl, and avowed that he had never seriously
thought of me--he believed I understood it as all sport. I was very
ill. I wish I had died. There was no more to be done but to hate
him. My uncle and aunt Edward were horridly savage, chiefly because
I hindered them from going to Italy; and Mrs. George Gardner thought
I had been deluding Mark! Then Lady Fotheringham asked us, and--it
was dull enough to be sure, and poor Pelham was always in the way--
but they were kind comfortable folks. Lady Fotheringham is a dear
old dame, and I was in dull spirits just then, and rather liked to
poke about with her, and get her to tell me about your brother and
his Helen--'

'Why, Jane said you were dying of low spirits!'

'Well, so I was. I hated it excessively sometimes. Jane is not
entirely false in that. The evenings were horrid, and Sundays beyond
everything unbearable. I confess I was delighted to get away to
Bath; but there--if Jane would but have helped me--I would, indeed I
would, have been thankful to have gone back to Worthbourne, even if I
had had to play at draughts with Pelham for the rest of my days. But
Jane was resolved, and all my strength and spirit had been crushed
out of me. She would not even let me write to you nor to Lady
Fotheringham till it was too late.'

'Well, that is all past,' said Theodora, whose face had shown more
sympathy than she thought it right to express in words. 'The point
is, what is right now?'

And you see it is folly to say there is any harm or danger in my
seeing Mark: he never had any attachment to me seven years ago, nor
any other time, and whatever I felt for him had a thorough cure.
I am not ashamed to say I am glad he should be here to give him a
chance of marrying a fortune. That is the whole story. Are you
satisfied?'

'Satisfied on what I never doubted, your own intentions, but no
further. You ought to abstain from all appearance of evil.'

'I am not going to give my cousin up to please Lady Albury--no, nor
all the Fotheringhams put together! You used to say you did not care
for gossip.'

'No more I do, but I care for a proper appearance.'

'Very well--hush--here he comes!

HE was Mr. Gardner, and whether it was that Mrs. Finch was more
guarded, or that her pleading influenced Theodora's judgment, nothing
passed that could excite a suspicion that anything remained of the
former feeling between the cousins. It was in truth exactly as Mrs.
Finch said; for whatever were her faults, she was perfectly frank and
sincere, clinging to truth, perhaps out of opposition to her sister.
Mark was not a man capable of any genuine or strong affection; and as
Theodora rightly perceived, the harm of Georgina's ways was not so
much what regarded him, as in the love of dissipation, the unguarded
forward manner with all gentlemen alike, and the reckless pursuit of
excitement. There was a heart beneath, and warmth that might in time
be worked upon by better things.

'It is a great pity that people will drop her,' she said to Violet.
'The more she is left to that stamp of society, the worse it is for
her whole tone of mind.'

Violet agreed, pitied, and wished it could be helped; but whenever
they met Mrs. Finch in company, saw it was not wonderful that people
did not like her.

Mr. Gardner was, on the contrary, a general favourite. Every one
called him good for nothing; but then, he was so very amusing!
Violet could never find this out, shrank from his notice, and
withdrew as much as possible from his neighbourhood; Emma Brandon
generally adhering closely to her, so as to avoid one whom she viewed
as a desperate designer on the Priory.

It was in parties that Violet chiefly saw Emma this spring.
Theodora's presence in Cadogan-place frightened her away; and,
besides, her mornings were occupied by Miss Marstone's pursuits.
Lady Elizabeth made no objection to her sharing in these, though
sometimes not fully convinced of the prudence of all the accessories
to their charities, and still less pleased at the influence exercised
by Theresa over her daughter's judgment.

Emma's distaste to society was now far more openly avowed, and was
regarded by her not as a folly to be conquered, but a mark of
superiority. Her projects for Rickworth were also far more
prominent. Miss Marstone had swept away the veil that used to shroud
them in the deepest recess of Emma's mind, and to Violet it seemed as
if they were losing their gloss by being produced whenever the
friends wanted something to talk about. Moreover, Emma, who was now
within a few months of twenty-one, was seized with a vehement desire
to extort her mother's consent to put them at once in execution, and
used to startle Violet by pouring out lamentations over her promise,
as if it was a cruel thraldom. Violet argued that the scheme was
likely to be much better weighed by taking time to think.

'It has been the thought of my life! Besides, I have Theresa's
judgment; and, oh! Violet, mamma means it well, I know; but she does
not know what she asks of me! Think, think if I should die in the
guilt of sacrilege!'

'Really, Emma, you should not say such dreadful things. It is not
your doing.'

'No; but I reap the benefit of it. My grandfather bought it. Oh! if
it should bring a curse with it!'

'Well, but, Emma, I should think, even if it be wrong to hold it,
that cannot be your fault yet. You mean to restore it; and surely it
must be better to keep it as yet, than to act directly against your
mother's wishes.'

'I don't mean to act against her wishes; but if she would only wish
otherwise!'

'Perhaps it is the best preparation to be obliged to wait patiently.'

'If it was for any good reason; but I know it is only because it
would better suit mamma's old English notions to see me go and marry
in an ordinary way, like any commonplace woman, as Theresa says. Ah!
you would like it too, Violet. It is of no use talking to you! As
Theresa says, the English domestic mind has but one type of
goodness.'

Violet did not like to hear her dear Lady Elizabeth contemned; but
she had no ready answer, and humbly resigned herself to Emma's belief
that she was less able to enter into her feelings than that most
superior woman, Theresa Marstone.

CHAPTER 15

Give unto me, made lowly wise,
The spirit of self-sacrifice.

When Arthur went with his regiment to Windsor, the ladies intended to
spend their evenings at home, a rule which had many exceptions,
although Violet was so liable to suffer from late hours and crowded
rooms, that Lady Elizabeth begged her to abstain from parties, and
offered more than once to take charge of Theodora; but the reply
always was that they went out very little, and that this once it
would not hurt her.

The truth was that Theodora had expressed a decided aversion to going
out with the Brandons. 'Lady Elizabeth sits down in the most stupid
part of the room,' she said, 'and Emma stands by her side with the
air of a martyr. They look like a pair of respectable country
cousins set down all astray, wishing for a safe corner to run into,
and wondering at the great and wicked world. And they go away
inhumanly early, whereas if I do have the trouble of dressing, it
shall not be for nothing. I ingeniously eluded all going out with
them last year, and a great mercy it was to them.'

So going to a royal ball was all Theodora vouchsafed to do under Lady
Elizabeth's protection; and as her objections could not be disclosed,
Violet was obliged to leave it to be supposed that it was for her own
gratification that she always accompanied her; although not only was
the exertion and the subsequent fatigue a severe tax on her strength,
but she was often uneasy and distressed by Theodora's conduct. Her
habits in company had not been materially changed by her engagement;
she was still bent on being the first object, and Violet sometimes
felt that her manner was hardly fair upon those who were ignorant of
her circumstances. For Theodora's own sake, it was unpleasant to see
her in conversation with Mr. Gardner; and not only on her account,
but on that of Lord St. Erme, was her uncertain treatment of him a
vexation to Violet.

Violet, to whom Theodora's lovers were wont to turn when suffering
from her caprice, was on very friendly terms with the young Earl. He
used to come and stand by her, and talk to her about Wrangerton, and
seemed quite amused and edified by her quiet enthusiasm for it, and
for Helvellyn, and her intimacy with all the pictures which he had
sent home and almost forgotten. His sister was another favourite
theme; she was many years younger than himself, and not yet come out;
but he was very desirous of introducing her to Mrs. and Miss
Martindale; and Violet, who had heard of Lady Lucy all her life, was
much pleased when a day was fixed for a quiet dinner at Mrs.
Delaval's, the aunt with whom she lived. How Mrs. Moss would enjoy
hearing of it!

The day before was one of the first hot days of summer, and Violet
was so languid that she looked forward with dread to the evening,
when they were to go to a soiree at Mrs. Bryanstone's, and she lay
nursing herself, wishing for any pretence for declining it. Theodora
coming in, declared that her going was out of the question; but
added, 'Georgina Finch is to be there, she will call for me.'

'I shall be better when the heat of the day is over.'

'So you may, but you shall not go for all that. You know Arthur is
coming home; and you must save yourself for your Delavals to-morrow.'

'I thank you, but only'--she hesitated--'if only you would be so kind
as to go with Lady Elizabeth.'

'I will manage for myself, thank you. I shall not think of seeing
you go out to-night. Why, I went out continually with Georgina last
summer'--as she saw Violets look of disappointment.

'Yes, but all is not the same now.'

'The same in effect. I am not going to attend to nonsensical gossip.
Georgina is what she was then, and the same is right for me now as
was right last year. I am not going to turn against her--'

'But, Theodora,' said Violet's weak voice, 'Percy said he hoped you
never would go out with her; and I said you never should, if I could
help it.'

Never was Theodora more incensed than on hearing that Percy and this
young girl had been arranging a check on her actions, and she was the
more bent on defiance.

'Percy has nothing to do with it,' she began; but she was interrupted
by a message to know whether Lady Elizabeth Brandon might see Mrs.
Martindale.

Her entrance strengthened Theodora's hands, and she made an instant
appeal to her, to enforce on Violet the necessity of resting that
evening. Lady Elizabeth fully assented, and at once asked Theodora
to join her.

'I thank you, I have another arrangement,' she said, reckless of
those entreating eyes; 'I am to go with Mrs. Finch.'

'And I believe I shall be quite well enough by and by,' said Violet.

'My dear, it is not to be thought of for you.'

'Yes, Lady Elizabeth, I trust her to you to make her hear reason,'
said Theodora. 'I shall leave her to you.'

Poor Violet, already in sufficient dread of the evening, was obliged
to endure a reiteration of all its possible consequences. Lady
Elizabeth was positively grieved and amazed to find her, as she
thought, resolutely set upon gaieties, at all risks, and spared no
argument that could alarm her into remaining quietly at home, even
assuring her that it was her duty not to endanger herself for the
sake of a little excitement or amusement. Violet could only shut her
eyes to restrain the burning tears, and listen, without one word in
vindication, until Lady Elizabeth had exhausted her rhetoric, and,
rising, with some coolness told her she still hoped that she would
think better of it, but that she wished her husband was at home.

Violet would fain have hid her face in her good friend's bosom, and
poured out her griefs, but she could only feel that she was
forfeiting for ever the esteem of one she loved so much. She held
out, however. Not till the door had closed did she relax her
restraint on herself, and give way to the overwhelming tears.
Helpless, frightened, perplexed, forced into doing what might be
fatal to her! and every one, even Arthur, likely to blame her! The
burst of weeping was as terrified, as violent, as despairing as those
of last year.

But she was not, as then, inconsolable; and as the first agitation
spent itself she resumed her self-command, checked her sobs by broken
sentences of prayer, growing fuller and clearer, then again soft and
misty, till she fairly cried herself to sleep.

She slept only for a short interval, but it had brought back her
composure, and she was able to frame a prayer to be directed to do
right and be guarded from harm; and then to turn her mind steadily to
the decision. It was her duty, as long as it was in her power, to be
with her husband's sister, and guard her from lowering herself by her
associates. She was bound by her promise to Percy, and she could
only trust that no harm would ensue.

'If it should,' thought poor Violet, 'I may honestly hope it is in
the way of what I believe my duty; so it would be a cross, and I
should be helped under it. And if the Brandons blame me--that is a
cross again. Suppose I was to be as ill again as I was before--
suppose I should not get through it--Oh! then I could not bear to
have wilfully neglected a duty! And the next party? Oh! no need for
thinking of that! I must only take thought for the day.'

And soon again she slept.

Theodora had gone out so entirely convinced that Violet would
relinquish her intention, that, meeting Mrs. Finch, she arranged to
be taken up at eleven o'clock.

On returning home she heard that Mrs. Martindale was asleep; and, as
they had dined early, she drank coffee in her own room, and read with
the Brogden girl, as part of her system of compensation, intending to
spare further discussion by seeing Violet no more that night. She
proceeded to dress her hair--not as helplessly as at first, for the
lessons had not been without fruit; but to-night nothing had a good
effect. Not being positively handsome, her good looks depended on
colour, dress, and light; and the dislike to failure, and the desire
to command attention, made it irritating to find her hair obstinate
and her ornaments unbecoming; and she was in no placid state when
Violet entered the room, ready dressed.

'Violet! This is too foolish!'

'I am a great deal better now, thank you.'

'But I have settled it with Georgina; she is coming to call for me.'

'This is not out of her way; it will make no difference to her.'

'But, Violet, I will not let you go; Arthur would not allow it. You
are not fit for it.'

'Yes, thank you, I believe I am.'

'You believe! It is very ridiculous of you to venture when you only
believe,' said Theodora, never imagining that those mild weary tones
could withstand her for a moment. 'Stay at home and rest. You know
Arthur may come at any time.'

'I mean to go, if you please; I know I ought.'

'Then remember, if you are ill, it is your fault, not mine.'

Violet attempted a meek smile.

Theodora could only show her annoyance by impatience with her
toilette. Her sister tried to help her; but nothing suited nothing
pleased her--all was untoward; and at last Violet said, 'Is Percy to
be there?'

'Not a chance of it. What made you think so?'

'Because you care so much.'

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