Part 8 out of 15
Somehow, that saying stung her to the quick, and the more because it
was so innocently spoken.
'I do not care,' she said. 'You are so simple, Violet, you fancy all
courtships must be like your own. One can't spend six years like six
The colour rushed painfully into Violet's face, and she quitted the
room. It was a moment of dire shame and grief to Theodora, who had
not intended a taunt, but rather to excuse her own doings; and as the
words came back on her, and she perceived the most unmerited reproach
they must have conveyed, she was about to hurry after her sister,
explain, and entreat her pardon. Almost immediately, however, Violet
returned, with her hands full of some beautiful geraniums, that
morning sent to her by Mrs. Harrison.
'See!' said she; 'I think a wreath of these might look well.'
Theodora trusted the blush had been the work of her own guilty fancy,
and, recollecting how often Mrs. Nesbit's innuendoes had glanced
aside, thought it best not to revive the subject. She did not
estimate even the sacrifice it was to part with the glowing fragrant
flowers, the arrangement of which had freshened Violet's spirits that
evening when not in tune for other occupation; and she did not know
that there was one little sigh of fellow-feeling at their destiny of
drooping and fading in the crowd and glare. Their brilliant hues had
great success, and set off the deep black eyes and hair to unusual
advantage when woven by those dexterous fingers. The toilette was
complete, and Theodora as kind as she could be, between shame at her
own speech and dislike to being softened by little female arts.
'I only wish you looked better yourself,' she said. 'You are too
pale for that old white dress.'
'It is the coolest I have ready. It must do.'
Theodora could not accuse her of over-carefulness of her renown as a
beauty. Her dress was, of course, appropriate, but aimed at no more;
and her worn, languid appearance did not cause her a moment's
thought, since Arthur was not there to see.
They found the room very warm and crowded. Theodora saw Violet
lodged on an ottoman, and then strayed away to her own friends. Mrs.
Finch soon arrived, and attacked her for having let them go on a
'I could not help it,' said Theodora; 'she would come.'
'She looks very unwell,' said Mrs. Finch; 'but, poor thing, it would
be too hard to miss everything this year.'
'Or does she come as your trusty knight's deputy?' asked Jane.
There was dancing; but when Captain Fitzhugh brought Theodora back to
her seat, Violet whispered, 'I am sorry, but would you dislike coming
'Oh! I am engaged to Lord St. Erme, and then to Mr. Gardner, and--
but you go home; you have done your duty, my dear. Go home, and to
sleep. Georgina will bring me. Captain Fitzhugh will find you the
She walked off with Lord St. Erme, and came no more that way.
Presently there was some confusion.
'A lady fainting,' said her partner, and she saw Emma looking
dreadfully frightened. Conscience was enough, without the name
passing from mouth to mouth. Theodora sprang forward, and following
the movement, found herself in a room where Violet's insensible
figure had just been placed on a bed. Lady Elizabeth was there, and
Emma, and Mrs. Bryanstone. Theodora felt as if no one but herself
should touch Arthur's wife; but she had never before witnessed a
fainting fit, and, in her consternation and guiltiness, knew not how
to be serviceable, so that all that was required was done by the
other ladies. She had never experienced such alarm and remorse as
now, while standing watching, until the eyes slowly opened, looked
round uneasily till they fell on her, then closed for a few moments,
but soon were again raised, while the soft low words were heard,
'Thank you, I beg your pardon!' then, with an imploring, deprecating
gaze on her, 'I am sorry; indeed I could not help it!'
Theodora was almost overcome; but Lady Elizabeth gave a warning
squeeze to her arm, whispering, 'Take care, don't agitate her:' and
this, recalling the sense that others were present, brought back her
self-possession, and she only kissed Violet, tenderly bade her lie
still, and hoped she was better.
She smiled, and declared herself refreshed, as the wind blew on her
from the open window, and she felt the cold water on her face, and
there was no silencing her thanks and apologies for giving trouble.
She said she was well enough to go home; and, as soon as the carriage
was found, sat up, looking shivering and forlorn, but still summoning
up smiles. 'Good night, dear Lady Elizabeth,' she said; 'thank you
very much. You see you were right.'
Lady Elizabeth offered to go home with her; but she could not bear to
occasion further sensation, and, besides, understood Theodora's face.
She refused, and her friend kissed her, and promised to come early
to-morrow to see her; but, mingled with all this care and kindness
there was something of 'I told you so.'
She trembled so much when she stood up, that Theodora put her strong
arm round her, and nearly carried her down-stairs, gratified to find
her clinging to her, and refusing all other support. Scarcely a word
was spoken as they went home; but Theodora held the hand, which was
cold, limp, and shaking, and now and then she made inquiries, always
answered by 'Better, thank you.'
Theodora had her directions from Lady Elizabeth, and intended to make
up for her misdeeds by most attentive care; but, on coming home, they
found that Arthur had arrived, and gone to bed, so that nothing was
in her power but to express more kind wishes and regrets than she
could stay to hear or to answer in her extinguished voice.
Theodora was a good deal shocked, but also provoked, at having been
put in the wrong. She felt as if she had sustained a defeat, and as
if Violet would have an advantage over her for the future, managing
her by her health, just as she ruled Arthur.
'But I will not submit,' thought Theodora. 'I will not bear with
interference, if not from Percy, certainly not from his deputy--a
mere spoilt child, a very good child, but spoilt by her position, by
John's over-estimate of her, and by the deference exacted by her
weakness and her engagingness. She has very sweet, winning ways, and
I am very fond of her in reason, but it will be very good for her to
see I can be kind to her without being her slave.'
In this mind Theodora went to sleep, but was wakened in the early
morning by Arthur's voice on the stairs, calling to Sarah. She threw
on her dressing-gown, and half-opening her door, begged to know what
was the matter.
'Only that you have done for her with your freaks and your
wilfulness,' answered Arthur, roughly.
'She is not ill?' exclaimed the terrified sister.
'Of course she is. I can't think what possessed you.'
'I tried hard to keep her at home. But, oh! Arthur, where are you
'To fetch Harding.'
'Can I do anything? Can I be of use? Let me go to her. Oh! Arthur,
pray let me.'
He went into the room, and brought back word that Violet wanted no
one but Sarah, and was a little more comfortable; only begging
Theodora would be so kind as to go to the nursery, lest little
Johnnie should awake.
Thither she repaired, but without the satisfaction of usefulness, for
the child slept soundly till his nurse returned. Mr. Harding had
been there, and Mrs. Martindale was better, needing only complete
quiet; but Sarah was extremely brief, scornful, and indignant, and
bestowed very few words on Miss Martindale. 'Yes, ma'am--no, ma'am,'
was all that hard pumping could extract, except funereal and
mysterious sighs and shakes of the head, and a bustling about, that
could only be understood to intimate that she wished to have her
nursery to herself.
It was still so early that Theodora had time to go to church; as
usual, she met the Brandons; and Lady Elizabeth, much concerned at
her tidings, came home with her to see how the patient was going on.
Lady Elizabeth forbore to reproach Violet, but she lectured Arthur on
allowing her to be imprudent. He took it in very good part, not
quite disagreeing when told they were all too young together, and
made a hearty protest that she should be well looked after for the
He was certainly doing his part. All the morning he was in and out,
up and down stairs, effectually preventing any rest, as his sister
Theodora's time passed in strange variations of contrition, jealousy,
and perverseness. She was hurt at his displeasure,--she was injured
by her exclusion from Violet's room,--she was wounded even by her
little nephew, who cried down-stairs for mamma, and up-stairs for
Sarah, and would not be content with her best endeavours to make him
happy. And yet, when, after carefully looking to see that he could
come to no harm, Sarah was obliged to place him on the floor and
leave him for the first time alone with his father, he sat
motionless, fixed in earnest, intent contemplation, like a sort of
distant worship of him, keeping him likewise in a silent amused
wonder, what would come next; and when it ended in a gravely,
distinctly pronounced, 'Papa!' Arthur started as if it had been a
jackdaw speaking, then picked up the little fellow in his arms and
carried him off to show, as a natural curiosity, to his mother! At
any other time, Theodora would have been charmed at the rare sight of
Arthur fondling his little boy; now she only felt that nobody wanted
her, and that she was deprived of even the dignity of a nursery-maid.
Her chief occupation was answering inquiries, and writing notes to
decline their evening engagements--the dinner at Mrs. Delaval's among
the rest; for she and Arthur were equally resolved to remain at home
that evening, and she wished to persuade herself that they were
Violet's friends, not her own.
In the midst, Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner called, and in her state of
irritation the smooth tongue of the latter was oil to the flame.
'Poor thing, no doubt she thinks she has been making a heroic
exertion. Well, she has her reward! It must be delightful to have
caused such a sensation. Your brother is a most devoted husband.'
'And did she really go because she would not trust you without her?'
said Mrs. Finch. 'Well, that is a good joke!'
'I think you must be glad they do not live at Brogden,' quietly added
Jane, in the midst of her sister's laughter.
'It has been put into her head,' said Theodora, 'that she ought to
look after me, and a great mistake it is.'
'Yes, you are not come here to be less free than last year, when Lord
and Lady Martindale had you in their own hands, said Georgina. 'If I
were you I would do something strong all at once, and settle that
matter. That was the way you used to dispose of the governesses.'
'I am not quite what I was then, Georgina.'
'But what is it that she objects to? I see,' as Jane made a sign, as
if to advise her not to inquire. 'Is it to your coming out with me?
Well! I declare, that is pretty well, considering who she was. I
thought better things of her, with her soft voice, as if she was
thankful to be spoken to, after all the notice I have taken of her.'
'Hush, hush! I tell you, she would never have originated the notion,
but it has been put into her, and when she thinks a thing right
nothing will stop her.'
'We will see that!' said Georgina. 'Come and dine with us to-night,
and then we are going to "Der Freischutz". Come--'
'That is impossible, thank you. We have given up the dinner at the
Delavals', and I do not intend to go out in the evening any more. I
came here to take care of her, and I mean to do so thoroughly.'
'Not to go out any more!' cried Georgina, horrified. 'I honour
Theodora,' said Jane. 'Such devotion is like her, and must win her
'No devotion at all. I like a rational evening with her much better
than a cram like last night's.'
'With her alone?' said Jane, slyly.
Theodora crimsoned. Percy had instigated Violet's opposition, and
she was in no charity with him. Jane saw there was annoyance, and
turned the subject before her sister could open on it. With all her
quiet ways, Jane had the mastery over the impetuous Georgina, whom
she apparently flattered and cherished as a younger sister, but in
reality made subservient to her own purposes. Indeed, Jane was like
the Geraldine of Christabel; without actually speaking evil she had
the power of insinuating her own views, so that even the lofty and
sincere nature of Theodora was not proof against her. Poor Violet!
while she perilled herself, and sacrificed her friend's good opinion,
her sister's mind was being hardened and poisoned against her.
'I am afraid,' said Jane, 'that it is of no use then to talk to you
of what Georgina and I have been planning.'
'Oh! Theodora must come to that at any rate,' cried Georgina, 'or I
will never forgive her nor Mrs. Martindale neither. Do you remember
our old birthday treat to Richmond?'
'To be sure I do!' cried Theodora. 'It was one of the most
delightful days I ever had in my life. I have loved cowslips doubly
for the treat the sight of them was, in the midst of London and
masters, seven years ago. Why, you will be twenty-four next week,
'Growing to an unmentionable age,' said Georgina. 'Well, I have set
my heart on a picnic to Richmond again. Mark is to take a steamer
for us, and I know of plenty of people who will make a charming
'I should like it better without the people,' said Theodora.
'Oh, nonsense; one can't babble of green fields and run after
cowslips, at our age, unless one is in love,' said Georgina. 'If you
were going to bring your Percy, perhaps we would not interfere with
your sweet rural felicity, my dear.'
'We will bring some one else,' said Jane. 'After poor Mrs.
Martindale had carried you off', Theodora, I found the author of
"Pausilippo" looking extremely disconsolate, and hinting to him that
such a scheme was in agitation, and that you were included in it, he
looked so eager, that he will be for ever beholden to Georgina for an
'Poor Lord St. Erme!' said Georgina. 'It really is a shame,
Theodora. I rather take him under my protection. Shall he come, or
shall he not?'
'It makes no difference to me,' said Theodora, coolly.
'Whatever it does to him, eh?'
'But, Georgina, you are not in the least secure of Theodora,' said
Jane, satirically. 'She is devoted to Mrs. Martindale.'
'If my sister-in-law is not well I shall not leave her, if she is,
you may depend upon me.'
'I shall do no such thing, whatever Georgina does,' said Jane.
'I am sure Mrs. Martindale has ways and means.'
'I shall not stay without real reason.'
'And bring the Captain,' entreated Mrs. Finch.
'Still more doubtful,' suggested Jane.
'Yes, I think you will not get him,' said Theodora; 'but I will
certainly join you, provided Violet is not really ill.'
'I am very good friends with that pretty sister of yours,' said Jane.
'I will call some day, and try to get her permission for him.'
'Once--twice--you have failed us,' said Mrs. Finch, rising to take
leave. 'This third time, and I shall believe it is some one else in
the shape of Theodora Martindale.'
'I will not fail,' repeated Theodora.
They departed, and presently Arthur came down. 'How long those women
have been here! Have they been hatching treason? I want you to go
up and sit with Violet; I am going out for an hour.'
It was a tame conclusion to the morning's alarms when a brisk voice
answered, 'Come in,' at her knock, and Violet lay very comfortably
reading, her eyes bright and lively, and her cheeks with almost their
own colour. Her sweet smile and grateful face chased away ill
humour; and Theodora was so affectionate and agreeable as to surprise
herself, and make her believe herself subject to the fascination
Violet exercised over her brothers.
She told Arthur, on his return, that Violet was just ill enough to
make waiting on her pretty pastime; but was something between alarmed
and angry to find him still uneasy.
Lord Percy sees my fall!--Chevy Chase
Two days after, Miss Gardner calling, found Mrs. Martindale alone in
the drawing-room, and pretty well again. The project for the party
was now fully developed, and it was explained to Violet with regrets
that she was unable to share it, and hopes that Theodora and her
brother would not fail to join it.
'Thank you, I believe Captain Martindale will be at Windsor; he will
be on guard next week.'
'Ah! that is provoking. He is so valuable at this kind of thing, and
I am sure would enjoy it. He would meet some old schoolfellows. You
must use your influence to prevent him from being lazy. Guardsmen
can always get leave when they think it worth while.'
'Perhaps if Theodora wishes to go, he may manage it; but I am afraid
it is not likely that he will be able.'
'You will trust us for taking care of our dear Theodora,' said Miss
Gardner; 'we know she is rather high-spirited, and not very fond of
control. I can quite enter into your feelings of responsibility, but
from my knowledge of her character, I should say that any sense of
restraint is most galling to her. But even if we have not the
pleasure of Captain Martindale's company, you may fully reckon on our
watching over her, myself in especial, as a most dear younger
'Is your party arranged?' asked Violet.
'Yes, I may say so. We hope for Mrs. Sedley and her daughters. Do
you know them? Charming people whom we met in Paris.'
Violet was not acquainted with them, and tried to find out who were
the rest. They seemed to be all young ladies, or giddy young wives,
like Mrs. Finch herself, and two or three foreigners. Few were
personally known to the Martindales; Lord St. Erme was the only
gentleman of their own set; and Violet could not smile, as her
visitor expected, on hearing how he had been enticed by hopes of
meeting Miss Martindale.
Jane Gardner perceived the disapprobation. 'Ah! well,--yes. One
cannot but own that our dear Theodora's spirits do now and then make
her a little bit of a flirt. It is the way with all such girls, you
know. I am sure it was with my sister, but, as in her case, marriage
is the only cure. You need not be in the least uneasy, I assure you.
All will right itself, though a good deal may go on that startles
sober-minded people like us. I could condole with you on the charge,
but you will find it the only way not to seem to thwart her. Violet
thought it best to laugh, and talk of something else.
'Then I depend on you for the cream of our party,' said Miss Gardner,
'I cannot tell whether Captain Martindale can come,' said Violet,
somewhat bewildered by the conversation.
'Is that girl a nonentity, or is she a deep genius?' said Jane to
herself as she walked home. 'I cannot make her out. Now for the
trial of power! If Theodora Martindale yields to the Fotheringhams
now, and deserts Georgina, it will be a confirmation of all the
absurd reports. As long as I have it to say the Martindale family
are as intimate as ever, I have an answer for Lady Fotheringham, and
if Mark is smitten with her, so much the better. I hope Percy
Fotheringham may be properly rewarded for his presumption and ill-
nature. The sooner they quarrel the better. I will send Theodora a
note to put her on her mettle.'
The note arrived while Percy was spending the evening in Cadogan-
place, and Theodora talking so happily that she grudged the
interruption of opening and reading it.
'DEAREST THEODORA,--One line further to secure you, though I told
Mrs. Martindale of our plans. She would make no promises, but we
reckon on your independence of action, at least. "Should auld
acquaintance be forgot?"
'P.S.--Mrs. Martindale looked very well. I hope she will have no
recurrence of faintings.'
'From Jane Gardner,' said Theodora; 'only to put me in mind of the
picnic. Will you go, Arthur?'
'I never was more glad to be on her Majesty's service. What an
abominable bore it would be!'
'That is what gentlemen always say of picnics,' said Theodora.
'Not at all,' said Percy. 'A real country party of merry happy
people, knowing each other well, and full of genuine honest glee, is
one of the most enjoyable things that can be.'
'That it is!' cried Violet. 'There was the day we went up Skiddaw,
with no one but our cousins and Mr. Fanshawe, and dined on the
mountain in sight of the valley of St. John; and the rain came on,
and Mr. Fanshawe sat all the time holding an umbrella over Annette
and the pigeon-pie.'
'That was worth doing,' said Percy; 'but for a parcel of fine ladies
and gentlemen to carry the airs and graces, follies and competitions,
born in ball-rooms and nursed in soirees, out into pure country air
and daylight, is an insult to the green fields and woods.'
'That is a speech in character of author,' said Theodora.
'In character of rational being.'
'Which you would not have made if the party had not been Georgina
'I had no notion whose it was, or anything about it.'
'It is for her birthday, Tuesday,' said Violet. 'They are to have a
steamer to Richmond, walk about and dine there; but I should not
think that it would be very pleasant. Mrs. Bryanstone had one of
these parties last year to Hampton Court, and she told me that unless
they were well managed they were the most disagreeable things in the
world; people always were losing each other, and getting into
scrapes. She declared she never would have another.'
'Mrs. Bryanstone has no idea of management,' said Theodora.
'I know who has less,' said Arthur. 'Your Georgina will let every
one take their chance, and the worse predicaments people get into the
louder she will laugh.'
'There is nothing so intolerable as a woman who thinks herself too
fashionable for good manners,' said Percy.
'Is any one waiting for an answer?' asked Violet.
'There is none,' said Theodora. 'They know I mean to go.'
'To go!' exclaimed all three, who had thought the question settled by
'Yes, of course; I go with Georgina.'
'With Mark Gardner, and the king of the clothes-brushes, and all
their train, in moustaches and parti-coloured parasols!' cried Percy.
'Theodora, I thought you were a sensible woman.'
'I am sorry if I forfeit that claim to your regard.'
'Well, if I was your mother! However, it is devoutly to be hoped
that it may rain.'
He then changed the conversation, and no more passed on this subject
till, as he wished her good night, he said, in a low voice, 'Think
better of it, Theodora.'
'My mind is made up,' was the proud reply. In a few seconds he
called Arthur to him on the stairs. 'Arthur,' he said, 'if your
sister is set on this wrong-headed scheme, at least don't let her go
with no one to look after her. Let her have some respectable person
with her, merely for propriety's sake. She fancies me prejudiced,
and we have agreed to dispute no more on the woman's goings on; but
you have the keeping of her now.'
'I wish Mrs. Finch was at Jericho, and Theodora after her!' exclaimed
Arthur, petulantly; 'they will worry my wife to death between them.'
'Then Theodora had better go home,' said Percy, soberly.
'No, no; we can't do without her. She takes good care of Violet, and
is very attentive and useful, and I can't have Violet left alone. If
we could but get her down off her high horse, and drive that impudent
woman out of her head!--if you can't, no one else can.'
'It is very unfortunate,' said Percy. 'There is so much generous
feeling and strong affection to prompt her resistance, that it is
hard to oppose her, especially as I do believe there is no worse than
folly and levity in this friend of hers. I wish these occasions
would not arise. Left to herself these people would soon disgust her
but for her own sake we must interfere, and that keeps up her
'What is to be done?' was Violet's disconsolate beginning, as soon as
she could see Arthur alone.
'Take it easy'--words which she had taught herself to regard as a
warning that she was doleful. 'Never mind; if Theodora is so pig-
headed as to rush into this scheme, it is no concern of yours. All
you have to do is to take care not to be worried.'
Violet had regained a cheerful voice. 'If you were going with her,
it would not signify.'
'It would signify pretty much to me to be bored with all that riff-
raff. One would think Theodora bewitched.'
'There is hardly any one of our acquaintance.'
'No, the lady has dropped pretty much in the scale.'
'I wish I knew what your father and mother would think of it.'
'They would hate it as much as we do, but they could not prevent it.
Nobody can stop Theodora when once she has the bit between her teeth.
As I told Percy, if he can't, 'tis past all power. I wonder if he
thinks by this time he has caught a Tartar?'
'Did he call you to speak about it?'
'Yes; to say I must by no means let her go without a respectable
female to look after her.'
'I don't know these ladies; but if Mrs. Finch would ask Mrs.
Bryanstone, she is so good-natured that I dare say she would go.'
'That would be the most tolerable way of doing it; but I would lay
you anything you please that nothing but unmitigated Finch will
'And that is worse than no one.'
'I wish some stop could be put to it. It is worse than Percy knows.
She can't speak to a man without flirting, and we shall have her
turning some poor fellow's head, like Wingfield's. I don't think it
'It is very strange, so good and religious as she is.'
'Where is the use of her religion if it does not bring down her pride
or cure her obstinacy? If it would, I should see some good in the
rout she makes about going to church and teaching dirty children.'
'Oh! Arthur, dear, don't say that.'
'It is the truth, though.'
'I think,' said Violet, diffidently, 'that some day the good will
conquer the rest. Some day she will feel these things to be wrong
and strive against them.'
'Do you mean that she does not know it is wrong to be as wilful and
proud as Lucifer?'
'I do not think she knows she has those tendencies.'
Arthur laughed and shook his head. 'One learns one's faults as one
grows older, you know,' continued Violet, 'and she is so very kind.
Think of her giving up all going out in the evening to stay with me;
and you don't know how she waits on baby and me. She is so grand and
noble, that kindness from her is delightful, and her face when it
softens is so like you! Some book says that high natures have the
most trouble with their faults.'
'Then hers ought to be high indeed.'
Violet began the day by telling Arthur that his sister would go to
make arrangements with Mrs. Finch, and asked him to tell her of their
decision before he returned to Windsor that morning.
'Our decision! What do you mean!'
'Don't you remember about Mrs. Bryanstone?'
'Oh! if that is to be done, you must say it. Ladies must manage
their own visiting affairs. I don't understand chaperons and stuff.'
'Arthur, you don't mean me to speak?'
'If it is to be done at all, it is woman's work, and I see no use in
it. She will toss her head, and only be more resolved on her own
'Oh, Arthur, one moment! Did you not say it ought to be done?'
'Of course it ought; but it is of no use, and if you are wise, you
will not tease yourself.'
'But you said Percy insisted on it.'
'So he did, but if he cannot tackle her himself, I am sure we can't.
I'll have nothing to do with it--it is no affair of mine.'
'Then, am I to let her alone?'
'As you choose. I wish she would hear reason, but it is not worth
bothering yourself for, when it is of no use.'
'What do you wish me to do? I wish I knew--'
He shut the door behind him, and Violet tried to recover from her
dismay. Thankful would she have been for commands not to interfere;
but to be left to her own judgment was terrible when she knew that
his true opinion coincided with hers. How could she hope to prevail,
or not to forfeit the much-prized affection that seemed almost
reluctantly to be at last bestowed?
But, cost what it might, Violet never swerved from a duty, and her
mind was clear that to permit Theodora to join the party alone
without remonstrance, and without the knowledge of her parents, would
be improper. She resolved not to confuse herself with fears and
anxieties, and strove to dwell on whatever could steady or calm her
mind for the undertaking. How wide a difference in moral courage
there was between that tall grenadier and his timid delicate wife.
Arthur and Theodora were both down-stairs before her, and the latter
was preparing breakfast, when there was a knock. 'Percy!' she
thought. 'He shall see how useless it is to interfere!'
'Mr. Albert Moss!'
Arthur threw aside his newspaper, and held out his hand with a fair
show of welcome. 'Ha! Moss, how are you? Your sister will be down-
stairs directly. Miss Martindale--'
Theodora was resolved against being supercilious, but Mr. Moss's
intention of shaking hands obliged her to assert her dignity by a
'Good morning,' said Albert. 'I came to town yesterday--slept at my
uncle's--have this day in London--much occupied--thought myself sure
of you at breakfast.'
'I will tell Mrs. Martindale,' said Theodora, glad to escape that she
might freely uplift her eyes at his self-sufficiency, and let her
pity for Arthur exhale safely on the stairs.
She met Violet, and was vexed at her start of joy, only consoling
herself by thinking that she did not look as if she was his sister.
Indeed, after the momentary instinct of gladness, came fears lest
Arthur might not be pleased, and Theodora be annoyed; but the
familiar home-like voice drove away all except pleasure as soon as
she was certified that her husband's brow was smooth. His presence
was a restraint, keeping Albert on his best behaviour, so that there
was nothing to disturb her present enjoyment of home tidings. That
good-humour and ease of his were indeed valuable ingredients of
He asked Albert to dinner, and desired him to bring Uncle
Christopher, if they chose to be entertained by the ladies alone,
further offering him a seat in his cab as far as their roads lay
together. Highly gratified, Albert proceeded to ask his sister
whether she was able to execute a commission for Matilda, the
matching of a piece of chenille. Violet readily undertook it, and he
said, 'he would explain the occasion on his return.'
When they were gone, the cares of the morning returned upon her, and
by the time her household affairs were finished, all her pulses were
throbbing at the prospect of the effort to which she was nerving
herself. She ordered herself to be quiet, and lay down on the sofa,
leaving the door open that Theodora might not go out without her
'It is my duty,' repeated she to herself. 'If I turn from it because
it is so dreadful to me, I shall not take up my cross! If she will
only listen and not be angry!'
Nearly an hour passed, the day seeming to grow warmer and more
oppressive, and a nervous headache coming on. Poor Violet! she was
still a frightened child, and when she saw Theodora coming down with
her bonnet on, the fluttering of her heart made her call so feeble
that Theodora supposed her ill, and came to her with kind solicitude
that rendered it still harder to say what she knew would be taken as
With great difficulty she uttered the words, 'I only wanted to speak
to you about this expedition to Richmond.'
'Well,' said Theodora, smiling with what was meant for good-humour,
but was only scorn, 'you need not distress yourself, my dear, I am
ready to hear.'
'Would you get Mrs. Finch to ask Mrs. Bryanstone, and go with her?'
Violet could really speak at no more length.
'It would be folly. Mrs. Bryanstone would be out of her element, and
only a nuisance to herself and every one else. That will do. You
have discharged your conscience.'
'It is not myself alone,' said Violet, sitting up, and gathering
force to speak firmly and collectedly, but with her hand on her
heart. 'Your brother and I both think it is not right, nor what Lord
and Lady Martindale would approve, that you should join this party
without some one they know and like.'
You mistake, Violet. This is not like a ball. There is no absurd
conventionality, tacking a spinster to a married woman.'
'No, but since. Arthur cannot be with you, it is needful to take
measures to prevent any awkwardness for you.'
'Thank you. I'll take care of that.'
'Dear Theodora, I did not mean to vex you; but will you only put
yourself in our place for one moment. Your father and mother let you
stay here on the understanding that you go out with us, and when we
cannot go, do you think we ought to see you put yourself under the
escort of a person to whom we believe they would object?'
'I have told you that I know what my own father and mother permit.'
Violet was silent, and pressed her hand on her brow, feeling as if
all her prepared arguments and resolutions were chased away by the
cool disregard which seemed to annihilate them even in her own eyes.
By an effort, however, she cleared her mind, conjured back her
steadiness, and spoke, preserving her voice with difficulty from
being plaintive. 'You may know what they permit you, but we owe them
duties too. Theodora, if you will not take some one with you whom we
know they would approve, we must write and ask what Lord Martindale
'Arthur will never write,' said Theodora, in defiance; but the answer
took her by surprise--'If he does not, I shall.'
'If there is to be such a rout, I will not go at all.'
'Indeed I think it would be the best plan,' said Violet, removing the
hand that had been hiding the springing tears, to look up
beseechingly, and see whether the project were resigned, and herself
spared the letter which she well knew would be left to her lot.
But for those wistful eyes, Theodora would have felt caught in her
own trap; for such speeches had often brought governess, mother, and
even aunt, to humble entreaties that she would take her own course.
She had to recollect her words before she perceived that she had
yielded, and that she must abide by them. Anything was better than
the humiliation of Violets sending home complaints of her conduct.
She was greatly incensed; but a glance at the gentle, imploring face,
and the hands trying in vain not to tremble with nervousness, could
not but turn away her wrath. It was impossible to manifest
displeasure; but to speak a word of concession seemed still more
impossible. She impetuously threw off her bonnet, seized a pen,
dashed off a few lines, and tossed the note and its envelope into
Violet's lap, saying, in her low voice of proud submission, 'There!
you will send it,' and left the room. Violet read
'MY DEAR GEORGINA,--My brother is engaged at Windsor, and I cannot
join your party to Richmond.
'TH. A. MARTINDALE.
'Mrs. Martindale is pretty well, thank you.'
Violet almost expected Theodora's next note would announce her return
home. She had been forced to give up all the affection so slowly
gained, and to wound her proud sister-in-law where she was most
sensitive. Should she hold Theodora to this renunciation, and send
the note she had extorted, or should she once more ask whether this
was in earnest, and beg her to reconsider the alternative?
But Violet was convinced that Theodora intended to hear no more about
the matter, and that nothing would be such an offence as to be
supposed to have acted hastily. She was afraid of renewing the
subject, lest her weakness should lose her what she had gained.
'Better,' thought she, 'that Theodora should think me presumptuous
and troublesome than that she should mix herself up with these
people, and, perhaps, displease Percy for ever. But, oh! if I could
but have done it without vexing her, and to-day, too, when she has to
bear with Albert.'
Violet felt that she must give way to her headache, trusting that
when it had had its will it might allow her to be bright enough to
make a fair show before Albert. She lay with closed eyes, her ear
not missing one tick of the clock, nor one sound in the street, but
without any distinct impression conveyed to her thoughts, which were
wandering in the green spots in the park at Wrangerton, or in John's
descriptions of the coral reefs of the West Indies. The first
interruption was Sarah's bringing down the baby, whom she was forced
to dismiss at once.
Again all was still, but the half slumber was soon interrupted,
something cold and fragrant was laid on her brow, and, thinking Sarah
would not be satisfied without attending to her, she murmured thanks,
without opening her eyes. But the hand that changed the cool
handkerchief was of softer texture; and, looking up, she saw Theodora
bending over her, with the face so like Arthur's, and making every
demonstration of kindness and attention--drawing down blinds,
administering sal volatile, and doing everything in her service.
Not that Theodora was in the least subdued. She was burning with
resentment with every one--with Percy and his prejudice; with the
gossiping world; with her friends for making this a trial of power;
with Arthur for having put forward his poor young wife when it cost
her so much. 'He knew I should not have given way to him!
Feebleness is a tyrant to the strong. It was like putting the women
and children on the battlements of a besieged city. It was cowardly;
unkind to her, unfair on me. She is a witch!'
But candour was obliged to acknowledge that it had not been
feebleness that had been the conqueror. Violet had made no
demonstration of going into fits; it had been her resolution, her
strength, not her weakness, that had gained the victory. Chafe as
Theodora might, she could not rid herself of the consciousness that
the sister of that underbred attorney--that timid, delicate, soft,
shrinking being, so much her junior--had dared to grapple with her
fixed determination, and had gained an absolute conquest. 'Tyrant!'
thought Theodora, 'my own brother would have left me alone, but she
has made him let her interfere. She means to govern us all, and the
show of right she had here has overthrown me for once; but it shall
not happen again.'
At this juncture Theodora discovered, from the sounds in the other
room, how much Violet had suffered from her effort, and her
compassion was instantly excited. 'I must go and nurse her. She
meant to do right, and I honour the real goodness. I am no petted
child, to be cross because I have lost a pleasure.'
So she took exemplary care of Violet, read aloud, warded off noises,
bribed the brass band at the other side of the square, went up to see
why Johnnie was crying, carried up her luncheon, waited on her
assiduously, and succeeded so well, that by the time the carriage
came round, the head was in a condition to be mended by fresh air.
Mere driving out was one of Theodora's aversions. If she did not
ride, she had district visiting and schooling; but to-day she went
with Violet, because she thought her unfit to be tired by Matilda's
commission. It proved no sinecure. The west-end workshops had not
the right article; and, after trying them, Theodora pronounced that
Violet must drive about in the hot streets no longer. One turn in
the park, and she would set her down, and go herself into the city,
if necessary, to match the pattern.
And this from Theodora, who detested fancy work, despised what she
called 'dabblers in silk and wool,' and hated the sight of a Berlin
Violet would not have allowed it; but Theodora threw her
determination into the scale, resolved to make herself feel generous
and forgiving, and not above taking any trouble to save Violet. So
off she set, and was gone so long that Violet had a long rest, and
came down-stairs, much revived, to welcome her brother.
Albert arrived alone. Uncle Christopher was engaged, and had charged
him with his excuses, for which Violet was sorry, as he was an
unpretending, sensible man, to whom she had trusted for keeping her
brother in order; but Albert was of a different opinion. 'No harm,'
he said. 'It was very good-natured of Martindale, but he is a queer
old chap, who might not go down so well in high life,' and he
surveyed his own elegant toilette.
'We get on very well,' said Violet, quietly.
'Besides,' added Albert, attempting bashfulness, 'I have a piece of
intelligence, which being slightly personal, I should prefer--you
Violet was prepared by her sister's letters for the news that Albert
was engaged to Miss Louisa Davis, very pretty, 'highly accomplished,'
and an heiress, being the daughter of a considerable county banker--a
match superior to what Albert could have expected. They had been
engaged for the last fortnight, but he bad not allowed his sisters to
mention it, because he was coming to London, and wished to have the
pleasure of himself communicating the intelligence. Violet was much
flattered; she who used to be nobody to be thus selected! and she
threw herself into all the home feelings. The wedding was fixed for
the beginning of July, and this first made her remember the gulf
between her and her family.
Seven o'clock was long past when Theodora entered, arrayed in rich
blue silk and black lace, put on that Violet's brother might see she
meant to do him honour; and so Violet understood it, but saw that he
was only contrasting it with her own quiet-coloured muslin.
Here ended Violet's comfort. Albert was so much elated that she was
afraid every moment of his doing something mal-a-propos. Theodora
was resolved to be gracious, and make conversation, which so added to
his self-satisfaction, that Violet's work was to repress his
familiarity. At dinner, she made Theodora take Arthur's place, and
called her Miss Martindale, otherwise she believed it would be
Theodora the next moment with him, and thus she lost all appearance
of ease. She was shy for her brother, and when he said anything she
did not like, tried to colour it rightly; but she was weary and
languid, and wanted spirit to control the conversation.
'So, Violet, Fanshawe's appointment was a pretty little bit of
patronage of yours; but the ladies of Wrangerton will never forgive
you. They were going to get up a subscription to give him a piece of
'O, yes! and he desired them to send the money to the "Society for
the Propagation of the Gospel,"' said Violet. 'Annette mentioned
'I suppose it depends on Mr. Martindale. whether he makes a good
thing of it in Barbuda,' said Albert; but the gov--' at a dismayed
look from her, he turned it into 'My father is much obliged to you
for getting him out of the way. The girls were so taken up with him
one hardly knew whether something might not come of it; and really a
poor curate--after the manner in which some of the family have
The ladies were sorry for each other--one ashamed and one amused,
neither venturing to look up, and Albert had no opportunity for the
bow he intended for Miss Martindale.
'By the bye,' continued he, 'who is this Fotheringham that was to
settle with Fanshawe? I thought he was Lord Martindale's solicitor;
but my uncle knows nothing about him.'
Violet coloured crimson, and wished herself under the table; Theodora
made violent efforts to keep from an explosion of laughing.
'No,' said Violet, rather indignantly; 'he is--he is--he is--' she
faltered, not knowing how to describe one so nearly a relation, 'a
great friend of--'
Theodora having strangled the laugh, came to her rescue, and replied,
with complete self-possession, 'His sister, who died, was engaged to
my eldest brother.'
'Oh! I beg your pardon. You look on him as a sort of family
connection. I suppose, then, he is one of the Fotheringhams of
Worthbourne? Matilda fancied he was the literary man of that name;
but that could not be.'
'Why not?' said Theodora, extremely diverted.
'A poet, an author! I beg your pardon; but a lady alone could
suppose one of that description could be employed in a practical
matter. Is not it Shakespeare who speaks of the poet's eye in a fine
frenzy rolling? Eh, Violet? I shall never forget the gove--my
father's indignation when he detected your humble servant in the act
of attempting a slight tribute to the Muses. I believe the old
gentleman looked on my fate as sealed.'
'Albert!' said Violet, feeling as if she must stop his mouth, 'you
are quite mistaken. Mr. Fotheringham does belong to the family you
mean, and he did write "The Track of the Crusaders". He has been
attached to the embassy in Turkey, and is waiting for another
appointment.' Then, looking at Theodora, 'You never told me how far
you went to-day.'
Theodora detailed her long pursuit of the chenille, and her
successful discovery of it at last. Albert's gratitude was extreme;
his sister would be delighted and flattered, the work would receive
an additional value in the eyes of all, and he might well say so, he
was a party concerned, the material was for a waistcoat, to be worn
on an occasion--but his sister would explain.
Violet thought he had exposed himself quite enough; and as dessert
was on the table, she rose with as good a smile as she could, saying,
'Very well, I'll explain; you will find your way to the drawing-
room,' and retreated.
Theodora caressingly drew her arm into hers, much pleased with her,
and accepting her as entirely Martindale, and not at all Moss.
'What! is he going to be married in it?'
'Yes, that is what he meant.'
'I hope you are satisfied.'
'O yes, I never saw her; but they are all very much pleased.'
'Now tell me frankly, which do you like? Shall I leave you at peace
with him, or will he think it rude in me?'
Violet decided in favour of Theodora's absence till tea-time. Alone
she had enjoyed Albert, but the toil of watching his manners was too
'Then I'll come down and make the tea.'
'Thank you, dear Theodora. It is so kind. I hope it will not be
very disagreeable. And one thing--could you tell him how well I
really am, except for to-day's headache, or he will go and take home
another bad account of me.'
'Your head is worse again. There, I'll fetch some lavender, and do
you lie still and rest it till he comes.'
He soon came.
'Well, Miss Martindale is a fine young lady, upon my word. Real high
blood and no mistake. And not so high in her manner after all, when
one knows how to deal with her.'
'She is very kind to me.'
'And how long does she stay?'
'O, for some time longer. Till August, most likely.'
'Why, she will get the command of your house altogether.'
'I am very glad to have her here.'
'Ah!' said Albert, looking confidential, 'you do right to be prudent,
but you may trust me, and I should be glad to know that it is more
comfortable than last year.'
'It never was otherwise,' said Violet.
'I hope so,' said Albert; 'I honour your prudence, and, after all,
you have a handsome establishment,--capital dinners, good turnout. I
only wish I could see you look in better spirits.'
Violet started forward and coloured. 'Albert, don't take up fancies.
I am perfectly happy, and you must believe it. They all pet and
spoil me with kindness. If you think me looking poorly to-day it is
only from a headache, which Miss Martindale has been nursing so
carefully and tenderly.'
'Well, you cannot be too cautious if you are to stand well with the
family. You do well to be on your guard. Martindale only the second
son, and the elder may marry any day. That was one thing I thought I
ought to speak to you about. You really should try to get some
settlement made on you. You have nothing to depend upon, and, you
see, you cannot expect anything from home.'
'Do not talk about such things.'
'You must not be childish, Violet; I am come as your best friend to
give you advice. You ought to consider what would become of you if
you were left with a family of young children, connected as you are.
You depend entirely on one life, and you must not reckon on us, as
you MUST see.'
'I see,' said Violet, only wanting him to cease.
'Then you perceive I have your real interest in view when I tell you
it is your duty to use what influence you have to get some provision
'Don't go on, Albert. As my marriage was brought about, it would be
improper in me to do anything of the kind.'
'I only wished you to see what you have to trust to. Ah! by the bye,
there's the old aunt. Have not you expectations from her?'
'No; she was so much offended at our marriage that there is no
likelihood of her doing anything for us.'
'Bless me! That's a bad case! But you have been staying there.
Can't a pretty engaging thing like you manage to come round the old
lady and get into her good graces?'
'Albert! don't talk so.'
'Really, Violet, it is time to give up being a silly child. You
ought not to throw away your true interests, or the time will come
when you will be sorry, and remember what I said; but you are not to
depend on me.'
'No,' said Violet, and scalding tears arose, 'I do not. You need not
be afraid. I have a brother who will take care of me and mine.'
'Well, you know your own ground. I thought it my duty to warn you,
and I hope you will take care to make the most of yourself--it will
never do to let yourself seem of no importance, and be overcrowed by
this haughty young lady.'
Violet nearly laughed, but the next speech was too much for her
patience. 'And you are satisfied at Martindale being so much from
'He must be while his regiment is at Windsor;' and she rang for tea,
and sent a message to summon Miss Martindale, feeling her presence
her only protection.
Her head ached so much that she was obliged to lie on the sofa and
let things take their chance, and Theodora's attempt to represent her
in good health only appeared like blindness and indifference. Albert
was much enchanted with Miss Martindale, and made himself more
ridiculous, until it was a great satisfaction to his sister to see
'He always comes on unlucky days!' she said. 'I wish I could have
made it go off better. Thank you for taking all the trouble.'
'No trouble at all,' said Theodora, kindly. 'I am sorry you had so
much to tire you in the morning. Now, come up to your room. I wish
I could carry you, as Arthur does.'
She put her arm round her, helped her tenderly up the stairs, and
came in several times to her room to see that she was comfortable.
At the last good night, Violet whispered, 'Dear Theodora, don't think
my sisters like this--'
'I'll judge them from you, my dear little sister.'
'And you forgive me?'
'To be sure I do. You did as you thought right.' Strange to say,
Theodora had more sympathy for Violet after this awkward evening.
In the middle of the following day, Violet and little Johnnie were
together in the drawing-room, when Arthur came in, 'Well, how are
you? I am only here for two hours, but I wanted to know how you are
'Very well indeed, thank you.'
'Theodora sticks to her flight of Finches, I suppose?'
'She has been so kind! she has given it up.'
You don't mean it. I thought she was ready to go through fire and
water!' cried Arthur, incredulously.
'She has written to refuse.'
'What, Percy brought her to reason?'
'No, he has not been here, but I suppose his opinion influenced her.'
'What in the name of wonder prevailed! I never saw her turn when
once she had taken up a notion.'
'I believe it was that I said you or I must write to her father, and
ask what he wished.'
'So that settled her! Ha! Well done! Theodora forced to give up
her will, and by you! Well, that is the best thing I have heard a
long time. My little Violet to have got the upper hand of Miss
Martindale!' and Arthur burst into such a fit of triumphant laughter
as to quite discomfort Violet, but little Johnnie by her side on the
sofa, catching the infection of merriment, gave, what was very
unusual with him, a regular shout of baby fun, and went on laughing
in ecstasy that set Arthur off on a fresh score. 'So! young man, you
think it very funny that mamma has been too much for Aunt Theodora?'
Theodora could not have chosen a more unlucky moment for walking into
the room! However, it must remain uncertain whether she had heard.
The visible consequence of the late air was exemplary attention to
Violet's comfort; and that doubt, so often balanced in her sister's
mind, whether she loved Percy, now inclined to the affirmative, for
there was a concealed disquietude at his totally absenting himself
from Cadogan-place. They did not see him again till the very day of
the picnic, when, as they were driving in the park, the exclamation--
'There he is! broke from her, and then she leant back, vexed at
having betrayed her joy.
He came to speak to them with such an open beaming look of
gratification as Violet trusted was a recompense, but Theodora chose
to keep an unmoved countenance; and it was only Violet's happy
congratulating face that assured him that all was right and the
Richmond scheme resigned.
She asked him to dinner for that day, and he gladly accepted; but
Theodora, considering it a sugar-plum to console her for staying at
home, behaved as if it was a matter of indifference.
Violet took care to leave them alone, and she began the subject
herself. 'You find me here to-day, Percy, but it is no proof that I
'It shows, as I hoped, that your good sense would prevail when left
'No, it was Violet.'
'I honour her and you more than I ever did before.'
'That's your way,' said Theodora, with the bright smile that was an
act of oblivion for all her waywardness. 'All you value is a slave
with no will of her own.'
'One who has a will, but knows how to resign it.'
'That you may have the victory.'
'No, but that you may be greater than he that taketh a city.'
Theodora raised her eyes much softened. She never liked Percy so
well as when he made these direct attacks on her faults in general;
when it came to a combat over the individual questions, it was a
'I am very glad you have given this up,' Percy proceeded. 'It is a
positive relief to my mind to find that you can yield. Do not be
ashamed of it, it is the best thing you have done a long time.'
'But, Percy, I did not do it on principle; I did it because Violet
would have written to papa.'
'There's the true sort of spirit! Brave enough to confront even you
for the right, yet yielding her own will and wish at the first
moment. I think more highly of Mrs. Martindale the more I hear of
'And you wish me to be like her ?' said Theodora, watching for the
'No, but to see you what you might and ought to be. It is repeating
what I told you when this first began. You have a noble nature, but
you will not check yourself, will not control your pride; you cannot
bear any attempt to curb you. You are proud of it; but I tell you,
Theodora, it is not high spirit, it is absolute sinful temper. If no
one else will tell you so, I must.'
Theodora bent her head and cast down her eyes, not in sullenness, but
in sorrow. 'It is true,' she murmured; 'I see it sometimes, and it
'I know,' he said, much moved, 'the sense of right must conquer; but,
indeed, Theodora, it is time to begin, that it may not be some evil
consequence that subdues you.' He opened "The Baptistery" as it lay
on the table, and pointed to the sentence--'If thou refusest the
cross sent thee by an angel, the devil will impose on thee a heavier
Theodora looked up in his face; the words were applied in a sense new
to her. 'Are humility and submission my cross?' said she.
'If you would only so regard them, you would find the secret of
peace. If you would only tame yourself before trouble is sent to
tame you! But there, I have said what I felt it my duty to say; let
us dwell on it no longer.'
The large tears, however, fell so fast, that he could not bear to
have caused them, and presently she said, 'You are right, Percy, I am
proud and violent. I have grown up fearfully untamed. No one ever
checked me but you, and that is the reason I look up to you beyond
The lioness was subdued, and the rest of the evening there was a
gentleness and sober tone about her that made her truly charming: and
a softer sense of happiness was around her when she awoke the next
morning, making her feel convinced that this was indeed the only real
peace and gladness.
Call me false, or call me free,
Vow, whatever light may shine,
No man on your face shall see
Any grief for change of mine.
E. B. BROWNING (The Lady's Yes)
It appeared as if Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner were offended at
Theodora's defection, for nothing was heard of them for several days,
and the household in Cadogan-place continued in a state of
peacefulness. Arthur was again at home for a week, and Theodora was
riding with him when she next met the two sisters, who at once
attacked them for their absence from the picnic, giving an eager
description of its delights and of the silence and melancholy of poor
Lord St. Erme.
'He and Mark were both in utter despair,' said Jane.
'Well, it is of no use to ask you; I have vowed I never will,' said
Mrs. Finch; 'or I should try to make you come with us on Wednesday.'
'What are you going to do?'
'You living in Captain Martindale's house, and forgetting the Derby!'
And an entreaty ensued that both brother and sister would join their
party. Arthur gave a gay, unmeaning answer, and they parted.
'What do you think of it?' asked Theodora.
'Too much trouble,' said he, lazily. 'There is no horse running that
I take interest in. My racing days are over. I am an old domestic
'Nonsense! You don't look two-and-twenty! Lady Elizabeth's sister
would not believe you were my married brother. You have not the look
Arthur laughed, and said, 'Absurd!' but was flattered.
When he told his wife of the invitation, he added, 'I wonder if there
is a fresh breeze blowing up!'
'I trust not.'
'If she really wants to go, and she has never seen the thing, I had
rather take her in a sober way by ourselves, and come home at our own
'Why don't you! It would be very pleasant for you both, and I should
be so glad. Think how she shuts herself up with me!'
'We will see. Anything for a quiet life.'
Theodora, being fond of horses, and used to hear much about them from
her brother, had a real curiosity to go to Epsom, and broached the
subject the next morning at breakfast. Before any answer had been
given, Mr. Fotheringham made his appearance.
'Well, Percy,' said Arthur, 'you find this sister of mine bent on
dragging me to Epsom. Come with us! You will have an opportunity of
getting up an article against fashionable life.'
Theodora was ready to hide her desire for his consent, but thought
better of it, and said, 'It is of no use to ask him.'
'Indeed I would go,' said Percy; 'I wish I could; but I came here to
tell you that my Aunt Fotheringham is coming to London early on
Wednesday for advice for her son, and will only be there two days, so
that it is impossible to be away.'
'Is Sir Antony Fotheringham coming?' asked Violet, as Theodora did
'No; he is a fixture. He has never even seen a railroad. My aunt
could hardly persuade him to let her come up without the old chariot
'You will bring them here to dinner,' said Arthur. 'Thank you, I
must not promise; I cannot tell what Pelham may be fit for. I must
take him to the Zoological Gardens. How he will enjoy them, poor
fellow! The only thing to guard against will be his growing too much
Percy was engaged that morning, and soon departed, with hardly a word
from Theodora, whose amiability had been entirely overthrown by
finding her service postponed to that of his aunt.
'There's the Derby happily disposed of!' said Arthur, rising from the
breakfast-table. 'I don't see why,' said Theodora.
'What! Is not this Percy's well-beloved aunt, who nursed Helen, and
is such a friend of John's?'
'I am not going to dance attendance on any one.'
'It is your concern,' said Arthur; 'but, if you don't take care,
Percy won't stand much more of this.'
Vouchsafing no answer, she quitted the room. Arthur made a gesture of
annoyance. 'She treats Percy like a dog!' he said. 'I believe my
aunt is right, and that it never will come to good!'
'Shall you go with her, then?'
'I must, I suppose. She will not let me off now.'
'If we do not vex her by refusing, I hope she will give it up of
herself. I am almost sure she will, if no one says anything about
'Very well: I am the last person to begin. I am sick of her
Two wills were dividing Theodora: one calling on her to renounce her
pride and obstinacy, take up the yoke while yet there was time, earn
the precious sense of peace, and confer gladness on the honest heart
which she had so often pained. Violet was as the genius of this
better mind, and her very presence infused such thoughts as these,
disposing her not indeed openly to yield, but to allow it to drop in
But there was another will, which reminded her that she had thrice
been baffled, and that she had heard the soft tyrant rejoicing with
her brother over her defeat! She thought of Violet so subjugating
Arthur, that he had not even dared to wish for his favourite
amusement, as if he could not be trusted!
Such recollections provoked her to show that there was one whose
determination would yield to no one's caprice, and impelled her to
maintain the unconquerable spirit in which she had hitherto gloried.
Violet's unexpressed opinion was tricked out as an object of
defiance; and if she represented the genius of meekness, wilfulness
was not without outward prompters.
Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner called, and found her alone. 'There!'
said the former, 'am I not very forgiving? Actually to come and seek
you out again, after the way you served us. Now, on your honour,
what was the meaning of it?'
'The meaning was, that this poor child had been told it was etiquette
for me to have a chaperon at my heels, and made such a disturbance
that I was obliged to give up the point. I am not ashamed. She is a
good girl, though a troublesome one at times.'
'Who would have thought that pretty face could be so prudish!'
'I suppose she is against your coming to Epsom!' said Jane,
interrupting her sister.
'No; my brother and I have been proposing to go, independently; so as
to be able to come home at our own time.'
'You had better be satisfied with that, Georgina,' said Jane. 'We
shall find ourselves together at the stand, and it will spare a few
'I shall do nothing underhand,' said Theodora. 'I shall proclaim my
intention of joining you; but I doubt, because Lady Fotheringham is
coming to London.'
'Her ladyship herself?' cried Georgina. 'What, in the name of
wonder, brings her from her antediluvian hall?'
'She brings her son for advice.'
'We can say no more,' said Jane. 'Percy's expectations would be
ruined if the good lady found his intended concerned in such naughty
doings. She must stay at home.'
'To entertain Pelham!' cried Mrs. Finch, in a paroxysm of laughing,
of her most unreal kind.
'Let me give you one piece of advice,' said Jane. 'Don't make
yourself too great a favourite, as I unwittingly did, or you will
have no cessation of "I have a pony; it can trot; it can canter."'
'I have not decided.'
'No,' said Jane, 'you cannot do it. We know Lady Fotheringham too
well to ask you to lose your place in her regard for our sake.
Probably this is a most important visit, and all may depend on her
'I don't depend on her.'
'Ah! you don't understand. She is the managing partner, and I have
little doubt this is only an excuse for coming to inspect you. It is
quite in their power, you know, to do the only rational thing under
the circumstances--make an eldest son of Percy, and set poor Pelham
aside, with enough to make him happy.
'I do believe that must be it!' cried Georgina. 'She would be a dear
old woman if she would only do it!'
'And you see it would be fatal for Theodora to appear as a
fashionable young lady, given to races, and the like vanities.'
'I shall seem nothing but what I am.'
'She would find Mrs. Martindale sighing at her inability to keep you
out of bad company. So sorry to trust you with us. She did her
utmost. No, no, Theodora; you must stay at home, and the good lady
will be charmed.'
'I do not intend to be turned from my course.'
'No! Now, Jane, you should not have spoken in that way,' said her
sister. 'You will only make Theodora more resolved to come with us;
and, indeed, I had rather she did not, if it is to do her any harm.'
'I shall leave you to settle it between you,' said Jane, with
apparent carelessness. 'I shall go home to appease for a little
while the unfortunate dressmaker, whom we are keeping so long
waiting. Make the most of Theodora, while you can have her.�
She would not have gone, had she not believed her work done.
'I have made up my mind,' said Theodora, as the door closed.
'Theodora! I do beg you will not,' cried Georgina, in an agitated
voice, fully meaning all she said. 'You will vex and displease them
all. I know you will, and I could not bear that! Your happiness is
not wasted yet! Go, and be happy with your Percy!'
'I have told Percy of my intentions. Do you think I would alter them
for this notion of Jane's?'
'That is my own dear Theodora! But it is not only that. They are
such good people--so kind! You must not risk their good opinion, for
they would be so fond of you!'
'If their good opinion depends on narrow-minded prejudice, I do not
wish for it.'
'If she would but come a day later,' said Georgina; 'for I do want
you to be with me very much, Theodora! I know I shall meet with
nothing but mortification, if you are not. People will only make
that little starched bow! And Mr. Finch has noticed your not being
so much with me. But no, no, you shall not come. You shall stay and
see dear, good old Lady Fotheringham! Oh! how I wish I could!' and
her breast heaved with a suppressed sob.
'Why do you not, then, dear Georgina? Let me tell her your feeling,
'No, no, no, no! I can never see her again! Don't talk to me about
her! She belongs to another state of existence.'
'This will not do, Georgina. It is vain to turn aside now from what
will and must come on you some day.'
'Don't! don't, Theodora!' said she, petulantly. 'Everything goes
against me! There's Jane taken to lecturing, and even Mr. Finch is
growing crabbed, and declares he shall take me to vegetate in this
horrid place he has bought in the country.'
'Oh, I am so glad!' exclaimed Theodora. 'Now then, there is a chance
for you. If you will throw yourself into the duties and pursuits--'
'What! be squiress and Lady Bountiful; doctor old women, and lecture
school-children? No, no, that may do for you, but I am at least no
'I should be a great hypocrite, if I did not believe the old women
and the children far better than myself,' said Theodora, gravely.
'But, indeed, trying to make them comfortable would occupy your mind,
and interest you till--oh! if it would but help you on the only way
'Don't talk of that word any more with me.'
'If not happiness, it would be peace.'
'Peace! I don't know what you mean.'
'If you watched my sister, you would.'
'She is happy!' said Mrs. Finch, in a tone of keen regret, laying her
hand on a toy of Johnnie's; but instantly changing her note, 'A
cold, inanimate piece of wax! That is what you call peace! I would
not have it.'
'You don't understand her--'
'I know one thing!' cried the fitful lady, vehemently; 'that it is
she who governs you all, and wants to divide you from me. 'Tis she
and your Percy who have robbed me of you, with their ill-natured
'There is no ill-nature in them, and no one governs me,' said
'Then you hold fast by me, and come with me?'
'My thorough-going old Theodora! I knew they could not spoil you,
say what they would!' for she was by no means insensible of the
'But, Georgina,' continued her friend, earnestly, 'you must be
prudent. Let me speak to you for once.'
'Only don't talk of prudence. I am sick of that from Jane.'
'Yes! it is speaking on this world's grounds; I will speak of higher
motives. Think what is to come by and by: there are things that
cannot be kept off by being forgotten. You are weary and
dissatisfied as it is; try whether boldly facing the thoughts you
dread might not lead to better things. There will be pain at first;
but content will come, and--'
'If you will come and stay with me in the country, you shall teach me
all your ways. But no; it would put all the Fotheringhams in
commotion! If I had a happy home I might be good. You must not
quite forsake me, Theodora. But here's Mrs. Martindale!'
Violet entering, Mrs. Finch greeted her in a subdued manner, and,
indeed, looked so dejected that when she was gone, Violet asked if
she was well.
'Yes, poor thing, it is only the taste of the ashes she eats instead
of bread. But I have had her alone, and have got her to hear some
'Oh, how glad I am.'
'But I cannot give up meeting her at Epsom. She would feel it a
desertion, and my influence is the best hope for her. Besides, I
will not sacrifice her to curry favour with the Worthbourne people.'
'Surely it would not be doing so.'
'I have made up my mind.'
Her better and worse feelings were alike enlisted in behalf of the
expedition. Sincerity, constancy, and generosity were all drawn in
to espouse the cause of pride and self-will; and she never once
recollected that the way to rescue her friend from the vortex of
dissipation was not to follow her into it.
Little was needed to rouse in Arthur the dormant taste so long the
prevalent one. So eager was he when once stirred up, that his sister
almost doubted whether she might not be leading him into temptation,
as she remembered the warning against Mr. Gardner; but she repelled
the notion of his being now liable to be led away, and satisfied
herself by recollecting that whenever he had met his former school-
fellow, he had shown no disposition to renew the acquaintance.
All the notice of Percy that she chose to take, was, that on the
Tuesday evening, she said, as she wished Violet good night, 'If Percy
should call with his aunt to-morrow, which I don't expect, you will
explain, and say I hope to call early next day.'
'Well! I hope you will get into no scrape,' said Arthur; 'but mind,
whatever comes of it, 'tis your doing, not mine.'
Words which she answered with a haughty smile, but which she was
never to forget.
Violet saw the brother and sister depart, and could only hope that
nothing might be heard of the Fotheringham party; but before half the
morning had passed, the knock, for the first time unwelcome, sounded
at the door, and there entered not only Percy, but an elderly lady
who might have been supposed the grandmother, rather than the mother,
of the tall comely youth who bashfully followed her.
Violet strove, by the warmth of her reception, to make up for what
was wanting; but her sentences were broken and confused; she was glad
and she was sorry, and they would be very sorry, and something about
not expecting and calling early, was all mixed together, while she
watched with deprecating looks the effect upon Percy.
'Is she gone?' he asked, in a low stern voice.
'Yes; but she told me to say, in case--we hardly thought it likely--
but in case Lady Fotheringham should be kind enough to call, she told
me to say she will certainly call early to-morrow.'
Violet knew she had made a most tangled speech, and that there was
great danger that her trembling sorrowful voice should convey to Lady
Fotheringham an impression that there was something amiss; but she
could only try to make the intelligence as little mortifying as
The fact was enough. Percy stood in the window in silence, while his
aunt, on learning where Miss Martindale was, good-naturedly supposed
it had long been settled, and said it must be such a pleasure to the
brother and sister to go together, that she should have been grieved
if it had been prevented.
Violet spoke of the call to be made to-morrow; but Lady Fotheringham
seemed to have so little time free that it was not probable she would
be at home. Uneasy at Percy's silence, Violet did not prosper in her
attempts at keeping up the conversation, until Percy, suddenly coming
forward, begged that 'the boy' might be sent for; his aunt must see
John's godson. It was chiefly for his own solace, for he carried the
little fellow back to his window, and played with him there till
luncheon-time, while the ladies talked of Mr. Martindale.
Violet won her visitor's heart by her kind manner to the poor son,
who was very well trained, and behaved like an automaton, but grew
restless with the hopes of wild beasts and London shops. His mother
was about to take leave, when Percy proposed to take charge of him,
and leave her to rest for the afternoon with Mrs. Martindale, a plan
very acceptable to all parties.
Lady Fotheringham was a woman of many sorrows. Her husband was very
feeble and infirm, and of a large family, the youngest, this half-
witted son, was the only survivor. Grief and anxiety had left deep
traces on her worn face, and had turned her hair to a snowy
whiteness; her frame was fragile, and the melancholy kindness of her
voice deeply touched Violet. There was much talk of John, for whom
Lady Fotheringham had a sort of compassionate reverence, derived from
his patient resignation during Helen's illness, of which Violet now
gathered many more particulars, such as added to her affection and
enthusiasm for both.
Of her nephew, Percival, Lady Fotheringham spoke in the highest
terms, and dwelt with pleasure on the engagement still connecting him
with the Martindale family. Violet was glad to be able to speak from
her heart of Theodora's excellence and kindness.
By and by, her visitor, in a sad voice, began to inquire whether she
ever saw 'a young connection of theirs, Mrs. Finch;' and as Violet
replied, said she was anxious to hear something of her, though she
feared it was a painful subject. 'I cannot help being interested for
her,' she said. 'She was a very fine girl, and had many good
dispositions; but I fear she was very ill managed. We grew very fond
of her, when she was at Worthbourne, poor thing, and if we and that
excellent elder sister could have kept her to ourselves, we might
have hoped-- But it was very natural that she should grow tired of
us, and there was much excuse for her--'
'Indeed there was, from all Theodora has told me.'
'I am glad to hear Miss Martindale keeps up her friendship. While
that is the case, I am sure there is nothing positively wrong, though
imprudent I fear she must be.'
Violet eagerly explained how every one was fully satisfied that,
though Mrs. Finch was too free and dashing in manner, and too fond of
attracting notice, there was principle and rectitude at the bottom,
and that her life of dissipation was chiefly caused by the tedium of
her home. All attachment between her and Mark Gardner had evidently
died away; and though it might have been wiser to keep him at a
distance, she had some good motives for allowing him to be often at
Lady Fotheringham was relieved to hear this, and added that she might
have trusted to Jane. Violet was surprised to find that Miss Gardner
held a very high place in Lady Fotheringham's esteem, and was
supposed by her to take most watchful, motherly care of her
headstrong younger sister. She had made herself extremely agreeable
at Worthbourne, and had corresponded with Lady Fotheringham ever
since; and now Violet heard that Jane had thought the marriage with
Mr. Finch a great risk, and would willingly have dissuaded her sister
from it; but that Georgina had been bent upon it! 'thinking, no
doubt, poor girl, that riches and gaiety would make her happy!
I wish we could have made it pleasanter to her at Worthbourne!'
'She has spoken very affectionately of you.'
'Ah, poor child! she had met with little kindness before. She used
to pour out her griefs to me. It was that wretched Mark who broke
her heart, and after that she seemed not to care what became of her.
But I am a little comforted by your account. I will try to see her
to-morrow, poor dear. Percy was hoping I should be able, although I
think that he is quite right not to visit them himself.'
Violet agreed to all, and was pleased at the notion of the good old
lady's influence being tried on one evidently amenable to right
impressions. As far as she herself was concerned, the visit was very
gratifying, and when the leave-taking came, it seemed as if they had
been intimate for years.
Violet sat pondering whether the dulness of Worthbourne and the
disappointment of her first love had been the appointed cross of
Georgina Gardner, cast aside in impatience of its weight. And then
she tried to reconcile the conflicting accounts of Jane's influence
in the matter, till she thought she was growing uncharitable; and
after having tried in vain to measure the extent of Percy's
annoyance, she looked from the window to see if carriages seemed to
be returning from Epsom, and then with a sigh betook herself to the
book Theodora had provided for her solitude.
She had long to wait. Arthur and his sister came home later than she
had expected, and did not bring the regale of amusing description
that they had promised her.
Arthur was silent and discontented, and went to his smoking-room.
Theodora only said it had been very hot, and for the first time
really looked tired, and owned that she was so. It had been hard
work, first to draw Arthur into Mrs. Finch's party, against which he
exerted all his lazy good-humoured �vis inertia�--undertaking to show
her everything, and explain all to her, be at her service all the
day, if only she would keep away from them and their nonsense. But
when their carriage was found, and Arthur was dragged into the midst
of them, a still harder task arose. She was frightened to see Mark
Gardner conversing with him, while he looked eager and excited, and
she hastened to interrupt, put forth every power of attraction, in
the resolve entirely to monopolize Mr. Gardner; and for a long time,
at the expense of severe exertion in talking nonsense, she succeeded.
But some interruption occurred; she missed Mr. Gardner, she missed
Arthur; they were waited for; she wondered and fretted herself in
vain, and at length beheld them returning in company-heard Mrs. Finch
gaily scolding them, and understood that there had been bets passing!
She called it fatigue, but it was rather blank dread, and the sense
that she had put herself and others in the way of evil.
It was possible that Arthur might have been only a spectator; or, if
not, that he might have known where to stop. He had bought his
experience long ago, at high cost; but Theodora was but too well
aware of his unsteadiness of purpose and facile temper; and in spite
of his resolutions, it was a fearful thing to have seen him in such a
place, in such company, and to know that almost against his own
desire she had conducted him thither for the gratification of her
Vainly did she strive to banish the thought, and to reassure herself
by his manner. She knew too well what it was wont to be when he had
been doing anything of which he was ashamed. One bet, however, was
no great mischief in itself. That book which Percy had given to her
spoke of 'threads turning to cords, and cords to cables strong.' Had
she put the first thread once more into the hand of the Old Evil
If she would confess the sin to herself and to her God, with earnest
prayer that the ill might be averted, perhaps, even yet, it might be
spared to them all.
But the proud spirit declared there was no sin. She had merely been
resolute and truthful. So she strengthened herself in her belief in
her own blamelessness, and drove down the misgiving to prey on the
depths of her soul, and sharpen her temper by secret suffering.
In the morning she accompanied Violet to call on Lady Fotheringham,
sullen, proud, and bashful at the sense of undergoing inspection, and
resolved against showing her best side, lest she should feel as if
she was winning Worthbourne for Percy.
That majestic ill-humour was wasted--Lady Fotheringham was not at
home; but Violet left a note begging her to come to luncheon the next
day. It passed, and she appeared not: but at twelve on Saturday,
Percy's tread hurried up-stairs and entered the back drawing-room,
where Theodora was sitting.
Sounds of voices followed--the buzz of expostulation; tones louder
and louder--words so distinct that to prevent her anxious ears from
listening, Violet began to practise Johnnie in all his cries of birds
All at once the other room door was opened, and Theodora's stately
march was heard, while one of the folding leaves was thrown back, and
there stood Percy.
Before a word could be spoken, he snatched up the child, and held him
up in the air to the full reach of his arms. Doubtful whether this
was to be regarded as play, Johnnie uttered 'Mamma,' in a grave
imploring voice, which, together with her terrified face, recalled
Mr. Fotheringham to his senses. With an agitated laugh he placed the
boy safely beside her, saying, 'I beg your pardon. What a good
little fellow it is!'
Violet asked him to ring for the nurse; and by the time Johnnie had
been carried away, he had collected himself sufficiently to try to
'Do her parents know what is going on?' he said. 'I do not speak for
my own sake. That is at an end.'
'Oh!' exclaimed Violet.
'I told her I could not be made a fool of any longer, and when she
answered "Very well," what could that mean?'
'I am very much grieved that it has come to this,' sighed Violet.
'How could it come to anything else?' he said, his face full of
sorrow and severity. 'I was mad to suppose there was any hope for
such a temper of pride and stubbornness. Yet,' he added, softening,
and his quick, stern eyes filling with tears, 'it is a noble nature,-
-high-minded, uncompromising, deeply tender, capable of anything. It
has been a cruel wicked thing to ruin all by education. What could
come of it? A life of struggle with women who had no notion of an
appeal to principle and affection--growing up with nothing worthy of
her love and respect--her very generosity becoming a stumbling-block,
till her pride and waywardness have come to such an indomitable pitch
that they are devouring all that was excellent.'
He paused; Violet, confused and sorrowful, knew not how to answer;
and he proceeded, 'I have known her, watched her, loved her from
infancy! I never saw one approaching her in fine qualities. I
thought, and still think, she needs but one conquest to rise above
all other women. I believed guidance and affection would teach her
all she needed; and so they would, but it was presumption and folly
to think it was I who could inspire them.'
'O, Mr. Fotheringham, indeed--'
'It was absurd to suppose that she who trifles with every one would
not do so with me. Yet, even now, I cannot believe her capable of
carrying trifling to the extent she has done.'
'She was in earnest,--oh! she was!'
'I would fain think so,' said he, sadly. 'I held to that trust, in
spite of the evidence of my senses. I persuaded myself that her
manners were the effect of habit--the triumph of one pre-eminent in
'That they are! I don't even think she knows what she does.'
'So I believed; I allowed for her pleasure in teasing me. I knew all
that would come right. I ascribed her determination to run after
that woman to a generous reluctance to desert a friend.'
'Indeed, indeed it is so!'
'But how am I to understand her neglect of my aunt--the one relation
whom I have tried to teach her to value--my aunt, who was the comfort
of my sister and of her brother--who had suffered enough to give her
a claim to every one's veneration! To run away from her to the
races, and the society of Mark Gardner and Mrs. Finch! Ay, and what
do you think we heard yesterday of her doings there, from Gardner's
own mother? That she is giving him decided encouragement! That was
the general remark, and on this, poor Mrs. George Gardner is founding
hopes of her son settling down and becoming respectable.'
'Oh! how terrible for you to hear! But it cannot be true. It must
be mere report. Arthur would have observed if there had been more
than her usual manner.'
'A pretty manner to be usual! Besides, Jane Gardner did not deny
'Yes. My aunt called at Mrs. Finch's, but saw neither of them; but
this morning, before she went, Miss Gardner called. I did not see
her. I was out with Pelham, and my aunt spoke to her about all this
matter. She answered very sensibly, regretted her sister's giddy
ways, but consoled my aunt a good deal on that score, but--but as to
the other, she could not say, but that Mark was a great admirer of--
of Miss Martindale, and much had passed which might be taken for
encouragement on Wednesday by any one who did not know how often it
was her way!'
'It is a pity that Miss Gardner has had to do with it,' said Violet.
'When I have been talking to her, I always am left with a worse
impression of people than they deserve.'
'You never have a bad impression of any one.'
'I think I have of Miss Gardner. I used to like her very much, but
lately I am afraid I cannot believe her sincere.'
'You have been taught to see her with Theodora's eyes. Of course,
Mrs. Finch despises and contemns prudence and restraint, and the
elder sister's advice is thrown aside.'
'You never saw Jane Gardner?'
'Never;--but that is not the point here. I am not acting on Jane
Gardner's report. I should never trouble myself to be jealous of
such a scoundrel as Mark. I am not imagining that there is any fear
of her accepting him. Though, if such a notion once possessed her,
nothing would hinder her from rushing on inevitable misery.'
'Oh, there is no danger of that.'
'I trust not. It would be too frightful! However, I can look on her
henceforth only as John's sister, as my little playmate, as one in
whom hopes of untold happiness were bound up.' He struggled with
strong emotion, but recovering, said, 'It is over! The reason we
part is independent of any Gardner. She would not bear with what I
thought it my duty to say. It is plain I was completely mistaken in
thinking we could go through life together. Even if there was reason
to suppose her attached to me, it would be wrong to put myself in
collision with such a temper. I told her so, and there is an end of
'It is very, very sad,' said Violet, mournfully.
'You don't think I have used her ill.'
'Oh, no! You have borne a great deal. You could do no otherwise;
but Arthur and John will be very much vexed.'
'It is well that it is known to so few. Let it be understood by such
as are aware of what has been, that I bear the onus of the rupture.
No more need be known than that the break was on my side. We both
were mistaken. She will not be blamed, and some day'--but he could
not speak calmly--' she will meet one who will feel for her as I do,
and will work a cure of all these foibles. You will see the glorious
creature she can be.'
'The good will conquer at last,' said Violet, through her tears.
'I am convinced of it, but I fear it must be through much trial and
sorrow. May it only not come through that man.'