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Heartsease or Brother's Wife by Charlotte M. Yonge

Part 9 out of 15

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'Then good-bye.'

They shook hands with lingering regret, as if unwilling to resign
their relationship. 'You will explain this to Arthur, and give him
my thanks for his friendliness; and you--accept my very best thanks
for your great kindness and sympathy. If she had known you earlier--
But good-bye. Only, if I might venture to say one thing more--you
and Arthur will not give me up as a friend, will you?'

'Oh!' exclaimed Violet, as well as her tears would permit, 'I am sure
we are but too glad--'

He pressed her hand gratefully, and was gone; while overwhelmed with
the agitation she sank weeping on the sofa, only conscious that they
all were in some sort guilty of a great injury to Mr. Fotheringham.
In this state of distress she was found by Theodora, who came down so
lofty and composed, that no one could have divined who was the party
chiefly concerned in what had taken place.

Without comment, she treated Violet as for a nervous attack, taking
great care of her till the sobs subsided, and there only remained a
headache which kept her on the sofa for the rest of the day.
Theodora read aloud, but which of them marked the words? Late in the
afternoon she put down the book, and wrote a note, while Violet
silently marvelled at the unconcern of her countenance.

'There, I shall take it to the post. You may read it if you like,
while I put on my bonnet.' Violet read.

'MY DEAR MAMMA,--Our engagement is at an end. Mr. Fotheringham tried
to exercise a control over my actions to which I could not submit;
and in especial was affronted by my going to Epsom with Arthur,
instead of staying at home for the chance of seeing Lady
Fotheringham. We came to high words, perceived the error of thinking
our tempers accorded, and agreed to part. I have no cause of
complaint, though I am at this moment much displeased with him; for
when he had done with me he went and stormed to poor Violet till he
brought on one of her hysterical affections. No one can have acted
with kinder or more conscientious intentions than she has done
throughout the affair. I do not mean to come away till after her
confinement. London is wide enough for him and for me, and I would
not leave her on any account.
'Your affectionate daughter,

'THEODORA A. MARTINDALE.'

Violet glowed with indignation at such mention of Percy. She never
loved him! It is as John thought!

Theodora, returning, took the note, and began to put it into its
envelope without a word.

'Thank you,' said Violet; 'it is very kind in you to stay with me.
It is a great comfort to Arthur.'

'Is it no comfort to you?' said Theodora. 'If I am in your way, I
will go.'

'Oh! what should I do without you? It makes such a difference to me.
I rely upon you to take care of Arthur, and Johnnie, and everything.
Only don't do what is not pleasant to you.'

'I wish to live to be useful. I had rather be useful to you and
Arthur than to any one. If you will keep me, I stay.'

All the rest of the day Violet could only feel that she could not be
displeased with one so devoted to her. She wondered what Arthur
would say. His comment was--

'Well, I always expected it. It is a pity! She has thrown away her
only chance of being a reasonable woman.'

'You saw no cause for that horrid report?'

'Not a bit. She is not so frantic as that comes to. She went on in
her old way, only a little stronger than usual; but Percy was quite
right not to stand it, and so I shall tell her.'

However, Theodora kept him from the subject by the force of her
imperturbability, and he could only declaim against her to his wife.

'I don't believe she cared a farthing for him.'

'I almost fear not. Yet how could she accept him?'

'He was the biggest fish that had ever come to her bait. She could
not have played her pranks on him without hooking him; but he has
broken the line, and it serves her right. I only wish she took it to
heart! It is a lucky escape for him. What will his lordship think
of it?'

Lord Martindale wrote, evidently in much annoyance, to desire Arthur
to send him a full history of the transaction, and after much
grumbling, he was obeyed. What he said to his daughter did not
transpire, but Violet gathered that the opinion at Martindale was,
that she had not age or authority sufficient for the care of the
young lady. In this she fully acquiesced, and, indeed, had some
trouble in silencing repining speculations on what might have
happened if she had been older, or in stronger health, or more
judicious.

It was a universal failure, and she felt as if they were all to
blame, while it terrified her to recollect John's predictions as to
the effect on Theodora's disposition.

Another question was, how Mrs. Finch would feel on the matter.
Theodora had written to her, and received one of her warm impulsive
answers, as inconsistent as her whole nature; in one place in despair
that her friend's happiness had been sacrificed--in another,
rejoicing in her freedom from such intolerable tyranny, and declaring
that she was the noblest creature and the naughtiest, and that she
must see her at once.

But she never came, and when Theodora called was not at home. Violet
had Jane to herself for an unpleasing hour of condolence and
congratulation, regrets and insinuations, ending with the by no means
unwelcome news that Mr. Finch was tired of London, and that they were
going into the country--and not Mark--going to set off in a week's
time. Two more calls failed, and Theodora only received a note, in
which Mrs. Finch declared herself "abimee desolee" that her husband
would drag her off into the country at such short notice, that her
world of engagements had hindered her from meeting her best of
friends. Then, with a sudden transition to slang, she promised
excellent fun in riding, boating, &c., if Theodora would come to see
her, and plenty of admirers ready to have their heads turned, ending
rather piteously with 'Who knows but I might take a turn for good? I
know I wish I could, if it was not so horridly tiresome. You won't
forget your poor G. F.'

CHAPTER 18

Oh! woman is a tender tree,
The hand must gentle be that rears,
Through storm and sunshine, patiently,
That plant of grace, of smiles and tears.

A. CLEVELAND COX

The height of the season was over, and London was beginning to thin.
Lady Elizabeth Brandon had accepted invitations for a round of visits
to her friends and relations, and Violet thought with regret how
little she had seen of her and Emma.

In fact, that unfortunate party at Mrs. Bryanstone's had been a
sacrifice of the high esteem in which she had once been held. Emma,
with the harshness of youthful judgments, could not overlook the
folly that had hazarded so much for the sake of gaiety; and was the
more pained because of the enthusiasm she had once felt for her, when
she had believed her superior to all the world. She recollected her
love-at-first-sight for the pretty bride, and well-nigh regarded the
friendship as a romance of her girlhood. She did not blame poor
Violet, for no more could have been expected than that so simple a
girl would be spoiled by admiration, and by such a husband. She
should always be interested in her, but there could be no sympathy
for deeper visions and higher subjects in one devoted to the ordinary
frivolities of life. Violet owned she could not understand her; what
could be more true?

So Emma betook herself more and more to her other friend, lamented
over present evils, made visionary amendments and erected dreamy
worlds of perfection, till she condemned and scorned all that did not
accord with them.

Lady Elizabeth would rather have seen her daughter intimate with
Violet. Mistaken though that party was, it was hard measure, she
thought, utterly to condemn a girl hardly eighteen. She could
understand Violet--she could not understand Miss Marstone; and the
ruling domineering nature that laid down the law frightened her. She
found herself set aside for old-fashioned notions whenever she hinted
at any want of judgment or of charity in the views of the friends;
she could no longer feel the perfect consciousness of oneness of mind
and sufficiency for each other's comfort that had been such happiness
between her and her daughter; and yet everything in Theresa Marstone
was so excellent, her labours among the poor so devoted, and her
religion so evidently heartfelt, that it was impossible to consider
the friendship as otherwise than an honour to Emma.

Lady Elizabeth could only feel that she should be more at ease when
she was not always in dread of interrupting a tete-a-tete, and when
there was no longer any need to force Emma into society, and see her
put on that resigned countenance which expressed that it was all
filial duty to a mother who knew no better. Moreover, Lady Elizabeth
hoped for a cessation of the schemes for the Priory, which were so
extravagant as to make her dread Emma's five-and-twentieth year.

Desirous as she was of leaving London, she would not consent to go to
her brother in the end of June, until she had certified herself that
Violet did not wish for her attendance.

Violet did think that it would have been a great comfort, but
perceived that it would be at some inconvenience; and further divined
that to be extremely useful and important was Theodora's ruling
desire. She was afraid of heart-burnings, and, as usual, yielded her
own wishes, begged Lady Elizabeth not to disturb her plans, made many
declarations of Theodora's kindness and attention; and in return,
poor thing! was judged by Emma to be in dread of lectures!

So the Brandons left London, and Violet sighed over the
disappointment their stay had been, knew she had given up the chance
of a renewal of intimacy, and thought Emma's estrangement all her own
fault.

Arthur, likewise, had a fit of restlessness. Some of his friends
were intending to go grouse shooting to Scotland, and it was evident
that he was desirous of joining them if Violet could only recover in
time to spare him. Theodora also wished that he should go, for she
had a strong suspicion that he was gliding fast into frequent
intercourse with Mr. Gardner, and hoped that absence would put a stop
to it.

Not a word, not a look, ever referred to Mr. Fotheringham. Violet
thought it inexplicable, and could only suppose that Theodora had
been under some delusion, and had never known the meaning of love,
for there was nothing like sorrow or disappointment; she almost
seemed to be glad of her release.

It was a trial when the Review was published, containing the critique
upon modern poetry. For a whole day it was left unopened, because
neither sister liked to touch it in the presence of the other; but
when, in the morning, Violet took it to read, she found the leaves
cut. Lord St. Erme had been treated with some censure, but with a
fair amount of praise, and her own favourite pieces were selected for
commendation; but there was sufficient satire and severity to cause
the universal remark that it was hard on poor Lord St. Erme.

Often was the observation made, for the article excited much
attention--it was so striking and able, keenly and drolly attacking
absurdity and affectation, good-humoured and lively, and its praise
so cordial and enthusiastic. Every visitor was sure to begin, 'Have
you read the paper on modern poetry?' 'Do you know who wrote it?'
or, 'Is it true it is by Mr. Fotheringham?'

Violet, though much confused, could not help having a sort of
satisfaction in seeing that neither could Theodora defend herself
from blushes, nor so preserve her equanimity as always to know what
she was saying, though she made heroic efforts, and those ignorant of
the state of affairs might not, perhaps, detect her embarrassment.
If there had been affection, surely this calmness must have given
way!

One day Theodora was in a shop, and Violet waiting for her when Mr.
Fotheringham passed, and instantly coming to the carriage door, shook
hands warmly, seemed rejoiced at the meeting, spoke of his last
letter from John in high approval of Mr. Fanshawe, and told her that
in two days' time he was going to take a walking tour in Ireland. At
that instant the signal was made for taking up Miss Martindale, and
with a hasty farewell he disappeared, as Violet thought, unseen. On
coming home, Theodora went at once up-stairs; Violet some little time
after chanced to go to her room to ask her a question on her way to
dress, found her knock unanswered, but heard sounds which caused her
gently to open the door.

Theodora was kneeling by the bed; her face buried in her hands, her
neck crimson, sobbing and weeping in such violent grief as Violet had
never witnessed. She stood terrified, unnoticed, hardly able to bear
not to offer comfort; but she understood that nature too well not to
be convinced that no offence would be so great as to break into her
grief and to intrude upon what she chose to hide.

Violet, therefore, retreated, hoping that now there might be an
opening for sympathy, some depression that would allow her to show
her fellow-feeling; but no: when they met again Theodora was as
cheerful and disengaged as ever, and she could almost have persuaded
herself that these tears had been a dream.

Perhaps they so appeared to Theodora. She had been surprised into
them, and was angry at having been overcome--she who cared so little;
but she had woman's feelings, though she had proved to be unfit for
the dominion of man, and was henceforth ready to stand alone, and use
her strength for the benefit of the weak. She would be the maiden
aunt, the treasure of the family, and Arthur's house should be the
centre of her usefulness and attachments.

Therefore, so far from struggling against Violet, she delighted in
the care of one so tender and caressing; looked on her as the charm
and interest of her life, and rejoiced in being valuable at present,
and likely to render most important services, attaining in fact the
solid practical usefulness she had always coveted.

Everything that could please or amuse Violet she did, even to the
length of drawing her out about Wrangerton, and suppressing a certain
jealousy of Annette that was ready to spring up on discovering how
strong was the affection bestowed on that sister. Violet was
especially happy in being able to talk of home just now, when she was
continually hearing of Albert's marriage, and the arrangements
consequent thereon, and would have felt it blank, indeed, to have no
one but Sarah to share her interest.

Uncle Christopher went to the wedding, and was invited to dinner in
Cadogan-place the Sunday after his return. Theodora condescended to
be frankly entertained with his dry humorous account of the
magnificent doings that had diverted him extremely, and caused Arthur
and Violet to congratulate themselves that, in their case, Matilda
had not been allowed her own way.

'What a sensible, agreeable person your uncle is,' said Theodora, as
Violet lay down to rest on the sofa, after dinner, and to turn over
and fondle one by one the little presents sent to her from
Wrangerton.

Violet smiled thanks and pleasure in the praise, and Theodora set to
work to gratify her, by admiring each gift as much as her conscience
would let her, and was well pleased to find that she was not at all
wanted to commend a wonderful embroidered sachet from the bride, nor
a pair of gorgeous screens from Matilda; but that what was dwelt upon
were some sketches in Wrangerton Park, and the most prized of all was
a little pair of socks, in delicate fancy knitting, for Johnnie.

'Dear, dear mamma! her own pretty rose-leaf pattern. Think of her
knitting for my Johnnie! He will soon know grandmamma's socks!' and
she put her fingers into one to judge of the size, and admire the
stitch. Theodora could see her do such things now, and not think her
foolish.

'Theodora, dear,' said she, after a long pause, 'there is something I
have been wanting to say to you for a long time. If I should be as
ill as I was before, if I should not live, I should like one thing--'

Theodora took her hand between both hers, for she could not answer.

'I should like to know that his grandmamma would see my Johnnie, if
it was only for once. I know poor Arthur could not bear to hear me
talk of this, and he is anxious enough already, but you would tell
him. You will manage for mamma to see my boy, won't you?'

'I would take him to her at Wrangerton myself.'

'I am quite content that you should chiefly take care of him, you
know. I am glad you have been here so long that he has grown fond of
you. It makes it much better to think of leaving him and his dear
papa, to know they have you.'

'But, Violet, you must not talk so!' cried Theodora, in a half-choked
voice.

'No; I must not make myself cry,' said Violet, quietly. 'I will not
go on, when I have asked you one thing more, and that is, to write to
John, and tell him that I thank him for all he has done for me, and
that this has been a very happy year. You and John will comfort--'

Violet checked herself, for the tears could only be restrained by
silence, and she had made many resolutions against agitation.

'All you wish!' exclaimed Theodora; 'but, indeed, you must not think
there is any fear--'

'I will not talk about it,' said Violet, in her submissive voice.

'No; nor think about it.'

'I try not to do so more than I ought. I am glad you are here!'

It was dark enough for Theodora to allow her eyes to fill with soft
tears, without a struggle to keep them back. The pleasure of being
valued was very great, and the entire trust Violet reposed on her
gave her as deep delight as she had ever experienced. What would it
not be after having nursed her and been everything to Arthur! With
Violet and Arthur depending on her, she could feel herself good for
something, and filling a place in the world.

CHAPTER 19

The lowliest flowers the closest cling to earth,
And they first feel the sun; so violets blue,
So the soft star-like primrose drenched in dew,
The happiest of spring's happy fragrant birth,
To gentlest touches, sweetest tones reply;
So humbleness, with her low-breathed voice,
Can steal o'er man's proud heart, and win his choice.

'She is ready to see you,' said Arthur, meeting Theodora, as she came
down at nine the next morning after church.

Violet's face, white as a lily, was on the pillow, and a little dark
downy head was beside her.

A sense of being too late, of neglect and disappointment, rushed over
Theodora, and made her looks not what the mother expected, as with
smiling eyes and feeble voice she said, 'Your niece, dear Theodora.'

'I did not know--' were Theodora's first words, and their
dissatisfied sound made Arthur regret his abrupt introduction; though
she recovered herself enough to say something of gladness, and of
hopes that Violet was comfortable.

'Yes, thank you, quite. I am so thankful! I am so glad of
everything. Now I hope Arthur will not lose the 12th of August.'

'Only don't talk now, my sweet one. Come, Theodora,' as if he only
wanted to get her out of the room.

'I have not looked at the baby. What a fine one!' and she was going
to take her.

'Oh, please don't!' said Violet; 'she will begin screaming again!'
Then, seeing the cloud return, 'Presently, dear aunt, when she wakes.
Is not she a beauty?'

Arthur, his hand on the door, hurried Theodora again.

'I will come' she said, impatiently, 'I will come and sit with you
after breakfast, Violet; I only wish I had been called.'

'Indeed, I know how kind you would have been,' said Violet, holding
her hand, and watching to see whether the displeasure was removed:
'but it seemed a pity to disturb you. Please don't be vexed; I'll
give you plenty of trouble yet.'

She had, roused herself enough to alarm Arthur and the nurse.

'This will never do,' he said, laying his hand on his sister's arm,
and drawing her away almost by force: 'You MUST keep quiet, Violet.'

'I will, indeed, but please, Theodora--'

'She pleases all you wish. Never mind,' said Arthur, fairly putting
her out, then stepping back, 'Lie still, and mind your big baby; that
is all you have to do.'

'Only don't let her be vexed.'

'No such thing.'

But when out of Violet's hearing he could not refrain from telling
Theodora his displeasure. 'I thought you had more sense, or I would
never have let you in.'

'I knew nothing of it.'

'Your own fault for marching off at that time in the morning! I had
been up to tell you, and could not think where you were.'

'Why was I not allowed to be of use?'

'A pretty specimen of your usefulness, vexing her with your black
looks, till she was talking herself into a fever!'

'Surely she is doing well?'

'She was, unless you have undone everything with your humours.'

'I don't know what you mean.'

That was the last word. Theodora sat swelling under the sense of
injustice and neglect, where she had intended to be so important; and
Arthur was weary enough in mind and body to be more than usually
sensible of her ungraciousness, and to miss the refreshment of
cheerful sympathy. On going up after breakfast he found Violet
weaker and more ill than he had previously thought her, and her
solicitous inquiries about his sister made him the more attribute
this to distress at those moody looks. He would not hear of again
admitting Theodora, and in bitterness of spirit she wrote the
letters, and tried to content Johnnie--all in vain; for strive to
conceal it as she would, he always seemed to perceive her bad moods,
and never would be happy with her when she was in one of them.

Every hour brought fresh mortification. She was jealous of Arthur's
being needful to the patient, and jealous of being left by him; angry
at being treated as useless, and angry at the work she had to do;
certain that her ill temper was Arthur's fancy, yet certain he had
caused it; anxious about Violet, yet disdaining his anxiety. She was
much annoyed at his keeping aloof from her unpleasing looks,
deserting the dinner-table after the first course, and when she had
waited long for him, leaving her to discover that he had had a cup of
tea in Violet's room, and was gone down to smoke. The kindly
affections that had always been the hope of her character were
rejected and thwarted, and thus thrown back on herself, the wayward
wilful spirit began to rise.

She paced the dull walk in the square gardens in the summer twilight,
and thought of the life before her, uncherished at home, an intruder
in the family where she had expected to earn fond gratitude, rejected
by him who had loved her from childhood!

There was an alternative! One look of encouragement, and Lord St.
Erme was at her disposal, ready to rejoice at acceptance, even if she
should tell him that she had no heart to bestow. She would be no
longer spurned and cast aside; she should be able to befriend Violet,
she would live uncontrolled, adored; above all, she would teach Percy
Fotheringham that she did not pine for him! She would belie those
foolish tears that Violet had seen her shed!

As she opened the gate to leave the gardens, Lord St. Erme rode by
with a young lady. Was he passing from her power? The spirit of
rivalry prompted a gracious bow and smile. He checked his horse,
looked delighted, and introduced 'his sister.'

A fair, delicate, blushing girl of sixteen, a pretty likeness of
himself, bent her head low, and Theodora felt that her blue eyes were
intently perusing her under their downcast lids, while the brother's
tones almost trembled with the pleasure of her unwonted look of
encouragement. He said that he was enjoying having his sister alone
with him, at his aunt's house in London, for a short time, and added
something about calling. She gave one of her bewitching smiles, and
they rode on.

There at least she was prized! How unlike this to the treatment she
met with from her own family! If she could not love the Earl, she
could do very well without that nonsense; and she should escape from
her unloving home, begin a new life, reign queen o'er herself and
him, idolized, uncontradicted, with ample opportunities of
usefulness, triumphant over him who had disdained her.

So she mused while taking off her bonnet, till Sarah brought a
message that Mrs. Martindale would be glad to see her. An hour ago
and she would have rejoiced; now, Arthur's household was becoming a
secondary object, since they had rejected her, and driven her to seek
fresh interests.

She was received with hands outstretched. 'Dear Theodora, thank you.
Will you stay and take care of baby and me while nurse goes to
supper?'

'If I may.'

'Thank you. Nurse, pray give baby to Miss Martindale. You need not
hurry; I shall be so comfortable.'

The sweet pale face and languid eyes were as a charm to expel all but
kindly thoughts, as Theodora sat down with the living weight warm on
her lap, and the gentle mother at intervals softly asking about her
boy. 'Poor little man, they would not let him come in: they kept
away both the people I wanted.'

'Arthur guards you most jealously.'

'Yes, is not he a wonderful nurse? I had to exercise a little self-
will in getting you here. How good we must be to make him forgive
us!'

Next. 'You cannot think what a difference it makes to have you here.
I never need think about Arthur's being made comfortable.'

Theodora's sincerity longed for confession, and she refrained with
difficulty. Those unconscious words set her vile temper before her
in its true light. She had resented the being treated with
consideration, and had been moody towards her brother, because he was
under anxiety!

Self-convicted, she gave a deep sigh; but fearing again to distress
Violet, began to admire the baby, who was in truth a remarkably large
and handsome child, very dark and like the Martindales, and, both in
size and serenity, such a contrast to her brother, that, proud as she
was of her, her mamma only half liked praise of her that might be
depreciation of him, and began to defend him from the charge of
crying before he had had strength for it.

Her name, of course, was to be Helen, and to this Violet softly
added, Theodora.

'No, no; that will bring her no good. It is Aunt Nesbit's name.'

'It is one I love the sound of.'

'You won't another time.'

Violet vaguely perceived something amiss; but too weak to think about
it, closed her eyes and fell into a doze.

Those few gentle sayings had brought back Theodora's affection and
sense of right. She longed to recall her glance. If it had taken
effect she must persevere. She could not endure the humiliation of
having a third time trifled with a lover; she would not feel herself
sunk into a mere coquette. But what would Violet think!

Violet suddenly awoke with a terrified gaze. 'Arthur! Arthur! O,
where is he!'

'Down-stairs, dearest; he will come.' But to her extreme alarm, the
words had no effect.

'Arthur! O, when will be come? Why did he go away?'

Dismayed out of all presence of mind, Theodora rang with a violent
peal, and flew down-stairs, the baby in her arms, rousing Arthur from
a slumber in his chair by breathless tidings that Violet was worse--
was delirious; Mr. Harding must be sent for--

When Arthur had hurried up-stairs, it proved to be only a frightened
wakening, such as had often happened last year. She was perfectly
conscious, but so much fluttered and agitated by Theodora's own
proceedings, that it was with great difficulty that Arthur could
soothe and tranquillize her on her baby's account. The nurse was
very angry, and Theodora perceived her delinquency might have serious
consequences, especially when she beheld Violet, still tremulous from
the alarm, endeavouring to reassure them, to shield her from
displeasure, and to take all the blame to herself for her foolish
terror.

There was an end of Theodora's grand designs of nursing! She could
only enter the room at all by favour of the patient and by sufferance
of the nurse; and she could attempt no remonstrance when ordered off
by her brother, and even felt unworthy of Violet's kiss.

That little scene of trivialities had been her first true
humiliation. It had shown her the vanity of her boast of strength of
mind; for when she thought of the morning's unreasonable ill-humour,
and unkindness to her brother and his wife at such a moment, and of
the coquetry with Lord St. Erme, she was indeed lowered in her own
eyes; and it was sorrow, not bitterness.

Her heart was very heavy, but less hard. Slowly had the power of
Violet's meekness and lowliness been stealing into her affections and
undermining her pride. Perhaps the direct attacks of Percy, though
strongly resisted, had in reality given a shock which prepared the
way for the silent effect of sweetness and forbearance. At any rate,
she was now sincerely sorry for the sin as well as the folly of the
past day, and felt that it might bring a penalty in perplexities
about Lord St. Erme, if he had really taken her smile for
encouragement.

Many were her resolutions of amiability for to-morrow; but she was
disappointed. Violet had passed a restless night, and could not be
visited; and Arthur, after his experience of yesterday, was in no
haste to subject himself to his sister's humours. Her two years of
caprice and neglect had told even on his easy temper.

It had long been a scheme of hers to surprise Violet on her recovery
with a likeness of Johnnie, taken by a small, humble niece of Mrs.
Harrison's, lately started in life as an artist in crayons; and in
the midst of yesterday's sullenness she had taken measures which this
morning brought the lady to Cadogan-place, at the hour when he was
most likely to be in his best looks. Sarah, highly approving of
anything that exalted Master John, sedulously traced the one-sided
masculine division in his flaxen locks, and tied his best white frock
with scarlet ribbons, in honour, as she said, of his being 'a little
granny-dear'; and Theodora carried him down, and heard him pronounced
'a lovely interesting darling.'

Sitting well was not, however, one of his perfections; he could not
be induced to show his face to a stranger, and turned from toys and
pictures, with arms stretched out to his aunt, and piteous calls for
mamma: to Theodora's further despair Arthur came in, and stood
amazed, so that she had to unfold her plans, and beg him to keep the
secret. He smiled, saying she might as well take a picture of a
washed-out doll; but that Violet would be sure to like it.

Meantime the child was presenting a golden opportunity; fixed in rapt
contemplation of his father, and gazing motionless, with one little
foot doubled under him, and one tiny white arm drooping over the
crimson sofa cushion. Miss Piper sketched as if for her life.
Theodora directed Arthur's attention to his little son. He spoke to
him, and was surprised and pleased at the plainness of the reply, and
the animated spring of gladness. In another minute he was sitting on
the floor, most successfully entertaining the child, while Miss Piper
could hardly help drawing that handsome black head in contrast with
the small, white creature, whose morsels of hands were coaxing his
brown red cheeks; and Theodora looked on, amused to see how papa
succeeded in drawing out those pretty, hesitating smiles, so
embellishing to the little face, that had generally more than the
usual amount of baby gravity.

They were in full debate whether he should be represented smiling or
grave; the aunt wishing the latter as the habitual expression, the
father declaring that 'the fellow was only fit to be seen smiling
like his mother;' when suddenly there was an announcement--

'Lady Lucy Delaval and Lord St. Erme.'

Arthur hardly had time to start up from the ground, his colour
deepening with discomfiture as he glanced at the disarray of the
room, littered with playthings, displaced cushions, newspapers, with
which he had been playing bo-peep, drawing materials, all in as much
confusion as the hair, which, in an unguarded moment, he had placed
at the mercy of Johnnie's fingers.

Theodora comprehended the sharp click with which he rang the nursery
bell, and the half frown with which he watched in dread of a cry,
while Lady Lucy tried to make friends with Johnnie.

The drawing was brought under discussion, but he held aloof after one
look, which Theodora perceived to be disapproving, though she did not
know that the reason was that the smile, somewhat overdone by Miss
Piper, had brought out one of old Mr. Moss's blandest looks.
Meantime Lord St. Erme talked to the little artist, giving her some
valuable hints, which she seized with avidity, and then quietly
retreated.

Arthur tried to talk to Lady Lucy; but she was very young, not yet
come out, timid, and, apparently, afraid of something that she had to
say, watching Miss Martindale as earnestly as she dared; while Lord
St. Erme spoke eagerly, yet as if he hardly knew what he was saying,
of art, music, books, striving in vain to obtain one of the looks of
yesterday.

It warmed Theodora's heart to feel herself the object of such
enthusiastic admiration, but she preserved her look of rigid
indifference. It was a long visit; but at last the brother made the
move, looking at his sister, as if to remind her of something.

'Oh, Miss Martindale,' said she, with an effort, 'we thought you must
be staying in a great deal. Would you be so kind, now and then, as
to walk with me?'

This was an alarming request, and not very easy to refuse. Theodora
said something of seeing about it, and hoping--

'It would be such a treat,' said Lady Lucy, growing bolder, as the
two gentlemen were speaking to each other. 'My aunt is gone to her
brother's little parsonage, where there is no room for me, and my
governess had to go home, luckily, so that we are quite alone
together; and St. Erme said perhaps you would be so kind sometimes as
to walk with me--'

Theodora smiled. 'I hope we may meet sometimes,' said she. 'If my
sister was down-stairs perhaps we might; but I am engaged to her.'

Thus ended the visit, and Arthur, hastily throwing the cushions back
into their places, demanded, 'What on earth could possess those folks
to come here now!'

'It was an inconvenient time,' said Theodora.

'Dawdling and loitering here!--a man with nothing better to do with
his time!'

'Nay,' said Theodora, touched by the injustice; 'Lord St. Erme is no
man not to know how to dispose of his time.'

'Whew!' whistled Arthur; 'is the wind gone round to that quarter?
Well, I thought better of you than that you would like a fellow that
can do nothing but draw, never shoots over his own moors, and looks
like a German singer! But do put the room tidy; and if you must have
the nursery down here, put it into the back room, for mercy sake!'

He went away, having thus stirred her feelings in the St. Erme
direction, and he left them to take their chance for the rest of the
day. She took a solitary walk; on her return saw a hat in the hall,
and asking whether Mr. Harding was there, was told no, but that Mr.
Gardner was with Captain Martindale. And after long waiting till
Arthur should come to dinner, he only put in his head, saying, 'Oh,
Theodora, are you waiting? I beg your pardon, I am going out to
dinner. You can sit with Violet; and if she should want me, which
she won't, James knows where to find me.'

Theodora scorned to inquire of the servant whither his master was
gone; but her appetite forsook her at the sight of the empty chair,
and the recollection of the warning against Mark Gardner.

This was not her last solitary dinner. Arthur had engagements almost
every day, or else went to his club; and when at home, if he was not
with Violet, he sat in his own room, and would never again assist at
the sittings, which were completed under less favourable auspices,
soon enough to allow time for the framing before the mamma should
come down-stairs. Her recovery proceeded prosperously; and Theodora
was quite sufficiently in request in her room to be satisfied, and to
make it difficult to find a spare afternoon to go and order one of
her favourite oak frames.

However, she was at length able to make the expedition; and she was
busy in giving directions as to the width of margin, when from the
interior of the shop there came forward no other than the Earl of
St. Erme.

They shook hands, and she sent her excuses to Lady Lucy for having
been too much occupied to call, asking whether she was still in town.

'Only till Thursday,' he said, 'when I take her to join my aunt, who
is to show her the Rhine.'

'Do not you go with them?'

'I have not decided. It depends upon circumstances. Did not I hear
something of your family visiting Germany?'

'Perhaps they may,' said Theodora, dryly. He began to study the
portrait, and saw some likeness, but was distressed by something in
the drawing of the mouth.

'Yes,' said Theodora, 'I know it is wrong; but Miss Piper could not
see it as I did, and her alterations only made it worse, till I
longed to be able to draw.'

'I wonder if I might venture,' said Lord St. Erme, screwing up his
eye, and walking round the picture. 'I am sure, with your artist
eye, you must know what it is not to be able to keep your hands off.'

'Not I,' said Theodora, smiling. 'Pencils are useless tools to me.
But it would be a great benefit to the picture, and Miss Piper will
fancy it all her own.'

'You trust me, then?' and he turned to ask for a piece of chalk,
adding, 'But is it not too bold a measure without the subject?'

'He is in the carriage, with his nurse;' and Theodora, unable to
resist so material an improvement to her gift, brought him in, and
set him up on the counter opposite to a flaming picture of a
gentleman in a red coat, which he was pleased to call papa, and which
caused his face to assume a look that was conveyed to the portrait by
Lord St. Erme, and rendered it the individual Johnnie Martindale,
instead of merely a pale boy in a red sash.

Theodora was too much gratified not to declare it frankly, and to say
how much charmed his mother would be; and she was pleased by a remark
of Lord St. Erme, that showed that his poet mind comprehended that
wistful intelligence that gave a peculiar beauty to Johnnie's thin
white face.

She thought to pay off her obligations by an immediate visit to his
sister, while she knew him to be safe out of the way; and, driving to
Mrs. Delaval's, she sent her nephew home, intending to walk back.

Lady Lucy was alone, and she found her a gentle, simple-hearted girl,
with one sole affection, namely, for the brother, who was the whole
world to her; and taking Miss Martindale, on his word, as an object
of reverence and admiration. It was impossible not to thaw towards
her: and when Theodora spoke of the embellishment of the portrait,
she needed no more to make her spring up, and fetch a portfolio to
exhibit her brother's drawings. Admirable they were; sketches of
foreign scenery, many portraits, in different styles, of Lady Lucy
herself, and the especial treasure was a copy of Tennyson,
interleaved with illustrations in the German style, very fanciful and
beautiful. Theodora was, however, struck by the numerous traces she
saw of the Lalla Rookh portrait. It was there as the dark-eyed
Isabel; again as Judith, in the Vision of Fair Women; it slept as the
Beauty in the Wood; and even in sweet St. Agnes, she met it refined
and purified; so that at last she observed, 'It is strange how like
this is to my mother.'

'I think it must be,' said Lady Lucy; 'for I was quite struck by your
likeness to St. Erme's ideal sketches.'

Rather annoyed, Theodora laughed, and turning from the portfolio,
asked if she did not also draw?

'A little; but mine are too bad to be looked at.'

Theodora insisted, and the drawings were produced: all the, best had
been done under Lord St. Erme's instruction. The affection between
the brother and sister touched her, and thinking herself neglectful
of a good little girl, she offered to take the desired walk at once.
While Lady Lucy was preparing, however, the brother came home, and
oh! the inconvenient satisfaction of his blushing looks.

Yet Theodora pardoned these, when he thanked her for being kind to
his sister; speaking with a sort of parental fondness and anxiety of
his wish to have Lucy with him, and of his desire that she should
form friendships that would benefit her.

Never had he spoken with so much reality, nor appeared to so much
advantage; and it was in his favour, too, that Theodora contrasted
this warm solicitude for his young sister with the indifference of
her own eldest brother. There was evidently none of the cold
distance that was the grievance of her home.

'Lady Lucy is almost out of the school-room,' she said. 'You will
soon be able to have her with you in the country.'

'There are certainly some considerations that might make me resolve
on an English winter,' said Lord St. Erme.

'Every consideration, I should think.'

'Fogs and frosts, and clouds, that hang like a weight on the whole
frame,' said Lord St. Erme, shivering.

'Healthy, freshening mists, and honest vigorous frosts to brace one
for service,' said Theodora, smiling.

'O, Miss Martindale!' cried Lady Lucy, entering, 'are you persuading
St. Erme to stay all the year in England? I do so wish he would.'

'Then you ought to make him,' said Theodora.

'If Miss Martindale were to express a wish or opinion--'

She saw it was time to cut him short. 'Every one's opinion must be
the same,' she said.

'O,' cried Lucy, 'of course Italy is pleasanter. It is selfish to
wish to keep him here; but if I had my will, we would live together
at Wrangerton, and have such nice poor people.'

'A "chateau en Espagne" indeed, my little sister. Wrangerton is a
most forlorn place, an old den of the worst period of architecture,
set down just beyond the pretty country, but in the programme of all
the tourists as a show place; the third-rate town touching on the
park, and your nice poor people not even the ordinary English
peasantry, but an ill-disposed set of colliers.'

Theodora looked, but did not speak.

'Miss Martindale thinks me a laggard, but she hears my excuse.'

'If they are ill-disposed,' said Theodora, in her low, severe voice
(she could not help it), 'it is for want of influence from the right
quarter.'

'My agent tells me they are perfectly impracticable.'

'Knights of old liked something impracticable.' She was almost ready
to check herself; but there was something inspiriting in the idea of
awakening this youth, who seemed to catch at her words as if she were
a damsel sending forth a champion. His reply was--

'Those were days worth living for. Then the knight's devoir was
poetry in real life.'

'Devoir is always poetry in real life,' said Theodora. 'What is it
but the work ready to hand? Shrinking from it is shrinking from the
battle. Come, Lady Lucy, I will not detain you.'

Lord St. Erme seemed about to say something as he shook hands, but it
did not come. The walk was passed by the simple-hearted Lucy
discoursing of the events by which she counted her eras, namely, his
visits. Her perfect brother was her only theme.

CHAPTER 20

Yet learn the gamut of Hortensio.--Taming of the Shrew

Mrs. Nesbit was recommended to spend some months at Baden Baden; and
Theodora formed a design, which highly pleased Arthur and Violet, of
spending this time, while the family were absent, and while Arthur
was in Scotland, as hostess at Martindale to Violet and the children.

After seeing Arthur off to Windsor for the next fortnight, Theodora
had begun writing to propose the scheme to her father, when she was
interrupted by the announcement of Lord St. Erme.

To visit her alone was a strong measure, and she put on a panoply of
dignified formality. He began to say he had brought a German book,
to show her a poem of which their conversation had reminded him.

'I understand very little German,' said she, coldly. 'I once had a
German governess whom I disliked so much that I took a disgust to the
language.'

'There is so much that is beautiful and untranslatable in its
literature, that I am sure it would recompense you.'

'I do not like the German tone of mind. It is vapoury and unreal.'

'I should like to show you cause to alter your opinion, but--'

'This is English,' said Theodora, as her eye fell on a paper of
verses that marked the place.

'Ah, Lucy made me put it in. A few lines that occurred to me after
watching Mrs. Martindale's little boy.'

Thankful that they were not inspired by Venus's little boy, she
glanced over them, and saw they were in his best style, simple and
pretty thoughts on the child's content, wherever he traced any symbol
of his father.

'Poor little Johnnie is highly flattered,' she said. 'His mamma will
be delighted.'

He begged her attention to the German poem, she glanced onward as he
read, watching for shoals ahead, and spied something about a
"hochbeseeltes madchen" inspiring a "Helden sanger geist", and grew
hotter and hotter till she felt ready to box his ears for intoning
German instead of speaking plain English, and having it over. A
cotton umbrella arose before her eyes, she heard the plashing gravel,
and an honest voice telling her she was a grand creature in great
need of being broken in.

The critical stanza had commenced, the reader's voice trembled;
Theodora did not heed, her mind was in the avenue at home. An
opening door startled them.

'Mr. and Mrs. Albert Moss.'

Her brother's brother-in-law! the son and partner of Lord St. Erme's
steward! Was it thus his suit was to be checked?

There was no recognition; he went on reading his German to himself,
while Albert presented Mrs. Albert Moss, resplendent in bridal
finery, and displaying her white teeth in a broad smile, as with a
nod, half-gracious, half-apologetic, she said, 'I fear we interrupt a
lesson; but we will not inconvenience you; we will go at once to our
dear convalescent.'

'Thank you, you do not interrupt me, and I do not think my sister is
dressed yet. Indeed, I doubt whether I ought to allow her to see any
one.'

' O, you cannot be so cruel!' cried Mrs. Moss, holding up her hands;
'one little peep! our only day in town.'

'Yes,' said Albert. 'I could not but gratify my Louisa's anxiety to
be introduced to her new relatives.'

'I am afraid you must be disappointed, for my brother is with his
regiment at Windsor, and my sister is still so weak that she ought to
have no excitement.'

'And we have only a few hours in town. The inexorable claims of
business have recalled us to Wrangerton.'

The Earl looked up surprised, as if the word had recalled him from
the clouds.

'You have been in Wales, I think,' said Theodora. 'Were you
pleased?'

'Oh, I was enraptured!' exclaimed the bride; 'the sublime and
romantic could be carried no higher! It makes me quite discontented
with our home scenery.

'Your sister would not approve of that,' said Theodora to Albert;'
she can bear no slight to Helvellyn.'

'I forget--is there a view of Helvellyn from Wrangerton?' said Lord
St. Erme, still somewhat dreamily.

Mrs. Moss started at hearing such good English from the German
master, and patronizingly said, 'Yes. Helvellyn is monarch of our
picturesque. Do you ever come northwards?'

'Not so often as, perhaps, I ought. I am afraid I know more of the
Alps than of Helvellyn.'

'I am sure,' continued the voluble lady, 'if ever you thought of such
a scheme when the season is over, it would be well worth your while.
I could reckon up many respectable families, who with such
introductions--let me see, there are the Joneses, and the Dunlops,
and the Evelyns, to say nothing of my new sisters, the Miss Mosses.'

'I have no doubt it is a very good neighbourhood,' said Lord St.
Erme, rising. 'I must go, or we shall miss the train. Can you tell
me how soon you expect Lord Martindale?'

'About the tenth or eleventh,' said Theodora.

'Thank you. Then I must wish you good-bye--'

'And I must thank you in my sister's name for the pleasure she will
take in what you have done for her little boy. Remember me to Lady
Lucy.'

That name was a revelation to Albert, and the door had scarcely
closed before he exclaimed--'Surely, Miss Martindale, that could not
be Lord St. Erme!'

'Yes, it was.'

'Well!' cried Mrs. Moss, 'there was something decidedly the
aristocrat in his moustache!'

Albert could not recover from his vexation at having missed such a
chance, and was nearly setting off in pursuit of his lordship.
Theodora was glad to escape for a moment, on the plea of seeing
whether Violet could receive a visit.

In her absence the bride began--'I can't see that she is so handsome,
after all! And I should be ashamed to wear such a dress as that!'

'Distinguished people have freaks, my love. Bless me! if I had but
known the Earl!'

'I see how it is,' said the wife; 'a proud Countess we shall have.'

'If one of the girls had but been here! Every one of them is
prettier than this Miss Martindale. Who knows?'

'Ah! I shall take care in a friendly way to let your sister know how
her own family feel at her keeping aloof--'

'I do not believe it is her fault, poor child,' said Albert.
'Martindale has set this haughty young lady to keep guard over her--'

'We shall see,' said the bride. 'I am not used to be refused, and
once with your sister, I will discover all her secrets.'

Fortunately for Violet, Theodora had found her so much exhausted by
the fatigue of dressing, that she thought it safest, considering what
a bride it was, not to divulge her presence in the house; and she
came down with this intelligence, trying to compensate for it by
civility, and by showing the children.

Mrs. Moss was not easily repulsed, she begged Miss Martindale to
reconsider her verdict.

'I must not relent; I am accountable to the doctor and to my
brother.'

'It shall not be your fault. You shall know nothing of it. I will
find my way. Ah! I'm a giddy young thing. Nothing can stop me!
and she stepped forward, laughing affectedly, and trying to look
arch.

'I cannot permit this. It might do serious harm,' said Theodora,
obliged to stand in her path, and to put on such a look of haughty
command, that she was positively subdued and frightened, and went
back to her seat in a meek state of silence, whence she only
recovered to overwhelm poor Johnnie with her attentions. He cried
and was sent away, and Mrs. Moss was obliged to be satisfied with the
baby, though she looked as dignified and as little to be taken
liberties with as any Martindale of them all.

They lingered on, hoping to weary out Miss Martindale's patience, or
that some chance might reveal their presence to Violet; but in vain;
Theodora's politeness was exemplary, and she endured Mrs. Albert
Moss's familiarity so well, that when at length they departed, the
last words were a parting whisper, 'Good morning, Miss Martindale.
If we had known what we interrupted--but ah! I have gone through
those things so lately, that I know how to feel for you, and can keep
your secret.'

'There is no subject of secrecy that I know of,' said Theodora, more
coldly than ever.

Hateful woman! Poor Violet! There, now, it will be all over the
country that I am engaged to him! I must take him now, or I hope he
will give it up on discovering my connections! Then I can despise
him. Foolish man! why could he not say what he wanted?
I should have got rid of him then; I was in the mood! However, he is
out of the way for the present. Now to make the best of it with
Violet.

Violet was grieved, both for her own sake and the vexation at home,
but she so sweetly acquiesced in its having been right, and was so
sure that her sister meant nothing but kindness, that Theodora,
knowing that she herself could not have submitted with anything like
patience, admired and loved her more than ever.

The gentleness and quietness of her demeanour were a refreshment to
Theodora's tossed and undecided mind; and in administering to her
comfort and pleasure, the anxieties and remorse subsided into a calm
like her own. How delightful was the day of her introduction to
Johnnie's portrait; her admiration, and tearful gratitude to the kind
deviser of the gift, were the greatest pleasure Theodora had known
for months; the discussion of every feature, the comparison of
Johnnie with it, the history of the difficulties, and of his papa's
assistance, seemed a never-ending treat to both giver and receiver.
The poem, too; it was very amusing to see how she could hardly
believe that original verses could possibly be written on her boy,
and then when set to guess whose they were, she began with a
hesitating 'Miss Marstone is the only person near who makes verses,
and these are too pretty to be hers.'

'Ah! if you would follow Emma's advice, and call the baby Osyth,
after the first Prioress, you might have a chance from that quarter.'

It could not be Mr. Fotheringham, the only poet she could think of,
and she could only beg to be told.

'There is one whom a Wrangerton woman should not forget.'

'Lord St. Erme! You ARE laughing at me, Theodora. He never even saw
Johnnie!'

Theodora explained the two meetings, anxious to see her way of
thinking. 'It is a wonderful thing!' was her first remark. 'Who
would have told me how it would be three years ago? They are very
pretty.'

'I do not think you like them the better for being his,' said
Theodora.

'I ought,' said Violet; 'no other great man ever seems to me so grand
as our own Earl.'

'I want your real feeling.'

'You know,' said Violet, smiling, 'I cannot think them done only for
Johnnie's sake--'

'And, therefore, they do not please you.'

'Not exactly that; but--if you don't mind my saying so, I feel as if
I had rather--it might be better--I don't want to be ungrateful, but
if you were getting into a scrape for the sake of pleasing me, I
should be sorry. Forgive me, Theodora, you made me say so.'

'You are consideration itself,' said Theodora, affectionately.
'Never mind, he is out of the way. We will let him go off poetizing
to Germany; and under your wing at home, I will get into no more
mischief.'

That was a pleasant prospect, and Violet reposed on the thought of
the enjoyment of Martindale without its formidable inhabitants;
trying in it to forget the pain of parting with her husband for a
month, and her longings to spend it at her own home, and see Johnnie
strengthened by Helvellyn breezes; while to Theodora it seemed like
the opening into peace and goodness.

One forenoon, Violet, on coming down-stairs, found her sister writing
extremely fast, and seeing an envelope on the table in Lord
Martindale's writing, asked if it was his answer to Theodora's plan.

'Yes.'

'Ah!' said Violet, perceiving something was amiss, 'they have spared
you to me a long time already.'

'Don't be uneasy,' said Theodora; 'I'll settle it.'

'But,' exclaimed Violet, 'I could not bear that you should be with me
if they want you.'

'That is not it; papa has something in his head; I will settle it.'

Violet knew what was indicated by the over-erectness of Theodora's
head. To be the cause of family discussion was frightful, but she
had a nervous dread of thwarting Theodora.

'I wish you would not look at me,' exclaimed Theodora.

'I beg your pardon,' sighed she.

'What's the use of that when I know you are not satisfied, and do not
trust me?'

'Don't be angry with me,' implored Violet, with a quivering voice,
and tears of weakness in her eyes. 'I cannot help it. I do not want
to interfere, but as it is for me, I must beg you to tell me you are
not pressing to stay with me when Lady Martindale wishes for you.'

'No one ever wants me. No, but papa thinks that you and I cannot be
trusted together. He says he cannot leave me with one who has so
little authority.'

That indignant voice contrasted with the gentle answer, 'I do not
wonder; I have always thought if I had been older and better able to
manage--'

'No such thing!' exclaimed Theodora; 'you are the only person who
ever exercised any control over me.'

'O, hush! you do not know what you are saying.'

'It is the truth, and you know it. When you choose, every one yields
to you, and so do I.'

'Indeed, I did not know it,' said Violet, much distressed. 'I am
very sorry if I am overbearing; I did not think I was.'

Theodora fairly laughed at such a word being applied to the mild,
yielding creature, who looked so pale and feeble. 'Very domineering,
indeed!' she said. 'No, no, my dear, it is only that you are always
right. When you disapprove, I cannot bear to hurt and grieve you,
because you take it so quietly.'

'You are so very kind to me.'

'So, if papa wishes me to come to good, he had better leave me to
you.'

'I don't think that ought to be,' said Violet, feebly.

'What, not that you should be my only chance--that you should calm me
and guide me when every one else has failed--'

'Theodora, dear, I do not think I ought to like to hear you say so.
It cannot be safe for you to submit to me rather than to your
father.'

'He never had any moral power over me. He never convinced me, nor
led me to yield my will,' said Theodora, proud perhaps of her
voluntary submission to her gentle sister-in-law, and magnifying its
extent; but Violet was too right-minded, in her simplicity, to be
flattered by an allegiance she knew to be misplaced.

'I should not like baby to say so by and by,' she whispered.

'There's an esprit de corps in parents,' cried Theodora, half
angrily; 'but Helen will never be like me. She will not be left to
grow up uncared for and unloved till one-and-twenty, and then, when
old enough for independence, be for the first time coerced and
reproached. If people never concern themselves about their children,
they need not expect the same from them as if they had brought them
up properly.'

'That is a sad thought,' pensively said the young mother.

'I declare you shall hear the letter, that you may own that it is
unreasonable--unbearable!' And she read--

'"I have been considering your request to spend the time of our
absence at home with Mrs. Martindale, but I cannot think fit to
comply with it. Arthur's income is fully sufficient to provide
change of air for his family; and he ought not to expect always to
leave his wife on other people's hands, while he is pursuing his own
diversions."'

Theodora was glad to see that this did rouse Violet's indignation.

'Oh! he does not know. Do tell him it was all your kindness! Tell
him that Arthur is not going for long. He must not think such
things.'

'He thinks much more injustice,' said Theodora. 'Listen:--"After so
long an absence, it is high time you should rejoin us; and,
considering what has occurred, you cannot be surprised that I should
be unwilling to leave you with one so young and of so little
authority over you. Though I acquit her of all blame for your
indiscretions--" (There, Violet, I hope you are much obliged to him!)
"I should not have consented to your remaining with her up to the
present time, if it had not been a case of urgent necessity, as I
wish to have you under my own eye." (As if he had ever made any use
of it?) "You might as well be alone here as with her; and, after
your late conduct, I cannot put the confidence in your prudence that
I should desire. Violet has, I have no doubt, acted amiably; and her
youth, inexperience, and gentleness fully excuse her in my eyes for
having been unable to restrain you; but they are reasons sufficient
to decide me on not leaving you with her at present. We shall be in
London on Monday, the llth, and I wish you to be in readiness to join
us when we embark for Ostend on the following evening. Give my kind
love to Violet, and tell her I am glad she is going on well, and that
I am much pleased with my grand-daughter's intended name." There,
Violet, what do you think of that?'

'Pray make him understand that Arthur wanted a change very much, and
will not be long gone.'

'Arthur! You cannot feel for any one else!'

'I did not mean to be selfish!' said Violet, sorry for having seemed
to be wanting in sympathy.

'No, indeed! You never think what would become of you left alone,
with two babies that cannot walk!'

'Never mind me, I shall manage very well, I don't like to have a
disturbance made on my account. I cannot think how you can hesitate
after such a letter as this.'

'That is the very thing. He would never have dared to say these
things to my face! Now let me tell you. I know I have been much to
blame; you made me feel it. You are taming me; and if he leaves me
to you I may be more dutiful when he comes back. But if he strains
his new notion of authority too far, and if you throw me off, I shall
be driven to do what will grieve and disappoint you.'

'But surely,' said Violet, 'it cannot be the right beginning of being
dutiful to resist the first thing that is asked of you.'

'You wish me to go to be fretted and angered! to be without one
employment to drown painful thoughts, galled by attempts at
controlling me; my mind poisoned by my aunt, chilled by my mother--to
be given up to my worse nature, without perhaps even a church to go
to!'

'It is very hard,' said Violet; 'but if we are to submit, it cannot
be only when we see fit. Would it not be better to make a beginning
that costs you something?'

'And lose my hope of peaceful guidance!'

'I do believe,' said Violet, 'that if you go patiently, because it is
your duty, that you will be putting yourself under the true guidance;
but for you to extort permission to stay with me, when your father
disapproves, would be only following your own way. I should be
afraid. I will not undertake it, for it would not be right, and
mischief would be sure to ensue.'

'Then you give me up?'

'Give you up! dear, dear sister;' and Violet rose and threw her arms
round Theodora. 'No, indeed! When I am so glad that I may love you
as I always wished! I shall think of you, and write to you, and pray
for you,' whispered she. 'All I can I will do for you, but you must
not say any more of staying with me now. I can help you better in my
right place than out of it.'

Theodora returned the caress and quitted the room, leaving Violet to
her regrets and fears. It was a great sacrifice of herself, and
still worse, of her poor little pale boy, and she dreaded that it
might be the ruin of the beneficial influence which, to her
amazement, she found ascribed to her, in the most unexpected quarter.
It had gone to her heart to refuse Theodora's kindness, and all that
was left for her was to try to still her fluttering, agitated spirits
by the consciousness that she had striven to do right, and by the
prayer that all might work for good.

Indeed, it was very remarkable how, in this critical period of
Theodora's life, when repentance was engaged in so severe a conflict
with her long-nourished pride and passion, in all the tossings of her
mind she had, as it were, anchored herself to her docile, gentle
sister-in-law, treating her like a sort of embodiment of her better
mind. Violet's serenity and lowliness seemed to breathe peace on a
storm-tossed ocean; and her want of self-assertion to make Theodora
proud of submitting to her slightest wish without a struggle. Those
vehement affections were winding themselves about her and her
children; and the temper that had flown into fierce insubordination
at the first control from lawful authority, laid itself at the feet
of one whose power was in meekness. It was the lion curbed by the
maiden; but because the subjection was merely a caprice, it was no
conquest of self-will.

CHAPTER 21

But when the self-abhorring thrill
Is past, as pass it must,
When tasks of life thy spirit fill
Risen from thy tears and dust,
Then be the self-renouncing will
The seal of thy calm trust.--Lyra Apostolica

Arthur quitted London the day after his little girl's christening,
talking of being absent only a fortnight, before taking his wife to
Windsor; and promising to return at once, if she should find herself
in the least unwell or dispirited. She was delighted to be well
enough not to spoil his sport, and Theodora was too anxious to have
him at a distance from Mr. Gardner to venture on any remonstrance.

It was the day the family were to come to London, and he left orders
with the ladies to say 'all that was proper', but the twelfth of
August was to him an unanswerable reason for immediate departure.

Theodora and Violet went to receive the party in the house in
Belgrave Square, both silent, yet conscious of each other's feelings.
Theodora paced the room, while Violet leant back in a great blue
damask chair, overcome by the beatings of her heart; and yet, when
the carriage arrived, it was she who spoke the word of encouragement:
'Your father is so kind, I know he forgives us!'

Theodora knew Violet thought her own weakness and inefficiency needed
pardon, and therefore could bear the saying, and allow it to turn her
defiant shame into humility.

Mrs. Nesbit came in, supported between Lord and Lady Martindale, and
as Theodora hastened to wheel round the large arm-chair, and settle
the cushions for her, her eye glanced in keen inquiry from one niece
to the other, and they felt that she was exulting in the fulfilment
of her prediction.

Lord Martindale kissed his daughter with grave formality; and, as if
to mark the difference, threw much warm affection into his greeting
of Violet, and held her hand for some moments, while he asked
solicitously if she were well and strong, and inquired for her little
ones.

She made Arthur's excuses and explanations, but broke off, blushing
and disconcerted, by that harsh, dry cough of Mrs. Nesbit's, and
still more, by seeing Lord Martindale look concerned. She began,
with nervous eagerness and agitation, to explain that it was an old
engagement, he would not be away long, and then would take her out of
town--she was hardly yet ready for a journey. From him she obtained
kind smiles, and almost fatherly tenderness; from Lady Martindale the
usual ceremonious civility. They asked her to dinner, but she was
not equal to this; they then offered to send her home in the
carriage, and when she refused, Lord Martindale said he would walk
back with her, while Theodora remained with her mother.

He was much displeased with his son for leaving her, especially when
he saw how delicate and weak she still looked; and he was much
annoyed at being unable to prevent it, without giving Arthur a
premium for selfishness; so that all he could do was to treat her
with a sort of compassionate affection, increased at each of her
unselfish sayings.

'My dear,' he said, 'I wish to have a little conversation with you,
when it suits you. I am anxious to hear your account of this
unfortunate affair.'

'Very well;' but he felt her arm tremble.

'You must not alarm yourself. You are the last person deserving of
blame. I am only sorry that you should have had so much to harass
you.'

'O, Theodora has been so very kind to me.'

'I rejoice to hear it; but tell me, will this evening or to-morrow
morning suit you best?'

'Thank you, to-morrow, if you please,' said Violet, glad to defer the
evil day.

At that moment she was astonished by the sudden apparition of Lord
St. Erme, and still more by his shaking hands with her. She thanked
him for his touches to her little boy's portrait; he smiled, rejoiced
that she did not think he had spoilt it, and remarked upon the
likeness. Lord Martindale, who knew him but slightly, listened in
surprise; and having now come to her own door, she bade them
farewell, and entered the house.

Theodora came back much later than Violet had expected, with a flush
on her cheek, and hurry and uncertainty in her manner. She had
previously made a great point of their spending this last evening
alone together, but her mood was silent. She declared herself bent
on finishing the volume of Miss Strickland's "Queens", which they
were reading together, and went on with it till bed-time without
intermission, then wished Violet good night without another word.

But Violet was no sooner in bed than Theodora came in, in her
dressing-gown, and sat down at her feet, looking at her, but hardly
answering the few words she ventured to speak. It was not till the
clock struck twelve that she rose from her seat.

'Well, I must go; but I don't know how to tear myself from the sight
of you. I feel as if I was driven from the only place where I ever
might be good.'

'No,' whispered Violet; 'wherever our duty lies, we can be good.'

'I could, if you were with me, to calm me, and tell me such things.'

'You do not want me to tell you them. You have the Bible and Prayer
Book.'

'I never saw the right way to follow them; till now, when it was
gleaming on me, I have to go away.'

'The same grace that has shown you your way so far, dearest, will go
on to show you further, if you follow it on, even though the way be
hard!'

'The grace may be with you--it is!' said Theodora, in a heavy,
hopeless manner; 'but oh! Violet, think how long I have been driving
it away!'

Violet sat up, took her hand, pressed it between both hers, and with
tears exclaimed: 'You must not speak so. If you had not that grace,
should you be sorry now?'

'I don't know. I can hope and see my way to peace when you look at
me, or speak to me; but why should I be forced into the desert of my
own heart, to loneliness and temptation?'

'If you are really resting on me, instead of on the only true help,
perhaps it is better you should be left to it. Theodora, dearest,
may I tell you something about myself? When first I saw my
difficulties, and could not get at mamma, I felt as if there was no
one to help me, but somehow it grew up. I saw how to find out
guidance and comfort in the Bible and in such things, and ever since
I have been so much happier.'

'How did you find it out?'

'John helped me; but I think it comes without teaching from without,
and there is my hope for you, Theodora.'

'Them that are meek shall He guide in judgment, and such as are
gentle, them shall He learn His way,' murmured Theodora, hanging over
her, with tears fast dropping.

'He shows Himself to those who will follow Him, and yield their own
will,' said Violet.

'Good night! Oh! what shall I do when I have not you to send me to
bed comforted? I had more to say to you, but you have smoothed it
all, and I cannot ruffle it up again.'

A night of broken sleep, and perplexed waking thoughts, was a bad
preparation for the morning's conference. Lord Martindale came to
breakfast, and, as before, reserved all his kindness for Violet and
the children. Theodora disappeared when the little ones were carried
away, and he began the conversation by saying to Violet, 'I am afraid
you have had a great deal of trouble and vexation.'

She replied by warm assurances of Theodora's kindness; whence he led
her to tell the history of the rupture, which she did very
mournfully, trying to excuse Theodora, but forbidden, by justice to
Percival; and finding some relief in taking blame to herself for not
having remonstrated against that unfortunate expedition to the races.

'No, my dear, it was no fault of yours. It was not from one thing
more than another. It was owing to unhappy, unbroken temper. Take
care of your children, my dear, and teach them submission in time.'
Then presently resuming: 'Is it your idea that she had any
attachment to poor Fotheringham?'

'Much more than she knew at the time,' said Violet.

'Ha! Then you do not think she has given encouragement to that
absurd-looking person, Lord St. Erme?'

'Lord St. Erme!' cried Violet, startled.

'Yes; when I parted with you yesterday, he walked back with me, and
proceeded to declare that he had been long attached to her, and to
ask my sanction to his following us to Germany to pay his addresses.'

'Surely he has not spoken to her?'

'No; he said something about not presuming, and of having been
interrupted. I could only tell him that it must rest with herself.
There is no objection to the young man, as far as I know, though he
is an idle, loitering sort of fellow, not what I should have thought
to her taste.'

'I do not believe she likes him,' said Violet.

'You do not? I cannot make out. I told her that she was at liberty
to do as she pleased; I only warned her neither to trifle with him,
nor to rush into an engagement without deliberation, but I could get
nothing like an answer. She was in one of her perverse fits, and I
have no notion whether she means to accept him or not.'

'I do not think she will.'

'I cannot say. No one knows, without a trial, what the notion of a
coronet will do with a girl. After all her pretensions she may be
the more liable to the temptation. I have not told her aunt, that
she may be the more unbiassed. Not that I say anything against him,
it is everything desirable in the way of connection, and probably he
is an amiable good sort of man. What do you know of him! Are you
intimate with him?'

Violet explained the extent of their acquaintance. 'I do not see my
way through it,' said Lord Martindale. 'I wish I could be clear that
it is not all coquetry. I wish John was at home.'

'I do not think,' said Violet, gathering courage--'I do not think you
know how much Theodora wishes to be good.'

'I wish she was half as good as you are, my dear!' said Lord
Martindale, as if he had been speaking to a child. And he talked to
her warmly of her own concerns, and hopes of her visiting Martindale
on their return; trying to divest himself of a sense of inhospitality
and harshness, which grew on him whenever he looked at her slender
figure, and the varying carnation of her thin cheek.

She felt herself obliged to set forth to call on Lady Martindale.
Theodora was busy, packing up, and could not accompany her;
unfortunately for her, since Mrs. Nesbit took the opportunity of
examining her on the same subject, though far from doing it in the
same manner; commenting with short sarcastic laughs, censuring Mr.
Fotheringham for trying to domineer, but finding much amusement in
making out the grounds of his objection to Mrs. Finch, and taking
pleasure in bringing, by her inquiries, a glow of confusion and
distress on Violet's cheeks. Next she began to blame her for having
visited such an imprudent person; and when Lady Martindale ventured
to suggest something about her not knowing, and Mrs. Finch having
formerly been a friend of the family, she put her down. 'Yes, my
dear, we are not blaming Mrs. Arthur Martindale. We know it is not
possible for every one to be fastidious. The misfortune was in Miss
Martindale's being brought into society which could not be expected
to be select.'

Violet did not think herself called upon to stay to be insulted, and
rose to take leave, but did not escape without further taunts. 'So
you are to be in London alone for the next month?'

'Perhaps only for a fortnight!'

'I can promise you that it will be a month. Young men are not apt to
spend more time at home than they can help. I am sorry to interfere
with your scheme of being installed at Martindale, but it is out of
the question. Theodora's absence has been much felt by the curate,
and our past experience has prepared us for anything. I hope you
will take care of yourself.'

Mrs. Nesbit, as she lost her power of self-command and her
cleverness, without parting with her bitterness of spirit, had
pitiably grown worse and worse, so that where she would once have
been courteously sarcastic, she was now positively insolent.

It was too much for Lady Martindale, who, as she saw Violet colour
deeply, and tremble as she left the room, followed her to the head of
the stairs, and spoke kindly. 'You must not imagine, my dear, that
either my aunt, or any of us, find fault with you. We all know that
you are inexperienced, and that it is not easy to cope with
Theodora's eccentricity of character.'

Violet, still very weak, could have been hysterical, but luckily was
able to command herself, though, 'thank you!' was all she could say.

'Of course, though such things are unfortunate, we cannot regret the
match; Lord Martindale and I are quite convinced that you acted
amiably by all parties. Good-bye, my dear; I am sorry I have not
time to call and see the children.'

'Shall I send them to you when they wake?' said Violet, pleased that
they were at length mentioned.

'Thank you, my dear,' said Lady Martindale, as if much tempted.
'I am afraid not, it might be too much for my aunt. And yet, I
should have liked to see the little girl.'

'She is such a beauty,' said Violet, much brightened. 'So exactly
like her papa.'

'I should like to see her! You have your carriage here, of course!'

'No; I walked.'

'Walked, my dear!' said Lady Martindale, dismayed.

Violet explained how short the distance was; but Lady Martindale
seemed not to know how to let her go, nor how to relinquish the
thought of seeing her grand-daughter. At last she said, as if it was
a great resolution, lowering her voice, 'I wonder if I could walk
back with you, just to see her.'

She took Violet into her room while she put on her bonnet, much as if
she feared being found out; and in passing the drawing-room door,
gathered her dress together so as to repress its rustling.

Wonder of wonders, to find Lady Martindale actually on foot by her
side! She went up at once to the nursery, where the children were
asleep. At Johnnie she looked little, but she hung over the cot
where lay the round plump baby face of little Helen. Though
dreadfully afraid of being missed, she seemed unable to turn away
from the contemplation.

'My dear,' said she, in an agitated voice, as they left the nursery,
'you must not keep these children here in London. You must not
sacrifice their health. It is the first consideration. Don't let
them stay in that hot nursery! Pray do not.'

'We shall be in the country soon,' said Violet.

'Why not at once? Does expense prevent you? Tell me, my dear, what
it would cost. I always have plenty to spare. Would L100 do it? and
you need tell no one. I could give you L200,' said Lady Martindale,
who had as little idea of the value of money as any lady in her
Majesty's dominions. 'I must have that dear little girl in the
country. Pray take her to Ventnor. How much shall I give you?'

Much surprised, and more touched, Violet, however, could not accept
the offer. She felt that it would be casting a slight on Arthur; and
she assured Lady Martindale that she hoped soon to leave London, and
how impossible it was for her to move house without Arthur. It
seemed to be a great disappointment, and opened to Violet a fresh
insight into Lady Martindale's nature; that there was a warm current
beneath, only stifled by Mrs. Nesbit's power over a docile character.
There seemed to be hopes that they might love each other at last! In
the midst there was a knock at the door, and Lord Martindale entered,
much surprised, as well as pleased, to find his wife there, though
put in some perplexity by her instantly appealing to him to tell
Violet that it was very bad for the children to remain in town, and
asking if it could not be managed to send them to the sea-side. He
made a grave but kind reply, that he was sorry for it himself, but
that Violet had assured him it would not be for long; and Lady
Martindale (who did not seem able to understand why the lady of the
house could not make everything give way to her convenience)--now
becoming alive to the fear of her aunt's missing her, and taking to
heart her stolen expedition--hurried him off with her at once. It
was not till after their departure that Violet discovered that he had
been trying to atone for deficiencies, by costly gifts to herself and
her children.

All this time Theodora had been in her own room, packing, as she
said, but proceeding slowly; for there was a severe struggle of
feelings, and she could not bear that it should be seen. In the pain
of parting with Violet, she shrank from her presence, as if she could
not endure to prolong the space for last words.

They came at last. Theodora sat ready for her journey, holding her
god-daughter in her arms, and looking from her to Violet, without a
word; then gazing round the room, which had been the scene of such
changes of her whole mind.

At last she spoke, and it was very different from what Violet
expected,

'Violet, I will try to endure it; but if I cannot--if you hear of me
as doing what you will disapprove, will you refrain from giving me
up, and at least be sorry for me?'

After what Lord Martindale had said, Violet could guess at her
meaning. 'Certainly, dear Theodora. You would not do it if it was
wrong?'

'You know what I mean?'

'I think I do.'

'And you are not infinitely shocked?'

'No; for you would not do it unless you could rightly.'

'How do you mean?'

'Not if there was--anything remaining--of the former--'

'You are a good little thing, Violet,' said Theodora, trying to
laugh; 'nearly as simple as your daughter. You will save her a great
deal of trouble, if you tame her while she is young.'

Then came a pause, lasting till Theodora thought she heard the
carriage.

'You will forgive me if I accept him?'

'I shall know it is all right. I trust you, dear sister.'

'Tell me something to help me!'

Violet drew out Helen's cross. 'Be patient, be patient,' she said.
'The worse things are, the more of the cross to be borne.'

Theodora held out her hand for it. 'I hope I am mending,' said she,
as she gave it back with a melancholy smile. 'It does not give me
the bad jealous thoughts I had when first I knew you possessed it.
Tell me something to make me patient.'

'May I tell you what came into my head after you were talking last
night of not seeing your way, and wanting to be led. I thought of a
verse in Isaiah.' Violet found the place and showed it.

'Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of
His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him
trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon his God.'

'Thank you, Violet,' said Theodora, looking on to the next verse.
'I will try to be patient; I will try not to kindle a fire for
myself. But if they tease me much, if I am very weary--'

The summons cut her short--Lord Martindale ran up to hasten her; a
fervent embrace--she was gone!

And Violet, with worn-out strength and spirits, remained to find how
desolate she was--left behind in dreary summer London. There was
nothing for it but to be as foolish as in old times, to lie down on
the sofa and cry herself to sleep. She was a poor creature, after
all, and awoke to weariness and headache, but to no repining; for she
had attained to a spirit of thankfulness and content. She lay
dreamily, figuring to herself Arthur enjoying himself on the moors
and mountains, till Helvellyn's own purple cap came to brighten her
dreams.

CHAPTER 22

Sigh no more, lady, lady, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot on shore and one on land,
To one thing constant never.--Percy's Reliques

'So, you say Miss Martindale has left town?'

'Yes; Violet writes me that the family passed through London, and
took her to the continent on Tuesday.'

'Then let Annette know she is to be ready to come with me to town on
Monday. We shall see if it is the young lady's doing, or whether
Mrs. Martindale intends to give herself airs with her father and
sister.'

'Poor dear,' sighed the good care-worn mother, 'I do long to hear of
her; but may I not write first? I should not like to get the dear
child into trouble.'

'On no account write, or we shall have some excuse about pre-
engagements. I shall take Annette at once, and see with my own eyes.
Martindale can never have the face to hinder her from asking her own
sister to stay in the house, when once she is there.'

'I hope he is kind to her!' said Mrs. Moss. 'I long to hear whether
she is quite recovered; and she says so little of herself. She will
be glad to see her sister, and yet, one does not like to seem
pushing.'

'Never you mind,' said the acute, sharp-faced attorney, putting her
aside as if she was presuming beyond her sphere; 'only you get
Annette ready. Since we found such a match for Violet, she is bound
to help off her sisters; and as to Annette, a jaunt is just what is
wanting to drive that black coat out of her head. I wish he had
never come near the place. The girl might have had the Irish
captain, if she had not been running after him and his school. Tell
her to be ready on Monday.'

Meek Mrs. Moss never dared to question her husband's decision; and
she had suffered too much anxiety on her daughter's account, not to
rejoice in the prospect of a trustworthy report, for Violet's letters
were chiefly descriptions of her children.

There was much soreness in the Moss family respecting Violet, and two
opinions with regard to her; some inclining to believe her a fine
lady, willing to discard her kindred; others thinking her not a free
agent, but tyrannized over by Miss Martindale, and neglected by her
husband. So Annette, who had pined and drooped under the loss of the
twin-like companionship of her sister, was sent out as on an
adventure, in much trepidation and mysterious dread of Captain
Martindale, by no means consistent with the easy good nature of his
days of courtship. And thus her first letter was written and
received with such feelings as attend that of an explorer of a new
country.

'Cadogan-place, August 19th.

'Well, dearest mamma, I am writing from Violet's house. Yes, she is
her own sweet self, our precious flower still--nobody must think
anything else--she is not changed one bit, except that she is
terribly pale and thin; but she calls herself quite well, and says
that if I had seen her when Johnny was five weeks old, I should give
her credit now. But Matilda will say I cannot write a comprehensible
letter, so I will begin regularly.

'We slept at Uncle Christopher's, and after an early breakfast walked
here. The man did not think his mistress could see any one, but when
he heard who we were, showed us to the drawing-room, and there was
Violet, quite alone, breakfasting by herself, for he is gone to
Scotland! Poor dear girl! When she saw us, she gave a little
scream, and flew up to me, clinging round my neck, and sobbing as she
did on her wedding-day; it was as if the two years were nothing.
However, in a moment, she composed herself, and said it was silly,
but there was still a sob in her throat, and she was shy and
constrained as she used to be with papa, in old times. She says she
would not tell us Captain Martindale was going to Scotland, because
of not tantalizing us with his passing so near, but I fear it is that
she will not confess how often she is left alone. I am so glad we
are come, now he is out of the way. She has asked us to stay while
papa has to be in London, and I shall, but papa finds it more
convenient to sleep at Uncle Christopher's. If we are not here
oftener, I am sure it is no fault of hers; and her husband cannot be
displeased with this little visit--at least he ought not. She sent
for the children; the babe was asleep, but Johnnie came, and oh! how
curious it seemed to hear the voice calling her mamma, and see the
little creature holding out his arms to go to her. I felt, indeed,
how long we have been apart--it was our own Violet, and yet some one
else. You would have been amused to see how altered she was by
having her son in her arms; how the little morsel seemed to give her
confidence, and the shy stiffness went away, and she looked so proud
and fond, and smiled and spoke with ease. There was the dear little
fair fellow standing on her lap, leaning against her shoulder, with
his arm round her neck, hiding his face when I looked at him too
much. She said he was puzzled not to see the aunt he knew, and how I
grudged his knowing any aunt better than me! They do look lovely
together, and so much alike; but I could cry to see them both so
white and wan; not a shade of her pretty colour on her cheek, and the
little darling so very tiny and weak, though he is as clever as
possible, and understands all you say to him. If I had but got them
both in our fresh north countree!

'Papa could not stay, and as soon as he was gone, she set her boy
down on the sofa, and threw her arms round my neck, and we were like
wild things--we kissed, and screamed, and laughed, and cried, till
poor Johnnie was quite frightened. "Now, Annette, come and see,"
said Violet, and took me up-stairs to the nursery, and there half-
waking, under the archway of her cradle, lay, like a little queen,
that beautiful creature, Helen, opening her black eyes just as we
came up, and moving her round arms. How I longed for mamma to see
her, and to see Violet's perfect look of happiness as she lifted her
out and said, "Now, is not she worth seeing?" and then Sarah came up.
Violet says Sarah threatened to go away, when there were two to be
always racketing, but when it came to the point, could not leave
Johnnie, whom she keeps in great order, and treats with much
ceremony, always calling him Master John. She believes Sarah
disapproves of poor Helen altogether, as an intruder upon Johnnie's
comfort; and she is quite savage at admiration of her, as if it was a
slight on him; but she has turned out an admirable nurse, in her own
queer way. Such a morning as we have had, chattering so fast! all
about you all. I am sure she loves us as much as ever, and I do not
believe she is unhappy. She talks of her husband as if they were
happy, and he has given her such quantities of pretty things, and I
hear of so much that seems as if she was on comfortable terms with
them all. I am satisfied about her, pray be so too, dear mamma.

'I am writing while waiting for her to drive to fetch my things from
Uncle Christopher's-- She tells me to finish without minding her
visitor--I was interrupted by Sarah's bringing Johnnie down, and he
was very good with me, but presently a gentleman was announced,
without my catching his name. I feared Johnnie would cry, but he
sprang with delight, and the stranger saying, "Ha! master, you
recollect me?" took him in his arms. I said my sister would come
directly, and he gave a good-natured nod, and muttered half to
himself, "Oh! another of the genus Viola. I am glad of it." I
cannot make him out; he must be a relation, or one of the other
officers. Violet did not know he was there, and came in with the
baby in her arms; he stepped towards her, saying, "So you have set up
another! Man or woman?" and then asked if she was another flower.
Violet coloured, as she spoke low, and said, "Her name is Helen."
I must ask Violet the meaning, for he looked gravely pleased, and
answered gratefully, "That is very good of you." "I hope she will
deserve it," Violet said, and was introducing me, but he said Johnnie
had done him that honour. He has been talking of Captain Martindale
(calling him Arthur), and telling curious things he has seen in
Ireland. He is very amusing, bluff, and odd, but as if he was a
distinguished person. Now I see that Violet is altered, and grown
older--he seems to have such respect for, and confidence in her; and
she so womanly and self-possessed, entering into his clever talk as
Matilda would, yet in the simple way she always had. You would be
proud to see her now--her manners must be perfection, I should think;
so graceful and dignified, so engaging and quiet. I wish Louisa had
seen her. What are they talking of now?

'Violet.--How did you find Pallas Athene?

'Unknown.--Alas, poor Pallas! With the judgment of the cockney who
buttered his horse's hay, the ragged boy skinned her mice and plucked

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