Part 3 out of 8
"It is not washing-day, is it, David? I hope Mother Pratt has her
kettle boiling, for Herrick and I are as thirsty as fish."
"My dear fellow, I have no idea," and Mr. Carlyon looked a little
alarmed. "Just look after Mr. Herrick for a few minutes while I
tackle the good lady."
"I don't believe Mrs. Pratt will bring the tea-things for another
half-hour," observed Cedric cheerfully. "Poor old Davie, it is awful
hard lines for him to have such a landlady. She imposes on him
"Why does he put up with it?" returned Malcolm drily. He was not in
the humour to discuss Mr. Carlyon's household arrangements. The room
into which Cedric had ushered him was a very pleasant one. It was
rather low, but a side window with a cushioned recess looked out on
a small lawn, with beautifully-kept flower-beds and long borders
filled with old-fashioned herbaceous flowers, where brown bees were
humming in the sunshine.
"Mrs. Pratt evidently keeps a good gardener," he said, as he took
note of the neatly-shaven and carefully--swept paths.
"David is the gardener," returned Cedric laughing. "The garden is
his hobby. He is at work sometimes at six o'clock in the morning. It
is rather a good garden, as you see; but when David first came to
the White Cottage it was a perfect wilderness. A lone widder woman
cannot be expected to attend to house and garden too," he continued
in a lackadaisical voice. "Hallo, Davy, what cheer, my lad? Are the
"Not exactly," in a depressed tone. "I am afraid it is washing-day,
and that Mrs. Pratt will keep us waiting. I filled the kettle for
her myself, but it has got to boil; but if you don't mind waiting--"
in a still more embarrassed manner.
"What's the matter, good friends?" observed a cheery voice. "Can I
be of any use and assistance? I am not afraid of a dozen Mrs.
Pratts. May I join your tea-party, Mr. Carlyon? I was just going to
ask Mrs. Finch for a cup, but as I passed I saw Cedric at the
window," and before any could answer Elizabeth had advanced into the
room with a smile that seemed to evoke responsive smiles on every
"Thank goodness! Bet," exclaimed her brother devoutly; "we shall get
"Oh yes, we shall get along," and Elizabeth took off her hat and
hastily smoothed her hair. "Now for the Pratt woman and tea. Au
revoir, gentlemen." And then she vanished, and after a moment's
hesitation Mr. Carlyon followed her.
MR. CARLYON'S TEA-PARTY
If there be a smile on our lips, those around us will
soon smile; and our happiness will become the truer and
deeper as we see that these others are happy.
Smiles are as catching as tears.
What a sudden change in the atmosphere! If a fresh moorland breeze
had swept through the little sitting-room at the White Cottage it
could not have effected a more beneficial change.
A few words from a brisk, cheerful young woman had acted like magic;
Mr. Carlyon lost his harassed look, Malcolm's bored expression had
vanished, while Cedric's fervent "Thank goodness! Bet, we shall get
along now," was inwardly echoed by his friends.
Malcolm's good-humour returned, and he gave his undivided attention
to the flower-borders, and enlarged in his poetical way on the
beauties of the Iceland and Shirley poppies.
"They are like fine court ladies," he observed to Cedric, "they are
so smart and dainty and graceful. What a charming combination of
colour! Your friend Carlyon must have an artistic eye."
"I expect it was Elizabeth's idea," returned Cedric lazily; "she is
quite gone on poppies. She and David are rival gardeners, and have
no end of discussions. My word, to listen to them one would think
they were a later edition of Adam and Eve."
Now, why did Malcolm frown at this boyish speech, and drop the
subject hastily? But Cedric only stretched himself with a yawn and
"It is my private opinion that David knows very little about it,
except what he gets from gardening books. But he is so full of
hobbies, and so energetic, and so determined not to be beaten, and
takes such a lot of trouble, that even Elizabeth is astonished at
the results. She comes down here and gives him ideas, and then he
works them out, or he potters about our place and talks to Johnson,
and gets hints that way."
"I never saw such a fellow for picking other people's brains,"
continued Cedric enthusiastically. "Why, he got a splendid degree at
Oxford; I remember how surprised his own father was."
"Carlyon has a father then?" Though Malcolm was so lukewarm on the
subject of the young curate's merits, he felt some degree of
curiosity about him.
"To be sure he has," replied Cedric. "Carlyon senior is a dry,
chippy sort of little man, as meek as a mouse and as good as gold.
He is curate-in-charge of an iron church at Stokeley; it is in the
Black Country, you know--a regular inferno of a place--nothing but
tall chimneys and blasting furnaces, heaps of slag and rows of
miners' cottages. Stokeley town is a mile or two farther on; it is a
beastly sort of hole."
"It does not sound an inviting spot certainly."
"Well, it is not exactly a Garden of Eden," returned Cedric with a
grin. "But, as David says, it has its advantages, for one can wear
out one's old clothes quite comfortably. I believe there is really
beautiful country two or three miles away."
"I suppose Mr. Carlyon's mother is living too?" But here Cedric
shook his head.
"No, she died when David was a youngster--consumption, I believe--
and two or three of the children died too. But there is one
daughter, Theo they call her--for Theodora, I expect--and a precious
uncomfortable piece of goods she is."
Malcolm raised his eyebrows in a questioning manner, but Cedric
needed no encouragement to rattle on.
"She is a young woman with a mission--a sort of female Moody and
Sankey rolled in one--and she calls herself the Miner's Friend. She
is so full of good works, don't you know, that she has not time for
domestic duties; and so Carlyon pere and Carlyon frere have a
roughish time of it."
Malcolm's thoughts instinctively reverted to his mother. With all
her work and philanthropic schemes, she was never too busy to see to
her household. She might neglect her own personal comfort and
overtask her willing helper Anna, but her servants did their duty,
and were well fed and well managed; and they worked all the better
for the knowledge that their mistress's keen eyes would detect the
slightest laxity. "My mother is a good woman," he said to himself;
"she is true and just in all her dealings," and he felt with a
sudden pang of remorse as though he had never valued her enough.
"Is Miss Carlyon like her brother in appearance?" he asked the next
"Not a bit; she would make two of David. She is a big, red-haired
woman, not exactly bad-looking--if she would only set herself off.
But the Carlyons have a family failing, they cling to their old
clothes and eschew fashion. Hush, here comes Mother Pratt with the
tea-tray. Look at her well, Herrick. she is a good imitation of the
immortal Mrs. Gummidge, and bears a mortified exterior, out of
compliment to the late Samuel Pratt, sexton and grave-digger and
The bumping sounds in the distance that Cedric had heard had drawn
nearer, and the next moment a tall, angular woman in a black hat,
and a suspicion of soap-suds freshly dried about her bare arms,
entered the room and set down the tea-tray with a heavy sigh, as
though the burden of life were too hard to bear.
Mr. Carlyon followed her with a crusty loaf and the butter, while
Elizabeth brought up the rear triumphantly with a plate of
raspberries and a little brown jug of cream.
"Is there anything more you'll be needing, sir?" asked Mrs. Pratt
lugubriously--she spoke in an injured manner. "If it had not been
washing-day I would have baked you a currant-loaf, or some scones;
but having only two hands, and no chick or child to help me, and--"
"Oh, we shall do very nicely," returned Elizabeth cheerfully.
"Please do not let us hinder you, Mrs. Pratt; if you will keep the
water boiling we can easily replenish the teapot. Mr. Carlyon,"
looking at him severely, "you have left the sifted sugar on the
kitchen table; please go and fetch it. Mr. Herrick, are you fond of
raspberries? These are from our own garden--Johnson gathered them
"They are just prime!" exclaimed Cedric--"food for the Olympian
gods, ambrosia and nectar too. Come along, David, or there will be
none left for you. Sit down, man, no one wants you to be waiting on
us." "Yes, do sit down, please," observed Elizabeth softly; and Mr.
Carlyon slipped at once into the empty chair beside her.
It really was a pleasant little tea-party, and Malcolm quite forgot
his longing to be back in the drawing-room at the Wood House.
Indeed, he was in high good-humour, and told his best stories, quite
convulsing Mr. Carlyon with his comic ones; indeed, he made himself
so agreeable and entertaining--he so threw himself into the spirit
of their informal picnic--that Elizabeth's bright eyes rested on his
dark face more than once with marked approval. And when they went
out into the front garden to wait for the dog-cart, Mr. Carlyon said
to her confidentially, "Your friend improves on acquaintance; I
thought him a bit stand-offish and highty-tighty yesterday, but I
see now it was only mannerism."
"Some people are difficult to know at first," returned Elizabeth
thoughtfully, but she also spoke in a lowered tone. "Mr. Herrick is
not one of those people who keep all their goods in their shop
window; there is plenty more of good stuff inside, if you only take
the trouble to search for it. Dinah likes him immensely; she is
getting an empty pedestal ready for him--you know my dear old
Dinah's way, bless her." And as David knew it well, his answer was a
Never had Malcolm enjoyed himself more; never had he felt less
disposed to criticise and find fault; and yet Miss Elizabeth
Templeton wore the very striped blouse that had excited his ire on
the previous evening; and her hat was certainly bent in the brim,
perhaps in her frantic efforts to put up a straggling lock of brown
hair that had escaped from the coil, and which would perpetually get
loose again. Malcolm noticed at once the ripe, rich tint of the
brown. "It is the real thing," he said to himself, "it is the
burnished brown of the horse-chestnut; one seldom sees it, it is
quite out of the common." And then he told himself that he had never
seen a face so capable of expression. Perhaps this was why he
watched her so closely when she talked to Mr. Carlyon.
It was arranged that Elizabeth should drive back with them in the
dog-cart. And as Malcolm took the reins, which Cedric had
relinquished in his favour, she mounted to the place beside him,
while Cedric clambered up behind. Mr. Carlyon looked after them
regretfully as Elizabeth waved gaily to him. The next moment she was
pointing out the vicarage to Malcolm, a gray, picturesque-looking
house, standing in a pleasant garden.
"It is not really the vicarage," she explained, "although it goes by
the name. It used to belong to old Colonel Trelawney; but when he
died and Mrs. Trelawney left Rotherwood, Mr. Charrington took it. It
is not large, but quite the right size for an old bachelor. He has
really a grand library, and a very good dining-room, though the
drawing-room is rather a dull room. Ah, there is the vicar," and
Elizabeth smiled and bowed to a tall, gray-haired man who was just
letting himself in at the gate.
"Wait a moment, please, Mr. Herrick," she exclaimed hurriedly. "I
quite forgot I had a message from Dinah;" and then, as she sprang
lightly to the ground, Mr. Charrington turned back to meet her, and
they stood talking for a few minutes.
"Hurry up, Bet, or we shall be late for dinner," called out Cedric,
impatient at this delay. Then Elizabeth looked up and nodded.
"Just one moment more," she said breathlessly. "Dinah will not mind
our being late."
Malcolm did not mind it either. He sat contentedly flicking the
flies from Brown Becky's glossy sides and listening to the distant
cawing of rooks.
What a peaceful, drowsy sort of place Rotherwood was! The wide
village street seemed empty, with the exception of a black collie
lying asleep in the middle of the road, and a patient donkey
belonging to a travelling tinker. The clean, sleek country sparrows
were enjoying a dust bath, and a long-legged chicken--evidently a
straggler from the brood--was pecking fitfully at a cabbage stalk,
unmindful of the alarmed clucking of the maternal hen.
When Elizabeth rejoined them the vicar was with her, and she
introduced him to Malcolm.
Mr. Charrington had been a handsome man in his youth; but a
sedentary life and a somewhat injudicious burning of the midnight
oil had tried his constitution. He had grown pale and thin, and his
shoulders were slightly round, so that he looked older than his
years. Malcolm thought Cedric's name of Dr. Dryasdust was not an
inapt title. His eyes were a little sunken, though very bright and
keen, and his manner was extremely courteous. He spoke very civilly
"Mr. Charrington is hardly my idea of a country vicar," he observed
as they drove away.
"Perhaps not," returned Elizabeth quickly, "but he is a very
conscientious clergyman, and his people's welfare is very near his
heart. He is a great etymologist and archaeologist, and at times he
is so immersed in his studies that but for the care of his excellent
housekeeper, Mrs. Finch, he would often forget to eat his dinner.
Mr. Carlyon often tells us amusing stories of the vicar's absence of
"Could you not remember one of them, Betty?" suggested Cedric. But
Elizabeth was not to be cajoled into repeating them. She respected
Mr. Charrington far too highly, she remarked, to make merry at his
"My friends' oddities are always sacred to me," she said quite
seriously. "Most people have their own little failings and
idiosyncrasies, but one need not make copy out of them. Don't you
agree with me, Mr. Herrick, that there is too little sense of honour
in these matters? To raise a laugh, or to sharpen their own wit,
many people will expose their best friend to ridicule."
"Oh, shut up, Betty," remonstrated her brother, "it is too bad to
moralise; and after all old Dr. Dryasdust is a capital subject for
"Perhaps so, but all the same your sister is right," returned
Malcolm. "We are a little thoughtless, as she says. We ought to
refuse to give our tongue such licence when a friend's crochets and
whimsies are in question. It is the easiest thing in the world to
satirise and caricature. You could poke fun at Milton or Shakespeare
if you liked, and make them utterly ridiculous. Don't you hate
parodies, Miss Templeton? To me they are utterly profane and
detestable, and the cleverer they are the more I abhor them."
"We think alike there," returned Elizabeth eagerly. "I remember that
Cedric read such capital parodies once on 'Excelsior' and 'Locksley
Hall,' and I have never been able to enjoy those poems since. I have
utterly refused to listen to any more. Oh," interrupting herself,
"there is Dinah on the look-out for us."
They caught sight of the trim little figure in gray silk waiting for
them in the porch. But if they had been an hour late Dinah would
have greeted them with the same kind smile, and hoped that they were
That evening they sat out on the terrace again; but to Malcolm's
chagrin and disappointment, Elizabeth declared that her long day at
Rotherwood had deprived her of all voice for singing. "I have been
shouting to the children all the morning," she observed, "and
reading to deaf old women all the afternoon, and my vocal chord has
suffered," and then she challenged Cedric to take a stroll with her;
but to Malcolm's vexation the invitation was not extended to him.
"Dinah has been alone, we must not all leave her," she said so
pointedly that he had no choice in the matter. But he was secretly
chafed by this treatment, for Malcolm was one of those men who
object to be managed. "I wonder, if Carlyon had been in my place, if
my Lady Elizabeth would have ordered him to remain behind," he
thought. But Dinah's first words healed this soreness.
"My sister has kindly made this opportunity for me by taking Cedric
off our hands," she said gently. "She knew that I wanted a little
talk with you about him." Then Malcolm's brief sullenness vanished.
"You shall talk to me as much as you like," he said in the most
cordial manner, and indeed he felt very kindly towards this gentle,
simple-minded creature. "I am ready for any amount of conversation
on any subject from 'cabbages to kings.'" Then she smiled well
pleased at his little joke.
"I wanted to ask you about these new friends of Cedric's," she
began. "He seems so full of them, and neither Elizabeth nor I know
anything about them. My sister, who is certainly not at all a
narrow-minded person, has taken a most singular prejudice against
"Do you mean the Jacobis? My dear Miss Templeton, I am sorry to say
that I have never met them." Then Dinah's face fell. "It is not
surprising, of course, that many of Cedric's friends are unknown to
me, for we move in very different circles. He has been raving about
the Jacobis all the afternoon; but all the same I don't seem to
focus them properly."
"Cedric is going to stay with them next month," observed Dinah.
"They have taken a house at Henley for some weeks. He is very much
excited about it; he is so fond of boating. And he declares they
will have such a pleasant house-party; but," rather anxiously, "I do
wish we could find some one who knew them."
"I should not be surprised if Mrs. Godfrey had come across them. She
knows everybody." Dinah looked at him in surprise.
"Do you mean Mrs. Godfrey of the Manor House, near Cookham?" she
asked--"Colonel Godfrey's wife?" Malcolm nodded assent.
"Do you know her too? What a small world this is after all! Mrs.
Godfrey is a great friend of mine. We hit it off capitally on most
subjects. In my opinion she is the cleverest and pleasantest woman
in London." Then Dinah fairly beamed.
"I am so glad you like her. She is a great favourite of ours.
Elizabeth often stays at the Manor House. They get on splendidly
together. And the Colonel is so charming. Oh, Mr. Herrick, I am
relieved that you mentioned them. Henley is not far from Cookham,
and I should think they must know something of the Jacobis."
"I will ask Mrs. Godfrey directly I see her," he returned. "I am
going to the Manor House next week."
"Next week!" in surprise; "I hoped you would have stayed with us for
ten days at least."
"You are very kind," in a tone of regret, "but, my dear lady, I fear
it is utterly impossible. My engagement with the Godfreys is of long
standing, but I shall only remain at the Manor House three or four
days. My regular holiday comes later."
"I suppose you have already made your plans?" in a friendly tone.
"Yes, I have decided not to go abroad this year. I have some
literary work I do not wish to lay aside, and I think of taking up
my quarters at the Crow's Nest, where I can combine country air and
"Then you will be our neighbour," and Dinah's voice expressed such
satisfaction at the prospect that Malcolm felt quite pleased. "What
a pity Cedric will be away most of August--the dear boy has so many
engagements." But Malcolm, who was extremely truthful, did not
endorse this regret. Cedric was a nice enough fellow, he thought,
but he did not always know when he was not wanted, and at times his
lively chatter was a weariness to the flesh.
"I expect I shall see something of him," was all he could bring
himself to say. "But you may depend on me for getting information
about the Jacobis. I am a little curious myself on the subject," he
added with the frankness that was natural to him; and then, as the
sound of approaching footsteps reached them, they mutually dropped
THE CROW'S NEST
Take the little pleasures of life, watch the sunsets
and the clouds, the shadows in the streets and the
misty light over our great cities. These bring joy by
the way, and thankfulness to our Heavenly Father.
--ANNE T. CLOUGH.
In a certain sense all are historians.
Perhaps Elizabeth's conscience pricked her that night, or more
probably, being rather a casual and careless young woman, a gentle
hint from Dinah may have had its effect.
Dinah had merely remarked in her quiet way, when she was bidding her
sister good-night in the Red Gallery, that she feared they were not
doing enough for their guest's amusement, and that she thought they
had better ask the vicar to dinner.
"Mr. Herrick is a literary man, and they will get on very well
together," she observed. "Don't you think so, Betty?" And as
Elizabeth did think so, and had no objection to offer, Dinah said
that Johnson should take a note round the following morning.
Elizabeth felt a twinge of compunction as she closed her bedroom
door; she was by no means given to introspection, but "conscience,
that makes cowards of us all," told her that she had not been quite
gracious to Mr. Herrick that evening.
"It was too bad of me not to sing to him," she said to herself, as
she recalled his disappointed look. "I was not so very tired after
all; it was just a fit of laziness, and--" but here Elizabeth
checked herself abruptly--self-examination is sometimes
"I will try and make up for it to-morrow," she thought; "he is such
a good fellow, and we owe him so much;" and she was still in this
complaisant mood when she came down to breakfast.
Even her outward garb was improved: she wore a fresh and extremely
becoming morning dress, which set off her fine figure to advantage;
and before Malcolm had tasted his coffee or looked at his letters
she was challenging him gaily to a game of tennis.
Malcolm was charmed--he had no idea that she played tennis; but her
next proposition rather took off the edge of his enjoyment.
"I know you are a good player, Mr. Herrick," she remarked coolly,
"but it would be too great an exertion this warm weather for you to
beat Cedric and me. Would it not be a good plan," turning to her
brother, "for you to go over to the White Cottage on your bicycle
and ask Mr. Carlyon to make the fourth? We should have a much better
"But we decided to ask Mr. Charrington to dinner, Betty,"
remonstrated her sister. Then Cedric looked disgusted, and muttered
something under his breath about old Dr. Dryasdust spoiling the fun,
but Elizabeth put him down with a strong hand.
"People's notions of fun differ," she said severely. "I am quite
sure that the vicar and Mr. Herrick will have many interests in
common. As for Mr. Carlyon," with a sudden change of tone, "he and
Mr. Charrington are such good friends that they dine together two or
three times a week, so there is no objection on that score. Well,
Cedric," with an amused look at his bored expression, "do you feel
equal to the exertion of bicycling over to Rotherwood, or shall
"I suppose I can do the job," returned Cedric in a grumbling tone.
"You may as well give me the vicarage note too, Die." But Dinah,
distressed by her darling's ill-humour, followed him out into the
hall to explain matters more fully.
"You must not be cross about it, dear," she said, with tender
anxiety in her tone. "You see we are bound to entertain a visitor
like Mr. Herrick; he is not just an insignificant person." Cedric's
brow cleared. "He is a clever man, and it will be a compliment to
ask a distinguished scholar like Mr. Charrington to meet him. If the
Logans had been here we should have invited them."
Cedric felt a little ashamed of himself. "I daresay you are right,"
he said grudgingly, "but it will be so precious slow. Well, I'm off.
Look after Herrick while I am gone," with a fine assumption of manly
dignity. But he need not have troubled himself; Malcolm was not
disposed to miss him in the least.
As for Elizabeth, her flow of benevolence was not dry yet. "I heard
you tell Dinah last night that you wanted to look over the Crow's
Nest," she observed to Malcolm as they rose from the breakfast
table, "if you have no letters to write we might stroll down there
"Oh, my letters will keep," he returned, with such evident pleasure
at the proposition that Elizabeth went off in search of her hat; not
the hat with the battered brim, mark you, but a charming hat with
cream-coloured lace and delicious yellow poppies, that seemed to
match the dewy freshness of the morning, and which would not
disgrace the gentleman from London; and although she wore no gloves-
-Elizabeth always drew the line at gloves--her Indian silk sunshade
was worthy of Bond Street. As the Crow's Nest was within sight of
the gates of the Wood House, they very soon accomplished the
It was a homely little place enough, and the Kestons had described
it pretty accurately. It was a mere cottage, and not a picturesque
one either, for the architecture left much to be desired; but the
row of trees that divided it from the road, amongst which shone the
red berries of the rowans, and the trim, shady lawn, gave it a
secluded and pleasant aspect.
The sitting-room was small but cosy, and there was a fair-sized
dining-room; but Malcolm at once took a fancy to a small upper room
with a window overlooking the road; it had evidently been used as a
dressing-room, for there was a gentleman's wardrobe in it, and a
writing-table and easy-chair.
"I must coax Verity into giving me this room," he said half to
himself; but Elizabeth heard him.
"Verity! is that Mrs. Keston?" she asked. "What a very original
name! I do not believe I ever heard it before."
"I daresay not, but it just suits her. Yea--Verily, as her husband
calls her." Then Elizabeth looked extremely amused.
"What a droll idea! Your friends seem rather out of the common, Mr.
Herrick. I am quite impatient to make their acquaintance. We have a
large circle of friends--an inner and an outer circle--but I am
always glad to add to the number."
"I think you will like Verity," he returned seriously; "she is such
a genuine little soul, and so fresh and original. Oh, I am quite
sure you will take to her." Malcolm spoke in such a decided manner,
as though it were a foregone conclusion that Verity would be
admitted to the privileged inner circle, that Elizabeth's curiosity
was strongly excited.
"You seem rather certain of the fact," she said perversely; "but, as
my sister would tell you, I am not so easily pleased after all."
"Nevertheless you will like Verity," he returned quickly. "Like
attracts like--a transparent, truthful nature, which is absolutely
without guile, will not fail to appeal to you; I already know you
well enough to predict that with certainty."
Elizabeth turned this speech off with a laugh, but her colour rose
at the implied compliment; if like attracts like, as Mr. Herrick
said, he must think her original and guileless too. Something in
Malcolm's tone--in the expression of his dark eyes--confirmed this
impression, and in spite of her stateliness and thirty years the
second Miss Templeton felt a little shy.
"We have not seen the garden-room yet," she said hastily, and then
she led the way downstairs.
The garden lay on the side of the house, and was well kept and full
of flowers; but the temporary building erected by Mr. Logan rather
spoiled the view from the back of the house, though a gay flower-
border surrounded it.
Elizabeth, who had procured the key from the servant, now opened the
It was rather a bare-looking place, as Verity had said; more of a
workshop than a studio, though it was used for both purposes, and,
as both of them knew, good work had been done there; but Mr. Logan,
who had a fine studio in town, was content with rather a primitive
state of things in his country cottage.
It was sufficiently large, though part of it was partitioned off as
a bedroom; the partition, for the sake of airiness, was only eight
or nine feet high, and the furniture was of the plainest
description; a white Indian matting covered the floor, and there
were pink Madras curtains at the window. As Elizabeth pointed out,
it could not have been closed for months, for actually beautiful
clusters of roses had not only festooned the casement, but had found
their way into the room, and hung their sweet heads over the sill,
as though they were trying to reach the floor.
Malcolm declared himself quite enchanted; he had never seen any
place he liked better. There was room for his big bath--his tub he
called it mentally--and a comfortable chair or two, and when he had
concluded these little arrangements to his own satisfaction, he
joined Elizabeth, who was making friends with a great sandy cat, who
rejoiced in the doubtful name of Old Tom.
"I am glad you are so pleased," she said in quite an interested
tone, as they walked down the road again. "I hardly expected that
you would be so easily satisfied. Cedric calls the Crow's Nest a
wretched little hole."
"Oh, he is so young, Miss Templeton--he is at the age when one has
great expectations; we learn to moderate and alter our ideas as we
grow older. Don't you remember Carmen Sylva's charming description
of youth and age? I like it so much."
Elizabeth shook her head. "I am afraid I do not read enough," she
said rather sadly. But he looked at her very kindly.
"She is one of the wisest and wittiest of women," he returned; "and
she is your namesake too."
"Oh yes, I know that."
"When I go back to town may I send you her little book--"Thoughts of
a Queen" it is called?"
Elizabeth, after a moment's hesitation, thanked him and said she
would be glad to see it.
"It is well worth your perusal," he went on, too much engrossed by
his subject to notice her hesitating manner. "But I have not given
you her definition of youth."
"'In youth,' she remarks, 'one is a mediaeval castle, with hidden
nooks, secret chambers, mysterious galleries, trenches, and
ramparts; one becomes afterwards a modern mansion, rich, morocco-
leathered, elegant, stylish, and only open to the select; and
ultimately a great hall open to the whole world, a market, a museum,
or a cathedral.'"
"I think I know what she means," returned Elizabeth thoughtfully.
"Youth is so fond of mysteries, and all its castles have endless
winding galleries, that lead to all sorts of curious nooks and
corners. When we grow older our horizon widens--we care more for
utility and less for subterranean passages. What could be better
than a market, where one sells one's best and most durable goods pro
Malcolm was delighted with this answer. Miss Elizabeth Templeton
might not be a profound student of books, but she was certainly an
intelligent and sympathetic woman. They had turned into the
woodlands by this time, and Elizabeth, who was determined to
entertain their guest to the best of her ability, proposed that they
should stroll down to the Pool.
"If you will go on, I will just fetch my work," she observed, "and
tell Dinah where we are going, and then Cedric will join us. He
ought to have been back by now." Then Malcolm, in high good-humour,
sauntered over the rustic bridge and amused himself by looking down
on Elizabeth's wild garden.
"Oh, Betty, what a pity to wear your pretty new hat!" exclaimed
Dinah, looking up from her accounts. She was rather a martinet on
the subject of dress, and had funny little old-fashioned notions of
her own; but Elizabeth, who was ten years younger, was more up-to-
"It was part of the programme," she returned solemnly; "and the
sunshade too. I was determined to make myself as nice as possible.
Remember, I trimmed it myself, Die, and as I had the materials it
only cost me five shillings." Here she took it off and looked at it
admiringly, for Elizabeth was rather fond of dress in her way. "My
sailor hat will do for the Pool. I wish you could come with us,
dear." Then, as Dinah shook her head, "Yes, I see, you are busy, so
I will not bother you. Please tell Cedric where we have gone."
Malcolm was still on the little bridge when Elizabeth rejoined him.
He looked regretfully at the sailor hat.
"It does not suit her a bit," he thought. "I wonder a sensible woman
like Miss Templeton does not know what becomes her. Anna would never
have made such a mistake." But Elizabeth, unconscious of this
criticism of her offending head-gear, walked on serenely.
Some of the dogs had followed them, and while Elizabeth worked at a
piece of beautiful embroidery, Malcolm amused himself with throwing
sticks into the pond for their delectation; and as soon as he was
weary of the sport, he stretched himself comfortably on the ground
beside her and began to talk. How it came about neither of them
knew, but all at once Malcolm fell to speaking of his father, and of
his lonely boyhood, and by-and-bye, Elizabeth grew so interested
that she laid down her work, and propping her chin on her hand, gave
him her undivided attention.
Malcolm was very unreserved about his mother. "She is perfectly
unique," he said; "a grand worker, with brains and energy that, if
she had been a man, would have qualified her for a legislator. She
has a gift for organisation. Oh, you would admire her immensely. You
are a worker yourself, Miss Templeton, and that would be a bond of
"Would it?" she returned quietly. "I am not quite so sure of that. I
think your mother would rather look down on my small efforts. Please
do not call me a worker, Mr. Herrick. I potter about the village two
days in the week, and teach the children needlework, and tell them
stories, and read to a bedridden old woman or two, but I am afraid
on the whole I waste my time dreadfully," and here she looked at him
with one of her beaming smiles. "I do so enjoy my life, especially
in summer--the world is so beautiful, and one has the birds and
flowers, and it is just lovely to wake to another new day."
"I wish Anna could hear you," he returned; and as she looked a
little puzzled at this, he explained that his mother had an adopted
daughter--a dear, lovable girl, whom he regarded as a sister. And
when he said this. Elizabeth's bright eyes glanced at him a little
"She is your adopted sister," she said dubiously; "is that not
rather a difficult relationship, Mr. Herrick?"
"Not at all," he returned quickly, for somehow this, remark did not
quite please him. "Anna was so young when she came to us, I think
sometimes that she quite forgets that she is not really my mother's
"She must be a great comfort to Mrs. Herrick," observed Elizabeth,
"especially as you are not always with her." There was nothing in
this speech to offend Malcolm's amour propre, nevertheless a dull
flush mounted to his brow.
"Of course I should not have left my mother alone," he said so
stiffly that Elizabeth opened her eyes rather widely; but her keen
woman's wits soon grasped the situation.
"My dear Mr. Herrick, you must not misunderstand me," she said quite
gently. "I am quite sure that you are backward in no filial duty. To
tell you the truth," colouring a little, "I hardly liked to show you
how thoroughly I comprehended things--your home has never been a
real home to you, and though you love each other dearly, you and
your mother are really happier apart. How can two walk together
unless they are agreed?"
"Thank you for saying this," he returned gratefully; "I am sure you
mean what you say."
"Most certainly I do."
"I know it--I am sure of it; you are not one of those people who are
afraid to speak the truth. Forgive me if I seemed put out for a
moment, but something in your manner made me think that you
disapproved of the step I had taken."
"Mr. Herrick, I disapprove--a mere acquaintance who has not even
seen your mother!"
"Ah, it is you who misunderstand now," in a reproachful voice. "Even
a mere acquaintance," dwelling on the word rather pointedly, "can
judge pretty correctly of a man's circumstances. I thought you were
saying to yourself, 'Mr. Herrick must be a selfish sort of man; he
is the only son of a widowed mother, and he has left her roof
because her charitable works bore him to extinction.'"
"No--oh, no!" in a shocked voice. "How can you say such dreadful
things? I shall begin to be afraid of you; and I have never been
afraid of man, woman, or child in my life. Shall I tell you of what
I was really thinking when you turned on me in that crushing manner?
I was thinking of that poor dear girl, and how dull and moped she
must be. Mr. Herrick," rather shyly--Elizabeth never looked more
charming or more irresistible than when she put on this soft,
appealing manner--"do you suppose Miss Sheldon would care to stay
with us while you are at the Crow's Nest. We should so like to have
her. You see," her voice softening still more, "you have done so
much for us that we want to make some return, and it would be such a
"You are very kind," he returned, and indeed he was so surprised and
touched by this unexpected speech that he hardly knew how to express
his sense of her thoughtfulness. "It is good of you to think of it,
and nothing would have given Anna greater pleasure, but--"
"You mean she has some other engagement this summer?"
"Yes; it is a great pity. My mother has taken rooms at Whitby for
the middle of next month, and she never goes anywhere without Anna."
"Then it cannot be helped; another time perhaps we shall be more
fortunate." And then, as though she were desirous of changing the
subject, Elizabeth began talking of her own and Dinah's movements,
how they never went away in the spring and summer except for a week
or so in town for shopping and picture-galleries, but filled the
Wood House with relays of guests.
"For the last three years we have gone abroad in the middle of
October, and returned for Christmas and the New Year," she finished,
"but we have made up our minds to remain in England this year. Why,
here comes the truant, and it is actually nearly luncheon time."
Cedric, flushed and panting, flung himself down beside her.
"YOU DO SAY SUCH ODD THINGS"
Womanhood should be the consecration of earth.
--U. A. Taylor
In the region of domestic affections a new and
ennobling motive came from Bethlehem--"that I may
Elizabeth put on an air of great severity as she regarded the
"Rotherwood is about a mile and a quarter from our gate," she
observed, apostrophising some midges that were dancing in a sunbeam
overhead. "You could walk there easily in twenty minutes. It is now
one o'clock, and you have been away exactly three hours and a half,"
and here she consulted the miniature watch that she wore as an
ornament as well as for utility. "If it be not impertinent, may we
inquire why you have absented yourself the whole morning?"
"Oh, shut up, Bet," returned her brother impatiently. "Sarcasm is
not your style at all. It is like killing a grasshopper with a pair
of iron-heeled clogs. It is precious heavy, I can tell you."
"You rude, unmannerly boy," and here Elizabeth attempted to pull his
hair, but she might as well have tried her prentice hand on a young
convict freshly shorn by the prison barber.
"Hands off, Betty, I tell you," returned the graceless lad. "I have
had rather a good time of it. I knew Herrick was getting pretty sick
of me." Here Cedric rolled over on his back, and tilted his straw
hat over his eyes. "Familiarity breeds contempt and all that sort of
thing. Conversation is like a salad, isn't it, Herrick?--you may
have plenty of green stuff and oil, but it wants pepper and a dash
of vinegar too."
"Why don't you box his ears, Miss Templeton? He is getting
"I prefer pepper to oil," she returned calmly. "Well, Cedric,
perhaps you will kindly inform me if your mission has been
"Oh, it is all right. David will be here to tea, but he says it will
not be cool enough to play until nearly five. Now, don't go tugging
at my coat-collar, or I won't say another word." Elizabeth, with a
resigned expression, folded up her work. "I left the vicarage note,"
continued Cedric, mollified by this submission. "Mr. Charrington was
engaged, but Mrs. Finch brought me his message--his kind regards to
Miss Templeton, and he would have much pleasure in dining at the
Wood House to-night."
"Did you tell Dinah?"
"Do I not always do my duty?" rather sententiously, "Well, before I
could get to the White Cottage I met old David. He was going to the
church to practise on the organ, and he was a bit bothered because
he could not get any one to blow, so, being a good-natured chap, I
"Good boy," observed Elizabeth softly.
"Well, there we were for pretty nearly an hour and a half--David
perched up like a glorified cherubim, and rolling out music by the
yard; and there was I grinding away like a saintly nigger in a
beastly hole till I could stand it no longer, and told him I must
chuck it. He declared he had quite forgotten me."
"I expect he had. Mr. Carlyon plays the organ so beautifully"--
Elizabeth was addressing Malcolm now. "My sister and I often go into
the church to listen to him."
"It must be a great resource," he returned regretfully, "and I am
inclined to envy Carlyon. I am passionately fond of music myself,
but the power of expression has been denied me."
"I would back David against most organists," went on Cedric. "Well,
as I was pretty much used up by my exertions, he proposed we should
go into the vicarage garden and help ourselves to fruit. The
greengages were ripe and so were the mulberries, and you bet I did
not need pressing."
"Mrs. Finch saw us from the porch room, and sent us out some cider
and home-make cake, so we had a rattling good feed. David said he
was in a loafing mood, and would not hear of my hurrying away."
"Mr. Carlyon does not seem overworked," remarked Malcolm; but he
regretted his speech when he saw Elizabeth's heightened colour.
"Thursday is a slack day with him," she said rather gravely. "I
assure you he works harder than most clergymen, and is very
conscientious and painstaking. He is not at all strong, but he never
"My hasty speech meant nothing," returned Malcolm smiling. "Mr.
Carlyon is certainly no loafer--he looks the incarnation of energy."
"How doth the little busy D--
Improve each shining hour,"
chanted Cedric. But Elizabeth would stand no more nonsense. She
called to the dogs, and warned their guest that the gong would sound
in five minutes, and then marched off with her sailor hat slung on
her arm, which she filled on her way to the house with Canterbury
bells and blue larkspur.
The game of tennis was a great success. Dinah sat in the shade and
There was some little difficulty in choosing partners, so Cedric
said they must toss up for it, and Elizabeth fell to Mr. Carlyon.
If Malcolm felt secretly disappointed, no one guessed it. To his
surprise he and Cedric were ruthlessly beaten.
Mr. Carlyon played a masterly game, and Elizabeth ably seconded him.
Malcolm, who had always held his own on the tennis green, and was an
excellent golf player, was much chagrined at his defeat. They had
lost three successive games, when Cedric flung up his racket and
declared he could play no more.
"They have given us a regular beating, mate," he said cheerfully.
"You were in capital form, Herrick, and I did not do so badly
myself, though I say it as shouldn't; but David has taken the shine
out of us. I say, old fellow, you ought to be champion player."
"I think Miss Templeton played a good game," returned David
modestly, and then he and Cedric went off to hunt for missing balls,
and Elizabeth sauntered to the house. Half an hour later she was
just putting the finishing touches to her dress when Dinah tapped at
the door, and, as Elizabeth gave her a welcoming smile, sat down by
the toilet table. It was one of Dinah's homely, pleasant little
ways, but these few minutes of sisterly chat would have been sorely
missed by both of them.
"How nice you look, dear!" in an admiring voice. Then Elizabeth
glanced at herself with her head a little on one side.
"Do I?" she said simply. "I was afraid I should never regain my
normal colour. Are you sure I don't look rather blowsy, and like a
milkmaid?" But Dinah indignantly repudiated this; it was Dinah's
private belief that Elizabeth was a very beautiful woman. "She has
such lovely eyes, and then her face has so much expression," she
would say; but Dinah had the good sense to keep this opinion to
Elizabeth, who was not at all vain, and was quite conscious of her
own defects, continued to gaze at her own reflection rather
"I suppose on the whole I am passable, Die," she said rather
philosophically. "When people like me they seem to like my looks;
and really when you think of all the plain and downright ugly people
in the world, there is surely room for thankfulness." "Have you just
found that out, Betty?"
"My dear Die, I am rather in a humble frame of mind just now. Don't
you recollect my telling you Mrs. Robinson's speech last Monday. I
have never thought quite so much of myself since."
"If I remember rightly, Mrs. Robinson paid you a compliment. She
told Miss Clarkson that she wished Selina were as fine a woman as
"And you call that compliment!" and Elizabeth arched her long full
throat in rather a haughty and swanlike manner. "Fancy that goose of
a Miss Clarkson repeating such a speech. A fine woman is my
abhorrence. It always seems to me to rank in the same category with
a prime turkey or a prize bullock, or something ready for the
"My dear Betty, you do say such odd things!"
"Of course I do. Elizabeth is nothing if she is not original. Don't
you remember dear old dad's speech? But I am really serious, Die--
you know I never coveted beauty."
"No, nor I, dear," and Dinah spoke quite earnestly.
"Oh, you," returned Elizabeth with playful tenderness. "I should
hope not. I expect many women would be glad to change with you, you
sweet thing." Then Dinah smiled and patted her sister's hand.
"No, Betty, you must not say that. I have often thought that even
our poor faces, with all their defects, ought to be sacred to us. If
we are a thought of God, as some one has beautifully put it, surely
the stamp of His handiwork must be precious to us."
"But how about the marred and ugly faces, Die?" and Elizabeth looked
at her dubiously.
"It is their cross," returned Dinah simply--"a heavy cross perhaps,
but when I see a very plain, unattractive woman I do so long to
whisper in her ear--"
"Don't trouble about it, poor thing. What does it matter? You will
be beautiful one day, and even now, if you are good and patient, the
angels will think you lovely.' Dear me, Betty," interrupting
herself, "why are you creasing my pretty silk dress."
"Lord love you, miss, I am only a-feeling for your wings," returned
Elizabeth in a droll voice, and then they both laughed, for this was
a standing joke between them ever since Dinah had repeated poor old
Becky Brent's speech, when the wrinkled hand of the blind and doited
old creature had fumbled about her shapely shoulders.
Dinah had been right in thinking that the vicar and Mr. Herrick
would have much in common, and the conversation at the dinner-table
that evening was unusually animated.
She and Elizabeth were attentive listeners, and on comparing notes
afterwards both of them owned that they had been struck with Mr.
Herrick's intelligence and broad-minded views.
The slight egotism that Elizabeth had detected seemed to drop from
him like a veil, and he showed his true nature; he was evidently a
patient and reverent searcher after knowledge, and his marked
deference to the elder scholar became him greatly. Dinah quite
glowed with innocent pleasure as she listened to them. "It is so
seldom the dear vicar gets any one to talk on his favourite
subjects, but one could see that Mr. Herrick is after his own
heart," she remarked, as they sat on the terrace drinking their
coffee and waiting for the gentlemen to join them.
"He is certainly very clever," observed Elizabeth thoughtfully.
"David was unusually quiet," went on Dinah; but her sister
apparently did not hear this, for she went on talking about the
advantage of a more varied reading.
"I am such an ignoramus," she continued, "when those men were
talking about the MSS. in that old unknown monastery, I felt like a
little goggle-eyed charity-school girl. When I get Mr. Herrick alone
I mean to ask him about the Behistun Inscription;" and then Mr.
Carlyon strolled towards them, followed by Cedric, and Elizabeth,
who had finished her coffee, advanced towards them.
"They are still at it tooth and nail," observed David in an amused
tone. "I should have stopped to listen to them, only this fellow was
so sick of the discussion. What a well-informed chap Herrick is!"
"So Dinah and I were saying," remarked Elizabeth, as they paced
slowly down the terrace. "Why were you so silent?" she continued;
"you know a good deal about these subjects too."
"Who? I! My dear Miss Elizabeth, you are quite mistaken. Ask the
vicar, and he will tell you that I am really a duffer in these
matters. It is a wise child who knows his own father, and I am wise
enough to know my own ignorance. Don't you know," with a smile, "it
is easier to hold one's tongue and listen in an intelligent manner
than flounder about out of one's depth among the billows of
cuneiform inscriptions and the insurmountable precipice of the
"Why do you undervalue yourself so?" returned Elizabeth gently;
"don't you know people take us at our own value? I have got it into
my head that you and Mr. Herrick do not quite take to each other--
woman's eyes are rather sharp, you know." But Mr. Carlyon turned
this off with a laugh.
"Oh, we hit it off all right," he replied; "please don't go and take
fancies in your head. He has his innings now, but we got the best of
him this afternoon." Elizabeth's merry answering laugh reached
Malcolm's ears, and made him lose the drift of the vicar's argument.
But he lost it still more, and became increasingly absent-minded,
when a few minutes later he heard her rich, full tones in his
favourite song, "Loving, yet leaving." Mr. Charrington noticed it at
last. "The siren is too much for you, Mr. Herrick," he said
pleasantly; "we will resume our discussion another time," and to
this Malcolm cheerfully assented.
Did Elizabeth perceive the dark figure that glided in at the open
window and settled itself so comfortably in the easy-chair? If she
were conscious of the silent auditor, she made no sign.
Never had her voice been sweeter and truer; never had she sung with
such birdlike clearness, with such abandon and pleasure. Now and
then a whispered word from David made her exchange one song for
another, or a low-toned "bravo" from the same source greeted some
Elizabeth was in the mood for singing. She was a creature of moods
and tenses, and would probably have gone on carolling blissfully for
another hour if the vicar had not interrupted them.
"It is getting late, Carlyon, and we may as well walk back
together," he remarked in his leisurely manner, for being an old
bachelor he was rather precise in his ways. David jumped up at once.
"I will go with you, sir, of course," he replied quickly. Then in a
lower voice, "It is a lovely evening--will you do your lady's mile?"
He spoke so low that Malcolm could only guess at what he said; but
Elizabeth's answer was quite clear and audible.
"No, not to-night; I think I have exerted myself sufficiently. But I
daresay Mr. Herrick and Cedric will go."
And Malcolm, who felt himself dismissed and had no excuse to offer,
was soon plunged into an argument again that lasted all the way to
"Betty, did you notice that Mr. Herrick did not want to go?" asked
Dinah, who was always keenly alive to the likes and dislikes of her
neighbours. "It was naughty of you to put him in such a position.
How could he refuse to go when the vicar was waiting for him?"
"I thought a walk would do him good," returned Elizabeth demurely;
"he was almost asleep when Mr. Charrington spoke to us. A
comfortable chair, and moon-light, and a German lullaby are
"Nonsense, Betty," replied Dinah in her practical, downright way,
"he was as wide-awake as I was; but," with a little sigh of
sympathy, "he looked rather sad. Are you sure he is quite happy,
"I expect he is quite as happy as he deserves to be," returned
Elizabeth in rather a hard-hearted way; and then she went off,
singing to herself in a low tone a line or two from her last song:
"It may be in the Land above--
The Land beyond our ken;
Yet we shall meet again, my love,
Though none can answer when"
And as Dinah stood listening in the moonlight her face looked like
the face of a radiant infant.
"That is so true," she whispered, "and what does it matter--when!"
"BETTY IS A TRUMP!"
A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza: read it
forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing....
We pass for what we are: character teaches above our wills.
It had been Malcolm's intention to go back to town on the ensuing
Monday, but on Dinah's pressing invitation he promised to remain
"You know I am due at the Manor House on Thursday," he observed, as
they sat at breakfast the next morning, "and I must have a couple of
days in town first."
"It is a very short visit," she returned regretfully, "and you are
to dine at the vicarage to-morrow evening."
"I could not get out of it," he replied quickly, but he glanced at
Elizabeth as he spoke. "Mr. Charrington never gave me the option of
refusing. He seemed to look on it as a foregone conclusion that his
invitation would be accepted. He was so very kind and cordial. He
wants me to see his library, and to show me some rare books he has
"Oh yes, he is a collector of curious books and first editions. He
has a very valuable library. It is his hobby--is it not, Dinah? Old
books, old wine, and plenty of learned talk--you will be in luck's
way, Mr. Herrick," and Elizabeth flashed an amused look at him.
"I suppose Mr. Carlyon will be there," observed Dinah composedly, as
she replenished Malcolm's cup. Cedric had not yet made his
appearance, but they could hear him whistling in the distance. But
before Malcolm could answer in the negative, Elizabeth broke in
"You are wrong there, Die; Mr. Carlyon never goes out on Saturday
evenings. It is his day for writing his sermon, and I have never
known him break his rule. Mr. Charrington wishes to have Mr. Herrick
to himself. He," with another smile, "knows two are company and
three are none. Well, good people, I must not dawdle this morning,
as there is so much to do;" and as Elizabeth rose from the table she
gave her sister a meaning glance, and Dinah, who was like wax in
Elizabeth's hands, took the hint at once.
"We are so glad you have made up your mind to stay until Tuesday,"
she said cordially, "for we are asking some people to come over for
tennis on Monday after-noon. Elizabeth has gone off to write the
"Why on earth could she not have said so?" thought Malcolm, with
secret irritation. But Dinah went on cheerfully--
"It will be only an informal affair; there is no time to arrange a
regular garden-party. We will keep that until you take up your
quarters at the Crow's Nest. We generally have one big affair before
the summer is over, and then our friends come down from town, and we
have to commandeer all the carriages in the place to meet the train.
Elizabeth calls it 'The Templeton's Bean-feast.'"
"Yes, I see," and Malcolm forced a smile at the little joke.
"This will be a very different function," continued Dinah. "We are
only asking about five-and-twenty people. We shall have tea in the
hall--it is the coolest place in this weather--and there will be two
or three sets of tennis, and croquet for those who like it. It was
all Elizabeth's plan. You have no idea what a talent she has for
organisation--she almost takes my breath away some-times. She
planned everything last night and had the list ready for me when I
went to bid her good-night."
"That accounts for the light in the Red Gallery when Cedric and I
came in," remarked Malcolm.
"Yes, we were dreadfully late; but Elizabeth was so wide--awake that
I was quite ashamed of my own drowsiness. I think we shall get a
pleasant party together."
And as Cedric came in at that moment, Dinah retailed their little
plan for his benefit. Cedric was delighted, and voted Betty a brick.
Any form of sociability was welcome to him--an impromptu garden-
party in Malcolm's honour met with his decided approval.
"David must give us our revenge," he said, chuckling with glee at
the idea. But Malcolm did not respond to this.
He felt inwardly provoked at the whole affair, and regretted that he
had promised to remain another day. Could not Miss Elizabeth have
guessed--pshaw! what an ass he was, how was she to know?--that a
motley and miscellaneous collection of people was his distinct
aversion! A rustic Olla podrida, an Omnium-gatherum was not to his
taste. It was his last evening too, and he would have to make
himself pleasant to strangers.
He knew what these impromptu garden-parties meant. People drove over
from distant villages and expected to remain late. There would be no
dinner, no coffee on the terrace, no songs in the dimly-lighted
drawing-room. Ah, just so, was not Cedric endorsing his thought at
this very moment?
"Betty is a trump, Die! She has thought of just the right people. I
suppose we shall have a scratch meal when the rush has gone. But we
must ask the Brent girls to have a snack with us."
"Oh, of course, Elizabeth said so at once, and she mentioned the
Ross party too. Tina and Patty will expect to remain--they always
do, and they think the drive back by moonlight the best part of the
fun. Very well, Cedric dear, you will go over on your bicycle and
leave the notes?"
"Well, I don't mind taking trouble in a good cause," he returned in
a virtuous tone; and then Dinah, with an air of great satisfaction,
addressed herself to her guest.
"I wonder if you would care to drive Elizabeth over to Earlsfield
this afternoon; she has a good many commissions to execute. Brookes
has to wait for the vet, as one of our carriage horses is lame, and
I do not like her to go alone with James." But Malcolm carefully
disguised his pleasure at this unexpected request.
"Is this Miss Elizabeth's idea too?" His tone rather puzzled Dinah.
"Oh dear, no--at least, I think not. I rather fancy I suggested it
"And she made no objection?"
"My dear Mr. Herrick, of course not. She will be only too grateful
to you. James is a good lad, but we dare not trust him with Brown
Becky, and though Elizabeth drives very well, she wants to be free
for her business."
"Then in that case I shall be delighted to go," and there was no
fault to be found with Malcolm's tone now. His satisfaction was
hardly diminished by a hair's-breath when Cedric suggested that they
might go round by Rotherwood on their way home and give David a
verbal invitation. "He might be engaged if we waited until to-
morrow," he said seriously; "the busy D--is rather a popular person,
and the young ladies of Earlsfield and Staplegrove are always on the
look-out for him."
"You would not dare to say that if Elizabeth were in the room," but
Dinah spoke quite innocently and had no arriere pensee.
"I know that Betty monopolises him to any extent," retorted Cedric,
"and it is a shame when that poor little Tina--"
Then Dinah quite flushed up and said quickly, "Hush, how can you be
so silly, Cedric. Tina is a perfect baby. Who cares what a foolish
little flirting thing says about Elizabeth! You ought not to repeat
"There is always so much gossip in a village," observed Malcolm,
with a laudable intention of casting oil on the troubled waters, for
he saw that Dinah was really vexed at Cedric's careless speech; "and
an unmarried curate is always rather an attraction to some genus of
"Mr. Carlyon never encouraged them," returned Dinah quietly. "The
fact is, Mr. Herrick, Tina Ross is rather a mischievous little
person. She is very pretty and very much spoilt, and she cares far
too much for admiration. My sister used to be very fond of her--she
was quite a favourite at one time; but the other day she owned that
she was greatly disappointed in her, and that she was afraid Tina
was rather an empty headed little thing."
"Oh yes, we understand that, don't we, Betty?" retorted Cedric,
nodding at Elizabeth knowingly as she entered the room. "Tina is in
your black books now." But Elizabeth received this with perfect
"Oh, she is an amusing child," she returned carelessly, "but she
makes a very common mistake. She thinks a pretty face and a flippant
tongue and a childish manner are perfectly irresistible, but in her
study of mankind she is certainly an unlessoned girl."
"I think old David admires her," observed Cedric casually. He spoke
in such a matter-of-fact way that Elizabeth was quite taken in.
"To be sure he admires her," she said seriously. "How can he help
it? Even Mr. Herrick--who, I have been told, is really a severe
critic on female beauty--will admire her too when he sees her on
Monday. You shall have an introduction," with a mischievous look.
"We will not allow Mr. Carlyon to monopolise her." Here they both
stared at her. "Tina is an old friend of his. Now then, Cedric lad,
if you have finished your breakfast, I want you in the morning-
"One moment, please," and Malcolm barred her way. "I believe I am to
drive you over to Earlsfield this afternoon."
"Dinah has arranged it then," with rather an inscrutable little
smile. "Thank you, it will be very kind, and I know it will be a
relief to her mind." But she added hastily, "There is no use in our
going round by Rotherwood. We can post Mr. Carlyon's note. If there
is time we might go on the Downs--you will like that much better,"
and then Elizabeth gave him a friendly little nod.
Malcolm enjoyed his afternoon. Brown Becky was in excellent form,
and it gave him a great deal of pleasure to drive her; and then
Elizabeth was so sociable and so altogether charming. He had glanced
more than once at the paper she held in her hands. "Are you going to
order all these things?" he asked, and she had laughed in his face.
"Five-and-twenty to thirty people to entertain is rather a large
order. We have plenty of cider and fruit, and of course there will
be claret cup, but we have no time to make cakes--besides, there
must be a cold collation for at least a dozen."
"Oh yes, I understand," he returned good-humouredly; but he was
secretly surprised by the quickness with which her commissions were
executed. Evidently the ladies of the Wood House were people of
consideration to the tradesmen of Earlsfield, for obsequious shopmen
stood bowing and smiling on the threshold; and was it his fancy, or
was there an added stateliness in the second Miss Templeton's step
and carriage as she threaded the pretty little market-place,
exchanging greetings with every other person she met?
"Now I have finished," she observed presently, "and you and Brown
Becky have behaved like a couple of angels." Then she chanted
merrily, "Oh, who will o'er the downs with me?" and Malcolm turned
the mare's head in the direction she pointed out.
It had been very hot in the market-place, but when they had gained
the open down a honey-sweet wind blew refreshingly in their faces,
and not only the moorland but the roadside was clothed with the
purpling heather. Malcolm checked the mare involuntarily, and sat
silently feasting his eyes on the glorious colouring before him. "No
Tyrian garment could equal that," he said half to himself.
Elizabeth looked at him curiously.
"I thought you would like it," she returned, well pleased by his
rapt admiration of her favourite view.
"Like it! I only wish I had Keston here; but if I am a living man I
will bring him and Verity too. What a grand old world it is after
all, Miss Templeton, though we do our best to spoil it."
"Ah, you are right there," and Elizabeth's voice was a little sad.
"Don't you remember what Clough says?" continued Malcolm quietly:
'The work-day burden of dull life
About the footsore flags of a weary world.'
We all have our pedlar's pack to carry through Vanity Fair; but how
good for us to turn aside into some of Nature's holy places which
she keeps so fair and sweet and untainted, and to take a long
draught of the elixir of life!"
"Mr. Herrick, do you ever write poetry?" Malcolm shook his head.
"No," he said regretfully. "One day, if you care to hear it, I will
tell you the story of an impotent genius."
"An impotent genius?" It was evident that Elizabeth was puzzled, but
then she had only known Malcolm Herrick five days.
Malcolm nodded gravely. "The story of a man who was halt and maimed
and crippled from his birth--a tongue-tied poet and a paralysed
artist. The story is a sad one, Miss Templeton, but it will keep."
Elizabeth's eyes danced with amusement. She began to have an idea of
"I rather think you are a humourist, Mr. Herrick." And then Malcolm
laughed, and after that they fell into quite an interesting
conversation. Elizabeth turned the subject to her own ignorance, and
begged Malcolm to tell her what books she ought to read.
"Dinah puts me to shame," she observed frankly. "She reads all the
best books, and she often tries to persuade me to follow her
example. The fact is, I am rather a desultory sort of person, and I
have so many interesting occupations that I never know what to do
"One must always have a little method in one's daily life," returned
Malcolm indulgently. "How would you like me to make you out a list?
You might slip any books you did not want to read."
Then Elizabeth thanked him quite gratefully.
"I mean to turn over a new leaf on my thirty-first birthday," she
continued serenely. "Isn't it a great age, Mr. Herrick?"
But Malcolm only smiled in answer. He was thinking how strange it
seemed that she was actually his senior by two years; but he soon
grasped the idea that Elizabeth Templeton was one of those women who
grow old slowly, and who are sweetest in their ripened prime.
The evening at the vicarage passed very pleasantly, and when Malcolm
took his leave he was much surprised at the lateness of the hour,
and sorely disturbed when he found Dinah sitting up for him. But she
would not listen to his excuses.
"An hour later does not matter to me, and I was reading and quite
forgot the time. I am so glad you have enjoyed yourself," and Dinah
dismissed him with her gentle smile.
Malcolm was rather disappointed with the vicar's sermon the next
day. It was learned, and full of quotations from the Fathers, but he
could not but perceive that it was perfectly unsuited to a village
congregation. "Can these dry bones live?" he thought, as they came
out into the sunny churchyard.
Mr. Carlyon had read the service. His manner had been extremely
reverent and devout, but Malcolm found his delivery unpleasing. The
peculiarity in his speech was very noticeable in the reading-desk,
and there was no clearness of articulation.
"I am not versed in phonology," he said reluctantly, when Elizabeth
asked him a little anxiously about Mr. Carlyon's reading, "but I
know you would not have questioned me if you did not want to know my
real opinion. I think it is rather a pity that Mr. Carlyon has not
taken elocution lessons."
"You are quite right," she returned quietly. "I can assure you that
he is fully aware of his deficiencies."
"I am not sure that he has not some physical difficulties to
surmount," went on Malcolm; "but however that may be, a course of
elocution and some sound advice about the management of the voice
would have been of immense value. I have always thought that every
young man who intends to take holy orders should be compelled to
attend elocution classes as part of the training. You will not think
me too critical in saying all this?"
But Elizabeth, with evident sincerity, assured him that she
perfectly agreed with him.
They all spent the afternoon down at the Pool, and Malcolm read
aloud to the sisters, while Cedric and the dogs enjoyed a nap. When
he had finished the poem--it was Browning's Christmas and Easter Eve
he had been reading--Dinah thanked him with tears in her eyes. "I
never heard any one read so beautifully," she said. But Elizabeth
was silent; only as they were crossing the little bridge she turned
for a moment to Malcolm, who was following her closely.
"You have a right to be critical," she said meaningly; "I should
think you must have been top of the class," and a flush of
gratification came to his face.
They all went to church again in the evening, and this time Mr.
Charrington read the prayers and the lessons, in a mellow, cultured
voice that was very agreeable to Malcolm's ear. Mr. Carlyon
Malcolm settled himself in his corner and prepared himself for
twenty minutes' endurance, but to his surprise he soon found himself
roused and interested.
If the preacher's articulation was imperfect--if he took hurried
breaths and stumbled here and there over a sentence--Malcolm soon
ceased to notice it.
The treasure might be in an earthen vessel, but it was goodly
treasure for all that; the priest might be young and inexperienced,
but he had his Evangel, his message to deliver, and the earnestness
of his purpose was reflected in his face. "Rejoice, oh young man, in
thy youth," was the text; but before the short sermon was over, the
row of ploughboys near them had roused from their drowsiness and
stroked down their sleek heads with embarrassed fingers, as David
Carlyon's voice rang through the darkening church with the
concluding words, "but know thou, that for all these things God will
bring thee into judgment."
Involuntarily Malcolm glanced at Elizabeth as they rose, but she did
not see him; her large bright eyes were fixed on the preacher for a
moment, then her head bent meekly to receive the blessing, and to
Malcolm's disappointment she made no allusion to the sermon on their
"IT REALLY IS A GOOD IDEA, DIE"
It is most certain that woman's most womanly affections
are the likeness of affections which have their pure
and perfect fountain in the nature of God.
After supper that evening Malcolm found himself alone with Dinah.
Elizabeth and Cedric had gone down to the Pool to find a book she
had left there in the afternoon, and he had been on the point of
following them when he saw a wistful look in Miss Templeton's eyes,
and immediately sat down again.
"You want to speak to me," he said pleasantly. He was quite aware
that Elizabeth had carried off her brother with intent and purpose,
and smiled to himself over her little ruse.
"She is very clever. I wonder if the missing book is a figment of
her imagination," he thought; but in this he wronged her, for that
little red-edged copy of Keble's Christian Year was very dear to
"Yes, I want to speak to you," returned Dinah, and her tone was
rather anxious and flurried. "The time is growing so short now, and
to-morrow there will not be a moment, and so Elizabeth said--" and
here again a flickering smile played over Malcolm's face.
"And she has carried Cedric off because you wanted to speak to me
about him." Dinah was so hesitating in her manner that he thought it
best to finish her sentence for her. "I hope nothing is troubling
you on his account. In my opinion he is very much improved."
"Oh, I am so glad you think so," and all Dinah's mother-soul shone
out of her mild eyes. "Elizabeth was only saying last night how
strong and manly he has grown. But, Mr. Herrick, I am rather anxious
about one thing. You know Cedric is to row in the Oxford and
"I am certainly aware of the fact," replied Malcolm drily. The
Jacobis and the University race had been the two standing dishes
with which Cedric had regaled him. "I have heard of little else, I
can assure you. Well, he is a lucky fellow; it is not every one who
gets the desire of his heart."
"Then you approve of it?" questioned Dinah; but her tone was so
dubious that he looked at her with unfeigned astonishment.
"My dear Miss Templeton, how could I do otherwise? It will be
valuable training for Cedric; the discipline and self-denial that it
entails will be the making of him. Of course his head is rather
turned at present, and he is crowing like a bantam cock who wants to
challenge the world, but he will soon be all right."
"You and Elizabeth think alike, then," replied Dinah; "she only
laughs at me and calls me old-fashioned. I suppose I am not up-to-
date," with a touching little smile; "it seems to me such waste of
time and energy. And then there is the Civil Service Examination."
"Oh, we need not trouble our heads about that for another eighteen
"You think not?" still more anxiously. "Both Mr. Charrington and Mr.
Carlyon tell me that it is a terribly hard examination."
"Well, it is pretty stiff, of course, and Cedric will have to work
hard. You must give him his head for the present, Miss Templeton,"
he continued. "When he has taken his beating like an Englishman--for
perhaps you are not aware there is a very poor chance for Oxford
next year; their best men have left, and they have to lick a lot of
raw recruits into shape. Well, what was I saying?--when Cedric has
taken his beating and cooled down a bit, he will settle to work like
Dinah looked a little comforted. "Then you think he will pass?"
Malcolm almost laughed outright at her simplicity.
"Miss Templeton, am I to prophecy smooth things to you, or am I to
answer in the spirit of Micaiah the son of Imlah?"
"Oh, please tell me exactly what you think."
"Well, then," with obvious reluctance, "in my opinion Cedric stands
a very poor chance." Here Dinah's face fell. "He has plenty of
abilities, but I doubt his staying power; he works too much by fits
and starts--there is no method or application. But of course he may
turn over a new leaf. It is just possible that he may pass by some
lucky fluke. It is not always the best workers who get through. You
will give him a coach, of course. Oh, I see," reading Dinah's
expression correctly, "he may have a dozen coaches if he needs them;
but if you care to consult me when the time comes, I think I know
the right man for cramming."
"Oh, thank you--thank you!" in a fervent tone of gratitude; "how
good you are to listen to me so patiently!"
"My dear lady--" in a friendly tone of remonstrance. "But there is
something else you want to say."
"Only this: if Cedric does not pass, what are we to do with him? You
know he has utterly refused to enter the Church or to study for the
law. He has no taste for engineering or architecture, and we should
not care for him to be a business man."
"Need we consider the point at present?" returned Malcolm gently.
"There is a limited number of professions, certainly. What do you
say to a mastership in a public school? I fancy the life would suit
Cedric; his love of boating would score there." Then Dinah
"We never thought of that; even Elizabeth, who is so full of ideas,
only suggested his going to an agricultural college to learn
"Oh, that would never suit him," replied Malcolm in an off-hand
manner. "He likes to have his bread ready buttered for him;
cornfields and flour-mills are not in his line at all. Ah, here
comes the search-party," and Malcolm looked a little curiously at
the book in Elizabeth's hand.
"Oh, we have had such a hunt for it." Elizabeth looked quite hot and
tired. "Cedric found it at last wedged between two boulders. I
wonder he did not fall into the Pool while he was trying to get it
"Oh, Cedric, you ought to be more careful."
"Why on earth did you say that, Betty?" rather crossly. "Don't you
see Die is wearing her grannie face?"
"But the Pool is so deep," in a terrified tone.
"Of course it is deep. Well, what of that; can't I swim like a fish?
Oh, these women, Herrick!" and Cedric shrugged his shoulders. "I
wonder how often I have taken a header into the Pool before
"You would have been sorry to lose the book," remarked Malcolm
sympathetically, as they went into the house.
"Yes," returned Elizabeth hurriedly, "it was given to me by a
friend." And then she bade him good-night.
Dinah followed her into her room. "I am so glad you found it, Betty
dear," she said kindly. "It was the copy David gave you at
Christmas, was it not?" Elizabeth nodded.
"I do so love it," she said frankly; "and the limp leather binding
and red edges are just to my taste. I always care so much more for
books that are given me than for those I buy myself." Elizabeth
spoke with such complete unconsciousness that Dinah thought she had
made a mistake in imagining that she specially prized the book.
"Oh, I want to tell you, dear, how very kind Mr. Herrick has been."
And then with many little feminine interpolations Dinah related the
substance of their conversation. She was almost childishly pleased
when Elizabeth graciously approved of Malcolm's suggestion.
"It really is a good idea, Die."
"And to think it never entered our heads! Don't you wonder Mr.
Carlyon never thought of it?"
"Well, you see he has never taken Cedric's future into serious
consideration. But what fun it would be! We would furnish his rooms
so beautifully, and we could stay with him sometimes. And when he
married we could build him a house that would be the envy of all the
masters. Fancy Cedric marrying and our having a dear little sister-
in-law of our own."
"Oh, how I shall love her!" murmured Dinah with a happy little coo
of satisfaction. This was not the first time they had talked on the
subject. That her darling would marry, and that she would dearly
love his wife, was a foregone conclusion to Dinah.
The little fair-haired girl of her dreams was not Tina Ross, nor
even pretty Nora Brent--no one that Dinah knew was quite good enough
for her boy.
"You ridiculous grannie," Elizabeth once said to her, for she and
Cedric often called her grannie, probably from her careful, loving,
old-womanish ways, "do you suppose such a rara avis exists in
Earlsfield or Rotherwood? Let me see," ticking off each
qualification on her fingers, "young Mrs. Cedric Templeton must be
pretty--oh, very pretty; fair, because Cedric has a fancy for fair
women with blue eyes; not tall--oh, decidedly not tall; petite,
graceful, and je ne sais quoi--"
"Betty has not finished, and does not like to be interrupted. This
Blanche--shall we call her Blanche? it is short and handy--Blanche
is also full of gentle animation; she is docile, yielding, and has
nice caressing ways that grannie loves. Indeed, she is such a
guileless, simple little creature that it is difficult to believe
that she is grown up--just eighteen, I think you said, Dinah, or
was, it nineteen, dear?" But Dinah refused to hear any more.
Elizabeth might laugh at her and call her grannie, but in her secret
thoughts Dinah cherished a fond idea of a little fair-haired girl
whom she would mother for Cedric's sake.
And now first Malcolm and then Elizabeth had given her this charming
"I am afraid you will be shocked," she said presently, "but I do not
think I shall be so dreadfully disappointed if Cedric does fail in
his Civil Service Examination. He might have to go to India, you
see, and it would be so much nicer to keep him in England."
"The heart of man, and woman too, is deceitful and desperately
wicked," and Elizabeth heaved a deep sigh. "To think that you can be
so selfish, Die, as to build up your happiness on the poor lad's
ruined hopes," and then she burst out laughing and took her sister
by the shoulders. "Grannie," she said solemnly, "you just idolise
that boy. If it would do him any good you would lie down and let him
trample on you. Have I not often warned you that if you go on like
this you will turn him out a full-fledged tyrant? Human nature--
masculine human nature I mean," correcting herself--"will not stand
it. An enfant gate is always odious to sensible people. Now, if you
were to try and spoil me," expanding herself until she looked twice
her size, "I should only bloom out into fresh beauty--approbation,
commendation, blindfold admiration would be meat and drink to me. I
have the digestion of a young ostrich," continued Elizabeth blandly-
-"nothing would be too difficult for me to swallow. As for satiety,
my dear creature, you need never expect to hear me call out, 'Eheu,
"Dear Betty, how you do talk," Dinah's usual formula; "and how I do
love to hear you," she inwardly added. "But it is very late, and we
shall have a tiring day to-morrow."
Dinah spoke in her cheery way, but when she was in her own room her
sweet face grew pensive and a little sad. Was there not an element
of truth under Elizabeth's jokes? Did she not make an idol of her
young brother? Was she altogether reasonable on the subject?
"If I am weak, I trust such weakness will be forgiven me," she
whispered as she stood in the perfumed darkness, with a wandering
summer wind playing refreshingly round her, and tears from some
hidden fount of sadness stole down her cheeks. "If he were my own
child he could not be dearer to me. I remember my stepmother once
told me so. 'My boy has two mothers, Dinah,' these were her very
words. Well, he is my Son of Consolation," and Dinah heaved a gentle
sigh, as though the motherhood within her, the divine maternal
instinct inherent in all true women, felt itself satisfied.
At breakfast the next morning Malcolm proffered his services; but
Elizabeth assured him that Cedric and Johnson would do all that was
required, so he spent his morning indolently down by the Pool--
reading and indulging in his favourite daydreams--until Cedric
Cedric looked heated and tired.
"I never saw such a person as Betty for getting work out of a
fellow," he grumbled. "She would do splendidly on a rice plantation-
-wouldn't the niggers fly just! Why, she set me rolling the tennis
lawn, because she wanted Johnson; and then I had to bicycle over to
Rotherwood for something that had been forgotten. I took it out in
cool drinks though, I can tell you. My word, Bet does know how to
make prime claret cup"--and Cedric smacked his lips with the air of
a veteran gourmand; and then he sparred at Malcolm, and called him
an absent-minded beggar, and asked if he had finished his ode to the
naiad of the Pool, and made sundry other aggravating remarks, which
proved that he was in excellent spirits and only wanted to find a
Just before the first carriage drove up, Malcolm, who was standing
by Elizabeth on the terrace, suggested that she and Mr. Carlyon
should give him and Cedric their revenge; but she told him quite
seriously that they must not think of it for the present.
"The sets are all arranged, and Dinah and I must devote ourselves to
our guests," she remarked; and as this was only reasonable, Malcolm
said no more.
"I am going to introduce you to Tina Ross," she continued. "There
she and her sister Patty are just coming up the drive now. She is a
very good player, and your opponents will be Nora Brent and Mr.
"We are under orders, Herrick," observed David with mock humility;
and then the introduction was made and the little white and blue
fairy walked off demurely enough with Malcolm.
Tina Ross was certainly a very pretty girl; she had one of those
babyish sort of faces that appeal so strongly to some men; her
manners were kittenish and full of vivacity, and she had a way of
glancing at a person from under her long curling lashes that was
considered very alluring. "Do please be good and kind to a poor
little harmless thing like me," they seemed to say to each fresh
comer, "for you are such a nice man;" but Malcolm, who saw plenty of
girls in town, took no notice of a little country chit's airs and
graces; indeed, he thought Nora Brent far more attractive--human
kittens not being to his taste.
"I don't think much of the fine gentleman from London," whispered
Tina rather venomously to Nora when the game was finished. "I hate a
town prig like poison."
"Anyhow he played splendidly, and has given us a regular beating,"
returned her friend, who would willingly have exchanged partners.
There was nothing exciting in playing with an old friend like David
Carlyon, who was a sort of connection of the Brents, indeed, a
distant, a very distant cousin: but Malcolm's dark intellectual face
and rather melancholy eyes somewhat attracted Nora.
Nora had her wish presently, and again Mr. Carlyon was Malcolm's
opponent; this time a Miss Douglas was his partner. It was a well-
contested game, but again Malcolm was the victor; but he wore his
"Bravo, Mr. Herrick, and you too, Nora," exclaimed Elizabeth,
clapping her hands, "you both played splendidly; now come into the
hall and let me give you some claret cup;" but she lingered a moment
until Mr. Carlyon came up with his partner.
"I am not in good form to-day," he said, sinking into an easy-chair
as though he were tired. "I feel Mondayish--do you know what I mean,
"I can guess. It is a purely clerical term. You have taken it out of
yourself, and then you feel a sort of reaction--or rather, to speak
more correctly, a sort of depression;" but as he spoke, he realised
for the first time the truth of Elizabeth's assertion that Mr.
Carlyon was not strong.
Elizabeth had never looked better in Malcolm's opinion than she did
that afternoon; if he had not admired her before, he must have owned
then that she was a distinguished-looking woman.
She wore a gray dress of some soft material, which Malcolm, who was
rather a connoisseur on feminine attire, decided in his own mind was
a Paris gown,--strange to say, he was right,--and the black
Gainsborough hat and feathers suited her exactly. It was evident Mr.
Carlyon agreed with him, for Malcolm saw him once looking at her
intently under his hand.
A little while afterwards Malcolm, who was too hot to play any more,
strolled off by himself down one of the woodland paths to get cool,
but to his chagrin he heard voices which told him the speakers were
parallel with him, and the next minute he heard Tina Ross say
"Did you ever see any one so ridiculous as Elizabeth Templeton; just
fancy wearing her Paris gown at a trumpery little home affair like
this! Talk of coquetry," in a disgusted voice, "do you suppose she
did not know what she was doing when she pinned those La France
roses in her dress! It is not as though she were our age; she is
thirty--thirty; why, that is quite an old maid!"
"How can you be so absurd, Tiny?" It was Nora Brent who spoke.
"Fancy calling Miss Elizabeth Templeton an old maid. Mamma was only
saying how handsome she looked." Here Malcolm coughed rather loudly,
but no one took any notice.
"Handsome is as handsome does," returned Tina, in rather a vixenish
tone. "I hope you noticed, Nora, that I was never allowed to have
Mr. Carlyon for a partner. Talk of Queen Elizabeth indeed--we have
Queen Elizabeth the second at Staplegrove. If one spoke to the poor
man it was 'hands off--don't poach on my preserves,' just as though
she thought him her own property, which he is not, and never will
"Really, Tina, you are too bad; you ought not to say such things of
our dear Miss Elizabeth. You had Mr. Herrick for your partner."
"Oh, he is a town prig," began Tina recklessly; but here Malcolm,
who had cleared his voice in vain, now began to whistle with such
unmistakable purpose that a dead silence ensued.
"What a spiteful little toad!" thought Malcolm, who cared nothing
for fluffy hair and curling eyelashes if a shrewish tongue
He thought both the girls avoided him in rather a guilty fashion
when he passed them on the terrace; and he was inwardly disgusted
when, most of the guests having taken their leave, and supper being
announced, Elizabeth asked him to take Miss Tina Ross into the
dining-room; Nora followed with Mr. Carlyon, but the width of the
table separated him. Malcolm paid the young lady proper attention;
that is to say, he kept her plate supplied with good things, but
otherwise he took very little notice of her, and talked to gentle-
looking Mrs. Brent, who was on his other side.
But Tina was not used to being ignored, and by this time she had
made up her mind that Malcolm could only have heard a fragment of
their talk in the woodlands, so she addressed him pointedly, and
obliged him to break off something he was saying to the elder lady.
"So you dined at the vicarage on Saturday, I hear. How dreadfully
bored you must have been! Mr. Charrington is an old dear, but he is
rather a prig. I mean"--transfixed by the sudden gleam in Malcolm's
eyes--"I mean, that is--that he is so learned."
"Oh, I am quite aware of your meaning, Miss Ross," returned Malcolm
quietly, "but I am rather an embryo prig myself." Then for the
remainder of the meal Tina was absolutely dumb.
If there is power in me to help,
It goeth forth beyond the present will,
Clothing itself in very common deeds
Of any humble day's necessity.
The pleasantest part of the whole evening to Malcolm was the hour
spent on the terrace when the last guests were gone. The Brents had
undertaken to drive Mr. Carlyon to the White Cottage, much to the
chagrin of the Ross girls, whose homeward route took them through
Rotherwood, and who also had a seat to spare. Malcolm had a dim
suspicion that Elizabeth had connived at this arrangement.
"You had better go with the Brents if they ask you," she had said
earlier in the evening, but he had not heard Mr. Carlyon's reply.
"Well, what do you think of little Tina?" asked Elizabeth. They were
standing by the drawing-room window; Malcolm could see the
mischievous look in her eyes, and refused to be drawn.
"Most people would admire her," he returned coolly.
"But unfortunately you are the exception--is that what you mean, Mr.
Herrick? What a shame not to admire our pretty little blue-eyed
"Kittens can scratch," he returned quietly; and then Elizabeth
looked more amused than ever.
"What, has Tina shown her claws to you? I thought she always wore
her velvet gloves for strangers. I fancied I was doing you a good
turn to introduce you to the prettiest girl in Rotherwood. She and
Patty will be rich too, for there is no son, and Mr. Ross is very
"Made his fortune on the Stock Exchange," explained Cedric. "Clever
old chap--shouldn't mind if he would give me the straight tip. I
tell you what, Die," and here Cedric lit himself another cigarette,
"if I come a cropper in the exam, the Stock Exchange would not be a
bad place for me to make my little pile."
It was impossible not to laugh at Dinah's horrified face.
"Don't believe him, Die," observed Elizabeth calmly. "Cedric has no
vocation for a business man--he is only teasing you. Yes, Tina and
Patty will have plenty of money," but as Malcolm did not seem to
warm up to any interest, Elizabeth with much tact changed the
subject, and they were soon discussing the other guests.
When Malcolm woke the next morning his first feeling was regret that
his visit was over. He had accepted Cedric's invitation with
reluctance, and had put him off again and again. He had a remorseful
consciousness that he might have been a guest at the Wood House
eighteen months ago. By this time he would have been intimate with
the sisters. He might--but here Malcolm leapt rather impatiently
from his couch. What was the good of thinking over past mistakes! He
had been a fool, and stood in his own light--that was all. During
breakfast he was very cheerful, and seemed in such excellent spirits