Don John (8)

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CHAPTER IV.


"WELL?" repeated Don John: "are you quite lost in amazement? I like to see a poetess gazing at me width her mouth open."

    Charlotte hastily shut her mouth.

    "And we want you to give us some of your large copying paper," observed Naomi, "because, as we told you before, we are going to write a letter to grandmother—a very particular letter."

    "Why?" asked Charlotte.

    Don John told her in much the same fashion as he had told Naomi in the orchard—having first arranged their chairs in a triangle that the party might have a "three-cornered crack."

    "I know Marjorie likes Campbell," said Charlotte.  "I know she feels his going away."

    "You do?"

    Don John glanced at Naomi, who nodded.

    "Why didn't you take that for granted," she observed, "when I consented to help with the scheme?"

    "But as you did not know it," observed Charlotte, "why this sudden zeal for match-making?"

    "Well, if you must, know, it is partly because I have within the last few days heard a piece of news which I know makes father uneasy."

    "From whom?"

    "From Lancey."

    Charlotte blushed, and wished to ask, but did not, whether Lancey was coming home.

    "Mrs. Collingwood has four hundred a year of her own, that is, as she told father, it is absolutely at her own disposal, and she could leave it to whom she would.  She added that she should of course leave it to Lancey.  She made a will before she went abroad, and deposited it with father of her own accord.  Father has sometimes alluded to this will to me, and said it pleased him."

    "Well?"

    "Of course we know that Lancey being adopted by both father and mother, they have always said they should look after his interests in the future."

    "Lancey is a dear boy," said Naomi, with the least little contraction of her forehead as if for thought.  "And if father and mother had any real reason for loving him so much, of course they would long ago have told us; therefore I have for some time been sure they have no reason: they let him come to stay with them for a while, they got fond of him quite unawares, and kept him on and on, till at last they loved him almost as they love us; and it seems to them quite natural that they should, and also quite natural that we should think so.  I never grudged Lancey anything in my life, but though it does seem natural that we should all love him, yet surely his place in the family is remarkable.

    "Don John looked keenly at his sister and listened attentively while she spoke.  This was a subject on which, from his boyhood, he had thought a good deal, and nothing that he had arrived at as a reason for Lancey's place in the family had satisfied and pleased him so well.  "After all," he thought, "why should there be any great and important reason?  Why will not this reason do, which is hardly a reason at all?"  His thoughts went on while both the girls were silent.  "Perhaps if I had not instinctively been so careful to hide from father and mother that I felt the least surprise, I might have been told."

    "But the news," asked Charlotte at last, "what is it?"

    "Mrs. Collingwood is going to marry again."

    "Lancey says so?"

    "Yes; it seems that she was very desirous to keep him with her, and she proposed to go back to Australia, and overpersuaded him, he says, to go too.  She took passage in the P. and O. steamer as far as Colombo, where she promised him they should stay a month.  And there was a man on board whom Lancey calls 'a gentleman of position and fortune,' but father says the account he gives of him sounds as if he were an adventurer.  He declared that he fell in love with that short, fat, little woman at first sight; he landed with them at Galle, and when Lancey wrote, his mother was to be married to him in a day or two."

    "And that will make a great difference to Lancey?"

    "Of course, because, if there were no settlement made before the marriage, every shilling she has is now her husband's; and she cannot make a will.  As to the will she made before, it is no better than waste paper."

    "Then Lancey will have to work?" said Charlotte,

    "Oh, yes, of course; so have I—still—" he paused suddenly, and did not add, "but my father's children are worse off than they were by that four hundred pounds a year, for Lancey and I cannot both be wrong, and we think that in our early childhood we were told we should be left equal in father's will, and Lancey thought afterwards that he was to have less from father by four hundred pounds a year.

    "And that's very odd," he said aloud; "it's very extraordinary," and while the girls bothered him as to his obliging desire to get lovers for them, and declared that there was no chance of his succeeding, he sat lost in thought.

    "This news is only part of my reason," he said at last, "and I did think Marjorie liked Campbell, though I was not sure as I am now."

    Don John was still almost a boy in years, and he was young for his years, otherwise he would hardly have concocted such a scheme, and deliberately detailed it to his grandmother, which, with the help of the two girls, he now actually did; saying, however, nothing about his father's circumstances.

    His grandmother was excessively amused, and wrote forthwith, telling him that she would decide what to do in a day or two, and desiring that he would on no account mention the matter to any one.  By the same post she sent his letter to her daughter requesting to know her opinion, and asking her to name her wishes, but not to betray the confidence reposed in her.  Marjorie's father and mother had a long, loving consultation over it, the father not without shouts of laughter, the mother with somewhat admiring amusement.

    The family was at breakfast three days after, when the letters came in, and Mrs. Johnstone, turning one of hers over with the quietest of smiles, said, "Edinburgh, I see."  The three conspirators blushed furiously, Don John was pink up to the roots of his very light hair.  Mrs. Johnstone began to read the letter aloud.  It set forth that the grandmother had, for some time past, not seen any of the girls, and had quite suddenly determined to ask her dear Stella to spare one of them.  Here, with the gentlest audacity, she paused, and beginning again at "quite suddenly" repeated the sentence.  "One of them to spend a couple of months with her; she should prefer to have Marjorie," here Marjorie blushed as rosy red as the others had done, not one of the young people could look up, the father and mother exchanged glances, Mrs. Johnstone went on.  "And, my dear Stella, will you let Don John bring her down, for I have not set my eyes on the your rascal for some time."

    When she had finished reading, she folded the letter quietly, the conspirators neither spoke nor looked up, so she looked at Marjorie, and said, with a gentleness which was almost indifference, "Do you think you should like to go, dear one?"

    And Marjorie replied, with unwonted hesitation, that she didn't know.

    That settled the matter in the mother's mind, she immediately said, much more decidedly, "Oh, I think you should accept your grandmother's invitation, and besides, as she asks Don John too, you should not deprive him of the visit."

    "Oh, yes," Marjorie interrupted, sparkling all over, and blushing with pleasure, "and he has actually never been to Edinburgh yet; you would like to go, Don John, wouldn't you?"

    And so the matter was settled.  And all that Don John had proposed was done to the letter: Charlotte did lend her pearls, and Naomi her prettiest feathers, and scarcely any money was asked for, Mrs. Johnstone, from the contents of the Indian box, fitting out Marjorie with various beautiful ornaments, and having most becoming dresses made for her from her own wardrobe.  Nobody knew what was becoming to Marjorie so well as her mother, and she sent her forth to conquer.  The daughter had no more than her mother's beauty, but she had inherited the same reposeful serenity and convincing charm.

    Don John, with pride and confidence, took charge of her; brother-like, he declined to let her have anything to do with the taking of the tickets or the booking after her luggage.  It was therefore all left behind, as was that of a young man's in the same carriage.  When this was found out, which was in consequence of Marjorie's looking out of the window, and seeing it with her own eyes as it stood on the platform, she made at first some lamentation, but Don John and the young passenger became friends over the telegraphing for it at the first stoppage, after which Marjorie was almost persuaded by her brother that it was safer on the platform than in the van, and would reach Edinburgh almost as soon—if not sooner!

    But there is no need to enlarge upon this experience of Marjorie's.  There is probably no woman living who has not gone through it; a more uncommon part of the matter was that the three young people thus left together discovered that they had many friends in common, that they knew all about each other's families, and were going to visit at houses situated not a hundred yards apart.

    The young man's name was Foden.  "Campbell s too common a name to please me," thought Don John "but I like it better than Foden."  Why this thought came into his head will appear very shortly.  "Marjorie Foden sounds foolish, so does Duncan Dilke Foden," he cogitated thus as they reached Edinburgh.

    "Why, she's as tall as her brother!" thought the grandmother when the two young people presented themselves.  "An awkward height, and her hair as red as rust."

    "Campbell's laid up with the chicken-pox," she whispered to her grandson, as soon as Marjorie had been escorted to her room.

    "The chicken-pox?" repeated Don John, with scorn.

    "Yes, all the children of the regiment have got it, and he caught it."

    "Oh, well," answered Don John, rather dreamily, "I don't know that it particularly signifies."

    His grandmother looked sharply at him.

    "I suppose you know that he's a great flirt?" she went on.

    Don John woke up suddenly.

    "No, grandmother, I did not."

    "Yes, after I had decided to invite you both down, his old aunt—Miss Florimel Campbell, coming in, amused me, as she supposed, with tales of his flirtations."

    Don John repeated, with rather more decision, "I don't know that it particularly signifies."

    And it did not signify at all, for Duncan Dilke Foden, presenting himself almost immediately after breakfast the next morning, to pay an outrageously early and outrageously long morning call, passed through a succession of changes in manner, mind, and face, which the grandmother read as easily as from a printed book.  He was elated at the sight of Marjorie, and expressed as much delight and surprise as if she might have been expected to evaporate in the night, or to melt like a lump of sugar; and then he became suddenly humble, as one who had no right to be glad; and then he was afflicted with a great desire to talk sensibly and seriously, as one desiring thereby to excuse too long a presence; but at this stage of affairs Marjorie broke in quietly with some commonplace question.  Duncan Dilke Foden was taken in hand, first set at his ease, and calmed, then made to show himself at his best, and finally let alone to remember that he had paid a long visit, and with a tolerable grace to tear himself away.


    Pondering on this visit soon after, the grandmother said quietly to Marjorie, "What sort of a fellow is young Campbell?"

    "He's not very wise, grandmamma," answered Marjorie.

    "Did not I hear something about his paying ye a good deal of attention?"

    "Oh, yes, he did."

    "And not the only one to pay it—at least, I have had hints to that effect."

    Marjorie lifted up her fair face, "But that is not my fault, grandmother, I do assure you."

    "Meaning that ye have no wish to be a flirt.  No, it is not your fault, I dare say; but, Marjorie, it is your misfortune."

    "Yes, I used to be a great deal happier before I had all these ridiculous compliments," answered the young girl, mistaking her meaning.  "And yet, grandmother, though I have never had any attentions from any one I cared for—no, I mean I never have cared for any one yet—"

    "Well?" asked the grandmother.

    Marjorie laughed, but answered, not without a little ingenuous blush of embarrassment,

    "I used to be so happy at home with the others, and now though I could not, on any account, marry any one of my lovers—"

    "No?" exclaimed the grandmother, interrupting her,

    "Oh, no, certainly not—yet you cannot think how utterly flat and dull everything seems when I haven't got one.  I did not care in the least for Campbell, for instance, yet I had got so accustomed to his compliments that when he went away I hardly knew how to do without him.  You think me a very foolish girl."

    "Just like her mother," thought the grandmother.  "And so ye did not care for Campbell, my dear; well, so much the better for Foden."

    "And yet I do wish to be different," proceeded Marjorie.

    "If the men will let ye!" interrupted Mrs. Johnstone.

    "And I was so glad when your letter came.  I am sure I shall enjoy this visit so much."

    "And Foden—what are ye going to do with him?"

    "I sent him away as soon as I could this morning, without hurting his feelings."

    "There has been a great deal of harm done by that false proverb, 'Marriages are made in heaven.'"

    "Grandmother?"

    "In one sense everything is decreed above; but in the other sense it may fairly be said that marriage is the one thing heaven leaves to be made on earth.  Her birth, her station, her fortune, her beauty the maid had not the making of; but if she does not exercise her wits, and her best discretion as regards her marriage, nothing her people can do can much avail her."

    "Of course we ought not to marry for money," observed Marjorie, demurely; "nor," she went on after a pause, "without being in love."

    "How many lovers might ye have had already," asked the grandmother; "six?"

    Marjorie laughed.

    "Well if ye cannot deny it, six it is; and, as I said, not your fault, perhaps, but certainly your misfortune, for if ye cannot love one of the first six, why should ye love one of the second six?  The girl that is really well off is she who waits some time, has one chance, and, it being a reasonably good one, takes it thankfully."

    "Oh, I shall like some one well enough to marry him in the course of time," said Marjorie, who was very much amused at her grandmother's way of putting things.

    "That is how your mother used to talk.  She felt no enthusiasm, she once told me, for any of her lovers, and I answered, 'Consider which is the best worth loving and on the whole the most agreeable to ye, then dismiss the others, and let that one have a chance.'  If it had not been for me," she went on, with perfect gravity and sincerity, "your father never would have won the wife he wished for.  She had many lovers, and did not care to decide between them; but I talked to her.  I said, 'Yes, many lovers, but one is old, and one beneath ye, and one above ye, and one is not a good man; and here are two left that are thoroughly suitable, but one of those even has an advantage not possessed by the other, or indeed by any one of the others."'

    Marjorie was interested, she had not expected to find that her father had needed any assistance in his wooing.

    "Well, grandmother?" she said.

    "Well," repeated the grandmother, "I said to her, 'There are women, Estelle, that long to keep their sons single, and there are those who look to patch up fallen fortunes with rich daughters-in-law, and there are women of such a termagant nature that all their sons have quarrelled with them, and there are women illiterate enough to make their daughters-in-law ashamed of them, and I know of one who dreads a beauty more than anything, and thinks such a one must needs be a spendthrift;' and now said I, 'I have named the mother of every lover you have but one, and that one longs to see her son married, looks for none but a small fortune, and would willingly help him from her own, desires an equal match and a beautiful young wife for him, has loved him more than anything mortal since her widowhood, and would thankfully resign him to—you.'"

    "And what did mother say?" asked Marjorie.

    "She said she would think of it, and she did."

    "Mother always talks of you with so much affection.  She always says you are so good to her."  Marjorie did not add, "and I often hear her remind father that it is his day for writing to you;" that would have given pain, but it was true.

    There was something rather sweet, as Marjorie felt, in being thus shown a glimpse of the past.  Something so fixed, so inevitable, so without alternative as the marriage of her father with her mother had hung in the balance then!—had been a matter for discussion and for persuasion.

    "Your mother was greatly admired," proceeded Mrs. Johnstone, senior, "and as was but natural, she soon found out that all the good and worthy young men were more alike than she could have supposed.  As the proverb runs, 'She wanted better bread than can be made with wheat,' she went on seeking for it.  She did not want merely a good and worthy young man; she told me so.  But said I, 'Ye do not propose to live and die single?'—'Oh, no, she proposed no such thing.'—'My dear,' said I, 'men are not made of better stuff than yourself, far from it!  But ye have had choice of some of the best of them, and I think your real difficulty comes from this, that you put your fancy before your duty.'"

    "Duty!" exclaimed Marjorie, drawing herself up, and speaking for her mother as well as for herself

    "Yes, it is a woman's duty, if she has many lovers, to set them free from vain hopes, by choosing as soon among them as she can, even if she make some sacrifice to do it, with only a sincere preference for one, and as your mother said, 'no great enthusiasm.'  Such a self-sacrifice is almost always rewarded.  There is nothing so sweet as duty, and all the best pleasures of life come in the wake of duties done."


 
CHAPTER V.


DON JOHN thus announced his sister's and his own safe arrival at Edinburgh:—


             "DEAREST NAOMI,
    "We reached our destination last night just as it was getting dusk.  Grandmother is not at all grown.

    "I am much impressed with the magnificence of this city.  The streets are fine, the populace polite, and the various methods of locomotion, omnibuses, cabs, tram-cars, &c., are admirably arranged, and convey the traveller cheaply and expeditiously in every direction.  The view from Arthur's Seat is remarkably fine, as is also that from Salisbury Crags.  I will not expatiate on the prospect from the ancient castle, its reputation is European.

    "I am writing before breakfast, and have not yet quitted the house since my arrival.  Immediately after breakfast, I propose to do so, in order to view the various objects which I have so graphically described.  I trust, my dear girl, that they may be found to justify the terms in which I have spoke of them.  With this ramble I shall combine a visit to the railway terminus in search of Marjorie's luggage, which I left behind at King's Cross.  Grandmother appeared to think this strange, but I reminded her that we are all subject to the law of averages, and as on an average, half a box per thousand of all that this railway carries is left behind, lost, or delayed, and somebody must be owner of that half-box, she ought not to be surprised if that somebody proved to be her granddaughter.  She said that as Marjorie had three boxes, and had lost them all, her average was rather high.  A truly feminine answer, which shows that she did not understand the question.  Ah! I see a railway van coming up with those three boxes in it.  Yes, the luggage is come.

    "Best love to father and mother and all of you.
                                                         "Your affectionate brother,
                                                                                        "D
ONALD JOHNSTONE."


    When Naomi read this letter aloud at the breakfast-table, one more person listened to it than Don John had counted on.  Captain Leslie was present, a sunburned, stooping man, very hoarse, very grave, and very thin.  He had called on Mr. Johnstone the day before in London, and when he found that he was not recognized, it appeared to hurt his feelings very much.  But he was so much changed by climate and illness, that when he had been invited "to come down and see Estelle," Mr. Johnstone carefully telegraphed to his wife of the expected arrival, lest she also should meet him as a stranger.  He was a distant cousin of Mrs. Johnstone's, hence the use of the Christian name.

    When he had seen his first and only love with her children about her, in a happy English home, and looking, to his mind, more beautiful than ever, when he had heard the cordial sweetness of her greeting, such a glow of tender admiration comforted him for long absence, such a sense of being for at least the fortnight they had named to him delightfully at home, that his old self woke up in him; isolation on staff duties, irritating heat, uncongenial companions, exile, illness, all appeared to recede.  He had thought of his life—excepting his religious life—as an irretrievable failure; but for that first evening he felt strangely young.  He was very stiff, and when he reared himself up, his own iron-grey head, seen in the glass, confronted him, and appeared for the moment to be the only evidence about him of the time that had passed.  Estelle was a little different, but it was an advantageous difference, motherhood was so infinitely becoming to her; and as for Donald, he took the honours of his place so quietly that the old bachelor and unsuccessful lover did not grudge them to him as he had done at first.  He spoke but little to his wife, being even then aware that the old love in Leslie's heart was as intense as ever.

    With a keen perception of everything said and done in the presence of Estelle, Leslie felt that her husband scarcely looked at her; but he could not know the deep pity with which his successful rival regarded him,—what a short lease of life he appeared to him to have; how little, as he supposed, there was yet left for him to enjoy in his native country.

    That night Leslie thought a good deal of Estelle's eldest son; he was much disappointed to find him away; his letter the next morning presented him in a rather unexpected light.

    "Is that your boy's usual style of writing, Johnstone?" he inquired.

    "Yes, I think it is; he is a dear, good fellow, but quite a character, and he always had naturally a whimsical way of looking at things."

    "I am glad the luggage has arrived," observe Mrs. Johnstone; "but is it quite fair, Donald, to speak of our boy as an oddity?"

    "My dear," exclaimed her husband, "I wish him to be what pleases you; but I have thought of him as an oddity ever since he was six years old, when be said of the cook on his birthday, 'She put my cake in the oven, and it rose ambrosial as Venus rose from the sea.'"

    "It was clever of him," said little Mary, "for he had not been to a cooking-class as I have."

    Leslie smiled.

    "And Don John invented Fetch, you know, mother," observed Naomi, "and Fanny Fetch and the 'Minutes.'"

    Mrs. Johnstone made no reply, but Leslie had a real motive for wanting to investigate Don John's nature and the character he bore at home; so after breakfast, when left alone with the girls, he easily got them to talk of him, and at the end of less than a week he was quite intimate with them, made welcome to a place at the play-room tea, treated to Charlotte's opinions on things in general, consulted by her as to her poetry, and even allowed to read selected portions of the "Minutes."

    These abundantly bore out his father's opinion that he was a character; but Leslie made one mistake about Don John at once, for finding how many of the papers consisted of criticisms on Charlotte's opinions, remarks on her behaviour, or counsels to her on her literary productions, he jumped to the conclusion that Don John must needs be half in love already with the beautiful little cousin; he wondered whether Estelle knew it, and he forthwith began to take a keener interest in Charlotte also for his sake.

    The girls liked him; little Mary loved him, "though he almost always talked," she said, "as if it was Sunday."

    He had not been in the house ten days before he was in the confidence of all the young people, and at liberty to turn over the leaves of the "Minutes" for himself.

    He thought he knew Don John thoroughly, and Charlotte too.  His religious counsels, his unconscious betrayal of a life-long interest in them and their parents and their home; his unexpected knowledge of various incidents before their birth, which had hitherto been unknown to themselves, all combined to make them think of him as one who might be trusted absolutely, and who had a right almost to the position of a near relative.  He gave them presents, too, and discussed with them beforehand what these should be.  As the days went on he found himself more at home with the children than with the parents.  Estelle was the love of his whole life; but she was in a sense remote.  Her children and Charlotte became intimate with him, as much by their own wish as by his, and they in the same sense were near.

    He felt towards them as an uncle might have done; he perceived that the parents consciously allowed them thus to ally themselves with him, and he did not know the reason.

    On the mother's part it was done because it made more easy her personal withdrawal.  He must needs love her; but it was better for him to widen his interest and love her children too, and amuse himself with them than have opportunity to sit apart with her, and waken up again the old want which for so many years had slumbered in absence.

    On the father's part it was from pure pity.  Why should not Leslie enjoy the flattering consciousness that these young creatures liked him?  His time was so short; the sods of his native valley would be laid over his head so soon.

    Leslie did not think so.  He supposed that he had come home to recruit his health.  Estelle and her husbands had no reason whatever to suspect the scheme which was taking form in his mind; he delighted himself with the certainty of this fact.

    Various little hints let him perceive that Mr. Johnstone, if not actually somewhat embarrassed in his circumstances, was assuredly not well off.  "As to my making their son my heir," he would cogitate, "they have no reason to think I have anything worth mentioning to leave; but it is sweet to know that when I am taken to my rest, Estelle will reap a benefit from me, dead, which living I could not give; she will dwell more at ease if her eldest son is provided for.  Johnstone cannot feel jealous of my memory as he might have done if I had left it to her; and Estelle will know well that all I did for her boy was for her sake."

    "But he is a character," continued Leslie; "his father was quite right!"

    Leslie had strolled into the play-room, the girls had gone to their cooking-class, and he had wandered through the downstairs room without finding their mother.  It might have been supposed that he would go out, but no, the girls had strictly charged him to wait for their return, when there was to be an early lunch, and he was to go with them to a farm-house to choose some lop-eared rabbits which he had promised them.

    "He's a character," repeated Leslie, and he turned over the leaves of the "Minutes," as he had full leave to do.  "Here's some of his handwriting—all about Charlotte—always Charlotte.  Let me see.


THE POETRY OF MISTER BARNES, DONE IN THE DORSET
DIALECT.


"What is it you do find in thik theer book?"
     Says I.
"They poems," says the maid, "they be so high;
     When on un I do look,
 They fill my heart wi' swellin' thoughts, Idyllic,
    The most ecloguey thoughts they do!
         And I attain to view
 The worrold as though 'twas made anew.
     And I do feel," she says, says she,
 "So frisky as a lamb under a grete woak tree,
     So light's a little bird,
A hopping and a cbirrupping
                               Over the fuzzen."
                               (Thinks I, "My word!")
                               Says she, "You mazzen
Laff," for she read my thoughts in a trice.
     Says she, "This here's the poet's vice
 A speaking to 'ee."   "Oh," says I, "shut up."
 I couldn't stand no mwoor 'ee see.
 They all cried, "What a vulgar bwoy he be!"
 And I did call out passen drough the door,
     For I was forced to flee,
                                "Do'ee shut up."


    "Innocent enough all these writings," he observed to himself, "and they show activity of mind in an unusual degree.  Oh, that these dear children had the root of the matter in them!  I must not shrink from talking to them on their best interests."

    To do Leslie justice, he never did shrink from uttering anything that was on his conscience, and all his religious discourse was considerate and evidently devoid of affectation.

    The fortnight came to an end.  Leslie by that time was so desirous to see Don John, that if any opening had been given him, he would have proposed to prolong his stay.

    He went away one morning, accompanied by all the girls to the station.  The next afternoon Don John returned, and was in like fashion accompanied from it.  After he had seen his mother he was borne off to the play-room, where, at afternoon tea, he ate as much cake as would have spoiled the dinner of most young men; but Don John's appetite at that stage of his career was spoiling-proof.

    Mary being present, a certain caution was in the discourse.  "You hardly ever wrote to us," said Naomi.

    "But I wrote to mother—"

    "Yes,—well, there could have been nothing particular to tell us.  How is Campbell?"

    Don John looked a little confused during the first part of Naomi's speech; he answered the second part.

    "Campbell? why, we never saw him once."

    Charlotte and Naomi looked as if they thought this very bad news.

    "Not well yet?"

    "Grandmother thought that for another day or two he was just as well away.  But, I say, what about Captain Leslie?"

    "Oh, we liked him so much!" exclaimed little Mary, "but he's a very good man."

    "But!!—Yes, I know he's very religious."

    "And very evangelical, of course," observed Charlotte.  "Officers in the army always are when they are exceptionally religious."

    "Why should they be?"

    "Well, my theory is that they have so many rules to enforce and obey—so much to do with discipline and drill, that it is natural they should take to that sort of religion which is the most gentle and free from hard rules, which insists least on the letter and most the spirit—"

    "How many officers of that sort do we know, three, isn't it?  Quite enough for you to found a theory on.  I think Captain Leslie must be an odd fish."

    "No, he is not," said Naomi, "but he talks often just as father does when on some rare or serious occasion he has one of us into his own room and—"

    "What! did he pray with you?"

    "He asked mamma if he should pray with us before he went away; she said 'yes,' and so we all knelt down in this room," and here little Mary in all simplicity attempted to give an account of this prayer.

    Don John opened wide eyes of surprise at his sister, but they had sufficient reverence for her childhood not to offer any comment.

    "And he says that God loves us," she continued, "and so we ought to love people—and poor people too."

    "But, my dear little woman," exclaimed Don John, not at all irreverently, "I think we knew that before Captain Leslie came here."

    "Yes," said Mary, "but I did not think about it; and now I am going to love the poor people, you know."

    "And Mary took one of her birthday half-crowns to give to Miss Jenny; she asked him if he thought that would be a good thing to do; and I went with them to give it," said Naomi, still quite gravely, "And Mrs. Clarboy, who generally knows how to adapt her talk to her company, made rather a mistake, and got herself reproved, for she told us her nephew had taken her to an entertainment in London, which she had very much enjoyed.  Captain Leslie asked what it was about, and she said, 'Well, I can't hardly tell you, sir, what it was about, but there was a good deal of music, and Cupid came down and sang something sacred, his wings were beyond anything, sir, they were as natural as life.'  Then Captain Leslie said he hoped she was not in the habit of frequenting the theatres; and she assured him she had never been to one before, poor old soul! and she was vexed with herself for having told, and Miss Jenny groaned and was very much edified."

    "And then we went on to Mrs. Black's, to give her my other half-crown," said Mary shrewdly, "and he asked her if she went to church, and she said 'she'd been so massacred with the rheumatism that nobody couldn't expect it of her,' and then Captain Leslie laughed, and he said afterwards he was sorry he had done it, and it showed a great want of self-control."

    "Poor old Clarboy!" exclaimed Don John, "the idea of her frequenting the theatres!  I don't think she has been in London more than three times in her life."

    Then Naomi went on: "She said afterwards, 'I know your pa's rather in the same line as that gentleman, miss, and never takes you to the theatres, but yet I shouldn't have minded letting him know, for he's not so straight-laced.  However,' she went on, 'Captain Leslie's a powerful pious gentleman, no doubt, and one like him it was that sent a tract to poor old Mrs. Smart on her death-bed.  It was called 'The dying Malefactor.'  If ever there was a peaceable, humble, blameless creature, it was that woman, and a joined member too of the Methodist connexion, but this world had got that hold on her still, that when I'd opened the envelope for her, and she saw it began in large letters "To you," she burst out laughing, and she and I talked a good bit over it.  It seemed such a queer thing to have done.  I don't deny that we did let a few secular words pass over our tongues, till her daughter that is a Methodist too got vexed, and she says, 'Now, mother, you have no call to think of these worldly matters any more, you lie still and mind your dying."  Miss Jenny had groaned a good deal during this talk, but she never dares to interrupt her sister.  As soon as there was a pause she said, 'True it is that Sarah Smart laughed on her deathbed, but I have good hope as it was never laid to her charge.'

    "'No,' exclaimed Mrs. Clarboy, who never can understand Jenny's point of view, 'she was a good-living woman, and the Almighty (I say it reverently) would never take notice of such a small sound such a long way off.'

    "'It's not that,' cried Jenny, 'it was that she was not one to put the least trust in her own works, she trusted in the Rock of our salvation, and three day after she died triumphant.'"

    "If I was a guardian angel," exclaimed Charlotte, "and might choose, I would never wait on people like us, but always on the poor—such people as these.  When do we ever say things so beautiful in theirs simpleness?"

    "Yes," observed little Mary, "the angels must be very much amused with them."

    Charlotte and Don John exchanged glances; "I think, if I were you, I would include children in my choice," he said.

    "But I forgot to add," observed Naomi, "that Miss Jenny ended her account of Mrs. Smart by saying, 'She's gone where there's no more sorrow—nor laughing neither;' and Charlotte said, 'Oh, Miss Jenny, I hope not, I think we shall often laugh in heaven.'"

    "But don't we think that at least angels can laugh?" asked Mary.

    "There can be no laughing in heaven or among heavenly creatures that has malice in it—but many things witty and droll are without that."

    "But, Charlotte, if I met Don John in heaven, I should like him to call me 'button-nose;' do you really think he never will?"

    "I am almost sure of it,—he invented that name to make game of you, only for fun, you know, but still it was malice."

    "Well, then, I shall say to him, 'Though you are not to say it here, you must not forget that you used say it.'"

    "But why do you want it to be remembered?"

    "He never said it when he was cross, but when I sprained my ankle and he used to carry me about the garden he did, and when you used all to be doing 'Fetch,' and Freddy and I knocked at the door, if we were not to come in he always shouted out, 'No, you two kids must go;' but when Fred was gone back to school and I knocked sometimes, he said, 'Oh, it's only button-nose,' and then I knew I might come in.  So, as it's kind malice, I should like him to remember; for you know I couldn't help being the youngest."

    "Well, no, I do not see that you could," but, Mary, I shouldn't wonder if when you get to heaven you find you're the eldest; don't you know that it says in the Bible, the last shall be first and the first last?"

    "Do you think I shall be older than you, then, Don John?"

    "It might be so—"

    "I shall take great care of you, then, and if you are a baby when you come, I shall carry you about and show you all the beautiful things."


 
CHAPTER VI.


DON JOHN, now that his short holiday in Scotland was over, fell at once into his regular work, going up to London daily with his father.  Meanwhile Captain Leslie spent a few weeks at different English watering-places in search of health which almost to his surprise he did not find.  He meant eventually to live in Scotland, where he had some distant cousins, his only relatives excepting Mrs. Johnstone, but first he had wanted to see Don John and Estelle's eldest daughter Marjorie.

    Don John had said in joke of his grandmother that she was not grown.  Marjorie, under the auspices of this same grandmother, grew very fast during the months she spent at Edinburgh and its neighbourhood.

    She was of a grave and gentle nature, moderate in her demands on life as to pleasure, and she was high principled and tender.

    This same girl, who had not cared for an early marriage for her own sake, found a certain charm in it now that her grandmother had linked it in her thoughts with duty and even with self-sacrifice.  She would not make more men unhappy, nor unsettle any for her sake, but she would essay to be an elevating hope and then a helpmate and a comfort to one; she would do her part to make one man and one home what God meant that they should be.

    There are such people in the world, they need sometimes to have it discovered to them that such they are, and then they need a little guiding.  Marjorie had only a very little of this last, but she had also the advantage of being away from a sister and a cousin who were much inclined to criticize and make game of her lovers; and, further, she had the advantage of a lover who had many manly qualities, and among them a capacity for all the improvement that comes to manhood from loving a beautiful and pure-minded young woman.

    Marjorie, instead of amusing herself with this lover, looked out for his good qualities.  He was of average height, of average good looks, his position in life was such as her own, he had excellent principles, he could afford to marry, and he loved her.  This was his case, as she said to herself at the end of a week; and hers was that she was inclined to be pleased with him, and to think a good deal of the self-sacrifice which life as a general rule demands of woman.

    At the end of another week, she thought about this again, but as to average good looks, anybody might see that his was a face which grew upon one.  It was while she was dressing for dinner that she passed him in review on this second occasion, but there was not as much time as before to think of the self-sacrifice, because she had not quite finished considering his agreeable countenance when it was time to go down to dinner.  He was coming to dinner.  Don John was to go away the next morning.  The brother and sister were alone together for a few minutes at night before they retired.  Marjorie, seated by a little table, was untying some tawny roses and putting them in water.

    Don John had never said a word yet to his sister about young Foden.  He now remarked that her flowers appeared to require a great deal of attention.

    "Yes," answered Marjorie, "I shall take care of them because I have told Duncan that he is only to bring them every other day."

    "Oh," said Don John, and presently Marjorie said,

    "What do you think of him?"

    "I think he is one of the jolliest fellows I ever knew," answered Don John; "he's so jolly straightforward and manly."

    Marjorie was pleased with this tribute to Duncan Dilke Foden, boyish though it might be.

    "He beats Campbell to fits," continued Don John.

    "Oh, you don't care about Campbell, then?"

    "No."

    "Nor do I."

    Then after a pause,—

    "Don John?"

    "Marjorie."

    "Though Campbell paid me so much attention, he—he went away without making me an offer."

    "Just like his impudence."

    "Oh, but I was going to tell you that he wrote to me at home, where he thought I was, and yesterday mother sent me on the letter.  He said he felt that on reflection he could not bear to be parted from me, and he had made up his mind to offer me his hand."

    "Just like his impudence again!  Made up his mind, I like that. I call it quite a providence his having the chicken-pox, quite a providence and nothing less."

    "I should like you to take his letter back to mother, and tell her—"

    "Well, tell her?"

    "Of course till he made me an offer I had no right to consider him a lover—"

    "No, any more than you could any other fellow who had not yet offered his hand—"

    The last two remarks probably came in by way of parenthesis, but Marjorie went on as if she found the second very much to the point.

    "Of course not, so I want you to tell mother that even if I was sure no one else would ever ask me marry him, I must have answered Campbell as this morning.  I said it could not be."

    "I will tell her that."

    "And nothing else."

    "Well, so far as your having offers, there is, as I suppose, nothing to tell."

    "Of course not."

    "All right," answered Don John, and then they were silent for a few minutes, when Marjorie suddenly asked,

    "What is the middle height for a man, Don John?"

    "Oh, from five feet seven to five feet nine.  I measure five feet eight."

    Marjorie reflected awhile, then she said,

    "They always say the strongest men are those of middle height.  It's just as well not to be too tall."

    "Just as well," echoed Don John.  He was in the habit of thus fervently endorsing his sisters' remarks when he wished to call their attention to them as absurd.

    Marjorie laughed, but she blushed too, and then the brother and sister kissed and took leave of one another, for Don John was to start early the next morning, almost before dawn.  He left his grandmother in rather an uneasy state of mind.  She saw no reason to think that Marjorie cared for young Foden, but she perceived that she was giving him every kind of modest encouragement, and from time to time Marjorie sent a stab to her heart by making remarks which evidently showed that she had taken her grandmother's advice in good earnest, and would be actually glad to follow it if she could.

    This good lady had all her life loved to give advice; she had been liberal as to the quantity of it, and fervent as to the manner; but she had become fearless, because, weighty though she felt it to be, it hardly ever took effect.  She remembered but two instances in which it had.  These were important ones, it is true.  She could not regret the first; she might have cause deeply to regret the second.

    "And it was hardly advice at all," she would sigh, when thinking this over.  "It amounted to no more than suggestion.  I have put something into her head; who would have expected her to be so docile?"

    So the grandmother thought; but she could do no more in this matter than her son had done, when, Donald being a little boy, he had once come in from the garden with a large basket of very fine pears just gathered, and had set them on the hall table.

    The little fellow ran up and regarded them with open admiration, and his father said, in a bantering tone, "Do you think, Donald, if you were to try, you could eat all those pears before dinner?"

    "I'm not sure whether I could," answered the child, scanning the half-bushel basket seriously.

    "What, not to please papa!" exclaimed the father bantering him; and being just then called away, the boy and the pears were left alone for about twenty minutes, at the end of which time Donald the elder coming back, Donald the younger greeted him in all good faith with,

    "Well, father, what do you think?—I'm getting on—I've eaten nine."

    Nine very large pears,—their stalks and their cores were laid in a row for his inspection.  Donald the younger, strange to say, was none the worse, but Donald the elder was much the better: in talking to his children he took more pains ever after to make his meaning plain.

    And now Don John had come home again, and was holding his head rather higher than usual.  Like many another very young man, he had a sufficiently high notion of his own importance both in the world and in his family.

    None but the unthinking or the cold-hearted are seriously displeased with this quality in the very young.  It is in fact rather pathetic, rather touching; a proof of ignorance as to what life, time, and trouble really are.  And it often goes so soon!  Perhaps it is just as well that they should begin by thinking they are to do a good deal, and have a good deal, for nothing can be worse than to despond beforehand.

    Despond indeed!  Who talks of desponding when things are so jolly?  Don John exulted every day of his life.  It is true that he had been perfectly wrong as to Campbell, but then if it had not been for him Marjorie never could have met with Foden.  When he thought of this he whistled and sang every morning while he stropped his razor preparatory to the morning shave.  He only shaved his very light moustache as yet, to encourage it to come on.  His whiskers were but a hope at present, they had not sprouted.

    His father's dressing-room was next to Don John's little bedroom, and when he heard the outbreaks of whistling, singing, and other signs of good health and good spirits that the young gentleman indulged in while dressing, Donald Johnstone sometimes thought of the pleasure expressed by the poet Emerson on hearing a young cock crow.  It is somewhat to this effect: "When I wake in the morning, and hear a young cock lustily crowing I think to myself, Here, at least, is a fellow-creature who is in the best of health and spirits.  One of us, he would have us know, is well, and has no doubt as to his right to a place in creation.  And this," he goes on to remark, "is a pleasant thing to be assured of in this doubting, low-spirited, dyspeptic age."

    Somebody rapped at Don John's door, when he had been at home two days.  He opened it with a little lather on his upper lip.  It is possible that he was not sorry to exhibit this to Naomi, who was standing there.

    "Come into the play-room as fast as you can" she exclaimed; "something has happened!" and she darted off without telling him what it was.

    The celerity with which he obeyed the summons may be held to prove that shaving was not actually necessary, it must have been performed daily more as a pleasure than as a duty.

    Charlotte was in the play-room, she had a letter in her hand, and looked at him as if so much flustered, so much overwhelmed by the weighty event which had taken place, that she knew not how to utter it.

    Don John sat down on the deal table—a favourite place of his.  He surveyed Charlotte and his sister.  "It's an offer!" he exclaimed.  "Charlotte, you've had an offer; it can be nothing less."

    "Oh, dear no," exclaimed Naomi; "it's nothing so commonplace!  Your conspiracy that we helped you with came to nothing; but we contrived a better one while you were away, and it has succeeded, and nobody knows what it may end in!"

    "Yes," said Charlotte, "I can now see a vista opening before me!"

    She handed him a piece of paper: as it was a post-office order for £2 10s., he may have been forgiven for exclaiming, "I don't think much of the vista this is it."

    "But we hope it's only the first of a great many.  Now listen; Charlotte and I, when you were gone, looked over all her verses and essays and things, and chose out four, which I copied beautifully at her dictation and we sent them to four magazines; three were rejected, and we were getting rather despondent, but one is accepted, and this money is come, and here's magazine with her thing in it—and among the notices to correspondents, 'We shall be glad to hear from Daughter of Erin again.'"

    "Poetess!  I'm stumped!" exclaimed Don John.  "Even if you'd had an offer, I could not have been more surprised.  Shake hands; to think that anything should have been written on this inky, rickety deal table, that I have cut my name in with a buck-handled knife, and burnt my name in with a red-hot poker!  To think, I say!  No, I am not equal to thinking or saying anything—the most burning words would not blaze high enough—they surge disconnected in my brain.  Type—Fame—Wealth—Pica—Epics—Colons, and last, not least—Cousins.  I am your cousin, Charlotte; when you become famous I should wish to have that remembered."  He fell into thought.  "No," he went on.  "I never could have believed it."

    "Of course not," said Charlotte, "you always made game of my things, and now you see!"

    "Some of those poems, whoever pays for them, were the very mildest lot I ever set my eyes on.  Everything you have ever done is the better for criticism."

    "Yes, I know, I always said you had good taste and great critical faculty—and now I consider that really—in order that I may not lose all this money, &c., it will be your duty to help me as much as you can."

    "The young person, though she laughs, is quite in earnest.  Yes, that is what things are rapidly coming to.  Some years ago this might have been thought affecting.  Here is a young man, shall I say it? in his early prime, I think, girls, a fellow of my age—"

    "Just beginning to shave," interrupted Naomi.

    "May so characterize himself—"

    "As he swings his legs, sitting on the play-room table."

    "Without undue self-laudation (the voice of poetess should never be strained to such a shriek as that!)—a fellow, I say—"

    "He says," echoed Naomi.

    "A fellow, I repeat," shouted Don John, "just launched into the responsibilities of life, and it is suggested to him as the most useful thing he can do, to criticize the poetry of a girl; I say it's enough to make a Stoic grin; yes, she belongs to the dominant sex."

    "My dears," exclaimed Mrs. Johnstone, looking in, "are you aware that your father has been calling you for some time?  What is all this laughing and shouting about?"

    "And what is Don John roaring out for about the responsibilities of life?" said Donald Senior, looking over her shoulder.

    "Oh, father and mother!" exclaimed Don John, "I hope you'll take my part, I am so crowed over by the superior sex!"

    "Is that all?" said Donald Johnstone.  "Do you good.  Come down to breakfast, my Star, and teach your son to imitate his father; put yourself in your right place, my boy, and you will never be crowed over; you should submit the moment you find out what they wish, and then they will have no occasion to crow."

    A henpecked man never talks thus; but the wife in this case was well aware that either her husband's love for her, or his deference to her wishes, or his dependence on her judgment, made her very much what he often called her, his guiding star.  As a rule he found out what she wished, and did it.  But he was so absolutely blind to this fact that he rather liked to boast of it, and talk about the yoke of matrimony, which he never would have done if he had felt it.

    But there were occasions when he would announce an intention, and then she never interfered.

    "It never rains," says the proverb, "but it pours."

    This remarkable news concerning Charlotte had not been half enough wondered at and discussed when the letters came in: one was from Edinburgh, as Don John saw at a glance before his father opened it, and one in Lancey's handwriting, which was handed to his mother.

    "Duncan Dilke Foden" was the signature of the Edinburgh letter, and before breakfast was over Charlotte and Naomi heard, to their great astonishment, that the said Duncan Dilke Foden, having made Marjorie an offer, she had desired him to write to her father.

    With one consent his two fellow-conspirators looked fixedly at Don John, he must have known that this event was probable, and he had kept them out of his counsels.  But the event was very interesting.  Mrs, Johnstone read the letter, and handed it back again, when it was read aloud.

    "Just like Foden," thought Don John, who could not help noticing that neither father nor mother showed the least surprise.

    As no one spoke, Don John said, while Mr. Johnstone folded up the letter, "I call it jolly respectful to you, father.  Foden is such a fine, straightforward fellow."

    "Yes, the missive really reminds one, in spirit, at any rate, of some of the old Paston letters, 'Right worshipful, and mine especial good master, I commend me to your mastership as lowly as I may, and do you to weet that an it please you I am fain to seek your favour with the fair maid, my Mistress Marjorie, your daughter.'  This must be a great surprise to you, my boy?"

    Don John looked a little foolish when his father said this; he wondered how much his parents knew, or suspected; was it possible that his grandmother had betrayed him?

    A look darted at him by Naomi showed that she was thinking of the same thing.

    He could not help glancing at his mother, but she gave him one of her benignant smiles that told nothing excepting that she was "weell pleased to see her child respected like the lave."

    And the other letter?  Well, there was to be no end to the surprises of that morning.  Lancey was coming home.


 
CHAPTER VII.


IN another fortnight letters were received again from Lancey.  They appeared to show an altered frame of mind, and opened a question which hitherto he had managed to evade and put by.  "He knew he had acted very badly, he had felt this for a long time.  It was wrong to have thus gone away and kept away.  He humbly begged pardon—would his dear father and mother forgive him?"

    This in the first letter.  In the second, by the same mail, but dated a week later, Lancey said that he and his mamma were miserable; that she was very much afraid of her new husband; she had no settlements, and could not draw her own dividends.  He had been very kind to her, till he had got her property into his own hands, and he now said that her son was an undutiful fellow, and ought to go back at once to the good friends whom he had left in England.  That he would advance him enough money to pay the passage, which was all he should do for him.  He ought long ago to have been earning his own living.

    This second letter was addressed to Don John, who for a week or two after its arrival was almost as miserable as Lancey said he was himself.

    But another mail-day went by, and there was no letter at all; then again the day passed, and Don John made up his mind that Lancey must be coming.  He still retained an affection for Lancey, though in the minds of his sisters such a feeling had begun to fade.  Don John knew all Lancey's faults and delinquencies, yet he clung to him without effort.  The girls knew none of his delinquencies, but sometimes one would say to another, "We ought not to forget him, poor fellow, considering how fond father and mother have always been of him."

    As for Charlotte, she thought of him a good deal, but his behaviour, which at first had given her very keen pain, because she would not understand it, began in time to show itself in its true light.  At first she would not see that he had meanly taken advantage of the Johnstones, had got away and kept away against their will; that he was shifty about the letters; that he pretended not to understand; that he was amusing himself as long as he dared, hoping to come back when he must, and throw himself on their bounty and goodness again.  When Charlotte did begin to see this, she was ashamed for him, and all the more because her own ideas of right and duty and gratitude were high.  She also had a home in the same house which had sheltered him.

    She scorned herself when she found that she had for many months been tacitly excusing his conduct to her own mind, as if it was not his duty to do the same things which in such a case would have been her duty as if wrong could possibly be right for his sake.  "Could I misunderstand as he professes to do?  What should I deserve if I treated my uncle and aunt thus?"

    Charlotte for several months thought a good deal more about this than was consistent with her own peace.  She could not help arguing the matter over, she was often weary of the subject and of Lancey too.  Yes, at last she began to feel this, and then—well, then, happily for her, she ceased almost suddenly to think about it.  The tired mind, which was vigilant in its desire to forget, fell asleep over the subject unawares, and when it woke up again, the importunate presence was withdrawn.  Charlotte soon began to forget how importunate it had been.  Of course she had not loved him, but he had touched her imagination, and she soon must have loved him if he had not made her ashamed for his sake.

    "It has been a rude shock to me," Charlotte sometimes thought.  "I am obliged to see that he is mean, and not straightforward.  I never can care for him as I might have done."

    In the meantime Marjorie stayed three months at Edinburgh, was now engaged to young Foden, and about to return home.

    The summer was passing, Charlotte had been invited to contribute to a well-known magazine, and when Lancey and his return, and Marjorie and her engagements had been discussed in all their bearings, this affair of hers continued to afford constant talk, in which no one was more interested than Don John.

    Even Mrs. Johnstone appeared to find the subject interesting, at least she frequently came and sat in the old play-room after Don John had come home in the afternoon.  There she would quietly work and look on, and weigh in her mind something that Captain Leslie had said.  She saw no good ground for his supposition, but she made many reflections as to whether any change in existing arrangements would tend to bring such a thing on or not.

    But, no, there was no ground for such a thought, none at all.  Don John was almost uncivil to Charlotte; but though he gave his opinion about her writings with a lordly air of superiority, he wished her to get on, because as he graciously remarked "she is one of us."

    "Now, look here," he was saying once, when, the conversation getting animated, she was drawn from hers considerations about Marjorie and about Lancey to look at and to listen to him; "you always talk about the poets as if they were such sacred creatures that it is quite taking a liberty to see that there was any humbug in them even after they are dead.  There is Wordsworth, for instance—"

    "Any humbug in Wordsworth? how dare you!"

    "I grant you that he was crammed full of human nature.  He was full of us and the place we live in.  We take a beautiful pathetic pleasure in reading him, because we like that a man who knew us so well should love us so much.  But it was humbug in him to say that everything the poet writes is valuable and interesting because he writes it—for—for it isn't."

    "Splendid reasoning," exclaimed Charlotte, "and quite unanswerable!"

    Don John, seated on the table, was making a cherry net.  Charlotte and Naomi, standing at two easels, were painting decorations for a cottage hospital.  Don John brandished the mesh and went on, delighted to see Charlotte fire up.

    "I've never thought so much of that old boy since I found out that he did not know how to pronounce his own language."

    "My dear," exclaimed his mother, beguiled into remonstrance, "what can you mean?"

    "Well, mother, listen to this


'I've heard of hearts unkind, kind hearts
     With coldness still returning,
 Alas the gratitude of men,
     Hath oftener left me mourning.'


You see he pronounced 'mourning' as if it rhymed with 'returning,' which is the north country provincial way."

    "Accidental," exclaimed Charlotte; "it would have been out of the question to spoil such an exquisitely beautiful verse for the sake of a more perfect rhyme."

    "I quite agree that the verse is beautiful; but, Charlotte, he always rhymes 'mourning' with such a word as 'burning' or 'returning.'  I defy you to find a case where he did not."

    "Then," said Charlotte, after a moment of cogitation, "perhaps that is the right way."

    "That answer was just like you.  As to Pope, I am almost sure he spoke with several provincial peculiarities.  Look at his inscription on his grotto:


'Let such, such only tread this sacred floor
 As dare to love their country and be poor.'


You see he pronounced 'poor' as Miss Jenny does 'pore.'"

    "Nothing of the sort.  It is a modern invention to be so particular about rhymes.  Pope felt a noble carelessness about them.  So did Wordsworth.  At the same time I must admit that one has sometimes very deeply to regret his carelessness in other respects.  That most beautiful poem, for instance, on "The lesser Celandine," how he took away from its perfectness by not being at the trouble to arrange the last verse properly!  I dare say he dictated it first to his wife or his sister, and never looked at it afterwards.  The states mentioned in the first two lines are meant to be contrasted, not the one worse than the other but he says,


'To be a prodigal's favourite—then worse truth,
     A miser's pensioner—behold our lot!
 O man, that from thy fair and shining youth,
     Age might but take the things youth needed not!'"


    "Well, I see nothing the matter with it excepting that it is a pity he put in the word 'youth' twice.  But he was obliged to do so in order to have a rhyme for 'truth.'  To be sure this rather spoils the climax."

    "Of course it does.  I have so often wished he had written just a little differently, it would have been easy.  Thus: 'To be a prodigal's favourite—then forlorn—(forlorn of that delightful favouritism, you know, and made) 'a miser's pensioner.'


'To be a prodigal's favourite—then forlorn,
     A miser's pensioner,—behold our lot!
 O man, that from thy fair and shining morn,
    Age might but take the things youth needed not!'"


    "Well, that is what I call audacity!  That's the real thing.  If the critics could only hear you improving Wordsworth, wouldn't you catch it!"

    "Of course I should; but they never will!  And now be quite fair, for once.  If you had first seen the lines according to my version, and had thought it was the original, should you not have been very angry with me if I had proposed to alter it and put it as it now stands?"

    I shall not argue with you, arguing as a rule sets so fast in my own opinion.  And, Charlotte, you are not asked to write reviews, you know; if you were, there is no evil and contemptuous thing that reviewers may not say of authors and their works; but I never met with one yet who after saying that a poet was a fool wrote an improved version of his lines to show the reader what they should have been."

    "Why should you be surprised at my criticizing things?" said Charlotte.  "All intelligent reading is critical.  Even our admiration of a master-piece is our criticism of it; we judge it to be fine and true."

    "She said the other day," observed Naomi, "that Keats wrote of Greek scenery as if he was describing an English market-garden."

    Charlotte excused herself.  "I said he wrote not differently of 'The sides of Latmos' and of an English wood and brook.  He is here in spring,


                       'While the willow trails
 Its delicate amber, and the dairy pails
 Bring home increase of milk,"



and he hopes to write a good deal before the daisies


'Hide in deep herbage, and ere yet the bees
 Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas.'


Then forthwith he is in a mighty forest on the sides of Latmos,


                                          'Paths there were many,
 Winding through palmy fern and rushes fenny
 And ivy banks.'


Then he comes to a wide lawn—


                                                   'Who could tell
 The freshness of the space of heaven above
 Edged round with dark tree-tops through which a dove
 Would often beat its wings, and often too
 A little cloud would move across the blue.'



Is not that England?"

    "Certain sure.  But you must not forget that in classic times there were forests in Greece, though it is as bare as a down now."

    "But was there 'rain-scented eglantine'? did the cold springs run


'To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass'?"


    Don John reflected—then shirked the question and disposed of the poets.

    "I don't know; Keats is a muff.  I could'nt read him half through.  Wordsworth I respect, he knows all about me.  But I think, as you delight in him so much, it is odd you are so fond of choosing out pretty and beautiful things to write about, instead of choosing to make homely things beautiful as he did."

    "I write of what I see," said Charlotte.  "We do not all live in the same world.  In the swallow's world, though it be our world, there is no snow,"

    "Yes, but though the swallows never heard of snow that is not the less their own doing.  They live always in the light and the sunshine because they go to seek them.  You mean that you too may go in of sunshine if you please."

    "I suppose I do."

    "But the swallows are inferior to the robins for ever, because these last have experience of summer and winter too.  However," continued Don John, "I am rather sick of the fine things written lately about birds.  I suppose we shall hear next that they admire the sunsets."

    "But it is nice," said Naomi, "to know that they delight in gay colours just as we do."

    "Yes, and to be told almost in the same breath that man has himself only developed the colour faculty very lately indeed.  Well, all I know is that I have frequented with a pewter spoon taken a pink egg streaked with brown, and put it into a nest full of blue ones.  If the bird I gave it to could see the difference between blue and pink, why did she sit upon and hatch the alien egg?"

    "Perhaps some birds are colour-blind, as some of us are," said little Mary, speaking for the first time.

    "I have sometimes thought," said Charlotte, "that whole generations and ages saw things differently as to colour.  The ancients all agree that a comet is a lurid, a portentous and a red-coloured light in the heavens.  Up to about two hundred years ago we never hear them spoken of as anything but red; but the comet I have seen could never have suggested anything but a pathetic calm, infinite isolation, and it had a pure pallor which made the stars look yellow."

    "I saw one once when I was a little girl," said Mary, "it had a long tail, but the next time they showed it to me the tail was all gone."

    "That tail," said Don John, "was the comet's 'horrent hair,' it got in between the sun and the planets, so it is probable that they sent for a number of old Daily Telegraphs, the largest paper in the world, you know, and twisted it all up in curl-papers to be out of the way."

    "They didn't."

    "Well, then, perhaps the sun pulled all the comet's hair off to fill up his spots with."

    "No, Don John," said Mary, with sage gravity, "I would rather believe about the curl-papers than believe that."

    "Thereby you show your discretion, Mary, always believe the most likely thing."

    Whether he would have gone on to explain this celestial matter to her, will never now be known, for at that moment a servant, one new to the house, flung open the door, and not at all aware what a commotion the name would excite, announced,

    "Mr. Lancelot Aird."

    Lancey was among them; he had kissed his mother and sisters, Charlotte had greeted and shaken hands with him, and Don John was still clapping him on the back, laughing, shaking hands with him over and over again, then stepping back to exclaim on his and altered appearance, then coming close and shaking hands again, when he suddenly caught sight of his mother's face, and both the young men paused surprised.

    There was for a moment an awkward pause.  Mrs. Johnstone, who had risen, was winding the loose worsted round a ball with which she had been knitting; when she looked at Lancey, her eyes, more moist than usual, had a pathetic regret in them.

    She said calmly, "Have you seen your father yet?"

    "No, mother," answered Lancey, looking very foolish.

    "Father's in the orchard, I'll go and tell him!" exclaimed little Mary, dancing out of the room, and almost at the same instant Naomi and Charlotte, each feeling that the manner of Lancey's reception at home was unexpected, stole quietly after her.

    Don John felt his mother's manner with a keenness that was almost revolt against it.  If he had been away so long and had been so met, he thought it would have gone near to breaking his heart, but he also saw instantly, because it was quite evident, that Lancey was not hurt in his affections, he was only a good deal ashamed.  He had planned to take them unawares.

    "You should have asked his leave before you appeared among your brothers and sisters," she went on—oh, so gently.  And then she sighed, and the two tears that had dazzled her eyes fell on her cheeks which were coloured with an unusual agitation.

    If Lancey had fallen on her neck, and kissed them away and implored forgiveness, it might even at that pass have been different.

    But no, it was Don John who did that, while Lancey, looking red and irate, turned to the window, and appeared to look out.

    "Oh, my mother!" exclaimed Don John, in a voice full of remonstrance and astonishment.

    She answered calmly, looking into his eyes,—

    "Yes, my son."

    "You will beg father to forgive him, if—if indeed there can be any doubt about it.  Mother! what can this mean—mother?"

    His arm was still on her shoulder, she took her handkerchief, and wiping away her tears, said, "Lancey;" and when he turned from the window she kissed him a second time.

    "Father has come in and gone into your dressing room, mother, and he says Lancet is to go to him there," said little Mary, returning.

    "No, mother, not there!" said Lancey, turning white to the lips.  He had hoped to the last moment; now, before he knew what he was about, he had betrayed himself.

    When Lancet appeared at the dressing-room door with his mother, Don John was there, pale, shocked, faltering, choking, he had been entreating, questioning, what could Lancey have done? what did it mean?

    "You will forgive him!" he exclaimed.  "I don't know—I cannot believe that there is no more than I know—but I cannot bear my life unless you forgive him."

    Lancey listened with eager hope.  It was but an instant.  Then before any greeting was given to himself, Donald Johnstone put his two hands on the young Donald's shoulders, and looked aside to his wife.

    She said, "Your poor son Lancey comes to submit himself to you, and to confess."

    "You will forgive him, then, whatever it may be, father?" cried Don John.

    "My much-loved son," was the reply.  "If I had no better and stronger reason, I would forgive him for your sake."



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