Don John (9)

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CHAPTER VIII.


SOMETIMES one who has very good cause for suspicion against another, repudiates it heartily for a long time, and obstinately holds on to a hope that it is groundless.

    On the memorable day of the picnic, the day when Lancey stole the ring, his mother, as she entered her dressing-room after coming home, noticed a small piece of folded writing-paper on the floor, under her table.  She picked it up carelessly; it was one leaf of a ridiculous letter from Don John to Lancey.  It had been shown to her already, was full of jokes, in fact it was droll enough to make her wish to read it a second time, and she put it in her pocket.

    She had a good deal to think of just then besides parting with Lancey, and as soon as he was gone she went into her dressing-room, to revolve a little plan for producing, as she hoped, about two hundred pounds.  Before she went to the picnic she had put in order all her jewellery; there was much more than she ever used.  Her husband had told her of a loss he had lately had on some shares; if he would let her part with some of it, this loss would be made up without the least inconvenience of any kind.

    Lancey had only been gone a few hours; her mind was still full of him, of his eagerness to get away, of the little love with which he repaid theirs―when she went up to her jewel-box again, and found to her surprise, but not to her dismay, that it was unlocked; she must have left it so, but it was most unlikely that any one should have noticed this fact.  She began gently to take out the jewellery she meant to part with, and was not in the least disturbed till she missed the ring.  It had been in her hand so recently, she would not believe that it was gone; but it was not till the box had been searched a second time that the finding of that little piece of folded paper flashed into her mind, and made her feel sick at heart.  She told her husband, and at first, as Lancey had foreseen, they both felt very angry with themselves for having harboured such a suspicion.  It seemed a shame that they could, for an instant, believe him base enough to steal from THEM.  And yet the letter had been found there—and yet the ring was gone!

    He had perfectly believed that no suspicion attached to him, because, though the letters had expressed displeasure and surprise, no mention had ever been made of this ring.  But his guilty conscience accused him to such a degree when he saw Mrs. Johnstone's face, that he no sooner heard where his so-called father meant to receive him, than he gave up all for lost.

    And yet, in one sense, all was not lost.  Whatever he did, they would not, they could not, altogether give him up.

    "I shall receive him in this room," Donald Johnstone had said of his adopted son, "and if he bears the ordeal badly——"

    "Yes," she answered, "if he bears it badly, we may get him once more to confess and repent; but what if he bears it well?  We cannot accuse him."

    There was no need to accuse him.  The deed which had been done was not named—it was taken for granted.

    "Our taking this thing for granted," said Mr. Johnstone, "ought to show you how deep is your disgrace."

    The adopted son hung his head; he was alone now with his parents."

    "If you had been my own son—do you hear?"

    "Yes, sir," said Lancey; he did not dare to say "father."

    "If you were my own son now standing before me, and accusing his conscience of having robbed me, even me—if it had been Don John that had done this, I never would have spoken to him more; but you—you have no father—and you are unfortunate in your mother."

    He paused, appearing to hesitate; and Lancey, though very much frightened, was astonished too—he lifted his daunted face.  The adopted father had turned away from him, and gone to the window.  Yes, it actually was so—he perceived that he was to be forgiven.

    He was intensely relieved, but he felt, almost with terror, that he could not call up that amount of emotion, and above all of deep affection, which could alone meet suitably the love and grief that he saw before him.

    He bungled through this scene as well as he could.

    He meant to live at home again if they would let and submit himself to the yoke—at any rate till he could get some more money, for he was penniless.  But work and restraint were now more distasteful to him than ever; money and idleness had afforded him ample opportunity to cultivate the knowledge of things evil, and he had done this with diligence.

    He still retained a certain degree of affection for Don John, but he was so surprised by a few things incidentally said by him, that he paused to make further observations before talking confidentially to him on life, as he now unfortunately thought of it, on its fashions and experiences.  He hardly knew, after a day or two, whether he looked upon Don John with most astonishment or most contempt, for he was not only very straightforward and honourable, very desirous to learn his profession, very high principled, but he was in some respects a good and blameless youth; he had everything to learn, as Lancey thought.  This was a contemptible state of things; but on the whole Lancey elected not to teach him.

    Don John had something on his mind just then, he was penitent and disgusted with himself, he had begun to perceive that in plotting Marjorie's flight to Edinburgh he had very much forgotten himself, as well as what was due to her.  He was much displeased also with his grandmother for having played into his hands.

    He thought this over till there seemed to be peace but in confession, and he told his mother all.

    She took his confidence very calmly, and paused before answering.  "Your father will be glad of this," she said at last, "for, as time went on, your want of perception in the matter has disappointed him."

    "Mother! then grandmother told you?"

    "Of course!—I knew perfectly that Marjorie did not in the least care for Campbell, and we agreed with your grandmother that while she stayed in Edinburgh he should never be invited to the house."

    "I'm stumped," was all Don John replied, and he retired, feeling much relieved, and a little humiliated.  "The human mind," he reflected, "is deeper than I had supposed!"

    And now Lancey was fitted out with proper clothes and personal possessions, for he had come back shabby and almost destitute; and then he was told that something had been found for him to do in London, and he was to board in the family of a clergyman, for it would not be just towards the other children that they should live at home.

    He understood that he was under probation—was well aware that his host and hostess, probably his employer too, knew perfectly of his propensity.  It pleased him to receive frequent letters from "mother," with as frequent presents of fruit, books, or the various trifles that she thought he might want or like.  And sometimes "father" would send round on a Saturday to the office where he was employed, and propose to take him down with him to spend Sunday.  Lancey liked this very well just at first, but he soon made many friends for himself, not by any means all of an undesirable sort; some were old school-fellows and their families, some were people whom he had met with on his travels.  He had shortly a circle of his own, and seemed to take a certain pleasure in letting the Johnstones see, that as they would not any longer have him to live with them, he should make himself independent of them as soon as possible.

    At present his salary was extremely small, and Mr. Johnstone paid for his board and his clothes; his pocket-money was all that he provided for himself.

    There was only one thing in this world that he deeply dreaded.  This man who still watched over him, and had been a true father to him, would on some rare occasions take him into his study after certain fatherly admonitions and counsels would kneel down and pray with him.  Lancey regarded this as a very awful ceremony, so did all the children of the house.  It came so seldom that it never lost its power.  It was far worse, as Lancey felt, than any punishment; in fact the recollection of it actually kept him, and that not seldom, from doing wrong; but it was an additional reason for wanting to get free, to throw off the paternal yoke altogether.

    To things continued for nearly a year, and all, including himself, appeared to be going on satisfactorily.

    Captain Leslie had not been able yet to see Estelle's eldest son.

    Early in the autumn he took a tour on the continent, and was detained there by illness.  He was almost always ill, and could not think how it was.  He was prudent, he never fatigued himself; he would like to have spent his strength, and money, and time for the good of others; and all he could do was to care for himself.

    He consulted several physicians: "Perhaps he had better remain in the south of Europe for the winter," said one, and he submitted, finding the charge of his own health, of himself in fact, very dull work.  It was not till the hottest days of the English summer, the middle of July, that he found himself in England again, and on his way to the Johnstone's.

    He longed to see Estelle, and her son.  He felt that he had almost asked for an invitation, but not the less that his welcome was spontaneous and sweet.  The girls had corresponded with him, they were all charmed to see him.  The mother gave him a shaded comfortable corner in the drawing-room, and sent for some tea.  She perceived at once that he was quite an invalid, and for the first time he fully admitted it —to himself.  And Don John?

    Could anything be so unfortunate?  Don John was away again.  He would be disappointed, for he had wished to see Captain Leslie.  They did not think he had been away for nearly a year.

    But Lancey—"Did he remember that they had told him about Lancey?" asked little Mary.

    "O, yes."

    "He is our adopted son," said Estelle; "we brought him up with our own children."

    "But he lives with his own mother now," proceeded Mary; "her name is Mrs. Ward, and she is come home from Australia.  And Lancey has been ill, very ill; so Don John and Mrs. Ward took him to Ramsgate for a change.  Did you ever see Mrs. Ward?"

    "No; I have not the pleasure of her acquaintance."

    "She used to be rather rich, and had the grandest rings, and the thickest chains and bracelets you ever saw; but this is very fortunate, for she has married a very bad man, who treats her so unkindly that she ran away from him, and now she has all that jewellery to sell.  She told Lancey it was worth four hundred pounds, and she keeps selling it when she wants money; and she and Lancey live together.  Lancey says he shall go to law with that man soon, but it will not be any use.  Don John knows all about law, and he says so."

    "But Don John will be back in about a week," said Mrs. Johnstone, "so you will see him."

    Captain Leslie was very well amused, falling as before into the possession of the girls, to whom Marjorie was now added.  As before, he made them talk a good deal about their brother.  Freddy, a fine boy of fifteen, was at home, but he excited no interest.  Don John, his doings, his writings, and the photographs of his honest face, were what pleased Leslie.  He was a very joyous young fellow, as was evident—the leader of the young brood, Marjorie's confidant in her peaceful happy love affair, Naomi's comrade, Charlotte's critic, Mary's patron—looked up to by Freddy as one much exalted, but whose various doings were not beyond hope of imitation, and whose privileges might one day be shared.

    He was of age now, and gave himself occasionally the airs of a man of thirty, taking it much amiss that his two grown-up sisters were older than himself, and almost as tall.

    However, as he frequently said, their being so tall was their own look out; he was himself quite up to the average height, in fact, half an inch taller than his father.

    Charlotte and Don John, about this time were frequently seen sitting with their heads together, in doors or out of doors, and manifestly concocting somewhat that amused them; but though Mrs. Johnstone took notice of this fact, she was not careful to influence either party in any way.  The brother and sister-like intimacy, the old habit of writing "the minutes" together, kept them always familiar, but neither ever surprised the other; they were never absent, and then, uniting, saw each other in that new light which is apt to produce a new feeling.

    The fact was that about this time Mr. Brown began to cultivate Don John's friendship with a certain assiduity.  The young gentleman was not taken in.  "It won't do," he would think; "Charlotte does not care about your prospects a bit; why must you need confide them to me?"  But in their next conversation Mr. Brown with much diffidence let Don John know that he thought he might have mistaken his own feelings as regarded Miss Charlotte, and he felt sure she did not look on him with any favour.  Don John assented with needless decision, and added, of his own proper wisdom, that he was sure Charlotte was not a girl who was ever likely to marry anybody.

    But there was always something curiously deferential in Mr. Brown's manner when he called upon the ladies of the family.  Don John was sagacious; he felt that his society was not sought for his own sake.  He had been told that it was not for Charlotte's.  He consulted Charlotte.  Charlotte said it must be Naomi.  Manifestly she did not care about his turning away from her so soon.  But Naomi would care.

    And yet Mr. Brown was decidedly a good fellow.  He was rather a fine young man.  Would it be a good thing to let him have a chance?

    Of course, if Naomi knew anything of this beforehand he would not have a chance.  They were some time reflecting on the matter, and Naomi often thought they had more conferences than usual; a dawning suspicion occasionally induced her to surprise them.  They may have been adroit, or she mistaken, it was almost always "the minutes" they were discussing, for by this name all Charlotte's contributions to literature were still called.

    Evidently it must have been the minutes, for if there was any conspiracy nothing came of it.

    Mr. Brown frequently called; Charlotte often went out of the room on these occasions, and Naomi had to entertain him; but when Charlotte came back again it never appeared that Naomi had been well entertained.

    And in the mean time Lancey was frequently in the house.  He delighted to make Charlotte feel shy, and yet he saw that she resented his half-careless compliments.  He would often try to squeeze her hand, for he liked to see the pale carnation tint rise on her clear cheek; and when she was distant to him, or when displeased, he would laugh and enjoy it.  He did not truly care for her, but he would have been very well pleased to make her care for him, and he flattered himself that she did.

    Leslie, true to his interest in Estelle's eldest son, was pleased to learn all he could of Charlotte and her writings.

    It was the afternoon of the day when Don John was expected home; seated where he could see the path by which he would arrive, Leslie easily beguiled her into conversation.  She and Naomi were doing "art needlework," and Leslie was so fixed in his opinion that Charlotte and Don John were all in all to one another, that it surprised him when she sat down with her back to this path.  All had hitherto favoured his idea, and the talk as usual came round to Don John.  That afternoon, for the first time, Naomi noticed it,—started a subject which had nothing to do with her brother, and then fell silent to observed what would happen; but her attention wandered.  She knew not how this was, but when it returned there was Don John's name again.

    "Then why does he think that story was rejectedLeslie was asking.

    "Oh, because I had tried to bring in some of the old-fashioned courtesies.  It is such a pity that we are obliged to do without 'madam' and 'sir.'  Don't you think so?"

    "I think I have not thought.  So it is; we must make the best of it."

    "Such expressions as 'my lady' and 'your lordship' must always have been a hideous incubus on a polite tongue; but English has not been so pretty since we left off 'madam,' nor so terse since we parted with 'sir.'  I do allow myself in conversation to use those words now and then, for the mere pleasure of hearing them, but it does no good."

    "How do you mean, no good?"

    "Oh, it does not help to bring them in again."

    "No," said Naomi; "when you do it in society it only makes people think you know no better."

    "I fancy, madam, that their day is gone by," said Leslie, smiling.

    Charlotte sighed, as if she really cared about the matter. "We are growing so rude."

    "And so Don John counsels you to do without 'madam' and 'sir'?"

    "Yes, and without my theories.

    "What theory, for instance?"

    "Oh, in that paper I brought in my notion that birds have an articulate language."

    "Articulate?"

    "Yes, some birds; he has shown me that no creatures differ so much from one another, in point of intelligence, as birds; but I am sure some have a real language, bank-swallows, for instance.  When you hear them chattering together at the opening of their holes, does it never occur to you that if you heard any language you do not understand, such as Malay-Chinese or Hottentot, it would not sound more articulate than swallow-talk does, particularly if it was uttered as hastily and in as low a tone?"

    Leslie smiled, as if he would put the question by.

    She went on, "Of course their verbs must be very, very simple."

    "What! you believe that they have verbs?"

    "Certainly, for they possess the idea of time; they must be able to say, 'We were there,' and 'We are here.'  And as they are perfectly aware that they shall go back again, and as they do it in concert, I think they must be able to say, 'Let us depart.'"

    "They may have signs which stand for such ideas," said Leslie doubtfully, "as we have."

    "Yes."

    "And we call them verbs."

    "Irresistible reasoning! and yet I resist it altogether."

    "But how will you resist it?  What theory will you set up instead?"

    Leslie considered: "The verbs I cannot admit," he said doubtfully; "I could rather think your sand-martins have a monosyllabic language, like Chinese."

    "Yes; but I don't think that idea will help you, because the latest books about Chinese show, and I think prove, that originally that language had parts of speech, verbs, and inflections; but it has gone to decay, partly from isolation, partly from the idleness of those who spoke it—from their letting their phonetic organs pass out of use.  Chinese is not simple and young.  It is as it were in its second childhood, going to pieces from old age."

    "Indeed."

    "And you must have noticed that it is the tendency of language to have, as time goes on, a richer vocabulary and a simpler grammar."

    "You are going to found some theory on that, as regards your swallows?"

    "No; but I think it likely that theirs being only a rudimentary language, what fails them most is their store of nouns—not of verbs."

    "Charlotte," said Naomi, "Captain Leslie cannot help laughing at you."

    "Perhaps you picked up these theories from constant companionship with Don John?" said Leslie with an air of apology.

    "O no; Don John is always criticizing my theories; but for him I should indulge in many more."

    "I must admit that in this one I think you claim far too much for the martins."

    "Do you think then that all their chatter conveys no knowledge from one to the other—no intention, no wish?"

    "Why should it more than the lark's song?  He pleases his mate, but he tells her nothing."

    "No, any more than we do when we sing without words; but sand-martins cannot sing—they talk.  Some birds, for aught we know, can only sing.  But our sense of hearing is very dull.  It may be that besides singing the thrushes can say many things, and yet their speech may be too low and too small to be audible to us.  Sand-martins are the only birds I know who talk manifestly and audibly."

    "Ah, here is Don John," said Naomi, and she laid down her work, and went out at the open window to meet him.

    Leslie lifted his eyes, and looking out into the garden saw a young man slowly advancing along the grass.  Could this be Don John?  Mary came running up to him; he stooped slightly, and she kissed his cheek.  He looked languid, and tired; and while Mary chattered and danced about him, seeming to tell him some interesting piece of news, he gazed fixedly on a bed of petunias, and with his hands in his pockets stood motionless, as if lost in thought.  Naomi came near, and the two girls advanced towards the house, one on either side of him.

    "Captain Leslie is here," Naomi said, as they came up.  Leslie heard this, and the answer—

    "Oh!"  That was all.

    Rather a gentlemanly-looking young fellow Captain Leslie thought.  The extreme gravity and seriousness of his manner made his smile appear sweet; but it was soon gone again, and after the first greeting, he sank into thought.

    And so this was Estelle's son!  Of how much consequence he had been to Leslie!  Leslie was of no consequence at all to him.


 
CHAPTER IX.


AMONG the minor surprises of his life, none had ever struck Leslie so much as the behaviour and air of young Donald Johnstone.

    He had gathered a good deal of information as to his voice, his manners, his laugh: he appeared, and scattered it all; the picture was not like, in any respect.  There was something almost pathetic in the gentleness, the serious and silent abstraction in which he sat, and, remote in thought from everything about him, cogitated with folded arms.

    His light eyelashes concealed in part rather expressive blue eyes; he was pale with that almost chalk hue of a fair skin not naturally pale.  He only spoke when spoken to—and Leslie did not speak.  The girls, evidently surprised, asked if Lancey was worse.

    No, it appeared that Lancey was almost well again.

    "Nothing is the matter then?"

    "The matter! with whom?"

    "Why, with you.  Did you come up by the boat, Don John?"

    "Yes."

    "Ah, then you were sea-sick!  You always are!  It is such a mistake to think that, to be often on the sea at intervals, just for a few hours will cure you."

    Oh, what a sigh for answer!

    "I wish you wouldn't do it, dear," said Naomi, leaning over the end of the sofa on which he sat, and touching his light hair lovingly; "it has made you look so pale."

    "I've got a headache," was his reply; and then, all in a moment, there was a step heard, and the tall graceful mother came in the door.  Don John roused himself, he almost seemed to shake himself, and rose up and met her, and kissed her, and seemed quite cheerful.

    "My dear!" she exclaimed, "how pale you are!"

    "Yes, mother!" cried Naomi; "and he's been on that steamer again."

    "A fellow looks such a muff," said Don John, "ifs he is sea-sick.  I wish to cure myself."

    Leslie looked up, and met Don John's eyes; he knew as well as possible that there was something more than sea-sickness the matter.

    "When he got up from the sofa," exclaimed Mary, "he staggered; he is quite giddy."

    "There!" said Don John, impatiently; "no more!  It's more muffish to talk of it than to have it."

    "Yes," said the placid mother, soothingly; "I'll ring for some strong tea, and when you have had it you will be quite well."

    "Shall I?" he answered; and then he seemed to make a supreme effort again, and this time with better result.

    It appeared to be almost by his own will and resolution that he cast over the matter that had held him down, and that the natural hues of life came back to his face.  The tea came in, perhaps it helped him; he ate and drank, and seemed to feel a certain comfort in his mother's observance, so that when in the course of time Donald Johnstone himself entered, all that was remarkable in the young Donald's appearance and manner had passed away.  He was still pale, that was all.  Could it be, Leslie thought, that all this pathetic air and abstracted expression had come from a mere fit of sea-sickness?  He almost despised young Donald when the thought suggested itself.  But the night undeceived him.

    There is something so pathetic in the anguish of the young.

    Leslie had a feeling heart, and when, lying awake in the dead of the night, when the healthy and the strong should have been asleep, he heard a sound of sobbing in the next room to his, he could have wept too.

    This was his heir—bemoaning himself in the night on his pillow, when he did not know that any one could hear.  But the heads of the two beds were close together, one on either side of the wall.

    What could it be?  He was not yet twenty-two years old; could he be breaking his heart already for some woman's love?  Or had he committed some grave faults, and was he craving "forgiveness of his Maker? or was he sick—was he in pain?

    The sobbing went on so long that Leslie almost thought he must rise and enter the young fellow's room.  But no, he controlled himself; he feared to do more harm than good; and at last, but not till day had dawned, there was a welcome silence.  Don John was asleep; and Leslie, who had offered up many a prayer for him, fell asleep too.

    Leslie did not hear that midnight mourning only once; but for several nights there were no articulate sounds with it.  Don John, though in the morning he appeared grave and dull, and though he looked pale, went every morning to London with his father, and had the air of striving to behave as usual, so that Leslie felt that to speak to him or to his parents would be to make matters worse—it would be a breach of confidence.  But once before dawn, waking at a now well-known sound, he heard words as well as sighs: "Oh, father!  Oh, mother!"  He started up; these were about the last words he should have expected to hear; he could not risk being obliged to hear more.

    The heir, for whom he had already begun to feel some affection, must surely be mourning over some fault which he knew would distress his parents when they found it out.  Was it not possible that he could help him?  He rose, and lighting a candle, began to move about in the room without making any attempt at special quietness.

    There was absolute silence.  In a minute or two a tall figure in a quilted dressing gown appeared at Don John's door, shut it behind him, and came in.

    He set down his candle, drew a chair, and seated himself.

    "I must have disturbed you," said Don John, deeply vexed and disgusted with himself, and perhaps with Captain Leslie too.

    Leslie answered "Yes;" and when Don John made no answer, he presently went on: "And if I feel a very deep and keen sympathy with your sorrow, whatever it may be, there are reasons for that, dear fellow, probably you never knew."

    Surprise had for the moment mastered emotion.  Don John raised himself on his elbow, heaved up another great sobbing sigh, and stared at him.

    "Are you aware that I have loved your mother all my life," he went on, while Don John was considering that it was no use to say anything, he must let him alone—"all my youth—and I never had the least chance with her?  A hopeless attachment, and to such a woman, is very hard discipline for a man.  I say it that you may feel sure of my sympathy; but I have had faults to deplore as well.  Sin has full often been standing at the door.  If that is your case, feel sure of my deep sympathy there also.  And now tell me—you, the much-loved son of my first and only love—if there is anything in the world that I can do for you, do you think I should be thankful to do it?"

    "Yes," said Don John, quite simply, "I think you would;" and he laid himself down again, and made no attempt to say more.

    "You have got into some scrape; you have, perhaps, done something that you deeply regret, and—"

    "No," interrupted Don John, "I haven't."

    A little thrown back by this, Leslie paused, and after a short silence the youth went on—"But I feel that what you have said is extremely kind: and perhaps now I may be able to sleep.  I have not slept well the last few nights."  A hint surely to Leslie to go—but he stayed.

    "Are you so sure then that there is nothing at all I can do—with my advice, my assistance, my property?"

    "I am sure."

    "There remain only my prayers."

    "And they cannot help me to anything but patience."

    "My dear fellow—"

    "But I am as glad you came in as I am sorry for having disturbed you, because I am sure you will promise me not to mention this to any one—any one at all."

    "Not even to your parents."

    "That was what I meant."

    "But if I promise you this, you will owe a certain duty to me in return."

    "What duty?"

    "If a time should ever come when I can help you, I shall have a right to expect that you will claim my help, to any extent and in any way."

    "Thank you."

    "And I must not ask what this sorrow is?"

    "I cannot tell you."

    Leslie thought of Charlotte.  She had treated him with composed indifference, but he had appeared to the full as indifferent to her.  He could but speak carefully.

    "I hardly like to give this matter up," he said.  "When I first loved your mother I was scarcely older than you are now.  If there had been no other bar to my hopes, it would have been enough that I was poor.  Now if you feel any likeness in my case to yours, and if the young lady's father—I mean, if two or three thousand pounds—"

    "In love with a girl!" exclaimed Don John with a short laugh, whose bitterness and scorn it would be impossible to describe, for he was contrasting an imaginary sorrow with a real one.  "Fall in love with a girl, and cry about her in the night!  I am not such a muff."

    "What!" exclaimed Leslie, rather shocked.

    "I am not come to that yet," continued Don John with unutterable self-contempt; "but perhaps I shall"—and the suddenly arrested storm asserted itself with another great heaving of the chest.  Then he begged Leslie's pardon, for he saw that he was hurt.  "That's not my line," he said.  "But what you say, or seem to say, perfectly astonishes me.  You are very good; I have no claim on you in the world—and—I am sorry I disturbed you."

    "I think you mean that you are sorry I have become aware of this."

    Don John made no answer; Leslie turned towards his candle; the grey light was beginning to wax, and it was burning dim.

    "I must go, then," and he held out his hand.  But the next day, when his heir came down, he deeply regretted that he had promised silence.  Don John was not able to go to town; he had low fever hanging about him, and his already wasted hands looked whiter than before.

    The day after that a medical man was sent for.  Don John could get up, but he complained of his head; and in another day it became manifest that both his father and mother were alarmed about him.

    Leslie's visit had nearly come to an end—he felt that he must go; but it was bitter to him.  He longed to talk to his heir, and offer him the best consolation that he could; and Don John was aware of this.

    In his shrewd but somewhat youthful fashion, he perceived the real affection that Leslie felt for him.  He thought it would be very unfair if he did not have his innings before he went.  Expressing himself in these words to Leslie, on an occasion when he was feeling slightly better, and not being understood, he explained—"I meant that I thought you would like to pray with me; father does sometimes.  I should not mind it at all—in fact, I think, I should like it."

    "Out of kindness to me, dear fellow?" asked Leslie; but of course he took the opportunity offered.  There could hardly have been anything appropriate to the peculiar circumstances of the patient in that prayer, and yet he derived from it his first conscious desire to submit—his first perception that if he could submit he could get well.  He knew that he had rebelled hitherto, and thus when the thinking-fit over this misfortune came on, rebellion was at the root of its keenest sting.

    He had merely meant to be kind, and he had his reward.

    He was very ill, and both father and mother lavished observant tenderness on him.  Sometimes he could get up, come down stairs, and talk almost as usual.  Then all on a sudden something which had been held at bay appeared to get hold on him, and low fever devoured his strength.

    One day he could hardly lift his head from his pillow, but he was yet not quite in such evil case as before, for there was that in the manner of both parents which made Leslie sure that they knew now what had prostrated him.

    It was very hot weather, his door was set wide open, and the family came in and out, not aware, and not informed, that there was any anxiety felt about him.

    And there was little in the placid mother's manner to show that she felt any.  She was generally with him.  It was not so much tendance as consolation that she seemed to be giving him; not in words.  And his father, too, he spoke bravely and cheerfully; yet the patient lost strength and flesh daily.

    "As one whom his mother comforted," thought Leslie, when he saw his life-long love watching by his heir.

    Who could fail to be consoled?  Yet Don John did not appear to derive direct comfort from their manner, only from their presence; he could not bear to be left without either one or the other of his parents.

    And yet it was he himself who had first consoled; and he went away, and endured a very anxious fortnight, till the girls, who had promised to write frequently, could at last say that Don John was better.

    With what gratitude he heard this.  He was going up shortly to Scotland, and could not help proposing to stop on his way, and pay a call of one hour on the Johnstones.

    There was the beautiful Estelle, and there were her tall daughters, and her invalid; he was lying on the sofa, undergoing a course of indulgence and waiting on, from all parties.  His hands were thin, and as white as a girl's, his cheeks were thin, and his eyes were sunken; but the struggle was over between youth and death, and youth had won.

    And yet it was not the same Don John.  Leslie was just as sure of this as the others were.

    His mother put down the book she had been reading to him, and looked at him with anxious love.  "He must go out soon for a change," she said, "and then I hope he will be well."

    "I don't want to go away, mother," said the young invalid; "but if I must go anywhere, perhaps Captain Leslie would have me."

    The beautiful mother actually blushed; the way in which all her children took to Captain Leslie was almost embarrassing to her.  She could not see any charm in him herself; but that was an old story.

    Leslie was highly flattered.

    She was about to say, "I really must apologize for my boy;" but when she saw Leslie's pleasure she had not the heart to do it.  He looked as if he would have liked to hug Don John.

    "Captain Leslie ought to have me too," said Mary; "I've done fourteen errands for him this very day, finding books for him, and fetching his eau-de-Cologne, and handing him his beef-tea, and all sorts of things."

    Mrs. Johnstone did not speak, but she looked quietly at Leslie.  The look was not an apology to him for not having given him her love, but it expressed an affection she had never shown him before, and she said, "If you can have Don John" ("And me too," interrupted Mary), "my husband and I could trust you with him with more comfort than I can say."

    "And me too," insisted Mary.

    "Don John, and you too," answered Leslie.  His mahogany-coloured face could not change its hue, but short of that it expressed all the pleasure possible.

    "Invited themselves, did they?" exclaimed Donald Johnstone, when he was told of this by his wife.  "My children invited themselves into this man's house, who has of all men least reason to like their father!  How did he stand it? and how did you get him out of the scrape, my Star?"

    "He was delighted; so I let them alone."

    "Let them alone!  But it will be a great inconvenience to him; very likely he will have to get in more furniture and other servants.  I believe he has a mere shooting-box."

    "Yes, I felt all that, and was very much out of countenance."

    "And doubtless he perceived it.  I don't see how you could have done less than blush, my dear.  You are actually repeating the performance, and very becoming it is."

    "Perhaps he wishes that old attachment to be forgotten—perhaps he feels only friendship, now that he has seen me again."

    "Perhaps!"

    "Well, we must make the best of this now.  They proposed the visit with the greatest composure, and he accepted with acclamation."

    So in a couple of weeks Don John and Mary were in Scotland, in a moderately convenient house, wedged into one corner of a triangular valley.  Its one carriage road led down beside a prattling stream to the sea.  Mary was intensely happy, and Don John was convalescent.  The sensation of returning health and strength is in itself delightful, and the refreshment of clear skies, long sunsets, scented air, and mountain solitude, all helped to console and calm.

    Don John gained strength daily, but Leslie did not observe any return of the joyous spirits for which he had hitherto been conspicuous in his little world.  He never ventured to ask what the sorrow was, but he perceived that its cause was not removed; and sometimes there would come over the pleasant but somewhat commonplace countenance an expression which removed it into another world of feeling and experience.  An ardent yearning would come over it, the outcome it seemed of some impassioned regret, which made it look more noble, if less young.


 
CHAPTER X.


"FATHER is ill," cried Mary, running down one afternoon to the shore of the long loch beside which Don John was sitting, watching the little wild ducks as they crept into the shelter of the reeds; "not very ill, but rather ill.  Captain Leslie has got a letter from mamma.  He is better, and we are not to be at all disturbed, and not to think of coming home."

    Father ill!  Such a thing had never taken place for one day in the memory of the oldest of his children.

    Leslie followed closely on Mary's message.  Don John read the letter, and neither he nor his sister were so uneasy as might have been expected.

    He looked at them.  "They have this composure from their parents," he thought.  "It was one of Estelle's great charms that she never was in the least nervous, never apprehensive."

    The nearest telegraph station was fifteen miles off, and did not open till eight o'clock in the morning.  Leslie had waited behind to make arrangements for having a servant there, to send a message off at the earliest moment for the latest news.

    The sick man's children slept in peace.  As soon as possible the next morning, an answer came from Naomi to Don John.  "Father is not worse.  You need not be uneasy; but mother wishes you both to come home."

    Don John had been prepared for this, for his packing was found to be ready.  All little Mary's effects by his decree were to be left behind, excepting what could be put into a hand-bag.  Thus they were all ready as soon as the horses could be put to.

    "But why are you in such a hurry?" asked Mary.  "Mother says we are not to be uneasy."

    Leslie listened for the answer.

    "And therefore I am not uneasy about father's illness; but he is sure to want me, and I want to go and help."

    "I am glad to see that you have your mother's delightful temperament.  Why indeed should you be uneasy? why anticipate disaster?" said Leslie.

    Don John's eyes dilated with a startled and gratified expression.  "My mother's temperament," he began, almost vehemently, and then checked himself.

    "Yes, you often remind me of her, both of you."

    Though Leslie was driving, and the horses were rather fresh, he could not help noticing that he had produced a great effect by this speech, and that it was a pleasurable one.  That his own feelings should be of the most romantic cast towards Estelle, seemed to him the most natural thing in the world; but that her son should share any such feeling was, he well knew, a very uncommon circumstance.  But then she was not an ordinary mother; so he presently told himself.  Why then should hers be an ordinary son?

    Don John lost himself in cogitation.  This remark of Leslie's appeared to be such a spontaneous testimony to his sonship.  Very slight, but the more sweet.

    Undoubtedly his handwriting was extremely like his father's, but he had tormented himself with the thought that this might be because he liked it, had admired and copied it, as remarkably firm, clear, and round.  It expressed the qualities he wished to have.

    And then his manner, and the carriage of his head: he walked just as his father did.  The remembrance of this consoled him just at first, but his sick fancy turned that into poison also: "I constantly walk with father," he thought; "and when I was a little fellow I liked to go as if I was marching, because he did."

    Leslie parted from Don John and his sister with much affection.  Neither the son nor the daughter anticipated evil; but Don John sent a telegram on to mention at what time he hoped to reach King's Cross, and requesting that one might meet him there with the latest news.

    He found all as he had expected.

    His father had been ill, but was better—still in bed, and not allowed to get up.

    "And you are not to ask him how his illness began," said the mother.

    "But how did it begin, then?"

    "That is what we do not know, my dear.  We thought he had had a fall.  Dumplay came home quietly, and your father not riding him."

"That fat, old, peaceable creature could not have thrown him. Impossible, mother."

    "So I think.  Mr. Viser found him sitting up leaning against the gate of the long field, and brought him home just after Dumplay came into the stable-yard.  He was a little cut about the face, seemed ill, and that first day gave no account of the matter.  We were told he was not to be questioned at all, or teazed about it.  The next day he roused himself, and said, when he saw Dr. Fielding, 'Now am I better?'  'Better than I could possibly have hoped,'  Dr. Fielding answered, 'wonderfully better;' and then, to my distress, your dear father went on: 'I cannot think how this came to pass.'  But we are assured that there is no danger.  That evening he said, 'he remembered dismounting and opening the gate; he remembered seeing Dumplay walk through it, but nothing more.'  If he fainted and fell, he must have hurt his head and cut his face in the fall."  Then she put her two hands on Don John's shoulders as he stood gravely listening, and said, "My much loved son, what a comfort it will be that you will be with him, able to help him, and knowing all about his affairs.  It consoles me to see you looking well again."

    The new expression came into Don John's face then; and after that again, when sitting by his father he found that he could calm and satisfy him, and that his mere presence was doing good.

    He went up to London the next day about such of his father's affairs as he could attend to, and walked home from the station through the long field.  Several people out of "the houses" waylaid him to ask after his father; perhaps that was the reason why he did not notice, till he almost reached the shrubbery gate, that Charlotte was standing there waiting for him.

    Charlotte.  He perfectly knew Charlotte's face, and yet it was true that he had never looked at her with any particular attention before.  It was a light green gate that she was leaning on, just of the proper height to support her elbows.  She was dressed in white, and had no colour about her dress at all; on her head was rather a wide white hat, limp, and only suited for a garden.  Her whole dress, in short, was dazzlingly white and clean.  Her small face seen under the hat was in shade; a pure pale carnation suffused her cheeks, and the lips were of the hue of dark damask roses.  The same Charlotte! and yet the beautiful Irish eyes seemed almost new to him.

    Don John stopped.

    "I thought I would come to meet you," said Charlotte, not moving from her place on the other side of the gate.  "My uncle is so much better; he is up, and sitting in the play-room."

    This was certainly Charlotte, and yet he looked at her with wonder.

    "Well?" she asked with a little smile, and added, "I knew you were uneasy, you always look so grave; so I thought I would come and tell you that Dr. Fielding says he is more than satisfied."

    "It was kind of you, it was good of you," said John.  "What a beautiful gown you have on, Charlotte!"

    "This old thing," said Charlotte, lifting her arms, and letting him open the gate; "why, I have had it for a year!"

    "Oh," answered Don John; and how long he would have stood gazing at her it is impossible to say, if she had not turned and moved on, saying, as she preceded him in the narrow path, "No doubt you will want to see my uncle first; but after that I want to consult you about something."

    Charlotte and Don John generally were consulting together about something or other; he was always expected to criticise her essays and tales, and did not regard this as by any means a privilege, but as he often thought, "she is not likely to marry, and therefore she ought to have something else to give a meaning to her life."  On this occasion he did think of the coming consultation as a privilege, and ardently hoped that Naomi would not be present.  His past thoughts were full of images of Charlotte, and for a moment he was not aware that he was looking at them with different eyes.

    His father was so much better, that but for the cuts about his face it would have been difficult to be uneasy about him.  These, however, reminded them how sudden the seizure had been, and made them long to know whether it was ever likely to recur.  Don John had tried to discuss this in the morning; but when he found that he was put off with remarks about symptoms that he knew could be of no consequence, he said no more, but he looked so much alarmed that the friendly doctor said, "I have told you that there is no danger—for the present.  But if I allowed you to get anything out of me, your father would very soon get it out of you, and that would be bad for him.  When he asks questions, you know nothing."

    "Excepting that there is something to know," thought Don John.

    Marjerie was away, staying with her grandmother, as was often the case now.  Dr. Fielding went on: "I would not let your sister be sent for, but I wanted you; your presence will be of the greatest use, and may be of the utmost consequence."

    Don John took easily to responsibility, guessed that his father was not to be left alone, and found a great solace in the consideration that he had so arranged his life as to have his son almost always at his side.

    The dinner that evening was a very pleasant meal.  The head of the family was so manifestly better that no one could be uneasy about him.  A nurse was in the house, and she sat with him.

    Little Mary was allowed to dine late, and was full of talk about Scotland.  Don John was in better spirits than he had been since before his illness, and sitting in his father's place surveyed the family.

    His mother looked tired, but peaceful and thankful.  Mary and Naomi had on white muslin and blue ribbons—pink does not look well with reddish hair; but Charlotte had on pink ribbons.  How much prettier pink is than blue!  Her almost black hair, not glossy—how soft and thick it looked!  A twisted rope of pearls was embedded in it.  Her mother had just sent it to her, and at the same time some silver ornaments to Naomi.  Don John did not know that, but he could not help looking at Charlotte, and she and Naomi kept glancing at one another.

    "Don't they look sweet, both of them?" exclaimed the admiring little sister; and then Don John was told that the girls had put on their best to do honour to these ornaments, which had just arrived; and before he had reflected that he should have included Naomi in his remark, he had burst forth with "Well, I thought I had never seen Charlotte look like that before—look so well, I mean."

    It was the end of September, remarkably hot for the time of year, and though they were dining by candle light, all the windows were open.

    "Girls always look better when they have their best things on," said Mary.  Don John glanced at both the girls; Naomi looked just as usual, Charlotte's appearance was really indescribable.

    "You never say anything civil, excepting to mother," said Naomi to her brother.  "Now there was an opening for you to have said that we look well in everything."

    "Only he doesn't think so," observed Charlotte.

    "No; he often says, 'What a guy you look when you have a crumpled frock on!' and, 'How horrid it is of you to ink your fingers!'" observed Mary.

    "Yes," said Charlotte, with sweet indifference; "but I'm not half so untidy as I used to be."

    Don John would like to have made fervent apologies for his past rudeness; he would like to have put Naomi's hint into impassioned language, but he had just sense enough to hold his tongue; and he thought his mother's encomium very inadequate when she said, "Yes, I am pleased to see a great improvement in you, my dear; you almost always look nice and neat now."

    Charlotte's cheeks blushed and bloomed; a deep dimple came.  Her smile was naturally slight, but it always lifted the upper lip in a strangely beautiful way, and then the teeth showed.  One never saw them but then.

    Nice and neat!  Go out at dawn and apply those words to a dewy half-opened damask rose.  Charlotte for her part found this praise very much to her mind, and both the girls continued to remark on one another's ornaments in a way that enabled Don John, with wholly new shyness, to glance at them.  He tried to make his glances impartial, but the silver chain was only an ornament round his sister's neck.  The pearls twisted in Charlotte's hair appeared to be almost a part of herself, he felt that if he might touch them they were close enough to her to be warm.

    When he opened the door for them all to go out, that vision of beauty was last, and she whispered to him.  "In the orchard, Don John; you won't forget?"

    No, he was sure he should not forget.

    He argued with himself for some minutes as to the length of time he was accustomed to sit at table.

    He reminded himself that when the evenings were light he generally rose when his mother did, and strode straight into the garden.  It was rather dark now, but hot, and the air was still.  He could hear the girls' voices, they were all out of doors.  He could not wait any longer; he ran upstairs to wish his father good night, and then came down to give a cheerful message to his mother, who was alone in the drawing-room.  After that he too stepped forth into the dark.  Naomi and Mary were together; Charlotte was walking on just before them, and held a lighted candle, which she was protecting with her hand.  There was no stir in the air to make it flicker.  Naomi was very fond of Charlotte; when Don John teazed her, she always took her part.

    "Another 'thing' of Charlotte's has been declined" said Naomi—and added in a persuasive tone, "you've never written one word about the minutes since you went away; and I think Charlotte would like to discuss some letters she has got; you'll ask her to read them to you?"

    "Yes," answered Don John; "what letters are they?"

    "Oh, from some of her editors, no doubt; no one else writes to her.  I have advised and criticized as well as I could while you were away, and now you must; but we needn't all be there, need we?"

    "No," said Don John with an air of impartial fairness.  It was a piece of hypocrisy, which for the moment he really could not help.  So Naomi, as he stood still, gave him the gentlest little push towards Charlotte, who had now got on a good way before them, and with her arm over her little sister's shoulder, turned her down another path, saying, "Well now, Mary, tell me some more about the gillies."

    Don John, like a moth, went after the candle.

    He got into a long walk, sheltered on one side by the shrubbery, and at the end of it, in a small arbour where was a little rustic table, sat Charlotte, her candle burning before her.  She seemed to be poring over some letters, but as Don John drew near she folded and put them into her pocket, and sat perfectly lost in thought, till, standing in the door of the arbour, he spoke to her.

    Then, to his great astonishment, she put her hand in her pocket again, drew out, not the letters, but her handkerchief, and leaning her elbows on the table, covered her face and began to cry.

    "Why, Charlotte," exclaimed Don John, "what can be the matter, dear?"

    When Charlotte got into a worse scrape than usual, he generally said "dear" to her, so did she to him on grave occasions—she had often done so when he was ill; what a valuable habit this seemed now.

    "I told you I wanted to consult you," said Charlotte trying to recover herself—her lovely colour had fled, her hands trembled a little, and her long eyelashes were wet—"but I don't know how to begin," she sighed, almost piteously.

    "I'll begin then," said Don John.  "If that editor has declined your last thing, he is a humbug; it is the best you ever wrote."

    "But he hasn't," said Charlotte.

    "Oh, it's not that!"

    "No, but it's everything else—it's all, excepting that."

    "It's not the curate," exclaimed Don John width sudden alarm.  "Surely he has not turned round again to you?"

    Oh , no—of course not; then the colour back to Charlotte's face.  Don John sat down on the other chair, and Charlotte's said, "If you were in my place—I mean if, instead of being the son of the house, you were (as I am) only here because my uncle and aunt are the kindest people in the world, you would understand—"

    She felt silent here—he had become rather pale, "I should understand?" he repeated.

    "That I cannot bear, having never had the least chance of even showing that I am aware of their goodness—I cannot bear to put away from me a possible means of returning it, even at the risk of perhaps making myself unhappy."  Then she leaned her elbow on the table again, and said with pathetic simplicity,

    "I could easily make myself love him, if I chose."

    Don John made a movement of surprise and alarm, but she was thinking of far more important matters than his feelings, and went on, "But he is not good—I know he is not good—and I don't believe he really cares for me."

    "Then, for heaven's sake, Charlotte—for all our sakes—don't 'make yourself love him.'  Why, what does the fellow mean, that he should dare to ask it? whom can you be talking of? who has presumed—"

    She was thinking too intently to notice his agitation.  "You always said, you know," she presently went on, "that I should not have lovers—and it's quite true; but there might be some one whose interest it is to marry me, particularly now.  When Christmas comes this year I shall have a hundred pounds from those two editors.  I am ashamed to think meanly of him, but I know—I am almost sure, he does not love me."

    "Then he is even more a fool than a knave!" Don John burst out; "and you will not be so cruel to us all; you will not so make us sure that your welcome has not been warm enough here—"

    "Gently, gently!" interrupted Charlotte; "but I do like to hear you burst forth in this way beforehand.  When I tell you his name do not forget what you have said, for you are the only person whose opinion I have truly feared in this matter—you love him so."

    Don John almost groaned; he thought he knew then what she meant.  "Who is it?" he inquired.

    And she whispered, "Lancey!"

 

#So far off as he could see her at all, he knew that it was Charlotte. Lancey was not with her, and she did not look up. No, a sort of tender shame touched the rose-hued lips, and made the long black lashes droop.
"Charlotte! Are you well? are they all well?"

"Yes."

"Where's Lancey?"

He wanted to know the worst—suspense was torture.

She only answered,--

"I thought I would rather see you at once, and—and you would have a minute to think before you met them all."

"I can easily think what it is dear," he answered, trembling.

"No, you cannot," the colour faded from her face. "You were quite right about Lancey."

Don John drew a long breath. What did she mean? was she not come to tell him that she was en- gaged? She seemed to be overcome with a shy, sharp pain. "Lancet' is not here," she almost whispered. "He never
came!"

"Never Jame!"

"No, he wrote to uncle that he had an indispensable engagement to fulfil. Uncle was so much displeased and so much hurt : he went and saw Mrs. Ward, and she told him that Lancey had been sent into the country
by his employers. But it's false, Don John. Uncle believed the story; she said she was not at liberty to say where they'd sent him. She wrote to me the very same day, imploring me, if I knew anything of Lancey's
whereabouts, to let her know, for she feared the worst—he had run away. He had taken all his best clothes and possessions, and he had been gone twenty-four hours.

Don John, pale to the lips, looked at her, and for the moment found nothing to say, of course she knew nothing of what was passing in his mind.

"There," she said with a little movement of her' hand, as if she would put Lancey from her, "it is. agreed between us that you would say something kind to me if under circumstances of such ignominy there was
anything to be said." She looked almost more distressed than ashamed.

"Don't cry, Charlotte," was all Don John found to say; he was so dumbfoundered that his thoughts were all scattered abroad. "But this letter," he presently exclaimed, "what was the post-mark on it?"

"His mother says he left it behind, with the envelope not fastened. She read it, and not knowing what better to do, sent it on without comment or explanation."

"Of course he has not written to you?"

"No, and uncle has not been told what Aunt Estelle and I dread, for I went at once and related all, to her; and we have had a miserable week, for there,
was no one to go up and down with uncle. Happily he is well, and you are come home, so that trouble settles itself. I do not forget that you too have had a solemn and anxious week. But I have not told you half about
Lancey yet. He has changed his name, as his mother tells me, and that bodes no good, I am sure. But, Don John, this is not the only scrape we are in." She had dashed away her tears now, and an air almost of
amusement came into her face. They were emerging from the cherry orchard by this time. The starry celandine was glittering all over the grass, and the cherry blossom was dropping on Charlotte, when she turned, and
standing still for the moment, "Yes, we two," she went on, "and nobody else."

"Not Mr. Brown's affair?" exclaimed Don John.

"Here they all are coming forth to meet you! Yes, Don John, Mr. Brown's affair. This time, I suppose he thought he had better not conduct the matter personally; he got his father to write to my uncle. The old Canon
seemed therefore to think his consent very doubtful, but he wrote politely; gave some hint, I believe, that his fortune was small, but spoke of his high respect for uncle; and said that in about ten days he should be in
the neighbourhood staying with the vicar, and if by that time the young lady had made up her mind to accept his son, he hoped to be asked here, to make her acquaintance and assure her of a welcome."

"And Naomi?"

"O, Naomi! when my uncle showed her the letter she did not attempt to disguise her delight."

"What on earth is to be done?"

"When I consider how we encouraged his modest hopes, how we set him before Naomi in the best light! Oh

"Why it is not without the greatest difficulty that father will be able to produce the two thousand pounds he promised to Foden with Marjorie. It will be years, if ever, before he can give the same to another daughter. Oh!
what a fool I have been."

"You must not meet them with such an air of consternation. You must make the best of it."

"But there is no best. It's all my own doing. I have already brought father into pecuniary straits, and now I am going to make Naomi miserable."

And thereupon they all met.

It was not an occasion when smiles could have been expected, but even the parents who shared all their anxieties with Don John were surprised at what Charlotte had called his consternation.

Marjorie was present; she looked serene now, the 'day for her wedding was fixed, her fortune was to be ready, and she little knew at what a sacrifice.

And Naomi was present.

Don John was very fond of Naomi; when he saw her face he felt a lump rise in his throat. It was all
his own doing! What had they said to her? Perhaps they had told her the whole truth, that she was dowerless; perhaps they had only hinted at a long engage. ment. What was it that she knew? Well, he could never
forgive himself; he had meddled, and he bad his reward.

"I'll sit down," exclaimed Don John suddenly; "I don't feel as if I could breathe."

His mother was at his side instantly. He was close to a bench, and she took him by the arm.

He sat down and battled with the lump in his throat.

"I dare say he has been up for two or three nights," observed his mother, "and perhaps has had nothing to eat for hours."

"I'm all right," said Don John, almost directly, and the whirling trees seemed to settle down into their places, so did the people.

A strange sense of disaster and defeat was upon him. And Charlotte was gone. He felt with a pang that though Lancet' was off, Charlotte had never spoken of him in a tone of such pity, nor to himself with such
unconscious indifference.

But presently here was Charlotte again, in one hand a roll, in the other a glass of red wine. He had time to notice her solicitous haste; two or three drops of the wine had flowed over the brim. There never was such a
precious cordial before; he clasped thelittle hand that held it, without taking the glass from her, and she held it to his lips; a delightful thought darted into his mind.

He was quite well again. He looked up at her as she leaned towards him, and she whispered, "Never mind, perhaps it will all come right in the end."

A prophetess of hope, how lovely she looked as she stepped aside! He often thought of her words afterwards; just then they only meant kindness, the consolation was only in her good intentions. And so she stepped
aside, and Mary came running up with a telegram, addressed to Donald Johnstone, Esq., the younger.

Donald Johnstone, Esq., the younger, took it in his hand and turned it over. His mother was beside him, and the others were grouped before him as he sat.

He really for the moment could not take his eyes from Charlotte's face.

At last he read the telegram; and then he looked at her again. His air of helpless astonishment was almost ridiculous—Charlotte thought so—that dimple of hers showed it. It was very sweet.

"Well?" exclaimed Marjorie.

Then he read the telegram aloud. It was such an important one that they forthwith forgot to notice how he was behaving. It ran thus:-

"Sir,—The will has arrived, and we look to you for orders. You are respectfully requested to return for the funeral, the deceased Captain Leslie having left you his sole heir."

Nobody had a word to say. Each one looked at some one of the others.

Don John presently rose, and in absolute silence they all walked in to breakfast.

Don John was relieved to find all the blinds of the breakfast-room down, he was in a state of elation which he felt to be almost indecent; he was trying hard to conceal it, and hoped that the green gloom, made by these
blinds, would help him.

It was not about his inheritance; no, that was astonishing, but hardly yet understood. It was not that Lancey seemed to have given up Charlotte; no, for Charlotte was distressed at it—how much distressed he could not
yet be sure. It was because he had felt that morning a momentary faintness. Such a thing had never occurred in his life before; but just as he felt as if about to faint, a flash of ecstatic pleasure at the thought
completely restored him.

"I should not wonder," he said to himself, with boyish delight and pride, "if I've got a heart complaint; and if so, I'm all right. I must have inherited it from father. I'll never give myself an uneasy moment about that cruel
woman's story any more."

He had been up four nights, and had travelled many hours without food—he wished to give these facts their due attention; and while he ate hisbreakfast he got deeper and deeper into cogitation over them, all his people
letting him alone. At last, but not till breakfast was nearly over, he began to look at Charlotte and Naomi. Naomi was so pale, and Charlotte was so nervous, and so perturbed.

He longed for time to talk to them, but if he meant to go back to Scotland there was absolutely none to be lost.

"Time's up, my boy," said Donald Johnstone. Perhaps he was a little disappointed, considering the pecuniary straits, which had all been confided to his son, that not one word was said to him in private before the
young man started off.

As to the mother, she was more than distressed, she was almost displeased. He had scarcely mentioned Leslie. He meant to go, and not first tell her anything of the solemn days he had spent. He would give her no
chance of telling him anything of Lancey. She had wished so sorely to consult him about Naomi.

Even when he kissed her, he was so lost in thought that he gave no answering glance to hers that seemed to wonder and to question him.

No, before the morning meal was quite over, he was off; and she went up to her own room to look at him as he went down the long field, running rather than walking.

It was an unsatisfactory parting. In the two or three letters that followed it hardly anything was said. The meeting at the end of a week was quite as strange. He came in unexpectedly, just before dinner, and the whole
evening he seemed to be fencing off any discussion. Then, before his sisters had withdrawn he fell asleep in the corner of the sofa, and soon took himself off to bed, tired out, as it seemed, with travel and with
business.

But the next morning Don John was up as early as usual, and his father heard him bustling about. It was a brilliant morning, and Don John was taking out basket chairs, and placing them under a certain tree at the
edge of the orchard. After breakfast he said, "Won't you spare this one day for talk, father? Don't go to town; you have never said one word to me yet. Why, you don't even know what was in the will, though I did let you
know how absolutely, and without conditions, all comes to me."

"So be it; I will stay," answered Donald Johnstone.

"I have made a place in the orchard," said Don John. "I could tell you and mother best out of doors."

His mother finding herself included, took up her work and a parasol, and followed.

"It will be less awkward for me to do it there," he went on.

"Less awkward, my boy," repeated the father. "Why should it be awkward at all?"

There was silence after this till they reached thethree basket chairs, which he had set into the shadow of a young lime-tree. The parents seated themselves. The son threw himself on the grass at their feet.

"It's more than you expected," he said, looking up at them. "There's seven thousand pounds in different investments, and then the land is worth at the very least ten thousand more."

"That is more than I expected."

"And I suppose, father, though it is left to me as Donald Johnstone, the eldest son of Donald Johnstone and his wife Estelle, I suppose no one can dispute it with me."

"No, my 'son; no one can dispute it, since I acknowledge you. I do not care to hear you bring forward that subject. It can only give us pain."

"But I consider that if thins inheritance had come to me before I was of age, it would have been your business, and your right, to say what should be done
with it."

"I don't catch your meaning."

"There are two, if not three courses, that you might have pursued, or at least wished to pursue, and I should have had nothing to say against any of them."

"Well?"

"You might have wished that it should all be equally divided between me and Lancet'—money and land."

The father made no answer.

"Or you might have wished that I should give, or leave the land, to Fred. (for that is in my power), and that I should divide the money with Lancey."

Still no answer.

"Or you might have wished that I should keep it all."

"Yes, I might have wished that you should keep it all."

"And yet it was left me for my mother's sake."

The father and mother fell silent here. What more indeed could be added to all that they had felt, or even to the little that they had said?

"I owe a great deal to Captain Leslie," said Don John, after a long pause. "When I was so ill, he came and prayed for me. I did not like it, but afterwards I could not help thinking about it. How anxious he was to console
me. I thought I should die of misery. He could not make out what the misery was, but he suffered it too for mother's sake."

"I know he felt for us."

"And he said he knew I was under the shadow of a great grief, but that if I could trust God, He could turn it into a ground of consolation. He said, take this grief and lay it in the Saviour's hands. He will show its other
side to you, and you shall not feel its bitterness any more."

"Good people," said his mother, "have said like things to me;" and she remembered how she had felt when the doubt about her child first fell on her: "this, when at least," she had said "could never be made a blessing
disguise."

"Well," continued Don John, "I used to lie and think that no fellow had ever been so basely used; but after that prayer of his, I felt suddenly consoled by the very last thought that you would have said could have in it any
consolation."

"Why should you think of that time at all? You are our dear son."

"I like to think of it now. He was a very curious man. He spoke to our Saviour that night just as if he was sending up a message by Him to the Almighty Father which was sure to be duly delivered. They were very
reverent, but yet they appeared so intimate —those things that he said; and he spoke of his love for mother, as if it was perfectly well known up there, and as if they pitied him."

"His love for mother." She had not been able till his last days to give Captain Leslie even a moderate degree of kindly liking in exchange for his love; but now she sat back in her chair, and covered her face with her
hand. An almost unbearable pang smote her, and made the tears course down her cheeks. She could not get beyond the thought that he was hidden away in the dark, and she was out in the bountiful sunshine of early
summer, there was such a peaceful Jpreading forth of young green leave, about her. It was so well with the world; but he was gone, and she had not been kind enough to him. She longed to get away from any sense of
death and darkness for him, and said to her son, "I cannot bear more of this; tell me about Leslie's prayer."



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