Don John (12)

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CHAPTER XVIII.


WHEN Mrs. Ward heard that Lancey still had property at "the house," she was at once tempted to make that an excuse for going there, claiming it, and giving her own view of matters to Mrs. Johnstone.

    Mr. Johnstone and Don John would be away; it seemed such a good opportunity for wringing the other woman's heart, by describing Lancey's cough—talking of his sufferings, how he had been picked up under a hedge, and how, if he had died, he would have had a pauper's funeral.

    Lancey was generally kind to her, he was even glad of her company; but when she told him of this project, he was exceedingly angry, and desired that she would do nothing of the kind.

    "You were always promised a share of everything," she grumbled, "and it is my belief that they are forgetting all that, and you too."

    "If they can forget my past, the better for their own peace," sighed Lancey, "and as to my share, I have had it already.  I was never promised a certain sum.  I was only promised a certain proportion of the family possessions."

    "And you have had nothing yet," she answered, "but just your bringing up."

    "Yes, I have.  I have had three thousand pounds from Don John."

    "Mercy!" exclaimed Mrs. Ward. "I thought—yes, I'll allow that I thought—it was bluster and vapouring, when he said that on your account he should keep his hands from touching Captain Leslie's fortune.  Three thousand pounds!  Wherever is it, then?  You told me we were living on money Mr. Don John sent to you—living as I thought from hand to mouth; but if it's on the interest of three thousand pounds, I call that handsome, and I don't feel that it's at all the same thing."

    She laid down her work and pondered.

    "Three thousand pounds!" Lancey having justified Don John, felt too weak to enter on his own terrible story, and he let her alone.  Many bitter and salutary thoughts had possession of his breast; and when she added, "And yet it might be—I mean it may be—that you've a right to all—"

    "You don't think so, you are sure of the contrary," Lancey burst out roughly.

    "Yes, my blessed boy, that I am."

    "And yet you're not at all thankful for this three thousand pounds, this great sum of money, which has saved me from a trial for felony—from becoming a wretched convict."

    "Don't talk so wild," she answered soothingly.

    "You are as weak as can be still.  It's too much for you."

    "God forgive you, and me too," muttered Lancey, fretted almost beyond endurance by the knowledge that he had not strength to tell her all.

    "It is you who talk wildly, mamma," he began.  "It makes me sick to hear such nonsense.  We cannot both have a claim to all."

    "No, I allow that," she answered, as if it was a great concession.

    "Well it's their own doing that has made me talk and think wild about it."  She presently added, "They treated you both exactly alike."

    "But they loved me the most," said poor Lancey, with something like a faltering in his voice.  "I always felt and knew that though they were just, I was the favourite; nothing could have been done more for me."

    "And then you had me to be fond of you as well," said Mrs. Ward, "as soon as I'd set my eyes upon you in the field, a pretty little fellow, jumping and shouting, I loved you so as nothing could be like it."

    Lancey did not appear to notice the appealing tone in which this was said, he went on,

    "It is only of late years, since I have gone on so that they could not have me with them, that I have felt I was becoming less and less to them all, and Don John more and more."

    "But you had me," she repeated.

    "Yes," he answered, with unconscious indifference; and when he saw presently that tears were dropping on her hand, so that she could not see her work, he said fretfully,—

    "Oh, mamma, don't."

    "I often think you don't care for me a bit," she replied, with the short, sobbing sigh of a sick heart.

    "I feel so weak," said poor Lancey, trying to put off a discussion.  "Isn't it time I had my stuff?"

    She got up and poured him out his tonic, and as she handed it him she went on,

    "You've often made me feel, in particular of late, that you're only willing I should live with you because it's a conveniency to yourself."

    "Don't cry, mamma," said Lancey, a little touched.

    "I'd rather by half that you'd reproach me and tell me it's all my own fault (if you'd be like a son to me at other times) than treat me so cold as you do."

    "You'll not love me so well when you know all," Lancey began, but he stopped short, for his conscience, and even his heart, told him that this would make no difference.

    She hardly heeded; taking his self-accusation merely for an acknowledgment of gaming debts, and delinquencies yet more to be deplored but not punishable by any human law.

    "Besides," he went on, much more gently, "what would be the good of reproaching you with its being your own fault?  Why that is what makes you feel it so keenly and be so bitter about it.  Mother was not bitter; I am sure she did not feel it half so much.  You have had the worst of it every way.  But anyhow I am not the fellow that has any right to find fault.  I could not have had more if I had been their own son, and if I had not been yours you could hardly have had less."

    "It's true.  I have had the worst of it."

    "And I am often sorry for you."

    Still the remonstrance though said gently, was not to her mind.  She went on, having checked her tears,

    "But as you never doubt I'm your mother, no more than I do, I wonder you don't love me more."

    "I like you.  Well, I love you as well as I can," said Lancey fretfully.

    "I'm often afraid that when you get better you'll be off again, and leave your poor mother.  It will break my heart as sure as can be if you do."

    "I promise you that I never will."

    "They'll invite you to stay at the house for change of air—I know they will—and then you'll forget me again."

    "I do not think Don John will ever let me go there again."

    "What! set himself up against you!—and pretend to order you?"

    "And if he does allow it, I am not sure that I shall think I ought to go."

    "You speak quite solemn, my Lancey!" she exclaimed, looking at him with alarm.

    "But you'll stand by me, I have no doubt," continued Lancey; "and I begin to think, mamma, that I have behaved badly to you.  I'm pleased (now I consider it), to know that it's natural you should be fond of me.  I don't mind kissing you—"

    Remarkable speech, but quite to her mind; he raised himself up, and turned his hollow cheek to her.

    He had always greatly objected to her bestowing on him this form of caress.  There he drew the line.

    Mrs. Ward rose, and carefully drying her face with her handkerchief availed herself of the present gracious proposal.  She kissed him; and he kissed her, almost for the first time, and then, exhausted, laid himself down to rest, and to consider.

    He had hitherto so much despised her; she had proved herself to be a mean and sordid person, without principle, and indeed without common honesty; still she was a great deal better than himself, as he now discovered.

    When he was a little better he asked her to read him a chapter in the Bible.  It was characteristic of Lancey, now that he felt himself to be much changed, that he should think of this Bible-reading as likely to improve her; for his own part he was improved.

    She took the book, but she turned white even to the lips.  "You don't think you're going to die, my only dear."

    "Oh, no!"

    "This seems like it though."

    "We were always brought up to think a great deal of the Bible," said Lancey, "they were always teaching us things in it."

    "But you told me you hated those puritanic ways."

    "I did then; but now those things comfort me, and seem to do me good."

    "Oh, well, if it's only that, my Lancey, and if you're sure you are not going to die."  Thereupon she found the place he mentioned and read to him for some time.

    "And what did you think of it," asked Lancey, not without a certain gentleness, as she closed the book.

    He had chosen chapters that he thought might be useful to her.

    "I was so taken up with thinking of your poor father, I could not attend to the reading much."

    "Oh, what about my father?"

    "When he was on his death-bed he asked me to read to him just as you did; I was that terrified that I ran down to the lodger below us.  'Mercy, Mrs. Aired,' said she, 'what now? how white you look!' so I told her.  She was a play-actress of the lower sort, and not a good-living woman; in short, Lancey didn't like my having anything to say to her.  'I cannot do it,' said I, 'it frightens me so.'  'Nonsense,' said she, 'I'll go and read to him as soon as look at him; he will die none the sooner for it.'  Well, if that woman didn't go up as bold as brass and read to him, as if she'd been a saint.  He died the day after."

    "It was of decline, was it not?"

    "Yes, my Lancey."

    "Did his cough sound like mine?"

    "Don't say such heart-breaking things to me; you'll be all right soon."

    "But did it?"

    "Well, it did."

    "There now, you need not cry.  As the 'play-actress' said, I shall die none the sooner for knowing this."

    "What with you making me read the Bible to you, and then talking about your poor father, you've quite overcome me," she exclaimed, starting up, and she went into her little bed-room to recover herself, for Lancey hated a scene.

    And almost as she went out, the other mother came in, and Don John behind her.

    She came in calm, tender, observant, and sat down beside his couch, taking him in her arms, and holding his head with her hand for a minute upon her bosom.

    "Mother," said Lancey, "I am not worthy that you should come to me."

    She did not contradict him, but releasing one hand, wiped away her quiet tears.

    "I have never been worthy of you—never," continued Lancey.  "And all my faults and my sins against you and father seem much worse now that I feel how I have sinned against God."  She arranged his pillows again and let him lie down on them.

    Don John had been looking out of the window, he now came forward to say, "Father and mother know nothing about your last three months—excepting that you have been very ill."

    "And that you wished to go to America without taking leave of us," put in the mother.  Oh, what a small delinquency for her to know of!

    "I am afraid, indeed I feel sure, that if we did know how you have been conducting yourself, we should be much hurt, perhaps displeased—but Don John (and we have trusted him in this)—Don John thinks it best we never should know."

    Lancey and Don John looked at one another, the old bond was just as strong as ever that bound them, but it had never been one that seemed to admit of any deep sense of obligation.  They were both lucky fellows if the one could get the other out of a scrape, and save the parents from disgrace and pain.

    "I am afraid it will be a long time before you are well enough to go back to your situation," she said tenderly.

    "Yes, mother," was all he answered.

    "Will Mr. Cottenham wait all that time?" she next asked.  So far as she knew, Mr. Cottenham was not aware of Lancey's intention of going to America, and this had been prevented by illness.

    Lancey could not answer.

    "Mother," said Don John, "I have seen Mr. Cottenham twice.  Lancey has lost the situation."

    "Oh, but I hope he was kind?"

    "He was kind."

    And then she began to talk to him.  A deep sense of the presence, nearness, and love of God had gradually grown up in her heart.  Sorrow had been the earthly cause of this.  She had dwelt long in the presence of a great doubt.  It had first become sweet to her to feel that God knew which of these was her own son, and then opening her heart so fully to both of them, she had begun to think of them as both God's sons, and to perceive that He was giving the one who was not hers very unusual blessings, care, guardianship from evil, love, prayer, teaching, warnings.  It was true that one of the two had persistently turned away and done evil, but she believed firmly, that the same God who had turned sorrow of hers into blessings for him, would certainly go on with him.  The last stroke of bitterness had been dealt to her when the other mother, angry at some lordly airs of Don John's, when he was indignant at a base thing which Lancey had done, had dared to tell both the young men their story; and her own, as she had long known him to be—had come home, and fallen ill, and almost broken his heart.

    But how much more truly he had been her own, and his father's, ever since.  How much more fully than ever before she had now become able to sympathize in her husband's religious life, and receive and partake of those consolations that he offered to his son.  She deeply loved Lancey still: we do love those whom we have been so good to.  She talked to him, and Lancey answered her humbly, and with what seemed very true penitence; but that he had been so lately hunted by the police, in hiding among the lowest of the low, and within an hour of being taken up to be tried for felony, she never dreamed.

    When she rose to go away—"I suppose you send your love to your father, and all of them," she said.  Lancey darted a look at Don John, which said as plainly as possible, "May I?"

    She saw this, and saw the nod of assent given.  Then Lancey said, "Yes, mother."  She had just been going to add, "And of course as soon as you are fit to be moved, you will come and stay with us till you are well again."  But the sight of this permission, asked and given, arrested her.  She put her gloves on, considering all the time, then took leave of him, and went her way.

    Don John soon observed that his mother was displeased.  He knew she had noticed that Lancey all through the interview had seemed to look to him for guidance, and had got it.  Don John was not penitent of course, but he knew that he had got into a scrape.

    His mother presently said, "I meant to ask poor Lancey whether he could come down to us to-morrow, but I did not care to hear you answer for him, and tell whether he could or not."

    Don John pondered.  He and Lancey had already discussed this very question.  Miss Jenny had never been inside "the house" in her life, and he could easily keep out of the fields.  Besides, though looking wretchedly ill and thin, he was like his old self, not like the poor disfigured creature whom she had helped to nurse.  When first they both talked of this, and Lancey pointed out that Miss Jenny would not recognize him, he was surprised to observe that, as to his going again to the house, Don John made still the same demur.

    "I am not a felon!" Lancey exclaimed, rather bitterly; "that you should look as if you thought my presence would be a disgrace."

    "No; because it takes two parties to make a felon—the criminal and the law.  You have done your part, the whole of it, it is the law that has not, and therefore you are not a felon."

    Lancey quailed a little.  He had not been arrested, he had not been in the dock, his name and antecedents had not been published in the newspapers, his adoptive family had not been put to shame.  He seemed to himself to be indeed a sinner, and in need of God's forgiveness, but to be, somehow, nothing like such a sinner as if the law had found him out, and had taken its course.

    "I do not wish to excuse myself," he began, "and I owe it to you that I can hold up my head among my fellow-creatures; but if I am not to hold up my head, how am I the better?"

    And now Mrs. Johnstone was hurt, displeased in fact.  She knew nothing of the facts of the crime, of the hiding, of the giving up on Don John's part of the three thousand pounds.

    "His coming to us, poor fellow, is of course a matter for your father to decide, not for you," she remarked.  "It was indeed very wrong of him to break away from us, as he has done.  I cannot quite understand why he should have wished to go to America, having a good situation, and so kind a person to work under as Mr. Cottenham; but it is not for you to judge him, my dear, and if your father is inclined to forgive and have him home for a time, you will of course acquiesce, and I hope I shall never see such evidence of his being subservient to your wishes as I have seen to-day.  I know you are allowing him what he lives upon, but—"

    "But that's a mere trifle," Don John put in here, for the attack was unexpected and he did not know how to meet it.

    "That you should be in the least hard or unjust towards him I cannot bear to think."

    No answer.

    "Still less that such a feeling as jealousy should—no, I do not think it, and the more because you have no reason."

    Still no answer.

    "It is a long time now since that lamentable affair—"

    Don John's face appeared to ask a question.

    "Of the ring," she continued; "and since that he has been I fear little better than the poor prodigal; but, my very dear son, though your father has lost so much that it would sound unreal if he were to say what that father said, yet so far as love, approval, trust and pride go, we may truly say each of us, 'All that I have is thine.'"

    Don John's face was almost a blank.  She knew all its expressions.  He did not intend her to find out what he thought.

    "But I must not be hard upon you, my dear," she went on; "youth is naturally severe."

    To this general proposition Don John expressed neither assent nor dissent; but he presently said, in a somewhat constrained fashion,

    "I have never been jealous of poor Lanceynever."

    Just then the train ran into their station; some of the home party were in it and they all walked through the fields together; but in a few minutes Don John turned back, and sent a telegram to Lancey,

    "If you are invited to come here, pray make no objection; accept at once."

    Don John was already in the midst of trouble about money.  It had been difficult to get the three thousand pounds for Lancey without his father's knowledge, he now wanted seven hundred more; for to debts to that amount Lancey now confessed; and he was daily liable to be arrested.  These creditors had to be called upon and appeased, some were paid, some had advances made them on account.  A farm, in order to meet these demands, had been already mortgaged.  Don John did not feel even yet that he could trust to the truth of Lancey's repentance.  He feared that if he came again to "the house," other creditors might appear, and claimants of no very creditable kind might dun him under Mrs. Johnstone's eyes.  He had expressed this fear, Lancey had earnestly declared that he had no other debts than those he had named.  Don John hoped this was true, but he must now take the risk of its being false, and if it was they would all have to abide the consequences.


 
CHAPTER XIX.


"I THINK after all," Charlotte had said, "I had better give you that kiss."  So she gave it.  It was a sister's kiss, and he knew it.

    And she was so kind, so true, so helpful to Don John.  They were comrades, friends and conspirators again.  They had a sad and damaging secret in their sole keeping, and held the family honour in their own hands.  And Naomi's affair went on prosperously; and Mr. Johnstone in a great degree recovered his health, so that constant companionship was not needful for him; but Mrs. Johnstone had not yet talked to Charlotte, and Charlotte held Don John remoter.

    Charlotte was so beautiful!  But a young man's love not uncommonly is beautiful.  It is a way she has.

    Lancey had his invitation, and accepted it.  He was very weak still, had still a hollow cough, and used to lie on the sofa in the drawing-room, or in the old play-room, and he too perceived that Charlotte was beautiful, and he liked to be in the same room with her, and observe her sayings and doings.

    The same Charlotte, talking about things that so many people cared for not one straw, and bestowing on them the most impassioned feeling and sincere interest.

    And once when "mother" entered the room, he saw her come to a pause, and regard them all, and especially regard him, with a certain attention.  Why?  And then she quietly went out of the room, again looking as if lost in thought.

    It must be something they had been saying, and yet how could it be?

    The girls had been laughing at Don John because they said he was such a complete John Bull, and he had justified himself, had even confessed to a conscious wish to keep up the old style and form of patriotism.  He would like, if he could, still to believe that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen.  "As to slavery," he went on, "I hate to hear the old English horror of it made game of.  'Down with it at once, sir,' as nurse said to Fred the other morning when she brought him the black dose, 'for the longer you look at it the worse it is."'

    Fred, a great fellow of eighteen, made a sulky rejoinder:  "How came Don John to know anything about his physic?"

    No, it could not be their talk which the mother had noticed.  In about a quarter of an hour she came in again, and sat down in her own corner on the sofa, taking up her knitting.

    She still appeared to notice them all, and Lancey felt that he must not look at Charlotte so much.

    Charlotte and Don John were talking and arguing playfully, as of old, only that Don John treated her remarks with more deference.  There was nothing to interest Lancey in the conversation, but he listened idly, because the mother did.

    "Poetry!  What! poetry, our finest English endowment! poetry destined to become a lost art!  Surely, Charlotte, you cannot think that?"

    "Not destined to decline at once, but in the course of years.  The first move has been made already.  We have begun to admire the wrong thing."

    "Other arts have been lost certainly."

    "And why?  Partly, I think, because we try so many experiments; it is not enough to have perfection.  What could be more beautiful than an old seventy-gun ship, or a wooden full-rigged merchant ship, or a sloop?"

    "But we do not want our ships only for their beauty."

    "No; and yet we came nearer to the Creator's work when we made our finest sailing ships than man ever came before."

    "Nearer than when he built the Parthenon?"

    "Oh, yes; there is almost the same difference as between a lily and a nautilus.  The Parthenon is beautiful, and stationary, but ships are beautiful, and they can move."

    "It does seem as if the ship of the future was to be like a giant poloni, or a vulgar imitation of a turbot, with horns fuming out blackness on its back.  But, as I think I remarked before, we do not want ships only for their beauty."

    "No."

    "And so we change them to gather speed, or to get power, or to save expenditure."

    "And we do want poetry for its beauty, you mean.  Yes, only for its beauty; for its moral power over us—its teaching, comforting, and elevating power all depend on its beauty.  We know all this, and yet things come to pass."

    "Nothing particular is coming to pass that I can see, excepting that just lately some poets and people who think they are poets are getting excessively ingenious.  The French never had much poetry in them, but they were exceedingly ingenious, as the old Italians were.  And this sort of thing is being naturalized here.  Is there any danger in it?"

    "Yes; because it makes the form of so much more consequence than the spirit, that it will end in taking the writing of verse out of the hands of the poets, and we shall end by admiring ingenious, artful rhymes more than a wonderful or splendid thought."

    "I should have thought a poet, if there was anything in him, would have been able to write even in that style."

    "But not better than an ingenious scholar.  The future poets will be born in chains, and they used, especially in England, to be born free.  It will surely be a great disadvantage to be born under the dominion of a culture of the wrong sort."

    "Well, I pity the poet of the future: he will have to look out."

    "The more art the less nature.  I think the poet of the future will be like a wild bird in a handsome cage.  He will beat his wings against the wires instead of singing.  And as all these old formal and difficult descriptions of verse come in, the themes must be carefully chosen to suit them.  Lyrical poetry with us has always been rather a wild thing: now we seem inclined to tame it.  The French partridge you know has nearly exterminated the English.  So I think the French and Italian forms, in which we can only after all write a finer kind of vers de société, will prevail to smother the English lyric."

    "Well," said Lancey, who did not care a straw for poetry, "then let them, if they can; we have got more poetry already written than we know what to do with."

    "I shouldn't wonder," answered Don John, "and so we begin to want a change; but I must say, Charlotte, that I think the indications you speak of are very few and faint."

    "Like the straw which shows the way of the wind."

    Mrs. Johnstone was at the door by this time.  Lancey had felt sure that she would leave the room when this discussion began to flag, for he knew whom she would call to follow her.

    "Charlotte."

    He was right!

    "Aunt Estelle."

    "I want you, dear one."

    Charlotte got up, and the door was shut after them.  The glorious soft orange of the sunset was reflected only on the red carpet, and on the pale blue sofa.  Charlotte's white gown was what it had rested on so beautifully, and her absence made everything look dull.

    It came to Lancey almost as an inspiration that he himself was to be the theme of "mother's" discourse with Charlotte; that he had looked a good deal at Charlotte, and that "mother" did not care that he should.

    He was a little nettled.  She was quite needlessly careful!  It was true he frequently forgot what a bad fellow he had been, but then he only forgot what she had never known.  Lancey thought a good deal about this during the evening and the next day; but Charlotte did not seem to avoid him; she played to him in the morning, and in the afternoon she took her share of reading aloud to him with Naomi.

    Charlotte generally wore white; either the sunshine was clearer or her gown was even whiter than usual that afternoon, for as she passed down the garden grass walk she looked like a pillar of snow.  She gathered a red rose-bud, and went to the green gate, and leaning her elbows on it looked out.

    Some thought, both sweet and strange to her, was lying at her heart, its evidence seemed to give a brooding beauty to her eyes, and she pouted slightly, as she often did when she was lost in cogitation.

    So she was looking when Don John came up the field.  His father went into the house by the usual entrance, but he, remarking her, came on and approached her as she leaned on the gate.

    And she was so quiet, that though she looked at him, he wanted to partake of the joy of her presence as she was, rather than to accost her and make her move.  He stood for the moment on one side of the gate and she on the other.  It was such a slight affair, only three green rails and a latch.

    Here he had first discovered her to be his love, and that on her answer to this hung his destiny.

    The folds of her white robe were not stirred by any wind, all was as still as a dream.  She had the rose-bud between her hands, and she touched it with her lips.

    He had drawn off his glove when first he marked her, for sometimes when they met if he held out his hand she would put hers into it unaware.  Now, he hardly knew by what impulse he took off his hat too, and laid it on the grass.  What was she thinking of? what did this mean?  The rose-bud was at her lips again, her shining eyes looked into his, and she said,  "Dearest, shall I put this into your coat?"

    It was such an astonishment.  "Let me kiss it first," he stammered, for he could hardly think this real.  How could any young man so much in love have been so unready!

    Her hands were busy for a moment with the breast of his coat.  "I might envy the rose if you did," she whispered; and when he had kissed her, she put her arms round his neck and returned the kiss.

    How sudden and how vast a change!

    But nothing, when one has it, appears so natural as delight.

    They went through the garden together, hand in hand, and when Charlotte had said, "Aunt Estelle has told me all the story," there seemed to be nothing more to explain, and nothing so sweet as silence; for it was manifest to both that the world was their own —a new world not learned, and unexplored.

    How can one utter the world?

    No, "silence is golden," for at least it does this marvellous new world no wrong.

    During dinner the musing, ecstatic silence was hardly broken at all.

    In the course of the evening they began to consider how anything so remarkable as their love could be communicated to the family.  They need not have troubled themselves, everybody knew.  Even Master Fred, who generally stood upon his dignity, was not above stopping in the corridor that night to bestow upon his elder brother a neat and carefully modelled wink, and a very large smile—a smile in fact that spread over his face almost from ear to ear.

    A chuckling, rolling sound burst from the young gentleman's chest.  It was as if a small earthquake heaved when it was young.

    He darted into his room and hastily bolted his door, his usual way when he had been "cheeky," for when that ceremony had been forgotten, Don John not infrequently burst it open and threw at him anything that came to hand.

    Once or twice he had elaborately screwed him in, so that, as Mary said,

    "If the fruit-ladder had not been long enough to let him out the next morning, he must have been fed through the key-hole."

    But such are the ordinary ways of brothers when one is several years older than the other, and they are as these were, pretty good friends.

    And Lancey knew.  Somehow or other he thought it was rather unfair,—and yet he was very much improved.  On the whole he was very penitent.  When he came to review and consider matters, he did not see how if they had known all, they could have let him win Charlotte.  And next he considered that there was reason enough against such a thing even in what they did know.  This was a great advance to be made by such a young man as Lancey.  Another advance was his not being afraid of his father's advice and prayers, he liked them.

    But his visit to "the house" was a great anxiety to Don John, and even to himself.  He felt that he was always liable to be hunted up by those who had known him as John Ward, and to whom he had owed small sums.  Little bills might have been forgotten.  His parents might yet know of his dreadful disgrace; and the fear of this, no less than his true penitence, left him on the whole humble and thankful.

    So several weeks went on, and at last it was decided that Lancey should take a sea-voyage as the best chance of perfectly restoring his health, and that his "mamma" of course should accompany him.  Mr. Johnstone found funds for this, and Don John arranged it.  They were to go to Tasmania.  And somehow Mrs. Johnstone felt, and yet could give no actual reason for it, that Lancey did not intend to return to his own country, and Don John did not intend that he should.

    Lancey was an old traveller, he thought nothing of the voyage; and yet when he went away from "the house," taking leave of them all, he betrayed, for the first time in his life, very deep emotion.  It was impossible he could stay; not even Don John knew that as well as he did.  And yet it was bitter to turn himself out of Paradise.

    He felt how much dearer they all and every one of them were, than the poor woman whose all he was, and who was to go with him more because he needed her services than because he cared for her companionship.

    She, too, was much improved.  She had been told all by Don John.  She knew the extreme difficulty with which he had found money to pay Lancey's bills, and yet how he had refused to let Mr. Johnstone know anything.

    She blushed for Lancey over some of these bills, and felt that it was like mother, like son.  He was untrustworthy, dishonest, and deceitful, as she had been.

    Don John was the soul of honour and uprightness.  She sank in her own esteem when he came near her—and yet he was rather kind too.

    In the course of a few more weeks all was ready.

    The two mothers went on board, and Don John was there and Mr. Johnstone.  Then while these and Lancey went over the ship, the one mother wept and said to the other that she hoped she would forgive her.

    "My husband, Collingwood, has said to me many a time that our having been suffered to plant such a doubt in you was enough to make you feel almost as if the ways of Providence were hard."

    She sobbed.

    "I did almost feel something like that at first," was the answer.  "But I've got my own, and the doubts and distress have long been over."

    "Ay," was the answer, "and you've had all the good and innocent years of the other too.  I never had him back till I knew he would be a misery and a disgrace to me."

    "You speak too strongly," said Mrs. Johnstone.  "Poor Lancey is very much improved."

    "But I've brought it all on myself," sobbed Mrs. Ward.  "I own it; I humbly ask your pardon.  I've had my punishment."

    "I do forgive you."

    "It is but reason you should, for we both know you've got your own.  But even if it was not so, why still you've got the best of it.  It is not so; but if it was, I should have given you my good child and got your bad one."

    "Yes; I have felt that too; but you must not think that any distressing doubt remains.  A mother's instinct, both in your heart and mine, soon grew too strong for any mistake to be possible."

    So they parted friends, and even with a kiss.

    It was Christmas when Lancey sailed.  That was a pleasant winter, even Naomi did not think it long.  She saw her lover frequently, and she was to be married in March.

    She knew by this time, because her mother had told her, from whom was to come her dower, and Fred knew at whose instance and whose charges he was to go to Oxford that his really brilliant talents might have scope.  And Mr. Johnstone, feeling easy as to some matters which had weighed on his mind, improved again in health, so that it was a very cheerful winter for them all.

    And Charlotte was brought to say after much persuasion, that the double-blossomed cherry was her favourite flower, and most appropriate for a bridal.  Charlotte was very demure.  Sometimes she held Don John remote; their engagement, in short, by no means went on according to its beginning.  But her mother was to come over that spring for six months, and he thought he knew what for.

    There was not half so much crying at Naomi's wedding as at Marjorie's.  They were said to behave extremely well, and the children from the houses strewed the aisles and the church path with yellow and white and purple crocuses.

    As they all stood in the porch to see Naomi off, she said when she came down the steps and saw Charlotte standing by Don John,

    "Be good to him, Charlotte.  There's nobody like our Don John."

    Charlotte's dimple came, but she blushed.  In a minute or two the bride was gone, and the whole party excepting herself, Don John, and his mother had rushed back into the house to the dining-room windows to watch the carriage as it turned up the road.

    These stood yet in the porch.  The mother and Charlotte on the upper step and Don John on the lower.

    "Yes," said Mrs. Johnstone, smiling, though tears were in her eyes, "there's nobody like our Don John."  Her hand was on his shoulder.

    "Oh, mother," he exclaimed, turning and looking at them, "if you didn't all make so much of a fellow—"

    "Charlotte would not need telling to be good to him, is that it?" she inquired.

    "On the contrary," said Charlotte, "if his merits were not so frequently set before me I might never have found them out."

    She laughed, and her blue eyes danced.  How lovely she looked in all her fair adornments!

    "That was a very unkind speech," said the mother, smiling.  "You must say something to make up for it."

    "Yes, to please you, Aunt Estelle!" said Charlotte demurely.  Then she pursed up her rosy mouth, and first bestowing on him a kiss under his mother's eyes, she said, "There's nobody like our Don John, and I always think so."

    Our Don John.  He was always to be theirs; first their joy and then their comfort, next their aid, and in the course of years all they had of honour and distinction.

    And yet, after all—though in this world they were never to know it, though he was bound to them by more than common dues of service done, and love bestowed—after all, this was the carpenter's son; and that Lancey, who but for him would more than once have been their sorrow and their disgrace, he was the true Don John.  But he was to trouble them no more for ever.  He was cast upon "the mercy of the Most Merciful."  He was quiet in the keeping of the sea.



THE END.

 


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