Fated to be Free (3)

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CHAPTER IX.

SIGNED "DANIEL MORTIMER."―CANADA.


"The log's burn red; she lifts her head
     For sledge-bells tinkle and tinkle, O lightly swung.
 'Youth was a pleasant morning, but ah! to think 'tis fled,
     Sae lang, lang syne,' quo' her mother, 'I, too, was young.'

"No guides there are but the North star,
     And the moaning forest tossing wild arms before,
 The maiden murmurs, 'O sweet were yon bells afar,
     And hark! hark! hark! for he cometh, he nears the door.'

"Swift north-lights show, and scatter and go.
     How can I meet him, and smile not, on this cold shore?
 Nay, I will call him, 'Come in from the night and the snow,
     And love, love, love in the wild wood, wander no more.'"


AN hour after the conversation between Brandon and old Daniel Mortimer, they parted, and nothing could be more unlike than his travels were and those of the Melcombes.  First, there was Newfoundland to be seen.  It looked at a distance like a lump of perfectly black hill embedded in thick layers of cotton wool; then as the vessel approached, there was its harbour, which though the year was nearly half over, was crackling all over with brittle ice.  Then there was Halifax Bay, blue as a great sapphire, full of light, and swarming with the spawn of fish.  And there was the Bras d'Or, boats all along this yellow spit of sand, stranded, with their sails set and scarcely flapping in the warm still air; and then there was the port where he was to meet his emigrants, for they had not crossed in the same ship with him; and after that there were wild forests and unquiet waters far inland, where all night the noise of the "lumber" was heard as it leaped over the falls; while at dawn was added the screaming of white-breasted fowl jostling one another in their flight as they still thronged up towards the north.

    We almost always think of Canada as a cold country.  Its summer counts for little; nor meadow-grass waist deep, over which swarms of mosquitoes hover, tormenting man and horse; nor sunshine that blisters the face, nor natural strawberry-grounds as wide as Yorkshire, nor a sky clearer, purer, and more intensely blue than any that spans Italian plains.  No; Canada means winter, snow, quivering northern lights, log-fires, and sledge-bells!

    Brandon found Canada hot, but when he had finished his work there, he left it, and betook himself to the south, while it became the Canada of our thought.

    He went through the very heart of the States, and pleased himself with wild rough living in lands where the rich earth is always moist and warm, and primeval forest still shelters large tracts of it.

    Camping out at night, sometimes in swampy hollows, it was strange to wake when there was neither moon nor star, and see the great decaying trees that storm had felled or age had ruined, glow with a weird phosphorescent light, which followed the rents in them, and hovered about the seams in their bark, making them look like the ghosts of huge alligators prone in the places they had ravaged, and giving forth infernal gleams.  Stranger yet it was to see in the dark, moving near the pine-wood fire, two feeble wandering lights, the eyes of some curious deer that had come to gaze and wonder, and show its whereabouts by those soft reflections.

    And then, when he and his companions wanted venison, it was strange to go forth into the forest in the dark, two of them bearing a great iron pot slung upon a long rod, and heaped with blazing pine-cones.  Then several pairs of these luminous spots would be seen coming together, and perhaps a dangerous couple would glare down from a tree, and a wounded panther would come crashing into their midst.

    After that, he went and spent Christmas in Florida.  He had had frequent letters from home and from his step-father.  He wished to keep away till a certain thing was settled one way or the other, but every letter showed that it was still unsettled; the sea-nymph that he had been wasting his heart upon had not yet decided to accept his brother's, but there was every likelihood that she would.

    As time went on, however, he felt happy in the consciousness that absence was doing its work upon him, and that change had refreshed his mind.  He was beginning to forget her.  When the woman whom one loves is to marry one's brother, and that brother happens to be of all the family the one whom one prefers, what quality can be so admirable as inconstancy?

    Still, for a man who was really forgetting, he argued the matter too much in his mind.  Even when he got far south, among the Florida keys, and saw the legions of the heron and the ibis stalking with stately gait along the wet sand, and every now and then thrusting in their "javelin bills," spiking and bringing out long wriggling flashes of silver that went alive down their throats, he would still be thinking it over.  Yes; he was forgetting her.  He began to be in better spirits.  He was in very good spirits one day in January when, quite unknown to him, the snow was shovelled away from the corner of a quiet churchyard in which his mother slept, and room was made beside her for the old man who had loved him as his own.

    Old Daniel Mortimer had no such following as had attended the funeral of his mother, and no such peaceful sunshine sleeping on a landscape all blossom and growth.  The wind raged, and the snow whirled all about his grave and in it.  The coffin was white before the first clod of earth was thrown on it, and the mourners were driven out of the churchyard, when the solemn service was over, by such gusts of storm and whirling wind as they could hardly stand against.

    His will was read.  He had hardly anything to leave.  His directions were very simple and few, and there was a little desk locked up in a cabinet that nobody thought about, and that the one person who could have opened it supposed to concern exclusively himself.  So when he came, six months after, and looked about him with regretful affection; when he had put the old man's portrait up in a place of honour, and looked to the paying of all the debts, for everything, even to the furniture, was now his own; when he had read the will, and sealed up all such papers as he thought his half-brother Valentine might afterwards want to refer to―he betook himself to his own particular domain, his long room in the top of the house.  There, locking himself in, he opened his cabinet, and taking out the little desk, sat down to look for and read this letter.

    The desk was soon opened.  He lifted one half, saw several old miniatures which had belonged to his own father's family, a lock of his father's hair which he remembered to have seen in his mother's possession, and one or two trinkets.  No letter.

    It was not without some slight trepidation that he opened the other side, and there, nothing else being with it, a large letter sealed with black and directed to himself in his step-father's well-known hand, it was lying.

    As he took the letter up, a sensation so faint, so ethereal that it is hard to describe or characterize it, but which most of us have felt at least once, came over him, or rather came about him, as if something from without suggested a presence.

    He was free from any sensation of fear, but he chose to speak; lifting up his face as if the old man had been standing before him, he said aloud, "Yes, I promised."  The feeling was gone as he spoke, and he broke the seal.

    A long letter.  His eyes, as it was folded, fell first on these surprising words, "I forbade my mother to leave her property to me," and then, "I have never judged her," the aged writer continued, "for in her case I know not what I could have done."

    Brandon laid the letter down, and took a moment for thought, before he could make up his mind to read it through.  Some crime, some deep disgrace, he perceived was about to be confided to him.  With a hurried sense of dislike and shrinking from acquaintance with it, he wondered whether his own late mother had known anything of it, then whether he was there called upon to divulge it now, and to act.  If not, he argued with himself, why was it to be confided to him?

    Then he addressed himself to his task, and read the letter through, coming to its last word only to be still more surprised, as he perceived plainly that beyond what he could gather from those two short sentences already quoted, nothing was confided or confessed, nothing at all―only a request was made to him, and that very urgently and solemnly, but it concerned not himself, but his young brother Valentine, for not content with repudiating the family property for himself, the old father was desirous, it was evident, through his step-son, to stand in the way and bar his own son's very remote chance of inheriting it either.

    A thing that is very unexpected and moderately strange, we meet with wide-opened eyes, with a start and perhaps exclamations; but a thing more than strange, utterly unaccounted for, quite unreasonable, and the last thing one could have supposed possible as coming from the person who demanded it, is met in far quieter fashion.

    Brandon leaned back in his chair and slowly looked about him.  He was conscious that he was drawing deeper breath than usual, and that his heart beat quickly, but he was so much surprised that for the moment his thoughts appeared to scatter themselves about, and he knew not how to marshal them and make them help him as to what this might mean.

    Mystery in romance and in tales is such a common vulgar thing, in tragedy and even in comedy it is so completely what we demand and expect, that we seldom consider what an astonishing and very uncommon thing it is when it appears in life.  And here in a commonplace, well-conducted, happy, and united family was a mystery pointing to something that one of its best-loved members had never had a hint of.  Whatever it was, it concerned a place little more, than fifty miles off, and a man in whose presence he had lived from his early childhood; the utmost caution of secrecy was demanded, and the matter spoken of entirely changed the notions he had always held concerning his step-father, whom he had thought he knew better than any man living.  When one had believed that one absolutely understood another, how it startles the mind to discover that this is a mistake!  A beautiful old man this had been―pious, not very worldly-wise, but having a sweetness of nature, a sunny smile, and a native ease about him that would not have been possible without a quiet conscience.  This he had possessed, but "I forbade my mother to leave her property to me."  His step-son turned back the page, and looked at those words again.  Then his eyes fell lower.  "In her case I know not what I could have done."  "When did he forbid this―was it ten years ago, twenty years, fifty years?  He was really very well off when he married my mother.  Now where did he get the property that he lost by his speculations?  Not by the law; his profession never brought him in more than two hundred a year.  Oh! he had it from the old cousin that he and Grand often talk of, old John Mortimer.  And that's where the old silver plate came from.  Of course, and where John got his name.

    "We always knew, I think, that there was an aged mother; now why did I take for granted that she must be in her second childhood?  I wonder whether John put that into my head.  I think I did remark to him once when I was a boy and he was living at home, that it was odd there was no portrait of her in either of the houses.  (But no more there is of Grand now I come to think of it; John never could make him sit.)  Before the dear old man got so infirm he used generally to go out about once a year and come back in low spirits, not liking to be questioned.  He may have gone then to see his mother, but I know sister used to think he went to see the relations of that wretched woman, his first wife.  Who shall say now?"

    And then he sat down and thought and thought, but nothing came of his thinking.  Peter Melcombe, so far as he knew, was perfectly well; that was a comfort.  Valentine was very docile; that was also a comfort; and considering that what his father had wished for him nearly four years ago was actually coming to pass, and everything was in train for his going to one of the very best and healthiest of our colonies, there seemed little danger that even if Melcombe fell to him he should find the putting it from him a great act of self-denial.

    And what a strange thing it was, Brandon thought, that through the force of circumstances he himself should have been made to bring about such an unlikely thing!  That so young a man should want to marry was strange enough.  It was more strange that he should have fixed on the only woman in the world that his brother wanted.  This said brother had thought it the very climax of all that was strange that it should have devolved on him who had command of money and who knew the colonies, to make this early marriage possible.  But surely the climax of strangeness was rather here, that he had all this time been working as if on purpose to bring about the longing desire of his old step-father, which till then he had never heard of, depriving Valentine as much as was possible of his freedom, shutting him up to the course his father wanted him to follow, and preparing to send him as far as in this world he could be sent from the dreaded precincts of Melcombe.

    Brandon had devoted out of his moderate patrimony a thousand pounds each to his step-brother and his step-sisters.  In the case of Valentine he had done more; he had in a recent visit to New Zealand bought some land with a dwelling-house on it, and to this place it was arranged that immediately on his marriage Valentine should sail.

    Brandon felt a strong desire to go and look at Melcombe, for his step-father's conduct with regard to it kept coming back to his mind with ever-fresh surprise; but though he searched his memory it could yield him nothing, not a hint, not a look, from any one which threw the least light on this letter.

    "But that there's crime at the core of it, or some deep disgrace," he soliloquized, "appears to me most evident, and I take his assurance in its fullest meaning that he had nothing to do with it."

    The next morning, having slept over the contents of the letter, he went to his upper room, locked himself in, and read it again.  Then after pausing a while to reconsider it, he went up to the wall to look at a likeness of Dorothea Graham.  Valentine had a photographing machine, and had filled the house with portraits of himself and his beloved.  This was supposed to be one of the best.  "Lucky enough that I had the sense to leave this behind me," thought Brandon.  "Yes, you sweet thing, I am by no means breaking my heart now about you and your love for that boy.  You are sure to marry him; you have a faithful heart, so the best thing for him will be to let you marry as soon as possible.  I'll tell him so as we walk to John Mortimer's to-day.  I'll tell him he may do it as soon as he likes."

    Accordingly as about six o'clock he and Valentine walked through a wood, across a common, and then over some fields, Brandon began to make some remarks concerning the frequent letters that passed between these youthful lovers.  "It is not to be supposed," he observed, "that any lady would correspond with you thus for years if she had not fully made up her mind to accept you in the end."

    "No," answered Valentine with perfect confidence; "but she knows that I promised my father to wait a few months more before I decidedly engaged myself, but for that promise I was to have had an answer from her half a year ago."

    Brandon fully believed that Dorothea Graham loved his brother, and that her happiness was in his own hands.  He had found it easy to put the possibility of an early marriage in Valentine's way, but nothing could well go forward without his sanction, and since his return he had hitherto felt that the words which would give it were too difficult for him to say.  Now, however, that remarkable letter, cutting in across the usual current of his thoughts, had thrown them back for awhile.  So that Dorothea seemed less real, less dear, less present to him.

    The difficult words were about to be said.

    "If she knows why you do not speak, and waits, there certainly is an understanding between you, which amounts almost to the same thing."

    "Yes," said Valentine, "and in August, as she knows, I shall ask her again."

    "Then," said Brandon, almost taking Valentine's breath away with sudden delight, "I think, old fellow, that when she has once said 'yes,' you had better make short work with the engagement; you will never be more ready to marry than you are now; you are a few months older than John was when he went and did it; and here you are, with your house in New Zealand ready built, your garden planted, a flock of sheep bought, and all there is to do is to turn out the people now taking care of the place, as soon as you are ready to come in."

    Brandon was standing on a little plank which bridged a stream about two feet wide; he had turned to say this, for Valentine was behind him.

    Valentine received the communication first with silence, then with a shout of triumph, after which he ran completely round his brother several times, jumping over the stream and flourishing a great stick that he held, with boyish ecstasy, not at all dignified, but very sincere.  When he had made at least three complete circles, and jumped the stream six times, Giles gravely walked on, and Valentine presently followed, wiping his forehead.

    "Nobody could have expressed my own sentiments in more charming English," he exclaimed; "I never heard such grammar in my life; what a brick you are, St. George!"

    Giles had great faith in his theory that absence always cured love, also in his belief that his was cured and half forgotten.  At that moment he experienced a sharp pang, however, that was not very like forgetfulness, but which Valentine converted almost into self-scorn when he said―

    "You know, Giles, she always did show the most undisguised liking for me from our first meeting; and then look how constant she has been, and what beautiful letters she writes, always trying, too, to improve me.  Of course I cannot even pretend to think she would not have engaged herself to me months ago if I might have asked her."

    "All true, perfectly true," he thought to himself; "he loves her and she loves him, and I believe if she had never met with Valentine, she would still never have married me.  What a fool I am!"

    "Why wouldn't you take this view of things yesterday, when I tried to make you?" asked Valentine.

    "I was not ready for it," answered Giles, "or it was not ready for me."

    Thereupon they passed through a wicket-gate into a kind of glen or wilderness, at the end of John Mortimer's garden, and beyond the stream where his little girls acted Nausicaa and his little boys had preserves of minute fishes, ingeniously fenced in with sticks and fine netting.

    "There's Grand," exclaimed Valentine, "they've brought him out to look at their water-snails.  What a venerable old boy he is! he looks quite holy, doesn't he?"

    "Hold your tongue," said Brandon, "they'll hear you.  He's come to see their newts; they had a lot yesterday at the bottom of the punt.  Little Hugh had one in his hand, a beast with an orange breast, and it was squinting up at him."

    It would be hard to say of any man that he is never right.  If he is always thinking that he has forgotten a certain lady, surely he is right sometimes.

    They went in to dinner, a party of four, for John Mortimer since his wife's death did not entertain ladies, and Miss Christie Grant always presided at an early dinner, when the governess and the children dined.

    As the dinner advanced St. George and Valentine both got into high spirits, the former because a stronger conviction than usual assured him that he was forgetting Dorothea Graham; the latter, because instead of being pulled back, he had at last got a shove in the other direction.  In short, Valentine was so happy in his jokes and so full of fun, that the servants had no sooner withdrawn than John Mortimer taxed him with having good reason for being so, mentioned the probable cause, and asked to see Miss Graham's portrait, "which, no doubt," he said, "you have got in your pocket."

    "Why I have had that for years," said Valentine scornfully.

    "And dozens of them," said Brandon; "they took them themselves."

    "When is it to be?" asked old Grand with great interest.

    "I don't exactly know, uncle; even Giles doesn't know that!  If he had known, I'm sure he would have told you, and asked your advice, for I always brought him up to be very respectful to his elders."

    "Come, sir, come," said the old man laughing, "if you don't exactly know, I suppose you have a tolerably distinct notion."

    "I know when I should like it to be, and when I think D. would like it.  Not too late for a wedding tour, say October, now, or," seeing his brother look grave, "or November; suppose we say November."

    "I'm afraid there is no wedding tour in the programme," observed Brandon.  "The voyage must be the tour."

    "Then I'll go without my cart.  We must have a tour; it will be the only fun I shall ever be able to give her."

    Valentine had inherited only about two hundred pounds from his father, he having been left residuary legatee, and he was much more inclined to spend this on luxuries than on necessaries.

    "You've bought me land, and actually paid for it yourself, and you've bought me a flock, and made me a barn, and yet you deny me the very necessaries of life, though I can pay for them myself!  I must have a tour, and D. must have a basket-carriage."

    "Well, my dear fellow," said Grand, "though that matter is not yet settled, it is evident things are so far advanced that we may begin to think of the wedding presents.  Now, what would you like to have from me, I wonder?  I mean how would you prefer to have it?  John and I have already considered the amount, and he quite agrees with me as to what I ought to give to my only brother's only son."

    "Only brother's!"  The word struck Brandon both as showing that the old man had almost forgotten other dead brothers, and also as evidently being the preface to a larger gift than he had anticipated.

    "Thank you, uncle," said Valentine, almost accomplishing a blush of pride and pleasure.  "As you are so kind as to let me choose, I should like your present in money, in my pocket, you know, because there is the tour, and it would go towards that."

    "In your pocket!" exclaimed John Mortimer, with a laugh of such amusement and raillery as almost put Valentine out of countenance.  "Why, do you think my father wants to give you a school-boy's tip?"

    "I think a good deal depends on the lady," said Grand, who also seemed amused; "if she has no fortune, it might be wise to settle it on her; if she has, you might wish to lay it out in more land, or to invest it here; you and Giles must consider this.  I mean to give you two thousand pounds."  Then, when he saw that Valentine was silent from astonishment, he went on, "And if your dear father had been here he would not have been at all surprised.  Many circumstances, with which you are not acquainted, assure me of this, and I consider that I owe everything to him."  There was a certain sternness about these words; he would have, it was evident, no discussion.

    John Mortimer heard his father say this with surprise. "He must mean that he owes his religious views to my uncle," was his thought; but to Brandon, who did not trouble himself about those last words, the others were full of meaning; the amount of the gift, together with the hint at circumstances with which Valentine was not acquainted, made him feel almost certain that the strange words, "I forbade my mother to leave her property to me," alluded to something which was known to the next brother.

    Valentine, at first, was too much surprised to be joyous, but he thanked his uncle with something of the cordial ingenuousness and grace which had distinguished his father.

    "I can have a tour now, can't I, old fellow," he said after a time to his brother; "take my wife"―here a joyous laugh―"my WIFE on the Continent; we shall go dashing about from place to place, you know, staying at hotels, and all that!"

    "To be sure," said Brandon, "staying at hotels, of course, and ordering wonderful things for breakfast.  I think I see you now―


           "'Happy married lovers,
 Phillis trifling with a plover's
 Egg, while Corydon uncovers
 With a grace the Sally Lun.'"


    "That's the way this fellow is always making game of me," exclaimed Valentine; "why I'm older than you were, John, when you married."

    "And wild horses shall never drag the words out of me that I was too young," said John Mortimer, "whatever I may think," he continued.

    "John was a great deal graver than you are," said Brandon; "besides, he knew the multiplication table."

    "So do I, of course," exclaimed Valentine.

    "Well," answered Brandon, "I never said you did not."


 
CHAPTER X.

CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES.


"Now I am at a loss to know whether it be my hare's foot that is my
preservation; for I never had a fit of the collique since I wore it;
or whether it be my taking of a pill of turpentine every morning."

Diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys.


"J
OHN, the Melcombes have stayed on the Continent so much longer than I expected that I hardly remember whether I told you I had invited them to come round this way, and remain here a few days on their return."  Old Augustus Mortimer said this to his son, who was dining with him a few days after the conversation concerning the wedding present.  "I supposed," he added, "that you would not invite that child or his mother again?"

    John Mortimer replied, in clear and vigorous English, that he never should―never!

    The manner in which he was looked after by the ladies had become quite a joke in the family, though one of his chief tormentors had lately been moved out of his way, Louisa Grant was married.  Captain Walker had at first, after Mr. Mortimer's death, agreed to wait for her till Brandon's return; but his regiment being ordered abroad, he had induced her to hasten the wedding, which took place about three months before Brandon reached England.  And as Louisa did not, out of respect to her step-father, like to be married from his house so soon after his death, old Grand had received and entertained all the wedding guests, and John Mortimer had given away the bride.

    On that occasion it was confidently asserted by the remaining Miss Grant and Valentine, that there were four ladies present who would at any time with pleasure undertake to act the loving mother to dear John's seven children.

    John was becoming rather sensitive; he remembered how sweetly Mrs. Melcombe had smiled on him, and he remembered the ghost story too.

    "I rather want to see how that boy is getting on," continued Augustus.

    "By-the-bye," said the son, "I heard to my surprise the other day from Swan, whose son, it seems, was doing some work at Melcombe this spring (making a greenhouse, I think), that Mrs. Melcombe wintered at Mentone, partly on her boy's account, for he had a feverish or aguish illness at Venice, and she was advised not to bring him to England."

    "I never heard of it," said Grand, with anxiety.

    "Nor I, my dear father; but I meant to have told you before; for I see you take an interest in the child."

    "What imprudence!" continued Grand; "those people really have no sense.  I begged them particularly not to go to Venice in the autumn."

    "Yes," said John, "it was foolish; but Swan went on to say that he heard the boy was all right again."

    "I hope so," replied Grand, almost fervently; "and his mother wants to consult us now about his going to school."

    John could not forbear to smile when his father said "us."

    "So you have written to say you shall be glad to see them?" he inquired.

    "Yes; it is very little I ever see of my relations."

    John thought that perhaps his father's mind was turning with affection towards his family, from whom he did not now doubt that he had been estranged owing to some cause which had terminated with the old mother's death.  So he said cordially―

    "Would you like, when Mrs. Melcombe goes home, to invite Laura to remain with you for a few weeks?  I have no doubt, if you would, that Lizzy Grant would be charmed to come at the same time, and taste the sweetness of freedom.  The two girls could have the carriage, you know, and the canoes, and the riding-horses.  They might enjoy themselves very much, and give croquet parties and picnics to their hearts' content.  I would get old Christie to come to you whenever a chaperone was wanted.  She is a most valuable possession, my dear father, but I would lend her."

    "You are very kind, my dear," answered the father, who often addressed his son in this fashion when they were alone.  "I think it would be a pleasure to me to have the girls.  You can't think, John, how cheerful the house used to be before your sisters were married; you can hardly remember it, you were so young."

    "Why did I never think of proposing such a visit to him before?" thought John, almost with compunction.

    "I seem to know them pretty well," he answered, "from their letters and from hearing you talk of them; but what I really remember, I believe, is four grand young ladies who used to carry me a pick-a-back, and give me sugared almonds."

    Of the four Miss Mortimers, the eldest had married a clergyman, and died soon after; the second and third had married "shepherd kings," and were living with the said kings in Australia; and the fourth was in India with her husband and a grown-up family.  Their father had given to each of them an ample fortune, and parted with her before his only son was five years old, for John Mortimer was fifteen years younger than his youngest sister, and had been, though the daughters were much beloved, a greater joy and comfort to his father than all four of them put together.

    He was glad that his father showed this willingness to have Lizzy Grant to stay in his house, for he was fond of all the Grants; there was a kind of plain-spoken intimacy between him and them that he enjoyed.  The two elder had always been his very good friends, and during his wife's lifetime had generally called him "John dear," and looked to him and his wife to take them about whenever their brother was away.  Liz, who was rather a plain girl, he regarded more in the light of a niece than of a step-cousin.

    A day or two after this, therefore, while sitting alone writing his letters (Grand being gone out for his constitutional), when he was told that Miss Grant wanted to speak to him, he desired that she might be shown in.

    She was sitting at the back door in a little pony carriage, and giving the reins to her boy, she passed through it, to the wonder of all beholders.

    Very few young ladies were shown in there.

    "What is it?" exclaimed John, for Liz looked almost sulky.

    "Oh John," she answered, with a sort of whimsical pathos, "isn't it sad, so few delightful things as there are, that two of them should come together, so that I can't have both!"

    "What are the delightful things―offers?"

    "Don't be so tiresome.  No, of course not.  You know very well that nothing of that kind ever happens to me."

    "Indeed, if that is the case, it can only be because your frocks are almost always crumpled, and―what's that long bit of blue ribbon that I see?"

    "It's all right―that's how it's meant to go.  I can't think why you fancy that I'm not tidy.  St. George is always saying so too."

    "That's very hard.  Well, child?"

    "I thought perhaps you knew that Grand had invited me to stay six weeks at his house―Laura Melcombe to be there also, and we two to do just as we liked.  The whole of August, John, and part of September, and that's the very time when I can't come, because we are going to be at the seaside.  Dorothea is to join us, you know, and if I do not see her then I never shall, for they are to sail at Christmas."

    "There is a world of misery to be got out of conflicting pleasures," said John philosophically.  "You can't come, that's evident; and I had just given orders that the new canoe should be painted and the old one caulked.  Two quiet ponies for you to drive (you are a very tolerable whip, I know).  As to the grapes, a house is being kept back on purpose to be ripe just at that time; and the croquet balls are all sent to be painted.  Melancholy facts! but such is life."

    "No but, John――"

    "I'm extremely busy to-day."

    "Not so busy that you have not time to laugh at me.  This would have been almost the greatest pleasure I ever had."

    "And I've been reminding my father," proceeded John, "that when Emily came to stay with him she always sat at the head of the table.  She asked him if she might, and so should you have done, because, though Laura is a relation, he has known you all your life."

    "No but, John," repeated Lizzie, "can't you do something for me?  Tell me whether Laura Melcombe has been already invited?"

    "She has not, Miss Grant."

    "I have no doubt, if you asked Grand to let the visit be put off till the middle of September, he would."

    "I shouldn't wonder."

    "Then you'll do it, won't you? because you know you and I have always been such friends."

    "Now you mention it, I think we have; at any rate, I don't dislike you half so much as I do some of my other friends.  Yes, child, your confidence is not misplaced."

    "Then I may leave the matter in your hands?" exclaimed Liz joyfully.

    "You really may," replied John Mortimer, and he took her back to the pony carriage in a high state of bliss and gratitude.

    This change, however, which was easily effected, made a difference to several people whom Miss Grant had no wish to disoblige.  First, Mrs. Melcombe, finding that Laura was invited to pay a long visit, and that the invitation was not extended to her, resolved not to come home by Wigfield at all; but when Laura wrote an acceptation, excused herself from coming also, on the ground of her desire to get home.

    Grand, therefore, did not see Peter, and this troubled him more than he liked to avow.  Brandon was also disappointed, for he particularly wanted to see the boy and his mother again.  The strangeness of his step-father's letter grew upon him, and it rather fretted him to think that he could not find any plausible reason for going over to Melcombe to look about him.  He was therefore secretly vexed with his sister when he found that, in consequence of her request to John, the plans of all the Melcombes had been changed.  So Liz with a cheerful heart went to the sea-side with Mrs. Henfrey and Valentine, and very soon wrote home to Miss Christie Grant that Dorothea had joined them, that the long-talked-of offer had been made and (of course) accepted, and that Giles was come.  She did not add that Giles had utterly lost his heart again to his brother's bride elect, but that she would not have done if she had known it.

    Miss Christie was wroth on the occasion.

    "It's just shameful," she remarked.  "Everybody knew Miss Graham would accept him, but why can't she say how it was and when it was?  She's worse than her mother.  'Dear Aunt,' her mother wrote to me, 'I'm going to marry Mr. Mortimer on Saturday week, and I hope you'll come to the wedding, but you're not to wear your blue gown.  Your affectionate niece, EMILY GRANT.'  That was every word she said, and I'd never heard there was anything between her and Mr. Mortimer before."

    "And why were you not to wear your blue gown?" inquired John Mortimer.

    "Well," replied Miss Christie, "I don't deny that if she hadn't been beforehand with me I might just slyly have said that my blue gown would do, for I'd only had it five years.  I was aye thrifty; she knew it was as good as ever―a very excellent lutestring, and made for her wedding when she married Mr. Grant―so she was determined to take my joke against her out of my mouth."

    If Miss Christie had not found plenty to do during the next six weeks, she would have grumbled yet more than she did over her wrongs.  As it was, Master Augustus John Mortimer came home from school for his long holidays, and he and his friends excited more noise, bustle, and commotion in the house than all the other children put together.

    John Mortimer's eldest son, always called Johnnie, to distinguish him from his father, was ridiculously big for his age, portentously clever and keen-witted, awkward, blunt, rude, full of fun, extremely fond of his father, and exceedingly unlike him in person.  His hair was nearly black, his forehead was square and high, his hands and feet almost rivalled those of his parent in size, and his height was five feet three.

    In any other eyes than those of a fond parent he must have appeared as an awkward, noisy, plain, and intolerably active boy; but his father (who almost from his infancy had pleased himself with a mental picture of the manner of man he would probably grow into) saw nothing of all this, but merely added in his mind two inches to the height of the future companion he was to find in him, and wished that the boy could get over a lisp which still disfigured some of his words.

    He brought such a surprising account of his merits with him―how he could learn anything he pleased, how he never forgot anything, how, in fact, his master, as regarded his lessons, had not a fault to find with him, that when his twin sisters had seen it, there seemed to them something strange in his being as fond of tarts and lollipops as ever.

    As for John, nothing surprised him.  Miss Christie saw great diversities in his children, but in regard to them all he showed an aggravating degree of contentment with what Providence had sent him.  Miss Christie wore through Johnnie's sojourn at home as well as she could, and was very happy when she saw him off to school again; happier still when walking towards home across the fields with John Mortimer and the four younger children, they saw Brandon and Valentine at a distance coming to meet them.

    "So they are at home again," she exclaimed; "and now we'll hear all about the wedding that is to be.  I've been just wearying for the parteeculars, and there never were such bad letter-writers as those girls.  Anyhow there'll be a handsome bridegroom."

    "Ah!" said John Mortimer, "all the ladies admire Val.  He's quite a woman's man."

    "Well, and St. George is a man's man, then," retorted Miss Christie; "ye all admire him, I am sure."

    "And what are you, papa, dearest?" asked Janie, who had hold of his hand.

    "I'm my own man, my little queen-regnant," answered her father with a somewhat exultant laugh.

    "Ay, Mr. Mortimer, I'm just surprised at ye," quoth Miss Christie, shaking her head over these vainglorious words.

    "I think father's the most beautifullest man of all," said little Janie, with a sort of jealous feeling as if somehow he had been disparaged, though she did not exactly know how.  "And the goodest, too," she presently added, as if not satisfied with her first tribute to him.

    Valentine, who was seldom out of countenance on any occasion, received the congratulations of all the party with a certain rather becoming pride and complacency.  He seemed, however, to be taking things very easily, but he presently became rather silent, and John, who felt keenly that Brandon was not so indifferent to the bride-elect as he wished to be, turned the conversation as soon as he could to other matters.  There was some talk about Valentine's land which had been bought for him in New Zealand, after which Brandon said suddenly,―

    "John, when this fellow is gone, or perhaps before, I mean to have something to do―some regular work―and I think of taking to literature in good earnest."

    "All right," answered John, "and as you evidently intend me to question you, I will ask first whether you, Giles Brandon, mean to write on some subject that you understand, or on one that you know nothing about?"

    Brandon laughed.  "There is more to be said in favour of that last than you think," he answered.

    "It may be that there is everything to be said; but if you practise it, don't put your name to your work, that's all."

    "I shall not do so in any case.  How do I know whether the only use people may make of it (and that a metaphorical one) may not be to throw it at me ever after."

    "I don't like that," said Miss Christie.  "I could wish that every man should own his own."

    "No," remarked John Mortimer; "if a man in youth writes a foolish book and gives his name to it, he has, so far as his name is concerned, used his one chance; and if, in maturer life, he writes something high and good, then if he wants his wise child to live, he must consent to die himself with the foolish one.  It is much the same with one who has become notorious through the doing of some base or foolish action.  If he repent, rise to better things, and write a noble book, he must not claim it as if it could elevate him.  It must go forth on its own merits, or it will not be recognised for what it is, only for what he is or was.  No, if a man wants to bring in new thoughts or work elevating changes, he must not clog them with a name that has been despised."

    "I think Dorothea and I may as well write a book together," said Valentine.  "She did begin one, but somehow it stuck fast."

    "You had better write it about yourselves, then," said John, "that being nearly all you study just now, I should think.  Many a novel contains the author and little else.  He explains himself in trying to describe human nature."

    "Human nature!" exclaimed Valentine; "we must have something grander than that to write of, I can tell you.  We have read so many books that turn it 'the seamy side outward,' and point out the joins as if it was a glove, that we cannot condescend to it."

    "No," said John, setting off on the subject again as if he was most seriously considering it, Valentine meanwhile smiling significantly on the others.  "It is a mistake to describe too much from within.  The external life as we see it should rather be given, and about as much of the motives and springs of action as an intelligent man with good opportunity could discover.  We don't want to be told all.  We do not know all about those we live with, and always have lived with.  If ever I took to writing fiction I should not pretend to know all about my characters.  The author's world appears small if he makes it manifest that he reigns there.  I don't understand myself thoroughly.  How can I understand so many other people?  I cannot fathom them.  My own children often surprise me.  If I believed thoroughly in the children of my pen, they would write themselves down sometimes in a fashion that I had not intended."

    "John talks like a book," observed Valentine.  "You propose a subject, and he lays forth his views as if he had considered it for a week.  'Drive on, Samivel.'"

    "But I don't agree with him," said Miss Christie.  "When I read a book I aye dislike to be left in any doubt what the man means or what the story means."

    "I always think it a great proof of power in a writer," said Brandon, "when he consciously or unconsciously makes his reader feel that he knows a vast deal more about his characters than he has chosen to tell.  And what a keen sense some have of the reality of their invented men and women!  So much so that you may occasionally see evident tokens that they are jealous of them.  They cannot bear to put all the witty and clever speeches into the mouths of these 'fetches' of their own imagination.  Some must be saved up to edge in as a sly aside, a sage reflection of the author's own.  There never should be any author's asides."

    "I don't know about that," John answered, "but I often feel offended with authors who lack imagination to see that a group of their own creations would not look in one another's eyes just what they look in his own.  The author's pretty woman is too often pretty to all; his wit is acknowledged as a wit by all.  The difference of opinion comes from the readers.  They differ certainly."

    "Even I," observed Valentine, "if I were an author's wit, might be voted a bore, and how sad that would be, for in real life it is only right to testify that I find little or no difference of opinion."

    He spoke in a melancholy tone, and heaved up a sigh.

    "Is cousin Val a wit?" asked little Hugh.

    "I am afraid I am," said Valentine; "they're always saying so, and it's very unkind of them to talk about it, because I couldn't help it, could I?"

    Here the little Anastasia, touched with pity by the heartfelt pathos of his tone, put her dimpled hand in his and said tenderly, "Never mind, dear, it'll be better soon, p'raps, and you didn't do it on purpose."

    "Does it hurt?" asked Hugh, also full of ruth.

    "Be ashamed of yourself," whispered Miss Christie, "to work on the dear children's feelings so.  No, my sweet mannie, it doesn't hurt a bit."

    "I'm very much to be pitied," proceeded Valentine.  "That isn't all"―he sighed again―"I was born with a bad French accent, and without a single tooth in my head, or, out of it, while such was my weakness, that it took two strong men, both masters of arts, to drag me through the rudiments of the Latin grammar."

    Anastasia's eyes filled with tears.  It seemed so sad; and the tender little heart had not gone yet into the question of seeming.

    "They teached you the Latin grammar did they?" said Bertram, who had also been listening, and was relieved to hear of something in this list of miseries that he could understand; "that's what Miss Crampton teaches me.  I don't like it, and you didn't either, then.  I'm six and three quarters; how old were you?"

    Before Valentine had answered, John and Brandon, finding themselves before the party, had stopped and turned.  Brandon was surprised to see how earnestly the two elder children, while he talked, had been looking at him, and then at their father and Valentine.  At last, when this pause occurred, and the two groups met, Janie said―

    "I am sure papa is a great deal prettier than Mr. Brandon, and Cousin Val looks quite ugly beside him."

    "Yes, Janie," said Bertram, with an air of high satisfaction, "papa's much more beautiful than either of the others.  I shall ask Miss Crampton when I go in if she doesn't think so.  You would like to know what she thinks, wouldn't you, father?"

    John had opened his mouth to say no, when his better sense coming to his aid, he forbore to speak.  For this lady taught his children to perfection, but his friends always would insist that she wanted to teach him too―something that he wouldn't learn.

    Aunt Christie, his constant friend and champion, presently spoke for him.

    "No, children," she said, as soon as she had composed her voice to a due gravity, "it's natural ye should admire your father, good children generally do, but, now, if I were you, I would never tell anybody at all, not even Miss Crampton―do ye hear me, all of you?  I would never tell anybody your opinion of him.  If ye do, they will certainly think ye highly conceited, for ye know quite well that people say you four little ones are just as exactly like him as ye can be."

    The children were evidently impressed.

    "In fact," said Valentine, "now I take a good look at him, I should say that you are even more like him than he is himself―but―I may be mistaken."

    "I won't say it then," said Bertram, now quite convinced.

    "And I won't, and I won't," added others, as they ran forward to open a grate.

    "Cheer up, John," said St. George, "let us not see so much beauty and virtue cast down.  There's Miss Crampton looking out of the school-room window."

    But though he laughed he did not deceive John Mortimer, who knew as well as possible that the loss of Dorothea Graham pressed heavily on his heart.

    "You two are going to dine with me, of course," he said, when all the party had passed into the wilderness beyond his garden.

    "On the contrary, with your leave," answered Valentine, "we are going to take a lesson of Swan in the art of budding roses.  We cannot manage it to our minds.  We dined early."

    "And I suppose you will agree with Val," observed Brandon, "that a rose-garden is one of the necessaries of life."

    "Dorothea must have one, must she, out in New Zealand?  Well, Swan will be proud to teach you anything he knows or doesn't know, and he will give you an opinion if you ask it on any subject whatever."

    Accordingly John went into the house to dine, and perhaps it was in consequence of this assertion that the two young men asked their old friend's opinion on various points not at all in his line.  Valentine even told him that his brother intended to write a book, and asked him what he thought it had better be about; whereupon Swan, while deftly shaping his bud, shook his head gravely, and said that wanted a deal of thinking over.

    "But if I was you, sir," he continued, speaking to Brandon, "I should get Mr. Mortimer―Mr. John―to help you, specially if there's going to be any foreign talk in it.  My word, I don't believe there's any language going that Mr. Mortimer can't lay his tongue to!"


 
CHAPTER XI.

WANTED A DESERT ISLAND.
 


"We, too, have autumns, when our leaves
 Drop loosely through the dampened air;
 When all our good seems bound in sheaves,
 And we stand reaped and bare."

LOWELL.


L
AURA and Mrs. Melcombe went home, and Laura saw the window again that Joseph had so skilfully glazed.  Joseph was not there, and Laura would not have occupied herself with constant thoughts about him if there had been anything, or rather anybody else to think of.  She soon began to feel low-spirited and restless, while, like a potato-plant in a dark cellar, she put forth long runners towards the light, and no light was to be found.  This homely simile ought to be forgiven, because it is such a good one.

    Peter was getting too old for her teaching.  He had a tutor, but the tutor was a married man, and had taken lodgings for himself and his wife in one of the farm-houses.

    Laura had no career before her, and no worthy occupation.  All that came to pass in her day was a short saunter, or a drive, or a visit to the market-town, where she sat looking on while her sister-in-law did some shopping.

    Melcombe was six or seven miles from any visitable families, excepting two or three clergymen and their wives; it was shut up in a three-cornered nook of land, and could not be approached excepting through turn-pikes, and up and down some specially steep hills.  These things make havoc with country sociability.

    As long as there had been plenty to do and see, Laura had enjoyed her life on the Continent, and had fed herself with hope.  So many people as passed before her, it would be strange, she thought, if not one of them had been made for her, not one was to give her the love she wanted, the devotion she knew she could return.

    It was certainly strange, and yet it came to pass, though the travelled fool returned, improved in style, dress, and even in appearance, while her conversation was naturally more amusing than before, for she had seen most places and things that people like to talk of.

    Not one man had asked her to spend her life with him, and she came back more given to flights of fancy than ever, but far better acquainted with herself and more humble, for she had spent so much of her time (in imagination) with Joseph that she had become accustomed to his slightly provincial accent, and had ceased to care about it.  Joseph, however, did not speak like his good father, and he had been endowed with as much learning as he would consent to acquire, Swan having felt a great ambition to make him a certified schoolmaster, but Joseph having been at an early age rather an idle young dog, had tormented his father into letting him take to a mere handicraft, and had left school writing a hand almost like copperplate, and being a very fair accountant, but without thirst for knowledge, and without any worthy ambition.

    Laura had always known that nothing but a desert island was wanted, and she could be his contented wife; but a desert island was not to be had, such things are getting rare in the world, and she now thought that any remote locality, where nobody knew her, would do.

    But where was Joseph?

    She had certainly gone away without giving him any interview, she had persistently kept away, yet though she was doing what she could, by fits and starts, to forget him, that perverse imagination of hers always pictured him as waiting, constant, ready.  There was a particular tree in the glen behind which she had so frequently represented him to herself as standing patiently while she approached with furtive steps, that when she came home and went to look at it, there was a feeling almost akin to surprise in her mind at seeing the place drenched in sparkling dew, and all overgrown with moss.  Footsteps that are feigned never tread anything down; they leave no print, excepting in the heart that feigns them.

    When Laura saw this place in the glen, she perceived plainly that there was no one with whom she might be humbly happy and poor―not even a plumber!

    This form of human sorrow―certainly one of the worst―is not half enough pitied by the happy.

    Of course Laura was a fool―nobody claims for her that she was not; but fools are not rare, either male or female; as they arrange the world and its ways in great measure, it is odd that they do not understand one another better, and whether Laura showed her folly most or least in thinking that she could have been obscurely happy as the wife of a man who belonged to a different class of life from her own (she herself having small intellectual endowments, and but little culture), is a subject too vast, too overwhelming, for decision here; it ought to have a treatise in twelve volumes all to itself.

    Mrs. Melcombe had come home also somewhat improved, but a good deal disappointed.  She had fully hoped and intended to marry again, because her son, who was to live to be old, would wish to marry early, and her future daughter-in-law would be mistress of the house.  It was desirable, therefore, that Peter's mother should not be dependent on him for a home.  She had twice been invited, while on the Continent, to change her name; but in each case it would have been, in a worldly point of view, very much to her disadvantage, and that was a species of second marriage that she by no means contemplated.  She did not want her second husband to take her that she might nurse him in his old age, fast approaching, and that he might live upon her income.

    So she came home Mrs. Melcombe, and she continued to be kind to Laura, though she did not sympathize with her; and that was no fault of hers: sympathy is much more an intellectual than a moral endowment.  However kind, dull, and stupid people may be, they can rarely sympathize with any trouble unless they have gone through one just like it themselves.

    You may hear it said, "Ah, I can sympathize with him, poor fellow, for I have a wooden leg myself," or, "Yes, being a widow, I know what a widow's feelings are," and so on.

    No one has a right to blame these people; they are as kind as any; it is not their fault that some are living among them to whom no experience at all is necessary, and who not only could sympathize, but do in thought, with the very angel that never fell, when they consider what it must be to him if the mortal child he has to watch goes wrong; with the poor weak drunkard who wishes he could keep sober, but feels, when he would fain pass by it, that the gin-shop, like a devil-fish, sends forth long tentacles and ruthlessly sucks him in; with the mother-whale, when her wilful young one insists on swimming up the fiord, and she who has risked her life to warn him must hear the thud of the harpoon in his side; with the old tired horse, when they fetch him in from his sober reverie in the fields, and put his blinkers on; with anything else?―yes, with the bluebells, whose life above ground is so short, when wasteful children tread them down;―these all feel something that one would fain save them from.  So perhaps does the rose-tree also, when some careless boy goes by whooping in the joy of his heart, and whips off her buds with his cane.

    Fruitful sympathy must doubtless have some likeness of nature, and also a certain kindliness to found itself on; but it comes more from a penetrative keenness of observation, from the patient investigations of thought, from those vivid intuitions that wait on imagination, from a good memory, which can live over again in circumstances that are changed, and from that intelligent possession of the whole of one's foregone life, which makes it impossible to ignore the power of any great emotion or passion merely because it is past.  Where these qualities are there should be, for there can be, sympathy.

    Mrs. Melcombe was fond of her one child; but she had forgotten what her own nature, thoughts, fears, and wishes, as well as joys, had been in childhood.  In like manner, as she was, on the whole, contented herself, she not only thought that her own example ought to make Laura contented, but she frequently pointed this out to her.

    The child is to the father and mother, who imparted life to him, and who see his youth, the most excellent consolation that nature can afford them for the loss of their own youth, and for the shortness of life in themselves; but if a mother is therefore convinced that her child is a consoler to those who have none, he is sure, at some time or other, to be considered an unmitigated bore.

    Mrs. Melcombe often thought, "Laura has my child with her constantly to amuse her, and has none of the responsibility about him that I have.  Laura goes to the shops with me, sees me give the orders, and I frequently even consult her; she goes with me into the garden, and sees the interest I take in the wall-fruit and the new asparagus-bed, and yet she never takes example by me.  She will eat just as many of these things as I shall, though she often follows me about the place looking as if she scarcely cared for them at all."

    Laura was pleased, however, to go to Wigfield and stay with Grand, and have for a companion a careless, childish girl, who undertook with enthusiasm to teach her to drive, and if old Grand wanted his horses, would borrow any rats of ponies that she could get.

    Laura spent many happy hours with Liz and the Mortimer children, now huddled into an old tub of a punt, eating cakes and curd for lunch, now having a picnic in the wood, and boiling the kettle out of doors, and at other times welcomed into the long loft called "Parliament;" but she seldom saw John Mortimer himself, for Lizzie was always anxious to be back in good time for dinner.  She valued her place at the head of the table, and the indulgent old Grand perceived this plainly.  He liked Laura well enough; but Liz was the kind of creature whom he could be fond of.  They were both foolish girls.  Liz took no manner of pains to improve herself any more than Laura did; but Laura was full of uneasy little affectations, capricious changes of manner, and shyness, and Liz was absolutely simple, and as confiding as a child.

    The only useful thing the girls did while they stayed with Grand was to go into the town twice a week and devote a couple of hours to a coal and clothing club, setting down the savings of the poor, and keeping the books.  This bi-weekly visit had consequences as regarded one of them, but it was the one who did not care what happened; and they parted at the end of their visit, having become a good deal attached to each other, and intending to correspond as fully and frequently as is the manner of girls.

    The intelligent mind, it may be taken for granted, is able to grasp the thought that one may be a very fair, and even copious, letter-writer, and yet show nothing like diffusiveness in writing to an ancient aunt.

    The leaves were all dropping when Laura came home, and was received into the spirit of the autumn, breathing in that sense of silence that comes from absence of the birds, while in still mornings, unstirred of any wind, the leaves let themselves go, and the flowers give it up and drop and close.  She was rather sad; but she found amusement in writing to Liz, and as the days got to their shortest, with nothing to relieve their monotony, there was pleasure to be got out of the long answers, which set forth how Valentine was really going to be married soon after Christmas, and what Liz was going to wear, how Dorothea was coming down to be married from Wigfield House, to please "sister," and how it would all be such fun―"Only three weeks, Laura dear, to the delightful day!"  Finally, how Dorothea had arrived―and oh, such a lovely trousseau! and she had never looked half so sweet and pretty before, "and in four days, dear, the wedding is to be; eighty people to breakfast―only think! and you shall be told all about it."

    Laura felt herself slightly injured when, a week after this, she had not been told anything.  She felt even surprised when another week passed, and yet there was silence; but at the end of it, she came rushing one morning into Amelia's room, quite flushed from excitement, and with an open letter in her hand.

    "They're not married at all," she exclaimed, "Valentine and Miss Graham!  There has been no wedding, and there is none coming off.  Valentine has jilted her."

    "Nonsense," cried Mrs. Melcombe.  "You must be dreaming―things had gone so far," and she sat down, feeling suddenly weak from amazement.

    "But it is so," repeated Laura, "here is the whole account, I tell you.  When the time came he never appeared."

    "What a disgraceful shame!" exclaimed Amelia, and Laura proceeded to read to her this long-expected letter:―


"Dearest Laura,―I don't know how to begin, and I hardly know what to tell you, because I am so ashamed of it all; and I promised to give you an account of the wedding, but I can't.  What will you think when I tell you that there was none?  Valentine never came.  I told you that Dorothea was in the house, but that he had gone away to take leave of various friends, because, after the wedding, they were to sail almost immediately, and so,―I must make short work with this, because I hate it to that degree.  There was the great snowstorm, as you know, and when he did not come home we thought he must be blocked up somewhere, and then we were afraid he was very ill.  At last when still it snowed, and still he did not come, Giles went in search of him, and it was not till the very day before the wedding that he got back, having found out the whole detestable thing.

    "Poor Val! and we used to think him such a dear fellow.  Of course I cannot help being fond of him still, but, Laura, he has disgracefully attached himself to another girl; he could not bear to come home and be married, and he knew St. George would be in such a rage that he did not dare to tell."

    "Young scamp!" exclaimed Amelia; "such a tall, handsome fellow to, who would have believed it of him?"

    "Well, Laura dear, when I saw St. George come in, I was so frightened that I fainted.  Dorothea was quite calm―quite still―she had been so all the time.  It makes me cry to think what she must have felt, dear sweet thing; but such a day as that one was, Laura, I cannot describe, and you cannot imagine.  The whole country was completely snowed up.  St. George had telegraphed to John Mortimer, from London, to be at our house, if possible, by four o'clock, for something had gone wrong, and his horses, because of the deep drift, overturned the phaeton into a ditch.  John rolled out, but managed to wade on to us; he was half covered with snow when I came down just as light was failing, and saw him in the hall stamping about and shaking the snow out of his pockets and from his hair.  I heard him sighing and saying how sad it was, for we thought Val must be ill, till Giles came up to him, and in two minutes told him what had happened.  Oh I never saw anybody in such a fury as he put himself into!  I was quite surprised.  He almost stuttered with rage.  What was the use either of his storming at Giles, as if he could help it, or indeed any of us?  And then sister was very much hurt, for she came hurrying into the hall, and began to cry; she does so like, poor thing, that people should take things quietly.  And presently, grinding and crunching through the snow, with four horses, came dear old Grand, done up in comforters, in the close carriage.  He had driven round the other way; he knew something was wrong, and he came into the hall with such trembling hands, thinking Val was dying or perhaps dead.  And then what a passion he got into, too, when John told him, it's no use at all my trying to explain to you; he actually cried, and when he had dried his eyes, he shook his fists, and said he was ashamed of his name.

    "It was very disagreeable for us, as you may suppose.  It was dusk before sister and St. George could get them to think of what we had to do.  To send and stop the bells from ringing early the next morning; to stop several people who were coming by rail to dinner that day, and expecting to sleep in the house on account of the unusual weather; to let Dick A'Court know, and the other clergyman, who were to have married them; and to prevent as many people as possible from coming to the breakfast, or to the church; to stop the men who were making a path to it through the drift―Oh you can't think what a confusion there presently was, and we had four or five hired flys in the stable, ready to fetch our friends, and take them to church, too; and there was such a smell all over, of roasting things and baking things.  Well, Laura, off we all set into the kitchen, and sent off the hired men with the flys, and every servant we had in the house, male or female―and Grand's men too―excepting sister's little maid to attend to Dorothea.  They went with messages and letters and telegrams right and left, to prevent the disgrace of any more people coming to look at us.  And then, when they were all gone, we being in the kitchen, John soon recollected how the cook had begged us to be very particular, and put water every now and then into the boiler, for the pipe that supplied it was frozen, and if we didn't mind it would burst.  So off he and Giles had to go into the dark yard and get in some water, and then they had to fetch in coals for the fires, and when John found that all the water in the back kitchen was frozen, and there was none but what was boiling to wash his hands in, he broke out again and denounced Val, and that minute up came the carrier's cart to the back door, having rescued the four smallest Mortimers and Aunt Christie and the nurse, who had been found stuck fast in the sociable in a drift, and in the children burst, full of ecstasy and congratulations, and thinking it the greatest fun in the world that we should all be in the kitchen.  And while Grand sat in low spirits at one side of the fire, and they began to amuse themselves by pulling in all the fish-baskets, and parcels, and boxes, and wedding presents, that the carriers had left outside in the snow (because John wouldn't let them come in and see us), St. George sat at the end of the dresser with his arms folded, smoked a cigar, and held his peace.  He must have been very much tired, as well as disgusted, poor fellow, for he had been rushing about the country for three days and nights; so he left all the others to do just what they liked, and say what they liked.  And very soon the whole confusion got to its height, by the elder children coming in and being told, and flying at John to condole and cry over him, and entreat him not to mind.  John, indeed! just as if we didn't care at all!  It was intended that all the children should sleep in our house, for it is so near the church, and nothing could prevent the younger ones from thinking it all the most glorious fun.  What with having been stuck fast, and then coming on in the cart and finding us in the kitchen, and having supper there, they were so delighted that they could not conceal their ecstasy.

    "As for little Anastasia, when the weights of the great kitchen clock ran down, and it stopped with an awful sort of gasping click, I believe she thought that was the wedding, for she ran up to St. George, who still sat on the dresser, and said―

    "'Shan't we have another one to-morrow?'

    "'No, you stoopid little thing!' Bertie said.  'You know Cousin Val won't come to do the marrying.'

    "'But somebody must,' she went on, 'else we can't have our new nopera cloaks and our satin frocks.  Can't papa?'

    "'No, papa doesn't wish,' said Bertie; 'I asked him.'

    "'Then,' she said, looking up at St. George, and speaking in a very pathetic tone, 'you will, dear, won't you? because you know you're so kind.'

    "I just happened to glance at St. George then, and you can't think, Laura, how astonished I was.  He turned away his face, and sister, who was standing close by, lifted up the child and let her kiss him.  Then he got down from the dresser and went away; but, Laura, if he had wished more than anything in the world to marry Dorothea, he might have looked just so.

    "Don't tell any one what I have said about this.  Perhaps I was mistaken.  I will write again soon.


    "Ever affectionately yours,


    "ELIZABETH GRANT."


    "Well," said Mrs. Melcombe, "it's the most disgraceful thing I ever heard of."

    "And here is a postscript," remarked Laura; "nothing particular, though:―'P.S.―Dorothea was ill at first; but she is better.  I must tell you that dear old Grand, the next morning, apologized to sister for having so lost his temper; he said it was the old Adam that was strong in him still.'"


 
CHAPTER XII.

VALENTINE.


"If he had known where he was going to fall, he could have put down straw."―Russian Proverb.


LAURA wrote with difficulty an answer to Lizzy Grant's letter.  It is easier for the sister to say, "My brother is a dishonourable young fellow, and has behaved shamefully," than for the friend to answer without offence, "I quite agree with you."

    But the next letter made matters in some degree easier, for it at least showed the direction that his family gave to the excuses they now offered for the behaviour of the young scapegrace.  First, he had been very unwell in London―almost seriously unwell; and next, Lizzy said she had been quite right as to St. George's love for Dorothea, for he had made her an offer before she left the house.

    "In fact," continued Liz, "we have all decided, so far as we can, to overlook what Val has done, for he is deeply attached to the girl who, without any fault of her own, has supplanted Dorothea.  He is already engaged to her, and if he is allowed to marry her early in the spring, and sail for New Zealand, he is not likely ever to return; at any rate, he will not for very many years.  In that case, you know, Laura, we shall only be with him about six weeks longer; so I hope our friends will forgive us for forgiving him."

    "They are fond of him, that is the fact," observed Mrs. Melcombe; "and to be sure the other brother, wanting to marry Miss Graham, does seem to make some difference, some excuse; but as to his illness, I don't think much of that.  I remember when his old father came here to the funeral, I remarked that Valentine looked overgrown, and not strong, and Mr. Mortimer said he had been very delicate himself all his youth, and often had a cough (far more delicate, in fact, than his son was); but he had outgrown it, and enjoyed very fair health for many years."

    Then Laura went on reading:―

    "Besides, we think that, though Dorothea refused St. George point blank when he made her an offer, yet she would hardly write to him every week as she does, if she did not like him, and he would hardly be so very silent and reserved about her, and yet evidently in such good spirits, if he did not think that something in the end would come of it."

    "No," said Mrs. Melcombe, laughing in a cynical spirit, "the ridiculous scrape they are in does not end with Valentine.  If he was really ill, there could be no thought of his marriage with this other girl; and, besides, Miss Graham (if this is true) will have far the best of the two brothers.  St. George, as they are so fond of calling him (I suppose because Giles is such an ugly name), is far better off than Valentine, and has ten times more sense."

    "Dorothea is gone to the Isle of Wight," continued Laura, finishing the letter, "to live with some old friends.  She has no relatives, poor girl, excepting a father, who is somewhere at the other end of the world, and he seems to take very little notice of her.  There is, indeed, an old uncle, but he lives at sea; he is almost always at sea in his yacht, and her only brother sails with him; but nobody knows in the least where they are now.  It is very sad for her, and she told St. George, and sister too, that she had only loved Val out of gratitude, because he seemed so much attached to her, and because she wanted somebody to devote herself to."

    In her next letter Liz told Laura that she herself was to be married shortly to Dick A'Court, "who says he fell in love with me when we two used to add up the coal-and-clothing cards."  In these words, and in no more, the information was imparted, and the rest of the letter was so stiff and formal that Laura's pleasure in the correspondence ended with it.  The realities of life were beginning to make her child-friend feel sober and reticent.

    Laura wrote a long effusive letter in reply, full of tender congratulations on the high lot that awaited Liz as the helpmeet of a devoted clergyman, also on the joys of happy lovers; but this composition did not touch the feelings of Liz in the right place.  "Just as if I had not told her," she thought, "that Emily was come home from India, and that I had consented to accept Dick partly to please her, because she was sure I should be sorry for it afterwards if I didn't.  So I dare say I should have been," she continued thoughtfully.  "In fact, I am almost sure of it.  But I know very well, whatever Emily may say, that Dick will make me do just as he likes.  I am sure I shall have to practise those quire boys of his, and they will bawl in my ears and call me teacher."

    So thinking, Liz allowed herself to drift towards matrimony without enthusiasm, but with a general notion that, as most people were married sooner or later, no doubt matrimony was the proper thing and the best thing on the whole.  "And I shall certainly go through with it, now I have promised," she further reflected, "for it would never do for another of us to behave badly just at the last."

    It was the last week in March, and Laura was loitering through the garden one morning before breakfast, when Mrs. Melcombe came out to her in some excitement with a note in her hand, which had been sent on from the inn, and which set forth that Mr. Brandon, having business in that immediate neighbourhood, would, if agreeable to her, do himself the pleasure of calling some time that morning.  He added that he had brought a book for Miss Melcombe from his sister.

    "I have sent to the inn," said Mrs. Melcombe, "to beg that he will come on here to breakfast."

    Laura had been gathering a bunch of violets, and she rushed up-stairs and put them into her hair.  Then in a great hurry she changed her toilette, and, after ascertaining that the guest had arrived, she came languidly into the breakfast-room, a straw-hat hanging by its strings from her arm, and filled with primroses and other flowers.  She felt as she approached that all this looked quite romantic, but it did not look so real and so unpremeditated as might have been wished.

    Mrs. Melcombe had also changed her array.  Little Peter, like most other children, was always the picture of cleanly neatness when first he left his nurse's hand in the morning, and his mother was much pleased at the evident interest with which their guest regarded him, asking him various questions about his lessons, his sports, and his pony.  She had been deeply gratified at the kind way in which all the Mortimers and their connections had received her boy; none of them seemed at all jealous.  Even Valentine had never hinted or even looked at her as if he felt that the property ought not to have gone to the younger branch.

    Peter, now ten years old, and but a small boy for his age, had an average degree of intelligence; and as he sat winking and blinking in the morning sunshine, he constantly shook back a lock of hair that fell over his forehead, till Brandon, quietly putting his hand to it, moved it away, and while the boy related some childish adventure that he had encouraged him to talk of, looked at him with scrutinizing and, as it seemed to his mother, with almost anxious attention.

    "Peter has been very poorly several times this winter," she remarked.  "I mean shortly to take him out for change of air."

    "His forehead looks pale," said Brandon, withdrawing his hand, and for a minute or two he seemed lost in thought, till Mrs. Melcombe, expressing a hope that he would stay at her house as long as his affairs detained him in that neighbourhood, he accepted her invitation with great readiness.  He would spend that day and the next with her, and, if she would permit it, he would walk with young hopeful to his tutor's house, and come back again in time for luncheon.

    "I declare, he scarcely spoke to me all breakfast-time," thought Laura.  "I consider him decidedly a proud man, and any one might think he had come to see Peter rather than to see us."

    Brandon evidently did wish to walk with the boy, and accordingly rose as soon as he had finished his breakfast, Mrs. Melcombe giving him some directions, and a key to let himself in with by a side gate.

    All the intelligence Brandon possessed, and all his keenness of observation, he exercised during his walk with the little heir.  He could generally attract children, and Peter was already well inclined toward him, for he had shown himself to be knowing about a country boy's pleasures; also he knew all about the little Mortimers and their doings.

    Brandon wished to see Melcombe, even to examine some parts of the house and grounds, and he wanted if possible to hear something more about the ghost story; but it did not suit him to betray any special interest.  So he left it to work its way to the surface if it would.  It was not the business he had come about, but he had undertaken to transact that, on purpose because it gave him a chance of looking at the place.

    This was the deep glen, then, that he had heard Valentine speak of?

    "Yes; and mother says the old uncle Mortimer (that one who lived at Wigfield) improved it so much; he had so many trees thinned out, and a pond dug where there used to be a swamp.  We've got some carp in that pond.  Do you think, if I fed them, they would get tame?"

    Brandon told some anecdote of certain carp that he had seen abroad, and then asked―

    "Do you like the glen, my boy―is it a favourite place of yours?"

    "Pretty well," answered Peter.  "There are not so many nests, though, as there used to be.  It used to be quite dark with trees."

    "Did you like it then?"

    "Yes, it was jolly; but――"

    "But what?" asked Brandon carelessly.

    "Grandmother didn't like it," said the boy.

    Brandon longed to ask why.

    "She was very old, my grandmother."

    "Yes.  And so she didn't like the glen?"

    "No; but the old uncle has had a walk, a sort of path, made through it; and mamma says I may like it as much as I please, so does aunt Laura."  "You know," continued the child, in an argumentative tone, "there's no place in the world where somebody hasn't died."

    "Now, what does this mean?" thought Brandon.  "I would fain raise the ghost if I could.  Is he coming up now, or is he not?"

    Presently, however, Peter made some allusion to the family misfortune―the death of the eldest son, by which Brandon perceived that it had taken place in the glen.  He then dropped the subject, nothing more that was said till a few minutes before they reached the tutor's lodgings being of the least interest.  Then, as they turned the edge of a wood, Peter looked back.

    "You won't forget the turn of the lane you are to take, will you, Mr. Brandon? and you've got the key?"

    "Yes," said Brandon.

    "It's a green sort of door, in the park-paling.  A new one has been made, because that one was so shabby.  It's the one my uncles went through when they ran away, you know."

    "What uncles?" asked Brandon, not at all suspecting the truth, and not much interested.

    "Why, that one who belonged to you," said Peter, "and the other one who belongs to Bertie and Hugh.  Didn't you know?" he exclaimed, having observed the momentary flash of surprise that Brandon made haste to conceal.  "They ran away," he repeated, as Brandon walked beside him making no answer, "a very long time before my mamma was born, and they never came back any more till I was nearly six years old."

    "So that's your tutor's house, is it?" said Brandon, and thereupon he took leave of him.

    "Amazing!" he said to himself as he walked away.  "What next, I wonder?"

    As he returned he revolved this information in his mind with increasing surprise.  John Mortimer had a proud and confident way of talking about his father that did not sound as if he knew that he had begun life by running away from home.  Valentine, he was well aware, knew nothing about it.

    Coming on, he turned aside to talk to some men who were digging a well.  He knew how to talk to working people, and, what is more to the purpose, he knew how to make them talk; but though they proffered a good deal of information about the neighbourhood, nothing was said that gave him any of the knowledge he wanted.  And shortly he went on, and let himself in at the little gate with his key.  It was not yet eleven o'clock, and as he did not want to see the ladies of the family so soon, he determined to go down into the steep glen and look about him.

    He had no doubt now that to this place the superstitious story belonged.

    First, he skirted it all about.  From above it was nearly as round as a cup, and as deep in proportion to its size.  The large old trees had been left, and appeared almost to fill it up, their softly rounded heads coming to within three feet of the level where he stood.  All the mother birds―rooks, jays, thrushes, and pigeons―were plainly in view under him, as they sat brooding on their nests among the topmost twigs, and there was a great cawing and crowing of the cock-birds while they flew about and fed their mates.  The leaves were not out; their buds only looked like green eggs spotting the trees, excepting that here and there a horse-chestnut, forwarder than its brethren, was pushing its crumpled foliage out of the pale-pink sheath.  Everywhere saplings had been cut down, and numbers of them strewed the damp mossy ground; but light penetrated, and water trinkled, there was a pleasant scent of herbs and flowers, and the whole place was cheerful with growth and spring.

    A set of winding steps cut in the soft, red rock led into the glen just where the side was steepest, and Brandon, intent on discovery, sprang lightly down them.  He wandered almost everywhere about the place.  It seemed to hold within itself a different climate from the world above, where keen spring air was stirring; here hardly a breath moved, and in the soft sheltered warmth the leaves appeared visibly to be expanding.  He forgot his object, also another object that he had in view (the business, in fact, which had brought him), leaned against the trunk of a horse-chestnut, listened to the missel-thrushes, looked at a pine-tree a little way off, that was letting down a mist of golden dust, and presently lost himself in a reverie, finding, as is the way with a lover, that the scene present, whatever it may happen to be, was helping to master his everyday self, was indeed just the scene to send him plunging yet further down into the depths of his passionate dream.

    He had stood leaning against the tree, with his hat at his feet and his arms folded, for perhaps half an hour.  He had inherited a world (with an ideal companion), had become absorbed into a lifetime of hope; and his love appeared to grow without let or hindrance in the growing freshness and glorious expansion of the spring.

    Half an hour of hope and joy consoles for much foregone trouble, and further satisfies the heart by making it an easier thing to believe in more yet to come.

    A sudden exclamation and a little crash roused him.

    Laura!  She had come to visit her favourite tree, and lo! a man there at last, leaning against it lost in thought, and so absolutely still that she had not noticed him.

    She knew in an instant that this was not Joseph, and yet as the sight of him flashed on her sense before recognition, the nothingness she always found gave way to a feeling as of something real, that almost might have been the right thing.  As for him, though he saw her flitting figure, she did not for the twinkling of an eye pass for the ghost he had come to look for.  He roused himself up in an instant.  "Whew!" was his inward thought, "she is alone; what could be so lucky!  I'll do the business at once, and get it over."

    Picking up his hat, and sinking at every step into the soft cushions of moss, he accordingly approached her and said, but perhaps just a little coldly, "I did not expect to see you here, Miss Melcombe."

    Laura perceived this slight tinge of coldness as plainly as he did the improvement in her appearance since he had first seen her in the morning, for surprise at detecting him had overpowered her affectation.  She had coloured from having been startled, and while she, from habit, moved on mechanically to the tree, she answered quite simply and naturally that she walked that way almost every day.

    Brandon turned and walked with her.  Opposite to the said tree, and very near it, was another, under which stood a bench.  Laura sat down, and while pointing out the spot where certain herons had built their platform-like nests, began to recover herself, or rather to put on the damaging affectation which in a moment of forgetfulness she had thrown off.

    Brandon did not sit beside her, but while she arranged her dress to her mind, threw her plaid shawl into becoming folds, and laying her hand on her bracelet, furtively drew the ornament upon it to the upper side, he looked at her and thought what a goose she was.

    She wore a straw hat with so wide a brim that as he stood before her he did not see her face, and he was not sorry for this; it was not his business to reprove her, but what he had to say would, he supposed, put her a good deal out of countenance.

    He was just about to speak, and Laura was in the full enjoyment of feeling how romantic it was to be there alone with a young man, was just wishing that some of her friends could be looking down from above to see this interesting picture, and draw certain conclusions, when a decidedly sharp voice called out from behind, "Laura! what can you be doing here?  You know I don't like you to be for ever coming to that tree.―Laura!"

    "Yes, I'm here," said Laura, and Mrs. Melcombe, arrayed in blue poplin, stepped into view, and made Brandon feel very foolish and Laura very cross.

    "Oh! you've brought Mr. Brandon here to see the carp," said Amelia graciously, but she hardly knew what to think, and they all presently went to the pond, and watched the creatures flashing up their golden sides, each wondering all the time what the two others were thinking of.  Then as it was nearly lunch time, Amelia and Laura proceeded to leave the dell, Brandon attending them and helping them up the steps.  He was rather vexed that he had not been able to say his say and give Laura a certain packet that he had in his possession; and as the afternoon presently clouded over and it began to pour with rain, he hardly knew what to do with himself till the bright idea occurred to him that he would ask Mrs. Melcombe to show him the old house.

    Up and down stairs and into a good many rooms they all three proceeded together.  Hardly any pictures to found a question or a theory on; no old china with a story belonging to it; no brown books that had been loved by dead Melcombes.  This could not have been a studious race.  Not a single anecdote was told of the dead all the time they went over the place, till at last Mrs. Melcombe unlocked the door of a dark, old-fashioned sitting-room upstairs, and going to the shutters opened one of them, saying, "This is the room in which the dear old grandmother spent the later years of her life."

    This really was an interesting old room.  Laura and Amelia folded back the shutters with a genuine air of reverence and feeling.  It was most evident that they had loved this woman whose son had forbidden her to leave her property to him.

    Two or three dark old pictures hung on the walls, and there was a cabinet on which Laura laying her hand, said―

    "The dear grandmother kept all her letters here."

    "Indeed," Brandon answered; "it must have been very interesting to you to look them over.  (And yet," he thought "you don't look as if you had found in them anything of much interest.")

    "We have never opened it," said Mrs. Melcombe.  "Mr. Mortimer, when he was here, proposed to look over and sort all the letters for me, but I declined his offer."

    ("And no doubt made him miserable by so doing") was Brandon's next thought.

    "I shall keep the key for my dear boy," she continued, "and give it to him when he comes of age."

    ("To find out something that he will wish he didn't know.") thought Brandon again.  ("That cabinet, as likely as not, contains the evidence of it, whatever it is.")

    "And in this gallery outside," she proceeded, "the dear grandmother used to walk every day."

    Brandon perceived that he had got to the core and heart of the place at last.  His interest was so intense that he failed to conceal it.  He walked to the window and noticed the pouring rain that was streaming between the rustic pillars of the balustrades into the garden below.  He examined the pictures; only two of them were portraits, but in the background of one was an undoubted representation of the house itself; the other was a portrait of a beautiful boy in a blue jacket and a shirt with a wide frill laid back and open at the neck.  Under his arm appeared the head of a greyish dog.

    "That creature," Brandon thought, "is almost exactly like my old dog Smokey.  I am very much mistaken if this is not the portrait of one of his ancestors."

    He turned to ask some question about it, and observed to his surprise that Mrs. Melcombe had left the room, and he was alone with Laura, who had seated herself on a sofa and taken a long piece of crochet-work from her pocket, which she was doing almost with the air of one who waits patiently till somebody else has finished his investigations.

    "I thought you would be interested in that picture," she said; "you recognise it, I suppose?"

    "No!" he exclaimed.

    "It used not to be here," said Laura; "the dear grandmother, as long as she lived, always had it in her bedroom.  It's Mr. Mortimer, your stepfather, when he was a boy, and that was his dog, a great favourite; when he ran away the dog disappeared―it was always supposed that it ran after him.  I suppose," continued Laura, impelled to say this to some one who was sure to be impressed by it―"I suppose nobody ever did mourn as my grandmother did over the loss of those two sons.  Yet she never used to blame them."

    They did run away then, and they did keep away, and yet she did not blame them.  How deeply pathetic these things seemed.  Whatever it might be that had made his step-father write that letter, it appeared now to be thrown back to the time when he had divided himself thus from his family and taken his boy brother with him.

    "And that other portrait," said Laura, "we found up in one of the garrets, and hung here when the house was restored.  It is the portrait of my grandmother's only brother, who was sixteen or eighteen years younger than she was.  His name was Melcombe, which was her maiden name, but ours, you know, was really Mortimer.  It is very much darkened by time and neglect, and never was of any particular value."

    "What has he got under his arm?" said Brandon.

    "I think it is a cocked hat or some kind of hat.  I think they wore cocked hats then in the navy; he was a lieutenant in the navy.  You see some sort of gold lace on it, and on the hilt of his sword."

    "Did he die at sea?" asked Brandon.

    "Yes.  My great-grandfather left this place to his son, and as he died unmarried it was to come to our eldest uncle, and then to grandmother, as it did, you know."

    "'Its name was Melcombe, and it came from the sea,'" Brandon repeated inwardly, adding, "Well, the ghost can have had nothing to do with this mystery.  I shall trouble myself no more about him."

    "He was only about a year older than my oldest uncle," proceeded Laura, "for grandmother married at seventeen."

    Brandon looked again.  Something in the two pictures reminded him of the portraits of the Flambourgh family.  They had evidently been done by the same artist.  Each youth had something under his left arm, each was turning his face slightly, and they both looked the same way.  Young Daniel Mortimer was so placed that his quiet eyes seemed to be always regarding the hearth, now empty of warmth.  The other, hung on the same wall, seemed to look out into the garden, and Laura said in a sentimental way that, considering the evident love she had borne her grandmother, was not at all out of place.

    "There is a bed of lilies that dear grandmother used to love to watch, and Amelia and I thought it interesting when we had had this picture put up to observe that its eyes seemed to fall on the same place.  They were not friends, my grandmother and her brother, and no doubt after his death my grandmother laid their frequent quarrels to heart, for she could never bear to mention him, though she had a beautiful monument put up to his memory.  You must go and see it, Mr. Brandon.  We have lately had it cleaned, and dear grandmother's name added under his."

    "I will," said Brandon.



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