AN EASY DISMISSAL.
Indeed the top of admiration! worth
What's dearest to the world."
"Well, father, it's too true!"
"You don't say so?"
"Yes; he died, Dr. Mainby's housekeeper says, at five o'clock this
morning. The doctor was there all night, and he's now come home, and
gone to bed."
"One of the most unfortunate occurrences I ever heard of. Well, that
that is, is―and can't be helped. I'd have given something (over and
above the ten-and-sixpence) to have had it otherwise; but I 'spose,
Jemmy, I 'spose we understand the claims of decency and humanity." It
was the editor of the True Blue who said this.
"I 'spose we do," answered the son sturdily, though sulkily; "but that's
the very best skit that Blank Blank ever did for us."
"Blank Blank" was the signature under which various satirical verses
appeared in the True Blue.
"Paid for, too―ten-and-six. Well, here goes, Jemmy." He took a paper
from his desk, read it over with a half smile. "One or two of the jokes
in it will keep," he observed; then, when his son nodded assent, he
folded it up and threw it in the fire. This was a righteous action. He
never got any thanks for doing it; also a certain severity that he was
inclined to feel against the deceased for dying just then, he quickly
turned (from a sense of justice) towards the living members of his
family, and from them to their party, the "pinks" in general. Then he
began to moralise. "Captain Walker―and so he's dead―died at five
o'clock this morning. It's very sudden. Why Mrs. Walker was driving him
through the town three days ago."
"Yes," answered the son; "but when a man has heart complaint, you never
know where you are with him."
A good many people in Wigfield and round it discussed that death during
the day; but few, on the whole, in a kindlier spirit than had been
displayed by the editor of the opposition paper. Mrs. A'Court, wife of
the vicar, and mother of Dick A'Court, remarked that she was the last
person to say anything unkind, but she did value consistency.
"Everybody knows that my Dick is a high churchman; they sent for him to
administer the holy communion, and he found old Mr. Mortimer there, a
layman, who is almost, I consider, a Methodist, he's so low church; and
poor Captain Walker was getting him to pray extempore by his bed. Even
afterward he wouldn't let him out of his sight. And Dick never
remonstrated. Now, that is not what I could have hoped of my son; but
when I told him so, he was very much hurt, said the old man was a saint,
and he wouldn't interfere. 'Well, my dear,' I said, 'you must do as you
please; but remember that your mother values consistency.'"
When Mrs. Melcombe, who, with her son and Laura, was still at Paris,
heard of it, she also made a characteristic remark. "Dear me, how sad!"
she exclaimed; "and there will be that pretty bride, Mrs. Brandon, in
mourning for months, till all her wedding dresses, in fact, are out of
Mrs. Melcombe had left Melcombe while it was at its loveliest, all the
hawthorns in flower, the peonies and lilies of the valley. She chose
first to go to Paris, and then when Peter did not seem to grow, was thin
and pale, she decided―since he never seemed so well as when he had no
lessons to do―that she would let him accompany them on their tour.
Melcombe was therefore shut up again; and the pictures of Daniel
Mortimer and the young lieutenant, his uncle, remained all the summer in
the dark. But Wigfield House was no sooner opened after Captain Walker's
funeral than back came the painters, cleaners, and upholsterers, to
every part of it; and the whole place, including the garden, was set in
order for the bride.
Emily was not able to have any of the rest and seclusion she so much
needed; but almost immediately took her one child and went to stay with
her late husband's father till she could decide where to live.
Love that has been received affects the heart which has lost it quite
differently from a loss where the love has been bestowed. The
remembrance of it warms the heart towards the dear lost donor; but if
the recollection of life spent together is without remorse, if, as in
Emily's case, the dead man has been wedded as a tribute to his
acknowledged love, and if he has not only been allowed to bestow his
love in peace without seeing any fault or failing that could give him
one twinge of jealousy―if he has been considered, and liked thoroughly,
and, in easy affectionate companionship, his wife has walked beside him,
delighting him, and pleased to do so―then, when he is gone, comes, as
the troubled heart calms itself after the alarms of death and parting,
that one, only kind of sorrow which can ever be called with truth "the
luxury of grief."
In her mourning weeds, when she reached Fred's father's house, Emily
loved to sit with her boy on her lap, and indulge in passionate tears,
thinking over how fond poor Fred had been, and how proud of her. There
was no sting in her grief, no compunction, for she knew perfectly well
how happy she had made him; and there was not the anguish, of personal
loss, and want, and bereavement.
She looked pale when she reached Mr. Walker's house, but not worn. She
liked to tell him the details of his son's short illness; and the
affectionate, irascible old man not only liked to hear them, but derived
pleasure from seeing this fine young woman, this interesting widow,
sitting mourning for his son. So he made much of her, and pushed her
sister Louisa at once into the background for her sake.
The sisters having married twin brothers, Mr. Walker's elder sons,
neither had looked on himself as heir to the exclusion of the other; but
Emily's pale morsel of a child was at once made more important than his
father had ever been. Louisa, staying also with her husband in the
house, was only the expectant mother of a grandson for him; and the rich
old man now began almost immediately to talk of how he should bring up
Emily's boy, and what he should do for him―taking for granted, from the
first, that his favourite daughter-in-law was to live with him and keep
Louisa took this change in Mr. Walker very wisely and sweetly―did not
even resent it, when, in the presence of his living son, he would
aggravate himself into lamentations over the dead one, as if in him he
had lost his all.
Sometimes he wondered a little himself at this quiescence―at the slight
impression he seemed to make on his son, whom he had fully intended to
rouse to remonstrance about it―at the tender way in which the young
wife ministered to her sister, and at the great change for the worse
that he soon began to observe in Emily's appearance.
Nobody liked to tell him the cause, and he would not see it; even when
it became an acknowledged fact, which every one else talked of, that
the little one was ill, he resolutely refused to see it; said the
weather was against a child born in India―blamed the east wind. Even
when the family doctor tried to let him know that the child was not
likely to be long for this world, he was angry, with all the
unreasonable volubility of a man who thinks others are deceiving him,
rather than grieved for the peril of the little life and the anguish of
the mother's heart.
Now came indeed "the rest of it." What a rending away of heart and life
it seemed to let go the object of this absorbing, satisfying love! Now
she was to lose, where the love had been bestowed; and she felt as if
death itself was in the bitter cup.
It was not till the child was actually passing away, after little more
than a fortnight's illness, that his grandfather could be brought to
believe in his danger. He had been heaping promises of what he would do
for him on the mother, as if to raise her courage. With kindly
wrong-headed obstinacy he had collected and detailed to her accounts of
how ill other children had been and had recovered, had been getting
fresh medical opinions, and proposing to try new remedies; but no sooner
was all over, and the afflicted mother was led from her dead child by
his son, than he tormented himself and the doctors by demanding why he
had been kept in the dark so long, why he had not been allowed to try
change of air, why, if the symptoms showed mortal disease from the
first, he had been allowed to set his heart on the child as he had done. No one now had anything to say to Emily. She had only been a widow a
month, and the first loss had had no bitterness in it, though she had
sorrowed with the tender affection of a loyal heart. The death of her
child was almost the loss of all.
Valentine in the meantime had taken his sister Liz to a little quiet
place; there, as her marriage could not be put off, and the ship was
decided on in which they were to sail for New Zealand, he acted the
part of father, and gave her away at the quietest wedding possible,
seeing her off afterwards, and returning to take up his abode in his
uncle's house, about three weeks after the death of Emily's little
child. Not one of the late inhabitants had been left in his old home
excepting Mrs. Henfrey, who remained to receive the bride, and was still
there, though the newly-married pair had been home a week. Valentine had
found ample time to consider how he should behave to Dorothea, Mrs.
Brandon. He had also become accustomed to the thought of her being out
of his reach, and the little excitement of wonder as to how they should
meet was not altogether displeasing to him. "Giles will be inclined, no
doubt, to be rather jealous of me," was his thought; "I shall be a bad
fellow if I don't take care to show him that there is no need for it. D.
must do the same. Of course she will. Sweet D.! Well, it can't be helped
It was natural enough that he should cogitate over the best way of
managing his first meeting with them; but he had not been an hour in his
uncle's house before he found that Grand was shortly going to give a
great dinner party for the bride mainly consisting of relatives and very
old friends. This, it was evident, would be the most natural time for
him to present himself.
Valentine loved comfort and luxury, and finding himself established
quite as if he had been a younger son in the house―a horse kept for him
to ride, and a small sitting-room set aside in which he could see his
friends―he experienced a glow of pleasure at first, and he soon
perceived that his presence was a real pleasure to his old uncle; so,
settling himself with characteristic ease in his place, he felt hourly
more and more content with his new home.
It was not till he came down into the drawing-room before dinner on the
day of the party that he began to feel excited and agitated. A good
many of the guests were already present, he went up to one and to
another, and then advanced to speak to Miss Christie, who was arrayed in
a wonderful green gown, bought new for the occasion.
"Mr. and Mrs. Brandon," sounded clearly all down the long room, and he
turned slowly and saw them. For one instant they appeared to be standing
quite still, and so he often saw them side by side in his thoughts ever
after. The bride looked serenely sweet, a delicate blush tinging her
face, which was almost of infantine fairness and innocence; then old
Grand's white head came in the way as he advanced to meet her and take
her hand, bowing low with old-fashioned formality and courtesy. Several
other people followed and claimed her acquaintance, so that they were
closed in for the moment. Then he felt that now was the time for him to
come forward, which he did, and as the others parted again to let Grand
take her to a seat, they met face to face.
"Ah, Valentine," she said, so quietly, with such an unexcited air; she
gave him her hand for a moment, and it was over. Then he shook hands
with his brother, their eyes met, and though both tried hard to be
grave, neither could forbear to smile furtively; but Giles was much the
more embarrassed of the two.
During dinner, though Valentine talked and laughed, he could not help
stealing a minute now and then to gaze at the bride, till John, darting
a sudden look at him, brought him to his senses; but he cogitated about
her, though he did not repeat the offence. "Is it lilac, or grey, or
what, that she has on? That pale stuff must be satin, for it shines. Oh,
meant for mourning perhaps. How wonderfully silent Giles is! How quiet
they both are!"
This observation he made to himself several times during the evening,
catching the words of one and the other whatever part of the room he was
in, almost as distinctly as they did themselves; but he only looked
once at Dorothea, when something made him feel or think that she had
drawn her glove off. His eyes wandered then to her hand. Yes, it was
so―there was the wedding ring.
With what difficulty, with what disgrace he had contrived to escape from
marrying this young woman! His eyes 'wandered round the room.
Just so she would have looked, and every one else would have looked, if
this wedding dinner had been made for his bride, but he would not have been
sitting up in the corner with three girls about him, laughing and making
laugh. No, and he would not have stood rather remote from her, as Giles
did. He thought he would have been proudly at her side. Oh, how could he
have been such a fool? how could he? how could he?
"She would have loved me just as well, just so she would have lifted up
her face, as she does now, and turned towards me."―No! The bride and
her husband looked at one another for an instant, and in one beat of the
heart he knew not only that no such look had ever been in her eyes for
him, but he felt before he had time to reason his conviction down, that
in all likelihood there never would have been. Then, when he found that
Dorothea seemed scarcely aware of his presence, he determined to return
the compliment, got excited, and was the life and soul of the younger
part of the company. So that when the guests dispersed, many were the
remarks they made about it.
"Well, young Mortimer need not have been quite so determined to show his
brother how delighted he was not to be standing in his shoes." "Do you
think Brandon married her out of pity?" "She is a sweet young creature. I never saw newly-married people take so little notice of one another. It must have been a trial to her to meet young Mortimer again, for no
doubt she was attached to him."
A quarter of an hour after the bride had taken her leave, and when all
the other guests were gone, Valentine went into the hall, feeling very
angry with himself for having forgotten that, as he was now a member of
her host's family, he might with propriety have seen Dorothea into the
carriage. "This," he thought, "shall not occur again."
The hall doors were open, servants stood about as if waiting still. He
saw a man's figure. Some one, beyond the stream of lamplight which came
from the house, stood on the gravel, where through a window he could
command a view of the staircase.
It was little past eleven, the moon was up, and as the longest day was
at hand, twilight was hardly over, and only one star here and there hung
out of the heavens.
"Why, that is Giles," thought Valentine. "Strange! he cannot have sent
Dorothea home alone, surely."
Giles approached the steps, and Valentine, following the direction of
his eyes, saw a slender figure descending the stairs.
Dorothea! She was divested now of the shimmering satin and all her
bridal splendour. How sweet and girlish she looked in this more simple
array! Evidently they were going to walk home through the woods and
lanes, see glow-worms and smell the hedge roses. For an instant
Valentine was on the point of proposing to accompany them part of the
way, but recollected himself just in time to withdraw into the shadow
made by a stand of greenhouse plants, and from thence see Giles come up
the steps, take the delicate ungloved hand and lay it on his arm, while
the hall doors were closed behind them.
Adam and Eve were returning to Paradise on foot. The world was quite a
new world. They wanted to see what it was like by moonlight, now they
Valentine walked disconsolately up the stairs, and there at the head of
them, through a wide-open door, he saw a maid. The pale splendours of
Dorothea's gown were lying over her arm, and she was putting gold and
pearls into a case. He darted past as quickly as he could, so glad to
get out of sight, lest she should recognise him, for he shrewdly
suspected that this was the same person who had been sent with Dorothea
to Wigfield, when she first went there―one Mrs. Brand. So, in fact, it
was; her husband was dead, she no longer sailed in old Captain Rollings
yacht, and Brandon had invited her to come and stay in the house a
while, and see her young lady again.
How glad he was to get away and shelter himself in his own room!―an
uncomfortable sensation this for a fine young man. "What should I have
done but for Grand and John?" was his thought. Grand and John were very
considerate the next day. In the first place, Grand scarcely mentioned
the bride during breakfast; in fact, so far as appeared, he had
forgotten the party altogether. John was also considerate, gave
Valentine plenty to do, and in a way that made him feel the yoke, took
him in hand and saw that he did it.
It is often a great comfort to be well governed. John had a talent for
government, and under his dominion Valentine had the pleasure of
feeling, for the first time in his life, that he had certain things to
do which must and should be done, after which he had a full right to
occupy himself as he pleased.
A MORNING CALL.
"Learn now for all
That I, which know my heart, do here pronounce
By the very truth of it, I care not for you."―Cymbeline.
"JOHN," said Valentine,
ten days after this dinner party, "you have not called on D. yet, nor have
"No," John answered, observing his wish, "and it might not be
a bad plan for us to go together."
"Thank you, and if you would add the twins to―to make the
thing easier and less formal."
"Nonsense," said John; "but yes, I'll take some of the
children, for of course you feel awkward." He did not add, "You
should not have made such a fool of yourself," lest Valentine should
answer, "I devoutly wish I had not;" but he went on, "And why don't you
say Dorothea, instead of using a nickname?"
"I always used to call her D.," said Valentine.
"All the more reason why you should not now," answered John.
And Valentine murmured to himself―
"'These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself
in dotage' (Antony and Cleopatra)." This he added from old
habit. "I'll quote everything I can think of to D., just to make her
think I have forgotten her wish that I should leave off quoting; and if
that is not doing my duty by St. George, I should like to know what is.
Only that might put it into his head to quote too, and perhaps he might
have the best of it. I fancy I hear him saying, 'Art thou learnčd?'
I, as William, answer, 'No, sir.' 'Then learn this of me,' he makes
reply, 'to have is to have; for all your writers do consent that ipse
is he. Now you are not ipse, for I am he. He, sir, that
hath married this woman. Therefore, you clown, abandon, which is―,'
&c., &c. What a fool I am!"
John, adding the twins and little Bertram to the party, drove
over on a Saturday afternoon, finding no one at home but Mrs. Henfrey.
"St. George," she said, "has taken to regular work, and sits
at his desk all the morning, and for an hour or two in the afternoon,
excepting on Saturday, when he gives himself a half-holiday, as if he was
"And where was he now?" John asked.
"Somewhere about the place with Dorothea; he had been
grubbing up the roots of the trees in a corner of the little wood at all
leisure times; he thought of turning it into a vegetable garden."
"Why, we always had more vegetables than we could use,"
exclaimed Valentine, "and we were three times as large a family."
"Very true, my dear, but they are full of schemes―going to
grow some vegetables, I think, and flowers, for one of the county
hospitals. It would not be like him, you know, to go on as other
"No," Valentine answered. "And he always loved a little
hard work out of doors; he is wise to take it now, or he would soon get
tired of stopping peaceably at home, playing Benedict in this dull place."
The children were then sent out to find where the young wife
was, and come and report to their father, telling her that he would pay
his call out of doors.
"And so you are still here, sister," observed Valentine,
willing to change the subject, for he had been rather disconcerted by a
quiet smile with which she had heard his last speech.
"Yes, my dear, the fact is, they won't let me go."
"Of course I never thought they would want me. And the
morning after they came home I mentioned that I had been looking out for a
house―that small house that I consulted John about, and, in fact, took."
Mrs. Henfrey was hardly ever known to launch into narration.
She almost always broke up her remarks by appeals to one and another of
her listeners, and she now did not go on till John had made the admission
that she had consulted him. She then proceeded with all
"But you should have seen how vexed St. George looked.
He had no idea, he said, that I should ever think of leaving him; and,
indeed, I may mention to you in confidence, both of you, that he always
drew for me what money I said was wanted for the bills, and he no more
thought of looking at my housekeeping books than my father did."
"Really," said Valentine.
He was quite aware of this, to him, insignificant fact, but
to have said more would only have put her out, and he wanted her to talk
"And so," she continued slowly, "I said to him, I said, 'My
dear Giles, I have had a pleasant home in this house, many, many years,
indeed, ever since you were a child; but it is my opinion (and you will
find it is the general opinion) that every young wife should have her
house to herself.' I did not doubt at all that this was her opinion
too, only I considered that as he had spoken so plainly, she might not
like to say so."
"No, very likely not," said John, when she stopped, as if
stranded, till somebody helped her on with a remark.
"You are quite right, John, any one might have thought so;
but in a minute or two. 'Well,' said St. George, 'this is rather a
blow;' and what does that pretty creature do but come and sit by me, and
begin to coax me. 'She wanted me so much, and it would be so kind if
I would but stop and do as I always had done, and she would be so careful
to please me, and she had always thought the house was so beautifully
managed, and everything in such order, and so regular.'"
"So it is," Valentine put in. "She is quite right
"'And she didn't know how to order the dinner,' she said; and
so she went on, till I said, 'Well, my dears, I don't wish that there
should be any mistake about this for want of a little plain speaking.'"
"Well?" said John, when she came to a dead stop.
"And she said, 'You love St. George, don't you, just as much
as if he was related to you?' 'How can any one help loving him?'
'And I know if you leave us he won't be half so comfortable. And
nobody should ever interfere with you.' So I said I would keep their
house for them, and you may suppose how glad I was to say it, for I'm like
a cat, exactly like a cat―I don't like to leave a place that I am used to,
and it would have been difficult for her to manage."
"I had often been thinking, when I supposed I had to go, that
she would never remember to see that the table-linen was all used in its
proper turn, and to have the winter curtains changed for white ones before
the sun faded them."
"You're such a comfortable, dear thing to live with,"
observed Valentine, now the narrative was over. "Everybody likes
you, you know."
Mrs. Henfrey smiled complacently, accepting the compliment.
She was, to all strangers, an absolutely uninteresting woman; but her
family knew her merits, and Giles and Valentine were both particularly
alive to them.
"And so here I am," continued 'sister,' "but it is a pity for
poor Emily, for she wanted me to live in that house, you know, John, with
"But I thought old Walker was devoted to her," said John.
"So he was, my dear, so long as her boy was with her; but now
she is nobody, and I am told he shows a willingness to let her go, which
is almost like dismissing her."
"I hope she will not get my old woman away to live with her,"
thought John, with a sudden start. "I don't know what I may be
driven to, if she does. I shall have to turn out of my own house, or
take the Golden Head into it by way of protection. No, not that!
I'll play the man. But," he thought, continuing his cogitations,
"Emily is too young and attractive to live alone, and what so natural as
that she should ask her old aunt to come to her?"
John was still deeply cogitating on this knotty point when
the children came back, and conducted him and Valentine to the place where
Brandon was at work, and Dorothea sitting near him on a tree-stump
None of the party ever forgot that afternoon, but each
remembered it as an appeal to his own particular circumstances.
Brandon was deep in the contentment of a great wish fulfilled. The
newly-perfected life was fresh and sweet, and something of reserve in the
character and manners of his wife seemed to restrain him from using up the
charm of it too fast. His restless and passionate nature was at once
satisfied and kept in check by the freshness and moderation of hers.
She received his devotion very quietly, made no demonstrations, but grew
to him, laid up his confidences in her heart, and let him discover―though
she never said it―that all the rest of the world was becoming as nothing
for his sake. Accordingly it did not occur to him, excepting on
Valentine's own account, to consider how he might feel during this
interview. He noticed that he was a little sulky and perhaps rather
out of countenance; he did not wonder at these things; but being
absolutely secure of his wife's love, he never even said to himself how
impossible it was that her affection should revert to Valentine; but this
was for the simple reason that he had never thought about that matter at
all. He talked to Valentine on indifferent subjects, and felt that
he should be glad when he had got over the awkwardness he was then
evidently enduring, for they had been accustomed, far more than most
brothers, to live together on terms of familiar intimacy, and only one of
them at present was aware that this could never be again.
Valentine also never forgot, but often saw that picture again
with the fresh fulness of the leaves for a background to the girlish
figure; and the fair face so innocent and candid and so obviously content.
She was seated opposite to him, with Brandon on the grass close to her.
In general they addressed each other merely by the Christian name, but
just before John rose to take leave, Dorothea dropped her ball. It
rolled a little way, and pointing it out to Brandon with her long wooden
knitting-pin, she said, in a soft quiet tone, "Love, will you pick it up?"
and Valentine, who had overheard the little speech, was inexpressibly
hurt, almost indignant. He could not possibly have told why, but he
hoped she did not say that often, and when Brandon gave it into her hand
again, and said something to her that Valentine could not hear, he felt
almost as if he had been unkindly used, as if his feelings had been
insulted, and he vowed that it should be a long time before he came to see
"It won't do," he thought to himself. "I see this means
a great deal more than I ever thought it did. I thought Giles would
be jealous, and I should have to set things in a light that would satisfy
him; but it is I who am jealous, and he does not care what I feel at all.
She is all I could wish; but I don't know whether looking at her is most
bitter or most sweet."
As for John, he had walked down to the wood as usual, in full
possession of his present self, and as he supposed of his future
intentions, and yet, sitting opposite to these married lovers for a
quarter of an hour, wrought a certain change in him that nothing ever
effaced. It was an alien feeling to him to be overcome by a yearning
discontent. Something never yet fed and satisfied made its presence
known to him. It was not that sense which comes to all, sooner or
later, that human life cannot give us what we expected of it, but rather a
passionate waking to the certainty that he never even for one day had
possessed what it might have given. He had never been endowed for
one day with any deep love, with its keen perceptions and high
"Well, I suppose I didn't deserve it," he thought, half
angrily, while he tried to trample the feeling down and stifle it.
But his keener instincts soon rose up in him and let him know that he did
deserve it. It was very extraordinary that he had not won it―there
were few men, indeed, who deserved it half so well.
"But it's too late now," he chose to say to himself, as he
drove home. "It's not in my line either to go philandering after any
woman. Besides, I hate red hair. The next Dissolution
I'll stand for the borough of Wigfield. Seven children to bring up,
and one of them almost as big as myself―what a fool I am! What can I
have been thinking of?"
"What are you laughing at, papa?" said Barbara, who was
sitting beside him.
"Not at you, my darling," he replied; "for you are something
For the next few weeks neither he nor Valentine saw much of
Dorothea: excepting at three or four dinners, they scarcely met at all.
After this came the Harrow holidays. Johnny came home, and with him
the inevitable Crayshaw. The latter was only to stay a week, and
that week should have been spent with Brandon, but the boys had begged
hard to be together, having developed a peculiar friendship for one
another which seemed to have been founded on many fights, in consequence
of which they had been strictly forbidden to meet.
This had taken place more than a year before, when Crayshaw,
having been invited by John to spend the holidays with his boy, the two
had quarrelled, and even fought, to such a degree that John at last in
despair had taken Johnnie over to his grandfather's house, with the
declaration that if he so much as spoke to Crayshaw again, or crossed the
wide brook that ran between the two houses, he would fine him half-a-crown
every time he did it.
"Ith all that hateful map," said young hopeful sulkily, when
he was borne off to his banishment.
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," quoth his father.
"I don't care what it's about. You have no notion of hospitality.
I won't have you fight with your guest."
Crayshaw was in very weak health, but full of mischief and
fun. For a few days he seemed happy enough, then he flagged, and on
the fifth morning he laid half-a-crown beside John's plate at breakfast.
"What's this for?" asked John.
"Because it is not fair that he should be fined, and not I."
"Put it in the missionary box," said John, who knew very well
that the boys had been constructing a dam together all the previous day.
"It was about their possessions that they quarrelled," said
Gladys in giving an account of the matter afterwards. "They made a
plan that they would go into partnership, and conquer all the rest of the
world; but when they looked at the great map up in Parliament, and Johnnie
found how much the most he had got, he said Cray must annex Japan, or he
would not join. Cray said it was against his principles. So
they quarrelled, and fought once or twice; but perhaps it was just as
well, for you know the rest of the world would rather not be conquered.
Then, when they were fined for playing together, they did every day.
They made a splendid dam over the brook, which was very low; but one night
came a storm, father's meadows were flooded, they could not get the dam
undone, and some sheep were drowned. So they went to Grand, and
begged him to tell father, and get them off. They said it was a
strange thing they were never to be together, and neither of them had got
a penny left. So Grand got them forgiven, and we went all over the
meadows for two or three days in canoes and punts."
And now these two desirable inmates were to be together for a
week. A great deal can be done in a week, particularly by those who
give their minds to it because they know their time is short. That
process called turning the house out of windows took place when John was
away. Aunt Christie, who did not like boys, kept her distance, but
Miss Crampton being very much scandalized by the unusual noise, declared,
on the second morning of these holidays, that she should go up into
Parliament, and see what they were all about. Miss Crampton was not
supposed ever to go up into Parliament; it was a privileged place.
"Will the old girl really come, do you think?" exclaimed
"She says she shall, as soon as she has done giving Janie her
music lesson," replied Barbara, who had rushed up the steep stairs to give
"Mon peruke!" exclaimed Johnnie looking round, "you'd better
look out, then, or vous l'attrapperais."
The walls were hung with pictures, maps, and caricatures;
these last were what had attracted Johnnie's eyes, and the girls began
hastily to cover them.
"It's very unkind of her," exclaimed Barbara. "Father
never exactly said that we were to have our own playroom to ourselves, but
we know, and she knows, that he meant it."
Then, after a good deal of whispering, giggling, and
consulting among the elder ones, the little boys were dismissed; and in
the meantime Mr. Nicholas Swan, who, standing on a ladder outside, was
nailing the vines (quite aware that the governess was going to have a
reception which might be called a warning never to come there any more),
may or may not have intended to make his work last as long as possible.
At any rate, he could with difficulty forbear from an occasional grin,
while, with his nails neatly arranged between his lips, he leisurely
trained and pruned; and when he was asked by the young people to bring
them up some shavings and a piece of wood, he went down to help in the
mischief, whatever it might be, with an alacrity ill suited to his years
"Now, I'll tell you what, young gentlemen," he remarked,
when, ascending, he showed his honest face again, thrust in a log of wood,
and exhibited an armful of shavings, "I'm agreeable to anything but
gunpowder, or that there spark as comes cantering out o' your engine with
a crack. No, Miss Gladys, ex-cuse me, I don't give up these here
shavings till I know it's all right."
"Well, well, it ith all right," exclaimed Johnnie,
"we're not going to do any harm! O Cray, he'th brought up a log ath
big ath a fiddle. Quelle alouette!"
"How lucky it is that she has never seen Cray!" exclaimed
Barbara. "Johnnie, do be calm; how are we to do it, if you laugh so?
Now then, you are to be attending to the electrifying machine."
"Swanny," asked Crayshaw, "have you got a pipe in your
pocket? I want one to lie on my desk."
"Well, now, to think o' your asking me such a question, just
as if I was ever known to take so much as a whiff in working
hours―no, not in the tool-house, nor nowhere."
"But just feel. Come, you might."
"Well, now, this here is remarkable," exclaimed Swan, with a
start as if of great surprise, when, after feeling in several pockets, a
pipe appeared from the last one.
"Don't knock the ashes out."
"She's coming," said Swan, furtively glancing down, and then
pretending to nail with great diligence. "And, my word, if here
isn't Miss Christie with her!"
A great scuffle now ensued to get things ready. Barbara
darted down stairs, and what she may have said to Aunt Christie while Swan
received some final instructions above, is of less consequence than what
Miss Crampton may have felt when she found herself at the top of the
stairs in the long room, with its brown high-pitched roof―a room full of
the strangest furniture, warm with the sun of August, and sweet with the
scent of the creepers.
Gladys and Johnnie were busy at the electrifying machine, and
with a rustling and crackling noise the "spunky little flashes," as Swan
called them, kept leaping from one leaden knob to another.
Miss Crampton saw a youth sitting on a low chair, with his
legs on rather a higher one; the floor under him was strewed with
shavings, which looked, Swan thought, "as natural as life," meaning that
they looked just as if he had made them by his own proper whittling.
The youth in question was using a large pruning knife on a
log that he held rather awkwardly on his knee. He had a soft hat,
which had been disposed over one eye. Miss Crampton gave the sparks
as wide a berth as she could, and as she advanced, "Well, sir," Swan was
saying in obedience to his instructions, "if you've been brought up a
republican, I spose you can't help it. But whatever your
notions may be, Old Master is staunch. He's all for Church and Queen
and he hates republican institootions like poison. Which is likewise
my own feelings to a T."
No one had taken any notice of Miss Crampton, and she stopped
"Wall," answered the youth, diligently whittling, "I think
small potatoes of ye-our lo-cation myself―but ye-our monarchical
government, I guess, hez not yet corrupted the he-eart of the Grand.
He handed onto me and onto his hair a tip which"―here he put his hand in
his waistcoat pocket, and fondly regarded two or three coins; then
feigning to become aware of Miss Crampton's presence, "Augustus John, my
yound friend," he continued, "ef yeow feel like it, I guess yeou'd better
set a chair for the school marm―for it is the school marm, I calculate?"
Here Miss Christie, radiant with joy and malice, could not
conceal her delight, but patted him on the shoulder, and then hastily
retreated into the background, lest she should spoil the sport; while as
Johnnie, having small command of countenance, did not dare to turn from
the window out of which he was pretending to look, Crayshaw rose himself,
shook hands with Miss Crampton, and setting a chair for her, began to
"Wall," he then said, "and heow do yeou git along with ye-our
teaching, marm? Squire thinks a heap of ye-our teaching, as I
he-ear, specially ye-our teaching of the eye-talian tongue."
"Did I understand you to be arguing with the gardener when I
came in, respecting the principles and opinions of this family?" inquired
Miss Crampton, who had now somewhat recovered from her surprise, and was
equal to the resenting of indignities.
"Wall, mebby I was, but it's a matter of science that we're
mainly concerned with, I guess, this morning―science, electricity.
We're gitting on first-rate―those rods on the stairs――"
"Yes?" exclaimed Miss Crampton.
"We air of a scientific turn, we air―Augustus John and
I―fixing wires to every one of them. They air steep, those steps,"
he continued pensively.
Here Miss Crampton's colour increased visibly.
"And when the machine is che-arged, we shall electrify
them. So that when yeou dew but touch one rod, it'll make yeou jump
as high as the next step, without any voluntary effort. Yeou'll find
that an improvement."
Here Swan ducked down, and laughed below at his ease.
"We air very scientific in my country."
"Ever been to Amurica?"
"Certainly not," answered Miss Crampton with vigour, "nor
have I the slightest intention of ever doing so. Pray, are you
allowed, in consideration of your nationality, to whittle in Harrow
This was said by way of a reproof for the state of the floor.
"Wall," began Crayshaw, to cover the almost audible titters
of the girls; but, distracted by this from the matter in hand, he coughed,
went on whittling, and held his peace.
"I have often told Johnnie," said Miss Crampton with great
dignity, at the same time darting a severe glance at Johnnie's back, "that
the delight he takes in talking the Devonshire dialect is likely to be
very injurious to his English, and he will have it that this country
accent is not permanently catching. It may be hoped," she continued,
looking round, "that other accents are not catching either."
Crayshaw, choosing to take this hint as a compliment, smiled
sweetly. "I guess I'm speaking better than usual," he observed, "for
my brother and his folks air newly come from the Ste-ates, and I've been
with them. But," he continued, a sudden gleam of joy lighting up his
eyes as something occurred to him that he thought suitable to "top up"
with, "all the Mortimers talk with such a peowerful English ac-cent,
that when I come de-own to this lo-cation, my own seems to melt off
my tongue. Neow, yeou'll skasely believe it," he continued, "but
it's tre-u, that ef yeou were tew hea-ar me talk at the end of a week,
yeou'd he-ardly realise that I was an Amurican at all."
"Cray, how can ye?" exclaimed Aunt Christie, "and so wan as
ye look this morning too."
"Seen my brother?" inquired Crayshaw meekly.
"No, I have not," said Miss Crampton bridling.
"He's merried. We settle airly in my country; it's one
of our institootions." Another gleam of joy and impudence shot
across the pallid face. "I'm thinking of settling shortly myself."
Then, as Aunt Christie was observed to be struggling with a
laugh that, however long repressed, was sure to break forth at last,
Barbara led her to the top of the stairs, and loudly entreated her to mind
she didn't stumble, and to mind she did not touch the stair-rods, for the
machine, she observed, was just ready.
"The jarth are all charged now, Cray," said Johnnie, coming
forward at last. "Mith Crampton, would you like to have the firtht
turn of going down with them?"
"No, thank you," said Miss Crampton almost suavely, and
rising with something very like alacrity. Then, remembering that she
had not even mentioned what she came for, "I wish to observe," she said,
"that I much disapprove of the noise I hear up in Parliament. I
desire that it may not occur again. If it does, I shall detain the
girls in the schoolroom. I am very much disturbed by it."
"You don't say so!" exclaimed Crayshaw with an air of
indolent surprise; and Miss Crampton thereupon retreated down-stairs,
taking great care not to touch any metallic substance.
MR. MORTIMER GOES THROUGH THE TURNPIKE.
"I hear thee speak of the happy land."
SWAN looked down as
Miss Crampton and Miss Christie emerged into the garden.
"Most impertinent of Swan," he heard the former say, to be
arguing thus about political affairs in the presence of the children.
And what Mr. Mortimer can be thinking of, inviting young Crayshaw to stay
so much with them, I cannot imagine. We shall be having them turn
"Turn republican!" repeated Miss Christie with infinite
scorn; "there's about as much chance of that as of his ever seeing his
native country again, poor laddie; which is just no chance at all."
Crayshaw at this moment inquired of Swan, who had mounted his
ladder step by step as Miss Crampton went on, "Is the old girl gone in?
And what was she talking of?"
"Well, sir, something about republican institootions."
"Ah! and so you hate them like poison?"
"Yes, in a manner of speaking I do. But I've been
a-thinking," continued Swan, taking the nails out of his lips and leaning
in at the window, "I've been a-thinking as it ain't noways fair, if all
men is ekal―which you're allers upholding―that you should say Swan, and I
should say Mister Crayshaw."
"No, it isn't," exclaimed Crayshaw, laughing; "let's have it
the other way. You shall say Crayshaw to me, and I'll say Mr. Swan
to you, sir."
"Well, now, you allers contrive to get the better of me, you
and Mr. Johnnie, you're so sharp! But, anyhow, I could earn my own
living before I was your age, and neither of you can. Then, there's
hardly a year as I don't gain a prize."
"I'm like a good clock," said Crayshaw, "I neither gain nor
lose. I can strike, too. But how did you find out, sir, that I
never gained any prizes?"
"Don't you, sir?"
"Never, sir―I never gained one in my life, sir. But I
say, I wish you'd take these shavings down again."
"No, I won't," answered Swan, "if I'm to be 'sirred' any
more, and the young ladies made to laugh at me."
"Let Swanny alone, Cray," said Gladys. "Be as
conservative as you like, Swan. Why shouldn't you? It's the
only right thing."
"Nothing can be very far wrong as Old Master thinks,"
answered Swan. "He never interfered with my ways of doing my work
either, no more than Mr. John does, and that's a thing I vally; and he
never but once wanted me to do what I grudged doing."
"When was that?" asked Mr. Augustus John.
"Why, when he made me give up that there burial club,"
answered Swan. "He said it was noways a moral institootion; and so I
shouldn't have even a decent burying to look forward to for me and my wife
(my poor daughters being widows, and a great expense to me), if he hadn't
said he'd bury us himself if I'd give it up, and bury us respectably too,
it stands to reason. Mr. John heard him."
"Then, thath the thame thing ath if he'd thaid it himthelf,"
observed Johnnie, answering the old man's thought about a much older man.
"Did I say it wasn't, sir? No, if ever there was a
gentleman―it's not a bit of use argufying that all men are ekal. I'm
not ekal to either of them two."
"In what respect?" asked Crayshaw.
"In what respect? Well, sir, this is how it is. I
wouldn't do anything mean nor dishonest; but as for them two, they
couldn't. I never had the education neither to be a gentleman, nor
wished to. Not that I talk as these here folks do down here―I'd
scorn it. I'm a Sunbury man myself, and come from the valley of the
Thames, and talk plain English. But one of my boys, Joey," continued
Swan, "talking of wishes, he wished he'd had better teaching. He's
been very uppish for some time (all his own fault he hadn't been more
edicated); told his mother and me, afore he sailed for the West Indies, as
he'd been trying hard for some time to turn gentleman. 'I shall give
myself all the airs that ever I can,' he says, 'when once I get out
there.' 'Why, you young ass!' says I, 'for it's agen my religion to
call you a fool (let alone your mother wouldn't like it), arn't you awear
that giving himself airs is exactly what no real gentleman ever does?'
'A good lot of things,' says he, 'father, goes to the making of a
gentleman.' 'Ay, Joey,' says I, 'but ain't a gentleman a man with
good manners? Now a good-manner'd man is allers saying by his ways
and looks to them that air beneath him, "You're as good as I am!" and a
bad-manner'd man is allers saying by his ways and looks to them that air
above him, "I'm as good as you air!" There's a good many folks,' I
says (not knowing I should repeat it to you this day, Mr. Crayshaw), 'as
will have it, that because we shall all ekally have to be judged in the
next world, we must be all ekal in this. In some things I uphold we
air, and in others I say we're not. Now your real gentleman thinks
most of them things that make men ekal, and t'other chap thinks most of
what makes them unekal.'"
"Hear, hear!" said Johnnie. "And what did Joey thay to
"He didn't say much," answered Swan in his most pragmatical
manner. "He knows well enough that when I'm argufying with my own
children (as I've had the expense of bringing up), I expect to have the
last word, and I have it. It's dinner-time, Mr. Johnnie; will you
pass me out my pipe? I don't say but what I may take a whiff while
the dinner's dishing up." "It was very useful, Swan," said Gladys.
"No doubt it made Miss Crampton think that Cray smokes."
"My word!" exclaimed Swan, "it was as good as a play to see
him give himself those meek airs, and look so respectful."
He went down, and the two little boys came up. They had
been turned out of Parliament, and had spent the time of their exile in
running to the town, and laying out some of their money in the purchase of
a present for Crayshaw; they were subject to humble fits of enthusiasm for
Crayshaw and Johnnie. They came in, and handed him a "Robinson
Crusoe" with pictures in it.
Crayshaw accepted it graciously.
"You must write my name in it," he observed, with exceeding
mildness, "and mind you write it with a soft G."
"Yes, of course," said little Hugh, taking in, but hesitating
how to obey.
"A hard G is quite wrong, and very indigestible too," he
continued, yet more mildly; "though people will persist that it's a
The young people then began to congratulate themselves on
their success as regarded Miss Crampton.
"She scarcely stayed five minutes, and she was so afraid of
the machine, and so shocked at the whittling and the talk, and Cray's
whole appearance, that she will not come near us while he is here.
After that, the stair-rods will protect us."
"No," said Crayshaw, "but it's no stimulus to my genius to
have to talk Yankee to such ignorant people. I might mix up North,
South, and West as I liked, and you would be none the wiser.
However, if she chances to hear me speak a week hence, she'll believe that
my accent has entirely peeled off. I thought I'd better provide
against that probability. It was an invention worthy of a poet,
which I am."
"Que les počtes thoient pendus," said Augustus John, with
vigour and sincerity. "Ekthepting Homer and Tennython," he added, as
if willing to be just to all men.
"What for? they've done nothing to you."
"Haven't they! But for them I need not watht my life in
making Latin vertheth. The fighting, though, in Homer and Tennython
In the meantime the four younger children were whispering
together over a large paper parcel, that crackled a good deal.
"Which do you think is the grandest word?" said Bertram.
"I like fallacious, Janie."
"But you said you would put umbrageous," observed
Hugh, in a discontented tone.
"No, those words don't mean it," answered Janie.
"I like ambrosial best. Put 'For our dear ambrosial
The parcel contained as many squibs and crackers as the
seller thereof would trust with his young customers; also one rocket.
Johnnie's little brothers and sisters having written these
words, rose from the floor on which they had been seated, and with blushes
and modest pride presented the parcel.
"For a birthday present," they said, "and, Johnnie, you're to
let off every one of them your own self; and lots more are coming from the
"My wig!" exclaimed Johnnie, feigning intense surprise,
though he had heard every word of the conference. "Let them all off
mythelf, did you thay? Well, I do call that a motht egregiouth and
These epithets appeared to give rarity and splendour to his
thanks. Janie pondered over them a little, but when Crayshaw added,
"Quite parenthetical," she gave it up. That was a word she could not
hope to understand. When a difficulty is once confessed to be
unconquerable, the mind can repose before it as before difficulties
overcome, so says Whately. "If it had only been as hard a word as
chemical" thought Janie, "I would have looked it out in the
spelling-book; but this word is so very hard that perhaps nobody knows it
For the remainder of the week, though many revolutionary
speeches were made in Parliament against the constituted schoolroom
authorities, there was, on the whole, better behaviour and less noise.
After that, John took his three elder children on the
Continent, keeping the boy with him till Harrow School opened again, and
remaining behind with the girls till the first week in November.
During this time he by no means troubled himself about the domestic
happiness that he felt he had missed, though he looked forward with fresh
interest to the time when his intelligent little daughters would be
companions for him, and began, half unconsciously, to idealise the
character of his late wife, as if her death had cost him a true
companion―as if, in fact, it had not made him much nobler and far happier.
He was not sorry, when he returned home, to find Valentine
eager to get away for a little while, for it had been agreed that the old
man should not be left by both of them. Valentine was improved; his
comfortable and independent position in his uncle's house, where his
presence was so evidently regarded as an advantage, had made him more
satisfied with himself; and absence from Dorothea had enabled him to take
an interest in other women.
He went away in high spirits and capital health, and John
subsided into his usual habits, his children continuing to grow about him.
He was still a head taller than his eldest son, but this did not promise
to be long the case. And his eldest girls were so clever, and so
forward with their education, that he was increasingly anxious to
propitiate Miss Crampton. It was very difficult to hold the balance
even; he scarcely knew how to keep her at a distance, and yet to mark his
sense of her value.
"I am going to see the Brandons to-morrow," he remarked to
Miss Christie one day, just before the Christmas holidays.
"Then I wish ye would take little Nancy with ye," observed
the good lady, "for Dorothea was here yesterday. Emily is come to
stay with them, and she drove her over. Emily wished to see the
child, and when she found her gone out for her walk she was disappointed."
"What did she want with her?" asked John.
"Well, I should have thought it might occur to ye that the
sweet lamb had perhaps some sacred reason for feeling attracted towards
the smallest creatures she could conveniently get at."
"Let the nestling bird be dressed up, then," said John.
"I will drive her over with me to lunch this morning. Poor Emily!
she will feel seeing the child."
"Not at all. She has been here twice to see the two
little ones. At first she would only watch them over the blinds, and
drop a few tears; but soon she felt the comfort of them, and when she had
got a kiss or two, she went away more contented."
Accordingly John drove his smallest daughter over to Wigfield
House, setting her down rosy and smiling from her wraps, and sending her
to the ladies, while he went up to Brandon's peculiar domain to talk over
some business with him.
They went down into the morning-room together, and Emily rose
to meet John. It was the first time he had seen her in her
mourning-dress and with the cap that did not seem at all to belong to her.
Emily was a graceful young woman. Her face, of a fine
oval shape, was devoid of ruddy hues; yet it was more white than pale; the
clear dark grey eyes shining with health, and the mouth being red and
beautiful. The hair was dark, abundant, and devoid of gloss, and she
had the advantage of a graceful and cordial manner, and a very charming
There were tears on her eyelashes when she spoke to John, and
he knew that his little cherub of a child must have caused them. She
presently went back to her place, taking little Anastasia on her knee;
while Dorothea, sitting on the sofa close to them, and facing the child,
occupied and pleased herself with the little creature, and encouraged her
Of English children this was a lovely specimen, and surely
there are none lovelier in the world. Dorothea listened to her
pretty tongue, and mused over her with a silent rapture. Her hair
fell about her face like flakes of floss-silk, loose, and yellow as Indian
corn; and her rosy cheeks were deeply dimpled. She was the only one
of the Mortimers who was small for her years. She liked being nursed
and petted, and while Dorothea smoothed out the fingers of her tiny
gloves, the little fat hands, so soft and warm, occupied themselves with
the contents of her work-box.
She was relating how Grand had invited them all to spend the
day. "Papa brought the message, and they all wanted to go; and so―"
she was saying, when John caught the sound of her little voice―"and so
papa said, 'What! not one of you going to stay with your poor old
father?'"―these words, evidently authentic, she repeated with the deepest
pathos―"and so," she went on, "I said, 'I will.'" Then, after a
pause for reflection, "That was kind of me, wasn't it?"
A few caresses followed.
Then catching sight of Emily's brooch, in which was a
portrait of her child, little Nancy put the wide tulle cap-strings aside,
and looked at it earnestly.
"I know who that is," she said, after bestowing a kiss on the
"Do you, my sweet? who is it, then?"
"It's Freddy; he's gone to the happy land. It's full of
little boys and girls. Grand's going soon," she added, with great
cheerfulness. "Did you know? Grand says he hopes he shall go soon."
"How did Emily look?" asked Miss Christie, when John came
"Better than usual, I think," said John carelessly.
"There's no bitterness in her sorrow, poor thing! She laughed
several times at Nancy's childish talk."
"She looks a great deal too young and attractive to live
alone," said Miss Christie pointedly.
"Well," answered John, "she need not do that long.
There are several fellows about here, who, unless they are greater fools
than I take them for, will find her, as a well-endowed young widow, quite
as attractive as they did when she was an almost portionless girl."
"But in the meantime?" said Miss Christie.
"If you are going to say anything that I shall hate to hear,"
answered John, half-laughing, "don't keep me lingering long. If you
mean to leave me, say so at once, and put me out of my misery."
"Well, well," said Miss Christie, looking at him with some
pleasure, and more admiration, "I've been torn in pieces for several weeks
past, thinking it over. Never shall I have my own way again in any
man's house, or woman's either, as I have had it here. And the use
of the carriage and the top of the pew," she continued, speaking; to
herself as much as to him; "and the keys; and I always knew I was
welcome, which is more than being told so. And I thank ye, John
Mortimer, for it all, I do indeed; but if my niece's daughter is wanting
me, what can I do but go to her?"
"It was very base of Emily not to say a word about it," said
John, smiling with as much grimness as utter want of practice, together
with the natural cast of his countenance, would admit of.
Miss Christie looked up, and saw with secret joy the face she
admired above all others coloured with a sudden flush of most unfeigned
vexation. John gave the footstool before him a little shove of
impatience, and it rolled over quite unknown to him, and lighted on Miss
She scarcely felt the pain. It was sweet to be of so
much importance. Two people contending for one lonely, homely old
"Say the word," she presently said, "and I won't leave ye."
"No," answered John, "you ought to go to Emily. I had
better say instead that I am very sensible of the kindness you have done
me in staying so long."
"But ye won't be driven to do anything rash?" she answered,
observing that he was still a little chafed, and willing to pass the
matter off lightly.
"Such as taking to myself the lady up-stairs!" exclaimed
John. "No, but I must part with her; if one of you goes, the other
This was absolutely the first time the matter had even been
hinted at between them, and yet Miss Christie's whole conduct was arranged
with reference to it, and John always fully counted on her protective
"Ay, but if I might give myself the liberty of a very old
friend," she answered, straightway taking the ell because he had given her
an inch, "there is something I would like to say to ye."
"What would you like to say?"
"Well, I would like to say that if a man is so more than
commonly a fine man, that it's just a pleasure to set one's eyes on him,
and if he's well endowed with this world's gear, it's a strange thing if
there is no excellent, desirable, and altogether sweet young woman ready,
and even sighing, for him."
"Humph!" said John.
"I don't say there is," proceeded Miss Christie; "far be it
"I hate red hair," answered the attractive widower.
"It's just like a golden oriole. It isn't red at all,"
replied Miss Christie dogmatically.
"I call it red," said John Mortimer.
"The painters consider it the finest colour possible,"
continued the absent lady's champion.
"Then let them paint her," said John; "but―I shall not marry
her; besides," he chose to say, "I know if I asked her she would not have
me: therefore, as I don't mean to ask her, I shall not be such an
unmannerly dog as to discuss her, further than to say that I do not wish
to marry a woman who takes such a deep and sincere interest in herself."
"Why, don't we all do that? I am sure I do."
"You naturally feel that you are the most important and
interesting of all God's creatures to yourself. You do not
therefore think that you must be so to me. Our little lives,
my dear lady, should not turn round upon themselves, and as it were make a
centre of their own axis. The better lives revolve round some
external centre; everything depends on that centre, and how much or how
many we carry round with us besides ourselves. Now, my father's
centre is and always has been Almighty God―our Father and his. His
soul is as it were drawn to God and lost, as a centre to itself in that
great central soul. He looks at everything―I speak it
reverently―from God's high point of view."
"Ay, but she's a good woman," said Miss Christie, trying to
adopt his religious tone, and as usual not knowing how. "Always
going about among the poor. I don't suppose," she continued with
enthusiasm―"I don't suppose there's a single thing they can do in their
houses that she doesn't interfere with." Then observing his
amusement, "Ye don't know what's good for ye," she added, half laughing,
but a little afraid she was going too far.
"If ever I am so driven wild by the governesses that I put my
neck, as a heart-broken father, under the yoke, in order to get somebody
into the house who can govern as you have done," said John, "it will be
entirely your doing, your fault for leaving me."
"Well, well," said Miss Christie, laughing, "I must abide
ye're present reproaches, but I feel that I need dread no future ones, for
if ye should go and do it, ye'll be too much a gentleman to say anything
to me afterwards."
"You are quite mistaken," exclaimed John, laughing, "that one
consolation I propose to reserve to myself, or if I should not think it
right to speak, mark my words, the more cheerful I look the more sure you
may be that I am a miserable man."
Some days after this the stately Miss Crampton departed for
her Christmas holidays, a letter following her, containing a dismissal
(worded with studied politeness) and a cheque for such an amount of money
as went far to console her.
"Mr. Mortimer was about to send the little boys to school,
and meant also to make other changes in his household. Mr. Mortimer
need hardly add, that should Miss Crampton think of taking another
situation, he should do himself the pleasure to speak as highly of her
qualifications as she could desire."
Aunt Christie gone, Miss Crampton gone also! What a
happy state of things for the young Mortimers! If Crayshaw had been
with them, there is no saying what they might have done; but Johnnie, by
his father's orders, had brought a youth of seventeen to spend three weeks
with him, and the young fellow turned out to be such a dandy, and so much
better pleased to be with the girls than with Johnnie scouring the country
and skating, that John for the first time began to perceive the coming on
of a fresh source of trouble in his house. Gladys and Barbara were
nearly fourteen years old, but looked older; they were tall, slender
girls, black-haired and grey-eyed, as their mother had been, very simple,
full of energy, and in mind and disposition their father's own daughters.
Johnnie groaned over his unpromising companion, Edward Conyngham by name;
but he was the son of an old friend, and John did what he could to make
the boys companionable, while the girls, though they laughed at young
Conyngham, were on the whole more amused with his compliments than their
father liked. But it was not till one day, going up into Parliament,
and finding some verses pinned on a curtain, that he began to feel what it
was to have no lady to superintend his daughters.
"What are they?" Gladys said. "Why, papa, Cray sent
them; they are supposed to have been written by Conyngham."
"What does he know about Conyngham?"
"Oh, I told him when I last wrote."
"When you last wrote," repeated John, in a cogitative tone.
"Yes; I write about once a fortnight, of course, when Barbara
writes to Johnnie."
"Did Miss Crampton superintend the letters?" was John's next
"Oh no, father, we always wrote them up here."
"I wonder whether Janie would have allowed this," thought
John. "I suppose as they are so young it cannot signify."
"Cray sent them because we told him how Conyngham walked
after Gladys wherever she went. That boy is such a goose, father;
you never heard such stuff as he talks when you are away."
John was silent.
"Johnnie and Cray are disgusted with his rubbish," continued
Barbara, "pretending to make love and all that."
"Yes," said John; "it is very ridiculous. Boys like
Conyngham and Crayshaw ought to know better." Nothing, he felt,
could be so likely to make the schoolroom distasteful to his daughters as
this early admiration. Still he was consoled by the view they took
"Cray does know better, of course," said Gladys carelessly.
"Still, he was extremely angry with Conyngham, for being so
fond of Gladys," remarked Barbara; "because you know she is his
friend. He would never hear about his puppy, that old Patience Smith
takes care of for sixpence a week, or his rabbits that we have here, or
his hawk that lives at Wigfield, unless Gladys wrote; Mr. Brandon never
writes to him."
"Now shall I put a stop to this, or shall I let it be?"
thought John; and he proceeded to read Crayshaw's effusion.
TO G.M. IN HER BRONZE BOOTS
As in the novel skippers say,
"Shiver my timbers!" and "Belay!"
While a few dukes so handy there
Respectfully make love or swear;
As in the poem some great ass
For ever pipes to his dear lass;
And as in life tea crowns the cup
And muffins sop much butter up;
So, naturally, while I walk
With you, I feel a swell―and stalk―
Consecutively muttering "Oh,
I'm quite a man, I feel I grow."
But loudliest thumps this heart to-day,
While in the mud you pick your way,
(You fawn, you flower, you star, you gem,)
In your new boots with heels to them.
"I don't consider these verses a bit more consecutive
than Conyngham's talk," said John, laughing.
"Well, father, then he shouldn't say such things! He
said Mr. Brandon walked with an infallible stride, and that you were the
most consecutive of any one he had ever met with."
"But, my dear little girl, Crayshaw would not have known that
unless you had told him; do you think that was the right thing to do by a
Gladys blushed. "But, father," said Barbara, "I suppose
Cray may come now; Conyngham goes to-morrow. Cray never feels so
well as when he is here."
"I had no intention of inviting him this Christmas," answered
"Well," said Gladys, "it doesn't make much difference; he and
Johnnie can be together just the same nearly all day, because his brother
and Mrs. Crayshaw are going to stay with the Brandons, and Cray is to come
John felt as if the fates were against him.
"And his brother was so horribly vexed when he found that he
hardly got on at school at all."
"That's enough to vex any man. Cray should spend less
time in writing these verses of his."
"Yes, he wrote us word that his brother said so, and was
extremely cross and unpleasant, when he replied that this was genius, and
must not be repressed."
John, after this, rode into the town, and as he stopped his
horse to pay the turnpike, he was observed by the turnpike-keeper's wife
to be looking gloomy and abstracted; indeed, the gate was no sooner shut
behind him than he sighed, and said with a certain bitterness, "I
shouldn't wonder if, in two or three years time, I am driven to put my
neck under the yoke after all."
"No, we can't come," said little Hugh, when a few days after
this Emily and Dorothea drove over and invited the children to spend the
day, "we couldn't come on any account, because something very grand is
going to happen."
"Did you know," asked Anastasia, "that Johnnie had got into
"No, my sweet," said Emily, consoling her empty arms for
their loss, and appeasing her heart with a kiss.
"And father always said that some day he should come home to
early dinner," continued Hugh, "and show the great magic lantern up in
Parliament. Then Swan's grandchildren and the coachman's little
girls are coming; and every one is to have a present. It will be
"The shell," observed Bertram, "means a sort of a class
between the other classes. Father's so glad Johnnie has got into the
"She is glad too," said Anastasia. "You're glad, Mrs.
"Yes, I am glad," answered Emily, a tear that had gathered
under her dark eyelashes falling, and making her eyes look brighter, and
her smile more sweet.
Emily was not of a temperament that is ever depressed.
She had her times of sorrow and tears; but she could often smile, and
still oftener laugh.
"Now there was a
great calm at that time in the river; wherefore Mr. Standfast, when he was
about half way in, he stood awhile, and talked to his companions that had
waited upon him thither; and he said,. . . 'I have formerly lived by
hearsay and faith; but now I go where I shall live by sight, and shall be
with Him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my
Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of his shoe in the
earth, there have I coveted to set my foot too.'"―Pilgrim's Progress.
AND now the Christmas
holiday being more than half over, Mr. Augustus Mortimer desired that his
grandson might come and spend a few days with him, for Valentine had told
him how enchanted John was with the boy's progress, but that he was
mortified almost past bearing by his lisp. Grand therefore resolved
that something should be done; and Crayshaw having now arrived, and
spending the greater part of every day with his allies the young Mortimers,
was easily included in the invitation. If anybody wants a
school-boy, he is generally most welcome to him. Grand sent a
flattering message to the effect that he should be much disappointed if
Cray did not appear that day at his dinner table. Cray accordingly
did appear, and after dinner the old man began to put before his grandson
the advantage it would be to him if he could cure himself, of his lisp.
"I never lithp, Grand," answered the boy, "when I talk
thlowly, and――No, I mean when I talk s-lowly and take pains."
"Then why don't you always talk slowly and take pains, to
please your father, to please me, and to improve yourself?"
"This is very little more than an idle childish habit,"
"We used to think it would do him good to have his tongue
slit," said Crayshaw, "but there's no need. When I torment him and
chaff him, he never does it."
"I hope there is no need," said Grand, a little
uncertain whether this remedy was proposed in joke or earnest.
"Valentine has been reminding me that he used to lisp horribly when a
child, but he entirely cured himself before he was your age."
Johnnie, in school-boy fashion, made a face at Valentine when
the old man was not looking. It expressed good-humoured defiance and
derision, but the only effect it produced was on himself, for it disturbed
for the moment the great likeness to his grandfather that grew on him
every day. John had clear features, thick light hair, and deep blue
eyes. His son was dark, with bushy eyebrows, large stern features,
and a high narrow head, like old Grand.
It was quite dark, and the depth of winter, but the
thermometer was many degrees above freezing-point, and a warm south wind
was blowing. Grand rose and rang the bell. "Are the stable
lanterns lighted?" he asked.
"Then you two boys come with me."
The boys, wondering and nothing loth, followed to the stable,
and the brown eyes of two large ponies looked mildly into theirs.
"Trot them out," said Grand to the groom, "and let the young
gentlemen have a good look at them."
Not a word did either of the boys say. An event of huge
importance appeared to loom in the horizon of each: he cogitated over its
"I got a saddle for each of them," said Grand.
"Valentine chose them, Johnnie. There now, we had better come in
again." And when they were seated in the dining-room as before, and
there was still silence, he went on, "You two, as I understand, are both
in the same house at Harrow?"
"And it is agreed that Johnnie could cure himself of his lisp
if he chose, and if you would continually remind him of it?"
"Oh yes, certainly it is."
"Very well, if the thing is managed by next Easter, I'll give
each of you one of those ponies; and," continued Grand cunningly, "you may
have the use of them during the remainder of these holidays, provided you
both promise, upon your honour, to begin the cure directly. If
Johnnie has not left off lisping at Easter, I shall have the ponies sold."
"I'll lead him such a life that he shall wish he'd never been
born; I will indeed," exclaimed Crayshaw fervently.
"Well," said Johnnie, "never wath a better time. Allez
le, or, in other wordth, go it."
"And every two or three days you shall bring him to me,"
continued Grand, "that I may hear him read and speak."
The next morning, before John went into the town, he was
greeted by the two boys on their ponies, and came out to admire and hear
"We mayn't have them at school," said Johnnie, bringing out
the last word with laudable distinctness, "but Grand will let them live in
John was very well contented to let the experiment alone; and
a few days after this, his younger children, going over with a message to
Johnnie, reported progress to him in the evening as he sat at dinner.
"Johnnie and Cray were gone into the town on their grand new
ponies, almost as big as horses; they came galloping home while we were
there," said Janie.
"And, father, they are going to show up their exercises, or
something that they've done, to Grand tomorrow; you'll hear them,"
"But poor Cray was so ill on Saturday," said the little girl,
"that he couldn't do nothing but lie in bed and write his poetry."
"But they got on very well," observed Bertram
philosophically. "They had up the stable-boy with a great squirt; he
had to keep staring at Cray while Johnnie read aloud, and every time Cray
winked he was to squirt Johnnie. Cray didn't have any dinner or any
tea, and his face was so red."
"Yes," said the youngest boy, "and he wrote some verses about
Johnnie, and said they were for him to read aloud to grandfather.
But what do you think? Johnnie said he wouldn't! That doesn't
sound very kind, does it?"
Johnnie's resolution, however, was not particularly
remarkable; the verses, compounded during an attack of asthma, running as
AUGUSTUS JOHN CONFESSES TO LOSS
I cannot eat rice pudding now,
Jam roll, boiled beef, and such;
From Stilton cheese this heart I vow
Turns coldly as from Dutch.
For crab, a shell-fish erst loved well,
I do not care at all,
Though I myself am in the shell
And fellow-feelings call.
I mourn not over tasks unsaid―
This child is not a flat―
My purse is empty as my head,
But no―it isn't that;
I cannot eat. And why? To shrink
From truth is like a sinner,
I'll speak or burst; it is, I think,
That I've just had my dinner.
Crayshaw was very zealous in the discharge of his promise;
the ponies took a great deal of exercise; and old Grand, before the boys
were dismissed to school, saw very decided and satisfactory progress on
the part of his grandson, while the ponies were committed to his charge
with a fervour that was almost pathetic. It was hard to part from
them; but men are tyrannical; they will not permit boys to have horses at
a public school; the boys therefore returned to their work, and the ponies
were relieved from theirs, and entered on a course of life which is
commonly called eating their heads off.
John in the meanwhile tried in vain to supply the loss of the
stately and erudite Miss Crampton. He wanted two ladies, and wished
that neither should be young. One must be able to teach his children
and keep them in order; the other must superintend the expenditure and see
to the comforts of his whole household, order his children's dress, and
look after their health.
Either he was not fortunate in his applicants, or he was
difficult to please, for he had not suited himself with either lady when a
new source of occupation and anxiety sprung up, and everything else was
set aside on account of it; for all on a sudden it was perceived one
afternoon that Mr. Augustus Mortimer was not at all well.
It was after bank hours, but he was dozing in his private
sitting-room at the bank, and his young nephew, Mr. Mortimer, was watching
Valentine had caused his card to be printed "Mr. Mortimer:"
he did not intend because he was landless, and but for his uncle's bounty
almost penniless, to forego the little portion of dignity which belonged
The carriage stood at the door, and the horses now and then
stamped in the lightly-falling snow, and were sometimes driven a little
way down the street and back again to warm them.
At his usual time John had gone home, and then his father,
while waiting for the carriage, had dropped asleep.
Though Valentine had wakened him more than once, and told him
the men and horses were waiting, he had not shown any willingness to move.
"There's plenty of time; I must have this sleep out first,"
Then, when for the third time Valentine woke him, he roused
himself. "I think I can say it now," he observed. "I could not
go home, you know, Val, till it was said."
"Till what was said, uncle?"
"I forget," was the answer. "You must help me."
Valentine suggested various things which had been discussed
that day; but they did not help him, and he sank into thought.
"I hope I was not going to make any mistake," he shortly
said, and Valentine began to suppose he really had something particular to
say. "I think my dear brother and I decided for ever to hold our
peace," he next murmured, after a long pause.
Valentine was silent. The allusion to his father made
him remember how completely all the more active and eventful part of their
lives had gone by for these two old men before he came into the world.
"What were you and John talking of just before he left?" said
the old man, after a puzzled pause.
"Nothing of the least consequence," answered Valentine,
feeling that he had forgotten what he might have meant to say. "John
would be uneasy if he knew you were here still. Shall we go home?"
"Not yet. If I mentioned this, you would never tell it
to my John. There is no need that my John should ever have a hint of
it. You will promise not to tell him?"
"No, my dear uncle, indeed I could not think of such a
thing," said Valentine, now a little uneasy. If his uncle really had
something important to say, this was a strange request, and if he had not,
his thoughts must be wandering.
"Well," said Grand, in a dull, quiet voice, as of one
satisfied and persuaded, "perhaps it is no duty of mine, then, to mention
it. But what was it that you and John were talking of just before he
"You and John were going to send your cards, to inquire after
Mrs. A'Court, because she is ill. I asked if mine might go too, and
as it was handed across you took notice of what was on it, and said it
pleased you; do you remember? But John laughed about it."
"Yes; and what did you answer, Val?"
"I said that if everybody had his rights, that ought not to
have been my name at all. You ought to have been Mr. Mortimer now,
and I Mr. Melcombe."
"I thought it was that," answered Grand, cogitating.
"Yes, it was never intended that you should touch a shilling of that
"I know that, uncle," said Valentine. "My father always
told me he had no expectations from his mother. It was unlucky for
me, that's all. I don't mean to say," he continued, "that it has
been any particular disappointment, because I was always brought up to
suppose I should have nothing; but as I grow older I often think it seems
rather a shame I should be cut out; and as my father was, I am sure, one
of the most amiable of men, it is very odd that he never contrived to make
it up with the old lady."
"He never had any quarrel with her," answered old Augustus.
"He was always her favourite son."
Valentine looked at him with surprise. He appeared to
be oppressed with the lassitude of sleep, and yet to be struggling to keep
his eyes open and to say something. But he only managed to repeat
his last words. "I've told John all that I wish him to know," he
next said, and then succumbed and was asleep again.
"The favourite son, and natural heir!" thought Valentine.
"No quarrel, and yet not inherit a shilling! That is queer, to say
the least of it. I'll go up to London and have another look at that
will. And he has told John something or other. Unless his
thoughts are all abroad then, he must have been alluding to two perfectly
Valentine now went to the carriage and fetched in the
footman, hoping that at sight of him his uncle might be persuaded to come
home; but this was done with so much difficulty that, when at last it was
accomplished, Valentine sent the carriage on to fetch John, and sat
anxiously watching till he came, and a medical man with him.
Sleep and weakness, but no pain, and no disquietude. It
was so at the end of a week; it was so at the end of a fortnight, and then
it became evident that his sight was failing; he was not always aware
whether or not he was alone; he often prayed aloud also, but sometimes
supposed himself to be recovering.
"Where is Valentine?" he said one afternoon, when John, having left
him to get some rest, Valentine had taken his place. "Are we alone?"
he asked, when Valentine had spoken to him. "What time is it?"
"About four o'clock, uncle; getting dusk, and snow falls."
"Yes, I heard you mention snow when the nurse went down to
her tea. I am often aware of John's presence when I cannot show it.
Tell him so."
"Yes, I will."
"He is a dear good son to me."
"He ought not to make a sorrow of my removal. It
disturbs me sometimes to perceive that he does. He knows where my
will is, and all my papers. I have never concealed anything from
him; I had never any cause."
"No, indeed, uncle."
"Till now," proceeded old Augustus. Valentine looked
attentively in the failing light at the majestic wreck of the tall, fine
old man. He made out that the eyes were closed, and that the face
had its usual immobile, untroubled expression, and the last words startled
him. "I have thought it best," he continued, "not to leave you
anything in my will."
"No," said Valentine, "because you gave me that two thousand
pounds during your lifetime."
"Yes, my dear; my memory does not fail me. John will
not be cursed with one guinea of ill-gotten wealth. Valentine!"
"Yes, uncle, yes; I am here; I am not going away."
"You have the key of my cabinet, in the library. Go and
fetch me a parcel that is in the drawer inside."
"Let me ring, then, first for some one to come; for you must
not be left alone."
"Leave me, I say, and do as I tell you."
Valentine, vexed, but not able to decline, ran down in
breathless haste, found the packet of that peculiar sort and size usually
called a banker's parcel, locked the cabinet, and returned to the old
"Are we alone?" he asked, when Valentine had made his
presence known to him. "Let me feel that parcel. Ah, your
father was very dear to me. I owe everything to him―everything."
Valentine, who was not easy as to what would come next,
replied like an honourable man, "So you said, uncle, when you generously
gave me that two thousand pounds."
"Ill-gotten wealth," old Augustus murmured, "never prospers;
it is a curse to its possessor. My son, my John, will have none of
"What do you think was the worst-earned money that human
fingers ever handled?"
The question so put suggested but one answer.
"That thirty pieces of silver," said Valentine.
"Ah!" replied Augustus with a sigh. "Well, thank God,
none of us can match that crime. But murders have been done, and
murderers have profited by the spoil! When those pieces of silver
were lying on the floor of the temple, after the murderer was dead, to
whom do you think they belonged?"
Valentine was excessively startled; the voice seemed higher
and thinner than usual, but the conversation had begun so sensibly, and
the wrinkled hand kept such firm hold still of the parcel, that it
surprised him to feel, as he now did, that his dear old uncle was
wandering, and he answered nothing.
"Not to the priests," continued Augustus, and as a pause
followed, Valentine felt impelled to reply.
"No," he said, "they belonged to his family, no doubt, if
they had chosen to pick them up."
"Ah, that is what I suppose. If his father, poor
wretch, or perhaps his miserable mother, had gone into the temple that
day, it would have been a strange sight, surely, to see her gather them
"Yes," said Valentine faintly. The shadow of something
too remote to make its substance visible appeared to fall over him then,
causing him a vague wonder and awe, and revulsion of feeling. He
knew not whether this old man was taking leave of sober daylight reason,
or whether some fresh sense of the worthlessness of earthly wealth, more
especially ill-gotten wealth, had come to him from a sudden remembrance of
He tried gently to lead his thoughts away from what seemed to
be troubling him, for his head turned restlessly on the pillow.
"You have no need to think of that," he said kindly and
quietly, "for as you have just been saying, John will inherit nothing but
"John does not know of this," said Augustus. "I have
drawn it out for years by degrees, as he supposed, for household expenses.
It is all in Bank of England notes. Every month that I lived it
would have become more and more."
Uncommonly circumstantial this!
"It contains seventeen hundred pounds; take it in your hand,
and hear me."
"You cannot live on a very small income. You have
evidently very little notion of the value of money. You and John may
not agree. It may not suit him to have you with him; on the other
hand―on the other hand―what was I saying?"
"That it might not suit John to have me with him."
"Yes, yes; but, on the other hand (where is it gone), on the
other hand, it might excite his curiosity, his surprise, if I left you
more in my will. Now what am I doing this for? What is it?
Daniel's son? Yes."
"Dear uncle, try to collect your thoughts; there is something
you want me to do with this money, try to tell me what it is."
"Have you got it in your hand?"
"Yes, I have."
"Keep it then, and use it for your own purposes."
"Thank you. Are you sure that is what you meant?
Is that all?"
"Is that all? No. I said you were not to tell
"Will you tell him yourself then?" asked Valentine. "I
do not think he would mind my having it."
By way of answer to this, the old man actually laughed.
Valentine had thought he was long past that, but it was a joyful laugh,
and almost exultant.
"Mind," he said, "my John! No; you attend to my desire,
and to all I have said. Also it is agreed between me and my son that
if ever you two part company, he is to give you a thousand pounds. I
tell you this that you may not suppose it has anything to do with the
money in that parcel. Your father was everything to me," he
continued, his voice getting fainter, and his speech more confused, as he
went on, "and―and I never expected to see him again in this world.
And so you have come over to see me, Daniel? Give me your hand.
Come over to see me, and there are no lights! God has been very good
to me, brother, and I begin to think He will call me into his presence
Valentine started up, and it was really more in order to
carry out the old man's desires, so solemnly expressed, than from any joy
of possession, that he put the parcel into his pocket before he rang for
the nurse and went to fetch John.
He had borne a part in the last-sustained conversation the
old man ever held, and that day month, in just such a snow-storm as had
fallen about his much-loved brother, his stately white head was laid in