DIS had never
accomplished such a beautiful blush before. She remembered Mr.
Mainwaring of old, but he did not seem to recognize her. Her brown
eyes ﬂashed; for once she felt very shy, and actually could not
claim his acquaintance.
But the chubby little brother was quite at his ease. “I thought at ﬁrst,”
he said, Wiping his small, inky ﬁngers, “that it was our Mr.
“This, I believe, is Mr. Mainwaring’s father,” said Dis, looking up
and recovering herself. “My little brother means that our father
used to give lessons to your son.”
“To be sure, to be sure,” said Mr. Mainwaring, and he became cordial
(“Just as if he had not come to complain of Rhodes and his goings-on
about me,” thought Dis. “I wish I could get away.”)
“Then you are a very old acquaintance of mine, Miss Larkin,” he went
on. “I remember you and your little sister as long ago even as when
we were all at Hyeres.”
“Yes,” said Dis, blushing again.
“And afterwards at Ilfracombe, but not after, I think. How is it
that I see your father so often and you so seldom?”
“Perhaps we were at school.”
“I hope your father is stronger than he used to be when we both
frequented those places for the sake of the air. He has not
mentioned his cough lately in writing to me.”
“Surely he knows,” thought Dis, and she really could not answer.
“Oh, father often says how much better he is,” said little Rowland.
“But he has a cough just now.”
“Ah, here he is!” exclaimed Mr. Mainwaring, catching sight of his
friend on the door-steps.
Dis was quite confused as he Went and met her father; but, to her
comfort, they did not come back to the dining-room. She heard him
say distinctly, as they retreated together to Mr. Larkin’s study, “I
wanted to consult you about a matter of business,” and that door was
no sooner shut than she started up, laid the little twisted note on
the table, and, kissing Rowland, said, “Well, mister, I must go. I
do not wish to wait longer for mother to come in, but this is to say
from Mrs. Prentiss that she invites you to come and dine with the
little boys, because it’s a birthday, and there will be some
crackers and a cake, and some presents too.”
Thereupon Dis hastily retreated — so hastily, indeed, that meeting
Rhodes Mainwaring just at the foot of the steps, she almost ran into
She soon got away, and Rhodes had little idea of What sort of
discourse was going on inside, nor any notion that Mr. Mainwaring
was taking an important part in it. In fact, they had come from
opposite sides, and had not seen one another.
So Mr. Mainwaring was shortly seated in the very same chair and
place that Rhodes had occupied such a little while before, and “his
friend” sitting opposite to him waited for him to begin what he
might have to say on what he had called a matter of business.
But their ﬁrst talk concerned the check which had been sent on;
while one expressed his thanks for the loan, said how it had averted
effects almost as bad as actual bankruptcy from him, the other
replied, with a laugh, “I declare, my dear fellow, I am glad to have
that sum in hand just at this moment. That boy Rhodes is turning
out, in spite of all my warning, a very expensive luxury to me. It
seems that a certain telescope and microscope, with their ﬁttings,
and some other scientiﬁc instruments — I hardly know what — are to
cost me not much less than four hundred pounds; but whether he will
make much use of them after these ﬁrst few weeks — Ah, I see by your
face that you know something of that matter.”
The main matter not even hinted at! What did it mean? But this last
speech must be answered. “The fact is,” said Mr. Larkin, “that
Rhodes asked me to write a letter to the proprietor of these
instruments, assuring him that you allowed him to have whatever
might be useful to him. I declined, and said he must wait for them
till he heard from you.”
“Thank you. A pity I was not as prudent in my turn. Well, they must
be paid for, of course. And now, Larkin, you have long been such a
very good friend to me — ” Here he paused. A certain matter quite
unknown to any one but himself ﬂashed into the foreground of his
mind. He took a full minute to consider it, and then pushed it back
and said, in a different tone, “I have had considerable losses.”
Mr. Larkin was surprised. This was not the kind of discourse he had
expected. The other went on,
“Rhodes can work if he will.”
“Quite my opinion,” was the answer.
“He has a capital head-piece. I spared nothing on his education, and
I meant him to live mainly by his profession, and here he is
stranded. Now, I ask you, what is to be done next?”
“Ha?” said Mr. Larkin, “I am very glad you are here to speak your
mind to him. I have done so many times.”
“And,” continued the father, bursting into a sudden laugh, which was
scarcely sarcastic because it showed such an appreciation of the
joke, “ the boy actually told me with the greatest gravity that he
had formed a serious attachment to the most lovely and interesting
of her sex. It appears that he could not get at her in any other
way, for he made her an offer in the street. It was market-day. He
admitted that he kissed her hand in the street, sir! and one of the
fishwives saw him. I got this out of him last night.”
Mr. Larkin started, and looked decidedly irate.
“The young lady — young by courtesy; but they say a boy of that age
generally loves a mature woman — the young lady would have nothing
to say to him; got home as fast as she could, and shut herself in.”
“I am glad to hear that,” interrupted Mr. Larkin; “your boy is a
mere boy, young even for his age, and changeable in his nature. It
is undutiful of him to ignore you, who have been the best of
fathers, and who have probably your own views for him. I told him so
just before you came down to this place. I also said he was far too
young to marry. I advise that you take him away; he will soon forget
“He consulted you about that also?”
“Of course,” said Mr. Larkin, rather pointedly. Some suspicion
suggested itself to the father, but he could not make it ﬁt in with
Oxford Terrace, and yet it induced him to take a more respectful
tone in speaking of the young lady.
“The young lady seems to have treated him with supreme indifference
— and her father, he says, behaved to him as if he was a schoolboy
— and exacted a promise from him that he would not even write to
“The whole thing is likely to be as short-lived as it is
preposterous!” exclaimed Mr. Larkin. “He has never been in the same
room with her, never had a conversation with her since they were
little children, for, Mainwaring, the young lady is my daughter — my
daughter, who is within a few months of his own age, and is
companion to an old friend of my wife’s.”
Mr. Mainwaring looked for the moment quite out of countenance. “Have
I said anything that could hurt him?” was his ﬁrst thought, and he
sat absolutely silent while his friend went on.
“I asked this dear old friend to come down here to get out of his
way, and then, as we wanted change, we followed, and here he was
before us. You must take him away, Mainwaring.”
Deep in thought, still unable to answer, sat the other. “Well,” he
thought, “this is a complication. He is always the soul of honour.
Shall I tell him? No; that would not be fair to Rhodes. Shall I tell
Rhodes? I declare I don’t know.”
“Well,” he said at last, “Rhodes all but wept last night over the
snubbing he got from you. As for your daughter, it seems evident
that she by no means encourages her boy-lover to hope.”
“She declared to her step-mother that she felt his following her
about rather grotesque.”
Then the father said, almost to his own surprise, “He has not been
allowed the slightest chance, then, of making himself agreeable?”
“Certainly not,” was the answer. “When he is really grown-up, I dare
say he will be a ﬁne manly fellow — and — ”
“And sensible, Larkin, were you going to say? No, never!” and then
instantly he took himself to task mentally. “That did not sound much
like a father.”
It would not do for him to thank his friend for having snubbed the
boy instead of fostering this youthful passion. That would be to
admit that he could possibly be expected to do otherwise than what
was most upright and honourable.
That Rhodes would have married Dis the day he came of age his father
had no doubt, and that it could have been brought about he had no
doubt. “In such a case the matter would indeed have been out of my
hands,” he thought. “I must have made a handsome provision for him,
profession or no profession. Well, I am deeply obliged to Larkin for
what he thinks he has done, and to his daughter also. To their own
notion they have doubtless rejected four thousand a year, or nearly
so. And I cannot say so much as ‘thank you.’”
“I think, however,” said Adam Larkin, going back, not without a
certain alacrity, to another part of this affair, “I think that
though Rhodes took such a violent liking to that particular
telescope and microscope, the tradesman, into whose hands they had
been returned by the owner for sale, had no right to consider them
and the other instruments that came with them as one lot, to be all
sold together. He ought to have been only too glad to get his own
price for the two really desired. Those also are the only two that
Rhodes can use. If that can be arranged, more than a hundred pounds
will come off your bill.”
“Well,” exclaimed the other, laughing, “a hundred pounds is not to
He paused again, then mentioned his circumstances, ﬁrst explained
the considerable losses he had sustained, and then that he was
engaged to a young girl, on whom he had agreed to make very handsome
settlements, while at the same time his ﬁrst wife had long ago
obtained a promise from him that her fortune, as soon as he was
settled in his profession, should go to Rhodes.
“Ha!” exclaimed Mr. Larkin, after all due congratulations; “but what
is that profession to be?”
“Exactly so. That is what I wanted to consult you about. He is
almost too old now for any new thing that I could hope to make him
study for. And as to roving about the world with me — and — and my
hoped-for wife — ”
“Not to be thought of,” interrupted the friend, with a smile; “and
so nothing has occurred to you?” When, suddenly checking himself, he
exclaimed, “But why roving? Shall you not settle now — buy a place
and live in it?”
“No; my lungs are in a much better state than of old, but my doctor
always says the same thing. If I could have promised to live in my
own country and make it my home, I should not have been asked for
such settlements. But I do not complain. There is a certain risk.”
“But you are looking extremely well, and what about your tea
“It goes on very well.”
“It would not require a very special training to take charge of it.
And it has a fair climate, near enough to the hills, and therefore
within reach of society. I should say that a telescope might give
vast pleasure thereabouts; and as for a microscope, if there was to
be anything like scientiﬁc cultivation there, what could be more
The father started up and Walked to the window.
“You are telling me that I might set Rhodes over the plantation!” he
“You may, of course, if you please.”
“You are a man of resources! Yes, I might; and what so natural?”
“It would not tie him half so much as it would have done to be on
the Civil Service.”
“Right, and I might go and look after him every two or three years
if I lived.”
“And there is abundance of game thereabouts,” observed Mr. Larkin;
“and then when he took his leave, or holiday, or whatever you choose
to call it, he might go north into Cashmere, or into Tibet, and
The conversation here broke off.
Mainwaring lingered a few minutes and seemed deep in thought, but he
said no more, and took his leave in very good spirits. But he looked
more and more grave, and even perplexed, as he wandered along by the
“I declare I don’t know what to be at!” he exclaimed, spreading
forth his hands as he stood facing the sea quite alone.
Rhodes saw him at a little distance and did not approach — thought
him a little changed — thought he looked younger — and was
graciously pleased to consider that he was “spooning.”
“It is not a sacred duty to the boy,” was what Mainwaring senior was
saying — nothing whatever had been asserted — nothing denied. “Ah,
my dear Fanny, you never meant to put your husband’s neck under such
a yoke as this.”
Here he paused.
“To give him the tea plantation. Well, if I do, what will be left?
Eglantine’s father will certainly expect that something will be
added to Fanny’s fortune, which he knows is to be settled on the
boy. And then, I have got attached to him in the course of years.
These losses of mine are what makes the whole matter so much more
difﬁcult. When I had abundance, and did not want to marry again, the
whole affair appeared to
recede into the background. It was a page in our lives that needed
not to be turned back and read. But I will go up to London and have
out and read my dear Fanny’s letters. That must and shall be done.”
Then he cogitated over the ﬁne ﬁgure and growth of Rhodes. “There’s
only one ugly trick he has got — that trick of twisting up his
mouth. How often I have spoken of it! But nature will conceal that
for him in a few months at the utmost. The incipient moustache is
plain already on his lip.”
“HA, Theresa! Dis
will be happy now,” exclaimed Mr. Larkin, coming in the next morning
from a stroll. “I met Mainwaring, and he says he is going up to
London by the three o’clock, and he takes Rhodes with him that some
papers may be signed which concern property his mother wished him to
have when he came of age.”
“Poor Dis,” said the step-mother, laughing, “I never saw a girl so
out of conceit with herself, because that ridiculous boy-lover
haunts her steps. It cannot possibly be any fault of hers. Did the
father mention that matter, love?”
“He said that he hoped Miss Isabel would now forget his boyish
impertinence, and it came out incidentally that Rhodes was in
“Rhodes will come back soon?” said Mrs. Larkin, in a somewhat
“I think not. Mainwaring said he should make it his business to see
that we were not annoyed any more.”
This was all that passed between husband and wife, but Mrs. Larkin
perceived plainly that, polite and friendly as Mainwaring had been,
he really did object, just as might have been expected, that his
eldest son at such an early age should want to marry a girl without
a sixpence, and that just at a time when he intended to marry again
“Young,” thought Mainwaring senior; “looks very young, and no
wonder.” This reﬂection occurred to him as he watched Rhodes, on
their way up to London, and caught the gleam of joy which
occasionally illuminated his fair, good-looking young face. He was
to see the family lawyer and be endowed with six hundred a year. He
knew of nothing else, though to be sure he had been told that the
Larkin family considered his suit preposterous. Also Dis, when he
again met her, had managed even to avoid shaking hands with him. She
was not going to have her hands kissed in the street any more. He
was naturally so hopeful — and he saw no reason why he should not
be. “It is not in nature,” he thought, “whatever they may say, that
they should not wish it. Anybody might think it an honour to be
connected with father. Dis must know that it would be a ﬁne thing to
be his daughter-in-law. Father will soon give his consent, and I
shall go back with it. He will have enough to do to please this
Eglantine of his, and when she is here he will not take so much
notice of me, and want me always at his heels. So I shall easily get
leave to be away now and then, and see Dis, my ﬁrst and only one.”
The second time they were coming away from the lawyer’s, Rhodes
being now endowed with the much-thought-of six hundred a year,
Mainwaring senior put into his hands a small desk, which had long
been locked up in the lawyer’s safe. “Take the greatest care of
this,” he remarked — it contains some valuable letters of — of — ”
and here he came to a sudden pause and looked agitated.
“Of mother’s,” Rhodes said, indifferently. “Yes, I remember this old
desk, I have often seen mother looking over its contents.”
“Yes,” said his father, “you may carry it up to my room when we get
to our hotel.” Rhodes did so, and his father, who had nothing in his
hands, followed him up-stairs — and at the door took it from him.
Rhodes was not a very observant fellow — besides, he was very
desirous to say something really grateful concerning the muniﬁcent
present with which he had just been endowed. He got hold of his
father’s hand and thanked him, and seemed a little agitated. He was
thinking of Dis. His father was a great deal more agitated, and
looked at him earnestly, but whether his thoughts had anything to do
with Rhodes did not appear. He stood stock-still for a minute, as if
he did not hear what the youth was saying, then, with a start, he
took the little desk — and while Rhodes ran down-stairs he entered
his bedroom and locked himself in.
“Eleven years,” he said, as he opened it.
“Have I really left this matter unlooked at for eleven years?”
He spread out various papers. “Ah, here it is,” he exclaimed, as he
turned out a thick letter, folded up, but not sealed. Mainwaring had
read it before, and remembered its contents perfectly well.
He opened and unfolded it. The letter was addressed to Rhodes, and
it had been written just eleven years.
What Rhodes would have thought of it if he had read it when written
it is impossible to say; what he would feel now he was grown-up and
of age and longing to marry, was quite another affair.
“Yes,” said Mainwaring, “this is it;” and he spread it out and read
it, not without a sigh of pity here and there as he went on.
“MY VERY DEAR LITTLE BOY, — You are now ten
years old. I think you have been very happy since you have been at
sea, this time with father and me; and I believe when you have read
this letter, and sit down to think about it, as we want you to do,
you will remember that no boy of your age has more pleasures and
treats or more care taken of him than you have. You love us and we
love you, and I believe with the blessing of God we always shall be
truly attached to you, and you on your part will be loving and
“But now I want to tell you of some things, to which you must give
your very best attention.
“You remember, my dearest boy, how often I have told you that my ﬁrst
child was my precious little May, but she was only one year old when
it pleased God to take her to Himself. I was so heart-broken that it
affected my health, and father took me over to America, thinking the
sea-voyage might do me good.
“He always loved yachting, and when we had been a fortnight in
America and I did not improve, he hired a small yacht, and we spent
some weeks coasting about. We were yachting near Halifax, at least
we were thereabouts, when a severe storm came on; we were driven a
good way out, and, my dear boy, we were in the greatest danger; but,
by the blessing of God, as we afterwards felt that it was, we could
not make the harbour. It was broad daylight, and the sun just
rising, when suddenly, heaving and falling on those heavy seas, we
were aware of the wreck of a small ﬁshing-vessel, drifting athwart
our bows. There were no signals of distress, but though in danger
ourselves we were so blessed as to be able to board that little
vessel. My dearest boy, there seemed to be no sailor at all in her
but a poor man who was quite dead, and who had lashed himself to the
tiller. But down below in the little cabin there was a poor — poor
young woman lying, and in her arms was her baby, an infant scarcely
a day old.
“She was got on board our yacht with difﬁculty, but had hardly been
laid in a dry berth with her infant when the little ﬁshing-vessel
sank with all that was in her and was seen no more. The poor young
wife of the dead man could only say a few words, but, though I gave
her my very best attention, I could not understand them, and know
not whether they were Highland Scotch or Danish, or possibly German.
“She seemed to be dying. I took her babe in my arms, and when she
saw him there she smiled — and with that smile on her lips she
closed her eyes, and never opened them again.
“The storm did not last much longer. We made the harbour, and gave
an account, as well as we could, of the little vessel.
“Now I am sure you have been reading all this with care, and have
been thinking about it, dearest boy.
“What do you think father and I did with the dear baby? We ﬁrst
tried if we could discover something along that coast concerning the
ﬁshing-vessel. But several such had been missing after the great
storm, so that one could not be identiﬁed.
“In the mean time I got a nurse for the infant, and left money with
the authorities of an orphanage which was there, and we went inland
for a short tour for a week or two. But my heart yearned sorely
after the babe, and when I saw him again, dressed in the clothes
that we had provided, and found that nothing at all had been
discovered about the poor little orphan, I longed to adopt him, and
dear father consented that it should be so, and said he would bring
him up and provide for him on condition that while still a child he
should be told as much as we knew about him.
“And now it is told, my precious boy. You understand, do you not,
how dearly we love you, and that you were the babe whom that poor
dying mother saw in my arms and smiled.
“You are not ours excepting by adoption. We took you to church and
had you baptized, and we made a resolution together that though God
might please to give us other children instead of the one whom He
had taken, you should be well educated and well provided for.
“We called you George Rhodes, after a dear brother of mine, and now,
my precious boy, God bless you, and grant that you may grow up to be
a good man and a comfort to your adopted parents.”
There was a good deal more, but here Mainwaring lifted up his head.
He was quite pale with agitation.
“It ought to have been given to the child then. There is not the
least doubt of it. He was a thoughtless, merry little fellow — fond
of her. Yes, I do not deny it — very fond of her, fond of us both.
He would not have felt it; and I always agreed with her that it
should not be concealed too long. Why, why did we not give it then?
“Oh yes — there was a reason. The child had a bad illness, and used
to fret so after us — after me, too. Never seemed easy unless I was
near, or he was sitting on my knee. And then there was hope of
another child, and she was so fanciful that I never liked to thwart
her. It did her good to make believe, as it were, that this one was
“As for the early days in America, even Providence appeared to play
into her hands there; for the wet-nurse died in that accident, and
she was the only soul after we had begun our tour who knew of my
having to change my name for the old great-aunt’s fortune. The thing
might have been found out by the child’s own people, if there are
any, or I might have been got at by impostors but for that. Yes, of
course, as Doughty I might have been traced — if only by this
institution, where they knew it, or by the sailors on that wretched
“But to change my name during that tour, and then pay a ﬂying visit
to India, and then go and live in the south of France, where my next
child was born and died. No woman, I, or any one, has ever been
asked a single question. Oh, my dear Fanny — Oh, I do hope I shall
be led to decide aright.”
A thundering knock at the door. Before Mainwaring replied to it he
hastily hustled the letter into that little desk.
“Father!” exclaimed the voice of Rhodes.
“Yes,” he answered, as quietly as he could, and opened the door.
“Father!” exclaimed Rhodes, looking much pleased, “here’s a telegram
come for you, and I thought you would like to have it at once.”
Mainwaring took the telegram and saw, even before he opened it, that
it was from Dover. He knew in another instant that his hoped-for
father-in-law, Major Sir Paul Palk-Mayhew, had landed with his
family. He glanced at Rhodes, whose ﬁne young face was radiant with
“It’s good news, father,” he said, conﬁdently, “ isn’t it?”
“Yes,” he answered.
“This is almost before you hoped.”
A great matter was decided that very instant. Mainwaring looked up
at Rhodes almost with solemnity, and said, “God bless you, my boy.”
He packed up a trunk, Rhodes helping him. He locked up the little
desk within a larger trunk, and as he put the key in his pocket he
declared within his own mind that he never would tell him at all.
Mrs. Larkin had said, “Rhodes will come back here.” She was right,
but he came a little too late.
His father, as he well knew, intended to be away for one night only,
and the next day come up to town with the Palk-Mayhews.
So he calmly took himself off and reached the little sea-side place,
intending also to be away for one night, and as he sauntered past
the windows of the house in Oxford Terrace he saw Dorey sitting in
the open window at work.
Dorey seemed willing to speak, so naturally Rhodes lingered, asked
after Mrs. Prentiss, after the little great-grandsons, and then,
with a visible increase of colour, after Dis.
“Oh! Dis is very well, and they are all well. They set off for
Scotland this morning.”
Rhodes looked aghast, and murmured his disappointment quite
“They always meant to stay only a fortnight here,” said Dorey, “for
mother has another uncle up there who invites her to go and stay
with him every alternate year.”
“What station do they go to then?” said the cunning Rhodes.
“Oh! they go by the steamer as far as Dundee,” said Dorey, “and then
they cross. I went with them last time, and so Dis was to have the
treat now. I am staying with Mrs. Prentiss in her stead.”
Rhodes asked whereabouts it was in Scotland, but Dorey did not tell
him. She only remarked that it was delightful to be in such a quiet
place, and one which they were, she might say, sure to have to
“Everything comes at last to him who can wait,” thought Rhodes. “I
will not be out of heart.”
He took leave of Dorey, and decided to go back to London so quickly
that his father had never known that he had been away; but ﬁrst he
would go to Number 8 Sea View Crescent.
Little Mrs. Prince opened the door.
“I know my friends are gone,” said Rhodes; “I have just been to
Oxford Terrace, and heard it. I hope they got off comfortably.”
“Aye, comfortably, sir; but it’s such a pity, there’s a bag left
behind, a-dear, a-dear!”
“Perhaps I can help you,” exclaimed Rhodes, and he got a sight of
the bag. It had been set behind Mr. Larkin’s writing-table. It was
addressed in full.
“They don’t want this in the cabin, then,” said Rhodes, aloud.
“Well, I am going up by the very next train, and will undertake to
deliver it at the steamers side. You know me.”
“Oh! yes, sir,” said Mrs. Prince; “I’ve let you in when you called.”
The name of a certain loch in the northwest of Scotland, one that
Rhodes had never heard of, was on this, to him, most valuable bag.
He copied the whole address with the greatest care. But perhaps he
showed too much anxiety to get it into his possession, for the
Malay, who had twice the cunning of his wife, drew back, and though
in the end he gave it up, it was not till little Mrs. Prince had
been caused to write out a paper, setting forth that Mr. Larkin’s
friend, Mr. Mainwaring, had promised to deliver it, and Rhodes had
signed this paper, that he was allowed to take it away.
Rhodes was always somewhat unreasonably hopeful. He expected to see
the Larkins on board that steamer, and even counted on being thanked
by Dis. He did not, however, manage either of these things. But the
address was his, and the name of the old cousin, Patrick Gordon,
with these he had to be content; and as he thought on the matter and
studied it, he became rather more than content.
He was no sooner back again in the hotel in London than he seized
upon a Bradshaw and made himself intimately acquainted, so far as
railways and coaches could help him, with the locality where Mr.
Patrick Gordon lived.
What was his motive? Why, he knew that Sir Paul Palk-Mayhew was a
man who greatly loved ﬁshing. His father had remarked that he was
sure the daughters would only be allowed to stay in London time
enough to see a few exhibitions of pictures and hear a little music
before they would be carried off to some place where there was good
ﬁshing. “And, of course,” he had added, “I shall go with them.”
“Shall you take me with you?” Rhodes had asked with a sudden chill
at his heart, for his ﬁrst thought had been that he might be left
and allowed to go back to the little sea-side place which Dis was
enriching with her presence. There was a very decided pause before
the answer came. “He may be rather in the way,” was Mr. Mainwaring’s
ﬁrst thought, but his second was, “they will think it odd if I have
not this supposed to be my only child with me.” He answered,
decidedly, “Yes, of course I shall.”
Thinking on this Rhodes said, as he was ﬂuttering the leaves of the
Bradshaw, “Then I know what to try for.”
At the end of it were a great many fascinating prints of hotels, and
though too many of them represented places in England, yet there
were some in Scotland; and though it daunted him to observe how
little the railways penetrated into the west of it, he set to work
with a hopeful spirit, for the best ﬁshing was in the west and north
He chose out ﬁrst all the hotels which were within ﬁfty miles of Mr.
Patrick Gordon. Then he found places within ten miles, and then he
fell upon a page adorned with a great many cuts of four-horse
coaches, and then he found two advertisements which gave him as keen
a sense of gratitude and delight as if he had himself discovered the
loch by which Mr. Patrick Gordon lived, and had built the two hotels
which it appeared were situated on one of its borders.
There was what the proprietor of one of them was pleased to call a
celebrated salmon stream between them, which means, of course, that
from the extreme end of the loch ran a short river which
communicated with the sea.
“I’ll see what can be done with him,” quoth the artful Rhodes.
“Father does not particularly care where he goes, I dare say, and I
But Rhodes, clever though he was, and however well he might concoct
a plan, could not prevent the Larkin family, Dis included, from
changing their plans, which they in fact did, and stopped behind,
when they reached Scotland, in a dirty, crowded, smoky, Scotch town,
with no ﬁne scenery worth mentioning.
But there was money to be earned, so the father and mother were
content, and as for Dis and Rowland, they were both intelligent
enough to enjoy the novelty of the dress, accent, and manners about
In the mean time, Rhodes having sent on their bag to Patrick
Gordon’s place, he and his old sister soon returned it, while Mrs.
Larkin wrote to notify the new address to the Princes, and to
request that any letters for her husband might be sent to it.
A silence of some days followed, then it was succeeded by this
somewhat remark able epistle:
“ No. 8 SEA VIEW CRESCENT.
“MADAM AND MEM-SAHIB, — I am throw in a great jeopardy and
hurly-burly in the tears of my wife, and I tremble before the
tribunal of your female majesty for that the marm my old woman is a
demonstration. But what then; the Christian infant was impereipient
“The defunct was in a ﬁt and so departed where he already know more
probbly than do I, though I have oft disturb the current of my
thought with sums, for I have made the most of my great opportunity.
“It is to say does the mem-sahib to return to this honourable house
intend for said the mem-sahib in her peerless go out by rail when
she started, I will to you Mr. Prince in two months return if you
are not let. Will the mem-sahib wait three months, for let we are
the whole of our honourable house for three months. Profound
“No, we cannot wait the three months,” said Mrs. Larkin, folding up
the letter. “Poor little mother, so she loved the yellow baby — as
is but natural.”
“But his grandmother did not love him,” observed Rowland. “She often
said, when the father and mother were not with her, that he didn’t
even cry like a Britisher; she never expected that she should have
to rock a thing just the colour of a frog and almost as skinny. It’s
wonderful, mother, isn’t it, what varieties of creatures there are
even in this one little world?”
“Yes, it is,” said Mrs. Larkin, indifferently.
“I suppose our world has a name. A name that the angels know who
have to attend to it, and the spirits that live about in these parts
— and then what did you call them, Isabel, when we were talking
about them this morning?”
“I called them intelligences,” said Dis, “when you had
described the kind of creatures you meant.”
“Yes, you did. I should not wonder, considering the millions and
millions of creatures and substances and colours and noises and
smells and all that we have in it, if they call our world the
variety of planet, for of course they are not obliged to call it
the earth just because we do.”
No, his mother was not interested, but it seemed enough for him to
utter his mind.
Why, even in this one little island the people have three or four
different ways of dressing themselves; and as to their talk, even
those who are supposed to speak English have got it shaded off into
so many different dialects that some of them can hardly understand
what the others say.
“In fact there is no end to the things that there are here, and so I
thought, as I was out walking with Dis, that very likely there are
some worlds — suns, with all their worlds after them, that are the
exact contrary of this.”
A pause followed because the father entered; then, when Mr. Larkin
came out of his abstraction and made it manifest that he was willing
to converse with his family, Rowland said to him, with his own air
of deep thought —
“Father, do you think any of the planets are alive?”
Mr. Larkin looked at him with all gravity, and made no answer.
Rowland understood that he must explain himself.
“Because I have been thinking that, as there are thousands of
planets and worlds, there are most likely some of all sorts. We are
not obliged to think they are all alike. I think, of course, that
they are held quite tight to their suns, just as we are, and cannot
run off, but why should not some of them be alive?”
“We can see that the heavenly bodies are without limbs,” said Mr.
“Yes, father, and I was afraid you would say that you don’t see how
they can have senses, but at any rate, feeling they might
have. We feel all over ourselves, perhaps they do.”
“Oh, then you think,” said Dis, “that they might see all over
themselves and hear all over themselves.”
“Well, Dis,” said Rowland, in answer, “why shouldn’t they?”
“Indeed, I don’t know.”
“And then, as they have to be going on at a great rate, and can
never stop or take tours, I should like to suppose, father,
that besides seeing one another as we can see the planets, they are
able to make their own set of planets hear.”
“That would be a great advantage.”
“But it would be interesting for them.”
“Interesting, yes; and they would have something to interest them
under their extraordinary privations and restraints.”
“I thought they would like their lives, and surely, father, they
would be proud of being so big. Of course they would have mouths,
they would not interfere with their round shape at all. So, most
likely, they could whistle to one another. What extraordinary things
they would say. Oh, mother, this is not one of my thinks that
I can possibly leave off thinking.”
“Very well, my boy, then you must go on with it. I wish Dis would
not encourage you.”
“I did not, mother. I said they did not want mouths; they had
nothing to eat.”
“How do you know that? I have invented a whole family of them —
thirty — they go round a very turbulent, violent old sun, who
complains in a very passionate way when they make much noise. Their
mouths are very useful to them, father, for of course I have
invented that they have plenty to eat.”
“So much for the dutiful discouragement of Dis,” said Mr. Larkin;
“but that wont do, my boy, your nonsense is nothing if it is not
consistent with itself. How can they put food into their mouths, and
where does it come from?”
“I have invented that those intelligences ﬂy over and feed them.”
“Creatures who live in the planetary space. The food has to come
from other spheres then.”
“Yes, of course, father; the intelligences that feed them bring it
from sets of planets more like our own. They have pouches under
their great wings to hold it. I don’t see why you should laugh,
father and Dis. It must be hot near their sun, so I considered that
they (the intelligences, I mean,) might have power over them and fan
them with their great wings, when the heat of their sun was ﬁerce.”
THE scene is the
narrow southern end of a quiet, solitary Scotch loch, and the little
wavelet just washes the shore.
There is a long, low house, roomy, but by no means handsome or
ornamental, standing near to it, in short, within a quarter of an
acre of it. A few rose-trees are trained upon the walls, but there
is no garden, and no fence in front; the very, very few persons who
might chance to go that way may walk up to the window and look in,
if they please.
An old man, large and stout but almost crippled, sits in a
wheel-chair close under one of its windows, in the sunshine. A young
man, who has brought out a high stool for himself, sits beside him,
and is obligingly unfolding a London newspaper, so as to display the
political news in its columns without giving any trouble to the
gouty right hand.
“And how is your friend, Sir Palk-Mayhew, to-day?” asks the old man.
“Well, sir; very well, and uncommonly pleased with his quarters,”
answered the young one, who is no other than Rhodes Mainwaring.
“Ye had been in these parts before, no doubt?” observed the old man,
Patrick Gordon. He longed to begin to read, but then it was certain
that he would have no visitor that day when this one was gone, so he
desired to keep him as long as he could, and read afterwards.
“No; I have never been in Scotland before.”
“Aye, indeed? Well, I understood from Sir Palk that ye recommended
the hotel to him.” He nodded, as he spoke, at a building half hidden
by a hill, which stood on the western bank of the loch, about three
miles off, and was the only domicile visible.
“Yes, I did, sir. I had heard of it — read of it, I mean — and when
my father wanted to stay awhile longer in London with Sir
Palk-Mayhew’s two daughters and their old aunt, I, knowing to an
hour how long it would take to get here, and knowing also the best
trains, mentioned it all to Sir Palk, and he told father he should
come, and proposed that I should come with him. He likes me.”
Here Rhodes paused, and Mr. Patrick Gordon presently remarked,
almost with effusion, “Shows his sense, that same liking, Mr. Rhodes
Mainwaring, for if ever there was a young man who has the sense to
appreciate interesting — I rather mean, leeterary —
conversation — ”Here, distinctly feeling that by the word
“interesting,” and then by the correction “leeterary,” he had been
consciously and almost openly intending his own conversation, Mr.
Patrick Gordon stopped short, and Rhodes twisted up his mouth into
something like a smile, and looked pleasantly and respectfully at
the old man.
“And so your party is to arrive shortly? Why, ye have been here
already eight days, and never have I heard ye make the least
complaint of this country as being dull, in spite of ye’re not
caring to ﬁsh, either with the rod or the net.”
“I have not found it dull,” said Rhodes, with a most engaging air of
deference. He naturally liked the old man. He was acute enough to
see that his almost daily visits had been a great pleasure to
Patrick Gordon, and he was also amiable enough to take a certain
delight in letting the old man “have his innings” as he thought; but
of course these considerations had not brought him there. When he
had, with much diplomacy, induced Sir Paul Palk-Mayhew to come, he
had fully hoped that he should ﬁnd the Larkins staying with old
Patrick Gordon, but such was his shyness on this point that, after
rambling to the long, low house, and managing to make acquaintance
with the family by asking if he might borrow a book which Sir Paul
Palk-Mayhew was anxious to read, and which Rhodes felt that he was
very likely to ﬁnd in almost every Scotch house, he had actually not
courage to make a single inquiry as to whether his old friend and
tutor, Mr. Adam Larkin, was staying at Mr. Gordon’s house. No, he
marched off with the book, and many appreciative words from Mr.
Gordon’s old sister; but he knew perfectly well, in spite of that,
that the Larkins were not staying there, because he had looked
through the open kitchen window as he walked past it to the hall
door, and had seen one exceedingly small fowl cooking at the open
grate, and nothing else but a few small potatoes roasting in the
gravy thereof. “Six people!” he had murmured. “No! Mr. and Mrs.
Larkin, and Dis and Rowland, and this old boy and his sister for
that one small fowl! It could not be. They have not arrived yet.
Then where are they?”
He soon discovered where. Mr. Patrick Gordon and his old sister,
after one or two visits from him, were just as well pleased to talk
about the Larkins as Rhodes was to hear them talked of.
“A capable man — learned, and a good converser, Mr. Rhodes
Mainwaring. It appears that they had but just landed — no, I believe
had not landed — when he got a telegram on board the steamer, from
some editor of a periodical that he did not name, setting forth that
if he would look up a particular subject, which it appears the trade
of the place lends itself to, this same editor would be glad to have
the article at his earliest convenience, and would print it to ﬁll a
gap caused by the unexpected illness of a constant contributor.”
Rhodes was thankful to hear that the Larkins were expected shortly —
in fact, as soon as the much-talked-of article was ready. He would
have, indeed, felt it hard if, after all his scheming, there had
been a mistake about this, for he did not love ﬁshing, and there was
nothing else whatever to be done in that neighbourhood. There were,
indeed, no houses whatever to be seen but the two hotels, one on
each border of the “celebrated salmon stream.” This means,
naturally, that the lake had at its farther end a short rocky river,
which communicated with the
Here Rhodes conducted Sir Palk-Mayhew. He at once took to the ﬁshing,
and remained, from day to day, silent, industrious, and contented.
How attentive and kind Rhodes was! there was always some reason for
his coming to see old Patrick Gordon, and, to say the truth, it was
quite as often a reason suggested by the old man as by the young
Patrick loved greatly to have a talk on politics, on the opinions of
the world, or on the literature of his country. Rhodes liked to come
and see him. Sometimes he appeared so early that the half-crippled
master of the house had not yet made his appearance, but he was
always welcome. He generally brought a newspaper with him, and
always received a message begging that he would sit a While and have
a talk with Mr. Gordon before he went away. But the Larkins did not
arrive, and he began to feel disconsolate.
He was sitting one morning on a little bench outside the kitchen
window which was open. There were two people talking inside, and
there was no harm in listening to their discourse, for he felt
instinctively that they meant him to hear every word they said.
“He talkit and he talkit, but I canna say I made much out o’ his
So far it was the old Scotch servant, who spoke to her mistress as
she stood peeling potatoes before the window, which looked out over
“Aye, Mally,” was the answer; “but the lad is right ” (“lad,
indeed!” thought Rhodes, with scorn), “the lad is right; ye are too
superstitious,” answered Miss Christie (they called it Kirstie);
“why let him ken the pains ye take to rive a hole in the bottom of
all the egg-shells before ye clear them off the breakfast-table?”
“If I did’na do it,” answered Mally, thoughtfully, “wha could be
dependit on to do it, ma’am?”
“I ken well ye reckon it your duty,” said Miss Christie.
“Aye, ma’am, ’tis a fearful thought that if they got thrown whole on
the loch, witches might use them to sail about in when they’re
“But ye should consider that Mr. Mainwaring, ##being English##
reckons it not provit that witches can raise storms at a’.”
“Provit, provit!” this she said loudly and distinctly. “Na, nal I’ve provit that times many, leevin’ beside this loch all my days.”
“Nay, Mally, ye have na seen the witches raisin’ them.”
“But I ha’ seen the storms, ma’am; an’ if they did na’ whistle them
up, he’ll need to prove wha did.”
“If ye speer that at him,” answered Miss Christie, “he’ll just
reply, ‘Ye need to prove ﬁrst that such creatures as witches exeest.’”
What she really said was, “Gin ye speer that at him.” But Rhodes,
though he understood her words, would not have been good at
retaining the niceties of a Scotch dialect in his memory and
observation. He was not to the manner born.
“The conceit of the young,” replied Mally, “is just amazing.”
“Ye ken weel that he hears every word ye say,” replied Miss
Here Mally put her head out of the window, and talking at Rhodes
without directly addressing him, said, “Aweel, it is not to be
expeetit that he is to escape creeticism any more than they
do that is elder than he by two generations, and had losses, till
there’s amaist nothing left to lose. Just look at the laird, how
they creeticise him.”
She then shut the kitchen window and went on with her preparations
for the early dinner.
Rhodes wanted to know if any more news was to be picked up
concerning the coming of the Larkins, so he sat very patiently till
a rumbling noise let him know that Mr. Patrick Gordon was coming,
and the old man forthwith appeared in his rolling-chair, propelled
by a stout barefooted Scotch lassie.
The sincere pleasure in his face was sweet to Rhodes. “I am quite
intimate here,” he thought. “I shall always be expected to bring the
papers, even after the Larkins appear.”
He soon found, however, that the Larkins had not appeared, were not
likely to appear, indeed, for another day or two, and in spite of
himself he received this news with something much more like a groan
than a sigh.
Patrick, in fact, noticed it, and Rhodes was afraid he had betrayed
himself; so he forthwith launched into discourse, and expressed a
respectful interest in some of the remarks which Mally, the
house-keeper, had made as to his having met with criticism.
“I might have surmised that you were an author, Mr. Gordon.”
“Well, as to being an author, Mr. Mainwaring — it is not my fault so
much as the publishers’ if I am not one. A man that has manuscripts
by him is hardly counted an author if he has not brought them forth
in print; though how Mally should know anything of the adverse
criticism passed upon my writings by the various editors and
publishers who returned them to me — always returned them, Mr.
Rhodes — I cannot say.”
“‘Deed, ye need not be surprised at that, Patrick,” cried Miss
Christie, who had come out and was listening to the conversation
with deep interest. “But he need not talk to ye, Mr. Mainwaring, as
if he was hardly an author, for letters many in newspapers and
pamphlets published at his own expense make him an author of some
account, if ever there was one, and he has had inﬂuence, too. It is
a great gift that, and a great responsibility. But,” she continued,
“as for his larger works, how the public is ever to know whether
manuscripts are interesting or not, if nae publisher will print
them, it passes my intelligence.”
“What subject did you mainly write on, or ﬁrst write on, Mr.
Gordon?” said Rhodes; he had not found the matter very interesting,
but when he saw the satisﬁed pleasure in the old sister’s face on
his being invited to enlarge upon it, Rhodes prepared himself to
listen with something like contentment.
“Well, what was it about, do ye ask? The ﬁrst thing that ever I
wrote was an essay. Far be it from me to say it was a good essay,
whatever I may think. I was getting on in life when I did the deed —
was nearly sixty years of age, in short.” Here he prodded the carpet
that ﬂoored his chair with his crutch, to its manifest detriment,
but old Christie did not remonstrate.
“I sent that essay about till the paper it was written on lost all
its crispness and became woolly. I sent it to review after review,
and magazine after magazine, and not an editor of them all would
take it in.”
“And that was just because ye had not got a name, Patrick,” said
Miss Christie, soothingly; “ten to one, none of those editors ever
read it through. The matter used to be talked about among our
friends with surprise, and Mally not only knew that, but was vastly
scandalized at it.”
Rhodes here asked what the essay was about.
“Well, sir, it was on THE BEAUTIFUL,
the beautiful in language especially. There was a good deal of
learning and thought too there, though I say it. I sent it at last
to Good Words, and the editor kept it a fortnight. Then I had
“And that was but reasonable,” put in Miss Christie, “considering
that one of your own cousins by the mother’s side came from the same
part of the country that he did.”
“But no,” said Mr. Patrick Gordon, with eyes that sparkled and a ﬁgure
drawn up more vigorously than usual in spite of his inﬁrmity. “ No;
in fourteen days back it came. I was not such a cripple then with my
gout as I am now, and I got up and just ﬂung it on the ﬁre. I
was so sick of it, and so angry with it and with him.”
“I think,” said Rhodes, with an air of deference, “that if instead
of writing it on ‘The Beautiful’ you had written it on ‘The Ugly,’
the editors would have read it.”
“Ye must be joking.”
“Not at all; far be it from me,” said Rhodes, screwing up his mouth
with an air of wisdom and cogitation. “I wish I knew what it was
“Well, it was exactly like my daily discourse,” replied old Patrick,
who was much pleased with the opportunity to talk of it. “I wrote it
in high English, as the dialect used in literature is called in
these parts — or, as ye would call it, plain English. But I partly
forget it. Ambition with me is almost over. Try your hand at an
essay on ‘The Ugly’ yourself — the ugly in language. There are are
some words lately come up so ugly that they rouse me to fury.”
“Well, for instance, there is the word ‘vehicular,’ that is about
the ugliest in the language. Hardly ten years old, and pushing
itself in wherever there is so much as a block in the streets to be
described or moralized on. ‘Similarly’ is not quite so bad, but
quite bad enough. So are ‘sibilant’ and ‘wishful’ and ‘toothsome’
and ‘reliable.’ These have all become more common of late. Ye never
hear them in Scotland. I do us that justice, as is only right. Why,
bless my heart, sister, there’s a sound of wheels!”
A sound of wheels! Yes, Rhodes heard them, and, will it be believed,
he jumped up, and for the moment it seemed even to himself that he
was going to run away. This ﬁne, handsome young face actually
changed colour; he was about to be off.
No, he stopped; two things arrested him. The ﬁrst was a perception
that he was found out, or that at least something was found out; the
second was that, when a shabby, loaded wagonette came lumbering up,
his beloved was not in it.
Mr. and Mrs. Larkin were in it, but not Dis or Rowland. The fact is,
that these two had persuaded their parents to let them get out and
walk the last half-mile over the heather.
When he saw that the party was incomplete by the most important
person in the world, Rhodes forced himself to remain and shake hands
with the old brother and sister, and then he took himself off in
very low spirits.
Dis and Rowland very soon appeared, both as happy as they knew how
to be. Here were real Highlanders; here were children, otherwise
comfortably clad, careering about with no shoes and stockings on,
and women much in the same case, but not by any means to be pitied.
When, the next morning, Dis came out with her step-mother to the
edge of the loch, from which the long, bare house was not divided by
the least little garden or fence, the openness and bareness of it
all struck her almost as much as its beauty.
“Why, there’s no strand, nothing but a few ﬁat bits of rock and
stone where the water ends!” she exclaimed, as she stepped onto the
tiny little wooden landing-place to which the two boats of the
establishment were moored.
Rowland had been there several times before.
“Only think, Dis, they go to the kirk on Sunday in the biggest of
“Yes; and those two girls row us. They are a kind of house-maids.”
“But surely, mother, in gentlemen’s families the servants do not
generally go without shoes and stockings, even up here?”
“Certainly not. These are only two of the cotters’ daughters who
come to help when we are here.”
“Delightful!” exclaimed Dis again. “I hope they will not begin to
wear them. This all seems so primitive. And it is so still. These
bits of ﬂat rocks that make the shore are scarcely a foot higher
than the water, and then a few acres farther down turf comes to the
edge and seems to look over. I did not expect that no cottages at
all would be visible, or that the mountains would be so high.”
“Oh, if you go a little way back among the hills, you will see some
cottages,” said the step-mother, as if just a little hurt that her
country should be thought so empty and silent.
“Ah, yes, and I do see, a long way off, two rather large houses near
“Yes, those are the hotels,” said Mrs. Larkin. “They are three miles
ofﬁ Some capital trout-streams and salmon-streams run out about
there, and people come for the ﬁshing.”
“That’s why Sir Paul Palk- Mayhew comes,” observed Rowland.
“Who is he?” asked Dis.
“I don’t know,” said Rowland; “but cousin Patrick talked about him
last night, and I remember his name because I never heard such an
Mrs. Larkin smiled furtively; she did not know who Sir Paul
Palk-Mayhew was; she knew Dis must soon ﬁnd out that her tiresome
young lover was in the immediate neighbourhood, and she hoped it
would not take away her pleasure, for she was fond of Dis. Rowland
presently moved off, and thereupon Mrs. Larkin said to her
favourite, “Now, Dis, I hope you are going to be reasonable.”
“Oh yes, mamma dear. It’s not easy to be reasonable here, I know,
because one feels inclined to be so outrageously happy. But if you
think I shall not like to go back to my gum? governessing
when this is over, I hope you are mistaken.” Then, when the mother
was silent, she went on, “Or, if I don’t like it, I suppose I shall
have the sense to hold my tongue. And really I do consider — and,
mother, you do too, I am sure, for you are always so indulgent in
your thoughts about me — you consider, too, that I am getting over
my ‘thinks,’ as Rowland used to call them, and my — ”
“Your what, dear?”
Dis did not make a direct answer. “Well, of course,” she said, “I
know I am a little different from other girls; but you think I am
becoming more practical, don’t you, and trying to get over what you
used to call my aspirations?”
“You are a good girl,” said the step-mother, warmly and
affectionately, “and it is your nature to indulge in many
speculations which most girls never so much as heard of. It has been
a great blessing to your father and me that you and Dorey were so
dutiful when he had that long illness and got into debt and difﬁculties.”
“Yes, mamma dear.”
“You are not thinking about the matter.”
“I can’t; Scotland is so beautiful, and it smells so sweet, and I
like to hear the little tiny splash those oars make. That’s a pretty
boat; it seems to be coming here.”
The mother turned sharply. Was it coming there, and, if so, who in
all probability was in it?
Her expression lost its intentness.
“That’s the postman’s boat,” she said, indifferently. “But, Dis,
listen to me, will you? You felt much more than dear Dorey did — you
were both very good about it. You felt most the turning out of the
nest, and the tiresome routine of teaching children their letters,
and afterwards being companion to that dear old thing and tending
“I don’t like routine. I never have any time for study, or even to
carry out my own thoughts. How pretty that boat looks as it comes
on! How nice to be the postman!”
“Yes, very nice in calm summer weather, and when there is no wind.
So, as I said before, I hope you are going to be reasonable.”
“Child! do listen. What I want to inform you of, and that you should
know and feel, is that you need not, unless you please, go back to
this routine at all.”
Dis started, for though Mrs. Larkin spoke as if pleased, her face
“Something very unexpected must have happened then,” she said.
The step -mother flushed slightly. “I promised your father to lay it
before you,” she said, and then sat down near the water’s edge and
“I know father has paid all his debts,” said Dis, standing before
her and looking down at her. “ But you always told us that we could
not come home till you had saved enough money to buy furniture, and
the many other things that you had been obliged to sell.”
“I am sure you know that we shall be quite content to work till you
think it right for us to come home. When he is quite well writing is
no strain upon father. Oh, mamma!”
“Why, you laughed!”
“You need not say it so reproachfully.”
“No,” said Dis, colouring and sitting down beside her step-mother,
“and it cannot be that, I know.”
“Hadn’t you better say those than that?” said Mrs. Larkin.
“No; that Scotchman at Dundee was so perfectly impossible — and,
besides, he was nearly ﬁfty — and I really could not bear him.”
“So you told your father. He is a very intellectual man.”
“Silly old fellow! Why, he is as old as father, and father is ﬁfty.
What with him and Rhodes Mainwaring, I never have the pleasure of
wearing my best hat. Yes, he is intellectual, I suppose. Father says
Rhodes is a very clever fellow, and has only been idle because he
thought there was no need to work. I am glad it is my sacred duty
not to care for him.”
“You think, then, that if it was not your ‘sacred duty’ you easily
“No, mamma; but I have gone so far as to think that I wished he
could see me in my best hat, because it’s so becoming; but father
said more than once that he should be ashamed to look Mr. Mainwaring
in the face if he had not strictly forbidden Rhodes to philander
after me. And I felt that I must do my part and wear my shabby old
hat so as not to attract him, and so I did.”
“But, as I said before, if it was not your ‘sacred duty’ any longer
“Why, then,” interrupted Dis, laughing, “I suppose the perversity of
human nature would come in. I am sure it would, and I should be very
tired of him. I don’t want to have a lover at all; but if there must
be one, I think I dislike the sort that has to run round the corner
furtively to catch a sight of me least. But, only fancy, mamma, if
some enormous giant could take him up by the neck, just as one does
a puppy, without hurting him, and set him down here beside me,
saying, ‘My children, all obstacles are removed; your respective
parents bless you, and desire you to endear yourselves to one
another as fast as you can’ —”
“Well, ‘only fancy ’— what then?”
“Why, you see there’s nothing to do here, it’s so quiet, too, and I
could not possibly help laughing at him. Yes, in such a case, I am
sure that in about a week he would be perfectly cured, though I
should wear my best hat. If he was not cured when I could bear it no
longer, I should run away. I should go back to my old lady.”
“You perverse girl — you very troublesome, unreasonable girl!” said
the step-mother, laughing.
“But what does it matter? I shall never see him again as long as I
live, and I am glad to know it, he is so foolish.”
“Now, don’t say anything you may be sorry for afterwards. Your
father met Mr. Mainwaring last evening, and they talked together.
They are all at that hotel, the nearest one, he and his son and his
sister, and the whole posse of the Palk-Mayhews.”
“Oh, mother — oh — when I had hoped to enjoy myself so much.”
“Your father said they had a long conversation together. They always
have had a most uncommon regard for one another.”
“But that they should happen to come to this out-of-the-way place,”
said Dis. “It really does seem too unlucky! How cross father would
“He said he did feel a little irritated, but Mr. Mainwaring actually
excused himself, and declared that Rhodes had managed the whole
thing because he knew we were coming.”
“Your father said the right thing to do was to send Rhodes for a
tour with one of the young Mayhews —”
“Yes — so it is — ”
“His father said he did not like to part with him.”
The step-mother looked at Dis; two tears were actually trickling
down her cheeks, but she dashed them away and rallied.
“Then my best hat Will have to go into the bandbox again. I am sure
I don’t know what else is to be done.”
“That is exactly what your father said, and what do you think he
“Well, as nearly as I can report his words as your father did to me,
he said, ‘It is only fair to myself to remind you that none of the
objections made to this affair have come from my side of the house.’
“Of course not,” interrupted Dis, warmly. “There was no need for him
to object indeed. When father would not let Rhodes come near the
house, and had distinctly forbidden him to write to me. Well,
“Well, then, I believe he began to talk about his own affairs. He
had had great losses, he said, and he had settled the whole of the
late Mrs. Mainwaring’s fortune on Rhodes, and also given him a tea
plantation, but that he should not promise him anything more, and
then he talked of his friendship for your father, and then he spoke
of you, Dis. He said you had never given Rhodes the least
encouragement, and your father said you were his dear, obedient
child; and the next thing, I believe, was that he said he was going
to bring Miss Mayhew to call on me here. He wished her to make my
acquaintance and yours. And as regards Rhodes —”
“Oh yes, mother—what?”
“Why, he distinctly asked your father to let him alone, to make
himself agreeable if he could. That was what I promised your father
to tell you.”
Dis listened almost with dismay, then turning her head, “Why, that
is Rhodes, I do believe,” she exclaimed,“ sneaking up to the kitchen
The epithet displeased the step-mother. “I see a very tall, ﬁne
young man,” she replied, rather sharply, “sauntering along there. I
am too short-sighted to discern his features.”
Rhodes indeed it Was, but Mr. Mainwaring had not said in so many
words as the supposed giant did, “Bless you, my boy;” he had merely
found out how he himself and his whole party had been inveigled to
that locality, and why, and then he had laughed at him.
It was in this manner.
The young ladies were not to arrive till late in the afternoon.
Mainwaring appeared at luncheon time, and immediately after the meal
told Rhodes that he should show him the way, and they would go and
take a look at Sir Palk where he was ﬁshing.
Rhodes set forth in low spirits, because he was almost sure that Dis
was now within three miles of him, and he had to go in the opposite
direction. Mainwaring, who had many suspicions, soon began to
question him, and, after hesitating a little, Rhodes was obliged to
let himself be pumped. Finding his suspicions were more than justiﬁed,
Mainwaring presently sat down among the heather and set himself to
work in good earnest, and when fact after fact had been drawn out,
with a pause between each, and Rhodes was getting exceedingly
alarmed, the whole thing struck him in such a ludicrous light that
he suddenly burst into a violent ﬁt of laughter.
“You impudent young dog,” he exclaimed, recovering his gravity, “do
you pretend to make all my arrangements for me to suit your own
convenience?” And then he asked him, but quite good-naturedly, if he
was not ashamed of himself.
Perhaps he had hardly expected an answer, and indeed Rhodes for a
few moments was silent, and then he replied, with equal gravity and
perfect gentleness, that he was. He seemed to mean it, too, and
looked out of countenance, and then he got hold of Mainwaring’s hand
and held it hard.
“Natural, quite natural,” thought Mainwaring, listening while Rhodes
blundered through his excuses, and still held the hand of this
supposed father closely to his breast. “If I did not see you so
seldom,” he presently blurted forth, with a kind of blunt affection,
“I shouldn’t take such liberties;” and then went on, almost
ruefully, “Other fellows see their fathers much oftener than I do.”
“Well, but I am obliged to be so much abroad,” said Mainwaring,
taking to an excuse in his turn. Then releasing his hand, he went
on, “We’ll say no more about it this time; but I am not going to
have this sort of thing done again. Do you hear?”
“Yes, father,” answered Rhodes.
“He was always very affectionate, from a child,” thought Mainwaring.
“If my own had lived, I could not have wished that they should be
“I did not know that you would mind so much,” continued Rhodes; “and
I do so love her.”
“Now, look here,” exclaimed Mainwaring, with another involuntary
laugh, “if your own shoulders are not broad enough to take this
matter on them, and if your own legs are not long enough, nobody
else can help you. You are not expecting me to make love for you to
this girl surely?”
“But if she thought you wished it,” began Rhodes, with a certain
“Wished it! Oh, well, I dare say she is a nice enough girl, and I
like her father better than any man living, but as to actually
wishing you to put your neck under the yoke of matrimony before you
have wholly done growing — for I do believe you have grown since I
saw you after landing — I could not say that, my boy. But I can tell
you this, that if you got your own way, and then changed your mind,
for you have been great at doing that all your life, I should be
very exceedingly offended, and I hardly know how I could forgive
“I should never do that,” said Rhodes. “Then I may get her, if I
can?” he presently added.
“Well, it is rather late in the day to ask me that,” said the
“But if you would overlook my having annoyed you, and say you will
sanction, or at any rate, not oppose me.”
There was a pause. Then Mainwaring senior made the not very fatherly
reply, and he laughed, “Well, I don’t mind saying that I’ll let you
Shortly after this he and Rhodes went to their hotel to dinner, the
latter much more full of hope than ever, the former much impressed
by the affection Rhodes felt and expressed for him, as if under the
circumstances it was not the most natural thing in the world. He
always carried about that little desk with him. “How hard it would
be on the boy,” he thought, “if anything should happen to me, and he
should ﬁnd and read those letters. It could not possibly have been
expected of me to do so much for him; but now, if he is not told, as
I have decided, it will actually be base of me not to do a great
About ﬁve o’clock, two or three days after, at the time when
Mainwaring generally went out either riding or driving with “his
Eglantine,” Rhodes saw him seated on the heather a hundred yards or
so from the windows and in front of a tiny bonﬁre. He was smoking
and setting alight to one paper after another. Eglantine looked out
at this action rather ruefully, and she glanced once or twice at the
Rhodes dashed out of the hotel, and was presently beside his father.
“Well?” said Mainwaring, looking up.
“I thought you might not know that it’s a quarter past ﬁve,” said
Rhodes, looking at a little heap of white ashes which Mainwaring was
stirring with a tiny stick.
“And so you were reminding me of my duty, you audacious young
“Young son. Well, yes, I was, father; at least I was only
just letting you know that Eglantine looked dull.”
Mainwaring regarded him steadily, and now stirred the little heap of
ashes with his ﬁnger. “I was performing a sacred duty,” he said,
gravely. “Yes; not an atom left as large as a threepenny-piece. How
do you know that it was not a duty to you, my boy?”
“If it was, it was done thoroughly, anyhow! Just like all the
others,” said Rhodes, laughing.
“No, my boy, we are not going to walk together to the hotel;
that would make it manifest that you came out to fetch me. March
off, will you, in the other direction.” Rhodes did so, and
Mainwaring made his peace with Eglantine, not without some slight