A Motto Changed II.

Home Up Poems Story of Doom Monitions Old Days Poetical Works Allerton and Dreux Allerton and Dreux Off the Skelligs Fated to be Free Sarah De Berenger Don John John Jerome Studies for Stories Stories Told to a Child A Sister's Bye-Hours Mopsa the Fairy Wonder Box Tales Sheet Music Sheet Music Reviews, etc. Main Index Site Search


 

CHAPTER V.


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. Mainwaring.”

“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 at once.

(“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 his arms.

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 it.”

“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 her!”

“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 be despised!”

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 plantation, Mainwaring?”

“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 advantageous?”

The father started up and Walked to the window.

“You are telling me that I might set Rhodes over the plantation!” he exclaimed.

“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 shoot there.”

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 beach.

“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.”


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VI.


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 excellent spirits.”

“Rhodes will come back soon?” said Mrs. Larkin, in a somewhat oracular tone.

“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 himself.

“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 dutiful.

“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 hers.

“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 little yacht.

“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.

Another knock.

“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 real pleasure.

“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.


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VII.


MAINWARING was soon off.

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 pathetically.

“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 themselves.

“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 also.

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 do.”

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 them.

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 two days.

“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 salaams,
“Your servant,
“SAMUEL PRINCE.”


“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.”

“Certainly not.”

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. Larkin.

“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.”


――――♦――――

 
CHAPTER VIII.


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
sea.

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 one.

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 discourse —”

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 the loch.

“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 raisin’ storms.”

“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 Christie.

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 hopes.”

“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 like.”

“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.”

“For instance?”

“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 those boats.”

“Delightful!”

“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 together.”

“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 odd one.”

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 her.”

“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.”

“Yes, mamma.”

“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 looked anxious.

“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 was silent.

“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.”

Still silence.

“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!”

“Well.”

“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 could?”

“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 be!”

“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.”

“Tiresome boy!”

“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 replied?”

“What, mother?”

“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, mother?”

“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 window!”

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 more so.”

“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 audacity.

“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 it.”

“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 senior.

“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 alone.”

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 deal more.”

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 clock.

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 difficulty.


――――♦――――


CHAPTER IX.

 


[Home] [Up] [Poems] [Story of Doom] [Monitions] [Old Days] [Poetical Works] [Allerton and Dreux] [Allerton and Dreux] [Off the Skelligs] [Fated to be Free] [Sarah De Berenger] [Don John] [John Jerome] [Studies for Stories] [Stories Told to a Child] [A Sister's Bye-Hours] [Mopsa the Fairy] [Wonder Box Tales] [Sheet Music] [Sheet Music] [Reviews, etc.] [Main Index] [Site Search]

 

Correspondence should be sent to Webmaster@Gerald-Massey.org.uk