Off the Skelligs (5)

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CHAPTER XV.

'To his own master he standeth or falleth.'


HOW much people talk about their first impressions of a foreign country!  It was about six o'clock, and dark with thunder-clouds, and pouring with rain, when I was told we had entered the French harbour, and were lying opposite to the Douane.  My luggage, consisting of one little box, was landed, so was Miss Tott's; and we waited on board till it had passed, sitting under umbrellas.  Poor Miss Tott was fainting for air and longing to get away from the scene of her misery.  Uncle Rollin, at the last moment, took alarm and declined to land, but said be would wait at Havre till we returned from Chartres.  It was, therefore, a point of honour to be as quick as we could, and I found that Mr. Brandon and Tom had decided on our going on to Chartres that same evening; a cab was waiting to convey us on to the railway station.  We had dined; but poor Miss Tott had eaten nothing since breakfast, so I made Brand give us a goodly basket of provisions to carry with us.

    We were a party of six including the children.  Miss Tott and I were surprised to find ourselves in a decided mist.  We had hardly expected mist out of England.  The rain was uncommonly like English rain.  The railway carriage had the same defect.  This was disappointing; but we had the satisfaction of hearing the railway officials quarrelling in real French.  Nothing to be seen: rain, mist, thunder-clouds.  We soon unpacked our great basket of provisions.  Miss Tott was terribly vexed at having to eat an English pigeon-pie and salad on French soil, and after that slices of cake, also such a thoroughly English dish! and then Stilton cheese, and lastly, strawberries; but by ten o'clock we had done all this with appetite, and then taken off the children's hats and laid them on the seat to go to sleep.

    As the dusk came on the rain ceased, and Miss Tott and I gazed diligently out of the windows; but darkness, we were obliged to own, looked much the same everywhere.

    We saw hardly anything, even when we reached Paris; for the children woke up and cried most piteously.  We were soon shut up in a room with numbers of people, half of whom spoke as good English as ourselves; and then the officials storming at Mr. Brandon and the parcels we wanted to have with us, hustled us into a carriage, where, to our disgust, we had to sit for at least ten minutes before the train started.

    We slumbered while it was dark, and day had just dawned on a perfectly flat country, when we first saw the graceful spires of Chartres Cathedral.

    All very tired, some very cross, we drove to an hotel, and straightway went to bed until nine o'clock, when I woke and peeped out.

    Ah! yes, this was foreign indeed.  A fine broad place, house with two or three tiers of windows in the roof, women without bonnets, the clatter of wooden shoes, and a vast amount of joyous jabbering.  A big diligence at the door, with three white cart-horses harnessed abreast thereto.  (It looked like a hay-stack on wheels, and was covered with a tarpauling.)  A market and a fair going on, tables with smoking-hot coffee, and round loaves in the shape of a ring upon them; bakers' boys bringing these round their arms, and around their necks; great heaps of apples, pears, late cherries, stacks of plums, stains of fruit all over the stones, great rugged melons that did not seem half-ripe, tiny French men and French women sitting on them in their little blue pinafores and wooden shoes, and the sun pouring down over all as it never can in England so early in the morning.  Inside, the windows swarmed with flies, and the floor was tiled.  Cheering sights, so foreign!

    Miss Tott and I dressed the children in their new clothes, then we rang, were conducted to a salon, where we found Tom and Mr. Brandon, and where we ate a remarkable breakfast, consisting of fried potatoes, rice-pudding, eggs, rolls as long as our arms, boiled pigeons, and wine.

    Tom and I were very anxious to get to the cathedral; so, as soon as we had breakfasted, we left Miss Tott and Mr. Brandon to take the children to their grandmother, and set forth, intending to find our way and not to ask it, for it was rather a shock to us to discover the French spoken by the natives was not quite so intelligible to us as we had confidently expected to find it.

    It would not have been easy, however, to lose our way, foreign though we now felt the place to be; the sun on our backs was especially foreign, so was the shop we entered.  It was full of the strangest little images, and most of them were black.

    We bought the Abbé Bulteau's description of the cathedral, a good-sized book, and learned that the ugly little black dolls represented the celebrated black Virgin.  I bought also a Roman Catholic service-book; and we went on a little further, until on a sudden turn the two grand spires stood before us, and the wonderful doors, deep and solemn in the shade, and strangely crowded and guarded by quaint carvings of bishops, saints, apostles, and kings, all bearing that peculiar look which distinguishes so much of the sculpture of the middle ages.

    Innocence, purity, devotion, and a kind of saintly calm were impressed on their impassive faces, and there was something majestic in the deeply cut folds of the raiment which covered them; but there was in most of them a want of muscle and force and manliness, of active thought and towering intellect, which at first, as I gazed, disturbed me; but after a long look, I felt that the men who carved them so were right, for if they had shown any marks of longing, activity, or command, it would have been painful to think of them as imprisoned there so long.

    We entered; shall I ever forget the sudden sense of coolness and shade after the glare of the world outside!  We had stepped into some glorious gloom back into time, leaving the noise, and light, and stir of our century behind us; here was an old-world cavern, a grand old roof hung over it, and it was all fluted and fine with hundreds of shafts, and letting in a deep and sombre rainbow through every one of its hundred and thirty coloured windows.

    We both stood amazed: they seemed to be little more than semi-translucent.  If a peacock's tail and a dove's neck could suddenly have let the light filter through them, and could have added some deep, delightful ruby stains to their own blue, and green, and brown, and orange glows, they would have been like one of the windows, but there were so many, and they were all different!

    Oh! how beautiful! how fearful! how grand!

    I sat down to take my fill of gazing.  I saw in the clerestory windows the quaint old giant kings and priests and heroes staring down in their jewelled head gear and minever mantles.  Then I stole into the aisles, and marked the glorious windows presented by the trades of the town, their artful glories, all different and splendid, and yet the homely, ancient simpleness of their detail.

    I understood, then, for the first time, what man can do with colour, and felt the peculiar sensation which is the real root of what attracts and arrests us away from home; that sense of incongruity, that special way of putting things together, which foreigners feel to be different from anything they ever do.

    Suddenly it became to my English eyes all out of keeping, for near the marvellous old stone screen that divides the nave from the choir there was a small, gilded nook, and, in a moment, all the splendour of the grandest art appeared to give way to a childish, shabby piece of finery, like a show at a fair.

    The Virgin—the hideous black Virgin! there she stood on a projecting bracket; a vulgar, wooden doll, clad in cloth of woven gold, and frightful in her jewels, with those staring eyes and shapeless arms.

    About twenty rushlights were burning before her; they were stuck on the spikes of a gilt railing which kept the faithful from touching her, and they winked and guttered down in the daylight, dropping on some flowers which grew in pots below.

    I saw four women kneeling and pressing their lips against the railing; their faces were full of adoration, and their eyes gazed at the image.  How often had I been told that they did not pray to the image but to what it represents!  I had religiously believed this.  I shall never have that comfort again.

    The women rose, bowed deeply to the image, and when they were gone I drew near, and Tom came up with the sacristan.

    'Yes, monsieur was right, he now beheld the celebrated black Virgin, the chief ornament of the cathedral.  It had been brought down, did monsieur understand, by two angels.'

    'No; monsieur thought he could not have understood aright'

    'The angels brought it direct from heaven.  The two angels made it.'

    'What! in heaven?'

    'Precisely; thus you see it is sacred.'

    Monsieur shook his head, and in bad deliberate French observed, looking round him, 'that the work of angels looked very poor beside that of men.'

    'But monsieur is an Englishman,' said the man.  Monsieur wished to see the bones of St. Piat.

    'Yes, we should see them when the priest who had the key returned.  But mademoiselle would not find them very interesting, for all but the nose was covered with artificial flowers.'

    This was such a ghastly idea that I declined to see them.  Here again was the strange incongruity, and the same man who thought the doll so precious did not hesitate to spit upon the floor, very near to where she stood.

    Then he took us to see several altars, on each of which stood ornaments of plaster, like those on wedding-cakes; and to several niches in which were large figures, like those in hair-dressers' shops—their gowns were trimmed with nun's lace, and their hair had flowers in it.

    Mr. Brandon just then came up.  He had been looking for us.

    'Well, what do you think of it?' he whispered.

    'Oh! think!  I cannot think there is such solemn, awful splendour and such trash and rubbish.  Look at that lovely roof, and then look at those dirty flowers that a kitchen-maid would scorn to wear; look how dirty the floor is.'

    'Ah!  I have seen that sort of thing often.  Did you see the Virgin over the great door?'

    'I only saw two figures.'

    'That was our Saviour crowning Mary Queen of Heaven, and declaring her equal with Himself.'

    The choir gates were then unlocked, and the sacristan began to show us the carving.

    'Monsieur will please to notice,' he said, still following Tom, 'that it is not with us, as in many places, less celebrated places, places to which, as one may say, the more delicate needs of civilization have not penetrated, and where the priests and choir have to spit on the floor.'

    He pointed to long things like mignonette-boxes filled with sawdust.

    'Voilà,' said he, with no small pride; 'pour les Prêtres, et voilà pour Monseigneur.'

    We peeped into the bishop's throne, and, true enough, there stood a little one!

    I felt very angry with them.  I had expected such great reverence and costliness.  I thought these belonged to the ideal of the religion.

    'They are not dirty because they are Roman Catholics,' said Mr. Brandon.  'Frenchmen can be dirty whatever their faith, or want of faith.  You know,' he continued, 'the Roman Catholic prelates keep up a beautiful old custom that ours have relinquished: after service, on Sunday, they come out and bless the people.  Once, when I was at Coutances, the venerable old archbishop came out in his golden mitre and all the stiff splendour of his robes, and lifted up his hand, holding it high over the crowd as he stood on the top of the great steps.  With the other hand, as I presently observed, he was fumbling in his breast, and soon, by slow degrees, I saw him draw out an immense, blue cotton handkerchief, which was checked like the dusters that house-maids use—he flourished it, blew his nose, and then, more people having gathered together, he again raised his hand in blessing, and no one saw anything strange and sordid in the blue handkerchief but myself.'

    'I do not think that would have offended me.  The handkerchief was his own, the gems and the robes perhaps belonged to his office or to the cathedral.  Still it must have damaged the beauty of the spectacle.'

    'Perhaps you are regarding all this as a spectacle only.'

    'Perhaps I am.  I must say I feel as much repelled by the want of cleanliness, for instance, as by the crowned Queen of Heaven over the door.  And that must be wrong.'

    As we came to the west door and stepped out, he said, 'Yes, and don't you feel a burning desire to set it right for them—taste, and dogma, and all!  What leisure there must be up in heaven!  You see God is in no hurry with them.  Yet I think He will set them right at last, and perhaps we shall have to be set right too.'

    'But I don't see how we can be very far wrong,' was my somewhat youthful answer.

    'Don't you?  No more do I.  I don't see it, and yet I suppose it must be so.'

    'Why?'

    'Well,' he answered, 'when I see very plainly, as I appear to do to-day, that some other people have made mistakes against themselves, and when I feel very plainly, as I appear to do to-day, that I have made no such mistake, a thought falls down on me like a thunderbolt, that if this were the case, surely something more must and would and should come of it.'

    'But we all have more light than we use.'

    'Yes, and that is my answer to myself.  And yet, strange to say, when we toil to do the right for God, and pray to Him for more light, we often get instead a sense of His stillness and waiting.  Not an atom more certainty to go by, but a warmer and wider sense of His love, and a greater willingness to let Him do as He pleases with this world of His.'

    He and Tom now agreed to go and look about them in the town; but I felt that I had not seen enough of the cathedral, so I asked Tom to come and fetch me in an hour; and went back to engulf myself again in the stillness of that coloured shade.  I had the book of the abbé to be my interpreter, and, sitting down, I opened it at the dedication, which was startling to one so ignorant of all religions but her own.


'A MARIE,
'Mère de Dieu et Dame de Chartres.


Our fathers have dedicated to you this marvellous basilica as the Lady of Chartres and "Tutèe" of their city; suffer, O mighty Queen! that one of your servants may dare to dedicate to you this slight description of their immortal work, the magnificent testimony of their generous and tender devotion towards you.'


    Guided by this curious book, I went to look at the bas-reliefs on choir-screen, and especially at that one which records the death of Marie, where, while St. Peter sprinkles her with holy-water and St. John tells his beads, she presents the famous chemise to her young attendant.

    This garment, only second in sacredness to the so-called holy coat at Treves, is laid up in the cathedral in a golden caise, the abbé informing his readers that for six centuries it has been the object of the most fervent devotions of the faithful.  Then, with indescribable simplicity, to the last degree curious and attractive, he next describes the sculptured scene in which eight angels, 'almost trembling with respect,' lift the Virgin's body into the tomb; but the Old Testament scenes, in which monks, bound books, knights in armour, and churches appear, are quite as interesting, and he seems, if one may trust his style of description, to find nothing strange in them.

    I was delighting in the resplendent loveliness and purity of light and colour that came in through the glorious west window, when the sacristan came up to me again and remarked that monsieur and mademoiselle could not have come on a better day, for there was to be High-Mass in the evening; it would be the grandest spectacle of the year, and would close with a procession to the crypt.  We should then see the caise in which the sacred relic was kept; four priests would bear it; also we should see the sacred banner of Chartres, with the chemise represented on it; we should acknowledge then that nothing could be more magnificent.

    I remained in the cathedral until Tom and Mr. Brandon came for me and took me to see the children and the sweet, tender old grandmother.  She was giving them slices of bread and fruit, and they seemed already quite at home with her.  Though she was the wife of an hotel-keeper, her manners were charming, and her thanks for the care we had bestowed on her darlings were more elegant than anything we could say in return.

    We had a curious dinner afterwards, and rose from it to go into the fair and see the French soldiers, and the grown-up women riding in merry-go-rounds and on wooden horses, with all the joyousness of children.  Then, when it was nearly dark, we turned up the narrow street that led to the cathedral and entered its great cavernous doors with the crowd that was pouring into to them.

    We were desirous not to show any disrespect and yet not to be among the worshippers, so we sat withdrawn behind a pillar, but where we could see perfectly well.  It was a grand thing to see twilight brooding over the crowd below, while lines of sunset yet lingered among the vaulting of the roof and behind the windows, which, growing deeper and dimmer, appeared to recede from us to a greater distance, preserving all the time a solemn splendour, until they melted into the dusk and were gone.  We all had chairs, having given two sous each for them, and when two or three lamps were lighted to prevent confusion, there was a sudden clatter and flutter; all the chairs were being turned, a voice behind us caused us also to turn, and some one began to preach.  'Behold! my brothers,' he began, 'we are now at the feet of Mary.'  As he preached, men on ladders lighted hundreds of little coloured lamps, which were wreathed about the pillars and festooned from pier to pier.  We were seated in the wide, open nave, but the roof was so lofty that I thought the crowds of people on their chairs and round the bases of the pillars only looked like lumps of moss and flowers growing about the roots and stems of enormous trees.  The high altar rested against the great gates that shut in the choir, and, while the sermon went on, the functionaries lighted it up.

    Again I felt the contrast between the solemn grand old cave and these paltry prettinesses.

    'What does this remind you of?' whispered Tom, leaning before me to speak to Mr. Brandon.

    'V. R., V. R., V. R., glittering everywhere.  Isn't it just like Regent Street on the Queen's birthday?'

    Miss Tott groaned when he said this.  'Look at that long procession of splendour,' she said, 'here come the priests.'

    What a strange sight when one sees it for the first time, and what a strange sound was the quavering, weak chant, and the slight clatter of the censers as they were swung up smoking among the growing flowers!  There was the old archbishop in his golden mitre, and womanly gear reaching down to his shoes, and all stiff with gems and or orfevrerie and lace; then followed troops of ecclesiastics in scarlet and gold, and purple and green; and then the priests in white; and then numbers of little boys in scarlet clothes and white tunics; while all the time the quavering chant went on, and the restless crowd swayed about, and long lines of delicate smoke followed the boys as they ran in and out, and men went on lighting the lamps, which were now nearly ready.

    'Thrift, thrift, Horatio,' whispered Tom; 'there is very little oil in those lamps: they do well to light them late.'

    Do let me wonder at it all in peace, was my thought; but now the organ began to play—the grand old organ in the roof that we could not see.  First it sent out a few trembling, tender notes, that wandered away along the upper vaults, or dropped down upon us softly like sighs of angels, then suddenly they were all about us and among us, and we rose as if to get nearer to the music, which was pealing out the triumphal beginning of a glorious hymn.

    It seemed as if some instinct had drawn us up from our seats; but we had hardly obeyed it when the organ wandered away in unexpected fashion, and we appeared to be floating among strange worlds, and to be taken out among the stars; then in a moment it flew back to its first theme, and burst upon us like musical thunder, 'God save the Queen.'

    It was the Queen of Heaven, who is emphatically queen at Chartres.

    'Do you see the cross?' whispered Mr. Brandon.

    I looked and saw over the high altar a great cross formed of coloured lamps, and surmounted by a very large letter M, also of lamps.  The letter M was resplendent and glorious, so that it appeared to hang suspended in the dark, so dim was the cross beneath it.  The lamps had been duly lighted, but they flickered, paled, and some went out, spoiling the symmetry of the device.

    'Curious accident,' said Mr. Brandon; it makes me feel quite superstitious.  Strange they will not light.  The cross is utterly dimmed here by the glories of Mary. '

    The sight of that blazing M and dying, fading cross gave me just the feeling he confessed to.

    'If I had read such a thing in a book,' he went on, 'I should have said it was invented for effect; but, look, there it comes; this is what we are here to see.'

    So we turned, and in the distant gloom we saw that the vast old west doors were slowly swinging open, and I heard, somewhere in the gulf of darkness without, a trembling chant, while all the gorgeously-dressed procession went slowly down toward these doors, and the great congregation swaying backward and forward opened for them, leaving a wide aisle; and then was such a bustle, such a moving of chairs, and such a setting of children upon them, that for a few minutes I lost sight of the priests altogether, but by the sound of their voices I perceived that they had gone outside the building.

    'They are gone to meet the banner and the relic,' said Mr. Brandon; here it comes.'

    An endless procession of young girls, and each one with a white muslin veil over her head, and a great candle, thicker than her arm and towering far above her head.  About a hundred girls passed, then came four priests, bearing on poles the golden shrine of the relic, and close behind it came the banner.

    I saw a small flag of rich white silk, and on it in ordinary woman's chemise embroidered in red, the effigy of a common garment of a usual pattern, not, I think, like anything worn of old in the East.

    Hundreds more girls followed.  They were all gazing at the banner with an expression of love and reverence indescribable, and softly singing one of the litanies of the Virgin.

    It was such a strange and pathetic sight that Miss Tott and I both wept.  She because its tender beauty touched her, I because I could not bear to think of their wasted love.  And all the time the cross flickered and went out, and I caught a petition here and there of their litany to Marie.


                         'Sainte Mère de Dieu,
 Rose Myeterieuse-priez pour nous.
                          Étoile du matin,
                          Refuge des pécheurs,
 Rein e des Apôtres—priez pour nous.
 Reine des Anges, Sainte Mère de Dieu,
 Reine con[cue sans peché—priez pour none.'


    I had heard before careless prayers, formal prayers, even the profane prayer of the swearer, but I had never heard anything so pathetic as this prayer, under the waning, flickering cross, of a devout multitude who did not notice it, and all whose eyes were for the effigy on the banner.

    'Did you ever see such a sight as that before?' said Tom, pointing it out to Mr. Brandon.

    'No,' he answered; 'such sights only appear to newcomers.'

    The banner was hoisted up, and the procession halted; but in a few minutes I observed in the gloom, which these blinking candles could not dispel, that the crowd, though no doors were open, was rapidly melting away, moving on towards a dim corner, and passing out of sight.

    Tom thought they must be going down to the crypt; and we, too, when the procession had formed again, followed it on, but a good way off.

    We were left nearly alone, most of the lamps were already out, and we groped our way to that corner where was a little door, through which we looked down a long flight of steps to a passage below.  The steps were so worn away that we did not descend without difficulty, but once down we got into a lighted aisle.  We were underneath the nave, and far beyond we heard the pathetic, unsatisfied chant of the monotonous litany.  These vast old vaults were but dimly lighted, and we seemed to thread interminable lengths of them, running against the tombs of abbots, and treading in the dust of kings—no, not their dust, only the dust of their old monuments; for the Virgin is supposed to have an objection to the presence of dead bodies, therefore none are buried here.  At length, upon a sudden turn, we came upon a great outburst of light, the procession, and all the kneeling crowd.  They were at the feet of a coarse wooden image, evidently very old, a frightfully barbarous Mother and a still more rudely fashioned Child.  We stood a good deal withdrawn that we might not be seen.  'How bad the air must be down here!' I said to Mr. Brandon.  'Some of these great candles are actually going out.'

    'Why,' he exclaimed, 'you don't surely suppose they are real?  You do not take them for wax?'

    'They are wax, indeed.  I can see it—by their hue; besides, what else can they be?'

    'Excuse me, I have seen thousands of them in different parts of the world.  They are tin cases, painted to imitate wax, and having a hole at the top to admit two or three inches of rushlight, which is pressed up by a spring.  These stingy folks have put in such short bits that they will not last out the ceremony; that is the reason there is such a vile smell of candle-snuff.'

    What an extraordinary thing this seemed to do, because, as giving candles is a religious act, what was the good of making any better of them in the eyes of mortals, when to the saint it was surely supposed to be evident that they were 'dips'?

    The kneeling crowd began to shift, then to rise and move, and we were pressed upward with it, and, at last, reached the great, dark nave, through which wandering wafts of damp night-air were sighing.  And so we were borne along to the wide west-door, but we failed to find Tom and Miss Tott in the crowd, and we walked towards our hotel without them.

    'What do you think of it?' asked Mr. Brandon again.

    'Oh! it is very surprising; so different from what I expected; so wonderfully grand and barbarously splendid; so simply and heartily idolatrous!  As a show it was lovely and pathetic; but it wanted gravity—the people chatted softly, and the priests wanted dignity.'

    'Most things French want that,' he answered.  'Those priests never walk well, and the people were not awed; they were too much amused to give one the idea that they felt they were assisting at a solemn, religious service.'

    'It is very odd, that, apart from any religious reason, I am deeply disappointed.  I expected to see such deep reverence.  Do you know I felt afraid to go and see it, lest I should be drawn to it too strongly?'

    'And now?'

    'Now I hardly know what to think!  Certainly I am not attracted.  Surely it was theatrical, and to a certain extent unreal.'

    'The music was fine,' he answered.  'Not so fine as you would have on a high-day at Westminster Abbey, or at York, or at Durham (cathedrals that I happen to know best); but still it was fine.  And surely you did not expect English solemnity from a French priest, and English sobriety from a French crowd?'

    'Yes, indeed.'

    'I have often seen French women praying before some shrine with a most touching expression of reverence and love; but I have not seen elsewhere that hushed and reverent quiet and that tender awe with which an English congregation comes up to receive the holy communion.'

    'I thought to see that in perfection.'

    'I think you never will, at least I never did.  I do not know of any solemnity to match the silence in an English church followed by the low voice of the clergyman when he partakes himself of the sacred elements, before he gives them to the people'

    'But I felt that the show was too cheap.  Some things meant to be grand were sham.'

    'They are not so rich as we are.'

    'No; but with us shabby old pulpit clothes and pewter communion plate only mean that the worshippers are poor, or unobservant; here it means that they are and undutiful.'

    'Many people would have been delighted and astonished with what we have seen.  It was at least pathetic, though it seems to me that its chief pathos was for us.  To me it seemed one of the grandest and most sublime sights I ever beheld, for to all that gorgeous colouring and barbaric adorning, and those pale trailing drifts of incense smoke, through which one saw the old men's and the children's faces, was added the certainty that not a soul among them was conscious of the tragical withdrawal into darkness of the sacred sign.  It was hidden from their eyes.'

    We turned as he spoke, and looked back at the exquisite spires, and looked earnestly, for this was to be our last view of them.  When we reached the hotel we found our boxes already brought down into the courtyard; the carriage was waiting which was to take us to the railway, for we were to return to Havre that very night.  Tom and Miss Tott were in it, our bill was paid, and we were soon in our places in the railway carriage, feeling very tired, but too much excited to sleep.

    I was sitting lost in thought, and feeling as if in a dream, when we stopped at a station, and Miss Tott, sighing, laid her hand on my arm, and said:

    'You have been gratified, I hope; and you too, Mr. Graham.'

    Tom nodded.

    'No doubt we have all been interested,' said Mr. Brandon; 'but no two of us have seen the same thing.  You and I have seen what we looked for—a common case; it is often difficult to see anything else.  Miss Graham has accomplished it, and seen something startling.'

    'I have seen something superior to anything I could have hoped,' she answered.  'Something far finer than my fondest dream.  I saw kneeling faith and adoring love; and those flowers, how lovely they looked in the lamp-light!  And you, Mr. Brandon, did you, could you see anything different?'

    'Yes; there is no use in denying it.  I saw lamps that we hire on illumination nights at sixpence a dozen.  I heard bad chanting, and I smelt bad oil; but you know the town-clerk at Ephesus said of Paul that he was not a blasphemer of the goddess.'

    'Oh! what can you mean by such an allusion as that?'

    'I'm not sure that I know!  It only occurred to me that I should like to follow that example.'

    'But I think the town-clerk lied,' observed Tom.

    'And I think not.  I think that while showing the more excellent way he was very careful not to be rude or disrespectful.  There is all the grace and courtesy of the East in that speech at Athens.'

    'And you actually were not impressed?' cried Miss Tott.

    'No; but I do not complain.  I saw what I looked for, and what I went to see:

    'He paid two sous for his chair,' said Tom, 'and he thought that was what the show was worth.'

    'But Miss Graham saw something remarkable—something unexpected.'

    Miss Tott, whose hand still lay on my arm, looked at me with tender interest, and said with conviction, and also as if she would persuade me to acknowledge my feelings:

    'She was impressed, I am sure.  Yes, I saw that she was overpowered.'

    'I am sorry,' was my answer; 'but how could I help it?  I expected to see what you described, but I was obliged to see something more like what Mr. Brandon looked at.'

    'You will never buy such a sight for two sons again,' he replied.


 
CHAPTER XVI.

'O Kate! nice customs curtsey to great kings.'—Henry the Fifth.


WE dozed when we could that night, but were all very tired when we reached Havre.  My uncle had established himself at Wheeler's Hotel, and gave us a grand breakfast there before we went on board, which we did about twelve o'clock, all feeling weary, especially poor Miss Tott, who went to her berth directly and began to be ill before we were out of the harbour.  It rained hard all the afternoon until dinner which was about five o'clock.  We, that is, Tom and Mr. Brandon and myself, had each taken a book and pretended to read, but a gentle snore soon told me how Tom was occupied, and Mr. Brandon's book shortly after fell on the floor with a thump that startled him, and he picked it up, making a remark on the lurching of the vessel, which I roused myself to hear, but presently resigned myself to circumstances and slept sweetly until Brand came in to make preparations for dinner.

    Then we all went to our peculiar dens to dress, and my uncle sent me by Mrs. Brand a pretty brooch that he had bought for me at Havre—an opal set in gold, and surrounded by turquoises.  I put on my best dress, and otherwise adorned myself so as to do it honour, and could not help wishing that I had remembered to bring him something from Chartres.  I wished it the more, when, after dinner, Tom produced some eau de Cologne and presented to him, and Mr. Brandon brought out the neatest of cigar-cases.  Dear old man, he was pleased, and, looking with pride at his own choice of the brooch, entered into a long discussion with Mr. Brandon relative to the cost of the said brooch, in which the latter displayed a good deal of knowledge as to the ornaments worn by ladies, and the proper sums to be given for them.

    He produced two brooches which he had bought for his sisters—the only presents he was going to take home to his family; for all his effects had gone down in the ship, and they chiefly consisted of natural curiosities.  'I felt a sudden wish to come home,' he said, 'but I had spent so much money that I could only return in a sailing vessel, unless I would wait until my step-father could send out more to me.  I did not care to do that, so I sailed from Charleston, and you know the consequences.'

    In the evening, when lamps were lighted, and I was sitting alone in the chief cabin, writing a letter to my sister, he came in and said abruptly, 'I am going tomorrow, Miss Graham.'

    He sat down near me.

    'You know we agreed some time ago that your going was to be a loss to me,' I replied, 'though now that your arm is so nearly well—'

    'Exactly so; but, as I am going, will you accept one of these brooches in memory of the raft and everything else?'

    'What!' I exclaimed, 'when you expressly told us that you bought them for your sisters?'

    We both laughed.  'I could give her something else,' he said.  'But you cannot write while you are talking. I wish, then, you would close your letter-case.'

    'Why?'

    'Because I cannot help seeing your opening words where I sit—"My dearest Amy." '

    I closed the case. 'And about these trifles,' he continued, 'I should be so much flattered if you would choose one.'

    He had added a third—it lay beside the brooches on the table, a pretty ring, set with pearls.

    'This,' he said, taking it up and laying it on the palm of his hand, 'has not the disadvantage of having been chosen for some other person.'

    'Ah! you chose it for me, that was kind; but is it the custom for gentlemen to make presents to ladies?'

    He looked astonished at my question, which made me feel that he must think it an odd one; then he smiled to himself, and answered, after a pause, that it was not the custom, excepting under especial circumstances.

    Observing that he seemed a little out of countenance, and knowing how ignorant I was, I actually thought I ought to apologize for the implied supposition that he had done what was not customary, and I began to say something of the sort when he hastily checked me.

    'You are perfectly right—perfectly.  It was only the simplicity of your question that took me by surprise.  As a general rule, ladies do not accept presents, nor do men presume to offer them.  And yet,' he said, looking at my hand with a sort of regret, 'you go wandering about the world so much, that my good stars may never guide me across your wake again; and I thought that perhaps, without presumption, I might offer you this tiny thing to remind you of a little episode in your life which will bear reflection.'

    'It is for the visionary hand, is it not?' I could not help saying, for I had often seen him look at my hands with an interest that nothing else in me appeared to excite.

    'Yes,' he answered.

    'Then I will have the ring.  Thank you.'

    He handed it to me gravely, and I put it on my little finger, after which we began to talk of Chartres and the children and the days we had spent together—pleasant talk which lasted till tea came in, and with it Uncle Rollin and Tom.

    We were within four or five nautical miles of Southampton when I went to sleep that night, and the last thing I saw was one of the lights on the Isle of Wight.

    Poor Miss Tott insisted on being on deck all night, thinking it was better for her; so I had my cabin to myself, and had just finished dressing the next morning, when Tom knocked at the door, and I called him in.

    He had a fine bunch of flowers in his hand, and gave them to me.

    'Well, Brandon's off,' he said.  'I went on shore with him, and took leave of him.'

    'Mr. Brandon gone?' I exclaimed.

    'Yes,' said Tom, looking a little disconcerted, 'and I bought you those in the market.'

    'Gone without wishing me good-by?'

    'How could he do that when he left before you were awake?'

    'Why did he leave, then, before I was awake?  I think it was very strange—very.  Yes, I think it was very rude of him.'

    `You seem to make the matter of great importance,' he muttered.  'The fact is, I was obliged to land early myself, and I told him I was sure you would be far from wishing him to stay behind on purpose to take leave of you (he has not seen his step-father for nearly two years).  So on that assurance he was glad to leave a message and go.'

    'I should have been sorry if he had stayed out of mere civility to—'

    'So I said,' interrupted Tom.

    'Civility to me; but most people would not have wished to do such a thing.'

    'You need not be so warm, Dorothea; it was not my doing, though I admit that I thought it a good arrangement.'

    'Indeed, and why?'

    'Well, if you must know, I wished to spare you from betraying a degree of interest which he would not know what to do with, and does not reciprocate.'

    'Tom!' I spoke vehemently; I was so astonished and so indignant.

    'And it seems,' continued Tom, who then looked uncomfortable, it seems that I was right, for you make the fellow's going of vast consequence.'

    'Tom, will you look at me?'

    I was so angry that I could not bear him to keep turning away his face, and my whole nature was roused to assert itself against his strange interference.

    He brought his eyes to meet mine.   'Come,' he said, 'if you really do not care for Brandon, there is no harm done.'

    'Yes, there is.  You speak as if I had really—as if I had actually behaved with unladylike—I mean, with unwomanly forwardness.'

    'I have no such thought: I only know that you take an interest in him.'

    'Of course, I do; I ought, and shall.  Who ever heard of that being made a fault?'

    'What business had he,' said Tom, 'to tell me all about his income, and say that he found it abundant so long as he did not want to marry, and he thought a man was much freer and happier single?'

    'I dare say it came out in the ordinary course of conversation.'

    'But why care so much about the matter?' repeated Tom.

    'I care that you should mistake me so thoroughly, and that you should think you have a right to interfere.  I do not care that Mr. Brandon has gone without shaking hands with me, now that I know that you contrived it.'

    'An elder brother is generally supposed to have some rights.'

    'O Tom! you were older than I long ago; but I am a woman now, and you are but a youth.'

    'Very well, then,' still crestfallen and abashed; 'if you are neither in love with him nor angry at his manner of going, we had better drop the subject.'

    'In love!' I repeated with scorn.  'He never paid me the slightest attention.'

    I thought I had answered him, but he replied, 'What has that to do with it?  Besides, what is attention?'

    I was a little posed, never having received any, or seen any paid; but I could not appear so to Tom, so I said that it was being absorbed in watchful observance and interest in another person.

    'Then Brandon paid none.  (I'll put those flowers in water, or your warm hand will fade them.)  Then, he or she who pays attention may love its object or may not (decidedly may not); for I have seen some paid which' (he poured water into my fixed vase, and put the flowers in it)—'which I am expressly told implied only a natural and proper degree of interest.  There, if you will change the water daily, they will last some time.'

    He went out, quietly shutting the door behind him, while I stood stock still in a whirl of agitation, with which mingled some fear lest Mr. Brandon might have guessed his reason for proposing to dispense with a leave-taking, and a little regret at this unceremonious departure.

    It was true certainly that he interested me, but so he did others.  Uncle Rollin had taken to him from the first.  Tom liked to hear him talk.  Mrs. Brand was his open admirer.  Why then all this alarm because he excited the same feeling, and none other, in my mind?  At first, when left alone that fine morning, I felt frightened, thinking that I must have behaved foolishly; but more mature reflection made me certain of the contrary, and, remembering Miss Tott's presence in the yacht, I hastened in to breakfast, eyes sparkling with the remains of excitement, head a little higher than usual, and mind bent on proving that my spirits were far from depressed by the departure of our guest.

    Though we were within fifty yards of the pier-head, and in perfectly still water, Miss Tott would not venture below; so when I had seen her, pale but hungry, enjoying a substantial breakfast under Mrs. Brand's auspices, I began my own.

    Uncle Rollin complimented me on my appearance almost as soon as he came in.  'Such a colour in your cheeks, my dear!  The sea suits her, doesn't it, Tom?  One would hardly know her for the little white-faced thing that came on board from Ipswich.  Hungry this morning, eh?  That's well.  And so Brandon's gone—a good fellow, a fine fellow; never sailed with a better.'

    'No, uncle; but you are not sorry to be alone, I dare say.'

    'I don't say that exactly.  I did not at all mind him; he never interfered with my comfort.'

    'But now he is gone, can't I have my lessons more regularly?'

    'Ay, to be sure, to be sure; I'll give you one directly after prayers.'

    I took my lesson; it lasted only an hour, but I felt as if it never would be over.  At last I was released and went quickly into my cabin, almost tumbling over Tom, who was sitting in the doorway.  He caught me in his arms, and held me while he pushed the door to with his foot, and then he kissed me and said, 'You're not angry, Dorothea?'

    'I have been angry.'

    'You are not now; I did not mean any harm.'

    'I don't think I am—particularly angry.'

    'Well, I am sorry; give me a kiss.  I really am sorry.'

    So I kissed him, and we were reconciled; but, alas! sad mischance, no sooner had he left me alone than this new turn of affairs utterly subdued me.  I felt how cross I had been to Tom.  His seeking a reconciliation of his own accord softened me.  Even then I had many regrets about him, and some fears for his future; and now he was gentle and anxious to conciliate.  So I was touched, and began to shed tears.  I cried and sobbed too, partly at Tom's humility, but partly because I was vexed with Mr. Brandon, and also sorry that I should never see him again.

    Well, it was a great pity, but I could not help it.  I had cried myself happier again, dried my eyes, and reached that stage of return to common feelings when one goes to the glass to see how red one's eyes are, when Tom knocked again, and came in exclaiming, 'O Dorothea!  But what's the matter?  You've been crying.'

    I did not say anything.

    'Could anything be more unlucky?  Here is Brandon come on board again!  The fact is, he said he should.'

    'Oh! I can not see him now, Tom; I can not possibly.  He would see that I have been crying.  Oh! do devise some excuse.'

    'You won't see him?  O Dolly! you must; it would look so odd!  What is to be done?  It's all my fault.'

    'He must be asked to stay luncheon.'

    Tom said he would go and press him to stay, but he came back saying that it could not be done; Brandon had brought his stepfather on board, and could only stay a quarter of an hour.

    While he was away on his errand I had felt that, after all Tom had said, I could not possibly let Mr. Brandon see the least appearance of regret in my manner, lest he should attribute it to sorrow at his departure; and I thought sincerely enough that I would much rather not see him at all than be seen with the traces of tears on my face, and I actually trembled at the notion of encountering him.  I had no veil but the one that I had laid over the dead baby; so when Tom said I must come on deck, I snatched up a bonnet (there was some shade in a bonnet then), Tom put a scarf on for me, and I had a brown parasol.

    He came on deck with me and whispered, 'All right; hold the parasol well over you.'

    I saw somebody's legs, and a voice belonging to them said, 'Miss Graham, I am glad to see you again.'

    I shook hands mechanically, but kept the fringe of my parasol fluttering over my eyes till I found that an introduction was going on between me and somebody else.  'Allow me—my father.'  Now I was obliged to look up, and I saw a very agèd gentleman standing beside him, a most venerable man with snowy hair.  He took off his hat and paid me some trifling compliment; then he told me that he had come down to Southampton to see his son, who had written him word when to expect him.

    I said, 'I am so sorry my uncle is not on board.'

    'I regret it much,' he replied.  'I should have liked to thank him for his goodness and his hospitality; but I hope to see him and you, and you also, lieutenant' (addressing Tom), 'at my house.  My daughter and Brandon's sisters will be most happy, most proud to make your acquaintance.'

    Such a charming old man I have seldom seen: he was half a head taller than his son, who was little above the middle height; and as he stooped towards me and paid his compliments, then turning, laid his hand lightly on the shoulder from which a sling for the injured arm depended, there was a grace and suavity in his manner, a cordial affection in his expression of gladness at having him home again, that I could not admire enough.

    As he talked, Mr. Brandon regarded him with satisfaction, and I thought it was evident that he had come on board, not only that his father might express his obligations to my uncle, but that he might show us a relation of whom he was evidently so proud.

    He seemed to be about eighty years of age, had a radiant smile, and could attract everybody.  Mrs. Brand was charmed; the sailors obviously revered his old white head that towered so much above theirs.

    He went over the yacht with Tom and his attentive son, and I, meanwhile, stood gazing towards Southampton, watching the green weeds which the rising tide was slowly washing backwards and forwards, but not thinking of them.  No; my thoughts were very uncomfortable.  I was ill at ease, for when my eyes had met Mr. Brandon's an intelligent look had leaped out of his: he saw, I knew he saw, that I had been shedding tears, and his cordial manner had changed instantly to one of restraint and even of embarrassment.

    So I gazed over the vessel's side at the old wall of Southampton, and the weed, and the Jersey steamer, just in, and letting off her steam in shrill jerks of sound.

    At last Mr. Brandon came up the companion, stepped to my side, and lifted his hat.

    'We are going now, Miss Graham.  Good-by.'

    'Good-by'

    'What shall I wish you?  Another patient, I think, since you are so skilful.'

    'What, another! when I have found the present one quite beyond my management.'

    'I wish, then, that the next may be less refractory.'

    'In that case I may echo the wish.'

    'And less troublesome and as grateful.'

    'I must not expect such a paragon.  Good-by; a pleasant journey.'

    'And if, when he goes away, he gives you a ring, don't wear it.'

    'Why not?'

    'Because it would be very unfair, if you wore that fellow's ring and not mine.'

    He laughed, and glanced at my hand; true enough, his ring was not there, and I felt tempted to tell him that I was wearing it, notwithstanding, for it was in the little locket round my neck; but I resisted the temptation, and now the agèd stepfather was making his adieus, and so, with smiles and mutual compliments, offers of hospitality, jokes and thanks, we all parted.

    'My uncle will be very thankful to have missed all this gratitude,' said Tom, looking after them as they kissed their hands in the boat.  'How that fine old fellow talked—as if Brandon was anything better than another father's son!  Well, Dorothea, your eyes are tolerable now: shall we go ashore, order a fly, and take a drive among the fields?'

    I knew he proposed this for my amusement, and I had been quite long enough at sea to think of fields with delight, so I agreed; and when we had taken leave of Miss Tott, who was going to town by the next train, we set forth, and he was so affectionate and kind all that day that I forgave him, over and over again, for what he had said in the morning.  Besides, I had seen Mr. Brandon; his joyous laugh, and air of pretended malice when he talked of that fellow's ring, had done me good, and restored my self-respect; for now I thought, though he saw tears, he had also seen that I was not wearing his present, and my apparent carelessness of it had not hurt him—only amused him.


 
CHAPTER XVII.

But to me a modest woman, dressed out in all her finery is the most
tremendous object of the whole creation.—Goldsmith.


AFTER dinner I generally made a point of retiring to my cabin as to a drawing-room, while Uncle Rollin and Tom sat over their wine.  That night they sent Mrs. Brand to fetch me back, saying that it was dull for me to sit alone.

    It had been raining, the deck was damp and cheerless, so they had settled themselves below for the evening, and I was glad to obey the summons and join them.  They were deep in talk, Tom explaining, my uncle continually falling into mistakes.  The subject of the discussion was Mr. Brandon and his family.

    'The old man,' he said, 'is Brandon's stepfather.'

    'Why, I thought you said he was the father of that widow lady whom Brandon spoke of.'

    'So I did, sir, but not by the same mother.'

    'Well, I cannot make it out.  I hardly see how the second wife could have married three times in the course of so few years.'

    'I'll just explain it to you as Brandon did to me.  His mother, then quite a young woman, married a Mr. Brandon, who did not live till this son was born.  Mr. Mortimer was her guardian, and is Brandon's trustee as well as his stepfather.  Well, when she had been a widow two years, she married a Mr. Grant, a Scotch minister, and they had three daughters, one of whom is married and gone to India.  This Mr. Grant died when his wife was about thirty, and Brandon was about seven years old.'

    'Well, that was about twenty years ago.  Then in due time she married this fine old man.  I suppose he was about sixty—nearly twice her age—and they had one son.  So, you see, Brandon, the Grants, and young Mortimer—are all related.  What you were confused about was the daughter of the old man by his former marriage, for he was a widower.  She, you know, is only related to the young son, but they all call her sister, by way of respect, I suppose.  She is between fifty and sixty.

    'What, four families, and all live together?'

    'So it seems; but in point of numbers it is not at all an overwhelming household.'

    'It's not the number, boy, but the quarrelling.'

    'They don't seem to quarrel, though the mother is dead.  Mr. Mortimer is fond of his step-children.  He must be a most amiable old fellow, I am sure.  Brandon says he never saw him till after the wedding, when he patted him on the head and gave him a sovereign.  That, running off to spend it, he met some gipsies in a lane and showed it to them, whereupon they persuaded him to buy a young donkey of them with it.  He said he rode the miserable little beast home, and, being afraid it would be taken from him, actually managed to get it up the back stairs without being observed, and secreted it in a light closet in his bed-room.  The circumstance was not discovered till the next morning, when the bride and bridegroom were awoke by its tremendous braying.  He was delighted at his mother's marriage.'

    'Odd, for he knew already what a stepfather was.'

    'But his experience of stepfathers seems to have been peculiar, for when I asked him if he remembered Grant, he said, "Yes, he used to make Grant rig ships for him, and play with him when his mother was ill; in return for which he was expected to learn hymns and come into the study to say his prayers." '

    So the conversation ended.  I have often felt pleasure in hearing anecdotes about the childhood of people whom I cared for and looked up to.  One sees them thus under a new aspect, and feels a kind of tenderness towards them, as they were in those far-off days.  I felt it then towards that little curly-headed urchin at his pranks; but when Uncle Rollin said, 'Deep in thought, Dorothea?  What are you musing about?' I was startled, and could not reply, 'I was thinking about Mr. Brandon,' for Tom had made it awkward for me even to mention his name.  There was the real pity.  He had put thoughts into my head that teased me.  I did not like to say Mr. Brandon had given me a ring, lest there should be some mistake about it; and so I hid it, and it made me uncomfortable and conscious whenever he was mentioned.

    I did not like to speak of him as I did of Miss Tott and the children; the consequence was that I thought of him far more than I should have done otherwise, and made a kind of hero of him in my mind, towards whom I felt a certain growing enthusiasm, which affected my imagination, but, so far from making me wish to see him again, kept me keenly anxious to remain at a distance; a sort of girlish shyness made me think of him as a superior being.  My feeling was precisely that which familiarity would have melted away, and if I had even talked about him the halo that surrounded him would have faded.  But now, when the sea was rough and I had no book, when it rained and I could not go on deck, when the weather was calm and I sat in the place where I had talked to him, I was obliged to torment myself with troublesome, teasing doubts and fears, as to whether he might have fancied, as Tom did, that I had given away my heart to him, or that I had not treated him with enough reserve.

    This went on for some time, and we cruised about here and there.  My uncle only cared to be afloat, and Tom loved desolate places.  He liked to cruise in little lonely creeks, among rocky islets—places where gulls bring up their families, and puffins sit and live and stare out foolishly at intruders.

    I liked this too, when I could land, but that was not often, for my uncle liked to give rocks a wide berth and I did not like to leave the yacht and go ashore in a boat; but sometimes we used to lie in some snug little harbour, then I was happy.

    We sailed up north, and I saw the shoals of herrings come down.  Sometimes we got into the midst of one, and I saw them turn up their silvery sides and jostle one another, for they seemed to swim in several layers, and so thickly imbedded that the sea looked a little higher where they were, as if they lifted the water on their backs.

    I reared and trained many young sea-birds,—nearly twenty of them followed the yacht, and used to roost in the rigging.  They would come down at my call to be fed, and when I would let them they would sit on my knee while I read, or perch on my head and shoulders.

    We had a delightful yachting tour all by the beautiful west coast of Ireland.  I had always been accustomed to look upon this world as consisting of certain countries bordered by the sea; now I began to think of it as a globe of water.  I no longer thought of the shapes of continents, but of the shapes of the seas in which they lay.  I could not help this.  I began to attach great importance to places that had fine harbours; islands were no good unless there was safe anchorage round them; rivers were delightful because we could sail up them.  I soon began to know what rivers could take us on their bosoms, and how far we could go.  Sometimes, when I came to a bridge and a town, it appeared surprising to me that so many people could live contentedly on shore; and, after a few days spent in looking about me, I was generally glad to sail again.

    Sometimes at the towns on the coast-guard stations old naval officers and young ones came on board, and were made much of.  If they were very old friends, my uncle sometimes returned their visits.  Tom often did, and not unfrequently one or two would come on board for a few days; but we did not have the Mompessons, one of their children was ill, and they put off their visit indefinitely.

    At last, about the middle of September, after loading ourselves with everything we could possibly want, and after many presents from my uncle to me, of ribbons, laces, shawls, gloves, scarfs, silks, and other most useless adornments as I then thought them, we set sail for a winter cruise to the West Indies, and after that I was told I should see Rio.

    I was greatly delighted, and would fain have flung every scrap of finery into boxes and there left it till I landed; but Mrs. Brand, as she sat in my cabin at work on the bows of a handsome sash, said to me, rather pointedly when I entered, one afternoon, 'Dear me, ma'am, to think of your putting on that ugly "waterproof." '

    'Ugly is it?' I answered; and I turned my head over my shoulder, for I knew it was short, and that it showed the flounces of my gown beneath it.  'Well,' I continued, 'I can't always be thinking of my dress.'

    Can't you, ma'am?' she answered, quietly.  'Well, it's lucky, then, that in general you don't object to my thinking of it for you.'

    She took off my cloak, for it was wet; and then, as I made no objection, she tried the sash against my waist.

    'You can't go on deck again,' she said; 'and as it only wants an hour to dinner-time, it would be a good thing if you was to let me dress you.'

    'Very well,' I answered, for I was a little struck by her manner; and I stood quite still while she took out various things, and considering what would look well together, proceeded to put them on.

    'You scarcely ever look at yourself in the glass, ma'am,' she presently said.

    'There is no occasion,' I answered, laughing.  'You take good care that I shall never leave your hands till am perfectly neat and nice!'

    'Most young ladies,' she answered, a little reproachfully, 'look at themselves very frequent!  Master—he was as saying, only yesterday to Mr. Graham, that you were improved to that degree, since you came on board, nobody ever could know you.'

    'Do you think it is so?'  I inquired, with pleasure.

    'Of course,' she answered; 'you were so pale then.  Not but what I liked the looks of you from the first.  I thought,' she continued, looking at me affectionately,—'I thought you had the innocentest face anybody ever saw.'

    'You mean a baby face, don't you?'

    She laughed because I did; but she returned to the attack.

    'And they're quite proud of your appearance.  Both the gentlemen are.  You look so graceful and slender, especially when you're well dressed.'  And so she went on, 'I should take a world of pains, if I were you, ma'am, to have them always proud of me, and be as particular every day as if there was to be ever so many strangers to dinner.  You've got such dozens upon dozens of light kid gloves, why shouldn't you wear 'em in the evening; you've got such laces, such sashes, and, I don't know what.  Dear me, make yourself a charming young lady with it all, or else after this one cruise, you may depend on it, you won't stay on board long.'

    She spoke with slow impressiveness; and I was so certain she had good ground for what she said that her words fell on me like a thunderbolt.  I knew my being on board was a great pleasure to her.  I knew that many things were said before her and Brand that were never said before me; and I resolved, there and then, to follow her advice to the utmost.  So, when she had dressed me in a lilac silk petticoat, with an embroidered white dress over it, and when she had given me a pair of lilac gloves of a still paler tint, I went up to the glass, thankfully acknowledged a great improvement, and looked at myself with much attention.

    'Well, ma'am,' she inquired, 'don't look so grave.  Will it do?'

    The gown had a light, transparent body, and I took courage; for I was sure I had never looked so well in my life.

    'I think it wants a little gold about it,' I replied; and she brought out a gold necklace, that Tom had given me, and a gold bracelet.  So I put on my gloves, and she said,—

    'Now don't be downhearted, ma'am; but just you give yourself all the airs that ever you can!'

    I turned to kiss her; but I was rather in dismay, and as I came floating into the chief cabin, with my delicate skirts behind me, I felt myself blush with shyness and discomfort.

    But some people are destined to find out things and others to act upon them.  To describe the change in my uncle's manner and Tom's, too, would be quite impossible!  And what amused me most, when I could dare to think of it, was that they were perfectly unconscious, both of the change and the cause of it.

    No, I never despised my fine array any more.  I saw at once how much in their opinion it did for me, and though I caught sight of myself several times that evening in the different glasses, and thought I looked rather too much like a dressed-up flaxen-haired doll, I drew my long dress after me with all gravity, and when my uncle asked me to play on my new piano that he had bought for me, and which I had far too much neglected, I rose, and Tom opening it for me, I forebore to thank him, but took the attention as a matter of course, which I thought would have a good effect, and it had.

    I never once again went on deck when it rained, or blew so hard that I could not be well dressed; and I had frequent consultations with Mrs. Brand as to what I looked best in.  It appeared from various little things she said, that I had already been in danger of being placed with a family on shore, and I found that it was not my dear old uncle who felt that the yacht was an unfit place for me, but this brother whom I so much loved.

    I utterly forgot Mr. Brandon in my desire to make myself agreeable and ornamental.  Tom was so fond of seeing pretty things about him, and graceful ways, that I could almost always tell whether he liked my dress or not; and Mrs. Brand was so clever, that there was no need for me to weary him by want of variety.

    So I dressed to please my old uncle and my young brother; I found out, with Mrs. Brand's help, what was becoming; and, strange to say, my lot has been so cast, that it has been my duty as well as my interest to study the art of dress ever since.

    That was a delightful winter; but Tom has published an account of those travels, and if I were to write of them they would fill volumes.  We went gliding about, first among the West Indian Islands,—left our own bare green levels with their low-lying broidery of meadow flowers, and went sliding down over the polished water to the middle of the world; then, while all the top of it was white, and all its best things were neatly put away, and covered up till spring, under the snow, we hung about in little land-locked coves, with polished azure floors, and cliffs as pale as cinnamon, and sometimes stole into the edges of the steaming forests, and saw dangerous wedges from the sun shoot straight in like gold thunderbolts, and the sleepy caymans weltering in their lukewarm swamps would snap at them, and stretch their yawning jaws as if to take them in.

    We fluttered about here and there, from continent to island, we treated all with great respect; it did not belong to us who lived on the edge and upper fringes of the earth, and there was danger in the beauty and beauty in the danger.

    Then it was that after awhile I began to be sure that the world was yet young; she was a wild thing that God and His time had only half tamed, and sometimes by day and always by night, I derived from her ways and the sleep that was on her a consciousness of her life as a whole.

    For after sunset, till about midnight, it would often seem that she was slumbering while yet everything on her that had life was restless and stirred, and came out to drink; and they called and cried to one another and to their Maker (for they are not so unconscious of God as men are), at least it has long appeared so to me; but they do not love Him as many of us do, and some of them seemed to cry to Him defiantly, and others grumbled and complained.

    Then, about the dead middle of the night, in some parts of the tropical zones, but not in all, there would come a pause, as if the living creatures were appeased and at rest, and thereupon the dark beautiful world would wake up, and while the stars in their courses made it plain to me how fast she was rolling, a sort of murmur would sound, whether from within and sent up from her mighty heart, or from without, and borne by the multitudes of the waves, I cannot tell; but it is not to be forgotten when once it has been heard, and it seemed like a message sent up into the heaven to remind her Maker, how he had held her in hand very long, and sent her on very fast, and she was not wearied, but altogether amazed at the greatness of the way.  I was so strangely impressed with these sensations, that I often came up in the night, and sometimes Tom—who saw how awful and tender the night-time seemed to me—would call me when there was anything more than usually beautiful to be seen.  It was always the same, there was a message, and it was going up to God.  Sometimes when I slept after such a midnight watching, I have dreamed that I heard an answer, 'It was not long, it was only a very little while that she had rolled.  It was not far—but a very little way.'

    While we remained, which we did all the winter in the glorious heat, Tom was sometimes very genial, and generally he was calm; but as we gradually drew up homeward again, I observed the same silent brooding of thought in his manner that had struck me so much months before.  Every day as we came up northward, it fell down over him.  He was very dull—almost spiritless.  Oh, how different from that Snap whom once I had played with; he was altered even since I had come on board, more silent and more absent.  I could now hardly recognize a trace of what he had been in his early boyhood, and his evident avoidance of all confidential talk, his dislike of being alone with me, and his restlessness made me often seriously afraid that something—I knew not what—was impending.

    I had been greatly struck with his silence and alteration of character when first I left school, but I had made myself believe that he felt shy in my company, on account of our having been parted so long.

    Afterwards, when I saw how listless he was, and then, that when we were at Southampton, there was a sort of unnatural eagerness about him, I was compelled to give up that fancy; the change had nothing to do with me, I could neither influence him nor interest him, I must be content to talk to him and play to him when he wished it.  I must take him as I found him.

    When we got to Southampton, and sent for our letters to the hotel where they were always directed, I knew—or at least felt—that there would be none for me.  I had no correspondents, my father never wrote.  Amy only wrote twice a year.  So I went forth with Mrs. Brand to take a walk, and I thought I had never seen anything so lovely as the airs the daisies were giving themselves, and the golden celandines that April morning.  So small and so pleased to show themselves, how different from the great trailing passion-flowers I had come from; creatures obviously so indifferent who looked at them.  The whole of these northern flowers looked so modest, and yet so conscious of man.  I gathered a few daisies, and as I came back to our sitting-room at the hotel, Uncle Rollin tossed me a letter, saying,—

    'There, Dorothea, you may do as you like, but I shall decline, of course.'

    It was a letter from Mr Mortimer, and contained a pressing invitation to him, Tom, and myself to come and stay with him and his family.  The country, he said, was looking beautifully, the weather was fine; his son was impatient to renew his acquaintance with Tom; his daughters longed to make mine, &c.

    'Do you wish to go?'

    I could not tell; I had been away so long that I felt as if I should be awkward and shy, and I faltered and said that I had never paid a visit in my life, and that this one seemed formidable.

    'You will want some new gowns,' said Tom, who now entered, and evidently knew the contents of the letter.

    The notion of a visit in the country among green hills, fields, and hedges, away from the sound of the sea, and where I might ramble far and wide, was delightful to my yearning heart; but then, the conversation with Tom, and Mr. Brandon's look when he saw my red eyes, came into my mind, and a kind of sensitive pride and shame kept me silent.

    'You cannot hesitate, of course, Dorothea,' said Torn, 'and I shall go, certainly; I never argued in my life so much as I did with that fellow, and I should like to have it out with him if I could!'

    'If she prefers to stay, she may,' observed Uncle Rollin.

    But no, I did not prefer it; the yacht was calm, and safe, and quiet, and this visit, I knew, would lift me into a different world.  I was very much excited, even at the thought of it, and Mr. Brandon's face and voice, which I had lost from me, and almost for a time forgotten, seemed to come near to me again now that I was approaching his home, and make me feel awkward and shy; but I longed for the land, so I told Tom I would accept the invitation.  During the winter, delightful as I had found its splendid light, colour, and heat, I had often felt an extraordinary pining for the green grass of my own country, and for the cheerful voices of my own country folk.  I wanted to use my tongue, my hands, to be busy, even to be teased; also, to be in a house!

    I thought of a landsman's life with romantic interest; I had visions moreover of Christmas gatherings, things which I had actually never seen, and would often dream that I was digging, or that I was gathering buttercups, or that I was walking to a village church, and could hear the bells ring.  Yet I did not like to leave the yacht, because it was my home, nor Uncle Rollin because he and I suited each other so well.  I was getting on with my navigation, too, and he was so fond of me, yet it made me far more content to go, that I was to have Mrs. Brand with me; whatever I might fear as to his leaving me with some motherly woman in a seaport, I knew he would never leave her behind; she and Brand were necessary to his comfort; so I felt sure that however long we staid he would wait for us, and set about my preparations for the visit with some security of heart.

    As usual he heaped a quantity of finery on me, and showed an unaccountable desire that I should do him credit as far as all my habiliments were concerned.  I took several walks with him, during which we inspected the outside of shop windows, and a large assortment of things went with me, which I resolved should never see the light unless I found the family just the very reverse of the sort of people I expected.

    I have so many journeys to describe, my life has been so much spent in travelling, that I shall say nothing of this one, but pass on to the moment when Tom and I took leave of Uncle Rollin, and got into a railway carriage in a pouring rain.

    We spent four hours in the train.  I shall never for get what happy hours they were.  I quite forgot Mr. Brandon and all the strangers I was going to, for there were real English cottages to see, and homely farmyards, with poultry, cattle, trees just breaking into leaf; fallows soaked with spring rain, lambs,—all common things,—but to me they were opening paradise.

    The weather grew fine, and then sunny, as we advanced westward.  The little station we were bound for appeared at last, the train stopped, and in the balmy delightful air I smelt the perfume of violets.

    'There's Brandon,' exclaimed Tom, 'and a great tall boy, and two ladies.'

    We were soon out of the carriage; introductions were going on, laughter and welcome.  A tall girl was introduced as my sister, Miss Grant, and another as my sister Elizabeth, and the youth as my brother Valentine.  This last was a remarkably fine young fellow, with light-brown eyes, a smiling face, and a cracked voice.  A countrified servant was soon dragging out our luggage under Mrs. Brand's superinterdence, and while we waited, my eyes, in spite of myself, were drawn to a bunch of primroses that one of the girls held.  I pretended not to care for them, but could not help taking another and another look, whereupon the cracked voice spoke in my behalf,—

    'Lou, Miss Graham wants your primroses.'

    The tall boy took them from her without ceremony, and gave them to me.  'Would you like some violets,' he continued, 'this is a very violety place.'

    'Yes, indeed, I should.'

    'Ah! I thought so, Lou.'

    'Yes.'

    'Keep up Miss Graham's spirits while I'm gone, by timely allusion to her own demesne; talk about shellfish, the grampus, and anything else that's cheerful and salt.'

    By this time the train had gone on, and Mrs. Brand, looking as if she was going to be led to immediate execution, was sitting still while the luggage was deposited in a cart, by the thin old servant who wore a suit of drab.  I was obliged to leave her to herself; and Mr. Brandon put me into a large heavy old carriage which was waiting.  The two girls followed, and then he said he should wait behind to bring on an old Scotch aunt, who was coming in a few minutes by a train from the west.  Tom declared his intention of remaining behind also; and at the last minute before we started, Valentine came up without his cap, which was full of violets, white and blue, and plenty of wet green leaves.

    'Now what do you mean by this imprudence,' said his brother, 'when your voice is cracked in three places already?'

    As if that was a sufficient answer, Valentine replied that the flowers were for me, and he insisted on getting inside; and he helped me to make them up into a large bunch, while he drove slowly on through a country lane.

    I felt almost too happy to speak; the scent of the flowers was so sweet, and the green hedges, with their half-opened leaves, were so fair.

    I looked out and saw daffodils hanging their yellow heads in the warm air; rooks were sailing and cawing over a group of elms, under which we were passing.

    'Romantic, isn't it?' said Valentine, again coming near to my thought.

    After the rain there was a delightful smell of fresh earth.  I made some remark about it, and he replied: 'We call that clay.  Ruts a foot deep.  Lou, I say there are some goslings.  I know Miss Graham wants some goslings.'

    He stopped the carriage and got out.  We were passing through a little wood; I saw wild anemones, and heard birds piping on the boughs; the delicate sunshine of the north was sifting through them, and dropping about on the grass as lightly as if it felt that it was taking a liberty.  Down in a hollow, gleaming white in the creases between cushions of moss, I saw wandering patches of snow, for the spring had been late, and warm weather had come on suddenly.

    The Miss Grants, now left alone with me, made a few remarks, which I answered mechanically; while with eyes and ears I took in the delightsomeness of my home.

    Presently Valentine returned, with some twigs of willow covered with downy catkins.

    'Called goslings by the native children,' he observed, as he got in; 'for this is an inhabited island.  Do you see that red erection, with a green door?'

    'Yes, certainly.'

    That is one of the houses of the native population; places where, as you would say, they, "turn in;" but where, as we say, they "hang out."  Liz, I know by the look of you that you're going to speak.  There s no need:

    'Really, Val,' exclaimed the sister, 'you must not be so impertinent.'

    'You don't understand the nautical temper.  I ought to do.  Haven't I got up the names of no end of ropes and spars?  Don't I know all about the Gulf Stream?  Why, I've studied tonnage and pennons, and stores, that I might meet her in her own element; but now she has run aground I find I'm cut adrift, for her thoughts are set upon dirt and weeds.  You like me, don't you, Miss Graham?'

    'Very much, indeed.'

    'Ah, I told you so, Lou.  There's another cottage.  Now you wouldn't have found out, unless I told you, that I helped to paint that door.  When I was young— youngish—I was very fond of paint.'

    'You were about seven years old,' said Liz.

    'Yes,' replied Valentine.  'Our gardener once lived there, and when he went away, St. George got papa to let him whitewash the inside himself, for his own pleasure.  I helped, of course, and then he painted it up.  And I remember to this day what joy it was to hear the slap of the brush upon the wood!  We laid out the garden, too; then we built a pigsty.  Papa and mamma used to come down every day to look at us.  I helped, as well as I could; and it was very good fun.  You see that donkey-shed.  St. George built that, too; but I fell off it and broke my arm.'

    'Is St. George a bricklayer?'

    'To think of your not knowing!  Why, we call Giles so because mamma did.  Now we are coming to a turn in the lane, and you will see our house—my father's house—described in "The County Guide Book" as "the modest but substantial residence of Daniel Mortimer, Esq., Justice of the Peace, with one long wing." '

    'Which has the wing?'

    'You will judge of that when you have seen Daniel Mortimer, Esq., and his modest residence; but I thought you had seen my father.  Haven't you?'

    'Yes; I shall not easily forget him.'

    'Ah! every one says I'm my father's own son; and that's more than Giles can say,— or, indeed, others who shall be nameless.  Liz and Lou look very prim just now; but you should see them on Sunday morning, quarrelling as to whose turn it is to walk to church with papa.  That's a painful spectacle.'

    Liz and Lou did not seem in the least to resent this speech, but sat back in the carriage, opposite one another, calmly and idly good-humoured.  Neither was pretty; but both were rather attractive.  They were a good deal alike—being tall, of full figure, hair brown, and falling in natural curls, and faces rather broad.

    They had brown eyes, but here the resemblance between them ceased, for Lou had a good set of teeth and a well-formed mouth, and was fair; but Liz had prominent teeth, and what is sometimes called a muddy complexion.

    They now pointed out a good-sized square house as their home;—it was of red brick, stood in pleasant grounds, and had some fine beech-trees about it.

    In five minutes we had stopped at the door, and Mr. Mortimer's white head appeared.  He handed me out, and took me into a hall paved with blue and white stone, and hung with fishing-rods and guns.

    He took me through it into a small room, where sat a lady, with her feet on the fender, reading a novel.  This, I found, was his widowed daughter, Mrs. Henfrey.  A tiresome person I then thought her, for she made me sit by the fire, insisting languidly that I must be cold, and mildly positive that I was dreadfully fatigued.

    In the meantime the two girls and Valentine, having done their duty by me in bringing me home, declared that they positively must go and meet Aunt Christie; and they set off across the fields, being plainly visible from the window where I sat.

    I wished I was with them.


 
CHAPTER XVIII.


'It was a hairy oubit, sae proud he crept alang,
 A feckless hairy oubit, and merrily he sang:
 My Minnie bids me bide at hame until I get my wings;
 I'll show her soon my soul's aboon the warks o' creeping things.'

KINGSLEY.


I WAS left with Mrs. Henfrey for a quarter of an hour, and shot glances now and then through the window at an old-fashioned garden full of gravel walks and formal beds, in which grew patches of red and white and blue hyacinths, and crown imperial lilies, and jonquils, and delightful brown wallflowers and lilac primroses.

    After this, Lou and Liz, Tom, Mr. Brandon, and Valentine, all came in together, bearing with them a tall, bony Scotchwoman, who was very much blowsed, and rather muddy, from having tramped through the woods with them, but she was in as high spirits as any of them, and the noise and cheerful chattering they all made delighted me and made my heart dance.  They were very hungry, they said, and it was long past lunch time, so the old Scotch lady and I were hurried up-stairs to divest ourselves of our travelling gear, and then we were taken into a large dining-room with sash windows and heavy red curtains, a wide fireplace, and a somewhat faded Turkey carpet.

    Everything was different from my expectations, but nothing was so different as Mr. Brandon; and I had become so accustomed to my uncle's exceeding shyness, the amount of attendance with which he surrounded himself, and the gilded richness and over-polish and luxury of all the fittings in the yacht that there was something very delightful to me in the unconscious ease of everybody about me, the absence of servants, and the comfortable old furniture, that looked as if it had been unchanged for years.

    'What interests you, Miss Graham?' asked Valentine.

    What most interested me was to find Tom already talking freely to Aunt Christie, who sat by him bolt upright, with a clear sparkle in her pale blue eyes, and a large cap and collar of the very stiffest lace; but I answered:

    'Among other things, the roomy amplitude of this house; so different from the saloon in the yacht; and I like these high ceilings and wide doors.'

    'Oh, I thought you were looking at the pictures.  There are Lizzy and Louisa behind you, and there is Giles.  Papa had them done: they were in the Royal Academy exhibition last year; then they went back to the artist, and we have only had them a fortnight.'

    I cast a glance behind me, saw two shepherdesses in white,—was instantly aware that Lizzy and Lou were flattered, but, luckily, was not asked what I thought.

    'And that's St. George opposite.'

    'You can't think, Graham,' said Mr. Brandon, 'what a life I am leading just now in consequence of that portrait.'

    'But is that meant for Mr. Brandon?' I asked.

    'Meant for him!—of course it is,' exclaimed Valentine.  'Lizzy! Miss Graham won't believe that is Giles.  She thinks it too flattering.'

    'I did not say anything of the kind.  I think it is a very agreeable picture.'

    'What is the matter with it, then?' asked Valentine.  'As a likeness, do you mean?'

    'Yes!—take a good look at him, and then see if it is not like.'

    I did take a good look.  I saw not only that this same St. George was unlike the portrait, but he was delightfully unlike the image of his former self, which existed in my mind.  He was even a little put out of countenance when I looked at him.  I had felt very shy at the notion of seeing that man again; but this man, I felt as much at ease with as if he had been an entire stranger.  So after considering him for a moment, and finding that I was expected to reply, I said, 'Nothing is the matter; but that it is not like.'  And I hoped they would not ask me whether I thought it flattering—for I did think so—and I felt a sudden sense of joy and freedom, for I had faced the idea which had tormented me, and it had vanished into air.

    It was evident that these portraits were just then subjects of frequent family discussion, and that the opinion of a stranger was thought valuable.

    'The first thing papa asks you when he comes in,' observed Valentine, 'will be whether you like that picture; and if you do not like it, he won't like you.  He thinks it perfection.  I hear him and sister in the hall; they always come in when they think Giles has helped all round.  Now you'll see!'

    I looked at it again and liked it less; then, while the original talked and laughed and made his dog beg for bones, I noticed him.  I had always observed the peculiar brace of his figure, but he was so closely cropped when in the yacht, that he had an air of a convict about him.  His hair was now grown; it was dark and stood back from his face with rather a cloud-like effect.  His bruises and scorches had disappeared, and his face, though healthful in appearance, had no ruddy tints.  His hair had no gloss, that in the portrait shone; but, on the whole, though he was not handsome, there was something striking in his appearance and distinguished about him; and how he had managed to turn himself into such a different person I could not think.

    Mr. Mortimer now entered with his daughter, and took his place at the head of the table.  Silence was preserved; everybody looked at me.  Mr. Brandon, though he pretended to occupy himself with a cold round of beef, was evidently in amused expectation of the question which sure enough was propounded almost directly.

    'And what do you think of my pictures, eh, Miss Graham?  Good likeness that over the chimney-piece— uncommonly good; don't you think so?'

    Obliged to answer, I replied that I had not noticed much likeness at first, but perhaps it would grow upon me.

    He looked surprised; took up his glass to examine it anew.  'Couldn't be better,— a wonderful art is portrait painting!  Well, now, what fault do you find with it?'

    He looked straight at me, and I knew that every one else was looking too, Tom included.  Nothing but the truth and the whole truth would do, so I wished to say it, and, as I hoped, to have done with it.

    'I think it is flattered; but perhaps it does no justice to the original?'

    'Flattered!' he exclaimed, with evident astonishment, 'and does no justice!  The two things sound like contradictions.  Flattered!'

    'Well, papa,' said Valentine, 'you must admit that those eyes are blue?'

    'So are Mr. Brandon's,' I remarked; and turning to encounter them, I saw, to his amusement and mine, that they had a decidedly grey hue.  'Ah, well!' I could not help saying, 'I'm sure they used to look blue in the yacht.'  But this speech was followed by such a chorus of laughter that I should have felt discomfited if Tom had not joined in it and seemed as much amused as any one.  'It must have been the green and yellow bruises that made them look blue,' I continued, byway of excuse for this want of observation, and then I was urged on by the family to make some further remarks, which Mr. Mortimer caused Valentine to repeat to him.

    'She says,' exclaimed Valentine, 'that Giles has a much more original face than the portrait.'

    'You are a very original little girl,' said Aunt Christie.

    'Miss Graham has no wish to be original,' said Mr. Brandon, if you would only let her alone.  Never mind, my liege,' he continued, raising his voice and speaking to his step-father; 'no one is so good a judge of a portrait as the person it was done for; and if you are pleased the thing is good, it could not be better.'

    But Mr. Mortimer again returned to the charge.

    'How can a portrait be both flattered and the reverse?'

    Then Tom came to the rescue, and said that could easily be; the gentleman could be made prominent at the expense of the man; the features might be ennobled, and yet be made to express a meaner soul.

    'Ah—hem!' said Mr. Mortimer.  'Giles, I'll take some more beef.  He's the very image of his dear mother; her breathing image!'

    'Graham, I wonder what sort of a portrait you would make?' observed Mr. Brandon.

    'I'm too sublimely ugly to look well on canvas,' said, Tom.  'I had a photograph done lately for my sister, but the features did not seem to have made up their minds as to their places!  The eyes were everywhere.  I did not notice the nose, but the mouth seemed to be nowhere.'

    Aunt Christie looked at him with surprise.

    'Graham flatters himself that he's very ugly,' said, Mr. Brandon.  'I don't see it myself; he says real ugliness distinguishes a man.'

    'Yes,' said Tom, addressing Aunt Christie, ugliness of the right sort is a kind of beauty. It has some of the best qualities of beauty—it attracts observation and fixes the memory.  Now, you'll find that you won't easily forget me.'

    He turned full upon her, and she had not a word to say.  No doubt she did think him ugly, and she actually looked quite out of countenance until, Valentine exclaiming that no one had admired the new carving-knife, Mr. Brandon took it up and displayed its peculiarities; it was a circular thing, and looked sufficiently formidable.

    'It was given to me by a friend of mine, who is a poulterer,' he remarked.

    'Nonsense!' exclaimed Mrs. Henfrey; 'don't believe a word he says, Miss Graham.'

    'Doesn't he make a good portion of his income by breeding poultry, and doesn't he contract with a man in London to sell it?  Doesn't he send it up by cartfuls?  I say he is a poulterer, only the oddness of the thing is that he stipulates to be allowed to kill every single bird himself, unless his friends kill them for him.'

    'Horrid man!' I exclaimed; 'only think of taking delight in wringing the necks of cart-loads of poor creatures!'

    'He doesn't wring their necks,' said Mrs. Henfrey, 'he shoots them.  Pheasants, you know!'

    'Oh!'

    'It's only his way of putting things.'

    'The poor birds were so tame the last time I went out with him that they came running up to us as if to be fed.  That's manly sport, you know.  I'll never shoot with him again.'

    'But I mind the day when ye were uncommonly fond of a gun,' said Aunt Christie.  'There was the old matchlock your grandfather Brandon gave you; it was almost as long as himself; and when ye complained to the mannie Murdock how it kicked—"Kick, does she?" said he, taking the part of the old gun; "well, I'd sooner be kicked by her than by a Christian." '

    'So would I,' he answered.  'Some Christians kick very hard.  Yes, I was a murderous little wretch.  I remember the first rabbit I blew to pieces with it—I almost wept for joy, and grudged going to sleep at night and losing sight of my own gun.'

    'What are they talking about?' asked Mr. Mortimer.

    'About St. George's old gun, papa,' answered Valentine, who sat on his left hand; 'he gave it to me, you know, when I was a very small boy; but I was not allowed to load it; so I used to sit by it, and rub it up here and there with sand-paper, and when I went out I used to lock it up in the attic, and wear the door-key round my neck, lest any one should get it.'

    'Ay-e,' said Aunt Christie, making a sound almost two syllables long of that little word, 'how your father smiles!'  He did not hear her, and she went on.  'Do ye mind, Giles, yer speech as a child, when I asked you what the new papa was like—ye were hopping round the, table, and little fat Emily after ye.  "Some people, when they smile," ye answered, as gravely as possible,—some people, when they smile, only stretch out their mouths; but when the new papa smiles he lights up his shop."  That was because they had taken ye to London, and ye were so delighted with the shops when the gas was lit.'

    'If you go into all the family anecdotes that exist in your capacious memory, you must be put to death,' he answered, 'we can't stand it!'

    'No,' said Liz.  'Now, sister, hasn't she told that anecdote a dozen times at least?'

    Sister, who was just rising to leave the room with Mr. Mortimer, made answer that 'no doubt it had been told before.'

    'And I am sure I know no reason why I am to forget those old days,' said the joyous old woman.

    'Ah!' said Valentine, 'those were happy days, Aunt Christie, when we were young.'

    'Speak for yourself, laddie,' she answered; 'for my part, I often feel very inconveniently young yet; I feel a spring of youthful joy in me sometimes which is strangely at variance with circumstances.  It would be more to my credit if I could repress it, and I'm going to try.'

    'No, don't, dear,' said Mr. Brandon.

    'You're just right, love,' said Liz.

    'Now, Giles,' exclaimed the old lady, menacing him with a spoon, 'let me alone, and you too, miss; you don't consider how you crumple my cap, kissing before company!  There's Mr. Graham just scandalized, and no wonder.'

    'Graham feels rather faint at present,' observed Mr. Brandon, 'but when I tell him that you belong to us ill—'

    'Yes, to us all,' interrupted Lou; I but not to all equally.'

    'Their mother was my niece,' said Miss Christie 'and Mr. Grant was a far-away cousin besides.'

    'Cousins don't count,' observed Tom, 'particularly Scotch cousins.'

    'So I tell her,' said Mr. Brandon.

    'Don't they!' exclaimed Miss Christie.  'Well, there's nothing more interesting to an intelligent mind than relationship, if ye consider it rightly.  Why, dear me, I can trace the Brandon voice through fifteen families.  Then the Grants all walk as if they'd been drilled.  And as to the MacQueens (my mother was a MacQueen), I would almost engage to challenge any one of them by the handwriting.'

    As she appeared to address me, I answered, 'Then I hope their characters are as much alike as their writing; for it always seems to me that one can judge so well what people are by how they write.'

    'Of some qualities one may certainly judge,' said Tom; 'and of the temper, the amount of energy, and of course the age and sex.'

    Both the Grants and their aunt declared themselves of a contrary opinion, and we were soon in the midst of a vehement discussion, every one having a letter or two to produce, folding down middle or ends, that only select sentences might be seen; and being entreated to show more, and declining with pretended confusion.

    At first Mr. Brandon took no part in the discussion, but after he had seen us guessing, and being generally wrong, and sometimes oddly right, he said with gravity, 'I have some writing here that I think very interesting; I would rather it did not go all round the table, but I should like Miss Graham's opinion on it.'

    He was standing on the rug under his portrait, and one of his sisters proposed to pass the letter across the table to me, but he declined, and coming round to my chair put into my hand an envelope, out of which he had drawn the letter just so far as to show these words, written in a very small and peculiarly delicate female hand.

    'My very dear Giles, I am pleased to find that you propose to shorten your stay at—'here the sheet was folded down.  'Am I to read all I can see?' I inquired.  'Oh! yes, but do not open the sheet, for the letter is confidential.'  Confidential indeed, for it ran thus—'There is nothing that I find so difficult as to do without you, and this feeling increases on me day by day.'

    That was all—the signature was covered.  I wished he had not given me such an affectionate letter to read, especially as he chose to limit the confidence to me.

    'What do you think of the writing?' he inquired.

    'How very hard that we are not to see it?' exclaimed Valentine.  'Is it a lady's hand, Miss Graham?'

    'Oh! yes.'

    'Ah! do I guess whose?  I should rather say so!  Does it express counsel, and a large mind, and extreme a delicacy?'

    'And a love of gardening and music?' cried Louisa, evidently thinking, like Valentine, of some special person.

    'I don't know about the gardening,' I replied.

    'Do you think it is a young lady?' asked Mr. Brandon.

    'Yes, I should say so, decidedly; but she has not been taught in a modern school, for the letters are round.'

    'Round!' exclaimed Valentine.  'Oh! then I give it up.'

    'I wish you would say what you think,' said Mr. Brandon, 'for this writing really is deeply interesting to me.  Do you think the writing expressive of a hasty temper?'

    'No, it flows—I think it means gentleness, and even spirits.  This person is seldom in a hurry, and has done this deliberately.  The hand looks as if it had not been much used since the writer left school.'

    Mr. Brandon really looked unutterable things; but I thought it was quite fair that he should suffer for having handed out such a letter.

    'Do you think the writer's disposition likely to be affectionate?' he inquired.

    'I can form that opinion without any aid from the writing.'

    'Dear me! this mystery grows very interesting!' exclaimed Lou.

    'Ah?' said Mr. Brandon, with a sigh that I thought affected.  'You mean that you could form that opinion from the words; but the writer's actions leave me no room to doubt that these but feebly reflect the heart.'

    'Why, he's actually sentimental!' cried Liz.  'Giles, can this be you?'

    'May I express a hope, then, that the affection is reciprocal?'  I answered; but I thought he should not have made such a letter a matter for discussion; it was evidently a letter from a lady, and not from one of the ladies of the family, for I had seen their writing.

    'Reciprocal!' he exclaimed.  'There is no one breathing whom I care for half so much!  Do you admire my good taste?'

    I hesitated.

    'You think I had better not have shown it?'

    'I think such letters ought not to be shown, unless their writers may be supposed to have no objection.  I think this one must have been written in confidence.'

    'Oh!' he answered, holding out his hand for it; 'I have others by the same writer which I religiously keep to myself.  This is nothing; but they are enough to spoil any man.  They have completely spoilt me.  Well, Graham, will you come?  Here, Lou, suppose you read this aloud.'

    He tossed the letter lightly on to the table, among his brothers and sisters.  It was instantly snatched up; and, while he decamped with Tom, he was followed by cries of 'O you cheat!  Giles—you horrid cheat! it's a letter from papa, it's his writing.'  The rest of the sheet was straightway unfolded and laid before me, and proved to be a loving letter from the old man to the young one, thanking him for having given up, to please him, some intended journeyings.  It further related to a certain horse, by name Farmer, who had refused to eat his corn; and to some railway shares, which were to be looked after.

    I felt that I had been ignominiously cheated, and wondered that the very circumstance of his showing it to me in the presence of his family had not made me sure it could be nothing of especial interest.

    But I had not much time to think.  We all left the dining-room, and Liz and Lou took me up stairs to my room, where they began to inspect some of my gowns which Mrs. Brand had left lying on a sofa.

    It must be natural to girls to be sociable—at least, it must be natural to me.  The delight I felt in talking cosily to Lizzy and Lou is indescribable.  We did not say anything very wise, or very much the reverse; but we speedily became confidential.  They told me they had vainly speculated as to what sort of a girl I should prove to be.  I confessed how shy I had felt at the notion of coming among so many strangers.  These bygone feelings we laughed at, and had just agreed to address each other by our Christian names, when there was a violent knock at the door.

    'Who's there?' said Liz.

    The cracked voice responded.

    'Ah! I said you were there.  What are you doing boxed up with Miss Graham?  She's not your visitor a bit more than mine.  If you won't come out soon, I shall come in.'

    'We are coming down almost directly.'

    'Well, do.  It's a shame.  Miss Graham?'

    'Yes.'

    'Don't you feel very dull without me?'

    'Of course.'

    Valentine withdrew.  We meant to follow, but some fresh topic of discourse was started, and we stayed, perhaps, ten minutes longer.

    Another louder knock.

    'What do you want, you tiresome boy?' said Lou now opening the door.

    'Why, Charlotte, and Dick, and Frank are here, and they have brought the blind pupil.'

    So down we went, and found these young visitors two fine youths about eighteen years of age, a very pretty girl, and a blind boy.

    I soon found that these were the daughter and pupils of the vicar.  They were all energetic in their lamentations over Valentine's cough; for he, it seemed, when in health, was a pupil at the vicarage.  He was openly assured by the pretty Charlotte that the whole house was in despair at his absence; then one of the pupils administered further comfort by remarking that it never took more than a month to 'Polish off' the hooping-cough; the other tucked the blind boy under his arm in a really kindly fashion, and they retired after receiving a present of a little box of eggs from Valentine, which the blind boy touching lightly with his fingertips, named, and, as it seemed, correctly.

    'Old Tikey,' Valentine afterwards observed, 'was a horrid coddle.  Fellows must have the hooping-cough some time, and yet Old Tikey had actually sent him home on account of two boys who had not yet taken it.  And isn't that sneak, Prentice, delighted?' he added.

    'Who is Prentice?' I asked.

    'He's a most odiously conceited fool—he's an intolerable young prig.'

    'Come,' said Liz, 'this is nothing but rank jealousy.  Prentice is reading for Cambridge—he is Val's rival, Dorothea.'

    'He is only just nineteen—five months older than I am—and he is engaged to Charlotte.  Only think of that! '

    'Silly fellow!'

    'Old Tikey doesn't know.  Do you think those fellows who called just now look older than I?'

    'Older?  No, younger.  Much shorter, and more boyish altogether.'

    'Ah! they are small for their years; but the oldest of those has made an offer!  There never was such a muff in this world; we can make him do anything.'

    'It's quite true, I assure you,' said Lou, seeing me look amazed.

    'But I suppose he made it of his own free will?' I inquired.

    'Nothing of the sort; we made him do it.  It was just after Prentice had informed me of his engagement to Charlotte, and we were all bursting with rage at the airs he gave himself.  And so, by a happy inspiration, I said to Grainger—that fellow whom you have just seen—"Well, Dick, I suppose your affair will be coming off soon?"  And we actually made him believe (that we might make Prentice appear the more ridiculous, you know)—we made him believe that he had paid great attention to Old Tikey's sister.  She is fat, more than forty, and we made him believe that he had stolen her affections, and must take the consequence.'

    'If I were you, I would keep these school-boy delinquencies to myself,' said Liz.

    'Very well, then, talk and amuse Miss Graham yourself.'

    A silence naturally followed, which I broke after a while by asking for the end of the anecdote.

    'Oh!' said Valentine, 'two of the other fellows and I talked seriously to him.  He is such a jolly muff.  We said, "Grainger, we could not have thought it of you!"  And we actually worked him up to such a pitch that he vowed he would do it.  But he was very miserable.  He said it made him so low to think of a long engagement, and, besides, what would his mother say?  We told him he ought to have thought of that before.  We made a great deal of his always having carried her prayer-book to church for her.  We said, that perhaps he was not aware that this was considered the most pointed attention you could possibly pay to a woman!  Well, then we talked of honour, you know."

    'What a shame!'

    'Yes,' replied Valentine, 'so it was; but then there was Prentice.  We felt that we could not live in the same house with him, unless we could make him feel small.  We were strolling under a clump of trees, not far from Old Tikey's house; and when we had worked at Grainger for some time, he suddenly darted off.  And an old woman, who lives in a cottage close by, came out and talked to me about my cough, and said if I took three hairs out of a drover's dog's tail, just as he was going to London after the drover, he would carry the cough away with him.  "And those simple remedies," she observed, "would often succeed when all the doctors were posed."  Well, we went on talking to her and wandering about; then we sat down on a bank, while I did a little coughing.  It was the day before I was requested to go home to my disconsolate family.  Then we saw Grainger coming.  He ran very fast and looked very jolly.  He flung himself down beside us, panting.  "Well," he cried out, "I've done it, and she won't have me; that's one good thing!  But I'll never make an offer again, I can tell you, whatever you may, say."  "Won't have you?" we all cried out, screaming with laughter.  "What! have you gone and done it already?"  And he said he had.  He had met her in the shrubbery, and had said, as we told him to say, that he was afraid she was getting thin.  She said, "What! Grainger?"  And so then he continued, "I said to her what you told me about my hand and heart, and all that; and she won't have me—said she should not think of such a thing."  Well, we all shook hands with him.  I'm a very moral fellow, so I talked to him.  I said to him, "Let this be a warning to you, never to trifle with the feelings of the tender sex again."  He said it should.'

    'This is really true?' I asked.

    'Quite true.  When he heard of it, Prentice almost gnashed his teeth.  We told it to him as if it was the must commonplace thing in the world that Grainger should have made an offer.'

    'Isn't this a queer boy?' said Lou.

    'Then Prentice should not be such an ass!' he burst out.  'Well, now we are going out for a walk, and Aunt Christie, too.  I must go and find her,' observed one of the girls.

    'I shall accompany you.  Some other time I shall tell Miss Graham all about Charlotte, and how she and Prentice correspond.  Prentice is such a fool that he even steals other people's jokes, and tells them all wrong.  You know that the house of Daniel Mortimer, Esq., has one long wing?'

    'Yes.'

    Well, one day when we were making some experiments here, Prentice went up to my room for a bottle of steel-filings, and Giles met him wandering about; so he said, by way of a mild joke, "Don't you know that, like the albatross, he sleeps on the wing?"  Well, Prentice actually was heard to tell that the next day thus, "My friend Mortimer, I daresay you know that, like the albatross, he—he flies all night!"  He had forgotten the point of it.  But he came here to lunch with Charlotte soon after, and told St. George how Old Tikey had bought some Irish pigs that would not stop in the sty.  One ran away, and jumped clean through a cottage window.  Mr. Tikey, in full chase, bolted in at the door and found the woman of the house boiling a dozen, at least, of pheasants' eggs.  "Boiling pheasants' eggs!" said Giles; "foolish woman.  Why, they were poached already!  If I had such a pig as that," he went on, "I would soon cure him."  Would you believe it!  Prentice looked earnestly at him, and answered, "How?" '

    If Prentice had not been one of the chief arbiters of my fate—I may say the chief arbiter—I would not have recorded all this nonsense of Valentine's.  As it was, let me say, with duo solemnity, that this was the first time Prentice rose on my horizon like a star.



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