Off the Skelligs (7)

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CHAPTER XXII.


AS we entered the hall Valentine met us, and said,—

    'Oh, Giles, what a pity you were out!  Miss Dorinda has been here.  They came home, it seems, this morning.  In case you should be away, she left this, and said she could not wait, but should be at home on Monday morning.'

    He gave a letter to Giles, who forthwith walked with it to the window, and broke the seal.  As I went upstairs to change my walking dress, I felt my spirits suddenly lowered, and wished there was no such person the world as this Miss Dorinda; but, then, I had been fairly told about her, and that she had a 'heavenly countenance.'  What, then, was the matter with me?  Mr. Brandon, according to my then opinion, was of an age that made it natural I should like to have him for a friend, though he was Miss Dorinda's lover.  Such a new tone had stolen into his voice, and such a new look into his eyes, that I regarded his interest in me as quite certain.  I greatly wished to have two or three friends the other sex; but all of a sudden it occurred to me that, perhaps, Miss Dorinda might not like it at all.

    I thought of the flowers, too; and felt a sudden compunction.  I was ashamed for myself, and also for him.  His family had all agreed to laugh at the notion of his attentive to ladies.  He had not contradicted them; and yet, as soon as we were alone, he had thought proper to bring those flowers to me.  'Ah! I ought if I were engaged, and my lover had brought flowers to some other girl, and had talked to her and listened to her so, it would have cut me to the heart, if I had seen it.  But I suppose this is flirting; and it seems that all men do it, even the gravest of them, when their sisters are not there to see.'  Then I reflected on the open manner in which his admiration for Miss Braithwaite was talked of by himself and others, and supposed he considered this very openness gave him a right to be as attentive to other girls as he pleased.

    I cannot say that when we met again in the drawing-room he seemed at all penitent; and two or three times that evening, though his sisters were present, he spoke to me with very much of the same interest that he had displayed in the wood.

    But he also talked of Miss Braithwaite—expressed his pleasure at her return, and said he never felt like himself when she was away.  So it could not be an engagement made merely for convenience, I thought; but she must have entered into it with a very willing mind, if no attention was paid beforehand.

    'I shall go over on Monday morning, of course,' he observed.

    'How did she look?' asked Mrs. Henfrey.

    'Why, sister,' replied Valentine, in a regretful tone, 'she looked more fragile than ever;—as if a mere breath of wind would blow her away.'

    Upon this, to my surprise, the sister laughed; and Valentine went on,—

    'But, perhaps, she thinks it would be more to the purpose if the wind would blow somebody else away.  No doubt she has been singing that song that Liz is so fond of—


' "Wind of the western sea, blow him again,
   Blow him again, blow him again to me." '


    'Is nothing to be sacred from your foolish jokes?' exclaimed Mr. Brandon, darting an angry look at Valentine, who was so startled at the suddenness of the rebuke and its vehemence, that he stopped singing, with his mouth open.

    It had been impossible not to laugh at his cracked voice; but when we perceived that the matter was serious, we became grave as quickly as we could.  Liz and Louisa forthwith began to play a duet, which had been open before them for some time, while they waited till it was the pleasure of the family to hear it.

    Valentine went away to the window, at the end of the long drawing-room, and sulked there awhile.  I could not help watching him—so much of him, at least, as I could see, for it was a bow-window; but the curtains were hung straight across, so as to inclose a little den behind them.  As he was evidently very sulky, indeed, and no overtures of peace were made, I shortly followed him there; but not out of pure pity—it was quite as much because I did not wish to be asked to sing.  He had ensconced himself in the deep window-seat, and was staring out into the starry sky, when I looked in between the heavy grey curtains, which hung about a foot apart.

    'Well,' he said, like a great, blunt boy, 'what do you want ?'

    'What are you doing here?'

    'Doing?  Why, nothing!  But this is as nice a place as any other.'

    'Oh, very nice; and so cheerful.'

    'I am not cheerful, then.  What business has St. George to stamp upon me as he does?'

    Then, after a pause,—

    'Hang Dorinda!'

    'You need not try to make me believe that you are out of temper,' I replied; 'you are tired of that.  You have not dignity enough to act the martyr for long together.'

    He screwed his face into all manner of twists to hide a smile, but the smile would come, and then came a laugh; and he exclaimed,—

    'I say, I wish you would come in here and sit with me.'

    So I came in, and we sat together in the window-seat,—sometimes looking out on the dark, driving clouds; and sometimes into the lighted drawing-room; for the long curtains, sweeping apart on each aide, enabled us to see what was passing there.  We were deep in sea talk when Liz looked in.  She wanted Valentine, and so did St. George.  He was to play the flute part of some new duets.  Valentine sent word back to his brother that I would not let him go.  I could not spare him.  Whereupon, Mr. Brandon presently put his head into our retreat.

    'Now, Giles,' said Valentine, 'I'm improving my mind; Miss Graham is telling me a story.  And if you want to come in, come in! and don't stand blocking out the light.  Well, go on, Miss Graham.  "She was sailing right in the wind's eye," didn't you say, "when he, most unexpectedly, closed it; and they wouldn't have been able to trim the sails if one of them hadn't been torn to ribbons, which they naturally used for the purpose." '

    'Nonsense!'

    'Ah! it's very well to say nonsense; but, I've heard Giles say that if it was possible to use a sea term erroneously, you had the wit to do it.  Your brother says the same.  No, it wasn't exactly that, St. George, that we were talking of.  She was telling me, that in a ship the yards in sailing before the wind are braced square, and the mizzen sail alone is usually in a fore-and-aft position.  Isn't that a nice thing to know?  I'm glad they brace the yards square, it does equal honour to their heads and hearts.'

    'Touching confidences,' said Mr. Brandon; but, Miss Graham, come and sing to us.'

    'Oh, you have heard my songs; besides, you said last night that I sang without the least feeling.'

    'I did not say so to you.'

    'Oh, duty,' exclaimed Valentine, 'how often dost thou interfere with our pleasure!'

    'What else did the Oubit tell you, Miss Graham?'

    'That you said I sang in excellent time and tune, but without feeling, which you wondered at; for I had a flexible voice, and that I accompanied myself beautifully.'

    'And what do you think she answered?' said Valentine; 'the self-conceit of girls is amazing.  She said, "How do you know that I could not sing with feeling if I chose?"  Then if she could, why doesn't she?'

    'Oh, there are many reasons why people sing without feeling,' he answered; 'some have no feeling to express.'

    'Exactly so,' said Valentine.

    'Some have harsh, or cold, or shrill voices, so that they strive after expression in vain.'

    'Not my own case, happily,' said Valentine, 'but a common one.'

    'Some people want the poetic faculty; they have not discovered how to match a sensation with a sound, and translate their souls into other people's ears with an A flat and a B natural,—as the hooting owl does her yearning after young mice for supper.'

    'That is common enough, but not our case,' said Valentine.

    'And some are nervous, and think of nothing but getting the song over.'

    'That cap does not fit either,' replied Valentine.

    'And some people are sensitive and reserved.  They are not only half afraid of their own deeper feelings, but they are anxious not to betray the existence of any such.'

    'And why should they?' I asked; 'why should they betray their feelings in a mixed company of people, who do not much care for them?'

    'Why should they, indeed!  But why should you turn advocate so suddenly?'  He laughed as if very much amused, and I could only reply, that I did not like any display of feeling.

    'People who have deep feelings,' he answered, 'never display, and only reveal them to a few; but to a person who has observation they often betray them.'

    I wondered how much I had betrayed of my anxieties and disappointment about Tom, when he questioned me in the wood as to any influence I had over him.

    'Are you a person with much observation?' I inquired.

    'It would appear that I think so,' he said.

    But if you were, and I knew it,' was my reply, 'I should be impelled to go on singing just the same.'

    'You would not,' he said, 'if you thought every one was observant.  It is of no use trying to hide things in a cabinet with glass doors.'

    'No, I think in such a case I could not make up my mind to sing at all.'

    'Oh yes, I think you could, considering that to understand is almost always to sympathize.'

    Almost directly upon this remark, Liz and Lou fetched me from my retreat and made me sing, but as may easily be imagined, I sang none the better for this conversation, but rather the worse, adding nervousness to my other faults, and losing my place more than once.  There is pleasure, no doubt, in conversing with a person who can make one feel, or fancy, that he has studied one's character with interest, and can sympathize with its, peculiarities: but in this case it had taken away my self-possession, and made me feel that I could do nothing naturally; and as I sat on the music-stool afterwards, so glad that my song was over, Valentine openly blamed his brother for not having let my singing alone.

    The next day was a Sunday, a country Sunday, most cheerful, quiet, and comforting; we walked to church through the green fields and between budding hedgerows.  There was a delightful scent of violets, and the rustic congregation had so many wall-flowers in their button-holes, that the whole place was sweet with them.  On one side of the chancel sat Lou, with a number of chubby little urchins under her care; on the other, was the lovely Charlotte Tikey, looking almost too pretty for any common work, but frowning at, and hustling, and marshalling the little girls.

    Valentine had said, 'When Prentice comes in I shall "hem!" that you may look at him.'

    A heavy determined-looking youngster here advanced.  The warning 'hem!' was given (we were very early, be it known).  Prentice took his seat in the Vicar's pew.  He had stiff hair, deep-set eyes, a square forehead, short nose, his dress was unexceptionable, his gloves as tight as dream-parchment, his prayer-book gorgeous, his air supercilious.

    I found it almost impossible not to have Prentice in my thoughts; he reminded me of some description I had seen in one of Dickens's works, of a youth about his age.  When we sang, he seemed to express by his manner that we had done it very well, considering.  When the Vicar preached, Prentice was attentive; he approved now and then, as might be seen by his conveying into his countenance a look which plainly said, 'That is not bad—not at all bad.  I quite agree with you.'  He was also so good as to keep the younger pupils in order, and occasionally he favoured me with a look of curiosity, and, I thought, of disfavour.  I felt all the time as if Dickens must have seen and sketched him.


    As we came out of church, Prentice and Valentine met, and stayed behind to talk, Valentine running after and joining us, so very much out of breath that Mrs. Henfrey rebuked him for his imprudence.

    'When you know,' she remarked, 'that Dr. Simpsey particularly said you were not to exert yourself.'

    'Why, sister,' said Valentine, 'would you have me let Prentice think that I'm broken-winded?  I say,' addressing me, 'just take my arm for a minute, will you?  Do.'

    He said this half confidentially, and I did take his arm; but he was so tall that I shortly withdrew, saying 'that I preferred to walk alone.'

    'Oh,' he answered, 'I don't care about it now.  That fellow Prentice is out of sight.  What do you think he stopped me to talk about?'

    'I don't know.'

    'Why, about you.  Asked who you were —and whether you were engaged?'

    'Impertinent boy, what business is it of his?'

    'Asked me if I thought of making myself agreeable!  I replied that I had done that already; and be was as savage as possible, though he pretended to be only amused.'

    'You were impertinent if you said that.'

    'Oh, don't be vexed; I only said it for fun.  Come, I know you are not really angry.'  And, with another laugh and chuckle, he went on: 'He said he supposed we were not engaged.'

    'Engaged!' I exclaimed.  'Engaged!  As if I should think of such a thing!'

    'Well, don't be so hot about it.  I said "No!"  Distinctly I said "No!" '

    'To a boy like you, why, the very idea is preposterous.'

    So this was my first service in an English church after months of sea-prayers, or strange looking on at foreign Roman Catholic worship.  How much I had wished for such a Sunday—how fervent I had expected my prayers to be! but now I felt that some of my thoughts had been taken up by a conceited schoolboy, and others had strayed to the wood, and been occupied with Mr. Brandon's speeches, and also with his remarks about Tom.

    In the afternoon things were very little better.  Mr. Brandon read the lessons for the Vicar.  This seemed to be his custom, for it excited no attention; but it was a pleasure and a surprise to me.  Then Prentice forced himself on my mind by his obvious watchfulness of Valentine and me, and the determined manner in which he kept his face turned in our direction.  I could not help thinking, too, that Valentine was needlessly careful to find the lessons and hymns for me, but I had no means of preventing this, nor of keeping his eyes on his book instead of on my face, where they were not wanted, and only fixed to make Prentice burst with suspicion and jealousy.

    We sat all together in the evening, and there was sacred music and some reading aloud; but I found opportunity at last, to give Valentine a lecture.  I said I would not be made ridiculous; that Prentice was a most absurd boy, and I wondered Valentine could wish to make him believe there was a single other youth in the world as ridiculous as himself.

    But the next morning, while Valentine and I were doing our Greek, the two ladies working, and the two girls reading novels, Mr. Brandon came in.  He had written all Mr. Mortimer's letters, he said,—had nothing more to do for him all day: he and Tom were going to walk over to Wigfield, and would we go with them?

    Liz and Lou were disconcerted.  The box was going back to Mudie's, they said, and they had not finished the books.  Tom came in, and uttered some denunciations against novel-writers, but the girls kept their seats, and looked good-naturedly determined not to yield.  'Dorothea would not come if they did—she had her Greek to do,' said Lou.  Liz said it was windy, and then that it was cold, and then that it was a long walk to Wigfield; finally, they both proposed that we should go some other day.

    'Very well; then suppose we give it up, Graham?'

    'With all my heart,' said Tom, idly.

    'We'll go with you in the afternoon,' Liz promised.

    'I don't see how you can, as the Marchioness is coming to call, and we know it,' said Mrs. Henfrey.

    'Ah, yes,' said Valentine to me, 'she is coming to call, so you had better put your war paint on, and that best satin petticoat of yours that I like.  She is made much of in these parts, I can tell you, for she is the only great lady we have.'

    'She is not coming to call on me,' I answered; 'so what does it signify?'

    'Oh yes, she is,' said Mr. Brandon; 'I met her on Saturday, and she said so.  It seems that, three years ago, your uncle was up the Nile.'

    'Yes,' answered Tom, 'so far the narrative is historical.  Anything she may have added to that is probably not so.'

    'Very probably, indeed,' said St. George.  'I have not formed any notion as to what really occurred, though I have heard the story before.  Perhaps their old yacht, knowing she could not possibly hang together another day, sagaciously ran herself on to a spit of sand of her own accord; and whether there was a leak so large in her keel, that three crocodiles, who had been crying all the morning, walked in, and, sniffing loudly, began to search for pocket-handkerchiefs, or whether any of the more ordinary events of yacht life took place, I cannot undertake to say; but I know the Marquis was very glad when Mr. Rollin, who was coming down, took them on board the "Curlew," and brought them to Cairo.'

    'It's too bad to take ladies to sea,' said Tom.  'My sister was wretchedly ill before she became accustomed to it.'

    'Well, there's nothing I would like better than a voyage,' said Aunt Christie; 'but I think I would be a little frightened in a storm.'

    'You would got used to it in time,' I answered; 'but it always remains very impressive.'

    'I do not feel it more impressive than the utter stillness of a night here,' Tom answered.

    'But it is a curious sensation, surely,' said Mr. Brandon, 'to wake and find yourself standing on your head in your berth, and your heart beating wrong end upwards!'

    'Ay!' said the old Aunt, 'I wouldn't like that.'

    'And then you become aware,' he continued, 'that, if you could see it, the bowsprit must be sticking straight up into the sky; in fact, that the ship is "sitting up on end," as old women say, and, like a dog, is making a point at some star.  But while you're thinking about that, suddenly she shakes herself, and rolls so that you wonder she doesn't roll quite over; and then she gives a spring and appears to shy, so that you feel as if you must call out "Wo, there!" as to a horse; and then, without more ado, she begins to root with her bowsprit into the very body of the sea, as if she never could be easy again unless she could find the bottom of it.'

    'Well,' said Aunt Christie, beguiled for the moment into a belief that this was a fair description of life at sea, 'it's no wonder at all, then, that the poor Marchioness did not like it.'

    'No,' said Valentine to me; 'but, as I said before, you'd better put on some of your best things, for I shall naturally wish you to look well.'

    They all, Tom included, looked surprised at this speech.  I knew Prentice was at the bottom of it.

    'How engaging of you!' I answered, blandly.  'You will have a clean pinafore on, yourself, no doubt; and I suppose you will expect me to give you a new rattle in return for your solicitude about me.  I will, if I can get one for a penny, for I am rather tired of your present rattle.'

    This ought to have been a wittier retort, for nothing I ever said was so much laughed at.  They were always delighted when I managed to snub Valentine, but on this occasion Aunt Christie spoilt all by shaking her finger at him and saying, 'Ay, laddie, you've met with your match now; you've met with your match.'

    'That is exactly my own opinion,' he replied, with emphasis; 'if we didn't fight so over our Greek we might be taken for a pair of intellectual young turtledoves.'

    'You'd better look out,' exclaimed Lou suddenly, and Valentine instantly put his arm through mine.

    'Bless you,' he said, 'we won't be parted, we'll go into exile together, like a pair of sleeve-links.  Lay on, Macduff!'

    I do not suppose any special personal punishment had been intended by his brother; besides, the window was shut, and as he had linked his arm into mine, nothing could be done, and he triumphed.

    'Well, I never expected to see ye let the Oubit get the better of ye so, St. George,' exclaimed Aunt Christie; and again something was said about wasting the morning when it was so fine, and the walk to Wigfield was so beautiful.

    'Then, why can't you go without us, dear?' said Lou, addressing her brother.

    Mr. Brandon replied that it suited him to stay, and that he thought a little Greek would be good for his constitution.  Accordingly he joined us; but though he could help Valentine far better than I could, he was not half so strict as I had been; and besides that, considering us both as his pupils, he bestowed as much pains on my translation as on his, and sometimes laughed outright when I read, declaring that to hear a girl cooing out that manly tongue was as droll as it was delightful.  After luncheon we had to wait a little while for the proposed call, and when it had been paid, Mrs. Henfrey said Lou must go out with her in the carriage and pay a few visits.  Aunt Christie and I both begged oft; and as Liz found some fresh excuse for not going to Wigfield, we took a walk in the shrubbery instead, and in the wood; Mr. Brandon going with us and saying he should ride over to Wigfield at five o'clock, stay half an hour, and get back again in time for dinner.  He and Tom were both in highly genial humour; Tom and Liz, without caring in the least for one another, were getting quite familiar and intimate; she informing him what a. comfort he was to them.  'When you are not here, St. George is always getting away, either to see Miss Braithwaite or that blessed Dick!'

    'What's Dick?' said Tom, pretending to be jealous; 'he can't argue with Dick.  What does he find in Dick's society, I should like to know?'

    We were crashing down the slope at a good pace, for as it did not suit us to walk in even paths, they were taking us into the wood.  Tom had Liz on his arm, and Mr. Brandon had Aunt Christie and me.

    'Is there anything else you would like to know?' said Aunt Christie over her shoulder, to Tom.

    'Yes, I should like to know why you all call him St. George.'

    'Why, Dick's at the bottom of that too,' said Liz.

    'No!' exclaimed both she and Mr. Brandon together, as we sat down and Aunt Christie lifted up her hand—a usual habit of hers, when she was going to speak: 'We cannot possibly stand that story,' Liz went on; 'you would make it last half an hour.'

    Tom took out his watch.  'How long would it take you to tell it?' he said gravely to Mr. Brandon.

    'I think I could polish it off in about forty seconds,' he answered.

    'Let him try then,—let him try,' Aunt Christie said; 'I'm sure my stories are very interesting, and some of them a great deal more to your credit than any of your present goings on.'

    'Now then,' said Tom, with his watch still in his hand —'off!'

    'I never promised to tell it at all.'

    'You've lost two seconds.'

    'Well, then, my dear young father's crest was a dragon, and I had a mug which had been his—a silver mug—with this crest on it, and out of it I used to drink the small beer of my childhood.  Dick, then about eight years old, once, when his parents came to lunch, and brought him with them, was taken up-stairs to dine with us in our nursery, and as I tilted up my mug to drink, he noticed that the dragon's tongue was out! and he managed to convey some notion to my mind that the circumstance was ignominious; he would have it that my dragon was putting out his tongue at me.  So after wrangling all dinner-time about this, we fought under the table with fisticuffs.  As soon as we finished—How does the time get on?'

    'Thirty seconds!'

    'Dick was remarkably pugnacious, and when we met—which was rather often—we always fought, either about that, or something else, till my mother found it out, and told me various stories about St. George, and I began to make a kind of hero of him in my mind.  She comforted me as regarded the dragon's tongue, by telling me what a wicked beast he was.  He did that to defy St. George, she said—'

    'Time's up!'

    'All right, I've told you quite enough.'

    'I'll take ten more seconds and finish it,' said Liz; 'so mamma used to call him her little St. George.  But Dick and Giles fought almost every holiday.  It was not all malice, you know, but partly from native pugnacity, and partly to see which was stronger.  Till the families quarrelled they were always at daggers drawn, and then to show their perversity, I suppose, Dick declared he didn't see what there was to contend about—took St. George's part most vehemently—said there was no fellow in the neighbourhood that was such a dear friend of his, and they've been as intimate as possible ever since.'

    'A minute and five seconds in all,' said Tom.

    'And very badly told,' said Aunt Christie;  'as I tell it I can assure you it's a very pretty, I may say an affecting story, and how his mother talked to him, and what he said—he was a dear little fellow, that he was.'

    'But it's very awkward for a man of my modest nature to have your stories told to his face,' said St. George, laughing, and she, with a real look of disappointment, said, it was too cold to sit out of doors.  I was full of ruth to think she was cut short in her tales, and as I took off my gloves to tie her veil, which was coming off, I said, 'Never mind, Aunt Christie, tell some of your stories to me when none of them are by to interfere; you shall tell me this very story if you like, every bit of it, particularly what the mother said, for evidently those must have been prophetic words.'

    She gave me a pleased smile, as she rose, and Mr. Brandon took my hand, as I thought, to help me up, instead of which, to my great surprise, he stooped and kissed it in the most open manner possible.

    Aunt Christie was standing by, looking down upon us, so that she must have seen this, but she did not betray the least surprise.  Tom and Liz were already plunging up the slope together, among deep layers of dead leaves, and for some time nothing was said; at length he broke silence, by saying something to me about Miss Braithwaite.

    He was so sorry we had not met; he thought she would like to see me.

    I replied: 'Perhaps, then, she will come and call on me in a day or two,' and he looked, I thought, just a little surprised, and walked by me in silence till I made some remark about the gathering damp, when, instead of answering, he began to talk of his regard for her, in short, of his great affection.  She was excellent, it appeared, she was remarkable, she was delightful.  He broke off this eulogy with a sudden start.

    'Well, if I mean to go at all I must go now.  Good bye.'

    'Shall we not see you at dinner, then?' I asked.

    'Oh yes, certainly;' he had passed through the little narrow gate that led into the shrubbery, and before he let me follow him he detained me a few minutes in conversation, till Tom and Liz came up by another path.

    'It gets cold and damp,' said Liz, 'we ought to be in;' whereupon he roused himself, and saying once more, 'Well, if I mean to go at all, I must not stay any longer,' he and Tom dashing through the shrubs together, made off to the stables.

    I found they were still in one another's company when going up to my own room afterwards, I saw them riding down the Wigfield road together, to Wigfield Grange, Mr. Braithwaite's house; and I wondered, as I had done several times before, at the persevering manner in which these two spirits kept close together, though they had never seemed to be so very congenial.

    If Mr. Brandon came into the room, Tom was sure to be in his wake, and if Tom took himself off Mr. Brandon's attention seemed to be excited; he grew restless, and shortly followed him.

    It was not till just before dinner was announced that they walked into the drawing-room.  Tom looked and behaved exactly as usual, but on Mr. Brandon such a change had fallen that it was impossible not to notice it.  All dinner-time he never once spoke, excepting in his capacity of carver, and in the evening when he joined us, he stood on the rug so lost in cogitation that he was quite unconscious of the inquiring looks which passed from one to the other.

    'I say,' observed Valentine to me, 'Giles is quite out of sorts since he came from Wigfield.  What's the row, I wonder?'

    I had my own theory, and though I felt a kind of shame in admitting it, there was a heartache too.  I had known and felt that for the last few days, whenever I spoke, he had turned his head instinctively to listen.  That was over, he had left us at the gate, as if he grudged the time that was to be spent at Wigfield; he had come back and forgotten that grudge.  Had Miss Dorinda said anything to him, or had the mere sight of her fragile form blotted everything else out of his mind and memory.

    Tom was more talkative than usual; he seemed to observe Mr. Brandon's remarkable taciturnity, and to be doing all he could to make up for it; he asked Lou to play, and he talked to Mrs. Henfrey.

    I felt that a sort of chill and restraint had fallen on us, and when Mrs. Henfrey observed that the thermometer had gone down, and there was a sprinkling of hoar-frost on the ground, I chose to consider that these sensations were partly owing to the weather.

    'Where is papa?' said Liz to Valentine.  'Asleep in the dining-room.'

    'How bad that is for him; suppose we go and fetch him up.  Will you come too, Dorothea?'

    I was very glad of the proposal, and went with her, Valentine following; he opened the dining-room door, the lamp had been turned down, and in his easy chair before the glowing embers of the fire, sat the beautiful old man dozing at his ease.

    He woke almost instantly,—'What, what—ah, ay, the children—what is it, my boy? do you want me?'

    'No, papa, but you must not sleep here.'

    'No, no, lazy old man; is that Miss Graham?'

    'Yes, you'll come up-stairs, won't you?'

    'Not yet, my boy; draw the sofa round there; and so Giles has been to Wigfield?'

    He got up from his easy chair, and exchanged it for the sofa, making us sit on it beside him.

    'I wish that Wigfield was further,' he continued; 'there is always some trouble or other when he goes there.  Child, my foot's asleep.'

    Liz sat down at his feet, and taking one on her knee, began to rub it, while he, passing his hand over my hair, said—

    'And so you must needs come down, too, and see what the old man was about ?'

    'Liz said I might come.'

    'You might!  Yes, my sweet, you may always come, what I don't wish is that you should go.'

    Delightful he was to every one, and nobody ever seemed to be in his way.  He was so accustomed to the caresses of the young, that when I took his hand between mine to warm it, he received the attention as a natural and common one, only remarking that it always made him chilly to go to sleep after dinner.

    So we sat there chatting in the firelight about all sorts of things till the door was suddenly opened, and in marched Mr. Brandon.

    'Well, Giles, you see I am holding a levee down here; did you think I was asleep?'

    Mr. Brandon, I could not help thinking, was somewhat vexed when he saw us; and when Liz and Valentine began to talk to him he answered shortly, and walked about the room with a sort of restless impatience.

    'Giles,' said his step-father, 'I wish you would sit down.'

    Giles took a little wicker chair, and bringing it near the sofa, sat down, but could not be quiet long; he soon rose, and standing with his back to the fire, made a kind of occupation of the chair, and pressed a foot on the spell, or a knee on the seat, to test its strength.  I knew as well as if he had told me so, that he wanted to talk to Mr. Mortimer, but no one else seemed to see it, and he sighed once or twice, with such restless impatience, that it pained me to hear him.

    'Giles,' said Valentine, 'you were talking about singing last night, and what do you think Miss Graham says,—why, that she never once heard you sing, and did not know you could.'

    'That is not odd; she has only been here a week.'

    'I have often said that I wished you girls would learn to accompany your brother,' said Mr. Mortimer to Liz.

    'We can't, papa, we have often tried, but we always put him out.  Nobody does him justice in that way but Miss Dorinda.'

    Mr. Mortimer uttered a little grunt on hearing this.  'But I like those simple things best, which want no accompaniment,' she continued.

    'I hate trash,' said Mr. Brandon, decidedly.  'Sing us something now, St. George.'

    Mr Brandon excused himself, and I was so conscious that the proposal was utterly distasteful to him, and that, though he was concealing it as well as he could, he was out of spirits and exceedingly out of temper, that I did not venture to add my voice to the general request

    'I have not heard him sing for a fortnight,' observed Mr. Mortimer, 'and it is a treat that I seldom ask for.'  The chair continued to be put, as it were, through its paces under the hands of Giles; but he looked hurt, and when Mr. Mortimer added, 'and I have said more than once that I should like to hear that French song again that he sung at the Wilsons', he said quickly, 'So be it, then,' and with a slight gesture of impatience, and no change of attitude, he instantly began.

    Valentine often repeated those verses afterwards, or I should not have remembered them, so completely did the song and the manner of it take me by surprise.  I had not expected anything particular, was not prepared, and it made the colour flush to my face and the tears into my eyes; it was not a powerful voice, or rather, being so near to us, he did not bring it out; it was not very clear, at least not then, but there was something in it that I felt I should never forget—that I almost trembled at, so great was its effect on me.

Some man, it seemed, from dusty Paris, had plunged into the depths of Normandy, and there he had sat by the wood-fire of a farm-house, and fallen in love with its mistress; but he went away from her, as it seemed, almost directly, and the ballad proceeded:—


Mon seul beau jour a dû finir,
    Finir dès son aurore;
Mais pour moi ce doux souvenir
    Est du bonheur encore.
En fermant les yeux je revois
    L'éclos plein de lumière,
La haie en fleur, le petit bois,
    La terms—et la fermière.


He betrayed his reluctance to sing throughout, but went to the end of the ballad:—


C'est la qu'un jour je vins m'asseoir
    Lea pieds blancs de poussière;
Un jour—puis en marche et bonsoir
    La ferme—et la fermière.


    When he had finished no one spoke, no one even said, ' Thank you.'  Dark as it was, surprise was evident, something had struck all the listeners.  As for me the echo of that song tyrannized over me, and I not only made up my mind fully that Miss Braithwaite must be at the bottom of it, but also that he had been alarmed at some change for the worse in her health, for I had heard her spoken of as very delicate and fragile.

    But how easily people may be mistaken!  The very next morning, as Valentine and I sat plodding together over our Greek, while Liz and Lou were entertaining some morning visitors, and Tom and Mr. Brandon were together in the peculiar domain of the latter, we heard a remarkable rumble in the hall which sounded like the rolling of wheels.

    'Whew!' exclaimed Valentine, 'here's the fair Dorinda!'

    'Where?' I exclaimed, looking out of the window.

    'Why, in the hall, to be sure'

    Before I could ask what he meant, the door was slowly opened, and a lady was pushed in who was seated in a large bath-chair; she was a very tall, stout lady, and she almost filled the chair, which she guided by means of a little wheel in front, while a perspiring youth propelled her at the back.  She must have been a great weight!

    Valentine spoke to her, and helped to guide her chair into a place from whence she could see the whole room, her servant then withdrew, and she said—

    'Is that Miss Graham; Valentine, will you introduce her to me?'

    It was a pleasant voice that spoke, and I looked her in the face for the first time.  She seemed to be about fifty years old, and was evidently quite a cripple; but her face was charming with cheerfulness, and her large, handsome features were quite free from any expression of pain or ill-health.  Valentine did as he was desired.  There was no mistake, this was Miss Dorinda Braithwaite, and I was so much amazed, that for a few minutes I could hardly answer her polite expressions of pleasure at making my acquaintance.  She seemed to observe my confusion, and to be willing to give me time to recover.  What she thought was the cause of it I could not tell; but I did my best to look and move as if I was not intensely surprised; though of course I was, and when, after talking to Valentine for some time, she again addressed me, I could behave like other people.

    Mr. Brandon, Tom, and Lou presently entered.  Lou kissed Miss Braithwaite, so did Mr. Brandon as composedly as if it was a matter of course.  Her charming face lighted up with pleasure as she spoke to him, her fondness for him was most evident; but she seemed to treat him, I observed, as quite a young man, almost, in fact, as a mother might treat her son, and she had not been ten minutes in the room before I found out why Valentine had spoken of her as such a very excellent person.  Without one atom of affectation she made it perceptible to us, or, rather, it became perceptible to us, 'that God was in all her thoughts.'  She had a curious way, too, of talking about herself, as if it was just as agreeable to her to be a prisoner in that chair as it could be to us to walk, as if, being the will of God, it must, of course, be all right, and consequently most desirable, most pleasant.

    I have known some people who, while they talked, seemed to go up to God; pierce some high majestic deeps, and roach towards what, in ordinary hours, is to us His illimitable absence.  There was nothing of that sort here.  It seemed rather that she had brought God down; God was come among us, and some of us were grateful and glad.

    I don't know how she managed to convey the things she made apparent to us.  She did not say them in so many words; but she thought them, and her thoughts became incidentally evident.  She stayed to lunch, was wheeled up to the table, and had a little sort of shelf fixed on to the front of the chair, which served her by way of a table.  I observed that she had a remarkable effect on Tom.  He perceived that what gave a meaning to her life and satisfied her was real, and was to her a glorious possession.  He always had taken an intense interest in things unseen.  Here was some one who evidently came a good deal in contact with them, and felt, concerning that difficult and tremendous thing, religion, not as if it was some hard thing that one might do, but some high thing that one might attain.

    She stayed about two hours, and Valentine all the time was not only silent, but crest-fallen and oppressed.  St. George, on the contrary, though still very different from his usual self, appeared to feel her conversation comforting and elevating to his spirits,—for the gloom which had hung about him since the last evening began to fade by degrees, and at last he too joined in this talk, but not without great reserve, and more, as it seemed, to explain her remarks, than to advance any thought of his own.

    When she said she must go, St. George and the Oubit between them pushed and pulled her great chair into the hall; most of the party went with her, Tom to carry her parasol, Liz and Mrs. Henfrey with some books that she had borrowed.  Valentine presently returned, and shutting the door of the dining-room in which Aunt Christie and I still remained, he performed a kind of war-dance of triumph and ecstasy round the table.

    'She's ruined my prospects,' he exclaimed.  'She's made me give it all up.  I shall tell St. George it's no go, and then I hope she'll be happy.'

    'Ye bad boy—O ye bad fellow'' said Aunt Christie, who, I think, was a little relieved herself that this visit was over, 'are ye glad to get rid of that blessed saint?  Look there, and be ashamed of yourself.'

    We both looked out where she indicated.  There was Tom, with his sailor's gait, walking beside her chair.  Strange curiosity!  His eyes while he listened had almost seemed to lighten, so vivid was the flash that came with those thoughts that had questioned of her.  There was often a strange awe in his soul which was very little connected with either fear or love; but O how glad he would have been of any glimpse or any echo coming from behind the veil!

    St. George walked on the other side, guiding the chair with his band, and when they came to the gate of the drive, which led to the road, they both took leave of her, then they vaulted over a little fence and began to walk across the fields.

    'They are going to overhaul John Mortimer again,' said Valentine.  'I heard St. George asking Graham what he would do, and where he would go, and he answered that he would rather stop at home.  St. George said, "No, you wouldn't; " and Graham actually gave in, and said, if he must go anywhere he would go there.  But they don't care so much, I know, about their argument now, because they've seen Uncle Augustus, and he does not agree with John in those views of his, you know, as to the bad effects of a token coinage, and the moment they found that the two experts were on opposite sides, they left off trying to make it out.'

    So they were gone, and gone for the whole evening; gone, also, against Tom's wish and at Mr. Brandon's will and pleasure.  Very odd indeed, but not so odd as some other things.  I went up to my room before we took our walk, and began to think all this over.  Miss Dorinda Braithwaite, the girl with the heavenly countenance!  I had seen her; she was a helpless cripple in a chair, and old enough to be my mother.

    Did that really matter, or could it ever be likely to matter to me?  I hardly knew, it was all so full of contradiction; but Tom had never talked privately to me but once since our arrival; this was a few days ago, and the subject was his pleasure at that early conversation in which I had 'let it appear that I had forgotten the colour of Brandon's eyes!  You cannot take the compliments, attentions, or even the apparent devotion of men too lightly,' said my Mentor; 'depend on it, they never mean anything whatever, unless they ask you point blank to marry them as soon as may be.'

    'Very well,' I answered, 'I shall not forget what you say.'

    So I thought of it in my room, and decided that for the present I would insist upon it, that nothing meant anything.

    We had plenty of amusement and talk that night, and music.  It was very cold, and we did not sit up till the return of Tom and St. George; but after I retired to my room and dismissed Mrs. Brand, whom I had soon done with, I heard their voices in the next room as I sat with my feet on the fender indulging in a pleasant reverie.

    Tom's room was next to mine; the two fireplaces were back to back, and I had often noticed that Mr. Brandon and he used to talk together there at night before the former retired to his own room.

    This evening was very windy and chill.  They evidently had a fire, for I could hear them knocking the logs about.  I also heard their voices, for they were talking in far louder tones than usual, and though Tom's soft voice was indistinct, Mr. Brandon's answers were so impressively clear that I was afraid I should soon hear the words, and as soon as I could I retired to bed, which was at the further side of the room; but even with my head upon the pillow I heard all the tones, though not the words, of a long argument.  Mr. Brandon evidently had the best of this argument, and he also had the poker, for he emphasized his remarks with most energetic thrusts at the fire.

    The imperative mood is used 'for commanding, exhorting, entreating, and permitting.'  Mr. Brandon, to judge by his voice, put it through all its capabilities, and Tom sank to silence till, at the end of a long harangue, a question seemed to be asked, and Tom answered.  Then I heard words.

    'You won't?' asked in a tone of sudden astonishment and anger.

    'No, I won't'

    'Then I say you WILL.'

    The harangue began again; it was vehement, the answers grew short.  The harangue rose to eloquence, persuasion, entreaty; the answers grew faint.  At last both voices became gentle and amicable.  Whatever the dispute had been it was over, and not without some curiosity I heard Mr. Brandon close the door and steal softly up-stairs to his own domain.

    I was sure they had been quarrelling, and the next morning when I came down, I watched for their appearance that I might see how they accosted each other.

    They came in together, and fully equipped for a journey.

    'Going out before breakfast?' exclaimed Mrs. Henfrey.

    'No, we breakfasted an hour ago,' replied Mr. Brandon, coolly.  'We are going to run up to town for—for a week or a fortnight.'

    I looked at Tom in surprise; he did not seem at all eager for the journey, but was quiet and gentle.  He kissed me and was saying 'Good-bye,' when I exclaimed in low tone, 'Dear Tom, are you going to leave me here by myself?'

    Tom shrugged his shoulders, and said, drearily, that Brandon was bent on being off; he never saw such a restless fellow, he hated stopping at home.

    'Come, old fellow,' said Mr. Brandon, 'we shall be late for the train, and my dog-cart is brought round.'

    He took my hand in his, and said something about his regret at leaving home when I was in it, and then he marched off after Tom.  They got into the dog-cart and drove away.

    'Ah!' said Mr. Mortimer, when they were gone, and we were seated at breakfast, 'it was dull here for young Graham, very dull.  Not used to a country life.  No, they'll get on better in town.'

    'He certainly seems as if he had taken out a patent for holding his tongue,' observed Valentine.

    The sisters frowned at him and glanced at me.  Mr. Mortimer went on—

    'Giles wanted to be off yesterday morning, and came down to consult me about it the night before; but I reminded him of an engagement he had, and so they agreed to stay.'  He spoke with great deliberation and composure.

    I answered, feeling hurt that my brother should be so misunderstood, and also feeling anything but pleased with Mr. Brandon

    'I am sure that Tom was very well content to be here; I think he went to please Mr. Brandon.'

    'Well,' said Mr. Mortimer, calmly, 'perhaps he did, my dear; perhaps he did.  St. George may have had reasons for wishing to go out.'

    'O yes, certainly.'

    'And if so, he could hardly leave his friend behind, could he?  For my part, when he proposed the trip, I said, "Go, by all means." '

    It was most evident to my mind that this journey was not of Tom's contriving, and that though the family supposed it to be done to please him, it was really done at Mr. Brandon's will and pleasure.  I said no more, but when after breakfast I sat waiting in the morning-room till Valentine came in to do his Greek, I felt that all my self-command was needed to conceal my extreme annoyance, surprise, and even shame.

    What could this be for? why was he so very anxious all on a sudden to get away? I said to myself that I now knew he had been flirting with me, but he had not been obliged to go into it unless he liked.  Why, then, in such a hurry to escape? did he think I had shown too much pleasure in his society, that it behooved him to take himself out of my way?  I did not know what to think, but I felt that he had done very wrong to drag Tom from this quiet country place, where he had really been cheerful and pleased, and take him within two or three hours of Southampton, a place I never liked to think of his having anything to do with.

    Enter Valentine.

    'I'm so glad St. George is gone!'

    'Why?'

    'Because now I shall have you all to myself.  I wonder what he is going to do with your brother.'

    'You talk of Tom as if he was a child.  I do not see myself how he could stop any longer here when your brother showed him so plainly that he didn't wish it.'

    'Well, you must admit that it was very heavy work amusing him here!  There was nothing for him to do that he cared for.  Dear me, what a sigh!  I say—'

 'Yes.'

    'If you think I am going to call you Miss Graham all my life, you are mistaken.  The girls don't.  So as you have no objection, I shall call you D.; that simple initial escapes the formality that I dislike, and is more distant than Dorothea.  If I am encouraged, I shall sometimes add a simple expression of regard to show my kind feelings towards you.'

    'I shall not encourage you.'

    'Aunt Christie's going away to-day, so if you don't keep friends with me you will be very dull; she is never so well pleased as to be here.'

    'I love Aunt Christie, but though she is going I shall not encourage you.'

    'No; I believe if you had as many names as the Smilex simulata, you would like to be called by them all.  I saw a plant labelled once for the benefit of the ignorant public in Kensington Gardens—Smilex simulata—the Simulated Smilax, a Smilaceous plant.  What do you think it was? why, a wallflower!'

    'I consider you to be a kind of literary rag-bag full of scraps of information.  I do not care for the illustration, and I shall at present not allow you to call me D.'

    'I consider you to be oppressively clever.  I don't like you.'

    'And I wish to begin the reading—'

    'So we will, D., my dear.'

    From that time he always insisted on calling me ' D., my dear,' and at last I tired of telling him not, and became accustomed to the appellation. Indeed, after that first day, he afforded almost my whole amusement, and devoted himself to me with a simple naïveté which was quite consistent with a good deal of plain speaking.  He also afforded me occupation in helping him with his studies; but for this salutary tie I should have had nothing to do, for a visitor arrived to whom Liz and Lou devoted much of their attention, so much that I could not but wonder what they found to like or to admire.  This visitor was a Captain Walker of the—Fusiliers, a dull man, silent to a degree, and who when he did talk seemed to have but one idea—his brother, his twin brother who had married their sister Emily.  Of his brother he could talk a little when other people were present; but when he was alone with Liz and Lou I used to think he must have talked of something else, for I observed several times that on my entrance there was a sudden silence, and Lou, by whom he was sitting, would look a little flushed, while Liz was generally stationed with her back to them, writing in a window.

    It was about this time I think that a certain newspaper squib appeared, which caused much anguish to Mr. Mortimer, but which Valentine, though angry at it, could not help quoting with great glee when we were alone.  I do not remember it all, but the precious effusion began thus:—


'Brandon of Wigfield, we do you to wit,
 That to lecture the masses you're wholly unfit,
 Worthy, but weak Mr. Brandon!
 You haven't a leg to stand on,
 "Don't cheer me," you sighed,
 "Us weren't going," they cried.
     And they hissed you instead, Mr. Brandon.

'Who are you , Sir, that argies and wrangles?
 Who are you, Sir, that talk about mangles,
 And suds; and the starching that follers,
 As if you got up yer own collars,
 And kittles, and pots, you young sinner,
 As if you could cook your own dinner,
 Or sew on one blessed pearl button,
 Or hash a cold shoulder of mutton?
     Worthy, but weak Mr. Brandon,' &c.


    I was secretly enraged at this squib, and sympathized with Mr. Mortimer.  I even ventured once when we were alone to express this sympathy, and the dear old man received it with evident pleasure; but whenever his father was out of hearing Valentine's cracked voice might be heard crowing out—


'Worthy, but weak Mr. Brandon.
 You haven't a leg to stand on.'


 
CHAPTER XXIII.


'I'm young and strong, my Marion;
 None dance like me on the green;
 And gin ye forsake me, Marion,
 I'll e'en draw up with Jean.'


I DID not now sit in the morning-room, for I could not find in my heart to make Lou uncomfortable, and I observed that my proposal to Mrs. Henfrey that Valentine and I should read in the drawing-room with her was met with such ready willingness, that I could not but suppose she wished Captain Walker to have every opportunity for making himself agreeable.

    After we had read, we took a walk or a drive; indeed, we were thrown together almost all day long, and I was so keenly aware of the folly I should commit if I indulged any dream with respect to Mr. Brandon, that I tried earnestly to write and walk, to talk and practise as much as I could, and starve him out of my thoughts by occupying myself with other things.

    He had deliberately gone away in the very midst of his apparent interest about me.  It was not to please Tom, that I had plainly seen; and there had been no talk of business.

    'Well,' said Valentine, one day when we set out for our walk, 'I consider that Giles is in for a thousand pounds.'

    'What do you mean?'

    'Oh, don't you know that he gave Emily that sum when she was married, and promised it to the others?'

    'No, I had not heard it.'

    'Well, he did; and he is to let me have the same sum to put me to college.  That's what gives him so much power over me.'

    'I did not know he was rich.'

    'He isn't; but he has plenty.  That, I am bound to say, is my pa's doing.  Why, this house belongs to Giles.'

    'Indeed!'

    'Yea; papa was his father's guardian.  His father died suddenly, you know, before he was born.'

    'I have heard that.'

    So papa and sister went and fetched poor mamma here, and she stayed till after Giles was born; she did nothing but cry, and made them so miserable.  She used to sit, when she got a little better, under that laurustinus tree and nurse Giles, and cry over him.  Then she said she should be happier if she went to her own people in Scotland; so papa took her there, and she soon got better, and married Mr. Grant.  Well then, most of what Mr. Brandon had left became the property of his child, and papa was his guardian, and managed it so well, that by the time Giles was of age his patrimony was nearly doubled.  Did you ever hear the story of how papa came to marry mamma?'

    'No.  Tell it me.'

    'Why, of course papa and mamma used to correspond about Giles, and papa wished him to go to school, and there was a kind of coolness between them, because papa thought it so silly of mamma to marry again so soon.  Well, after Mr. Grant had been dead a year, there was some business to be settled, and mamma had some papers to sign about Giles.  But papa had the gout and could not go to Scotland, so mamma had to come to him, and she left Giles behind, for fear papa should want to get him and send him to school.

    'She came here in a snow-storm, and papa was very cross and grumbling a good deal about his gout.  He was nearly sixty then, and had been a kind of widower thirty years.  When he found that mamma had left Giles behind he was very angry.  I can't tell the story as well as sister does; it's the only one she ever does tell well.  She was with papa, and when he said, "Are there no possible means, madam, by which I can get that boy into my hands?"  Mamma said, "I cannot tell what means you may have in reserve, but those which you have tried at present are quite ineffectual."  Sister thought they were going to quarrel, so she got out of the room as fast as she could; but when she came in again (mamma was always considered a very fascinating person), she found papa in an excellent temper, and he told her he had been talking with Mrs. Grant, and she had promised to let him have her son.  And so mamma did, you know, but she came with him and Liz and Lou and Emily also.  I have always thought it showed a beautiful spirit of discernment in my dear mother, that no sooner was I born than she perceived my superior merit, and showed an open preference for me over all her other children.  On the other hand, so blind is poor human nature, that papa always had a kind of infatuation in favour of Giles.  Papa sent Giles to Trinity, and wished him to study law, but he hates the law, and says if he marries he shall buy land and go and settle in New Zealand.  It is a lucky thing for us that papa managed so well for him, for now Giles always persists that we have a claim on his property in consequence.'

    From day to day Valentine and I cultivated our intimacy.  We went together to call on Miss Dorinda, we took rides together and went fern-hunting in the woods, we studied, we quarrelled, and made it up again.  We were at first glad to be together for want of other society, but by degrees we got used to each other, and liked to discuss in company the progress of Captain Walker's wooing, the various croquet parties we went to, and the neighbours who came to lunch and to call.

    Once, and only once, Valentine gave himself a holiday from his Greek, and left me all the morning.  About three o'clock he returned and burst into the room, exclaiming that he should not have been so late if he had not fallen in with a crowd of people running to farmer Coles', and declaring that one of his ricks was on fire.

    'I ran after them, hoping to see the fun, and help to throw water, when Tim Coles, the farmer's own brother, lagged behind and began to lament and talk about his feelings.  "Come, Tim," said I, "you block up the stile; let me get over."  "Ah!" said he, "my poor brother! blood's thicker than water."  "So I perceive," said I, "so much thicker that it won't run."  Put that into the novel; it's much better than anything you can invent yourself.  Well, we soon had the fire out.  I was too late for the train, but though I had to wait for the next, I was glad; for Charlotte was there, and Prentice; they were waiting for old Tikey to come down from some missionary meeting he'd been to.  We amused ourselves with planting.  Charlotte said, "If I were to plant you and what you frequently do, myself and something indefinite, what would come up?"—but, dear me! you never can guess anything, and, besides, an old salt like you ought not to plant, you should fish.  If I were to throw myself into the sea when you were fishing, what should you catch?'

    'An odd fish?'

    'No.'

    'A flat-fish?'

    'No, you crab, but a great sole—a friend of St. George's used to say that he was all soul—so am I, except my body.  Come, I'll give you another plant.  If I were to plant the mother of hexameters painted gold-colour, and what I should like to give you, what would come up?  Do you think it would be a bee orchis?'

    'I consider you a very impertinent boy.  Besides, they ought to spell.'

    'No, they belong to the botanical, not to the educated classes.  Scene for the novel —"And here the graceful youth, producing a costly ring, and dropping on one knee, took her hand and pressed it to his finely-formed lips, as was his frequent habit." '

    'He did nothing of the kind!' I exclaimed.  'How dare you! you never did kiss it, and you never will.  Do you think I am going to hang my hand over the end of the sofa that, as Sairey Gamp says, you "may put your lips to it when so dispoged"?'

    'Why, you don't think I was in earnest, do you? exclaimed Valentine, shaking with laughter.  'Kiss your hand, indeed!  I wouldn't do such a thing on any account, I can tell you!  No, it was a scene.'  And he stuck a little ring on the top of one of his great fingers, and said, in a more colloquial tone, 'Just see if this fits, will you?'

    'Yes, it fits pretty well.'

    'It only cost seven-and-sixpence!'

    'And quite enough, too, for it is a rubbishing little thing.'

    'Well, keep it, then, for the present, lest I should lose it.  And now I am going to tell you a thrilling tale, and appeal to all your better feelings.'

    'Do.'

    'You must know, then, that the day Giles went away, he got up very early indeed; I heard him, and got up too, and went into his room while he was shaving.  I told him I had only five shillings in my pocket, and put it to him, "as a man and a brother," whether, considering the state of his own finances, he had the heart to let such a state of things continue.  It was once his own case—how did he like it? I asked.  The wretch answered, "O l'heureux temps quand j'étais si malheureux!" and went on lathering himself in a way that was very unfeeling, considering how late my whiskers are in coming.  "What do you want to buy?" said Giles.  I told him a ring.  "Whew!" he answered, "a ring!  Why can't you seal your letters with a shilling?  Well, come," he said, "if you'll have your father's crest well cut, I'll give you five pounds."  "What!" I answered, "do you think I am such a muff as to want a signet ring?  No, I want one for a present."  Well, by that time I had got the five sovereigns.  "A present!" said Giles, with infinite scorn, "for whom?"  I told him it was for a lady, and instead of treating the matter as if it was the most natural thing in the world, he laughed in an insulting manner, and then turned grave, and desired me not to make myself ridiculous by any such foolery; he wanted to know the lady's name, and said if it was Fanny Wilson, I was most presumptuous; indeed, at my age, it would be very impertinent to do such a thing, and that papa would be very angry; he added, D. dear, that if I would only wait a couple of years, there really was no saying what might happen in that quarter.  I said it was not Fanny Wilson.  "Has it any reference, then, to that foolish boy, Prentice?" he next asked.  I could not altogether say that it had not.  "Because if it has, and you give a ring to Charlotte on purpose to vex him, I shall be much disappointed in you," he said.  I said I could not divulge the lady's name, but of course I could not help laughing, because he was so grave and so angry, and seemed so astonished at my folly; no lady, he said, would accept a ring from a mere boy.  "I'll bet you all the money that I don't spend in the ring," I said, "that this lady does."  "If she does," said Giles, "I give you five sovereigns more."  Only think of that!  I know if he had not been in such a hurry that he would have made me tell him everything.  As it is, D. dear, I can make myself happy in the hope of future pelf; the ring is for you.

    'For me; how dare you!'

    'Yes, for you.  It has been my happy privilege already to-day to make a fellow-creature perfectly miserable.  Prentice is now, I have little doubt, tearing his hair.'

    Upon this I took off the ring and laid it inside the fender, where I told him it would remain unless he picked it up.  Following his brother's lead, I also said that if he had done it in earnest it would have been very foolish, but as it was in joke it was impertinent.

    'It's all Prentice's fault,' he burst out.  'He gave Charlotte a ring, and I shall never be able to subdue him unless I can match him; his insolence is insufferable.  You should have seen his jealous misery to-day when I said, carelessly, that I was going to buy a ring.  I hate that fellow—at least so far as is consistent with Christian charity I do.  The great joy and desire of his life is to do what nobody else can; but if other young fellows can be engaged at nineteen, why, there is no glory in it, and no grandeur either.  However, I shall pick up the ring, and trust to your better feelings not to deprive me of all this money.'

    We argued and bickered some time, and then were reconciled; what, indeed, was the use of quarrelling with a youth whose simplicity was so transparent, and whose temper was so imperturbable?

    That night the ring was sent to me with a polite note begging my acceptance of it.  I returned it the next morning before I left my room in a similar note declining to receive it.  This process was repeated every night and every morning till the next Sunday, when, as we were walking home from church, Valentine exclaimed, 'I say, Prentice has been low all this week, and now he despairs.  I heard him speak snappishly to Charlotte, upon which she replied, "Well, how can I help it if they do correspond!"  What an inconsiderate world this is!  I would not, on any account, make a fellow so miserable as you have made Prentice!'

    'Correspond; what do you mean!'

    'Oh, I remarked to Prentice, in the course of conversation, that we corresponded; so we do; we write daily.  That is entirely your doing.  I should never have thought of such a thing.'

    The note with the ring in it was sent to me as usual that night, and for the first time Liz was with me.  Mrs. Brand brought it in with the usual simper and the usual message: 'Mr. Valentine's compliments, ma'am, and wishes you pleasant dreams.'  I told the story to Liz, and she was very much amused; but when I related the anecdote about the correspondence, she agreed with me that the joke must be put a stop to, and we thought the best thing for me to do, in order to effect this, would be to make over the ring to somebody else.

    So I put it on her finger, and the next morning, after breakfast, I saw it catch Valentine's eye, and heard him ask her where she got it.

    'Oh,' she replied, carelessly, 'it is a thing that Dorothea had no value for, so she gave it to me.'

    'Did she,' said Valentine, with joyful readiness', 'then the game is won at last! and I'll write at once for that photographing camera; it only coats £8- 10s., and now I can have it.'

    Lou and Captain Walker, who were evidently in possession of the facts, looked on amused, and I asked what the ring had to do with the camera.

    Valentine replied that people could not give away what did not belong to them, therefore it was evident, by my own act, that I acknowledged the ring to be mine, I had accepted it, and given it away; so he should at once appropriate the promised gift from St. George.

    It was quite in vain for me to protest and declare; everybody was against me; even Mrs. Henfrey was roused to interest, and laughed, and demonstrated to me that nothing could be clearer than Valentine's case.

    The camera was ordered that very morning, and we—that is Valentine and I—spent from that time forth several hours of each day in taking portraits with it.  Hideous things some of them were; they had an evil grin on their faces, so we tried sitting with gravity, and then the portraits glared at beholders with desolate gloom.  At last we grew tired of troubling ourselves as to the expression of our faces; sat carelessly, and some very good ones came out, which we spoilt by over-burning in the sun, or spotted by soaking in a badly-mixed bath.

    We set the camera out of doors on the lawn, and worked at this new trade till at last, when we had wasted more than half the stock of chemicals, we arrived at tolerable skill, and took Captain Walker's unmeaning face, light eye, and sandy whiskers, so well, that even Mrs. Henfrey declared it to be a speaking likeness, and arrayed herself in velvet, and came out on the lawn to sit.

    Mr. Mortimer encouraged this rage for photography on the ground that it was good for Valentine's lungs to be out so much in the air.

    We took all the friends of the family, and all the cottagers.  We took the home party in every variety of costume and attitude; we took Captain Walker leaning on Lou's chair; he evidently wished to look sentimental; she told him to give himself a military expression.  In his desire to combine the two, he looked both foolish and fierce, but Lou was pleased.  We then took him again in his full dress, with one hand pointing at nothing in the distance.  His hand came out as big as his head, but what of that? nothing is perfect.

    St. George being away, we adopted the smoking-room and used it as a portrait gallery, and stuck the pictures all over his walls with pins; there they hung to dry, while we, having stained our fingers of a lively brown with collodion, and having arrived at tolerable skill, sighed for new worlds to conquer, and took the portrait of every child and monitor in Giles's own particular village school, where he had a select company of little girls bringing up on purpose to be sent to Canada.


    We then took portraits in character.  Valentine bought a pair of moustaches and came out as a brigand.  I was dressed up as a fish girl, having a basket of mackerel on my head, which we got from the cook.  Those mackerel stood a long time in the sun, and when they appeared at table the family declined to partake of them, but the photograph was the very best we ever did.

    As time went on, I was the more glad of this occupation, for we heard nothing of Tom and Mr. Brandon, and as no one but Valentine and myself seemed to think this at all singular, I sometimes thought the family must know something of their movements; though, when I made any remark on Tom's long absence, Mr. Mortimer or Mrs. Henfrey would reply to the effect that it was dull in the country.

    One day, when the weather was particularly fine, and we, after working hard at our Greek, had taken some very successful photographs, Valentine got Liz to lend him the ring, and asked me just to put it on while my portrait was being taken as a bridesmaid.  I declined, for I had a suspicion that some farther torture to Prentice would ensue, but as he made a great point of it, and did not like to yield, I at last went in and ensconced myself in the smoking-room.  As I stood by the table he shortly entered, bearing the ring on a large silver waiter, and following me about the room, laughing and begging me to put it on.  He walked after me round and round the table.  I then retreated before him till the walk became a run, and I at last darted out of the room and ran up-stairs, he striding after, vowing that I should wear it.  In that style, both out of breath with laughing, we ran up one staircase and down another, up the gallery and along the wing, the ring rattling and dancing on the waiter, and Valentine with cracked voice vociferating and quoting; till, stopped at last by the window seat, I turned to bay quite breathless, and he dropped on one knee and held up his waiter with the ring on it still laughing but unable to articulate a word.

    At this precise point of time a door close at hand flew open, and somebody coming out, nearly tumbled over Valentine's legs.

    Mr. Mortimer.

    Nothing could exceed the intense surprise of his countenance when he saw Valentine's attitude and the ring.  In spite of our laughter, it was evident that this little tableau had greatly struck him, and after a pause of a few seconds, he turned again very quietly into his dressing-room and shut the door behind him without saying a word.

    Now if he had laughed or spoken, I should not have thought so much of it, but that withdrawal and that great surprise were very mortifying, because it seemed to show that he did not treat the matter as the silly joke of a boy.

    Valentine saw this as well as I did, and when he rose from his knees he looked very foolish.  I was not in the best humour possible, and as we walked down-stairs together in a very crest-fallen state, Mr. Mortimer's surprise being far more disconcerting than Valentine's joke, I said I thought he had better go and explain the whole thing to his father, make light of it, and expressly say that the ring was only offered as an ornament to be worn in a portrait.

    For once he was out of countenance, and made excuses.  His father, he was sure, would ask what he meant by it, perhaps would inquire if he meant anything serious.

    'He will say nothing of the kind,' I answered with some asperity; 'ridiculous!  Even if he did, you would only have to speak out and say "no," like a boy and a Briton.'

    'I shan't say anything of the sort,' he answered, sulkily.  'I like you better than any girl in the world.  Charlotte's nothing to you, nor Jane Wilson either.'

    I was very angry with him for talking such nonsense, but I argued the point with him, and proved by force of reasoning, that he and I were friends and could be nothing else.  He began to yield.  I might be right.  I summed up the facts, and his mind inclined to agree with me.  Then why had he been so foolish?  He said he didn't exactly know.  I supposed it must have been out of perversity.  He thought it must have been, and, recovering his spirits, began to whistle.

    So having by this time returned to the lawn, I sat down on a heap of mown grass, and began to harangue him on the necessity of his going to explain matters to his father, when I suddenly forgot the subject, in consequence of a circumstance which took place, and did not think of it again for at least an hour.

    He was sitting at my feet, playing with the mown grass, and blushing, when hearing footsteps close to us he looked up and exclaimed, 'Why, here's Giles, I declare!' and Mr. Brandon, stepping up, shook hands with me and looked at me with some attention.

    No wonder, for I was arrayed in white tarlatan, I had a crown of flowers on my head, and my upper skirt was filled with bunches of lilac, laburnum, and peonies.  Captain Walker had taken great pains to persuade Lou to be taken dressed as a bride, while Liz and I strewed flowers before her in the character of bridesmaids.  At the last moment, when all seemed propitious, Lou had failed the poor man, but Liz and I, determined not to have the trouble of dressing for nothing, intended to be taken without her.

    'Oh, Mr. Brandon,' I exclaimed, 'you are come home!  Where is Tom? is he up in his room?'

    'No,' he answered cheerfully, and as if he wished me to think his announcement a commonplace one, but could not quite manage it.  'I left him behind with the Captain.  He sent his love to you.  We only spent four days in town, and I have been cruising about with them ever since.  They put me ashore yesterday at Gosport.'

    'He is not ill?'

    'No—no, certainly not; I never saw him looking better, nor the Captain either.'

    I had already stayed at Mr. Mortimer's house nearly the whole of the month for which we had been invited.  Tom, I could not but think, was treating him very cavalierly by this strange withdrawal, and here was I left alone with no directions how to act, and a positive certainty now that there was something in the background which I did not understand.

    I said I hoped he had brought me some letters.  He answered, with the same open air of cheerfulness, No, he had not, but that Tom had promised to write very soon.

    'Hang him!' said Valentine, with sudden vehemence.  'Promised to write to his own sister!  But,' he added, in a sympathizing voice, cracked though it was, 'never mind, D. dear; you must stop, you know, till he comes to fetch you, and won't that be a trial to this child!  Never mind! he'll try and bear it.'

    There was something very affectionate in his manner, and as Mr. Brandon did not say a single word, but merely stood by looking on, he continued his remarks, interspersing them with many quotations and jokes, to which I could not respond, and Mr. Brandon did not.

    My sensations of shame at the way in which I had been left on the hands of this family, the fear lest I should intrude, and the consciousness that they were perfectly aware that Tom cared nothing either for their feelings in the matter or for mine, so much overpowered me that I sat down in the glorious sunshine on my heap of grass, mechanically holding my lap full of flowers, and wondering what I was to do if neither Tom nor my uncle did write before the end of the week.

    Still Mr. Brandon stood like a statue beside me, and still Valentine talked; but I only heard his words as if they had been a slight noise a long way off that had nothing to do with me.  I was thinking on the uncertainties of wind and tide.  My uncle had put to sea, and who could tell when he might be in port again.

    A momentary silence recalled me to myself.  Valentine, having finished all he had to say, paused, and then claimed, with sudden vehemence—

    'Now, D. dear, I shall never believe you again when you say that you can't help moving.  If you would only sit in this way you would make a lovely negative, I'm positive.  As for Giles, he is as still as a stone.  How I wish I could take him with his nose relieved so beautifully against that laurel tree!'

    I answered that as Liz did not come, I would go in and dress for dinner.

    I did go in, and found Mrs. Brand in my room waiting for me, and pushing a letter into her pocket.

    'Is that from Brand?' I asked.

    She said it was, and, declaring that I was very late, began to excite a most unnecessary bustle, pulling out gowns and sashes, and strewing my possessions about room.

    'Don't be so nervous,' I said.  'I will not ask you any questions.'

    Instead of answering, she reminded me that visitors were expected to dinner, and pretended to be very anxious about the plaiting of my hair.  Her agitation made her longer than usual about my toilet, but that was a comfort, for I wanted a little time, not to gain information, for that at present I shrank from, but to gather courage, and become able to attend to what was about me.

    I had a suspicion floating in my mind.  I had cherished it for some time.  The foundation for it was very slight and I was anxious not to betray it on any account; but to appear cheerful and easy about Tom till the last moment before I was compelled to have the suspicion verified.

    I had so completely subsided into the family during the last fortnight, and become so accustomed to pay Mr. Mortimer the little attentions of a daughter, instead of receiving from him the attentions of a host, that when I advanced into the long drawing-room a certain change of manner in him arrested my attention instantly.

    He spoke to me, set a chair for me near his own, and, making some kind remark about Tom, said, as if on purpose to set me at my ease, that as my brother could not come back, he hoped I should make up for it by prolonging my own stay as long as I could make it convenient or find it agreeable.  To this formal invitation I returned a grateful answer; but I derived a kind of notion, from the manner of it, that it was at Mr. Brandon's suggestion.  I thought he perceived the likelihood of my receiving no directions, and wished to spare me the pain of feeling that I was encroaching by letting me first have an invitation to stay.

    Mr. Mortimer received my answer politely, but the kind of familiar, almost loving, manner which he had assumed towards me of late was altered.  He had become courteous again, and treated me as he did his other guests who now began to arrive.

    The fine woman was present, and her daughter Jane.

    This young lady had a very large fortune, and I had often heard her talked of.  I looked at her with some interest.  She had been called a heavy-footed girl, and she certainly was no sylph, but I thought her rather a fine young creature, and observed that her mother kept a watchful eye upon her, noting who talked to her, and who came to her side.  Specially she was watchful of Mr. Brandon, and when he talked to Jane, which he did rather often, I thought that the daughter was much pleased, but that the mother was not pleased.

    Neither need have cared; there was no interest in manner that could give reasonable hope to the one or fear to the other.

    Captain Walker took me down to dinner, and Lou sat as far from him as the length of the table would permit.

    Captain Walker was eminently stupid that day, and I was eminently silent.  I had heard before all his anecdotes about his twin brother; they never varied in the least, but they were told with confidential earnestness, and were supposed to demand all the intellect of the listener to enter into them, and laugh in the right place.  Not being in the least funny, we had sometimes laughed in the wrong place, but this we soon found disconcerted him, and we took care now always to laugh when he said, 'Wasn't that droll?' or 'Wasn't that witty?'

    Mr. Brandon sat on my other side, and Jane Wilson talked to him.  She was animated and full of interest; full of curiosity too, and wanted to hear about a cruise that she heard he had been taking with a friend of his an a yacht, a friend whom she wished she had seen more of, for he seemed to be a very singular young man.

    Giles escaped rather pointedly from this subject more than once; the third time she mentioned it he turned to me, and addressed me for the first and only time during dinner, saying something intended to show her that I was the sister of his yachting friend.

    During the rest of the evening I felt impelled to watch him, and wonder whether he had anything in his mind which he would communicate to me.  He seemed aware this, and never approached me.  If he had anything to say that was certainly not the time.  Once I chanced to be standing in the same group with him, but he remained mute till it dispersed, and only Valentine was left, when he said to him—'Oubit, I shall expect you read with me before breakfast to-morrow.'

    'All right,' said Valentine.  'Well, D. dear, how did you get on at dinner-time with your brilliant companion?'

    'You will be overheard, Val,' said St. George.

    And Valentine continued in a lower key—'Silly of Lou to persist in sitting apart from him.  Now, if you and I had been together, we should have been as happy as possible.  I say, I hate this black gown; why don't you wear white?  Isn't this thing hideous, Giles?'

    Mr. Brandon being thus directly appealed to, just glanced at the offending array, but made no answer, and presently Jane Wilson came up.

    'Mr. Brandon, you are wanted to sing a duet.'

    'With whom?'

    'With me.'

    As Jane Wilson led him off I thought she had a pretty piquant manner, but I observed that her mother had moved to the piano before them, and was looking over the music.

    Three duets were produced one after the other.

    'Oh,' said Mrs. Wilson, 'my dear child, have you the temerity to wish to sing this with Mr. Brandon?  It will make your defects too evident.'

    Jane put up the second—'Oh, you have had no lessons on this one, love.'

    The third was proposed.

    'This will do very well,' said Mr. Brandon, carelessly.

    'German,' said Mrs. Wilson, 'is so very unbecoming to the voice, and your voice does so completely kill Jane's, that really—'

    'Why should she not sing a solo, then?' said Mr. Brandon.  'This one looks pretty.'  He placed one on the piano and walked away from the mortified girl and gratified mother, quite unconscious as it seemed of the feelings of either, and utterly indifferent as to whether he sang or not.

    'Isn't that droll?' said Valentine softly to me, 'Every one but Giles can see the preference in that quarter.'

    'He does not see it then?'

    Evidently not, and I am sure he would not like it if it was pointed out.:

    'Why?'

    'Oh, because I have often heard him laugh at fellows who leave the wooing to the ladies, and say nothing was worth having that did not cost a man some trouble to get, and he should not thank any woman for doing his work for him.'

    'He is quite right, but if he does not see when it is done for him, why then he is a short-sighted mortal.'

    'D., my dear, I do not think there is much fear lest you should follow in J. W.'s steps.  You will take a great deal of earning, I expect.'

    'People generally call that winning.'

    'No, what they get by good luck or chance they say is won, but what they work for they say is earned.  Now if I could earn you—'

    'Don't talk nonsense; you never would, even if you tried, which you never will.'

    'What do you know of my future?  Do you pretend to be a prophetess?  Now my impression is that I shall try, and if so, that I shall probably succeed.'

`I consider it very impertinent in a boy like you to talk in this way.'

    'But it won't be impertinent when I'm a man!  I am considering what will probably happen when I am a man.  Valentine Mortimer, Esq., of Trin. Coll., Cambridge.  I think I see him now; he comes riding to the strand on his fine black mare, his whiskers, I perceive, are brown; he draws the rein, the yacht rocks in the offing, a lady waves a handkerchief—'

    'Well, go on—He comes on board in the market boat with the vegetables, singing "Rule Britannia," but by the time he has stepped on deck he is very ill, and says, "Oh, please let me go back to my papa, and I'll never do this any more." '

    'So he is put ashore, and the lady becomes a Smilax simulata.'

    'Does that follow?'

    'On philosophic and general grounds, I should say so decidedly.  Is it likely indeed in a country where there are more women than men, that each woman should have more than one good offer?'

    'Did I hear you say good?'

    'You did.  Look at my height; is that nothing?  Look (prophetically) at my whiskers; will they be nothing?'

    'I should expect to find that remarkably eligible ladies would have several good offers if the one you seem to promise me is a specimen of a good one.'

    'Remarkably eligible!  Do my ears deceive me? or can it be that you allude to yourself?'

    'Of course; you would hardly be ambitious of securing anything not remarkably eligible; besides, with those brown whiskers that are coming, to what might you not aspire, especially if you are not plucked in your "little go?"  And to tell you the truth I sometimes think you won't be, now that I have taken such pains with your Greek.'

    'You had better mind what you are about,' exclaimed Valentine, shaking with laughter.  'This sort of thing may be carried a little too far;' and as he spoke a little piece of cotton wool flew out of his ear, and performing a short arc, dropped on to the floor.  He picked it up hastily and restored it, but his brother who was passing before us paused as if struck by the sight, and turning towards him, murmured in a melancholy tone,—'And certain stars shot madly from their spheres, to hear the sea-maid's music.'


 
CHAPTER XXIV.

'Quoth the raven, "Never more." '—EDGAR POE.


THAT night I asked Mrs. Brand what Brand had said in his letter.

    She replied, that he had said master's shirts wanted new wristbands; and there had been a hole burnt in one of the best table-cloths.  That the captain of the yacht being ashore one day, Mr. Brandon had persuaded master to let him steer, and had as nigh as possible run down a lighter; that the cook had lost two basins overboard; and that Mr. Graham was all right.

    The last piece of information was what I wanted, and I slept well after it.

    At breakfast-time the next day, I observed that Mr. Brandon seemed in excellent spirits; and when I caught his eye, he did not look at all like a man who had any disagreeable news to communicate.  He preserved his air of open cheerfulness; and when Valentine and I came up into the drawing-room to do our Greek, we found him standing on the rug arguing with Liz, declaring that she had nothing to do, and was very much to be pitied in consequence.  Liz said she had a great deal to do, and declined to be pitied.

    He then began to mourn and lament over his school.  'Why did she never go and see it?'

    'Oh, you go yourself every day.'

    But I cannot superintend the needlework; besides, you know that when I went out I entreated you girls to look in now and then.'

    'Dorothea has been there several times,' answered Liz.

    'Yes,' I said; 'but not to teach.  We went, at first, to take the children's portraits.'

    'Not in school hours, I hope.'

    'Oh, no; on their half holiday.'

    'And then she made friends with the mistress,' said Valentine; 'and taught that ugly girl, Mercy Porter, to do double-knitting.  Do you know what that is, Giles?'

    'No.  Did you accompany Miss Graham on these visits?'

    'You will be thankful to hear that I did, Giles.  I hope I know my duty.  There is but a step, you know, between us; so no wonder I tread closely on your heels.'

    Liz, as he said this, was leaving the room; and when she shut the door, St. George answered, with unexpected heat and asperity,—

    'I've often told you that I hate and detest that expression, "step-brother."  I don't acknowledge any such relationship.'

    'Well, Giles,' said Valentine, humbly, 'I think we both talk now and then of our step-sisters.'

    'That's a different thing,' he exclaimed, in the face of facts.  'Your father is nothing to them, but he is to me; and if I ever heard you call me seriously your step-brother—'

    'As if I should think of such a thing!' cried Valentine, firing up with sudden indignation.  'Now, did you ever hear me do such a thing seriously in your life—did you?'

    'You young scapegrace,' answered Mr. Brandon, with a short laugh, but still looking heated;—if I did regard you in that light, I would—'

    He emphasized his words by giving Valentine a slap on the head with a thin loose pamphlet that he was holding, and by approaching his clenched fist very closely to that young gentleman's nose.  It was a little awkward for me, for I am sure he had not quite made up his mind whether he was in joke or earnest.

    'You would what?' cried Valentine, seizing it.  'I say this is assault and battery, Giles, sir!  Let me alone.  You would what?'

    By this time restored to good temper, they were half wrestling together; but Mr. Brandon soon got free.  The Oubit received several other noisy but harmless blows with the pamphlet, and was pushed down again on the sofa, still vociferating,—

    'You would what, Giles?  You would what?'

    'Why, I would treat you very differently from what I mean to do,' he replied.

    And, picking up his pamphlet and charging me to be strict, he presently departed; but in two minutes he came back again, and said to Valentine,—

    'You are going to have a visit from the magistrate this afternoon, a domiciliary visit; and you had better clear out a little of your rubbish—those two miserable mallards, with cotton wool for eyes; and that peck of feathers, which you call a cock.  Your father thinks the arsenical paste you dress your bird-skins with may be injurious to your lungs.'

    Valentine looked aghast.

    'You put that into his head,' he exclaimed.

    'Did I?  Well, as I said before, you had better look out; or, take my word for it, he'll teach these birds of yours to fly.'

    'If he does,' said Valentine, 'I will take him up to your shop—I declare I will.  You'll blow yourself up some day with your chemicals, and it shall not be my fault if he doesn't think so.  You'll have a visit too, sir.  I must do my duty by you, Giles.  You'll see two majestic figures standing in your doorway, and the younger one denouncing you.  What will you say then, I should like to know?'

    For a moment St. George stood stock-still, as if he was really considering this ridiculous threat; then,—

    'Scene for the novel!' he exclaimed. ' "His elder brother, waving off the graceless youth, replied,—


' "Take thy BEAK from out my den,
   And take this Daniel from my door
       (Quoth the Oubit, 'Never more')." '


    He then charged me to be strict, said he was going to his school, and with that he departed.

    'I'm sorry I vexed old Giles,' said Valentine, when he had smoothed his dishevelled locks; 'particularly as he has been so generous.'

    'What has he done?'

    'Done!  Why, given me the money like a brick, and made no difficulty about it.'

    'I hope you told him that I only accepted that ring by mistake.'

    'I not only told him all about how it happened, but I told him, honourably, that it was all a joke.  I went to his room when he was shaving.  At first I felt very sheepish.  I don't exactly know why; and (hang him) I am sure he enjoyed my being out of countenance.  At last, just as I had screwed up my courage to speak, he said— "Well, old fellow, lost or won?"  So I said "Won." '

    'Then I hope he made game of you; and said it was presumptuous of you.'

    'No, he didn't.'

    'But what was it that he did say?'

    'Why, he said, "Then there's your money."  And there I found it laid ready on his desk.  Somebody must have told him.'

    He paused, and whistled softly, as if reflecting on the possible author of this communication.

    'But I had something to tell him that soon drove that out of his head,' he observed.  'Dorinda has done for me!  I promised St. George quite solemnly that I would seriously reflect, and all that, you know, while he was away, whether I could make up my mind about being a clergyman.  And I told him to-day that I had decided I wasn't fit; and I thought I had better make short work with it, and say at once that I couldn't get up any particular wish to be fit.  As soon as I could venture to look at him, I could see how put out and vexed he was.  "You need not think that I shall sanction your going to Cambridge," he said, "if that is the case."  When he's really displeased I always give him a soft answer—that's a religious thing to do, and, by experience, I know it answers.  So I said I was very sorry; but I hoped he would tell my father, for I did not like to tell him myself; and he was always so kind that I depended on him to get me out of this scrape.  I say, isn't Giles a good fellow?'

    'He is very good to you; but I am not at all obliged to him for taking Tom away just because he was tired of staying here himself.'

    'I told him the whole story about the ring, and then about Dorinda—at least, so much of both as he would listen to; and he agreed to tell papa.  And then he asked me the cost of the camera, and said, if I liked to give him back the five sovereigns, he would pay for it.  That's what I call fraternal'

    He then plunged into his Greek; and I, while I listened, felt suddenly that I need not flatter myself that this help given was to be, or ever had been, of any use.  Some other career would now be fixed on for the Oubit.  So I thought I would not give him a lesson after that day.  And I listened to every passing foot on the stair, longing to waylay Mr. Brandon if he should come down, and get him, at least, to tell me whether Tom would soon come and fetch me away; hurt because he had disliked my going to his school, and suddenly so ashamed and so covered with, and hampered with, a new humility at finding myself left to the kindness of this family, that it seemed to be almost taking a liberty to occupy their rooms and sit upon their chairs and sofas.

    I did hear St. George's foot as he passed the door; but I had not courage to stop him.  He had made it obvious to me that he did not want to talk to me.  I had believed, during his absence, that he had partly retreated to get away from me; and now he had not even got my uncle to write to me.  I thought he should have done that, as I was left with his people.

    I presently saw him, through the window, get over a stile and cross the fields in the direction of his school.  There was nothing to be done —nothing whatever; but I felt as if the sweet sunshine of that morning would not warm me.  And when Valentine, having finished his Greek, went down to the camera, I went up-stairs, and spread some drawing materials before me.

    He shouted up to me several times as I sat in the window; but I would not come down, and was idly taking the view from the window, when I heard St. George's voice below.  He had returned some other way from his school.  In a few minutes his foot was outside the door, and he hastily entered.

    'What, Miss Graham, indoors this lovely May morning?'

    'The window is open.  I have the air here.'

    He darted a look at me.

    'There is Valentine, moping and mourning because of your desertion; and the Captain in despair, at your not coming to group the sitters.'

    'I would have come if they had said they wanted me.'

    Upon this he passed to the open window, standing with his back to me; and, adjusting a pocket telescope which he had taken from the table.

    'I am afraid,' he began,—and stopped to alter the focus,—'I am afraid you have been uncomfortable and anxious about Tom.  I should have mentioned him before, but I have not been alone with you.'

    'I only wish to know what you think.'

    'Oh, I feel quite comfortable; he is safe enough for the next five or six months; and the Captain will not easily be persuaded to put into Southampton again!'

    You ought not to have taken him there, was my thought, but I only said, 'Thank you.'

    Still he stood with the telescope to his eye, and his face to the window.

    'I did not know; he said, 'till I saw you again yesterday, that you had any suspicion to cause discomfort concerning him, and cast a shadow over your happiness.  Mrs. Brand was sure you had not.'

    'Oh, then he asked her,' I thought to myself.

    He turned round as he said these words, and observing that his own shadow fell over me, and was dark on my drawing-paper, he smiled, and moving aside, continued: 'But now I hope the shadow cast by Tom will withdraw as completely as mine has done, and that you will go down and amuse yourself with the camera.'

    I rose mechanically to go down, as he seemed to expect.  'As completely as mine has done,' was my thought as I put away my drawing materials;  'I wonder when your shadow will withdraw,—if ever.'

    I went down, Mr. Brandon remaining in the drawing-room; some morning visitors had joined the party below, and their portraits were taken.  When they retired, Valentine and the Captain began to set these portraits in the sun, occasionally shouting to Giles to come and be taken too, and he declining.

    At last his brother and sisters made a rush up-stairs, and bore him down with them in triumph.  He declared that he was very busy, that he had a lecture to write, that he hated the smell of collodion, and that he had not answered his letters; but the sense of the family being against him, he submitted with a tolerably good grace, and sat down, desiring us to tell him when we were ready, that he might call up a look.

    In the meantime, as we were quite ready, I only waited till he had settled himself in the chair, and his mind had wandered away, then I withdrew the slide, the right number of seconds were counted, and it was only when the slide was clapped down again that he knew what we had done.

    The portrait came out in our best style.  Shall I ever forget his disgust when he saw it—particularly when everybody else declared it to be capital?

    'That meant for me,—that odious sentimental fellow!  Take me again, and smash it.  It's a libel.'

    So far from being a libel, it was the record of his very best expression—the expression of a strong man with keen feelings, when he yields to some momentary fancy, and wanders pensively into the land of dreams.

    'Why, you frequently have that look,' said Valentine, when you are thinking.  Give it to papa; hang it in his dressing-room; he will like it, if you don't.'

    Mr. Brandon demanded to be taken again: we did take him,—his expression was steady almost to defiance, and seemed to challenge the scrutiny of mankind.  In the meantime, being privately instructed, I bore off the first portrait and hid it.

    'By-the-bye, I heard him say, as I approached again, 'I am not going to have my smoking-room turned into an exhibition and school of art.  I found pinned up there, seventeen portraits of Val, and two dozen and one of Miss Graham—all vile, and most of them distorted; several of you, Walker, and a notable collection of groups.  I have taken the liberty to turn them all out; you'll find them on the morning-room table; but I wish to remark, that if ever I find such things in my den again, I shall take severer measures with them.'

    'Some people would have considered their room to be embellished by them,' I observed; 'and really I think it was a delicate attention to hang your walls with pictures of your school-children.'

    'Was it intended as such?'

    'She did not say it was,' replied Valentine; 'but if we had known you were coming home we should have taken them away.'

    'Well, I forgive the past, because it merely arose from utter forgetfulness of my existence.  Stop, I am not quite ready—now.'

    He was now sitting again for the third time, the second portrait being pronounced by all too much like a brigand for private life.

    The third was cheerful enough, and was said to be tolerably good, so Valentine entered the three in the book in which we recorded all these works of art.

    'Giles Brandon, Esq., commonly called St. George.

'1. He sweetly dreameth.
'2. He says he won't.
'3. He smiles at fate.'


    He laughed when we showed him the entries, and asked if we had now done with him.

    'Because, if I am supposed to have done my duty by my family, I shall be glad to go.'

    I said we had done with him, and he went away to his writing with alacrity.

    The very next morning the expected letter arrived.  It lay on my breakfast plate, and was not from Tom, but from my uncle; when I saw that, I had not courage to open it, but kept it till after breakfast, and then ran up to my room, locked the door, took it out and began to read.  The first sentence made me quite easy for the present about Tom.


'Dear Dorothea,' it began, 'Tom and I have been laying out some plans together for cruising off the coast of Iceland this summer.'  Perfectly right, I thought,—perfectly prudent of my uncle,—a very good thing to do; but I went on to the next sentence, and found that it was a kind of apology to me.  He wanted Mrs. Brand,—could not very well get on without her—was sorry on my account, as I should probably have wished to retain her; but I could get another maid. I should not want money.  Of course I could see, being a girl of sense, that a five months' cruise away from England, and up so far north, was out of the question for me, but I should have my own way in choosing a home meanwhile.  I might live with Miss Tott if I liked, for Tom had written to her, and she had no objection to have me.  If I did not like, I was free to decline, for it had been left open.

    I need not fret, and should not, he supposed, at what was inevitable: he could not give up Tom, and he could not have us both.  His choice was therefore made, but I could settle in any place I liked, provided it was not Southampton; and then, when they wished to have me, or I wished to come on board, I could do; in fact, I could always spend a few weeks on board when it suited me.  This being settled, and I no doubt agreeing with him as to its desirability (in fact, if ever there was a girl of sense I was that girl), he should proceed to business, and tell me that he had paid into a certain bank, which he named, the sum of £180, which was to last me a year, and I was to draw it quarterly.

    He intended always to allow me that sum, and should settle it on me, so as to make me independent of others, and even of himself.  He did not say that he should leave me anything more in his will, and he did not say that he should not; all he wished was that I should not reckon on such a thing.  If I married, no doubt I should do myself justice and marry prudently, and I was all means to let him know beforehand; in the meantime I must be careful not to get into debt.  He had heard from my father, who seemed to be very unsettled, and talked of going to California to look about him.  Tom was well, and sent his love.

    'And, my dear Dorothea,' it concluded, 'I am yours sincerely,    'G. ROLLIN.'

    My impression is, that I read that letter over at least twenty times.  I did not shed a tear over it; there was little in it to touch my feelings, only to agitate, disappoint, and shock me.  I had lost my home, and was not see my best friend for several months; but he was still good to me, and had provided for my comfort.

    Again and again I read it; first I was foolish enough to think I could persuade him to change his mind, but as I reflected, and still continued my reading, I perceived the hopeless nature of such an attempt.  To write a letter was a great undertaking for him, and he had not done all this without consideration, and as he thought necessity.

    I might, if I chose, or if I could, believe that these changes would make but little practical difference to me, for was I not told that I could express my wish to come on board, or that they could write for me?  But would they?  I remembered Ipswich, and my heart sank, but still I shed no tears.  Indeed, this was no new thing—I was quite used to it; but there was this difference, that I might now be my own mistress, live where I pleased, and occupy myself as I chose.  But my uncle! he had been good to me, kind to me, even fond of me.  I thought of that, and that I had lost him, and tears began to choke me.  But I did not cry long: the restraint and discipline of so many years at school had at least the effect of enabling me to command myself: I sobbed a little while with passionate regret and yearning, and then dried my eyes, feeling that now it behooved me to act, and to do it immediately.

    What, then, did I mean to do?  I was entirely free do as I chose.  I alone was responsible.  Reason and conscience told me that I ought to go—that I must not take undue advantage of the hospitality which had been so kindly extended to me.  But then I longed to remain: my floating home was a home no more; everything else that I cared for was under the roof which now sheltered me; and I longed to remain it a little longer—just a little while -and not banish myself from it perhaps for ever.

    I sat down to think this over, and had little doubt that Mr. Brandon knew of the plan which had just unfolded to me.  And yet he had treated me with particular indifference ever since his return.  He was the only member of the family who called me 'Miss Graham;' and once or twice, when I had been talking, he had smiled in a way that gave me pain.  It was like the smile of one who, from his vantage-ground of superiority, is pleased and amused with the conversation of a child.

    It was a glorious morning.  I saw Valentine, whose Greek I was neglecting for the first time, idly wandering on the lawn, and gardening among the flower-beds; Lou was pacing the gravel-walks with her lover; Liz was sitting on a bench, reading a novel; and across the fields, in the distance, I saw Mr. Mortimer and Giles approaching.  This was just what they would all do and how they would all look, when I was gone. Of how little consequence I was to them!  I had no family to belong to, nothing and no one to whom I could devote myself!  Oh, what should I, what could I do?

    Thinking of this, tears came again; but I was too much astonished, excited, and bewildered for weeping to last long.  Thoughts began to crowd upon me: the perplexity of too much liberty made wild work with my pulses; that standing alone, and yet being obliged, as it were, to set off and walk instantly in some direction or other, tore my mind with conflicting emotions.  I was like a person deserted on a wide common of green grass, with no paths and no object in sight, and yet the certainty that it must be traversed ere any place of shelter could be found.

    Kneeling down, I tried to pray, but my mind was confused, and became more so every moment; but I was alive to what passed, for I heard the lunch-bell ring, and thinking that it would be easier for me to meet the family in the garden than at table, I put on my bonnet, took my parasol, and ran clown the back staircase, and through the court-yard, into the shrubbery, from whence I emerged, and approached the group as quietly as I could.

    Something in the manner of more than one made me think that the contents of my letter were known.  They did not cease to talk, and took no direct notice of me, but allowed me to mingle with them till, gradually and quite naturally, I became involved in the discussion which was going on, and we all walked in to luncheon together.  But here my desired self-possession gave way.  Liz said, in a sympathizing tone, 'Come, and sit by me, dear.'

    'No, I say that's a shame!' exclaimed Valentine; 'this is her place.  Sit by me, D. dear.'

    Whereupon I found myself, before I knew what I was about, hurrying away from the table, sobbing, and covering my face with my hands.  I heard Giles say, 'You stupid fellow!' to Valentine; I heard Mrs. Henfrey scold somebody else; and in a minute or two, without knowing exactly how I got there, I found myself standing in the smoking-room, shivering, and declaring that I was determined not to faint—I could help it, I was sure, and I would.

    'Never mind if you do, dear,' began Valentine 'we shall not think it at all silly of you.'

    'Be quiet!' whispered Mr. Brandon: 'that's not the style of thing to say!  Now, Miss Graham, sit by the window.  Here is water.  Hold it to her lips, Val.  You wish to command yourself, of course.'

    'Of course!' I repeated.

    'And you are better already.  See, here is your maid !'

    I now first observed that I was entirely abandoned by the female part of the family, and this did a great deal to restore me; far more than Mrs. Brand did, though I was straightway left for her to do her best with me.

    I could soon walk up-stairs, and obliged myself to eat and drink.  I had a sort of notion that it was humiliating to be hysterical, or, at least, a sign of weakness, in which the mind bore its part as well as the frame, so I struggled against my sensations with such vigour as I believe helped to keep them off.

    'Ah!' said Mrs. Brand, when she came in with some jelly, 'what tender-hearted ladies these are, to be sure!  Miss Grant as near as possible went off into hysterics when you turned faint; and Miss Elizabeth, when I asked if she would like to come and sit with you, was all of a tremble, and said she couldn't on any account.'

    I stayed in my room all that day, and performed what I found the rather difficult task of telling Mrs. Brand the contents of my uncle's letter.

    Mrs. Brand was more philosophical over my troubles than she usually was over her own.  'It was a disappointment, certainly; but, dear me, people had disappointments in this world, and must look to have them, ma'am.'

    At night, when I was going to bed, she remarked that she supposed I could spare her in a day or two.  I said, 'Yes;' and being by this means brought to some practical thoughts, I found myself better during the evening.  I had exhausted myself with crying over my lost home, and now, weary and sick at heart, I fell sound asleep, and woke in the morning quite well in health, and able to consider what I should do.

    I have often thought that when some trial or disappointment is inevitable, settled, and not to be stirred by anything that those can do who have to bear it, one of the chief sources of its power is removed.  It is what we think might possibly have been otherwise if we had done otherwise; what might now be possibly removed if we only knew how to remove it; what is doubtful as to result; what is complicated with uncertainties and calls for action on our part, while yet we cannot decide what that action should be; what calls for discretion and demands vigilance, which can harass the mind and most effectually destroy its peace.  None of these disadvantages beset my trouble, and the only circumstance which might have been altered if I had had time to plead for it, was that I might have been able to take leave of Tom and my uncle, which I now found they did not wish me to do, for my uncle had not mentioned to me what port he should touch at, to take Mrs. Brand on board; and when I questioned her, I found that she had received her own instructions, and knew in what direction to proceed, though I knew nothing.  I was aware how much they both dreaded scenes, so I easily understood the motive for this reserve.

    Mrs. Henfrey very kindly came into my room before I went down next morning.  She kissed me, and said they knew that I had now to fix upon a home, and Mr. Mortimer hoped I would not think of leaving his house for at least a fortnight.  Having now no wishes to consult but my own, I accepted the invitation, and felt glad to have that short time in which to settle my plans.  It was something definite, too—far pleasanter than the most cordial proffers of hospitality with no fixed limit; and, as I went down-stairs with her, I felt how good they had been to me, and how glad I was to stay a little longer.

    After breakfast, Mrs. Brand showed me my uncle's letter to her.  As soon as I could spare her, she was to repair to Weymouth.  The 'Curlew' was lying in Portland Roads: she was to take a boat and come out to her.  I found that she had already packed up her boxes, and found, also, that my uncle really did wish me not to appear with her, so I said she might go that very morning.

    When it was time for her to start, I gave her a keepsake, and kissed her, charging her to write whenever she could.  We both shed a few tears; and, when she was gone, I felt that now I was indeed utterly alone, and must begin to consider my plans in good earnest.

    To this end I wrote to Mrs. Mompesson, told her that I now wished for a home, mentioned what I could give for it, and asked her whether she could recommend one.  Without asking her to let me live in her house, I said enough to show that the simplest way of living would satisfy me, and I gave her a good opportunity to have me as a boarder, if she and her husband wished it; and as they were poor, I hoped they would wish it.  The answer was from him, a long kind letter.  Nothing would have pleased them so much as to have made a home for me themselves; but they had no spare room, for the house was filled with their children and pupils.  That was the only house I could have made a home of, for I loved its master, and knew that I could love his wife and children.  It was for his sake that I had wished to live in the country, and my thoughts, on reading his letter, took an entirely new direction.  I knew I could go to Miss Tott, if I chose; but I did not like the notion, and I did not know, with £180 a year, whether I was rich or poor.

    I talked to Mrs. Henfrey on the subject; but I found her information to the last degree vague and unsatisfactory.  I talked to Liz; but she evidently knew nothing, for she spoke of keeping a pony and a boy, which I thought must be out of the question.  Lou, of course, was absorbed in other matters.

    So I tried Valentine, taking care to choose a time when Giles was present, for I had formed a tolerably distinct plan, and I wished to see in what light he would regard it, and whether he would think it preposterous.  I had to wait some days, for Giles very seldom was present; at last I found a good time, and, beginning to talk with Valentine, he fell into the little trap I had laid for him.

    'What would you do, Giles,' asked Valentine, 'if you had £180 a year, and were a young lady?'

    'That would depend on whether I cared most for domestic pleasures, or for amusements, intellectual or otherwise.'

    'But, supposing domestic pleasures out of the question, as I think they are if one lives among perfect strangers, don't you consider the first thing to decide on would be whether you were rich or poor?'

    'No, for that would be according to the life chosen.  If you chose to do without a maid, and board with a quiet family, in the country—say, a clergyman's—you might be rich, for you could easily be boarded for £90 a year, and thus £90 would remain for personal expenses.'

    'And I should be miserable!  Perhaps I should not like the people; and assuredly I should not have half enough to do.  I want to have lessons, and get a reading ticket for some good library, and visit the poor, and see pictures, and hear lectures.'

    'Then you must live in London, and be extremely poor.'

    'Why so poor?'

    'Because you must have a maid.  No young lady can go about London, and attend libraries and lectures, and visit the poor, alone.'

    'I know it would be very unfashionable to walk about alone.'

    'It would not be right; you could not do it—that is to say, I believe your uncle would not approve.'

    'Then, what will a maid cost?'

    'You could not be boarded in a quiet, private family, in the most unfashionable neighbourhood, with your maid, under £100 a year, at the very least.  Then, if your maid's wages were £25, that would only leave you £55 a year for all your personal expenses, including dress, cabs, charity, travelling expenses, tickets for the coveted lectures, and money for the desired lessons—books, doctor's bill, if you should have one.'

    'I think that sounds something like happiness and hard work.'

    'Indeed!  I thought it would sound like borrowing and sorrowing.

    'Of course, I am aware that I know very little of life and of money'

    'Very little, indeed,' he answered, in a tone of pity.

    'So, as I have absolutely no one at all to ask advice of, excepting you, I will tell you what my plan is; and if you are sure it cannot be carried out—if you know it cannot—why, then, perhaps I had better reconsider it.'

    'I am all attention:

    'Then, there are three things that I wish to learn—wood-engraving, dressmaking, and cooking.'

    Mr. Brandon's face expressed the utmost astonishment; but he said not a word.

    'You have decided that I am to be very poor.  In case I had been rich, I should have acted differently; but, if I proved to be poor, my plan was to teach, in order to earn money to learn.  I must find a family of little boys, to whom I can teach Latin and Greek, for an hour or two every day.  My maid will walk with me to the house—'

    'Extraordinary!' interrupted Valentine.

    'With the money I earn so, I can learn wood-engraving and dressmaking.  When I know enough of wood engraving to practise it, and earn money by it also, I shall spend that in learning to cook—'

    'Amazing!' said Valentine, changing his word.

    'I shall then begin to lead a happy life; I shall have as much to do as I can do; and, being by that time a proficient in wood-cutting, I shall have a class of respectable girls, to whom I shall teach the art, and so make them independent—'

    'Astounding!' cried Valentine, changing his word again.

    Mr. Brandon stood stock-still, and said nothing.

    'My maid will make my dress; for my reading I shall go to the British Museum.  Perhaps, in order to save money for concerts and lectures, I shall translate some French books, and I may, perhaps, write books for children.  By that time I shall leave off taking lessons in wood-cutting altogether, and, still teaching my little boys, I shall have plenty of money to spend in laying in a stock of eatables; and I shall go to some industrial school, and offer to be honorary cook there, and teach the girls to make all sorts of nice stews and puddings, and soups and pies.  I shall provide the materials; and, at first, I shall give away the dishes.  I shall let the girls carry them home to their mothers; then the mothers and other poor women will come to learn.  I shall charge a penny a lesson, and hire a kitchen, to concoct and cook the things in; and I shall give prizes of pies to those who learn fastest.'

    'Frantic!' exclaimed Valentine.

    I had observed, for some moments passed, that Mr. Brandon had difficulty in restraining a smile, which first showed itself in the corners of his mouth, and when he chased it thence, peeped out at his eyes.  He, however, did not say anything disrespectful concerning my plans; but, when I ceased to speak, remarked that he was afraid—he hoped he might be mistaken—but he was afraid I was too sanguine.

    'Then, if I am, and if I do no good, and derive no pleasure from all these things, only think what a desirable person I shall be for papa; if, when he grows older, he should send for me to go out to California.'

    'Ca-li-for-nia!' said Valentine, with unfeigned contempt.

    'Yes, I am almost sure it will end in my going out to California.'

    'And I am quite sure, D. dear,' replied Valentine, with extreme suavity, 'that it will not end in your going out to California.'

    'Indeed!'

    'For I, being your most intimate friend, and, as I may say, your most honoured adviser, you would naturally write to me first, and say, "My valued compatriot, if I go out to this hole of a California, and dislike it, will you come and fetch me home again?"  I should reply, "No, I won't."  Consequently—'

    'Consequently, she would get some other swain to do her that service!' interrupted Mr. Brandon.

    'Consequently,' I added, 'I should go, determined to be pleased, and never to come home any more.'

    'Consequently!' burst in Valentine, after this double interruption, 'she would think better of it, and remain at home; if she didn't—' here he paused, and shook his head in a menacing fashion.

    'Be calm, my dear boy,' said Giles, bantering him, 'this peril seems imminent; but is not to be warded off by threats or warnings.  The Smilax simulata is not a plant, as I have heard, that flourishes in those diggings—all ladies are "remarkably eligible" there.'

    Seeing me look surprised, he added, 'Those wallflowers, you perceive, grow in my garden now.  I think it just as well you should know that anything you say to Valentine is sure to be in my possession the very next morning, by seven o'clock at the latest.'



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