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
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
'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
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
Then, after a pause,—
'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
'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
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." '
'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
'Touching confidences,' said Mr. Brandon; but, Miss Graham, come and sing
'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
'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
'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
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
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
'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
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
'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
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
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
'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
'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
'Then, why can't you go without us, dear?' said Lou, addressing her
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
'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?'
'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—'
'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
'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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
'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.
'I'm so glad St. George is gone!'
'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—'
'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
'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.'
'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
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.'
'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
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
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
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
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, 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
'I consider you a very impertinent boy. Besides,
they ought to spell.'
'No, they belong to the botanical, not to the educated classes.
the novel —"And here the graceful youth, producing a costly ring, and
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
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
'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
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
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
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
then, to that foolish boy, Prentice?" he next asked. I could not
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
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,
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
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
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
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;
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
do, in order to effect this, would be to make over the ring to somebody
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
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
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
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
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,
we spoilt by over-burning in the sun, or spotted by soaking in a badly-mixed
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.'
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
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.:
'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
'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
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
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,
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
and turning towards him, murmured in a melancholy tone,—'And certain
stars shot madly from their spheres, to hear the sea-maid's music.'
'Quoth the raven, "Never more." '—EDGAR
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
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
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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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
'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
'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
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
'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,
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
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
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!' 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
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
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
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
'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
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
'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
'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
'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.'
'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.'