"Even as the sparrow findeth an house, and the swallow a
nest for herself where she may lay her young, so I seek thine
altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King and my God."
lxxxiv., Marginal Translation.
RISING early the next
morning, Brandon found that he had an hour to spare before breakfast, and
sallied forth for an early walk. A delicate hoarfrost still made
white the shade, and sparkled all over the sombre leaves of some fine
yew-trees that grew outside the garden wall.
Walking up a little rise, he saw the weathercock and one
turret of a church tower peering over the edge of a small steep hill,
close at hand, and turning toward it he went briskly on, under the lee of
a short fir plantation, all the grass being pure and fresh with
hoar-frost, which melted in every hollow and shadow as fast as the sun
came round to it.
The house was too large and pretentious for the grounds it
stood in, these being hardly extensive enough to be called a park; they
consisted of finely varied wood and dell, and were laid out in grass and
fed off by sheep.
He passed through a gate into the churchyard, which had a
very little valley all to itself, the land rising on every side so as to
make a deep nest for it. Such a venerable, low, long church! taking
old age so quietly, covering itself with ivy and ferns, and having a
general air of mossiness, and subsidence into the bosom of the earth
again, from whence its brown old stones had been quarried. For, as
is often the case with an old burial-place, the soil had greatly risen, so
that one who walked between the graves could see the whole interior of the
place through the windows. The tiled roof, sparkling and white with
the morning frost, was beginning to drip, and dew shone on the melting
rime, while all around the enclosure orchards were planted, and the trees
leaned over their boughs.
A woman, stepping from a cottage on the rise, held up a great
key to him, and he advanced, took it, and told her he would return it.
A large heavy thing it was, that looked as if it might be
hundreds of years old; he turned the lock with it and stepped in, walking
down the small brick aisle, observing the ancient oaken seats, the quaint
pulpit, and strange brasses; till, white, staring, obtrusive, and all out
of taste, he saw in the chancel what he had come to look for, a great
white marble monument, on the south side; four fluttering cherubs with
short wings that appeared to hold up a marble slab, while two weeping
figures knelt below. First was recorded on the slab the death of
Augustus Cuthbert Melcombe, only son of Cuthbert Melcombe, gent., of this
place. Then followed the date of his birth, and there was no date of
death, merely the information that he was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy.
Brandon copied this inscription into his note-book.
Below was the name of the young man's only sister, aged
ninety-seven, "universally beloved and respected;" then the solemn words
used before death by the aged patriarch, "I have waited for Thy Salvation,
O Lord." All about the chancel were various small tablets in memory
of the successive vicars of the place and their families, but no others
with the name of Melcombe on them. The whole building was so
overflowing with the records of human creatures, inside and out, it
appeared as if so saturated with man's thoughts, so used to man's prayers
and tears, so about presently to decline and subside into the earth as he
does, that there was almost an effort in believing that it was empty of
the beings it seemed to be a part of―empty of those whom we call the
It was easy to move reverently and feel awed in the face of
this venerable ancientry. This was the place, then, where that poor
woman had worshipped whose son "had never judged her."
"If I settled," he thought, "in a new country, this is the
sort of scene that, from time to time, would recur to my thoughts and get
hold of me, with almost intolerable power to make life one craving for
"How hard to take root in a soil my fathers never ploughed!
Let me abide where my story grew, where my dead are laid, in a country
full of days, full of the echoes of old Englishmen's talk, and whose
sunsets are stained as if with the blood shed for their liberties."
He left the church, noticing, as he went down the aisle,
numbers of dogs'-eared books in the different pews, and the narrow window
at the east end now letting in long shafts of sunshine; but there was
nothing to inform him of any fact that threw light on his step-father's
letter, and he returned the key to the sexton's wife, and went back to
breakfast, telling Mrs. Melcombe where he had been, and remarking that
there was no date of death on Augustus Melcombe's tomb.
"I think they did not know the date," she replied. "It
was during the long French war that he died, and they were some time
uncertain of the fact, but at length the eldest son going to London, wrote
his mother an account of how he had met with the captain of his young
uncle's ship, and had been told of his death at sea, somewhere near the
West Indies. The dear grandmother showed me that letter," observed
Mrs. Melcombe, "when first I married."
Brandon listened attentively, and when he was alone set that
down also in his note-book, then considering that neither the ghost nor
the young lieutenant need trouble him further, he felt that all his
suspicions were cast loose into a fathomless sea, from which he could fish
nothing up; but the little heir was well and happy, and he devoutly hoped
that he would remain so, and save to himself the anxiety of showing, and
to Valentine the pain and doubt that would come of reading the letter.
Mrs. Melcombe, narrow as were her thoughts, was,
notwithstanding, a schemer in a small way. She had felt that Brandon
must have had something to say to Laura when she herself coming up had
interrupted him. Laura had few reserves from her, so when she had
ascertained that nothing had occurred when she had left them together in
the grandmother's sitting-room but such talk as naturally arose out of the
visit to it, she resolved to give him another opportunity, and after
breakfast was about to propose a walk, when he helped her by asking her to
show him that room again.
"I should like so much to have a photograph of Mr. Mortimer's
picture," he said; "may I see it again?"
Nothing more easy. They all went up to the room; a fire
had been lighted to air it, because its atmosphere had felt chilly the day
before. Laura seated herself again on the sofa. Brandon, with
pen and ink, began trying to make a sketch of the portrait, and very soon
found himself alone with Laura, as he had fully expected would be the
case. Whereupon, sitting with his back to her, and working away at
his etching, he presently said―
"I mentioned yesterday to Mrs. Melcombe that I had come on
"Yes," Laura answered.
"So as it concerns only you, I will, if you please, explain
As he leaned slightly round towards her Laura looked up, but
she was mute through surprise. There was something in this voice at
once penetrative and sweet; but now she was again conscious of what
sounded like a delicately-hinted reproof.
"A young man," he proceeded, "whom I have known almost all my
life―in fact, I may call him a friend of mine―told me of an event that had
taken place―he called it a misfortune that had befallen him. It had
greatly unsettled him, he said, for a long time; and now that he was
getting over it, and wanted to forget it, he wished for a change, would
like to go abroad, and asked if I could help him. I have many
foreign acquaintances. It so chanced that I had just been applied to
by one of them to send him out an Englishman, a clerk, to help him with
his English correspondence. So I proposed to this young fellow to
go, and he gladly consented."
Laura said nothing. Brandon's words did not lead her to
think of Joseph. So she thought of him, wishing she had been so led.
She noticed, however, a slight emphasis in the words which informed her
that the young man, whoever he was, "was getting over his misfortune, and
wanted to forget it."
"It was very kind of you," she said at last, after a long
Brandon turned. Her words were ambiguous, and he wished
to be understood. "You observe, no doubt, Miss Melcombe," he said,
"that I am speaking of Joseph Swan?"
"Joseph Swan!" Laura repeated, "then he is going away?"
"Yes; but when I had secured this situation for him, he said
he felt that he must tell me what had occurred. He told me of an
attachment that he had formed, and whatever I may think as to the prudence
displayed in the affair, you know best whether he was at all to
blame. He had received certain promises, so he assured me, and for a
long time he had buoyed himself up with hope, but after that, feeling
himself very much injured, and knowing that he had been deceived, he had
determined to go away."
Laura had never expected to have her conduct brought home to
her, and she had actually been almost unaware that she was to blame.
"It was Amelia's doing," she murmured.
Brandon was anxious to speak guardedly, and would not mention
Joseph's name again lest Mrs. Melcombe should enter suddenly and hear it,
so he answered, "Yes; and the young man told me he knew you were very much
afraid of your sister-in-law. It appears, however, that you had
written to him."
"I did, two or three times," said Laura.
"So in case you should in after years feel anxious as to what
had become of those letters, or should feel some compunction for
groundless hopes excited and for causeless caprice, I undertook to tell
you as a message from this young man, that, considering you to be
completely under the dominion of your sister-in-law, he does not at all
blame you, he does not admit that you are in fault; in one sense, now that
he can look back on his attachment as over, he declares that he is the
better for it, because it induced him to work hard at improving himself.
He is to go out to Santo Domingo, where, in a new climate, and hearing a
new language, he can begin life afresh; but he wishes you to be assured
that he shall never trouble or annoy you, and he returns you your letters.
I promised to say all this to you as a message from this young man―a young
man who, whatever the world may call him, deserves, I think, by you (and
me) to be from henceforth always regarded as a gentleman. Will you
allow me to give you this packet?"
He had risen as he spoke, and while approaching her produced
a small packet carefully done up; but Laura did not stir. She had
dropped her hands on her knees, and he, stooping, laid it upon them, when
meeting her eyes for a moment, he observed with amazement and discomfiture
that she was silent not from shame and compunction for what had seemed
very unfeminine and heartless conduct, but from a rapture that seemed too
deep for words.
"Miss Melcombe!" he exclaimed.
"Yes," she answered, in a low voice. "It is an island
that he is going to then. I always thought I should not mind
marrying him if he would go to a desert island. And so he loved me,
really and truly?"
"It appears that he did, some time ago" said Brandon,
"Does any one else know," Laura asked, "but you?"
"Yes; John Mortimer does."
Laura blushed deeply.
"Joseph told him first about this affair, but did not divulge
the lady's name. After all was settled, he acknowledged to us both
that you were the lady. John was very glad that I was willing
personally to give the letters into your own hands again."
"I suppose he thought I had been very imprudent?"
Brandon recalled the scene. John had in fact expressed
himself to that effect in no measured terms; but he had been pleasant and
even cordial to Joseph, partly because the young man declared the thing to
be quite over, partly because he did him the justice to remember that such
an acquaintance must always have been begun by the woman. It could
not possibly be Joe's doing that he had corresponded with Laura Melcombe.
Laura repeated her words.
"I suppose he thought I had been very imprudent?"
"Perhaps he did."
"Perhaps he thought I had been heartless too?"
"Not to bring the thing to a decided and honourable
termination?―yes, probably. He remarked that it certainly was most
unnecessary to have behaved as you have done."
"How so, Mr. Brandon?"
"I believe, indeed I am sure, that you are of age?"
"Yes, I am. He meant that no one can really prevent my
doing as I please; but Amelia wanted me to ignore the whole thing because
she was so ashamed of him and his people."
"He told John so."
"And what did he answer?"
"Among other things, he said he was glad it was all over."
"Yes," said Laura, not in the least impressed by this hint,
"but what else?"
"He said, 'Joe, you ought to have been above wanting to marry
any woman who was ashamed of you. I wouldn't do such a thing on any
"He said that?" cried Laura, rather startled.
"Yes, and I quite agreed with him―I told Joe that I did."
"Did he say anything more?"
Brandon hesitated, and at length, finding that she would wait
till he spoke, he said―
"He told Joe he ought to be thankful to have the thing over,
and said that he had come out of it well, and the lady had not."
"Amelia is not half so unkind as you are," said Laura, when
she had made him say this, and a quiet tear stole down her cheek and
dropped on her hand.
"Pardon me! I think that for myself I have expressed no
opinion but this one, that Joe Swan deserves your respect for the manly
care he has taken to shield you from blame, spare you anxiety, and
terminate the matter properly."
"Terminate!" repeated Laura; "yes, that is where you are so
"Am I expected to help her to bring it on again?" thought
Brandon. "No; I have a great respect for fools, and they must marry
like other people; but oh, Joey, Joey Swan, if you are one, which I
thought you the other day (and the soul of honour too!), I think if you
still cared about it, you could soon get yourself mated with a greater one
still! Laura Melcombe would be at least a fair match for you in that
particular. But no, Joey, I decline to interfere any further."
"Not warp'd by passion, awed by rumour,
Not grave through pride, nor gay through folly,
An equal mixture of good humour,
And sensible, soft melancholy.
"'Has she no faults then,' Envy says, 'Sir?'
'Yes, she has one, I must aver;
When all the world conspires to praise her
The woman's deaf, and does not hear.'"
was sitting at breakfast the very morning after this conversation had
taken place at Melcombe. No less than four of his children were
waiting on him; Gladys was drying his limp newspaper at a bright fire,
Barbara spreading butter on his toast, little Hugh kneeling on a chair,
with his elbows on the table, was reading him a choice anecdote from a
child's book of natural history, and Anastasia, while he poured out his
coffee with one hand, had got hold of the other, which she was folding up
industriously in her pinafore and frock, because she said it was cold.
It was a windy, chilly, and exasperatingly bright spring morning; the
sunshine appeared to prick the traveller all over rather than to warm him.
Not at all the morning for an early walk, but John, lifting up his eyes,
saw a lady in the garden, and in another instant Mrs. Frederic Walker was
"What, Emily!" exclaimed John, starting up.
"Yes, John; but my soldier and my valuable infant are both
quite well. Now, if you don't go on with your breakfast, I shall
depart. Let me sit by the fire and warm my feet."
"You have breakfasted?"
"Of course. How patriarchal you look, John, sitting in state to be
Thereupon, turning away from the fire, she began to smile upon the little
Anastasia, and without any more direct invitation, the small coquette
allowed herself to be decoyed from her father to sit on the visitor's
knee. Emily had already thrown off her fur wraps, and the child, making
herself very much at home in her arms, began presently to look at her
brooch and other ornaments, the touch of her small fingers appearing to
give pleasure to Emily, who took up one of the fat little pink hands, and
kissed it fondly.
"What is that lady's name, Nancy?" said John.
"Mrs. Nemily," answered the child.
"You have still a little nursery English left about you, John," said
Emily. "How sweet it is! My boy has that yet to come; he can hardly say
Then Gladys entering the room with a cup and saucer, she rose and came to
"That milk looks so nice―give me some of it. How pleasant it is to feel
cold and hungry, as one does in England! No, John, not ham; I will have
some bread and marmalade. Do the children always wait on you, John, at
There was something peculiarly sweet and penetrative in the voices of
Brandon and his sister; but this second quality sometimes appeared to give
more significance to their words than they had intended.
"Always. Does it appear an odd arrangement in your eyes?"
"Father," said Barbara, "here is your paper. I have cut the leaves."
"Thank you, my dear; put it down. You should, consider, Emily, my great
age and exaltation in the eyes of these youngsters. Don't you perceive
that I am a middle-aged man, madam?"
"Middle-aged, indeed! You are not thirty-six till the end of September,
you know―the 28th of September. And oh, John, you cannot think how young
you look! just as if you had stolen all these children, and they were not
really yours. You have so many of them, too, while I have only one, and he
such a little one―he is only two years old."
While she spoke a bell began to ring, and the two elder children, wishing
her good-bye, left the room.
"Do you think those girls are growing like their mother?" asked John.
"I think they are a little. Perhaps that pretty way they have of taking up
their eye-glasses when they come forward to look at anything, makes them
seem more like than they are."
John scarcely ever mentioned his wife, but before Emily most people spoke
without much reserve.
"Only one of the whole tribe is like her in mind and disposition," he
"And that's a good thing," thought Emily, but she did not betray her
While this talk went on the two younger children had got possession, of
Mrs. Nemily's watch (which hung from her neck by a long Trichinopoly
chain), and were listening to a chime that it played. Emily took the boy
on her knee, and it did not appear that he considered himself too big to
be nursed, but began to examine the watch, putting it to his ear, while he
composedly rested his head on her shoulder.
"Poor little folk," thought John, "how naturally they take to the caresses
of a young mother!"
Another bell then rang.
"What order is kept in your house!" said Emily, as both the children
departed, one with a kiss on her dimpled cheek and the other on his little
scratched fist, which already told of much climbing.
"That is the school-room bell," John answered; and then Mrs. Frederic
Walker laughed, and said, with a look half whimsical, half wistful――
"Oh, John, you're going to be so cross?"
"Are you going to make me cross? You had better tell me at once, then,
what you are come for. Has Giles returned?"
"He came in late last night. I know what he went for, John. He thought it
best to tell me. He is now gone on to the station about some affairs of
his own. It seems that you both took Joey Swan's part, and were displeased
with that Laura."
"Of course. She made the poor fellow very miserable for a long time. Besides, I am ashamed of the whole derogatory affair. Did Giles see that
she burnt those letters―foolish, cold-hearted creature?"
"'Foolish,' I dare say; but 'cold-hearted,' I don't know. St. George
declared to me that he thought she was as much in love now as that goose
Joseph ever was."
"Amazing!" exclaimed John, very much discomfited.
"And she tried hard to make him promise that he would keep the whole thing
a profound secret, especially from you; and so of course he declined, for
he felt that you must be the proper person to tell it to, though we do not
know why. He reasoned with her, but he could make nothing of her."
"Perhaps she wants to bring it on again," said John. "What a pity he
returned the letters before Joe had sailed!"
"No, it was the right thing to do. And, John, if love is really the
sacred, strong, immortal passion made out by all the poets and novelists,
I cannot see, somehow, that putty ought to stand in its light. It ought to
have a soul above putty."
"With all my heart," said John; "but you see in this case it hadn't."
"It would be an astonishingly disadvantageous thing for our family
if she ran away and married him just now, when Valentine has been making
himself so ridiculous. But there is no doubt we could bring it on again,
and have it done if we chose," said Emily.
John looked at her with surprise.
"But then," she continued, "I should say that the man ought to be thought
of as well as herself, and she might prove a thoroughly unsuitable,
foolish wife, who would soon tire of him. SHE might be very miserable
also. She would not have half the chance of happiness that an ordinary
marriage gives. And, again, Santo Domingo is notoriously unhealthy. She
might die, and if we had caused the marriage, we should feel that."
"Are you addressing this remarkable speech to yourself or to the chair?"
said John, laughing.
"To the chair. But, if I am the meeting, don't propose as a resolution
that this meeting is tête montée. John, you used to say of me
before I married that I was troubled with intuitions."
"I remember that I did."
"You meant that I sometimes saw consequences very clearly, and felt that
the only way to be at peace was to do the right thing, having taken some
real trouble to find out what it was."
"I was not aware that I meant that. But proceed."
"When Laura was here in the autumn she often talked to Liz about little
Peter Melcombe's health, and said she believed that his illness at Venice
had very much shaken his constitution. His mother, she said, never would
allow that there had been much the matter with him, though she had felt
frightened at the time. It was the heat, Laura thought, that had been too
much for him. Now, you know if that poor little fellow were to die,
Valentine, who has nothing to live on, and nothing to do, is his heir. What a fine thing it would be for him!"
"I don't see yet what you mean."
"Mrs. Melcombe found out before Giles left Melcombe all about these
letters. She came into the room, and Laura, who seems to have been filled
with a ridiculous sort of elation to think that somebody had really loved
her, betrayed it in her manner, and between her and Giles it was
confessed. Mrs. Melcombe was very wroth."
"Laura has a right to do as she pleases," said John; "no one can prevent
"She has the right, but not the power. WE can do as we please, or we can
let Mrs. Melcombe do as SHE pleases."
"You mean that we can tell my gardener's son that my cousin (whom he no
longer cares for) is in love with him, and, by our assistance and
persuasion, we can, if we choose, bring on as foolish a marriage as ever
was contemplated, and one as disadvantageous to ourselves. Now for the
alternative. What can it be?"
"Mrs. Melcombe can take Laura on the Continent again, and she proposed to
do it forthwith."
"And leave her boy at school? A very good thing for him."
"No, she means to take him also, and not come back till Joseph is at the
other end of the world."
"Two months will see him there."
"Well, John, now you have stated the case, it does seem a strange fancy of
mine to wish to interfere, and if to interfere could possibly be to our
"You would not have thought of it! No, I am sure of that. Now my advice
is, that we let them alone all round. I don't believe, in the first place,
that Joe Swan, now he has change, freedom, and a rise in life before him,
would willingly marry Laura if he might. I am not at all sure that, if it
came to the point, she would willingly marry him at such short notice, and
leave every friend she has in the world. I think she would shrink back,
for she can know nothing worth mentioning of him. As to the boy, how do
you know that a tour may not be a very fine thing for him? It must be
better than moping at Melcombe under petticoat government; and even if Joe
married Laura to-morrow, we could not prevent Mrs. Melcombe from taking
him on the Continent whenever she chose."
Emily was silent.
"And what made you talk of a runaway match?" continued John.
"Because she told Giles that the last time she saw Joseph he proposed to
her to sneak away, get married before a magistrate, and go off without
saying a word to anybody."
"Fools," exclaimed John, "both of them! No, we cannot afford to have any
runaway matches―and of such a sort too! I should certainly interfere if I
thought there was any danger of that."
"I hope you would. He wanted her to propose some scheme. I think scorn of
all scheming. If she had really meant to marry him, his part should have
been to see that she did it in a way that would not make it worse for her
afterwards. He should have told Mrs. Melcombe fairly that she could not
prevent it, and he should have taken her to church and married her like a
man before plenty of witnesses in the place where she is known. If he had
not shown such a craven spirit, I almost think I would have taken his
part. Now, John, I know what you think; but I should have felt just the
same if Valentine had not made himself ridiculous, and if I was quite sure
that this would not end in a runaway match after all, and the True Blue
be full of it."
"I believe you," said John; "and I always had a great respect for you,
"What are you laughing at, then?"
"Perhaps at the matronly dignity with which you have been laying down the
"Is that all? Oh, I always do that now I am married, John."
"You don't say so! Well, Joe Swan has worked hard at improving himself;
but though good has come out of it in the end for him, it is certainly a
very queer affair. Why, in the name of common sense, couldn't Laura be
contented with somebody in her own sphere?"
"I should like to know why Laura was so anxious the matter should be
concealed from you," said Emily.
"Most likely she remembers that Swan is in my employment, or she may also
be 'troubled with intuitions,' and know by intuition what I think of her."
"And how is Aunt Christie?" asked Emily, after little more talk concerning
"Well and happy; I do not believe it falls to the lot of any old woman to
be happier in this oblate spheroid. The manner in which she acts
dragon over Miss C. is a joy to me, the only observer. She always manages
that we shall never meet excepting in her presence; when I go into the
schoolroom to read prayers, I invariably find her there before me. She
insists, also, on presiding at all the schoolroom meals. How she found out
the state of things here I cannot tell, but I thankfully let her alone. I
never go out to smoke a cigar in the evening, and notice a stately female
form stepping forth also, but Aunt Christie is sure to come briskly
stumping in her wake, ready to join either her or me."
"You don't mean to imply anything?"
"Of course not! but you yourself, before you married, were often known to
take my arm at flower-shows, &c., in order to escape from certain poor
fellows who sighed in vain."
"Yes, you were good about that; and you remind me of it, no doubt, in
order to claim the like friendliness from me now the tables are turned. John, the next time I take your arm in public it will be to extend my
matronly countenance to those modest efforts of yours at escaping
attention, for you know yourself to be quite unworthy of notice!"
"Just so; you express my precise feeling."
"It is a pity you and Grand are so rich!"
"Why? You do not insinuate, I hope, that I and my seven are merely
eligible on that account. Now, what are you looking at me for, with that
little twist in your lips that always means mischief?"
"Because I like you, and I am afraid you are being spoilt, John. I do so
wish you had a nice wife. I should? at least, if you wished it yourself."
"A saving clause! Have you and Fred discussed me, madam?"
"No, I declare that we have not."
"I hope you have nobody to recommend, because I won't have her! I always
particularly disliked red hair."
"Now what makes you suppose I was thinking of any one who has red hair?"
"You best know yourself whether you were not."
"Well," said Emily, after a pause for reflection, "now you mention it (I
never did), I do not see that you could do better."
"I often think so myself, and that is partly why I am so set against it! No, Emily, it would be a shame to joke about an excellent and pleasant
woman. The fact is, I have not the remotest intention of ever marrying
again at all."
"Very well," said Emily, "it is not my affair; it was your own notion
entirely that I wanted to help you to a wife."
And she sat a moment cogitating, and thinking that the lady of the golden
head had probably lost her chance by showing too openly that she was
"What are you looking at?" said John. "At the paths worn in my carpets? That's because all the rooms are thoroughfares. Only fancy any woman
marrying a poor fellow whose carpets get into that state every three or
"Oh," said Emily, "if that was likely to stand in your light, I could soon
show you how to provide a remedy."
"But my father hates the thoughts of bricks and mortar," said John, amused
at her seriousness, "and I inherit that feeling."
"John, the north front of your house is very ugly. You have five French
windows on a line―one in each of these rooms, one in the hall; you would
only have to run a narrow passage-like conservatory in front of them,
enter it by the hall window, and each room by its own window, put a few
plants in the conservatory, and the thing is done in a fortnight. Every
room has its back window; you would get into the back garden as you do
now; you need not touch the back of the house, that is all smothered in
vines and creepers, as you are smothered in children!"
"The matter shall have my gravest consideration," said John, "provided you
never mention matrimony to me again as long as you live."
"Very well," said Emily, "I promise; but there is St. George coming. I
must not forget to tell you that I saw Joseph this morning at a distance;
he was standing in the lea of the pigstye, and cogitating in the real
"It was about his outfit," exclaimed John; "depend upon it it was not
And so the colloquy ended, and John walked down his own garden, opened the
wicket that led to his gardener's cottage, and saw Joseph idly picking out
a weed here and there, while he watched the bees, some of whom, deluded by
the sunshine, had come forth, and were feebly hanging about the opening of
"Joe," said John, with perfect decision and directness, "I have a favour
to ask of you."
Joseph was startled at first; but as no more was said, he presently
answered, "Well, sir, you and yours have done me so many, that I didn't
ought to hesitate about saying I'll grant it, whatever it is."
"If you should think of marrying before you go――"
"Which I don't, sir," interrupted the young man rather hastily.
"Very good; then if you change your mind, I want your promise that you
will immediately let me know."
"Yes, sir," said Joseph, as if the promise cost him nothing, and suggested
nothing to his mind, "I will."
"There," thought John, as he turned away, "he does not know what he is
about; but if she brings the thing on again, I believe he will keep faith
with me, and a clandestine marriage I am determined shall not be."
He then went into the town and found, to his surprise, that Brandon had
already seen his father, and had told him that Dorothea Graham had engaged
herself to him. John was very much pleased, but his father treated the
matter with a degree of apathy which rather startled and disturbed him.
Old Augustus was in general deeply interested in a marriage; he had helped
several people to marry, and whether he approved or disapproved of any one
in particular, he was almost sure, when he had been lately told of it, to
make some remarks on the sacredness of the institution, and on the
advantages of an early marriage for young men.
He, however, said nothing, though Brandon was one of his chief favourites;
but having just related the fact, took up the Times, and John
opened his letters, one of them being from his son Johnny, written in a
fully-formed and beautiful hand, which made its abrupt style and boyish
vehemence the more observable.
"MY DEAREST FATHER,―It's all right. Mr. ―― took me to Harrow, and Dr. B.
examined me, and he said―oh, he said a good deal about my Latin verses,
and the books I'm in, but I can't tell you it, because it seems so
muffish. And, papa, I wish I might bring Crayshaw home for the Easter
holidays; you very nearly promised I should; but I wanted to tell you what
fun I and the other fellows had at the boat-race. You can hardly think how
jolly it was. I suppose when I get into the great school I shall never see
it. We ran down shouting and yelling after the boats. I thought I should
never be happy again if Cambridge didn't win. It was such a disgustingly
sleety, blowy, snowy, windy, raspy, muddy day, as you never saw. And such
crowds of fellows cheering and screeching out to the crews. Such a rout!
"'The Lord Mayor lent the City P'lice,
The cads ran down by scores and scores
With shouting roughs, and scented muffs,
While blue were flounces, frills, and gores.
On swampy meads, in sleeted hush,
The swarms of London made a rush,
And all the world was in the slush.'
"Etcetera. That's part of Crayshaw's last; it's a parody of one of those
American fogies. Dear father, you will let me come home, won't you;
because I do assure you I shall get in with the greatest ease, even if I'm
not coached for a day more. A great many fellows here haven't a tutor at
all.―I remain, your affectionate son,
"P.S.―Will you tell Gladys that my three puppies, which she says are
growing nicely, are not, on any account, to be given away; and will you
say that Swan is not to drown them, or do anything with them, till I've
chosen one, and then he may sell the others. And I hope my nails and
screws and my tools have not been meddled with. The children are not to
take my things. It often makes me miserable to think that they get my
nails and my paddle when I'm gone."
John Mortimer smiled, and felt rather inclined to let the boy come home,
when, looking up, he observed that his father was dozing over the
newspaper, and that he shivered.
Master Augustus John did not get an answer so soon as he had hoped for it,
and when it came it was dated from a little, quiet place at the seaside,
and let him know that his grandfather was very poorly, very much out of
sorts, and that his father had felt uneasy about him. Johnny was informed
that he must try to be happy, spending the Easter holidays at his tutor's. His grandfather sent him a very handsome "tip," and a letter written in
such a shaky hand, that the boy was a good deal impressed, and locked it
up in his desk, lest he should never have another.
THE AMERICAN GUEST.
"Shall we rouse the night-owl with a catch that will draw three
souls out of one weaver?"
IN less than a week from the receipt of his son's letter, John Mortimer
wrote again, and gave the boy leave to come home, but on no account to
bring young Crayshaw with him, if a journey was likely to do him harm.
Johnny accordingly set off instantly (the holidays having just begun),
and, travelling all night, reached the paternal homestead by eight
o'clock in the morning.
His father was away, but he was received with rapture by his brothers
and sisters. His little brothers admired him with the humble reverence
of small boys for big ones, and the girls delighted in his school-boy
slang, and thought themselves honoured by his companionship.
Crayshaw was an American by birth, but his elder brother (under whose
guardianship he was) had left him in England as his best chance of
living to manhood, for he had very bad health, and the climate of his
native place did not suit him.
Young Gifford Crayshaw had a general invitation to spend the holidays at
Brandon's house, for his brother and Brandon were intimate friends; but
boys being dull alone, Johnny Mortimer and he contrived at these times
to meet rather often, sometimes to play, sometimes to fight―even the
latter is far better than being without companionship, more natural, and
on the whole more cheerful.
"And I'm sure," said Aunt Christie, when she heard he was coming, "I
should never care about the mischief he leads the little ones into when
he's well, if he could breathe like other people when he's ill; you may
hear him half over the house when he has his asthma."
Crayshaw came by the express train in the afternoon, and was met by the
young Mortimers in the close carriage. He was nearly fifteen, and a
strange contrast to Johnny, whose perfect health, ardent joyousness, and
lumbering proportions never were so observable as beside the clear-cut
face of the other, the slow gait, an expression of countenance at once
audacious, keen, and sweet, together with that peculiar shadow under the
eyelids which some people consider to betoken an early death.
Crayshaw was happily quite well that afternoon, and accordingly very
noisy doings went on; Miss Crampton was away for her short Easter
holiday, and Aunt Christie did not interfere if she could help it when
Johnny was at home.
That night Master Augustus John Mortimer, his friend, and all the family
were early asleep; not so the next. It was some time past one o'clock
A.M. when John Mortimer and Brandon, who had been dining together at a
neighbour's house, one having left his father rather better, and the
other having come home from the Isle of Wight, walked up towards the
house deep in conversation, till John, lifting up his eyes, saw lights
in the schoolroom windows. This deluded father calmly remarked that the
children had forgotten to put the lamp out when they went to bed. Brandon thought he heard a sound uncommonly like infant revelry, but he
said nothing, and the two proceeded into the closed house, and went
"Roast pork," said Brandon, "if ever I smelt that article in my life!"
They opened the schoolroom door, and John beheld, to his extreme
surprise, a table spread, his eldest son at the head of it, his twin
daughters, those paragons of good behaviour, peeling potatoes, and the
other children, all more or less dishevelled, sitting round, blushing
"My dears!" exclaimed John Mortimer, "this I never could have believed
of you! One o'clock in the morning!"
Perfect silence. Brandon thought John would find it beneath his dignity
to make a joke of this breach of discipline. He was rather vexed that he
should have helped to discover it, and feeling a little de trop, he
advanced to the top of the table. "John," he said with a resigned air
and with a melancholy cadence in his voice that greatly impressed the
"Come," thought John as he paused, "they deserve a 'wigging,' but I
don't want to make a 'Star-chamber matter' of this. I wish he would not
be so supernaturally serious."
"John," repeated Brandon, "on occasion of this unexpected hospitality, I
feel called upon to make a speech."
John sat down, wondering what would come next.
"John, ladies and gentlemen," said Brandon, "when I look around me on
these varied attractions, when I behold those raspberry turnovers of a
flakiness and a puffiness so ethereal, that one might think the very
eyes of the observer should drop lightly on them, lest that too
appreciative glance should flatten them down―I say, ladies and
gentlemen, when I smell that crackling, when I cast my eyes on those
cinders in the gravy, I am irresistibly reminded of occasions when I
myself, arrayed in a holland pinafore, have presided over like
entertainments; and of one in particular when, being of tender age―of
one occasion, I say, that is never to be forgotten, when, during the
small hours of the night, I was hauled out of bed to assist in mixing
hardbake, by one very dear to us all―who shall be nameless."
What more he would have added will never be known, for with ringing
laughter that spoke for the excellence of their lungs, the whole
tableful of young Mortimers, with the exception of Johnnie, rose, and,
as if by one impulse, fell upon their father.
"Hold hard," he was heard to shout, "don't smother me." But he received
a kissing and hugging of great severity; the elder ones who had
understood Brandon's speech, closing him in; the little ones, who only
perceived to their delight that the occasion had become festive again,
hovering round, and getting at him where they could. So that when they
parted, and he was visible again, sitting radiant in the midst of them,
his agreeable face was very red, and he was breathing fast and audibly. "I'll pay you for this!" he exclaimed, when he observed, to his
amusement, that Brandon's serious look was now really genuine, as if he
was afraid the experiment might be repeated on himself. "Johnnie, my
boy, shake hands, I forgive you this once. And you may pass the bottle." Johnnie, who knew himself to be the real offender, made haste to obey. "It's not blacking, of course," continued John, looking at the thick
liquor with distrust.
"The betht black currant," exclaimed his heir, "at thirteen-penth a
"And where's Cray?" exclaimed John, suddenly observing the absence of
his young guest.
"He's down in the kitchen, dishing up the pudding," said Barbara
blushing, and she darted out of the room, and presently returned, other
footsteps following hers.
"Cray," exclaimed John, as the boy seemed inclined to linger outside,
"don't stand there in the draught. And so it is not by your virtuous
inclinations that you have hitherto been excluded from this festive
"No, sir," said Crayshaw with farcical meekness of voice and air, "quite
the contrary. It was that I've met with a serious accident. I've been
John looked aghast. "You surely have not been into the loose-box," he
"Oh no, father, nothing of the sort," said Barbara. "It was only that he
was down in the kitchen on his knees, and two blackbeetles ran over his
legs. You should never believe a word he says, father."
"But that was the reason the pudding came to grief," continued Crayshaw;
"they were very large and fierce, and in my terror I let it fall, and it
was squashed. When I saw their friends coming on to fall upon it, I was
just about to cry, 'Take it all, but spare my life!' when Barbara came
and rescued me. I hope," he went on, yet more meekly, "I hope it was not
an unholy self-love that prompted me to prefer my life to the pudding!"
The children laughed, as they generally did when Crayshaw spoke, but it
was more at his manner than at his words. And now, peace being restored,
everybody helped everybody else to the delicacies, John discreetly
refraining from any inquiry as to whether this was the first midnight
feast over which his son had presided, but he could not forbear to say,
"I suppose your grandfather's 'tip' is to blame for this?"
"If everybody was like the Grand," remarked Crayshaw, "Tennyson never
need have said―
"'Vex not thou the schoolboy's soul
With thy shabby tip.'"
"Now, Cray," said Brandon, "don't you emulate Valentine's abominable
trick of quoting."
"And I have often begged you two not to parody the Immortals," said
John. "The small fry you may make fun of, if you please, but let the
"But he ithn't dead," reasoned Master Augustus John; "I don't call any
of thoth fellowth immortal till they're dead."
"It's a very bad habit," continued his father.
"And he's made me almost as bad as himself," observed Crayshaw in the
softest and mildest of tones. "Miss Christie said this very morning that
there was no bearing me, and I never did it till I knew him. I used to
be so good, everybody loved me."
John laughed, but was determined to say his say.
"You never can take real pleasure again in any poetry that you have
mauled in that manner. Miss Crampton was seriously annoyed when she
found that you had altered the girl's songs, and made them ridiculous."
The last time, in fact, that Johnnie and Crayshaw had been together,
they had deprived themselves of their natural rest in order to carry out
these changes; and the first time Miss Crampton gave a music lesson
after their departure, she opened the book at one of their improved
versions, which ran as follows:―
"Wink to me only with thy nose,
And I will sing through mine."
Miss Crampton hated boyish vulgarity; she turned the page, but matters
were no better. The two youths had next been at work on a song in which
a muff of a man, who offers nothing particular in return, requests
'Nancy' to gang wi' him, leaving her home, her dinner, her brooches, her
best gowns, &c., behind, to walk through snow-drifts, blasts, and other
perils by his side, and afterwards strew flowers on his clay. Desirous
as it seemed to show that the young person was not so misguided as her
silence has hitherto left the world to think, they had added a verse,
which ran as follows:―
"'Ah, wilt thou thus, for his loved sake,
All manner of hardships dare to know?'
The fair one smiled whenas he spake,
And promptly answered, 'No, sir; no.'"
"Cray," said John Mortimer, observing the boy's wan appearance, "how
could you think of sitting up so late?"
"Why, the thupper wath on purpoth for him," exclaimed Johnnie. "We gave
it in hith honour, ath a mark of thympathy."
"Because he was burnt out," said Gladys. "Papa, did you know? his
tutor's house was burnt down, and the boys had to escape in the night."
"But it wath a great lark," observed Johnnie, "and he knowth he thought
"Yes," said Crayshaw, folding his hands with farcical mock meekness,
"but I saved hardly anything―nothing whatever, in fact, but my Yankee
accent, and that only by taking it between my teeth."
"There was not enough of it to be worth saving, my dear boy," said
Crayshaw's face for once assumed a genuine expression, one of alarm. He
was distinguished at school for the splendid Yankee dialect he could put
on, as Johnnie was for his mastery of a powerful Devonshire lingo; but
if scarcely a hint of his birthplace remained in his daily speech, and
he had not noticed any change, there was surely danger lest this
interesting accomplishment should be declining also.
"I am always imitating the talk I hear in the cottages," he remarked; "I
may have lost it so."
"Perhaps, as Cray goes to so many places, it may get scattered about,"
said little Bertram; but he was speedily checked by Johnnie, who
observed with severity that they didn't want any "thrimp thauth."
"He mutht thimmer," said Johnnie, "thath what he mutht do. He mutht be
thrown into an iron pot, with a gallon of therry cobbler, and a pumpkin
pie, and thome baked beanth, and a copy of the Biglow Paperth, and a
handful of thalt, and they mutht all thimmer together till he geth
properly flavoured again."
"Wouldn't it be safer if he was only dipped in?" asked the same "shrimp"
who had spoken before.
As this was the second time he had taken this awful liberty, he would
probably have been dismissed the assembly but for the presence of his
father. As it was, Johnnie and Crayshaw both looked at him, not fiercely
but steadily, whereupon the little fellow with deep blushes slid gently
from his chair under the table.
A few days after this midnight repast, Emily, knowing that John Mortimer
was away a good deal, and having a perfectly gratuitous notion that his
children must be dull in consequence, got Valentine to drive her over
one morning to invite them to spend a day at Brandon's house.
A great noise of shouting, drumming on battledores, and blowing through
discordant horns, let them know, as they came up the lane, that the
community was in a state of high activity; and when they reached the
garden gate they were just in time to see the whole family vanish round
a corner, running at full speed after a donkey on which Johnnie was
The visitors drove inside the gate, and waited five minutes, when the
donkey, having made the circuit of the premises, came galloping up, the
whole tribe of young Mortimers after him. They received Emily with
loving cordiality, and accounted for the violent exercise they had been
taking by the declaration that this donkey never would go at all, unless
he heard a great noise and clatter at his heels.
"So that if Johnnie wanted to go far, as far as to London," observed one
of the panting family, "it would be awkward, wouldn't it?"
"And he's only a second-hand donkey, either," exclaimed little Janie in
deep disparagement of the beast; "father bought him of the blacksmith."
"But isn't it good fun to see him go so fast?" cried another. "Would you
like to see our donkey do it again?"
"And see him 'witch the world with noble assmanship," said Valentine.
Whereupon a voice above said rather faintly. "Hear, hear!" and Crayshaw
appeared leaning out of a first-floor window, the pathetic shadow more
than commonly evident in his eyes, in spite of a mischievous smile. He
had but lately recovered from a rheumatic fever, and was further held
down by frequent attacks of asthma. Yet the moment one of these went
off, the elastic spirits of boyhood enabled him to fling it into the
background of his thoughts, and having rested awhile, as he was then
doing, he became, according to the account Gladys gave of him at that
moment, "just like other boys, only ten times more so!"
Emily now alighted, and as they closed about her and hemmed her in,
donkey and all, she felt inclined to move her elbows gently, as she had
sometimes seen John do, in order to clear a little space about him. "Why
does not Cray come down, too?" she asked.
"I think he has had enough of the beast," said Barbara, "for yesterday
he was trying to make him jump; but the donkey and Cray could not agree
about it. He would not jump, and at last he pitched Cray over his head."
"Odd," said Valentine; "that seems a double contradiction to the proverb
that 'great wits jump.'" Valentine loved to move off the scene, leaving
a joke with his company. He now drove away, and Johnnie informed Emily
that he had already been hard at work that morning.
"I've a right to enjoy mythelf after it," he added, looking round in a
patronising manner, "and I have. I've not had a better lark, in fact,
since Grand was a little boy."
By these kind, though preposterous words, the assembly was stimulated
to action. The frightful clatter, drumming, and blowing of horns began
again, and the donkey set off with all his might, the Mortimers after
him. When he returned, little Bertram was seated on his back. "Johnnie
and Cray have something very particular to do," she was informed with
"For their holiday task?"
"Oh no, for that lovely electrifying machine of cousin Val's. Cray is
always writing verses; he is going to be a poet. Johnnie was saying last
week that it was not at all hard to turn poetry into Latin, and Val said
he should have the machine if he could translate some that Cray wrote
the other day. Do you think the Romans had any buttons and buttonholes?"
"I don't know. Why?"
"Because there are buttons in one of the poems. Cray says it is a
tribute―a tribute to this donkey that father has just given us. He was
inspired to write it when he saw him hanging his head over the yard
Thereupon the verses, copied in a large childish hand, were produced and
The jackass brayed;
And all his passionate dream was in that sound
Which, to the stables round
And other tenements, told of packs that weighed
On his brown haunches; also that, alas!
His true heart sighed for Jenny, that fair ass
Who backward still and forward paced
With panniers and the curate's children graced.
Then, when she took no heed, but turned aside
Her head, he shook his ears
As much as to say "Great are―as these―my fears."
And while I wept to think how love that preyed
On the deep heart not worth a button seemed
To her for whom he dreamed;
And while the red sun stained the welkin wide,
And summer lightnings on the horizon played,
Again the jackass brayed.
"And here's the other," said Gladys. "Johnnie says, it would be much
the easier to do, only he is doubtful about the 'choker.'"
THE SCHOOLBOY TO HIS DRESS SUIT.
Nice is broiled salmon, whitebait's also nice
With bread and butter served, no shaving thinner.
Entrées are good; but what is even ice―
Cream ice―to him that's made to dress for dinner?
Oh my dress boots, my studs, and my white tie
Termed choker (emblem of this heart's pure aim),
Why are good things to eat your meed? Oh why
Must swallow-tails be donned for tasting game?
The deep heart questions vainly,―not for ease
Or joy were such invented;―but this know,
I'd rather dine off hunks of bread and cheese
Than feast in state rigged out in my dress clo'.
Emily, after duly admiring these verses, gave her invitation, and it was
accepted with delight. Nothing, they said, could be more convenient. Father had told them how Mr. Brandon was having the long wing of the
house pulled down, the part where cousin Val's room used to be; so he
had been obliged to turn out his nests, and his magic lantern, and many
other things that he had when he was a little boy.
"And he says we shall inherit them."
"And when father saw him sitting on a heap of bricks among his things,
he says it put him in mind of Marius on the ruins of Carthage."
"So now we can fetch them all away."
Emily then departed, after stipulating that the two little ones, her
favourites, should come also. "Darlings!" she exclaimed, when she saw
their stout little legs so actively running to ask Miss Christie's
leave. "Will my boy ever look at me with such clear earnest eyes? Shall
I ever see such a lovely flush on his face, or hear such joyous laughter
Time was to answer this question for her, and a very momentous month for
the whole family began its course. Laura, writing from Paris to Liz,
made it evident to those who knew anything of the matter, that Mrs.
Melcombe, as she thought, had carried her out of harm's way; and it is a
good thing Laura did not know with what perfect composure and ambitious
hope Joseph made his preparations for the voyage. The sudden change of
circumstances and occupation, and the new language he had to learn, woke
him thoroughly from his dream, and though it had been for some long time
both deep and strong, yet it was to him now as other dreams "when one awaketh;" and Laura herself, now that she had been brought face to face,
not with her lover, but with facts, was much more reasonable than
before. Brandon had said to her pointedly, in the presence of her
sister-in-law, "If you and this young man had decided to marry, no law,
human or divine, could have forbidden it." But at the same time Amelia
had said, "Laura, you know very well that though you love to make
romances about him, you would not give up one of the comforts of life
for his sake."
Laura, in fact, had scarcely believed in the young man's love till she
had been informed that it was over. She longed to be sought more than
she cared to be won; it soothed and comforted what had been a painful
sense of disadvantage to know that one man at least had sighed for her
in vain. He would not have been a desirable husband, but as a former
lover she could feign him what she pleased, and while, under new and
advantageous circumstances, he became more and more like what she
feigned, it was not surprising that in the end she forgot her feigning,
and found her feet entangled for good and all in the toils she herself
had spread for them.
In the meantime Johnnie and Crayshaw, together with the younger
Mortimers, did much as they liked, till Harrow school reopened, when the
two boys returned, departing a few hours earlier than was necessary that
they might avoid Miss Crampton, a functionary whom Johnny held in great
At the same period Grand suddenly rallied, and, becoming as well as
ever, his son, who had made many journeys backwards and forwards to see
him, brought him home, buying at the railway station, as he stepped
into his father's carriage, the Times and the Wigfield
and True Blue, in each of which he saw a piece of news that
himself, though it was told with a difference.
In the Times was the marriage of Giles Brandon, Esq., &c., to
Dorothea, elder daughter of Edward Graham, Esq.; and in the local paper,
with an introduction in the true fustian style of mock concealment, came
the same announcement, followed by a sufficiently droll and malicious
account of the terrible inconvenience another member of this family had
suffered a short time since by being snowed up, in which state he still
continued, as snow in that part of the world had forgotten how to melt.
A good deal that was likely to mortify Valentine followed this, but it
was no more than he deserved.
John laughed. "Well, Giles is a dear fellow," he said, throwing down the
paper. "I am pleased at his marriage, and they must submit to be laughed
at like other people."
WEARING THE WILLOW.
"My Lord Sebastian,
The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness
And time to speak it in; you rub the sore
When you should bring the plaster."
WHEN John Mortimer
reached the banking-house next morning, he found Valentine waiting for him
in his private sitting-room.
"I thought my uncle would hardly be coming so early, John,"
he said, "and that perhaps you would spare me a few minutes to talk things
"To be sure," said John, and looking more directly at
Valentine, he noticed an air of depression and gloom which seemed rather
too deep to be laid to the account of the True Blue.
He was stooping as he sat, and slightly swinging his hat by
the brim between his knees. He had reddened at first, with a sullen
and half-defiant expression, but this soon faded, and, biting his lips, he
brought himself with evident effort to say―
"Well, John, I've done for myself, you see; Giles has married
her. Serves me right, quite right. I've nothing to say against
"No, I devoutly hope you have not," exclaimed John, to whom
the unlucky situation became evident in an instant.
"Grand always has done me the justice to take my part as
regards my conduct about this hateful second engagement. He always
knew that I would have married poor Lucy if they would have let me―married
her and made the best of my frightful, shameful mistake. But as you
know, Mrs. Nelson, Lucy's mother, made me return her letters a month ago,
and said it must be broken off, unless I would let it go dragging on and
on for two years at least, and that was impossible, you know, John,
because―because, I so soon found out what I'd done."
"Wait a minute, my dear fellow," John interrupted hastily,
"you have said nothing yet but what expresses very natural feelings.
I remark, in reply, that your regret at what you have long seen to be
unworthy conduct need no longer disturb you on the lady's account, she
having now married somebody else."
"Yes," said Valentine, sighing restlessly.
"And," John went on, looking intently at him, "on your own
account I think you need not at all regret that you had no chance of going
and humbly offering yourself to her again, for I feel certain that she
would have considered it insulting her to suppose she could possibly
overlook such a slight. Let me speak plainly, and say that she could
have regarded such a thing in no other light."
Then, giving him time to think over these words, which
evidently impressed him, John presently went on, "It would be ridiculous,
however, now, for Dorothea to resent your former conduct, or St. George
either. Of course they will be quite friendly towards you, and you
may depend upon it that all this will very soon appear as natural as
possible; you'll soon forget your former relation towards your brother's
wife; in fact you must."
Valentine was silent awhile, but when he did speak he said,
"You feel sure, then, that she would have thought such a thing an insult?"
He meant, you feel sure, then, that I should have had no chance even if my
brother had not come forward.
"Perfectly sure," answered John with confidence. "That
was a step which, from the hour you made it, you never could have
Here there was another silence; then―
"Well, John, if you think so," said the poor fellow―"this was
rather a sudden blow to me, though."
John pitied him; he had made a great fool of himself, and he
was smarting for it keenly. His handsome young face was very pale,
but John was helping him to recollect his better self, and he knew it.
"I shall not allude to this any more," he continued.
"I'm very glad to hear you say so," said John.
"I came partly to say―to tell you that now I am better, quite
well, in fact, I cannot live at home any longer. At home!
Well, I meant in St. George's house, any longer."
The additional knowledge John had that minute acquired of the
state of Valentine's feeling, or what he supposed himself to feel, gave
more than usual confidence and cordiality to his answer.
"Of course not. You will be considering now what you
mean to do, and my father and I must help you. In the first place
there is that two thousand pounds; you have never had a shilling of it
yet. My father was speaking of that yesterday."
"Oh," answered Valentine, with evident relief, and with
rather a bitter smile, "I thought he proposed to give me that as a wedding
present, and if so, goodness knows I never expect to touch a farthing of
"That's as hereafter may be," said John, leading him away
from the dangerous subject. Valentine began every sentence with a
"I never chose to mention it," he remarked. "I had no
right to consider it as anything else, nor did I."
"He does not regard it in any such light," said John.
"He had left it to you in his will, but decided afterwards to give it now.
You know he talks of his death, dear old man, as composedly as of
to-morrow morning. He was reminding me of this money the other day
when he was unwell, and saying that, married or unmarried, you should have
it made over to you."
"I'm very deeply, deeply obliged to him," said Valentine,
with a fervour that was almost emotion. "It seems, John, as if that
would help me,―might get me out of the scrape, for I really did not know
where to turn. I've got nothing to do, and had nothing to live on,
and I'm two and twenty."
"I do feel as if I was altogether in such an ignominious
As John quite agreed with him in this view of his position,
he remained silent.
Valentine went on, "First, my going to Cambridge came to
nothing on account of my health. Then a month ago, as I didn't want
to go and live out in New Zealand by myself, couldn't in fact, the New
Zealand place was transferred to Liz, and she and Dick are to go to it,
Giles saying that he would give me a thousand pounds instead of it.
I shall not take that, of course."
"Because he will want his income for himself," John
Valentine proceeding, "And now since I left off learning to
farm,―for that's no use here,―I've got nothing on earth to do."
"Have you thought of anything yet?"
"Well, out with it."
"John," remarked Valentine, as the shadow of a smile flitted
across John's face, "you always seem to me to know what a fellow is
thinking of! Perhaps you would not like such a thing,―wouldn't have
John observed that he was getting a little less gloomy as he
"But whether or not, that two thousand pounds will help me to
some career, certainly, and entirely save me from what I could not bear to
think of, her knowing that I was dependent on Giles, and despising
me for it."
"Pooh," exclaimed John, a little chafed at his talking in
this way, "what is St. George's wife likely to know, or to care, as to how
her brother-in-law derives his income? But I quite agree with you
that you have no business to be dependent on Giles; he has done a great
deal for his sisters he should now have his income for himself."
"Yes," said Valentine.
"You have always been a wonderfully united family," observed
John pointedly; "there is every reason why that state of things should
"Yes," repeated Valentine, receiving the covert lecture
"And there is no earthly end, good or bad, to be served,"
continued John, "by the showing of irritation or gloom on your part,
because your brother has chosen to take for himself what you had
previously and with all deliberation thrown away."
"I suppose not, John," said Valentine quite humbly.
"Then what can you be thinking of?"
"I don't know."
"You have not talked to any one as you have done to me this
"No, certainly not."
"Well, then, decide while the game is in your own hand that
you never will."
So far from being irritated or sulky at the wigging that John
was bestowing on him, Valentine was decidedly the better for it. The
colour returned to his face, he sat upright in his chair, and then he got
up and stood on the rug, as if John's energy had roused him, and opened
his eyes also, to his true position.
"You don't want to cover yourself with ridicule, do you?"
continued John, seeing his advantage.
"Why, even if you cared to take neither reason, nor duty, nor
honour into the question, surely the only way to save your own dignity
from utter extinction is to be, or at least seem to be, quite indifferent
as to what the lady may have chosen to do, but very glad that your brother
should have taken a step which makes it only fair to you that he and his
wife should forget your former conduct."
"John," said Valentine, "I acknowledge that you are right."
John had spoken quite as much, indeed more, in Brandon's
interest than in Valentine's. The manner in which the elder had
suffered the younger to make himself agreeable and engage himself to
Dorothea Graham, and how, when he believed she loved him, he had made it
possible for them to marry, were partly known to him and partly surmised.
And now it seemed in mockery of everything that was decent, becoming, and
fair that the one who had forsaken her should represent himself as having
waked, after a short delusion, and discovered that he loved her still,
letting his brother know this, and perhaps all the world. Such would
be a painful and humiliating position also for the bride. It might
even affect the happiness of the newly-married pair; but John did not wish
to hint at these graver views of the subject; he was afraid to give them
too much importance, and he confidently reckoned on Valentine's volatile
disposition to stand his friend, and soon enable him to get over his
attachment. All that seemed wanting was some degree of present
"John, I acknowledge that you are right," repeated Valentine,
after an interval of thought.
"You acknowledge―now we have probed this subject and got to
the bottom of it―that it demands of you absolute silence, and at first
"Yes; that is settled."
"You mean to take my view?"
"Yes, I do."
As he stood some time lost in thought, John let him alone and
began to write, till, thinking he had pondered enough, he looked up and
alluded to the business Valentine had come about.
"You may as well tell it me, unless you want to take my
father into your council also: he will be here soon."
"No; I thought it would be more right if I spoke to you
first, John, before my uncle heard of it," said Valentine.
"Because it is likely to concern me longer?" asked John.
"Yes; you see what I mean; I should like, if uncle and you
would let me, to go into the bank; I mean as a clerk―nothing more, of
"I should want some time to consider that matter," said John.
"I was half afraid you would propose this, Val. It's so like you to
take the easiest thing that offers."
"Is it on my account or on your own that you shall take
"On both. So far as you are concerned, it is no career
to be a banker's clerk."
"No; but, John, though I hardly ever think of it, I cannot
always forget that there is only one life between me and Melcombe."
"Very true," said John coolly; "but if it is ill waiting for
a dead man's shoes, what must it be waiting for a dead child's shoes?"
"I do not even wish or care to be ever more than a clerk,"
said Valentine; "but that, I think, would fill up my time pleasantly."
"Between this and what?"
"Between this and the time when I shall have finally decided
what I will do. I think eventually I shall go abroad."
John knew by this time that he would very gladly not have
Valentine with him, or rather under him; but an almost unfailing instinct,
where his father was concerned, assured him that the old man would
"Shall I speak to my father about it for you?" he said.
"No, John, by no means, if you do not like it. I would
not be so unfair as let him have a hint of it till you have taken the time
you said you wanted."
"All right," said John; "but where, in case you became a
clerk here, do you propose to live?"
"Dick A'Court lived in lodgings for years," said Valentine,
"so does John A'Court now, over the pastrycook's in the High Street."
"And you think you could live over the shoemaker's?"
"I have often met Dick meekly carrying home small parcels of
grocery for himself. I should like to catch you doing anything of
"I believe I can do anything now I have learned to leave off
quoting. I used to be always doing it, and to please Dorothea I have
quite given it up."
"Well," said John, "let that pass."
He knew as well as possible what would be his father's wish,
and he meant to let him gratify it. He was a good son, and, as he
had everything completely in his own power, he may be said to have been
very indulgent to his father, but the old man did not know it any more
than he did.
Mr. Augustus Mortimer had a fine house, handsomely appointed
and furnished. From time to time, as his son's family had increased,
he had added accommodation. There was an obvious nursery; there was an
evident school-room, perfectly ready for the son, and only waiting, he
often thought, till it should be said to his father, "Come up higher."
It was one of John's theories that there should be a certain homely
simplicity in the dress, food, and general surroundings of youthful
humanity; that it should not have to walk habitually on carpets so rich
that little dusty feet must needs do damage, and appear intruders; nor be
made to feel all day that somebody was disturbed if somebody else was
making himself happy according to his lights, and in his own fashion.
But of late Mr. Augustus Mortimer had begun to show a degree of infirmity
which sometimes made his son uncomfortable that he should have to live
alone. To bring those joyous urchins and little, laughing, dancing,
playful girls into his house was not to be thought of. What was wanted was
some young relative to live with him, who would drive him into the town
and home again, dine with him, live in his presence, and make his house
cheerful. In short, as John thought the matter over, he perceived that it
would be a very good thing for his father to have Valentine as an inmate,
and that it would be everything to Valentine to be with his father.
People always seemed to manage comfortable homes for Valentine, and make
good arrangements for him, as fast as he brought previous ones to nought.
Very few sons like to bring other people into their fathers' houses,
specially in the old age of the latter; but John Mortimer was not only
confident of his own supreme influence, but he was more than commonly
attached to his father, and had long been made to feel that on his own
insight and forethought depended almost all that gave the old man
His father seldom disturbed any existing arrangements, though he often
found comfort from their being altered for him; so John decided to propose
to him to have his brother's son to live with him. In a few days,
therefore, he wrote to Valentine that he had made up his mind, and would
speak to his father for him, which he did, and saw that the nephew's wish
gave decided pleasure; but when he made his other proposal he was quite
surprised (well as he knew his father) at the gladness it excited, at
those thanks to himself for having thought of such a thing, and at certain
little half-expressed hints which seemed intended to meet and answer any
future thoughts his son might entertain as to Valentine's obtaining more
influence than he would approve. But John was seldom surprised by an
after-thought; he was almost always happy enough to have done his thinking
He was in the act of writing a letter to Valentine the next morning at his
own house, and was there laying the whole plan before him, when he saw him
driving rapidly up to the door in the little pony chaise, now the only
carriage kept at Brandon's house. He sprang out as if in urgent haste, and
burst into the room in a great hurry.
"John," he exclaimed, "can you lend me your phaeton, or give me a mount as
far as the junction? Fred Walker has had one of his attacks, and Emily is
in a terrible fright. She wants another opinion: she wishes Dr. Limpsey to
be fetched, and she wants Grand to come to her."
This last desire, mentioned as the two hurried together to the stable,
showed John that Emily apprehended danger.
Emily's joyous and impassioned nature, though she lived safely, as it
were, in the middle of her own sweet world―saw the best of it, made the
best of it, and coloured it all, earth and sky, with her tender
hopefulness―was often conscious of something yet to come, ready and
expectant of the rest of it. The rest of life, she meant; the rest
of sorrow, love, and feeling.
She had a soul full of unused treasures of emotion, and pure, clear depths
of passion that as yet slumbered unstirred. If her heart was a lute, its
highest and lowest chords had never been sounded hitherto. This also she
was aware of, and she knew what their music would be like when it came.
She had been in her girlhood the chief idol of many hearts; but joyous,
straightforward, and full of childlike sweetness, she had looked on all
her adorers in such an impartially careless fashion, that not one of them
could complain. Then, having confided to John Mortimer's wife that she
could get up no enthusiasm for any of them, and thought there could be
none of that commodity in her nature, she had at last consented, on great
persuasion, to take the man who had loved her all her life, "because he
wouldn't go away, and she didn't know what else to do with him; he was
such a devoted little fellow, too, and she liked him so much better than
either of his brothers!"
So they were married; Captain Walker was excessively proud and happy in
his wife, and Mrs. Walker was as joyous and sweet as ever. She had
satisfied the kindly pity which for a long while had made her very
uncomfortable on his account; and, O happy circumstance! she became in
course of time the mother of the most attractive, wonderful, and
interesting child ever born. In the eyes, however, of the invidious world,
he was uncommonly like his plain sickly father, and not, with that
exception, at all distinguished from other children.
John made haste to send Valentine off to the junction, undertook himself
to drive his father over to see Emily, and gathered from the short account
Valentine gave whilst the horse was put too, that Fred Walker had been
taken ill during the night with a fainting fit. He had come from India for
his year's leave in a very poor state of health, and with apprehended
heart disease. Only ten days previously Emily had persuaded him that it
would be well to go to London for advice. But a fainting fit had taken
place, and the medical man called in had forbidden this journey for the
present. He had appeared to recover, so that there seemed to be no more
ground for uneasiness than usual; but this second faintness had lasted
long enough to terrify all those about him.
Grand was very fond of his late brother's stepdaughter; she had always
been his favourite, partly on account of her confiding ease and liking for
him, partly because of the fervent religiousness that she had shown from a
The most joyous and gladsome natures are often most keenly alive to
impressions of reverence, and wonder, and awe. Emily's mind longed and
craved to annex itself to all things fervent, deep, and real. As she
walked on the common grass, she thought the better of it because the feet
of Christ had trodden it also. There were things which she―as the
angels―"desired to look into;" but she wanted also to do the right thing,
and to love the doing of it.
With all this half Methodistic fervour, and longing to lie close at the
very heart of Christianity, she had by nature a strange fearlessness; her
religion, which was full of impassioned loyalty, and her faith, which
seemed to fold her in, had elements in them of curiosity and awed
expectation, which made death itself appear something grand and happy,
quite irrespective of a simply religious reason. It would show her "the
rest of it." She could not do long without it; and often in her most
joyous hours she felt that the crown of life was death's most grand