Beechcroft at Rockstone
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 2 out of 8
White, or whatever her ridiculous name is. They pretend her father
was an officer, but he was really a bad cousin of old Mr. White's
that ran away; and her mother is not a lady---a great fat disgusting
woman, half a nigger; and Mr. White let her brother and sister be in
the marble works out of charity, because they have no father, and she
hasn't any business to be at the High School.'
'White, did you say? Maura White!' exclaimed Gillian. 'Captain
White dead! Oh, Fergus! it must be Captain White. He was in the
dear old Royal Wardours, and papa thought so much of him! To think
of your going and treating his daughter in that shocking way!'
'It was what Stebbing said,' gruffly answered Fergus.
'If you let yourself be led by these horrid cads---'
'He is no such thing! He is the crack bat of Edgar's---'
'A boy is a cad who can't behave himself to a girl because she is
poor. I really think the apology to me was the worst part or the
matter. He only treats people well when he sees they can take care
'I'll tell him about Captain White,' said Fergus, a little abashed.
'Yes. And I will get the aunts to call on Mrs. White, and that may
help them to a better level among these vulgar folk.'
'But you won't---' said Fergus, with an expressive pause.
'I won't get you into trouble, for I think you are sorry you treated
one of our own in such a manner.'
'I wouldn't, indeed, if I had known.'
'I shall only explain that I have found out whom Maura belongs to.
I should go and see them at once, only I must make Val find out where
So Gillian returned home, communicating the intelligence with some
excitement that she had discovered that Valetta's schoolmate, Maura
White, was none other than the daughter of her father's old fellow-
soldier, whose death shocked her greatly, and she requested to go and
call on Mrs. White as soon as she could learn her abode.
However, it seemed to be impossible that any one should live in
Rockstone unknown to Aunt Jane.
'White?' she said. 'It can't be the Whites down by Cliffside. No;
there's a father there, though he generally only comes down for
'I am sure there are some Whites on the Library list,' said Miss Ada.
'Oh yes; but she washes! I know who they must be. I know in
Bellevue there are some; but they go to the Kennel Church. Didn't
you come home, Ada, from that function you went to with Florence,
raving about the handsome youth in the choir?'
'Oh yes, we thought it such an uncommon, foreign face, and he looked
quite inspired when he was singing his solo.'
'Yes; I found out that his name was White, a clerk or something in
the marble works, and that he had a mother and sister living at
Bellevue. I did see the sister when I went to get the marble girls
into the G.F.S., but she said something foolish about her mother not
'Yes; nobody under the St. Kenelm influence ever will come into the
'But what is she doing?' asked Gillian. 'Do you mean Kalliope?'
'I suppose I do. I saw a rather nice-looking young woman in the
department where they make Florentine mosaic, and I believe they said
she was Miss White, but she cut me off very short with her mother, so
I had no more to do with her.'
'I am sure mamma would wish me to call on Mrs. White,' said Gillian.
'There's no reason against it,' said Aunt Jane. 'I will go with you
the first day I can.'
When would that be, wondered Gillian. She told Valetta to talk to
Maura and learn the name of the house; and this was ascertained to be
3 Ivinghoe Terrace, Bellevue Road, but Val had very little
opportunity of cultivating the acquaintance of town girls, who did
not stay to dinner, as she had to go home immediately after school,
under Emma Norton's escort, and perhaps she was not very ardent in
the cause, for Kitty Varley and her other friends did not like the
child, and she was more swayed by them than perhaps she liked to
confess to her sister.
Each morning at breakfast Gillian hoped that Aunt Jane would lay out
her day so as to call on Mrs. White; but first there was the working
party, then came the mothers' meeting, followed by afternoon tea at
Mrs. Hablot's for some parish council. On the third day, which might
have been clear, 'a miserable creature,' as Gillian mentally called
her, wrote to beg the Misses Mohun to bring themselves and her niece
to make up a lawn-tennis set, since some one had failed. Gillian
vainly protested that she did not care about lawn tennis, and could
not play unless Jasper was her partner; and Aunt Jane so far sided
with her as to say it was very inconvenient, and on such short notice
they ought not to be expected. But Aunt Ada clearly wanted to go; and
so they went. It was a beautiful place, but Gillian could not enjoy
herself, partly because she knew so few of the people, but more
because she was vexed and displeased about the Whites. She played
very badly; but Aunt Jane, when pressed into the service, skipped
about with her little light figure and proved herself such a splendid
player, doing it so entirely con amore, that Gillian could not but
say to herself, 'She was bent on going; it was all humbug her
pretending to want to refuse.'
That afternoon's dissipation had made it needful to do double work
the next day, and Gillian was again disappointed. Then came
Saturday, when Miss Mohun was never available, nor was she on Monday;
and when it appeared that she had to go to a meeting at the Cathedral
town on Tuesday, Gillian grew desperate, and at her tete-a-tete meal
with Aunt Ada, related the whole history of the Whites, and her great
desire to show kindness to her father's old brother-officer's family,
and how much she was disappointed.
Miss Adeline was touched, and indeed, fond as she was of her sister,
she could not help being flattered by Gillian's preference and
'Well, my deal, this is a nice day, not too hot or too cold; I do not
see why I should not walk down with you and call. If I find it too
far, we can take a cab to go back.'
'Oh, thank you, Aunt Ada; it is very very kind of you, and there is
no knowing when Aunt Jane may be able to go. I don't like to close
up my Indian letter till I can say I have seen them.'
Gillian fidgeted a good deal lest, before her aunt's postprandial
repose was over, visitors should come and put a stop to everything,
and she looked ready to cut the throat of a poor lady in a mushroom
hat, who came up to leave a message for Miss Mohun about a possible
situation for one of her class of boys.
However, at last they started, Kunz and all, Miss Adeline quite
infected by Gillian's excitement.
'So your father and mother were very fond of them.'
'Papa thought very highly of him, and was very sorry he had to
return,' said Gillian.
'And she was a beautiful Greek.'
Gillian began to be quite afraid of what she might have said.
'I don't think she is more than half Greek,' she said. 'I believe
her mother was a Gorfiote, but her father was English or Irish. I
believe he kept a shop in Malta.'
'Quite a mixture of nationalities then, and no wonder she is
beautiful. That youth had a very striking profile; it quite reminded
me of a gem as I saw it against the dark pillar.'
'I did not say she was very beautiful now,' said Gillian, feeling a
qualm as she recollected the Queen of the White Ants, and rather
oddly divided between truthfulness, fear of alarming her aunt into
turning back, and desire of giving her a little preparation.
'Ah! those southern beauties soon go on. Some one told me that Lord
Byron's "Maid of Athens," whose portrait I used to think the
loveliest thing in the world, became a great stout woman, but was
quite a mother to all the young Englishmen about. I remember I used
to try to hold my head and keep my eyelids down like the engraving in
an old book that had been my mother's.'
'Oh! I think I have seen it at Beechcroft,' said Gillian, very much
amused, for she now perceived whence arose Aunt Ada's peculiar turn
of the head and droop of the eyelashes, and how the conscious
affectation of childhood had become unconsciously crystallised.
She grew more and more anxious as they found some difficulty in
making out Ivinghoe Terrace, and found it at last to be a row of
rather dilapidated little houses, apparently built of lath and
stucco, and of that peculiar meanness only attained by the modern
suburb. Aunt Ada evidently did not like it at all, and owned herself
almost ready to turn back, being sure that Valetta must have made
some mistake. Gillian repeated that she had always said the Whites
were very poor, but she began to feel that her impatience had misled
her, and that she would have been better off with the aunt who was
used to such places, and whose trim browns and crimsons were always
appropriate everywhere, rather than this dainty figure in delicate
hues that looked only fit for the Esplanade or the kettledrum, and
who was becoming seriously uneasy, as Kunz, in his fresh snowiness,
was disposed to make researches among vulgar remains of crabs and
hakes, and was with difficulty restrained from disputing them with a
very ignoble and spiteful yellow cur of low degree.
No. 3, with its blistered wall and rusty rail, was attained, Kunz was
brought within the enclosure, and Gillian knocked as sharply and fast
as she could, in the fear that her aunt might yet turn about and
The door was opened with a rapidity that gave the impression that
they had been watched, but it was by a very untidy-looking small
maid, and the parlour into which they were turned had most manifestly
been lately used as the family dining-room, and was redolent of a
mixture of onion, cabbage, and other indescribable odours.
Nobody was there, except a black and white cat, who showed symptoms
of flying at Kunz, but thought better of it, and escaped by the
window, which fortunately was open, though the little maid would have
shut it, but for Miss Adeline's gasping and peremptory entreaty to
the contrary. She sat on the faded sofa, looking as if she just
existed by the help of her fan and scent-bottle, and when Gillian
directed her attention to the case of clasps and medals and the
photograph of the fine-looking officer, she could only sigh out,
'Oh, my dear!'
There was a certain air of taste in the arrangement of the few
chimney-piece ornaments, and Gillian was pleased to see the two large
photographs of her father and mother which Captain White had so much
valued as parting gifts. A few drawings reminded her of the School
of Art at Belfast, and there was a vase of wild flowers and ferns
prettily arranged, but otherwise everything was wretchedly faded and
Then came the opening of the door, and into the room rolled, rather
than advanced, something of stupendous breadth, which almost took
Gillian's breath away, as she durst not look to see the effect on her
aunt. If the Queen of the White Ants had been stout before, what was
she now? Whatever her appearance had been in the days of comparative
prosperity, with a husband to keep her up to the mark, and a desire
to rank with the officers' wives, she had let everything go in
widowhood, poverty, and neglect; and as she stood panting in her old
shiny black alpaca, the only thing Gillian recalled about her like
old times was the black lace veil thrown mantilla fashion over her
head; but now it was over a widow's cap, and a great deal rustier
than of old. Of the lovely foreigner nothing else remained except
the dark eyes, and that sort of pasty sallow whiteness that looks at
if for generations past cold water and fresh air had been unknown.
There was no accent more interesting in her voice than a soupcon of
her Irish father as she began, 'I am sorry to have kept the lady so
long waiting. Was it about the girl's character that you came?'
'Oh no, Mrs. White, interrupted Gillian, her shyness overpowered by
the necessity of throwing herself into the breach. 'Don't you
remember me? I am Gillian Merrifield, and this is my aunt, Miss
The puffy features lighted up into warmth. 'Little Miss Gillian!
And I am proud to see you! My little Maura did tell me that Miss
Valetta was in her class at the High School; but I thought there was
no one now who would come near the poor widow. And is your dear
mamma here, Miss Gillian, and are she and your papa quite well?'
Gillian could hardly believe in such dense remoteness that her
father's accident should be unknown, but she explained all, and met
with abundant sympathy, the dark eyes filled with tears, and the
voice broke into sobs, as Mrs. White declared that Sir Jasper and
Lady Merrifield had been the best friends she ever had in her life.
But oh! that the handkerchief had been less grimy with which she
mopped her eyes, as she spoke of the happy days that were gone!
Gillian saw that poor Aunt Ada was in an agony to get away, and
hurried out her questions for fear of being stopped. 'How was
Kalliope---was she at home?'
'Oh no, poor Kally, she is the best girl in the world. I always say
that, with all my sorrows, no one ever was more blest in their
children than poor little me. Richard, my eldest, is in a lawyer's
office at Leeds. Kally is employed in the art department, just as a
compliment to her relation, Mr. White. Quite genteel, superior work,
though I must say he does not do as much for us as he might. Such a
youth as my Alexis now was surely worthy of the position of a
The good lady was quite disposed to talk; but there was no making
out, through her cloud of confused complaints, what her son and
daughter were actually doing; and Aunt Ada, while preserving her
courtesy, was very anxious to be gone, and rose to take leave at the
first moment possible, though after she was on her feet Mrs. White
detained her for some time with apologies about not returning her
visit. She was in such weak health, so unequal to walking up the
cliff, that she was sure Miss Mohun would excuse her, though Alexis
and Kally would be perfectly delighted to hear of Miss Gillian's
Gillian had not made out half what she wanted to know, nor effected
any arrangement for seeing Kalliope, when she found herself out in
the street, and her aunt panting with relief. 'My dear, that woman!
You don't mean that your mother was fond of her.'
'I never said mamma was fond of her.'
'My dear, excuse me. It was the only reason for letting you drag me
here. I was almost stifled. What a night I shall have!'
'I am very sorry, Aunt Ada, but, indeed, I never said that mamma was
fond of her, only that papa thought very highly of her husband, and
wished us to be kind to her.'
'Well, you gave me that impression, whether you wished it or not!
Such a hole; and I'm sure she drinks gin!'
'Oh no, aunt!'
'I can't be mistaken! I really was afraid she was going to kiss
'I do wish I could have made out about Alexis and Kalliope.'
'Oh, my dear, just working like all the lot, though she shuffled
about it. I see what they are like, and the less you see of them the
better. I declare I am more tired than if I had walked a mile. How
am I ever to get up the hill again?'
'I am sorry, aunt,' said Gillian. 'Will you take my arm? Perhaps we
may meet Kalliope, if the marble people come out at four or five.
What's that bell?' as a little tinkle was heard.
'That's St. Kenelm's! Oh! you would like to go there, and it would
rest me; only there's Kunz.'
'I should like to see it very much,' said Gillian.
'Well,' said Aunt Ada, who certainly seemed to have something of the
'cat's away' feeling about her, and, moreover, trusted to avoid
meeting Kalliope. 'Just round the corner here is Mrs. Webb's, who
used to live with us before she married, Kunz will be happy with her.
Won't he, my doggie, like to go and see his old Jessie?'
So Kunz was disposed of with a very pleasant, neat-looking woman, who
begged Miss Adeline to come and have some tea after the service.
It was really a beautiful little church--'a little gem' was exactly
the term that suggested itself---very ornate, and the chief lack being
of repose, for there seemed not an inch devoid of colour or carving.
There was a choir of boys in short surplices and blue cassocks, and a
very musical service, in the course of which it was discovered to be
the Feast of St. Remigius, for after the Lesson a short discourse was
given on the Conversion of Clovis, not forgetting the sacred ampulla.
There were about five ladies present and six old women, belonging to
a home maintained by Lady Flight. The young priest, her son, had a
beautiful voice, and Gillian enjoyed all very much, and thought the
St. Andrew's people very hard and unjust; but all this went out of
her head in the porch, for while Lady Flight was greeting Miss Mohun
with empressement, and inviting her to come in to tea, Gillian had
seen a young woman who had come in late and had been kneeling behind
Turning back and holding out her hands, she exclaimed---
'Kalliope! I so wanted to see you.'
'Miss Gillian Merrifield,' was the response. 'Maura told me you were
here, but I hardly hoped to see you.'
'How can I see you? Where are you? Busy?'
'I am at the marble works all day---in the mosaic department. Oh,
Miss Gillian, I owe it all to Miss Merrifield's encouraging me to go
to the School of Art. How is she? And I hope you have good accounts
of Sir Jasper?'
'He is better, and I hope my mother is just arriving. That's why we
are here; and Alethea and Phyllis are out there. They will want to
know all about you.'
At that moment Aunt Adeline looked round, having succeeded in
persuading Lady Flight that she had another engagement. She saw a
young woman in a shabby black dress, with a bag in her hand, and a
dark fringe over a complexion of clear brown, straight features, to
whom Gillian was eagerly talking.
'Ah!' she said, as Mr. Flight now came up from the vestry; 'do you
know anything of that girl?'
'Second-rate people, somewhere in Bellevue,' said the lady.
'The brother is my best tenor,' said Mr. Flight. 'She is very often
at St. Kenelm's, but I do not know any more of her. The mother
either goes to Bellevue or nowhere. They are in Bellevue Parish.'
This was quite sufficient answer, for any interference with parochial
visiting in the Bellevue district was forbidden.
Aunt Ada called to Gillian, and when she eagerly said, 'This is
Kalliope, aunt,' only responded with a stiff bow.
'I do not know what these people might have been, Gillian,' she said,
as they pursued their way to Mrs. Webb's; 'but--they must have sunk
so low that I do not think your mother can wish you to have anything
to do with them.
'Oh, Aunt Ada! Kalliope was always such a good girl!'
'She has a fringe. And she would not belong to the G.F.S.,' said
Aunt Ada. 'No, my dear, I see exactly the sort of people they are.
Your aunt Jane might be useful to them, if they would let her, but
they are not at all fit for you to associate with.'
Gillian chafed inwardly, but she was beginning to learn that Aunt Ada
was more impenetrable than Aunt Jane, and, what was worse, Aunt Jane
always stood by her sister's decision, whether she would have herself
originated it or not.
When the elder aunt came home, and heard the history of their day,
and Gillian tried to put in a word, she said---
'My dear, we all know that rising from the ranks puts a man's family
in a false position, and they generally fall back again. All this is
unlucky, for they do not seem to be people it is possible to get at,
and now you have paid your kind act of attention, there is no more to
be done till you can hear from Ceylon about them.'
Gillian was silenced by the united forces of the aunts.
'It really was a horrid place,' said Aunt Ada, when alone with her
sister; 'and such a porpoise of a woman! Gillian should not have
represented her as a favourite.'
'I do not remember that she did so,' returned Aunt Jane. 'I wish she
had waited for me. I have seen more of the kind of thing than you
'I am sure I wish she had. I don't know when I shall get over the
stifling of that den; but it was just as if they were her dearest
'Girls will be silly! And there's a feeling about the old regiment
too. I can excuse her, though I wish she had not been so impatient.
I fancy that eldest daughter is really a good girl and the mainstay
of the family.'
'But she would have nothing to do with you or the G.F.S.'
'If I had known that her father had been an officer, I might have
approached her differently. However, I will ask Lily about their
antecedents, and in six weeks we shall know what is to be done about
CHAPTER V. MARBLES
Six weeks seem a great deal longer to sixteen than to six-and-forty,
and Gillian groaned and sighed to herself as she wrote her letters,
and assured herself that so far from her having done enough in the
way of attention to the old soldier's family, she had simply done
enough to mark her neglect and disdain.
'Grizzling' (to use an effective family phrase) under opposition is a
grand magnifier; and it was not difficult to erect poor Captain White
into a hero, his wife into a patient sufferer, and Alethea's kindness
to his daughter into a bosom friendship; while the aunts seemed to be
absurdly fastidious and prejudiced. 'I don't wonder at Aunt Ada,'
she said to herself; 'I know she has always been kept under a glass
case; but I thought better things of Aunt Jane. It is all because
Kalliope goes to St. Kenelm's, and won't be in the G.F.S.'
And all the time Gillian was perfectly unaware of her own family
likeness to Dolores. Other matters conduced to a certain spirit of
opposition to Aunt Jane. That the children should have to use the
back instead of the front stair when coming in with dusty or muddy
shoes, and that their possessions should be confiscated for the rest
of the day when left about in the sitting-rooms and hall, were
contingencies she could accept as natural, though they irritated her;
but she agreed with Valetta that it was hard to insist on half an
hour's regular work at the cushion, which was not a lesson, but play.
She was angered when Aunt Jane put a stop to some sportive passes and
chatter on the stairs between Valetta and Alice Mount, and still more
so when her aunt took away Adam Bede from the former, as not
desirable reading at eleven years old.
It was only the remembrance of her mother's positive orders that
withheld Gillian from the declaration that mamma always let them read
George Eliot; and in a cooler moment of reflection she was glad she
had abstained, for she recollected that _always_ was limited to
mamma's having read most of Romola aloud to her and Mysie, and to her
having had Silas Marner to read when she was unwell in lodgings, and
there was a scarcity of books.
Such miffs about her little sister were in the natural order of
things, and really it was the 'all pervadingness,' as she called it
in her own mind, of Aunt Jane that chiefly worried her, the way that
the little lady knew everything that was done, and everything that
was touched in the house; but as long as Valetta took refuge with
herself, and grumbled to her, it was bearable.
It was different with Fergus. There had been offences certainly;
Aunt Jane had routed him out of preparing his lessons in Mrs. Mount's
room, where he diversified them with teaching the Sofy to beg, and
inventing new modes of tying down jam pots. Moreover, she had
declared that Gillian's exemplary patience was wasted and harmful
when she found that they had taken three-quarters of an hour over
three tenses of a Greek verb, and that he said it worse on the
seventh repetition than on the first. After an evening, when Gillian
had gone to a musical party with Aunt Ada, and Fergus did his lessons
under Aunt Jane's superintendence, he utterly cast off his sister's
aid. There was something in Miss Mohun's briskness that he found
inspiring, and she put in apt words or illustrations, instead of only
rousing herself from a book to listen, prompt, and sigh. He found
that he did his tasks more thoroughly in half the time, and rose in
his class; and busy as his aunt was, she made the time not only for
this, but for looking over with him those plates of mechanics in the
Encyclopaedia, which were a mere maze to Gillian, but of which she
knew every detail, from ancient studies with her brother Maurice. As
Fergus wrote to his mother, 'Aunt Jane is the only woman who has any
Gillian could not but see this as she prepared the letters for the
post, and whatever the ambiguous word might be meant for, she had
rather not have seen it, for she really was ashamed of her secret
annoyance at Fergus's devotion to Aunt Jane, knowing how well it was
that Stebbing should have a rival in his affections. Yet she could
not help being provoked when the boy followed his aunt to the doors
of her cottages like a little dog, and waited outside whenever she
would let him, for the sake of holding forth to her about something
which wheels and plugs and screws were to do. Was it possible that
Miss Mohun followed it all? His great desire was to go over the
marble works, and she had promised to take him when it could be done;
but, unfortunately, his half-holiday was on Saturday, when the
workmen struck off early, and when also Aunt Jane always had the
pupil-teachers for something between instruction and amusement.
Gillian felt lonely, for though she got on better with her younger
than her elder aunt, and had plenty of surface intercourse of a
pleasant kind with both, it was a very poor substitute for her
mother, or her elder sisters, and Valetta was very far from being a
The worst time was Sunday, when the children had deserted her for
Mrs. Hablot, and Aunt Ada was always lying down in her own room to
rest after morning service. She might have been at the Sunday-
school, but she did not love teaching, nor do it well, and she did
not fancy the town children, or else there was something of
opposition to Aunt Jane.
It was a beautiful afternoon, of the first Sunday in October, and she
betook herself to the garden with the 'Lyra Innocentium' in her hand,
meaning to learn the poem for the day. She wandered up to the rail
above the cliff, looking out to the sea. Here, beyond the belt of
tamarisks and other hardy low-growing shrubs which gave a little
protection from the winds, the wall dividing the garden of Beechcroft
Cottage from that of Cliff House became low, with only the iron-
spiked railing on the top, as perhaps there was a desire not to
overload the cliff. The sea was of a lovely colour that day, soft
blue, and with exquisite purple shadows of clouds, with ripples of
golden sparkles here and there near the sun, and Gillian stood
leaning against the rail, gazing out on it, with a longing, yearning
feeling towards the dear ones who had gone out upon it, when she
became conscious that some one was in the other garden, which she had
hitherto thought quite deserted, and looking round, she saw a figure
in black near the rail. Their eyes met, and both together exclaimed---
'Kalliope!'---'Miss Gillian! Oh, I beg your pardon!'
'How did you come here? I thought nobody did!'
'Mr. White's gardener lets us walk here. It is so nice and quiet.
Alexis has taken the younger ones for a walk, but I was too much
tired. But I will not disturb you---'
'Oh! don't go away. Nobody will disturb us, and I do so want to know
about you all. I had no notion, nor mamma either, that you were
living here, or---'
'Or of my dear father's death!' said Kalliope, as Gillian stopped
short, confused. 'I did write to Miss Merrifield, but the letter was
'But where did you write?'
'To Swanage, where she had written to me last.'
'Oh! we were only there for six weeks, while we were looking for
houses; I suppose it was just as the Wardours were gone to Natal
'Yes, we knew they were out of reach.'
'But do tell me about it, if you do not mind. My father will want to
Kalliope told all in a calm, matter-of-fact way, but with a strain of
deep suppressed feeling. She was about twenty-three, a girl with a
fine outline of features, beautiful dark eyes, and a clear brown
skin, who would have been very handsome if she had looked better fed
and less hardworked. Her Sunday dress showed wear and adaptation,
but she was altogether ladylike, and even the fringe that had
startled Aunt Ada only consisted of little wavy curls on the temples,
increasing her classical look.
'It was fever---at Leeds. My father was just going into a situation
in the police that we had been waiting for ever so long, and there
were good schools, and Richard had got into a lawyer's office, when
there began a terrible fever in our street---the drains were to blame,
they said---and every one of us had it, except mother and Richard, who
did not sleep at home. We lost poor little Mary first, and then papa
seemed to be getting better; but he was anxious about expense, and
there was no persuading him to take nourishment enough. I do believe
it was that. And he had a relapse---and---'
'Oh, poor Kalliope! And we never heard of it!'
'I did feel broken down when the letter to Miss Merrifield came
back,' said Kalliope. 'But my father had made me write to Mr. James
White---not that we had any idea that he had grown so rich. He and my
father were first cousins, sons of two brothers who were builders;
but there was some dispute, and it ended by my father going away and
enlisting. There was nobody nearer to him, and he never heard any
more of his home; but when he was so ill, he thought he would like to
be reconciled to "Jem," as he said, so he made me write from his
dictation. Such a beautiful letter it was, and he added a line at
the end himself. Then at last, when it was almost too late, Mr.
White answered. I believe it was a mere chance---or rather
Providence---that he ever knew it was meant for him, but there were
kind words enough to cheer up my father at the last. I believe then
the clergyman wrote to him.'
'Did not he come near you?'
'No, I have never seen him; but there was a correspondence between
him and Mr. Moore, the clergyman, and Richard, and he said he was
willing to put us in the way of working for ourselves, if---if---we
were not too proud.'
'Then he did it in an unkind way,' said Gillian.
'I try to think he did not mean to be otherwise than good to us. I
told Mr. Moore that I was not fit to be a governess, and I did not
think they could get on without me at home, but that I could draw
better than I would do anything else, and perhaps I might get
Christmas cards to do, or something like that. Mr. Moore sent a card
or two of my designing, and then Mr. White said he could find work
for me in the mosaic department here; and something for my brothers,
if we did not give ourselves airs. So we came.'
'Not Richard?' said Gillian, who remembered dimly that Richard had
not been held in great esteem by her own brothers.
'No; Richard is in a good situation, so it was settled that he should
stay on there.'
'I am in the mosaic department. Oh, Miss Gillian, I am so grateful
to Miss Merrifield. Don't you remember her looking at my little
attempts, and persuading Lady Merrifield to get mother to let me go
to the School of Art? I began only as the girls do who are mere
hands, and now I have to prepare all the designs for them, and have a
nice little office of my own for it. Sometimes I get one of my own
designs taken, and then I am paid extra.'
'Then do you maintain them all?'
'Oh no; we have lodgers, the organist and his wife,' said Kalliope,
laughing, 'and Alexis is in the telegraph office, at the works;
besides, it turned out that this house and two more belong to us, and
we do very well when the tenants pay their rents.'
'But Maura is not the youngest of you,' said Gillian, who was rather
hazy about the family.
'No, there are the two little boys. We let them go to the National
School for the present. It is a great trial to my poor mother, but
they do learn well there, and we may be able to do something better
for them by the time they are old enough for further education.'
Just then the sound of a bell coming up from the town below was a
warning to both that the conversation must be broken off. A few
words---'I am so glad to have seen you,' and 'It has been such a
pleasure'---passed, and then each hastened down her separate garden
'Must I tell of this meeting?' Gillian asked herself. 'I shall
write it all to mamma and Alethea, of course. How delightful that
those lessons that Kalliope had have come to be of so much use! How
pleased Alethea will be! Poor dear thing! How much she has gone
through! But can there be any need to tell the aunts? Would it not
just make Aunt Ada nervous about any one looking through her sweet
and lovely wall? And as to Aunt Jane, I really don't see that I am
bound to gratify her passion for knowing everything. I am not
accountable to her, but to my own mother. My people know all about
Kalliope, and she is prejudiced. Why should I be unkind and
neglectful of an old fellow-soldier's family, because she cannot or
will not understand what they really are? It would not be the
slightest use to tell her the real story. Mrs. White is fat, and
Kalliope has a fringe, goes to St. Kenelm's, and won't be in the
G.F.S., and that's enough to make her say she does not believe a word
of it, or else to make it a fresh ground for poking and prying, in
the way that drives one distracted! It really is quite a satis-
faction to have something that she can't find out, and it is not
underhand while I write every word of it to mamma.'
So Gillian made her conscience easy, and she did write a long and
full account of the Whites and their troubles, and of her
conversation with Kalliope.
In the course of that week Fergus had a holiday, asked for by some
good-natured visitor of Mrs. Edgar's. He rushed home on the previous
day with the news, to claim Aunt Jane's promise; and she undertook so
to arrange matters as to be ready to go with him to the marble works
at three o'clock. Valetta could not go, as she had her music lesson
at that time, and she did not regret it, for she had an idea that
blasting with powder or dynamite was always going on there. Gillian
was not quite happy about the dynamite, but she did not like to
forego the chance of seeing what the work of Kalliope and Alexis
really was, so she expressed her willingness to join the party, and
in the meantime did her best to prevent Aunt Ada from being driven
distracted by Fergus's impatience, which began at half-past two.
Miss Mohun had darted out as soon as dinner was over, and he was
quite certain some horrible cad would detain her till four o'clock,
and then going would be of no use. Nevertheless he was miserable
till Gillian had put on her hat, and then she could do nothing that
would content him and keep him out of Aunt Ada's way, but walk him up
and down in the little front court with the copper beeches, while she
thought they must present to the neighbours a lively tableau of a
couple of leopards in a cage.
However, precisely as the clock struck three, Aunt Jane walked up to
the iron gate. She had secured an order from Mr. Stebbing, the
managing partner, without which they would not have penetrated beyond
the gate where 'No admittance except on business' was painted.
Mr. Stebbing himself, a man with what Valetta was wont to call a
grisly beard, met them a little within the gate, and did the honours
of the place with great politeness. He answered all the boy's
questions, and seemed much pleased with his intelligence and
interest, letting him see what he wished, and even having the
machinery slacked to enable him to perceive how it acted, and most
delightful of all, in the eyes of Fergus, letting him behold some
dynamite, and explaining its downward explosion. He evidently had a
great respect for Miss Mohun, because she entered into it all, put
pertinent questions, and helped her nephew if he did not understand.
It was all dull work to Gillian, all that blasting and hewing and
polishing, which made the place as busy as a hive. She only wished
she could have seen the cove as once it was, with the weather-beaten
rocks descending to the sea, overhung with wild thrift and bramble,
and with the shore, the peaceful haunts of the white sea-birds;
whereas now the fresh-cut rock looked red and wounded, and all below
was full of ugly slated or iron-roofed sheds, rough workmen, and
gratings and screeches of machinery.
It was the Whites whom she wanted to see, and she never came upon the
brother at all, nor on the sister, till Mr. Stebbing, perhaps
observing her listless looks, said that they were coming to what
would be more interesting to Miss Merrifield, and took them into the
workrooms, where a number of young women were busy over the very
beautiful work by which flowers and other devices were represented by
inlaying different coloured marbles and semi-precious stones in black
and white, so as to make tables, slabs, and letter-weights, and
brooches for those who could not aspire to the most splendid and
Miss Mohun shook hands with 'the young ladies' within the magic
circle of the G.F.S., and showed herself on friendly terms of
interest with all. From a little inner office Miss White was
summoned, came out, and met an eager greeting from Gillian, but
blushed a little, and perhaps had rather not have had her unusual
Christian name proclaimed by the explanation---
'This is Kalliope White, Aunt Jane.'
Miss Mohun shook hands with her, and said her niece had been much
pleased at the meeting, and her sister would be glad to hear of her,
explaining to Mr. Stebbing that Captain White had been a brother-
officer of Sir Jasper Merrifield.
Kalliope had a very prettily-shaped head, with short hair in little
curls and rings all over it. Her whole manner was very quiet and
unassuming, as she explained and showed whatever Mr. Stebbing wished.
It was her business to make the working drawings for the others, and
to select the stones used, and there could be no doubt that she was a
capable and valuable worker.
Gillian asked her to show something designed by herself, and she
produced an exquisite table-weight, bearing a spray of sweet peas.
Gillian longed to secure it for her mother, but it was very
expensive, owing to the uncommon stones used in giving the tints, and
Mr. Stebbing evidently did not regard it with so much favour as the
jessamines and snowdrops, which, being of commoner marbles, could be
sold at a rate fitter for the popular purse. Several beautiful
drawings in her office had been laid aside as impracticable, 'unless
we had a carte blanche wedding order,' he said, with what Gillian
thought a sneer.
She would gladly have lingered longer, but this was a very dull room
in Fergus's estimation, and perhaps Aunt Jane did not desire a long
continuance of the conversation under Mr. Stebbing's eyes, so Gillian
found herself hurried on.
Mr. Stebbing begged Miss Mohun to come in to his wife, who would have
tea ready, and this could not be avoided without manifest incivility.
Fergus hoped to have been introduced to the haunts of his hero, but
Master George was gone off in attendance on his brother, who was
fishing, and there was nothing to relieve the polite circle of the
drawing-room---a place most aesthetically correct, from cornice to the
little rugs on the slippery floor. The little teacups and the low
Turkish table were a perfect study to those who did not---like Fergus-
--think more of the dainty doll's muffins on the stand, or the long-
backed Dachshund who looked for them beseechingly.
Mrs. Stebbing was quite in accordance with the rest, with a little
row of curls over her forehead, a terra-cotta dress, and a chain of
watch cocks, altogether rather youthful for the mother of a grown-up
son, engaged in his father's business.
She was extremely civil and polite, and everything went well except
for a certain stiffness. By and by the subject of the Whites came
up, and Mr. Stebbing observed that Miss Merrifield seemed to know
'Oh yes,' said Gillian eagerly; 'her father was in my father's
regiment, the Royal Wardours.'
'A non-commissioned officer, I suppose,' said Mrs. Stebbing.
'Not for a good many years,' said Gillian. 'He was lieutenant for
six years, and retired with the rank of captain.'
'I know they said he was a captain,' said Mrs. Stebbing; 'but it is
very easy to be called so.'
'Captain White was a real one,' said Gillian, with a tone of offence.
'Every one in the Royal Wardours thought very highly of him.'
'I am sure no one would have supposed it from his family,' said Mrs.
Stebbing. 'You are aware, Miss Mohun, that it was under disgraceful
circumstances that he ran away and enlisted.'
'Many a youth who gets into a scrape becomes an excellent soldier,
even an officer,' said Miss Mohun.
'Exactly so,' said Mr. Stebbing. 'Those high-spirited lads are the
better for discipline, and often turn out well under it. But their
promotion is an awkward thing for their families, who have not been
educated up to the mark.'
'It is an anomalous position, and I have a great pity for them,' said
Miss Mohun. 'Miss White must be a very clever girl.'
'Talented, yes,' said Mr. Stebbing. 'She is useful in her
'That may be,' said Mrs. Stebbing; 'but it won't do to encourage her.
She is an artful, designing girl, I know very well---'
'Do you know anything against her?' asked Miss Mohun, looking volumes
of repression at Gillian, whose brown eyes showed symptoms of glaring
like a cat's, under her hat.
'I do not speak without warrant, Miss Mohun. She is one of those
demure, proper-behaved sort that are really the worst flirts of all,
if you'll excuse me.'
Most thankful was Miss Mohun that the door opened at that moment to
admit some more visitors, for she saw that Gillian might at any
'Aunt Jane,' she exclaimed, as soon as they had accomplished their
departure, 'you don't believe it?'
'I do not think Miss White looks like it,' said Miss Mohun. 'She
seemed a quiet, simple girl.'
'And you don't believe all that about poor Captain White?'
'Not the more for Mrs. Stebbing's saying so.'
'But you will find out and refute her. There must be people who
'My dear, you had better not try to rake up such things. You know
that the man bore an excellent character for many years in the army,
and you had better be satisfied with that,' said Miss Jane for once
in her life, as if to provoke Gillian, not on the side of curiosity.
'Then you do believe it!' went on Gillian, feeling much injured for
her hero's sake, and wearing what looked like a pertinacious pout.
'Truth compels me to say, Gillian, that the sons of men, even in a
small way of business, are not apt to run away and enlist without
'And I am quite sure it was all that horrid old White's fault.'
'You had better content yourself with that belief.'
Gillian felt greatly affronted, but Fergus, who thought all this very
tiresome, broke in, after a third attempt---
'Aunt Jane, if the pulley of that crane---'
And all the way home they discussed machinery, and Gillian's heart
'I am afraid Gillian was greatly displeased with me,' said Miss Mohun
that evening, talking it over with her sister. 'But her captain
might have a fall if she went poking into all the gossip of the place
'Most likely whatever he did would be greatly exaggerated,' said
'No doubt of it! Besides, those young men who are meant by nature
for heroes are apt to show some Beserkerwuth in their youth, like
Hereward le Wake.'
'But what did you think of the girl?'
'I liked her looks very much. I have seen her singing in the
choruses at the choral society concert, and thought how nice her
manner was. She does justice to her classical extraction, and is
modest and ladylike besides. Mrs. Stebbing is spiteful! I wonder
whether it is jealousy. She calls her artful and designing, which
sounds to me very much as if Master Frank might admire the damsel.
I have a great mind to have the two girls to tea, and see what they
are made of.'
'We had much better wait till we hear from Lily. We cannot in the
least tell whether she would wish the acquaintance to be kept up.
And if there is anything going on with young Stebbing, nothing could
be more unadvisable than for Gillian to be mixed up in any nonsense
of that sort.'
CHAPTER VI. SINGLE MISFORTUNES NEVER COME ALONE
On Sunday, Gillian's feet found their way to the top of the garden,
where she paced meditatively up and down, hoping to see Kalliope; and
just as she was giving up the expectation, the slender black figure
appeared on the other side of the railings.
'Oh, Miss Gillian, how kind!'
'Kally, I am glad!'
Wherewith they got into talk at once, for Lady Merrifield's safe
arrival and Sir Jasper's improvement had just been telegraphed, and
there was much rejoicing over the good news. Gillian had nearly made
up her mind to confute the enemy by asking why Captain White had left
Rockquay; but somehow when it came to the point, she durst not make
the venture, and they skimmed upon more surface subjects.
The one point of union between the parishes of Rockstone and Rockquay
was a choral society, whereof Mr. Flight of St. Kenelm's was a
distinguished light, and which gave periodical concerts in the
Masonic Hall. It being musical, Miss Mohun had nothing to do with it
except the feeling it needful to give her presence to the
performances. One of these was to take place in the course of the
week, and there were programmes in all the shops, 'Mr. Alexis White'
being set down for more than one solo, and as a voice in the glees.
'Shall not you sing?' asked Gillian, remembering that her sisters had
thought Kalliope had a good ear and a pretty voice.
'I? Oh, no!'
'I thought you used to sing.'
'Yes; but I have no time to keep it up.'
'Not even in the choruses?'
'No, I cannot manage it'---and there was a little glow in the clear
'Does your designing take up so much time?'
'It is not that, but there is a great deal to do at home in after
hours. My mother is not strong, and we cannot keep a really
'Oh! but you must be terribly hard-worked to have no time for
'Not quite that, but---it seems to me,' burst out poor Kalliope, 'that
relaxation does nothing but bring a girl into difficulties---an
unprotected girl, I mean.'
'What do you mean?' cried Gillian, quite excited; but Kalliope had
caught herself up.
'Never mind, Miss Gillian; you have nothing to do with that kind of
'But do tell me, Kally; I do want to be your friend,' said Gillian,
trying to put her hand through.
'There's nothing to tell,' said Kalliope, smiling and evidently
touched, but still somewhat red, 'only you know when a girl has
nobody to look after her, she has to look after herself.'
'Doesn't Alexis look after you?' said Gillian, not at all satisfied
to be put off with this truism.
'Poor Alex! He is younger, you know, and he has quite enough to do.
Oh, Miss Gillian, he is such a very dear, good boy.'
'He has a most beautiful voice, Aunt Ada said.'
'Yes, poor fellow, though he almost wishes he had not. Oh dear I
there's the little bell! Good-bye, Miss Merrifield, I must run, or
Mrs. Smithson will be gone to church, and I shall be locked in.'
So Gillian was left to the enigma why Alexis should regret the beauty
of his own voice, and what Kalliope could mean by the scrapes of
unprotected girls. It did not occur to her that Miss White was her
elder by six or seven years, and possibly might not rely on her
judgment and discretion as much as she might have done on those of
Meantime the concert was coming on. It was not an amusement that
Aunt Ada could attempt, but Miss Mohun took both her nieces, to the
extreme pride and delight of Valetta, who had never been, as she
said, 'to any evening thing but just stupid childish things, only
trees and magic-lanterns'; and would not quite believe Gillian, who
assured her in a sage tone that she would find this far less
entertaining than either, judging by the manner in which she was wont
to vituperate her music lesson.
'Oh! but that's only scales, and everybody hates them! And I do love
a German band.'
'Especially in the middle of lesson-time,' said Gillian.
However, Fergus was to spend the evening with Clement Varley; and
Kitty was to go with her mother and sister, the latter of whom was to
be one of the performers; but it was decreed by the cruel authorities
that the two bosom friends would have their tongues in better order
if they were some chairs apart; and therefore, though the members of
the two families at Beechcroft and the Tamarisks were consecutive,
Valetta was quartered between her aunt and Gillian, with Mrs. Varley
on the other side of Miss Mohun, and Major Dennis flanking Miss
Merrifield. When he had duly inquired after Sir Jasper, and heard of
Lady Merrifield's arrival, he had no more conversation for the young
lady; and Valetta, having perceived by force of example that in this
waiting-time it was not like being in church, poured out her
observations and inquiries on her sister.
'What a funny room! And oh! do look at the pictures! Why has that
man got on a blue apron? Freemasons! What are Freemasons? Do they
work in embroidered blue satin aprons because they are gentlemen?
I'll tell Fergus that is what he ought to be; he is so fond of making
things---only I am sure he would spoil his apron. What's that curtain
for? Will they sing up there? Oh, there's Emma Norton just come in!
That must be her father. That's Alice Gidding, she comes to our
Sunday class, and do you know, she thought it was Joseph who was put
into the den of lions. Has not her mother got a funny head?'
'Hush now, Val. Here they come,' as the whole chorus trooped in and
began the 'Men of Harlech.'
Val was reduced to silence, but there was a long instrumental
performance afterwards, during which bad examples of chattering
emboldened her to whisper---
'Did you see Beatrice Varley? And Miss Berry, our singing-mistress---
and Alexis White? Maura says---'
Aunt Jane gave a touch and a frown which reduced Valetta to silence
at this critical moment; and she sat still through a good deal, only
giving a little jump when Alexis White, with various others, came to
sing a glee.
Gillian could study the youth, who certainly was, as Aunt Ada said,
remarkable for the cameo-like cutting of his profile, though perhaps
no one without an eye for art would have remarked it, as he had the
callow unformed air of a lad of seventeen or eighteen, and looked shy
and grave; but his voice was a fine one, and was heard to more
advantage in the solos to a hunting song which shortly followed.
Valetta had been rather alarmed at the applause at first, but she
soon found out what an opportunity it gave for conversation, and
after a good deal of popping her head about, she took advantage of
the encores to excuse herself by saying, 'I wanted to see if Maura
White was there. She was to go if Mrs. Lee---that's the lodger---would
take her. She says Kally won't go, or sing, or anything, because---'
How tantalising! the singers reappeared, and Valetta was reduced to
silence. Nor could the subject be renewed in the interval between
the parts, for Major Dennis came and stood in front, and talked to
Miss Mohun; and after that Valetta grew sleepy, and nothing was to be
got out of her till all was over, when she awoke into extra
animation, and chattered so vehemently all the way home that her aunt
advised Gillian to get her to bed as quietly as possible, or she
would not sleep all night, and would be good for nothing the next
Gillian, however, being given to think for herself in all cases of
counsel from Aunt Jane, thought it could do no harm to beguile the
brushing of the child's hair by asking why Kalliope would not come to
'Oh, it's a great secret, but Maura told me in the cloakroom. It is
because Mr. Frank wants to be her---to be her---her admirer,' said
Valetta, cocking her head on one side, and adding to the already
crimson colour of her cheeks.
'Nonsense, Val, what do you and Maura know of such things?'
'We aren't babies, Gill, and it is very unkind of you, when you told
me I was to make friends with Maura White; and Kitty Varley is quite
cross with me about it.'
'I told you to be kind to Maura, but not to talk about such foolish
'I don't see why they should be foolish. It is what we all must come
to. Grown-up people do, as Lois says. I heard Aunt Ada going on
ever so long about Beatrice Varley and that gentleman.'
'It is just the disadvantage of that kind of school that girls talk
that sort of undesirable stuff. Gillian said to herself; but
curiosity, or interest in the Whites, prompted her to add, 'What did
she tell you?'
'If you are so cross, I shan't tell you. You hurt my head, I say.'
'Come, Val, I ought to know.'
'It's a secret.'
'Then you should not have told me so much.'
Val laughed triumphantly, and called her sister Mrs. Curiosity, and
at that moment Aunt Jane knocked at the door, and said Val was not to
Val made an impatient face and began to whisper, but Gillian had too
much proper feeling to allow this flat disobedience, and would not
listen, much as she longed to do so. She heard her little sister
rolling and tossing about a good deal, but made herself hard-hearted
on principle, and acted sleep. On her own judgment, she would not
waken the child in the morning, and Aunt Jane said she was quite
right, it would be better to let Val have her sleep out, than send
her to school fretful and half alive. 'But you ought not to have let
her talk last night.'
As usual, reproof was unpleasing, and silenced Gillian. She hoped to
extract the rest of the story in the course of the day. But before
breakfast was over Valetta rushed in with her hat on, having
scrambled into her clothes in a hurry, and consuming her breakfast in
great haste, for she had no notion either of losing her place in the
class, or of missing the discussion of the entertainment with Kitty,
from whom she had been so cruelly parted.
Tete-a-tetes were not so easy as might have been expected between two
sisters occupying the same room, for Valetta went to bed and to sleep
long before Gillian, and the morning toilette was a hurry; besides,
Gillian had scruples, partly out of pride and partly out of
conscientiousness, about encouraging Valetta in gossip or showing her
curiosity about it. Could she make anything out from Kalliope
herself? However, fortune favoured her, for she came out of her
class only a few steps behind little Maura; and as some of Mr.
Edgar's boys were about, the child naturally regarded her as a
Maura was quite as pretty as her elders, and had more of a southern
look. Perhaps she was proportionably precocious, for she returned
Gillian's greeting without embarrassment, and was quite ready to
enter into conversation and show her gratification at compliments
upon her brother's voice.
'And does not Kalliope sing? I think she used to sing very nicely in
the old times.'
'Oh yes,' said Maura; 'but she doesn't now.'
'Why not? Has not she time?'
'That's not all' said Maura, looking significant, and an interro-
gative sound sufficed to bring out---'It is because of Mr. Frank.'
'Mr. Frank Stebbing?'
'Yes. He was always after her, and would walk home with her after
the practices, though Alexis was always there. I know that was the
reason for I heard la mamma mia trying to persuade her to go on with
the society, and she was determined, and would not. Alex said she
was quite right, and it is very tiresome of him, for now she never
walks with us on Sunday, and he used to come and give us bonbons and
'Then she does not like him?'
'She says it is not right or fitting, because Mr. and Mrs. Stebbing
would be against it; but mamma said he would get over them, if she
would not be so stupid, and he could make her quite a lady, like an
officer's daughter, as we are. Is it not a pity she won't, Miss
'I do not know. I think she is very good,' said Gillian.
'Oh! but if she would, we might all be well off again,' said little
worldly-minded Maura; 'and I should not have to help her make the
beds, and darn, and iron, and all sorts of horrid things, but we
could live properly, like ladies.'
'I think it is more ladylike to act uprightly,' said Gillian.
Wherewith, having made the discovery, and escorted Maura beyond the
reach of her enemies, she parted with the child, and turned
homewards. Gillian was at the stage in which sensible maidens have a
certain repugnance and contempt for the idea of love and lovers as an
interruption to the higher aims of life and destruction to family
joys. Romance in her eyes was the exaltation of woman out of reach,
and Maura's communications inclined her to glorify Kalliope as a
heroine, molested by a very inconvenient person, 'Spighted by a fool,
spighted and angered both,' as she quoted Imogen to herself.
It would be a grand history to tell Alethea of her friend, when she
should have learnt a little more about it, as she intended to do on
Sunday from Kalliope herself, who surely would be grateful for some
sympathy and friendship. Withal she recollected that it was Indian-
mail day, and hurried home to see whether the midday post had brought
any letters. Her two aunts were talking eagerly, but suddenly broke
off as she opened the door.
'Well, Gillian---' began Aunt Ada.
'No, no, let her see for herself,' said Aunt Jane.
'Oh! I hope nothing is the matter?' she exclaimed, seeing a letter
to herself on the table.
'No; rather the reverse.'
A horrible suspicion, as she afterwards called it, came over Gillian
as she tore open the letter. There were two small notes. The first
'DEAR LITTLE GILL---I am going to give you a new brother. Mother will
tell you all.---Your loving sister,
'P. E. M.'
She gasped, and looked at the other.
'DEAREST GILLIAN---After all you have heard about Frank, perhaps you
will know that I am very happy. You cannot guess how happy, and it
is so delightful that mamma is charmed with him. He has got two
medals and three clasps. There are so many to write to, I can only
give my poor darling this little word. She will find it is only
having another to be as fond of her as her old Alley.'
Gillian looked up in a bewildered state, and gasped 'Both!'
Aunt Jane could not help smiling a little, and saying, 'Yes, both at
one fell swoop.'
'It's dreadful,' said Gillian.
'My dear, if you want to keep your sisters to yourself, you should
not let them go to India, said Aunt Ada.
'They said they wouldn't! They were quite angry at the notion of
being so commonplace,' said Gillian.
'Oh, no one knows till her time comes!' said Aunt Jane.
Gillian now applied herself to her mother's letter, which was also
'MY DEAREST GILLYFLOWER---I know this will be a great blow to you, as
indeed it was to me; but we must not be selfish, and must remember
that the sisters' happiness and welfare is the great point. I wish I
could write to you more at length; but time will not let me,
scattered as are all my poor flock at home. So I must leave you to
learn the bare public facts from Aunt Jane, and only say my especial
private words to you. You are used to being brevet eldest daughter
to me, now you will have to be so to papa, who is mending fast, but,
I think, will come home with me. Isn't that news?
'Your loving mother.'
'They have told you all about it, Aunt Jane!' said Gillian.
'Yes; they have been so cruel as not even to tell you the names of
these robbers? Well, I dare say you had rather read my letter than
'Thank you very much, Aunt Jane! May I take it upstairs with me?'
Consent was readily given, and Gillian had just time for her first
cursory reading before luncheon.
'DEAREST JENNY---Fancy what burst upon me only the day after my
coming---though really we ought to be very thankful. You might
perhaps have divined what was brewing from the letters. Jasper knew
of one and suspected the other before the accident, and he says it
prevented him from telegraphing to stop me, for he was sure one or
both the girls would want their mother. Phyllis began it. Hers is a
young merchant just taken into the great Underwood firm. Bernard
Underwood, a very nice fellow, brother to the husband of one of Harry
May's sisters---very much liked and respected, and, by the way, an
uncommonly handsome man. That was imminent before Jasper's accident,
and the letter to prepare me must be reposing in Harry's care. Mr.
Underwood came down with Claude to meet me when I landed, and I
scented danger in his eye. But it is all right---only his income is
entirely professional, and they will have to live out here for some
time to come.
'The other only spoke yesterday, having abstained from worrying his
General. He is Lord Francis Somerville, son to Lord Liddesdale, and
a captain in the Glen Lorn Highlanders, who have not above a couple
of years to stay in these parts. He was with the riding party when
Jasper fell, and was the first to lift him; indeed, he held him all
the time of waiting, for poor Claude trembled too much. He was an
immense help through the nursing, and they came to know and depend on
him as nothing else would have made them do; and they proved how
sincerely right-minded and good he is. There is some connection with
the Underwoods, though I have not quite fathomed it. There is no
fear about home consent, for it seems that he is given to outpourings
to his mother, and had heard that if he thought of Sir Jasper
Merrifield's daughter his parents would welcome her, knowing what Sir
J. is. There's for you! considering that we have next to nothing to
give the child, and Frank has not much fortune, but Alethea is
trained to the soldierly life, and they will be better off than
Jasper and I were.
'The worst of it is leaving them behind; and as neither of the
gentlemen can afford a journey home, we mean to have the double
wedding before Lent. As to outfit, the native tailors must be
chiefly trusted to, or the stores at Calcutta, and I must send out
the rest when I come home. Only please send by post my wedding veil
(Gillian knows where it is), together with another as like it as may
be. Any slight lace decorations to make us respectable which suggest
themselves to you and her might come; I can't recollect or mention
them now. I wish Reginald could come and tell you all, but the poor
fellow has to go home full pelt about those Irish. Jasper is writing
to William, and you must get business particulars from him, and let
Gillian and the little ones hear, for there is hardly any time to
write. Phyllis, being used to the idea, is very quiet and matter-of-
fact about it. She hoped, indeed, that I guessed nothing till I was
satisfied about papa, and had had time to rest. Alethea is in a much
more April condition, and I am glad Frank waited till I was here on
her account and on her father's. He is going on well, but must keep
still. He declares that being nursed by two pair of lovers is highly
amusing. However, such homes being found for two of the tribe is a
great relief to his mind. I suppose it is to one's rational mind,
though it is a terrible tug at one's heart-strings. You shall hear
again by the next mail. A brown creature waits to take this to be
Your loving sister,
Gillian came down to dinner quite pale, and to Aunt Ada's kind 'Well,
Gillian?' she could only repeat, 'It is horrid.'
'It is hard to lose all the pretty double wedding,' said Aunt Ada.
'Gillian does not mean that,' hastily put in Miss Mohun.
'Oh no,' said Gillian; 'that would be worse than anything.'
'So you think,' said Aunt Jane; 'but believe those who have gone
through it all, my dear, when the wrench is over, one feels the
Gillian shook her head, and drank water. Her aunts went on talking,
for they thought it better that she should get accustomed to the
prospect; and, moreover, they were so much excited that they could
hardly have spoken of anything else. Aunt Jane wondered if Phyllis's
betrothed were a brother of Mr. Underwood of St. Matthew's,
Whittingtown, with whom she had corresponded about the consumptive
home; and Aunt Ada regretted the not having called on Lady Liddesdale
when she had spent some weeks at Rockstone, and consoled herself by
recollecting that Lord Rotherwood would know all about the family.
She had already looked it out in the Peerage, and discovered that
Lord Francis Cunningham Somerville was the only younger son, that his
age was twenty-nine, and that he had three sisters, all married, as
well as his elder brother, who had children enough to make it
improbable that Alethea would ever be Lady Liddesdale. She would
have shown Gillian the record, but received the ungracious answer,
'I hate swells.'
'Let her alone, Ada,' said Aunt Jane; 'it is a very sore business.
She will be better by and by.'
There ensued a little discussion how the veil at Silverfold was to be
hunted up, or if Gillian and her aunt must go to do so.
'Can you direct Miss Vincent?' asked Miss Mohun.
'No, I don't think I could; besides, I don't like to set any one to
poke and meddle in mamma's drawers.'
'And she could hardly judge what could be available,' added Miss Ada.
'Gillian must go to find it,' said Aunt Jane; 'and let me see, when
have I a day? Saturday is never free, and Monday--I could ask Mrs.
Hablot to take the cutting out, and then I could look up Lily's
There she caught a sight of Gillian's face. Perhaps one cause of the
alienation the girl felt for her aunt was, that there was a certain
kindred likeness between them which enabled each to divine the
other's inquiring disposition, though it had different effects on the
elder and younger character. Jane Mohun suspected that she had on
her ferret look, and guessed that Gillian's disgusted air meant that
the idea of her turning over Lady Merrifield's drawers was almost as
distasteful as that of the governess's doing it.
'Suppose Gillian goes down on Monday with Fanny,' she said. 'She
could manage very well, I am sure.'
Gillian cleared up a little. There is much consolation in being of a
little importance, and she liked the notion of a day at home, a quiet
day, as she hoped in her present mood, of speaking to nobody. Her
aunt let her have her own way, and only sent a card to Macrae to
provide for meeting and for food, not even letting Miss Vincent know
that she was coming. That feeling of not being able to talk about it
or be congratulated would wear off, Aunt Jane said, if she was not
worried or argued with, in which case it might become perverse
It certainly was not shared by the children. Sisters unseen for
three years could hardly be very prominent in their minds. Fergus
hoped that they would ride to the wedding upon elephants, and Valetta
thought it very hard to miss the being a bridesmaid, when Kitty
Varley had already enjoyed the honour. However, she soon began to
glorify herself on the beauty of Alethea's future title.
'What will Kitty Varley and all say?' was her cry.
'Nothing, unless they are snobs, as girls always are,' said Fergus.
'It is not a nice word,' said Miss Adeline.
'But there's nothing else that expresses it, Aunt Ada,' returned
'I agree to a certain degree,' said Miss Mohun; 'but still I am not
sure what it does express.'
'Just what girls of that sort are,' said Gillian. 'Mere worshippers
of any sort of handle to one's name.'
'Gillian, Gillian, you are not going in for levelling,' cried Aunt
'No,' said Gillian; 'but I call it snobbish to make more fuss about
Alethea's concern than Phyllis's---just because he calls himself
'That is to a certain degree true,' said Miss Mohun. 'The worth of
the individual man stands first of all, and nothing can be sillier or
in worse taste than to parade one's grand relations.'
'To parade, yes,' said Aunt Adeline; 'but there is no doubt that good
connections are a great advantage.'
'Assuredly,' said Miss Mohun. 'Good birth and an ancestry above
shame are really a blessing, though it has come to be the fashion to
sneer at them. I do not mean merely in the eyes of the world, though
it is something to have a name that answers for your relations being
respectable. But there are such things as hereditary qualities, and
thus testimony to the existence of a distinguished forefather is
'Lily's dear old Sir Maurice de Mohun to wit,' said Miss Adeline.
'You know she used to tease Florence by saying the Barons of
Beechcroft had a better pedigree than the Devereuxes.'
'I'd rather belong to the man who made himself,' said Gillian.
'Well done, Gill! But though your father won his own spurs, you
can't get rid of his respectable Merrifield ancestry wherewith he
started in life.'
'I don't want to. I had rather have them than horrid robber
Borderers, such as no doubt these Liddesdale people were.'
There was a little laughing at this; but Gillian was saying in her
own mind that it was a fine thing to be one's own Rodolf of Hapsburg,
and in that light she held Captain White, who, in her present state
of mind, she held to have been a superior being to all the
Somervilles---perhaps to all the Devereuxes who ever existed.
CHAPTER VII. AN EMPTY NEST
There had been no injunctions of secrecy, and though neither Miss
Mohun nor Gillian had publicly mentioned the subject, all Rockquay
who cared for the news knew by Sunday morning that Lady Merrifield's
two elder daughters were engaged.
Gillian, in the course of writing her letters, had become somewhat
familiarised with the idea, and really looked forward to talking it
over with Kalliope. Though that young person could hardly be termed
Alethea's best friend, it was certain that Alethea stood foremost
with her, and that her interest in the matter would be very loving.
Accordingly, Kalliope was at the place of meeting even before
Gillian, and anxiously she looked as she said---
'May I venture---may I ask if it is true?'
'True? Oh yes, Kally, I knew you would care.'
'Indeed, I well may. There is no expressing how much I owe to dear
Miss Alethea and Lady Merrifield, and it is such a delight to hear of
Accordingly, Gillian communicated the facts as she knew them, and
offered to give any message.
'Only my dear love and congratulations,' said Kalliope, with a little
sigh. 'I should like to have written, but---'
'But why don't you, then?'
'Oh no; she would be too much engaged to think of us, and it would
only worry her to be asked for her advice.'
'I think I know what it is about,' said Gillian.
'How? Oh, how do you know? Did Mr. Flight say anything?'
'Mr. Flight?' exclaimed Gillian. 'What has he to do with it?'
'It was foolish, perhaps; but I did hope he might have helped Alexis,
and now he seems only to care for his music.'
'Helped him! How?"
'Perhaps it was unreasonable, but Alexis has always been to good
schools. He was getting on beautifully at Leeds, and we thought he
would have gained a scholarship and gone on to be a clergyman. That
was what his mind has always been fixed upon. You cannot think how
good and devoted he is,' said Kalliope with a low trembling voice;
'and my father wished it very much too. But when the break-up came,
Mr. White made our not being too fine, as he said, to work, a sort of
condition of doing anything for us. Mr. Moore did tell him what
Alexis is, but I believe he thought it all nonsense, and there was
nothing to be done. Alexis--dear fellow---took it so nicely, said he
was thankful to be able to help mother, and if it was his duty and
God's will, it was sure to come right; and he has been plodding away
at the marble works ever since, quite patiently and resolutely, but
trying to keep up his studies in the evening, only now he has worked
through all his old school-books.'
'And does not Mr. Flight know that I will help him?'
'Well, Mr. Flight means to be kind, and sometimes seems to think much
of him; but it is all for his music, I am afraid. He is always
wanting new things to be learnt and practised, and those take up so
much time; and though he does lend us books, they are of no use for
study, though they only make the dear boy long and long the more to
'Does not Mr. Flight know?'
'I am not sure. I think he does; but in his ardour for music he
seems to forget all about it. It does seem such a pity that all
Alexis's time should be wasted in this drudgery. If I could only be
sure of more extra work for my designs, I could set him free; and if
Sir Jasper were only at home, I am sure he would put the boy in the
way of earning his education. If it were only as a pupil teacher, he
would be glad, but then he says he ought not to throw all on me.'
'Oh, he must be very good!' exclaimed Gillian. 'I am sure papa will
help him! I wish I could. Oh!'---with a sudden recollection---'I
wonder what books he wants most. I am going to Silverfold to-morrow,
and there are lots of old school-books there of the boys', doing
nothing, that I know he might have.'
'Oh, Miss Gillian, how good of you! How delighted he would be!'
'Do you know what he wants most?'
'A Greek grammar and lexicon most of all,' was the ready answer. 'He
has been trying to find them at the second-hand shop ever so long,
but I am afraid there is no hope of a lexicon. They are so large and
'I think there is an old one of Jasper's, if he would not mind its
back being off, and lots of blots.'
'He would mind nothing. Oh, Miss Gillian, you can't think how happy
he will be.
'If there is anything else he wants very much, how could he let me
know?' mused Gillian. 'Oh, I see! What time are you at the works?'
'Alex is there at seven; I don't go till nine.'
'I am to be at the station at 8.40. Could you or Maura meet me there
and tell me?'
To this Kalliope agreed, for she said she could be sure of getting to
her post in time afterwards, and she seemed quite overjoyed. No one
could look at her without perceiving that Alexis was the prime
thought of her heart, and Gillian delighted her by repeating Aunt
Adeline's admiration of his profile, and the general opinion of his
'I am so sorry you have had to give it up,' she added.
'It can't be helped,' Kalliope said; 'and I really have no time.'
'But that's not all,' said Gillian, beginning to blush herself.
'0h! I hope there's no gossip or nonsense about _that_,' cried
Kalliope, her cheeks flaming.
'Not Maura? Naughty little girl, I did not think she knew anything.
Not that there is anything to tell,' said Kalliope, much distressed;
'but it is dreadful that there should be such talk.'
'I thought it was _that_ you meant when you said you wanted advice.'
'No one could advise me, I am afraid,' said the girl. 'If we could
only go away from this place! But that's impossible, and I dare say
the fancy will soon go off!'
'Then you don't care for him?'
'My dear Miss Gillian, when I have seen _gentlemen_!' said Kalliope,
in a tone that might have cured her admirer.
They had, however, talked longer than usual, and the notes of the
warning bell came up, just when Gillian had many more questions to
ask, and she had to run down the garden all in a glow with eagerness
and excitement, so that Aunt Ada asked if she had been standing in
the sea wind. Her affirmative was true enough, and yet she was
almost ashamed of it, as not the whole truth, and there was a
consciousness about her all the afternoon which made her soon regret
that conversation was chiefly absorbed by the younger one's
lamentations that they were not to accompany her to Silverfold, and
by their commissions. Fergus wanted a formidable amount of precious
tools, and inchoate machines, which Mrs. Halfpenny had regarded as
'mess,' and utterly refused to let his aunts be 'fashed' with; while
Valetta's orders were chiefly for the visiting all the creatures, so
as to bring an exact account of the health and spirits of Rigdum
Funnidos, etc., also for some favourite story-books which she wished
to lend to Kitty Varley and Maura White.
'For do you know, Gill, Maura has never had a new story-book since
mamma gave her Little Alice and her Sister, when she was seven years
old! Do bring her Stories They Tell Me, and On Angel's Wings.'
'But is not that Mysie's?'
'Oh yes, but I know Mysie would let her have it. Mysie always let
Maura have everything of hers, because the boys teased her.'
'I will bring it; but I think Mysie ought to be written to before it
'That is right, Gillian,' said Miss Mohun; 'it is always wiser to be
above-board when dealing with other people's things, even in
Why did this sound like a reproach, and as if it implied suspicion
that Gillian was not acting on that principle? She resented the
feeling. She knew she might do as she liked with the boys' old
books, for which they certainly had no affection, and which indeed
her mother had talked of offering to some of those charities which
have a miscellaneous appetite, and wonderful power of adaptation of
the disused. Besides, though no one could have the least objection
to their being bestowed on the Whites, the very fact of this being
her third secret meeting with Kalliope was beginning to occasion an
awkwardness in accounting for her knowledge of their needs. It was
obvious to ask why she had not mentioned the first meeting, and this
her pride would not endure. She had told her parents by letter.
What more could be desired?
Again, when she would not promise to see either Miss Vincent or the
Miss Hackets, because 'she did not want to have a fuss,' Aunt Jane
said she thought it a pity, with regard at least to the governess,
who might feel herself hurt at the neglect, 'and needless secrets are
Gillian could hardly repress a wriggle, but her Aunt Ada laughed,
saying, 'Especially with you about, Jenny, for you always find them
At present, however, Miss Mohun certainly had no suspicion. Gillian
was very much afraid she would think proper to come to the station in
the morning; but she was far too busy, and Gillian started off in the
omnibus alone with Mrs. Mount in handsome black silk trim, to be
presented to Mr. Macrae, and much enjoying the trip, having been well
instructed by Fergus and Valetta in air that she was to see.
Kalliope was descried as the omnibus stopped, and in a few seconds
Gillian had shaken hands with her, received the note, and heard the
ardent thanks sent from Alexis, and which the tattered books---even if
they proved to be right---would scarcely deserve. He would come with
his sister to receive the parcel at the station on Gillian's return---
at 5.29, an offer which obviated any further difficulties as to
Mrs. Mount was intent upon the right moment to run the gauntlet for
the tickets; and had it been otherwise, would have seen nothing
remarkable in her charge being accosted by a nice-looking ladylike
girl. So on they rushed upon their way, Gillian's spirits rising in
a curious sense of liberty and holiday-making.
In due time they arrived, and were received by Macrae with the pony
carriage, while the trees of Silverfold looked exquisite in their
autumn red, gold, and brown.
But the dreariness of the deserted house, with no one on the steps
but Quiz, and all the furniture muffled in sheets, struck Gillian
more than she had expected, though the schoolroom had been wakened up
for her, a bright fire on the hearth, and the cockatoo highly
conversational, the cats so affectionate that it was difficult to
take a step without stumbling over one of them.
When the business had all been despatched, the wedding veil
disinterred, and the best Brussels and Honiton safely disposed in a
box, when an extremely dilapidated and much-inked collection of
school-books had been routed out of the backstairs cupboard (commonly
called Erebus) and duly packed, when a selection of lighter
literature had been made with a view both to Valetta and Lilian; when
Gillian had shown all she could to Mrs. Mount, visited all the
animals, gone round the garden, and made two beautiful posies of
autumn flowers, one for her little sister and the other for Kalliope,
discovered that Fergus's precious machine had been ruthlessly made
away with, but secured his tools,---she found eating partridge in
solitary grandeur rather dreary work, though she had all the bread-
sauce to herself, and cream to her apple tart, to say nothing of
Macrae, waiting upon her as if she had been a duchess, and conversing
in high exultation upon the marriages, only regretting that one
gentleman should be a civilian; he had always augured that all his
young ladies would be in the Service, and begging that he might be
made aware of the wedding-day, so as to have the bells rung.
To express her own feelings to the butler was not possible, and his
glee almost infected her. She was quite sorry when, having placed a
choice of pears and October peaches before her, he went off to
entertain Mrs. Mount; and after packing a substratum of the fruit in
the basket for the Whites, she began almost to repent of having
insisted on not returning to Rockstone till the four o'clock train,
feeling her solitary liberty oppressive; and finally she found
herself walking down the drive in search of Miss Vincent.
She had to confess to herself that her aunt was quite right, and that
the omission would have been a real unkindness, when she saw how worn
and tired the governess looked, and the brightness that flashed over
the pale face at sight of her. Mrs. Vincent had been much worse, and
though slightly better for the present was evidently in a critical
state, very exhausting to her daughter.
Good Miss Hacket at that moment came in to sit with her, and send the
daughter out for some air; and it was well that Gillian had had some
practice in telling her story not too disconsolately, for it was
received with all the delight that the mere notion of a marriage
seems to inspire, though Phyllis and Alethea had scarcely been seen
at Silverfold before they had gone to India with their father.
Miss Hacket had to be content with the names before she hastened up
to the patient; but Miss Vincent walked back through the paddock with
Gillian, talking over what was more personally interesting to the
governess, the success of her own pupils, scattered as they were, and
comparing notes upon Mysie's letters. One of these Miss Vincent had
just received by the second post, having been written to announce the
great news, and it continued in true Mysie fashion:---
'Cousin Rotherwood knows all about them, and says they will have a
famous set of belongings. He will take me to see some of them if we
go to London before mamma comes home. Bernard Underwood's sister is
married to Mr. Grinstead, the sculptor who did the statue of Mercy at
the Gate that Harry gave a photograph of to mamma, and she paints
pictures herself. I want to see them; but I do not know whether we
shall stay in London, for they do not think it agrees with Fly. I do
more lessons than she does now, and I have read through all Autour de
mon Jardin. I have a letter from Dolores too, and she thinks that
Aunt Phyllis and all are coming home to make a visit in England for
Uncle Harry to see his father, and she wishes very much that they
would bring her; but it is not to be talked about for fear they
should be hindered, and old Dr. May hear of it and be disappointed;
but you won't see any one to tell.'
'There, what have I done?' exclaimed Miss Vincent in dismay. 'But I
had only just got the letter, and had barely glanced through it.'
'Besides, who would have thought of Mysie having any secrets?' said
'After all, I suppose no harm is done; for you can't have any other
connection with these Mays.'
'Oh yes, there will be; for I believe a brother of this man of
Phyllis's married one of the Miss Mays, and I suppose we shall have
to get mixed up with the whole lot. How I do hate strangers! But
I'll take care, Miss Vincent, indeed I will. One is not bound to
tell one's aunts everything like one's mother.'
'No,' said Miss Vincent decidedly, 'especially when it is another
person's secret betrayed through inadvertence.' Perhaps she thought
Gillian looked dangerously gratified, for she added: 'However, you
know poor Dolores did not find secrecy answer.'
'Oh, there are secrets and secrets, and aunts and aunts!' said
Gillian. 'Dolores had no mother.'
'It makes a difference,' said Miss Vincent. 'I should never ask you
to conceal anything from Lady Merrifield. Besides, this is not a
matter of conduct, only a report.'
Gillian would not pursue the subject. Perhaps she was a little
disingenuous with her conscience, for she wanted to carry off the
impression that Miss Vincent had pronounced concealment from her
aunts to be justifiable; and she knew at the bottom of her heart that
her governess would condemn a habit of secret intimacy with any one
being carried on without the knowledge of her hostess and guardian
for the time being,---above all when it was only a matter, of waiting.
It is a fine thing for self-satisfaction to get an opinion without
telling the whole of the facts of the case, and Gillian went home in
high spirits, considerably encumbered with parcels, and surprising
Mrs. Mount by insisting that two separate packages should be made of
Kalliope and Alexis were both awaiting her at the station, their
gratitude unbounded, and finding useful vent by the latter fetching a
cab and handing in the goods.
It was worth something to see how happy the brother and sister
looked, as they went off in the gaslight, the one with the big brown
paper parcel, the other with the basket of fruit and flowers; and
Gillian's explanation to Mrs. Mount that they were old friends of her
soldiering days was quite satisfactory.
There was a grand unpacking. Aunt Ada was pleased with the late
roses, and Aunt Jane that there had been a recollection of Lilian
Giles, to whom she had thought her niece far too indifferent.
Valetta fondled the flowers, and was gratified to hear of the ardent
affection of the Begum and the health of Rigdum, though Gillian was
forced to confess that she had not transferred to him the kiss that
she had been commissioned to convey. Nobody was disappointed except
Fergus, who could not but vituperate the housemaids for the
destruction of his new patent guillotine for mice, which was to have
been introduced to Clement Varley. To be sure it would hardly ever
act, and had never cut off the head of anything save a dandelion, but
that was a trifling consideration.
A letter from Mysie was awaiting Gillian, not lengthy, for there was
a long interval between Mysie's brains and her pen, and saying
nothing about the New Zealand report. The selection of lace was much
approved, and the next day there was to be an expedition to endeavour
to get the veil matched as nearly as possible. The only dangerous
moment was at breakfast the next day, when Miss Mohun said---
'Fanny was delighted with Silverfold. Macrae seems to have been the
pink of politeness to her.'
'She must come when the house is alive again,' said Gillian. 'What
would she think of it then!'
'Oh, that would be perfectly delicious,' cried Valetta. 'She would
see Begum and Rigdum---'
'And I could show her how to work the lawn cutter,' added Fergus.
'By the bye,' said Aunt Jane, 'whom have you been lending books to?'
'Oh, to the Whites,' said Gillian, colouring, as she felt more than
she could wish. 'There were some old school-books that I thought
would be useful to them, and I was sure mamma would like them to have
some flowers and fruit.'
She felt herself very candid, but why would Aunt Jane look at those
Sunday was wet, or rather 'misty moisty,' with a raw sea-fog
overhanging everything---not bad enough, however, to keep any one
except Aunt Ada from church or school, though she decidedly
remonstrated against Gillian's going out for her wandering in the
garden in such weather; and, if she had been like the other aunt,
might almost have been convinced that such determination must be for
an object. However, Gillian encountered the fog in vain, though she
walked up and down the path till her clothes were quite limp and
flabby with damp. All the view that rewarded her was the outline of
the shrubs looming through the mist like distant forests as
mountains. Moreover, she got a scolding from Aunt Ada, who met her
coming in, and was horrified at the misty atmosphere which she was
said to have brought in, and insisted on her going at once to change
her dress, and staying by the fireside all the rest of the afternoon.
'I cannot think what makes her so eager about going out in the
afternoon,' said the younger aunt to the elder. 'It is impossible
that she can have any reason for it.'
'Only Sunday restlessness,' said Miss Mohun, 'added to the reckless
folly of the "Bachfisch" about health.'
'That's true,' said Adeline, 'girls must be either so delicate that
they are quite helpless, or so strong as to be absolutely weather-
Fortune, however, favoured Gillian when next she went to Lily Giles.
She had never succeeded in taking real interest in the girl, who
seemed to her to be so silly and sentimental that an impulse to
answer drily instantly closed up all inclination to effusions of
confidence. Gillian had not yet learnt breadth of charity enough to
understand that everybody does not feel, or express feeling, after
the same pattern; that gush is not always either folly or
insincerity; and that girls of Lily's class are about at the same
stage of culture as the young ladies of whom her namesake in the
Inheritance is the type. When Lily showed her in some little
magazine the weakest of poetry, and called it so sweet, just like
'dear Mr. Grant's lovely sermon, the last she had heard. Did he not
look so like a saint in his surplice and white stole, with his holy
face and beautiful blue eyes; it was enough to make any one feel good
to look at him,' Gillian simply replied, 'Oh, _I_ never think of the
clergyman's looks,' and hurried to her book, feeling infinitely
disgusted and contemptuous, never guessing that these poor verses,
and the curate's sermons and devotional appearance were, to the young
girl's heart, the symbols of all that was sacred, and all that was
refined, and that the thought of them was the solace of her lonely
and suffering hours. Tolerant sympathy is one of the latest lessons
of life, and perhaps it is well that only
'The calm temper of our age should be
Like the high leaves upon the holly-tree,'
for the character in course of formation needs to be guarded by
However, on this day Undine was to be finished, for Gillian was in
haste to begin Katharine Ashton, which would, she thought, be much
more wholesome reality, so she went on later than usual, and came
away at last, leaving her auditor dissolved in tears over poor
Undine's act of justice.
As Mrs. Giles, full of thanks, opened the little garden-gate just as
twilight was falling, Gillian beheld Kalliope and Alexis White coming
up together from the works, and eagerly met and shook hands with
them. The dark days were making them close earlier, they explained,
and as Kalliope happened to have nothing to finish or purchase, she
was able to come home with her brother.
Therewith Alexis began to express, with the diffidence of extreme
gratitude, his warm thanks for the benefaction of books, which were
exactly what he had wanted and longed for. His foreign birth enabled
him to do this much more prettily and less clumsily than an English
boy, and Gillian was pleased, though she told him that her brother's
old ill-used books were far from worthy of such thanks.
'Ah, you cannot guess how precious they are to me!' said Alexis.
'They are the restoration of hope.'
'And can you get on by yourself?' asked Gillian. 'Is it not very
difficult without any teacher?'
'People have taught themselves before,' returned the youth, 'so I
hope to do so myself; but of course there are many questions I long
'Perhaps I could answer some,' said Gillian; 'I have done some
classics with a tutor.'
'Oh, thank you, Miss Merrifield,' he said eagerly. 'If you could
make me understand the force of the aorist.
It so happened that Gillian had the explanation at her tongue's end,
and it was followed by another, and another, till one occurred which
could hardly be comprehended without reference to the passage, upon
which Alexis pulled a Greek Testament out of his pocket, and his
sister could not help exclaiming---
'Oh, Alexis, you can't ask Miss Merrifield to do Greek with you out
in the street.'
Certainly it was awkward, the more so as Mrs. Stebbing just then
drove by in her carriage.
'What a pity!' exclaimed Gillian. 'But if you would set down any
difficulties, you could send them to me by Kalliope on Sunday.'
'Oh, Miss Merrifield, how very good of you!' exclaimed Alexis, his
face lighting up with joy.
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