Beechcroft at Rockstone
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 5 out of 8
'Indeed! Well, I heard the connection lamented, for his sake, by---
what was her name? Mrs. Stirling---or---'
'Mrs. Stebbing,' said Adeline. 'You don't mean that she has actually
called on you?'
'Is there any objection to her?' asked Lady Rotherwood, with a glance
to see whether the girl was listening.
'Oh no, no! only he is a mere mason---or quarryman, who has grown
rich,' said Adeline.
The hostess gave a little dry laugh.
'Is that all? I thought you had some reason for disapproving of her.
I thought her rather sensible and pleasing'
Cringing and flattering, thought Jane; and that is just what these
magnificent ladies like in the wide field of inferiors. But aloud
she could not help saying, 'My principal objection to Mrs. Stebbing
is that I have always thought her rather a gossip---on the scandalous
side.' Then, bethinking herself that it would not be well to pursue
the subject in Gillian's presence, she explained where the Stebbings
lived, and asked how long Lord Rotherwood could stay.
'Only over Sunday. He is going to look over the place to-morrow, and
next day there is to be a public meeting about it. I am not sure
that we shall not go with him. I do not think the place agrees with
The last words were spoken just as the two gentlemen had come in from
the dining-room, rather sooner than was expected, and they were taken
'Agrees with Phyllis! She looks pounds---nay, hundred-weights better
than when we left home. I mean to have her down to-morrow on the
beach for a lark---castle-building, paddling---with Mysie and Val, and
Fergus and all. That's what would set her up best, wouldn't it,
Jane gave a laughing assent, wondering how much of this would indeed
prove castle-building, though adding that Fergus was at school, and
that it was not exactly the time of year for paddling.
'Oh, ah, eh! Well, perhaps not---forestalling sweet St. Valentine---
stepping into their nests they paddled. Though St. Valentine is
past, and I thought our fortunes had been made, Mr. White, by calling
this the English Naples, and what not.'
'Those are the puffs, my lord. There is a good deal of difference
even between this and Rocca Marina, which is some way up the
'It must be very beautiful,' said Miss Ada.
'Well, Miss Mohun, people do say it is striking.' And he was drawn
into describing the old Italian mansion, purchased on the extinction
of an ancient family of nobles, perched up on the side of a mountain,
whose feet the sea laved, with a terrace whence there was a splendid
view of the Gulf of Genoa, and fine slopes above and below of
chestnut-trees and vineyards; and therewith he gave a hearty
invitation to the company present to visit him there if ever they
went to Italy, when he would have great pleasure in showing them many
bits of scenery, and curious remains that did not fall in the way of
Lady Rotherwood gratefully said she should remember the invitation if
they went to the south, as perhaps they should do that very spring.
'And,' said Ada, 'you are not to be expected to remain long in this
climate when you have a home like that awaiting you.'
'Don't call it home, Miss Mohun,' he said. 'I have not had that
these many years; but I declare, the first sound of our county
dialect, when I got out at the station, made my heart leap into my
mouth. I could have shaken hands with the fellow.'
'Then I hope you will remain here for some time. There is much
wanting to be set going,' said Jane.
'So I thought of doing, and I had out a young fellow, who I thought
might take my place---my partner's son, young Stebbing. They wrote
that he had been learning Italian, with a view to being useful to me,
and so on; but when he came out, what was he but a fine gentleman---
never had put his hand to a pick, nor a blasting-iron; and as to his
Italian, he told me it was the Italian of Alfieri and Leopardi.
Leopardi's Italian it might be, for it was a very mottled or motley
tongue, but he might as well have talked English or Double-Dutch to
our hands, or better, for they had picked up the meaning of some
orders from me before I got used to their lingo. And then he says
'tis office work and superintendence he understands. How can you
superintend, I told him, what you don't know yourself? No, no; go
home and bring a pair of hands fit for a quarryman, before I make you
This was rather delightful, and it further appeared that he could
answer all Jane's inquiries after her beloved promising lads whom he
had deported to the Rocca Marina quarries.
They were evidently kindly looked after, and she began to perceive
that it was not such a bad place after all for them, more especially
as he was in the act of building them a chapel, and one of his
objects in coming to England was to find a chaplain; and as Lord
Rotherwood said, he had come to the right shop, since Rockquay in the
spring was likely to afford a choice of clergy with weak chests, or
better still, with weak-chested wives, to whom light work in a genial
climate would be the greatest possible boon.
Altogether the evening was very pleasant, only too short. It was a
curious study for Jane Mohun how far Lady Rotherwood would give way
to her husband. She always seemed to give way, but generally
accomplished her own will in the end, and it was little likely that
she would allow the establishment to await the influx of Merrifields,
though certainly Gillian had done nothing displeasing all that
evening except that terrible blushing, for which piece of
ingenuousness her aunt loved her all the better.
At half-past ten next morning, however, Lord Rotherwood burst in to
borrow Valetta for a donkey-ride, for which his lady had compounded
instead of the paddling and castle-building, and certainly poor Val
could not do much to corrupt Fly on donkey back, and in his presence.
He further routed out Gillian, nothing loth, from her algebra,
bidding her put on her seven-leagued boots, and not get bent double---
and he would fain have seized on his cousin Jane, but she was already
gone off for an interview with the landlord of the most eligible of
the two houses.
Gillian and Valetta came back very rosy, and in fits of merriment.
Lord Rotherwood had paid the donkey-boys to stay at home, and let him
and Gillian take their place. They had gone out on the common above
the town, with most amusing rivalries as to which drove the beast
worst, making Mysie umpire. Then having attained a delightfully
lonely place, Fly had begged for a race with Valetta, which failed,
partly because Val's donkey would not stir, and partly because Fly
could not bear the shaking; and then Lord Rotherwood himself insisted
on riding the donkey that wouldn't go, and racing Gillian on the
donkey that would---and he made his go so effectually that it ran away
with him, and he pulled it up at last only just in time to save
himself from being ignominiously stopped by an old fishwoman!
He had, as Aunt Jane said, regularly dipped Gill back into childhood,
and she looked, spoke, and moved all the better for it.
CHAPTER XV. THE ROCKS OF ROCKSTONE
Lord Rotherwood came in to try to wile his cousin to share in the
survey of the country; but she declared it to be impossible, as all
her avocations had fallen into arrear, and she had to find a couple
of servants as well as a house for the Merrifields. This took her in
the direction of the works, and Gillian proposed to go with her as
far as the Giles's, there to sit a little while with Lilian, for whom
she had a new book.
'My dear, surely you must be tired out!' exclaimed the stay-at-home
'Oh no, Aunt Ada! Quite freshened by that blow on the common.'
And Miss Mohun was not sorry, thinking that to leave Gillian free to
come home by herself would be the best refutation of Mrs. Mount's
doubts of her.
They had not, however, gone far on their way---on the walk rather
unfrequented at this time of day---before Gillian exclaimed, 'Is that
Kally? Oh! and who is that with her?' For there certainly was a
figure in somewhat close proximity, the ulster and pork-pie hat being
such as to make the gender doubtful.
'How late she is! I am afraid her mother is worse,' said Miss Mohun,
quickening her steps a little, and, at the angle of the road, the
pair in front perceived them. Kalliope turned towards them; the
companion---about whom there was no doubt by that time---gave a
petulant motion and hastened out of sight.
In another moment they were beside Kalliope, who looked shaken and
trembling, with tears in her eyes, which sprang forth at the warm
pressure of her hand.
'I am afraid Mrs. White is not so well,' said Miss Mohun kindly.
'She is no worse, I think, thank you, but I was delayed. Are you
going this way? May I walk with you?'
'I will come with you to the office,' said Miss Mohun, perceiving
that she was in great need of an escort and protector.
'Oh, thank you, thank you, if it is not too much out of your way.'
A few more words passed about Mrs. White's illness and what advice
she was having. Miss Mohun could not help thinking that the daughter
did not quite realise the extent of the illness, for she added---
'It was a good deal on the nerves and mind. She was so anxious about
Mr. James White's arrival.'
'Have you not seen him?'
'Oh no! Not yet.'
'I think you will be agreeably surprised,' said Gillian. And here
they left her at Mrs. Giles's door.
'Yes,' added Miss Mohun, 'he gave me the idea of a kind, just man.'
'Miss Mohun,' said the poor girl, as soon as they were tete-a-tete,
'I know you are very good. Will you tell me what I ought to do? You
saw just now---'
'I did; and I have heard.'
Her face was all in a flame and her voice choked. 'He says---Mr.
Frank does---that his mother has found out, and that she will tell her
own story to Mr. White; and---and we shall all get the sack, as he
calls it; and it will be utter misery, and he will not stir a finger
to vindicate me; but if I will listen to him, he will speak to Mr.
White, and bear me through; but I can't---I can't. I know he is a bad
man; I know how he treated poor Edith Vane. I never can; and how
shall I keep out of his way?'
'My poor child,' said Miss Mohun, 'it is a terrible position for you;
but you are doing quite right. I do not believe Mr. White would go
much by what that young man says, for I know he does not think highly
'But he does go altogether by Mr. Stebbing---altogether, and I know
he---Mr. Stebbing, I mean---can't bear us, and would not keep us on if
he could help it. He has been writing for another designer---an
artist---instead of me.'
'Still, you would be glad to have the connection severed?'
'Oh yes, I should be glad enough to be away; but what would become of
my mother and the children?'
'Remember your oldest friends are on their way home; and I will try
to speak to Mr. White myself.'
They had reached the little door of Kalliope's office, which she
could open with a latch-key, and Miss Mohun was just about to say
some parting words, when there was a sudden frightful rumbling sound,
something between a clap of thunder and the carting of stones, and
the ground shook under their feet, while a cry went up---loud, horror-
struck men and women's voices raised in dismay.
Jane had heard that sound once before. It was the fall of part of
the precipitous cliff, much of which had been quarried away. But in
spite of all precautions, frost and rain were in danger of loosening
the remainder, and wire fences were continually needing to be placed
to prevent the walking above on edges that might be perilous.
Where was it? What had it done? was the instant thought. Kalliope
turned as pale as death; the girls came screaming and thronging out
of their workshop, the men from their sheds, the women from the
cottages, as all thronged to the more open space beyond the buildings
where they could see, while Miss Mohun found herself clasped by her
Others were rushing up from the wharf. One moment's glance showed
all familiar with the place that a projecting point, forming a sort
of cusp in the curve of the bay, had gone, and it lay, a great
shattered mass, fragments spreading far and wide, having crashed
through the roof of a stable that stood below.
There was a general crowding forward to the spot, and crying and
exclamation, and a shouting of 'All right' from above and below. Had
any one come down with it? A double horror seized Miss Mohun as she
remembered that her cousin was to inspect those parts that very
She caught at the arm of a man and demanded, 'Was any one up there?'
'Master's there, and some gentlemen; but they hain't brought down
with it,' said the man. 'Don't be afraid, miss. Thank the Lord, no
one was under the rock---horses even out at work.'
'Thank God, indeed!' exclaimed Miss Mohun, daring now to look up, and
seeing, not very distinctly, some figures of men, who, however, were
too high up and keeping too far from the dangerous broken edge for
Room was made for the two ladies, by the men who knew Miss Mohun, to
push forward, so as to have a clearer view of the broken wall and
roof of the stable, and the great ruddy blue and white veined mass of
limestone rock, turf, and bush adhering to what had been the top.
There was a moment's silence through the crowd, a kind of awe at the
spectacle and the possibilities that had been mercifully averted.
Then one of the men said---
'That was how it was. I saw one of them above---not Stebbing---No---
coming out to the brow; and after this last frost, not a doubt but
that must have been enough to bring it down.'
'Not railed off, eh?' said the voice of young Stebbing from among the
'Well, it were marked with big stones where the rail should go,' said
another. 'I know, for I laid 'em myself; but there weren't no orders
'There weren't no stones either. Some one been and took 'em away,'
added the first speaker.
'I see how it is,' Frank Stebbing's metallic voice could plainly be
heard, flavoured with an oath. 'This is your neglect, White,
droning, stuck-up sneak as you always were and will be! I shall
report this. Damage to property, and maybe life, all along of your
And there were worse imprecations, which made Miss Mohun break out in
a tone of shocked reproof---
'I beg your pardon, Miss Mohun; I was not aware of your presence---'
'Nor of a Higher One,' she could not help interposing, while he went
on justifying himself.
'It is the only way to speak to these fellows; and it is enough to
drive one mad to see what comes of the neglect of a conceited young
ass above his business. Life and property---'
'But life is safe, is it not?' she interrupted with a shudder.
'Ay, ay, ma'am,' said the voice of the workman, 'or we should know it
by this time.'
But at that moment a faint, gasping cry caught Jane's ear.
Others heard it too. It was a child's voice, and grew stronger after
a moment. It came from the corner of the shed outside the stable.
'Oh, oh!' cried the women, pressing forward, 'the poor little
Then it was recollected that Mrs. Field---one of those impracticable
women on whom the shafts of school officers were lost, and who was
always wandering in the town---had been seen going out, leaving two
small children playing about, the younger under the charge of the
elder. The father was a carter, and had been sent on some errand
with the horses.
This passed while anxious hands were struggling with stones and
earth, foremost among them Alexis White. The utmost care was needful
to prevent the superincumbent weight from falling in and crushing the
life there certainly was beneath, happily not the rock from above,
but some of the debris of the stable. Frank Stebbing and the foreman
had to drive back anxious crowds, and keep a clear space.
Then came running, shrieking, pushing her way through the men, the
poor mother, who had to be forcibly withheld by Miss Mohun and one of
the men from precipitating herself on the pile of rubbish where her
children were buried, and so shaking it as to make their destruction
Those were terrible moments; but when the mother's voice penetrated
to the children, a voice answered---
'Mammy, mammy get us out, there's a stone on Tommy,'--at least so the
poor woman understood the lispings, almost stifled; and she shrieked
again, 'Mammy's coming, darlings!'
The time seemed endless, though it was probably only a few minutes
before it was found that the children were against the angle of the
shed, where the wall and a beam had protected the younger, a little
girl of five, who seemed to be unhurt. But, alas! though the boy's
limbs were not crushed, a heavy stone had fallen on his temple.
The poor woman would not believe that life was gone. She disregarded
the little one, who screamed for mammy and clutched her skirts, in
spite of the attempts of the women to lift her up and comfort her;
and gathering the poor lifeless boy in her arms, she alternately
screamed for the doctor and uttered coaxing, caressing calls to the
She neither heard nor heeded Miss Mohun, with whom, indeed, her
relations had not been agreeable; and as a young surgeon, sniffing
the accident from afar, had appeared on the scene, and had, at the
first glance, made an all too significant gesture, Jane thought it
safe to leave the field to him and a kind, motherly, good neighbour,
who promised her to send up to Beechcroft Cottage in case there was
anything to be done for the unhappy woman or the poor father. Mr.
Hablot, who now found his way to the spot, promised to walk on and
prepare him: he was gone with a marble cross to a churchyard some
five miles off.
Gillian had not spoken a word all this time. She felt perfectly
stunned and bewildered, as if it was a dream, and she could not
understand it. Only for a moment did she see the bleeding face and
prone limbs of the poor boy, and that sent a shuddering horror over
her, so that she felt like fainting; but she had so much recollection
and self-consciousness, that horror of causing a sensation and giving
trouble sent the blood back to her heart, and she kept her feet by
holding hard to her aunt's arm and presently Miss Mohun felt how
tight and trembling was the grasp, and then saw how white she was.
'My dear, we must get home directly,' she said kindly. 'Lean on me---
There was leisure now, as they turned away, for others to see the
young lady's deadly paleness, and there were invitations to houses
and offers of all succours at hand, but the dread of 'a fuss' further
revived Gillian, and all that was accepted was a seat for a few
moments and a glass of water, which Aunt Jane needed almost as much
as she did.
Though the girl's colour was coming back, and she said she could walk
quite well, both had such aching knees and such shaken limbs that
they were glad to hold by each other as they mounted the sloping
road, and half-way up Gillian came to a sudden stop.
'Aunt Jane,' she said, panting and turning pale again, 'you heard
that dreadful man. Oh! do you think it was true? Fergus's bit of
spar---Alexis not minding. Oh! then it is all our doing!'
'I can't tell. Don't you think about it now,' said Aunt Jane,
feeling as if the girl were going to swoon on the spot in the shock.
'Consequences are not in our hands. Whatever it came from, and very
sad it was, there was great mercy, and we have only to thank God it
was no worse.'
When at last aunt and niece reached home, they had no sooner opened
the front door than Adeline came almost rushing out of the drawing-
'Oh! my dearest Jane,' she cried, clasping and kissing her sister,
'wasn't it dreadful? Where were you? Mr. White knows no one was
hurt below, but I could not be easy till you came in.'
'Yes; Mr. White was so kind as to come and tell me---and about
'What about Rotherwood?' exclaimed Miss Mohun, advancing into the
drawing-room, where Mr. White had risen from his seat.
'Nothing to be alarmed about. Indeed, I assure you, his
extraordinary presence of mind and agility---'
'What was it?' as she and Gillian each sank into a chair, the one
breathless, the other with the faintness renewed by the fresh shock,
but able to listen as Mr. White told first briefly, then with more
detail, how---as the surveying party proceeded along the path at the
top of the cliffs, he and Lord Rotherwood comparing recollections of
the former outline, now much changed by quarrying---the Marquis had
stepped out to a slightly projecting point; Mr. Stebbing had uttered
a note of warning, knowing how liable these promontories were to
break away in the end of winter, and happily Lord Rotherwood had
turned and made a step or two back, when the rock began to give way
under his feet, so that, being a slight and active man, a spring and
bound forward had actually carried him safely to the firm ground, and
the others, who had started back in self-preservation, then in
horror, fully believing him borne down to destruction, saw him the
next instant lying on his face on the path before them. When on his
feet, he had declared himself unhurt, and solely anxious as to what
the fall of rock might have done beneath; but he was reassured by
those cries of 'All right' which were uttered before the poor little
Fields were discovered; and then, when the party were going to make
their way down to inspect the effects of the catastrophe, he had
found that he had not escaped entirely unhurt. Of course he had been
forced to leap with utter want of heed, only as far and wide as he
could, and thus, though he had lighted on his feet, he had fallen
against a stone, and pain and stiffness of shoulder made themselves
apparent; though he would accept no help in walking back to the
hotel, and was only anxious not to frighten his wife and daughter,
and desired Mr. White, who had volunteered to go, to tell the ladies
next door that he was convinced it was nothing, or, if anything, only
a trifle of a collar-bone. Mr. White had, since the arrival of the
surgeon, made an expedition of inquiry, and heard this verdict
confirmed, with the further assurance that there was no cause for
anxiety. The account of the damage and disaster below was new to
him, as his partner had declared the stables to be certain to be
empty, and moreover in need of being rebuilt; and he departed to find
Mr. Stebbing and make inquiries.
Miss Mohun, going to the hotel, saw the governess, and heard that all
was going on well, and that Lord Rotherwood insisted that nothing was
the matter, and would not hear of going to bed, but was lying on the
sofa in the sitting-room. Her ladyship presently came out, and
confirmed the account; but Jane agreed with her that, if possible,
the knowledge of the poor child's death should be kept from him that
night, lest the shock should make him feverish. However, in that
very moment when she was off guard, the communication had been made
by his valet, only too proud to have something to tell, and with the
pleasing addition that Miss Mohun had had a narrow escape. Whereupon
ensued an urgent message to Miss Mohun to come and tell him all about
Wife and cousin exchanged glances of consternation, and perhaps each
knew she might be thankful that he did not come himself instead of
sending, and yet feared that the abstinence was a proof more of
incapacity than of submission.
Lying there in a dressing-gown over a strapped shoulder, he showed
his agitation by being more than usually unable to finish a sentence.
'Jenny, Jenny---you are---are you all safe? not frightened?'
'Oh no, no, I was a great way off; I only heard the noise, and I did
not know you were there.'
'Ah! there must be---something must be meant for me to do. Heaven
must mean---thank Him! But is it true---a poor child? Can't one ever
be foolish without hurting more than one's self?'
Jane told him the truth calmly and quietly, explaining that the
survivor was entirely unhurt, and the poor little victim could not
have suffered; adding with all her heart, 'The whole thing was full
of mercy, and I do not think you need blame yourself for
heedlessness, for it was an accident that the place was not marked.'
'Shameful neglect' said Lady Rotherwood.
'The partner---what's-his-name---Stebbing---said something about his son
being away. An untrustworthy substitute, wasn't there?' said Lord
'The son was the proficient in Leopardine Italian we heard of last
night,' said Jane. 'I don't know what he may be as an overlooker
here. He certainly fell furiously on the substitute, a poor cousin
of Mr. White's own, but I am much afraid the origin of the mischief
was nearer home---Master Fergus's geological researches.'
'Fergus! Why, he is a mite.'
'Yes, but Maurice encore. However, I must find out from him whether
this is only a foreboding of my prophetic soul!'
'Curious cattle,' observed Lord Rotherwood.
'Well,' put in his wife, 'I do not think Ivinghoe has ever given us
cause for anxiety.'
'Exactly the reason that I am always expecting him to break out in
some unexpected place! No, Victoria,' he added, seeing that she did
not like this, 'I am quite ready to allow that we have a model son,
and I only pity him for not having a model father.'
'Well, I am not going to stay and incite you to talk nonsense,' said
Jane, rising to depart; 'I will let you know my discoveries.'
She found Fergus watching for her at the gate, with the appeal, 'Aunt
Jane, there's been a great downfall of cliff, and I want to see what
formations it has brought to light, but they won't let me through to
look at it, though I told them White always did.'
'I do not suppose that they will allow any one to meddle with it at
present,' said Aunt Jane; then, as Fergus made an impatient
exclamation, she added, 'Do you know that a poor little boy was
killed, and Cousin Rotherwood a good deal hurt?'
'Yes,' said Fergus, 'Big Blake said so.'
'And now, Fergus, I want to know where you took that large stone from
that you showed me with the crack of spar.'
'With the micaceous crystals,' corrected Fergus. 'It was off the top
of that very cliff that fell down, so I am sure there must be more in
it; and some one else will get them if they won't let me go and see
'And Alexis White gave you leave to take it?'
'Oh yes, I always ask him.'
'Were you at the place when you asked him, Fergus?'
'At the place on the cliff? No. For I couldn't find him for a long
time, and I carried it all the way down the steps.'
'And you did not tell him where it came from?'
'He didn't ask. Indeed, Aunt Jane, I always did show him what I
took, and he would have let me in now, only he was not at the office;
and the man at the gate, Big Blake, was as savage as a bear, and
slammed the door on me, and said they wouldn't have no idle boys
loafing about there. And when I said I wasn't an idle boy but a
scientific mineralogist, and that Mr. Alexis White always let me in,
he laughed in my face, and said Mr. Alexis had better look out for
himself. I shall tell Stebbing how cheeky he was.'
'My dear Fergus, there was good reason for keeping you out. You did
not know it, nor Alexis; but those stones were put to show that the
cliff was getting dangerous, and to mark where to put an iron fence;
and it was the greatest of mercies that Rotherwood's life was saved.'
The boy looked a little sobered, but his aunt had rather that his
next question had not been: 'Do you think they will let me go there
However, she knew very well that conviction must slowly soak in, and
that nothing would be gained by frightening him, so that all she did
that night was to send a note by Mysie to her cousin, explaining her
discovery; and she made up her mind to take Fergus to the inquest the
next day, since his evidence would exonerate Alexis from the most
culpable form of carelessness.
Only, however, in the morning, when she had ascertained the hour of
the inquest, did she write a note to Mrs. Edgar to explain Fergus's
absence from school, or inform the boy of what she intended. On the
whole he was rather elated at being so important as to be able to
defend Alexis White, and he was quite above believing that scientific
research could be reckoned by any one as mischief.
Just as Miss Mohun had gone up to get ready, Mysie ran in to say that
Cousin Rotherwood would be at the door in a moment to take Fergus
'Lady Rotherwood can't bear his going,' said Mysie, 'and Mr. White
and Mr. Stebbing say that he need not; but he is quite determined,
though he has got his arm in a sling, for he says it was all his
fault for going where he ought not. And he won't have the carriage,
for he says it would shake his bones ever so much more than Shank's
'Just like him,' said Aunt Jane. 'Has Dr. Dagger given him leave?'
'Yes; he said it wouldn't hurt him; but Lady Rotherwood told Miss
Elbury she was sure he persuaded him.'
Mysie's confused pronouns were cut short by Lord Rotherwood's own
'You need not go, Jane,' he said. 'I can take care of this little
chap. They'll not chop off his head in the presence of one of the
'Nice care to begin by chaffing him out of his wits,' she retorted.
'The question is, whether you ought to go.'
'Yes, Jenny, I must go. It can't damage me; and besides, to tell the
truth, it strikes me that things will go hard with that unlucky young
fellow if some one is not there to stand up for him and elicit
'White---ay, a cousin or something of the exemplary boss. He's been
dining with his partners---the old White, I mean---and they've been
cramming him---I imagine with a view to scapegoat treatment---jealousy,
and all the rest of it. If there is not a dismissal, there's a
hovering on the verge.'
'Exactly what I was afraid of,' said Jane. 'Oh, Rotherwood, I could
tell you volumes. But may I not come down with you? Could not I do
'Well, on the whole, you are better away, Jenny. Consider William's
feelings. Womankind, even Brownies, are better out of it. Prejudice
against proteges, whether of petticoats or cassocks---begging your
pardon. I can fight battles better as an unsophisticated stranger
coming down fresh, though I don't expect any one from the barony of
Beechcroft to believe it, and maybe the less I know of your volumes
the better till after---
'Oh, Rotherwood, as if I wasn't too thankful to have you to send for
'There! I've kept the firm out there waiting an unconscionable time.
They'll think you are poisoning my mind. Come along, you imp of
science. Trust me, I'll not bully him, though it's highly tempting
to make the chien chasser de race.'
'Oh, Aunt Jane, won't you go?' exclaimed Gillian in despair, as her
cousin waved a farewell at the gate.
'No, my dear; it is not for want of wishing, but he is quite right.
He can do much better than I could.'
'But is he in earnest, aunt?'
'Oh yes, most entirely, and I quite see that he is right---indeed I
do, Gillian. People pretend to defer to a lady, but they really
don't like her poking her nose in, and, after all, I could have no
right to say anything. My only excuse for going was to take care of
A further token of Lord Rotherwood's earnestness in the cause was the
arrival of his servant, who was to bring down the large stone which
Master Merrifield had moved, and who conveyed it in a cab, being much
too grand to carry it through the streets.
Gillian was very unhappy and restless, unable to settle to anything,
and linking cause and effect together disconsolately in a manner
Mysie, whom she admitted to her confidence, failed to understand.
'It was a great pity Fergus did not show Alexis where the stone came
from, but I don't see what your not giving him his lessons had to do
with it. Made him unhappy? Oh! Gilly dear, you don't mean any one
would be too unhappy to mind his business for such nonsense as that!
I am sure none of us would be so stupid if Mr. Pollock forgot our
'Certainly not,' said Gillian, almost laughing; 'but you don't
understand, Mysie. It was the taking him up and letting him down,
and I could not explain it, and it looked so nasty and capricious.'
'Well, I suppose you ought to have asked Aunt Jane's leave; but I do
think he must be a ridiculous young man if he could not attend to his
proper work because you did not go after him when you were only just
'Ah, Mysie, you don't understand!'
Mysie opened a round pair of brown eyes, and said, 'Oh! I did think
people were never so silly out of poetry. There was Wilfrid in
Hokeby, to be sure. He was stupid enough about Matilda; but do you
mean that he is like that!'
'Don't, don't, you dreadful child; I wish I had never spoken to you,'
cried Gillian, overwhelmed with confusion. 'You must never say a
word to any living creature.'
'I am sure I shan't,' said Mysie composedly; 'for, as far as I can
see, it is all stuff. This Alexis never found out what Fergus was
about with the stone, and so the mark was gone, and Cousin Rotherwood
trod on it, and the poor little boy was killed; but as to the rest,
Nurse Halfpenny would say it was all conceited maggots; and how you
can make so much more fuss about that than about the poor child being
crushed, I can't make out.'
'But if I think it all my fault?'
'That's maggots,' returned Mysie with uncompromising common-sense.
'You aren't old enough, nor pretty enough, for any of that kind of
And Gillian found that either she must go without comprehension, or
have a great deal more implied, if she turned for sympathy to any one
save Aunt Jane, who seemed to know exactly how the land lay.
CHAPTER XVI. VANISHED
It seemed to be a very long time before the inquest was over, and
Aunt Jane had almost yielded to her niece's impatience and her own,
and consented to walk down to meet the intelligence, when Fergus came
tearing in, 'I've seen the rock, and there is a flaw of crystal-
lisation in it! And the coroner-man called me an incipient
'But the verdict?'
'They said it was accidental death, and something about more care
being taken and valuable lives endangered.'
'And Alexis White---'
'Oh! there was a great bother about his not being there. They said
it looked very bad; but they could not find him.'
'Not find him! Oh! Where is Cousin Rotherwood?'
'He is coming home, and he said I might run on, and tell you that if
you had time to come in to the hotel he would tell you about it.'
With which invitation Miss Mohun hastened to comply; Gillian was
ardent to come too, and it seemed cruel to prevent her; but, besides
that Jane thought that her cousin might be tired enough to make his
wife wish him to see as few people as possible, she was not sure that
Gillian might not show suspicious agitation, and speech and action
would not be free in her presence. So the poor girl was left to
extract what she could from her little brother, which did not amount
It was a propitious moment, for Jane met Lord Rotherwood at the door
of the hotel, parting with Mr. White; she entered with him, and his
wife, after satisfying herself that he was not the worse for his
exertions, was not sorry that he should have his cousin to keep him
quiet in his easy-chair while she went off to answer a pile of
letters which had just been forwarded from home.
'Well, Jenny,' he said, 'I am afraid your protege does not come out
of it very well; that is, if he is your protege. He must be an
uncommonly foolish young man.'
'I reserve myself on that point. But is it true that he never
'Didn't they send for him?'
'Yes; but he could not be found, either at the works or at home.
However, the first might be so far accounted for, since he met at his
desk a notice of dismissal from White and Stebbing.'
'No! Really. Concocted at that unlucky dinner yesterday! But, of
course, it was not immediate.'
'Of course not, and perhaps something might have been done for him;
but a man who disappears condemns himself.'
'But what for? I hope Fergus explained that the stone was not near
the spot when he showed it.'
'Yes; Fergus spoke up like a little man, and got more credit than he
deserved. If they had known that of all varieties of boys the
scientific is the worst imp of mischief! It all went in order due---
surgeon explained injuries to poor little being---men how the stone
came down and they dug him out---poor little baby-sister made out her
sad little story. That was the worst part of all. Something must be
done for that child---orphanage or something---only unluckily there's
the father and mother. Poor father! he is the one to be pitied. I
mean to get at him without the woman. Well, then came my turn, and
how I am afflicted with the habit of going where I ought not, and,
only by a wonderful mercy, was saved from being part of the general
average below. Then we got to the inquiry, Were not dangerous places
railed off? Yes, Stebbing explained that it was the rule of the firm
to have the rocks regularly inspected once a month, and once a
fortnight in winter and spring, when the danger is greater. If they
were ticklish, the place was marked at the moment with big stones,
reported, and railed off. An old foreman-sort of fellow swore to
having detected the danger, and put stones. He had reported it. To
whom? To Mr. Frank. Yes, he thought it was Mr. Frank, just before
he went away. It was this fellow's business to report it and send
the order, it seems, and in his absence Alexander White, or whatever
they call him, took his work. Well, the old man doesn't seem to know
whether he mentioned the thing to young White or not, which made his
absence more unlucky; but, anyway, the presence of the stones was
supposed to be a sufficient indication of the need of the rail, or to
any passenger to avoid the place. In fact, if Master White had been
energetic, he would have seen to the thing. I fancy that is the long
and short of it. But when the question came how the stones came to
be removed, I put Fergus forward. The foreman luckily could identify
his stone by the precious crack of spar; and the boy explained how he
had lugged it down, and showed it to his friend far away from its
place---had, in fact, turned over and displaced all the lot.'
'Depend upon it, Alexis has gone out of the way to avoid accusing
'Don't make me start, it hurts; but do you really believe that, Jane-
--you, the common-sense female of the family?'
'Indeed I do, he is a romantic, sensitive sort of fellow, who would
not defend himself at the boy's expense.'
'Whew! He might have stood still and let Fergus defend him, then,
instead of giving up his own cause.'
'And how did it end?'
'Accidental death, of course; couldn't be otherwise; but censure on
the delay and neglect of precaution, which the common opinion of the
Court naturally concentrated on the absent; though, no doubt, the
first omission was young Stebbing's; but owing to the hurry of his
start for Italy, that was easily excused. And even granting that
Fergus did the last bit of mischief, your friend may be romantically
generous, if you please; but he must have been very slack in his
'Poor fellow---yes. Now before I tell you what I know about him, I
should like to hear how Mr. Stebbing represents him. You know his
father was a lieutenant in the Royal Wardours.'
'Risen from the ranks, a runaway cousin of White's. Yes, and there's
a son in a lawyer's office always writing to White for money.'
'Oh! I never had much notion of that eldest---'
'They have no particular claim on White; but when the father died he
wrote to Stebbing to give those that were old enough occupation at
the works, and see that the young ones got educated.'
'So he lets the little boys go to the National School, though there's
no great harm in that as yet.'
'He meant to come and see after them himself, and find out what they
are made of. But meantime this youth, who did well at first, is
always running after music and nonsense of all kinds, thinking
himself above his business, neglecting right and left; while as to
the sister, she is said to be very clever at designing---both ways in
fact---so determined to draw young Stebbing in, that, having got proof
of it at last, they have dismissed her too. And, Jane, I hardly like
to tell you, but somehow they mix Gillian up in the business. They
ate it up again when I cut them short by saying she was my cousin,
her mother and you like my sisters. I am certain it is all nonsense,
but had you any notion of any such thing? It is insulting you,
though, to suppose you had not,' he added, as he saw her air of
acquiescence; 'so, of course, it is all right.'
'It is not all right, but not so wrong as all that. Oh no! and I
know all about it from poor Gill herself and the girl. Happily they
are both too good girls to need prying. Well, the case is this.
There was a quarrel about a love story between the two original
Whites, who must both have had a good deal of stuff in them. Dick
ran away, enlisted, rose, and was respected by Jasper, etc., but was
married to a Greco-Hibernian wife, traditionally very beautiful, poor
woman, though rather the reverse at present. Lily and her girls did
their best for the young people with good effect on the eldest girl,
who really in looks and ways is worthy of her Muse's name, Kalliope.
Father had to retire with rank of captain, and died shortly after.
Letters failed to reach the Merrifields, who were on the move. This
Quarry cousin was written to, and gave the help he described to you.
Perhaps it was just, but it disappointed them, and while the father
lived, Alexis had been encouraged to look to getting to the
University and Holy Orders. He has a good voice, and the young
curate at the Kennel patronised him, perhaps a little capriciously,
but I am not quite sure. All this was unknown to me till the
Merrifield children came, and Gillian, discovering these Whites, flew
upon them in the true enthusiastic Lily-fashion, added to the
independence of the modern maiden mistrustful of old cats of aunts.
Like a little goose, she held trystes with Kalliope, through the
rails at the top of the garden on Sunday afternoons.'
'Cela va sans dire. The brother was walking the young ones on the
cliffs whence she had been driven by the attentions of Master Frank
Stebbing. Poor thing, she is really beautiful enough to be a
misfortune to her, and so is the youth---Maid of Athens, Irish eyes,
plus intellect. Gill lent books, and by and by volunteered to help
the lad with his Greek.'
'Just as she would teach a night-school class. She used to give him
lessons at his sister's office. I find that as soon as Kalliope
found it was unknown to me she protested, and did all in her power to
prevent it, but Gillian had written all to her mother, and thought
'And Lily---? Victoria would have gone crazy---supposing such a thing
possible,' he added, sotto voce.
'Lily was probably crazy already between her sick husband and her
bridal daughters, for she answered nothing intelligible. However,
absence gave time for reflection, and Gillian came home after her
visits convinced by her own good sense and principle that she had not
acted fairly towards us, so that, of her own accord, the first thing
she did was to tell me the whole, and how much the sister had always
objected. She was quite willing that I should talk it over with
Kalliope before she went near them again, but I have never been able
really to do so.'
'Then it was all Greek and---"Lilyism!" Lily's grammar over again,
'On her side, purely so---but I am afraid she did upset the boy's
mind. He seems to have been bitterly disappointed at what must have
appeared like neglect and offence---and oh! you know how silly youths
can be---and he had Southern blood too, poor fellow, and he went
mooning and moping about, I am afraid really not attending to his
business; and instead of taking advantage of the opening young
Stebbing's absence gave him of showing his abilities, absolutely gave
them the advantage against him, by letting them show him up as an
'Or worse. Stebbing talked of examining the accounts, to see if
there were any deficiency.'
'That can be only for the sake of prejudicing Mr. White---they cannot
really suspect him.'
'If not, it was very good acting, and Stebbing appears to me just the
man to suspect a parson's pet, and a lady's---as he called this
'Ask any of the workmen---ask Mr. Flight.'
'Well, I wish he had come to the front. It looks bad for him, and
your plea, Jenny, is more like Lily than yourself.'
'Thank you; I had rather be like Lily than myself.'
'And you are equally sure that the sister is maligned?'
'Quite sure---on good evidence---the thing is how to lay it all before
Mr. White, for you see these Stebbings evidently want to prevent him
from taking to his own kindred---you must help me, Rotherwood.'
'When I am convinced,' he said. 'My dear Jenny, I beg your pardon---I
have an infinite respect for your sagacity, but allow me to observe,
though your theory holds together, still it has rather an ancient and
'I only ask you to investigate, and make him do so. Listen to any
one who knows, to any one but the Stebbings, and you will find what
an admirable girl the sister is, and that the poor boy is perfectly
blameless of anything but being forced into a position for which he
was never intended, and of all his instincts rebelling.'
They were interrupted by the arrival of the doctor, whom Lady
Rotherwood had bound over to come and see whether her husband was the
worse for his exertions. He came in apologising most unnecessarily
for his tardiness. And in the midst of Miss Mohun's mingled greeting
and farewell, she stood still to hear him say that he had been
delayed by being called in to that poor woman, Mrs. White, who had
had a fit on hearing the policeman inquiring for that young scamp,
'The policeman!' ejaculated Jane in consternation.
'It was only to summon him to attend the inquest,' explained Dr.
Dagger, 'but there was no one in the house with her but a little
maid, and the shock was dreadful. If he has really absconded, it
looks exceedingly ill for him.'
'I believe he has only been inattentive,' said Jane firmly, knowing
that she ought to go, and yet feeling constrained to wait long enough
to ask what was the state of the poor mother, and if her daughter
were with her.
'The daughter was sent for, and seems to be an effective person---
uncommonly handsome, by the bye. The attack was hysteria, but there
is evidently serious disease about her, which may be accelerated.'
'I thought so. I am afraid she has had no advice.'
'No; I promised the daughter to come and examine her to-morrow when
she is calmer, and if that son is good for anything, he may have
And therewith Jane was forced to go away, to carry this wretched news
to poor Gillian.
Aunt and niece went as soon as the mid-day meal was over to inquire
for poor Mrs. White, and see what could be done. She was sleeping
under an opiate, and Kalliope came down, pale as marble, but
tearless. She knew nothing of her brother since she had given him
his breakfast that morning. He had looked white and haggard, and had
not slept, neither did he eat. She caught at the theory that had
occurred to Miss Mohun, that he did not like to accuse Fergus, for
even to her he had not mentioned who had removed the stone. In that
case he might return at night. Yet it was possible that he did not
know even now whence the stone had come, and it was certain that he
had been at his office that morning, and opened the letter announcing
his dismissal. Kalliope, going later, had found the like notice, but
had had little time to dwell on it before she had been summoned home
to her mother. Poor Mrs. White had been much shaken by the first
reports of yesterday's accident, which had been so told to her as to
alarm her for both her children; and when her little maid rushed in
to say that 'the pelis was come after Mr. Alec,' it was no wonder
that her terror threw her into a most alarming state, which made good
Mrs. Lee despatch her husband to bring home Kalliope; and as the
attack would not yield to the soothing of the women or to their
domestic remedies, but became more and more delirious and convulsive,
the nearest doctor was sent for, and Dr. Dagger, otherwise a higher
flight than would have been attempted, was caught on his way and
brought in to discover how serious her condition already was.
This Kalliope told them with the desperate quietness of one who could
not afford to give way. Her own affairs were entirely swallowed up
in this far greater trouble, and for the present there were no means
of helping her. Mr. and Mrs. Lee were thoroughly kind, and ready to
give her efficient aid in her home cares and her nursing; and it
could only be hoped that Alexis might come back in the evening, and
set the poor patient's mind at rest.
'We will try to make Mr. White come to a better understanding,' said
Miss Mohun kindly.
'Thank you' said Kalliope, pushing back her hair with a half-
bewildered look. 'I remember my poor mother was very anxious about
that. But it seems a little thing now.'
'May God bless and help you, my dear,' said Miss Mohun, with a
Gillian had not spoken all the time; but outside she said--'Oh, aunt!
is this my doing?'
'Not quite,' said Aunt Jane kindly. 'There were other causes.'
'Oh, if I could do anything!'
'Alas! it is easier to do than to undo.'
Aunt Jane was really kind, and Gillian was grateful, but oh, how she
longed for her mother!
There was no better news the next morning. Nothing had been heard of
Alexis, and nothing would persuade his mother in her half-delirious
and wholly unreasonable state that he had not been sent to prison,
and that they were not keeping it from her. She was exceedingly ill,
and Kalliope had been up all night with her.
Such was the report in a note sent up by Mrs. Lee by one of the
little boys early in the morning, and, as soon as she could
reasonably do so, Miss Mohun carried the report to Lord Rotherwood,
whom she found much better, and anxious to renew the tour of
inspection which had been interrupted.
Before long, Mr. White was shown in, intending to resume the business
discussion, and Miss Mohun was about to retreat with Lady Rotherwood,
when her cousin, taking pity on her anxiety, said---
'If you will excuse me for speaking about your family matters, Mr.
White, my cousin knows these young people well, and I should like you
to hear what she has been telling me.'
'A gentleman has just been calling on me about them,' said Mr. White,
'Mr. Flight?' asked Jane anxiously.
'Yes; a young clergyman, just what we used to call Puseyite when I
left England; but that name seems to be gone out now.'
'Anyway,' said Jane, 'I am sure he had nothing but good to say of
Miss White, or indeed of her brother; and I am afraid the poor mother
is very ill.'
'That's true, Miss Mohun; but you see there may be one side to a lady
or a parson, and another to a practical man like my partner. Not but
that I should be willing enough to do anything in reason for poor
Dick's widow and children, but not to keep them in idleness, or
letting them think themselves too good to work.'
'That I am sure these two do not. Their earnings quite keep the
family. I know no one who works harder than Miss White, between her
business, her lodgers, the children, and her helpless mother.'
'I saw her mosaics---very fair, very clever, some of them; but I'm
afraid she is a sad little flirt, Miss Mohun.'
'Mr. White,' said Lord Rotherwood, 'did ever you hear of a poor girl
beset by an importunate youth, but his family thought it was all her
'If Mr. White would see her,' said Jane, 'he would understand at a
glance that the attraction is perfectly involuntary; and I know from
other sources how persistently she has avoided young Stebbing; giving
up Sunday walks to prevent meeting him, accepting nothing from him,
always avoiding tete-a-tetes.'
'Hum! But tell me this, madam,' said Mr. White eagerly, 'how is it
that, if these young folks are so steady and diligent as you would
make out, that eldest brother writes to me every few months for help
to support them?'
'Oh!' Jane breathed out, then, rallying, 'I know nothing about that
eldest. Yes, I do though! His sister told my niece that all the
rents of the three houses went to enable Richard to appear as he
ought at the solicitor's office at Leeds.'
'There's a screw loose somewhere plainly,' said Lord Rotherwood.
'The question is, where it is,' said Mr. White.
'And all I hope, said Jane, 'is that Mr. White will judge for himself
when he has seen Kalliope and made inquiries all round. I do not say
anything for the mother, poor thing, except that she is exceedingly
ill just now, but I do thoroughly believe in the daughter.'
'And this runaway scamp, Miss Mohun?'
'I am afraid he is a runaway; but I am quite sure he is no scamp,'
'Only so clever as to be foolish, eh?' said the Marquis, rather
'Exactly so,' she answered; 'and I am certain that if Mr. White will
trust to his own eyes and his own inquiries, he will find that I am
She knew she ought to go, and Lord Rotherwood told her afterwards,
'That was not an ill-aimed shaft, Jane. Stebbing got more than one
snub over the survey. I see that White is getting the notion that
there's a system of hoodwinking going on, and of not letting him
alone, and he is not the man to stand that.'
'If he only would call on Kalliope!'
'I suspect he is afraid of being beguiled by such a fascinating young
It was a grievous feature in the case to Gillian that she could
really do nothing. Mrs. White was so ill that going to see Kalliope
was of no use, and Maura was of an age to be made useful at home; and
there were features in the affair that rendered it inexpedient for
Gillian to speak of it except in the strictest confidence to Aunt
Jane or Mysie. It was as if she had touched a great engine, and it
was grinding and clashing away above her while she could do nothing
to stay its course.
CHAPTER XVII. 'THEY COME, THEY COME'
Dr. Dagger examined Mrs. White and pronounced that there had been
mortal disease of long standing, and that she had nearly, if not
quite, reached the last stage. While people had thought her selfish,
weak, and exacting, she must really have concealed severe suffering,
foolishly perhaps, but with great fortitude.
And from hearing this sentence, Kalliope had turned to find at last
tidings of her brother in a letter written from Avoncester, the
nearest garrison town. He told his sister that, heart-broken already
at the result of what he knew to be his own presumption, and
horrified at the fatal consequences of his unhappy neglect, he felt
incapable of facing any of those whom he had once called his friends,
and the letter of dismissal had removed all scruples. Had it not
been for his faith and fear, he would have put an end to his life,
but she need have no alarms on that score. He had rushed away,
scarce knowing what he was doing, till he had found himself on the
road to Avoncester and then had walked on thither and enlisted in the
regiment quartered there, where he hoped to do his duty, having no
other hope left in life!
Part of this letter Kalliope read to Miss Mohun, who had come down to
hear the doctor's verdict. It was no time to smile at the heart
being broken by the return of a valentine, or all hope in life being
over before twenty. Kalliope, who knew what the life of a private
was, felt wretched over it, and her poor mother was in despair; but
Miss Mohun tried to persuade her that it was by no means an
unfortunate thing, since Alexis would be thus detained safely and
within reach till Sir Jasper arrived to take up the matter, and Mr.
White had been able to understand it.
'Yes; but he cannot come to my poor mother. And Richard will be so
angry---think it such a degradation.'
'He ought not. Your father---'
'Oh! but he will. And I must write to him. Mother has been asking
'Tell me, my dear, has Richard ever helped you?'
'Oh no, poor fellow, he could not. He wants all we can send him, or
we would have put the little boys to a better school.'
'I would not write before it is absolutely necessary,' said Miss
Mohun. 'A young man hanging about with nothing to do, even under
these circumstances, might make things harder.'
'Yes, I know,' said Kalliope, with a trembling lip. 'And if it was
urgent, even Alexis might come. Indeed, I ought to be thankful that
he is safe, after all my dreadful fears, and not far off.'
Miss Mohun refrained from grieving the poor girl by blaming Alexis
for the impetuous selfish folly that had so greatly added to the
general distress of his family, and rendered it so much more
difficult to plead his cause. In fact, she felt bound to stand up as
his champion against all his enemies, though he was less easy of
defence than his sister; and Mr. Flight, the first person she met
afterwards, was excessively angry and disappointed, speaking of such
a step as utter ruin.
'The lad was capable of so much better things,' said he. 'I had
hoped so much of him, and had so many plans for him, that it is a
grievous pity; but he had no patience, and now he has thrown himself
away. I told him it was his first duty to maintain his mother, and
if he had stuck to that, I would have done more for him as soon as he
was old enough, and I could see what was to be done for the rest of
them; but he grew unsettled and impatient, and this is the end of
'Not the end, I hope,' said Miss Mohun. 'It is not exactly slavery
'He does not deserve it.'
'Who does? Besides, remember what his father was.'
'His father must have been of the high-spirited, dare-devil sort.
This lad was made for a scholar---for the priesthood, in fact, and the
army will be more uncongenial than these marble works! Foolish
fellow, he will soon have had enough of it, with his refinement,
among such associates.'
Jane wondered that the young clergyman did not regret that he had
sufficiently tried the youth's patience to give the sense of neglect
and oblivion. There had been many factors in the catastrophe, and
this had certainly been one, since the loan of a few books, and an
hour a week of direction of study, would have kept Alexis contented,
and have obviated all the perilous intercourse with Gillian; but she
scarcely did the Rev. Augustine Flight injustice in thinking that in
the aesthetic and the emotional side of religion he somewhat lost
sight of the daily drudgery that works on character chiefly as a
preventive. 'He was at the bottom of it, little as he knows it,' she
said to herself as she walked up the hill. 'How much harm is done by
good beginnings of a skein left to tangle.'
Lady Flight provided a trained nurse to help Kalliope, and sent hosts
of delicacies; and plenty of abuse was bestowed on Mr. James White
for his neglect. Meanwhile Mrs. White, though manifestly in a
hopeless state, seemed likely to linger on for some weeks longer.
In the meantime, Miss Mohun at last found an available house, and was
gratified by the young people's murmur that 'Il Lido' was too far off
from Beechcroft. But then their mother would be glad to be so near
St. Andrew's, for she belonged to the generation that loved and
valued daily services.
Lord Rotherwood, perhaps owing to his exertions, felt the accident
more than he had done at first, and had to be kept very quiet, which
he averred to be best accomplished by having the children in to play
with him; and as he always insisted on sending for Valetta to make up
the party, the edict of separation fell to the ground, when Lady
Rotherwood, having written his letters for him, went out for a drive,
taking sometimes Miss Elbury, but more often Adeline Mohun, who
flattered herself that her representations had done much to subdue
prejudice and smooth matters.
'Which always were smooth,' said Jane; 'smooth and polished as a
mahogany table, and as easy to get into.'
However, she was quite content that Ada should be the preferred one,
and perhaps no one less acute than herself would have felt that the
treatment as intimates and as part of the family was part of the duty
of a model wife. Both sisters were in request to enliven the
captive, and Jane forebore to worry him with her own anxieties about
the present disgrace of the Whites. Nothing could be done for
Kalliope in her mother's present state, Alexis must drink of his own
brewst, and Sir Jasper and Lady Merrifield were past Brindisi! As to
Mr. White, he seemed to be immersed in business, and made no sign of
relenting; Jane had made one or two attempts to see him, but had not
succeeded. Only one of her G.F.S. maidens, who was an enthusiastic
admirer of Kalliope, and in perfect despair at her absence, mentioned
that Mr. White had looked over all their work and had been immensely
struck with Miss White's designs, and especially with the table
inlaid with autumn leaves, which had been set aside as expensive,
unprofitable, and not according to the public taste, and not shown to
him on his first visit to the works with Mr. Stebbing. There were
rumours in the air that he was not contented with the state of
things, and might remain for some time to set them on a different
Miss Adeline had been driving with Lady Rotherwood, and on coming in
with her for the afternoon cup of tea, found Mr. White conversing
with Lord Rotherwood, evidently just finishing the subject---a
reading-room or institute of some sort for the men at the works.
'All these things are since my time,' said Mr. White. 'We were left
pretty much to ourselves in those days.'
'And what do you think? Should you have been much the better for
them?' asked the Marquis.
'Some of us would,' was the answer.
'You would not have thought them a bore!'
'There were some who would, as plenty will now; but we were a rough
set---we had not so much to start with as the lads, willy nilly, have
now. But I should have been glad of books, and diversion free from
lawlessness might have prevented poor Dick's scrapes. By the bye,
that daughter of his can do good work.'
'Poor thing,' said Miss Adeline, 'she is a very good girl, and in
great trouble. I was much pleased with her, and I think, she has
behaved remarkably well under very trying circumstances.'
'I observed that the young women in the mosaic department seemed to
be much attached to her,' said Mr. White.
'My sister thinks she has been an excellent influence there.'
'She was not there,' said Mr. White.
'No; her mother is too ill to be left---dying, I should think, from
what I hear.'
'From the shock of that foolish lad's evasion?' asked Lord
'She was very ill before, I believe, though that brought it to a
crisis. No one would believe how much that poor girl has had
depending on her. I wish she had been at the works---I am sure you
would have been struck with her.'
'Have you any reason to think they are in any distress, Miss Mohun?'
'Not actually at present; but I do not know what they are to do in
future, with the loss of the salaries those two have had,' said
Adeline, exceedingly anxious to say neither too much nor too little.
'There is the elder brother.'
'Oh! he is no help, only an expense.'
'Miss Mohun, may I ask, are you sure of that?'
'As sure as I can be of anything. I have always heard that the rents
of their two or three small houses went to support Richard, and that
they entirely live on the earnings of the brother and sister, except
that you are so good as to educate the younger girl. It has come out
casually---they never ask for anything.'
Mr. White looked very thoughtful. Adeline considered whether
importunity would do most harm or good; but thought her words might
work. When she rose to take leave, Mr. White did the same,
'evidently,' thought she, 'for the sake of escorting her home,' and
she might perhaps say another word in confidence for the poor young
people. She had much reliance, and not unjustly, on her powers of
persuasion, and she would make the most of those few steps to her own
'Indeed, Mr. White,' she began, 'excuse me, but I cannot help being
very much interested in those young people we were speaking of.'
'That is your goodness, Miss Mohun. I have no doubt they are
attractive---there's no end to the attractiveness of those Southern
folk they belong to---on one side of the house at least, but
unfortunately you never know where to have them---there's no truth in
them; and though I don't want to speak of anything I may have done
for them, I can't get over their professing never to have had
anything from me.'
'May I ask whether you sent it through that eldest brother?'
'Certainly; he always wrote to me.'
'Then, Mr. White, I cannot help believing that the family here never
heard of it. Do you know anything of that young man?'
'No; I will write to his firm and inquire. Thank you for the hint,
They were at Beechcroft Cottage gate, and he seemed about to see her
even to the door. At that instant a little girlish figure advanced
and was about to draw back on perceiving that Miss Adeline was not
alone, when she exclaimed, 'Maura, is it you, out so late! How is
'Much the same, thank you, Miss Adeline!'
'Here is one of the very young folks we were mentioning,' said Ada,
seeing her opportunity and glad that there was light enough to show
the lady-like little figure. 'This is Maura, Mr. White, whom you are
Mr. White took the hand, which was given with a pretty respectful
gesture, and said something kind about her mother's illness, while
Adeline took the girl into the house and asked if she had come on any
'Yes, if you please,' said Maura, blushing; 'Miss Mohun was so kind
as to offer to lend us an air-cushion, and poor mamma is so restless
and uncomfortable that Kally thought it might ease her a little.'
'By all means, my dear. Come in, and I will have it brought,' said
Adeline, whose property the cushion was, and who was well pleased
that Mr. White came in likewise, and thus had a full view of Maura's
great wistful, long-lashed eyes, and delicate refined features, under
a little old brown velvet cap, and the slight figure in a gray
ulster. He did not speak while Maura answered Miss Adeline's
inquiries, but when the cushion had been brought down, and she had
taken it under her arm, he exclaimed---
'Is she going back alone?'
'Oh yes,' said Maura cheerfully; 'it is not really dark out of doors
'I suppose it could not be helped,' said Miss Adeline.
'No; Theodore is at the school. They keep him late to get things
ready for the inspection, and Petros had to go to the doctor's to
fetch something; but he will meet me if he is not kept waiting.'
'It is not fit for a child like that to go alone so late,' said Mr.
White, who perhaps had imbibed Italian notions of the respectability
of an escort. 'I will walk down with her.'
Maura looked as if darkness were highly preferable to such a
cavalier; but Miss Adeline was charmed to see them walk off together,
and when her sister presently came in with Gillian and Fergus, she
could not but plume herself a little on her achievement.
'Then it was those two!' exclaimed Jane. 'I thought so from the
other side of the street, but it was too dark to be certain; and
besides, there was no believing it.'
'Did not they acknowledge you?'
'Oh no; they were much too busy.'
'Talking. Oh, what fun!' Adeline could not help observing in such
glee that she looked more like 'our youngest girl' than the handsome
'But,' suggested Fergus, somewhat astonished, 'Stebbing says he is no
end of a horrid brute of a screw.'
'Indeed. What has he been doing?'
'He only tipped him a coach wheel.'
'Well, to tip over as a coach wheel is the last thing I should have
expected of Mr. White,' said Aunt Jane, misunderstanding on purpose.
'A crown piece then,' growled Fergus; 'and of course he thought it
would be a sovereign, and so he can't pay me my two ten--shillings, I
mean, that I lent him, and so I can't get the lovely ammonite I saw
'How could you be so silly as to lend him any money?'
'I didn't want to; but he said he would treat us all round if I
wouldn't be mean, and after all I only got half a goody, with all the
liqueur out of it.'
'It served you right,' said Gillian. 'I doubt whether you would see
the two shillings again, even if he had the sovereign.'
'He faithfully promised I should,' said Fergus, whose allegiance was
only half broken. 'And old White is a beast, and no mistake. He was
perfectly savage to Stebbing's major, and he said he wouldn't be
under him, at no price.'
'Perhaps Mr. White might say the same,' put in Aunt Ada.
'He is a downright old screw and a bear, I tell you,' persisted
Fergus. 'He jawed Frank Stebbing like a pickpocket for just having a
cigar in the quarry.'
'Close to the blasting powder, eh?' said Miss Mohun.
'And he is boring and worrying them all out of their lives over the
books,' added Fergus. 'Poking his nose into everything, so that
Stebbing says his governor vows he can't stand it, and shall cut the
concern it the old brute does not take himself off to Italy before
'What a good thing!' thought both sisters, looking into each other's
eyes and auguring well for the future.
All were anxious to hear the result of Maura's walk, and Gillian set
out in the morning on a voyage of discovery with a glass of jelly for
Mrs. White; but all she could learn was that the great man had been
very kind to Maura, though he had not come in, at which Gillian was
'Men are often shy of going near sickness and sorrow,' said her aunt
Ada. 'You did not hear what they talked about?'
'No; Maura was at school, and Kally is a bad person to pump.'
'I should like to pump Mr. White,' was Aunt Jane's comment.
'If I could meet him again,' said Aunt Ada, 'I feel sure he would
Her sister laughed a little, so well did she know that little half-
conscious, half-gratified tone of assumption of power over the other
sex; but Miss Adeline proved to be right. Nay, Mr. White actually
called in the raw cold afternoon, which kept her in when every one
else was out. He came for the sake of telling her that he was much
pleased with the little girl---a pretty creature, and simple and true,
he really believed. Quite artlessly, in answer to his inquiries, she
had betrayed that her eldest brother never helped them. 'Oh no!
Mamma was always getting all the money she could to send to him,
because he must keep up appearances at his office at Leeds, and live
like a gentleman, and it did not signify about Kalliope and Alexis
doing common work.'
'That's one matter cleared up,' rejoiced Jane. 'It won't be brought
up against them now.'
'And then it seems he asked the child about her sister's lovers.'
'It was for a purpose. Don't be old maidish, Jenny!'
'Well, he isn't a gentleman.'
'Now, Jane, I'm sure---'
'Never mind. I want to hear; only I should have thought you would
have been the first to cry out.'
'Little Maura seems to have risen to the occasion, and made a full
explanation as far as she knew---and that was more than the child
ought to have known, by the bye---of how Mr. Frank was always after
Kally, and how she could not bear him, and gave up the Sunday walk to
avoid him, and how he had tried to get her to marry him, and go to
Italy with him; but she would not hear of it.'
'Just the thing the little chatterbox would be proud of, but it is no
harm that "Mon oncle des iles Philippines" should know.'
'"I see his little game" was what Mr. White said,' repeated Adeline.
'"The young dog expected to come over me with this pretty young wife-
--my relation, too; but he would have found himself out in his
'So far so good; but it is not fair.'
'However, the ice is broken. What's that? Is the house coming
No; but Gillian and Valetta came rushing in, almost tumbling over one
another, and each waving a sheet of a letter. Papa and mamma would
land in three days' time if all went well; but the pity was that they
must go to London before coming to Rockquay, since Sir Jasper must
present himself to the military and medical authorities, and likewise
see his mother, who was in a very failing state.
The children looked and felt as if the meeting were deferred for
years; but Miss Mohun, remembering the condition of 'Il Lido,' alike
as to the presence of workmen and absence of servants, felt relieved
at the respite, proceeded to send a telegram to Macrae, and became
busier than ever before in her life.
The Rotherwoods were just going to London. The Marquis was wanted
for a division, and though both he and Dr. Dagger declared his
collar-bone quite repaired, his wife could not be satisfied without
hearing for herself a verdict to the same effect from the higher
authorities, being pretty sure that whatever their report might be,
his abstract would be 'All right. Never mind.'
Fly had gained so much in flesh and strength, and was so much more
like her real self, that she was to remain at the hotel with Miss
Elbury, the rooms being kept for her parents till Easter. Mysie was,
however, to go with them to satisfy her mother, 'with a first
mouthful of children,' said Lord Rotherwood. 'Gillian had better
come too; and we will write to the Merrifields to come to us, unless
they are bound to the old lady.'
This, however, was unlikely, as she was very infirm, and her small
house was pretty well filled by her attendants. Lady Rotherwood
seconded the invitation like a good wife, and Gillian was grateful.
Such a forestalling was well worth even the being the Marchioness's
guest, and being treated with careful politeness and supervision as a
girl of the period, always ready to break out. However, she would
have Mysie, and she tried to believe Aunt Jane, who told her that she
had conjured up a spectre of the awful dame. There was a melancholy
parting on the side of poor little Lady Phyllis. 'What shall I do
without you, Mysie dear?'
'It is only for a few days.'
'Yes; but then you will be in a different house, all down in the
town---it will be only visiting---not like sisters.'
'Sisters are quite a different thing,' said Mysie stoutly; 'but we
can be the next thing to it in our hearts.'
'It is not equal,' said Fly. 'You don't make a sister of me, and I
do of you.'
'Because you know no better! Poor Fly, I do wish I could give you a
sister of your own.'
'Do you know, Mysie, I think---I'm quite sure, that daddy is going to
ask your father and mother to give you to us, out and out.'
'Oh! I'm sure they won't do that,' cried Mysie in consternation.
'Mamma never would!'
'And wouldn't you? Don't you like me as well as Gill and Val?'
'I _like_ you better. Stop, don't, Fly; you are what people call
more of a companion to me---my friend; but friends aren't the same as
sisters, are they? They may be more, or they may be less, but it is
not the same kind. And then it is not only you, there are papa and
mamma and all my brothers.'
'But you _do_ love daddy, and you have not seen yours for four years,
and Aunt Florence and all the cousins at Beechcroft say they were
quite afraid of him.'
'Because he is so--- Oh! I don't know how to say it, but he is just
like Epaminondas, or King Arthur, or Robert Bruce, or---'
'Well, that's enough' said Fly; 'I am sure my daddy would laugh if
you said he was like all those.'
'To be sure he would!' said Mysie. 'And do you think I would give
mine for him, though yours is so kind and good and such fun?'
'And I'm sure I'd rather have him than yours,' said Fly.
'Well, that's right. It would be wicked not to like one's own father
and mother best.'
'But if they thought it would be good for you to have all my
governesses and advantages, and they took pity on my loneliness.
'Then? Oh! I'd try to bear it,' said unworldly and uncomplimentary
Mysie. 'And you need not be lonely now. There's Val!'
The two governesses had made friends, and the embargo on intercourse
with Valetta had been allowed to drop; but Fly only shook her head,
and allowed that Val was better than nothing.'
Mysie had a certain confidence that mamma would not give her away if
all the lords and ladies in the world wanted her; and Gillian
confirmed her in that belief, so that no misgiving interfered with
her joy at finding herself in the train, where Lord Rotherwood
declared that the two pair of eyes shone enough to light a candle by.
'I feel,' said Mysie, jumping up and down in her seat, 'like the man
who said he had a bird in his bosom.'
'Or a bee in his bonnet, eh?' said Lord Rotherwood, while Mysie
obeyed a sign from my lady to moderate the restlessness of her
'It really was a bird in his bosom,' said Gillian gravely, 'only he
said so when he was dying in battle, and he meant his faith to his
'And little Mysie has kept her faith to her mother,' said their
cousin, putting out his hand to turn the happy face towards him.
'So the bird may well sing to her.'
'In spite of parting with Phyllis?' asked Lady Rotherwood.
'I can't help it, _indeed_,' said Mysie, divided between her
politeness and her dread of being given away; 'it has been very nice,
but one's own, own papa and mamma must be more than any one.'
'So they ought,' said Lord Rotherwood, and there it ended, chatter in
the train not being considered desirable.
Gillian longed to show Mysie and Geraldine Grinstead to each other,
and the first rub with her hostess occurred when the next morning she
proposed to take a cab and go to Brompton.
'Is not your first visit due to your grandmother?' said Lady
Rotherwood. 'You might walk there, and I will send some one to show
you the way.'
'We must not go there till after luncheon,' said Gillian. 'She is
not ready to see any one, and Bessie Merrifield cannot be spared; but
I know Mrs. Grinstead will like to see us, and I do so want Mysie to
see the studio.'
'My dear' (it was not a favourable my dear), 'I had rather you did
not visit any one I do not know while you are under my charge.'
'She is Phyllis's husband's sister,' pleaded Gillian.
Lady Rotherwood made a little bend of acquiescence, but said no more,
and departed, while Gillian inly raged. A few months ago she would
have acted on her own responsibility (if Mysie would not have been
too much shocked), but she had learnt the wisdom of submission in
fact, if not in word, for she growled about great ladies and
exclusiveness, so that Mysie looked mystified.
It was certainly rather dull in the only half-revivified London
house, and Belgrave Square in Lent did not present a lively scene
from the windows. The Liddesdales had a house there, but they were
not to come up till the season began; and Gillian was turning with a
sigh to ask if there might not be some books in Fly's schoolroom,
when Mysie caught the sound of a bell, and ventured on an expedition
to find her ladyship and ask leave to go to church.
There, to their unexpected delight, they beheld not only Bessie, but
a clerical-looking back, which, after some watching, they so
identified that they looked at one another with responsive eyes, and
Gillian doubted whether this were recompense for submission, or
reproof for discontent.
Very joyful was the meeting on the steps of St. Paul's,
Knightsbridge, and an exchange of 'Oh! how did you come here? Where
Harry had come up the day before, and was to go and meet the
travellers at Southampton with his uncle, Admiral Merrifield, who had
brought his eldest daughter Susan to relieve her sister or assist
her. Great was the joy and eager the talk, as first Bessie was
escorted by the whole party back to grandmamma's house, and then
Harry accompanied his sisters to Belgrave Square, where he was kept
to luncheon, and Lady Rotherwood was as glad to resign his sisters to
his charge as he could be to receive them.
He had numerous commissions to execute for his vicar, and Gillian had
to assist the masculine brains in the department of Church
needlework, actually venturing to undertake some herself, trusting to
the tuition of Aunt Ada, a proficient in the same; while Mysie
reverently begged at least to hem the borders.
Then they revelled in the little paradises of books and pictures in
Northumberland Avenue and Westminster Sanctuary, and went to Evensong
at the Abbey, Mysie's first sight thereof, and nearly the like to
Gillian, since she only remembered before a longing not to waste time
in a dull place instead of being in the delightful streets.
'It is a thing never to forget,' she said under her breath, as they
lingered in the nave.
'I never guessed anything could make one feel so,' added Mysie, with
a little sigh of rapture.
'That strange unexpected sense of delight always seems to me to
explain, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered
into the heart of man to conceive,"' said Harry.
'Beneath thy contemplation
Sink heart and voice opprest!'
'Oh, Harry, can't we stay and see Henry VII.'s Chapel, and Poets'
Corner, and Edward I.'s monument?' pleaded the sister.
'I am afraid we must not, Gill. I have to see after some vases, and
to get a lot of things at the Stores, and it will soon be dark. If I
don't go to Southampton to-morrow, I will take you then. Now then,
feet or cab?'
'Oh, let us walk! It is ten times the fun.'
'Then mind you don't jerk me back at the crossings.'
There are few pleasures greater of their kind than that of the
youthful country cousin under the safe escort of a brother or father
in London streets. The sisters looked in at windows, wondered and
enjoyed, till they had to own their feet worn out, and submit to a
'An hour of London is more than a month of Rockquay, or a year of
Silverfold,' cried Gillian.
'Dear old Silverfold,' said Mysie; 'when shall we go back?'
'By the bye,' said Harry, 'how about the great things that were to be
done for mother?'
'Primrose is all right,' said Mysie. 'The dear little thing has
written a nice copybook, and hemmed a whole set of handkerchiefs for
papa. She is so happy with them.'
'And you, little Mouse?'
'I have done my translation---not quite well, I am afraid, and made
the little girl's clothes. I wonder if I may go and take them to
'And Val has finished her crewel cushion, thanks to the aunts,' said
'Fergus's machine, how about that? Perpetual motion, wasn't it?'
'That has turned into mineralogy, worse luck,' said Gillian.
'Gill has done a beautiful sketch of Rockquay,' added Mysie.
'Oh! don't talk of me,' said Gillian. 'I have only made a most
unmitigated mess of everything.'
But here attention was diverted by Harry's exclaiming---
'Hullo! was that Henderson?'
'Nonsense; the Wardours are at Cork.'
'He may be on leave.'
'Or retired. He is capable of it.'
'I believe it was old Fangs.'
The discussion lasted to Belgrave Square.
And then Sunday was spent upon memorable churches and services under
the charge of Harry, who was making the most of his holiday. The
trio went to Evensong at St. Wulstan's, and a grand idea occurred to
Gillian---could not Theodore White become one of those young
choristers, who had their home in the Clergy House.
CHAPTER XVIII. FATHER AND MOTHER
The telegram came early on Monday morning. Admiral Merrifield and
Harry started by the earliest train, deciding not to take the girls;
whereupon their kind host, to mitigate the suspense, placed himself
at the young ladies' disposal for anything in the world that they
might wish to see. It was too good an opportunity of seeing the
Houses of Parliament to be lost, and the spell of Westminster Abbey
was upon Mysie.
Cousin Rotherwood was a perfect escort, and declared that he had not
gone through such a course of English history since he had taken his
cousin Lilias and his sister Florence the same round more years ago
than it was civil to recollect. He gave a sigh to the great men he
had then let them see and hear, and regretted the less that there was
no possibility of regaling the present pair with a debate. It was
all like a dream to the two girls. They saw, but suspense was
throbbing in their hearts all the time, and qualms were crossing
Gillian as she recollected that in some aspects her father could be
rather a terrible personage when one was wilfully careless, saucy to
authorities, or unable to see or confess wrong-doing; and the element
of dread began to predominate in her state of expectation. The bird
in the bosom fluttered very hard as the possible periods after the
arrivals of trains came round; and it was not till nearly eight
o'clock that the decisive halt of wheels was heard, and in a few
moments Mysie was in the dearest arms in the world, and Gillian
feeling the moustached kiss she had not known for nearly four long
years, and which was half-strange, half-familiar.
In drawing-room light, there was the mother looking none the worse
for her journey, her clear brown skin neither sallow nor lined, and
the soft brown eyes as bright and sweet as ever; but the father must
be learnt over again, and there was awe enough as well as
enthusiastic love to make her quail at the thought of her record of
There was, however, no disappointment in the sight of the fine, tall
soldierly figure, broad shouldered, but without an ounce of
superfluous flesh, and only altered by his hair having become thinner
and whiter, thus adding to the height of his forehead, and making his
very dark eyebrows and eyes have a different effect, especially as he
was still pallid beneath the browning of many years, though he
declared himself so well as to be ashamed of being invalided.
Time was short. Harry and the Admiral, who were coming to dinner,
had rushed home to dress and to fetch Susan; and Lady Merrifield was
conducted in haste to her bedroom, and left to the almost too excited
ministrations of her daughters.
It was well that attentive servants had unfastened the straps, for
when Gillian had claimed the keys of the dear old familiar box, her
hand shook so much that they jingled; the key would not go into the
hole, and she had to resign them to sober Mysie, who had been untying
the bonnet, with a kiss, and answering for the health of Primrose,
whom Uncle William was to bring to London in two days' time.
'My dear silly child,' said her mother, surprised at Gillian's
And the reply was a burst of tears. 'Oh, so silly! so wrong! I have
so wanted you.'
'I know all about it. You told us all, like an honest child.'
'Oh, such dreadful things---the rock---the poor child killed---Cousin
'Yes, yes, I heard! We can't have it out now. Here's papa! she is
upset about these misadventures,' added Lady Merrifield, looking up
to her husband, who stood amazed at the sobs that greeted him.
'You must control yourself, Gillian,' he said gravely. 'Stop that!
Your mother is tired, and has to dress! Don't worry her. Go, if you
cannot leave off.'
The bracing tone made Gillian swallow her tears, the more easily
because of the familiarity of home atmosphere, confidence, and
protection; and a mute caress from her mother was a promise of
The sense of that presence was the chief pleasure of the short
evening, for there were too many claimants for the travellers'
attention to enable them to do more than feast their eyes on their
son and daughters, while they had to talk of other things, the
weddings, the two families, the home news, all deeply interesting in
their degree, though not touching Gillian quite so deeply as the
tangle she had left at Rockstone, and mamma's view of her behaviour;
even though it was pleasant to hear of Phyllis's beautiful home in
Ceylon, and Alethea's bungalow, and how poor Claude had to go off
alone to Rawul Pindee. She felt sure that her mother was far more
acceptable to her hostess than either of the aunts, and that, indeed,
she might well be so!
Gillian's first feeling was like Mysie's in the morning, that nothing
could go wrong with her again, but she must perforce have patience
before she could be heard. Harry could not be spared for another day
from his curacy, and to him was due the first tete-a-tete with his
mother, after that most important change his life had yet known, and
in which she rejoiced so deeply. 'The dream of her heart,' she said,
'had always been that one of her sons should be dedicated;' and now
that the fulfilment had come in her absence, it was precious to her
to hear all those feelings and hopes and trials that the young man
could have uttered to no other ears.
Sir Jasper, meantime, had gone out on business, and was to meet the
rest at luncheon at his mother's house, go with them to call on the
Grinsteads, and then do some further commissions, Lady Rotherwood
placing the carriage at their disposal. As to 'real talk,' that
seemed impossible for the girls, they could only, as Mysie expressed
it, 'bask in the light of mamma's eyes' and after Harry was gone on
an errand for his vicar, there were no private interviews for her.
Indeed, the mother did not know how much Gillian had on her mind, and
thought all she wanted was discussion, and forgiveness for the
follies explained in the letter, the last received. Of any
connection between that folly and the accident to Lord Rotherwood of
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