Beechcroft at Rockstone
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 6 out of 8
course she was not aware, and in fact she had more on her hands than
she could well do in the time allotted, and more people to see.
Gillian had to find that things could not be quite the same as when
she had been chief companion in the seclusion of Silverfold.
And just as she was going out the following letter was put into her
hands, come by one of the many posts from Rockstone:---
'MY DEAR GILLIAN---I write to you because you can explain matters, and
I want your father's advice, or Cousin Rotherwood's. As I was on the
way to Il Lido just now I met Mr. Flight, looking much troubled and
distressed. He caught at me, and begged me to go with him to tell
poor Kalliope that her brother Alexis is in Avoncester Jail. He knew
it from having come down in the train with Mr. Stebbing. The charge
is for having carried away with him L15 in notes, the payment for a
marble cross for a grave at Barnscombe. You remember that on the day
of the accident poor Field was taking it in the waggon, when he came
home to hear of his child's death.
'The receipt for the price was inquired for yesterday, and it
appeared that the notes had been given to Field in an envelope. In
his trouble, the poor man forgot to deliver this till the morning;
when on his way to the office he met young White and gave it to him.
Finding it had not been paid in, nor entered in the books, and
knowing the poor boy to have absconded, off went Mr. Stebbing, got a
summons, and demanded to have him committed for trial.
'Alexis owned to having forgotten the letter in the shock of the
dismissal, and to having carried it away with him, but said that as
soon as he had discovered it he had forwarded it to his sister, and
had desired her to send it to the office. He did not send it direct,
because he could only, at the moment, get one postage-stamp. On this
he was remanded till Saturday, when his sisters' evidence can be
taken at the magistrates meeting. This was the news that Mr. Flight
and I had to take to that poor girl, who could hardly be spared from
her mother to speak to us, and how she is to go to Avoncester it is
hard to say; but she has no fear of not being able to clear her
brother, for she says she put the dirty and ragged envelope that no
doubt contained the notes into another, with a brief explanation,
addressed it to Mr. Stebbing, and sent it by Petros, who told her
that he had delivered it.
'I thought nothing could be clearer, and so did Mr. Flight, but
unluckily Kalliope had destroyed her brother's letter, and had not
read me this part of it, so that she can bring no actual tangible
proof, and it is a much more serious matter than it appeared when we
were talking to her. Mr. White has just been here, whether to
condole or to triumph I don't exactly know. He has written to Leeds,
and heard a very unsatisfactory account of that eldest brother, who
certainly has deceived him shamefully, and this naturally adds to the
prejudice against the rest of the family. We argued about Kalliope's
high character, and he waved his hand and said, "My dear ladies, you
don't understand those Southern women---the more pious, devoted doves
they are, the blacker they will swear themselves to get off their
scamps of men." To represent that Kalliope is only one quarter Greek
was useless, especially as he has been diligently imbued by Mrs.
Stebbing with all last autumn's gossip, and, as he confided to Aunt
Ada, thinks "that they take advantage of his kindness!"
'Of course Mr. Flight, and all who really know Alexis and Kalliope,
feel the accusation absurd; but it is only too possible that the
Avoncester magistrates may not see the evidence in the same light, as
its weight depends upon character, and the money is really missing,
so that I much fear their committing him for trial at the Quarter
Sessions. It will probably be the best way to employ a solicitor to
watch the case at once, and I shall speak to Mr. Norton tomorrow,
unless your father can send me any better advice by post. I hope it
is not wicked to believe that the very fact of Mr. Norton's being
concerned might lead to the notes finding themselves.
'Meantime, I am of course doing what I can. Kally is very brave in
her innocence and her brother's, but, shut up in her mother's
sickroom, she little guesses how bad things are made to look, or how
Greek and false are treated as synonymous.
'Much love to your mother. I am afraid this is a damper on your
happiness, but I am sure that your father would wish to know. Aunt
Ada tackles Mr. White better than I do, and means if possible to make
him go to Avoncester himself when the case comes on, so that he
should at least see and hear for himself.---Your affectionate aunt,
What a letter for poor Gillian! She had to pocket it at first, and
only opened it while taking off her hat at grandmamma's house, and
there was only time for a blank feeling of uncomprehending
consternation before she had to go down to luncheon, and hear her
father and uncle go on with talk about India and Stokesley, to which
she could not attend.
Afterwards, Lady Merrifield was taken to visit grandmamma, and Bessie
gratified the girls with a sight of her special den, where she wrote
her stories, showing them the queer and flattering gifts that had
come to her in consequence of her authorship, which was becoming less
anonymous, since her family were growing hardened to it, and
grandmamma was past hearing of it or being distressed. It was in
Bessie's room that Gillian gathered the meaning of her aunt's letter,
and was filled with horror and dismay. She broke out with a little
scream, which brought both Mysie and Bessie to her side; but what
could they do? Mysie was shocked and sympathising enough, and Bessie
was trying to understand the complicated story, when the summons came
for the sisters. There were hopes of communicating the catastrophe
in the carriage; but no, the first exclamation of 'Oh, mamma!' was
Sir Jasper had something so important to tell his wife about his
interviews at the Horse Guards, that the attempt to interrupt was
silenced by a look and sign. It was a happy thing to have a father
at home, but it was different from being mamma's chief companion and
confidante, and poor Gillian sat boiling over with something very
like indignation at not being allowed even to allow that she had
something to tell at least as important as anything papa could be
She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry that the Grinsteads
proved to be out of town; but at any rate she might be grateful to
Lady Rotherwood for preventing a vain expedition---a call on another
old friend, Mrs. Crayon, the Marianne Weston of early youth, and now
a widow, as she too was out. Then followed some shopping that the
parents wanted to do together, but at the door of the stores Lady
'I have a host of things to get here for the two brides. Suppose,
papa, that you walk home with Gillian across the Park. It will suit
you better than this fearful list.'
Lady Merrifield only thought of letting father and daughter renew
their acquaintance, and though she saw that Gillian was in an agony
to speak about something, did not guess what an ordeal the girl felt
it to have to begin with the father, unseen for four years, and whose
searching eyes and grave politeness gave a sense of austerity, so
that trepidation was spoiling all the elation at having a father, and
such a father, to walk with.
'Well, Gillian,' he said, 'we have a great deal of lee way to make
up. I want to hear of poor White's children. I am glad you have had
the opportunity of showing them some kindness.'
'Oh, papa! it is so dreadful! If you would read this letter.'
'I cannot do so here,' said Sir Jasper, who could not well make trial
of his new spectacles in Great George Street. What is dreadful?'
'This accusation. Poor Alexis! Oh! you don't know. The accident
and all---our fault---mine really,' gasped Gillian.
'I am not likely to know at this rate,' said Sir Jasper. 'I hope you
have not caught the infection of incoherency from Lord Rotherwood.
Do you mean his accident?'
'Yes; they have turned them both off, and now they have gone and put
Alexis in prison.'
'For the accident? I thought it was a fall of rock.'
'Oh no---I mean yes---it wasn't for that; but it came of that, and
Fergus and I were at the bottom of it,' said Gillian, in such
confusion that her words seemed to tumble out without her own
'How did you escape with your lives?'
Was he misunderstanding her on purpose, or giving a lesson on
slipslop at such a provoking moment? Perhaps he was really only
patient with the daughter who must have seemed to him half-foolish,
but she was forced to collect her senses and say---
'I only meant that we were the real cause. Fergus is wild about
geology, and took away a stone that was put to show where the cliff
was unsafe. He showed the stone to Alexis White, who did not know
where it came from and let him have it, and that was the way Cousin
Rotherwood came to tread on the edge of the precipice.'
'What had you to do with it?'
'I---oh! I had disappointed Alexis about the lessons,' said Gillian,
blushing a little;' and he was out of spirits, and did not mind what
he was about.'
'H'm! But you cannot mean that this youth can have been imprisoned
for such a cause.'
'No; that was about the money, but of course he sent it back. He ran
away when he was dismissed, because he was quite in despair, and did
not know what he was about.'
'I think not, indeed!'
'Papa,' said Gillian, steadying her voice, 'you must not, please,
blame him so much, for it was really very much my fault, and that is
what makes me doubly unhappy. Did you read my last letter to mamma?'
'Yes. I understood that you thought you had not treated your aunts
rightly by not consulting them about your intercourse with the
Whites, and that you had very properly resolved to tell them all.
I hope you did so.'
'Indeed I did, and Aunt Jane was very kind, or else I should have had
no comfort at all. Was mamma very much shocked at my teaching
'I do not remember. We concluded that whatever you did had your
'Ah! that was the point.'
'Did these young people persuade you to secrecy?'
'Oh no, no; Kalliope protested, and I overpowered her, because---
because I was foolish, and I thought Aunt Jane interfering.'
'I see,' said Sir Jasper, with perhaps more comprehension of the
antagonism than sisterly habit and affection would have allowed to
his wife. 'I am glad you saw your error, and tried to repair it; but
what could you have done to affect this boy so much. How old is he?
We thought of him as twelve or fourteen, but one forgets how time
goes on, and you speak of him as in a kind of superintendent's
'He is nineteen.'
Sir Jasper twirled his moustache.
'I begin to perceive,' he said, 'you rushed into an undertaking that
became awkward, and when you had to draw off, the young fellow was
upset and did not mind his business. So far I understand, but you
said something about prison.'
The worst part of the personal confession was over now, and Gillian
could go on to tell the rest of the Stebbing enmity, of Mr. White's
arrival, and of the desire to keep his relations aloof from him.
'This is guess work,' said Sir Jasper.
'I think Cousin Rotherwood would say the same' rejoined Gillian, and
then she explained the dismissal, the flight, and the unfortunate
consequences, and that Aunt Jane hoped for advice by the morning's
'I am afraid it is too late for that,' said Sir Jasper, looking at
his watch. 'I must read her letter and consider.'
Gillian gave a desperate sigh, and felt more desperate when at that
moment the very man they had had a glimpse of on Saturday met them,
exclaiming in a highly delighted tone---
'Sir Jasper Merrifield!'
Any Royal Wardour ought to have been welcome to the Merrifields, but
this individual had not been a particular favourite with the young
people. They knew he was the son of a popular dentist, who had made
his fortune, and had put his son into the army to make a gentleman of
him, and prevent him from becoming an artist. In the first object
there had been very fair success; but the taste for art was
unquenchable, and it had been the fashion of the elder half of the
Merrifield family to make a joke, and profess to be extremely bored,
when 'Fangs,' as they naughtily called him among themselves, used to
arrive from leave, armed with catalogues, or come in with his
drawings to find sympathy in his colonel's wife. Gillian had caught
enough from her four elders to share in an unreasoning way their
prejudice, and she felt doubly savage and contemptuous when she
'Yes, I retired.'
'And what are you doing now?'
'My mother required me as long as she lived' (then Gillian noticed
that he was in mourning). 'I think I shall go abroad, and take
lessons at Florence or Rome, though it is too late to do anything
seriously---and there are affairs to be settled first.'
Then came a whole shoal of other inquiries, and even though they
actually included 'poor White' and his family, Gillian was angered
and dismayed at the wretch being actually asked by her father to come
in with them and see Lady Merrifield, who would be delighted to see
'What would Lady Rotherwood think of the liberty?' the displeased
mood whispered to Gillian.
But Lady Rotherwood, presiding over her pretty Worcester tea-set, was
quite ready to welcome any of the Merrifield friends. There were
various people in the room besides Lady Merrifield and Mysie, who had
just come in. There was the Admiral talking politics with Lord
Rotherwood, and there was Clement Underwood, who had come with Harry
from the city, and Bessie discussing with them boys' guilds and their
Gillian felt frantic. Would no one cast a thought on Alexis in
prison? If he had been to be hanged the next day, her secret
annoyance at their indifference to his fate could not have been
And yet at the first opportunity Harry brought Mr. Underwood to talk
to her about his choir-boys, and to listen to her account of the 7th
Standard boy, a member of the most musical choir in Rockquay, and the
highest of the high.
'I hope not cockiest of the cocky,' said Mr. Underwood, smiling.
'Our experience is that superlatives may often be so translated.'
'I don't think poor Theodore is cocky,' said Gillian; 'the Whites
have always been so bullied and sat upon.'
'Is his name Theodore?' asked Mr. Underwood, as if he liked the name,
which Gillian remembered to have seen on a cross at Vale Leston.
'Being sat upon is hardly the best lesson in humility,' said Harry.
'There's apt to be a reaction,' said Mr. Underwood; 'but the crack
voice of a country choir is not often in that condition, as I know
too well. I was the veriest young prig myself under those
'Don't be too hard on cockiness,' said Lord Rotherwood, who had come
up to them, 'there must be consciousness of powers. How are you to
fly, if you mustn't flap your wings and crow a little?'
'On a les defauts de ses qualites,' put in Lady Merrifield.
'Yes,' added Mr. Underwood. 'It is quite true that needful self-
assertion and originality, and sense of the evils around---'
'Which the old folk have outgrown and got used to,' said Lord
'May be condemned as conceit,' concluded Mr. Underwood.
'Ay, exactly as Eliab knew David's pride and the naughtiness of his
heart,' said Lord Rotherwood. 'If you won't fight your giant
yourself, you've no business to condemn those who feel it in them to
go at him.'
'Ah! we have got to the condemnation of others, instead of the
exaltation of self,' said Lady Merrifield.
'It is better to cultivate humility in one's self than other people,
eh?' said the Marquis, and his cousin thought, though she did not
say, that he was really the most humble and unself-conscious man she
had ever known. What she did say was, 'It is a plant that grows best
'And if you have it not by happy nature, what then?' said Clement
'Then I suppose you must plant it, and there will be plenty of tears
of repentance to water it,' returned she.
'Thank you,' said Clement. 'That is an idea to work upon.'
'All very fine!' sighed Gillian to Mysie, 'but oh, how about Alexis
in prison! There's papa, now he has got rid of Fangs, actually going
to walk off with Uncle Sam, and mamma has let Lady Rotherwood get
hold of her. Will no-body care for anybody?'
'I think I would trust papa,' said Mysie.
He was not long gone, and when he came back he said, 'You may give me
that letter, Gillian. I posted a card to tell your aunt she should
All that Gillian could say to her mother in private that evening
consisted of, 'Oh, mamma, mamma,' but the answer was, 'I have heard
about it from papa, my dear; I am glad you told him. He is thinking
what to do. Be patient.'
Externally, awe and good manners forced Gillian to behave herself;
but internally she was so far from patient, and had so many bitter
feelings of indignation, that she felt deeply rebuked when she came
down next morning to find her father hurrying through his breakfast,
with a cab ordered to convey him to the station, on his way to see
what could be done for Alexis White.
That day Gillian had her confidential talk with her mother---a talk
that she never forgot, trying to dig to the roots of her failures in
a manner that only the true mother-confessor of her own child can
perhaps have patience and skill for, and that only when she has
studied the creature from babyhood. The concatenation, ending (if it
was so to end) in the committal to Avoncester Jail, and beginning
with the interview over the rails, had to be traced link by link, and
was almost as long as 'the house that Jack built.'
'And now I see,' said Gillian, 'that it all came of a nasty sort of
antagonism to Aunt Jane. I never guessed how like I was to Dolores,
and I thought her so bad. But if I had only trusted Aunt Jane, and
had no secrets, she would have helped me in it all, I know now, and
never have brought the Whites into trouble.'
'Yes,' said Lady Merrifield; 'perhaps I should have warned you a
little more, but I went off in such a hurry that I had no time to
think. You children are all very loyal to us ourselves; but I
suppose you are all rather infected by the modern spirit, that
criticises when it ought to submit to authorities.'
'But how can one help seeing what is amiss? As some review says, how
respect what does not make itself respectable? You know I don't mean
that for my aunts. I have learnt now what Aunt Jane really is---how
very kind and wise and clever and forgiving---but I was naughty enough
to think her at first---'
'Well, what? Don't be afraid.'
'Then I did think she was fidgety and worrying---always at one, and
wanting to poke her nose into everything.'
'Poor Aunt Jane! Those are the faults of her girlhood, which she has
been struggling against all her life!'
'But in your time, mamma, would such difficulties really not have
been seen---I mean, if she had been actually what I thought her?'
'I think the difference was that no faults of the elders were dwelt
upon by a loyal temper. To find fault was thought so wrong that the
defects were scarcely seen, and were concealed from ourselves as well
as others. It would scarcely, I suppose, be possible to go back to
that unquestioning state, now the temper of the times is changed; but
I belong enough to the older days to believe that the true safety is
in submission in the spirit as well as the letter.'
'I am sure I should have found it so,' said Gillian. 'And oh! I
hope, now that papa is come, the Whites may be spared any more of the
troubles I have brought on them.'
'We will pray that it may be so.' said her mother.
CHAPTER XIX. THE KNIGHT AND THE DRAGON
A telegram had been received in the morning, which kept Valetta and
Fergus on the qui vive all day. Valetta was an unspeakable worry to
the patient Miss Vincent, and Fergus arranged his fossils and
Both children flew out to meet their father at the gate, but words
failed them as he came into the house, greeted the aunts, and sat
down with Fergus on his knee, and Valetta encircled by his arm.
'Yes, Lilias is quite well, very busy and happy---with her first
instalment of children.'
'I am so thankful that you are come,' said Adeline. 'Jane ventured
to augur that you would, but I thought it too much to hope for.'
'There was no alternative,' said Sir Jasper.
'I infer that you halted at Avoncester.'
'I did so; I saw the poor boy.'
'What a comfort for his sister!'
'Poor fellow! Mine was the first friendly face he had seen, and he
was almost overcome by it'---and the strong face quivered with emotion
at the recollection of the boy's gratitude.
'He is a nice fellow,' said Jane. 'I am glad you have seen him, for
neither Mr. White nor Rotherwood can believe that he is not utterly
foolish, if not worse.'
'A boy may do foolish things without being a fool,' said Sir Jasper.
'Not that this one is such another as his father. I wish he were.'
'I suppose he has more of the student scholarly nature.'
'Yes. The enlistment, which was the making of his father, was a sort
of moral suicide in him. I got him to tell me all about it, and I
find that the idea of the inquest, and of having to mention you, you
monkey, drove him frantic, and the dismissal completed the business.'
'I told them about it,' said Fergus.
'Quite right, my boy; the pity was that he did not trust to your
honour, but he seems to have worked himself into the state of mind
when young men run amuck. I saw his colonel, Lydiard, and the
captain and sergeant of his company, who had from the first seen that
he was a man of a higher class under a cloud, and had expected
further inquiry, though, even from the little that had been seen of
him, there was a readiness to take his word. As the sergeant said,
he was not the common sort of runaway clerk, and it was a thousand
pities that he must go to the civil power---in which I am disposed to
agree. What sort of man is the cousin at the marble works?'
'A regular beast,' murmured Fergus.
'I think,' said Jane, 'that he means to be good and upright.'
'More than means,' said Ada, 'but he is cautious, and says he has
been so often deceived.'
'As far as I can understand,' said Jane, 'there was originally
desperate enmity between him and his cousin.'
'He forgave entirely,' said Ada; 'and he really has done a great deal
for the family, who own that they have no claim upon him.'
'Yes,' said Jane, 'but from a distance, with no personal knowledge,
and a contempt for the foreign mother, and the pretensions to
gentility. He would have been far kinder if his cousin had remained
'He only wished to try them,' said Adeline, 'and he always meant to
come and see about them; besides, that eldest son has been begging of
him on false pretences all along.'
'That I can believe,' said Sir Jasper. 'I remember his father's
distress at his untruth in the regimental school, and his foolish
mother shielding him. No doubt he might do enough to cause distrust
of his family; but has Mr. White actually never gone near them, as
Gillian told me?'
'Excepting once walking Maura home,' said Jane, 'no; but I ascribe
all that to the partner, Mr. Stebbing, who has had it all his own way
here, and seems to me to have systematically kept Alexis down to
unnecessarily distasteful drudgery. Kalliope's talent gave her a
place; but young Stebbing's pursuit of her, though entirely
unrequited, has roused his mother's bitter enmity, and there are all
manner of stories afloat. I believe I could disprove every one of
them; but together they have set Mr. White against her, and he cannot
see her in her office, as her mother is too ill to be left. I do
believe that if the case against Alexis is discharged, they will
think she has the money.'
'Stebbing said Maura changed a five-pound note,' put in Fergus; 'and
when I told him to shut up, for it was all bosh, he punched me.'
I hope Richard sent it' said Ada, 'but you see the sort of report
that is continually before Mr. White---not that I think he believes
half, or is satisfied--with the Stebbings.'
'I am sure he is not with Frank Stebbing,' said Jane. 'I do think
and hope that he is only holding off in order to judge; and I think
your coming may have a great effect upon him, Jasper.'
The Rotherwoods had requested Sir Jasper to use their apartments at
the hotel, and he went thither to dress, being received, as he said,
by little Lady Phyllis with much grace and simplicity.
The evening passed brightly, and when the children were gone to bed,
their father said rather anxiously that he feared the aunts had had a
troublesome charge hastily thrust on them.
'We enjoyed it very much,' said Adeline politely.
'We were thankful to have a chance of knowing the young people,'
added Jane. 'I am only glad you did not come home at Christmas, when
I was not happy about the two girls.'
'Yes, Valetta got into trouble and wrote a piteous little letter of
confession about copying.'
'Yes, but you need not be uneasy about that; it was one of those
lapses that teach women without any serious loss. She did not know
what she was about, and she told no falsehoods; indeed, each one of
your children has been perfectly truthful throughout.'
'That is the great point, after all. Lilias could hardly fail to
make her children true.'
'Fergus is really an excellent little boy, and Gillian---poor Gillian-
--I think she really did want more experience, and was only too
'That is what you really think,' said the father anxiously.
'Yes, I do,' said Jane. 'If she had been a fast girl, she would have
been on her guard against the awkward situation, and have kept out of
this mess; but very likely would have run into a worse one.'
'I do not think that her elder sisters would have done like her.'
'Perhaps not; but they were living in your regimental world at the
age when her schoolroom life was going on. I think you have every
reason to be satisfied with her tone of mind. As you said of the
boy, a person may commit an imprudence without being imprudent.'
'I quite agree to that,' he said, 'and, indeed, I see that you have
managed her most wisely, and obtained her affection and gratitude, as
indeed you have mine!' he added, with a tone in his voice that
touched Jane to the core of her heart.
'I never heard anything like it before,' she said to her sister over
their fire at night, with a dew of pleasure in her eyes.
'I never liked Jasper so well before. He is infinitely pleasanter
and more amiable. Do you remember our first visit? No, it was not
you who went with me, it was Emily. I am sure he felt bound to be on
guard all the time against any young officer's attentions to his poor
little sister-in-law,' said Ada, with her Maid-of-Athens look. 'The
smallest approach brought those hawk's eyes of his like a dart right
through one's backbone. It all came back to me to-night, and the way
he used to set poor Lily to scold me.'
'So that you rejoiced to be grown old. I beg your pardon, but I did.
My experience was when I went to help Lily pack for foreign service,
when I suppose my ferret look irritated him, for he snubbed me
extensively, and I am sure he rejoiced to carry his wife out of reach
of all the tribe. I dare say I richly deserved it, but I hope we are
all "mellered down," as Wat Greenwood used to say of his brewery for
'My dear, what a comparison!'
'Redolent of the Old Court, and of Lily, waiting for her swan's nest
among the reeds, till her stately warrior came, and made her day
dreams earnest in a way that falls to the lot of few. I don't think
his severity ever dismayed her for a moment, there was always such
sweetness in it.
'True knight and lady! Yes. He is grown handsomer than ever, too!'
'I hope he will get those poor children out of their hobble! It is
chivalrous enough of him to come down about it, in the midst of all
his business in London.'
Sir Jasper started the next morning with Fergus on his way to school,
getting on the road a good deal of information, mingled together
about forms and strata, cricket and geology. Leaving his little son
at Mrs. Edgar's door, he proceeded to Ivinghoe Terrace, where he
waited long at the blistered door of the dilapidated house before the
little maid informed him that Mr. Richard was gone out, and missus
was so ill that she didn't know as Miss White could see nobody; but
she took his card and invited him to walk into the parlour, where the
breakfast things were just left.
Down came Kalliope, with a wan face and eyes worn with sleeplessness,
but a light of hope and gratitude flashing over her features as she
met the kind eyes, and felt the firm hand of her father's colonel, a
sort of king in the eyes of all Royal Wardours.
'My poor child,' he said gently, 'I am come to see if I can help
'Oh! so good of you,' and she squeezed his hand tightly, in the
effort perhaps not to give way.
'I fear your mother is very ill.'
'Very ill,' said Kalliope. 'Richard came last night, and he let her
know what we had kept from her; but she is calmer now.'
'Then your brother Richard is here.'
'Yes; he is gone up to Mr. White's.'
'He is in a solicitor's office, I think. Will he be able to
undertake the case?'
'Oh no, no'---the white cheek flushed, and the hand trembled. 'There
is a Leeds family here, and he is afraid of their finding out that he
has any connection with this matter. He says it would be ruin to his
'Then we must do our best without him,' Sir Jasper said in a fatherly
voice, inexpressively comforting to the desolate wounded spirit. 'I
will not keep you long from your mother, but will you answer me a few
questions? Your brother tells me---'
She looked up almost radiantly, 'You have seen him?'
'Yes. I saw him yesterday,' and as she gazed as if the news were
water to a thirsty soul---'he sent his love, and begged his mother and
you to forgive the distress his precipitancy has caused. I did not
think him looking ill; indeed, I think the quiet of his cell is
almost a rest to him, as he makes sure that he can clear himself.'
'Oh, Sir Jasper! how can we ever be grateful enough!'
'Never mind that now, only tell me what is needful, for time is
short. Your brother sent these notes in their own envelope, he
'Yes, a very dirty one. I did not open it or see them, but enclosed
it in one of my own, and sent it by my youngest brother, Petros.'
'How was yours addressed?'
'Francis Stebbing, Esq., Marble Works; and I put in a note in
'Is the son's name likewise Francis?'
'Petros delivered it?'
Here they were interrupted by Maura's stealing timidly in with the
message that poor mamma had heard that Sir Jasper was here, and would
he be so very good as to come up for one minute and speak to her.
'It is asking a great deal,' said Kalliope, 'but it would be very
kind, and it might ease her mind.'
He was taken to the poor little bedroom full of oppressive
atmosphere, though the window was open to relieve the labouring
breath. It seemed absolutely filled with the enormous figure of the
poor dropsical woman with white ghastly face, sitting pillowed up,
incapable of lying down.
'Oh, so good! so angelic!' she gasped.
'I am sorry to see you so ill, Mrs. White.'
'Ah! 'tis dying I am, Colonel Merrifield---begging your pardon, but
the sight of you brings back the times when my poor captain was
living, and I was the happy woman. 'Tis the thought of my poor
orphans that is vexing me, leaving them as I am in a strange land
where their own flesh and blood is unnatural to them,' she cried,
trying to clasp her swollen hands, in the excitement that brought out
the Irish substructure of her nature. 'Ah, Colonel dear, you'll bear
in mind their father that would have died for you, and be good to
'Indeed, I hope to do what I can for them.'
'They are good children, Sir Jasper, all of them, even the poor boy
that is in trouble out of the very warmth of his heart; but 'tis
Richard who would be the credit to you, if you would lend him the
helping hand. Where is the boy, Kally?'
'He is gone to call on Mr. White.'
'Ah! and you'll say a good word for him with his cousin,' she
pleaded, 'and say how 'tis no discredit to him if things are laid on
his poor brother that he never did.'
The poor woman was evidently more anxious to bespeak patronage for
her first-born, the pride and darling of her heart, than for those
who might be thought to need it more, but she became confused and
agitated when she thought of Alexis, declaring that the poor boy
might have been hasty, and have disgraced himself, but it was hard,
very hard, if they swore away his liberty, and she never saw him
more, and she broke into distressing sobs. Sir Jasper, in a decided
voice, assured her that he expected with confidence that her son
would be freed the next day, and able to come to see her.
'It's the blessing of a dying mother will be on you, Colonel dear!
Oh! bring him back, that his mother's eyes may rest on the boy that
has always been dutiful. No---no, Dick, I tell you 'tis no disgrace
to wear the coat his father wore.' Wandering was beginning, and she
was in no condition for Kalliope to leave her. The communicative
Maura, who went downstairs with him, said that Richard was so angry
about Alexis that it had upset poor mamma sadly. And could Alexis
come?' she asked, 'even when he is cleared?'
'I will ask for furlough for him.'
'Oh! thank you---that would do mamma more good than anything. She is
so fond of Richard, he is her favourite, but Alexis is the real help
'I can quite believe so. And now will you tell me where I shall find
your brother who took the letter, Peter or Petros?'
'Petros is his name, but the boys call him Peter. He is at school---
the Bellevue National School---up that street.'
Repairing to that imposing building, Sir Jasper knocked at the door,
and sent in his card by an astonished pupil-teacher with a request to
the master that he might speak to Petros White, waiting in the porch
till a handsome little fellow appeared, stouter, rosier, and more
English looking than the others of his family, but very dusty, and
'You don't remember me,' said Sir Jasper, 'but I was your father's
colonel, and I want to find some way of helping your brother. Your
sister tells me she gave you a letter to carry to Mr. Stebbing.'
'Where did you take it?'
'To his house, Carrara.'
'Was it not directed to the Marble Works?'
'But what? Speak out, my man.'
'At the gate Blake, the porter, was very savage, and would not let us
in. He said he would have no boys loafing about, we had done harm
enough for one while, and he would set his dog at us.'
'Then you did not give him the letter?'
'No. I wouldn't after the way he pitched into me. I didn't know if
he would give it. And he wouldn't hear a word, so we went up to
Rockstone to the house.'
'Whom did you give it to there?'
'I dropped it into the slit in the door.'
'You only told your sister that you delivered it.'
'Yes, sir. Theodore said I must not tell sister; it would only vex
her more to hear how every one pitches into us, right and left,' he
said, with trembling lip.
'Is Theodore your next brother?'
'Was he with you?'
'No; it was Sydney Grove.'
'Is he here? Or---Did any one else see you leave the letter?'
'Mr. Stebbing's son---the young one, George, was in the drive and
slanged us for not going to the back door.'
'That is important. Thank you, my boy. Give my---my compliments to
your master, and ask him to be kind enough to spare this Sydney Grove
to me for a few moments.'
This proved to be an amphibious-looking boy, older and rougher than
Petros, and evidently his friend and champion. He was much less shy,
and spoke out boldly, saying how he had gone with little Peter, and
the porter had rowed them downright shameful, but it was nothing to
that there young Stebbing ordering them out of the grounds for a
couple of beastly cads, after no good. He (Grove) had a good mind to
ha' give 'un a good warming, only 'twas school time, and they was
late as it was. Everybody was down upon the Whites, and it was a
shame when they hadn't done nothing, and he didn't see as they was
stuck up, not he.
Sir Jasper made a note of Master Grove's residence, and requested an
interview with the master, from whom he obtained an excellent
character of both the Whites, especially Theodore. The master
lamented that this affair of their brother should have given a handle
against them, for he wanted the services of the elder one as a
monitor, eventually as a pupil-teacher, but did not know whether the
choice would be advisable under the present circumstances. The boys'
superiority made them unpopular, and excited jealousy among a certain
set, though they were perfectly inoffensive, and they had much to go
through in consequence of the suspicion that had fallen on their
brother. Petros and Sydney should have leave from school whenever
their testimony was wanted.
As Sir Jasper walked down the street, his elder sister-in-law emerged
from a tamarisk-flanked gateway. 'This is our new abode, Jasper,'
she said. 'Come in and see what you think of it! Well, have you had
He explained how the letter could be traced to Mr. Stebbing's house,
and then consulted her whether to let all come out at the examination
before the magistrates, or to induce the Stebbings to drop the
'It would serve them right if it all came out in public,' she said.
'But would it be well?'
'One must not be vindictive! And to drag poor Kalliope to Avoncester
would be a dreadful business in her mother's state. Besides, Frank
Stebbing is young, and it may be fair to give them a chance of
hushing it up. I ought to be satisfied with clearing Alexis.'
'Then I will go to the house. When shall I be likely to find Mr.
'Just after luncheon, I should say.'
'And shall I take the lawyer?'
'I should say not. If they hope to keep the thing secret, they will
be the more amenable, but you should have the two boys within reach.
Let us ask for them to come up after their dinner to Beechcroft. No,
it must not be to dinner. Petros must not be sent to the kitchen,
and Ada would expire if the other came to us! Now, do you like to
see your house? Here is Macrae dying to see you.'
The old soldier had changed his quarters too often to be keenly
interested in any temporary abode, provided it would hold the
requisite amount of children, and had a pleasant sitting-room for his
Lily, but he inspected politely and gratefully, and had a warmly
affectionate interview with Macrae, who had just arrived with a great
convoy of needfuls from Silverfold, and who undertook to bring up and
guard the two boys from any further impertinences that might excite
Master Grove's pugnacity.
It was a beautiful day, of the lamb-like entrance weather of March,
and on the way home Miss Adeline was met taking advantage of the
noontide sunshine to exchange her book at the library, 'where,' she
said, 'I found Mr. White reading the papers, so I asked him to meet
Jasper at luncheon, thinking that may be useful.'
If Sir Jasper would rather have managed matters by himself, he
forebore to say so, and he got on very well with Mr. White on
subjects of interest, but, to the ladies' vexation, he waited to be
alone before he began, 'I have come down to see what can be done for
this poor young man, Mr. White, a connection of yours, I believe.
'A bad business, Sir Jasper, a bad business.'
'I am sorry to hear you say so. I have seen a great deal of service
with his father, and esteemed him very highly---'
'Ay, ay, very likely. I had a young man's differences with my
cousin, as lads will fall out, but there was the making of a fine
fellow in him. But it was the wife, bringing in that Greek taint,
worse even than the Italian, so that there's no believing a word out
of any of their mouths.'
'Well, the schoolmaster has just given me a high character of the
younger one, for truthfulness especially.'
'All art, Sir Jasper, all art. They are deeper than your common
English sort, and act it out better. I'll just give you an instance
or two. That eldest son has been with me just now, a smart young
chap, who swears he has been keeping his mother all this time---he has
written to me often enough for help to do so. On the other hand, the
little sister tells me, "Mamma always wants money to send to poor
Richard." Then again, Miss Mohun assures me that the elder one vows
that she never encouraged Frank Stebbing for a moment, and to his
mother's certain knowledge she is keeping up the correspondence.'
'Indeed,' said Sir Jasper. 'And may I ask what is your opinion as to
this charge? I never knew a young man enlist with fifteen pounds in
'Spent it by the way, sir. Ran through it at billiards. Nothing
more probable; it is the way with those sober-looking lads when
something upsets them. Then when luck went against him, enlisted out
of despair. Sister, like all women, ready to lie through thick and
thin to save him, most likely even on oath.'
'However,' said Sir Jasper, 'I can produce independent witness that
the youngest boy set off with the letter for the office, and the
porter not admitting him, carried it to the house.'
'What became of it then?'
'Mr. Stebbing will have to answer that. I propose to lay the
evidence before him in his own house, so that he may make inquiry,
and perhaps find it, and drop the prosecution. Will you come with
'Certainly, Sir Jasper. I should be very glad to think as you do. I
came prepared to act kindly by these children, the only relations I
have in the world; but I confess that what I have seen and heard has
made me fear that they, at least the elder ones, are intriguing and
undeserving. I should be glad of any proof to the contrary.'
Carrara was not far off, and they were just in time to catch Mr.
Stebbing in his arm-chair, looking over his newspaper, before
repairing to his office. Mrs. Stebbing stood up, half-flattered,
half-fluttered, at the call of this stately gentleman, and was
scarcely prepared to hear him say---
'I have come down about this affair of young White's. His father was
my friend and brother-officer, and I am very anxious about him.'
'I have been greatly disappointed in those young people, Sir Jasper,'
said Mr. Stebbing uneasily.
'I understand that you are intending to prosecute Alexis White for
the disappearance of the fifteen pounds he received on behalf of the
'Exactly so, Sir Jasper. There's no doubt that the carter, Field,
handed it to him; he acknowledges as much, but he would have us
believe that after running away with it, he returned it to his sister
to send to me. Where is it? I ask.'
'Yes,' put in Mrs. Stebbing, 'and the girl, the little one, changed a
five-pound note at Glover's.'
'I can account for that,' said Mr. White, with somewhat of an effort.
'I gave her one for her sister, and charged them not to mention it.'
He certainly seemed ashamed to mention it before those who accounted
it a weakness; and Sir Jasper broke the silence by proposing to
produce his witnesses.
'Really, Sir Jasper, this should be left for the court,' said Mr.
'It might be well to settle the matter in private, without dragging
Miss White into Avoncester away from her dying mother.'
'Those things are so exaggerated,' said the lady.
'I have seen her,' said Sir Jasper gravely.
'May I ask who these witnesses are?' demanded Mr. Stebbing.
'Two are waiting here---the messenger and his companion. Another is
your porter at the marble works, and the fourth is your youngest
This caused a sensation, and Mrs. Stebbing began---
'I am sure I can't tell what you mean, Sir Jasper.'
'Is he in the house?'
'Yes; he has a bad cold.'
Mrs. Stebbing opened the door and called 'George,' and on the boy's
appearance, Sir Jasper asked him---
'Do you remember the morning of the 17th of last month---three days
after the accident? I want to know whether you saw any one in the
approach to the house.'
'I don't know what day it was,' said the boy, somewhat sulkily.
'You did see some one, and warned them off!'
'I saw two little ca---two boys out of the town on the front door
'Did you know them?'
'No---that is to say, one was a fisherman's boy.'
'And the other?'
'I thought he belonged to the lot of Whites.'
'Should you know them again?'
'I suppose so.'
'Will you excuse me, and I will call them into the hall?' said Sir
This was effected, and Master George had to identify the boys, after
which Sir Jasper elicited that Petros had seen the dirty envelope
come out of his brother's letter, and that his sister had put it into
another, which she addressed as he described, and gave into his
charge to deliver. Then came the account of the way he had been
refused admittance by the porter.
'Why didn't you give him the letter?' demanded Mr. Stebbing.
'Catch us,' responded Sydney Grove, rejoiced at the opportunity,
'when what we got was, "Get out, you young rascals!"'
Petros more discreetly added---
'My sister wanted it to be given to Mr. Stebbing, so we went up to
the house to wait for him, but it got late for school, and I saw the
postman drop the letters into the slit in the door, so I thought that
would be all right.'
'Did you see him do so?' asked Sir Jasper of the independent witness.
'Yes, sir, and he there'---pointing to George---'saw it too, and---'
'Ay, and thought it like their impudence.'
'That will do, my boys,' said Sir Jasper. 'Now run away.'
Mr. White put something into each paw as the door was opened and the
pair made their exit.
If Sir Jasper acted as advocate, Mr. White seemed to take the
position of judge.
'There can be no doubt,' he said, 'that the letter containing the
notes reached this house.'
'No,' said Mr. Stebbing hotly. 'Why was I not told? Who cleared the
It was the page's business, but to remember any particular letter on
any particular day was quite beyond him, and he only stared wildly
and said, 'Dun no,' on which he was dismissed to the lower regions.
'The address was "Francis Stebbing, Esq.,"' said Sir Jasper
meditatively, perhaps like a spider pulling his cord. 'Francis---your
son's name. Can he---'
'Mr. White, I'll thank you to take care what you say of my son!'
exclaimed Mrs. Stebbing; but there was a blank look of alarm on the
'Where is he?' asked Mr. White.
'He may be able to explain'---courtesy and pity made the General add.
'No, no,' burst out the mother. 'He knows nothing of it. Mr.
Stebbing, can't you stand up for your own son?'
'Perhaps,' began the poor man, his tone faltering with a terrible
anxiety, but his wife exclaimed hastily---
'He never saw nor heard of it. I put it in the fire.'
There was a general hush, broken by Mr. Stebbing saying slowly---
'Yes; I saw those disreputable-looking boys put it into the box. I
wasn't going to have that bold girl sending billy-doos on the sly to
'Under these circumstances,' drily said Sir Jasper, 'I presume that
you will think it expedient to withdraw the prosecution.'
'Certainly, certainly,' said Mr. Stebbing, in the tone of one
delivered from great alarm. 'I will write at once to my solicitor at
Avoncester.' Then turning on his wife, 'How was it that I never
heard this before, and you let me go and make a fool of myself?'
'How was I to know, Mr. Stebbing? You started off without a word to
me, and all you told me when you came back was that the young man
said he had posted the letter to his sister. I should like to know
why he could not send it himself to the proper place!'
'Well, Mrs. Stebbing,' said her husband, 'I hope it will be a lesson
to you against making free with other people's letters.'
She tossed her head, and was about to retire, when Sir Jasper said---
'Before leaving us, madam, in justice to my old friend's daughter, I
should be much obliged if you would let me know your grounds for
believing the letter to be what you say.'
'Why---why, Sir Jasper, it has been going on this year or more! She
has perfectly infatuated the poor boy.'
'I am not asking about your son's sentiments but can you adduce any
proof of their being encouraged!'
'Sir Jasper! a young man doesn't go on in that way without
'What encouragement can you prove?'
'Didn't I surprise a letter from her---?'
'Well'---checked the tone of triumphant conviction.
'A refusal, yes, but we all know what that means, and that there must
have been something to lead to it'---and as there was an unconvinced
silence---'Besides---oh, why, every one knew of her arts. You did, Mr.
Stebbing, and of poor Frank's infatuation. It was the reason of her
'I knew what you told me, Mrs. Stebbing,' he answered grimly, not at
all inclined to support her at this moment of anger. 'I am sure I
wish I had never listened to you. I never saw anything amiss in the
girl's behaviour, and they are all at sixes and sevens without her at
the mosaic work---though she is only absent from her mother's illness
'You! of course she would not show her goings on before you, said the
'Is Master Frank in the house?' put in Mr. White; 'I should like to
put the question before him.'
'You can't expect a young man to make mortifying admissions,'
exclaimed the mother, and as she saw smiles in answer she added, 'Of
course, the girl has played the modest and proper throughout! That
was her art, to draw him on, till he did not know what he was about.'
'Setting aside the supposed purpose,' said Sir Jasper, 'you admit,
Mrs. Stebbing, that of your own knowledge, Miss White has never
encouraged your son's attentions.'
'N---no; but we all know what those girls are.'
'Fatherless and unprotected,' said Sir Jasper, 'dependent on their
own character and exertion, and therefore in especial need of kind
construction. Good morning, Mrs. Stebbing; I have learnt all that I
wish to know.'
Overpowered, but not convinced, Mrs. Stebbing saw her visitors
'And I hope her husband will give it to her well,' said Mr. White, as
they left the house.
They looked in at Beechcroft Cottage with the tidings.
'All safe, I see!' cried Miss Jane. 'Is the money found?'
'No; Mrs. Stebbing burnt it, under the impression that it was a love-
letter,' drily said Sir Jasper.
Miss Mohun led the way in the hearty fit of laughter, to which the
gentlemen gave way the more heartily for recent suppression; and Mr.
'I assure you, it was as good as a play to hear Sir Jasper worm it
out. One would think he had been bred a lawyer.'
'And now,' said the General, 'I must go and relieve that poor girl's
'I will come with you,' volunteered Mr. White. 'I fully believe that
she is a good girl, though this business and Master Richard's
applications staggered me; and this soldier fellow must be an ass if
he is not a scamp.'
'Scarcely that, I think,' said Miss Adelaide, with her pleading
'Well, discipline will be as good for him as for his father,' said
Mr. White. 'He has done for himself, but that was a nice little lad
that you had up---too good for a common national school.'
Wherewith they departed, and found that Kalliope must have been on
the watch, for she ran down to open the door to them, and the
gladness which irradiated her face as Sir Jasper's first 'All right,'
lighted up her features, which were so unlike the shop-girl
prettiness that Mr. White expected as quite to startle him.
Richard was in the parlour in a cloud of smoke, and began to do the
'Our acknowledgments are truly due to Sir Jasper. Mr. White, we are
much honoured. Pray be seated, please to excuse---'
They paid little attention to him, while Sir Jasper told as much to
his sister as could well be explained as to the fate of her envelope,
'You will not be wanted at Avoncester, as the case will not come on.
I shall go and see all safe, then on to town, but I mean to see your
brother's commanding officer, and you may tell your mother that I
have no doubt that he will be allowed a furlough.'
'But, Sir Jasper' broke in Richard, 'I beg your pardon; but there is
a family from Leeds at Bellevue, the Nortons, and imagine what it
would be if they reported me as connected with a common private
soldier, just out of prison too!'
'Let him come to me then,' exclaimed Mr. White.
In spite of appearances of disgust, Richard took the invitation to
himself, and looked amiable and gratified.
'Thank you, Mr. White, that will obviate the difficulty. When shall
I move up?'
'You, sir? Did you think I meant you?' said Mr. White contemptuously.
'No; I prefer a fool to a knave!'
'Mr. White,' interposed Sir Jasper, 'whatever you may have to say to
Richard White, consider his sister. Or had you not better report our
success to your mother, my dear?'
'One moment,' said Mr. White. 'Tell me, young lady, if you do not
object, what assistance have you ever received from me.'
'You have most kindly employed us, and paid for Maura's education,'
'Is that all? Has nothing been transmitted through this brother?'
'I do not understand,' said Kalliope, trembling, as Richard scowled
'Sir,' said he, 'I always intended, but unforeseen circumstances---'
'That's enough for the present, sir,' said Mr. White. 'I have heard
all I wish, and more too.'
'Sir,' said Kalliope, still trembling, 'indeed, Richard is a kind son
and brother. My mother is much attached to him. I am generally out
all day, and it is quite possible that she did not tell me all that
passed between them, as she knew that I did not like you to be
'That will do, my dear,' said Mr. White. 'I don't want to say any
more about it. You shall have your brother to-morrow, if Sir Jasper
can manage it. I will bring him back to Rockstone as my guest, so
that his brother need not be molested with his company.'
CHAPTER XX. IVINGHOE TERRACE
On an east-windy Friday afternoon Valetta and Fergus were in a
crowning state of ecstasy. Rigdum Funnidos was in a hutch in the
small garden under the cliff, Begum and two small gray kittens were
in a basket under the kitchen stairs, Aga was purring under
everybody's feet, Cocky was turning out the guard upon his perch---in
short, Il Lido was made as like Silverfold as circumstances would
permit. Aunt Ada with Miss Vincent was sitting on the sofa in the
drawing-room, with a newly-worked cosy, like a giant's fez, over the
teapot, and Valetta's crewel cushion fully displayed. She was
patiently enduring a rush in and out of the room of both children and
Quiz once every minute, and had only requested that it should not be
more than once, and that the door should neither be slammed nor left
Macrae and the Silverfold carriage were actually gone to the station,
and, oh! oh! oh! here it really was with papa on the box, and heaps
of luggage, and here were Primrose and Gillian and mamma and Mrs.
Halfpenny, all emerging one after another, and Primrose, looking---oh
dear! more like a schoolroom than a nursery girl---such a great piece
of black leg below the little crimson skirt; but the dear little face
as plump as ever.
That was the first apparent fact after the disengaging from the
general embrace, when all had subsided into different seats, and Aunt
Jane, who had appeared from somewhere in her little round sealskin
hat, had begun to pour out the tea. The first sentence that emerged
from the melee of greetings and intelligence was---
'Fly met her mother at the station; how well she looks!'
'Then Victoria came down with you?'
'Yes; I am glad we went to her. I really do like her very much.'
Then Primrose and Valetta varied the scene by each laying a kitten in
their mother's lap; and Begum, jumping after her progeny, brushed
Lady Merrifield's face with her bushy tail, interrupting the
information about names.
'Come, children,' said Sir Jasper, 'that's enough; take away the
cats.' It was kindly said, but it was plain that liberties with
mamma would not continue before him.
'The Whites?' was Gillian's question, as she pressed up to Aunt Jane.
'Poor Mrs. White died the night before last,' was the return. 'I
have just come from Kally. She is in a stunned state now---actually
too busy to think and feel, for the funeral must be to-morrow.'
Sir Jasper heard, and came to ask further questions.
'She saw Alexis,' went on Miss Mohun. 'They dressed him in his own
clothes, and she seemed greatly satisfied when he came to sit by her,
and had forgotten all that went before. However, the end came very
suddenly at last, and all those poor children show their southern
nature in tremendous outbursts of grief---all except Kalliope, who
seems not to venture on giving way, will not talk, or be comforted,
and is, as it were, dried up for the present. The big brothers give
way quite as much as the children, in gusts, that is to say. Poor
Alexis reproaches himself with having hastened it, and I am afraid
his brother does not spare him. But Mr. White has bought his
'You don't mean it.'
'Yes; whether it was the contrast between Alexis's air of refinement
and his private soldier's turn-out, or the poor fellow's patience and
submission, or the brother's horrid behaviour to him, Mr. White has
taken him up, and bought him out.'
'All because of Richard's brutal speech. That is good! Though I
confess I should have let the lad have at least a year's discipline
for his own good, since he had put himself into it; but I can't be
sorry. There is something engaging about the boy.'
'And Mr. White is the right man to dispose of them.'
No more passed, for here were the children eager and important, doing
the honours of the new house, and intensely happy at the sense of
home, which with them depended more on persons than on place.
One schoolroom again,' said Mysie. 'One again with Val and Prim and
Miss Vincent. Oh, it is happiness!'
Even Mrs. Halfpenny was a delightful sight, perhaps the more so that
her rightful dominion was over; the nursery was no more, and she was
only to preside in the workroom, be generally useful, wait on my
lady, and look after Primrose as far as was needful.
The bustle and excitement of settling in prevented much thought of
the Whites, even from Gillian, during that evening and the next
morning; and she was ashamed of her own oblivion of her friend in the
new current of ideas, when she found that her father meant to attend
the funeral out of respect to his old fellow-soldier.
Rockquay had outgrown its churchyard, and had a cemetery half a mile
off, so that people had to go in carriages. Mr. White had made
himself responsible for expenses, and thus things were not so utterly
dreary as poverty might have made them. It was a dreary, gusty March
day, with driving rushes of rain, which had played wildly with
Gillian's waterproof while she was getting such blossoms and
evergreen leaves as her aunt's garden afforded, not out of love for
the poor Queen of the White Ants herself, but thinking the attention
might gratify the daughters; and her elders moralised a little on the
use and abuse of wreaths, and how the manifestation of tender
affection and respect had in many cases been imitated in empty and
'The world spoils everything with its coarse finger,' said Lady
'I hope the custom will not be exaggerated altogether out of
fashion,' said Jane. 'It is a real comfort to poor little children
at funerals to have one to carry, and it is as Mrs. Gaskell's
Margaret said of mourning, something to prevent settling to doing
nothing but crying; besides that afterwards there is a wholesome
sweetness in thus keeping up the memory.'
Sir Jasper shared a carriage with Mr. White, and returned somewhat
wet and very cold, and saying that it had been sadly bleak and
wretched for the poor young people, who stood trembling, so far as he
could see; and he was anxious to know how the poor girls were after
it. It had seemed to him as if Kalliope could scarcely stand. He
proved to be right. Kalliope had said nothing, not wept
demonstratively, perhaps not at all; but when the carriage stopped at
the door, she proved to be sunk back in her corner in a dead faint.
She was very long in reviving, and no sooner tried to move than she
swooned again, and this time it lasted so long that the doctor was
sent for. Miss Mohun arrived just as he had partially restored her,
and they had a conversation.
'They must get that poor girl to bed as soon as it is possible to
undress her,' he said. 'I have seen that she must break down sooner
or later, and I'm afraid she is in for a serious illness; but as yet
there is no knowing.'
Nursing was not among Jane's accomplishments, except of her sister
Ada's chronic, though not severe ailments; but she fetched Mrs.
Halfpenny as the most effective person within reach, trusting to that
good woman's Scotch height, strong arms, great decision, and the
tenderness which real illness always elicited.
Nor was she wrong. Not only did Mrs. Halfpenny get the half-
unconscious girl into bed, but she stayed till evening, and then came
back to snatch a meal and say---
'My leddy, if you have no objection, I will sit up with that puir
lassie the night. They are all men-folk or bairns there, except the
lodger-lady, who is worn out with helping the mother, and they want
some one with a head on her shoulders.'
Lady Merrifield consented with all her heart; but the Sunday
morning's report was no better, when Mrs. Halfpenny came home to
dress Primrose, and see her lady.
'That eldest brother, set him up, the idle loon, was off by the mail
train that night, and naething wad serve him but to come in and bid
good-bye to his sister just as I had gotten her off into something
more like a sleep. It startled her up, and she went off her head
again, poor dearie, and began to talk about prison and disgrace, and
what not, till she fainted again; and when she came to, I was fain to
call the other lad to pacify her, for I could see the trouble in her
puir een, though she could scarce win breath to speak.'
'Is Alexis there?'
'Surely he is, my leddy; he's no the lad to leave his sister in sic a
strait. It was all I could do to gar him lie down when she dozed off
again, but there's sair stress setting in for all of them, puir
things. I have sent the little laddie off to beg the doctor to look
in as soon as he can, for I am much mistaken if there be not fever
'Indeed! And what can those poor children do?'
'That's what I'm thinking, my leddy. And since 'tis your pleasure
that the nursery be done awa' wi', and I have not ta'en any fresh
work, I should like weel to see the puir lassie through wi' it.
Ye'll no mind that Captain White and my puir Halfpenny listed the
same time, and always forgathered as became douce lads. The twa of
them got their stripes thegither, and when Halfpenny got his
sunstroke in that weary march, 'twas White who gave him his last sup
of water, and brought me his bit Bible. So I'd be fain to tend his
daughter in her sickness, if you could spare me, my leddy, and I'd
aye rin home to dress Missie Primrose and pit her to bed, and see to
'There's no better nurse in the world, dear old Halfpenny,' said Lady
Merrifield, with tears in her eyes. 'I do feel most thankful to you
for proposing it. Never mind about Primrose, only you must have your
meals and a good rest here, and not knock yourself up.'
Mrs. Halfpenny smiled grimly at the notion of her being sooner
knocked up than a steam-engine. Dr. Dagger entirely confirmed her
opinion that poor Kalliope was likely to have a serious illness, low
nervous fever, and failing action of the heart, no doubt from the
severe strain that she had undergone, more or less, for many months,
and latterly fearfully enhanced by her mother's illness, and the
shock and suspense about Alexis, all borne under the necessity of
external composure and calmness, so that even Mrs. Lee had never
entirely understood how much it cost her. The doctor did not
apprehend extreme danger to one young and healthy, but he thought
much would depend on good nursing, and on absolute protection from
any sort of excitement, so that such care as Mrs. Halfpenny's was
invaluable, since she was well known to be a dove to a patient, but a
dragon to all outsiders.
Every one around grieved at having done so little to lighten these
burthens, and having even increased them, her brother Alexis above
all; but on the other hand, he was the only person who was of any use
to her, or was suffered to approach her, since his touch and voice
calmed the recurring distress, lest he were still in prison and
Alexis went back dutifully on the Monday morning to his post at the
works. The young man was much changed by his fortnight's
experiences, or rather he had been cured of a temporary fit of
distraction, and returned to his better self. How many discussions
his friends held about him cannot be recorded, but after a
conversation with Mr. Flight, with whom he was really more unreserved
than any other being except Kalliope, this was the understanding at
which Miss Mohun and Lady Merrifield arrived as to his nature and
Refined, studious, and sensitive, thoroughly religious-minded, and of
a high tone of thought, his aspirations had been blighted by his
father's death, his brother's selfishness, and his mother's
favouritism. In a brave spirit of self-abnegation, he had turned to
the uncongenial employment set before him for the sake of his family,
and which was rendered specially trying by the dislike of his fellows
to 'the gentleman cove,' and the jealousy of the Stebbings. Alike
for his religious and his refined habits he had suffered patiently,
as Mr. Flight had always known more or less, and now bore testimony.
The curate, who had opened to him the first door of hope and comfort,
had in these weeks begun to see that the apparent fitfulness of his
kindness had been unsettling.
Then came the brief dream of felicity excited by Gillian and the
darkness of its extinction, just as Frank Stebbing's failure and the
near approach of Mr. White had made the malice of his immediate
superiors render his situation more intolerable than ever. There was
the added sting of self-reproach for his presumption towards Gillian,
and the neglect caused by his fit of low spirits. Such a sensitive
being, in early youth, wearied and goaded on all sides, might
probably have persevered through the darkness till daylight came; but
the catastrophe, the dismissal, and the perception that he could only
defend himself at the expense of his idol's little brother, all
exaggerated by youthful imagination, were too much for his balance of
judgment, and he fled without giving himself time to realise how much
worse he made it for those he left behind him.
Of course he perceived it all now, and the more bitterly from his
sister's wanderings, but the morbid exaggeration was gone. The
actual taste of a recruit's life had shown him that there were worse
things than employment at the quarries with his home awaiting him,
and his cell had been a place of thought and recovery of his senses.
He had never seriously expected conviction, and Sir Jasper's visit
had given him a spring of hopeful resignation, in which thoughts
stirred of doing his duty, and winning his way after his father's
example, and taking the trials of his military life as the just cross
of his wrong-doing in entering it.
His liberation and Mr. White's kindness had not altered this frame.
He was too unhappy to feel his residence in the great house anything
but a restraint; he could not help believing that he had hastened his
mother's death, and could only bow his head meekly under his
brother's reproaches, alike for that and for his folly and imprudence
and the disgrace he had brought on the family.
'And now you'll, be currying favour and cutting out every one else,'
had been a sting which added fresh force to Alexis's desire to escape
from his kinsman's house to sleep at home as soon as his brother had
gone; and Richard had seen enough of Sir Jasper and of Mr. White to
be anxious to return to his office at Leeds as soon as possible, and
to regulate his affairs beyond their reach.
Alexis knew that he had avoided a duty in not working out his three
months' term, and likewise that his earnings were necessary to the
family all the more for his sister being laid aside. He knew that he
hardly deserved to resume his post, and he merely asked permission so
to do, and it was granted at once, but curtly and coldly.
Mr. Flight had asked if he had not found the going among the other
clerks very trying.
'I had other things to think of,' said Alexis sadly, then recalling
himself. 'Yes; Jones did sneer a little, but the others stopped
that. They knew I was down, you see.'
'And you mean to go on?'
'If I may. That, and for my sister to get better, is all I can dare
to hope. My madness and selfishness have shown me unworthy of all
that I once dreamt of.'
In that resolution it was assuredly best to leave him, only giving
him such encouragement and sympathy as might prevent that more
dangerous reaction of giving up all better things; and Sir Jasper
impressed on Mr. Flight, the only friend who could have aided him in
fulfilling his former aspirations, that Mr. White had in a manner
purchased the youth by buying his discharge, and that interference
would not only be inexpedient, but unjust. The young clergyman
chafed a little over not being allowed to atone for his neglect; but
Sir Jasper was not a person to be easily gainsayed. Nor could there
be any doubt that Mr. White was a good man, though in general so much
inclined to reserve his hand that his actions were apt to take people
by surprise at last, as they had never guessed his intentions, and he
had a way of sucking people's brains without in the least letting
them know what use he meant to make of their information. The
measures he was taking for the temporal, intellectual, and spiritual
welfare of the people at the works would hardly have been known
except for the murmurs of Mrs. Stebbing, although, without their
knowing what he was about with them, Mr. Stebbing himself, Mr.
Hablot, Miss Mohun, to say nothing of Alexis, the foremen and the men
and their wives, had given him the groundwork of his reforms.
Meantime, he came daily to inquire for Kalliope, and lavished on her
all that could be an alleviation, greatly offending Mrs. Halfpenny by
continually proffering the services of a hospital nurse.
'A silly tawpie that would be mair trouble than half a dozen sick,'
as she chose to declare.
She was a born autocrat, and ruled as absolutely in No. l as in her
nursery, ordering off the three young ones to their schools, in spite
of Maura's remonstrances and appeals to Lady Merrifield, who agreed
with nurse that the girl was much better away and occupied than where
she could be of very little use.
Indeed, Mrs. Halfpenny banished every one from the room except Mrs.
Lee and Alexis, whom she would allow to take her place, while she
stalked to Il Lido for her meals, and the duties she would not drop.
As to rest, she always, in times of sickness, seemed to be made of
cast iron, and if she ever slept at all, it was in a chair, while
Alexis sat by his sister in the evening.
The fever never ran very high, but constant vigilance was wanted from
the extreme exhaustion and faintness. There was no violent delirium,
but more of delusion and distress; nor was it easy to tell when she
was conscious or otherwise, for she hardly spoke, and as yet the
doctor forbade any attempt to rouse her more than was absolutely
needful. They were only to give nourishment, watch her, and be
A few months ago Gillian would have fussed herself into a frantic
state of anxiety and self-reproach, but her parents, when her mother
had once heard as much outpouring as she thought expedient, would not
permit what Sir Jasper called 'perpetual harping.'
'You have to do your duties all the same, and not worry your mother
and all the family with your feelings,' he said. She thought it very
unkind, and went away crying.
'Nobody could hinder her from thinking about Kalliope,' she said to
herself, and think she did at her prayers, and when the bulletins
came in, but the embargo on discussion prevented her from being so
absolutely engrossed, as in weaker hands she might have been, and
there was a great deal going on to claim her attention. For one
thing, the results of the Cambridge Examination showed that while
Emma Norton and a few others had passed triumphantly, she had failed,
and conscience carried her back to last autumn's disinclination to do
just what Aunt Jane especially recommended.
She cried bitterly over the failure, for she had a feeling that
success there would redeem her somewhat in her parents' eyes; but
here again she experienced the healing kindness of her father. He
would not say that he should not have been much pleased by her
success, but he said failure that taught her to do her best without
perverseness was really a benefit; and as arithmetic and mathematics
had been her weakest points, he would work at them with her and Mysie
for an hour every morning.
It was somewhat formidable, but the girls soon found that what their
father demanded was application, and that inattention displeased him
much more than stupidity. His smile, though rare, was one of the
sweetest things in the world, and his approbation was delightful, and
gave a stimulus to the entire day's doings. Mysie was more than ever
in dread of being handed over to the Rotherwoods, though her love for
poor Fly and pity for her solitude were so strong. She would have
been much relieved if she had known what had passed; when the offer
was seriously made, Lord Rotherwood insisted that his wife should do
'Then they will believe in it,' he said.
'I do not know why you should say that,' she returned, always
dutifully blinding herself to that which all their intimates knew
perfectly well. However, perhaps from having a station and dignity
of her own, together with great simplicity, Lady Merrifield had from
her first arrival got on so well with her hostess as not quite to
enter into Jane's sarcastic descriptions of her efforts at
cordiality; and it was with real warmth that Lady Rotherwood begged
for Mysie as a permanent companion and adopted sister to Phyllis, who
was to be taken back to London after Easter, and in the meantime
spent every possible moment with her cousins.
Tears at the unkindness to lonely Fly came into Lady Merrifield's
eyes as she said---
'I cannot do it, Victoria; I do not think I ought to give away my
child, even if I could.'
'It is not only our feelings,' added Sir Jasper, 'but it is our duty
to bring up our own child in her natural station; and though we know
she would learn nothing but good in your family, I cannot think it
well that a girl should acquire habits, and be used to society ways
and of life beyond those which she can expect to continue.'
They both cried out at this, Lord Rotherwood with a halting
declaration of perfect equality, which his lady seconded, with a
dexterous reference to connections.
'We will not put it on rank then,' said Sir Jasper, 'but on wealth.
With you, Maria must become accustomed to much that she could not
continue, and had better not become natural to her. I know there are
great advantages to manners and general cultivation in being with
you, and we shall be most thankful to let her pay long visits, and be
as much with Phyllis as is consistent with feeling her home with us,
but I cannot think it right to do more.'
'But with introductions,' pleaded Lady Rotherwood, 'she might marry
well. With her family and connections, she would be a match for any
'I hope so,' said Sir Jasper; 'but at the same time it would not be
well for her to look on such a marriage as the means of continuing
the habits that would have become second nature.'
'Poor Mysie,' exclaimed Lord Rotherwood, bursting out laughing at the
idea, and at Lady Merrifield's look as she murmured, 'My Mysie!'
'You misunderstand me,' said the Marchioness composedly. 'I was as
far as possible from proposing marriage as a speculation for her.'
'I know you were,' said Sir Jasper. 'I know you would deal by Maria
as by your own daughter, and I am very grateful to you, Lady
Rotherwood, but I can only come back to my old decision, that as
Providence did not place her in your rank of life, she had better not
become so accustomed to it as to render her own distasteful to her.'
'Exactly what I expected,' said Lord Rotherwood.
'Yes,' returned his wife, with an effort of generosity; 'and I
believe you are right, Jasper, though I am sorry for my little
solitary girl, and I never saw a friend so perfectly suitable for her
as your Mysie.'
'They may be friends still,' said Lord Rotherwood, 'and we will be
grateful to you whenever you can spare her to us.'
'Perhaps,' added Sir Jasper, 'all the more helpful friends for seeing
different phases of life.'
'And, said his wife, with one of her warm impulses, 'I do thank you,
Victoria, for so loving my Mysie.'
'As if any one could help it, after last winter,' said that lady, and
an impromptu kiss passed between the two mothers, much to the
astonishment of the Marquis, who had never seen his lady so moved
towards any one.
The Merrifields were somewhat on the world, for Sir Jasper, on going
to Silverfold and corresponding with the trustees of the landlord,
had found that the place could not be put in a state either of repair
or sanitation, such as he approved, without more expense than either
he or the trustees thought advisable, and he decided on giving it up,
and remaining at Il Lido till he could find something more suitable.
The children, who had been there during the special homemaking age,
bewailed the decision, and were likely always to look back on
Silverfold as a sort of Paradise; but the elder ones had been used to
changes from infancy, and had never settled down, and their mother
said that place was little to her as long as she had her Jasper by
her side, and as to the abstract idea of home as a locality, that
would always be to her under the tulip-tree and by the pond at the
Old Court at Beechcroft, just as her abstract idea of church was in
the old family pew, with the carved oak panels, before the
restoration, in which she had been the most eager of all.
Thus a fortnight passed, and then the fever was decidedly wearing
off, but returning at night. Kalliope still lay weak, languid,
silent, fainting at any attempt to move her, not apparently able to
think enough to ask how time passed, or to be uneasy about anything,
simply accepting the cares given to her, and lying still. One
morning, however, Alexis arrived in great distress to speak to Sir
Jasper, not that his sister was worse, as he explained, but Richard
had been selling the house. The younger ones at home had never
troubled themselves as to whose property the three houses in Ivinghoe
Terrace were. Perhaps Kalliope knew, but she could not be asked; but
the fact was that Captain White had been so lost sight of, that he
had not known that this inheritance had fallen to him under the will
of his grandfather, who was imbecile at the time of his flight. On
his deathbed, the Captain had left the little he owned to his wife,
and she had died intestate, as Richard had ascertained before leaving
home, so that he, as eldest son, was heir to the ground. He had
written to Kalliope, a letter which Alexis had opened, informing her
that he had arranged to sell the houses to a Mr. Gudgeon, letting to
him their own till the completion of the legal business necessary,
and therefore desiring his brothers and sisters to move out with
their lodgers, if not by Lady Day itself, thus giving only a week's
spare notice, at latest by Old Lady Day.
'Is he not aware of your sister's state?'
'I do not imagine that he has read the letter that I wrote to him.
He was very much displeased with me, and somewhat disposed to be
angry at my sister's fainting, and to think that we were all trying
to work on his feelings. He used to be rather fond of Maura, so I
told her to write to him, but he has taken no notice, and he can have
no conception of Kalliope's condition, or he would not have addressed
his letter to her. I came to ask if you would kindly write to him
how impossible it is to move her.'
'You had better get a certificate from Dr. Dagger. Either I or Lady
Merrifield will meet him, and see to that. That will serve both to
stay him and the purchaser.'
'That is another misfortune. This Gudgeon is the chief officer, or
whatever they call it, of the Salvation Army. I knew they had been
looking out for a place for a barracks, and could not get one because
almost everything belongs to Lord Rotherwood or to Mr. White.'
Sir Jasper could only reply that he would see what could be done in
the matter, and that, at any rate, Kalliope should not be disturbed.
Accordingly Lady Merrifield repaired to Ivinghoe Terrace for the
doctor's visit, and obtained from him the requisite certificate that
the patient could not be removed at present. He gave it, saying,
however, to Lady Merrifield's surprise, that though he did not think
it would be possible to remove her in a week's time, yet after that
he fully believed that she would have more chance of recovering
favourably if she could be taken out of the small room and the warm
atmosphere beneath the cliffs---though of course all must depend on
her state at the time.
Meantime there was a council of the gentlemen about outbidding the
Salvation Army. Lord Rotherwood was spending already as much as he
could afford, in the days of agricultural depression, on the
improvements planned with Mr. White. That individual was too good a
man of business to fall, as he said, into the trap, and make a
present to that scamp Richard of more than the worth of the houses,
and only Mr. Flight was ready to go to any cost to keep off the
Salvation Army; but the answer was curt. Richard knew he had no
chance with Mr. White, and did not care to keep terms with him.
'Mr. Richard White begs to acknowledge the obliging offer of the Rev.
Augustine Flight, and regrets that arrangements have so far
progressed with Mr. Gudgeon that he cannot avail himself of it.'
Was this really regret or was the measure out of spite? Only the
widest charity could accept the former suggestion, and even Sir
Jasper Merrifield's brief and severe letter and Dr. Dagger's
certificate did not prevent a letter to Alexis, warning him not to
make their sister's illness a pretext for unreasonable delay.
What was to be done? Kalliope was still unfit to be consulted or
even informed, and she had been hitherto so entirely the real head
and manager of the family that Alexis did not like to make any
decision without her; and even the acceptance of the St. Wulstan's
choristership for Theodore had been put off for her to make it, look
to his outfit, and all that only the woman of the family could do for
And here they were at a loss for a roof over their heads, and nowhere
to bestow the battered old furniture, of which Richard magnanimously
renounced his sixth share; while she who had hitherto toiled,
thought, managed, and contrived for all the other four, without care
of their own, still lay on her bed, sensible indeed and no longer
feverish, but with the perilous failure of heart, renewed by any kind
of exertion or excitement, a sudden movement, or a startling sound in
the street; and Mrs. Halfpenny, guarding her as ferociously as ever,
and looking capable of murdering any one of her substitutes if they
durst hint a word of their perplexities. Happily she asked no
questions; she was content when allowed to be kissed by the others,
and to see they were well. Nature was enforcing repose, and so far
"her senses was all as in a dream bound up." Alexis remembered that
it had been somewhat thus at Leeds, when, after nursing all the rest,
she had succumbed to the epidemic; but then the mother had been able
to watch over her, and had been a more effective parent to the rest
than she had since become.
The first practical proposal was Mrs. Lee's. They thought of
reversing the present position, and taking a small house where their
present hosts might become their lodgers. Moreover, Miss Mohun
clenched the affair about Theodore, and overcame Alexis's scruples,
while Lady Merrifield, having once or twice looked in, and been
smiled at and thanked by Kalliope, undertook to prepare her for his
Alexis and Maura both declared that she would instantly jump up, and
want to begin looking over his socks; but she got no further than---
'Dear boy! It is the sort of thing I always wished for him. People
are very good! But his things---'
'Oh yes, dearie, ye need not fash yourself. I've mended them as I
sat by you, and packed them all. Lie still. They are all right.'
There was an atmosphere of the Royal Wardours about Mrs. Halfpenny,
which was at once congenial and commanding; and Kalliope's mind at
once relinquished the burthen of socks, shirts, and even the elbows
of the outgrown jacket, nor did any of the family ever know how the
deficiencies had been supplied.
And when Theodore, well admonished, came softly and timidly for the
parting kiss, his face quivering all over with the effort at self-
control, she lay and smiled; but with a great crystal tear on each
dark eyelash, and her thin transparent fingers softly stroked his
cheeks, as the low weak voice said---
'Be a good boy, dear---speak truth. Praise God well. Write; I'll
write when I am better.'
It was the first time she had spoken of being better, and they told
Theodore to take comfort from it when all the other three walked him
up to the station.
CHAPTER XXI. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
In the search for a new abode Mrs. Lee was in much difficulty, for it
was needful to be near St. Kenelm's, and the only vacant houses
within her means were not desirable for the reception of a feeble
convalescent; moreover, Mr. Gudgeon grumbled and inquired, and was
only withheld by warnings enhanced by the police from carrying the
whole charivari of the Salvation Army along Ivinghoe Terrace on
Perhaps it was this, perhaps it was the fact of having discussed the
situation with the two Miss Mohuns, that made Mr. White say to
Alexis, 'There are two rooms ready for your sister, as soon as Dagger
says she can be moved safely. The person who nurses her had better
come with her, and you may as well come back to your old quarters.'
Alexis could hardly believe his ears, but Mr. White waved off all
thanks. The Mohun sisters were delighted and triumphant, and Jane
came down to talk it over with her elder sister, auguring great
things from that man who loved to deal in surprises.
'That is true,' said Sir Jasper.
'What does that mean, Jasper?' said his wife. 'It sounds
'I certainly should not be amazed if he did further surprise us all.
Has it never struck you how that noontide turn of Adeline's
corresponds with his walk home from the reading-room?'
Lady Merrifield looked rather startled, but Jane only laughed, and
said, 'My dear Jasper, if you only knew Ada as well as I do! Yes, I
have seen far too many of those little affairs to be taken in by
them. Poor Ada! I know exactly how she looks, but she is only
flattered, like a pussy-cat waggling the end of its tail---it means
nothing, and never comes to anything. The thing that is likely and
hopeful is, that he may adopt those young people as nephews and
'Might it not spoil them?' said Lady Merrifield.
'Oh! I did not mean that. They might work with him still. However,
there is no use in settling about that. The only thing to be
expected of him is the unexpected!'
'And the thing to be done,' added her sister, 'is to see how and when
that poor girl can be got up to Cliff House.'
To the general surprise, Dr. Dagger wished the transit to take place
without loss of time. A certain look of resigned consternation
crossed Kalliope's face on being informed of her destiny, but she
justified Mrs. Halfpenny's commendation of her as the maist douce and
conformable patient in the world, for she had not energy enough even
to plead against anything so formidable, and she had not yet been
told that Ivinghoe Terrace was her home no longer.
The next day she was wrapped in cloaks and carried downstairs between
her brother and Mrs. Halfpenny, laid on a mattress in the Merrifield
waggonette, which went up the hill at a foot's pace, and by the same
hands, with her old friend the caretaker's wife going before, was
taken upstairs to a beautiful large room, with a window looking out
on vernal sky and sea. She was too much exhausted on her arrival to
know anything but the repose on the fresh comfortable bed, whose
whiteness was almost rivalled by her cheek, and Mrs. Halfpenny
ordered off Alexis, who was watching her in great anxiety. However,
when he came back after his afternoon's work, it was to find that she
had eaten and slept, and now lay, with her eyes open, in quiet
interested admiration of a spacious and pleasant bedroom, such as to
be a great novelty to one whose life had been spent in cheap lodging
houses. The rooms had been furnished twenty years before as a
surprise intended for the wife who never returned to occupy them, and
though there was nothing extraordinary in them, there was much to
content the eyes accustomed to something very like squalidness, for
had not Kalliope's lot always been the least desirable chamber in the
At any rate, from that moment she began to recover, ate with
appetite, slept and woke to be interested, and to enjoy Theodore's
letter of description of St. Wulstan's, and even to ask questions.
Alexis was ready to dance for joy when she first began really to talk
to him; and could not forbear imparting his gladness to the Miss
Mohuns that very evening, as well as to Mr. White, and running down
after dinner with the good news to Maura, Mrs. Lee, and Lady
Merrifield. Dinners with Mr. White had, on his first sojourn in that
house, been a great penance, though there were no supercilious
servants, for all the waiting was by the familiar housekeeper, Mrs.
Osborne, who had merely added an underling to her establishment on
Back to Full Books