Dynevor Terrace (Vol. II)
Charlotte M Yonge
Part 4 out of 7
last day before the funeral, when the three cousins were sitting
together in the morning-room; James writing letters.
'I am asking Lady Conway to give you a bed to-morrow night, Clara,'
he said. 'We shall be at home by three o'clock.'
'Oh, Jem!' said Clara, clasping her hands to keep them from
trembling; 'I never thought of that.'
'You are not ready! That is unlucky, for I cannot come to fetch you;
but I suppose you can travel down with Jane. Only I should have
thought it easier to do the thing at once.'
'But, Jem! has my uncle said anything? Does he wish me to go?'
James laid down his pen, and stood upright, as if he did not
understand her words.
Clara came up to him, saying, 'I believe I ought to do what he may
'I told you,' said James, as if her words were not worth considering,
'that you need only remain here on her account, who no longer needs
Louis would have left them to themselves, but Clara's glance sued for
his protection, and, as he settled himself in his chair, she spoke
with more decision.--'Dear James, nothing would make me so happy as
to go to dear home; but I do not think grandmamma would like me to
leave Uncle Oliver.'
'Oh, very well,' said James, sitting down to his writing, as if he
had done with her; 'I understand.'
'Dear James! O tell me you are not angry with me! Tell me you think
I am right!' cried Clara, alarmed by his manner.
'Quite right in one point of view,' he said, with acrimony.
'James,' said Louis, very low, but so as to make them both start,
'that is not the way to treat your sister!'
'We will renew the discussion another time, if you wish it, Clara,'
'No,' said Clara, 'I wish Louis to be here. He will judge for me,'
and she spoke clearly, her face colouring. 'It was grandmamma's
great wish that I should love my uncle. She used to beg me to be
patient with him, and rejoiced to see us together. She often said he
must not be left with no one to make a home for him, and to go out to
'Did she ever desire you to remain here?'
'No,' said Clara, 'she never did; but I am convinced that if she had
known how soon she was to leave us, she would have done so. I feel
as much bound as if she had. I have heard her call him my charge.
And not only so, but my uncle has never varied in his kindness to me,
and when he worked all his life for grandmamma, and my father, it
would be wicked and cruel in me--if he does care for me--to forsake
him, now he has lost them all, and is growing old.'
'You need not scruple on that score,' said James. 'He has attained
his object, and made the most of it. He is free now, and he will
soon find a Rosita, if his mines are not sufficient for him.'
'James, you should not say wrong things,' said Clara.
'I am not likely to think it wrong, whatever you may. I have no
expectations. Do not rise up in arms against me, Fitzjocelyn, I do
not accuse her. I might have foreseen it. She meant well at first,
but the Terrace cannot bear competition with a place like this.
Where two so-called duties clash, she is at perfect liberty to make
her choice. It would not be easy to come down to what I have to
offer. I understand. The world will call it a wise choice. Say no
more, Clara, I feel no anger.'
She attempted no words; she clasped her hands over her face, and ran
out of the room.
'James,' said Louis, rising, indignation rendering his voice more low
and clearly distinct than ever, 'I little thought to hear you insult
that orphan sister of yours in her grief. No! I shall not defend
her, I shall go to give her what comfort I can. Heaven help her,
poor lonely child!'
He was gone. James paced about in desperation, raving against Louis
for maintaining what he thought Clara's self-deception; and, in the
blindness of anger, imagining that their ultra-generosity would
conduct them to the repair of Ormersfield with the revenues of
Cheveleigh; and, disdainful as he was, it seemed another cruel
outrage that his rightful inheritance should be in the hands of
another, and his children portionless. He was far too wrathful to
have any consistency or discrimination in his anger, and he was
cruelly wounded at finding that his sister deserted him, as he
thought, for her uncle's riches, and that his own closest friend was
ready to share the spoil.
In the stillness of the house, the sound of a door had revealed to
Louis where to seek his cousin. It was in the grand saloon, where
the closed shutters availed not to exclude the solid beams of
slanting sunlight falling through the crevices, and glancing on the
gilding, velvet, and blazonry upon the costly coffin, that shut her
out from the dear tender hands and lips that had never failed to
caress away her childish griefs. At first, the strange broad lines
of shadowy light in the gloom were all he could see, but one ray
tinged with paly light a plaited tress, which could only be Clara's
She had flung herself, crouching in a heap, on the floor, never
stirring, so that he almost feared she had fainted; and, kneeling on
one knee beside her, spoke soothingly: 'My poor little dear Clary,
this is the worst of all, but you know it was not Jem who spoke. It
was only prejudice and temper. He is not himself.'
The dim light seemed to encourage Clara to lift her head to listen to
the kind words. 'Was I so very wrong?' she murmured; 'you know I
never thought of that! Will he forgive me, and let me come home?
But, oh, granny! and what is to become of my uncle?' she ended, with
a sound of misery.
'Not here, not now, Clara--' said Louis; 'She is in perfect peace;
unhurt by our unhappy dissensions; she is with Him who looks at
hearts, who can take away all variance.'
There was a short space of silence, as the two cousins knelt in the
darkened room, in the sunbeams, which seemed as if they could not yet
forsake her who had lived in the light of love.
Presently Louis gave Clara his hand to raise her, and led her into
the adjoining room, also dim, but full of sweet fragrant breezes from
the garden. He seated her on a low couch, and stood by, anxiously
'If he had only told me I was wrong!' she sighed.
'He could not tell you so, Clara, for it is not wrong, and he knows
it is not. He will thank you by-and-by for not attending to him, now
that he does not know what he says. He is fairly distracted with
this grief coming upon his home cares.'
'Cares at dear, dear happy home!' cried Clara. 'Never!'
'Ah, Clara! I fear that much comfort went away with dear granny.
I think he is overtasking himself at the school; and three children
within a year may well make a man anxious and oppressed.'
'And I have vexed and disappointed him more!' exclaimed she. 'No
wonder he was angry, and ready to impute anything! But he will
believe me, he will forgive me, he will take me home.'
'It is my belief,' said Fitzjocelyn, in his peculiar way, 'that the
worst injury you could do to James would be to give way to the spirit
that has possessed him.'
'But, Louis,' cried Clara, wildly astonished, 'I must go; I can't
have Jem saying these things of me.'
'His saying them does not make them true.'
'He is my brother. He has the only right to me. If I must choose
between him and my uncle, he must be mine--mine.'
'You have not to choose between him and your uncle. You have to
choose between right and wrong, between his frenzy and his true
'My brother! my brother! I go with my brother!' was still her
vehement cry. Without listening to her cousin's last words, she made
a gesture to put him aside, and rose to hurry to her brother.
But Louis stood before her, and spoke gravely. 'Very well. Yield
yourself to his management. Go back to be another burden upon a
household, poor enough already to sour him with cares. Let him tell
your uncle that both his brother's children loathe the fruit of the
self-sacrifice of a lifetime. Transgress your grandmother's wishes;
condemn that poor man to a desolate, objectless, covetous old age;
make the breach irreconcilable for ever; and will James be the better
or the happier for your allowing his evil temper the full swing?'
Clara wrung her hands. 'My uncle! Yes, what shall I do with my
uncle? If I could only have them both?'
'This way you would have neither. Keep the straight path, and you
may end in having both.'
'Straight--I don't know what straight is! It must be right to cling
to my own brother in his noble poverty. Oh! that he should imagine
me caring for this horrid, horrid state and grandeur!'
Louis recurred to the old argument, that James did not know what he
was saying, and recalled her to the remembrance of what she had felt
to be the right course before James's ebullition. She owned it most
reluctantly; but oh! she said, would James still forgive her, and not
believe such dreadful things, but trust and be patient with her, and
perhaps Uncle Oliver might after all be set on going to Peru, and
beyond remonstrance. Then it would all come right--no, not right,
for granny had dreaded his going. Confused and distressed by the
conflicting claims, Clara was thankful for the present respite given
to her by Louis's promise that his father should sound her uncle as
to his wishes and intentions. Lord Ormersfield's upright,
unimpassioned judgment appeared like a sort of refuge from the
conflict of the various claims, and he was besides in a degree, her
guardian, being the sole executor of the only will which Mrs. Frost
had ever made, soon after the orphans came under her charge, giving
the Terrace to James, and dividing the money in the Funds between the
Weeping, but not unhopeful--convinced, though not acknowledging it-
inly praying for strength and patience, and hungering for one kind
word from James--Clara quitted that almost brother, in whose counsel
he had constrained her to seek relief, and went to her own chamber,
there to throw herself on the guidance of that Friend, who sticketh
closer than a brother.
The remaining part of the day passed quietly. James did not
consciously make any difference in his manner, meaning to be still
affectionate, though disappointed, and pitying her mistake, both as
to her present happiness and future good.
Lord Ormersfield and Walter arrived in the evening, and James applied
himself to finding occupation for his brother-in-law, whom he kept
out of the way in the garden very satisfactorily. The Earl was so
softened and sorrowful, that Clara hardly knew him. He deeply felt
the loss of the kind, gentle aunt, whose sympathy had been more to
him than he had known at the time; the last remnant of the previous
generation, the last link with his youth, and he was even more
grieved for the blank she left with Louis than for himself. By
Louis's desire, he inquired into Oliver's intentions. 'Must stay
here,' was the answer. 'Can't leave that child alone with the
property. I can look to the Equatorial Company here--must do without
me out there. No, no, I can't leave the girl to her brother; he'd
teach her his own nasty, spiteful temper, and waste the property on
all those brats. No, I'm fixed here; I must look after Henry's
child, fine girl, good-tempered girl; takes after Henry, don't you
That Clara took after her father in anything but being tall and fair,
would hardly have been granted by any one who knew her better than
the Earl, but he readily allowed it, and Oliver proceeded:--'As long
as she does not marry, here I am; but I trust some one will soon take
the care of her off my hands--man who would look after the property
well. She's a good girl too, and the finest figure in the whole
county; lucky him who gets her. I shall be sorry to part with the
child, too, but I shall be working for her, and there's nothing left
that cares a rush for me now, so I might as well be out of the way of
the young things. I know the old place at Lima, and the place knows
me; and what do I care for this now my mother is gone? If I could
only see Clara safe settled here, then I should care as little what
became of me as I suppose she would.'
The Earl was touched by the dreary, desponding tone of the reply, and
reported it to Louis and Clara with such terms, that Clara's decision
was made at once, namely, that it would be wrong and cruel to cast
away her uncle, and be swayed by James's prejudice; and Lord
Ormersfield told her with grave approval that she was quite right,
and that he hoped that James would recover from his unreasonable
'Make Jem forgive me,' said Clara, faintly, as her announcement of
her purpose, when she finally sought her room, obliged to be thought
meanly of, rather than do ill, denying her fondest affections,
cutting herself off from all she loved, and, with but this
consolation, that she was doing as grandmamma would have bidden her.
Oh, how her heart yearned after home!
On the morrow, Clara sorrowed in her solitary chamber alone with
faithful Jane, who, amid her bursts of tears, felt the one
satisfaction, that her dear mistress had lived to be buried like the
stock she came of, and who counted the carriages and numbered the
scarfs, like so many additional tributes from the affection of her
dear Master Oliver.
Once on that day James was visibly startled from his heavy, stern
mood of compressed, indignant sorrow. It was as he advanced to the
entrance of the vault, and his eye was struck by a new and very
handsome tablet on the wall. It was to the father, mother, and young
brother and sisters, whose graves had been hastily made far away in
the time of the pestilence, the only Dynevors who did not lie in the
tombs of their fathers. For one moment James moved nearer to his
uncle. Could he have spoken then, what might not have followed? but
it was impossible, and the impulse passed away.
But he was kind when he hurried upstairs for a last embrace to Clara.
He still felt fondly, brotherly, and compassionate; and all the more,
because she had proved more weak against temptation than he had
expected. His farewell was, 'Good-bye, my poor Clara, God bless
'Oh, thank you!' cried Clara, from the bottom of her heart. 'You
forgive me, James?'
'I forgive; I am sorry for you, my poor child. Mind, Dynevor Terrace
is still your home, if you do not find the happiness you expect in
your chosen lot.'
'Happiness!' but he had no time to hear. He was gone, while she
sobbed out her message of love for Isabel, and Louis ran up, pale
with repressed suffering, and speaking with difficulty, as he wrung
her hand, and murmured, 'Oh, Clara! may we but abide patiently.'
After his good-bye, he turned back again to say, 'I'm selfish; but
let me put you in mind not to let the Lima correspondence drop.'
'Oh, no, no; you know I won't.'
'Thank you! And let me leave you Mary's keynote of comfort, 'Commit
thy way unto the Lord, and He will bring it to pass.''
'Thank you,' said Clara, in her turn, and she was left alone.
THE FKOST HOUSEHOLD.
The wind of late breathed gently forth,
Now shifted east, and east by north,
Bare trees and shrubs but ill, you know,
Could shelter them from rain or snow,
Stepping into their nests they paddled,
Themselves were chilled, their eggs were addled,
Soon every father bird and mother
Grew quarrelsome, and pecked each other.
Pairing Time Anticipated-COWPER.
Three weeks longer did the session drag on, but on the joyful day
when release was given, Lord Ormersfield was surprised to find Mr.
Dynevor's card upon his table, with an address at Farrance's hotel.
Louis alone was at leisure to repair thither. He found Clara alone,
looking as if her grief were still very fresh, and, though striving
to speak gaily, the tears very near the surface.
'We are going abroad,' she said; 'Uncle Oliver thinks it a part of my
education, and declares he will not have me behind the Miss Brittons.
We are bound straight for Switzerland.'
'Lucky girl,' said Louis.
'I'm sure I don't care for it,' said Clara; 'mountains and pictures
are not a bit in my line, unless I had Isabel and you, Louis, to make
'Learn, then,' said Louis; 'it shows that your education is
defective. Yes, I see,' he continued, as Clara signed heavily, 'but
you don't know the good it will do you to have your mind forcibly
'If I could only sit quiet in a corner,' said Clara.
'So you will, in many a corner of a railway carriage.'
She smiled a little. 'The truth is,' she said, 'that poor Uncle
Oliver cannot be quiet. I can't see what pleasure Italy will be to
him, but he is too miserable at home. I never saw such restless
unhappiness!' and her eyes filled with tears. 'Oh, Louis! I am glad
you would not let me say anything about leaving him. Sometimes when
he bids me good night, he puts his arm round me, and says so
pitifully that I do not care for him. Do you know, I think mine is
the little spar of love that he tries to cling to in the great ship
wreck; and I feel quite sorry and hypocritical that it is such a
poor, miserable shred.'
'It will grow,' said Louis, smiling.
'I don't know; he is terribly provoking sometimes--and without dear
granny to hinder the rubs. O, Louis! it is true that there is no
bearing to stay at home in those great empty rooms!'
'Oh, she goes,' said Clara, recovering a smile; 'she is firmly
persuaded that we shall run into another revolution, and as she could
not frighten us by the description of your wounds, she decides to
come and dress ours when we get any. Dear old Jenny, I am glad she
goes; she is the only creature I can talk to; but, Louis, before my
uncle comes in, I have something to give you.'
It was the letters that Mary had written to her aunt since the
parting, and the Spanish books which she had left in her charge.
'It is very kind in you, Clara,' said Louis, fervently.
They talked of Mary, and a little of James, from whom Clara had once
heard; but it had been a stiff letter, as if a barrier were between
them, and then Mr. Dynevor came in, and seemed pleased to find Louis
there; even asking him whether he could not join them on their tour,
and help Clara to speak French.
'No, thank you, sir,' said Louis, 'I am afraid my company brought no
good luck last time.'
'Never mind that--manage better now--ha, Clara.'
'It would be very nice; but he has a great deal too much to do at
home,' said Clara.
Oliver would not be persuaded that Fitzjocelyn would not meet them
abroad, and began magniloquently talking of his courier, and his
route, and while he was looking for the map, the two cousins smiled,
and Clara said,--'Lucky you to have work at home, and to stay with
'Only I say, Clara, when you break down anywhere, send me a
'No such good luck,' sighed Clara.
'So he won't come,' said her uncle, when he was gone; 'but we shall
have him following us yet--Ha! ha! Never mind, Clara.'
Clara laughed. She knew what her uncle meant, but the notion was to
her too impossible and ridiculous even to need a blush. She did not
think the world contained Louis's equal; but she had always known
that his love was disposed of, and she no more thought of wishing for
it than for any other impossible thing. His affection for Mary gave
her no more pain than did that of James for Isabel; and she would
have treated with scorn and anger anything that impeached his
constancy. The pleasure with which he received Mary's letters was
the single satisfaction that she carried away with her.
And so she was borne away, and her sad heart could not choose but be
somewhat enlivened by change and novelty, while her uncle made it his
business to show her everything as rapidly as it could be seen,
apparently with no relish himself for aught but perpetual movement.
So passed the autumn with Clara. It was not much brighter at Dynevor
Terrace. Clara, being still under age, had it not in her power to
resign her half of her grandmother's income, even if her brother
would have accepted it; and 70 pounds made a difference in such an
income as James's, more especially as his innovations did not tend to
fill the school.
Murmurs were going about that Mr. Frost was severe, or that he was
partial. Some censured his old opinions, others his new studies; one
had been affronted by being almost told his boy was a dunce, another
hated all this new-fangled nonsense. The ladies were all, to a
woman, up against his wife, her airs, her poverty, her twins, and her
housekeeping; and seldom spoke of her save to contrast her with good
old Mrs. Frost. And then it was plain that something was wrong
between him and his uncle, and no one could believe but that his
temper had been the cause. The good Miss Faithfulls struggled in
vain to silence scandal, and keep it from 'coming round;' and luckily
Isabel was the last person likely either to hear or resent.
The boys met with decreased numbers after the holidays; and James
received them with undiminished energy, but with failing patience,
and a temper not improved by the late transactions at Cheveleigh, and
fretted, as Louis had divined, by home cares.
Of all living women, Isabel was one of the least formed by habits or
education to be an economical housewife and the mother of twins.
Maternal love did not develop into unwearied delight in infant
companionship, nor exclusive interest in baby smiles; and while she
had great visions for the future education of her little maidens, she
was not desirous to prolong the time spent in their society, but in
general preferred peace and Sir Hubert. On the other hand, James was
an unusually caressing father. After hours among rough inattentive
boys, nothing rested him so much as to fondle those tender creatures;
his eldest girl knew him, and was in ecstasy whenever he approached;
and the little pair of babies, by their mere soft helplessness, gave
him an indescribable sense of fondness and refreshment. His little
ones were all the world to him, and he could not see how a pattern
mother should ever be so happy as with them around her. He forgot
the difference between the pastime of an hour and the employment of a
day. The need of such care on her part was the greater since the
nursery establishment was deficient. The grand nurse had almost
abdicated on the double addition to her charge, and had only been
bribed to stay by an ill-spared increase in wages, and a share in an
underling, who was also to help Charlotte in her housemaid's
department. Nevertheless, the nurse was always complaining; the
children, though healthy, always crying, and their father always
certain it was somebody's fault. Nor did the family expenses
diminish, retrench his own indulgences as he might. It was the
mistress's eye that was wanting, and Isabel did not know how to use
it. The few domestic cares that she perceived to be her duty were
gone through as weary tasks, and her mind continued involved in her
own romantic world, where she was oblivious of all that was
troublesome or vexatious. Now and then she was aware of a sluggish
dulness that seemed to be creeping over her higher aspirations--a
want of glow and feeling on religious subjects, even in the most
sacred moments; and she wondered and grieved at a condition, such as
she had never experienced in what she had thought far more untoward
circumstances. She did not see the difference between doing her best
when her will was thwarted, and her present life of neglect and
indulgence. Nothing roused her; she did not perceive omissions that
would have fretted women of housewifely instincts, and her soft
dignity and smooth temper felt few annoyances; and though James could
sometimes be petulant, he was always withheld from reproving her both
by his enthusiastic fondness, and his sense that for him she had
quitted her natural station of ease and prosperity.
On a dark hazy November afternoon, when the boys had been unusually
obtuse and mischievous, and James, worn-out, wearied, and uncertain
whether his cuts had alighted on the most guilty heads, strode home
with his arm full of Latin exercises, launched them into the study,
and was running up to the drawing-room, when he almost fell over
Charlotte, who was scouring the stairs.
She gave a little start and scream, and stood up to let him pass. He
was about to rebuke her for doing such work at such an hour; but he
saw her flushed, panting, and evidently very tired, and his wrath was
averted. Hurrying on to the drawing-room, he found Isabel eagerly
writing. She looked up with a pretty smile of greeting; but he only
ran his hand through his already disordered hair, and exclaimed--
'Our stairs are like the Captain of Knockdunder's. You never know
they are cleaned, except by tumbling over the bucket and the maid.'
'Are they being done?' said Isabel, quietly. 'I suppose the maids
were busy this morning.'
'And Charlotte, too! She looks half dead. I thought Ellen was to do
such work, and ought to have done it in proper time.'
'Little Catharine is so fretful, that Ellen cannot be spared from the
'I suppose she might be, if you were not absorbed in that writing.'
'I had the children with me, while the servants were at dinner; but
Kitty was so troublesome, that I could not keep her. I am
particularly anxious to finish this.'
'Some people would think a sick child more engrossing than that--' He
had very nearly said trash, but he broke off short.
'There is nothing really the matter with her,' began Isabel,
composedly; but James did not wait to listen, and muttering, 'That
girl will be killed if she goes on,' he ran up to the nursery, whence
he already heard a sound of low fretting.
The child was sitting on the nurse's lap, with a hot red spot on one
cheek, teased and disturbed by the noises that the lesser ones were
constantly making, as one lay in her cot, and the other was carried
about by the girl. As he entered, she shrieked joyously, and
stretched out her arms, and Kitty was at once clinging, hugging round
his neck. Sending Ellen down to finish the stairs, he carried off
the little girl, fondling and talking to her, and happy in her
perfect content. But he did not go to the drawing-room. 'No, no,
mamma must not be interrupted,' he bitterly thought, as he carried
her down to the fireless study, hung his plaid round himself and her,
and walked up and down the room with her, amusing her till she fell
into a slumber on his shoulder.
Isabel could not at once resume her pen. Her even temper was for
once ruffled, and her bosom swelled at the thought that his reproach
was unjust; she was willing to do what was fitting, and he ought not
to expect her to be an absolute nursery-maid. Women must keep up the
tone of their own minds, and she might be being useful to the world
as well as to her own family. If he wanted a mere household drudge,
why had he not looked elsewhere? Up went her queenly head, as she
believed her powers were meant for other things; but her heart gave a
painful throb at the recollection that poverty had been her voluntary
choice, and had seemed perfect felicity with James. Alas! she loved,
honoured, and admired him, as her upright, unselfish, uncompromising
husband, but worries, and rebukes, and tart answers, had made many a
rent in the veil in which her fancy had enfolded him. Sir Roland had
disappeared, and James and Sir Hubert were falling farther and
And Isabel sighed, partly at the memory of the imaginary being for
whom she had taken James, and partly at the future prospect, the
narrow sphere, the choice between solitude and dull society, the
homely toils that must increase, worn-out garments, perpetual
alphabets, children always whining, and James always irritated,
thinking her remiss, and coming in with that furrow on his forehead,
and his hair standing up wildly. She shrank from the contemplation,
took her letter-case on her knee, moved close to the fire to profit
by the light, stirred up a clear flame, and proceeded with the
benevolent hermit, who came to the rescue when Sir Hubert was at the
last gasp, and Adeline had received his beautiful resigned words.
The hermit had transported him into his hut, and comforted Adeline,
and was beginning a consolatory harangue, making revelations that
were to set everything right, when just as he had gone as far as 'My
son, know that I did not always wear this amice,' there was a tap at
the door, and she saw Fitzjocelyn, who had been at Oakstead for the
last few weeks, attending to some matters connected with his
'Ah! is it you?' she said, her lap too full of papers for her to
rise. 'I did not know you were come home.'
'I came yesterday; and what company do you think I had in the train
as far as Estminster?'
'Ah, I can guess! How does Louisa look?'
'Rather languid; but Estminster is to work wonders. She declares
that Northwold is her best cure, and I am speculating whether she
will prevail. I think Lady Conway dreads your example.'
'Mamma does not allow for the force of imagination,' said Isabel, not
exactly knowing what prompted either the words or the sigh.
'I am come to ask if you will kindly give me a dinner. My father is
gone to the book-club meeting, so I thought we would try to revive
old times,' he said, smiling, but sadly, for the present scene was
little like the No. 5 of old times.
'We shall be delighted,' said Isabel, with alacrity, relieved at
avoiding a tete-it-tete with her husband at present, and refreshed by
the sight of one belonging to her former life, and external to her
present round of monotonous detail. 'Fortunately, it is not a
lecture night and James will be very glad.'
I suppose he ia not come in from school?'
'Yea, he is. I think he is in the study. I will let him know,' she
said, with her hand on the bell.
'I will go to him,' said Louis, departing out of consideration that
she might wish for space to attend to dinner, room, and dress. The
two last were scarcely in such a state as he had been used to see at
No. 5: books were on the sofa, the table-cover hung awry; the Dresden
Shepherd's hat was grimed, and his damsel's sprigged gown hemmed with
dust; there were no flowers in the vases, which his aunt had never
left unsupplied; and Isabel, though she could not be otherwise than
handsome and refined, had her crape rumpled, and the heavy folds of
her dark hair looking quite ready for the evening toilette; and, as
she sat on her low seat by the fire, the whole had an indescribable
air of comfort passing into listless indulgence.
Fitzjocelyn politely apologized to Ellen for a second time stepping
over her soapy deluge, and, as he opened the study door with a
preliminary knock, a voice, as sharp and petulant as it was low,
called out, 'Hollo! Be quiet there, can't you! You've no business
here yet, and I have no time to waste on your idleness.'
'I am sorry to hear it,' said Louis, advancing into the dim light of
the single bed-room candle, which only served to make visible the
dusky, unshuttered windows, and the black gulf of empty grate. James
was sitting by the table, with his child wrapped in the plaid, asleep
on his breast, and his disengaged hand employed in correcting
exercises. Without moving, he held it out, purple and chilled,
exclaiming, 'Ha! Fitzjocelyn, I took you for that lout of a Garett.'
'Is this an average specimen of your reception of your scholars?'
'I was afraid of his waking the child. She has been unwell all day,
and I have scarcely persuaded her to go to sleep.'
'As little in patience as in judgment,' sighed James.
'And which of them is it who is lulled by the strains of 'As in
'Which?' said James, somewhat affronted. 'Can't you tell sixteen
months from five?'
'I beg her pardon; but I can't construct a whole child from an inch
of mottled leg--as Professor Owen would a megalosaurus from a tooth.
Does she walk?'
'Poor child, she _must_!' said James. 'She thinks it very hard to
have two sisters so little younger than herself,' and he peeped under
the plaid at the little brown head, and drew it closer round, with a
look of almost melancholy tenderness, guarding carefully against
touching her with his cold hands.
'She will think it all the better by-and-by,' said Louis.
'You had better not stay here in the cold. I'll come when I have
heard that boy's imposition and looked over these exercises.' And he
ran his hand through his hair again.
'Don't! You look like enough to a lion looking out of a bush to
frighten ten boys already,' said Louis. 'I'll do the exercises,'
pulling the copy-books away.
'What, you don't trust me?' as James detained them.
'No, I don't,' said James, his cousin's brightness awakening his
livelier manner. 'It needs an apprenticeship to be up to their
'Let me read them to you. I gave notice to Isabel that I am come to
dinner, and no doubt she had rather I were disposed of.'
James objected no farther, and the dry labour was illuminated by the
discursive remarks and moralizings which Louis allowed to flow in
their natural idle course, both to divert his dispirited cousin, and
to conceal from himself how much cause there was for depression.
When the victim of the imposition approached, Louis prevented the
dreaded clumsy entrance, seized on a Virgil, and himself heard the
fifty lines, scarcely making them serve their purpose as a
punishment, but sending the culprit away in an unusually amiable
Services from Louis were too natural to James to be requited with
thanks; but he was not uncivil in his notice of a wrong tense that
had been allowed to pass, and the question was argued with an
eagerness which showed that he was much enlivened. On the principle
that Louis must care for all that was his, as he rose to take the
still-sleeping child upstairs, he insisted that his cousin should
come with him, if only for the curiosity of looking at the other two
little animals, and learning the difference between them and Kitty,
at whom he still looked as if her godfather had insulted her.
It was pretty to see his tenderness, as he detached the little girl
from her hold, and laid her in the cot, making a little murmuring
sound; and boasted how she would have shown off if awake, and laughed
over her droll little jealousies of his even touching the twins. As
she was asleep, he might venture; and it was comical to hear him
declaring that no one need mistake them for each other, and to see
him trying to lay them side by side on his knees to be compared, when
they would roll over, and interlace their little scratching fingers;
and Louis stood by teasing him, and making him defend their beauty in
terms that became extravagant. He was really happy here; the
careworn look smoothed away, the sharpness left his tones, and there
was nothing but joyous exultation and fondness in his whole manner.
The smile did not last long, for Louis was well-nigh thrown
downstairs by a dustpan in a dark corner, and James was heard
muttering that nothing in that house was ever in its right place; and
while Louis was suggesting that it was only himself who was not in
the right place, they entered the drawing-room, which, like the lady,
was in the same condition as that in which he had left it. Since
Isabel had lost Marianne and other appliances, she had thought it not
worth while to dress for dinner; so nothing had happened, except that
the hermit had proved to be Adeline's great uncle, and had begun to
clear up the affair of the sacrilege.
He was reluctant to leave off when the gentlemen appeared; but Isabel
shut him up, and quietly held out the portfolio to James, who put it
on the side-table, and began to clear the books away and restore some
sort of order; but it was a task beyond his efforts.
Dinner was announced by Charlotte, as usual, all neat grace and
simplicity, in her black dress and white apron, but flushed and
heated by exertions beyond her strength. All that depended on her
had been well done; but it would not seem to have occurred to her
mistress that three people ate more than two; and to Louis, who had
been too busy to take any luncheon, the two dishes seemed alarmingly
small. One was of haricot mutton, the other of potatoes; and
Charlotte might be seen to blush as she carried Lord Fitzjocelyn the
plate containing a chop resembling Indian rubber, decorated with
grease and with two balls of nearly raw carrot, and followed it up
with potatoes apparently all bruises.
Louis talked vigorously of Virginia and Louisa--secretly marvelling
how his hosts had brought themselves down to such fare. Isabel was
dining without apparently seeing anything amiss, and James attempted
nothing but a despairing toss of his chin, as he pronounced the
carrots underdone. After the first course there was a long interval,
during which Isabel and Louis composedly talked about the public
meeting which he had been attending, and James fidgetted in the
nervousness of hardly-restrained displeasure; but suddenly a
frightful shrieking arose, and he indignantly cried, 'That girl!'
'Poor Charlotte in her hysterics again,' said Isabel, moving off,
quickly for her, with the purple scent-bottle at her chatelaine.
'Isabel makes her twice as bad,' exclaimed James; 'to pet her with
eau-de-Cologne is mere nonsense. Some day I shall throw a bucket of
cold water over her.'
Isabel had left the door open, and they heard her softly comforting
Charlotte with 'Never mind,' and 'Lord Fitzjocelyn would not care,'
till the storm lulled. Charlotte crept off to her room, and Isabel
returned to the dinner-table.
'Well, what's the matter now?' said James.
'Poor Charlotte!' said Isabel, smiling; 'it seems that she trusted to
making a grand appearance with the remains of yesterday's pudding,
and that she was quite overset by the discovery that Ellen and Miss
Catharine had been marauding on them.'
'You don't mean that Kitty has been eating that heavy pudding at this
time of night?' cried James.
'Kitty eats everything,' was the placid answer, 'and I do not think
we can blame Ellen, for she often comes down after our dinner to find
something for the nursery supper.'
'Things go on in the most extraordinary manner,' muttered James.
'I suppose Charlotte misses Jane,' said Louis. 'She looks ill.'
'No wonder,' said James, 'she is not strong enough for such work.
She has no method, and yet she is the only person who ever thinks of
doing a thing properly. I wish your friend Madison would come home
and take her off our hands, for she is always alternating between
fits of novel-reading and of remorse, in which she nearly works
herself to death with running after lost time.'
'I should be sorry to part with her,' said Isabel; 'she is so quiet,
and so fond of the children.'
'She will break down some day,' said James; 'if not before, certainly
when she hears that Madison has a Peruvian wife.'
'There is no more to come,' said Isabel, rising; 'shall we come
James took up the candles, and Louis followed, considerably hungry,
and for once provoked by Isabel's serene certainty that nobody cared
whether there were anything to eat. However, he had forgotten all by
the time he came upstairs, and began to deliver a message from Lady
Conway, that she was going to write in a day or two to beg for a
visit from Isabel during her sojourn at Estminster, a watering-place
about thirty miles distant. Isabel's face lighted with pleasure.
'I could go?' she said, eagerly turning towards James.
'Oh, yes, if you wish it,' he answered, gruffly, as if vexed at her
'I mean, of course, if you can spare me,' she said, with an air of
'If you wish it, go by all means. I hope you will.'
'The Christmas holidays are so near, that we may both go,' said
Isabel; but James still had not recovered his equanimity, and Louis
thought it best to begin talking of other things; and, turning to
James, launched into the results of his Inglewood crops, and the
grand draining plan which was to afford Marksedge work for the
winter, and in which his father had become much interested. But he
did not find that ready heed to all that occupied him of which he
used to be certain at the Terrace. Isabel cared not at all for
farming, and took no part in 'mere country squire's talk;' and James
was too much overburthened with troubles and anxieties to enter
warmly into those of others. Of those to whom Louis's concerns had
been as their own, one had been taken from him, the other two were
far away; and the cold 'yes,' 'very good,' fell coldly on his ear.
The conversation reverted to the school; and here it appeared that
two years' experience had taken away the freshness of novelty, and
the cycle of disappointment had begun. More boys were quitting the
school than the new-comers could balance; and James spoke with acute
vexation of the impracticability of the boys, and the folly of the
parents. The attendance at his evening lectures had fallen off; and
he declared that there was a spirit of opposition to whatever he did.
The boys disobeyed, knowing that they should be favoured at home, and
if they were punished, the parents talked of complaints to the
trustees. The Sunday teaching was treated as especially obnoxious:
the genteel mothers talked ridiculously about its resembling a
charity-school, the fathers did not care whether their sons went or
not, and he had scarcely five boys who appeared there regularly, and
of them one was the butcher's son, who came rather in spite of his
parents than with their consent. Attendance at church was more slack
than ever; and when he lectured the defaulters, and gave them
additional tasks in the week, it was resented as an injustice. To
crown all, Mr. Ramsbotham had called, and had been extremely insolent
about a boy whose ears had been boxed for reading Pickwick in school,
under cover of his Latin grammar, and Isabel was almost indignant
with Miss Faithfull for having ventured to hint to her that she
wished Mr. Frost would be a little more gentle with the boys.
Isabel was fully alive now, and almost as vehement as her husband, in
her complaints against his many foes. There was no lack of sympathy
here, indeed, there might be rather too much, for she did not afford
the softening influence that James had hitherto found at home.
'Well, Jem,' said Louis, at last, 'I think you should keep your hands
off the boys.'
'You are not bitten with the nonsense about personal dignity and
corporal punishment?' said James.
'By no means. I have an infinite respect for the great institution
of flogging; but a solemn execution is one thing, a random stroke
'Theories are very good things till you come to manage two score
dunces without sense or honour. There is only one sort of appeal to
their feelings that tells.'
'Maybe so, but I have my doubts whether you are the man to make it.'
Louis was sorry he had so spoken, for a flush of pain came up in
James's face at the remembrance of what Fitzjocelyn had long ago
forgotten--a passionate blow given to deter him from a piece of
wilful mischief, in which he was persisting for the mere amusement of
provoking. It stood out among all other varieties of cuff, stroke,
and knock, by the traces it had left, by Mrs. Frost's grief at it,
and the forgiveness from the Earl, and it had been the most
humiliating distress of James's childhood. It humbled him even now,
and he answered--
'You may be right, Louis; I may be not sufficiently altered since I
was a boy. I have struck harder than I intended more than once, and
I have told the boys so.'
'I am sure, if they had any generosity, they would have been touched
with your amends,' cried Isabel.
'After all, a schoolmaster's life does not tend to mend the temper,'
concluded James, sighing, and passing his hand over his forehead.
'No,' thought Louis, 'nor does Isabel's mutton!'
THE CONWAY HOUSEHOLD.
And ye shall walk in silk attire,
And siller hae to spare,
Gin ye'll consent to be his bride,
Nor think of Donald mair.
What makes you so lame to-day?' asked Lord Ormersfield, as Louis
crossed the library, on returning from an interview to which he had
been summoned in another room.
'I only stumbled over an obstruction on the Frost staircase
yesterday,' aaid Louis. 'Poor Jem chose to have me up to the nursery;
and to see him in the paternal character is the funniest as well as
the pleasantest spectacle the house affords.'
'Ah! it is not what it was,' said the Earl. 'I suppose I must call
there before the holidays, though,' he added, reluctantly. 'But what
did that man, Ramsbotham, want with you?'
'To ask our interest for that appointment for his friend Grant.'
'Indeed! what could bring him here?'
'Why, unluckily, he fancied he had some claim on me, on the score of
Jem Frost's election. I was too innocent then to know what those
things go for.'
'You may say so!' ejaculated the Earl. 'So he was insolent enough to
bring that up, was he?'
'Worse,' said Fitzjocelyn; 'he wanted to threaten that, unless I
would oblige him now, there were matters which it was his duty to lay
before the trustees. I told him he would do, of course, whatever was
his duty; whereupon he thought my Lordship was interested in Mr.
'Intolerably impertinent! I hope you set him down!'
'I told him that neither Mr. Frost nor I should wish him to pretermit
his duty on any consideration whatever. Then he harked back to what
he did for us at the election; and I was forced to tell him that if
he considered that he had thereby established a claim on me, I must
own myself in his debt; but as to reciprocating it, by putting in a
person like Grant, that was against my conscience. He flew into a
passion, informed me that Mr. Frost would take the consequences,
mounted the British Lion, and I bowed him out upon that majestic
quadruped, talking grandly of illiberal prejudices and the rising
'You acknowledged that he had a claim on you?'
'As things go in this world, I suppose it is true.'
'Louis! you will never know how to deal with those people.'
'I am afraid not. I could not, either boldly or diplomatically, get
rid of the charge; so there was nothing for it but to confess.
That's not the worst of it. I am afraid he really will be able to
take revenge on poor Jem, and I'm sure he can't afford to lose any
'Such a fellow as that will not have much in his power against
James,' said Lord Ormersfield. 'What I am afraid of is, that you
have cut the ground from under your feet. I cannot see how you are
ever to stand for Northwold.'
'Nor I,' said Louis. 'In fact, father, I have always thought it most
wonderfully kind forbearance that you never reproached me more for my
doings on that occasion. I believe we were all too happy,' he
presently added, with a sigh, which was re-echoed by his father, at
the same time trying to say something about youthfulness, to which
Louis, who had been leaning thoughtfully on the mantelpiece,
presently answered--'How much wiser old people are than young! An
original axiom, is not it? but it is the last which one learns!'
'You would hardly act in the same way now?' said his father.
'I wonder when it ever answers to interfere with the natural course
of events!' responded Louis, musingly. 'There were two things that
Mr. Calcott told me once upon a time.' Those two things he left
unuttered. They were--that the gentleman would be wasted on the
school, and that the lady was not made for a poor man's wife. No
wonder they made him sigh, but he concluded by exclaiming aloud--
'Well, I hope they will both go to Estminster, and come back with
The Estminster invitation was already on the road; but,
unfortunately, Lady Conway had been unable to secure lodgings large
enough to receive the children. She was urgent, however, that Isabel
should come as soon as possible, since Louisa had been more unwell
than usual, and was pining for her eldest sister; and she hoped that
James would join her there as soon as the holidays should set him
James was hurt to find Isabel so much delighted to go, but resolved
that she should not be deprived of the pleasure, and petulantly
denied the offers, which became even entreaties, that she might wait
till he could accompany her. He arranged, therefore, that he should
follow her in a fortnight's time, the Miss Faithfulls undertaking the
charge of their small namesakes; and Lady Conway wrote to fix a day
when Delaford should come to take care of Isabel on her journey.
James and Isabel laughed at this measure. Mrs. James Frost was
certainly not in circumstances to carry such a hero of the buttery in
her suite; and Lady Conway herself had more sense than to have
proposed it, but for Delaford's own representations. In fact, there
was a pretty face at Dynevor Terrace, and he had been piqued enough
by the return of his letters to be resolved on re-establixhing his
influence. Therefore did he demonstrate to my Lady that the only
appropriate trains would bring him to Northwold at seven in the
evening, and take him and Mrs. James Frost Dynevor away at eleven
next morning; and therefore did Isabel look up in a sudden fit of
recollection, as the breakfast was being removed, and say,
'Charlotte, Delaford is coming on Tuesday to fetch me to Estminster,
and will sleep here that night.'
Isabel little guessed that in the days when she viewed the fantastic
Viscount as her greatest enemy, the announcement of his approach
would have been far less appalling to her.
'The wretch! the traitor! the vile deceiver!' thought Charlotte, not
chary of her epithets, and almost ready to wreak her vengeance on the
silver spoons. 'He has gone and broken poor Marianne's heart, and
now he wants to treat me the same, and make me faithless to poor Tom,
that is up in the mountain-tops and trusts to me! O me, what shall I
do? Mrs. Beckett is gone, and there's no one to give me an advice!
If I speak to him or scorn him, he'll take his advantage all alike--
and his words are so fine and so soft, that do what I will to hate
him when I'm away, he is sure to wind round me when he's there; and I
can't get away, and I'm a poor, lonely, fatherless and motherless
orphan, and a vain girl, that has listened already to his treacherous
suit more than poor Tom would think for.'
Charlotte worked on in much grief and perplexity for some minutes,
revolving the vanity that had led to her follies, and humbling
herself in her own eyes. Suddenly, a flash of thought crossed her,
and woke a smile upon her face, almost a look of mischief. She tied
on a clean apron, and running upstairs, opened the drawing-room door,
and said, 'If you please, ma'am, might I ask Miss Faithfull's Martha
to tea on Tuesday night?'
'Oh yes, if you like,' said Isabel, never raising her eyes from the
rebuilding of the ruined chapel in the valley.
Away skipped Charlotte, and in two minutes was at the back door of
the House Beautiful. Mrs. Martha had been grimly kind to her ever
since she had been afflicted with the cook for a fellow-servant, and
received her only with a reproof for coming gadding out, when she
ought to be hard at work; but when she heard the invitation, she
became wrathful--she had rather go ten miles out of her way than even
look at 'that there Ford.'
But Charlotte explained her purpose, and implored, and put her in
mind that Mrs. Beckett was gone, and she had no protector; and Martha
relented, told her that if she had minded her she would never have
been in the scrape at all, but agreed, not without satisfaction, to
afford Mr. Delaford the society of his old acquaintance.
And so when Mr. Delaford, with his whiskers freshly curled and his
boots in a state of fascinating polish, walked up Dynevor Terrace,
the door was opened by Ellen, and the red-faced cook and the upright
Mrs. Martha sat on either side the fire. Daintily did he greet them,
and stand warming himself before the fire, adapting his conversation
to them for the next ten minutes, before he ventured to ask whether
Miss Arnold were still an inmate. 'Taking out dinner--taking in
tea,' gruffly replied Martha.
Mr. Delaford waited, but Ellen only ran in for one moment to fetch
the kettle, and Martha discoursed as usual on the gold mines in Peru.
By-and-by, when the parlour tea could by no possibility be supposed
to be farther prolonged, there swept into the kitchen the stately
nurse. Charlotte had run up to the nursery, and begged as a favour
that she might be left to watch the children, while Mrs. Nurse
entertained Mr. Delaford below-stairs; and in pity to so grand a
gentleman, constrained to mix with such 'low servants,' the nurse had
yielded, and Charlotte sat safe and sound by the nursery fire,
smiling at his discomfiture, and reading over Tom's letters with an
easier conscience than for many a day.
Mr. Delaford was too much of a gentleman to be uncivil to the three
dames by the kitchen fire, but he watched every step and every
creaking door. He even went the length of coming up to family
prayers, in hopes of there meeting Charlotte; but she only joined the
procession at the parlour door, and had flown upstairs, like a little
bird, before he was out again.
The gentleman was affronted, and resolved to make her feel it. They
could not but meet at the kitchen breakfast, and he barely
acknowledged her. This was the most trying stroke of all, for it set
her, in the eyes of the cook and nurse, on a level with the inferior
servants, to whom he would not have deigned a look, and it was not
easy to resist showing that she was on more familiar terms with him
than all. But the instinct of self-protection and the wisdom of
sincerity came to her aid. She abstained from raising her eyes to
his face, from one conscious word or glance; she locked herself into
her pantry when she took down the breakfast-things, and avoided every
encounter, even when she had begun to feel that it would have been
more flattering had he made more efforts. At last, dire necessity
obliged her to accept his aid in carrying her mistress's box down the
stairs. He walked backwards, she forwards. She would not meet his
eye, and he was too well-bred for one word on the stairs; but in the
garden he exclaimed, 'Miss Arnold, what have I done?'
'I never ought to have listened to you,' said Charlotte. 'It was not
right by neither of us; so please say no more.'
'If you could understand--'
'I don't want to understand nothing.'
Charlotte drove him on with the box till they were close to the fly,
and then, leaving him and the man to adjust the packing, flew back to
announce that all was ready for her mistress. The last kisses were
given to the children, and a message left with Charlotte for her
master, who was in school; then she stood with Miss Catharine in her
arms, and saw the fly drive off.
'Well,' said Mrs. Cook, 'that butler thinks himself a great beau, no
doubt! I asked him whether he thought you pretty, Charlotte, and he
said you hadn't no air nor no complexion. It's as I tells you--
nobody will never take no notice of you while you goes about so
Charlotte did not know whether she was glad that the cook could not
tease her about Delaford, or mortified to be supposed beneath his
notice. No air, forsooth! She who had often heard it said that she
looked like any lady!
'But oh,' said Charlotte to herself, as she spent her daily five
minutes at noonday in quiet thought, 'am I not a poor silly thing not
to be thankful that care has been round me this time, and that I have
not been let to do nothing giddy nor false by Tom, whatever I may
Meanwhile, Isabel had found it much harder to part with her babies
for three weeks than it had seemed at the first proposal; and there
were tears in her eyes as she gazed at the peaked, red-tiled roof of
the old grammar-school, and reckoned the days and hours before her
husband would join her.
Other associations revived when she found herself at Estminster, and
was received with shrieks of joy, caresses, and exclamations too fond
and foolish to bear repetition; and then the pale Louisa rested
against her, stroking her hand, and Lady Conway fondled her, and
Virginia, looking formed and handsome, retreated a little way to
study her and declare that she was the same Isabel, neither altered
nor grown older--it was all a dream that she had ever left them.
She almost felt it so herself, so entirely did she fit into the old
habits, the little quiet dinner (only it seemed unusually good), the
subsequent closing round the fire with the addition of Miss King and
Louisa, the easy desultory chat, the books with Mudie's stamp lying
about, the music which must be practised. It was very like being
Miss Conway still; and when she awoke the next morning to find it
late, and to the impulse of hurrying up, or _not_ hurrying, expecting
to find James making breakfast himself, and cross at being made late
for school, she turned on her pillow, half doubting whether she had
dreamt these two years in one long night, and remembering that
captive mermaid, who had but to resume her maritime headgear and
return to her native element, to forget the very existence of her
fisherman husband and children. No! Isabel was not come to that! but
she was almost ashamed to enjoy her extra hour's repose; and then the
leisurely breakfast--nay, even the hot rolls and clear coffee were
appreciated; and she sighed as she called up the image of the
breakfast over an hour ago, the grim kettle, the bad butter, the
worse fire, and James, cold and hurried, with Kitty on his knee
gnawing a lump of crust. It was a contrast to Lady Conway reading
her letters and discussing engagements with comfortable complacency,
and Virginia making suggestions, and Louisa's grave bright eyes
consulting hers, and Miss King quietly putting in a remark, and the
anticipation of Walter's return, as if he were the only person
The sisters always resented their mother's habit of talking of 'poor
Isabel,' regarding her as the happiest of women; and they were
confirmed in their belief by seeing her looking exceedingly well and
handsome, with perhaps a little more dignity and a sweeter smile.
Virginia loved to snatch private interviews with Miss King, to
express her confidence in dear Isabel's felicity, in the
infallibility and other perfections of James, and in the surpassing
cleverness of little Catharine; and Louisa was always sighing to
behold the twins. But, to the delight of the school-room, the chapel
in the valley was produced in a complete form, and a very pretty
romance it was; but the hermit and the brilliant denouement were
quite a shock to the young ladies, just when their tears were
prepared, and Virginia was almost angry.
'Oh, my dear, there is trouble enough in the world!' said Isabel;
'Hubert and Adeline have been my companions so long, that at least I
must leave them happy.'
'Indeed,' said Miss King, 'I am almost surprised that you have been
able to finish them at all, with so much re-writing.'
To her surprise, Isabel blushed, and her answer partook of self-
defence. 'James is so busy, and the children so young, that this has
been my great resource. When my little girls are older, I must begin
educating in earnest. I want to talk over Madame Neckar's book with
you, Miss King.'
'All systems begin alike from infant obedience, I believe,' said the
'Yes,' said Isabel, 'little Catharine is obedience itself with us.
It is curious to see how well she knows the difference between us and
the nurses. There are great tempests upstairs, and her papa takes
them very much to heart. He always has her downstairs when he is at
home; and he has accustomed her to so much attention, that there is
no doing anything while she is by, or I would have her more with me.'
The self-justifying tone rather puzzled Miss King. She noted
likewise that Isabel was backward in entering into details of her
home life, and that she never said a word to encourage her sister's
wishes to visit her at Northwold. Knowing Isabel as the governess
did, she was sure that she would not merely talk of things on the
surface, if her spirit were fully content. Only once did she go any
deeper, and that was as she took up a little book of religious poetry
of which she had been very fond. 'Ah!' she said, 'I don't feel these
things as I used. I think practical life dulls one.'
'I should have said, practical life made things real,' gaid Miss
Isabel had not found out that having duties and not doing them was
less practical than having no particular task.
Another cloud of mystery was over the relations with Mr. Dynevor and
Clara. Isabel baffled all Lady Conway's inquiries and advice by
entering into no particulars, but adhering to her own version of the
matter, 'that Mr. Dynevor had required of James conditions
incompatible with his duty,' and not deigning to explain either duty
or conditions, as beyond the capacity of her hearer.
Of Clara no account was vouchsafed, except that Isabel believed she
was abroad; 'they had been very much disappointed in her,' and Isabel
was afraid that she was a good deal altered; and the snbject seemed
so painful, that Virginia did not venture to push her inquiries any
The great subject of interest in the Conway family was that Virginia
and Louisa were going to lose their maid; and the suggestion somehow
arose that Charlotte should be her successor. It was agreed on all
hands that nature had formed her for a lady's-maid, and a few lessons
from a hairdresser would make her perfection; and she would be
invaluable in reading to Louisa when restless and unable to sleep.
Isabel gave herself credit for the most notable arrangement she had
ever made--promoting the little maiden, whom she really liked, and
relieving herself from the constant annoyance about sparing Ellen
from the nursery by obtaining a stronger housemaid. She had only a
few scruples, or rather she knew that James would have some, as to
exposing Charlotte to Delaford's attentions after what she had heard
in Clara's letter; but the least hint on this score led to a
panegyric upon Delaford's perfections--his steadiness, his prudence,
his cleverness on journeys, his usefulness in taking care of Walter.
'I know that Walter is safe when he is with Delaford,' said Lady
Conway. And even the sensible Miss King observed, smiling, 'that
there always _would_ be nonsense between men and maidservants; and
there were many more dangerous places than the present. She would
watch over Charlotte, and Fanshawe was quite to be trusted.'
The Conway family knew rather less about their own servants' hall
than they did of feudal establishments five hundred years ago.
Still, Isabel, in her superior prudence, resolved to consult Fanshawe
on the true state of affairs. Fanshawe was a comfortable portly
personage, chiefly absorbed in her caps and her good cheer, and
faring smoothly through life, on the principle of always saying what
was expected of her, and never seeing anything to anybody's
She assured Mrs. James Frost that she did not think Delaford to
blame; many girls would be foolish about a man with personal
advantages, but she could not see it was his fault. Poor Marianne
had been always weakly, and, 'After all, ma'am, some young women will
put constructions upon anything,' said Mrs. Fanshawe, deciding that
at least she should make no mischief by sacrificing poor Marianne.
Isabel did not like to come to more individual inquiries, lest she
should prepare discomfort for Charlotte; but she easily satisfied
herself that all was as right as convenient, and having occasion to
write some orders to Charlotte, communicated the proposal, saying
that all should be settled on her return.
There was wild work in the brain of the poor little Lady of
Eschalott. No more stairs to scrub! No more mats to shake! No more
hurrying after lost time, and an uneasy remembrance of undone duties!
No more hardening of fingers, no more short-sleeved lilac, no more
vulgarities from the cook! Ladylike dress, high wages, work among
flowers and gauzes, reading to Miss Louisa, housekeeper's-room
society, rank as 'Arnold' or 'Miss Arnold!' How much more suitable
to the betrothed of the Superintendent at San Benito! To be sure,
she was aware that a serpent lurked among the flowers; but she had
shown him a bit of her mind once, and she found she could take care
of herself, and keep him at a distance.
With her eyes shut, she already beheld Jane Beckett meeting her, when
seated at the back of a carriage, with a veil and a parasol,
addressing her as a grand lady, and kissing and praising her when she
found her little Charlotte after all.
THE TRUSTEES' MEETING.
Know you not, master, to some kind of men
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
As You Like It.
'My Lord,' said Frampton, entering the library late one evening, in
visible perturbation, and addressing himself to Fitzjocelyn, 'there
is a person wishing to see you.'
'What person at this time of night?' said Louis.
'In fact, my Lord,' said the butler, hesitating, 'it is the young
person at Mr. Frost's.'
'Something must be the matter!' cried Louis, starting up.
'She would explain nothing to me, she insisted on seeing your
lordship; and--in fact--she was in such a state of agitation that
I left her with Mrs. Bowles.'
Louis lost no time in hurrying into the hall. Charlotte must have
followed Frampton without his knowledge, for she was already there;
and, springing with clasped hands towards Fitzjocelyn, she cried,
sobbing, 'My Lord, my Lord, come to master!'
'Is he ill? or the children?'
'No, no! but he'll be off, he'll be off like poor Tom!' exclaimed
Charlotte, between her gasps; 'but I've locked it!' and she waved a
door-key, and seemed about to laugh hysterically.
'Sit down, Charlotte,' said Louis, authoritatively, bringing a chair.
'If you do not explain yourself reasonably at once, I shall call Mrs.
Bowles, and desire her to put you to bed.'
She made an imploring gesture, sank trembling into the chair, and,
after a few incoherent efforts, managed to speak--'If you would but
come to master, my Lord--I know it is something bad.'
Louis thought it wisest to despatch Frampton at once to order the
carriage to be brought out immediately; and this so far pacified
Charlotte, that she could speak comprehensibly on the cause of her
alarm. 'He is in such a way!' she began. 'He went out to the
school-examination, I believe, in his cap and gown, this morning; he
was gone all day, but just at dusk I heard him slam-to the front
door, fit to shake the house down, like he does when he is put out.
I'd a thought nothing of that; but by-and-by I heard him stamping up
nnd down the study, like one in a frenzy, and I found his cap and
gown lying all of a heap in a corner of the hall. Then, Mr. Calcott
came to call; and when I went into the study, master had his head
down on the table, and wouldn't see no one; he fairly stamped to me
to be gone, and bring him no more messages. Mr. Calcott, he looked
so sorry and concerned, and sent in again. I was to say that he
hoped some arrangement might be made, if Mr. Frost would only see
him; but master had locked the door, and hallooed out that I was to
say he was obliged, but couldn't see nobody. So Mr. Calcott was
forced to go; and there was poor master. Not one morsel of dinner
has he had. I knocked, but he would not open, only said he did not
want for nothing. No, not even when 'twas time for Miss Catharine to
come down. She thumped at the door, and called 'Papa' so pretty;
but he never heeded, except to call out, 'Take her away!' Charlotte
was crying so much that she could hardly proceed. 'Then I knew it
must be something very melancholy indeed. But by-and-by he opens the
door with a great jerk, and runs right up to the lumber-room. I saw
his face, and 'twas like a corpse, my Lord; and he brings down his
portmanteau into his dressing-room, and I hears him pulling out all
his drawers. 'He'll be gone!' I thinks, 'he'll be off to America,
too! And my poor mistress!' So I went up quietly, and in secret,
unbeknown to them all, and got my bonnet; and I've run every step of
the way--for you are the only one, my Lord, as can soothe his wounded
spirit; and I've locked both the doors, and here's the key, so he
can't be gone till you come.'
'Locked the doors!' cried Louis. 'What have you done? Suppose your
mistress or Miss Clara were ill?'
'Oh, no--no, it is not that,' said Charlotte; 'or why should he flee
from the face of his children? Why, I took Miss Salome up to the top
of the stairs, when she was screaming and crying with all her might,
and you would not have thought he was within a mile of her. No, my
Lord, no one can't do nothing but you.'
'I'll come at once,' said Louis. 'You did quite right to fetch me;
but it was a frightful thing to lock the door.'
Sending Charlotte to the housekeeper, he went to communicate her
strange intelligence to his father, who shared his dismay so much as
almost to wish to come with him to Northwold; but Louis felt he could
deal better alone with James. His fears took the direction of the
Italian travellers, knowing that any misfortune to them must recoil
on James with double agony after such a parting.
In very brief space the carriage was at Northwold, and desiring that
it should wait at the corner of the Terrace, Louis followed
Charlotte, who had jumped down from the box, and hastened forward to
unlock the door; and he was in time to hear the angry, though
suppressed, greeting that received her. 'Pretty doings, ma'am! So I
have caught you out at last, though you did think to lock me in! He
shan't come in! I wonder at your impudence! The very front door!'
'Oh, cook, don't!' The poor breathless voice managed at last to be
heard. 'This is Lord Fitzjocelyn.'
Cook had vanished out of sight or hearing before Louis's foot was
within the threshold. The study-door was open, the fire expiring,
the books and papers pushed back; and James's fierce, restless tread
was heard pacing vehemently about his own room. Louis ran hastily
up, and entered at once. His cousin stood staring with wild eyes,
his hair was tossed and tangled, his face lividly pale, and the table
was strewn with fragments of letters, begun and torn up again; his
clothes lay tumbled in disorder on the floor, where his portmanteau
lay open and partly packed. All Louis's worst alarm seemed fulfilled
at once. 'What has happened?' he cried, catching hold of both
James's hands, as if to help him to speak. 'Who is ill?--not Clara?'
'No--no one is ill,' said James, withdrawing his hands, and kneeling
down by his box, with an air of feigned indifference; 'I am only
going to London.'
'Aye, to see what is to be done,--ship--chaplaincy, curacy,
literature, selling sermons at five shillings each,--what not.
I am no longer master of Northwold school!' He strove to speak
carelessly, but bending over his packing, thrust down the clothes
with desperate blows.
Louis sat down, too much dismayed to utter a word.
'One morning's work in the conclave,' said James, with the same
assumed ease. 'Here's their polite reprimand, which they expected me
to put up with,--censuring all my labour, forbidding Sunday-classes,
accusing me of partiality and cruelty, with a lot of nonsense about
corporal punishment and dignity. I made answer, that if I were
master at all, I must be at liberty to follow my own views, otherwise
I would resign; and, would you believe it, they snapped at the offer-
-they thought it highly desirable! There's an end of it.'
'Impossible!' cried Louis, casting his eye over the reprimand, and
finding that the expressions scarcely warranted James's abstract of
them. 'You must have mistaken!'
'Do you doubt _that_?' and James threw to him a sheet where, in
Richardson's clerkly handwriting, the trustees of King Edward's
Northwold Grammar School formally accepted the resignation of the
Reverend James Roland Frost Dynevor.
'They cannot be so hasty! Did not Mr. Calcott call to gee you?'
'An old humbug!'
'I'll go and see him this instant. Something may be done.'
'No,' said James, holding him down by the shoulder, 'I will not be
degraded by vain solicitations.'
'This must be that wretched Ramsbotham!' exclaimed Louis. 'Oh, Jem!
I little thought he had so much power to injure you.'
'It is as well you did not,' said James. 'It would have made no
difference, except in the pain it would have cost you; and the only
gratification in this business is, that I suffer because neither you
nor I would deny our principles. I thank you, Fitzjocelyn!' and he
straightened himself in the satisfaction of persecuted rectitude.
'You have very little to thank me for,' said Louis, wringing his
hand, and turning aside, as if unable yet to face the full extent of
'Never fear for us,' continued James, boldly; 'we shall struggle on.
Mens conscia,--you see I can't forget to be a schoolmaster.'
'But what are you about? Where are you going?'
'To London. You spoke to a publisher about my lectures on history;
they will serve for introduction. He may make me his hack--a willing
one, while I advertise--apply for anything. I must be gone!'
'You do not look fit for a night journey. You would be too early at
Estminster to see Isabel.'
'Don't name her!' cried James, starting round as if the word were a
dart. 'Thank Heaven that she is away! I must write to her. Maybe,
Lady Conway will keep her till I am settled--till I have found some
lodging in London where no one will know us.'
'And where you may run up a comfortable doctor's bill.'
With a gesture--half passion, half despair--James reiterated,
'There's no staying here. I must be gone. I must be among
'Your mens conscia would better prove that it has no cause for shame
by staying here, instead of rushing out of sight into the human
wilderness, and sacrificing those poor little--'
James struck his foot on the floor, as though to intercept the word;
but Louis continued, apparently unmoved by his anger--'Those poor
little children. If misfortune and injury be no disgrace to the
injured, I call it cowardly pride to fly off by night to hide
oneself, instead of living in your own house, like an honest man.'
'Live!--pray what am I to live on?' cried James, laughing hoarsely.
'You will not find out by whirling to London in your present state.'
In fact, Louis's most immediate care was to detain him for that one
night. There was a look of coming illness about him, and his
desperate, maddened state of mind might obscure his judgment, and
urge him into some precipitate measure, such as he might afterwards
rue bitterly for the sake of the wife and children, the bare thought
of whom seemed at present to sting him so intolerably. Moreover,
Louis had a vague hope that so harsh a proceeding would be abandoned
by the trustees; his father would remonstrate, and James might be
able to think and to apologize. He was hardly a rational being to-
night, and probably would have driven away any other companion; but
long habit, and external coolness, enabled Louis to stand his ground,
and to protract matters till the clock, striking eleven, relieved
him, as much as it exasperated James, by proving it so late that the
last train would have already past.
He persisted in declaring that he should go by the first in the
morning, and Louis persuaded him to go to bed, after Charlotte had
brought them some tea, which, he said, choked him. Deciding on
sleeping at No. 5, Louis sent home the carriage, with a note to his
father; and Charlotte pressed her hands together in a transport of
gratitude when she found that he was not going to abandon her master.
She did her best to make the forlorn house comfortable; but it was
but cold comfort, with all the fires gone out, and he was too sad and
anxious to heed it.
She was at his door early the next morning, with a summons more
alarming than surprising. She was sure that master was very ill.
There was James lying across his bed, half-dressed, turned away from
the dim morning light, and more frightfully pale than ever. He
started angrily at Louis's entrance, and sprang up, but fell back,
insisting with all his might that nothing ailed him but a common
headache, which needed only to be left quiet for an hour or two. He
said it venomously.
'A very uncommon headache,' thought Louis. 'My belief is, that it is
little short of brain fever! If I could only feel his pulse! But it
would be very like taking a mad dog's hand. There's nothing for it
but to fetch old Walby. He may have some experience of refractory
'Go home, Louis,' reiterated James, savagely, on opening his eyes and
finding him not gone. 'I tell you I want nobody. I shall be in
London before night.'
And starting up, he tried to draw the curtain at his feet, to shut
out the tardy dawn; but too giddy to persevere, he sank back after
one noisy pull.
Louis drew it completely, shaded the window, and would have settled
the pillows, but was not allowed; and obtaining an impatient grunt by
way of dismissal, he ran down stairs, caught up hat and stick, and
set off to summon Mr. Walby from his comfortable family breakfast-
table. The good old doctor was more concerned than amazed. He could
hardly surmount the shock to his trustee conscience, on hearing of
the consequence of yesterday's proceedings.
'I was much grieved at the time,' he said, as they walked to the
Terrace together. 'You will believe me that I was no willing party,
'I could never believe that you would do anything hard towards any
one, Mr. Walby,' said Louis, kindly; and a few more like assurances
led the old man to volunteer the history of the case in confidence.
Ramsbotham had brought before the meeting of the trustees a serious
mass of charges, on which he founded a motion that Mr. Frost should
be requested to resign. Every one rejected such a measure, and the
complaints were sifted. Some were palpably false, others
exaggerated, others related to matters of principle; but deducting
these, it still was proved that the Sunday attendance and evening
lectures were too visibly the test of his favour, and that the boys
were sometimes treated with undue severity, savouring of violent
temper. 'I must confess, my Lord,' said Mr. Walby, sinking his
voice, 'I am afraid Mr. Frost is too prompt with his hand. A man
does not know how hard he hits, when he knocks a boy over the ears
with a book. Mrs. Barker's little boy really had a gathering under
the ear in consequence;--I saw it myself.'
Louis was confounded; he had nothing to say to this; he knew the
force that irritation gave to James's hand too well to refuse his
credence, and he could only feel shame and dismay, as if himself
guilty by his misjudged patronage.
Mr. Walby proceeded to say that, under the circumstances, the
trustees had decided on remonstrating by letter, after the
examination; and it was easy to perceive that the reprimand, which
might have been wise and moderate from the Squire, had gained a
colour from every one concerned, so as to censure what was right and
aggravate what was wrong. Mr. Frost's reply had been utterly
unexpected; Ramsbotham and the bookseller had caught at the
resignation, and so did the butcher, who hated the schoolmaster for
having instilled inconveniently high principles into his son.
Richardson abstained from voting; Mr. Calcott fought hard for Mr.
Frost, but the grocer was ill, and only poor old Mr. Walby supported
him, and even they felt that their letter had not deserved such
treatment. Alas! had not Fitzjocelyn himself taught Northwold that
the Squire was not a dictator? Even then, Mr. Calcott, still hoping
that an apology might retrieve the day, had set forth to argue the
matter with James Frost, whom he could not suppose serious in his
intentions, but thought he meant to threaten the trustees into
acquiescence. The doors had been closed against him, and Mr. Walby
feared that now the step was known, it was too late to retract it.
'The ladies would never allow it,' he declared; 'there was no saying
how virulent they were against Mr. Frost; and as to consideration for
his family, that rather inflamed their dislike. They had rich
relations enough! It would be only too good for so fine a lady to be
brought down.' Every one had some story of her pride, neglect, or
bad housewifery. 'And I can tell you,' said Mr. Walby, 'that I am
not in their good books for declaring that I never saw anything from
her but very pretty, affable manners.'
With these words they reached the house; and with sighs and murmurs
of 'Ah! poor young man!' Mr. Walby followed Louis to the landing-
place, where they both paused, looking at each other in doubt how to
effect an entrance, Louis suddenly remembering that no presence would
be more intolerable to the patient than that of a trustee. However,
there was nothing for it but to walk in, and announce, as a matter of
course, that he had thought it right to call in Mr. Walby.
The extremity of displeasure brought James to his feet, and out into
the passage, saying, with grave formality, that he was much obliged,
and glad to see Mr. Walby as a friend, but Lord Fitzjocelyn was
mistaken in thinking him in need of his advice. Many thanks, he
would trouble him no further; and affecting a laugh, he said that
Fitzjocelyn seemed never to have heard of a bad headache.
'Acting does not mend matters, Jem,' said Louis. 'You had much
better confess how really ill you are.'
Excessive giddiness made James stagger against his cousin, and Louis,
throwing his arms round him, looked in great alarm to the doctor for
help, but was answered by something very like a smile. 'Aye, aye,
sir, there's nothing for it but to go to bed. If his lordship there
had seen as many cases of jaundice as I have, he would not look so
frightened. Very wholesome disorder! Yes, lie down, and I'll send
you a thing or two to take.'
So saying, Mr. Walby helped Louis to lay their unwilling invalid on
the bed without much resistance or reply, and presently departed, so
infinitely relieved that he could not help indulging in a little
chuckle at the young Viscount's mistake. As soon as he was gone,
James revived enough to protest that it was all nonsense, doctors
must needs give a name to everything; if they would only let him
alone, he should be himself and off to London in two hours; and that
it was Fitzjocelyn himself who was looking excessively ill, and as
yellow as a guinea. He would not hear of undressing and going
absolutely to bed, and fairly scolded every one out of sight. Good
Miss Mercy, who had trotted in at the tidings of illness, stood at
the nursery-door, telegraphing signs of commiseration in answer to
Louis's looks of perplexity.
'At least,' she said, 'you had better come to breakfast with us, and
hear what my sister says--Salome always knows what is best.'
He soon found himself in the snug parlour, where the small round
breakfast-table, drawn close to Miss Faithfull's fireside chair, had
a sort of doll's-house air of cheerful comfort, with the tiny plates,
tea-cups, and the miniature loaf, and the complicated spider-legs,
among which it was not easy to dispose of his own length of limb.
The meal passed in anxious consultation. There might be no danger,
but the disorder was severe and increasing. James's health had long
been suffering from harass of mind, want of exercise, and unwholesome
diet; and the blow of the previous day had brought things to a
crisis. There he lay, perfectly unmanageable, permitting neither aid
nor consolation, unable to endure the sight of any one, and too much
stupefied by illness to perceive the impracticability of his wild
scheme of seeking employment in London.
Miss Faithfull pronounced that either Mercy or Lord Fitzjocelyn must
go and fetch Mrs. James Frost home.
'I was only thinking how long we could keep her away,' said Louis.
'Pray don't be shocked, dear Miss Mercy, but I thought I could nurse
poor Jem much better alone than with another dead weight on our
'They would neither of them thank you,' said Miss Faithfull,
laughing. 'Depend upon it, she will know best how to deal with him.'
'Well, you see more of their household than I do, but I have never
dared to think of her! Do you remember the words, 'if thou hast run
with the footmen and they have wearied thee--''
'There are some people who can run with the horsemen better than with
the footmen,' said Miss Salome. 'You know we are very fond of young
Mrs. Frost. We cannot forget her sweetness when she lived in this
house, and she has always been most kind and friendly. I do believe
that to display the most admirable qualities, she only needs to be
'To live in the house with Jem, and Jem's three babies, and yet want
'I have thought,' said Salome, diffidently, 'that he was only too
gentle with her.'
'Do you know how very severe you are growing, Miss Faithfull?' said
Louis, looking her in the face, in the gravity of amusement.
'I mean,' said Miss Faithfull, blushing, 'though of course I do not
know, that I have fancied it might be better for both if he could
have gone to the root of the matter, and set fairly before her the
prime duties requisite in the mistress of such a family. He may have
'I think not,' said Louis; 'it would be awkward when a woman fancied
she embraced poverty voluntarily for his sake. Poverty! It was
riches compared with their present condition. Isabel on 150 pounds a-
year! It may well make poor Jem ill to think about it! I only
wonder it is not a brain-fever!'
'Lord Fitzjocelyn regrets that brain-fever,' said Miss Faithfull.
'Probably my ideas on the subject are derived from the prevalence of
the complaint in light literature,' said Louis, smiling. 'It would
be more dignified, and suit Isabel better. Poor Isabel! I hope I
have done her injustice. She behaved gloriously at the barricades,
and has a great soul after all; but I had begun to think heroines not
calculated for moderate circumstances. May they do better in no
circumstances at all! Heighho! how a heavy heart makes one talk
nonsense! So I am to fetch the poor thing home, Miss Faithfull.'
This was determined on, whether with or without James's consent; Miss
Mercy undertaking that she and Martha would help Charlotte, and
dispose of the children in the House Beautiful; and she went back
with Louis to fetch them, when little Catharine was found peeping
through the bars of her prison-gate at the top of the nursery-stairs,
shouting lustily for papa. She graciously accepted her godfather as
a substitute, and was carried by him to her kind neighbour's house,
already a supplementary home. As to her father, Louis found him more
refractory than ever. His only greeting was, 'Why are not you gone
home?' He scorned Mr. Walby's prescriptions, and made such confident
assertions that he should be off to London in the evening, that
Fitzjocelyn almost reverted to the brain-fever theory, and did not
venture to hint his intention to any one but Charlotte, telling her
that he should now almost think her justified in locking the doors.
Sending information to his father, he started for Estminster, very
disconsolate, and full of self-reproach for the hasty proceedings
which had borne such bitter fruits. The man and the situation had
been an injustice to each other; a sensitive irritable person was the
very last to be fit for a position requiring unusual judgment and
temper, where his energy had preyed upon itself. His being placed
there had been the work of Louis's own impetuous scorn of the wisdom
of elder and graver heads. Such regrets derived additional poignancy
from the impossibility of conferring direct assistance upon James,
and from the degree of justice in the hard measure which had been
dealt to him, would make it for ever difficult to recommend him, and
yet the devising future schemes for his welfare was the refuge which
Louis's mind most willingly sought from the present perplexity of the
communication in store for poor Isabel.
As he put out his head at the Estminster station, a familiar voice
shouted, 'Hollo! Fitzjocelyn, how jolly! Have you got James there?
I told Isabel it would be no use; but when she did not get a letter
this morning, she would have it that he was coming, and got me to
walk up with her.'
'Where is she?' asked Louis, as he jumped out and shook hands with
'Walking up and down the esplanade. She would not come into the
station, so I said I would run up to satisfy her. I don't know what
she will say to you for not being Frost.'
'Do you mean that she is anxious!'
'It is the correct thing, isn't it, when wives get away from their
husbands, and have not the fragment of a letter for twenty-four whole
hours? But what do you mean, Fitzjocelyn?' asked the boy, suddenly
sobering. 'Is anything really the matter?'
'Yes, Walter,' said Louis; 'we must tell your sister as best we can.
James is ill, and I am come for her.'
Walter was silent for a few minutes, then drew a sigh, saying, 'Poor
Isabel, I wish it had not been! These were the only comfortable
holidays I have had since she chose to marry.'
Isabel here came in sight, quickening her pace as she first saw that
her brother had a companion, but slackening in disappointment when
she perceived that it was not her husband; then, the next moment
hurrying on, and as she met them, exclaiming, 'Tell me at once!
What is it?'
'Nothing serious,' said Louis. 'The children are all well, but I
left James very uncomfortable, though with nothing worse than a fit
The inexperienced Isabel hardly knew whether this were not as
formidable as even the cherished brain-fever, and becoming very pale,
she said, 'I am ready at once--Walter will let mamma know.'
'There will be no train for two hours,' said Louis. 'You will have
plenty of time to prepare.'
'You should have telegraphed,' said Isabel, 'I could have come by the
Trembling, she grasped Walter's arm, and began hastening home,
impatient to be doing something. 'I knew something was wrong,' she
exclaimed; 'I ought to have gone home yesterday, when there was no
'Indeed, there--was nothing the matter yesterday, at least, with his
health,' said Louis. 'You are alarming yourself far too much--'
'To be sure, Isabel,' chimed in Walter. 'A fellow at my tutor's had
it, and did nothing but wind silkworm's silk all the time. We shall
have James yet to spend Christmas with us. Everybody laughs at the
jaundice, though Fitzjocelyn does look so lugubrious that he had
almost frightened _me_.'
'Is this true?' said Isabel, looking from one to the other, as if she
had been frightened in vain.
'Quite true, Isabel,' said Walter. 'Never mind Fitzjocelyn's long
face; I wouldn't go if I were you! Don't spoil the holidays.'
'I must go, Walter dear,' said Isabel, 'but I do not think Lord
Fitzjocelyn would play with my fears. Either he is very ill, or
something else is wrong.'
'You have guessed it, Isabel,' said Louis. 'This illness is partly
the effect of distress of mind.'
'That horrid meeting of trustees!' cried Isabel. 'I am sure they
have been impertinent.'
'They objected to some of his doings; he answered by threatening to
resign, and I am sorry to say that the opposition set prevailed to
have his resignation accepted.'
'A very good thing too,' cried Sir Walter. 'I always thought that
school a shabby concern. To be under a lot of butchers and bakers,
and nothing but cads among the boys! He ought to be heartily glad to
be rid of the crew.'
Isabel's indignation was checked by a sort of melancholy amusement at
her brother's view, but Louis doubted whether she realized the weight
of her own words as she answered--'Unfortunately, Walter, it is
nearly all we have to live upon.'
'So much the better,' continued Walter. 'I'll tell you--you shall
all go to Thornton Conway, and I'll come and spend my holidays there,
instead of kicking my heels at these stupid places. I shan't mind
your babies a bit, and Frost may call himself my tutor if he likes.
I don't care if you take me away from Eton.'
'A kind scheme, Walter,' said Isabel, 'but wanting in two important
points, mamma's consent and James's.'
'Oh, I'll take care of mamma!'
'I'm afraid I can't promise the same as to James.'
'Ah! I see. Delaford was quite right when he said Mr. Frost was a
gentleman who never knew what was for his own advantage.'
As they arrived at the house, Isabel desired to know how soon she
must be ready, and went upstairs. Walter detained his cousin--'I
say, Fitzjocelyn, have they really got nothing to live on?'
'No more than will keep them from absolute want.'
'I shall take them home,' said Walter, with much satisfaction.
'I shall write to tell James that there is nothing else to be done.
I cannot do without Isabel, and I'll make my mother consent.'
Fitzjocelyn was glad to be freed from the boy on any terms, and to
see him go off to write his letter.
Walter was at least sincere and warm-hearted in his selfishness, and
so more agreeable than his mother, whom Louis found much distressed,
under the secret conviction that something might be expected of her.
'Poor Isabel! I wish she could come to me; but so many of them--and
we without a settled home. If there were no children--but London
houses are so small; and, indeed, it would be no true kindness to let
them live in our style for a little while. They must run to expenses
in dress; it would be much more economical at home, and I could send
Walter to them if he is very troublesome.'
'Thank you,' said Louis. 'I think James will be able to ride out the
'I know that would be his wish. And I think I heard that Mr. Dynevor
objected to the school. That might be one obstacle removed.'
Lady Conway comforted herself by flourishing on into predictions that
all would now be right, and that poor dear Isabel would soon be a
much richer woman than herself; while Louis listened to the castle-
building, not thinking it worth while to make useless counter-
The sisters were upstairs, assisting Isabel, and they all came down
together. The girls were crying; but Isabel's dark, soft eyes, and
noble head, had an air of calm, resolute elevation, which drove all
Louis's misgivings away, and which seemed quite beyond and above the
region of Lady Conway's caresses and affectionate speeches. Walter
and Virginia came up to the station, and parted with their sister
with fondness that was much mure refreshing, Walter reiterating that
his was the only plan.
'Now, Fitzjocelyn,' said Isabel, when they were shut into a coupe,
'tell me what you said about distress of mind. It has haunted me
whether you used those words.'
'Could you doubt his distress at such a state of affairs?'
'I thought there could be no distress of mind where the suffering is
for the truth.'
'Ah! if he could quite feel it so!'
'What do you mean? There has been a cabal against James from the
first to make him lay aside his principles, and I cannot regret his
refusal to submit to improper dictation, at whatever cost to myself.'
'I am afraid he better knows than you do what that cost is likely to
'Does he think I cannot bear poverty?' exclaimed Isabel.
'He had not said so--' began Louis; 'but--'
'You both think me a poor, helpless creature,' said Isabel, her eyes
kindling as they had done in the midst of danger. 'I can do better
than you think. I may be able myself to do something towards our
He could not help answering, in the tone that gave courtesy to almost
any words, 'I am afraid it does not answer for the wife to be the
'Then you doubt my writing being worth anything?' she asked, in a
hurt tone of humility. 'Tell me candidly, for it would be the
greatest kindness;' and her eye unconsciously sought the bag where
lay Sir Hubert, whom all this time her imagination was exalting, as
the hero who would free them from their distresses.
'Worth much pleasure to me, to the world at large,' said Louis; 'but-
-you told me to speak plainly--to your home, would any remuneration
be worth your own personal care?'
Isabel coloured, but did not speak.
Louis ventured another sentence--'It is a delicate subject, but you
must know better than I how far James would be likely to bear that
another, even you, should work for his livelihood.'
When Isabel spoke again, it was to ask further particulars; and when
he had told all, she found solace in exclaiming at the folly and
injustice of James's enemies, until the sense of fairness obliged him
to say, 'I wish the right and the wrong ever were fairly divided in
this world; and yet perhaps it is best as it is: the grain of right
on either side may save the sin from being a presumptuous one.'
'It would be hard to find the one grain of right on the part of the
'Perhaps you would not think so, if you were a boy's mother.'
'Oh!' cried Isabel, with tears in her eyes, 'if he thought he had
been too hasty, he always made such reparation that only cowards
could help being touched. I'm sure they deserved it, and much more.'
Back to Full Books