THE CLEVER WOMAN OF THE FAMILY
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 6 out of 11
of his brother, that he owed many civilities to the ladies of the
neighbourhood, and it was a good time to return them when he could
gratify the young kinswoman who had showed such generous forbearance
about the regimental ball. It was no unfavourable moment either,
when he had his brother to help him, for the ordering of balls had
been so much a part of Colin's staff duties, that it came quite
naturally to him, especially with Coombe within reach to assist.
There was some question whether the place should be the public rooms
or Gowanbrae, but Bessie's vote decided on the latter, in
consideration of the Colonel's chest. She was rather shocked, while
very grateful, at the consequences of the little conversation on the
hill top, but she threw herself into all the counsels with bright,
ardent pleasure, though carefully refraining from any presumption
that she was queen of the evening.
Lady Temple received an invitation, but never for one moment thought
of going, or even supposed that any one could imagine she could.
Indeed, if she had accepted it, it would have been a decisive
encouragement to her ancient suitor, and Colin saw that he regarded
her refusal, in its broad black edges, as a further clenching of the
reply to his addresses.
Bessie was to be chaperoned by Mrs. Curtis. As to Rachel, she had
resolved against youthful gaieties for this winter and all others,
but she felt that to show any reluctance to accept the Keith
invitation might be a contradiction to her indifference to the
Colonel, and so construed by her mother, Grace, and Bessie. So all
she held out for was, that as she had no money to spend upon
adornments, her blue silk dinner dress, and her birthday wreath,
should and must do duty; and as to her mother's giving her finery,
she was far too impressive and decided for Mrs. Curtis to venture
upon such presumption. She was willing to walk through her part for
an evening, and indeed the county was pretty well accustomed to Miss
Rachel Curtis's ball-room ways, and took them as a matter of course.
Gowanbrae had two drawing-rooms with folding doors between, quite
practicable for dancing, and the further one ending in a
conservatory, that likewise extended along the end of the entrance
hall and dining-room. The small library, where Colonel Keith usually
sat, became the cloak-room, and contained, when Mrs. Curtis and her
daughters arrived, so large a number of bright cashmere cloaklets,
scarlet, white, and blue, that they began to sigh prospectively at
the crowd which, Mrs. Curtis would have encountered with such joyful
valour save for that confidence on the way home from the book club.
They were little prepared for the resources of a practised staff-
officer. Never had a ball even to them looked so well arranged, or
in such thorough style, as a little dexterous arrangement of flowers,
lights, and sofas, and rendered those two rooms. The two hosts
worked extremely well. Lord Keith had shaken off much of his
careless stoop and air of age, and there was something in his old-
world polish and his Scotch accent that gave a sort of romance to the
manner of his reception. His brother, with his fine brow, and
thoughtful eyes, certainly appeared to Rachel rather thrown away as
master of the ceremonies, but whatever he did, he always did in the
quietest and best way, and receptions had been a part of his
vocation, so that he infused a wonderful sense of ease, and supplied
a certain oil of good breeding that made everything move suavely.
Young ladies in white, and mothers in all the colours of the rainbow,
were there in plenty, and, by Bessie's special command, the scene was
enlivened by the Highland uniform, with the graceful tartan scarf
fastened across the shoulder with the Bruce brooch.
Rachel had not been long in the room before she was seized on by
Emily Grey, an enthusiastic young lady of the St. Norbert's
neighbourhood, whom she met seldom, but was supposed to know
"And they say you have the hero here--the Victoria Cross man--and
that you know him. You must show him to me, and get me introduced."
"There is no Victoria Cross man here," said Rachel, coldly. "Colonel
Keith did not have one."
"Oh, no, I don't mean Colonel Keith, but Captain Alexander Keith,
quite a young man. Oh, I am sure you remember the story--you were
quite wild about it--of his carrying the lighted shell out of the
hospital tent; and they told me he was always over here, and his
sister staying with Lady Temple."
"I know Captain Alexander Keith," said Rachel, slowly; "but you must
be mistaken, I am certain I should know if he had a Victoria Cross."
"It is very odd; Charlie told me it was the same," said Miss Grey,
who, like all others, was forced to bend to Rachel's decisive manner.
"Scottish names are very common," said Rachel, and at that moment a
partner came and carried Emily off.
"But as Rachel stood still, an odd misgiving seized her, a certain
doubt whether upon the tall lazy figure that was leaning against a
wall nearly opposite to her, talking to another officer, she did not
see something suspiciously bronze and eight-pointed that all did not
wear. There was clearly a medal, though with fewer clasps than some
owned; but what else was there? She thought of the lecture on
heroism she had given to him, and felt hot all over. Behold, he was
skirting the line of chaperons, and making his way towards their
party. The thing grew more visible, and she felt more disconcerted
than ever had been her lot before; but escape there was none, here he
was shaking hands.
"You don't polk?" he said to her. "In fact, you regard all this as a
delusion of weak minds. Then, will you come and have some tea?"
Rachel took his arm, still bewildered, and when standing before him
with the tea-cup in her hand, she interrupted something he was
saying, she knew not what, with, "That is not the Victoria Cross?"
"Then it is, like all the rest, a delusion," he answered, in his
usual impassive manner.
"And gained," she continued, "by saving the lives of all those
officers, the very thing I told you about!"
"You told me that man was killed."
"Then it was not you!"
"Perhaps they picked up the pieces of the wrong one."
"But if you would only tell me how you gained it."
"By the pursuit of conchology."
"Then it was yourself?" again said Rachel, in her confusion.
"If I be I as I suppose I be," he replied, giving her his arm again,
and as they turned towards the conservatory, adding, "Many such
things have happened, and I did not know whether you meant this."
"That was the reason you made so light of it."
"What, because I thought it was somebody else?"
"No, the contrary reason; but I cannot understand why you let me go
on without telling me."
"I never interfere when a story is so perfect in itself."
"But is my story perfect in itself?" said Rachel, "or is it the
"No one knows less of the particulars than I do," he answered. "I
think your version was that it was an hospital tent that the shell
came into. It was not that, but a bungalow, which was supposed to be
out of range. It stood on a bit of a slope, and I thought I should
have been able to kick the shell down before it had time to do
"But you picked it up, and took it to the door--I mean, did you?"
said Rachel, who was beginning to discover that she must ask Alick
Keith a direct question, if she wished to get an answer, and she
received a gesture of assent.
"I was very blind," she said, humbly, "and now I have gone and
insisted to poor Emily Grey that you never did any such thing."
"Thank you," he said; "it was the greatest kindness you could do me."
"Ah! your sister said you had the greatest dislike to hero worship."
"A natural sense of humbug," he said. "I don't know why they gave me
this," he added, touching his cross, "unless it was that one of the
party in the bungalow had a turn for glorifying whatever happened to
himself. Plenty of more really gallant things happened every day,
and were never heard of, and I, who absolutely saw next to nothing of
the campaign, have little right to be decorated."
"Ah!" said Rachel, thoughtfully, "I have always wondered whether one
would be happier for having accomplished. an act of heroism."
"I do not know," said Alick, thoughtfully; then, as Rachel looked up
with a smile of amazement, "Oh, you mean this; but it was mere self-
preservation. I could hardly even have bolted, for I was laid up
with fever, and was very shaky on my legs."
"I suppose, however," said Rachel, "that the vision of one's life in
entering the army would be to win that sort of distinction, and so
"Win it as some have done," said Alick, "and deserve what is far
better worth than distinction. That may be the dream, but, after
all, it is the discipline and constant duty that make the soldier,
and are far more really valuable than exceptional doings."
"People must always be ready for them, though," said Rachel
"And they are," said Alick, with grave exultation in his tone.
"Then, after a pause, she led back the conversation to its personal
character, by saying. "Do you mean that the reception of this cross
was no gratification to you?"
"No, I am not so absurd," he replied, but he added sadly, "That was
damped quite otherwise. The news that I was named for it came almost
in the same breath with that of my father's death, and he had not
heard I was to receive it."
"Ah! I can understand."
"And you can see how intolerable was the fuss my good relations made
with me just when the loss was fresh on me, and with that of my two
chief friends, among my brother officers, fellows beside whom I was
nobody, and there was my uncle's blindness getting confirmed. Was
not that enough to sicken one with being stuck up for a lion, and
constantly poked up by the showwoman, under pretext of keeping up
"And you were--I mean were you--too ill to escape?"
"I was less able to help myself than Miss Williams is. There had
been a general smash of all the locomotive machinery on this side,
and the wretched monster could do nothing but growl at his visitors."
"Should you growl very much if I introduced you to Emily Grey? You
see it is a matter of justice and truth to tell her now, after having
contradicted her so flatly. I will wait to let you get out of the
way first if you like, but I think that would be unkind to her; and
if you ever do dance, I wish you would dance with her."
"With all my heart," he answered.
"Oh, thank you," said Rachel, warmly.
He observed with some amusement Rachel's utter absence of small
dexterities, and of even the effort to avoid the humiliation of a
confession of her error. Miss Grey and a boy partner had wandered
into the conservatory, and were rather dismally trying to seem
occupied with the camellias when Rachel made her way to them, and
though he could not actually hear the words, he knew pretty well what
they were. "Emily, you were right after all, and I was mistaken,"
and then as he drew near, "Miss Grey, Captain Keith wishes to be
introduced to you."
It had been a great shock to Rachel's infallibility, and as she
slowly began working her way in search of her mother, after observing
the felicity of Emily's bright eyes, she fell into a musing on the
advantages of early youth in its indiscriminating powers of
enthusiasm for anything distinguished for anything, and that sense of
self-exaltation in any sort of contact with a person who had been
publicly spoken of. "There is genuine heroism in him," thought
Rachel, "but it is just in what Emily would never appreciate--it is
in the feeling that he could not help doing as he did; the half-
grudging his reward to himself because other deeds have passed
unspoken. I wonder whether his ironical humour would allow him to
see that Mr. Mauleverer is as veritable a hero in yielding hopes of
consideration, prospects, honours, to his sense of truth and
uprightness. If he would only look with an unprejudiced eye, I know
he would be candid."
"Are you looking for Mrs. Curtis?" said Colonel Keith. "I think she
is in the other room."
"Not particularly, thank you," said Rachel, and she was surprised to
find how glad she was to look up freely at him.
"Would it be contrary to your principles or practice to dance with
"To my practice," she said smilingly, "so let us find my mother. Is
Miss Alison Williams here? I never heard whether it was settled that
she should come," she added, resolved both to show him her knowledge
of his situation, and to let her mother see her at her ease with him.
"No, she was obstinate, though her sister and I did our utmost to
persuade her, and the boys were crazy to make her go."
"I can't understand your wishing it."
"Not as an experience of life? Alison never went to anything in her
girlhood, but devoted herself solely to her sister, and it would be
pleasant to see her begin her youth."
"Not as a mere young lady!" exclaimed Rachel.
"That is happily not possible."
An answer that somewhat puzzled Rachel, whose regard for him was
likely to be a good deal dependent upon his contentment with Alison's
station in life.
"I must say young ladyhood looks to the greatest advantage there,"
Rachel could not help exclaiming, as at that moment Elizabeth Keith
smiled at them, as she floated past, her airy white draperies looped
with scarlet ribbons; her dark hair turned back and fastened by a
snood of the same, an eagle's feather clasped in it by a large
emerald, a memory of her father's last siege--that of Lucknow.
"She is a very pretty creature," said the Colonel, under the sparkle
of her bright eyes.
"I never saw any one make the pursuits of young ladyhood have so much
spirit and meaning," added Rachel. "Here you see she has managed to
make herself sufficiently like other people, yet full of individual
character and meaning."
"That is the theory of dress, I suppose," said the Colonel.
"If one chooses to cultivate it."
"Did you ever see Lady Temple in full dress?"
"No; we were not out when we parted as girls."
"Then you have had a loss. I think it was at our last Melbourne
ball, that when she went to the nursery to wish the children good
night, one of them--Hubert, I believe--told her to wear that dress
when she went to heaven, and dear old Sir Stephen was so delighted
that he went straight upstairs to kiss the boy for it."
"Was that Lady Temple?" said Alick Keith, who having found Miss Grey
engaged many deep, joined them again, and at his words came back a
thrill of Rachel's old fear and doubt as to the possible future.
"Yes," said the Colonel; "I was recollecting the gracious vision she
used to be at all our chief's parties."
"Vision, you call her, who lived in the house with her? What do you
think she was to us--poor wretches--coming up from barracks where
Mrs. O'Shaughnessy was our cynosure? There was not one of us to whom
she was not Queen of the East, and more, with that innocent, soft,
helpless dignity of hers!"
"And Sir Stephen for the first of her vassals," said the Colonel.
"What a change it has been!" said Alick.
"Yes; but a change that has shown her to have been unspoilable.
We were just agreeing on the ball-room perfections of her and your
sister in their several lines."
"Very different lines," said Alick, smiling.
"I can't judge of Fanny's," said Rachel, "but your sister is almost
enough to make one believe there can be some soul in young lady
"I did not bring Bessie here to convert you," was the somewhat
"Nor has she," said Rachel, "except so far as I see that she can
follow ordinary girls' pursuits without being frivolous in them."
Alick bowed at the compliment.
"And she has been a sunbeam," added Rachel, "we shall all feel graver
and cloudier without her."
"Yes," said Colonel Keith, "and I am glad Mr. Clare has such a
sunbeam for his parsonage. What a blessing she will be there!" he
added, as he watched Bessie's graceful way of explaining to his
brother some little matter in behalf of the shy mother of a shy girl.
Thinking he might be wanted, Colonel Keith went forward to assist,
and Rachel continued, "I do envy that power of saying the right thing
"Don't--it is the greatest snare," was his answer, much amazing her,
for she had her mind full of the two direct personal blunders she had
made towards him.
"It prevents many difficulties and embarrassments."
"Very desirable things."
"Yes; for those that like to laugh, but not for those that are
laughed at," said Rachel.
"More so; the worst of all misfortunes is to wriggle too smoothly
This was to Rachel the most remarkable part of the evening; as to the
rest, it was like all other balls, a weariness: Grace enjoying
herself and her universal popularity, always either talking or
dancing, and her mother comfortable and dutiful among other mothers;
the brilliant figure and ready grace of Bessie Keith being the one
vision that perpetually flitted in her dreams, and the one ever-
recurring recollection that Captain Keith, the veritable hero of the
shell, had been lectured by her on his own deed! In effect Rachel
had never felt so beaten down and ashamed of herself; so doubtful of
her own most positive convictions, and yet not utterly dissatisfied,
and the worst of it was that Emily Grey was after all carried off
without dancing with the hero; and Rachel felt as if her own
opinionativeness had defrauded the poor girl.
Other balls sent her home in a state of weariness, disgust, and
contempt towards every one, but this one had resulted in displeasure
with herself, yet in much interest and excitement; and, oh, passing
strange! through that same frivolous military society.
Indeed the military society was soon in better odour with her than
the clerical. She had been making strenuous efforts to get to St.
Herbert's, with Mr. Mitchell, for some time past, but the road was in
a state of being repaired, and the coachman was determined against
taking his horses there. As to going by train, that was equally
impossible, since he would still less have driven her to the station,
finally, Rachel took the resolute stop of borrowing Fanny's pony
carriage, and driving herself and the clergyman to the station, where
she was met by Mrs. Morris, the mother of one of the girls, to whom
she had promised such a visit, as it had been agreed that it would be
wisest not to unsettle the scholars by Christmas holidays.
The F. U. E. E. was in perfect order; the little girls sat upon a
bench with their copies before them, Mrs. Rawlins in the whitest of
caps presided over them, and Mr. Mauleverer was very urbane,
conducting the visitors over the house himself, and expatiating on
his views of cleanliness, ventilation, refinement, and equality of
cultivation, while Mrs. Rawlins remained to entertain Mrs. Morris.
Nothing could be more practical and satisfactory; some admirable
drawings of the children's were exhibited, and their conduct was said
to be excellent; except, Mr. Mauleverer remarked unwillingly, that
there was a tendency about little Mary to fancy herself injured, and
he feared that she was not always truthful; but these were childish
faults, that he hoped would pass away with further refinement, and
removal from the lower influences of her home.
After this, Rachel was not surprised that poor, ignorant, and always
deplorable Mrs. Morris did not seem in raptures with the state of her
child, but more inclined to lament not having seen more of her, and
not having her at home. That was quite in accordance with peasant
shortsightedness and ingratitude, but it was much more disappointing
that Mr. Mitchell said little or nothing of approbation; asked her a
few questions about her previous knowledge of Mr. Mauleverer and Mrs.
Rawlins, and when she began to talk of arranging for some one or two
of his London orphans, thanked her rather shortly, but said there was
no way of managing it. It was evident that he was quite as
prejudiced as others of his clerical brethren, and the more Rachel
read of current literature, the more she became convinced of their
bondage to views into which they durst not examine, for fear honesty
should compel them to assert their conclusions.
She had hoped better things from the stranger, but she began to be
persuaded that all her former concessions to the principles infused
in her early days were vain entanglements, and that it was merely
weakness and unwillingness to pain her mother that prevented her from
breaking through them.
She could not talk this out with anybody, except now and then an
utterance to the consenting Mr. Mauleverer, but in general she would
have been shocked to put these surging thoughts into words, and
Bessie was her only intimate who would avow that there could be
anything to be found fault with in a clergyman. When alone together,
Bessie would sometimes regretfully, sometimes in a tone of amusement,
go over bits of narrow-minded folly that had struck her in the
clergy, and more especially in her uncle's curate, Mr. Lifford, whose
dryness was, she owned, very repulsive to her.
"He is a good creature," she said, "and most necessary to my uncle,
but how he and I are to get through life together, I cannot tell. It
must soon be tried, though! After my visit at Bath will come my home
at Bishopsworthy!" And then she confided to Rachel all the parish
ways, and took counsel on the means of usefulness that would not
clash with the curate and pain her uncle. She even talked of a
possible orphan for the F. U. E. E., only that unlucky prejudice
against Mr. Mauleverer was sure to stand in the way.
So acceptable had Bessie Keith made herself everywhere, that all
Avonmouth was grieved at her engagement to spend the winter at Bath
with her married cousin, to whom she was imperatively necessary in
the getting up of a musical party.
"And I must go some time or other," she said to Colonel Keith, "so it
had better be when you are all here to make Myrtlewood cheerful, and
I can be of most use to poor Jane! I do think dear Lady Temple is
much more full of life and brightness now!"
Everybody seemed to consider Bessie's departure as their own personal
loss: the boys were in despair for their playfellow, Ermine would
miss those sunny visits; Colonel Keith many a pleasant discussion,
replete with delicate compliments to Ermine, veiled by tact; and Lord
Keith the pretty young clanswoman who had kept up a graceful little
coquetry with him, and even to the last evening, went on walking on
the esplanade with him in the sunset, so as to set his brother free
to avoid the evening chill.
And, above all, Lady Temple regretted the loss of the cheery
companion of her evenings. True, Bessie had lately had a good many
small evening gaieties, but she always came back from them so fresh
and bright, and so full of entertaining description and anecdote,
that Fanny felt as if she had been there herself, and, said Bessie,
"it was much better for her than staying at home with her, and
bringing in no novelty."
"Pray come to me again, dearest! Your stay has been the greatest
treat. It is very kind in you to be so good to me."
"It is you who are good to me, dearest Lady Temple."
"I am afraid I shall hardly get you again. Your poor uncle will
never be able to part with you, so I won't ask you to promise, but
if ever you can--"
"If ever I can! This has been a very happy time, dear Lady Temple,"
a confidence seemed trembling on her lips, but she suppressed it.
"I shall always think of you as the kindest friend a motherless girl
ever had! I will write to you from Bath. Good-bye--"
And there were all the boys in a row, little affectionate Hubert
absolutely tearful, and Conrade holding up a bouquet, on which he had
spent all his money, having persuaded Coombe to ride with him to the
nursery garden at Avoncester to procure it. He looked absolutely shy
and blushing, when Bessie kissed him and promised to dry the leaves
and keep them for ever.
GO AND BRAY
"Come, come, elder brother, you are too young in this!"--
As You Like It
"Alick, I have something to say to you."
Captain Keith did not choose to let his sister travel alone, when he
could help it, and therefore was going to Bath with her, intending to
return to Avoncester by the next down train. He made no secret that
he thought it a great deal of trouble, and had been for some time
asleep, when, at about two stations from Bath, Bessie having shut the
little door in the middle of the carriage, thus addressed him,
"Alick, I have something to say to you, and I suppose I may as well
say it now."
She pressed upon his knee, and with an affected laziness, he drew his
eyes wide open.
"Ah, well, I've been a sore plague to you, but I shall be off your
"Eh! whose head have you been turning?"
"Alick, what do you think of Lord Keith?"
Alick was awake enough now! "The old ass!" he exclaimed. "But at
least you are out of his way now."
"Not at all. He is coming to Bath to-morrow to see my aunt."
"And you want me to go out to-morrow and stop him "
"No, Alick, not exactly. I have been cast about the world too long
not to be thankful."
"Do not look so very much surprised," she said, in her sweet pleading
way. "May I not be supposed able to feel that noble kindness and
gracious manner, and be glad to have some one to look up to?"
"And how about Charlie Carleton?" demanded Alick, turning round full
"For shame, Alick!" she exclaimed hotly; "you who were the one to
persecute me about him, and tell me all sorts of things about his
being shallow and unprincipled, and not to be thought of, you to
bring him up against me now."
"I might think all you allege," returned Alick, gravely, "and yet be
much amazed at the new project."
Bessie laughed. "In fact you made a little romance, in which you
acted the part of sapient brother, and the poor little sister broke
her heart ever after! You wanted such an entertainment when you were
lying on the sofa, so you created a heroine and a villain, and
thundered down to the rescue."
"Very pretty, Bessie, but it will not do. It was long after I was
well again, and had joined."
"Then it was the well-considered effect of the musings of your
convalescence! When you have a sister to take care of, it is as well
to feel that you are doing it."
"Now, Elizabeth," said her brother, with seriousness not to be
laughed aside, and laying his hand on hers, "before I hear another
word on this matter, look me in the face and tell me deliberately
that you never cared for Carleton."
"I never thought for one moment of marrying him," said Bessie,
haughtily. "If I ever had any sort of mercy on him, it was all to
tease you. There, are you satisfied?"
"I must be, I suppose," he replied, and he sighed heavily. "When
was this settled?"
"Yesterday, walking up and down the esplanade. He will tell his
brother to-day, and I shall write to Lady Temple. Oh, Alick, he is
so kind, he spoke so highly of you."
"I must say," returned Alick, in the same grave tone, "that if you
wished for the care of an old man, I should have thought my uncle the
more agreeable of the two."
"He is little past fifty. You are very hard on him."
"On the contrary, I am sorry for him. You will always find it good
for him to do whatever suits yourself."
"Alick?" said his sister mournfully, "you have never forgotten or
forgiven my girlish bits of neglect after your wound."
"No, Bessie," he said, holding her hand kindly, "it is not the
neglect or the girlishness, but the excuses to me, still more to my
uncle, and most of all to yourself. They are what make me afraid for
you in what you are going to take upon yourself."
She did not answer immediately, and he pursued--"Are you driven to
this by dislike to living at Bishopsworthy? If so, do not be afraid
to tell me. I will make any arrangement, if you would prefer living
with Jane. We agreed once that it would be too expensive, but now I
could let you have another hundred a year."
"As if I would allow that, Alick! No, indeed! Lord Keith means you
to have all my share."
"Does he? There are more words than one to that question. And pray
is he going to provide properly for his poor daughter in the West
"I hope to induce him to take her into favour."
"Eh? and to make him give up to Colin Keith that Auchinvar estate
that he ought to have had when Archie Keith died?"
"You may be sure I shall do my best for the Colonel. Indeed, I do
think Lord Keith will consent to the marriage now."
"You have sacrificed yourself on that account?" he said, with irony
in his tone, that he could have repented the next moment, so good-
humoured was her reply, "That is understood, so give me the merit."
"The merit of, for his sake, becoming a grandmother. You have
thought of the daughters? Mrs. Comyn Menteith must be older than
"Three years," said Bessie, in his own tone of acceptance of
startling facts, "and I shall have seven grandchildren in all, so you
see you must respect me."
"Do you know her sentiments "
"I know what they will be when we have met. Never fear, Alick. If
she were not married it might be serious, being so, I have no fears."
Then came a silence, till a halt at the last station before Bath
roused Alick again.
"Bessie," he said, in the low voice the stoppage permitted, "don't
think me unkind. I believe you have waited on purpose to leave me no
time for expostulation, and what I have said has sounded the more
harsh in consequence."
"No, Alick," she said, "you are a kind brother in all but the
constructions you put upon my doings. I think it would be better if
there were more difference between our ages. You are a young
guardian, over anxious, and often morbidly fanciful about me during
your illness. I think we shall be happier together when you no
longer feel yourself responsible."
"The tables turned," muttered Alick.
"I am prepared for misconstruction," added Bessie. "I know it will
be supposed to be the title; the estate it cannot be, for you know
how poor a property it is; but I do not mean to care for the world.
Your opinion is a different thing, and I thought you would have seen
that I could not be insensible to such dignified kindness, and the
warmth of a nature that many people think cold."
"I don't like set speeches, Bessie."
"Then believe me, Alick. May I not love the fine old man that has
been so kind to me?"
"I hope you do," said Alick, slowly.
"And you can't believe it? Not with Lady Temple before you and hers
was really an old man."
"Do not talk of her or Sir Stephen either. No, Bessie," he added
more calmly after a time, "I may be doing great injustice to you
both, but I must speak what it is my duty to say. Lord Keith is a
hard, self-seeking man, who has been harsh and grasping towards his
family, and I verily believe came here bent on marriage, only because
his brother was no longer under his tyranny. He may not be harsh to
you, because he is past his vigour, and if he really loves you, you
have a power of governing; but from what I know of you, I cannot
believe in your loving him enough to make such management much better
than selfish manoeuvring. Therefore I cannot think this marriage for
your real welfare, or be other than bitterly grieved at it. Do not
answer, Bessie, but think this over, and if at any time this evening
you feel the least doubt of your happiness in this matter, telegraph
to me, and I will stop him."
"Indeed, Alick," she answered, without anger, "I believe yon are very
anxious for my good."
It will readily be believed that Captain Keith received no telegram.
Nevertheless, as soon as his time was his own the next morning, he
rode to Avonmouth and sought out the Colonel, not perhaps with very
defined hopes of making any change in his sister's intentions, but
feeling that some attempt on his own part must be made, if only to
free himself from acquiescence, and thinking that Colin, as late
guardian to the one party, and brother to the other, was the most
Colonel Keith was taken by surprise at the manner in which his
cordial greeting was met. He himself had been far from displeased at
his brother's communication; it was a great relief to him personally,
as well as on Lady Temple's account, and he had been much charmed at
Bessie's good sense and engaging graces. As to disparity of years,
Lord Keith had really made himself much younger of late, and there
was much to excite a girl's romance in the courtesy of an elderly
man, the chief of her clan; moreover, the perfect affection and
happiness Colin had been used to witness in his general's family
disposed him to make light of that objection; and he perceived that
his brother was sufficiently bewitched to be likely to be kind and
indulgent to his bride.
He had not expected Alexander Keith to be as well pleased as he was
himself, but he was not prepared for his strong disapprobation, and
earnest desire to find some means of prevention, and he began to
reassure him upon the placability of Mrs. Comyn Menteith, the
daughter, as well as upon his brother's kindness to the objects of
his real affection.
"Oh, I am not afraid of that. She will manage him fast enough."
"Very likely, and for his good. Nor need you question his being a
safe guide for her in higher matters. Perhaps you are prejudiced
against him because his relations with me have not been happy, but
candidly, in them you know the worst of him; and no doubt he thought
himself purely acting for my welfare. I know much more of him now
that I have been at home with him, and I was greatly struck with his
real consideration for the good of all concerned with him."
"No, I am not thinking of Lord Keith. To speak it out, I cannot
believe that my sister has heart enough in this to justify her."
"Young girls often are more attracted by elderly men than by lads."
"You do not know Bessie as, I am sorry to say, I do," said Alick,
speaking slowly and sadly, and with a flush of shame on his cheek.
"I do not say that she says anything untrue, but the truth is not in
her. She is one of those selfish people who are infinitely better
liked than those five hundred times their worth, because they take
care to be always pleased."
"They give as much pleasure as they take."
"Yes, they take every one in. I wish to my heart I could be taken in
too, but I have seen too much of her avoidance of every service to my
uncle that she did not like. I verily believe, at this moment, that
one great inducement with her is to elude the care of him."
"Stern judgments, Alick. I know you would not speak thus without
warrant; but take it into account that marriage makes many a girl's
selfishness dual, and at last drowns the self."
"Yes, when it is a marriage of affection. But the truth must be
told, Colonel. There was a trumpery idle fellow always loitering at
Littleworthy, and playing croquet. I set my face against it with all
my might, and she always laughed to scorn the notion that there was
anything in it, nor do I believe that she has heart enough to wish to
marry him. I could almost say I wish she had, but I never saw her
show the same pleasure in any one's attentions, and I believe he is
gone out to Rio in hopes of earning means to justify his addresses."
Colonel Keith sat gravely considering what he knew would not be
spoken lightly. "Do you mean that there was attachment enough to
make it desirable that you should tell my brother?"
"No, I could say nothing that she could not instantly contradict with
perfect truth, though not with perfect sincerity."
"Let me ask you one question, Alick--not a flattering one. May not
some of these private impressions of yours have been coloured by your
"That is what Bessie gives every one to understand," said Alick,
calmly. "She is right, to a certain degree, that suffering sharpened
my perceptions, and helplessness gave me time to draw conclusions.
If I had been well, I might have been as much enchanted as other
people; and if my uncle had not needed her care, and been neglected,
I could have thought that I was rendered exacting by illness. But I
imagine all I have said is not of the slightest use, only, if you
think it right to tell your brother to talk to me, I would rather
stand all the vituperation that would fall on me than allow this to
Colonel Keith walked up and down the room considering, whilst Alick
sat in a dejected attitude, shading his face, and not uttering how
very bitter it had been to him to make the accusation, nor how dear
the sister really was.
"I see no purpose that would be answered," said Colonel Keith, coming
to a pause at last; "you have nothing tangible to mention, even as to
the former affair that you suspect. I see a great deal in your view
of her to make you uneasy, but nothing that would not be capable of
explanation, above all to such a man as my brother. It would appear
like mere malevolence."
"Never mind what it would appear," said Alick, who was evidently in
such a ferment as his usually passive demeanour would have seemed
"If the appearance would entirely baffle the purpose, it must be
considered," said the Colonel; "and in this case it could only lead
to estrangement, which would be a lasting evil. I conclude that you
have remonstrated with your sister."
"As much as she gave me time for; but of course that is breath spent
"Your uncle had the same means of judging as yourself."
"No, Colonel, he could do nothing! In the first place, there can be
no correspondence with him; and next, he is so devotedly fond of
Bessie, that he would no more believe anything against her than Lady
Temple would. I have tried that more than once."
"Then, Alick, there is nothing for it but to let it take its course;
and even upon your own view, your sister will be much safer married
"I had very little expectation of your saying anything else, but in
common honesty I felt bound to let you know."
"And now the best thing to be done is to forget all you have said."
"Which you will do the more easily as you think it an amiable
delusion of mine. Well, so much the better. I dare say you will
never think otherwise, and I would willingly believe that my senses
went after my fingers' ends."
The Colonel almost believed so himself. He was aware of the
miserably sensitive condition of shattered nerve in which Alick had
been sent home, and of the depression of spirits that had ensued on
the news of his father's death; and he thought it extremely probable
that his weary hours and solicitude for his gay young sister might
have made molehills into mountains, and that these now weighed on his
memory and conscience. At least, this seemed the only way of
accounting for an impression so contrary to that which Bessie Keith
made on every one else, and, by his own avowal, on the uncle whom he
so much revered. Every other voice proclaimed her winning, amiable,
obliging, considerate, and devoted to the service of her friends,
with much drollery and shrewdness of perception, tempered by kindness
of heart and unwillingness to give pain; and on that sore point of
residence with the blind uncle, it was quite possibly a bit of
Alick's exaggerated feeling to imagine the arrangement so desirable--
the young lady might be the better judge.
On the whole, the expostulation left Colonel Keith more uncomfortable
on Alick's account than on that of his brother.
"And there will be auld Geordie Tanner,
Who coft a young wife wi' his gowd."
"Mamma," quoth Leoline, "I thought a woman must not marry her
grandfather. And she called him the patriarch of her clan."
"He is a cross old man," added Hubert. "He said children ought not
to be allowed on the esplanade, because he got into the way as I was
pushing the perambulator."
"This was the reason," said Francis, gravely, "that she stopped me
from braying at him. I shall know what people are at, when they talk
of disrespect another time."
"Don't talk of her," cried Conrade, flinging himself round; "women
have no truth in them."
"Except the dear, darling, delightful mammy!" And the larger
proportion of boys precipitated themselves headlong upon her, so that
any one but a mother would have been buffeted out of breath in their
struggles for embracing ground; and even Lady Temple found it a
relief when Hubert, having been squeezed out, bethought himself of
extending the honourable exception to Miss Williams, and thus
effected a diversion. What would have been the young gentlemen's
reception of his lordship's previous proposal!
Yet in the fulness of her gladness the inconsistent widow, who had
thought Lord Keith so much too old for herself, gave her younger
friend heartfelt congratulations upon the blessing of being under
fatherly direction and guidance. She was entrusted with the
announcement to Rachel, who received it with a simple "Indeed!" and
left her cousin unmolested in her satisfaction, having long relegated
Fanny to the class of women who think having a friend about to be
married the next best thing to being married themselves, no matter to
"Aspirations in women are mere delusions," was her compensating sigh
to Grace. "There is no truer saying, than that a woman will receive
"I have always been glad that is aprocryphal," said Grace, "and
Eastern women have no choice."
"Nor are Western women better than Eastern," said Rachel. "It is all
circumstances. No mental power or acuteness has in any instance that
I have yet seen, been able to balance the propensity to bondage. The
utmost flight is, that the attachment should not be unworthy."
"I own that I am very much surprised," said Grace.
"I am not at all," said Rachel. "I have given up hoping better
things. I was beginning to have a high opinion of Bessie Keith's
capabilities, but womanhood was at the root all the time; and, as her
brother says, she has had great disadvantages, and I can make excuses
for her. She had not her heart filled with one definite scheme of
work and usefulness, such as deters the trifling and designing."
"Like the F. U. E. E.?"
"Yes, the more I see of the fate of other women, the more thankful I
am that my vocation has taken a formed and developed shape."
And thus Rachel could afford to speak without severity of the match,
though she abstained from congratulation. She did not see Captain
Keith for the next few days, but at last the two sisters met him at
the Cathedral door as they were getting into the carriage after a
day's shopping at Avoncester; and Grace offered her congratulations,
in accordance with her mother's old fashioned code.
"Thank you," he said; then turning to Rachel, "Did she write to you?"
"I thought not."
There was something marked in his tone, but his sister's silence was
not of long duration, for a letter arrived containing orders for
lace, entreating that a high pressure might be put on Mrs. Kelland,
and containing beauteous devices for the veil, which was to be
completed in a fearfully short time, since the wedding was to be
immediate, in order that Lord Keith might spend Christmas and the
ensuing cold months abroad. It was to take place at Bath, and was to
be as quiet as possible; "or else," wrote Miss Keith, "I should have
been enchanted to have overcome your reluctance to witness the base
surrender of female rights. I am afraid you are only too glad to be
let off, only don't thank me, but circumstances."
Rachel's principles revolted at the quantity of work demanded of the
victims to lace, and Grace could hardly obtain leave to consult Mrs.
Kelland. But she snapped at the order, for the honour and glory of
the thing, and undertook through the ramifications of her connexion
to obtain the whole bridal array complete. "For such a pleasant-
spoken lady as Miss Keith, she would sit up all night rather than
The most implacable person of all was the old housekeeper, Tibbie.
She had been warmly attached to Lady Keith, and resented her having a
successor, and one younger than her daughters; and above all, ever
since the son and heir had died, she had reckoned on her own Master
Colin coming to the honours of the family, and regarded this new
marriage as a crossing of Providence. She vainly endeavoured to stir
up Master Colin to remonstrate on his brother's "makin' siccan a
fule's bargain wi' yon glaikit lass. My certie, but he'll hae the
warst o't, honest man; rinnin' after her, wi' a' her whigmaleries an'
cantrips. He'll rue the day that e'er he bowed his noble head to the
likes o' her, I'm jalousin."
It was to no purpose to remind her that the bride was a Keith in
blood; her great grandfather a son of the house of Gowanbrae; all the
subsequent descendants brave soldiers.
"A Keith ca' ye her! It's a queer kin' o' Keiths she's comed o', nae
better nor Englishers that haena sae muckle's set fit in our bonny
Scotland; an' sic scriechin', skirlin' tongues as they hae, a body
wad need to be gleg i' the uptak to understan' a word they say. Tak'
my word for't, Maister Colin, it's no a'thegither luve for his
lordship's grey hairs that gars yon gilpy lassock seek to become my
"Nay, Tibbie, if you find fault with such a sweet, winning young
creature, I shall think it is all because you will not endure a
mistress at Gowanbrae over you."
"His lordship'll please himsel' wi' a leddy to be mistress o'
Gowanbrae, but auld Tibbie'll never cross the doorstane mair."
"Indeed you will, Tibbie; here are my brother's orders that you
should go down, as soon as you can conveniently make ready, and see
about the new plenishing."
"They may see to the plenishing' that's to guide it after han, an'
that'll no be me. My lord'll behove to tak' his orders aff his young
leddy ance he's married on her, may be a whilie afore, but that's no
to bind ither folk, an' it's no to be thought that at my years I'm to
be puttin' up wi' a' ther new fangled English fykes an' nonsense
maggots. Na, na, Maister Colin, his lordship'll fend weel aneugh
wantin' Tibbie; an' what for suld I leave yerself, an' you settin' up
wi' a house o' yer ain? Deed an' my mind's made up, I'll e'en bide
wi' ye, an' nae mair about it."
"Stay, stay," cried Colin, a glow coming into his cheeks, "don't
reckon without your host, Tibbie. Do you think Gowanbrae the second
is never to have any mistress but yourself?"
"Haud awa' wi' ye, laddie, I ken fine what ye'ra ettlin' at, but
yon's a braw leddy, no like thae English folk, but a woman o'
understandin', an' mair by token I'm thinkin' she'll be gleg aneugh
to ken a body that'll serve her weel, an' see to the guidin' o' thae
feckless queens o' servant lasses, for bad's the best o' them ye'll
fin' hereawa'. Nae fear but her an' me'll put it up weel thegither,
an' a' gude be wi' ye baith."
After this Colin resigned himself and his household to Tibbie's
somewhat despotic government, at least for the present. To Ermine's
suggestion that her appellation hardly suited the dignity of her
station, he replied that Isabel was too romantic for southern ears,
and that her surname being the same as his own, he was hardly
prepared to have the title of Mrs. Keith pre-occupied. So after Mrs.
Curtis's example, the world for the most part knew the colonel's
housekeeper as Mrs. Tibbs.
She might be a tyrant, but liberties were taken with her territory;
for almost the first use that the colonel made of his house was to
ask a rheumatic sergeant, who had lately been invalided, to come and
benefit by the Avonmouth climate. Scottish hospitality softened
Tibbie's heart, and when she learnt that Sergeant O'Brien had helped
to carry Master Colin into camp after his wound, she thought nothing
too good for him. The Colonel then ventured to add to the party an
exemplary consumptive tailor from Mr. Mitchell's parish, who might
yet be saved by good living and good air. Some growls were elicited,
but he proved to be so deplorably the ninetieth rather than the ninth
part of a man, that Tibbie made it her point of honour to fatten him;
and the sergeant found him such an intelligent auditor of the Indian
exploits of the --th Highlanders that mutual respect was fully
established, and high politeness reigned supreme, even though the
tailor could never be induced to delight in the porridge, on which
the sergeant daily complimented the housekeeper in original and
Nor had the Colonel any anxieties in leaving the representatives of
the three nations together while he went to attend his brother's
wedding. He proposed that Tibbie should conduct Rose for the daily
walk of which he had made a great point, thinking that the child did
not get exercise enough, since she was so averse to going alone upon
the esplanade that her aunt forbore to press it. She manifested the
same reluctance to going out with Tibbie, and this the Colonel
ascribed to her fancying herself too old to be under the charge of a
nurse. It was trying to laugh her out of her dignity, but without
eliciting an answer, when, one afternoon just as they were entering
together upon the esplanade, he felt her hand tighten upon his own
with a nervous frightened clutch, as she pressed tremulously to his
"What is it, my dear? That dog is not barking at you. He only wants
to have a stick thrown into the sea for him."
"Oh not the dog! It was--"
"HIM!" gasped Rose.
"Who?" inquired the Colonel, far from prepared for the reply, in a
"My dear child! Which, where?"
"He is gone! he is past. Oh, don't turn back! Don't let me see him
"You don't suppose he could hurt you, my dear."
"No," hesitated Rose, "not with you."
"Nor with any one."
"I suppose not," said Rose, common sense reviving, though her grasp
was not relaxed.
"Would it distress you very much to try to point him out to me?" said
the Colonel, in his irresistibly sweet tone.
"I will. Only keep hold of my hand, pray," and the little hand
trembled so much that he felt himself committing a cruel action in
leading her along the esplanade, but there was no fresh start of
recognition, and when they had gone the whole length, she breathed
more freely, and said, "No, he was not there."
Recollecting how young she had been at the time of Maddox's treason,
the Colonel began to doubt if her imagination had not raised a
bugbear, and he questioned her, "My dear, why are you so much afraid,
of this person? What do you know about him?"
"He told wicked stories of my papa," said Rose, very low.
"True, but he could not hurt you. You don't think he goes about like
Red Ridinghood's wolf?"
"No, I am not so silly now."
"Are you sure you know him? Did you often see him in your papa's
"No, he was always in the laboratory, and I might not go there."
"Then you see, Rose, it must he mere fancy that you saw him, for you
could not even know him by sight."
"It was not fancy," said Rose, gentle and timid as ever, but still
obviously injured at the tone of reproof.
"My dear child," said Colonel Keith, with some exertion of patience,
"you must try to be reasonable. How can you possibly recognise a man
that you tell me you never saw?"
"I said I never saw him in the house," said Rose with a shudder; "but
they said if ever I told they would give me to the lions in the
"Who said so?"
"He, Mr. Maddox and Maria," she answered, in such trepidation that he
could scarcely hear her.
"But you are old and wise enough now to know what a foolish and
wicked threat that was, my dear."
"Yes, I was a little girl then, and knew no better, and once I did
tell a lie when mamma asked me, and now she is dead, and I can never
tell her the truth."
Colin dreaded a public outbreak of the sobs that heaved in the poor
child's throat, but she had self-control enough to restrain them till
he had led her into his own library, where he let her weep out her
repentance for the untruth, which, wrested from her by terror, had
weighed so long on her conscience. He felt that he was sparing
Ermine something by receiving the first tempest of tears, in the
absolute terror and anguish of revealing the secret that had preyed
on her with mysterious horror.
"Now tell me all about it, my dear little girl. Who was this Maria?"
"Maria was my nurse when I lived at home. She used to take me out
walking," said Rose, pressing closer to his protecting breast, and
pausing as though still afraid of her own words.
"Well," he said, beginning to perceive, "and was it than that you saw
"Yes, he used to come and walk with us, and sit under the trees in
Kensington Gardens with her. And sometimes he gave me lemon-drops,
but they said if ever I told, the lions should have me. I used to
think I might be saved like Daniel; but after I told the lie, I knew
I should not. Mamma asked me why my fingers were sticky, and I did
say it was from a lemon-drop, but there were Maria's eyes looking at
me; oh, so dreadful, and when mamma asked who gave it to me, and
Maria said, 'I did, did not I, Miss Rose?' Oh, I did not seem able
to help saying 'yes.'"
"Poor child! And you never dared to speak of it again?"
"Oh, no! I did long to tell; but, oh, one night it was written up in
letters of fire, 'Beware of the Lions.'"
"Terror must have set you dreaming, my dear."
"No," said Rose, earnestly. "I was quite awake. Papa and mamma were
gone out to dine and sleep, and Maria would put me to bed half an
hour too soon. She read me to sleep, but by-and-by I woke up, as I
always did at mamma's bed time, and the candle was gone, and there
were those dreadful letters in light over the door."
She spoke with such conviction that he became persuaded that all was
not delusion, and asked what she did.
"I jumped up, and screamed, and opened the door; but there they were
growling in papa's dressing-room."
"They, the lions? Oh, Rose, you must know that was impossible."
"No, I did not see any lions, but I heard the growl, and Mr. Maddox
coughed, and said, 'Here they come,' and growled again."
"I tumbled into bed again, and rolled up my head in the clothes, and
prayed that it might be day, and it was at last!"
"Poor child! Indeed, Rose, I do not wonder at your terror, I never
heard of a more barbarous trick."
"Was it a trick?" said Rose, raising a wonderfully relieved and
"Did you never hear of writing in phosphorus, a substance that shines
at night as the sea sometimes does?"
"Aunt Ailie has a book with a story about writing in fiery letters,
but it frightened me so much that I never read to the end."
"Bring it to me, and we will read it together, and then you will see
that such a cruel use can be made of phosphorus."
"It was unkind of them," said Rose, sadly, "I wonder if they did it
"Where did you sleep?"
"I had a little room that opened into mamma's."
"And where was all this growling?"
"In papa's room. The door was just opposite to mine, and was open.
All the light was there, you know. Mamma's room was dark, but there
was a candle in the dressing-room."
"Did you see anything?"
"Only the light. It was such a moment. I don't think I saw Mr.
Maddox, but I am quite certain I heard him, for he had an odd little
"Then, Rose, I have little doubt that all this cruelty to you, poor
inoffensive little being, was to hide some plots against your
She caught his meaning with the quickness of a mind precocious on
some points though childish on others. "Then if I had been brave and
told the truth, he might never have hurt papa."
"Mind, I do not know, and I never thought of blaming you, the chief
sufferer! No, don't begin to cry again."
"Ah! but I did tell a lie. And I never can confess it to mamma," she
said, recurring to the sad lament so long suppressed.
She found a kind comforter, who led her to the higher sources of
consolation, feeling all the time the deep self-accusation with which
the sight of sweet childish penitence must always inspire a grown
"And now you will not fear to tell your aunt," he added, "only it
should be when you can mention it without such sad crying."
"Telling you is almost as good as telling her," said Rose, "and I
feel safe with you," she added, caressingly drawing his arm round
her. "Please tell Aunt Ermine, for my crying does give her such a
"I will, then, and I think when we all know it, the terrors will
"Not when I see Mr. Maddox. Oh, please now you know why, don't make
me walk without you. I do know now that he could not do anything to
me, but I can't help feeling the fright. And, oh! if he was to speak
"You have not seen him here before?"
"Yes I have, at least I think so. Once when Aunt Ermine sent me to
the post-office, and another time on the esplanade. That is why I
can't bear going out without you or Aunt Ailie. Indeed, it is not
"I see it is not, my dear, and we will say no more about it till you
have conquered your alarm; but remember, that he is not likely to
know you again. You must be more changed in these three years than
This consideration seemed to reassure Rose greatly, and her next
inquiry was, "Please, are my eyes very red for going home?"
"Somewhat mottled--something of the York and Lancaster rose. Shall
I leave you under Tibbie's care till the maiden blush complexion
returns, and come back and fetch you when you have had a grand
exhibition of my Indian curiosities?"
"Have you Indian curiosities! I thought they were only for ladies?"
"Perhaps they are. Is Tibbie guard enough? You know there's an
Irish sergeant in the house taller than I am, if you want a
"Oh, I am not afraid, only these eyes."
"I will tell her you have been frightened, and she shall take no
Tibbie was an admirer of Rose and gladly made her welcome, while the
Colonel repaired to Ermine, and greatly startled her by the
disclosure of the miseries that had been inflicted on the sensitive
It had indeed been known that there had been tyranny in the nursery,
and to this cause the aunts imputed the startled wistful expression
in Rose's eyes; but they had never questioned her, thinking that
silence would best wear out the recollection. The only wonder was
that her senses had not been permanently injured by that night of
terror, which accounted for her unconquerable dread of sleeping in
the dark; and a still more inexplicable horror of the Zoological
Gardens, together with many a nervous misery that Ermine had found it
vain to combat. The Colonel asked if the nurse's cruelty had been
the cause of her dismissal?
"No, it was not discovered till after her departure. Her fate has
always been a great grief to us, though we little thought her capable
of using Rose in this way. She was one of the Hathertons. You must
remember the name, and the pretty picturesque hovel on the Heath."
"The squatters that were such a grievance to my uncle. Always
suspected of poaching, and never caught."
"Exactly. Most of the girls turned out ill, but this one, the
youngest, was remarkably intelligent and attractive at school. I
remember making an excuse for calling her into the garden for you to
see and confess that English beauty exceeded Scottish, and you called
her a gipsy and said we had no right to her."
"So it was those big black eyes that had that fiendish malice in
"Ah! if she fell into Maddox's hands, I wonder the less. She showed
an amount of feeling about my illness that won Ailie's heart, and we
had her for a little handmaid to help my nurse. Then, when we broke
up from home, we still kept her, and every one used to be struck with
her looks and manner. She went on as well as possible, and Lucy set
her heart on having her in the nursery. And when the upper nurse
went away, she had the whole care of Rose. We heard only of her
praises till, to our horror, we found she had been sent away in
disgrace at a moment's warning. Poor Lucy was young, and so much
shocked as only to think of getting her out of the house, not of what
was to become of her, and all we could learn was that she never went
"How long was this before the crash?"
"It was only a few weeks before the going abroad, but they had been
absent nearly a year. No doubt Maddox must have made her aid in his
schemes. You say Rose saw him?"
"So she declares, and there is an accuracy of memory about her that
I should trust to. Should you or Alison know him?"
"No, we used to think it a bad sign that Edward never showed him to
us. I remember Alison being disappointed that he was not at the
factory the only time she saw it."
"I do not like going away while he may be lurking about. I could
send a note to-night, explaining my absence."
"No, no," exclaimed Ermine, "that would be making me as bad as poor
little Rose. If he be here ever so much he has done his worst, and
Edward is out of his reach. What could he do to us? The affairs
were wound up long ago, and we have literally nothing to be bullied
out of. No, I don't think he could make me believe in lions in any
"You strong-minded woman! You want to emulate the Rachel."
"You have brought her," laughed Ermine at the sound of the well-known
knock, and Rachel entered bag in hand.
"I was in hopes of meeting you," she said to the Colonel. "I wanted
to ask you to take charge of some of these;" and she produced a
packet of prospectuses of a "Journal of Female Industry," an
illustrated monthly magazine, destined to contain essays,
correspondence, reviews, history, tales, etc., to be printed and
illustrated in the F. U. E. E.
"I hoped," said Rachel, "to have begun with the year, but we are not
forward enough, and indeed some of the expenses require a
subscription in advance. A subscriber in advance will have the
year's numbers for ten shillings, instead of twelve; and I should be
much obliged if you would distribute a few of these at Bath, and ask
Bessie to do the same. I shall set her name down at the head of the
list, as soon as she has qualified it for a decoy."
"Are these printed at the F. U. E. E.?"
"No, we have not funds as yet. Mr. Mauleverer had them done at
Bristol, where he has a large connexion as a lecturer, and expects to
get many subscribers. I brought these down as soon as he had left
them with me, in hopes that you would kindly distribute them at the
wedding. And I wished," added she to Ermine, "to ask you to
contribute to our first number."
"Thank you," and the doubtful tone induced Rachel to encourage her
"I know you write a great deal, and I am sure you must produce
something worthy to see the light. I have no scruple in making the
request, as I know Colonel Keith agrees with me that womanhood need
not be an extinguisher for talent."
"I am not afraid of him," Ermine managed to say without more smile
than Rachel took for gratification.
"Then if you would only entrust me with some of your fugitive
reflections, I have no doubt that something might be made of them.
A practised hand," she added with a certain editorial dignity, "can
always polish away any little roughnesses from inexperience."
Ermine was choking with laughter at the savage pulls that Colin was
inflicting on his moustache, and feeling silence no longer honest,
she answered in an odd under tone, "I can't plead inexperience."
"No!" cried Rachel. "You have written; you have not published!"
"I was forced to do whatever brought grist to the mill," said Ermine.
"Indeed," she added, with a look as if to ask pardon; "our secrets
have been hardly fair towards you, but we made it a rule not to spoil
our breadwinner's trade by confessing my enormities."
"I assure you," said the Colonel, touched by Rachel's appalled look,
"I don't know how long this cautious person would have kept me in the
dark if she had not betrayed herself in the paper we discussed the
first day I met you."
"The 'Traveller,'" said Rachel, her eyes widening like those of a
child. "She is the 'Invalid'!"
"There, I am glad to have made a clean breast of it," said Ermine.
"The 'Invalid'!" repeated Rachel. "It is as bad as the Victoria
"There is a compliment, Ermine, for which you should make your bow,"
"Oh, I did not mean that," said Rachel; "but that it was as great a
mistake as I made about Captain Keith, when I told him his own story,
and denied his being the hero, till I actually saw his cross," and
she spoke with a genuine simplicity that almost looked like humour,
ending with, "I wonder why I am fated to make such mistakes!"
"Preconceived notions," said Ermine, smiling; "your theory suffices
you, and you don't see small indications."
"There may be something in that," said Rachel, thoughtfully, "it
accounts for Grace always seeing things faster than I did."
"Did Mr.--, your philanthropist, bring you this today?" said the
Colonel, taking up the paper again, as if to point a practical moral
to her confession of misjudgments.
"Mr. Mauleverer? Yes; I came down as soon as he had left me, only
calling first upon Fanny. I am very anxious for contributions. If
you would only give me a paper signed by the 'Invalid,' it would be
a fortune to the institution."
Ermine made a vague answer that she doubted whether the 'Invalid' was
separable from the 'Traveller,' and Rachel presently departed with
her prospectus, but without having elicited a promise.
"Intolerable!" exclaimed the Colonel. "She was improving under
Bessie's influence, but she has broken out worse than ever. 'Journal
of Female Industry!' 'Journal of a Knight of Industry,' might be a
better title. You will have nothing to do with it, Ermine?"
"Certainly not as the 'Invalid,' but I owe her something for having
let her run into this scrape before you."
"As if you could have hindered her! Come, don't waste time and
brains on a companion for Curatocult."
"You make me so idle and frivolous that I shall be expelled from the
'Traveller,' and obliged to take refuge in the 'Female Industry
Journal.' Shall you distribute the prospectuses?"
"I shall give one to Bessie! That is if I go at all."
"No, no, there is no valid reason for staying away. Even if we were
sure that Rose was right, nothing could well come of it, and your
absence would be most invidious."
"I believe I am wanted to keep Master Alick in order, but if you have
the least feeling that you would be more at ease with me at home--"
"That is not a fair question," said Ermine, smiling. "You know very
well that you ought to go."
"And I shall try to bring back Harry Beauchamp," added the Colonel.
"He would be able to identify the fellow."
"I do not know what would be gained by that."
"I should know whom to watch."
Ermine had seen so much of Rose's nervous timidity, and had known so
many phantoms raised by it, that she attached little importance to
the recognition, and when she went over the matter with her little
niece, it was with far more thought of the effect of the terror, and
of the long suppressed secret, upon the child's moral and physical
nature, than with any curiosity as to the subject of her last alarm.
She was surprised to observe that Alison was evidently in a state of
much more restlessness and suspense than she was conscious of in
herself, during Colin's absence, and attributed this to her sister's
fear of Maddox's making some inroad upon her in her long solitary
hours, in which case she tried to reassure her by promises to send at
once for Mr. Mitchell or for Coombe.
Alison let these assurances be given to her, and felt hypocritical
for receiving them in silence. Her grave set features had tutored
themselves to conceal for ever one page in the life that Ermine
thought was entirely revealed to her. Never had Ermine known that
brotherly companionship had once suddenly assumed the unwelcome
aspect of an affection against which Alison's heart had been steeled
by devotion to the sister whose life she had blighted. Her
resolution had been unswerving, but its full cost had been unknown to
her, till her adherence to it had slackened the old tie of hereditary
friendship towards others of her family; and even when marriage
should have obliterated the past, she still traced resentment in the
hard judgment of her brother's conduct, and even in the one act of
consideration that it galled her to accept.
There had been no meeting since the one decisive interview just
before she had left her original home, and there were many more
bitter feelings than could be easily assuaged in looking forward to
a renewal of intercourse, when all too late, she knew that she should
soon be no longer needed by her sister. She tried to feel it all
just retribution, she tried to rejoice in Ermine's coming happiness;
she tried to believe that the sight of Harry Beauchamp, as a married
man, would he the best cure for her; she blamed and struggled with
herself: and after all, her distress was wasted, Harry Beauchamp had
not chosen to come home with his cousin, who took his unwillingness
to miss a hunting-day rather angrily and scornfully. Alison put her
private interpretation on the refusal, and held aloof, while Colin
owned to Ermine his vexation and surprise at the displeasure that
Harry Beauchamp maintained against his old schoolfellow, and his
absolute refusal to listen to any arguments as to his innocence.
This seemed to have been Colin's prominent interest in his expedition
to Bath; the particulars of the wedding were less easily drawn from
him. The bride had indeed been perfection, all was charming wherever
she brought her ready grace and sweetness, and she had gratified the
Colonel by her affectionate messages to Ermine, and her evident
intention to make all straight between Lord Keith and his daughter
Mary. But the Clare relations had not made a favourable impression;
the favourite blind uncle had not been present, in spite of Bessie's
boast, and it was suspected that Alick had not chosen to forward his
coming. Alick had devolved the office of giving his sister away upon
the Colonel, as her guardian, and had altogether comported himself
with more than his usual lazy irony, especially towards the Clare
cousinhood, who constantly buzzed round him, and received his rebuffs
as delightful jests and compliments, making the Colonel wonder all
the more at the perfect good taste and good breeding of his new
sister-in-law, who had spent among them all the most critical years
of her life.
She had been much amused with the prospectus of the "Journal of
Female Industry," but she sent word to Rachel that she advised her
not to publish any list of subscribers--the vague was far more
impressive than the certain. The first number must be sent to her at
Paris, and trust her for spreading its fame!
The Colonel did not add to his message her recommendation that the
frontispiece should represent the Spinster's Needles, with the rescue
of Don as the type of female heroism. Nor did he tell how carefully
he had questioned both her and Rachel as to the date of that
"The counterfeit presentment."--Hamlet.
Christmas came, and Rachel agreed with Mr. Mauleverer that it was
better not to unsettle the children at the F. U. E. E. by permitting
them to come home for holidays, a decision which produced much
discontent in their respective families. Alison, going to Mrs.
Morris with her pupils, to take her a share of Christmas good cheer,
was made the receptacle of a great lamentation over the child's
absence; and, moreover, that the mother had not been allowed to see
her alone, when taken by Miss Rachel to the F. U. E. E.
"Some one ought to take it up," said Alison, as she came home, in her
indignation. "Who knows what may be done to those poor children?
Can't Mr. Mitchell do something?"
But Mr. Mitchell was not sufficiently at home to interfere. He was
indeed negotiating an exchange with Mr. Touchett, but until this was
effected he could hardly meddle in the matter, and he was besides a
reserved, prudent man, slow to commit himself, so that his own
impression of the asylum could not be extracted from him. Here,
however, Colonel Keith put himself forward. He had often been asked
by Rachel to visit the F. U. E. E., and he surprised and relieved
Alison by announcing his intention of going over to St. Norbert's
alone and without notice, so as to satisfy himself as far as might be
as to the treatment of the inmates, and the genuineness of
Mauleverer's pretensions. He had, however, to wait for weather that
would not make the adventure one of danger to him, and he regarded
the cold and rain with unusual impatience, until, near the end of
January, he was able to undertake his expedition.
After much knocking and ringing the door was opened to him by a rude,
slatternly, half-witted looking charwoman, or rather girl, who said
"Master was not in," and nearly shut the door in his face. However,
he succeeded in sending in his card, backed by the mention of Lady
Temple and Miss Curtis; and this brought out Mrs. Rawlins, her white
streamers floating stiff behind her, full of curtsies and regrets at
having to refuse any friend of Miss Curtis, but Mr. Mauleverer's
orders were precise and could not be infringed. He was gone to
lecture at Bristol, but if the gentleman would call at any hour he
would fix to morrow or next day, Mr. Mauleverer would be proud to
wait on him.
"When he came at the appointed time, all was in the normal state of
the institution. The two little girls in white pinafores sat upon
their bench with their books before them, and their matron presiding
over them; Mr. Mauleverer stood near, benignantly attentive to the
children and obligingly so to the visitor, volunteering information
and answering all questions. Colonel Keith tried to talk to the
children, but when he asked one of them whether she liked drawing
better than lace-making her lips quivered, and Mrs. Rawlins replied
for her, that she was never happy except with a pencil in her hand.
"Show the gentleman, my dear," and out came a book of studios of
cubes, globes, posts, etc., while Mr. Mauleverer talked artistically
of drawing from models. Next, he observed on a certain suspicious
blackness of little Mary's eye, and asked her what she had done to
herself. But the child hung her head, and Mrs. Rawlins answered for
her, "Ah! Mary is ashamed to tell: but the gentleman will think
nothing of it, my dear. He knows that children will be children, and
I cannot bear to check them, the dears."
More briefly Mr. Mauleverer explained that Mary had fallen while
playing on the stairs; and with this superficial inspection he must
needs content himself, though on making inquiry at the principal
shops, he convinced himself that neither Mr. Mauleverer nor the F. U.
E. E. were as well known at St. Norbert's as at Avonmouth. He told
Rachel of his expedition, and his interest in her work gratified her,
though she would have preferred being his cicerone. She assured him
that he must have been very much pleased, especially with the matron.
"She is a handsome woman, and reminds me strongly of a face I saw in
"There are some classes of beauty and character that have a
remarkable sameness of feature," began Rachel.
"Don't push that theory, for your matron's likeness was a very
handsome Sepoy havildar whom we took at Lucknow, a capital soldier
before the mutiny, and then an ineffable ruffian."
"The mutiny was an infectious frenzy; so that you establish nothing
against that cast of countenance."
Never, indeed, was there more occasion for perseverance in Rachel's
championship. Hitherto Mrs. Kelland had been nailed to her pillow by
the exigencies of Lady Keith's outfit, and she and her minions had
toiled unremittingly, without a thought beyond their bobbins, but as
soon as the postponed orders were in train, and the cash for the
wedding veil and flounces had been transmitted, the good woman
treated herself and her daughters to a holiday at St. Norbert's,
without intimating her intention to her patronesses; and the
consequence was a formal complaint of her ungrateful and violent
language to Mrs. Rawlins on being refused admission to the asylum
without authority from Mr. Mauleverer or Miss Curtis.
Rachel, much displeased, went down charged with reproof and
representation, but failed to produce the desired effect upon the
"It was not right," Mrs. Kelland reiterated, "that the poor lone
orphan should not see her that was as good as a mother, when she had
no one else to look to. They that kept her from her didn't do it for
no good end."
"But, Mrs. Kelland, rules are rules."
"Don't tell me of no rules, Miss Rachel, as would cut a poor child
off from her friends as her mother gave her to on her death-bed.
'Sally,' says she, 'I know you will do a mother's part by that poor
little maid;' and so I did till I was over persuaded to let her go to
that there place."
"Indeed you have nothing to regret there, Mrs. Kelland; you know,
that with the kindest intentions, you could not make the child
"And why was that, ma'am, but because her mother was a poor creature
from town, that had never broke her to her work. I never had the
trouble with a girl of my own I had with her. 'It's all for your
good, Lovedy,' I says to her, and poor child, maybe she wishes
herself back again."
"I assure you, I always find the children well and happy, and it is
very unfair on the matron to be angry with her for being bound by
rules, to which she must submit, or she would transgress the
regulations under which we have laid her! It is not her choice to
exclude you, but her duty."
"Please, ma'am, was it her duty to be coming out of the house in a
'genta coloured silk dress, and a drab bonnet with a pink feather in
it?" said Mrs. Kelland, with a certain, air of simplicity, that
provoked Rachel to answer sharply--
"You don't know what you are talking about, Mrs. Kelland."
"Well, ma'am, it was a very decent woman as told me, an old lady of
the name of Drinkwater, as keeps a baker's shop on the other side of
the way, and she never sees bread enough go in for a cat to make use
of, let alone three poor hungry children. She says all is not right
"Oh, that must be mere gossip and spite at not having the custom. It
quite accounts for what she may say, and indeed you brought it all on
yourself by not having asked me for a note. You must restrain
yourself. What you may say to me is of no importance, but you must
not go and attack those who are doing the very best for your niece."
Rachel made a dignified exit, but before she had gone many steps, she
was assailed by tearful Mrs. Morris: "Oh, Miss Rachel, if it would
not be displeasing to you, would you give me an order for my child to
come home. Ours is a poor place, but I would rather make any shift
for us to live than that she should he sent away to some place beyond
"Some place beyond sea!"
"Yes, ma'am. I beg your pardon, ma'am, but they do say that Mr. Maw-
and-liver is a kidnapper, ma'am, and that he gets them poor children
to send out to Botany Bay to be wives to the convicts as are
transported, Miss Rachel, if you'll excuse it. They say there's a
whole shipload of them at Plymouth, and I'd rather my poor Mary came
to the Union at home than to the like of that, Miss Rachel."
This alarm, being less reasonable, was even more difficult to talk
down than Mrs. Kelland's, and Rachel felt as if there wore a general
conspiracy to drive her distracted, when on going home she found the
drawing-room occupied by a pair of plump, paddy-looking old friends,
who had evidently talked her mother into a state of nervous alarm.
On her entrance, Mrs. Curtis begged the gentleman to tell dear Rachel
what he had been saying, but this he contrived to avoid, and only on
his departure was Rachel made aware that he and his wife had come,
fraught with tidings that she was fostering a Jesuit in disguise,
that Mrs. Rawlins was a lady abbess of a new order, Rachel herself in
danger of being entrapped, and the whole family likely to be
entangled in the mysterious meshes, which, as good Mrs. Curtis more
than once repeated, would be "such a dreadful thing for poor Fanny
and the boys."
Her daughters, by soothing and argument, allayed the alarm, though
the impression was not easily done away with, and they feared that it
might yet cost her a night's rest. These attacks--absurd as they
were--induced Rachel to take measures for their confutation, by
writing to Mr. Mauleverer, that she thought it would be well to allow
the pupils to pay a short visit to their homes, so as to satisfy
She did not receive an immediate answer, and was beginning to feel
vexed and anxious, though not doubtful, when Mr. Mauleverer arrived,
bringing two beautiful little woodcuts, as illustrations for the
"Journal of Female Industry." They were entitled "The free maids that
weave their thread with bones," and one called "the Ideal,"
represented a latticed cottage window, with roses, honeysuckles, cat,
beehives, and all conventional rural delights, around a pretty maiden
singing at her lace-pillow; while the other yclept the "Real," showed
a den of thin, wizened, half-starved girls, cramped over their
cushions in a lace-school. The design was Mr. Mauleverer's, the
execution the children's; and neatly mounted on cards, the
performance did them great credit, and there was great justice in Mr.
Manleverer's view that while they were making such progress, it would
be a great pity to interrupt the preparation of the first number by
sending the children home even for a few hours. Rachel consented the
more readily to the postponement of the holiday, as she had now
something to show in evidence of the reality of their doings, and she
laid hands upon the cuts, in spite of Mr. Mauleverer'a unwillingness
that such mere essays should be displayed as specimens of the art of
the F. U. E. E. When the twenty pounds which she advanced should
have been laid out in blocks, ink, and paper, there was little doubt
that the illustrations of the journal would be a triumphant instance
of female energy well directed.
Meantime she repaired to Ermine Williams to persuade her to write an
article upon the two pictures, a paper in the lively style in which
Rachel herself could not excel, pointing out the selfishness of
wilfully sentimental illusions. She found Ermine alone, but her
usual fate pursued her in the shape of, first, Lady Temple, then both
Colonel and Captain Keith, and little Rose, who all came in before
she had had time to do more than explain her intentions. Rose had
had another fright, and again the Colonel had been vainly trying to
distinguish the bugbear of her fancy, and she was clinging all the
more closely to him because he was the only person of her aquaintance
who did not treat her alarms as absolutely imaginary.
Rachel held her ground, well pleased to have so many spectators of
this triumphant specimen of the skill of her asylum, and Lady Temple
gave much admiration, declaring that no one ought to wear lace again
without being sure that no one was tortured in making it, and that
when she ordered her new black lace shawl of Mrs. Kelland, it should
be on condition that the poor girls were not kept so very hard at
"You will think me looking for another Sepoy likeness," said the
Colonel, "but I am sure I have met this young lady or her twin sister
somewhere in my travels."
"It is a satire on conventional pictures," said Rachel.
"Now, I remember," he continued. "It was when I was laid up with my
wound at a Dutch boer's till I could get to Cape Town. My sole
reading was one number of the 'Illustrated News,' and I made too good
acquaintance with that lady's head, to forget her easily."
"Of course," said Rachel, "it is a reminiscence of the painting there
"What was the date?" asked Alick Keith.
The Colonel was able to give it with some precision.
"You are all against me," said Rachel, "I see you are perfectly
determined that there shall be something wrong about every
performance of the F. U. E. E."
"No, don't say so," began Fanny, with gentle argument, but Alick
Keith put in with a smile, "It is a satisfaction to Miss Curtis."
"Athanasius against the world," she answered.
"Athanasius should take care that his own foot is firm, his position
incontrovertible," said Ermine.
"Then," said Ermine, "will you allow these little pictures to be
"I don't know what you mean."
"Look here," and the Colonel lifted on the table a scrap-book that
Rose had been quietly opening on his knee, and which contained an
etching of a child playing with a dog, much resembling the style of
"Who did that, my dear? " he asked.
"Mamma had it," was Rose's reply; "it was always in my old nursery
"Every one knows," said Rachel, "that a woodcut is often like an
etching, and an etching like a woodcut. I do not know what you are
"The little dogs and all," muttered Alick, as Rachel glanced rather
indignantly at Rose and her book so attentively examined by the
"I know," repeated Rachel, "that there is a strong prejudice against
Mr. Mauleverer, and that it is entertained by many whom I should have
hoped to see above such weakness but when I brought these tangible
productions of his system, as evidence of his success, I did not
expect to see them received with a covert distrust, which I own I do
not understand. I perceive now why good works find so much
difficulty in prospering."
"I believe," said Alick Keith, "that I am to have the honour of
dining at the Homestead on Monday?"
"Yes. The Greys spend the day with us, and it is Emily's due to have
a good sight of you."
"Then will you let me in the meantime take my own measures with
regard to these designs. I will not hurt or injure them in any way;
they shall be deposited here in Miss William's hands, and I promise
you that if I have been able to satisfy myself as to the means of
their production, Simon Skinflint shall become a subscriber to the
F. U. E. E. Is it a bargain?"
"I never made such a bargain," said Rachel, puzzled.
"Is that a reason for not doing so?"
"I don't know what you mean to do. Not to molest that poor Mrs.
Rawlins. I will not have that done."
"Certainly not. All I ask of you is that these works of art should
remain here with Miss Williams, as a safe neutral, and that you
should meet me here on Monday, when I will undertake to convince
"Not me?" cried Rachel.
"Who would make it part of his terms to convince a lady?"
"You mean to say," exclaimed Rachel, considerably nettled, "that as a
woman, I am incapable of being rationally convinced!"
"The proverb does not only apply to women," said Ermine, coming to
her rescue; but Rachel, stung by the arch smile and slight bow of
Captain Keith, continued--"Let the proof be convincing, and I will
meet it as candidly as it is the duty of all reasonable beings to do.
Only let me first know what you mean to prove."
"The terms are these then, are they not, Miss Williams? I am to come
on Monday, February the 5th, prepared to test whether these designs
are what they profess to be, and Miss Curtis undertakes to be
convinced by that proof, provided it be one that should carry
conviction to a clear, unbiassed mind. I undertake, on the other
hand, that if the said proof should be effectual, a mythical
personage called Simon Skinflint shall become a supporter of the
Female Union for Englishwomen's Employment."
Ho spoke with his own peculiar slowness and gravity, and Rachel,
uncertain whether he were making game of her or not, looked
perplexed, half on the defence, half gratified. The others were
greatly amused, and a great deal surprised at Alick's unwonted
willingness to take trouble in the matter. After a few moment's
deliberation, Rachel said, "Well, I consent, provided that my candour
be met by equal candour on the other side, and you will promise that
if this ordeal succeeds, you will lay aside all prejudice against
A little demur as to the reasonableness of this stipulation followed,
but the terms finally were established. Mr. and Mrs. Grey, old
family friends, had long been engaged to spend the ensuing Monday at
the Homestead. The elder daughter, an old intimate of Grace's, had
married an Indian civil servant, whom Colonel Keith was invited to
meet at luncheon, and Captain Keith at dinner, and Alick was further
to sleep at Gowanbrae. Lady Temple, who was to have been of the
party, was called away, much to her own regret, by an appointment
with the dentist of St. Norbert's, who was very popular, and
proportionately despotic, being only visible at his own times, after
long appointment. She would therefore be obliged to miss Alick's
ordeal, though as she said, when Rachel--finding it vain to try to
outstay so many--had taken her leave, "I should much like to see how
it will turn out. I do believe that there is some difference in the
colour of the ink in the middle and at the edge, and if those people
are deceiving Rachel, who knows what they may be doing to the poor
It was exactly what every one was thinking, but it seemed to have
fresh force when it struck the milder and slower imagination, and
Lady Temple, seeing that her observation told upon those around her,
became more impressed with its weight.
"It really is dreadful to have sent those little girls there without
any one knowing what anybody does to them," she repeated.
"It makes even Alick come out in a new character," said the Colonel,
turning round on him.
"Why," returned Alick, "my sister had so much to do with letting the
young lady in for the scrape, that it is just as well to try to get
her out of it. In fact, I think we have all sat with our hands
before us in a shamefully cool manner, till we are all accountable
for the humbuggery."
"When it comes to your reproaching us with coolness, Captain Keith,
the matter becomes serious," returned Colin.
"It does become serious," was the answer; "it is hard that a person
without any natural adviser should have been allowed to run headlong,
by force of her own best qualities, into the hands of a sharper.
I do not see how a man of any proper feeling, can stand by without
doing something to prevent the predicament from becoming any worse."
"If you can," said Colonel Keith.
"I verily believe," said Alick, turning round upon him, "that the
worse it is for her, the more you enjoy it!"
"Quite true," said Ermine in her mischievous way; "it is a true case
of man's detestation of clever women! Look here, Alick, we will not
have him here at the great ordeal of the woodcuts. You and I are
much more candid and unprejudiced people, and shall manage her much
"I have no desire to be present," returned the Colonel; "I have no
satisfaction in seeing my friend Alick baffled. I shall see how they
both appear at luncheon afterwards."
"How will that be?" asked Fanny, anxiously.
"The lady will be sententious and glorious, and will recommend the
F. U. E. E. more than ever, and Alick will cover the downfall of his
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