The Three Brides
Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 2 out of 11
appease the restlessness of anxiety, out went the ladies, to find
the best view of the town,--usually a white object in the distance,
but now blurred by smoke thick and black in the daylight, and now
and then reddened by bursts of flame.
Anne had been reassured as to the need of beating out the fire and
trampling down a place to isolate it, as in the bush-fires of her
experience; and Rosamond related the achievements of the regiment in
quenching many a conflagration in inflammable colonial cities.
It occurred to her that the best place whence to see it was the
tower of the church, which, placed upon a little knoll, was standing
out in full relief against the lurid light. She found the key at
the sexton's, and led the way up the broken stone stair to the trap-
door, where they emerged on the leads, and, in spite of the cold
wind and furious flapping of the flag above their heads, stood
absorbed in the interest of the sight.
There was a black mass in the open space, whence rose fitful clouds
of smoke, the remnants of the fire, which had there done its worst;
and beyond was a smoky undefined outline, with tongues of flame
darting up, then volumes of dense white smoke, denoting a rush of
water from the engines. Black beings flitted about like ants round
a disturbed nest; Rosamond hoped she detected some scarlet among
them, and Cecil lamented over not having brought her opera-glass.
Even without this, it was possible to make out two long lines of men
between the fire and the river, and at times they fancied they heard
the shouting, but the wind generally carried it away. The cold was
bitter, and they had to hold together and keep a tight grip upon
their garments against the gusts that seemed to rock the tower; but
they could not bear to turn away, though the clock beneath pealed
out hour after hour; for still, as the flames were subdued in one
place they broke out in another; but gradually smoke became
predominant, and then grew thinner, and as some of the black specks
began to straggle into the road as if returning to Compton, the
desire to hear became more pressing than that to see, and the three
ladies began to descend--a slow and weary process, cutting them off
from the view, and lasting so long, that the road was no longer
deserted when they finally emerged into the churchyard.
Young Mr. Bowater, grimed, dusty, hatless, and his hair on end, and
Rollo following with his feathery tail singed, hurried up at once.
"I'm not fit to touch, Lady Rosamond," as he showed a black hand,
and bowed to the others.
"Where's Ju--where's my husband?" exclaimed Rosamond.
"Just behind, riding home with Raymond and the rest of them. Wasn't
it a magnificent flare-up? But there was no loss of life; and this
dog was of as much use as two men--carried whatever I told him."
"Good old man! You've suffered too!" said Rosamond. "Pah! you're
like a singed horse; but never mind, you're a hero."
"And where is Mr. Charnock Poynsett?" said Cecil, retreating from
the dog, which her sisters-in-law were vehemently patting.
"He was arranging with the mayor. Church, paper-mills, and town-
hall got the worst of it. It was well he came down; old Briggs, the
mayor, lost his head, and Fuller never had one. Every one gave
contrary orders till he came down, and then, didn't we work!"
The curate stretched his stalwart limbs, as if they were becoming
sensible of the strain they had undergone.
"Did you say the church was burnt?" asked Cecil.
"Yes; and a very good thing too! Hideous place, where you couldn't
do right if you died for it! The fire began there--stoves no doubt--
and there it would have stopped if any one had had any sense; but
there they would run and gape, and the more I tried to get them to
form a chain and drench the warehouses, the more they wouldn't do
it. And when the flame once got hold of the paper--did you see it?--
it was not a thing to forget. I verily believe the whole town
would have gone if the Charnocks hadn't come and got a little
discipline into the asses. It was just life and death work,
fighting the fire to hinder it from getting across Water Lane, and
then it would have been all up with High Street. The tongues broke
out like live things ready to lick up everything; and it was like
killing dragons to go at them with the hose and buckets. I declare
my arms are fit to drop out of their sockets. And the Rector
devoted himself to carrying out bed-ridden old women. I forgot to
tell you, Lady Rosamond, he has broken his--There now, I never meant
to frighten you--broken his spectacles."
"You did it on purpose," she said, laughing at her own start.
"No, indeed, I did not."
"And is it quite out now?"
"Yes; when the Backsworth engines and the soldiers came up, it was
like the Prussians at Waterloo."
"Oh, then it was done," said Rosamond. "Take care! my grandfather
was in the Light Division."
"And my uncle in the Guards," said the curate. But before the
Waterloo controversy could be pursued, four or five figures on
horseback came round the knoll, and Raymond and Julius sprang off
their horses, introducing the three officers who followed their
One was Rosamond's old acquaintance, the Colonel, a friend of her
father; but she had little attention to spare for them till she had
surveyed her husband, who looked nothing worse than exceedingly
dusty, and at fault without his spectacles.
Inquiries were made for Frank and Charlie. They were walking home.
They had worked gallantly. The flames were extinguished, but the
engines must go on playing on them for some time longer. No lives
lost, and very few casualties, but the paper-mills were entirely
destroyed, and about twenty tenements, so that great distress was to
Such intelligence was being communicated as the party stood together
in a group, when there was a light tinkling of bells, and two ladies
in a light open carriage, drawn by two spirited ponies, dashed round
the knoll; and at the moment something must have gone wrong with
them, for there was a start, a pull, a call of "Raymond! Raymond!"
Throwing his bridle to Herbert Bowater, he sprang to the horses'
"Mr. Poynsett! Thank you! I beg your pardon," said the lady,
recovering herself; and Rosamond instantly perceived that she must
be Lady Tyrrell, for she was young-looking, very handsome, and in
slight mourning; and her companion was Miss Vivian. Julius, holding
his surviving glass to his eye, likewise stepped forward. "Thank
you, it was so stupid," the lady ran on. "Is not there something
wrong with the traces? I don't know how they got themselves
harnessed, but there was no keeping at home."
"I think all is right," said Raymond, gravely, making the
examination over to a servant. "Let me introduce my wife, Lady
The lady held out her hand. "I hope we shall be excellent
neighbours.--My sister.--You remember little Lena," she added to the
brothers. "She stole a march on us, I find. I heard of your
encounter on Friday. It was too bad of you not to come in and let
us send you home; I hope you did not get very wet, Lady Rosamond.--
Ah! Mr. Strangeways, I did not know you were there," she proceeded,
as the youngest of the officers accosted her; "come over and see us.
You're better provided now; but come to luncheon any day. I am sure
to be at home at half-past one; and I want so much to hear of your
mother and sisters." And with a universal bow and smile she
nourished her whip, her ponies jangled their bells, and the ladies
"Stunning pair that!" was young Strangeways' exclamation.
"Most beautiful!" murmured Cecil, in a low voice, as if she was
quite dazzled. "You never said she was like that," she added
reproachfully to Julius.
"Our encounter was in the dark," he answered.
"Oh, I did not mean the young one, but Lady Tyrrell. She is just
like a gem we saw at Firenze--which was it?"
"Where?" said Raymond, bewildered.
"Firenze--Florence," she said, deigning to translate; and finding
her own reply. "Ah, yes, the Medusa!" then, as more than one
exclaimed in indignant dismay, she said, "No, not the Gorgon, but
the beautiful winged head, with only two serpents on the brow and
one coiled round the neck, and the pensive melancholy face."
"I know," said Julius, shortly; while the other gentlemen entered
into an argument, some defending the beauty of the younger sister,
some of the elder; and it lasted till they entered the park, where
all were glad to partake of their well-earned meal, most of the
gentlemen having been at work since dawn without sustenance, except
a pull at the beer served out to the firemen.
Cecil was not at all shy, and was pleased to take her place as
representative lady of the house; but somehow, though every one was
civil and attentive to her, she found herself effaced by the more
full-blown Rosamond, accustomed to the same world as the guests; and
she could not help feeling the same sense of depression as when she
had to yield the head of her father's table to her step-mother.
Nor could she have that going to church for the first time in state
with her bridegroom she had professed to dread, but had really
anticipated with complacency; for though Julius had bidden the bells
to be rung for afternoon service, Raymond was obliged to go back to
Wil'sbro' to make arrangements for the burnt-out families, and she
had to go as lonely as Anne herself.
Lady Tyrrell and her sister were both at Compton Church, and
overtook the three sisters-in-law as they were waiting to be joined
by the Rector.
"We shall have to take shelter with you," said Lady Tyrrell, "poor
burnt-out beings that we are."
"Do you belong to Wil'sbro'?" said Rosamond.
"Yes; St. Nicholas is an immense straggling parish, going four miles
along the river. I don't know how we shall ever be able to go back
again to poor old Mr. Fuller. You'll never get rid of us from
"I suppose they will set about rebuilding the church at once," said
Cecil. "Of course they will form a committee, and put my husband on
"In the chair, no doubt," said Lady Tyrrell, in a tone that sounded
to Rosamond sarcastic, but which evidently gratified Cecil. "But we
will have a committee of our own, and you will have to preside, and
patronize our bazaar. Of course you know all about them."
"Oh yes!" said Cecil, eagerly. "We have one every year for the
Infirmary, only my father did not approve of my selling at a stall."
"Ah! quite right then, but you are a married woman now, and that is
quite a different thing. The stall of the three brides. What an
attraction! I shall come and talk about it when I make my call in
full form! Good-bye again."
Cecil's balance was more than restored by this entire recognition to
be prime lady-patroness of everything. To add to her satisfaction,
when her husband came home to dinner, bringing with him both the
curates, she found there was to be a meeting on Tuesday in the
Assembly-room, of both sexes, to consider of the relief of the work-
people, and that he would be glad to take her to it. Moreover, as
it was to be strictly local, Rosamond was not needed there, though
Raymond was not equally clear as to the Rector, since he believed
that the St. Nicholas parishioners meant to ask the loan of Compton
Poynsett Church for one service on a Sunday.
"Then I shall keep out of the way," said Julius. "I do not want to
have the request made to me in public."
"You do not mean to refuse?" said Cecil, with a sort of self-
identification with her constituents.
"The people are welcome to attend as many of our services as they
like; but there is no hour that I could give the church up to Mr.
Fuller on a Sunday."
"Nor would the use of St. Nicholas be very edifying for our people,"
added Mr. Bindon.
His junior clenched it by saying with a laugh, "I should think not!
Fancy old Fuller's rusty black gown up in our pulpit!"
"I rejoice to say that is burnt," rejoined Mr. Bindon.
"What bet will you take that a new one will be the first thing
subscribed for?" said the deacon, bringing a certain grave look on
the faces of both the elder clergy, and a horror-stricken one upon
Anne's; while Cecil pronounced her inevitable dictum, that at
Dunstone Mr. Venn always preached in a gown, and "we" should never
let him think of anything nonsensical.
Rosamond was provoked into a display of her solitary bit of
ecclesiastical knowledge--"A friar's gown, the most Popish vestment
in the church."
Cecil, thoroughly angered, flushed up to the eyes and bit her lips,
unable to find a reply, while all the gentlemen laughed. Frank
asked if it were really so, and Mr. Bindon made the well-known
explanation that the Geneva gown was neither more nor less than the
"I shall write and ask Mr. Venn," gasped Cecil; but her husband
stifled the sound by saying, "I saw little Pettitt, Julius, this
afternoon, overwhelmed with gratitude to you for all the care you
took of his old mother, and all his waxen busts."
"Ah! by the bye!" said Charlie, "I did meet the Rector staggering
out, with the fascinating lady with the long eyelashes in one arm,
and the moustached hero in the other."
"There was no pacifying the old lady without," said Julius. "I had
just coaxed her to the door, when she fell to wringing her hands.
Ah! those lovely models, that were worth thirty shillings each, with
natural hair--that they should be destroyed! If the heat or the
water did but come near them, Adolphus would never get over it. I
could only pacify her by promising to go back for these idols of his
heart as soon as she was safe; and after all, I had to dash at them
through the glass, and that was the end of my spectacles."
"Where was Pettitt himself?"
"Well employed, poor little fellow, saving the people in those three
cottages of his. No one supposed his shop in danger, but the fire
took a sudden freak and came down Long Street; and though the house
is standing, it had to be emptied and deluged with water to save it.
I never knew Pettitt had a mother till I found her mounting guard,
like one distracted, over her son's bottles of perfumery."
"And dyes?" murmured Raymond under his breath; but Frank caught the
sound, and said, "Ah, Julius! don't I remember his inveigling you
into coming out with scarlet hair?"
"I don't think I've seen him since," said Julius, laughing. "I
believe he couldn't resist such an opportunity of practising his
art. And for my part, I must say for myself, that it was in our
first holidays, and Raymond and Miles had been black and blue the
whole half-year from having fought my battles whenever I was called
either 'Bunny' or 'Grandfather.' So when he assured me he could
turn my hair to as sweet a raven-black as Master Poynsett's, I
thought it would be pleasing to all, forgetting that he could not
dye my eyes, and that their effect would have been some degrees more
"For shame, Julius!" said Rosamond. "Don't you know that one
afternoon, when Nora had cried for forty minutes over her sum, she
declared that she wanted to make her eyes as beautiful as Mr.
Charnock's. Well, what was the effect?"
"Startling," said Raymond. "He came down in shades of every kind of
crimson and scarlet. A fearful object, with his pink-and-white face
glowing under it."
"And what I had to undergo from Susan!" added Julius. "She washed
me, and soaped me, and rubbed me, till I felt as if all the
threshing-machines in the county were about my head, lecturing me
all the time on the profanity of flying against Scripture by trying
to alter one's hair from what Providence had made it. Nothing would
do; her soap only turned it into shades of lemon and primrose. I
was fain to let her shave my head as if I had a brain fever; and I
was so horribly ashamed for years after, that I don't think I have
set foot in Long Street since till to-day."
"Pettitt is a queer little fellow," said Herbert. "The most
truculent little Radical to hear him talk, and yet staunch in his
votes, for he can't go against those whose hair he has cut off from
"I hope he has not lost much," said Julius.
"His tenements are down, but they were insured; and as to his stock,
he says he owes its safety entirely to you, Julius. I think he
would present you with both his models as a testimonial, if you
could only take them," said Raymond.
Cecil had neither spoken nor laughed through all this. She was
nursing her wrath; and after marching out of the dining-room, lay in
wait to intercept her husband, and when she had claimed his
attention, began, "Rosamond ought not to be allowed to say such
"Speaking in that improper way about a gown."
"She seems to have said what was the fact."
"It can't be! It is preposterous! I never heard it before."
"Nor I; but Bindon evidently is up in those matters."
"It was only to support Rosamond; and I am quite sure she said it
out of mere opposition to me. You ought to speak to Julius."
"About what?" said Raymond.
"Her laughing whenever I mention Dunstone, and tell them the proper
way of doing things."
"There may be different opinions about the proper way of doing
things." Then as she opened her eyes in wonder and rebuke, he
continued, in his elder-brotherly tone of kindness, "You know I told
you already that you had better not interfere in matters concerning
his church and parish."
"We always managed things at Dunstone."
Hang Dunstone! was with some difficulty suppressed; but in an extra
gentle voice Raymond said, "Your father did what he thought his
duty, but I do not think it mine, nor yours, to direct Julius in
clerical matters. It can only lead to disputes, and I will not have
"It is Rosamond. I'm sure I don't dispute."
"Listen, Cecil!" he said. "I can see that your position may be
trying, in these close quarters with a younger brother's wife with
more age and rank than yourself."
"That is nothing. An Irish earl, and a Charnock of Dunstone!"
"Dunstone will be more respected if you keep it in the background,"
he said, holding in stronger words with great difficulty. "Once for
all, you have your own place and duties, and Rosamond has hers. If
you meddle in them, nothing but annoyance can come of it; and
remember, I cannot be appealed to in questions between you and her.
Julius and I have gone on these nine-and-twenty years without a
cloud between us, and I'm sure you would not wish to bring one now."
Wherewith he left her bewildered. She did not perceive that he was
too impartial for a lover, but she had a general sense that she had
come into a rebellious world, where Dunstone and Dunstone's daughter
were of no account, and her most cherished notions disputed. What
was the lady of the manor to do but to superintend the church,
parsonage, and parish generally? Not her duty? She had never heard
of such a thing, nor did she credit it. Papa would come home, make
these degenerate Charnocks hear reason, and set all to rights.
Young Mrs. Charnock Poynsett had plenty of elasticity, and her
rebuffs were less present to her mind in the morning than to that of
her husband, who had been really concerned to have to inflict an
expostulation; and he was doubly kind, almost deferential, giving
the admiration and attention he felt incumbent on him to the
tasteful arrangements of her wedding presents in her own sitting-
"And this clock I am going to have in the drawing-room, and these
Salviati glasses. Then, when I have moved out the piano, I shall
put the sofa in its place, and my own little table, with my pretty
Raymond again looked annoyed. "Have you spoken to my mother?" he
"No; she never goes there."
"Not now, but if ever she can bear any move it will be her first
change, and I should not like to interfere with her arrangements."
"She could never have been a musician, to let the piano stand
against the wall. I shall never be able to play."
"Perhaps that might be contrived," said Raymond, kindly. "_Here_
you know is your own domain, where you can do as you please."
"Yes; but I am expected to play in the evening. Look at all those
things. I had kept the choicest for the drawing-room, and it is
such a pity to hide them all up here."
Raymond felt for the mortification, and was unwilling to cross her
again, so he said, "I will ask whether my mother would object to
having the piano moved."
"After eleven o'clock--I never disturb her sooner; but you shall
hear before I go to Backsworth."
"An hour lost," thought Cecil; but she was too well bred to grumble,
and she had her great work to carry on of copying and illustrating
Mrs. Poynsett readily consented. "Oh yes, my dear, let her do
whatever she likes. Don't let me be a bugbear. A girl is never at
home till she has had her will of the furniture. I think she will
find that moving out the piano betrays the fading of the rest of the
paper, but that is her affair. She is free to do just as she likes.
I dare say the place does look antediluvian to young eyes."
So Raymond was the bearer of his mother's full permission; and Cecil
presided with great energy over the alterations, which she carried
out by the aid of the younger servants, to the great disgust of
their seniors. She expected the acclamations of her contemporaries;
but it happened that the first of them to cross the room was Julius,
on his way to his mother's room after luncheon, and he, having on a
pair of make-shift glasses, till the right kind could be procured
from London, was unprepared for obstacles in familiar regions,
stumbled over an ottoman, and upset a table with the breakage of a
He apologized, with much regret; but the younger brothers made an
outcry. "What has come to the place? Here's the table all over
"And where are the bronzes?"
"And the humming-birds? Miles's birds, that he brought home after
his first voyage."
"And the clock with the two jolly little Cupids? Don't you remember
Miles and Will Bowater dressing them up for men-of-war's men?
Mother could not bring herself to have them undressed for a year,
and all the time the clock struck nohow!"
"This is an anatomical study instead of a clock," lamented Frank.
"I say, Cecil, do you like your friends to sit in their bones, like
"I never saw such a stupid old set of conservatives!" broke in
Rosamond, feeling for Cecil's mortification. "In an unprejudiced
eye the room looks infinitely better, quite revivified! You ought
to be much obliged to Cecil for letting you see all her beautiful
"Why don't you favour us with yours?" said Charlie.
"I know better! Mine aren't fit to wipe the shoes of Cecil's! When
I get into the Rectory you'll see how hideous they are!" said
Rosamond, with the merriest complacency. "Couvre-pieds to set your
teeth on edge, from the non-commissioned officers' wives; and the
awfullest banner-screen you ever saw, worked by the drum-major's own
hands, with Her Majesty's arms on one side, and the De Courcy ones
on the other, and glass eyes like stuffed birds' to the lion and
unicorn. We nearly expired from suppressed laughter under the
Then she went round, extorting from the lads admiration for Cecil's
really beautiful properties, and winning gratitude for her own
cordial praise, though it was not the artistic appreciation they
deserved. Indeed, Cecil yielded to the general vote for the
restoration of the humming-birds, allowing that, though she did not
like stuffed birds in a drawing-room, she would not have banished
them if she had known their history.
This lasted till Charlie spied a carriage coming up the drive, which
could be seen a long way off, so that there was the opportunity for
a general sauve qui peut. Cecil represented that Rosamond ought to
stay and receive her bridal visits; but she was unpersuadable. "Oh
no! I leave all that for you! My time will come when I get into
the Rectory. We are going in the dog-cart to the other end of the
parish.--What's its name--Squattlesea Marsh, Julius?"
"Squattlesford!" said Charlie. "If Julius means to drive you, look
out for your neck!"
"No, it's the other way, I'm going to drive Julius!--Come along, or
we shall be caught!"
Cecil stood her ground, as did Anne, who was too weary and
indifferent to retreat, and Frank, who had taken another view of the
carriage as it came nearer.
"I must apologize for having brought nothing but my father's card,"
said Lady Tyrrell, entering with her sister, and shaking hands:
"there's no such thing as dragging him out for a morning call."
"And Mr. Charnock Poynsett is not at home," replied Cecil. "He
found so much county business waiting for him, that he had to go to
"It is the better opportunity for a little private caucus with you,"
returned Lady Tyrrell, "before the meeting to-morrow. I rather
fancy the gentlemen have one of their own."
"Some are to dine here to-night," said Cecil.
"We ladies had better be prepared with our proposals," said Lady
At the same time Frank drew near Miss Vivian with a large book,
saying, "These are the photographs you wished to see."
He placed the book on the ottoman, and would thus have secured a
sort of tete-a-tete; but Eleonora did not choose to leave Mrs Miles
Charnock out, and handed her each photograph in turn, but could only
elicit a cold languid "Thank you." To Anne's untrained eye these
triumphs of architecture were only so many dull representations of
'Roman Catholic churches,' and she would much rather have listened
to the charitable plans of the other two ladies, for the houseless
factory women of Wil'sbro'.
The bazaar, Lady Tyrrell said, must be first started by the Member's
wife; and there should be an innermost committee, of not more than
three, to dispose of stalls and make arrangements.
"You must be one," said Cecil. "I know no one yet."
"You will, long before it comes off. In fact, I am as great a
stranger as yourself. Ah! there's an opportunity!" as the bell
pealed. "The Bowaters, very likely; I saw their Noah's ark as I
passed the Poynsett Arms, with the horses taken out. I wonder how
many are coming--worthy folks!"
Which evidently meant insufferable bores.
"Is there not a daughter?" asked Cecil.
"You need not use the singular, though, by the bye, most of them are
"Oh, pray stay!" entreated Cecil, as there were signs of leave-
"I should do you no good. You'll soon learn that I am a sort of
Loki among the Asagotter."
Cecil laughed, but had time to resume her somewhat prim dignity
before the lengthened disembarkation was over, and after all,
produced only four persons; but then none were small--Mrs. Bowater
was a harsh matron, Mr. Bowater a big comely squire, the daughters
both tall, one with an honest open face much like Herbert's, only
with rather less youth and more intelligence, the other a bright
dark glowing gipsy-faced young girl.
Eleonora Vivian, hitherto gravely stiff and reserved, to poor
Frank's evident chagrin, at once flashed into animation, and met the
elder Miss Bowater with outstretched hands, receiving a warm kiss.
At the same time Mr. Bowater despatched Frank to see whether his
mother could admit a visitor; and Lady Tyrrell observed, "Ah! I was
about to make the same petition; but I will cede to older friends,
for so I suppose I must call you, Mr. Bowater--though my
acquaintance is of long standing enough!"
And she put on a most charming smile, which Mr. Bowater received
with something inarticulate that might be regarded as a polite form
of 'fudge,' which made Cecil think him a horribly rude old man, and
evidently discomposed his wife very much.
Frank brought back his mother's welcome to the Squire; but by this
time Eleonora and Miss Bowater had drawn together into a window, in
so close and earnest a conversation that he could not break into it,
and with almost visible reluctance began to talk to the younger
sister, who on her side was desirous of joining in the bazaar
discussion, which had been started again in full force; until there
was a fresh influx of visitors, when Lady Tyrrell decidedly took
leave with her sister, and Frank escorted them to their carriage,
and returned no more.
In the new shuffling of partners, the elder Miss Bowater found
herself close to Anne, and at once inquired warmly for Miles, with
knowledge and interest in naval affairs derived from a sailor
brother, Miles's chief friend and messmate in his training and
earlier voyages. There was something in Joanna Bowater's manner
that always unlocked hearts, and Anne was soon speaking without her
fence of repellant stiffness and reserve. Certainly Miles was loved
by his mother and brothers more than he could be by an old
playfellow and sisterly friend, and yet there was something in
Joanna's tone that gave Anne a sense of fellow-feeling, as if she
had met a countrywoman in this land of strangers; and she even told
how Miles had thought it right to send her home, thinking that she
might be a comfort to his mother. "And not knowing all that was
going to happen!" said poor Anne, with an irrepressible sigh, both
for her own blighted hopes, and for the whirl into which her sore
heart had fallen.
"I think you will be," said Joanna, brightly; "though it must be
strange coming on so many. Dear Mrs. Poynsett is so kind!"
"Yes," said Anne, coldly.
"Ah! you don't know her yet. And Lady Rosamond! She is
"Have you seen her!"
"We met them just now in the village, but my brother is enchanted.
And do you know what was Julius's first introduction to her? It was
at a great school-feast, where they had the regimental children as
well as the town ones. A poor little boy went off in an epileptic
fit, and Julius found her holding him, with her own hand in his
mouth to hinder the locking of the teeth. He said her fingers were
bitten almost to the bone, but she made quite light of it."
"That was nice!" said Anne; but then, with a startled glance, and in
an undertone, she added, "Are they Christians?"
Joanna Bowater paused for a moment between dismay and desire for
consideration, and in that moment her father called to her, "Jenny,
do you remember the dimensions of those cottages in Queckett's
Lane?" and she had to come and serve for his memory, while he was
indoctrinating a younger squire with the duties of a landlord.
Meanwhile Mrs. Bowater was, for the tenth time, consulting her old
friend upon Mrs. Hornblower's capabilities of taking care of
Herbert, and betraying a little disappointment that his first sermon
had not yet been heard; and when his voice was complimented, she
hoped Julius would spare it--too much exertion could not be good for
so young a man, and though dear Herbert looked so strong, no one
would believe how much sleep he required. Then she observed, "We
found Camilla Vivian--Lady Tyrrell I mean--calling. Have you seen
"Well, she really seems improved!"
"Mr. Bowater has been telling me she is handsomer than ever!"
"Oh yes! That's all gentlemen think of; but I meant in other ways.
She seems full of the rebuilding of St. Nicholas, and to be making
great friends with your new daughter. You don't think," lowering
her voice, "that Raymond would have any objection to meeting her?"
"I did not suppose he would, but I thought I would just ask you. It
would be rather marked not to invite him for the 3rd, you know; and
Jenny was always so fond of poor Emily, kept up a correspondence
with her to the last. It was the first time she had met the little
one since they came back. Not that she is little now, she is very
tall and quite handsome _even_ by the side of Edith. We just saw
Lady Rosamond--a sweet face--and Herbert perfectly raves about her!"
"She is a most unselfish warm-hearted creature!" said Mrs. Poynsett.
"I am so glad! And Miles's wife, I hope she will come. Poor thing,
she looks very poorly."
"Yes, I am very anxious about her. If she is not better in a day or
two, I shall insist on her having advice."
"Poor dear, I don't wonder! But she had better come to Strawyers;
Jenny will cheer her if any one can, and we shall have a nice lively
party, I hope! She will only mope the more if she never goes out."
"I am afraid she is hardly equal to it; besides, poor child," added
Mrs. Poynsett, "she seems to have been strictly brought up, and to
think our ways rather shocking; and Miles wrote to me not to press
her to go into society till he comes home."
"Ah! well, I call that a mistake!" puffed out good-humoured Mrs.
Bowater. "Very bad for the poor girl's spirits. By the bye, I hope
Julius does not object to Herbert's dancing--not at a public ball,
you know, but at home--for if he did, I would try to arrange
something else, it would be so hard for the poor boy to have to look
"I don't know, I don't think he could," said the mother,
"You see, we thought of a dinner-party for as many as possible.
Frank and Charlie won't mind dining in the schoolroom, I know, and
having the rest for a dance in the evening; but if Julius did think
it unclerical--Jenny says he won't, and papa laughs, and says, 'Poh!
poh! Julius is no fool;' but people are so much more particular
than they used to be, and I would not get the dear boy into a scrape
for the world."
Mrs. Poynsett undertook to ascertain his opinions on this knotty
point, and to let her know if they were adverse; and then she begged
for a visit from Jenny, whose brother had no accommodation for her
in his lodgings. She could not be spared till after the
entertainment on the 3rd, nor till a visit from her married sister
was over; but afterwards, her mother was delighted that she should
come and look after Herbert, who seemed as much on the maternal mind
as if he had not batted his way through Eton, and boated it through
Mrs. Poynsett obtained her word with Julius in good time that
evening. He laughed a little. "Poor Herbs! when will people
understand that it is the spirit of the thing, the pursuit, not the
individual chance participation in any particular amusement, that is
unclerical, as they are pleased to call it?"
"What do you think of Herbert?"
"A boy, and a very nice boy; but if he doesn't get his healthful
play somehow, he will burst out like a closed boiler some day."
"A muscular Christian on your hands?"
"Not theoretically, for he has been well taught; but it's a great
animal that needs to work off its steam, and if I had known it, I
would not have undertaken the problem of letting him do that,
without setting up bad habits, or scandalizing the parish and
Bindon--who is young the other way, and has no toleration. We had
this morning's service in a state of siege from all the dogs.
Herbert thought he had shut them safely up, but they were all at his
heels in the churchyard; and though he rated them home, and shut all
the doors, we heard them whining and scratching at each in turn."
"I thought I should have died of it," said Rosamond, entering. "His
face grew red enough to set his surplice on fire, and Mr. Bindon
glared at him, and he missed his verse in the Psalm; for there was
the bull terrier, crouching and looking abject at the vestry-door,
just restrained by his eye from coming further."
"What shall you do about it, Julius?" asked his mother, much amused.
"Oh, that will remedy itself. All dogs learn to understand the
And then the others began to drop in, and were told of the
invitation that was coming.
"I say, Rosamond," cried Charlie, "can brothers and sisters-in-law
"That depends on how the brothers-in-law dance," returned Rosamond.
"Some one, for pity's sake, play a waltz!--Come along Charlie! the
hall is a sweet place for it!--Whistle, Julius!--Frank, whistle!"
And away she whirled. Frank, holding out his hands, was to his
surprise accepted by Cecil, and disappeared with her into the hall.
Julius stood by the mantelpiece, with the first shadow on his brow
his mother had seen since his arrival. Presently he spoke in a
defensive apologetic tone: "She has always been used to this style
"Most naturally," said the mother.
"Not that they ever did more than their position required, and Lady
Rathforlane is a truly careful mother. Of course some things might
startle you stay-at-home people; but in all essentials--"
"I see what you mean."
"And what seems like rattle is habit."
"Simple gaiete de coeur!"
"So it is better to acquiesce till it subsides of itself. You see
it is hard, after such a life of change and variety, to settle down
into a country parsonage."
"What are you saying there?" said Rosamond, tripping in out of
"That I don't know how you are to put up with a pink-eyed parson,
and a hum-drum life," said Julius, holding out a caressing hand.
"Now that's hard," pleaded she; "only because I took a frolic with
Baby Charles! I say, Julius, shall we give it up altogether and
stay at home like good children? I believe that is what would suit
the told Rabbit much better than his kid gloves,"--and her sweet
face looked up at him with a meek candid gaze.
"No," he said, "that would not do. The Bowaters are our oldest
friends. But, Rosie, as you _are_ a clergyman's wife, could you not
give up round dances?"
"Oh no, no! That's too bad. I'd rather never go to a dance at all,
than sit still, or be elbowed about in the square dances. You never
told me you expected that!"--and her tones were of a child petulant
"Suppose," he said, as a delightful solution, "you only gratified
Frank and Charlie by waltzing with them."
She burst into a ringing laugh. "My brothers-in-law! How very
ridiculous! Suppose you included the curates?"
"You know what I mean," he said gravely.
"Oh, bother the parson's wife! Haven't I seen them figuring away by
scores? Did we ever have a regimental ball that they were not the
"So they get themselves talked of!" said Julius, as Anne's quiet
entrance broke up the dialogue.
Mrs. Poynsett had listened, glad there was no appeal to her,
conscious that she did not understand the merits of the case, and
while she doubted whether her eldest son had love enough, somewhat
afraid lest his brother had not rather too much for the good of his
"Raymond! Can you spare me a moment before you go into your
It was Rosamond who, to his surprise, as he was about to go down-
stairs, met him and drew him into her apartment--his mother's own
dressing-room, which he had not entered since the accident.
"Is anything the matter?" he said, thinking that Julius might have
spared him from complaints of Cecil.
"Oh no! only one never can speak to you, and Julius told me that you
could tell me about Mrs. Poynsett. I can't help thinking she could
be moved more than she is." Then, as he was beginning to speak, "Do
you know that, the morning of the fire, I carried her with only one
of the maids to the couch under the tent-room window? Susan was
frightened out of her wits, but she was not a bit the worse for it."
"Ah! that was excitement."
"But if it did not hurt her then, why should it hurt her again?
There's old General M'Kinnon, my father's old friend, who runs about
everywhere in a wheeled-chair with a leg-rest; and I can't think why
she should not do the same."
Raymond smiled kindly on her, but rather sadly; perhaps he was
recollecting his morning's talk about the occupancy of the drawing-
room. "You know it is her spine," he said.
"So it is with him. His horse rolled over him at Sebastopol, and he
has never walked since. I wanted to write to Mary M'Kinnon; but
Julius said I had better talk to you, because he was only at home
for a fortnight, when she was at the worst, and you knew more about
"Yes," said Raymond, understanding more than the Irish tongue fully
expressed. "I never saw a woman sit better than she did, and she
looked as young and light in the saddle as you could, till that day,
when, after the rains, the bank where the bridle-path to Squattles
End was built up, gave way with the horse's feet, and down she went
twenty feet, and was under the horse when Miles and I got down to
her! We brought her on a mattress to that room, not knowing whether
she were alive; and she has never moved out of it! It was agony to
her to be touched."
"Yes but it can't be that now. Was not that three years ago?"
"Not so much. Two and a half. We had Hayter down to see her, and
he said perfect rest was the only chance for her."
"And has not he seen her lately?"
"He died last winter; and old Worth, who comes in once a week to
look at her, is not fit for more than a little watching and
attention. I dare say we all have learnt to acquiesce too much in
her present state, and that more might be done. You see she has
never had a lady's care, except now and then Jenny Bowater's."
"I do feel sure she could bear more now," said Rosamond, eagerly.
"It would be such a thing if she could only be moved about that
"And be with us at meals and in the evening," said Raymond, his face
lightening up. "Thank you, Rosamond!"
"I'll write to Mary M'Kinnon to-morrow, to ask about the chair,"
cried Rosamond; and Raymond, hearing the door-bell, hurried down, to
find his wife standing alone over the drawing-room fire, not very
"Where have you been, Raymond?"
"I was talking to Rosamond. She has seen a chair on which it might
be possible to move my mother about on this floor."
"I thought--" Cecil flushed. She was on the point of saying she
thought Rosamond was not to interfere in her department any more
than she in Rosamond's; but she kept it back, and changed it into
"Surely the doctor and nurses must know best."
"A fresh eye often makes a difference," said Raymond. "To have her
among us again--!" but he was cut short by the announcement of Mr.
and Miss Fuller.
"Poor Mr. Fuller," as every one called him, was the incumbent of St.
Nicholas, Willansborough, a college living always passed by the
knowing old bachelor fellows, and as regularly proving a delusion to
the first junior in haste for a wife. Twenty-five years ago Mr.
Fuller had married upon this, which, as Mr. Bindon said, was rather
a reason for not marrying--a town with few gentry, and a petty
unthriving manufacture, needing an enormous amount of energy to work
it properly, and getting--Mr. Fuller, with force yearly decreasing
under the pressure of a sickly wife, ill-educated, unsatisfactory
sons, and unhealthy, aimless daughters. Of late some assistance had
been obtained, but only from Mr. Driver, the 'coach' or cramming
tutor, who was directing the studies of Frank and half a dozen more
youths, and his aid was strictly limited to a share in the Sunday
The eldest daughter accompanied the Vicar. Her mother had not
health (or perhaps clothes) for a dinner-party, and it was the first
time she had ever been in the house. Very shy and in much awe she
was! Cecil viewed her as a constituent, and was elaborately civil
and patronizing, doing the honours of all the photographs and
illustrations on which she could lay hands, and only eliciting
alternately 'Very nice,' and 'How sweet!' A little more was made of
the alarms of the fire, and the preparations for clearing the house,
and there was a further thaw about the bazaar. It would be such a
relief from plain work, and she could get some lovely patterns from
her cousin who had a missionary basket; but as to the burnt-out
families, the little knowledge or interest she seemed to have about
them was rather astounding, unless, as Rosamond suspected, she
thought it 'shop,' and uninteresting to the great ladies of Compton-
Meanwhile, her father made the apprehended request for the loan of
Compton Church during the intervals of services, and when the Rector
explained how brief those intervals would be, looked astonished, and
dryly complimented him on his energy and his staff, somewhat as if
the new broom were at the bottom of these congratulations.
The schools were to be used for services until a temporary iron
church could be obtained, for which Julius, to make up for his
churlishness in withholding his own church, made the handsomer
donation, and held out hopes of buying it afterwards for the use of
Squattles End. Then, having Mr. Fuller's ear to himself, he
ventured to say, though cautiously, as to one who had been a
clergyman before he was born, "I wish it were possible to dispense
with this bazaar."
Mr. Fuller shrugged his shoulders. "If every one subscribed in the
style of this family."
"They would be more likely to do so, without the appeal to secondary
"Try them," said the elder man.
"Exactly what I want to do. I would put up the four walls, begin
with what you get from the insurance, a weekly offertory, and add
improvements as means came in. This is not visionary. I have seen
proof of its success."
"It may serve in new-fashioned city missions, but in an old-
established place like this it would create nothing but offence.
When you have been in Orders as long as I have, you will find that
there is nothing for it but to let people do what they will, not
what one thinks best."
"Mr. Fuller," said Julius, eagerly, "will you try an experiment?
Drop this bazaar, and I promise you our collection every Sunday
evening for the year, giving notice of it to my people, and to such
of yours as may be present."
"I do not despise your offer," said Mr. Fuller, laying his hand upon
his arm. "You mean it kindly, and if I were in your place, or had
only my own feelings to consider, I might attempt it. But it would
be only mischievous to interfere with the bazaar. Lady Tyrrell--all
the ladies, in fact--have set their minds on it, and if I objected
there would instantly be a party cry against me, and that is the one
thing I have always avoided."
His tone of superior wisdom, meek and depressed as he always was,
tried the Rector's patience enough to make his forehead burn and
bring out his white eyebrows in strong relief. "How about a
blessing on the work?" he asked, suppressing so much that he hardly
knew this was spoken aloud.
Again Mr. Fuller smiled. He had been a bit of a humorist when he
was an Oxford don. "Speak of that to Briggs," he said, "and he
would answer, 'Cash for me, and the blessing may take care of
itself.' As to the ladies--why, they deafen you about blessings on
their humble efforts, and the widow's mite."
"Simply meaning that they want their amusement a little--"
"Buttered over," said Mr. Fuller, supplying the word. "Though you
are hard on them, Charnock--I don't know about the fine ladies; but
there are quiet folk who will work their fingers to the bone, and
can do nothing else."
"That's true," said Julius; "and one would gladly find a safe outlet
for their diligence."
"You do not trust to it for bringing the blessing," said Mr. Fuller
in a tone that Julius liked even less than the mere hopeless faint-
heartedness, for in it there was sarcasm on faith in aught but
pounds s. d.
The two brothers held another discussion on this matter later that
night, on the stairs, as they were on their way to their rooms.
"Won't you come to this meeting to-morrow, Julius?" asked Raymond.
"I don't see that I should be of any use, unless--"
"Unless you would make what seems to me the right proposal, and I
could be any support in it."
"To use the insurance to put up the mere shells and plain
indispensable fittings of the church and town-hall, then make the
drainage of Water Lane and Hall Street the first object for the
rates, while the church is done by subscription and voluntary
"You put the drainage first--even before the church?" said Raymond,
smiling, with an elder brother's satisfaction in such an amount of
"Of course I do," said Julius. "An altar and four walls and chairs
are all that ought to be sought for. Little good can be done to
people's souls while their bodies are in the feverish discomfort of
foul air and water. This is an opportunity not to be wasted, while
all the houses are down, town-hall and all."
"The very thing I told Briggs and the others this morning," said
Raymond; "but I could not get a hearing; they said there never had
been any illness worth mentioning, and in fact scouted the whole
matter, as people always do."
"Yes, they take it as a personal insult when you mention the
odorous--or odious, savours sweet," said Julius. "I heard a good
deal of that when we had the spell of cholera at St. Awdry's."
"I shall work on at it, and I trust to get it done in time," said
Raymond; "but it will not be at once. The subject is too new to
them, and the irritation it produces must subside before they will
hear reason. Besides, the first thing is to employ and feed these
"That will pretty well absorb this first meeting. The ladies will
manage that, I think; and when this is provided for, I will try what
I can do at the committee; but there is no good in bringing it
forward at this great public affair, when every ass can put in his
word. Everything depends on whom they choose for the new mayor. If
Whitlock comes in, there is some chance of sense and reason being
heard. Good night."
As Raymond said, the more immediate object of the meeting fixed for
the ensuing day, was to provide for the employment of the numerous
women thrown out of employment by the destruction of the paper-
mills. A subscription was in hand, but not adequate to the need;
and moreover, it was far more expedient to let them maintain
How this was to be done was the question. Cecil told her husband
that at Dunstone they made the women knit stockings; and he replied
by recommending the suppression of Dunstone. How strange it was
that what she had been used to consider as the source of honour
should be here held in what seemed to her disesteem!
Lady Tyrrell's ponies were tinkling up to the door of the hotel
where the meeting was to be held, and her gracious smile recalled
Cecil's good-humour; Raymond saw them to their seats, and then had
to go and take the chair himself on the platform--first, however,
introducing his wife to such of the ladies present as he
She thought he wanted her to sit between melancholy white faced Mrs.
Fuller and a bony spinster in a poke-bonnet whom he called Miss
Slater; but Cecil, concluding that this last could have no vote, and
that the Vicarage was secure, felt free to indulge herself by
getting back to Lady Tyrrell, who had scarcely welcomed her before
exclaiming, "Mrs. Duncombe, I did not know you were returned."
"I came back on the first news of your flare-up," said the newcomer.
"I only came down this morning. I would not have missed this
meeting for anything. It is a true woman's question. A fair
muster, I see," looking round with her eye-glass, and bowing to
several on the platform, especially to Raymond, who returned the bow
"Ah! let me introduce you," said Lady Tyrrell. "Mrs. Raymond
"I am very glad to see you embarked in the cause," said the lady,
frankly holding out her hand. "May we often meet in the same
manner, though I honestly tell you I'm not of your party; I should
go dead against your husband if we only had a chance."
"Come, you need not be so aggressive," laughed Lady Tyrrell; "you
haven't a vote yet. You are frightening Mrs. Poynsett." It was
true. Even Cecil Charnock was born too late to be one of the young
ladies who, in the first decades of the reformed Parliament, used to
look on a Liberal as a lusus naturae, whom they hardly believed to
be a gentleman. But a lady who would openly accost the Member's
bride with a protest against his politics, was a being beyond her
experience, and the contemplation fairly distracted her from her
She would have taken Miss Slater for the strong-minded female far
rather than this small slim person, with the complexion going with
the yellower species of red hair and chignon, not unlike a gold-
pheasant's, while the thin aquiline nose made Cecil think of Queen
Elizabeth. The dress was a tight-fitting black silk, with a
gorgeous many-coloured gold-embroidered oriental mantle thrown
loosely over it, and a Tyrolean hat, about as large as the
pheasant's comb, tipped over her forehead, with cords and tassels of
gold; and she made little restless movements and whispered remarks
during the speeches.
There was to be a rate to renew the town-hall. The rebuilding of
the paper-mills and dwelling-houses was fairly covered by the
insurance; but the Vicar, in his diffident apologetic voice, stated
that the church had been insufficiently insured, and moreover, that
many more sittings were needed than the former building had
contained. He then read the list of subscriptions already promised,
expressed hopes of more coming in, invited ladies to take collecting
cards, and added that he was happy to announce that the ladies of
the congregation had come forward with all the beneficence of their
sex, and raised a sum to supply a new set of robes.
Here the chairman glanced at his wife, but she was absorbed in
watching Mrs. Duncombe's restless hands; and the look was
intercepted by Lady Tyrrell's eyes, which flashed back sympathetic
amusement, with just such a glance as used to pass between them in
old times; but the effect was to make the Member's face grave and
impassive, and his eyes fix on the papers before him.
The next moment Cecil was ardently gazing at Mr. Fuller as he
proceeded to his hopes of the bazaar to be held under the most
distinguished patronage, and of which he spoke as if it were the
subject of anticipations as sanguine as any the poor man could ever
appear to indulge in. And there was, in fact, the greatest stamping
and cheering there had yet been, perhaps in compliment to the M.P.'s
young bride--at least, so Lady Tyrrell whispered, adding that
everybody was trying to see her.
Then Mr. Charnock Poynsett himself took up the exposition of the
third branch of the subject, the support of the poor families thrown
out of work at the beginning of winter. There could be no
employment at the paper-mills till they were repaired; and after the
heavy losses, they could not attempt to keep their people together
by any payment. It had been suggested that the readiest way of
meeting the difficulty, would be to employ the subscriptions already
promised in laying in a stock of material to be made up into
garments, and then dispose of them out to the women at their homes;
and appointing a day once a week when the work should be received,
the pay given, and fresh material supplied, by a party of volunteer
This was, in fact, what he had been instructed to propose by the
kindly souls who ordinarily formed the St. Nicholas bureau de
charite, who had instructed him to be their mouthpiece. There was
due applause as the mayor seconded his resolution; but in the midst
a clear, rather high-pitched voice rose up close to Cecil, saying,
"Mr. Chairman, allow me to ask what sale is anticipated for these
"I am told that there is a demand for them among the poor
themselves," said Raymond, judiciously concealing how much he was
taken aback by this female interference.
"Allow me to differ. A permanent work society numbering a few women
otherwise unemployed may find a sufficient sale in the neighbourhood
under the patronage of charitable ladies; but when you throw in
ninety-five or one hundred pair of hands depending on their work for
their livelihood, the supply must necessarily soon go beyond any
demand, even fictitious. It will not do to think of these women
like fancy knitters or embroiderers whose work is skilled. Most of
them can hardly mend their own clothes, and the utmost that can be
expected of them is the roughest slop work."
"Do you wish any expedient to be proposed?" asked the chairman, in a
sort of aside.
"Yes, I have one. I spent yesterday in collecting information."
"Will Captain Duncombe move it?" suggested Raymond.
"Oh no! he is not here. No, it is no use to instruct anybody; I
will do it myself, if you please."
And before the astonished eyes of the meeting, the gold-pheasant
hopped upon the platform, and with as much ease as if she had been
Queen Bess dragooning her parliament, she gave what even the
astounded gentlemen felt to be a sensible practical exposition of
ways and means.
She had obtained the address of a warehouse ready to give such rough
work as the women could be expected to do; but as they were
unaccustomed to work at home, and were at present much crowded from
the loss of so many houses, and could besides be little depended on
for working well enough without superintendence, her plan was to
hire a room, collect the women, and divide the superintendence
between the ladies; who should give out the work, see that it was
properly done, keep order, and the like. She finished off in full
order, by moving a resolution to this effect.
There was a pause, and a little consultation among the gentlemen,
ending by Raymond's absolutely telling Mr. Fuller that it was a very
sensible practical arrangement, and that it _must_ be seconded;
which the Vicar accordingly did, and it was carried without
opposition, as in truth nothing so good had been thought of; and the
next thing was to name a committee of ladies, a treasurer and
auditor of accounts. There would be no work on Saturdays, so if the
ladies would each undertake half a day once a fortnight, the
superintendence need not be a burthen.
Mrs. Duncombe and Miss Slater undertook the first start and
preliminary arrangements, then each would take her half day in
rotation. Lady Tyrrell and her sister undertook two, Cecil two
more, and others were found to fill up the vacant space. The
chairman moved a vote of thanks to the lady for her suggestion,
which she acknowledged by a gracious bow, not without triumph; and
the meeting broke up.
Some one asked after Captain Duncombe as she descended into private
life. "There's a wonderful filly that absorbs all his attention.
All Wil'sbro' might burn as long as Dark Hag thrives! When do I
expect him? I don't know; it depends on Dark Hag," she said in a
tone of superior good-natured irony, then gathered up the radiant
mantle and tripped off along the central street of the little old-
fashioned country town, with gravelled not paved side-walks.
"Isn't she very superior?" said Cecil, when her husband had put her
"I suppose she is very clever."
"And she spoke capitally."
"If she were to speak. What would your father think of her?"
But for the first time Cecil's allegiance had experienced a certain
shock. Some sort of pedestal had hitherto been needful to her
existence; she was learning that Dunstone was an unrecognized
elevation in this new country, and she had seen a woman attain to a
pinnacle that almost dazzled her, by sheer resource and good sense.
All the discussion she afterwards heard did not tend to shake her
opinion; Raymond recounted the adventure at his mother's kettle-
drum, telling of his own astonishment at the little lady's
"I do not see why she should be censured," said Cecil. "You were
all at a loss without her."
"She should have got her husband to speak for her," said Mrs.
"He was not there."
"Then she should have instructed some other gentleman," said Mrs.
Poynsett. "A woman spoils all the effect of her doings by putting
herself out of her proper place."
"Perfectly disgusting!" said Julius.
Cecil had decidedly not been disgusted, except by the present strong
language; and not being ready at repartee, she was pleased when
Rosamond exclaimed, "Ah! that's just what men like, to get
instructed in private by us poor women, and then gain all the credit
"It is the right way," said the mother. "The woman has much power
of working usefully and gaining information, but the one thing that
is not required of her is to come forward in public."
"Very convenient for the man!" laughed Rosamond.
"And scarcely fair," said Cecil.
"Quite fair," said Rosamond, turning round, so that Cecil only now
perceived that she had been speaking in jest. "Any woman who is
worth a sixpence had rather help her husband to shine than shine
"Besides," said Mrs. Poynsett, "the delicate edges of true womanhood
ought not to be frayed off by exposure in public."
"Yes," said Raymond. "The gain of an inferior power of man in
public would be far from compensated by the loss in private of that
which man can never supply."
"Granted," said Rosamond slyly though sleepily, "that it always is
an inferior power of man, which it does not seem to have been in the
"It was a point on which she had special knowledge and information,"
said Mrs. Poynsett.
"And you were forced to thank her," said Cecil.
"Yes, in common civility," said Raymond; "but it was as much as I
could do to get it done, the position was a false one altogether."
"In fact, you were all jealous," said Rosamond.
At which everybody laughed, which was her sole intention; but Cecil,
who had said so much less, really thought what Rosamond said in mere
play. Those extorted thanks seemed to her a victory of her sex in a
field she had never thought of; and though she had no desire to
emulate the lady, and felt that a daughter of Dunstone must remember
noblesse oblige, the focus of her enthusiasm was in an odd state of
On the evening of the party at Strawyers, Mrs. Poynsett lay on her
sofa, thinking, with a trying recurrence, of that unfortunate and
excellent German Dauphine, who was pronounced by the Duchess of
Orleans to have died of her own stupidity.
After a fortnight had brought no improvement, but rather the
reverse, to poor Anne's wan looks and feeble languid deportment,
Mrs. Poynsett had insisted on her seeing the doctor; and had been
assured by him that there was nothing amiss, and that if Mrs Miles
Charnock could only be roused and occupied she would be perfectly
well, but that her pining and depression might so lower her tone as
to have a serious effect on her health.
There was no hope of her husband's return for at least a year,
likely eighteen months. What was to be done with her? What could
be a more unpropitious fate than for a Colonial girl, used to an
active life of exertion and usefulness, and trained to all domestic
arts, to be set down in a great English household where there was
really nothing for her to do, and usefulness or superintendence
would have been interfering; besides, as Miles had thoughts of
settling at the Cape, English experience would serve her little.
She had not cultivation enough for any pursuit to interest her. She
was not musical, could not draw; and when Mrs. Poynsett had, by way
of experiment, asked her to read aloud an hour a day, and selected
the Lives of the Lindsays, as an unexceptionable and improving book,
full of Scottish history, and even with African interest, she
dutifully did her task as an attention to her invalid mother-in-law,
but in a droning husky tone, finding it apparently as severe a
penance as it was to her auditor.
The doctor's chief prescription was horse exercise; but what would a
constitutional canter be to one accustomed to free rides through the
Bush? And she would generally be alone; for even if Charlie, her
nearest approach to an ally, had not been going away from home in a
few weeks, it could not be expected that he could often ride with
It was plain that every one of the whole family was giving continual
shocks to Mr. Pilgrim's disciple, even when they felt most innocent;
and though the mother was sometimes disposed to be angry, sometimes
to laugh at the little shudder and compression of the lips she began
to know, she perceived what an addition this must be to the
unhappiness of the poor lonely stranger.
"She must be set to some good work," thought Mrs. Poynsett; "Julius
might let her go to his old women. She might get on with them
better than with the old women here. And there's Cecil's working
affair, it would be just the thing to give her an object. I think I
can get through this evening. I've made Susan bring my desk, with
all Miles's letters from his first voyage. Shall I suppress the
Therewith Cecil made her entrance, in glossy white satin and deep
lace, beautiful to behold, set off with rainbow glistening opals.
She made a quiet complacent show of herself, as one not vain of fine
clothes, but used to an affectionate family appreciation of her best
attire; and it was the most friendly childlike bit of intimacy that
had yet been attained between her and Mrs. Poynsett.
And when she sat down to wait for the others, Mrs. Poynsett ventured
on telling her the prescription and her own perplexity, hoping for a
voluntary offer to employ Anne at Willansborough; but Cecil only
pitied her for having 'no resources'; and when Mrs. Poynsett
ventured to suggest finding a niche for her in the work-room, the
answer was--"Our days are all disposed of."
"You have two, I think?"
"True; but it would never do for me to give up one of my times. If
I seemed to slacken, every one else would."
"What will you do when the Session begins?"
"I shall make some arrangement. I do not think Anne could ever take
my place; she would have no authority."
Anne herself here entered, took her knitting, and sat down,
apparently unaware of the little pluming gesture by which Cecil
unconsciously demanded attention to her bridal satin. One white-
gloved gentleman after another dropped in, but none presumed on a
remark; Jenkins announced the carriages; but Rosamond had not
appeared, and after an excursion up-stairs, Julius returned,
declaring that the first carriage must not wait for her, they would
come afterwards in the van, for there was something amiss in the
dress, she had not had it on since the wedding.
"And she came in so late," said Cecil.
"That was my fault," he said. "We came through the village to leave
a message at the doctor's;" and he then insisted that the other pair
should set off, taking Frank and Charlie, and prevent dinner from
being kept waiting; at which the boys made faces, and declared that
it was a dodge of his to join Jenny's party in the schoolroom,
instead of the solemn dinner; but they were obliged to submit; and
it was not till twenty minutes later, that in glided something
white, with blue cashmere and swan's-down over it, moving, as usual,
with languid grace.
"Poor Julius!" smiled Rosamond with her dawdling dignity. "Every
single thing turned out a misfit! As it is, there's a monstrous
hole in my glove, which demands the benevolent fiction of my having
torn it by the way. There, one second for the effect!--Good-bye,
dear Mrs. Poynsett;--good-bye, Anne. Come, you monument of patience
For one moment she had slipped back her little mantle, then drawn it
on, as, taking her husband's arm, she left the room; but that moment
had set Anne's cheeks aflame, and left Mrs. Poynsett in a startled
state of uncertainty, hoping her glance had been mistaken, wondering
what could have been _more_ amiss, and feeling incapable of entering
on the subject with that severe young judge, of narrow experience.
Never had her eldest son failed to come and bid her good night on
his way to his own room: it was the great break in her long
sleepless hours, and she used to call it a reversal of the relations
of those days when he used to watch for her kiss on her way to bed.
Nor did he fail her now, but came and stood over her with his
"An immense party--oh yes, there was he persuading them not to wait.
Mr. Bowater took Rosamond in to dinner, Cecil went with Sir Harry
Vivian. Yes, Lady Tyrrell was there, wonderfully handsome, but her
expression strikes me as altered; there is the sort of pathetic look
that, as Cecil said, is like the melancholy Medusa--I wonder if it
is genuine. She seems greatly disposed to cultivate Cecil--I wonder
what she does it for."
"Is Cecil attracted? I fancied she was."
"Yes, a good deal; and I fear the Wil'sbro' business will throw them
together. It is unlucky on Frank's account likewise. I see we
shall have it all over again there."
"I have great hope in his office taking him away. How was it with
"What I should call arrant coquetry, such as even Camilla never
indulged in. The girl kept out of his way--was absolutely chill and
repelling half the evening--throwing herself at the officers from
Backsworth, till at last Frank obtained a waltz, and after that they
were perfectly inseparable."
"If she coquets, she will soon disgust him! Did Cecil enjoy
"Oh yes: Phil Bowater opened the ball with her, and she dances very
nicely--so quietly, Mrs. Bowater remarked it. As to Rosamond, she
was in her native element--_is_ indeed, for she would not hear of
coming away when we did."
"Standing in a doorway, with others of his kind, absently talking,
and watching Rosamond out of the tail of his eye. I say, mother,"
lowering his voice, "can't you give Rosamond a hint about her dress?
Cecil says she can't go out with her again like _that_. Ah," as he
heard a sigh, "I should not have worried you at night."
"No, you have not. Tell Cecil I will see about it. Rosamond will
take it best from an old woman like me."
Mrs. Poynsett was quite conscious that Cecil had more high breeding
and refinement than Rosamond, who was essentially the Irish
Colonel's daughter, and that the cold temperament of the one
irritated the warm nature of the other. More than one flash had
revealed Rosamond's contempt for Cecil's assumptions and intolerance
for her precision--besides, she was five years older, and had not an
ideal in Dunstone.
After revolving what form of remonstrance would be least offensive
during half the night and day, Mrs. Poynsett was not prepared for
the appearance, about noon, of her son Julius, when, coming to what
she termed the confidential side of her couch, he asked
hesitatingly, and colouring, "Mother, I want you to tell me, was
there anything amiss in Rose's dress last night?"
"You did not perceive--"
"I'm not used to the style of thing. Is it not the way with what
you call full dress?"
"To a certain degree--" she began.
He caught her up. "And here has Cecil been putting my poor Rose
into a perfect agony! It is only woman's censorious nonsense, isn't
it, mother? Mere folly to think otherwise! I knew you would set my
mind at rest; and if you would tell Cecil that you will not have
Rosamond insulted, it would be as well."
"Stay, Julius," as he was walking off complacently, "I grieve, but I
must confess that I was going to speak to Rosamond myself."
He looked very blank.
"Mind, I am certain that it is only an innocent following of what
she has been brought up to;" and as he signed a sort of hurt
acquiescence, as if trying to swallow the offence, she added, "When
do you go out again?"
"Not till Monday, when we dine at Colonel Ross's. He is an old
friend of Lord Rathforlane."
"Then I am inclined to let it cool. Sometimes advice that has been
resented does its work."
"You don't think the interference justifiable?"
"Not from that quarter."
"And can it be needful to attend to it?"
"My dear Julius, it is not a style of dress I could ever have worn,
nor have let my daughters have worn, if I had had any."
"Conclusive, that!" said Julius, getting up, more really angered
with his mother than he had been since his childhood.
However, he conquered himself by the time he had reached the door,
and came back to say, "I beg your pardon, mother, I know you would
not say so without need."
"Thank you, my boy!" and he saw tears in her eyes, the first time he
was conscious of having brought them. As he bent down to kiss her,
she rallied, and cheerfully said, "I have no doubt it will all come
right--Rosamond is too nice not to feel it at once."
No such thing; Rosamond was still furious. If he disapproved, she
would submit to him; but he had seen nothing wrong, had he?
"My dear Rose, I told you I was no judge: you forget what my eyes
are; and my mother--"
"You have been to your mother?"
"My dear, what could I do?"
"And you think I am going to insult my own mother and sisters to
please any woman's finical prudish notions'? Pray what did Mrs.
The excuse of custom, pleaded by Mrs. Poynsett, only made Rosamond
fiercer. She wished she had never come where she was to hear that
her own mother was no judge of propriety, and her husband could not
trust her, but must needs run about asking everybody if she were fit
to be seen. Such a tempest Julius had never seen outside a back
street in the garrison town. There seemed to be nothing she would
not say, and his attempts at soothing only added to her violence.
Indeed, there was only one thing which would have satisfied her, and
that was, that she had been perfectly right, and the whole world
barbarously wrong; and she was wild with passion at perceiving that
he had a confidence in his own mother which he could not feel in
Nor would he insist that Raymond should force Cecil to apologize.
"My dear," he said, "don't you know there are things easier to ask
than to obtain?"
To which Rosamond replied, in another gust, that she would never
again sit down to table with Cecil until she had apologized for the
insult, not to herself, she did not care about that, but to the
mother who had seen her dresses tried on: Julius must tell Raymond
so, or take her away to any cottage at once. She would not stay
where people blamed mamma and poisoned his mind against her! She
believed he cared for them more than for her!
Julius had sympathized far longer with her offended feeling than
another could have done; but he was driven to assert himself.
"Nonsense, Rose, you know better," he said, in a voice of
displeasure; but she pouted forth, "I don't know it. You believe
every one against me, and you won't take my part against that nasty
little spiteful prig!"
"Cecil has behaved very ill to you," said Julius, granting her
rather over much; "but she is a foolish conceited child, who does
not deserve that Raymond should be worried about her. I foresee
plenty of grievances from her; but, Rosie, we must and will not let
her come between us and Raymond. You don't know what a brother he
has been to me--I hardly think I could have got through my first
year at school but for him; and I don't think my sweet Rose could
wish to do me such an ill turn as to stir up a feud with such a
brother because his wife is provoking."
The luncheon-bell began to sound, and she sobbed out, "There then,
go down, leave me alone! Go to them, since you are so fond of them
"I don't think you could come down as you are," said Julius,
gravely; "I will bring you something."
"It would choke me--choke me!" she sobbed out.
Julius knew enough of the De Lancy temperament to be aware that
words carried them a long way, and he thought solitude would be so
beneficial, that he summoned resolution to leave her; but he had not
the face to appear alone, nor offer fictions to excuse her absence,
so he took refuge in his dressing-room, until he had seen Cecil and
Anne ride away from the hall door together.
For the two sisters-in-law had held a little indignation meeting,
and Rosamond's misdemeanour had so far drawn them together, that
Cecil had offered to take Anne to see the working party, and let her
The coast being clear, Julius went down, encountering nothing worse
than the old butler, who came in while he was cutting cold beef, and
to whom he said, "Lady Rosamond is rather knocked up; I am going to
take her something up-stairs."
Jenkins received this as the result of a dance, but much wanted to
fetch a tray, which Julius refused, and set off with an ale-glass in
one hand, and in the other the plates with the beef and appliances,
Jenkins watching in jealous expectation of a catastrophe, having no
opinion of Mr. Julius's powers as a waiter. He was disappointed.
The downfall was deferred till the goal was reached, and was then
most salutary, for Rosamond sprang to pick up the knife and fork,
laughed at his awkwardness, refused to partake without him, produced
implements from her travelling-bag, and was as merry as she had been
Not a word on the feud was uttered; and the pair walked down to the
village, where she was exemplary, going into all those more
distasteful parts of her duties there, which she sometimes shirked.
And on her return, finding her long-expected letter from Miss
M'Kinnon awaiting her, she forgot all offences in her ardour to
indoctrinate everybody with the hopes it gave of affording Mrs.
Poynsett a change of room, if not even greater variety.
Unfortunately, this eagerness was not met with a corresponding
fervour. There was in the household the acquiescence with long-
established invalidism, that sometimes settles down and makes a
newcomer's innovations unwelcome. Raymond had spoken to the old
doctor, who had been timid and discouraging; Susan resented the
implication that the utmost had not been done for her dear mistress;
and Mrs. Poynsett herself, though warmly grateful for Rosamond's
affection, was not only nervously unwilling to try experiments, but
had an instinctive perception that there was one daughter-in-law to
whom her increased locomotion would scarcely be welcome, and by no
means wished to make this distaste evident to Raymond. Cecil would
not have been so strong against the risk and imprudence, if her
wishes had been the other way. Moreover, she had been warned off
from interference with the Rector's wife in the village, and she did
not relish Rosamond's making suggestions as to her province, as she
considered the house--above all, when she viewed that lady as in a
state of disgrace. It was nothing less than effrontery; and Cecil
became stiffer and colder than ever. She demanded of her mother-in-
law whether there had been any promise of amendment.
"Oh! Julius will see to all that," said Mrs. Poynsett.
"It is a woman's question," returned Cecil.
"Fancy a clergyman's wife! It Mrs. Venn had appeared in that way at
"You would have left it to Mr. Venn! My dear, the less said the
Cecil was silenced, but shocked, for she was far too young and
inexperienced to understand that indecorous customs complied with as
a matter of course, do not necessarily denote lack of innate
modesty--far less, how they could be confounded with home
allegiance; and as to Anne, poor Rosamond was, in her eyes, only too
like the ladies who impeded Christiana on her outset.
So her ladyship retreated into languid sleepy dignity towards both
her sisters-in-law; and on Monday evening showed herself, for a
moment, more decolletee, if possible, than before. Mrs. Poynsett
feared lest Julius were weak in this matter; but at night she had a
visit from him.
"Mother," he said, "it will not happen again. Say no more."
"I am only too thankful."
"What do you think settled it? No less than Lady Tyrrell's
"What could she have said?"
"I can't make out. Rose was far too indignant to be comprehensible,
when she told me on the way home; but there was something about
adopting the becoming, and a repetition of--of some insolent
praise." And his mother felt his quiver of suppressed wrath. "If
Rose had been what that woman took her for, she would have been
delighted," he continued; "but--"
"It was horrible to her!" said his mother. "And to you. Yes, I
knew it would right itself, and I am glad nothing passed about it
"So am I; she quite separates you from Cecil and Anne, and indeed
all her anger is with Lady Tyrrell. She will have it there was
malice in inciting her to shock old friends and annoy you--a sort of
attempt to sympathize her into opposition."
"Which had a contrary effect upon a generous nature."
"Exactly! She thinks nothing too bad for that woman, and declares
she is a serpent."
"That's dear Rosamond's anger; but I imagine that when I occur to
Camilla's mind, it is as the obstructive old hag, who once stood in
her way; and so, without any formed designs, whatever she says of me
is coloured by that view."
"Quite possible; and I am afraid the sister is just such another.
She seems quite to belong to Mrs. Duncombe's set. I sat next her at
dinner, and tried to talk to her, but she would only listen to that
"Strangeways! I wonder if that is Susan Lorimer's son?"
"Probably, for his Christian name is Lorimer."
"I knew her rather well as a girl. She was old Lord Lorimer's
youngest daughter, and we used to walk in the Square gardens
together; but I did not see much of her after I married; and after a
good while, she married a man who had made a great fortune by
mining. I wonder what her son is like?"
"He must be the man, for he is said to be the millionaire of the
regiment. Just the match that Lady Tyrrell would like."
"Ah! that's well," said Mrs. Poynsett.
"From your point of view," said Julius, smiling.
"If he will only speak out before it has had time to go deep with
At that very moment the two sisters in question were driving home in
the opposite corners of the carriage in the dark.
"Really, Lenore," was Lady Tyrrell saying, "you are a very
There was a little low laugh in answer.
"What blast has come and frozen you up into ice?" the elder sister
added caressingly; but as she felt for Eleonora's hand in the dark,
she obtained nothing but the cold handle of a fan. "That's just
it!" she said, laughing; "hard ivory, instead of flesh and blood."
"I can't help it!" was the answer.
"But why not? I'm sure you had admiration enough to turn any girl's
Lady Tyrrell renewed her address still more tenderly--"Lenore,
darling, it is quite needful that you should understand your
"I am afraid I understand it only too well," came in a smothered
"It may be very painful, but it ought to be made clear before you
how you stand. You know that my father was ruined--there's no word
for it but ruined."
"He had to give up the property to the creditors, and live on an
"I know that."
"And, of course, I can't bear speaking of it; but the house is
really let to me. I have taken it as I might any other house to
"Yes," again assented Eleonora.
"And do you know why?"
"You said it was for the sake of the old home and my father!" said
the girl, with a bitter emphasis on the _said_.
"So it was! It was to give you the chance of redeeming it, and
keeping it in the family. It is to be sold, you know, as soon as
you are of age, and can give your consent. I can't buy it. Mine is
only a jointure, a life income, and you know that you might as well
think of Mary buying Golconda; but you--you--with such beauty as
yours--might easily make a connection that would save it."
There was only a choked sound.
"I know you feel the situation painfully, after having been mistress
"Camilla, you _know_ it is not that!"
"Ah, my dear, I can see farther than you avow. You can't marry till
you are twenty-one, you know; but you might be very soon engaged,
and then we should see our way. It only depends on yourself.
Plenty of means, and no land to tie him down, ready to purchase and
to settle down. It would be the very thing; and I see you are a
thoroughly sensible girl, Lena."
"Indeed! I am not even sensible enough to know who is to be this
"Come, Lena, don't be affected. Why! he was the only poor creature
you were moderately gracious to."
"I! what do you mean?"
Lady Tyrrell laughed again.
"Oh!" in a tone of relief, "I can explain all that to you. All the
Strangeways family were at Rockpier the winter before you came, and
I made great friends with Margaret Strangeways, the eldest sister.
I wanted very much to hear about her, for she has had a great deal
of illness and trouble, and I had not ventured to write to her."
"Oh! was that the girl young Debenham gave up because her mother
worried him so incessantly, and who went into a Sisterhood?"
"It was she who broke it off. She found he had been forced into it
by his family, and was really attached elsewhere. I never knew the
rights of it till I saw the brother to-night."
"Very praiseworthy family confidence!"
"Camilla, you know I object to that tone."
"So do most young ladies, my dear--at least by word."
"And once for all, you need have no fancies about Mr. Lorimer
Strangeways. I am civil to him, of course, for Margaret's sake; and
Lady Susan was very kind to me; but if there were nothing else
against him, he is entirely out of the question, for I know he runs
horses and bets on them."
"So does everybody, more or less."
"And you! you, Camilla, after what the turf has cost us, can wish me
to encourage a man connected with it."
"My dear Lena, I know you had a great shock, which made the more
impression because you were such a child; but you might almost as
well forswear riding, as men who have run a few horses, or staked a
few thousands. Every young man of fortune has done so in his turn,
just by way of experiment--as a social duty as often as not."
"Let them," said Eleonora, "as long as I have nothing to do with
"What was that pretty French novel--Sybille, was it?--where the
child wanted to ride on nothing but swans? You will be like her,
and have to condescend to ordinary mortals."
"She did not. She died. And, Camilla, I would far rather die than
marry a betting man."
"A betting man, who regularly went in for it! You little goose, to
think that I would ask you to do that! As you say we have had
enough of that! But to renounce every man who has set foot on a
course, or staked a pair of gloves, is to renounce nine out of ten
of the world one lives in."
"I do renounce them. Camilla, remember that my mind is made up for
ever, and that nothing shall ever induce me to marry a man who
meddles with the evils of races."
"Meddles with the evils? I understand, my dear Lena."
"A man who makes a bet," repeated Eleonora.
"We shall see," was her ladyship's light answer, in contrast to the
grave tones; "no rules are without exceptions, and I only ask for
"I shall make none."
"I confess I thought you were coming to your senses; you have been
acting so wisely and sensibly ever since you came home, about that
young Frank Charnock."
Lady Tyrrell heard a little rustle, but could not see that it was
the clasping of two hands over a throbbing heart. "I am very glad
you are reasonable enough to keep him at a distance. Poor boy, it
was all very well to be friendly with him when we met him in a place
like Rockpier, and you were both children; but you are quite right
not to let it go on. It would be mere madness."
"For him, yes," murmured the girl.
"And even more so for you. Why, if he had any property worth
speaking of, it would be a wretched thing to marry into that family!
I am sure I pity those three poor girls! Miles's wife looks
perfectly miserable, poor thing, and the other two can't conceal the
state of things. She is just the sort of woman who cannot endure a
"I thought I heard Lady Rosamond talking very affectionately of
"Very excitedly, as one who felt it her duty to stand up for her
out-of-doors, whatever she may do indoors. I saw victory in those
plump white shoulders, which must have cost a battle; but whatever
Lady Rosamond gains, will make it all the worse for the others. No,
Eleonora, I have known Mrs. Poynsett's rancour for many years, and I
would wish no one a worse lot than to be her son's fiancee, except
to be his wife."
"She did not seem to object to these marriages."
"The sons took her by surprise. Besides, Raymond's was the very
parti mothers seek out for their sons. Depend upon it, she sent him
off with her blessing to court the unexceptionable cousin with the
family property. Poor Raymond, he is a dutiful son, and he has done
the deed; but, if I am not much mistaken the little lady is made of
something neither mother nor son is prepared for, and he has not
love enough to tame her with."
"That may be seen at a glance. He can't help it, poor fellow; he
would have had it if he could, like anything else that is proper."
There was a moment's silence; then the exclamation, "Just look
One of the hats was nodding on the box in a perilous manner.
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