Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife

Contents:
Author: Charlotte Mary Yonge

Chapter 8

In glowing health, with boundless wealth, But sickening of a vague disease, You know so ill to deal with time, You needs must play such pranks as these.—TENNYSON.

In spite of herself, Theodora’s heart bounded at the prospect of having Arthur’s child in the house. She visited the babies in the village, and multiplying their charms by the superior beauty of Arthur and his wife, proportionably raised her expectations, but, of course, she betrayed none of her eagerness, and would not give up one iota of her course of village occupations for the sake of being at home for the arrival.

Nevertheless, she returned across the park, through burning sunshine, at double-quick pace, only slackened on seeing a carriage, but it proved to be her aunt, who was being assisted out of it, and tottering up the steps with the help of Lady Martindale’s arm, while Miss Piper, coming down to give her assistance, informed them that the party had arrived about an hour before. The two gentlemen had gone out, and Mrs. Arthur Martindale was in her own room.

Trembling with eagerness, Theodora followed the tardy steps of her mother and aunt as they mounted the stairs. As they entered the gallery, a slender figure advanced to meet them, her apple-blossom face all smiles, and carrying a thing like a middle-sized doll, if doll had ever been as bald, or as pinched, or as skinny, or flourished such spare arms, or clenched such claw-like fingers. Was this the best she could give Arthur by way of son and heir? Yet she looked as proud and exulting as if he had been the loveliest of children, and the little wretch himself had a pert, lively air of speculation, as if he partook her complacency.

Lady Martindale gave her stately greeting, and Mrs. Nesbit coldly touched her hand; then Theodora, with some difficulty, pronounced the words, ’How are you?’ and brought herself to kiss Violet’s cheek, but took no apparent notice of the child, and stood apart while her mother made all hospitable speeches, moving on, so as not to keep Mrs. Nesbit standing.

Theodora followed her aunt and mother, and as soon as the baize door was shut on them, Violet hugged her baby closely, whispering, ’No welcome for the poor little boy! nobody cares for him but his own mamma! Never mind, my Johnnie, we are not too grand to love each other.’

Theodora in the meantime could not help exclaiming, ’Poor child! It is just like a changeling!’

’Don’t talk of it, my dear,’ said Lady Martindale, with a shudder and look of suffering. ’Poor little dear! He looks exactly as your poor little brother did!’ and she left the room with a movement far unlike her usually slow dignified steps.

’Ah!’ said her aunt, in a tone between grief and displeasure; ’here’s a pretty business! we must keep him out of her way! Don’t you ever bring him forward, Theodora, to revive all that.’

’What is the meaning of it?’ said Theodora. ’I did not know I ever had another brother.’

’It was long before your time, my dear, but your mamma has never entirely got over it, though he only lived nine weeks. I would not have had the recollection recalled on any account. And now John has brought this child here! If he was to die here I don’t know what the effect on your mamma would be.’

’He is not going to die!’ said Theodora, hastily; ’but let me hear of my other brother, aunt.’

’There is nothing to hear, my dear,’ said Mrs. Nesbit. ’How could the girl think of bringing him on us without preparation? An effect of John’s spoiling her, of course. She expects him to be made much of; but she must be taught to perceive this is no house of which she can make all parts a nursery.’

’Let me hear about my brother,’ repeated Theodora. ’How old would he be? What was his name?’

’His name was Theodore. He never could have lived,’ said Mrs. Nesbit: ’it was much as it was with this child of Arthur’s. He was born unexpectedly at Vienna. Your mamma had a dreadful illness, brought on by your father’s blundering sudden way of telling her of the death of poor little Dora and Anna. He has not a notion of self-command or concealment; so, instead of letting me prepare her, he allowed her to come home from the drive, and find him completely overcome.’

Theodora better understood her mother’s stifled sympathy for Violet, and her father’s more openly shown feeling for Arthur.

’We were in great alarm for her,’ continued Mrs. Nesbit, ’and the poor child was a miserable little thing, and pined away till we thought it best to send him home to be under English treatment; and your father chose to go with him to see John, who was in a very unsatisfactory state.’

’And mamma did not go?’

’She was unfit for the journey, and I remained with her. It was a fortunate arrangement of mine, for I knew he could not survive, and anxiety for him retarded her recovery, though we had hardly ever let her see him.’

’Then he died?—how soon?’

’At Frankfort, a fortnight after we parted with him. It was a dreadful shock to her; and if it had happened in the house, I do not think she would ever have recovered it. Was it a fortnight? Yes, I know it was; for it was on the 3rd of September that I had your papa’s letter. We were going to a party at Prince K—’s, where there was to be a celebrated Italian improvisatrice, and I would not give her the letter till the next morning.’

Theodora stared at her in incredulous horror.

’It threw her back sadly; but I did my utmost to rally her spirits, and her health did not suffer so materially as I feared; but she has strong feelings, and the impression has never been entirely removed. She scarcely ventured to look at Arthur or at you. How could your papa have let this child come here?’

’Is he like poor little Theodore?’ said the sister.

’Only as one wretched-looking baby is like another. This one is not a bit like the Martindales; it is exactly his mother’s face.’

’Is he buried here?’

’Who—Theodore? Yes; your papa came home, and managed matters his own way, sent off all the governesses, put John under that ignorant old nurse, and began the precious intimacy with the Fotheringhams, that led to such results. I could have told him how it would be; but I believe he did repent of that!’

’Did John know about Theodore?’

’No; his sisters’ death had such an effect on him that they kept the knowledge from him. You had better never mention it, my dear; and especially,’ she added, somewhat pleadingly, ’I would not have the party at the Prince’s transpire to your papa.’

Theodora felt her indignation would not endure concealment much longer. She called Miss Piper, and hastened away, the next moment finding herself vis-a-vis with John.

’Are you just come in?’ said he, greeting her.

’No, I have been with my aunt. How are you now?’

’Quite well, thank you. I wish you could have come to Ventnor. You would have enjoyed it very much.’

’Thank you.’

’Have you seen Violet?’

’Yes, I have.’

’And the little boy?’

’Yes.’

’I can’t say he is a beauty, but you who are such a baby fancier will find him a very animated, intelligent child. I hope all fear is over about him now; he has thriven wonderfully of late.’

Perverseness prompted Theodora to say, ’The baby at the lodge is twice the size.’

John saw there was no use in talking, and shut himself into his room. The next instant Sarah appeared, with the baby on one arm, and a pile of clothes on the other.

No one was in sight, so Theodora could gratify her passionate yearnings for her brother’s babe; justifying herself to her own pride, by considering it charity to an overloaded servant.

’Let me have him. Let me carry him up.’

’Thank you, ma’am, I’ll not fash you,’ said Sarah, stiffly.

’Let me! Oh! let me. I have often held a baby. Come to me, my precious. Don’t you know your aunt, your papa’s own sister? There, he smiled at me! He will come! You know me, you pretty one?’

She held him near the window, and gazed with almost devouring eyes.

’He will be handsome—he will be beautiful!’ she said. ’Oh! it is a shame to say you are not! You are like your papa—you are a thorough Martindale! That is your papa’s bright eye, and the real Martindale brow, you sweet, little, fair, feeble, helpless thing! Oh, nurse, I can’t spare him yet, and you have to unpack. Let me hold him. I know he likes me. Don’t you love Aunt Theodora, babe?’

Sarah let her keep him, mollified by her devotion to him, and relieved at having him off her hands in taking possession of the great, bare, scantily-furnished nursery. Theodora lamented over his delicate looks, and was told he would not be here now but for his mamma, and the Isle of Wight doctor, who had done him a power of good. She begged to hear of all his wants; rang the bell, and walked up and down the room, caressing him, until he grew fretful, and no one answering the bell she rang again in displeasure, Sarah thanking her, and saying she wished to have him ready for bed before his mamma came up.

After her public reception, Theodora would not be caught nursing him in secret, so hastily saying she would send some one, she kissed the little blue-veined forehead, and rushing at full speed down the back stairs, she flew into the housekeeper’s room; ’Jenkins, there’s no one attending to the nursery bell. I wish you would see to it. Send up some one with some hot water to Master Martindale directly.’

As fast she ran back to her own room, ordered off Pauline to help Master Martindale’s nurse, and flung herself into her chair, in a wild fit of passion.

’Improvisatrice! Prince’s parties! this is what it is to be great, rich, horrid people, and live a heartless, artificial life! Even this silly, affected girl has the natural instincts of a mother, she nurses her sick child, it lies on her bosom, she guards it jealously! And we! we might as well have been hatched in an Egyptian oven! No wonder we are hard, isolated, like civil strangers. I have a heart! Yes, I have, but it is there by mistake, while no one cares for it— all throw it from them. Oh! if I was but a village child, a weeding woman, that very baby, so that I might only have the affection that comes like the air to the weakest, the meanest. That precious baby! he smiled at me; he looked as if he would know me. Oh! he is far more lovable, with those sweet, little, delicate features, and large considering eyes, than if he was a great, plump, common-looking child. Dearest little Johnnie! And my own brother was like him—my brother, whom my aunt as good as killed! If he had lived, perhaps I might still have a brother to myself. He would be twenty-eight. But I mind nothing now that dear child is here! Why, Pauline, I sent you to Master Martindale.’

’Yes, ma’am; but Mrs. Martindale is there, and they are much obliged to you, but want nothing more.’

Indeed Violet, who had been positively alarmed and depressed at first, at the waste and desolate aspect of the nursery, which seemed so far away and neglected, as almost, she thought, to account for the death of the two little sisters, had now found Sarah beset on all sides by offers of service from maids constantly knocking at the door, and Theodora’s own Pauline, saying she was sent by Miss Martindale.

Violet could hardly believe her ears.

’Yes,’ said Sarah, ’Miss Martindale has been here herself ever so long. A fine, well-grown lassie she is, and very like the Captain.’

’Has she been here?’ said Violet. ’It is very kind of her. Did she look at the baby?’

’She made more work with him than you do yourself. Nothing was not good enough for him. Why, she called him the most beautifullest baby she ever seen!’

’And that we never told you, my Johnnie,’ said Violet, smiling. ’Are you sure she was not laughing at you, baby?’

’No, no, ma’am,’ said Sarah, affronted; ’it was earnest enough. She was nigh ready to eat him up, and talked to him, and he look up quite ’cute, as if he knew what it all meant, and was quite good with her. She was ready to turn the house upside down when they did not answer the bell. And how she did kiss him, to be sure! I’d half a mind to tell her of old nurse telling you it warn’t good for the child to be always kissing of him.’

’No, no, she won’t hurt him,’ said Violet, in a half mournful voice. ’Let her do as she likes with him, Sarah.’

Violet could recover from the depression of that cold reception now that she found Johnnie did not share in the dislike. ’She loves Arthur’s child,’ thought she, ’though she cannot like me. I am glad Johnnie has been in his aunt’s arms!’

Violet, as she sat at the dinner-table, understood Lord Martindale’s satisfaction in hearing John talking with animation; but she wondered at the chill of manner between her husband and his sister, and began to perceive that it was not, as she had supposed, merely in an occasional impatient word, that Arthur resented Theodora’s neglect of her.

’How unhappy it must make her! how much it must add to her dislike! they must be brought together again!’ were gentle Violet’s thoughts. And knowing her ground better, she could venture many more steps towards conciliation than last year: but Theodora disappeared after dinner, and Violet brought down some plants from the Isle of Wight which John had pronounced to be valuable, to his mother; but Mrs. Nesbit, at the first glance, called them common flowers, and shoved them away contemptuously, while Lady Martindale tried to repair the discourtesy by condescending thanks and admiration of the neat drying of the specimens; but her stateliness caused Violet to feel herself sinking into the hesitating tremulous girl she used to be, and she betook herself to her work, hoping to be left to silence; but she was molested by a very sharp, unpleasant examination from Mrs. Nesbit on the style of John’s housekeeping at Ventnor, and the society they had met there. It was plain she thought he had put himself to a foolish expense, and something was said of ’absurd’ when cross-examination had elicited the fact of the pony-carriage. Then came a set of questions about Mr. Fotheringham’s return, and strong condemnation of him for coming home to idle in England.

It was a great relief when John came in, and instantly took up the defence of the ophrys, making out its species so indisputably, that Mrs. Nesbit had no refuge but in saying, specimens were worthless that had not been gathered by the collector, and Lady Martindale made all becoming acknowledgments. No wonder Mrs. Nesbit was mortified; she was an excellent botanist, and only failing eyesight could have made even prejudice betray her into such a mistake. Violet understood the compassion that caused John to sit down by her and diligently strive to interest her in conversation.

Theodora had returned as tea was brought in, and Violet felt as if she must make some demonstration out of gratitude for the fondness for her child; but she did not venture on that subject, and moving to her side, asked, with somewhat timid accents, after Charlie Layton, the dumb boy.

’He is very well, thank you. I hope to get him into an asylum next year,’ said Theodora, but half-pleased.

’I looked for him at the gate, and fancied it was him I saw with a broad black ribbon on his hat. Is he in mourning?’

’Did you not hear of his mother’s death?’

’No, poor little fellow.’

Therewith Theodora had the whole history to tell, and thawed as she spoke; while Violet’s deepening colour, and eyes ready to overflow, proved the interest she took; and she had just begged to go to-morrow to see the little orphan, when Arthur laid his hand on her shoulder, and told her he had just come from the stables, where her horse was in readiness for her, and would she like to ride to-morrow?

’What will suit you for us to do?’ said Violet, turning to Theodora.

’Oh, it makes no difference to me.’

’Tuesday. It is not one of your schooldays, is it?’ said Violet, appearing unconscious of the chill of the answer; then, looking up to Arthur, ’I am going, at any rate, to walk to the lodge with Theodora to see the poor baby there. It is just the age of Johnnie.’

’You aren’t going after poor children all day long,’ said Arthur: and somehow Violet made a space between them on the ottoman, and pulled him down into it; and whereas he saw his wife and sister apparently sharing the same pursuits, and on friendly terms, he resumed his usual tone with Theodora, and began coaxing her to ride with them, and inquiring after home interests, till she lighted up and answered in her natural manner. Then Violet ventured to ask if she was to thank her for the delicious geranium and heliotrope she had found in her room.

’Oh no! that is an attention of Harrison or Miss Piper, I suppose.’

’Or? probably and?’ suggested Arthur. ’How does that go on?’

’Take care,’ said Theodora, peeping out beyond the shadow of his broad shoulder. ’Tis under the strictest seal of confidence; she asked my advice as soon as she had done it.’

’What! has she accepted him!’ said Violet. ’Has it come to that?’

’Ay; and now she wants to know whether people will think it odd and improper. Let them think, I say.’

’A piece of luck for her,’ said Arthur; ’better marry a coal-heaver than lead her present life.’

’Yes; and Harrison is an educated man though a coxcomb, and knows she condescends.’

’But why are they waiting!’ asked Violet.

’Because she dares not tell my aunt. She trembles and consults, and walks behind my aunt’s chair in the garden, exchanging glances with Harrison over her head, while he listens to discourses on things with hard names. The flutter and mystery seem to be felicity, and, if they like it, ’tis their own concern.’

’Now I know why Miss Piper told me Miss Martindale was so considerate,’ said Violet.

What had become of the estrangement! Arthur had forgotten it, Violet had been but half-conscious of it, even while uniting them; Theodora thought all was owing to his being at home, and she knew not who had restored him.

Indeed, the jealous feeling was constantly excited, for Arthur’s devotion to his wife was greater than ever, in his delight at being with her again, and his solicitude to the weakness which Theodora could neither understand nor tolerate. She took all unclassified ailments as fine lady nonsense; and was angry with Violet for being unable to teach at school, contemptuous if Arthur observed on her looking pale, and irate if he made her rest on the sofa.

John added to the jealousy. Little as Theodora apparently regarded him, she could not bear to be set aside while Violet held the place of the favourite sister, and while her father openly spoke of the benefit he had derived from having that young bright gentle creature so much with him.

The alteration was indeed beyond what could have been hoped for. The first day, when his horse was led round with the others, it was supposed to be by mistake, till he came down with his whip in his hand; and not till they were past the lodge did Theodora believe he was going to make one of the riding party. She had never seen him take part in their excursions, or appear to consider himself as belonging to the younger portion of the family, and when they fell in with any acquaintance Arthur was amused, and she was provoked, at the surprised congratulations on seeing Mr. Martindale with them.

Lord Martindale was delighted to find him taking interest in matters to which he had hitherto scarcely paid even languid attention; and the offer to go to Barbuda was so suitable and gratifying that it was eagerly discussed in many a consultation.

He liked to report progress to Violet, and as she sat in the drawingroom, the two brothers coming to her with all their concerns, Theodora could have pined and raged in the lonely dignity of her citadel up-stairs. She did not know the forbearance that was exercised towards her by one whom she had last year taught what it was to find others better instructed than herself in the family councils.

Violet never obtruded on her, her intimacy with John’s designs, thinking it almost unfair on his sister that any other should be more in his confidence.

So, too, Violet would not spoil her pleasure in her stolen caresses of little Johnnie by seeming to be informed of them. She was grateful for her love to him, and would not thrust in her unwelcome self. In public the boy was never seen and rarely mentioned, and Theodora appeared to acquiesce in the general indifference, but whenever she was secure of not being detected, she lavished every endearment on him, rejoiced in the belief that he knew and preferred her enough to offend his doting mamma, had she known it; never guessing that Violet sometimes delayed her visits to the nursery, in order not to interfere with her enjoyment of him.

Violet had not yet seen the Brandons, as they had been making visits before returning home; but she had many ardent letters from Emma, describing the progress of her acquaintance with Miss Marstone, the lady who had so excited her imagination, and to whom she had been introduced at a school festival. She seemed to have realized all Emma’s expectations, and had now come home with her to make some stay at Rickworth. Violet was highly delighted when, a few days after their return, her friends were invited to dinner, on the same evening that Mr. Fotheringham was expected. The afternoon of that day was one of glowing August sunshine, almost too much for Violet, who, after they had ridden some distance, was rather frightened to hear Theodora propose to extend their ride by a canter over the downs; but John relieved her by asking her to return with him, as he wanted to be at home in time to receive Mr. Fotheringham.

Accordingly, they rode home quietly together, but about an hour after, on coming up-stairs, he was surprised to find Violet in her evening dress, pacing the gallery with such a countenance that he exclaimed, ’I hope there is nothing amiss with the boy.’

Oh, nothing, thank you, he is quite well,’ but her voice was on the verge of tears. ’Is Mr. Fotheringham come?’

No, I have given him up now, till the mail train; but it is not very late; Arthur and Theodora can’t be back till past seven if they go to Whitford down,’ said John, fancying she was in alarm on their account.

’I do not suppose they can.’

’I am afraid we took you too far. Why are you not resting?’

’It is cooler here,’ said Violet. ’It does me more good than staying in my room.’

’Oh, you get the western sun there.’

’It comes in hot and dazzling all the afternoon till it is baked through, and I can’t find a cool corner. Even baby is fretful in such a hot place, and I have sent him out into the shade.’

’Is it always so?’

’Oh, no, only on such days as this; and I should not care about it to-day, but for one thing’—she hesitated, and lowered her voice, partly piteous, partly ashamed. ’Don’t you know since I have been so weak and stupid, how my face burns when I am tired? and, of all things, Arthur dislikes a flushed race. There, now I have told you; but I could not help it. It is vain and foolish and absurd to care, almost wicked, and I have told myself so fifty times; but I have got into a fret, and I cannot leave off. I tried coming here to be cool, but I feel it growing worse, and there’s the dinner-party, and Arthur will be vexed’—and she was almost crying. ’I am doing what I thought I never would again, and about such nonsense.’

’Come in here,’ said John, leading her into a pleasant apartment fitted up as a library, the fresh air coming through the open window. ’I was wishing to show you my room.’

’How cool! Arthur told me it was the nicest room in the house,’ said Violet, her attention instantly diverted.

’Yes, am I not a luxurious man? There, try my great armchair. I am glad to have a visit from you. You must come again.’

’Oh! thank you. What quantities of books! No wonder every book one wants comes out of your room.’

’I shall leave you the use of them.’

’Do you mean that I may take any of your books home with me?’

’It will be very good for them.’

’How delightful,’ and she was up in a moment reading their titles, but he made her return to the great chair.

’Rest now, there will be plenty of time, now you know your way. You must make this your retreat from the sun. Ah, by the bye, I have just recollected that I brought something for you from Madeira. I chose it because it reminded me of the flowers you wore at the Whitford ball.’

It was a wreath of pink and white brier roses, in the feather flowers of Madeira, and she was delighted, declaring Arthur would think it beautiful, admiring every bud and leaf, and full of radiant girlish smiles. It would exactly suit her dress, Arthur’s present, now worn for the first time.

’You are not going yet?’

’I thought I might be in your way.’

’Not at all; if I had anything to do, I would leave you to the books; but I have several things to show you.’

’I was wishing to look at those drawings. Who is that queen with the cross on her arm?’

’St. Helena; it is a copy from a fresco by one of the old masters.’

’What a calm grave face! what strange stiff drawing!—and yet it suits it: it is so solemn, with that matronly dignity. That other, too—those apostles, with their bowed heads and clasped hands, how reverent they look!’

’They are from Cimabue,’ said John: ’are they not majestically humble in adoration?’

Between, these two hung that awful dark engraving from Albert Durer.

’These have been my companions,’ said John.

’Through all the long months that you have been shut up here?’

’My happiest times.’

’Ah! that does, indeed, make me ashamed of my discontent and ingratitude,’ sighed Violet.

’Nay,’ said John, ’a little fit of fatigue deserves no such harsh names.’

’When it is my besetting sin—all here speaks of patience and unrepining.’

’No, no, said John—’if you cannot sit still; I have sat still too much. We have both a great deal to learn.’

As he spoke he unlocked a desk, took out a miniature, looked at it earnestly, and then in silence put it into her hand. She was disappointed; she knew she was not to expect beauty; but she had figured to herself a saintly, spiritual, pale countenance, and she saw that of a round-faced, rosy-cheeked, light-haired girl, looking only as if she was sitting for her picture.

After much doubt what to say, she ventured only, ’I suppose this was done a long time ago?’

’When she was quite a girl. Mrs. Percival gave it to me; it was taken for her long before. I used not to like it.’

’I did not think she would have had so much colour.’

’It was a thorough English face: she did not lose those rosy cheeks till want of air faded them. Then I should hardly have known her, but the countenance had become so much more—calm it had always been, reminding me of the description of Jeanie Deans’ countenance—I cannot tell you what it was then! I see a little dawning of that serenity on the mouth, even as it is here; but I wish anything could give you an idea of that look!’

Thank you for showing it to me,’ said Violet, earnestly.

After studying it a little while, he restored it to its place. He then took out a small box, and, after a moment’s hesitation, put into Violet’s hands a pink coral cross, shaped by the animals themselves, and fastened by a ring to a slender gold chain.

’The cross!’ said Violet, holding it reverently: ’it is very kind of you to let me see it.’

’Would you like to keep it, Violet?’

’Oh!’ she exclaimed, and stopped short, with tearful eyes.

’You know she wished some one to have it who would find comfort in it, as she did.’

’No one will prize it more, but can you bear to part with it?’

’If you will take it, as her gift.’

’But just now, when I have been so naughty—so unlike her!’

’More like her than ever, in struggling with besetting failings; you are learning to see in little trials the daily cross; and if you go on, the serenity which was a gift in her will be a grace in you.’

They were interrupted: Brown, with beaming face, announced ’Mr. Fotheringham’; and there stood a gentleman, strong and broadshouldered, his face burnt to a deep red, his dark brown hair faded at the tips to a light rusty hue, and his irregular features, wide, smiling mouth, and merry blue eyes, bright with good humour.

’Ha, Percy! here you are!’ cried John, springing towards him with joyful alacrity, and giving a hand that was eagerly seized.

’Well, John, how are you?’ exclaimed a hearty voice.

’Arthur’s wife:’ and this unceremonious introduction caused her to be favoured with a warm shake of the hand; but, much discomfited at being in their way, she hastily gathered up her treasures, and glided away as John was saying, ’I had almost given you up.’

’I walked round by Fowler’s lodge, to bestow my little Athenian owl. I brought it all the way in my pocket, or on my hand, and I put him in Tom Fowler’s charge while I am here. I could not think what fashionable young lady you had here. How has that turned out?’

’Excellently!’ said John, warmly.

’She is a beauty!’ said Percival.

’She can’t help that, poor thing,’ said John: ’she is an admirable creature; indeed, she sometimes reminds me of your sister.’

Then, as Percy looked at him, as if to be certain he was in his senses, ’I don’t expect others to see it; it is only one expression.’

’How are you? You look in better case.’

’I am wonderfully well, thank you. Has your romance come to a satisfactory denouement?’

’The happy pair were at Malta when I started.’

’And where have you been?’

’Oh! in all manner of queer places. I have been talking Latin with the folks in Dacia. Droll state of things there; one could fancy it Britain, or Gaul half settled by the Teutons, with the Roman sticking about them. But that’s too much to tell, I have heard nothing from home this age. How is Theodora? I am afraid she has outgrown her antics.’

’She is not too much like other people.’

’Are you all at home, and in "statu quo"?’

’Yes, except that my aunt is more aged and feeble.’

’And Master Arthur has set up for a domestic character. It must be after a fashion of his own.’

’Rather so,’ said John, smiling; ’but it has done him a great deal of good. He has more heart in him than you and I used to think; and home is drawing it out, and making a man of him in spite of himself.’

’How came she to marry him?’

’Because she knew no better, poor thing; her family promoted it, and took advantage of her innocence.’

’Is she a sensible woman?’

’ Why, poor child, she has plenty of sense, but it is not doing her justice to call her a woman. She is too fine a creature to come early to her full growth—she is a woman in judgment and a child in spirits.’

’So, Arthur has the best of the bargain.’

’He does not half understand her; but they are very much attached, and some day she will feel her influence and use it.’

’Form herself first, and then him. I hope Mark Gardner will keep out of the way during the process.’

’He is safe in Paris.’

’And how have you been spending the summer?’

’I have been at Ventnor, getting through the Crusaders, and keeping house with Violet and her child, who both wanted sea air.’

’What’s her name?’

’Violet.’

’Well, that beats all! Violet! Why, Vi’let was what they called the old black cart-horse! I hope the child is Cowslip or Daisy!’

’No, he is John, my godson.’

’John! You might as well be called Man! It is no name at all. That Arthur should have gone and married a wife called Violet!!’

Meanwhile Violet was wondering over the honour she had received, caressing the gift, and thinking of the hopes that had faded over it till patience had done her perfect work. She did not remember her other present till she heard sounds betokening the return of the riders. She placed it on her head, and behold! the cheeks had no more than their own roseate tinting, and she was beginning to hope Arthur would be pleased, when she became aware of certain dark eyes and a handsome face set in jet-black hair, presenting itself over her shoulder in the long glass.

’You little piece of vanity! studying yourself in the glass, so that you never heard me come in? Well, you have done it to some purpose. Where did you get that thing?’

’John brought it from Madeira.’

’I did not think he had so much taste. Where have you bottled it up all this time!’

’He forgot it till there was an opportunity for wearing it. Is it not pretty? And this is your silk, do you see?’

’Very pretty, that’s the real thing. I am glad to find you in good trim. I was afraid Theodora had taken you too far, and the heat would knock you up, and the boy would roar till you were all manner of colours.’

’I was hot and tired, but John invited me into his nice cool room, and only think! he showed me Helen’s picture.’

’He has one, has he? She was nothing to look at; just like Percy— you know he is come?’

’Yes, he came while I was in John’s room. He is not at all like what I expected.’

’No, ladies always expect a man to look like a hero or a brigand. She had just that round face, till the last when I saw her in London, and then she looked a dozen years older than John—enough to scare one.’

’See what he gave me.’

’Ha! was that hers? I remember, it was that my aunt kicked up such a dust about. So he has given you that.’

’Helen said she should like some one to have it who would find as much comfort in it as she did.’

’Comfort! What comfort do you want?’

’Only when I am foolish.’

’I should think so; and pray what is to be the comfort of a bit of coral like that?’

’Not the coral, but the thoughts, dear Arthur,’ said Violet, colouring, and restoring the cross to its place within her dress.

’Well! you and John understand your own fancies, but I am glad you can enter into them with him, poor fellow! It cheers him up to have some one to mope with.’

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Chicago: Charlotte Mary Yonge, "Chapter 8," Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife, ed. Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934 and trans. Dakyns, H.G. in Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife (Boston: John W. Luce and Company, 1911), Original Sources, accessed August 7, 2022, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHST6PW7P785T6.

MLA: Yonge, Charlotte Mary. "Chapter 8." Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife, edited by Hawthorne, Julian, 1846-1934, and translated by Dakyns, H.G., in Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife, Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1911, Original Sources. 7 Aug. 2022. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHST6PW7P785T6.

Harvard: Yonge, CM, 'Chapter 8' in Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife, ed. and trans. . cited in 1911, Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife, John W. Luce and Company, Boston. Original Sources, retrieved 7 August 2022, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3WHST6PW7P785T6.