Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife

Contents:
Author: Charlotte Mary Yonge

Chapter 5

Her scourge is felt, unseen, unheard, Where, though aloud the laughter swells, Her secret in the bosom dwells, There is a sadness in the strain As from a heart o’ercharged with pain.—The Baptistery

Theodora had come to London, hating the idea of gaieties, liking nothing but the early service and chemical lectures, and shrinking from the meeting with her former friend. She enjoyed only the prospect of the comfort her society would afford her brother, depressed by attendance on a nervous wife, in an unsatisfactory home.

No Arthur met them at the station: he had left a message that he was taking Mrs. Martindale to the Isle of Wight, and should return early on Tuesday.

Theodora stayed at home the whole of that day, but in vain. She was busied in sending out cards to canvass for her dumb boy’s admission into an asylum, when a message came up to her sitting-room. She started. Was it Arthur? No; Mrs. Finch was in the drawing-room; and at that moment a light step was on the stairs, and a flutter of gay ribbons advanced. ’Ha! Theodora! I knew how to track you. The old place! Dear old school-room, how happy we have been here! Not gone out? Any one would think you had some stern female to shut you up with a tough exercise! But I believe you always broke out.’

’I stayed in to-day, expecting my brother.’

’Captain Martindale? Why, did not I see him riding with your father? Surely I did.’

’Impossible!’ exclaimed Theodora.

’Yes, but I did though; I am sure of it, for he bowed. He had that sweet pretty little mare of his. Have you seen her, Theodora? I quite envy her; but I suppose he bought it for his wife; and she deserves all that is sweet and pretty, I am sure, and has it, too.’

Theodora could not recover from the thrill of pain so as to speak, and Mrs. Finch rattled on. ’She was not in good looks when I saw her, poor thing, but she looked so soft and fragile, it quite went to my heart; though Jane will have it she is deep, and gets her own way by being meek and helpless. I don’t go along with Jane throughout; I hate seeing holes picked in everybody.’

’Where is Jane?’

’Gone to some charity sermonizing. She will meet some great folks there, and be in her element. I am glad to have you alone. Why, you bonny old Greek empress, you are as jolly a gipsy queen as ever! How you will turn people’s heads! I am glad you have all that bright red-brown on your cheeks!’

’No self-preservation like a country life and early rising,’ said Theodora, laughing. ’You have not kept yourself as well, Georgina. I am sorry to see you so thin.’

’Me! Oh, I have battered through more seasons than you have dreamt of!’ said Mrs. Finch, lightly, but with a sigh. ’And had a fever besides, which disposed of all my fat. I am like a hunter in fine condition, no superfluous flesh, ready for action. And as to action- -what are you doing, Theodora?—where are you going?’

’I don’t know. Mamma keeps the cards. I don’t want to know anything about it.’

Georgina burst into a laugh, rather unnecessarily loud.

’Just like you! Treat it as you used your music! What can’t be cured must be endured, you know. Well, you poor victim, are you going to execution to-night?’

’Not that I know of.’

’Famous! Then I’ll tell you what: there is going to be a lecture on Mesmerism to-night. Wonderful! Clairvoyante tells you everything, past, present, and to come! You’ll detect all the impostures; won’t it be fun? I’ll call for you at eight precisely.’

Theodora thought of Arthur, and that she should miss the tidings of his child; then recollected that he had not afforded her one minute’s greeting. She would show him that she did not care, and therefore made the agreement.

Cold and moody she came down to dinner, but her heart was beating with disappointment at not seeing Arthur, though a place was prepared for him. Mrs. Finch was right; he had been with his father all the afternoon, but had not supposed the ladies to be at home; an explanation which never occurred to Theodora.

He came in a few minutes after they had sat down; he was heated by his hasty walk from his empty house, and his greeting was brief and disconcerted at finding himself late. His mother made her composed inquiries for the party at Ventnor, without direct mention of the child, and he replied in the same tone. His cordial first intelligence had been bestowed upon his father, and he was not disposed to volunteer communications to the sister, whose apparent gloomy indifference mortified him.

He had not sat down ten minutes before word came that Mrs. Finch was waiting for Miss Martindale. Theodora rose, in the midst of her father and brother’s amazement. ’I told mamma of my arrangement to go with Georgina Finch to a lecture on Mesmerism,’ she said.

’Mesmerism!’ was the sotto voce exclamation of Lord Martindale. ’But, my dear, you did not know that Arthur was at home this evening?’

’Yes, I did,’ said Theodora, coldly; mentally adding, ’and I knew he had been five hours without coming near me.’

’Who is going with you? Is Mr. Finch?’

’I have not heard. I cannot keep Georgina waiting.’

It was no place for discussion. Lord Martindale only said—

’Arthur, cannot you go with your sister?’

Arthur muttered that ’it would be a great bore, and he was as tired as a dog.’ He had no intention of going out of his way to oblige Theodora, while she showed no feeling for what concerned him most nearly; so he kept his place at the table, while Lord Martindale, displeased and perplexed, came out to say a few words to his daughter, under pretext of handing her to the carriage. ’I am surprised, Theodora. It cannot be helped now, but your independent proceedings cannot go on here as at home.’

Theodora vouchsafed no answer. The carriage contained only Mrs. Finch and Miss Gardner. Lord Martindale paused as his daughter stepped in, gravely asking if they were going to take up Mr. Finch. Georgina’s laugh was not quite what it would have been to a younger inquirer, but it did not tend to console him. ’Mr. Finch! O no! We left him to the society of his port wine. I mean to test the clairvoyante by asking what he is dreaming about. But there is no fear of our coming to harm. Here’s sister Jane for a duenna, and I always find squires wherever I go.’

Lord Martindale sat at home much annoyed, and preparing a lecture for his wilful daughter on her return. Sooth to say, Theodora did not find any great reward in her expedition. The sight was a painful one; and her high principles had doubts whether it was a legitimate subject for encouragement. She longed all the time to be sitting by Arthur’s side, and hearing of his little boy. How young and gay he looked to be a father and head of a family! and how satisfying it seemed to have his bright eyes in sight again! She looked so thoughtful that Georgina roused her by threatening to set the poor clairvoyante to read her meditations.

When Theodora came home, she would have gone straight up to her own room, but her father waylaid her, and the first sound of his voice awoke the resolution to defend her freedom of action. Perhaps the perception that he was a little afraid of the rebuke he was about to administer added defiance to her determination.

’Theodora, I wish to speak to you. I do not wish to restrain your reasonable freedom, but I must beg that another time you will not fix your plans without some reference.’

’I told mamma,’ she answered.

’I am not satisfied with the subject you have chosen—and I do not quite like what I see of Mrs. Finch. I had rather you made no engagements for the present.’

’I will take care,’ said Theodora: ’but when mamma does not go out, I must have some one. I will do nothing worthy of disapproval. Good night.’

She walked off, leaving Lord Martindale baffled. That evening seemed to give its colour to the subsequent weeks. It was a time of much pain to Theodora, estranging herself from her brother, fancying him prejudiced against her, and shutting herself up from her true pleasures to throw herself into what had little charm for her beyond the gratification of her self-will.

She really loved Georgina Finch. There was the bond of old association and girlish friendship, and this could not be set aside, even though the pair had grown far asunder. Perhaps the strongest link had been their likeness in strength of expression and disregard of opinion; but it now seemed as if what in Theodora was vehemence and determination, was in Georgina only exaggeration and recklessness. However, Georgina had a true affection for Theodora, and looked up to her genuine goodness, though without much attempt to imitate it, and the positive enthusiasm she possessed for her friend was very winning to one who was always pining for affection. Therefore Theodora adhered to her intimacy through all the evidences of disapproval, and always carried the day.

Georgina was well-born, and her sphere was naturally in the higher circles, and though her marriage had been beneath her own rank, this was little thought of, as she was rich, and by many considered very handsome, fashionable, and agreeable. Mr. Finch was hardly ever seen, and little regarded when he was; he was a quiet, good-natured old man, who knew nothing but of money matters, and was proud of his gay young wife. She had her own way, and was much admired; sure to be in every party, and certain to be surrounded with gentlemen, to whom she rattled away with lively nonsense, and all of whom were ready to be her obedient squires. Her manners were impetuous, and, as well as her appearance, best to be described as dashing. Some people disliked her extremely; but she was always doing good-natured generous things, and the worst that could be said of her was, that she was careless of appearances, and, as Arthur called her, "fast". Theodora knew there was sincerity and warmth of heart, and was always trusting that these might develop into further excellences; moreover, she was sensible of having some influence for good. More than one wild freak had been relinquished on her remonstrance; and there was enough to justify her, in her own eyes, for continuing Georgina’s firm friend and champion.

She had no other friendships; she did not like young ladies, and was still less liked by them; and Jane Gardner was nobody when her sister was by, though now and then her power was felt in double-edged sayings which recurred to mind.

However, Theodora found society more intoxicating than she had expected. Not that her sober sense enjoyed or approved; but in her own county she was used to be the undeniable princess of her circle, and she could not go out without trying to stand first still, and to let her attractions accomplish what her situation effected at home. Her princely deportment, striking countenance, and half-repelling, half-inviting manner, were more effective than the more regular beauty of other girls; for there was something irresistible in the privilege of obtaining a bright look and smile from one whose demeanour was in general so distant; and when she once began to talk, eager, decided, brilliant, original, and bestowing exclusive and flattering attention, for the time, on the favoured individual, no marvel that he was bewitched, and when, the next night, she was haughty and regardless, he only watched the more ardently for a renewal of her smiles. The general homage was no pleasure to her; she took it as her due, and could not have borne to be without it. She had rather been at home with her books, or preparing lessons to send to her school at Brogden; but in company she could not bear not to reign supreme, and put forth every power to maintain her place, though in her grand, careless, indifferent manner, and when it was over, hating and despising her very success.

Arthur had thawed after his second visit to Ventnor; he had brought away too much satisfaction and good humour to be pervious to her moody looks; and his freedom and ease had a corresponding effect upon her. They became more like their usual selves towards each other; and when he yielded, on being again exhorted to stay for the soiree, she deemed it a loosening of the trammels in which he was held. He became available when she wanted him; and avoiding all mention of his family, they were very comfortable until Theodora was inspired with a desire to go to a last appearance of Mademoiselle Rachel, unfortunately on the very evening when Violet had especially begged him to be with her.

If he would have said it was his wedding-day, there could have been no debate; but he was subject to a sort of schoolboy reserve, where he was conscious or ashamed. And there were unpleasant reminiscences connected with that day—that unacknowledged sense of having been entrapped—that impossibility of forgetting his sister’s expostulation—that disgust at being conspicuous—that longing for an excuse for flying into a passion—that universal hatred of everything belonging to the Mosses. He could not give a sentimental reason, and rather than let it be conjectured, he adduced every pretext but the true one; professed to hate plays, especially tragedies, and scolded his sister for setting her heart on a French Jewess when there were plenty of English Christians.

’If you would only give me your true reason, I should be satisfied,’ said she at last.

’I love my love with a V,’ was his answer, in so bright a tone as should surely have appeased her; but far from it; she exclaimed,

’Ventnor! Why, will no other time do for THAT?’

’I have promised,’ Arthur answered, vexed at her tone.

’What possible difference can it make to her which day you go?’

’I have said.’

’Come, write and tell her it is important to me. Rachel will not appear again, and papa is engaged. She must see the sense of it. Come, write.’

’Too much trouble.’

’Then I will. I shall say you gave me leave.’

’Indeed,’ said Arthur, fully roused, ’you will say no such thing. You have not shown so much attention to Mrs. Martindale, that you need expect her to give way to your convenience.’

He walked away, as he always did when he thought he had provoked a female tongue. She was greatly mortified at having allowed her eagerness to lower her into offering to ask a favour of that wife of his; who, no doubt, had insisted on his coming, after having once failed, and could treat him to plenty of nervous and hysterical scenes.

Him Theodora pitied and forgave!

But by and by her feelings were further excited. She went with her mother to give orders at Storr and Mortimer’s, on the setting of some jewels which her aunt had given her, and there encountered Arthur in the act of selecting a blue enamel locket, with a diamond fly perched on it. At the soiree she had heard him point out to Emma Brandon a similar one, on a velvet round a lady’s neck, and say that it would look well on Violet’s white skin. So he was obliged to propitiate his idol with trinkets far more expensive than he could properly afford!

Theodora little guessed that the gift was received without one thought of the white throat, but with many speculations whether little Johnnie would soon be able to spare a bit of flaxen down to contrast with the black lock cut from his papa’s head.

There was nothing for it but to dwell no more on this deluded brother, and Theodora tried every means to stifle the thought. She threw herself into the full whirl of society, rattling on in a way that nothing but high health and great bodily strength could have endured. After her discontented and ungracious commencement, she positively alarmed her parents by the quantity she undertook, with spirits apparently never flagging, though never did she lose that aching void. Books, lectures, conversation, dancing, could not banish that craving for her brother, nothing but the three hours of sleep that she allowed herself. If she exceeded them, there were unfailing dreams of Arthur and his child.

She thought of another cure. There was another kind of affection, not half so valuable in her eyes as fraternal love; it made fools of people, but then they were happy in their blindness, and could keep it to themselves. She would condescend to lay herself open to the infection. It would be satisfying if she could catch it. She examined each of her followers in turn, but each fell short of her standard, and was repelled just as his hopes had been excited. One ’Hollo, Theodora, come along,’ would have been worth all the court paid to her by men, to some of whom Arthur could have ill borne a comparison.

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Chicago: Charlotte Mary Yonge, "Chapter 5," 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 July 12, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YC4I9A7RUYYZ8F.

MLA: Yonge, Charlotte Mary. "Chapter 5." 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. 12 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YC4I9A7RUYYZ8F.

Harvard: Yonge, CM, 'Chapter 5' 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 12 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4YC4I9A7RUYYZ8F.