Heartsease, the Brother’s Wife

Contents:
Author: Charlotte Mary Yonge

Chapter 13

I am ashamed that women are so simple To offer war when they should kneel for peace, Or seek the rule, supremacy, and sway, When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.—Taming of the Shrew

It was an early season, and Theodora had not been a fortnight at her brother’s before numerous arrivals necessitated a round of visits, to which she submitted without more than moderate grumbling. The first call was on the Rickworth ladies; but it was not a propitious moment, for other visitors were in the drawing-room, and among them Miss Marstone. Emma came to sit by Violet, and was very anxious to hear whether she had not become intimate with Theresa. Violet could not give a good account of herself in this respect; their hours did not suit, and they had only twice met.

’And is she not delightful?’

’She is a very superior person’ said Violet, looking down. ’Do you know her sisters? I liked one of them.’

’We shall have to call on them, but they are mere ordinary girls—no companions to Theresa. She laments it very much, and has had to make a line for herself. I must come and tell you about it some morning. It is nonsense to meet in this way and think of conversation.

Theodora had, in the meantime, had the exclusive attention of Miss Marstone. ’So Emma is constant to the Prae-Raffaelite,’ said Theodora, as they drove from the door. ’What is all this about the Priory?’

’Did Miss Marstone talk about that?’ said Violet, aghast.

’She said something about a restoration. What! is it a secret?’

’I suppose she thought you must know it, since I did. I was much surprised by her beginning about it to me, for when Emma first mentioned it to me, Lady Elizabeth seemed vexed, and begged me never to hint at it.’

’So Emma wants to make restitution. Well done, little Emma! I did not think it was in her.’

’It has been her darling scheme for years; but Lady Elizabeth has made her promise to wait till she is five-and-twenty, and not to consider herself pledged.’

’How like Lady Elizabeth! One respects her like an institution! I hope Emma may hold out, but she has a firebrand in her counsels. I am glad you are not infatuated.’

’I am sure I don’t know what I think of Miss Marstone. I cannot like her; yet I want to admire her—she is so good.’

’Let her be as good as she pleases; why should she be silly?’

’Oh! she is very clever.’

’When good and clever people are silly, they are the biggest simpletons of all.’

’Then I don’t think I quite know what you mean by silliness.’

’Not turning one’s sense to the best advantage, I suppose,’ said Theodora. ’That Miss Marstone provokes me. If her principles were not right I should not care; but when she has sound views, to see her go on talking, with no reserve, only caring for what is out of the way, it makes one feel oneself turned to ridicule. How can Lady Elizabeth endure it?’

’I don’t think she likes it, but Emma is so fond of her!’

’Oh! as to Emma, her poor little imagination is dazzled. It is providential that she has four years to wait! Unless, indeed, there is a reaction, and she marries either a broken-down fox-hunter or a popular preacher.’

Violet’s horrified protests were cut short by the carriage stopping. In returning, they called at Mrs. Finch’s house, to inquire when the family were expected to return from Paris. They had arrived that morning, and Violet said she would make a short visit, and then go home and send the carriage back, but Theodora preferred walking home.

As they were announced, Mrs. Finch started up from a gilded sofa on which she had been reclining, reading a French brochure. Her dress was in the excess of the newest Parisian fashion, such as even to London eyes looked outre, and, as well as her hair, had the disordered look of being just off a journey. Her face had a worn aspect, and the colour looked fixed. Theodora, always either rigidly simple or appropriately splendid, did not like Violet to see her friend in such a condition, and could almost have shrunk from the eager greeting. ’Theodora Martindale! This is delightful! It is a real charity to look in on us to-day! Mrs. Martindale, how are you? You look better than last time I saw you. Let me introduce you to Mr. Finch.’

Mr. Finch was a little dried-up man, whose ceremonious bow put Violet in mind of the Mayor of Wrangerton. Bending low, he politely gave her a chair, and then subsided into oblivion; while Miss Gardner came forward, as usual, the same trim, quiet, easy-mannered person, and began to talk to Violet, while Mrs. Finch was loudly conversing with Theodora.

The apartment was much in the same style as the lady’s dress, full of gilding and bright colour, expensive, but not producing a good effect; especially as the sofa had been dragged forward to the fire, and travelling gear and newspapers lay about untidily. Altogether there was something unsatisfactory to the feelings of both Theodora and Violet, though Mrs. Finch was very affectionate in her impetuous way, and Miss Gardner gently kind to Violet, asking many questions about her little boy.

Violet soon took leave, and Mr. Finch went down with her to the carriage.

’That is a fresh complexion that does one good to see!’ cried Mrs. Finch, when she was gone. ’I am glad to see her in better looks and spirits.’

’She understands the art of dress,’ said Miss Gardner. Theodora was on the point of making a sharp answer. It was the consequence of having once allowed her brother’s wife to be freely canvassed, and she was glad that an opening door checked the conversation.

There entered a tall fashionable-looking man, with a glossy brown moustache, and a very hairy chin, but of prepossessing and gentlemanlike appearance. He leant over the sofa, and said a few words in a low voice to Mrs. Finch, who answered with nods, and a display of her white teeth in smiles. Raising himself, as if to go, he said, ’Ah! by the bye, who is that pretty friend of yours that I met Finch escorting down-stairs? A most uncommon style of beauty—’

’That was Mrs. Martindale,’ said Miss Gardner, rather in haste.

’Arthur Martindale’s village maid? Ha! Jane, there’s jealousy; I thought you told me—’

’Georgina!’ exclaimed Jane, ’you should have introduced Mark to Miss Martindale.’

As Theodora moved her stately neck she felt as if a thunder-bolt had fallen; but the gentleman’s manner was particularly pleasing.

’It is Jane’s concern,’ said Mrs. Finch, laughing. ’I leave you to infer why she checks his communications.’

’There is nothing more awkward than "You told me so,"’ said Mr. Gardner, ’since the days of "Who is your next neighbour, sir?" I may be allowed some interest in the matter, for your brother is an old school-fellow of mine.’

’Come!’ exclaimed Georgina, ’if you stay dawdling here, my letter won’t be written, and my vases won’t come. Fancy, Theodora, such delicious Sevres vases, big enough to hold the Forty Thieves, sky blue, with medallions of Mars and Venus, and Cupids playing tricks— the loveliest things imaginable—came from Versailles—absolutely historical.’

’Lauzun is supposed to have been hidden in one,’ said Mr. Gardner.

’I vowed I would have them, and I never fail. Mark has been through fire and water for them.’

’And I suppose they cost—’ said Theodora.

’The keep of half-a-dozen starving orphans,’ said Mrs. Finch, triumphantly. ’Ay, you may look, Theodora; but they are my trophies.’

’I wish you joy of them,’ said Theodora.

’So you shall, when you see them; and that she may, off with you, Mark, or the post will go.’

’My cousin is a despot,’ said Mark, moving off, with a bow to Theodora; Mrs. Finch, following, spoke a few words, and then shut him into the other room.

’Poor Mark" said Jane, in the interval. ’We have brought him home. He has had a little property left him, and means to clear off his debts and make a fresh beginning. His poor mother is so delighted!’

’The coast is clear,’ said Mrs. Finch, returning. ’Now, Theodora, is it true that you are going to be married?’

Point blank questions did not excite Theodora’s blushes; and she composedly answered,

’Some time or other.’

’There! I knew it could not be true,’ cried Jane.

’What is not true?’ said Theodora.

’Not that you are going to have the curate!’ said Mrs. Finch. ’Jane, Jane, that has brought the rouge! Oh! I hope and trust it is not the curate.’

’Certainly not,’ said Theodora, in a grave deliberate voice.

’That’s a mercy!’ said Mrs. Finch. ’I had not the slightest confidence in you. I always reckoned on your making some wild choice. Oh! by the bye, do tell me where Percy Fotheringham is to be found. I must have him at our first party. What a charming book that is!’

’Even at Paris every one is full of it, already,’ said Jane. ’I feel quite jealous of you, Theodora, for knowing him so well, when we, his cousins, never saw him at all.’

’Cousins in royal fashion,’ said Theodora, glad that the blush had begun for Mr. Wingfield. ’What is the exact connection?’

’You explain, Jane; it is past me. I am content to count kindred with the royal beast.’

’Lady Fotheringham, his uncle’s wife, is sister to Mark’s mother, my uncle’s wife,’ said Jane. ’There! I trust that is lucidly done.’

’That is all, is it?’ said Theodora.

’Enough for the sending of a card. Tell me where, if you know.’

Theodora named the place.

’Does he show off well? Mark says he has claws—’

’I have known him too long to tell how he appears to strangers,’ said Theodora, as the colour mounted again.

’Do you see much of him?’

’He comes to Arthur’s house.’

’You have ventured there?’ said Jane. ’It was hard not to be able to come for the season otherwise.’

’I came up to bring the dumb boy to the Asylum. I am staying on because I like it.’

’Do you mean to go out with her?’

’When she goes, I do so too, but I am not come for the season. My brother’s regiment is ordered to Windsor, and perhaps I may stay to be with her.’

’She has more manner than last year,’ said Jane: ’she is greatly improved in looks. You will believe me, Theodora, all I said to Mark only referred to her paleness.’

’It won’t do, Jane,’ said her sister; ’you only make it worse. I see how it is; Theodora has found out that her sister-in-law is a pretty little pet of a thing that does her no harm, and you have got into the wrong box by flattering her first dislike. Yes, yes, Theodora, we know Jane of old; and never could get her to see the only safe way is to tell one’s mind straight out.’

’I don’t see it established that I did not tell Theodora my real mind,’ said Jane, quietly; ’I always thought Mrs. Martindale pretty and elegant—’

’Self-evident,’ said Georgina; ’but if I had been among you, would not I have told Theodora the poor child was cowed by her dignities, and Mrs. Nesbit and all the rest? Oh, I would have made much of her, and brought her forward. She should have been my queen of Violets: I would have done it last year if that unlucky baby had not come in the way.’

’And now she does not need patronage,’ said Jane.

’No; and now Theodora has found her out for herself—a better thing,’ said Mrs. Finch. ’You look all the better for it! I never saw you look so bright or so handsome, Theodora! You are a happy girl!’—and there was a sigh. Some interruption here occurring, Theodora took her leave, and walked home. She felt ruffled by her visit, and as she came indoors, ran up-stairs and knocked at her sister’s door. The room looked cool and pleasant, and Violet was lying down in her white, frilled dressing-gown, so freshly, purely, delicately neat, and with so calm and sweet a smile, that the contrast marked itself strongly, and Theodora thought no one ever looked more innocent and engaging. ’I hope you are not tired?’

’Oh, no; I only thought it wiser to rest, thank you.’

’I came to tell you that Georgina Finch wants us to go to a party next Tuesday week. There’s nothing to prevent it, is there?’

’I know of nothing; but Arthur will say—’

’We are to bring Percy. I meant to have told them of our affair; but I did not think they deserved it just then. I am glad he is no real relation to that Mr. Gardner.’

’Was it Mr. Gardner who met me going down-stairs?’ said Violet, with an unpleasant recollection of having been stared at. ’Is he their brother?’

’No; their cousin. I wonder what you think of them?’ said Theodora, hastily throwing aside her bonnet and gloves, and seating herself.

’Miss Gardner is very good-natured and pleasing.’

’Those words are made for her. But what of Georgina?’

’I hardly know her,’ said Violet, hesitating. ’This is only the second time I have seen her; and last year I was so unwell that her liveliness was too much for me.’

’Overpowering,’ said Theodora. ’So people say. It is time she should steady; but she will not think. I’m provoked with her. I did not like her looks to-day, and yet she has a good warm heart. She is worth a dozen Janes! Don’t prefer Jane to her, whatever you do, Violet!’ Then breaking off, she began earnestly: ’You see, Violet, those are my oldest friends; I never could care for any girl but Georgina, and we have done such things together as I never can forget. They had great disadvantages; a set of wretched governesses- -one worse than the other, and were left entirely to their mercy. My education was no pattern; but it was a beauty to theirs, thanks to my father. I do believe I was the only person with any serious notions that Georgina ever came in contact with, in all her growing up. Their father died just as she was coming out, leaving very little provision for them; and they were shifted about among fine relations, who only wanted to get rid of them, and gave them to understand they must marry for a home.’

’Poor girls! What a miserable life!’

’Jane knew she was no beauty, and took to the obliging line. She fawns, and is intimate and popular. I never liked her silkiness, though it creeps into one at the time. Georgina had more in her. I wish you could have seen her at eighteen. She was such a fine, glowing, joyous-looking girl, with those bright cheeks, and her eyes dancing and light hair waving, and exuberant spirits that no neglect or unkindness could daunt—all wild gaiety, setting humbug at defiance, and so good-natured! Oh! dear, it makes one melancholy!’

’And what made the change?’

’She had a long, low, nervous fever, as they called it; but I have never known much about it, for it was when we were all taken up with John’s illness. She was very long in recovering, and I suppose her spirit was broken, and that the homelessness grew unbearable; for, whereas she had always declared for honest independence and poverty, the next thing I heard of her was, that she had accepted this miserable money-making old wretch!’

’Perhaps she liked him.’

’No, indeed! She despises him, and does not hide it! She is true! that is the best of her. I cannot help caring for Georgina. Poor thing, I hate to see it! Her spirits as high as ever, and with as little ballast; and yet she looks so fagged. She was brought up to dissipation—and does not know where else to turn. She has not a creature to say a word the right way!’

’Not her sister?’ said Violet. ’She seemed serious and good.’

’No one can tell what is the truth in Jane,’ said Theodora; ’and her sister, who knows her best, is the last person to be influenced by her. Some one to whom she could look up is the only chance. Oh, how I wish she had a child! Anything to love would make her think. But there was something in the appearance of that room I cannot get over.’

’The confusion of arriving—’

’No, nothing ever could have made it so with you! I don’t know what it was, but— Well, I do think nothing else prevented me from telling them about Percy. I meant it when I said I would stay after you; and they talked about his book, and asked if I saw much of him, and I faced it out, so that they never suspected it, and now I think it was cowardly. I know! I will go at once, and write Georgina a note, and tell her the truth.’

She went, and after a little interval, Violet began to dress for a party at the house of a literary friend of Lady Martindale’s, where they were to meet an Eastern grandee then visiting London. As she finished, she bethought herself that Theodora had never before had to perform a grand toilette without a lady’s maid; and going to her room, found her, indeed, with her magnificent black tresses still spread over her shoulders, flushed, humiliated, almost angry at her own failures in disposing of them.

’Don’t I look like an insane gipsy?’ said she, looking up, and tossing back the locks that hung over her face.

’Can I do anything to help you?’

’Thank you; sit down, and I’ll put all this black stuff out of the way,’ said Theodora, grasping her hair with the action of the Tragic Muse. ’I’ll put it up in every-day fashion. I wish you would tell me what you do to yours to get it into those pretty plaits.’

’I could show you in a minute; but as it is rather late, perhaps you would not dislike my trying to put it up for you.’

’Thank you—no, pray don’t; you will tire yourself.’ But it was spoken with none of the old disdain, and left an opening for coaxing.

’I used to be thought a good hand with my sisters’ hair. It will be such a treat if you will only let me try,’ said she, emboldened to stroke the raven tresses, and then take the comb, while Theodora yielded, well pleased. ’On condition you give me a lesson to-morrow. I am not to be maid-ridden all my life,’ and it ended with ’Thank you! That is comfortable. You came in my utmost need. I am only ashamed of having troubled you.’

’Don’t say so. I am so much obliged to you for letting me try. It is more like being at home with you,’ murmured Violet, turning away; but her voice as well as the glass betrayed her tearful eyes, and Theodora’s sensation was a reward for her pride having slumbered and allowed her to accept a service.

Mr. Fotheringham came to dinner that he might go with them to the party. As they were drinking coffee before setting out, Mrs. Finch’s invitation was mentioned.

’You had better leave your card for her, Percy,’ said Theodora. He made no answer.

’Will you dine with us first and go?’ said Violet.

Thank you; I do not mean to visit them.’

’No!’ exclaimed Theodora. ’They are connections!’

’The more cause for avoiding them.’

’I have promised to introduce you.’

’I am afraid you reckoned without your host.’

’Ha!’ cried Arthur, ’the lion is grown coquettish with fine feeding. He is not easy of leading.’

’She is my greatest friend,’ said Theodora, as if it was conclusive; but Percy only answered, I should be very sorry to believe so,’ set down his cup, and began to read the paper. She was the more irritated. ’Percy,’ she said, ’do you really not intend to go to the party!’

’Certainly not.’

’Not to visit a relation of your own, and my most intimate friend, when it is my especial desire?’

’You do not know what you are talking of,’ he answered, without raising his eyes.

’Percy!’ exclaimed Theodora, her pride and affection so mortified that she forgot that Arthur was looking on with mischievous glee, ’have you any reason for this neglect?’

’Of course I have,’ said he, reading on.

’Then let me hear it.’

’You force it from me, Theodora,’ said Percy, laying down the paper: ’it is because I will not enter into any intercourse I can avoid with persons whose conduct I disapprove.’

Violet coloured and shrank closer to her husband. Theodora’s face and neck turned almost crimson, and her eyes sparkled, but her voice only showed unmoved disdain. ’Remember, she is my FRIEND.’

’You do not know her history, or you would not call her so.’

’I do. What is there to be ashamed of?’

’I see, you know nothing of the prior attachment,’ said Percy, not without anger at her pertinacity.

’A boy and girl liking that had been long past.’

’O it had, had it?’ said Percy, ironically. ’So you approve her marrying an old rogue and miser, who had heaped up his hoards by extortion of wretched Indians and Spaniards, the very scum of Mammon, coming to the top like everything detestable?’

’I never heard his money was ill-gotten.’

’Those who spend don’t ask whence gold comes. And you justify her keeping the old love, this cousin, dangling about her house all the winter till she is the talk of Paris!’

’I don’t believe gossip.’

’Can you deny that he is in London in her train?’

‘He has come into some property, and means to turn over a new leaf.’

’Ay, and a worse leaf than before.’

’How can you judge of his resolutions?’

Arthur laughed, saying, ’I’d not bet much on Mark Gardner’s.’

Much to Violet’s relief, the carriage was announced; the gentlemen walked, and Theodora talked of indifferent matters fast and gaily. Percy handed Mrs. Martindale out, and gave her his arm, leaving Theodora to her brother.

It was a small select party, almost every one known to Theodora; and she was soon in eager conversation at some distance from Violet, who was sorry for Percy, as he stood in silence beside her own chair, vexation apparent on his honest face.

’Who is that talking to Theodora?’ he presently asked. It was a small light-complexioned gentleman, whose head and face, and the whole style of his dress and person, might have made him appear a boy of seventeen, but for a pale moustache and tuft on the chin. Theodora looked very animated, and his face was glowing with the pleasure of her notice.

’I cannot tell,’ said Violet; ’there is Arthur, ask him.’

Percy was moving towards Arthur, when he was caught by the master of the house, and set to talk to the Oriental in his own language. Violet had never been so impressed by his talents as while listening to his fluent conversation in the foreign tongue, making the stranger look delighted and amused, and giving the English audience lively interpretations, which put them into ready communication with the wonder at whom they had hitherto looked in awkwardness. Theodora did not come near the group, nor seem to perceive Violet’s entreating glances; and when the Eastern prince departed, Percy had also disappeared. Violet was gratified by the ladies around her descanting on his book and his Syriac, and wished Theodora could hear them.

At that moment she found Theodora close to her, presenting Lord St. Erme to Mrs. Arthur Martindale! After so much dislike to that little insignificant light man for being the means of vexing Percy, to find him the poet hero, the feudal vision of nobility, the Lord of Wrangerton! What an adventure for her mother to hear of!

It was a pleasant and rather pretty face when seen near, with very good blue eyes, and an air of great taste and refinement, and the voice was very agreeable, as he asked some question about the Eastern prince. Violet hardly knew what she answered.

’I met him yesterday, but it was flat,’ he said. ’They had a man there whose Syriac was only learnt from books, and who could not understand him. The interpreter to-night was far more au-fait—very clever he seemed. Who was he?’

’Mr. Fotheringham,’ said Theodora.

’The Crusader? Was it, indeed?’ said Lord St. Erme, eagerly. ’Is he here? I wish particularly to make his acquaintance.’

’I believe he is gone,’ said Violet, pitying the unconscious victim, and at once amused, provoked, and embarrassed.

’You know him?’

Violet marvelled at the composure of Theodora’s reply. ’Yes, my eldest brother was his travelling companion.’

’Is it possible? Your brother the "M" of the book?’ exclaimed the young Earl, with enthusiastic delight and interest. ’I never guessed it! I must read it again for the sake of meeting him.’

’You often do meet him there,’ said Theodora, ’as my sister can testify. She was helping him to revise it last summer at Ventnor.’

’I envy you!’ cried Lord St. Erme; ’to go through such a book with such a companion was honour indeed!’

’It was delightful,’ said Violet.

’Those are such delicious descriptions,’ proceeded he. ’Do you remember the scene where he describes the crusading camp at Constantinople? It is the perfection of language—places the whole before you—carries you into the spirit of the time. It is a Tasso unconscious of his powers, borne along by his innate poetry;’ then pausing, ’surely yon admire it, Miss Martindale?’

’O, yes,’ said Theodora, annoyed at feeling a blush arising. The Earl seemed sensible of a check, and changed his tone to a sober and rather timid one, as he inquired after Mr. Martindale. The reply was left to Violet.

’He has never been so well in his life. He is extremely busy, and much enjoys the beauty of the place.’

’I suppose it is very pretty,’ said Lord St. Erme.

’Nothing can be more lovely than the colour of the sea, and the wonderful foliage, and the clearness. He says all lovers of fine scenery ought to come there.’

’Scenery can hardly charm unless it has a past,’ he replied.

’I can controvert that,’ said Theodora.

With much diffidence he replied: ’I speak only of my own feeling. To me, a fine landscape without associations has no soul. It is like an unintellectual beauty.’

’There are associations in the West Indies,’ said Theodora.

’Not the most agreeable,’ said Lord St. Erme.

’There is the thought of Columbus,’ said Violet, ’his whole character, and his delight as each island surpassed the last.’

’Now, I have a fellow-feeling for the buccaneers,’ said Theodora. ’Bertram Risingham was always a hero of mine. I believe it is an ancestral respect, probably we are their descendants.’

Violet wondered if she said so to frighten him.

’"Rokeby" has given a glory to buccaneering,’ he replied. ’It is the office of poetry to gild nature by breathing a soul into her. It is what the Americans are trying to do for their new world, still turning to England as their Greece.’

’I meant no past associations,’ said Theodora, bluntly. ’John carries his own with him.’

’Yes; all may bear the colour of the imagination within.’

’And of the purpose,’ said Theodora. ’It is work in earnest, no matter where, that gives outward things their interest. Dreaming will never do it. Working will.’

Their conversation here closed; but Theodora said as they went home: ’What did you think of him, Violet?’

’He looks younger than I expected.’

’He would be good for something if he could be made to work. I long to give him a pickaxe, and set him on upon the roads. Then he would see the beauty of them! I hate to hear him maunder on about imagination, while he leaves his tenantry to take their chance. HE knows what eyes Percy and John see things with!’

’I am glad to have seen him,’ said Violet, reassured.

’He desired to be introduced to you.’

’I wonder—do you think—do you suppose he remembers—?’

’I don’t suppose he thinks anything about it,’ said Theodora, shortly.

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Chicago: Charlotte Mary Yonge, "Chapter 13," 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 January 26, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MEKU3ZLV6BNBWX.

MLA: Yonge, Charlotte Mary. "Chapter 13." 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. 26 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MEKU3ZLV6BNBWX.

Harvard: Yonge, CM, 'Chapter 13' 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 26 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8MEKU3ZLV6BNBWX.