Don John: "are you quite lost in amazement? I like to see a poetess
gazing at me width her mouth open."
Charlotte hastily shut her mouth.
"And we want you to give us some of your large copying
paper," observed Naomi, "because, as we told you before, we are
going to write a letter to grandmother—a very particular letter."
"Why?" asked Charlotte.
Don John told her in much the same fashion as he had told
Naomi in the orchard—having first arranged their chairs in a
triangle that the party might have a "three-cornered crack."
"I know Marjorie likes Campbell," said Charlotte. "I
know she feels his going away."
Don John glanced at Naomi, who nodded.
"Why didn't you take that for granted," she observed, "when I
consented to help with the scheme?"
"But as you did not know it," observed Charlotte, "why this
sudden zeal for match-making?"
"Well, if you must, know, it is partly because I have
within the last few days heard a piece of news which I know makes
Charlotte blushed, and wished to ask, but did not, whether
Lancey was coming home.
"Mrs. Collingwood has four hundred a year of her own, that
is, as she told father, it is absolutely at her own disposal, and
she could leave it to whom she would. She added that she
should of course leave it to Lancey. She made a will before
she went abroad, and deposited it with father of her own accord.
Father has sometimes alluded to this will to me, and said it pleased
"Of course we know that Lancey being adopted by both father
and mother, they have always said they should look after his
interests in the future."
"Lancey is a dear boy," said Naomi, with the least little
contraction of her forehead as if for thought. "And if father
and mother had any real reason for loving him so much, of
course they would long ago have told us; therefore I have for some
time been sure they have no reason: they let him come to stay with
them for a while, they got fond of him quite unawares, and kept him
on and on, till at last they loved him almost as they love us; and
it seems to them quite natural that they should, and also quite
natural that we should think so. I never grudged Lancey
anything in my life, but though it does seem natural that we should
all love him, yet surely his place in the family is remarkable.
"Don John looked keenly at his sister and listened
attentively while she spoke. This was a subject on which, from
his boyhood, he had thought a good deal, and nothing that he had
arrived at as a reason for Lancey's place in the family had
satisfied and pleased him so well. "After all," he thought,
"why should there be any great and important reason? Why will
not this reason do, which is hardly a reason at all?" His
thoughts went on while both the girls were silent. "Perhaps if
I had not instinctively been so careful to hide from father and
mother that I felt the least surprise, I might have been told."
"But the news," asked Charlotte at last, "what is it?"
"Mrs. Collingwood is going to marry again."
"Lancey says so?"
"Yes; it seems that she was very desirous to keep him with
her, and she proposed to go back to Australia, and overpersuaded
him, he says, to go too. She took passage in the P. and O.
steamer as far as Colombo, where she promised him they should stay a
month. And there was a man on board whom Lancey calls 'a
gentleman of position and fortune,' but father says the account he
gives of him sounds as if he were an adventurer. He declared
that he fell in love with that short, fat, little woman at first
sight; he landed with them at Galle, and when Lancey wrote, his
mother was to be married to him in a day or two."
"And that will make a great difference to Lancey?"
"Of course, because, if there were no settlement made before
the marriage, every shilling she has is now her husband's; and she
cannot make a will. As to the will she made before, it is no
better than waste paper."
"Then Lancey will have to work?" said Charlotte,
"Oh, yes, of course; so have I—still—" he paused suddenly,
and did not add, "but my father's children are worse off than they
were by that four hundred pounds a year, for Lancey and I cannot
both be wrong, and we think that in our early childhood we were told
we should be left equal in father's will, and Lancey thought
afterwards that he was to have less from father by four hundred
pounds a year.
"And that's very odd," he said aloud; "it's very
extraordinary," and while the girls bothered him as to his obliging
desire to get lovers for them, and declared that there was no chance
of his succeeding, he sat lost in thought.
"This news is only part of my reason," he said at last, "and
I did think Marjorie liked Campbell, though I was not sure as I am
Don John was still almost a boy in years, and he was young
for his years, otherwise he would hardly have concocted such a
scheme, and deliberately detailed it to his grandmother, which, with
the help of the two girls, he now actually did; saying, however,
nothing about his father's circumstances.
His grandmother was excessively amused, and wrote forthwith,
telling him that she would decide what to do in a day or two, and
desiring that he would on no account mention the matter to any one.
By the same post she sent his letter to her daughter requesting to
know her opinion, and asking her to name her wishes, but not to
betray the confidence reposed in her. Marjorie's father and
mother had a long, loving consultation over it, the father not
without shouts of laughter, the mother with somewhat admiring
The family was at breakfast three days after, when the
letters came in, and Mrs. Johnstone, turning one of hers over with
the quietest of smiles, said, "Edinburgh, I see." The three
conspirators blushed furiously, Don John was pink up to the roots of
his very light hair. Mrs. Johnstone began to read the letter
aloud. It set forth that the grandmother had, for some time
past, not seen any of the girls, and had quite suddenly determined
to ask her dear Stella to spare one of them. Here, with the
gentlest audacity, she paused, and beginning again at "quite
suddenly" repeated the sentence. "One of them to spend a
couple of months with her; she should prefer to have Marjorie," here
Marjorie blushed as rosy red as the others had done, not one of the
young people could look up, the father and mother exchanged glances,
Mrs. Johnstone went on. "And, my dear Stella, will you let Don
John bring her down, for I have not set my eyes on the your rascal
for some time."
When she had finished reading, she folded the letter quietly,
the conspirators neither spoke nor looked up, so she looked at
Marjorie, and said, with a gentleness which was almost indifference,
"Do you think you should like to go, dear one?"
And Marjorie replied, with unwonted hesitation, that she
That settled the matter in the mother's mind, she immediately
said, much more decidedly, "Oh, I think you should accept your
grandmother's invitation, and besides, as she asks Don John too, you
should not deprive him of the visit."
"Oh, yes," Marjorie interrupted, sparkling all over, and
blushing with pleasure, "and he has actually never been to Edinburgh
yet; you would like to go, Don John, wouldn't you?"
And so the matter was settled. And all that Don John
had proposed was done to the letter: Charlotte did lend her pearls,
and Naomi her prettiest feathers, and scarcely any money was asked
for, Mrs. Johnstone, from the contents of the Indian box, fitting
out Marjorie with various beautiful ornaments, and having most
becoming dresses made for her from her own wardrobe. Nobody
knew what was becoming to Marjorie so well as her mother, and she
sent her forth to conquer. The daughter had no more than her
mother's beauty, but she had inherited the same reposeful serenity
and convincing charm.
Don John, with pride and confidence, took charge of her;
brother-like, he declined to let her have anything to do with the
taking of the tickets or the booking after her luggage. It was
therefore all left behind, as was that of a young man's in the same
carriage. When this was found out, which was in consequence of
Marjorie's looking out of the window, and seeing it with her own
eyes as it stood on the platform, she made at first some
lamentation, but Don John and the young passenger became friends
over the telegraphing for it at the first stoppage, after which
Marjorie was almost persuaded by her brother that it was safer on
the platform than in the van, and would reach Edinburgh almost as
soon—if not sooner!
But there is no need to enlarge upon this experience of
Marjorie's. There is probably no woman living who has not gone
through it; a more uncommon part of the matter was that the three
young people thus left together discovered that they had many
friends in common, that they knew all about each other's families,
and were going to visit at houses situated not a hundred yards
The young man's name was Foden. "Campbell s too common
a name to please me," thought Don John "but I like it better than
Foden." Why this thought came into his head will appear very
shortly. "Marjorie Foden sounds foolish, so does Duncan Dilke
Foden," he cogitated thus as they reached Edinburgh.
"Why, she's as tall as her brother!" thought the grandmother
when the two young people presented themselves. "An awkward
height, and her hair as red as rust."
"Campbell's laid up with the chicken-pox," she whispered to
her grandson, as soon as Marjorie had been escorted to her room.
"The chicken-pox?" repeated Don John, with scorn.
"Yes, all the children of the regiment have got it, and he
"Oh, well," answered Don John, rather dreamily, "I don't know
that it particularly signifies."
His grandmother looked sharply at him.
"I suppose you know that he's a great flirt?" she went on.
Don John woke up suddenly.
"No, grandmother, I did not."
"Yes, after I had decided to invite you both down, his old
aunt—Miss Florimel Campbell, coming in, amused me, as she supposed,
with tales of his flirtations."
Don John repeated, with rather more decision, "I don't know
that it particularly signifies."
And it did not signify at all, for Duncan Dilke Foden,
presenting himself almost immediately after breakfast the next
morning, to pay an outrageously early and outrageously long morning
call, passed through a succession of changes in manner, mind, and
face, which the grandmother read as easily as from a printed book.
He was elated at the sight of Marjorie, and expressed as much
delight and surprise as if she might have been expected to evaporate
in the night, or to melt like a lump of sugar; and then he became
suddenly humble, as one who had no right to be glad; and then he was
afflicted with a great desire to talk sensibly and seriously, as one
desiring thereby to excuse too long a presence; but at this stage of
affairs Marjorie broke in quietly with some commonplace question.
Duncan Dilke Foden was taken in hand, first set at his ease, and
calmed, then made to show himself at his best, and finally let alone
to remember that he had paid a long visit, and with a tolerable
grace to tear himself away.
Pondering on this visit soon after, the grandmother said
quietly to Marjorie, "What sort of a fellow is young Campbell?"
"He's not very wise, grandmamma," answered Marjorie.
"Did not I hear something about his paying ye a good deal of
"Oh, yes, he did."
"And not the only one to pay it—at least, I have had hints to
Marjorie lifted up her fair face, "But that is not my fault,
grandmother, I do assure you."
"Meaning that ye have no wish to be a flirt. No, it is
not your fault, I dare say; but, Marjorie, it is your misfortune."
"Yes, I used to be a great deal happier before I had all
these ridiculous compliments," answered the young girl, mistaking
her meaning. "And yet, grandmother, though I have never had
any attentions from any one I cared for—no, I mean I never have
cared for any one yet—"
"Well?" asked the grandmother.
Marjorie laughed, but answered, not without a little
ingenuous blush of embarrassment,
"I used to be so happy at home with the others, and now
though I could not, on any account, marry any one of my lovers—"
"No?" exclaimed the grandmother, interrupting her,
"Oh, no, certainly not—yet you cannot think how utterly flat
and dull everything seems when I haven't got one. I did not
care in the least for Campbell, for instance, yet I had got so
accustomed to his compliments that when he went away I hardly knew
how to do without him. You think me a very foolish girl."
"Just like her mother," thought the grandmother. "And
so ye did not care for Campbell, my dear; well, so much the better
"And yet I do wish to be different," proceeded Marjorie.
"If the men will let ye!" interrupted Mrs. Johnstone.
"And I was so glad when your letter came. I am sure I
shall enjoy this visit so much."
"And Foden—what are ye going to do with him?"
"I sent him away as soon as I could this morning, without
hurting his feelings."
"There has been a great deal of harm done by that false
proverb, 'Marriages are made in heaven.'"
"In one sense everything is decreed above; but in the other
sense it may fairly be said that marriage is the one thing heaven
leaves to be made on earth. Her birth, her station, her
fortune, her beauty the maid had not the making of; but if she does
not exercise her wits, and her best discretion as regards her
marriage, nothing her people can do can much avail her."
"Of course we ought not to marry for money," observed
Marjorie, demurely; "nor," she went on after a pause, "without being
"How many lovers might ye have had already," asked the
"Well if ye cannot deny it, six it is; and, as I said, not
your fault, perhaps, but certainly your misfortune, for if ye cannot
love one of the first six, why should ye love one of the second six?
The girl that is really well off is she who waits some time, has one
chance, and, it being a reasonably good one, takes it thankfully."
"Oh, I shall like some one well enough to marry him in the
course of time," said Marjorie, who was very much amused at her
grandmother's way of putting things.
"That is how your mother used to talk. She felt no
enthusiasm, she once told me, for any of her lovers, and I answered,
'Consider which is the best worth loving and on the whole the most
agreeable to ye, then dismiss the others, and let that one have a
chance.' If it had not been for me," she went on, with perfect
gravity and sincerity, "your father never would have won the wife he
wished for. She had many lovers, and did not care to decide
between them; but I talked to her. I said, 'Yes, many lovers,
but one is old, and one beneath ye, and one above ye, and one is not
a good man; and here are two left that are thoroughly suitable, but
one of those even has an advantage not possessed by the other, or
indeed by any one of the others."'
Marjorie was interested, she had not expected to find that
her father had needed any assistance in his wooing.
"Well, grandmother?" she said.
"Well," repeated the grandmother, "I said to her, 'There are
women, Estelle, that long to keep their sons single, and there are
those who look to patch up fallen fortunes with rich
daughters-in-law, and there are women of such a termagant nature
that all their sons have quarrelled with them, and there are women
illiterate enough to make their daughters-in-law ashamed of them,
and I know of one who dreads a beauty more than anything, and thinks
such a one must needs be a spendthrift;' and now said I, 'I have
named the mother of every lover you have but one, and that one longs
to see her son married, looks for none but a small fortune, and
would willingly help him from her own, desires an equal match and a
beautiful young wife for him, has loved him more than anything
mortal since her widowhood, and would thankfully resign him
"And what did mother say?" asked Marjorie.
"She said she would think of it, and she did."
"Mother always talks of you with so much affection. She
always says you are so good to her." Marjorie did not add,
"and I often hear her remind father that it is his day for writing
to you;" that would have given pain, but it was true.
There was something rather sweet, as Marjorie felt, in being
thus shown a glimpse of the past. Something so fixed, so
inevitable, so without alternative as the marriage of her father
with her mother had hung in the balance then!—had been a matter for
discussion and for persuasion.
"Your mother was greatly admired," proceeded Mrs. Johnstone,
senior, "and as was but natural, she soon found out that all the
good and worthy young men were more alike than she could have
supposed. As the proverb runs, 'She wanted better bread
than can be made with wheat,' she went on seeking for it.
She did not want merely a good and worthy young man; she told me so.
But said I, 'Ye do not propose to live and die single?'—'Oh, no, she
proposed no such thing.'—'My dear,' said I, 'men are not made of
better stuff than yourself, far from it! But ye have had
choice of some of the best of them, and I think your real difficulty
comes from this, that you put your fancy before your duty.'"
"Duty!" exclaimed Marjorie, drawing herself up, and speaking
for her mother as well as for herself
"Yes, it is a woman's duty, if she has many lovers, to set
them free from vain hopes, by choosing as soon among them as she
can, even if she make some sacrifice to do it, with only a sincere
preference for one, and as your mother said, 'no great enthusiasm.'
Such a self-sacrifice is almost always rewarded. There is
nothing so sweet as duty, and all the best pleasures of life come in
the wake of duties done."
JOHN thus announced his
sister's and his own safe arrival at Edinburgh:—
"We reached our destination last night just as it was getting
dusk. Grandmother is not at all grown.
"I am much impressed with the magnificence of this city.
The streets are fine, the populace polite, and the various methods
of locomotion, omnibuses, cabs, tram-cars, &c., are admirably
arranged, and convey the traveller cheaply and expeditiously in
every direction. The view from Arthur's Seat is remarkably
fine, as is also that from Salisbury Crags. I will not
expatiate on the prospect from the ancient castle, its reputation is
"I am writing before breakfast, and have not yet quitted the
house since my arrival. Immediately after breakfast, I propose
to do so, in order to view the various objects which I have so
graphically described. I trust, my dear girl, that they may be
found to justify the terms in which I have spoke of them. With
this ramble I shall combine a visit to the railway terminus in
search of Marjorie's luggage, which I left behind at King's Cross.
Grandmother appeared to think this strange, but I reminded her that
we are all subject to the law of averages, and as on an average,
half a box per thousand of all that this railway carries is left
behind, lost, or delayed, and somebody must be owner of that
half-box, she ought not to be surprised if that somebody proved to
be her granddaughter. She said that as Marjorie had three
boxes, and had lost them all, her average was rather high. A
truly feminine answer, which shows that she did not understand the
question. Ah! I see a railway van coming up with those three
boxes in it. Yes, the luggage is come.
"Best love to father and mother and all of you.
"Your affectionate brother,
When Naomi read this letter aloud at the breakfast-table, one
more person listened to it than Don John had counted on.
Captain Leslie was present, a sunburned, stooping man, very hoarse,
very grave, and very thin. He had called on Mr. Johnstone the
day before in London, and when he found that he was not recognized,
it appeared to hurt his feelings very much. But he was so much
changed by climate and illness, that when he had been invited "to
come down and see Estelle," Mr. Johnstone carefully telegraphed to
his wife of the expected arrival, lest she also should meet him as a
stranger. He was a distant cousin of Mrs. Johnstone's, hence
the use of the Christian name.
When he had seen his first and only love with her children
about her, in a happy English home, and looking, to his mind, more
beautiful than ever, when he had heard the cordial sweetness of her
greeting, such a glow of tender admiration comforted him for long
absence, such a sense of being for at least the fortnight they had
named to him delightfully at home, that his old self woke up in him;
isolation on staff duties, irritating heat, uncongenial companions,
exile, illness, all appeared to recede. He had thought of his
life—excepting his religious life—as an irretrievable failure; but
for that first evening he felt strangely young. He was very
stiff, and when he reared himself up, his own iron-grey head, seen
in the glass, confronted him, and appeared for the moment to be the
only evidence about him of the time that had passed. Estelle
was a little different, but it was an advantageous difference,
motherhood was so infinitely becoming to her; and as for Donald, he
took the honours of his place so quietly that the old bachelor and
unsuccessful lover did not grudge them to him as he had done at
first. He spoke but little to his wife, being even then aware
that the old love in Leslie's heart was as intense as ever.
With a keen perception of everything said and done in the
presence of Estelle, Leslie felt that her husband scarcely looked at
her; but he could not know the deep pity with which his successful
rival regarded him,—what a short lease of life he appeared to him to
have; how little, as he supposed, there was yet left for him to
enjoy in his native country.
That night Leslie thought a good deal of Estelle's eldest
son; he was much disappointed to find him away; his letter the next
morning presented him in a rather unexpected light.
"Is that your boy's usual style of writing, Johnstone?" he
"Yes, I think it is; he is a dear, good fellow, but quite a
character, and he always had naturally a whimsical way of looking at
"I am glad the luggage has arrived," observe Mrs. Johnstone;
"but is it quite fair, Donald, to speak of our boy as an oddity?"
"My dear," exclaimed her husband, "I wish him to be what
pleases you; but I have thought of him as an oddity ever since he
was six years old, when be said of the cook on his birthday, 'She
put my cake in the oven, and it rose ambrosial as Venus rose from
"It was clever of him," said little Mary, "for he had not
been to a cooking-class as I have."
"And Don John invented Fetch, you know, mother," observed
Naomi, "and Fanny Fetch and the 'Minutes.'"
Mrs. Johnstone made no reply, but Leslie had a real motive
for wanting to investigate Don John's nature and the character he
bore at home; so after breakfast, when left alone with the girls, he
easily got them to talk of him, and at the end of less than a week
he was quite intimate with them, made welcome to a place at the
play-room tea, treated to Charlotte's opinions on things in general,
consulted by her as to her poetry, and even allowed to read selected
portions of the "Minutes."
These abundantly bore out his father's opinion that he was a
character; but Leslie made one mistake about Don John at once, for
finding how many of the papers consisted of criticisms on
Charlotte's opinions, remarks on her behaviour, or counsels to her
on her literary productions, he jumped to the conclusion that Don
John must needs be half in love already with the beautiful little
cousin; he wondered whether Estelle knew it, and he forthwith began
to take a keener interest in Charlotte also for his sake.
The girls liked him; little Mary loved him, "though he almost
always talked," she said, "as if it was Sunday."
He had not been in the house ten days before he was in the
confidence of all the young people, and at liberty to turn over the
leaves of the "Minutes" for himself.
He thought he knew Don John thoroughly, and Charlotte too.
His religious counsels, his unconscious betrayal of a life-long
interest in them and their parents and their home; his unexpected
knowledge of various incidents before their birth, which had
hitherto been unknown to themselves, all combined to make them think
of him as one who might be trusted absolutely, and who had a right
almost to the position of a near relative. He gave them
presents, too, and discussed with them beforehand what these should
be. As the days went on he found himself more at home with the
children than with the parents. Estelle was the love of his
whole life; but she was in a sense remote. Her children and
Charlotte became intimate with him, as much by their own wish as by
his, and they in the same sense were near.
He felt towards them as an uncle might have done; he
perceived that the parents consciously allowed them thus to ally
themselves with him, and he did not know the reason.
On the mother's part it was done because it made more easy
her personal withdrawal. He must needs love her; but it was
better for him to widen his interest and love her children too, and
amuse himself with them than have opportunity to sit apart with her,
and waken up again the old want which for so many years had
slumbered in absence.
On the father's part it was from pure pity. Why should
not Leslie enjoy the flattering consciousness that these young
creatures liked him? His time was so short; the sods of his
native valley would be laid over his head so soon.
Leslie did not think so. He supposed that he had come
home to recruit his health. Estelle and her husbands had no
reason whatever to suspect the scheme which was taking form in his
mind; he delighted himself with the certainty of this fact.
Various little hints let him perceive that Mr. Johnstone, if
not actually somewhat embarrassed in his circumstances, was
assuredly not well off. "As to my making their son my heir,"
he would cogitate, "they have no reason to think I have anything
worth mentioning to leave; but it is sweet to know that when I am
taken to my rest, Estelle will reap a benefit from me, dead, which
living I could not give; she will dwell more at ease if her eldest
son is provided for. Johnstone cannot feel jealous of my
memory as he might have done if I had left it to her; and Estelle
will know well that all I did for her boy was for her sake."
"But he is a character," continued Leslie; "his father was
Leslie had strolled into the play-room, the girls had gone to
their cooking-class, and he had wandered through the downstairs room
without finding their mother. It might have been supposed that
he would go out, but no, the girls had strictly charged him to wait
for their return, when there was to be an early lunch, and he was to
go with them to a farm-house to choose some lop-eared rabbits which
he had promised them.
"He's a character," repeated Leslie, and he turned over the
leaves of the "Minutes," as he had full leave to do. "Here's
some of his handwriting—all about Charlotte—always Charlotte.
Let me see.
THE POETRY OF MISTER BARNES, DONE IN THE
"What is it you do find in thik theer book?"
"They poems," says the maid, "they be so high;
When on un I do look,
They fill my heart wi' swellin' thoughts, Idyllic,
The most ecloguey thoughts they do!
And I attain to view
The worrold as though 'twas made anew.
And I do feel," she says, says she,
"So frisky as a lamb under a grete woak tree,
So light's a little bird,
A hopping and a cbirrupping
Over the fuzzen."
(Thinks I, "My word!")
Says she, "You mazzen
Laff," for she read my thoughts in a trice.
Says she, "This here's the poet's vice
A speaking to 'ee." "Oh," says I, "shut up."
I couldn't stand no mwoor 'ee see.
They all cried, "What a vulgar bwoy he be!"
And I did call out passen drough the door,
For I was forced to flee,
"Do'ee shut up."
"Innocent enough all these writings," he observed to himself,
"and they show activity of mind in an unusual degree. Oh, that
these dear children had the root of the matter in them! I must
not shrink from talking to them on their best interests."
To do Leslie justice, he never did shrink from uttering
anything that was on his conscience, and all his religious discourse
was considerate and evidently devoid of affectation.
The fortnight came to an end. Leslie by that time was
so desirous to see Don John, that if any opening had been given him,
he would have proposed to prolong his stay.
He went away one morning, accompanied by all the girls to the
station. The next afternoon Don John returned, and was in like
fashion accompanied from it. After he had seen his mother he
was borne off to the play-room, where, at afternoon tea, he ate as
much cake as would have spoiled the dinner of most young men; but
Don John's appetite at that stage of his career was spoiling-proof.
Mary being present, a certain caution was in the discourse.
"You hardly ever wrote to us," said Naomi.
"But I wrote to mother—"
"Yes,—well, there could have been nothing particular to tell
us. How is Campbell?"
Don John looked a little confused during the first part of
Naomi's speech; he answered the second part.
"Campbell? why, we never saw him once."
Charlotte and Naomi looked as if they thought this very bad
"Not well yet?"
"Grandmother thought that for another day or two he was just
as well away. But, I say, what about Captain Leslie?"
"Oh, we liked him so much!" exclaimed little Mary, "but he's
a very good man."
"But!!—Yes, I know he's very religious."
"And very evangelical, of course," observed Charlotte.
"Officers in the army always are when they are exceptionally
"Why should they be?"
"Well, my theory is that they have so many rules to enforce
and obey—so much to do with discipline and drill, that it is natural
they should take to that sort of religion which is the most gentle
and free from hard rules, which insists least on the letter and most
"How many officers of that sort do we know, three, isn't it?
Quite enough for you to found a theory on. I think Captain
Leslie must be an odd fish."
"No, he is not," said Naomi, "but he talks often just as
father does when on some rare or serious occasion he has one of us
into his own room and—"
"What! did he pray with you?"
"He asked mamma if he should pray with us before he went
away; she said 'yes,' and so we all knelt down in this room," and
here little Mary in all simplicity attempted to give an account of
Don John opened wide eyes of surprise at his sister, but they
had sufficient reverence for her childhood not to offer any comment.
"And he says that God loves us," she continued, "and so we
ought to love people—and poor people too."
"But, my dear little woman," exclaimed Don John, not at all
irreverently, "I think we knew that before Captain Leslie came
"Yes," said Mary, "but I did not think about it; and now I am
going to love the poor people, you know."
"And Mary took one of her birthday half-crowns to give to
Miss Jenny; she asked him if he thought that would be a good thing
to do; and I went with them to give it," said Naomi, still quite
gravely, "And Mrs. Clarboy, who generally knows how to adapt her
talk to her company, made rather a mistake, and got herself
reproved, for she told us her nephew had taken her to an
entertainment in London, which she had very much enjoyed.
Captain Leslie asked what it was about, and she said, 'Well, I can't
hardly tell you, sir, what it was about, but there was a good deal
of music, and Cupid came down and sang something sacred, his wings
were beyond anything, sir, they were as natural as life.' Then
Captain Leslie said he hoped she was not in the habit of frequenting
the theatres; and she assured him she had never been to one before,
poor old soul! and she was vexed with herself for having told, and
Miss Jenny groaned and was very much edified."
"And then we went on to Mrs. Black's, to give her my other
half-crown," said Mary shrewdly, "and he asked her if she went to
church, and she said 'she'd been so massacred with the rheumatism
that nobody couldn't expect it of her,' and then Captain Leslie
laughed, and he said afterwards he was sorry he had done it, and it
showed a great want of self-control."
"Poor old Clarboy!" exclaimed Don John, "the idea of her
frequenting the theatres! I don't think she has been in London
more than three times in her life."
Then Naomi went on: "She said afterwards, 'I know your pa's
rather in the same line as that gentleman, miss, and never takes you
to the theatres, but yet I shouldn't have minded letting him know,
for he's not so straight-laced. However,' she went on,
'Captain Leslie's a powerful pious gentleman, no doubt, and one like
him it was that sent a tract to poor old Mrs. Smart on her
death-bed. It was called 'The dying Malefactor.' If ever
there was a peaceable, humble, blameless creature, it was that
woman, and a joined member too of the Methodist connexion, but this
world had got that hold on her still, that when I'd opened the
envelope for her, and she saw it began in large letters "To you,"
she burst out laughing, and she and I talked a good bit over it.
It seemed such a queer thing to have done. I don't deny that
we did let a few secular words pass over our tongues, till her
daughter that is a Methodist too got vexed, and she says, 'Now,
mother, you have no call to think of these worldly matters any more,
you lie still and mind your dying." Miss Jenny had groaned a
good deal during this talk, but she never dares to interrupt her
sister. As soon as there was a pause she said, 'True it is
that Sarah Smart laughed on her deathbed, but I have good hope as it
was never laid to her charge.'
"'No,' exclaimed Mrs. Clarboy, who never can understand
Jenny's point of view, 'she was a good-living woman, and the
Almighty (I say it reverently) would never take notice of such a
small sound such a long way off.'
"'It's not that,' cried Jenny, 'it was that she was not one
to put the least trust in her own works, she trusted in the Rock of
our salvation, and three day after she died triumphant.'"
"If I was a guardian angel," exclaimed Charlotte, "and might
choose, I would never wait on people like us, but always on the
poor—such people as these. When do we ever say things so
beautiful in theirs simpleness?"
"Yes," observed little Mary, "the angels must be very much
amused with them."
Charlotte and Don John exchanged glances; "I think, if I were
you, I would include children in my choice," he said.
"But I forgot to add," observed Naomi, "that Miss Jenny ended
her account of Mrs. Smart by saying, 'She's gone where there's no
more sorrow—nor laughing neither;' and Charlotte said, 'Oh, Miss
Jenny, I hope not, I think we shall often laugh in heaven.'"
"But don't we think that at least angels can laugh?" asked
"There can be no laughing in heaven or among heavenly
creatures that has malice in it—but many things witty and droll are
"But, Charlotte, if I met Don John in heaven, I should like
him to call me 'button-nose;' do you really think he never will?"
"I am almost sure of it,—he invented that name to make game
of you, only for fun, you know, but still it was malice."
"Well, then, I shall say to him, 'Though you are not to say
it here, you must not forget that you used say it.'"
"But why do you want it to be remembered?"
"He never said it when he was cross, but when I sprained my
ankle and he used to carry me about the garden he did, and when you
used all to be doing 'Fetch,' and Freddy and I knocked at the door,
if we were not to come in he always shouted out, 'No, you two kids
must go;' but when Fred was gone back to school and I knocked
sometimes, he said, 'Oh, it's only button-nose,' and then I knew I
might come in. So, as it's kind malice, I should like him to
remember; for you know I couldn't help being the youngest."
"Well, no, I do not see that you could," but, Mary, I
shouldn't wonder if when you get to heaven you find you're the
eldest; don't you know that it says in the Bible, the last shall be
first and the first last?"
"Do you think I shall be older than you, then, Don John?"
"It might be so—"
"I shall take great care of you, then, and if you are a baby
when you come, I shall carry you about and show you all the
JOHN, now that his short
holiday in Scotland was over, fell at once into his regular work,
going up to London daily with his father. Meanwhile Captain
Leslie spent a few weeks at different English watering-places in
search of health which almost to his surprise he did not find.
He meant eventually to live in Scotland, where he had some distant
cousins, his only relatives excepting Mrs. Johnstone, but first he
had wanted to see Don John and Estelle's eldest daughter Marjorie.
Don John had said in joke of his grandmother that she was not
grown. Marjorie, under the auspices of this same grandmother,
grew very fast during the months she spent at Edinburgh and its
She was of a grave and gentle nature, moderate in her demands
on life as to pleasure, and she was high principled and tender.
This same girl, who had not cared for an early marriage for
her own sake, found a certain charm in it now that her grandmother
had linked it in her thoughts with duty and even with
self-sacrifice. She would not make more men unhappy, nor
unsettle any for her sake, but she would essay to be an elevating
hope and then a helpmate and a comfort to one; she would do her part
to make one man and one home what God meant that they should be.
There are such people in the world, they need sometimes to
have it discovered to them that such they are, and then they need a
little guiding. Marjorie had only a very little of this last,
but she had also the advantage of being away from a sister and a
cousin who were much inclined to criticize and make game of her
lovers; and, further, she had the advantage of a lover who had many
manly qualities, and among them a capacity for all the improvement
that comes to manhood from loving a beautiful and pure-minded young
Marjorie, instead of amusing herself with this lover, looked
out for his good qualities. He was of average height, of
average good looks, his position in life was such as her own, he had
excellent principles, he could afford to marry, and he loved her.
This was his case, as she said to herself at the end of a week; and
hers was that she was inclined to be pleased with him, and to think
a good deal of the self-sacrifice which life as a general rule
demands of woman.
At the end of another week, she thought about this again, but
as to average good looks, anybody might see that his was a face
which grew upon one. It was while she was dressing for dinner
that she passed him in review on this second occasion, but there was
not as much time as before to think of the self-sacrifice, because
she had not quite finished considering his agreeable countenance
when it was time to go down to dinner. He was coming to
dinner. Don John was to go away the next morning. The
brother and sister were alone together for a few minutes at night
before they retired. Marjorie, seated by a little table, was
untying some tawny roses and putting them in water.
Don John had never said a word yet to his sister about young
Foden. He now remarked that her flowers appeared to require a
great deal of attention.
"Yes," answered Marjorie, "I shall take care of them because
I have told Duncan that he is only to bring them every other day."
"Oh," said Don John, and presently Marjorie said,―
"What do you think of him?"
"I think he is one of the jolliest fellows I ever knew,"
answered Don John; "he's so jolly straightforward and manly."
Marjorie was pleased with this tribute to Duncan Dilke Foden,
boyish though it might be.
"He beats Campbell to fits," continued Don John.
"Oh, you don't care about Campbell, then?"
"Nor do I."
Then after a pause,—
"Though Campbell paid me so much attention, he—he went away
without making me an offer."
"Just like his impudence."
"Oh, but I was going to tell you that he wrote to me at home,
where he thought I was, and yesterday mother sent me on the letter.
He said he felt that on reflection he could not bear to be parted
from me, and he had made up his mind to offer me his hand."
"Just like his impudence again! Made up his mind, I
like that. I call it quite a providence his having the chicken-pox,
quite a providence and nothing less."
"I should like you to take his letter back to mother, and
"Well, tell her?"
"Of course till he made me an offer I had no right to
consider him a lover—"
"No, any more than you could any other fellow who had not yet
offered his hand—"
The last two remarks probably came in by way of parenthesis,
but Marjorie went on as if she found the second very much to the
"Of course not, so I want you to tell mother that even if I
was sure no one else would ever ask me marry him, I must have
answered Campbell as this morning. I said it could not be."
"I will tell her that."
"And nothing else."
"Well, so far as your having offers, there is, as I suppose,
nothing to tell."
"Of course not."
"All right," answered Don John, and then they were silent for
a few minutes, when Marjorie suddenly asked,―
"What is the middle height for a man, Don John?"
"Oh, from five feet seven to five feet nine. I measure
five feet eight."
Marjorie reflected awhile, then she said,―
"They always say the strongest men are those of middle
height. It's just as well not to be too tall."
"Just as well," echoed Don John. He was in the habit of
thus fervently endorsing his sisters' remarks when he wished to call
their attention to them as absurd.
Marjorie laughed, but she blushed too, and then the brother
and sister kissed and took leave of one another, for Don John was to
start early the next morning, almost before dawn. He left his
grandmother in rather an uneasy state of mind. She saw no
reason to think that Marjorie cared for young Foden, but she
perceived that she was giving him every kind of modest
encouragement, and from time to time Marjorie sent a stab to her
heart by making remarks which evidently showed that she had taken
her grandmother's advice in good earnest, and would be actually glad
to follow it if she could.
This good lady had all her life loved to give advice; she had
been liberal as to the quantity of it, and fervent as to the manner;
but she had become fearless, because, weighty though she felt it to
be, it hardly ever took effect. She remembered but two
instances in which it had. These were important ones, it is
true. She could not regret the first; she might have cause
deeply to regret the second.
"And it was hardly advice at all," she would sigh, when
thinking this over. "It amounted to no more than suggestion.
I have put something into her head; who would have expected her to
be so docile?"
So the grandmother thought; but she could do no more in this
matter than her son had done, when, Donald being a little boy, he
had once come in from the garden with a large basket of very fine
pears just gathered, and had set them on the hall table.
The little fellow ran up and regarded them with open
admiration, and his father said, in a bantering tone, "Do you think,
Donald, if you were to try, you could eat all those pears before
"I'm not sure whether I could," answered the child, scanning
the half-bushel basket seriously.
"What, not to please papa!" exclaimed the father bantering
him; and being just then called away, the boy and the pears were
left alone for about twenty minutes, at the end of which time Donald
the elder coming back, Donald the younger greeted him in all good
"Well, father, what do you think?—I'm getting on—I've eaten
Nine very large pears,—their stalks and their cores were laid
in a row for his inspection. Donald the younger, strange to
say, was none the worse, but Donald the elder was much the better:
in talking to his children he took more pains ever after to make his
And now Don John had come home again, and was holding his
head rather higher than usual. Like many another very young
man, he had a sufficiently high notion of his own importance both in
the world and in his family.
None but the unthinking or the cold-hearted are seriously
displeased with this quality in the very young. It is in fact
rather pathetic, rather touching; a proof of ignorance as to what
life, time, and trouble really are. And it often goes so soon!
Perhaps it is just as well that they should begin by thinking they
are to do a good deal, and have a good deal, for nothing can be
worse than to despond beforehand.
Despond indeed! Who talks of desponding when things are
so jolly? Don John exulted every day of his life. It is
true that he had been perfectly wrong as to Campbell, but then if it
had not been for him Marjorie never could have met with Foden.
When he thought of this he whistled and sang every morning while he
stropped his razor preparatory to the morning shave. He only
shaved his very light moustache as yet, to encourage it to come on.
His whiskers were but a hope at present, they had not sprouted.
His father's dressing-room was next to Don John's little
bedroom, and when he heard the outbreaks of whistling, singing, and
other signs of good health and good spirits that the young gentleman
indulged in while dressing, Donald Johnstone sometimes thought of
the pleasure expressed by the poet Emerson on hearing a young cock
crow. It is somewhat to this effect: "When I wake in the
morning, and hear a young cock lustily crowing I think to myself,
Here, at least, is a fellow-creature who is in the best of health
and spirits. One of us, he would have us know, is well, and
has no doubt as to his right to a place in creation. And
this," he goes on to remark, "is a pleasant thing to be assured of
in this doubting, low-spirited, dyspeptic age."
Somebody rapped at Don John's door, when he had been at home
two days. He opened it with a little lather on his upper lip.
It is possible that he was not sorry to exhibit this to Naomi, who
was standing there.
"Come into the play-room as fast as you can" she exclaimed;
"something has happened!" and she darted off without telling him
what it was.
The celerity with which he obeyed the summons may be held to
prove that shaving was not actually necessary, it must have been
performed daily more as a pleasure than as a duty.
Charlotte was in the play-room, she had a letter in her hand,
and looked at him as if so much flustered, so much overwhelmed by
the weighty event which had taken place, that she knew not how to
Don John sat down on the deal table—a favourite place of his.
He surveyed Charlotte and his sister. "It's an offer!" he
exclaimed. "Charlotte, you've had an offer; it can be nothing
"Oh, dear no," exclaimed Naomi; "it's nothing so commonplace!
Your conspiracy that we helped you with came to nothing; but we
contrived a better one while you were away, and it has succeeded,
and nobody knows what it may end in!"
"Yes," said Charlotte, "I can now see a vista opening before
She handed him a piece of paper: as it was a post-office
order for £2 10s., he may have been forgiven for exclaiming, "I
don't think much of the vista this is it."
"But we hope it's only the first of a great many. Now
listen; Charlotte and I, when you were gone, looked over all her
verses and essays and things, and chose out four, which I copied
beautifully at her dictation and we sent them to four magazines;
three were rejected, and we were getting rather despondent, but one
is accepted, and this money is come, and here's magazine with her
thing in it—and among the notices to correspondents, 'We shall be
glad to hear from Daughter of Erin again.'"
"Poetess! I'm stumped!" exclaimed Don John. "Even
if you'd had an offer, I could not have been more surprised.
Shake hands; to think that anything should have been written on this
inky, rickety deal table, that I have cut my name in with a
buck-handled knife, and burnt my name in with a red-hot poker!
To think, I say! No, I am not equal to thinking or saying
anything—the most burning words would not blaze high enough—they
surge disconnected in my brain.
Type—Fame—Wealth—Pica—Epics—Colons, and last, not least—Cousins.
I am your cousin, Charlotte; when you become famous I should wish to
have that remembered." He fell into thought. "No," he
went on. "I never could have believed it."
"Of course not," said Charlotte, "you always made game of my
things, and now you see!"
"Some of those poems, whoever pays for them, were the very
mildest lot I ever set my eyes on. Everything you have ever
done is the better for criticism."
"Yes, I know, I always said you had good taste and great
critical faculty—and now I consider that really—in order that I may
not lose all this money, &c., it will be your duty to help me as
much as you can."
"The young person, though she laughs, is quite in earnest.
Yes, that is what things are rapidly coming to. Some years ago
this might have been thought affecting. Here is a young man,
shall I say it? in his early prime, I think, girls, a fellow of my
"Just beginning to shave," interrupted Naomi.
"May so characterize himself—"
"As he swings his legs, sitting on the play-room table."
"Without undue self-laudation (the voice of poetess should
never be strained to such a shriek as that!)—a fellow, I say—"
"He says," echoed Naomi.
"A fellow, I repeat," shouted Don John, "just launched into
the responsibilities of life, and it is suggested to him as the most
useful thing he can do, to criticize the poetry of a girl; I say
it's enough to make a Stoic grin; yes, she belongs to the dominant
"My dears," exclaimed Mrs. Johnstone, looking in, "are you
aware that your father has been calling you for some time?
What is all this laughing and shouting about?"
"And what is Don John roaring out for about the
responsibilities of life?" said Donald Senior, looking over her
"Oh, father and mother!" exclaimed Don John, "I hope you'll
take my part, I am so crowed over by the superior sex!"
"Is that all?" said Donald Johnstone. "Do you good.
Come down to breakfast, my Star, and teach your son to imitate his
father; put yourself in your right place, my boy, and you will never
be crowed over; you should submit the moment you find out what they
wish, and then they will have no occasion to crow."
A henpecked man never talks thus; but the wife in this case
was well aware that either her husband's love for her, or his
deference to her wishes, or his dependence on her judgment, made her
very much what he often called her, his guiding star. As a
rule he found out what she wished, and did it. But he was so
absolutely blind to this fact that he rather liked to boast of it,
and talk about the yoke of matrimony, which he never would have done
if he had felt it.
But there were occasions when he would announce an intention,
and then she never interfered.
"It never rains," says the proverb, "but it pours."
This remarkable news concerning Charlotte had not been half
enough wondered at and discussed when the letters came in: one was
from Edinburgh, as Don John saw at a glance before his father opened
it, and one in Lancey's handwriting, which was handed to his mother.
"Duncan Dilke Foden" was the signature of the Edinburgh
letter, and before breakfast was over Charlotte and Naomi heard, to
their great astonishment, that the said Duncan Dilke Foden, having
made Marjorie an offer, she had desired him to write to her father.
With one consent his two fellow-conspirators looked fixedly
at Don John, he must have known that this event was probable, and he
had kept them out of his counsels. But the event was very
interesting. Mrs, Johnstone read the letter, and handed it
back again, when it was read aloud.
"Just like Foden," thought Don John, who could not help
noticing that neither father nor mother showed the least surprise.
As no one spoke, Don John said, while Mr. Johnstone folded up
the letter, "I call it jolly respectful to you, father. Foden
is such a fine, straightforward fellow."
"Yes, the missive really reminds one, in spirit, at any rate,
of some of the old Paston letters, 'Right worshipful, and mine
especial good master, I commend me to your mastership as lowly as I
may, and do you to weet that an it please you I am fain to seek your
favour with the fair maid, my Mistress Marjorie, your daughter.'
This must be a great surprise to you, my boy?"
Don John looked a little foolish when his father said this;
he wondered how much his parents knew, or suspected; was it possible
that his grandmother had betrayed him?
A look darted at him by Naomi showed that she was thinking of
the same thing.
He could not help glancing at his mother, but she gave him
one of her benignant smiles that told nothing excepting that she was
"weell pleased to see her child respected like the lave."
And the other letter? Well, there was to be no end to
the surprises of that morning. Lancey was coming home.
fortnight letters were received again from Lancey. They
appeared to show an altered frame of mind, and opened a question
which hitherto he had managed to evade and put by. "He knew he
had acted very badly, he had felt this for a long time. It was
wrong to have thus gone away and kept away. He humbly begged
pardon—would his dear father and mother forgive him?"
This in the first letter. In the second, by the same
mail, but dated a week later, Lancey said that he and his mamma were
miserable; that she was very much afraid of her new husband; she had
no settlements, and could not draw her own dividends. He had
been very kind to her, till he had got her property into his own
hands, and he now said that her son was an undutiful fellow, and
ought to go back at once to the good friends whom he had left in
England. That he would advance him enough money to pay the
passage, which was all he should do for him. He ought long ago
to have been earning his own living.
This second letter was addressed to Don John, who for a week
or two after its arrival was almost as miserable as Lancey said he
But another mail-day went by, and there was no letter at all;
then again the day passed, and Don John made up his mind that Lancey
must be coming. He still retained an affection for Lancey,
though in the minds of his sisters such a feeling had begun to fade.
Don John knew all Lancey's faults and delinquencies, yet he clung to
him without effort. The girls knew none of his delinquencies,
but sometimes one would say to another, "We ought not to forget him,
poor fellow, considering how fond father and mother have always been
As for Charlotte, she thought of him a good deal, but his
behaviour, which at first had given her very keen pain, because she
would not understand it, began in time to show itself in its true
light. At first she would not see that he had meanly taken
advantage of the Johnstones, had got away and kept away against
their will; that he was shifty about the letters; that he pretended
not to understand; that he was amusing himself as long as he dared,
hoping to come back when he must, and throw himself on their bounty
and goodness again. When Charlotte did begin to see this, she
was ashamed for him, and all the more because her own ideas of right
and duty and gratitude were high. She also had a home in the
same house which had sheltered him.
She scorned herself when she found that she had for many
months been tacitly excusing his conduct to her own mind, as if it
was not his duty to do the same things which in such a case would
have been her duty as if wrong could possibly be right for his sake.
"Could I misunderstand as he professes to do? What should I
deserve if I treated my uncle and aunt thus?"
Charlotte for several months thought a good deal more about
this than was consistent with her own peace. She could not
help arguing the matter over, she was often weary of the subject and
of Lancey too. Yes, at last she began to feel this, and
then—well, then, happily for her, she ceased almost suddenly to
think about it. The tired mind, which was vigilant in its
desire to forget, fell asleep over the subject unawares, and when it
woke up again, the importunate presence was withdrawn.
Charlotte soon began to forget how importunate it had been. Of
course she had not loved him, but he had touched her imagination,
and she soon must have loved him if he had not made her ashamed for
"It has been a rude shock to me," Charlotte sometimes
thought. "I am obliged to see that he is mean, and not
straightforward. I never can care for him as I might have
In the meantime Marjorie stayed three months at Edinburgh,
was now engaged to young Foden, and about to return home.
The summer was passing, Charlotte had been invited to
contribute to a well-known magazine, and when Lancey and his return,
and Marjorie and her engagements had been discussed in all their
bearings, this affair of hers continued to afford constant talk, in
which no one was more interested than Don John.
Even Mrs. Johnstone appeared to find the subject interesting,
at least she frequently came and sat in the old play-room after Don
John had come home in the afternoon. There she would quietly
work and look on, and weigh in her mind something that Captain
Leslie had said. She saw no good ground for his supposition,
but she made many reflections as to whether any change in existing
arrangements would tend to bring such a thing on or not.
But, no, there was no ground for such a thought, none at all.
Don John was almost uncivil to Charlotte; but though he gave his
opinion about her writings with a lordly air of superiority, he
wished her to get on, because as he graciously remarked "she is one
"Now, look here," he was saying once, when, the conversation
getting animated, she was drawn from hers considerations about
Marjorie and about Lancey to look at and to listen to him; "you
always talk about the poets as if they were such sacred creatures
that it is quite taking a liberty to see that there was any humbug
in them even after they are dead. There is Wordsworth, for
"Any humbug in Wordsworth? how dare you!"
"I grant you that he was crammed full of human nature.
He was full of us and the place we live in. We take a
beautiful pathetic pleasure in reading him, because we like that a
man who knew us so well should love us so much. But it was
humbug in him to say that everything the poet writes is valuable and
interesting because he writes it—for—for it isn't."
"Splendid reasoning," exclaimed Charlotte, "and quite
Don John, seated on the table, was making a cherry net.
Charlotte and Naomi, standing at two easels, were painting
decorations for a cottage hospital. Don John brandished the
mesh and went on, delighted to see Charlotte fire up.
"I've never thought so much of that old boy since I found out
that he did not know how to pronounce his own language."
"My dear," exclaimed his mother, beguiled into remonstrance,
"what can you mean?"
"Well, mother, listen to this―
'I've heard of hearts unkind, kind hearts
With coldness still returning,
Alas the gratitude of men,
Hath oftener left me mourning.'
You see he pronounced 'mourning' as if it rhymed with 'returning,'
which is the north country provincial way."
"Accidental," exclaimed Charlotte; "it would have been out of
the question to spoil such an exquisitely beautiful verse for the
sake of a more perfect rhyme."
"I quite agree that the verse is beautiful; but, Charlotte,
he always rhymes 'mourning' with such a word as 'burning' or
'returning.' I defy you to find a case where he did not."
"Then," said Charlotte, after a moment of cogitation,
"perhaps that is the right way."
"That answer was just like you. As to Pope, I am almost
sure he spoke with several provincial peculiarities. Look at
his inscription on his grotto:―
'Let such, such only tread this sacred
As dare to love their country and be poor.'
You see he pronounced 'poor' as Miss Jenny does 'pore.'"
"Nothing of the sort. It is a modern invention to be so
particular about rhymes. Pope felt a noble carelessness about
them. So did Wordsworth. At the same time I must admit
that one has sometimes very deeply to regret his carelessness in
other respects. That most beautiful poem, for instance, on
"The lesser Celandine," how he took away from its perfectness by not
being at the trouble to arrange the last verse properly! I
dare say he dictated it first to his wife or his sister, and never
looked at it afterwards. The states mentioned in the first two
lines are meant to be contrasted, not the one worse than the
other but he says,―
'To be a prodigal's favourite—then worse
A miser's pensioner—behold our lot!
O man, that from thy fair and shining youth,
Age might but take the things youth needed not!'"
"Well, I see nothing the matter with it excepting that it is
a pity he put in the word 'youth' twice. But he was obliged to
do so in order to have a rhyme for 'truth.' To be sure this
rather spoils the climax."
"Of course it does. I have so often wished he had
written just a little differently, it would have been easy.
Thus: 'To be a prodigal's favourite—then forlorn—(forlorn of that
delightful favouritism, you know, and made) 'a miser's pensioner.'
'To be a prodigal's favourite—then
A miser's pensioner,—behold our lot!
O man, that from thy fair and shining morn,
Age might but take the things youth needed not!'"
"Well, that is what I call audacity! That's the real
thing. If the critics could only hear you improving
Wordsworth, wouldn't you catch it!"
"Of course I should; but they never will! And now be
quite fair, for once. If you had first seen the lines
according to my version, and had thought it was the original, should
you not have been very angry with me if I had proposed to alter it
and put it as it now stands?"
I shall not argue with you, arguing as a rule sets so fast in
my own opinion. And, Charlotte, you are not asked to write
reviews, you know; if you were, there is no evil and contemptuous
thing that reviewers may not say of authors and their works; but I
never met with one yet who after saying that a poet was a fool wrote
an improved version of his lines to show the reader what they should
"Why should you be surprised at my criticizing things?" said
Charlotte. "All intelligent reading is critical. Even
our admiration of a master-piece is our criticism of it; we judge it
to be fine and true."
"She said the other day," observed Naomi, "that Keats wrote
of Greek scenery as if he was describing an English market-garden."
Charlotte excused herself. "I said he wrote not
differently of 'The sides of Latmos' and of an English wood and
brook. He is here in spring,―
'While the willow trails
Its delicate amber, and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk,"
and he hopes to write a good deal before the daisies
'Hide in deep herbage, and ere yet the
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas.'
Then forthwith he is in a mighty forest on the sides of Latmos,
'Paths there were many,
Winding through palmy fern and rushes fenny
And ivy banks.'
Then he comes to a wide lawn—
'Who could tell
The freshness of the space of heaven above
Edged round with dark tree-tops through which a dove
Would often beat its wings, and often too
A little cloud would move across the blue.'
Is not that England?"
"Certain sure. But you must not forget that in classic
times there were forests in Greece, though it is as bare as a down
"But was there 'rain-scented eglantine'? did the cold springs
'To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass'?"
Don John reflected—then shirked the question and disposed of
"I don't know; Keats is a muff. I could'nt read him
half through. Wordsworth I respect, he knows all about me.
But I think, as you delight in him so much, it is odd you are so
fond of choosing out pretty and beautiful things to write about,
instead of choosing to make homely things beautiful as he did."
"I write of what I see," said Charlotte. "We do not all
live in the same world. In the swallow's world, though it be
our world, there is no snow,"
"Yes, but though the swallows never heard of snow that is not
the less their own doing. They live always in the light and
the sunshine because they go to seek them. You mean that you
too may go in of sunshine if you please."
"I suppose I do."
"But the swallows are inferior to the robins for ever,
because these last have experience of summer and winter too.
However," continued Don John, "I am rather sick of the fine things
written lately about birds. I suppose we shall hear next that
they admire the sunsets."
"But it is nice," said Naomi, "to know that they delight in
gay colours just as we do."
"Yes, and to be told almost in the same breath that man has
himself only developed the colour faculty very lately indeed.
Well, all I know is that I have frequented with a pewter spoon taken
a pink egg streaked with brown, and put it into a nest full of blue
ones. If the bird I gave it to could see the difference
between blue and pink, why did she sit upon and hatch the alien
"Perhaps some birds are colour-blind, as some of us
are," said little Mary, speaking for the first time.
"I have sometimes thought," said Charlotte, "that whole
generations and ages saw things differently as to colour. The
ancients all agree that a comet is a lurid, a portentous and a
red-coloured light in the heavens. Up to about two hundred
years ago we never hear them spoken of as anything but red; but the
comet I have seen could never have suggested anything but a pathetic
calm, infinite isolation, and it had a pure pallor which made the
stars look yellow."
"I saw one once when I was a little girl," said Mary, "it had
a long tail, but the next time they showed it to me the tail was all
"That tail," said Don John, "was the comet's 'horrent hair,'
it got in between the sun and the planets, so it is probable that
they sent for a number of old Daily Telegraphs, the largest
paper in the world, you know, and twisted it all up in curl-papers
to be out of the way."
"Well, then, perhaps the sun pulled all the comet's hair off
to fill up his spots with."
"No, Don John," said Mary, with sage gravity, "I would rather
believe about the curl-papers than believe that."
"Thereby you show your discretion, Mary, always believe the
most likely thing."
Whether he would have gone on to explain this celestial
matter to her, will never now be known, for at that moment a
servant, one new to the house, flung open the door, and not at all
aware what a commotion the name would excite, announced,
"Mr. Lancelot Aird."
Lancey was among them; he had kissed his mother and sisters,
Charlotte had greeted and shaken hands with him, and Don John was
still clapping him on the back, laughing, shaking hands with him
over and over again, then stepping back to exclaim on his and
altered appearance, then coming close and shaking hands again, when
he suddenly caught sight of his mother's face, and both the young
men paused surprised.
There was for a moment an awkward pause. Mrs.
Johnstone, who had risen, was winding the loose worsted round a ball
with which she had been knitting; when she looked at Lancey, her
eyes, more moist than usual, had a pathetic regret in them.
She said calmly, "Have you seen your father yet?"
"No, mother," answered Lancey, looking very foolish.
"Father's in the orchard, I'll go and tell him!" exclaimed
little Mary, dancing out of the room, and almost at the same instant
Naomi and Charlotte, each feeling that the manner of Lancey's
reception at home was unexpected, stole quietly after her.
Don John felt his mother's manner with a keenness that was
almost revolt against it. If he had been away so long and had
been so met, he thought it would have gone near to breaking his
heart, but he also saw instantly, because it was quite evident, that
Lancey was not hurt in his affections, he was only a good deal
ashamed. He had planned to take them unawares.
"You should have asked his leave before you appeared among
your brothers and sisters," she went on—oh, so gently. And
then she sighed, and the two tears that had dazzled her eyes fell on
her cheeks which were coloured with an unusual agitation.
If Lancey had fallen on her neck, and kissed them away and
implored forgiveness, it might even at that pass have been
But no, it was Don John who did that, while Lancey, looking
red and irate, turned to the window, and appeared to look out.
"Oh, my mother!" exclaimed Don John, in a voice full of
remonstrance and astonishment.
She answered calmly, looking into his eyes,—
"Yes, my son."
"You will beg father to forgive him, if—if indeed there can
be any doubt about it. Mother! what can this mean—mother?"
His arm was still on her shoulder, she took her handkerchief,
and wiping away her tears, said, "Lancey;" and when he turned from
the window she kissed him a second time.
"Father has come in and gone into your dressing room, mother,
and he says Lancet is to go to him there," said little Mary,
"No, mother, not there!" said Lancey, turning white to the
lips. He had hoped to the last moment; now, before he knew
what he was about, he had betrayed himself.
When Lancet appeared at the dressing-room door with his
mother, Don John was there, pale, shocked, faltering, choking, he
had been entreating, questioning, what could Lancey have done? what
did it mean?
"You will forgive him!" he exclaimed. "I don't know—I
cannot believe that there is no more than I know—but I cannot bear
my life unless you forgive him."
Lancey listened with eager hope. It was but an instant.
Then before any greeting was given to himself, Donald Johnstone put
his two hands on the young Donald's shoulders, and looked aside to
She said, "Your poor son Lancey comes to submit himself to
you, and to confess."
"You will forgive him, then, whatever it may be, father?"
cried Don John.
"My much-loved son," was the reply. "If I had no better
and stronger reason, I would forgive him for your sake."