WHEN Mrs. Ward
heard that Lancey still had property at "the house," she was at once
tempted to make that an excuse for going there, claiming it, and
giving her own view of matters to Mrs. Johnstone.
Mr. Johnstone and Don John would be away; it seemed such a
good opportunity for wringing the other woman's heart, by describing
Lancey's cough—talking of his sufferings, how he had been picked up
under a hedge, and how, if he had died, he would have had a pauper's
Lancey was generally kind to her, he was even glad of her
company; but when she told him of this project, he was exceedingly
angry, and desired that she would do nothing of the kind.
"You were always promised a share of everything," she
grumbled, "and it is my belief that they are forgetting all that,
and you too."
"If they can forget my past, the better for their own peace,"
sighed Lancey, "and as to my share, I have had it already. I
was never promised a certain sum. I was only promised a
certain proportion of the family possessions."
"And you have had nothing yet," she answered, "but just your
"Yes, I have. I have had three thousand pounds from Don
"Mercy!" exclaimed Mrs. Ward. "I thought—yes, I'll allow that
I thought—it was bluster and vapouring, when he said that on your
account he should keep his hands from touching Captain Leslie's
fortune. Three thousand pounds! Wherever is it, then?
You told me we were living on money Mr. Don John sent to you—living
as I thought from hand to mouth; but if it's on the interest of
three thousand pounds, I call that handsome, and I don't feel that
it's at all the same thing."
She laid down her work and pondered.
"Three thousand pounds!" Lancey having justified Don John,
felt too weak to enter on his own terrible story, and he let her
alone. Many bitter and salutary thoughts had possession of his
breast; and when she added, "And yet it might be—I mean it may
be—that you've a right to all—"
"You don't think so, you are sure of the contrary," Lancey
burst out roughly.
"Yes, my blessed boy, that I am."
"And yet you're not at all thankful for this three thousand
pounds, this great sum of money, which has saved me from a trial for
felony—from becoming a wretched convict."
"Don't talk so wild," she answered soothingly.
"You are as weak as can be still. It's too much for
"God forgive you, and me too," muttered Lancey, fretted
almost beyond endurance by the knowledge that he had not strength to
tell her all.
"It is you who talk wildly, mamma," he began. "It makes
me sick to hear such nonsense. We cannot both have a claim to
"No, I allow that," she answered, as if it was a great
"Well it's their own doing that has made me talk and think
wild about it." She presently added, "They treated you both
"But they loved me the most," said poor Lancey, with
something like a faltering in his voice. "I always felt and
knew that though they were just, I was the favourite; nothing could
have been done more for me."
"And then you had me to be fond of you as well," said Mrs.
Ward, "as soon as I'd set my eyes upon you in the field, a pretty
little fellow, jumping and shouting, I loved you so as nothing could
be like it."
Lancey did not appear to notice the appealing tone in which
this was said, he went on,
"It is only of late years, since I have gone on so that they
could not have me with them, that I have felt I was becoming less
and less to them all, and Don John more and more."
"But you had me," she repeated.
"Yes," he answered, with unconscious indifference; and when
he saw presently that tears were dropping on her hand, so that she
could not see her work, he said fretfully,—
"Oh, mamma, don't."
"I often think you don't care for me a bit," she replied,
with the short, sobbing sigh of a sick heart.
"I feel so weak," said poor Lancey, trying to put off a
discussion. "Isn't it time I had my stuff?"
She got up and poured him out his tonic, and as she handed it
him she went on,
"You've often made me feel, in particular of late, that
you're only willing I should live with you because it's a
conveniency to yourself."
"Don't cry, mamma," said Lancey, a little touched.
"I'd rather by half that you'd reproach me and tell me it's
all my own fault (if you'd be like a son to me at other times) than
treat me so cold as you do."
"You'll not love me so well when you know all," Lancey began,
but he stopped short, for his conscience, and even his heart, told
him that this would make no difference.
She hardly heeded; taking his self-accusation merely for an
acknowledgment of gaming debts, and delinquencies yet more to be
deplored but not punishable by any human law.
"Besides," he went on, much more gently, "what would be the
good of reproaching you with its being your own fault? Why
that is what makes you feel it so keenly and be so bitter about it.
Mother was not bitter; I am sure she did not feel it half so much.
You have had the worst of it every way. But anyhow I am not
the fellow that has any right to find fault. I could not have
had more if I had been their own son, and if I had not been yours
you could hardly have had less."
"It's true. I have had the worst of it."
"And I am often sorry for you."
Still the remonstrance though said gently, was not to her
mind. She went on, having checked her tears,
"But as you never doubt I'm your mother, no more than I do, I
wonder you don't love me more."
"I like you. Well, I love you as well as I can," said
"I'm often afraid that when you get better you'll be off
again, and leave your poor mother. It will break my heart as
sure as can be if you do."
"I promise you that I never will."
"They'll invite you to stay at the house for change of air—I
know they will—and then you'll forget me again."
"I do not think Don John will ever let me go there again."
"What! set himself up against you!—and pretend to order you?"
"And if he does allow it, I am not sure that I shall think I
ought to go."
"You speak quite solemn, my Lancey!" she exclaimed, looking
at him with alarm.
"But you'll stand by me, I have no doubt," continued Lancey;
"and I begin to think, mamma, that I have behaved badly to you.
I'm pleased (now I consider it), to know that it's natural you
should be fond of me. I don't mind kissing you—"
Remarkable speech, but quite to her mind; he raised himself
up, and turned his hollow cheek to her.
He had always greatly objected to her bestowing on him this
form of caress. There he drew the line.
Mrs. Ward rose, and carefully drying her face with her
handkerchief availed herself of the present gracious proposal.
She kissed him; and he kissed her, almost for the first time, and
then, exhausted, laid himself down to rest, and to consider.
He had hitherto so much despised her; she had proved herself
to be a mean and sordid person, without principle, and indeed
without common honesty; still she was a great deal better than
himself, as he now discovered.
When he was a little better he asked her to read him a
chapter in the Bible. It was characteristic of Lancey, now
that he felt himself to be much changed, that he should think of
this Bible-reading as likely to improve her; for his own part he was
She took the book, but she turned white even to the lips.
"You don't think you're going to die, my only dear."
"This seems like it though."
"We were always brought up to think a great deal of the
Bible," said Lancey, "they were always teaching us things in it."
"But you told me you hated those puritanic ways."
"I did then; but now those things comfort me, and seem to do
"Oh, well, if it's only that, my Lancey, and if you're sure
you are not going to die." Thereupon she found the place he
mentioned and read to him for some time.
"And what did you think of it," asked Lancey, not without a
certain gentleness, as she closed the book.
He had chosen chapters that he thought might be useful to
"I was so taken up with thinking of your poor father, I could
not attend to the reading much."
"Oh, what about my father?"
"When he was on his death-bed he asked me to read to him just
as you did; I was that terrified that I ran down to the lodger below
us. 'Mercy, Mrs. Aired,' said she, 'what now? how white you
look!' so I told her. She was a play-actress of the lower
sort, and not a good-living woman; in short, Lancey didn't like my
having anything to say to her. 'I cannot do it,' said I, 'it
frightens me so.' 'Nonsense,' said she, 'I'll go and read to
him as soon as look at him; he will die none the sooner for it.'
Well, if that woman didn't go up as bold as brass and read to him,
as if she'd been a saint. He died the day after."
"It was of decline, was it not?"
"Yes, my Lancey."
"Did his cough sound like mine?"
"Don't say such heart-breaking things to me; you'll be all
"But did it?"
"Well, it did."
"There now, you need not cry. As the 'play-actress'
said, I shall die none the sooner for knowing this."
"What with you making me read the Bible to you, and then
talking about your poor father, you've quite overcome me," she
exclaimed, starting up, and she went into her little bed-room to
recover herself, for Lancey hated a scene.
And almost as she went out, the other mother came in, and Don
John behind her.
She came in calm, tender, observant, and sat down beside his
couch, taking him in her arms, and holding his head with her hand
for a minute upon her bosom.
"Mother," said Lancey, "I am not worthy that you should come
She did not contradict him, but releasing one hand, wiped
away her quiet tears.
"I have never been worthy of you—never," continued Lancey.
"And all my faults and my sins against you and father seem much
worse now that I feel how I have sinned against God." She
arranged his pillows again and let him lie down on them.
Don John had been looking out of the window, he now came
forward to say, "Father and mother know nothing about your last
three months—excepting that you have been very ill."
"And that you wished to go to America without taking leave of
us," put in the mother. Oh, what a small delinquency for her
to know of!
"I am afraid, indeed I feel sure, that if we did know how you
have been conducting yourself, we should be much hurt, perhaps
displeased—but Don John (and we have trusted him in this)—Don John
thinks it best we never should know."
Lancey and Don John looked at one another, the old bond was
just as strong as ever that bound them, but it had never been one
that seemed to admit of any deep sense of obligation. They
were both lucky fellows if the one could get the other out of a
scrape, and save the parents from disgrace and pain.
"I am afraid it will be a long time before you are well
enough to go back to your situation," she said tenderly.
"Yes, mother," was all he answered.
"Will Mr. Cottenham wait all that time?" she next asked.
So far as she knew, Mr. Cottenham was not aware of Lancey's
intention of going to America, and this had been prevented by
Lancey could not answer.
"Mother," said Don John, "I have seen Mr. Cottenham twice.
Lancey has lost the situation."
"Oh, but I hope he was kind?"
"He was kind."
And then she began to talk to him. A deep sense of the
presence, nearness, and love of God had gradually grown up in her
heart. Sorrow had been the earthly cause of this. She
had dwelt long in the presence of a great doubt. It had first
become sweet to her to feel that God knew which of these was her own
son, and then opening her heart so fully to both of them, she had
begun to think of them as both God's sons, and to perceive that He
was giving the one who was not hers very unusual blessings, care,
guardianship from evil, love, prayer, teaching, warnings. It
was true that one of the two had persistently turned away and done
evil, but she believed firmly, that the same God who had turned
sorrow of hers into blessings for him, would certainly go on with
him. The last stroke of bitterness had been dealt to her when
the other mother, angry at some lordly airs of Don John's, when he
was indignant at a base thing which Lancey had done, had dared to
tell both the young men their story; and her own, as she had long
known him to be—had come home, and fallen ill, and almost broken his
But how much more truly he had been her own, and his
father's, ever since. How much more fully than ever before she
had now become able to sympathize in her husband's religious life,
and receive and partake of those consolations that he offered to his
son. She deeply loved Lancey still: we do love those whom we
have been so good to. She talked to him, and Lancey answered
her humbly, and with what seemed very true penitence; but that he
had been so lately hunted by the police, in hiding among the lowest
of the low, and within an hour of being taken up to be tried for
felony, she never dreamed.
When she rose to go away—"I suppose you send your love to
your father, and all of them," she said. Lancey darted a look
at Don John, which said as plainly as possible, "May I?"
She saw this, and saw the nod of assent given. Then
Lancey said, "Yes, mother." She had just been going to add,
"And of course as soon as you are fit to be moved, you will come and
stay with us till you are well again." But the sight of this
permission, asked and given, arrested her. She put her gloves
on, considering all the time, then took leave of him, and went her
Don John soon observed that his mother was displeased.
He knew she had noticed that Lancey all through the interview had
seemed to look to him for guidance, and had got it. Don John
was not penitent of course, but he knew that he had got into a
His mother presently said, "I meant to ask poor Lancey
whether he could come down to us to-morrow, but I did not care to
hear you answer for him, and tell whether he could or not."
Don John pondered. He and Lancey had already discussed
this very question. Miss Jenny had never been inside "the
house" in her life, and he could easily keep out of the fields.
Besides, though looking wretchedly ill and thin, he was like his old
self, not like the poor disfigured creature whom she had helped to
nurse. When first they both talked of this, and Lancey pointed
out that Miss Jenny would not recognize him, he was surprised to
observe that, as to his going again to the house, Don John made
still the same demur.
"I am not a felon!" Lancey exclaimed, rather bitterly; "that
you should look as if you thought my presence would be a disgrace."
"No; because it takes two parties to make a felon—the
criminal and the law. You have done your part, the whole of
it, it is the law that has not, and therefore you are not a felon."
Lancey quailed a little. He had not been arrested, he
had not been in the dock, his name and antecedents had not been
published in the newspapers, his adoptive family had not been put to
shame. He seemed to himself to be indeed a sinner, and in need
of God's forgiveness, but to be, somehow, nothing like such a sinner
as if the law had found him out, and had taken its course.
"I do not wish to excuse myself," he began, "and I owe it to
you that I can hold up my head among my fellow-creatures; but if I
am not to hold up my head, how am I the better?"
And now Mrs. Johnstone was hurt, displeased in fact.
She knew nothing of the facts of the crime, of the hiding, of the
giving up on Don John's part of the three thousand pounds.
"His coming to us, poor fellow, is of course a matter for
your father to decide, not for you," she remarked. "It was
indeed very wrong of him to break away from us, as he has done.
I cannot quite understand why he should have wished to go to
America, having a good situation, and so kind a person to work under
as Mr. Cottenham; but it is not for you to judge him, my dear, and
if your father is inclined to forgive and have him home for a time,
you will of course acquiesce, and I hope I shall never see such
evidence of his being subservient to your wishes as I have seen
to-day. I know you are allowing him what he lives upon, but—"
"But that's a mere trifle," Don John put in here, for the
attack was unexpected and he did not know how to meet it.
"That you should be in the least hard or unjust towards him I
cannot bear to think."
"Still less that such a feeling as jealousy should—no, I do
not think it, and the more because you have no reason."
Still no answer.
"It is a long time now since that lamentable affair—"
Don John's face appeared to ask a question.
"Of the ring," she continued; "and since that he has been I
fear little better than the poor prodigal; but, my very dear son,
though your father has lost so much that it would sound unreal if he
were to say what that father said, yet so far as love, approval,
trust and pride go, we may truly say each of us, 'All that I have
Don John's face was almost a blank. She knew all its
expressions. He did not intend her to find out what he
"But I must not be hard upon you, my dear," she went on;
"youth is naturally severe."
To this general proposition Don John expressed neither assent
nor dissent; but he presently said, in a somewhat constrained
"I have never been jealous of poor Lancey―never."
Just then the train ran into their station; some of the home
party were in it and they all walked through the fields together;
but in a few minutes Don John turned back, and sent a telegram to
"If you are invited to come here, pray make no objection;
accept at once."
Don John was already in the midst of trouble about money.
It had been difficult to get the three thousand pounds for Lancey
without his father's knowledge, he now wanted seven hundred more;
for to debts to that amount Lancey now confessed; and he was daily
liable to be arrested. These creditors had to be called upon
and appeased, some were paid, some had advances made them on
account. A farm, in order to meet these demands, had been
already mortgaged. Don John did not feel even yet that he
could trust to the truth of Lancey's repentance. He feared
that if he came again to "the house," other creditors might appear,
and claimants of no very creditable kind might dun him under Mrs.
Johnstone's eyes. He had expressed this fear, Lancey had
earnestly declared that he had no other debts than those he had
named. Don John hoped this was true, but he must now take the
risk of its being false, and if it was they would all have to abide
"I THINK after
all," Charlotte had said, "I had better give you that kiss."
So she gave it. It was a sister's kiss, and he knew it.
And she was so kind, so true, so helpful to Don John.
They were comrades, friends and conspirators again. They had a
sad and damaging secret in their sole keeping, and held the family
honour in their own hands. And Naomi's affair went on
prosperously; and Mr. Johnstone in a great degree recovered his
health, so that constant companionship was not needful for him; but
Mrs. Johnstone had not yet talked to Charlotte, and Charlotte held
Don John remoter.
Charlotte was so beautiful! But a young man's love not
uncommonly is beautiful. It is a way she has.
Lancey had his invitation, and accepted it. He was very
weak still, had still a hollow cough, and used to lie on the sofa in
the drawing-room, or in the old play-room, and he too perceived that
Charlotte was beautiful, and he liked to be in the same room with
her, and observe her sayings and doings.
The same Charlotte, talking about things that so many people
cared for not one straw, and bestowing on them the most impassioned
feeling and sincere interest.
And once when "mother" entered the room, he saw her come to a
pause, and regard them all, and especially regard him, with a
certain attention. Why? And then she quietly went out of
the room, again looking as if lost in thought.
It must be something they had been saying, and yet how could
The girls had been laughing at Don John because they said he
was such a complete John Bull, and he had justified himself, had
even confessed to a conscious wish to keep up the old style and form
of patriotism. He would like, if he could, still to believe
that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen. "As to
slavery," he went on, "I hate to hear the old English horror of it
made game of. 'Down with it at once, sir,' as nurse said to
Fred the other morning when she brought him the black dose, 'for the
longer you look at it the worse it is."'
Fred, a great fellow of eighteen, made a sulky rejoinder:
"How came Don John to know anything about his physic?"
No, it could not be their talk which the mother had noticed.
In about a quarter of an hour she came in again, and sat down in her
own corner on the sofa, taking up her knitting.
She still appeared to notice them all, and Lancey felt that
he must not look at Charlotte so much.
Charlotte and Don John were talking and arguing playfully, as
of old, only that Don John treated her remarks with more deference.
There was nothing to interest Lancey in the conversation, but he
listened idly, because the mother did.
"Poetry! What! poetry, our finest English endowment!
poetry destined to become a lost art! Surely, Charlotte, you
cannot think that?"
"Not destined to decline at once, but in the course of years.
The first move has been made already. We have begun to admire
the wrong thing."
"Other arts have been lost certainly."
"And why? Partly, I think, because we try so many
experiments; it is not enough to have perfection. What could
be more beautiful than an old seventy-gun ship, or a wooden
full-rigged merchant ship, or a sloop?"
"But we do not want our ships only for their beauty."
"No; and yet we came nearer to the Creator's work when we
made our finest sailing ships than man ever came before."
"Nearer than when he built the Parthenon?"
"Oh, yes; there is almost the same difference as between a
lily and a nautilus. The Parthenon is beautiful, and
stationary, but ships are beautiful, and they can move."
"It does seem as if the ship of the future was to be like a
giant poloni, or a vulgar imitation of a turbot, with horns fuming
out blackness on its back. But, as I think I remarked before,
we do not want ships only for their beauty."
"And so we change them to gather speed, or to get power, or
to save expenditure."
"And we do want poetry for its beauty, you mean. Yes,
only for its beauty; for its moral power over us—its teaching,
comforting, and elevating power all depend on its beauty. We
know all this, and yet things come to pass."
"Nothing particular is coming to pass that I can see,
excepting that just lately some poets and people who think they are
poets are getting excessively ingenious. The French never had
much poetry in them, but they were exceedingly ingenious, as the old
Italians were. And this sort of thing is being naturalized
here. Is there any danger in it?"
"Yes; because it makes the form of so much more consequence
than the spirit, that it will end in taking the writing of verse out
of the hands of the poets, and we shall end by admiring ingenious,
artful rhymes more than a wonderful or splendid thought."
"I should have thought a poet, if there was anything in him,
would have been able to write even in that style."
"But not better than an ingenious scholar. The future
poets will be born in chains, and they used, especially in England,
to be born free. It will surely be a great disadvantage to be
born under the dominion of a culture of the wrong sort."
"Well, I pity the poet of the future: he will have to look
"The more art the less nature. I think the poet of the
future will be like a wild bird in a handsome cage. He will
beat his wings against the wires instead of singing. And as
all these old formal and difficult descriptions of verse come in,
the themes must be carefully chosen to suit them. Lyrical
poetry with us has always been rather a wild thing: now we seem
inclined to tame it. The French partridge you know has nearly
exterminated the English. So I think the French and Italian
forms, in which we can only after all write a finer kind of vers
will prevail to smother the English lyric."
"Well," said Lancey, who did not care a straw for poetry,
"then let them, if they can; we have got more poetry already written
than we know what to do with."
"I shouldn't wonder," answered Don John, "and so we begin to
want a change; but I must say, Charlotte, that I think the
indications you speak of are very few and faint."
"Like the straw which shows the way of the wind."
Mrs. Johnstone was at the door by this time. Lancey had
felt sure that she would leave the room when this discussion began
to flag, for he knew whom she would call to follow her.
He was right!
"I want you, dear one."
Charlotte got up, and the door was shut after them. The
glorious soft orange of the sunset was reflected only on the red
carpet, and on the pale blue sofa. Charlotte's white gown was
what it had rested on so beautifully, and her absence made
everything look dull.
It came to Lancey almost as an inspiration that he himself
was to be the theme of "mother's" discourse with Charlotte; that he
had looked a good deal at Charlotte, and that "mother" did not care
that he should.
He was a little nettled. She was quite needlessly
careful! It was true he frequently forgot what a bad fellow he
had been, but then he only forgot what she had never known.
Lancey thought a good deal about this during the evening and the
next day; but Charlotte did not seem to avoid him; she played to him
in the morning, and in the afternoon she took her share of reading
aloud to him with Naomi.
Charlotte generally wore white; either the sunshine was
clearer or her gown was even whiter than usual that afternoon, for
as she passed down the garden grass walk she looked like a pillar of
snow. She gathered a red rose-bud, and went to the green gate,
and leaning her elbows on it looked out.
Some thought, both sweet and strange to her, was lying at her
heart, its evidence seemed to give a brooding beauty to her eyes,
and she pouted slightly, as she often did when she was lost in
So she was looking when Don John came up the field. His
father went into the house by the usual entrance, but he, remarking
her, came on and approached her as she leaned on the gate.
And she was so quiet, that though she looked at him, he
wanted to partake of the joy of her presence as she was, rather than
to accost her and make her move. He stood for the moment on
one side of the gate and she on the other. It was such a
slight affair, only three green rails and a latch.
Here he had first discovered her to be his love, and that on
her answer to this hung his destiny.
The folds of her white robe were not stirred by any wind, all
was as still as a dream. She had the rose-bud between her
hands, and she touched it with her lips.
He had drawn off his glove when first he marked her, for
sometimes when they met if he held out his hand she would put hers
into it unaware. Now, he hardly knew by what impulse he took
off his hat too, and laid it on the grass. What was she
thinking of? what did this mean? The rose-bud was at her lips
again, her shining eyes looked into his, and she said,
"Dearest, shall I put this into your coat?"
It was such an astonishment. "Let me kiss it first," he
stammered, for he could hardly think this real. How could any
young man so much in love have been so unready!
Her hands were busy for a moment with the breast of his coat.
"I might envy the rose if you did," she whispered; and when he had
kissed her, she put her arms round his neck and returned the kiss.
How sudden and how vast a change!
But nothing, when one has it, appears so natural as delight.
They went through the garden together, hand in hand, and when
Charlotte had said, "Aunt Estelle has told me all the story," there
seemed to be nothing more to explain, and nothing so sweet as
silence; for it was manifest to both that the world was their own —a
new world not learned, and unexplored.
How can one utter the world?
No, "silence is golden," for at least it does this marvellous
new world no wrong.
During dinner the musing, ecstatic silence was hardly broken
In the course of the evening they began to consider how
anything so remarkable as their love could be communicated to the
family. They need not have troubled themselves, everybody
knew. Even Master Fred, who generally stood upon his dignity,
was not above stopping in the corridor that night to bestow upon his
elder brother a neat and carefully modelled wink, and a very large
smile—a smile in fact that spread over his face almost from ear to
A chuckling, rolling sound burst from the young gentleman's
chest. It was as if a small earthquake heaved when it was
He darted into his room and hastily bolted his door, his
usual way when he had been "cheeky," for when that ceremony had been
forgotten, Don John not infrequently burst it open and threw at him
anything that came to hand.
Once or twice he had elaborately screwed him in, so that, as
"If the fruit-ladder had not been long enough to let him out
the next morning, he must have been fed through the key-hole."
But such are the ordinary ways of brothers when one is
several years older than the other, and they are as these were,
pretty good friends.
And Lancey knew. Somehow or other he thought it was
rather unfair,—and yet he was very much improved. On the whole
he was very penitent. When he came to review and consider
matters, he did not see how if they had known all, they could have
let him win Charlotte. And next he considered that there was
reason enough against such a thing even in what they did know.
This was a great advance to be made by such a young man as Lancey.
Another advance was his not being afraid of his father's advice and
prayers, he liked them.
But his visit to "the house" was a great anxiety to Don John,
and even to himself. He felt that he was always liable to be
hunted up by those who had known him as John Ward, and to whom he
had owed small sums. Little bills might have been forgotten.
His parents might yet know of his dreadful disgrace; and the fear of
this, no less than his true penitence, left him on the whole humble
So several weeks went on, and at last it was decided that
Lancey should take a sea-voyage as the best chance of perfectly
restoring his health, and that his "mamma" of course should
accompany him. Mr. Johnstone found funds for this, and Don
John arranged it. They were to go to Tasmania. And
somehow Mrs. Johnstone felt, and yet could give no actual reason for
it, that Lancey did not intend to return to his own country, and Don
John did not intend that he should.
Lancey was an old traveller, he thought nothing of the
voyage; and yet when he went away from "the house," taking leave of
them all, he betrayed, for the first time in his life, very deep
emotion. It was impossible he could stay; not even Don John
knew that as well as he did. And yet it was bitter to turn
himself out of Paradise.
He felt how much dearer they all and every one of them were,
than the poor woman whose all he was, and who was to go with him
more because he needed her services than because he cared for her
She, too, was much improved. She had been told all by
Don John. She knew the extreme difficulty with which he had
found money to pay Lancey's bills, and yet how he had refused to let
Mr. Johnstone know anything.
She blushed for Lancey over some of these bills, and felt
that it was like mother, like son. He was untrustworthy,
dishonest, and deceitful, as she had been.
Don John was the soul of honour and uprightness. She
sank in her own esteem when he came near her—and yet he was rather
In the course of a few more weeks all was ready.
The two mothers went on board, and Don John was there and Mr.
Johnstone. Then while these and Lancey went over the ship, the
one mother wept and said to the other that she hoped she would
"My husband, Collingwood, has said to me many a time that our
having been suffered to plant such a doubt in you was enough to make
you feel almost as if the ways of Providence were hard."
"I did almost feel something like that at first," was the
answer. "But I've got my own, and the doubts and distress have
long been over."
"Ay," was the answer, "and you've had all the good and
innocent years of the other too. I never had him back till I
knew he would be a misery and a disgrace to me."
"You speak too strongly," said Mrs. Johnstone. "Poor
Lancey is very much improved."
"But I've brought it all on myself," sobbed Mrs. Ward.
"I own it; I humbly ask your pardon. I've had my punishment."
"I do forgive you."
"It is but reason you should, for we both know you've got
your own. But even if it was not so, why still you've got the
best of it. It is not so; but if it was, I should have given
you my good child and got your bad one."
"Yes; I have felt that too; but you must not think that any
distressing doubt remains. A mother's instinct, both in your
heart and mine, soon grew too strong for any mistake to be
So they parted friends, and even with a kiss.
It was Christmas when Lancey sailed. That was a
pleasant winter, even Naomi did not think it long. She saw her
lover frequently, and she was to be married in March.
She knew by this time, because her mother had told her, from
whom was to come her dower, and Fred knew at whose instance and
whose charges he was to go to Oxford that his really brilliant
talents might have scope. And Mr. Johnstone, feeling easy as
to some matters which had weighed on his mind, improved again in
health, so that it was a very cheerful winter for them all.
And Charlotte was brought to say after much persuasion, that
the double-blossomed cherry was her favourite flower, and most
appropriate for a bridal. Charlotte was very demure.
Sometimes she held Don John remote; their engagement, in short, by
no means went on according to its beginning. But her mother
was to come over that spring for six months, and he thought he knew
There was not half so much crying at Naomi's wedding as at
Marjorie's. They were said to behave extremely well, and the
children from the houses strewed the aisles and the church path with
yellow and white and purple crocuses.
As they all stood in the porch to see Naomi off, she said
when she came down the steps and saw Charlotte standing by Don John,―
"Be good to him, Charlotte. There's nobody like our Don
Charlotte's dimple came, but she blushed. In a minute
or two the bride was gone, and the whole party excepting herself,
Don John, and his mother had rushed back into the house to the
dining-room windows to watch the carriage as it turned up the road.
These stood yet in the porch. The mother and Charlotte
on the upper step and Don John on the lower.
"Yes," said Mrs. Johnstone, smiling, though tears were in her
eyes, "there's nobody like our Don John." Her hand was on his
"Oh, mother," he exclaimed, turning and looking at them, "if
you didn't all make so much of a fellow—"
"Charlotte would not need telling to be good to him, is that
it?" she inquired.
"On the contrary," said Charlotte, "if his merits were not so
frequently set before me I might never have found them out."
She laughed, and her blue eyes danced. How lovely she
looked in all her fair adornments!
"That was a very unkind speech," said the mother, smiling.
"You must say something to make up for it."
"Yes, to please you, Aunt Estelle!" said Charlotte demurely.
Then she pursed up her rosy mouth, and first bestowing on him a kiss
under his mother's eyes, she said, "There's nobody like our Don
John, and I always think so."
Our Don John. He was always to be theirs; first
their joy and then their comfort, next their aid, and in the course
of years all they had of honour and distinction.
And yet, after all—though in this world they were never to
know it, though he was bound to them by more than common dues of
service done, and love bestowed—after all, this was the carpenter's
son; and that Lancey, who but for him would more than once have been
their sorrow and their disgrace, he was the true Don John. But
he was to trouble them no more for ever. He was cast upon "the
mercy of the Most Merciful." He was quiet in the keeping of