NOT beautiful, not
intellectual, scarcely even accomplished. How strange the
infatuation which could invest such a common life and being with a halo so
lovely and so lasting!
The misfortune of it, for the moment, completely overcame me,
and with passionate tears and keen self-reproaches I remembered first of
all how coolly I had treated his attempts to enlighten me; then, his
words, that 'she had sometimes said very cruel things;' and then, what a
little, what a very little while it was since I had come down to that
house very well content to marry Valentine. I was sorry next that I
had ever let him know I did not love Valentine; and I believe when he came
round to the back of the sofa, my first words were something very like a
The whole situation came before me with such miserable
clearness,—Valentine having had no one to help him, no one to depend on
but this very brother, and my having accepted it all, utterly unconscious
of its cost.
'Oh,' I exclaimed, when he leant towards me, begging me to be
calm, 'this is all so strange—and then the sorrow came such a little while
'Yes; you do not think that I forget this; and that if all
had gone well with you I should then have given you away myself; and put
you out of my reach forever? Do not be afraid; you are not asked to
bestow anything—only to be aware of something that you receive; and there
is nothing for you to say—nothing.'
'I wish much to say something, if I could. I feel that
I must have appeared ungrateful, and I cannot understand this at all.'
'But you will believe it, and you will trust me. You
told Emily there was no one in the world who deeply loved you. If
you think my love for you has cost me any suffering; if you think it was
bitter not only to forego the hope of you myself, but to keep active in my
young brother's heart the affection that I believed you lived for, will
you now trust me so far as to let me bestow my love in peace? and will you
be sure that when a time to speak comes I will found no hopes on any
regard and interest and confidence you may have shown me in the mean
'There is no one whom I ought to trust so much; but make me a
promise in your turn: promise me—'
'Ask me this to-morrow,' he interrupted, 'not now. Give
me your hand now, and let me have it in mine for a moment—'
'But you will try to overcome this imagination; for no one
even who loved you could content it. The person whom you cherish in
your heart is not in the least like me.'
A small, unimportant life! an insignificant hand! How
hard, I thought, as he took it, that it should have, even for the moment,
so much power; for I knew that his trembled. I never felt so again.
I perceived, for the first time in my life, when it touched his lips, the
true attitude of manhood towards womanhood. To some few men—and
these are generally the best—God gives that exaltation of heart, that
wonderful addition to what is commonly known to be love, which makes it
all one to them as if they were shown the ideal wife, as first she was
given;—the pureness and the perfectness that is NOT,
and yet is destined to raise them as if it WAS.
'Now, whatever happens I shall not be always hampered, and
sometimes put to shame, by the wretched feeling that I am obliged to
conceal things that ought to be known, and let you say what you never
would say if only you knew the truth.'
Before he left me he was very anxious to impress upon me that
there was nothing for me to do or to say. But there was certainly a
good deal for me to think; and when I got up to my own room to dress, I
cried so heartily over both those two brothers, that I could not possibly
come down to dinner. I seemed to have done such irretrievable
mischief to them. There was Valentine sneaking about the house,
crest-fallen and silent, on my account. I often felt ashamed of him,
and yet very angry with myself for seeing that he deserved it. And
now here was St. George,—I could not overcome altogether the long reserve,
and coldness, and jarring words, and uneasy recollections there had been
between us,—how enthusiastic my feelings had been once towards him!
I knew he more than deserved them all now; but they were gone, and could
not revive. And the more I thought over all that he had said, the
more puzzled I felt.
I could not make up my mind to come down the next day till
after breakfast, when Emily entered silently and kissed me, and took me
with her into the morning room, where a discussion was going on as to the
dinner party in the evening. There would only be eleven people, not
counting the two boys, and there ought to be twelve. Lou was
expected about lunch-time, and ' Jemmy' and 'dear Fred.'
That being one of my lucky days, I said, 'There is Mr.
à Court, will he do?' I knew he was
a good and stupid man, and that I should not mind seeing him.
It appeared that he would exactly do if I did not mind his
coming, and a note was sent off to him; but while it was on its way he
called, accepted the invitation to dinner, and proposed to stay lunch
also, on his way to see some poor people in his father's parish.
Valentine, I was pleased to find, was wonderfully better; and
he was so relieved, poor fellow, at the prospect of visitors in the house;
for as his health improved his sisters made more evident a certain
difference of feeling towards him, and he knew they could not be uncivil
to him before strangers.
'Isn't it nasty, of them?' said Valentine to me
confidentially. 'If it weren't for St. George I don't know what I
We went in to lunch, and it was on this occasion that Dick,
apparently lifted quite out of himself, actually made a joke,—something at
least that he meant for a joke,—and he laughed at it himself till we all
burst out into laughter too.
There was a hare for lunch, and in course of time Dick said
he would take some more.
'More hare!' exclaimed St. George; 'why, this is the hare
with many friends! I don't think there is any more, Dick,' he went
on, and poked it about, 'excepting the shoulders, and they are getting
'And you would not offer the cold shoulder to me, surely,
Giles!' exclaimed Dick, and repeated 'the cold shoulder' as if he regarded
the notion of any coolness between himself and St. George as an exquisite
Then as soon as we had finished our lunch, Dick said, quite
deliberately and composedly, to Liz, that he wanted to speak to her.
Liz rose and went into the morning room, and he followed. The
extraordinary efforts that they all made not to laugh were crowned with
success; and in less than five minutes the little man opened the door
again, crossed the hall, and went his way, and Liz came back. She
looked puzzled, and seemed to be reflecting. Her gold watch-chain
had come off, and as she advanced into the room she kept pouring it
carefully from one hand into the other, in a little heap of links.
Valentine looked very much ashamed of himself, and at last, when no one
else spoke, Emily said, 'Well?'
'He says I'm just suited to be a clergyman's wife,' said Liz
simply; and St. George started up—
'Give me a kiss,' he said, 'and don't be a ridiculous little
Liz kissed her brother. He had evidently been quite
tight in his suspicions as to what her thoughts might be, for she then
said,—'I would rather not, you know, dear; but if I don't take him, I
don't believe you will ever get rid of me at all.' Then she freed
herself from him, and again pouring her chain into her palm, she
said,—'And yet I can't help thinking that if I don't take him, I shall be
sorry for it afterwards.'
It was not easy to reply to such a speech as this; but Emily
took Liz up-stairs with her, and they prepared to walk to the station.
The carriage was to go, but it would be empty, and as it was a sunny,
pleasant afternoon, sister proposed that I should go a little way in it,
and then get out and walk home.
I knew very well who would be my companion; but if he had not
gone with me he would have stayed with me; so I set forth with him,
enjoyed the delightful air, and hoped I should not meet any one whom I
'What could I do?' he presently said, as if he meant to
apologize. 'I was obliged to speak, you were so unconscious.
Any other woman would have discovered that open secret long ago.'
'I thought she was a Londoner: you said to me that you
"fell into that pit" when in London.'
'So I did: when I took Tom away, you know, and, as you said
to Valentine, "deprived you of your home, because I could not be at the
trouble of amusing him here." I forgave you for something or
other, perhaps it was for that; an easy thing to forgive, as it arose from
ignorance, and Valentine did not tell me your idea till it was too late
for me to trust myself with any justification.—Do you see that tree
'On it the girl was sitting,—Clara, you know, now his wife.'
'I never knew she came here.'
She followed him, and I thought his only chance lay in my
taking him off without her knowledge. He was watched, and could not
get a letter to her before he left. He counted, no doubt, on writing
from London. I was beforehand with him. I wrote out a telegram
ready before we started, telling her to come to town by the very next
train. I knew that was a slow train, and would not get in till the
middle of the night. Graham chancing to lay down his cigar-case soon
after we started, I threw it furtively out of the window, and my own, too.
When we hunted we naturally could not find them. He got out as soon
as he could to buy cigars, and I to send my telegram. Graham was
sulky that night—no wonder! He openly wrote a letter, and gave it to
the waiter at the hotel in my presence. I argued afterwards, and
reasoned with him.
'We went out. Acis and Galatea was given.
We took tickets, and he endured the music, and afterwards retired early.
His room was next to our sitting-room. I sat up over the fire
waiting till it was time to go and meet this train. I had another
hour on my hands, and as I did not like to draw his attention, in case of
his being still awake, to the fact of my sitting up, I had turned down the
lamp, and let the fire get low. It was not strange therefore that I
began to doze, and shortly to dream. I thought I saw my mother.
I have no recollections of her that do not present her as healthful,
joyous, and lovely. She died from the effects of an accident when
she was about forty-four years of age. I knew it was my mother, but
I did not see her face. She stood with her back to me, and she
seemed to be leaning over some one who sat in an easy-chair before the
fire. A girl I thought it was, and my mother had gathered some of
her long fair hair into her hand, and was plaiting it for her. I had
seen her do this for my sisters when they sat on a sea-beach, having dried
their hair after bathing, by leaving it loose in the wind. But as
she went on, and the braid got longer, she moved aside. I saw the
girl's face. It was yours! You took my mother's attention and
caresses very quietly.
'I have no other incident to relate to you—no account to give
of what so suddenly came upon me, but only this dream.
'I saw my mother's white hand pass softly over your shining
young head; and then as I looked at you again, I found to my astonishment
that I loved you; that you were my hope and my fate.
'I woke instantly and congratulated myself with strange
elation of heart. Yes, I did. You were so young, I thought you
would be sure to come to me. I had been delighted with you ever
since the day when you had come to Wigfield, and I had felt a very tender
interest about you before. I had left the station in the morning a
free man; I got back to it in the middle of the night as deeply in love as
a man can be who loves with scarcely any fear as to the success of his
suit. Do you wonder at me?'
'Yes; and at poor Tom, who would not in the end let himself
'No. I got to the station just in time, and when Clara
saw who met her, I think she felt she was mastered. I told her there
was no chance for her; that Mr. Graham was not aware of her coming—would
soon be on board the yacht. I told her I knew she was not a woman of
character. "No, sir," she answered, poor girl! "But," I said,
"your word, for anything I know, is to be depended on. Shall I trust
you?" "You will be a fool," she answered, "if you do."—Perhaps you
think that was an unsatisfactory answer?'
'Yes, and very impertinent.'
'I liked it. She might have answered, "Yes, sir."
"Well," I said, "I shall stand here for five minutes and read the paper.
I am inclined to think I shall trust you." I looked at her once; her
black eyes were flashing, hard and defiant. I went on reading.
When I looked again I saw that it would do, "I am going to trust you," I
remarked. "Very well, sir," she answered, with great reluctance.
"I am going to give you four hundred pounds, and you are going to promise
me solemnly that you will neither go within ten miles of Southampton for
two full years, nor communicate with Mr. Graham all that time, in any way
whatever." I thought two full years and four hundred pounds would
surely see her married, and cure him of such a disastrous infatuation.
"Two full years; that's a long time," was all the answer. I only
wished I had dared to propose a yet longer; and presently, with a sulky
air, she said, "I'll take three hundred, and say eighteen mouths."
So I was obliged to accept the promise, and she gave it so grudgingly that
I was sure she meant to keep it; which she did.
'I got back. Graham discovered nothing. I began
to feel a deep longing to get home again; but I knew Graham would not stir
till he had discovered Clara's absence from the cottage where she had
lodged. He telegraphed when she did not answer his letter, and found
this out. Then, sullen and miserable, and deaf to my request that he
would go back to Wigfield, he insisted on our running down to Southampton.
And there to my joy he could not find her, she was actually keeping faith
'We stayed there two days; then your uncle stood in, and we
went on board the yacht. I was very desirous to let him know the
state of affairs, and also to ask a favour of him, and get away home.
'That very afternoon, as we sat in the chief cabin at dinner,
it suddenly seemed to occur to Graham that I must have had something to do
with his discomfiture. And as he reflected he began to say very
galling things to me, which I tried to pass off; and this attracted your
uncle's attention; and made Graham more sure of his ground. But I
had two reasons, beyond the ordinary ones, for commanding my temper:
first, I felt he had guessed the truth; and next, I saw that he was
drinking a good deal of wine. We never mentioned Clara.'
Here the carriage stopped, and, I was told, by Mrs. Henfrey's
orders. She thought I should not be able to walk farther than this
point was from home. So we went back through the wood. All the
snow was gone, a delightful south-west wind was moving among the trees;
but I hardly cared to look about me, I wanted to hear the end of this, to
me, strange story, and I soon brought St. George to speak of Torn again.
'After dinner he took more wine, got first heated, then
insolent. The old man sat between us, aware that something was
wrong, and waiting to find out what it was. At last Graham informed
him that "old Mortimer's" reason for asking you down was, that we knew you
would have a large fortune, and I wanted to secure it for myself.
Then I flamed out. I might have known this was only said to enrage
me, and throw me off my guard, till he could accuse me of things more
real; but I had not the sense to keep my temper, and we began to storm at
one another, the old man filling Tom's glass as fast as he emptied it, and
listening to his now incoherent bluster with quiet gravity. We had
both risen by this time. Graham showed a great wish to get at me,
and taking your uncle by the arm they began to sway about together, the
old man keeping between us, and pushing me towards the door, till we
reached it. By that time I had said what trenchant words had been
burning in me for utterance, and when he told me to go into the after
cabin till he came to me I reached it in a high state of indignation,
while he kept Graham where he was.
'I felt as if I had never been in such a passion in my life;
it was something new to be accused of meanness and mercenary hypocrisy,
&c., &c.; and I sat down glowing with wrath, and yet I felt almost
directly that my position was perfectly ridiculous, for this had really
come upon me in consequence of my interference about Clara, and was meant
to punish me for that, and for nothing else. . . . . There is a very
pretty looking-glass in your cabin?'
'Draped about with lace and delicate with all sorts of
feminine surroundings? I saw a small work-basket, too, hanging up by
a hook,—a graceful little thing. And various other beautiful
possessions of yours were evident all about me.
'They made me tremble when I saw them with a great longing to
get home again; and I sat brooding over my newly-waked love till your
uncle came in again. "Now then," he exclaimed, "Tom's drunk,—a very
little wine gets into his head. Out with it all, man! What
does it mean?" So I told him.'
'And he thanked you, of course?'
'Yes; and I felt how hard Graham had made it to mention you.
But he went on,—"And as to my little girl, I suppose that's all
moonshine?" I soon undeceived him. I wonder what you will think if I
tell you his answer.'
'I should like to hear it'
'Perhaps I may tell it you then; it will do me neither good
nor harm; for if it marks his approval, which is something in my favour,
it links a certain advantage to it, and advantages, as I plainly perceive,
and as you have said, are not what reconcile you to things. He said,
"I shall give my little girl eight thousand pounds when she marries; but
if YOU can get her, I will leave her thirty thousand
I had no reply to make to this speech, and he presently went
on, 'In an hour or two I went on deck, and to my amazement we were out of
sight of land. "O Yes," Brand said, "master was running down to
Bordeaux about some wine." We soon ran down, but oh the beating up!
Such weather! We were sixteen days on that passage beating about the
Channel. Graham and I were soon reconciled, and he never asked me
one question. Your uncle was very kind; we suited one another well
enough. I almost always get on comfortably with an old man. We
landed at last, but I did not come home unwarned. Letters from my
stepfather and from sister were waiting for me at Mr. Rollin's hotel.
They confirmed my worst fears when I got home. Within a month I went
back to the old man, reported my failure, and he called me a fool for my
The carriage coming after us loaded with Walkers! Lou
got out and walked home with us, and Emily held up her boy to the window.
I was very tired when we reached the house, and was received by the
newcomers with a certain distinction which was certainly owing to my
somewhat mortifying circumstances. The two shabby little captains
soon went away to smoke with Valentine, and the ladies all streamed
up-stairs together into the nursery to introduce little Fred to Frances
and Nannette. All their toys were set out; but little Fred,
overpowered by the number of strangers, burst into a fit of crying, and
fought his aunts, and scowled at the children, till we all retired.
The Crayshaws were to appear soon, and I was ordered by Emily
to lie on my sofa till it was time to dress for dinner, that I might not
look tired and pale. I was not sorry to obey, for the walk had
fatigued me. Emily and Lou came in course of time, and chose among
my beautiful dresses what I should wear. They fixed on a silk dress
that looked yellowish by daylight, but which at night became a cream-like
white. I thought it would not suit me, but was not sorry for that,
because Valentine had said when alone with me that day that 'I was not
acting by him in the generous way he could have hoped,' and I made out,
not without some trouble, that he thought I was trying to attract him
again by my array!
So I let the cream-coloured gown go on, and the
faintly-tinged rose with it; then going up to the glass, secretly hoped
Valentine would not think it as becoming as I did.
My heart trembled a little when I entered the drawing-room,
and a very pretty delicate young woman met me with, 'Is this the rose of
England then—the white rose? I have so much wished to see her.'
Crayshaw was there also, looking handsomer than ever, as I
had time to observe when, after having spoken to me, he sat down between
Nannette and Frances, and tried to make them believe that they remembered
him. But, as if there was to be no end to the children, the baby
Crayshaw was shortly announced, and being forthwith taken from his nurse
by Valentine, began to crow and make himself agreeable, seizing Valentine
by the nose, and then trying to suck the buttons of his coat.
Crayshaw looked on, surprised at Valentine's audacity in daring to take a
baby; but desiring, as it seemed, to show himself a valiant man, he
presently received his son and heir himself; and holding him rather
tightly, made an effort to appear at his ease.
St. George, not at all taken in by it, proposed to take the
little thing himself, but Mr. Crayshaw was quite above that. What
another man could do he would dare, and he held his boy, while Giles
tickled the small nose with a feather; and the little creature, after
rubbing it with his dimpled fist, sneezed in the most natural manner
That was the strangest evening I ever spent. Our host
was changed back again to the man of my earlier recollections.
Valentine, having no lady to talk to, was sullen and discomfited; he
looked at me every now and then with an air of reproof which I hoped would
not be so evident to other eyes as to mine. In the mean time, Mrs.
Crayshaw and Emily, having merely exchanged glances, understood each other
perfectly, and Mrs. Crayshaw soon made her husband understand too; so that
as I sat by him and he talked of the old days and the yacht, I felt at
once that they supposed Mr. Brandon to be my lover,—that they approved,
and without saying one single word they would convey their thought to him,
and even manage to congratulate him.
Little Dick and Liz, accustomed to be often together, had now
suddenly discovered that they had nothing to talk about. And the two
young boys, neither of them more than thirteen, discoursed with perfect
gravity on the institutions of their country.
I was thankful when we got up-stairs; but as I sat by Emily,
and she comforted and rallied and tried to make me feel at ease, Lou said,
in passing us, 'The Oubit will want to sing to-night.'
'Why shouldn't he?' answered Emily; 'it won't hurt him.'
'He will ask Dorothea to play for him.'
'Tell him beforehand then,' said Emily to me, 'that you will
not do it.'
Valentine soon came up,—sat beside me. 'How lovely you
look, D. dear,' he said, 'and what a shame it all is!'
'If you address me again in that manner, I shall call you Mr.
Mortimer; and that reminds me I cannot play for you to-night, so don't ask
Valentine replied that I was very unkind,—very disagreeable,
and I knew he liked to sing, and could always sing, even if he could
hardly speak, and I knew also that none of them could accompany him
'Have you written to Lucy to-day?' I inquired.
'You are always asking me that; of course I have.'
At this moment the rest of the party came up. I hoped
they would not ask St. George to sing, being sure that if they did I
should be in request to play for him. I remembered how I had told
him to sing to his Margarita, and I felt that he was sure to remember it
They did ask him to sing; he, as I had expected, came up to
me. 'D. is so tired, she says she cannot play to-night,' said
'You have asked her'?' exclaimed Giles, with an air of
astonishment and reproof, but in a low voice.
'Yes,' said Valentine, quite surprised.
'I hope I shall never hear of your taking such a liberty
again,' said Giles, in a still lower tone. Then he went on to me, 'I
am almost afraid it will excite remark if you do not play once for me;'
and I, nervous and thinking more of Valentine than of him, replied, 'I
should not think of declining, of course.'
'Because I am your host?' he asked, as we went to the piano.
I made no answer. That was what I had meant. But
I soon knew that I had hurt him, without appeasing Valentine, who went and
sulked openly, in a place by himself. And I began to feel so much
that I had taken the wrong side, that it made me very conscious how little
my host cared to sing. He lost his place, and was nervous; he looked
dispirited, and I was so vexed with myself that when the song was over I
did not rise, but presently obliged myself to say to him, 'That song went
badly; I must play you a second to atone for the first.'
'Not as my guest then,' he whispered.
'No, as your friend,—and to atone.'
So now it was right with St. George, but it was all the more
wrong with Valentine; and it got worse, because the Oubit was very anxious
to sing himself, and everybody else wanted to hear St. George, and also,
as I could not but know, it amused and pleased them to see me playing for
him. I played four times, and each time he told me the story more
and more plainly, carrying out my own advice to him to the letter, and
making me very nervous lest others, including Valentine should feel and
perceive what he was doing.
'I knew you would not let me sing any more,' he said as I
closed the book; 'but at least you are my Margarita, my pearl—I was only
telling you so,'—
'I am afraid you are telling everybody else.'
'Delightful! Brandon,' said Mr. Crayshaw, coming up with
grave audacity. 'What a pity Miss Graham is not always here to
I went to bed that night to be haunted by a vision of
Valentine's displeased face, and the ghost of St. George's sigh when I
began to play for him.
I did not know what to do; but that was Wednesday. The
old doctor had paid me his last visit and said I might travel on Saturday,
if I pleased, I thought I had better do it, if they would let me, for I
could not please them all, and I hardly knew yet which I most wished to
please, or rather not to displease.
I knew the next morning. Mrs. Crayshaw, always
beautifully dressed, came down, and we were all arrayed, as is the way
with women, so as not to be outdone in taste if we could help it.
The unlucky blue dress, which Giles had declared it was dangerous to look
at, did a great deal of mischief that morning. He looked at it so
often, that Valentine's attention was attracted, and I saw on his face not
only that he did not like this, but even the dawn of a curious kind of
'Mrs. Crayshaw's nurse has been asking for plate powder,'
said Liz, coming into the morning-room about eleven o'clock,—'pink plate
powder. What can she want with it? She and Mrs. Crayshaw are
boxed up together.'
'Some jewels are to be cleaned perhaps,' said Mrs, Henfrey.
I soon discovered what they had wanted with it. St.
George and Mr. Crayshaw were walking about the garden together, and Smokey
beside them. When the latter came in, he presently went up-stairs,
and then they came down together. True to the customs of his nation,
Mr. Crayshaw was always grave and melancholy when saying anything
humorous, much more so than at other times, and his making us frequently
laugh, as he had done since he came, had been rather a relief, for
Valentine was far too crest-fallen to joke at all, and St. George hardly
seemed inclined for laughter.
When I saw Mr. Crayshaw come in with more than usual gravity,
I was therefore inclined to suppose that he had something droll to say,
especially as Mrs. Crayshaw followed with laughter in her eyes. I
was soon undeceived. She produced a pretty little gold chain with a
curious locket hanging to it,—a small locket in the shape of a heart.
She and her husband hoped I would accept it. The heart was of
wood,—a little piece of some hard dark American wood, highly polished; a
piece, she said, of one of the planks out of which they had made the raft.
Of course I accepted it. She put it round my neck. Would I
always wear it? I promised. It was a pretty little thing with
a gold rim, but it would not open; I tried it.
'But it will open,' she presently said; 'the inside's the
best part of it. George, go and find the key.'
George hesitated. 'Some other time,' he said; but after
various declarations on her part that she was sure I should forget to wear
it, and protestations on mine that I would not, the key was at last
fetched—a minute gold key.
'What's in it has a certain value,' said Mrs. Crayshaw; 'but
it's not a precious stone—not a stone at all.'
'Well, no,' said Mr. Crayshaw, 'it's what, here, they
sometimes call a brick.'
Emily immediately pricked up her head; nobody else was
present but sister.
'It's British,' he went on;—'I wish I could get this
open;—it's altogether British, but it's what we term true grit.'
'If you'll give it me,' I exclaimed, suddenly suspicious,
'and give me the key, I'll open it when I have an opportunity.'
'Ah, well, he went on, still poking at the lock, 'God never
made anything better worth having. But you must open it and look at
it pretty often, for there are some things that cannot live if they are
always kept in the dark. There!'
Open at last.
'Mrs. Crayshaw?' he said.
'I'll give you back the key, because this will want opening
St. George's face, of course; the portrait we had taken
ourselves—'He sweetly dreameth.' The walls of some of the bedrooms
were half covered with photographs; it was no difficult matter to get one.
'Now, what do you think of it?' he went on, with the greatest
gravity, holding it before me.
Neither Emily nor Mrs. Henfrey lifted up her face at all.
'It's not very often,' he went on, with melancholy gravity,
'that any one has a chance of such a possession. Mrs. Crayshaw never
'Did she ever tell you so?' asked Mrs. Crayshaw, and he
'Look at it again,' he said. I did.
'Well, now, you'll tell me what you think of it.'
I felt amazed at his still and gentle audacity; and he went
on, 'There's a certain beauty in it, and a good deal of power, and there's
a brooding tenderness in the eyes. There are some people, however,
in this world, that have never yet had any one thing that they most
Still I could find nothing to say.
'It's a fine thing,' he observed in a dispassionate tone, 'to
have it in our power to enrich a life—to give enough, and all that was
I believe I answered, 'Yes.'
'But,' he went on, 'some people are a long time before they
can believe that is their case; and when at last they have learned to
believe it, I have known some that spent so long thinking about it, that
all the grace of the gift,—indeed the opportunity of making it, altogether
Utterly deceived! perfectly wrong! He knew nothing
about me and Valentine, as was evident.
Just the same party at dinner that night. Valentine
having been shamefully complimentary to me, I was bent on not having to
play for him; but he was determined to sing, and he so managed matters
that I was obliged to do it once. Emily and Mrs. Crayshaw, however,
were far too clever to let that sort of thing go on. St. George was
soon put in his place, by particular desire of his guests, and I went on
playing for him sometime, not without a certain contentment, for I knew
that as long as I was so occupied they would hardly even look at me.
I wanted Valentine to be displeased, and he remained so all
that evening; but the next morning, to my dismay, as I sat writing
up-stairs in the drawing-room,—writing to Mr. Mompesson to come on
Saturday and fetch me, he came in. I observed that he had put on his
pious air, and I felt dreadfully disconcerted when he said seriously that
he wanted to speak to me; he had something of importance to say.
He was so deteriorated, ever since he had come home, that I
should hardly have known him for the frank-hearted fellow I used to be so
'No,' I answered; 'I would rather not hear it, Valentine.'
'But,' he continued, 'I feel it to be my duty to warn you of
this, because it would disturb you very much, I know, if it occurred.'
This not being in the least like anything I could have
anticipated, curiosity triumphed, and I went and sat on a sofa near him.
'It's not about myself,' he went on; and I decided to hear it.
'It's—it's about St. George;' and, as he spoke, leaning on
the chimney-piece, he took up a small china vase, and out of mere
embarrassment because his hand trembled, he let it slip, and it fell into
the fender, and smashed itself into twenty pieces.
A curious sort of shame in his face, and this awkwardness,
made me see that he really had something important to say, and I thought
it could not well be anything unworthy because it concerned his brother.
'You have been so generous, and so gentle, since I came home,
and somehow, D. dear, you are so much handsomer than I expected, that you
have more than once—I do not deny it—made me waver in my allegiance to
'No more of this!' I exclaimed; 'if you are unmanly enough to
feel so, you would not be ridiculous enough to say it, if you knew what it
makes me think of you.'
'That,' he replied, 'was only by way of opening. You
need not be so warm. I'm coming to St. George, and you know he is a
very clever fellow.'
'My father used to hope that some day he would get into
Parliament and distinguish himself.'
'Well, Valentine?—this is an odd beginning.'
'I shouldn't like to stand in his light,' said the Oubit,
looking almost sheepish; 'I shouldn't like to think that what I've done
would be any disadvantage to him.'
I wondered what he was thinking of now, and more when he
'Giles has never had any attachment, you know—any particular
attachment, as I have.'
'Why, of course,' he continued, arguing partly with himself
and partly with me, 'if he had I must have known it. He's always
been so jolly too, so sure things would come right, and so disgusted if a
fellow ventured to be sentimental. A man who finds his pleasure in
adventure, in knocking about the world, and public speaking, and politics,
passes over domestic matters lightly. Love, so important to some
men, and to most women, he could soon tread down and push away even if it
'You are curt this morning.'
'Because you made me suppose you really had something
important to say, and now you are merely occupying the time with a
dissertation on your brother's character.'
'But that's what I want to say—he—in spite of all that, he
has a vein of chivalry in his thoughts about women, which sways him so
much that I believe—yes, I almost believe—if he thought any one—or indeed
I—was what I wanted to tell you—'
'Do go on, Valentine; what can it be?'
'I believe if he thought my having thrown you by,—and I'm
sure I beg your pardon,—I believe he has such a chivalrous nature, that,
rather than such a thing should be any disadvantage to you, he would
propose to marry you himself.'
For the moment I felt as if Valentine's idea of what St.
George might do was more noble than what he had done. 'Are you in
earnest?' I exclaimed; 'do you mean this? Does it at all occur to
you to consider what a noble generous nature you are imputing to him?' and
he blushed and looked so sheepish, that I was impelled to go on: 'You need
not suppose, however, that any such disadvantage will accrue to me.
I do not see that your fault reflects itself upon me in any way whatever.'
Valentine's face shocked me so then, both for old affection's
sake, and from present deterioration, that I burst into tears, for I was
so ashamed of him—it seemed so plain from his manner that he knew he was
'And so,' he went blundering on, 'as I felt that after all
you have a constant nature, not affected by my inconstancy (which I could
not help) I felt that it was my duty to warn you, so that you might not be
annoyed by an offer that naturally would hurt you—your sense of what was
due to yourself; for, as you have said, this has been no disadvantage to
you; and I am sure you would never wish to be a disadvantage to him, poor
'Stop!' I burst out as soon as I could speak; 'I can't bear
you to make me despise you so!'
'What!' he answered, not able to fire up in the least, but
more than ever crest-fallen and ashamed of himself, 'can you really think,
D.—do you really suppose that I was trying to keep you mine, in case I
should fail with Lucy?'
'If you are not,' I replied, crying heartily,—'if such a
thought never entered your head, say so like a gentleman,—like a man, and
I will believe you.'
He blustered a little, and tried to get off with some
protestations as to the high respect he felt for me, but he, could not say
what I had asked of him; and when I inquired how he could presume to talk
to me of constancy, he, very cross, and very much out of countenance too,
replied, that he only wanted me to be warned in time.
'You are determined to drive me out of his house,' I
exclaimed; 'and the very first day that I can, you may depend on it I
'He certainly will make you an offer,' cried Valentine.
'But perhaps,' he added, with a sudden flash of astonishment, which
probably arose from some new reflection on what Giles had looked or
said,—'perhaps he has done that already.'
'No,' I answered,—sure for once of what he was, and what the
other was not,—he is very good, and very noble, but this he has not done.
If he had, it would be no affair of yours.'
'Then he will,' said Valentine angrily, 'I know he will;' and
I, deciding then and there what should be and what must be if he did,
'Then, IF HE does, I shall accept him.'
I had never felt so astonished in my life, and it was at
And I meant it all too; but it was scarcely spoken when,
drying away the tears from my face, I beheld Mrs. Crayshaw and Giles
advancing into the room, and talking as they came.
One instant, and less, was enough to show her Valentine's
confusion and my tears, and without changing her voice, she seemed to go
on as with a sudden thought. 'But you must let me go and see my baby
first;' and so she turned, and quietly leaving the room she shut the door
behind her, while Giles, advancing to the sofa, laid his hand on the high
end of it, and exclaimed, with considerable indignation,—'This is the
second time you have offended in this way. What have you dared to
say to Dorothea?'
Valentine did not answer a single word; but I knew I had no
power over him. When he did speak, he could say what he chose.
But Giles I could do something with to prevent their
quarrelling; so I laid my hand down on his, and kept it there.
He could not well move away then; but in a high state of
indignation he again demanded of Valentine how he had dared to annoy me.
And the Oubit, instead of answering, looked at him, and while he looked
his handsome face changed, till I thought I saw again the better, sweeter
expression of his boyhood. His good angel, perhaps, was pleading
with him; and when Giles broke out into invectives, and said several angry
and bitter things, he not only could not answer, but a kind of joy
appeared in his face, and then there came the frank beautiful blush that I
had several times so much admired.
He looked his brother full in the face, waiting till he
should pause, and still leaning on the mantelpiece. And I, keeping
my hand in its place, wondered how much of the truth had dawned an him,
and wondered what he would say; but when he did speak, oh how displeased I
'It's only three months,' be began, 'since first I saw Lucy,
and we've kissed each other dozens and dozens of times—'
'How dare you! how dare you!' exclaimed Giles, stung to the
quick, and glowing with passionate indignation that almost seemed to choke
him. 'What object can you have in saying this to me, unless you know
how I shall feel under it?'
I put my other hand to his, and with both of them held it
gently in its place. I felt how wildly the pulse went. 'Don't
quarrel,' I entreated. 'Now, Valentine, say the rest of it.'
Valentine had been arrested by surprise.
'You have always been careless,' Giles burst out. 'You
have been heartless lately; but I have deserved better of you than that
you should torment me in this way, and you know it. Do you think
either that there is no one in the world whom I love better than myself,
or that I will suffer any words from you that are meant for the least
disparagement of her!'
Whatever dawning suspicions may have been awakened in
Valentine's breast were so immensely over-justified by this outburst of
complete betrayal, this absolute throwing away of reserve on the part of
Giles, that for the moment he stood amazed.
'Well, Valentine?—well, Valentine?' I repeated.
'Don't be angry, old fellow,' said Valentine, advancing a
step or two, and speaking with the gentleness they sometimes used to one
another when either was irritated,—'Don't be angry, hear me out.
That young lady' (looking at me)—'I am not to address her by the old name
now, it seems, and I have not yet thought of another—I told you I had
kissed Lucy many times—but I never kissed that young lady in my life,
Giles—never once—never! no, never.'
Giles heaved up a mighty sobbing sigh,—he was not master of
the situation; he had pinned his heart upon his sleeve at last, and for
the moment it had seemed that this 'daw' had pecked at it!
Generous people, though they may be wholly on the right side
of any quarrel, sometimes feel keenly any little wrong they may have done
in the small details of it. Giles, trying to calm himself, presently
said, 'I beg, your pardon.'
'What for?' Valentine inquired.
Giles was now rather holding my hand than I his.
'What for?' Valentine repeated.
'I need not have been so angry; and last night, it seems, I
need not have been so hard upon you. I did not understand that was
'Do you mean that I did not understand? That was not my
fault, Giles, was it? But you are always so reserved.'
Then, while Giles stood stockstill, trying to overcome his
temper and his surprise, the Oubit came and sat down near and opposite to
'You shouldn't have let me do this to you,' he said gently,
but almost reproachfully; 'and perhaps it has been going on a long
time—perhaps even my father knew of it.'
Then Giles making no answer, his eyes seemed to be opened
more and more. 'Did he, D. ?' was his inquiry.
'I think so.'
'You have been very generous to me,' continued Valentine,
becoming more and more his old self every instant. 'Curious,' he
went on, lifting up his face as if to think,—'very curious! You gave
up to me all,—so that I might have married her and never have known.
And yet nothing short of all would have given you back all as you have it
now; for,' he continued, with his own remarkable frankness, 'it would not
have been in human nature, Giles, to have neglected her, forgotten her,
and thrown her by, for another woman, if I had known that another man was
waiting for her, even though that man had been you. No; I feel now
that the least opposition would have kept me true. Ask him to
forgive me, D.'
'I do not think he had anything to forgive you for
By this time they were both very hard put to it to preserve
that mastery over emotion, or rather the appearance of that absence of
emotion, so dear to the pride of an Englishman.
It is astonishing in how short a time the most important
affairs can be transacted, and how little dignity there is in
conversations on which depend the most important event in some of our
Set and sustained sentences there were none then; only a
great outbreak, a sudden subduing of it, a certain thing discovered, a
little broken evidence of affection,—all the rest taken for granted; then
the grasp of two hands, and the younger of the party turned round
half-choked, and 'bolted.'
I would fain call his exit by a grander name, if I could with
the least approval of my conscience; but if men will be so very much
ashamed of showing their feelings even to their own brothers, they must
either run away, or be comforted, as I endeavoured to comfort Giles, by
putting my cheek down also on his hand and kissing it.
THE next day the
Crayshaws departed, and when St. George found I had arranged to be fetched
away on Saturday, he was at first unreasonably vexed.
My situation, however, had been eminently uncomfortable almost ever since
Valentine's return; now it was comical besides.
The first time I met him after the scene in the drawing-room, he threw
himself into a chair and exhausted himself with laughter. 'No,' he
exclaimed; 'I never
hoped to see this day! There is no misfortune in this world that I could
not be consoled for, by the fun of seeing Giles make a muff of himself—Giles in love!'
It never was of the slightest use being angry with Valentine, but I felt
that to remain under his eyes any longer was quite impossible.
In the afternoon came what Valentine had predicted. When Giles found I
would go, he said that to offer his hand so soon was, he felt, to give
himself no chance of its being accepted. I replied that he was right, and
that I could not think of such matters at present. Whereupon he
immediately did make an offer in set terms, giving much the same reasons
for this that Valentine had mentioned. I did decline it. This did not
seem to disturb him at all. He said he meant to tell Dick
à Court, and
perhaps Miss Braithwaite, as a great secret, that he had been refused, and
then it would
become known in the neighbourhood. He believed he must have made this
proposal even if he had not loved me.
'And now,' he went on, 'I ask you, as the greatest favour possible, to
reflect, seriously, on the many disadvantages of the marriage that I hope one day to propose to you again.'
'Yes; as you remarked yourself, the disadvantages are sometimes what
reconcile. (They satisfy, I suppose, the craving for self-sacrifice.)
I thought it was very sweet of you.'
'You have many singular thoughts! But I had better hear the
'There's my temper,—I am afraid my temper is sometimes rather stormy.'
'Is it? I shall not allow you to call that a disadvantage—not an attractive one at least. I do not like a man to be so tame
that he cannot fire up on any occasion whatever.'
'Then I am so ugly.'
'You don't think so yourself.'
'Some allowance must be made for the self-conceit of man.'
'And nobody else does.'
'That shows their bad taste.'
'And I don't.'
'You don't! I understood that you did, and I have been hideously ugly
'All this is because I once said that portrait of you was flattered.'
'Yes, that blue-eyed muff, as Emily called it. Nobody but the dear old
man could bear the sight of it.'
'If you cannot think of any better disadvantages than these,—'
'You will be obliged to point them out yourself? But I can. There is my
having no profession.'
'That is one, I confess. I wonder how it came to pass?'
'It came first from my mother and Mr. Mortimer being so desirous that I
should take orders. I did not feel that "call" which the English office
makes indispensable, and I knew very well that my mind was too active to
rest satisfied in the steady fixed routine of a
clergyman's life, with little chance of roving. So they sent me to travel,
while, as they thought, I made up my
mind. Then it came, secondly, from my having, as soon as I was of age,
about eight hundred pounds a year, and discovering that if my time was
given in addition to that money, and I bought bits of land here and there,
I could help people over to them. As long as I remained unmarried, I
expected to make a regular occupation of that.'
'Surely you cannot have settled all those people that I know of with
eight hundred a year! How little my uncle has effected in the world with
almost seven thousand.'
'Some few things that I have written have brought in money also; but while
Mr. Mortimer lived I had no more income. Now it is about doubled.'
'Is it too late then to have some regular occupation or profession?'
'Certainly not; the thing is half-arranged already. I found I must have
regular work, when coming home after rushing about the world on purpose to
forget you, I thought I had managed to do it to a great degree, and was
undeceived by being with you for a few days. You are afraid of cows, you
know,—cows with long horns. I was despicably near betraying myself when
I had to remain and take care of you then! If I had—How strange it was
of Valentine to say those words to me yesterday!—I think they were true.'
I felt that they had been true: it was security that had made him
neglectful; and this he never would have had, had he known of his
Giles went on,—'Sometimes I wonder what became of the ring I gave you.'
'It is at the bottom of the sea. I told Valentine that you had given me a
ring for a remembrance when
first we were acquainted. I thought also that he told
you everything. So when we were engaged, I wished him to know this that he
might think nothing of it, and you that you might not think I carelessly
neglected to wear it.'
'At the bottom of the sea, is it?'
'Yes. We lay at anchor in a lovely little cove, and they were taking in
water. I was leaning over the
bulwarks looking at the superb pale cliffs like shafts of cinnamon, and at
the clear blue water, so deep and yet showing the wonderful sea flowers,
the pink and orange anemones, spreading below. I had on a chain and a
locket hanging to it, with a little piece of my mothers
hair within, and that ring. And as I looked down and down, and saw the
swaying of the long leaves of dulse, the chain slipped from my neck,
flashed like a gold snake into the water, and seemed to eddy down under
layers of the dulse. The people spent two days in
trying to find it. Such wonderful creatures and plants and shells came up
by drags and in buckets, but not my
locket and my ring. No wonder, for it was below the
tide line, and the water was forty feet deep. This was
on the coast of South America. It was the only morsel
of our mother's hair that we had. Tom made a dot on the chart to show the
exact latitude and longitude where these treasures went down.'
'Valentine never told me that.'
I was working in the morning room while we talked thus. He presently began
to speak of the Mompessons; two or three tears had dropped on my hand, for
his manner so gentle and easy, and his face so full of hope and happiness,
touched me more now than any sorrow
of my own. But he loved far too much. I could not answer this love, and I
wanted—I knew I wanted to get away from him and rest.
I could not say anything so unkind, but I did say how much I wanted Tom,
and asked him to try if he could not be a brother to me.
He answered, 'We have caused you nothing but misery, both Valentine and
'But you do not want to forget?'
'No; and if I would, I could forget nothing.'
'For the sake of which brother, then, Dorothea, are you content to
remember the other?'
'I am not so ungrateful as you think, nor so undiscerning.
I am not willing to forget you on any term—on any terms whatever!'
'If that be so,' he answered, 'I will venture to ask you one question
more: Have you any wish that you could care more for me? should you be
glad to love me if you could?'
Perhaps that was a singular question to ask; but, however that may be, it
was a question that I found suitable, and to which I could answer frankly,
'Then,' he answered gravely and gently, 'I will teach you to love me, my
sweet, if you will let me.'
Our circumstances were most peculiar. I felt it, and was never equal to
the making of philosophical reflections; I am not equal to that sort of
thing now; but I know that when I heard those words, I was exceedingly
glad—very much comforted. I saw no evidence of over self-esteem in them,
nothing but a confidence not at all misplaced.
Saturday came. I had a terror upon me of leave-taking; not even the
servants could I think of speaking
to and shaking hands with, without alarm. As to Valentine, it made me
nervous to think what I could say
to him. Emily found this out, and Giles knew it by
instinct. Soon after breakfast they got me to put my out-of-doors dress on
and step into the garden with
them. A few primroses were in flower already and the
snowdrops. When we had reached the wood, Emily
kissed me and retired. Sister and Liz soon came up, stood talking a few
minutes, then they also found occasion to kiss me, and went away.
'We are not going back into the house any more,' said Giles; 'the
carriage will come in about an hour to the corner of the wood—Emily in
'Oh, how kind of you to think of this! how considerate you all are!'
He brought me up the slope to that little one-roomed cottage where I had
spent such a bitter morning. The
sun was warm upon its small casement. I went in and saw again the wicker
couch, and the white embers as we had left them. And then, just as
Valentine had done long ago in the railway carriage, he asked me to
give him a kiss. I replied, 'You promised to teach me
to love you. If I can learn, it will be time enough for
that.' Thereupon drawing nearer he immediately took me in his arms and
kissed me on the lips and cheeks. The first sensation of astonishment
over, I released myself from him (as soon as he would let me), and
exclaimed involuntarily, 'Valentine told you that he never did anything of
'Then I hope he never saw your sweet face cover itself with such blushes,'
he answered, with a low laugh of heartfelt amusement. 'But that was an
extraordinary circumstance; I wonder how it happened.'
I replied, 'It happened partly because I never should have thought of
'How did you prevent it?' he inquired with gentle deference, as he pulled
the couch forward for me to sit on.
'I made a compact with him at first. I said he was not to be—absurd.'
'You did? But sit down, my Margarita, my pearl,
and tell me about this. You know it is my last day with you.'
He had pushed the couch into a sunny place, then he brought a long piece
of matting, by way of a carpet for me, and chose to kneel on it, with his
elbow on the seat of the couch, and look up. Something of the beauty I had
seen when we two watched for Valentine in the night, had dawned upon his
face. That strange fancy about a loveliness and sweetness which his own
heart supplied, made him look as if he had got up into some higher and
happier sphere. There was nothing for it but either to weep, or to rally
my spirits and
laugh. I chose the latter, and said, 'I shall not say another word till
you get up.'
'Why not? why should I not be here?' he answered, and laughed also.
'Because—partly because I do not care to see you make yourself
'What! are you sensitive about my making myself ridiculous?'
'A pleasant hearing! But to make themselves ridiculous in this fashion
is natural to mankind.—How charming it is to me to see you blush!—Do
tell me about that compact.'
'I shall not say another word till you rise and sit on the chair.'
'This sofa will do as well; I may sit beside you—Valentine never once
kissed you! What could he mean by it?'
This was not by any means the view I had intended him to take of
Valentine's conduct; but I had declined his homage, and I was to be
'I said to you that I should not have chosen to allow it,' I replied.
'Sweet little peremptory voice! Valentine knew what he was about when he
told me that. And all this talk, too, is like Enchanted English—it floats
to me with a comforting charm. This is a delightful hour, Margarita?'
'Considering how badly that plan answered, I can hardly be expected to
follow it. I must look at his conduct in that particular as a warning.'
'He did not say I had never kissed him. I did once, because it was
'Necessary? You are a strange creature—strange
as sweet. Tell me why it was necessary.'
I told him, and he pondered over the little narrative for a while, saying,
'He had told me several times before that day that he knew you loved him.
I treated it with scorn always; that day I went and fetched him home and
told him he was right.—Well, this is something like a confidence on your
part: people only talk confidentially to those whom they trust.'
'I suppose not
'Did you talk so to Valentine when first you and he were friends?'
'Why do you hesitate and look so delightfully, shy? I have never thought
you shy. Does this place disturb
you with recollections? I hate to think it was here I refused to do
the one thing you asked of me.'
'Yes, I wondered at that: I asked you to pray or me.'
'And how could I do it? I could not send up such a lie to Heaven.
I could not pray at all in your hearing without gross
hypocrisy, when I knew that, even with no hope on my own account, I found
the failure of that marriage such a respite, such a reprieve.'
'As you could not do that, you are going to grant me a favour now.'
'Yes, I am; what is it?'
'You are going to try faithfully and earnestly to see
through the glamour with which you have invested me;—all this beauty and
sweetness that you have invented yourself. I should prefer that you would see me as I
am—with such good qualities as I have, and not these.'
'Very well,' he answered, and folding his arms, as it seemed, between
joke and earnest, he began to look at me quietly and attentively. I soon
found that I had done no good by this request of mine. Moreover, looking
at him from time to time, it seemed, strangely enough, that his whole face
and figure, his voice and his words, were fast acquiring a beauty and an
interest that I had never found in them before.
'And these good qualities that you really have,' he said at last, 'may I
hear what they are, my pearl? What is your "favourite Virtue"?
tell me that I may admire and cherish it.'
'Certainly,' I answered; 'lest, when you find out your mistake, you should
under-estimate me, for a change. I can be docile and faithful; I am not
unreasonable in my requirements; and I never forget.'
He looked at me. 'These shall be added,' he replied, 'and I will, since
you wish it, try to feign you other
than you are. In return I ask you what you think you should feel in my
'How can I tell? I flatter myself that I am without illusions as regards
'Ah, you laugh.' Then changing his manner, 'You are very fond of little
'Yes, I love them.'
'Can you feign yourself in the place of some poor woman who, being in
prison, sees her child outside, and hears it cry, in another woman's arms? Do you think that hers would ache for it,—specially if that other
neglected it, starved it, and was cruel? Can you feign
yourself in the place of such a woman? If you can, how would you feel in
the place of a man whose dearest object in life had eluded his grasp
before he had felt the comfort of expression and avowal? Think how
impatience and regret and long restraint would wound
and wear him. Can you tell how such a man would feel if he saw the
blessing that his nature craved carelessly used or roughly hurt by its owner? If you can, then do you also
think that when, as through some blissful enchantment, contrary to all
sober hope, he found this being that he loved flung away, and lying on his
breast, he would weary of holding her there? Or would he find in her a
long consolation—a once
forbidden thing made holy and right for him? Would he comfort her for what
she had lost? would he be
patient with her regrets for the past? Tell me whether he would, and
whether you can sympathize with him?'
Silence then. And soon after the grating of the
carriage wheels at the corner of the wood. We went
together to it, and so on to the station. Emily was
within. St. George and I were both absolutely silent; and when he had put
us into the carriage to go on together to the junction, where we were to
meet Mr. Mompesson, he took leave of me with scarcely a word.
That same evening I entered my new home. Such a quiet, pleasant home; such
a comfortable, easy, and indulgent hostess; and such an affectionate host! There was nothing to do, and I entered on a willing course of idleness,
which it still surprises me to think
of. Nature is evidently sometimes in need of repose
my nature certainly wanted it; and I need to lie on the sofa for hours, in
the gay little drawing-room, reading some book that amused me, or doing a
piece of fancywork. Also I had a letter,—a remarkably long letter, which
I often read over; the only real love letter I
ever received. It was put into my hand at the station, and being written
in a clear, round hand was easy to read, wonderful to ponder on, and very
convincing as well as comforting.
I had pictured to myself that I should be so useful in the house, act like
a daughter, save trouble to my kind hostess, and read aloud in the evening
to my old friend. Nothing of the sort happened. Mrs. Mompesson had lately
lost her two elder children by fever; the other two were delicate, and
were kept very much in one
temperature. I used to pity them sometimes, and go into their nice airy
nursery to tell them stories, when the day was not fine enough for them to
go out of doors; but beyond this, and doing a little needlework for Mrs. Mompesson, I do not think I undertook any kind of useful occupation, and I
soon perceived that no species of exertion was required of me.
The only day of the week when I felt restless was Tuesday, because then I
always had a letter from Mr. Brandon. It was not a love letter,—so he
always said, for I had made an agreement with him that he was to write in
a brotherly fashion, and try to be reasonable. These letters were very
interesting, very amusing to me, and a great resource; but the better I
liked them, the harder it was to answer. This cost me a great deal of
thought, and evidently betrayed to him the fact that absence was
obliterating that intimate ease which we had begun to feel in one
society. I began to feel afraid of him, and my letters through February
and March grew shorter and more reserved constantly.
But the second week in March saw me suddenly, almost in one day, quite
well, perfectly active, and as strong as ever. The sofa was intolerable. I
began to teach the children, take long walks with them, and
wonder why it was that I had been so inert. I began also to copy out Mr. Mompesson's sermons for him in a clear hand. This was a duty that his wife
had long performed, but she was very glad to hand it over to me; and it
was soon made more interesting, by his dictating them to me in the
morning, instead of composing them in his study and giving me the
manuscript. His sight was not good, and his handwriting being small, he
could not read it in the pulpit.
On the second Tuesday in April there was no letter. The perversity of
human nature being very great, I was disappointed. Still I thought it must
be because Giles would shortly appear; and I went out into the 'landslip,' and walked with the children among the green trees, all
delicate with their freshly-opening leafage.
As I walked on the narrow pathway, lost in pleasant thoughts, a gentleman,
whom I had not looked at, stepped aside to let me pass; and when I moved
carelessly by, a delightful voice said, 'Dorothea.' I looked
up at him. No pretence of shyness could survive such an unpremeditated
meeting: before there was time to consider he had expressed his delight at
meeting me, and I had shown him my delight at seeing him again.
We turned back, and walked homeward with the children. There was always an
early dinner, but if Mrs. Mompesson had not expected a guest that day, I
felt that I was very much mistaken; and if Mr. Mompesson had not put on
his best coat, and otherwise furbished himself up, I felt that my eyes
It was nearly four o'clock before we left the dining-room. Then Giles
said he had brought some papers to
be signed. He had been made my trustee under the marriage settlement which
never was completed, and my uncle now wanted to take back some property
that had been made over to him for my benefit. I think this was the
account he gave of his errand, and he went
away telling me he should return in the evening. It was warm and fine, the
French window was open, and I was sitting by it, when, in the gathering
saw him returning. He seemed unwilling to startle me,
and did not enter till I spoke. What a little while it was since he had
read me Valentine's letter! Yet I was not now ashamed to feel that my
heart had turned to him, and in my silent thoughts I vowed him a life-long
fealty, and gave him my love and allegiance for evermore.
Finding that he did not speak, but stood looking at me, as the moon pushed
up a little rim from the sea, and shone on us with a yellow feeble light,
I mentioned Valentine for the first time, and asked about his affairs.
He answered, 'I said to you this morning that I had come on business. I
meant to have unfolded it all, but
changed my mind. It concerns Valentine. It is high time that
he should think of sailing.'
'I have seen Lucy again.'
'She will sail too?'
'On what does it depend, and on whom?'
'But I gave my full consent long ago, and I wrote to her. What more can I
'What do you think? She cannot make up her mind that she shall not wrong
you by such a marriage.'
'I can but assure her that it is not so.'
'She is not easy to persuade; she is thoughtful, and I like and admire
her. She would improve and elevate Valentine, and I suppose she loves
'And you believe that he really loves her?'
'And he must not risk another winter in England?'
'No. And I promised you that I would promote their marriage. She did
indeed suggest a proof of your contentedly resigning Valentine, that it
was possible you might one day give. She said it would be enough, and I
considered that her words gave me a right to invade your quietude before
the time you had mentioned. The real proof of Valentine's being free would
be your becoming engaged to another man.'
As he said no more, I presently observed, with a certain demureness,
that I thought such a proof ought to satisfy any woman.
'What may I say to her?' he asked.
'Unless you can think of a more appropriate answer, you may say that
(entirely, of course, for her sake) I will take the first opportunity that
presents itself of obliging her.'
I could hardly believe it, when, an hour after this, the candles coming
in, I took occasion to look at the pearl ring that I had got on my finger.
It had seemed natural enough while we were alone together that I should be
engaged again; and I felt that the kind of deference which was habitual
with him gave him power and mastery far more than any of his reasons and
persuasions,—more, indeed, than anything but the love itself which now
he had scarcely skill either to conceal or to express.
Considering that he was a little inclined to be jealous now and then, a
little unreasonably vexed when it occurred to him that I had lately been
quite willing to marry some one else, it was a very fortunate circumstance
for me that just at first we had a good deal to do: letters to write to
Anne Molton, letting her know what of my possessions she was to send me
home, what she might keep for herself, and what was to be the property of
Mrs. Valentine Mortimer; letters to my uncle and to Tom, these latter
being copied and sent to three different ports, as their best chance of
Then I wrote to Lucy, and to Lucy's mother, and St. George
superintended—made suggestions now and then, which I copied in; and so
when we read the letters aloud afterwards, we discovered that the grammar
was confused, and that fresh letters must be undertaken. He also wrote to
Valentine several times, setting forth his views as to what would be
the best line of action for him to take; but in these last a feminine
instinct warned me to show as little interest as possible.
I had presently shoals of letters from the family, full
of love and congratulations. Dick à Court, also, as hoping soon to be
one of the family, wrote, and delivered his soul of various earnest
reflections on life, and love, and duty. I found it very difficult to
answer this effusion from my future husband's future step
brother-in-law. Giles, however, read it, and said Dick was a dear good
fellow, and that, next to commanding intellect, he thought there was
nothing so attractive as
honest and sober dulness. So I answered it in the light of that opinion,
and began to share it.
Sometimes Giles had to go away for a few days. I should have been almost
perfectly happy when we were together, but for his now and then choosing
to talk of
marriage. I was nervous still about this, and could not bring myself to
believe that I ever should be married. I would not hear of such things as
bridesmaids, a cake, wedding guests, wedding presents. I soon brought
Giles to agree that none of these alarming adjuncts should come near me.
Though I had no intention of hurrying my own wedding, I considered that
Lucy and Lucy's mother were very unreasonably slow in making up their
minds; and the more delicate Valentine became, the more tardy they were in
fixing a day.
Mrs. Mompesson seemed to think this very natural, and one morning being
called to our counsel by Giles, I observed her looking so very grave over
one of Mrs. Nelson's letters that I begged her to tell us what she thought
She thought it seemed uncommonly like breaking the whole thing off.
were both very young—their means were not large—his health was so
delicate; but she would consult her brother-in-law, and had no doubt he
would agree with her to allow it.'
I was very much vexed with Mrs. Nelson, not only for poor Valentine's
sake, but because anything which seemed to threaten uncertainty as to his
prospects made me feel that St. George was inclined to be jealous still. I
was sometimes quite hurt, and often a little displeased, that he could
dare to be jealous; but I would not venture to say anything on the subject. I wanted to ignore the feeling
altogether, till I should have made him quite forget that he had ever
In the mean time I was perfectly aware that new papers and paint, with
certain renewings of carpets and hangings, were in progress at Wigfield. I
remarked to Giles that it was early days to think of these things yet,
with any reference to me; and he replied much as Valentine had done, only
with gentlemanlike deference, that 'time would show;' he thought it behooved him, he remarked, to have his house ready at any time, as ours
was not like an ordinary engagement.
'In what respect?' I asked.
No preparations were needed,—no guests were to attend,—my trousseau,
filling many boxes, was already at Wigfield,—we had no one to consult: it
was evident that I could be married whenever I pleased. 'As
the settlements,' he went on, 'I told your uncle what possessed when
first I hoped to win you; and he said then what he should wish me to
settle on you.'
On the afternoon when he talked thus he was going away, partly to
superintend some alterations at Wigfield, and partly to consult with Dick,
who, having come into about eighty pounds a year, thought with the
thousand that Liz was to have, and his curacy, that they might
set up housekeeping; and as sister said they could not, and Emily was
indignant at the very idea, Dick wanted to go abroad, get a chaplaincy
somewhere in India, or go to Australia.
I felt very sorry for them all when I got his first letter. Mrs. Nelson
had now distinctly proposed that the young people should, wait two years;
at the end of which time she hoped Valentine's health would be
restored. Lucy had consented with as much docility, and it seemed as much
contentment, as if Valentine's life, health, and love were all secured to
her by special
contract with Heaven. Valentine, on the other hand,
was in a fury. He had been allowed to believe that the whole thing
depended on me; he was incensed with Mrs. Nelson, deeply hurt with Lucy,
and the summer
weather having now come on, and brought his summer health with it, he
desired to go and show himself at once at Derby. But this Mrs. Nelson
declined; he was to wait awhile. All this was detailed to me by Giles and
Mrs. Henfrey by letter; and I could not but think that his health was what
really alarmed Mrs. Nelson, for she had not shown any remarkable delicacy
about appropriating him on my account; all this had come from the
I wrote to Giles begging that he would exhort Valentine
to patience, and also to importunity. In the mean time I took
everything very easily myself, and when Giles came back and declared that
it the Nelsons
would not let Valentine marry at once, he would give up this engagement
also, I could not believe it; such a thing would so cover him with
ridicule; besides he loved Lucy, and she was supposed to love him.
Giles took me out for a walk, and presently, as we sat on a lovely grass
slope looking out to sea, he began to ask me to fix the time for our
I begged him to leave it for a time. I could not believe that it would
really take place, and wanted to
rest in the peace and happiness of the present. But this view he did not
share, and at last I proposed a day,—a distant one certainly,—and he
was so dissatisfied
with it that I asked him what his own views were. He replied, and laughed,
that he thought next Wednesday would be a good day.
'Next Wednesday!' I exclaimed in amazement 'why, this is Thursday.'
But there was no preparation needed, he replied, and the lovely white
dress I had on would surely do to be married in. Wednesday had always been
his favourite day; he should like to be married on a Wednesday.
I began to look at my white gown; and he, choosing to consider that I was
yielding to his arguments, began to press me further, till, becoming
extremely nervous, I begged him to desist, and confessed how completely
the notion that something (I could not shape to myself any idea what)
would certainly intervene to prevent
the marriage. It was the only remnant of the terror and suspense I had
gone through, and when he reasoned with me it became more vivid, till at
last he asked what I could possibly suppose would intervene. It must be a
presentiment of death, he remarked; nothing else could part us. No; it was not death; I could
give no account of it. He wished to persuade me that it was nothing but a
nervous fancy, that the longer I indulged it the worse it would become.
What could possibly put it into his head, I inquired, that I would be
married so soon. Next Wednesday
indeed! And though he argued the matter all the way home, and laughed a
good deal over it, yet, as it had been proposed only half in earnest, he
gave it up with a very good grace. But the next morning when he came to
see me, I could not help observing that he was out of spirits,—so much
out of spirits, that I really
did not like to ask him the reason. We went to walk in the 'landslip,'
and sat down, and then he told me what was the matter. He had got a letter
from Valentine; Mrs. Nelson declined to make any change as to the two
years that he was to wait; he had positively refused to wait, and she had
accordingly desired that he would return her daughter's letters and give
up the engagement; which he had done!
I was more than disturbed at this, I was even shocked. That Valentine
should make himself ridiculous and behave ill, was nothing; but that Giles
should condescend to be jealous of him now (and he made this very evident)
was more than I could bear, and I spoke to him with an asperity that I am
sure astonished him; and when he answered gently, I burst into tears. This
I could not bear.
'And he wants to come down here,' said Giles.
'He shall not come,' I answered; 'I will not have him here.'
'Surely, my dearest, you are not afraid of seeing him again.'
Afraid! Oh, how my whole heart rebelled against such an idea! But I insisted that he
should not come,
he was always making some mischief in what concerned me; there would be no
more peace if he appeared; and being excessively hurt at seeing St.
George's discomfiture, I declared that his being annoyed at this matter,
jealous and disturbed, was almost cruel to me—very nearly insulting.
'He shall not come,' I repeated.
St. George answered that he did not know how to prevent it. Valentine had
left Wigfield, and gone with the Walkers to London. They would take
lodgings, and might not write to give him their address before Wednesday. Valentine proposed to come on Thursday.
Thereupon being destined to cure him of his jealousy once and for ever,
but being only, to my own apprehension, very angry with Valentine, and
feeling hurt at the distrust of my love, I replied,—not without some of
the most passionate tears I had ever shed, and not without certain upbraidings too,—'Very well then; I said I would not be married on
Wednesday—should not think of such a thing,—but rather than he should
trouble my peace, and see that you condescend to be jealous of him,—I
If my recollection is correct, I said this in a somewhat threatening
spirit against Valentine,—he should find me gone,—and as to Giles I
certainly meant it to mark my sense of his conduct which was displeasing
But when I dried my eyes, and saw his face; when I heard him say that he
never would condescend to be jealous again as long as he lived; and when I
found that as we walked home together he was very silent, and never said a
word about Wednesday,—I could not summon courage to mention it either;
but while I sat in my room waiting till it was dinner-time, and
considering whether he would treat my words as if they had not been said
with due consideration, Mrs. Mompesson came in. 'Love,' she said gently,
'Mr. Brandon wants you to go out fishing this afternoon; but if I buy the
silk for you, the dress can easily be made by Wednesday.'
This was said, I was certain, at St. George's instance,
to discover whether I would hold to what I had said. I sat a minute,
lost in thought, but my good angel pleaded with me; St. George had gone
through enough worry already, and too much, about me. When could
there be a more convenient time? and how could Valentine be kept from
making me uncomfortable if he came? I had determined as we walked home to
let things be; so at last I said, 'He always promised me
that I should walk to church through the fields. So as he is rather
infatuated about a white morning-gown that I have, it would be better that
I should wear that.' Thus the thing was settled.
We had letters from New Zealand on Monday; and to my deep delight and
thankfulness I found that my dear Anne Molton would never feel my not
coming to my house there, as I had feared. Anne had met with an excellent
man, a missionary, and they had found each other so well suited that she
had married him. It was not till Tuesday, the very day before my wedding,
that I let Giles write and tell them all at Wigfield. I also, as well as
he, wrote to Liz and Dick, and as Valentine was not now to go to New
Zealand, we made over that house and everything in it to them. Liz was to
have it instead of her portion,—a right good exchange; for an English
clergyman, as we had good reason to know, would be a most welcome arrival
in that particular locality; and if he had not a church to begin his
ministrations in, he would have a barn, on which Giles had worked many a
day with his own hands; and Liz would have a garden that was the envy of
I was very nervous; the days of snow and silence all over the country,
during which I had waited for a wedding already, kept constantly recurring
to me unless St. George was by, and he would not allude to the past.
At last Wednesday came. I woke, and could hardly believe it. We
breakfasted precisely as usual; then the two children and their parents
set off on foot to
the little quiet church, and Giles and I followed over two or three
fields. We sat down on a grassy bank, to put on some new gloves; these
were not white, however, and I, though I wore a white dress, as I usually
did in the morning, had no other bridal array. I did
not even then believe that all would go well. I had a
vivid recollection of the telegrams. But we rose, and he took me on to the
church,—a little rural building
that stood open. There I saw Mr. Crayshaw, who had come from London to
give me away,—and no one else at all but Mr. Mompesson with his white
gown on, and Mrs. Mompesson with the children.
The ceremony actually began, and I perceived, almost to my surprise, that
we certainly were being married after all! But as if it was quite
impossible that anything concerning me could be done as other people do
it, all on a sudden, while Giles held my hand, a thought seemed to flash
straight out of his heart into mine,
that he had forgotten the ring. I was quite sure of it: he did not even
put his finger into his waistcoat pocket, as a man might have done who had
bought one and left it behind. There was no ring; he had forgotten it.
'Fanny,' said Mr. Mompesson; and Mrs: Mompesson, with all the good-will
in the world, and with Mr. Crayshaw to help her, tried to get her ring off
her dear, fat, friendly hand, and tried in vain.
Giles almost groaned. He had expected me to be more than commonly nervous;
now seemed some ground for it; but real and sheer nervousness often goes
off when there is anything to be nervous about, and I now felt very much
at my ease, and whispered to Giles that a ring would be found somewhere.
So it was. The clerk had darted out of the church at the first sight of
Mrs. Mompesson's hand, and in a few minutes he returned, following a
lovely, fresh-complexioned, young woman in a linen sun-bonnet, and
with a fat, crowing baby on her arm. She was out of breath, and coming up
to Giles quickly, she thrust out
her honest hand, and allowed him to draw her ring off, and marry me with
it. A healthy-looking young fellow, in a paper cap, which he presently
removed, came slouching in after her, and looked on, unable, as it seemed,
to repress an occasional grin of amusement; and when the ceremony was
over, they followed us into the vestry, and we all sat talking a little
while, till some rings were brought from a shop for me, and Giles
chose one and paid for it. Then I felt that I was Mrs. Brandon.
He returned the ring he had used to the young woman, but I observed that
she made her husband put it on for her again; and as he did so, he
remarked to Giles, with a certain quaint complacency,—that wives wanted
humouring; and for his part (he might be wrong) he considered it was their
due. Then in all good faith assuring him that he would never repent what
he had that day done, he set his paper cap on his head, and retired with
his family, while we, having taken leave of our friends, stepped out into
the fields, and departed together to begin our story.
University Press: John Wilson & Son, Cambridge.