Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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called them, ' nasty stones ' and bits of dirty coal,
within his socks.

Much more information as to mines, coal, or copper,
was to be gained from him than as to Cousin David,
or Harry, or Jasper, who had spent the last ten days
of his holidays at Coalham, which had procured for
Fergus the felicity of a second underground expedition.
It was left to his maturer judgment and the next move
to decide how many of his specimens were absolutely
worthless ; it was only stipulated that he and Valetta
should carry them, all and sundry, up to the lumber-
room, and there arrange them as he chose ; — Aunt Jane
routing out for him a very dull little manual of miner-
alogy, and likewise a book of Maria Hack's, long since
out of print, but wherein ' Harry Beaufoy ' is instructed
in the chief outlines of geology in a manner only per-
haps inferior to that of Madam How and Lady Why,
which she reserved for a birthday present. Meantime
Bockstone and its quarries were almost as excellent
a field of research as the mines of Coalham, and in a
different line.

' How much nicer it is to be a boy than a girl !'
sighed Valetta, as she beheld her junior marching off
with all the dignity of hammer and knapsack to look
up Alexis White and obtain access to the heaps of
rubbish, which in his eyes held as infinite possibilities
as the diamond fields of Kimberley. And Alexis was
only delighted to bestow on him any space of daylight


when both were free from school or from work, and
kept a look-out for the treasures he desired. Of course,
out of gratitude to his parents — or was it out of grati-
tude to his sister ? Perhaps Fergus could have told, if
he had paid the slightest attention to such a trifle,
how anxiously Alexis inquired when Miss Gillian was
expected to return. Moreover, he might have told
that his other model, Stebbing, pronounced old Dick
White a beast and a screw, with whom his brother
Frank was not going to stop.

Gillian came back a fortnight later, having been
kept at Eowthorpe, together with Mrs. Grinstead, for a
family festival over the double marriage in Ceylon,
after which she spent a few days in London, so as to
see her grandmother, Mrs. Merrifield, wdio was too
infirm for an actual visit to be welcome, since her
attendant grandchild, Bessie Merrifield, was so entirely
occupied with her as to have no time to bestow upon
a guest of more than an hour or two. Gillian was
met at the station by her aunt, and when all her
belongings had been duly extracted, proving a good
deal larger in bulk than when she had left Eockstone,
and both were seated in the fly to drive home through
a dismal February Fill-dyke day, the first words that
were spoken were —

' Aunt Jane, I ought to tell you something.'
Hastily revolving conjectures as to the subject of
the coming confession, Miss Mohun put herself at her
niece's service.



' Aunt Jane, I know I ought to have told you how
much I was seeing of the Whites last autumn/

' Indeed, I know you wished to do what you could
for them.'

I Yes/ said Gillian, finding it easier than she expected.
1 You know Alexis wants very much to be prepared for
Holy Orders, and he could not get on by himself, so I
have been running down to Kalliope's office after read-
ing to Lily Giles, to look over his Greek exercises/

' Meeting him ? '

' Only sometimes. But Kally did not like it. She
said you ought to know, and that was the reason she
would not come into the G.F.S. She is so good and
honourable, Aunt Jane/

I I am sure she is a very excellent girl/ said Aunt
Jane warmly. ' But certainly it would have been
better to have these lessons in our house. Does your
mother know V

1 Yes/ said Gillian ; ' I wrote to her all I was doing,
and how I have been talking to Kally on Sunday
afternoons through the rails of Mr. White's garden. I
thought she could telegraph if she did not approve ;
but she does not seem to have noticed it in my letters,
only saying something I could not make out — about " if
you approved.'"

'And is that the reason you have told me V
1 Partly ; but I got the letter before the holidays.
I think it has worked itself up, Aunt Jane, into a
sense that it was not the thing. There was Kally, and


there was poor Valetta's mess, and her justifying her-
self by saying I did more for the Whites than you
knew, and altogether, I grew sorry I had begun it, for
I was sure it was not acting honestly towards you,
Aunt Jane, and I hope you will forgive me.'

Miss Mohun put her arm round the girl and kissed
her heartily.

' My dear Gill, I am glad you have told me ! I
dare say I seemed to worry you, and that you felt as
if you were watched ; I will do my very best to help
you, if you have got into a scrape. I only want to
ask you not to do anything more till I can see Kally,
and settle with her the most suitable way of helping
the youth.'

1 But do you think there is a scrape, aunt ? I never
thought of that, if you forgave me.'

1 My dear, I see you did not ; and that you told
me because you are my Lily's daughter, and have her
honest heart. I do not know that there is anything
amiss, but I am afraid young ladies can't do — well,
impulsive things without a few vexations in conse-
quence. Don't be so dismayed ; I don't know of any-
thing, and I cannot tell you how glad I am of your
having spoken out in this way.'

' I feel as if a load were off my back !' said Gillian.

And a bar between her and her aunt seemed to
have vanished, as they drove up the now familiar slope,
and under the leafless copper beeches. Blood is thicker
than water, and what five months ago had seemed to


be exile, had become the first step towards home, if not
home itself, for now, like Valetta, she welcomed the
sound of her mother's voice in her aunt's. And there
were Yaletta and Fergus rushing out, almost under the
wheels to fly at her, and Aunt Ada's soft embraces in
the hall.

The first voice that came out of the meUe was
Valetta's. ' Gill is grown quite a lady !'

'How much improved !' exclaimed Aunt Ada.

1 The Bachfisch has swum into the river,' was Aunt
Jane's comment.

' She'll never be good for anything jolly — no
scrambling !' grumbled Fergus.

1 Now Fergus ! didn't Kitty Somerville and I
scramble when we found the gate locked, and thought
we saw the spiteful stag, and that he was going to run
at us ?'

' I'm afraid that was rather on compulsion, Gill.'

1 It wasn't the spiteful stag after all, but we had
such a long way to come home, and got over the park
wall at last by the help of the limb of a tree. We
had been taking a bit of wedding-cake to Frank
Somerville's old nurse, and Kitty told her I was her
maiden aunt, and we had such fun — her uncle's wife's
sister, you know.'

1 We sent a great piece of our wedding-cake to the
Whites,' put in Yaletta. ' Fergus and I took it on
Saturday afternoon, but nobody was at home but Mrs.
White, and she is fatter than ever.'


1 1 say, Gill, which is the best formation, Vale Leston
or Eowthorpe ? '

' Oh, nobody is equal to Geraldine ; but Kitty is
a dear thing/

' I didn't mean that stuff, but which had the best
strata and specimens ? '

' Geological, he means — not of society,' interposed
Aunt Jane.

' Oh yes ! Harry said he had gone geology mad,
and I really did get you a bit of something at Yale
Leston, Fergus, that Mr. Harewood said was worth
having. Was it an encrinite ? I know it was a
stone-lily '

' An encrinite ? Oh, scrumptious ! '

Then ensued such an unpacking as only falls to
the lot of home-comers from London, within the later
precincts of Christmas, gifts of marvellous contrivance
and novelty, as well as cheapness, for all and sundry,
those reserved for others almost as charming to the
beholders as those which fell to their own lot. The
box, divided into compartments, transported Fergus as
much as the encrinite ; Valetta had a photograph-book,
and, more diffidently, Gillian presented Aunt Ada with
a graceful little statuette in Parian, and Aunt Jane
with the last novelty in baskets. There were appro-
priate keepsakes for the maids, and likewise for Kalliope
and Maura. Aunt Jane was glad to see that discretion
had prevailed so as to confine these gifts to the female
part of the White family. There were other precious


articles in reserve for the absent ; and the display of
Gillian's own garments was not without interest, as she
had been to her first ball, under the chaperonage of
Lady Somerville, and Mrs. Grin stead had made her
white tarletan available by painting it and its ribbons
with exquisite blue nemophilas, too lovely for anything
so fleeting.

Mrs. Grinstead and her maid had taken charge of
the damsel's toilette at Eowthorpe, had perhaps touched
up her dresses, and had certainly taught her how to
put them on, and how to manage her hair, so that
though it had not broken out into fringes or tousles, as
if it were desirable to imitate savages ' with foreheads
marvellous low,' the effect was greatly improved. The
young brown-skinned, dark-eyed face, and rather tall
figure were the same, even the clothes the very same
chosen under her aunt Ada's superintendence, but there
was an indescribable change, not so much that of fashion
as of distinction, and something of the same inward
growth might be gathered from her conversation.

All the evening there was a delightful outpouring.
Gillian had been extremely happy, and considerably
reconciled to her sisters' marriages ; but she had been
away from home and kin long enough to make her feel
her nearness to her aunts, and to appreciate the pleasure
of describing her enjoyment without restraint, and of
being with those whose personal family interests were
her own, not only sympathetic, like her dear Geraldine's.
They were ready for any amount of description, though,


on the whole, Miss Mohun preferred to hear of the Vale
Leston charities and church details, and Miss Adeline
of the Eowthorpe grandees and gaieties, after the
children had supped full of the diversions of their
own kind at both places, and the deeply interesting
political scraps and descriptions of great men had been

It had been, said Aunt Jane, a bit of education.
Gillian had indeed spent her life with thoughtful,
cultivated, and superior people ; but the circumstances
of her family had confined her to k schoolroom sort of
existence ever since she had reached appreciative years,
retarding, though not perhaps injuring, her develop-
ment ; nor did Bockquay society afford much that was
elevating, beyond the Bureau de Charite that Beechcroft
Cottage had become. Details were so much in hand
that breadth of principle might be obscured.

At Vale Leston, however, there was a strong ecclesi-
astical atmosphere ; but while practical parish detail was
thoroughly kept up, there was a wider outlook, and
constant conversation and discussion among superior
men, such as the Harewood brothers, Lancelot Under-
wood, Mr. Grinstead, and Dr. May, on the great
principles and issues of Church and State matters,
religion, and morals, together with matters of art, music,
and literature, opening new vistas to her ; and which
she could afterwards go over with Mrs. Grinstead
and Emily and Anna Vanderkist with enthusiasm
and comprehension. It was something different from


grumbling over the number of candles at St. Kenelm's,
or the defective washing of the St. Andrew's surplices.

At Eowthorpe she had seen and heard people with
great historic names, champions in the actual battle.
There had been a constant coming and ^oinc, r of quests
during her three weeks' visit, political meetings, enter-
tainments to high and low, the opening of a public
institute in the next town, the exhibition of tableaux
in which she had an important share, parties in the
evenings, and her first ball. The length of her visit
and her connection with the family had made her share
the part of hostess with Lady Constance and Lady
Katharine Somerville, and she had been closely
associated with their intimates, the daughters of these
men of great names. Of course there had been plenty
of girlish chatter and merry trifling, perhaps some
sharp satirical criticism, and the revelations she had
heard had been a good deal of the domestic comedy of
political and aristocratic life ; but throughout there had
been a view of conscientious goodness, for the young
girls who gave a tone to the rest had been carefully
brought up, and were earnest and right-minded, accept-
ing representation, gaiety, and hospitality as part of
the duty of their position, often involving self-denial,
though there was likewise plenty of enjoyment.

Such glimpses of life had taught Gillian more than
she yet realised. As has been seen, the atmosphere of
Vale Leston had deepened her spiritual life, and the
sermons had touched her heart to the quick, and caused


self-examination, which had revealed to her the secret of
her dissatisfaction with herself, and her perception was
the clearer through her intercourse on entirely equal
terms with persons of a high tone of refinement.

The immediate fret of sense of supervision and
opposition being removed, she had seen things more
justly, and a distaste had grown on her for stolen
expeditions to the office, and for the corrections of her
pupil's exercises. She recoiled from the idea that
this was the consequence either of having swell friends,
or of getting out of her depth in her instructions ; but
reluctance recurred, while advance in knowledge of the
world made her aware that Alexis White, after hours,
in his sister's office, might justly be regarded by her
mother and aunts as an undesirable scholar for her,
and that his sister's remonstrances ought not to have
been scouted. She had done the thing in her simplicity,
but it was through her own wilful secretiveness that
her ignorance had not been guarded.

Thus she had, as a matter of truth, conscience, and
repentance, made the confession which had been so
kindly received as to warm her heart with gratitude
to her aunt, and she awoke the next morning to feel
freer, happier, and more at home than she had ever
yet done at Eockstone.

When the morning letters were opened, they con-
tained the startling news that Mysie might be expected
that very evening, with Fly, the governess, and Lady
Eotherwood, — at least that was the order of precedence


in which the party represented itself to the minds of
the young Merrifields. Primrose had caught a fresh
cold, and her uncle and aunt would not part with her
till her mother's return ; but the infection was over with
the other two, and sea air was recommended as soon
as possible for Lady Phyllis ; so, as the wing of the
hotel, which was almost a mansion in itself, had been
already engaged, the journey was to be made at once,
and the arrival would take place in the afternoon. The
tidings were most rapturously received ; Yaletta jumped
on and off all the chairs in the room unchidden, while
Fergus shouted, ' Hurrah for Mysie and Fly !' and Gill-
ian's heart felt free to leap.

This made it a very busy day, since Lady Eother-
wood had begged to have some commissions executed
for her beforehand, small in themselves, but, with a
scrupulously thorough person, occupying all the time
left from other needful engagements ; so that there was
no chance of the promised conversation with Kalliope,
nor did Gillian trouble herself much about it in her
eagerness, and hardly heard Fergus announce that
Frank Stebbing had come home, and the old boss was
coming, ' bad luck to him.'

All the three young people were greatly disappointed
that their aunts would not consent to their being on
the platform nor in front of the hotel, nor even in what
its mistress termed the reception-room, to meet the

1 There was nothing Lady Eotherwood would dislike


more than a rush of you all/ said Aunt Adeline, and
they had to submit, though Valetta nearly cried when
she was dragged in from demonstratively watching at
the gate in a Scotch mist.

However, in about a quarter of an hour there was
a ring at the door, and in another moment Mysie and
Gillian were hugging one another, Valetta hanging
round Mysie's neck, Fergus pulling down her arm.
The four creatures seemed all wreathed into one like
fabulous snakes for some seconds, and when they un-
folded enough for Mysie to recollect and kiss her
aunts, there certainly was a taller, better-equipped
figure, but just the same round, good-humoured coun-
tenance, and the first thing, beyond happy ejaculations,
that she was heard in a dutiful voice to say was, ' Miss
Elbury brought me to the door. I may stay as long as
my aunts like to have me this evening, if you will be
so kind as to send some one to see me back.'

Great was the jubilation, and many the inquiries
after Primrose, who had once been nearly well, but
had fallen back again, and Fly, who, Mysie said, was
quite well and as comical as ever when she was well,
but quickly tired. She had set out in high spirits,
but had been dreadfully weary all the latter part of
the journey, and was to go to bed at once. She still
coughed, but Mysie was bent on disproving Nurse
Halfpenny's assurance that the recovery would not be
complete till May, nor was there any doubt of her own
air of perfect health.


It was an evening of felicitous chatter, of showing
off Christmas cards, of exchanging of news, of building
of schemes, the most prominent being that Valetta
should be in the constant companionship of Mysie and
Fly until her own schoolroom should be re-established.
This had been proposed by Lord Eotherwood, and was
what the aunts would have found convenient; but
apparently this had been settled by Lord Eotherwood
and the two little girls, but Lady Eotherwood had not
said anything about it, and quoth Mysie, ' Somehow
things don't happen till Lady Eotherwood settles them,
and then they always do.'

' And shall I like Miss Elbury ? ' asked Valetta.

' Yes, if — if you take pains,' said Mysie ; ' but you
mustn't bother her with questions in the middle of a
lesson, or she tells you not to chatter. She likes to
have them all kept for the end ; and then, if they
aren't foolish, she will take lots of trouble.'

'Oh, I hate that!' said Valetta. 'I shouldn't re-
member them ; and I like to have done with it. Then
she is not like Miss Vincent V

' Oh no ! She couldn't be dear Miss Vincent ;
but, indeed, she is very kind and nice.'

' How did you get on altogether, Mysie ? Wasn't
it horrid ?' asked Gillian.

' I was afraid it was going to be horrid,' said Mysie.
* You see, it wasn't like going in holiday time as it was
before. We had to be almost always in the schoolroom ;
and there were lots of lessons — more for me than Fly.'


'Just like a horrid old governess to slake her thirst
on you/ put in Fergus ; and though his aunts shook
their heads at him, they did not correct him.

' And one had to sit bolt upright all the time, and
never twist one's ankles/ continued Mysie ; ' and not
speak except French and German — good, mind ! It
wouldn't do to say, " La jambe du table est sur mon
exercise V"

' Oh, oh ! No wonder Fly got ill !'

'Fly didn't mind one bit. French and German
come as naturally to her as the days of the week ; and
they really begin to come to me in the morning now
when I see Miss Elbury.'

'But have you to go on all day?' asked Valetta

1 Oh no ! Not after one o'clock.'

'And you didn't say that mamma thinks it only
leads to slovenly bad grammar ? ' said Gillian.

' That would have been impertinent/ said Mysie ;
' and no one would have minded either.'

' Did you never play V

' We might play after our walk — and after tea ; but
it had to be quiet play, not real good games, even
before Fly was ill — at least we did have some real
games when Primrose came over, or when Cousin
Eotherwood had us down in his study or in the hall ;
but Fly got tired, and knocked up very soon even then.
Miss Elbury wanted us always to play battledore and
shuttlecock, or Les Ghrtces, if we couldn't go out.'


' Horrid woman !' said Valetta.

' No, she isn't horrid,' said Mysie stoutly ; ' I only
fancied her so when she used to say, " Vos coudes,
mademoiselle" or " Bedressez-vous," and when sjhe would
not let us whisper ; but really and truly she was very,
very kind, and I came to like her very much and see
she was not cross — only thought it right.'

' And redressez-vous has been useful, Mysie,' said
Aunt Ada ; ' you are as much improved as Gillian.'

' I thought it would be dreadful,' continued Mysie,
* when the grown-ups went out on a round of visits,
and we had no drawing-room, and no Cousin Bother-
wood ; but Cousin Florence came every day, and once
she had us to dinner, and that vjas nice ; and once she
took us to Beechcroft to see Primrose, and if it was
not fine enough for Fly to go out, she came for me,
and I went to her cottages with her. Oh, I did like
that ! And when the whooping-cough came, you can't
think how very kind she was, and Miss Elbury too.
They both seemed only to think how to make me
happy, though I didn't feel ill a bit, except when I
whooped ; but they seemed so sorry for me, and so
pleased that I didn't make more fuss. I couldn't, you
know, when poor Fly was so ill. And when she grew
better, we were all so glad that somehow it made us
all like a sort of a kind of a home together, though it
could not be that.'

Mysie's English had scarcely improved, whatever
her French had done ; but Gillian gathered that she



had had far more grievances to overcome, and had met
them in a very different spirit from herself.

As to the schoolroom arrangements, which would
have been so convenient to the aunts, it was evident
that the matter had not yet been decisively settled,
though the children took it for granted. It was pretty
to see how Mysie was almost devoured by Fergus and
Valetta, hanging on either side of her as she sat, and
Gillian as near as they would allow, while the four
tongues went on unceasingly.

It was only horrid, Valetta said, that Mysie should
sleep in a different house ; but almost as much of her
company was vouchsafed on the ensuing day, Sunday,
for Miss Elbury had relations at Bockquay, and was
released for the entire day ; and Fly was still so tired
in the morning that she was not allowed to get up
early in the day.

Her mother, however, came in to go to church with
Adeline Mohun, and Gillian, who had heard so much
of the great Marchioness, was surprised to see a small
slight woman, not handsome, and worn-looking about
the eyes. At the first glance, she was plainly dressed ;
but the eye of a connoisseur like Aunt Ada could
detect the exquisiteness of the material and the taste,
and the slow soft tone of her voice ; and every gesture
and phrase showed that she had all her life been in
the habit of condescending — in fact, thought Gillian,
revolving her recent experience, though Lady Liddes-
dale and all her set are taller, finer-looking people,



they are not one bit so grand — no, not that — but so
unapproachable, as I am sure she is. She is gracious,
while they are just good-natured !

Aunt Ada was evidently pleased with the gracious-
ness, and highly delighted to have to take this distin-
guished personage to church. Mysie was with her
sisters ; Valetta was extremely anxious to take her to
the Sunday drawing-room class — whether for the sake
of showing her to Mrs. Hablot, or Mrs. Hablot to her,
did not appear.

Gillian was glad to be asked to sit with Fly in the
meantime. It was a sufficient reason for not repairing
to the garden, and she hoped that Kalliope was un-
aware of her return, little knowing of the replies by
which Fergus repaid Alexis for his assistance in
mineral hunting. She had no desire to transgress
Miss Mohun's desire that no further intercourse should
take place till she herself had spoken with Kalliope.

She found little Phyllis Devereux a great deal
taller and thinner than the droll childish being who
had been so amusing two years before at Silverfold,
but eagerly throwing herself into her arms with the

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeBeechcroft at Rockstone (Volume 1) → online text (page 13 of 14)