Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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much injured for her hero's sake, and wearing what
looked like a pertinacious pout.

' Truth compels me to say, Gillian, that the sons of
men, even in a small way of business, are not apt to
run away and enlist without some reason.'

'And I am quite sure it was all that horrid old
White's fault.'

' You had better content yourself with that belief.'


Gillian felt greatly affronted, but Fergus, who
thought all this very tiresome, broke in, after a third
attempt —

' Aunt Jane, if the pulley of that crane '

And all the way home they discussed machinery,
and Gillian's heart swelled.

' I am afraid Gillian was greatly displeased with
me/ said Miss Mohun that evening, talking it over
with her sister. ' But her captain might have a fall
if she went poking into all the gossip of the place
about him.'

'Most likely whatever he did would be greatly
exaggerated,' said Adeline.

' No doubt of it ! Besides, those young men who
are meant by nature for heroes are apt to show
some Berserherwuth in their youth, like Hereward le

' But what did you think of the girl ? '

1 1 liked her looks very much. I have seen her
singing in the choruses at the choral society concert,
and thought how nice her manner was. She does
justice to her classical extraction, and is modest and
ladylike besides. Mrs. Stebbing is spiteful ! I wonder
whether it is jealousy. She calls her artful and
designing, which sounds to me very much as if Master
Frank might admire the damsel. I have a great mind
to have the two girls to tea, and see what they are
made of.'

' We had much better wait till we hear from Lily.


We cannot in the least tell whether she would wish
the acquaintance to be kept up. And if there is any-
thing going on with young Stebbing, nothing could be
more unadvisable than for Gillian to be mixed up in
any nonsense of that sort.'



On Sunday, Gillian's feet found their way to the top
of the garden, where she paced meditatively up and
down, hoping to see Kalliope ; and just as she was
giving up the expectation, the slender black figure
appeared on the other side of the railings.

' Oh, Miss Gillian, how kind ! '

' Kally, I am glad ! '

Wherewith they got into talk at once, for Lady
Merrifield's safe arrival and Sir Jasper's improvement
had just been telegraphed, and there was much rejoic-
ing over the good news. Gillian had nearly made up
her mind to confute the enemy by asking why Captain
White had left Eockquay ; but somehow when it came
to the point, she durst not make the venture, and they
skimmed upon more surface subjects.

The one point of union between the parishes of
Eockstone and Eockquay was a choral society, where-
of Mr. Flight of St. Kenelm's was a distinguished light,
and which gave periodical concerts in the Masonic Hall.
It being musical, Miss Mohun had nothing to do


with it except the feeling it needful to give her presence
to the performances. One of these was to take place
in the course of the week, and there were programmes
in all the shops, 'Mr. Alexis White' being set down
for more than one solo, and as a voice in the glees.

' Shall not you sing ? ' asked Gillian, remembering
that her sisters had thought Kalliope had a good ear
and a pretty voice.

< I ? Oh no ! '

' I thought you used to sing.'

' Yes ; but I have no time to keep it up.'

'Not even in the choruses V

1 No, I cannot manage it ' — and there was a little
glow in the clear brown cheek.

' Does your designing take up so much time ? '

' It is not that ; but there is a great deal to do at
home in after hours. My mother is not strong, and
we cannot keep a really efficient servant.'

' Oh ! but you must be terribly hard-worked to
have no time for relaxation.'

' Not quite that, but — it seems to me,' burst out
poor Kalliope, ' that relaxation does nothing but bring
a girl into difficulties — an unprotected girl, I mean.'

' What do you mean ? ' cried Gillian, quite excited ;
but Kalliope had caught herself up.

' Never mind, Miss Gillian ; you have nothing to
do with that kind of thing.'

' But do tell me, Kally ; I do want to be your
friend,' said Gillian, trying to put her hand through.


'■ There's nothing to tell/ said Kalliope, smiling and
evidently touched, but still somewhat red ; ' only you
know when a girl has nobody to look after her, she
has to look after herself.'

1 Doesn't Alexis look after you ? ' said Gillian, not
at all satisfied to be put off with this truism.

' Poor Alex ! He is younger, you know, and he
has quite enough to do. Oh, Miss Gillian, he is such
a very dear, good boy.'

1 He has a most beautiful voice, Aunt Ada said.'

' Yes, poor fellow, though he almost wishes he had
not. Oh dear ! there's the little bell ! Good-bye, Miss
Merrifield ; I must run, or Mrs. Smithson will be gone
to church, and I shall be locked in.'

So Gillian was left to the enigma why Alexis
should regret the beauty of his own voice, and what
Kalliope could mean by the scrapes of unprotected
girls. It did not occur to her that Miss White was
her elder by six or seven years, and possibly might
not rely on her judgment and discretion as much as
she might have done on those of Alethea.

Meantime the concert was coming on. It was not
an amusement that Aunt Ada could attempt, but Miss
Mohun took both her nieces, to the extreme pride and
delight of Valetta, who had never been, as she said,
' to any evening thing but just stupid childish things,
only trees and magic-lanterns'; and would not quite
believe Gillian, who assured her in a sage tone that
she would find this far less entertaining than either,


judging by the manner in which she was wont to
vituperate her music lesson.

' Oh ! but that's only scales, and everybody hates
them ! And I do love a German band.'

'Especially in the middle of lesson -time,' said

However, Fergus was to spend the evening with
Clement Varley ; and Kitty was to go with her mother
and sister, the latter of whom was to be one of the
performers ; but it was decreed by the cruel authorities
that the two bosom friends would have their tongues
in better order if they were some chairs apart ; and
therefore, though the members of the two families at
Beechcroft and the Tamarisks were consecutive, Valetta
was quartered between her aunt and Gillian, with
Mrs. Varley on the other side of Miss Mohun, and
Major Dennis flanking Miss Merrifield. When he
had duly inquired after Sir Jasper, and heard of Lady
Merrifield's arrival, he had no more conversation for
the young lady; and Valetta, having perceived by
force of example that in this waiting- time it was^ not
like being in church, poured out her observations and
inquiries on her sister.

' What a funny room ! And oh ! do look at the
pictures ! Why has that man got on a blue apron ?
Freemasons ! What are Freemasons ? Do they work
in embroidered blue satin aprons because they are
gentlemen ? I'll tell Fergus that is what he ought to
be ; he is so fond of making things — only I am sure


he would spoil his apron. What's that curtain for ?
Will they sing up there ? Oh, there's Emma Norton
just come in ! That must be her father. That's Alice
Gidding, she comes to our Sunday class ; and do you
know, she thought it was Joseph who was put into the
den of lions. Has not her mother got a funny head ? '

' Hush now, Yal. Here they come,' as the whole
chorus trooped in and began the f Men of Harlech.'

Val was reduced to silence, but there was a long-
in strumental performance afterwards, during which bad
examples of chattering emboldened her to whisper —

' Did you see Beatrice Varley ? And Miss Berry,
our singing-mistress — and Alexis White? Maura
says '

Aunt Jane gave a touch and a frown which reduced
Valetta to silence at this critical moment ; and she
sat still through a good deal, only giving a little jump
when Alexis White, with various others, came to sing
a glee.

Gillian could study the youth, who certainly was,
as Aunt Ada said, remarkable for the cameo-like cutting
of his profile, though perhaps no one without an eye
for art would have remarked it, as he had the callow
unformed air of a lad of seventeen or eighteen, and
looked shy and grave; but his voice was a fine one,
and was heard to more advantage in the solos to a
hunting song which shortly followed.

Valetta had been rather alarmed at the applause at
first, but she soon found out what an opportunity it


gave for conversation, and after a good deal of popping
her head about, she took advantage of the encores to
excuse herself by saying, ' I wanted to see if Maura
White was there. She was to go if Mrs. Lee — that's
the lodger — would take her. She says Kally won't
go, or sing, or anything, because '

How tantalising ! the singers reappeared, and
Valetta was reduced to silence. Nor could the
subject be renewed in the interval between the parts,
for Major Dennis came and stood in front, and talked
to Miss Mohun ; and after that Valetta grew sleepy,
and nothing was to be got out of her till all was over,
when she awoke into extra animation, and chattered
so vehemently all the way home that her aunt advised
Gillian to get her to bed as quietly as possible, or she
would not sleep all night, and would be good for
nothing the next day.

Gillian, however, being given to think for herself in
all cases of counsel from Aunt Jane, thought it could
do no harm to beguile the brushing of the child's hair
by asking why Kalliope would not come to the concert.

' Oh, it's a great secret ; but Maura told me in the
cloak-room. It is because Mr. Frank wants to be
her — to be her — her admirer,' said Valetta, cocking her
head on one side, and adding to the already crimson
colour of her cheeks.

' Nonsense, Val ; what do you and Maura know of
such things ? '

' We aren't babies, Gill, and it is very unkind of


you, when you told me I was to make friends with
Maura White; and Kitty Varley is quite cross with
me about it.'

' I told you to be kind to Maura, but not to talk
about such foolish things.'

' I don't see why they should be foolish. It is
what we all must come to. Grown-up people do, as
Lois says. I heard Aunt Ada going on ever so long-
about Beatrice Varley and that gentleman.'

* It is just the disadvantage of that kind of school
that girls talk that sort of undesirable stuff,' Gillian
said to herself; but curiosity, or interest in the Whites,
prompted her to add, ' What did she tell you ? '

' If you are so cross, I shan't tell you. You hurt
my head, I say.'

' Come, Yal, I ought to know.'

' It's a secret.'

' Then you should not have told me so much.'

Val laughed triumphantly, and called her sister
Mrs. Curiosity, and at that moment Aunt Jane knocked
at the door, and said Val was not to talk.

Val made an impatient face and began to whisper,
but Gillian had too much proper feeling to allow this
fiat disobedience, and would not listen, much as she
longed to do so. She heard her little sister rolling
and tossiug about a good deal, but made herself hard-
hearted on principle, and acted sleep. On her own
judgment, she would not waken the child in the
morning, and Aunt Jane said she was quite right, it


would be better to let Val have her sleep out, than
send her to school fretful and half alive. ' But you
ought not to have let her talk last night/

As usual, reproof was unpleasing, and silenced
Gillian. She hoped to extract the rest of the story in
the course of the day. But before breakfast was over
Valetta rushed in with her hat on, having scrambled
into her clothes in a hurry, and consuming her break-
fast in great haste, for she had no notion either of
losing her place in the class, or of missing the discussion
of the entertainment with Kitty, from whom she had
been so cruelly parted.

Tete-cc-tetes were not so easy as might have been
expected between two sisters occupying the same room,
for Valetta went to bed and to sleep long before Gillian,
and the morning toilette was a hurry ; besides, Gillian
had scruples, partly out of pride and partly out of con-
scientiousness, about encouraging Valetta in gossip or
showing her curiosity about it. Could she make any-
thing out from Kalliope herself? However, fortune
favoured her, for she came out of her class only a few steps
behind little Maura; and as some of Mr. Edgar's boys were
about, the child naturally regarded her as a protector.

Maura was quite as pretty as her elders, and had
more of a southern look. Perhaps she was proportion-
ably precocious, for she returned Gillian's greeting
without embarrassment, and was quite ready to enter
into conversation and show her gratification at compli-
ments upon her brother's voice.


' And does not Kalliope sing ? I think she used to
sing very nicely in the old times.'

' Oh yes/ said Maura ; c but she doesn't now.'

' Why not ? Has not she time ? '

' That's not all,' said Maura, looking significant, and
an interrogative sound sufficed to brin^ out — ' It is
because of Mr. Frank.'

' Mr. Frank Stebbing ?'

' Yes. He was always after her, and would walk
home with her after the practices, though Alexis was
always there. / know that was the reason, for I
heard la mamma mia trying to persuade her to go on
with the society, and she was determined, and would
not. Alex said she was quite right, and it is very
tiresome of him, for now she never walks with us on
Sunday, and he used to come and give us bonbons and

' Then she does not like him ? '

' She says it is not right or fitting, because Mr. and
Mrs. Stebbing would be against it ; but mamma said
he would get over them, if she would not be so stupid j
and he could make her quite a lady, like an officer's
daughter, as we are. Is it not a pity she won't, Miss

' I do not know. I think she is very good,' said

' Oh ! but if she would, we might all be well off
again,' said little worldly-minded Maura ; ' and I should
not have to help her make the beds, and darn, and


iron, and all sorts of horrid things, but we could live
properly, like ladies.'

' I think it is more ladylike to act uprightly,' said

Wherewith, having made the discovery, and escorted
Maura beyond the reach of her enemies, she parted with
the child, and turned homewards. Gillian was at the
stage in which sensible maidens have a certain repug-
nance and contempt for the idea of love and lovers as
an interruption to the higher aims of life and destruc-
tion to family joys. Eomance in her eyes was the
exaltation of woman out of reach, and Maura's
communications inclined her to glorify Kalliope as
a heroine, molested by a very inconvenient person,
' Spighted by a fool, spighted and angered both,' as
she quoted Imogen to herself.

It would be a grand history to tell Alethea of her
friend, when she should have learnt a little more about
it, as she intended to do on Sunday from Kalliope her-
self, who surely would be grateful for some sympathy
and friendship. Withal she recollected that it was
Indian-mail day, and hurried home to see whether the
midday post had brought any letters. Her two aunts
were talking eagerly, but suddenly broke off as she
opened the door.

' Well, Gillian ' began Aunt Ada.

' No, no ; let her see for herself,' said Aunt Jane.

' Oh ! I hope nothing is the matter V she exclaimed,
seeing a letter to herself on the table.


1 No ; rather the reverse.'

A horrible suspicion, as she afterwards called it,
came over Gillian as she tore open the letter. There
were two small notes. The first was —

'Dear little Gill — I am going to give you a
new brother. Mother will tell you all. — Your loving
sister, P. E. M.'

She gasped, and looked at the other.

' Dearest Gilliax — After all you have heard about
Frank, perhaps you will know that I am very happy.
You cannot guess how happy, and it is so delightful
that mamma is charmed with him. He has got two
medals and three clasps. There are so many to write
to, I can only give my poor darling this little word.
She will find it is only having another to be as fond of
her as her old Alley.'

Gillian looked up in a bewildered state, and gasped

Aunt Jane could not help smiling a little, and
saying, ' Yes, both at one fell swoop.'

'It's dreadful,' said Gillian.

' My dear, if you want to keep your sisters to your-
self, you should not let them go to India,' said Aunt

' They said they wouldn't ! They were quite angry
at the notion of being so c, nmonplace,' said Gillian.

' Oh, no one knows till her time comes !' said Aunt



Gillian now applied herself to her mother's letter,
which was also short.

' My dearest Gillyflower — I know this will be a
great blow to yon, as indeed it was to me ; bnt we mnst
not be selfish, and mnst remember that the sisters'
happiness and welfare is the great point. I wish I
conld write to yon more at length ; bnt time will not
let me, scattered as are all my poor flock at home.
So I mnst leave yon to learn the bare public facts
from Aunt Jane, and only say my especial private
words to yon. Yon are used to being brevet eldest
daughter to me, now you will have to be so to papa,
who is mending fast, but, I think, will come home with
me. Isn't that news ? Your loving mother.'

' They have told you all about it, Aunt Jane V said

' Yes ; they have been so cruel as not even to tell
you the names of these robbers ? Well, I dare say
you had rather read my letter than hear it.'

' Thank you very much, Aunt Jane ! May I take
it upstairs with me ? '

Consent was readily given, and Gillian had just
time for her first cursory reading before luncheon.

1 Dearest Jenny — Fancy what burst upon me only
the day after my coming — though really we ought to be
very thankful. You might perhaps have divined what
was brewing from the letters. Jasper knew of one and
suspected the other before the accident, and he says it


prevented him from telegraphing to stop me, for he
was sure one or both the girls would want their mother.
Phyllis began it. Hers is a young merchant just taken
into the great Underwood firm. Bernard Underwood,
a very nice fellow, brother to the husband of one of
Harry May's sisters — very much liked and respected,
and, by the way, an uncommonly handsome man.
That was imminent before Jasper's accident, and the
letter to prepare me must be reposing in Harry's care.
Mr. Underwood came down with Claude to meet me
when I landed, and I scented danger in his eye. But
it is all right — only his income is entirely professional,
and they will have to live out here for some time to

' The other only spoke yesterday, having abstained
from worrying his General. He is Lord Francis
Somerville, son to Lord Liddesdale, and a captain in
the Glen Lorn Highlanders, who have not above a
couple of years to stay in these parts. He was with
the riding party when Jasper fell, and was the first to
lift him ; indeed, he held him all the time of waiting,
for poor Claude trembled too much. He was an
immense help through the nursing, and they came to
know and depend on him as nothing else would have
made them do ; and they proved how sincerely right-
minded and good he is. There is some connection with
the Underwoods, though I have not quite fathomed it.
There is no fear about home consent, for it seems that
he is given to outpourings to his mother, and had heard


that if he thought of Sir Jasper Merrifield's daughter
his parents would welcome her, knowing what Sir J.
is. There's for you ! considering that we have next to
nothing to give the child, and Frank has not much
fortune ; but Alethea is trained to the soldierly life,
and they will be better off than Jasper and I were.

' The worst of it is leaving them behind ; and as
neither of the gentlemen can afford a journey home, we
mean to have the double wedding before Lent. As to
outfit, the native tailors must be chiefly trusted to, or
the stores at Calcutta, and I must send out the rest when
I come home. Only please send by post my wedding
veil (Gillian knows where it is), together with another
as like it as may be. Any slight lace decorations to
make us respectable which suggest themselves to you
and her might come ; I can't recollect or mention them
now. I wish Eeginald could come and tell you all, but
the poor fellow has to go home full pelt about those
Irish. Jasper is writing to William, and you must
get business particulars from him, and let Gillian and
the little ones hear, for there is hardly any time to
write. Phyllis, being used to the idea, is very quiet
and matter-of-fact about it. She hoped, indeed, that I
guessed nothing till I was satisfied about papa, and had
had time to rest. Alethea is in a much more April
condition, and I am glad Frank waited till I was here
on her account and on her father's. He is going on
well, but must keep still. He declares that being
nursed by two pair of lovers is highly amusing.


However, such homes being found for two of the tribe
is a great relief to his mind. I suppose it is to one's
rational mind, though it is a terrible tug at one's heart-
strings. You shall hear again by the next mail. A
brown creature waits to take this to be posted. — Your
loving sister, L. M.'

Gillian came down to dinner quite pale, and to
Aunt Ada's kind 'Well, Gillian?' she could only
repeat, ' It is horrid.'

' It is hard to lose all the pretty double wedding,'
said Aunt Ada.

' Gillian does not mean that/ hastily put in Miss

' Oh no,' said Gillian ; c that would be worse than

' So you think/ said Aunt Jane ; ' but believe those
who have gone through it all, my dear; when the
wrench is over, one feels the benefit.'

Gillian shook her head, and drank water. Her
aunts went on talking, for they thought it better that
she should get accustomed to the prospect ; and, more-
over, they were so much excited that they could hardly
have spoken of anything else. Aunt Jane wondered if
Phyllis's betrothed were a brother of Mr. Underwood
of St. Matthew's, Whittingtown, with whom she had
corresponded about the consumptive home ; and Aunt
Ada regretted the not having called on Lady Liddesdale
when she had spent some weeks at Eockstone, and


consoled herself by recollecting that Lord Eotherwood
would know all about the family. She had already
looked it out in the Peerage, and discovered that Lord
Francis Cunningham Somerville was the only younger
son, that his age was twenty-nine, and that he had
three sisters, all married, as well as his elder brother,
who had children enough to make it improbable that
Alethea would ever be Lady Liddesdale. She would
have shown Gillian the record, but received the un-
gracious answer, ' I hate swells.'

' Let her alone, Ada,' said Aunt Jane ; ' it is a
very sore business. She will be better by and by.'

There ensued a little discussion how the veil at
Silverfold was to be hunted up, or if Gillian and her
aunt must go to do so.

' Can you direct Miss Vincent ? ' asked Miss Mohun.

1 No, I don't think I could ; besides, I don't like
to set any one to poke and meddle in mamma's

' And she could hardly judge what could be avail-
able,' added Miss Ada.

1 Gillian must go to find it,' said Aunt Jane ; ' and
let me see, when have I a day ? Saturday is never

free, and Monday I could ask Mrs. Hablot to

take the cutting out, and then I could look up Lily's
Brussels '

There she caught a sight of Gillian's face. Perhaps
one cause of the alienation the girl felt for her aunt
was, that there was a certain kindred likeness between


them which enabled each to divine the other's in-
quiring disposition, though it had different effects on
the elder and younger character. Jane Mohun sus-
pected that she had on her ferret look, and guessed
that Gillian's disgusted air meant that the idea of her
turning over Lady Merrifield's drawers was almost as

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeBeechcroft at Rockstone (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 14)