Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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distasteful as that of the governess's doing it.

' Suppose Gillian goes down on Monday with
Fanny,' she said. ' She could manage very well, I am
sure.'

Gillian cleared up a little. There is much con-
solation in being of a little importance, and she liked
the notion of a day at home, a quiet day, as she hoped
in her present mood, of speaking to nobody. Her
aunt let her have her own way, and only sent a card
to Macrae to provide for meeting and for food, not
even letting Miss Vincent know that she was coming.
That feeling of not being able to talk about it or be
congratulated would wear off, Aunt Jane said, if she
was not worried or argued with, in which case it
might become perverse affectation.

It certainly was not shared by the children.
Sisters unseen for three years could hardly be very
prominent in their minds. Fergus hoped that they
would ride to the wedding upon elephants, and Valetta
thought it very hard to miss the being a bridesmaid,
when Kitty Varley had already enjoyed the honour.
However, she soon began to glorify herself on the
beauty of Alethea's future title.



120 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKS TONE chap.

1 What will Kitty Varley and all say ? ' was her cry.

'Nothing, nnless they are snobs, as girls always
are,' said Fergus.

' It is not a nice word/ said Miss Adeline.

1 But there's nothing else that expresses it, Aunt
Ada/ returned Gillian.

' I agree to a certain degree/ said Miss Mohun ;
' but still I am not sure what it does express.'

'Just what girls of that sort are/ said Gillian.
1 Mere worshippers of any sort of handle to one's name.'

1 Gillian, Gillian, you are not going in for levelling/
cried Aunt Adeline.

' No/ said Gillian ; c but I call it snobbish to make
more fuss about Alethea's concern than Phyllis's — just
because he calls himself Lord '

1 That is to a certain degree true/ said Miss Mohun.
1 The worth of the individual man stands first of all,
and nothing can be sillier or in worse taste than to
parade one's grand relations.'

' To parade, yes/ said Aunt Adeline ; ' but there is
no doubt that good connections are a great advantage/

' Assuredly/ said Miss Mohun. ' Good birth and
an ancestry above shame are really a blessing, though
it has come to be the fashion to sneer at them. I do
not mean merely in the eyes of the world, though it
is something to have a name that answers for your
relations being respectable. But there are such things
as hereditary qualities, and thus testimony to the
existence of a distinguished forefather is worth having/



vi SINGLE MISFORTUNES NEVER COME ALONE 121

' Lily's dear old Sir Maurice cle Mohun to wit/
said Miss Adeline. ' You know she used to tease
Florence by saying the Barons of Beechcroft had a
better pedigree than the Devereuxes.'

' I'd rather belong to the man who made himself/
said Gillian.

' Well done, Gill ! But though your father won
his own spurs, you can't get rid of his respectable
Merrifield ancestry wherewith he started in life.'

' I don't want to. I had rather have them than
horrid robber Borderers, such as no doubt these Licldes-
dale people were.'

There was a little laughing at this ; but Gillian was
saying in her own mind that it was a fine thing to be
one's own Bodolf of Hapsburg, and in that light she
held Captain White, who, in her present state of mind,
she held to have been a superior being to all the
Somervilles — perhaps to all the Devereuxes who ever
existed.



CHAPTER VII

AX EMPTY NEST

There had been no injunctions of secrecy, and though
neither Miss Mohun nor Gillian had publicly mentioned
the subject, all Rockquay who cared for the news knew
by Sunday morning that Lady Merrifield's two elder
daughters were engaged.

Gillian, in the course of writing her letters, had
become somewhat familiarised with the idea, and really
looked forward to talking it over with Kalliope. Though
that young person could hardly be termed Alethea's
best friend, it was certain that Alethea stood foremost
with her, and that her interest in the matter would be
verv loving.

Accordingly, Kalliope was at the place of meeting
even before Gillian, and anxiously she looked as she
said —

1 May I venture — may I ask if it is true ? '
' True ? Oh yes, Kally ; I knew you would care.'
' Indeed, I well may. There is no expressing how
much I owe to dear Miss Alethea and Lady Merrifield,
and it is such a delight to hear of them.'



chap, vii AN EMPTY NEST 123

Accordingly, Gillian communicated the facts as she
knew them, and offered to give any message.

I Only my dear love and congratulations,' said
Kalliope, with a little sigh. ' I should like to have
written, but '

' But why don't you, then ? '

' Oh no ; she would be too much engaged to think
of us, and it would only worry her to be asked for
her advice.'

I I think I know what it is about,' said Gillian.

' How ? Oh, how do you know ? Did Mr. Flight
say anything ? '

' Mr. Flight ? ' exclaimed Gillian. ' What has he
to do with it ? '

' It was foolish, perhaps ; but I did hope he might
have helped Alexis, and now he seems only to care
for his music'

' Helped him ! How ? '

' Perhaps it was unreasonable, but Alexis has always
been to good schools. He was getting on beautifully
at Leeds, and we thought he would have gained a
scholarship and gone on to be a clergyman. That
was what his mind has always been fixed upon. You
cannot think how good and devoted he is,' said Kalliope
with a low trembling voice ; ' and my father wished
it very much too. But when the break-up came, Mr.
White made our not being too fine, as he said, to work,
a sort of condition of doing anything for us. Mr.
Moore did tell him what Alexis is, but I believe he



124 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKS TONE chap.

thought it all nonsense, and there was nothing to be
done. Alexis — clear fellow — took it so nicely, said he
was thankful to be able to help mother, and if it was
his duty and God's will, it was sure to come right ; and
he has been plodding away at the marble works ever
since, quite patiently and resolutely, but trying to keep
up his studies in the evening, only now he has worked
through all his old school-books.'

'And does not Mr. Flight know that I will help
him ? '

' Well, Mr. Flight means to be kind, and sometimes
seems to think much of him ; but it is all for his
music, I am afraid. He is always wanting new things
to be learnt and practised, and those take up so much
time ; and though he does lend us books, they are of
no use for study, though they only make the clear boy
loucy and loner the more to 2;et on.'

1 Does not Mr. Flight know ? '

1 I am not sure. I think he does ; but in his
ardour for music he seems to forget all about it. It
does seem such a pity that all Alexis's time should
be wasted in this drudgery. If I could only be sure of
more extra work for my designs, I could set him free ;
and if Sir Jasper were only at home, I am sure he
would put the boy in the way of earning his education.
If it were only as a pupil teacher, he would be glad ;
but then he says he ought not to throw all on me.'

' Oh, he must be very good ! ' exclaimed Gillian.
* I am sure papa will help him ! I wish I could.



vii AN EMPTY NEST 125

Oh ! ' — with a sudden recollection — ( I wonder what
books he wants most. I am going to Silverfold to-
morrow, and there are lots of old school-books there of
the boys', doing nothing, that I know he might have.'

' Oh, Miss Gillian, how good of you ! How de-
lighted he would be ! '

' Do you know what he wants most ? '

1 A Greek grammar and lexicon most of all,' was the
ready answer. ' He has been trying to find them at
the second-hand shop ever so long; but I am afraid
there is no hope of a lexicon. They are so large and
expensive.'

' 1 think there is an old one of Jasper's, if he would
not mind its back being off, and lots of blots.'

' He would mind nothing. Oh, Miss Gillian, you
can't think how happy he will be.'

' If there is anything else he wants very much,
how could he let me know ? ' mused Gillian. ' Oh, I
see ! What time are you at the works ? '

' Alex is there at seven ; I don't go till nine.'

'I am to be at the station at 8.40. Could you or
Maura meet me there and tell me ? '

To this Kalliope agreed, for she said she could be
sure of getting to her post in time afterwards, and she
seemed quite overjoyed. No one could look at her
without perceiving that Alexis was the prime thought
of her heart, and Gillian delighted her by repeating
Aunt Adeline's admiration of his profile, and the
general opinion of his singing.



126 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKS TONE chap.

1 1 am so sorry you have had to give it up/ she
added.

' It can't be helped/ Kalliope said ; ' and I really
have no time.'

' But that's not all/ said Gillian, beginning to blush
herself.

' Oh ! I hope there's no gossip or nonsense about
that' cried Kalliope, her cheeks naming.

< Only '

' Not Maura ? Naughty little girl, I did not think
she knew anything. Not that there is anything to
tell/ said Kalliope, much distressed ; ' but it is dread-
ful that there should be such talk.'

1 1 thought it was that you meant when you said
you wanted advice.'

' No one could advise me, I am afraid/ said the
girl. ' If we could only go away from this place !
But that's impossible, and I dare say the fancy will
soon go off ! '

' Then you don't care for him ? '

c My dear Miss Gillian, when I have seen gentle-
men ! ' said Kalliope, in a tone that might have cured
her admirer.

They had, however, talked longer than usual, and
the notes of the warning bell came up, just when
Gillian had many more questions to ask, and she had
to run down the garden all in a glow with eagerness
and excitement, so that Aunt Ada asked if she had
been standing in the sea wind. Her affirmative was



vii AN EMPTY NEST 127

true enough, and yet she was almost ashamed of it, as
not the whole truth, and there was a consciousness
about her all the afternoon which made her soon regret
that conversation was chiefly absorbed by the younger
one's lamentations that they were not to accompany
her to Silverfold, and by their commissions. Fergus
wanted a formidable amount of precious tools, and
inchoate machines, which Mrs. Halfpenny had regarded
as ' mess,' and utterly refused to let his aunts be
1 fashed ' with ; while Valetta's orders were chiefly for
the visiting all the creatures, so as to bring an exact
account of the health and spirits of Eigdum Funnidos,
etc., also for some favourite story-books which she
wished to lend to Kitty Varley and Maura White.

I For do you know, Gill, Maura has never had
a new story-book since mamma gave her Little
Alice and her Sister, when she was seven years old !
Do bring her Stories they tell me, and On Angel's
Wings!

' But is not that Mysie's ? '

' Oh yes ; but I know Mysie would let her have it.
Mysie always let Maura have everything of hers,
because the boys teased her.'

I I will bring it ; but I think Mysie ought to be
written to before it is lent.'

' That is right, Gillian,' said Miss Mohun ; ' it is
always wiser to be above-board when dealing with
other people's things, even in trifles.'

Why did this sound like a reproach, and as if it



128 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

implied suspicion that Gillian was not acting on that
principle ? She resented the feeling. She knew she
might do as she liked with the boys' old books, for
which they certainly had no affection, and which indeed
her mother had talked of offering to some of those
charities which have a miscellaneous appetite, and
wonderful power of adaptation of the disused. Besides,
though no one could have the least objection to their
being bestowed on the Whites, the very fact of this
being her third secret meeting with Kalliope was
beginning to occasion an awkwardness in accounting for
her knowledge of their needs. It was obvious to ask
why she had not mentioned the first meeting, and
this her pride would not endure. She had told her
parents by letter. What more could be desired ?

Again, when she would not promise to see either
Miss Vincent or the Miss Hackets, because ' she did
not want to have a fuss,' Aunt Jane said she thought
it a pity, with regard at least to the governess, who
might feel herself hurt at the neglect, 'and needless
secrets are always unadvisable.'

Gillian could hardly repress a wriggle, but her
Aunt Ada laughed, saying, * Especially with you about,
Jenny, for you always find them out.'

At present, however, Miss Mohun certainly had no
suspicion. Gillian was very much afraid she would
think proper to come to the station in the morning ;
but she was far too busy, and Gillian started off in
the omnibus alone with Mrs. Mount in handsome



tii AN EMPTY NEST 129

black silk trim, to be presented to Mr. Macrae, and
much enjoying the trip, having been well instructed
by Fergus and Valetta in all that she was to see.

Kalliope was descried as the omnibus stopped, and
in a few seconds Gillian had shaken hands with her,
received the note, and heard the ardent thanks sent
from Alexis, and which the tattered books — even if
they proved to be right — would scarcely deserve. He
would come with his sister to receive the parcel at the
station on Gillian's return — at 5.29, an offer which
obviated any further difficulties as to conveyance.

Mrs. Mount was intent upon the right moment to
run the gauntlet for the tickets ; and had it been
otherwise, would have seen nothing remarkable in her
charge being accosted by a nice-looking ladylike girl. So
on they rushed upon their way, Gillian's spirits rising
in a curious sense of liberty and holiday-making.

In due time they arrived, and were received by
Macrae with the pony carriage, while the trees of
Silverfold looked exquisite in their autumn red, gold,
and brown.

But the dreariness of the deserted house, with no
one on the steps but Quiz, and all the furniture muffled
in sheets, struck Gillian more than she had expected,
though the schoolroom had been wakened up for her,
a bright fire on the hearth, and the cockatoo highly
conversational, the cats so affectionate that it was
difficult to take a step without stumbling over one of
them.

vol. 1 K



130 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

When the business had all been despatched, the
wedding veil disinterred, and the best Brussels and
Honiton safely disposed in a box ; when an extremely
dilapidated and much-inked collection of school-books
had been routed out of the backstairs cupboard
(commonly called Erebus) and duly packed ; when a
selection of lighter literature had been made with a
view both to Valetta and Lilian ; when Gillian had
shown all she could to Mrs. Mount, visited all the
animals, gone round the garden, and made two beautiful
posies of autumn flowers, one for her little sister and
the other for Kalliope, discovered that Fergus's precious
machine had been ruthlessly made away with, but
secured his tools, — she found eating partridge in solitary
grandeur rather dreary work, though she had all the
bread-sauce to herself, and cream to her apple tart, to
say nothing of Macrae, waiting upon her as if she had
been a duchess, and conversing in high exultation upon
the marriages, only regretting that one gentleman should
be a civilian ; he had always augured that all his
young ladies would be in the Service, and begging that
he might be made aware of the wedding-day, so as to
have the bells rung.

To express her own feelings to the butler was not
possible, and his glee almost infected her. She was
quite sorry when, having placed a choice of pears and
October peaches before her, he went off to entertain
Mrs. Mount; and after packing a substratum of the
fruit in the basket for the Whites, she began almost



vii AN EMPTY NES T 131

to repent of having insisted on not returning to Eock-
stone till the four o'clock train, feeling her solitary
liberty oppressive ; and finally she found herself walking
down the drive in search of Miss Vincent.

She had to confess to herself that her aunt was
quite right, and that the omission would have been a
real unkindness, when she saw how worn and tired the
governess looked, and the brightness that flashed over
the pale face at sight of her. Mrs. Vincent had been
much worse, and though slightly better for the present
was evidently in a critical state, very exhausting to
her daughter.

Good Miss Hacket at that moment came in to sit
with her, and send the daughter out for some air ; and
it was well that Gillian had had some practice in
telling her story not too disconsolately, for it was
received with all the delight that the mere notion of
a marriage seems to inspire, though Phyllis and Alethea
had scarcely been seen at Silverfold before they had
gone to India with their father.

Miss Hacket had to be content with the names
before she hastened up to the patient ; but Miss
Vincent walked back through the paddock with Gillian,
talking over what was more personally interesting to
the governess, the success of her own pupils, scattered
as they were, and comparing notes upon Mysie's letters.
One of these Miss Vincent had just received by the
second post, having been written to announce the great
news, and it continued in true Mysie fashion : —



1 32 BEE CHCR OFT AT RO CKS TONE chap.

1 Cousin Botkerwood knows all about them, and
says they will have a famous set of belongings. He
will take me to see some of them if we go to London
before mamma comes home. Bernard Underwood's
sister is married to Mr. Grinstead, the sculptor who
did the statue of Mercy at the Gate that Harry gave
a photograph of to mamma, and she paints pictures
herself. I want to see them ; but I do not know
whether we shall stay in London, for they do not think
it agrees with Fly. I do more lessons than she does
now, and I have read through all Autour cle mon Jar din.
I have a letter from Dolores too, and she thinks that
Aunt Phyllis and all are coming home to make a visit
in England for Uncle Harry to see his father, and she
wishes very much that they would bring her ; but it
is not to be talked about for fear they should be
hindered, and old Dr. May hear of it and be disap-
pointed ; but you won't see any one to tell.'

' There, what have I done ? ' exclaimed Miss Vincent
in dismay. ' But I had only just got the letter, and
had barely glanced through it.'

' Besides, who would have thought of Mysie having
any secrets ? ' said Gillian.

' After all, I suppose no harm is done ; for you
can't have any other connection with these Mays.'

' Oh yes, there will be ; for I believe a brother of
this man of Phyllis's married one of the Miss Mays,
and I suppose we shall have to get mixed up with the
whole lot. How I do hate strangers ! But I'll take



vii AN EMPTY NEST 133

care, Miss Vincent, indeed I will. One is not bound
to tell one's aunts everything like one's mother.'

1 No,' said Miss Vincent decidedly ; ' especially
when it is another person's secret betrayed through
inadvertence.' Perhaps she thought Gillian looked
dangerously gratified, for she added : ' However, you
know poor Dolores did not find secrecy answer.'

' Oh, there are secrets and secrets, and aunts and
aunts ! ' said Gillian. ' Dolores had no mother.'

' It makes a difference,' said Miss Vincent. ' I
should never ask you to conceal anything from Lady
Merrifield. Besides, this is not a matter of conduct,
only a report.'

Gillian would not pursue the subject. Perhaps she
was a little disingenuous with her conscience, for
she wanted to carry off the impression that Miss
Vincent had pronounced concealment from her aunts
to be justifiable ; and she knew at the bottom of her
heart that her governess would condemn a habit of
secret intimacy with any one being carried on without
the knowledge of her hostess and guardian for the
time being, — above all when it was only a matter of
waiting.

It is a fine thing for self-satisfaction to get an
opinion without telling the whole of the facts of the
case, and Gillian went home in high spirits, considerably
encumbered with parcels, and surprising Mrs. Mount
by insisting that two separate packages should be made
of the books.



134 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

Kalliope and Alexis were both awaiting her at
the station, their gratitude unbounded, and finding
useful vent by the latter fetching a cab and handing
in the goods.

It was worth something to see how happy the
brother and sister looked, as they went off in the
gaslight, the one with the big brown paper parcel, the
other with the basket of fruit and flowers ; and
Gillian's explanation to Mrs. Mount that they were
old friends of her soldiering days was quite satisfactory.

There was a grand unpacking. Aunt Ada was
pleased with the late roses, and Aunt Jane that there
had been a recollection of Lilian Giles, to whom she
had thought her niece far too indifferent. Valetta
fondled the flowers, and was gratified to hear of the
ardent affection of the Begum and the health of Eigdum,
though Gillian was forced to confess that she had not
transferred to him the kiss that she had been commis-
sioned to convey. Nobody was disappointed except
Fergus, who could not but vituperate the housemaids for
the destruction of his new patent guillotine for mice,
which was to have been introduced to Clement Varley.
To be sure it would hardly ever act, and had never
cut off the head of anything save a dandelion ; but
that was a trifling consideration.

A letter from Mysie was awaiting Gillian, not
lengthy, for there was a long interval between Mysie's
brains and her pen, and saying nothiDg about the New
Zealand report. The selection of lace was much



vii AN EMPTY NEST 135

approved, and the next day there was to be an
expedition to endeavour to get the veil matched as
nearly as possible. The only dangerous moment was
at breakfast the next day, when Miss Mohun said —

' Fanny was delighted with Silverfold. Macrae
seems to have been the pink of politeness to her.'

' She must come when the house is alive again,'
said Gillian. ' What would she think of it then ? '

' Oh, that would be perfectly delicious,' cried
Valetta. ' She would see Begum and Eigdum '

'And I could show her how to work the lawn
cutter,' added Fergus.

' By the bye,' said Aunt Jane, f whom have you been
lending books to ? '

' Oh, to the Whites,' said Gillian, colouring, as she
felt more than she could wish. ' There were some old
school-books that I thought would be useful to them,
and I was sure mamma would like them to have some
flowers and fruit.'

She felt herself very candid; but why would
Aunt Jane look at those tell-tale cheeks.

Sunday was wet, or rather ' misty moisty,' with a raw
sea-fog overhanging everything — not bad enough, how-
ever, to keep any one except Aunt Ada from church or
school, though she decidedly remonstrated against
Gillian's going out for her wandering in the garden in
such weather; and, if she had been like the other
aunt, might almost have been convinced that such deter-
mination must be for an object. However, Gillian



136 BEECHCROFT AT ROCKSTONE chap.

encountered the fog in vain, though she walked up
and down the path till her clothes were quite limp and
flabby with damp. All the view that rewarded her
was the outline of the shrubs looming through the
mist like distant forests as mountains. Moreover, she
got a scolding from Aunt Ada, who met her coming
in, and was horrified at the misty atmosphere which
she was said to have brought in, and insisted on her
going at once to change her dress, and staying by the
fireside all the rest of the afternoon.

' I cannot think what makes her so eager about
going out in the afternoon,' said the younger aunt to
the elder. ' It is impossible that she can have any
reason for it.'

' Only Sunday restlessness,' said Miss Mohun, ' added
to the reckless folly of the "Backfisch " about health.'

* That's true,' said Adeline ; ' girls must be either so
delicate that they are quite helpless, or so strong as to
be absolutely weather-proof.'

Fortune, however, favoured Gillian when next she
went to Lily Giles. She had never succeeded in taking
real interest in the girl, who seemed to her to be so
silly and sentimental that an impulse to answer drily
instantly closed up all inclination to effusions of confi-
dence. Gillian had not yet learnt breadth of charity
enough to understand that everybody does not feel, or
express feeling, after the same pattern; that gush is
not always either folly or insincerity ; and that girls
of Lily's class are about at the same stage of culture


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