Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Beechcroft at Rockstone (Volume 2) online

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St. Valentine's Day ...... 1

The Partner 22

The Rocks of Rockstone . . . .40

Vanished 60

'They come, they come' ...... 76

Father and Mother ...... 99

The Knight and the Dragon 118




Ivinghoe Terrace . . . . • • .145

Beauty and the Beast . . . . • .168

The Maiden all forlorn . . . . .199

Fangs 22 6

Conclusion 252



ST. valentine's day

Miss Mohun came back in the dark after a long day,
for once in her life quite jaded, and explaining that
the health-officer and the landlord had been by no
means agreed, and that nothing could be done till Sir
Jasper came home and decided whether to retain the
house or not.

All that she was clear about, and which she had
telegraphed to Aden, was, that there must be no going
back to Silverfolcl for the present, and she was prepared
to begin lodging-hunting as soon as she received an

' And how have you got on ? ' she asked, thinking
all looked rather blank.

'We haven't been to see Fly,' broke out Valetta,
1 though she went out on the beach, and Mysie must
not stay out after dark, for fear she should cough.'

'Mysie says they are afraid of excitement,' said
Gillian gloomily.



' Then you have seen nothing of the others ? '

I Yes, I have seen Victoria/ said Aunt Adeline, with
a meaning smile.

Miss Mohun went up to take off her things, and
Gillian followed her, shutting the door with ominous
carefulness, and colouring all over.

' Aunt Jane, I ought to tell you. A dreadful thing
has happened ! '

' Indeed, my dear ! What ?

' I have had a valentine.'

' Oh ! ' repressing a certain inclination to laugh at the
bathos from the look of horror and shame in the girl's

' It is from that miserable Alexis ! Oh, I know I
brought it on myself, and I have been so wretched
and so ashamed all day.'

' Was it so very shocking ! Let me see '

' Oh ! I sent it back at once by the post, in an
envelope, saying, " Sent by mistake." '

' But what was it like ? Surely it was not one of
the common shop things ? '

' Oh no ; there was rather a pretty outline of a
nymph or muse, or something of that sort, at the top —
drawn, I mean — and verses written below, something
about my showing a lodestar of hope, but I barely
glanced at it. I hated it too much.'

I I am sorry you were in such a hurry,' said Aunt
Jane. ' No doubt it was a shock ; but I am afraid
you have given more pain than it quite deserved.'


' It was so impertinent ! ' cried Gillian, in astonished,
shame-stricken indignation.

' So it seems to you/ said her aunt, ' and it was
very bad taste ; but you should remember that this
poor lad has grown up in a stratum of society where
he may have come to regard this as a suitable oppor-
tunity of evincing his gratitude, and perhaps it may be
very hard upon him to have this work of his treated
as an insult.'

'But you would not have had me keep it and
tolerate it ? ' exclaimed Gillian.

' I can hardly tell without having seen it ; but you
might have done the thing more civilly, through his
sister, or have let me give it back to him. However,
it is too late now ; I will make a point of seeing
Kalliope to-morrow, but in the meantime you really
need not be so horribly disgusted and ashamed.'

' I thought he was quite a different sort ! '

' Perhaps, after all, your thoughts were not wrong ;
and he only fancied, poor boy, that he had found a
pretty way of thanking you.'

This did not greatly comfort Gillian, who might
prefer feeling that she was insulted rather than that
she had been cruelly unkind, and might like to blame
Alexis rather than herself. And, indeed, in any case,
she had sense enough to perceive that this very un-
acceptable compliment was the consequence of her
own act of independence of more experienced heads.

The next person Miss Mohun met was Fergus,


lugging upstairs, step by step, a monstrous lump of
stone, into which he required her to look and behold
a fascinating crevice full of glittering spar.

' Where did you get that, Fergus ? '

' Up off the cliff over the quarry.'

1 Are you sure that you may have it ? '

' Oh yes ; White said I might. It's so jolly,
auntie ! Frank Stebbing is gone away to the other
shop in the Apennines, where the old boss lives.
What splendiferous specimens he must have the run
of ! Our Stebbing says 'tis because Kally White
makes eyes at him ; but any way, White has got to
do his work while he's away, and go all the rounds to
see that things are right ; so I go after him, and he lets
me have just what I like — such jolly crystals.'

* 1 am sure I hope it is all right.'

1 Oh yes, I always ask him, as you told me ; but he
is awfully slow and mopy and down in the mouth to-
day. Stebbing says he is sweet upon Gill ; but I told
him that couldn't be, White knew better. A general's
daughter, indeed ! and Will remembers his father a

1 It is very foolish, Fergus. Say no more about it,
for it is not nice talk about your sister.'

' I'll lick any one who does,' said Fergus, bumping
his stone up another step.

Poor Aunt Jane ! There was more to fall on her
as soon as the door was finally shut on the two rooms
communicating with one another, which the sisters


called their own. Mrs. Mount's manipulations of Miss
Adeline's rich brown hair were endured with some
impatience, while Miss Mohun leant back in her chair
in her shawl-patterned dressing-gown, watching, with a
sort of curious wonder and foreboding, the restlessness
that proved that something was in store, and meantime
somewhat lazily brushing out her own thinner darker

' You are tired, Miss Jane,' said the old servant,
using the pet name in private moments. ' You had
better let me do your hair.'

'No, thank you, Fanny; I have very nearly done,'
she said, marking the signs of eagerness on her sister's
part. ' Oh, by the bye, did that hot bottle go down to
Lilian Giles ?'

' Yes, ma'am ; Mrs. Giles came up for it.'

' Did she say whether Lily was well enough to see
Miss Gillian?'

Mrs. Mount coughed a peculiar cough that her
mistresses well knew to signify that she could tell them
something they would not like to hear, if they chose
to ask her, and it was the younger who put the
question —

' Fanny, did she say anything ?'

1 Well, Miss Ada, I told her she must be mistaken ;
but she stuck to it, though she said she never would
have breathed a word if Miss Gillian had not come
back again, but she thought you should know it,'

' Know what ?' demanded Jane.


' Well, Miss Jane, she should say 'tis the talk that
Miss Gillian, when you have thought her reading to
the poor girl, has been running down to the works —
and 'tis only the ignorance of them that will talk, but
they say ib is to meet a young man. She says, Mrs.
Giles do, that she never would have noticed such talk,
but that the young lady did always seem in a hurry,
only just reading a chapter, and never stopping to talk
to poor Lily after it ; and she has seen her herself
goings down towards the works, instead of towards home,
ma'am. And she said she could not bear that reading
to her girl should be made a colour for such doings.'

' Certainly not, if it were as she supposes,' said Miss
Mohun, sitting very upright, and beating her own head
vigorously with a very prickly brush ; ' but you may
tell her, Fanny, that I know all about it, and that her
friend is Miss White, who you remember spent an
evening here.'

Fanny's good-humoured face cleared up. 'Yes,
ma'am, I told her that I was quite sure that Miss
Gillian would not go for to do anything wrong, and
that it could be easy explained ; but people has tongues,
you see.'

' You were quite right to tell us, Fanny. Good-

' People has tongues !' repeated Adeline, when that
excellent person had disappeared. ' Yes, indeed, they
have. But, Jenny, do you really mean to say that you
know all about this ? '


' Yes, I believe so.'

'Oh, I wish you had been at home to-day when
Victoria came in. It really is a serious business.'

' Victoria ! What has she to do with it ? I should
have thought her Marchioness -ship quite out of the
region of gossip, though, for that matter, grandees like
it quite as much as other people.'

' Don't, Jane ; you know it does concern her through
companionship for Phyllis, and she was very kind.'

' Oh yes, I can see her sailing in, magnificently kind
from her elevation. But how in the world did she
manage to pick up all this in the time ?' said poor
Jane, tired and pestered into the sharpness of her early

'Dear Jenny, I wish I had said nothing to-night.
Do wait till you are rested.'

' I am not in the least tired, and if I were, do you
think I could sleep with this half told V

' You said you knew.'

' Then it is only about Gillian being so silly as to
go down to Miss White's office at the works to look
over the boy's Greek exercises.'

' You don't mean that you allowed it !'

1 No ; Gillian's impulsiveness, just like her mother's,
began it, as a little assertion of modern independence ;
but while she was away that little step from brook to
river brought her to the sense that she had been a
goose, and had used me rather unfairly, and so she
came and confessed it all to me on the way home from


the station the first morning after her return. She
says she had written it all to her mother from the

' I wonder Lily did not telegraph to put a stop
to it*

'Do you suppose any mother, our poor old Lily
especially, can marry a couple of daughters without
being slightly frantic ? Ten to one she never realised
that this precious pupil was bigger than Fergus. But
do tell me what my Lady had heard, and how she
heard it.'

' You remember that her governess, Miss Elbury,
has connections in the place.'

' " The most excellent creature in the world." Oh
yes, and she spent Sunday with them. So that was
the conductor.'

' I can hardly say that Miss Elbury was to be
blamed, considering that she had heard the proposal
about Yaletta ! It seems that that High School class
mistress, Miss Mellon, who had the poor child under
her, is her cousin.'

' Oh dear !'

' It is exactly what I was afraid of when we decided
on keeping Valetta at home. Miss Mellon told all the
Csesar story in plainly the worst light for poor Val,
and naturally deduced from her removal that she was
the most to blame.'

1 Whereas it was Miss Mellon herself ! But nobody
could expect Victoria to see that, and uo doubt she is


quite justified in not wishing for the child in her
schoolroom ! But, after all, Valetta is only a child ; it
won't hurt her to have this natural recoil of conse-
quences, and her mother will be at home in three weeks'
time. It signifies much more about Gillian. Did I
understand you that the gossip about her had reached
those august ears ? '

1 Oh yes, Jane, and it is ever so much worse. That
horrid Miss Mellon seems to have told Miss Elbury
that Gillian has a passion for low company, that she
is always running after the Whites at the works, and
has secret meetings with the young man in the garden
on Sunday, while his sister carries on her underhand
flirtation with another youth, Frank Stebbing, I suppose.
It really was too preposterous, and Victoria said she
had no doubt from the first that there was exaggera-
tion, and had told Miss Elbury so ; but still she thought
Gillian must have been to blame. She was very nice
about it, and listened to all my explanation most
kindly, as to Gillian's interest in the Whites, and its
having been only the sister that she met, but plainly
she is not half convinced. I heard something about a
letter being left for Gillian, and really, I don't know
whether there may not be more discoveries to come.
I never felt before the force of our dear father's saying,
apropos of Eotherwood himself, that no one knows
what it is to lose a father except those who have the
care of his children.'

' Whatever Gillian did was innocent and ladylike,


and nothing to be ashamed of/ said Aunt Jane stoutly ;
' of that I am sure. But I should like to be equally
sure that she has not turned the head of that poor
foolish young man, without in the least knowing what
she was about. You should have seen her state of
mind at his sending her a valentine, which she returned
to him, perfectly ferociously, at once ; and that was all
the correspondence somebody seems to have smelt out.'

' A valentine ! Gillian must have behaved very ill
to have brought that upon herself ! Oh dear ! I wish
she had never come here ; I wish Lily could have
stayed at home, instead of scattering her children
about the world. The Eotherwoods will never get
over it.'

' That's the least part of the grievance, in my eyes,'
said her sister. ' It won't make a fraction of difference
to the dear old cousin Eotherwood ; and as to my Lady,
it is always a liking from the teeth outwards.'

' How can you say so ! I am sure she has always
been most cordial.'

' Most correct, if you please. Oh, did she say any-
thing about Mysie ? '

' She said nothing but good of Mysie ; called her
delightful, and perfectly good and trustworthy; said
they could never have got so well through Phyllis's
illness without her, and that they only wished to keep
her altogether.'

1 1 dare say, to be humble companion to my little
lady, out of the way of her wicked sisters.'



' My dear, I don't think I can stand any more de-
fence of her just now ! No, she is an admirable woman,
I know. That's enough. I really must go to bed,
and consider which is to be faced first, she or Kalliope.'

It was lucky that Miss Mohun could exist without
much sleep, for she was far too much worried for any
length of slumber to visit her that night, though she
was afoot as early as usual. She thought it best to
tell Gillian that Lady Eotherwood had heard some
foolish reports, and that she was going to try to clear
them up, and she extracted an explicit account as to
what the extent of her intercourse with the Whites
had been, which was given willingly, Gillian being in
a very humble frame, and convinced that she had acted
foolishly. It surprised her likewise that Aunt Adeline,
whom she had liked the best, and thought the most
good-natured, was so much more angry with her than
Aunt Jane, who, as she felt, forgave her thoroughly,
and was only anxious to help her out of the scrape
she had made for herself.

Miss Mohun thought her best time for seeing Kal-
liope would be in the dinner-hour, and started accord-
ingly in the direction of the marble works. Xot far
from them she met that young person walking quickly
with one of her little brothers.

' I was coming to see you,' Miss Mohun said. ' I
did not know that you went home in the middle of
the day.'


' My mother has been so unwell of late that I do
not like to be entirely out of reach all day,' returned
Kalliope, who certainly looked worn and sorrowful;
' so I manage to run home, though it is but for a
quarter of an hour.'

' I will not delay you, I will walk with you ;' and
when Petros had been dismissed, ' I am afraid my niece
has not been quite the friend to you that she intended.'

' Oh, Miss Mohun, do you know all about it ? It
is such a relief ! I have felt so guilty towards you,
and yet I did not know what to do.'

' I have never thought that the concealment was
your fault,' said Jane.

* I did think at first that you knew,' said Kalliope ;
' and when I found that was not the case, I suppose I
should have insisted on your being told ; but I could
not bear to seem ungrateful, and my brother took such
extreme delight in his lessons and Miss Merrifield's
kindness, that — that I could not bear to do what might
prevent them. And now, poor fellow, it shows how
wrong it was, since he has ventured on that unfor-
tunate act of presumption, which has so offended her.
Oh, Miss Mohun, he is quite broken-hearted.'

' 1 am afraid Gillian was very discourteous. I was
out, or it should not have been done so unkindly.
Indeed, in the shock, Gillian did not recollect that she
might be giving pain.'

' Yes, yes ! Poor Alexis ! He has not had any
opportunity of understanding how different things are


in your class of life, and he thought it would show his

gratitude and — and Oh, he is so miserable !'

and she was forced to stop to wipe away her tears.

' Poor fellow ! But it was one of those young men's
mistakes that are got over and outgrown, so you need
not grieve over it so much, my dear. My brother-in-
law is on his way home, and I know he means to see
what can be done for Alexis, for your father's sake.'

' Oh, Miss Mohun, how good you are ! I thought
you could never forgive us. And people do say such
shocking things/

' I know they do, and therefore I am going to ask
you to tell me exactly what intercourse there has been
with Gillian.'

Kalliope did so, and Miss Mohun was struck with
the complete accordance of the two accounts, and like-
wise by the total absence of all attempt at self-justifica-
tion on Miss White's part. If she had in any way
been weak, it had been against her will, and her posi-
tion had been an exceedingly difficult one. She spoke
in as guarded a manner as possible ; but to such acute
and experienced ears as those of her auditor, it was
impossible not to perceive that, while Gillian had been
absolutely simple, and unconscious of all but a kind
act of patronage, the youth's imagination had taken
fire, and he had become her ardent worshipper ; with
calf-love, no doubt, but with a distant, humble adora-
tion, which had, whether fortunately or unfortunately,
for once found expression in the valentine so summarily


rejected. The drawing and the composition had been
the work of many days, and so much against his sister's
protest that it had been sent without her knowledge,
after she had thought it given up. She had only
extracted the confession through his uncontrollable
despair, which made him almost unfit to attend to
his increased work, perhaps by his southern nature

' The stronger at first, the sooner over,' thought
Miss Mohun ; but she knew that consolation betray-
ing her comprehension would not be safe.

One further discovery she made, namely, that on
Sunday, Alexis, foolish lad, had been so wildly impatient
at their having had no notice from Gillian since her
return, that he had gone to the garden to explain, as
he said, his sister's non-appearance there, since she
was detained by her mother's illness. It was the only
time he had ever been there, and he had met no one ;
but Miss Mohun felt a sinking of heart at the fore-
boding that the mcmvaises langues would get hold of it.

The only thing to be decided on was that there
must be a suspension of intercourse, at any rate, till
Lady Merrifield's arrival; not in unkindness, but as
best for all. And, indeed, Kalliope had no time to
spare from her mother, whose bloated appearance, poor
woman, was the effect of long-standing disease.

The daughter's heart was very full of her, and
evidently it would have been a comfort to discuss her
condition with this kind friend ; but no more delay


was possible ; and Miss Mohun had to speed home, in
a quandary how much or how little about Alexis's
hopeless passion should be communicated to its object,
and finally deciding that Gillian had better only be
informed that he had been greatly mortified by the
rude manner of rejection, but that the act itself proved
that she must abstain from all renewal of the inter-
course till her parents should return.

But that was not all the worry of the day. Miss
Mohun had still to confront Lady Eotherwood ; and.
going as soon as the early dinner was over, found the
Marchioness resting after an inspection of houses in
Eockquay. She did not like hotels, she said, and she
thought the top of the cliff too bleak for Phyllis, so
that they must move nearer the sea if the place agreed
with her at all. which was doubtful. Miss Mohun
was pretty well convinced that the true objection was
the neighbourhood of Beechcroft Cottage. She said
she had come to give some explanation of what had
been said to her sister yesterday.

' Oh, my dear Jane, Adeline told me all about it
yesterday. I am very sorry for you to have had such
a charge ; but what could you expect of girls cast
about as they have been, always with a marching-
regiment V

' I do not think Mysie has given you any reason to
think her ill brought up.'

'A little uncouth at first; but that was all. Oh,
no ! Mysie is a dear little girl. 1 should be very


glad to have her with Phyllis altogether, and so would
Eotherwood. But she was very young when Sir
Jasper retired.'

' And Valetta was younger. Poor little girl ! She
was naughty; but I do not think she understood the
harm of what she was doing.'

Lady Eotherwood smiled.

1 Perhaps not ; but she must have been deeply in-
volved, since she was the one amongst all the guilty to
be expelled.'

' Oh, Victoria ! Was that what you heard ? '

' Miss Elbury heard it from the governess she was
under. Surely she was the only one not permitted to
go up for the examination and removed.'

'True, but that was our doing — no decree of the
High School. Her own governess is free now, and
her mother on her way, and we thought she had better
not begin another term. Yes, Victoria, I quite see
that you might doubt her fitness to be much with
Phyllis. I am not asking for that — I shall try to get
her own governess to come at once ; but for the child's
sake and her mother's I should like to get this cleared
up. May I see Miss Elbury ?'

' Certainly ; but I do not think you will find that
she has exaggerated, though of course her informant
may have done so.'

Miss Elbury was of the older generation of gover-
nesses, motherly, kind, but rather prim and precise, the
accomplished element being supplied with diplomaed


foreigners, who, since Lady Phyllis's failure in health,
had been dispensed with. She was a good and
sensible woman, as Jane could see, in spite of the
annoyance her report had occasioned, and it was im-
possible not to assent when she said she had felt
obliged, under the circumstances, to mention to Lady
Eotherwood what her cousin had told her.

' About both my nieces,' said Jane. ' Yes, I quite
understand. But, though of course the little one's
affair is the least important, we had better get to the
bottom of that first, and I should like to tell you
what really happened.'

She told her story, and how A^aletta had been
tempted and then bullied into going beyond the first
peeps, and finding she did not produce the impression
she wished, she begged Miss Elbury to talk it over
with the head-mistress. It was all in the telling.
Miss Elbury' s young cousin, Miss Mellon, had been
brought under rebuke, and into great danger of dis-
missal, through Valetta Merrifield's lapse ; and it was
no wonder that she had warned her kinswoman against
'the horrid little deceitful thing,' who had done so
much harm to the whole class. ' Miss Mohun was
running about over the whole place, but not knowing

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeBeechcroft at Rockstone (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 15)